Tag Archives: Horror

It’s only the haunted VHS that doesn’t get eaten by the VCR. They’re in league.

29. Ring – Koji Suzuki

In the interest of full disclosure, despite my long term horror movie fan status, the US version of this movie scared me. I do not like the idea of some wet dead child violating my TV. So essentially when reading this I was overjoyed to find out that doesn’t happen.

It was still scary and the beginning was tense and creepy and totally made me think that truly terrifying crawling out of the TV deal was still going to be a thing, but, no. It was much better plotted (no surprise, really, since it’s the original, but I had to work backwards because I didn’t know it was a book till 2009) and I have to say I enjoyed the extra medical and research-based angles instead of being given too much opportunity to worry about the survival of the kid and his creepy little proclamations like in the US movie. Sometimes, I worry about how often children are used as pawns and shortcuts to emotions in movies…and in real life. However, I did really like the reveal of what the “child” really was in this book.

Salem is still a bit of a skittish pig, so he would not be up for The Ring or Ringu without several protective blankets and maybe smashing the TV so no wet dead kids could climb out of it.

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I did wonder what would’ve happened if any of them had been wearing Doc Martens. Those are like indestructible.

31. The Bachman Books: The Long Walk – Richard Bachman

This is definitely one of my favorite Stephen King works. It’s the best of the Bachman books and displays that weird line that he’s so good at skirting between the terrifying and the everyday.

The Long Walk’s title is literal and much more than it seems. In an alternate version of Maine, teenage boys walk and walk and walk. They all have their reasons for participating, they all have different levels of endurance, and as they keep going through blisters and their shoes falling apart and madness the reader learns more about the world they’re currently living in and it made me more and more anxious as I read. It’s a story of endurance and a totally modern horror.

Horace is ready.

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Dark and drizzly

81. Certain Dark Things – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Vampires in a slightly futurized version of Mexico City! I really like this author. I’ve only read two of her books, but she’s absolutely great. The first book of hers I read had very little fantasy element to it but this one is vampire noir and that’s quite a change. However, she builds her world basically seamlessly. I was never taken out of the narrative by exposition or any other aspect of world building and I’ve never even been to Mexico City (just border towns for me thus far). That’s quite a feat when you’re writing about yet another selection of different kinds of vampires, but Moreno-Garcia’s vampires are actually interesting- even to me, who has been reading vampire stories for a very, very long time now.

Some are really classy noir ladies with their ability to push those who care for them away and enlist the help of puppy dog-style humans, like Atl; some sound like someone I used to know who is particularly fond of being sleazy and ravenous for getting what they want, like Nick, whose mouth is also full of really nasty bacteria; and then there’s the super old dude one that lives in a house in the Roma and seems like he looks like Diego Rivera but maybe shorter, Bernardino. Of course, none of these vampires are even supposed to be in Mexico City and there are human perspectives on the various conflicts and details of the rules for vampires as well. And still it doesn’t get boring or wander around in human moral issues or crying or ever get confusing despite how many characters are involved. There’s an underlying drumbeat to the entire story.

Finny would serve as Ozma’s Renfield if they were vampires; but Ozma would make a good noir lady regardless.

 

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“This is what we fought all night to get back to?”

72. Swan Song – Robert McCammon

The electric blue in this one is strong. As are the rocky keloid facial coverings. Swan Song is vast in scope and yet, works very well. A surface-level reading might say, hey, The Stand goes nuclear, but that’s very surface (Plus I haven’t read The Stand, although I have most certainly seen the TV movie a number of times. Geraldo the guinea pig is still stuck in that medical facility. Someone go get him. Gary Sinise did not take responsibility for him like a jerk, even though he’s a hero character. What the hell?), and the goals are similar but they are the product of the same kinds of overarching fears that North Korea’s random nuclear tests bring. What happens when the U.S. gets nuked? Apparently the answer is electric blue magic from a girl named after The Warriors’ second war chief. Not really. Well, kind of. Sort of really. It has all the grimy, gnarly McCammon reality that one expects, and even though Boy’s Life might be his best, I liked reading this one better.

