Monday, February 27, 2012

ZAM Book Review: The Hunting Season

I'm back!  I did not die: I survived Valentine's Day.  I have been reading The Philosophy of Horror: Paradoxes of the Heart by Noel Carroll.  It's very good but also very academic.  I have been having nightmares about being in college and the final is coming up and I have skipped class all semester.  Or, I have a week to write my thesis and I haven't even started research.  I tell you, I will take a good old fashioned Zombie nightmare over one of these any day.  So I had to give myself a break and read something mindless, with less big words, so I picked up The Hunting Season by John Coyne.  Carroll mentions The Hunting Season briefly in his book.  What caught my eye was the phrase "inbred mountain people."  As loyal readers may know, I have a weak spot for inbred mountain people.  Specifically, inbred hillbilly cannibals, but I will take any variety. 

The Hunting Season does not disappoint.  Inbred mountain people are all over "Mad River Mountain", the community in the Catskills in which this action takes place.   April Benard is an Anthropologist who has decided to study the inbred hill people of Mad River Mountain.  With her new husband Marshall, April purchases a house in Mad River to be close to her subjects.  Along for the ride is April's son Timmy, from a previous marriage, and her 15 year old stepdaughter.  Helping the family adjust is "lusty Luke," the handyman for the property and relative of the hill people. 

Things start off bad and get a whole lot worse for April and her family, especially when Marshall decides to go bat shit crazy and dwarfs start breaking in to the house.  The inbreds, while not of the cannibalistic variety, are definitely of the raping/killing variety. 

The Hunting Season has some good gore and is very suspenseful, especially near the end.  I was conflicted reading this because I really hated April Benard and her family.  April is a stuck up bitch and I have no sympathy for her.  She may also be the worst Anthropologist in the history of Anthropologists.  Marshall is a hot headed dick who is really too stupid to be the Lawyer that he supposedly is.  The kids are brats.  I was really rooting for the inbreds, although they are truly evil, disturbing creations.  Coyne is a decent writer, although my research (Google) indicates that he has given up horror and now writes exclusively about golf.  He has a couple of other horror novels floating around out there which I will pick up.  Although he is no King or Ketchum, he does spin a good, disturbing yarn. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Vampire's Day Soiree!

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!!  Today we celebrate the Vampire's Day Soiree!!  Check out lots of awesome posts at...

I had something really awesome planned, and then life got it the way, as it often does!  But please, enjoy my Valentine's to some of my favorite Vampires (no sparkling ones, I promise)....

This Valentine's goes to the original and still the best...

You are one of the scarier vamps but you still hold a place in my heart....

This Valentines goes to the hottest Dracula (sorry Mr. Oldman)....

But you are pretty awesome too.....

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.....

You are the craziest, but I may love you most of all......

Honorable Valentine's go to these two guys.  They are both good eggs...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I heart "The Woman"

It's not often that I put the "I Heart" designation in front of a film title, but it being Valentine's and all I decided it was finally time to trot it out again.  I loved, loved, loved Lucky McKee's The Woman.  I don't thing I have has such a strong reaction to a horror film since Martyrs.  Is there something wrong with me?  Without a doubt.

The Woman is an "unofficial" sequel to The Offspring.  You can check out my review of that film hereThe Offspring wasn't all that and a bag of chips, but it did fall under one of my favorite categories, which is the "Inbred Hillbilly Cannibal" genre.  I had also read Jack Ketchum's books.  The best part of The Offspring was Pollyanna McIntosh's performance as "the Woman", the leader of this particular pack of inbred cannibals.  Lucky must have thought so as well because she is back in his film, which picks up pretty much where The Offspring left off.  The Woman, injured, is wondering around the woods when she is spotted by Chris Cleek, a successful lawyer out hunting.  Cleek immediately decides he is going to capture her and "tame" her, enlisting his family to help with the project.  Now, if this does not sound like the thinking of a rational, sane person, you are right on the money.  Chris Cleek is monster more dangerous than an inbred cannibal.  Played by Sean Bridgers, Cleek may be one of the most terrifying villains I have encountered in quite a while.

He is lord and master of his house.  The family lives in fear of him, especially his obviously abused wife Belle, played by the amazing Angela Bettis.  Belle is trapped, both by her own fear and cowardice.  She can't protect anyone, especially her own daughter, Peggy, who is pregnant (possibly by Chris himself.)  Added to this mix is Brian Cleek, the young son who is happily following in Daddy's footsteps.  The Cleek's are horrifying enough.  Adding "the Woman" too the mix is a recipe for disaster.  

Much has been said about the brutality of this film, and some have charged it with being misogynistic. I don't believe that  Lucky McKee is a misogynist.  Personally, I found nothing offensive in this film.  Real women are sometimes weak and flawed, sometimes strong and heroic, and sometimes vicious inbred cannibals (OK, that last one does not represent a whole lot of women.)  As far as the brutality is concerned, I can say that this is not torture porn.  Most of the horrible stuff is suggested or off screen.  It is emotionally brutal however, made more so by the terrific performances of Bridgers, Bettis, McIntosh, and Lauren Ashley Carter as Peggy Cleek.

Now let's talk about the ending.  I don't want to spoil anything but lets just say you can't keep an inbred cannibal locked up and expect everything to be O.K.  When the Woman gets her revenge, she gets it really good.  I absolutely loved the very strange, unexpected ending.  It was the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake. 

Watch The Woman this Valentine's day with someone you love!  Or not.  But watch it.  Its really good.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Woman in Black or: Move your ass Daniel Radcliffe!

I am a pretty big scaredy-cat but I do know one thing about myself: if I was trapped in a spooky haunted English mansion and I kept hearing disturbing noises coming from the upstairs, if I absolutely had to go investigate, I would run the hell up there as fast as I could instead of creeping along ever so slowly ala Daniel Radcliffe in The Woman in Black.  Why give the ghosts all that extra time to think of something to really scare the shit out of you?  I mean, if you run right in there they probably wouldn't have time to turn on all the creepy mechanical dolls and put on their spooky face.  It would be like walking in on someone getting dressed: quite awkward.  "So sorry, I am not quite ready for you yet.  See, I have to get the rocking chair going and write something on the wall in blood and then I must hang myself from the rafters.  Could you please come back in like a minute?" 

With DanRad you don't have this problem because he creeps ever so slowly throughout the entire film.  The Woman in Black is being called a return to "old school" horror.  Well, just about every horror film lately is claiming to be this, but Woman in Black really truly is old, old school.  Based on Susan Hill's novel (which was adapted for T.V. in the late Eighties and is a long running stage play in London), The Woman in Black tells the story of young lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe).  Kipps lost his beautiful wife in childbirth and is struggling to raise his young son.  His law firm gives him one last chance to save his job.  He is assigned to take care of the final affairs of on Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh. 

The residents of the small community are none to pleased to see him, and they try to prevent him from going out to the manor.   Arthur finally does make it out there, and what he finds is true horror, old school haunted house style!

I won't go much more into the plot than that.  The Woman in Black is a classic haunted house yarn.  Not much new is added to the canon here.  The revenge that the ghost takes on the residents of the small village is quite horrifying, involving children as it does.  Director James Watkins is very good and