There is a font called Electric Pickle. It was therefore my Pickles’ destiny to grace a review of Swan Song, the one with the most electric blue.

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Haunting research

63. The Grip of It – Jac Jemc

If I’ve learned anything from all the haunted house books I’ve read and all the haunted house shows I’ve watched is that if a really cool house is cheap – something is desperately wrong with it. New, old, it doesn’t matter what decade you’re buying it in either, it’s probably haunted. By something. Perhaps the ghosts of architects past, perhaps the ground is sour and there’s no specific ghost, perhaps somebody’s really favoritist mother- who knows?

In this story there are no clear explanations. There are hidden rooms, weird stains, drawings that show up on the wall, an encroaching forest, a creepy neighbor who lives with cats and an ammonia smell that was palpable through the pages, some creepy kids in a tree, burgeoning medical problems, algae, a cave scene that I thought was actually going to go somewhere but didn’t… It was interesting but I’m about as clear on how I feel about it as the book was clear about exactly what was happening and there’s an extent to which I wanted more.

I mean, they looked at newspaper on fiche (insane, it should have been microfilm, looking at newspaper on fiche is a nightmare if you don’t have an exact date for what you’re looking for and sometimes even if you do – librarian tip) and they still didn’t have a specific and clear explanation. Well, dude was a beginning fiche user.

Ozma hides her head at the thought of looking for newspaper articles on fiche. The endless grocery cart motions to get through the pages, never knowing which side of the fiche goes down and then having to pull out the tray to flip it like every time you need a new one, getting to the end of the row and forgetting which direction you’re actually supposed to push and then pull to get to the beginning of the next row, your eyes going bleary from trying to catch the one detail you need to confirm the article … I mean, it’s okay if it’s the index to the paper, but not the actual newspaper. That’s just brutal. Brutal.

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“The world’s most pissed-off snow cone!”

75. Snowblind – Christopher Golden

In Coventry, everybody gets twitchy before a snowstorm. Because in that one big snowstorm, a lot of people died and a lot of people saw things that didn’t make sense. Like white walkers, basically. I kept picturing the scenes from the early seasons of Game of Thrones where that White Walker with the beard and no shirt kept showing up alone. I can tell you from much experience with the public, if some dude is wandering around shirtless, some bad or stupid shit’s about to go down. Granted, in Snowblind, it is not established whether or not the ice demons represented wear shirts. They made quick appearances when they dragged Isaac out of that window or just creepily peeped in, so, they could have been wearing shirts.

Anyway, everyone’s lives have changed as a result of that one big snowstorm and now there’s some ghosty weirdnesses happening and “the one that got away” for Isaac’s brother Jake, Miri, feels pulled back to Coventry. Everybody’s got to reconverge for the next big storm. And…it was okay.

I did not get as drawn into Snowblind as I did Ararat (the only other Golden I’ve read that isn’t a Buffy story) even though there were some very similar themes running around in the snow. The threat in Snowblind didn’t seem as threatening for some reason, which, since I’m me is probably because nobody did any research…or those ice demons were wearing shirts.

Snuffy is on alert for any and all snow monsters – shirtless or wisecracking or not.

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We are using the zed word.

31. Coldbrook – Tim Lebbon

To use blurbesque language- this was a very compelling zombie tale that kept me up at night. In other words, it’s a mass market paperback, so I ended up reading about 200 pages in one night and about 130 the next so I could finish it on my days off. The characters were interesting enough that I wanted to follow them through their various actions to the end soon and not over a period of many, many days.

I am always keen on secret labs and somehow this one managed to have the secret experiments not be on humans…on this earth. There are multiple earths, alternate universes, etc. in this book and for once it didn’t bother me that much. I know it’s a normal sci fi trope, but sometimes, like on TV in the past few years, it gets overused and seems lazy, to the point where I wait each new time I hear it for someone to mention the world without shrimp. In this story it’s the catalyst and things go to shit pretty quickly (and no shrimp are involved).

Another thing I liked was that everyone who had access to guns wasn’t suddenly good with them. Many things that occurred were not too ridiculous to ring true and the ending was only mildly hopeful. Mildly!

Horace and Danger Crumples assumed based on the title they’d just need to amass fleece blankets.

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Slightly fewer emotions than Stake Land

47. 13 Bullets – David Wellington

The vampires in David Wellington’s vampire tales are gritty. They have the shark teeth, terrible attitudes, and they are not going to talk anyone’s ear off. I respect that. It’s nice reading about vampires that aren’t looking for beautiful teenagers. And making the main vampire hunters a state trooper who is kinda grumpy and a US Marshall who is…also pretty grumpy puts the narrative in a place to be action forward, which is awesome.

I read Wellington’s zombie trilogy before I knew these existed and technically I like that better, but, Laura Caxton is truly fun to follow around and formidable but not infallible against the vampire threat in Pennsylvania. She’s a solid heroine and very believable as she ruins her relationship so she can learn to deal with the vampires everybody said were gone by the 1980s. Liars. Some of them went to Santa Carla and the others were wrong when they thought Pennsylvania would be an okay place to seduce a scientist.

Murderface always has her skeptical face on when starting a new vampire series. Will it be gruesome? Will it make her want to buy a frock coat? Will it encourage her to sing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” at karaoke?

48. 99 Coffins

Sometimes when archaeological digs find dead people it’s a good thing. They can sort out how epic women truly were in Viking society or uncover yet more great injustices done to people intended to be forgotten. Or, you can find the Union vampire corps from the Civil War and much can go to shit. Guess it’s important that the dead stay dead in these situations.

Murderface knows how to fight vampires and keep the dead down, but, she is a queen in Pighalla, so, of course she knows stuff like that.

49. Vampire Zero

Who doesn’t want to visit scenic Centralia, Pennsylvania to find a vampire lair? Well, me, for one, I don’t think I could do anything but pass out and probably die there for several reasons. But it’s dangerous to healthy breathers too. Especially if you go underground. However, it is an excellent setting for any kind of confrontation or horror story because there’s no end to that fire. It will keep going and it will continue to be dangerous regardless of how many monologues about evil or the hunter becoming the hunted or even if someone just read all the side effects of asthma medications that you can’t take while also taking corticosteroids out loud…it will still be burning the earth out from underneath you. Just like fighting the vampires will take the interpersonal relationships out from underneath Laura Caxton. However, loneliness typically does not come with the side effect of a burning sensation. Thankfully.

Murderface did not know what it was like to be alone. She couldn’t even nap by a stuffed turtle without Pickles wanting to be near her.

51. 23 Hours

Woo! Prison! What a wonderful place to be if you are A. a cop and B. surrounded by halfdeads and stalked by a vampire, like Caxton. On paper, kidnapping and torturing someone seems wrong and even doing it because they killed their family to get vampire attention still isn’t quite right…so, Caxton goes to prison. And Malvern, the oldest and bestest of the vampires, comes too so she can make sure Caxton answers her ultimatum. It’s like the bottle episode of the series and it was really fun.

It was super hard to capture an individual picture of Murderface with my level of camera when she got the zoomies, so, this is her silently having fun.

3. 32 Fangs

The final confrontation. The whole enchilada would be the wrong idiom for this and yet, there I typed it. Anyway, what’s great about this ending as a reader is that Wellington made efforts to tie up loose ends AND provide way more backstory for the most formidable vampire he’s written. It makes for quite the set up, as does Laura’s past coming up against her current harder than hardened exterior from having to evade capture after that prison break. All in all, a fitting end to these five books of tales and a fitting end to one of the better vampire series for anyone not looking for romance or teen conversations.

When the vampire hunting is over, the napping begins. Murderface’s work here is done.

 

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“Tell me will it be sweet New Year’s Eve or do I fear a New Year’s Evil…”

96. New Year’s Evil – Michael August

It seems this is an overly easy play on words to make. Everybody’s done it from Eazy-E to the 1980 slasher film with the best opening song not to have a wide release full soundtrack to back it up to this 1994 entry in the Z*Fave Scream series which doesn’t even really have much anticipation in relation to the holiday. It easily could have happened on any other holiday when teenagers usually have parties. Or, like an equinox, or any exciting day for astrology. I mean, there’s no anticipation about who is going to secure the beer, if there will be murders in different time zones, or whether or not there will be a kiss from a super-crush at midnight. They also did not paint the town.

It starts with goody two-shoes Tess Ryan trying to buy candles for a ritual the new girl says will keep the local ne’er do well off of her and her friends’ backs. The new girl is from New Orleans and is apparently very, very old for someone attending high school.

Tess wants mostly normal 90s teen things – to date the boy her father looks at like he’s the one beating kids up (He wears ripped jeans. And black! Oh horror of suburban horrors.), to hang out with her friends the bubbly one and that other nerd boy, and to research witchcraft at the local library when it seems like something’s up. It’s tubular.

I’ll be honest, their solution to witchcraft-based attacks is a little weak, but, the witch did manage to take most of the good books out of the library before they got anything useful. Sinister shit.

When it came to Horace and Ozma, she really didn’t have to worry about whether she’d get her NYE kiss either.

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A cursed no.

25. House of Windows – John Langan

To say I did not like this book would be a vast understatement. I thought the premise sounded good – essentially a lit professor being driven to some unknown madnessy sounding fate by a dark unexplainable force, I was an English major after all, I know what pompousness looks like and sometimes I definitely wanted to see it driven to madness. But…not like this. I can honestly say that the sole reason I finished reading this is because I started it while doing hospice care for Finny and he was having a lot of bad days and I knew I wasn’t able to read anything that might actually be fun or engaging. Finny was still very much alive when I finished it and I was very much annoyed.

The framing device for the whole story is that it’s being told to a friend of the “family” – which in this case means friend of the professor who disappeared and his much, much younger wife – by the young wife. Who is not only unlikable, but unbelievable. She consistently insults the wife the professor had when she, as his student, started sleeping with him. Why? The wife never literally does anything in the story, she’s always acting off page, so it’s never proven that she’s actually awful and I mean, no one is sweet and charming during a divorce caused by your husband’s inability to not sleep with his student. The insults that the narrator gives the wife are all rude and mostly looks-based. It’s like the dream of a guy that wants to justify his terrible behavior. If she really legitimately wanted that relationship and didn’t solely want to break up a marriage so she could insult the ex-wife, why does she care about what his ex-wife looks like? He’s your douchebag now. And it’s very different when the child in a marriage is an adult and not someone younger who could be used as a pawn in a custody battle, so I really didn’t find the insults believable.

Also, said adult child is then cursed by his father, who then spends a lot of time in their weird-possibly madness inducing house trying to reconnect with the ghost of his adult son after he dies in Afghanistan. This curse thing is important and also really boring. I mean, there are a lot of different ways to disown a child that happen every damn day. It’s only because of the professor dude’s massive concept of self-importance that he and his much younger wife make it a thing and a deal with an entity and yell about it a lot in their weird house.

The house being fake-alive with the son’s ghost is…also really boring. Nothing about this haunting is innovative or made me want anything other than for the story to be over forever, never to be seen again. The haunting also reminded me of terrible music videos. Beavis and Butthead would have many insights about the visuals, I am sure of it. They might also have had some insights about the dipshit version of a research scene, where the younger wife explains how web pages open and various design choices that were made, I think the crazy artist’s site used Geocities.

Finny was still alive when I finished reading this and the eighteen books I’ve read since that at the time of this writing. If he made a deal with an entity, it was obviously a cool one because he’s had many spritely days.

 

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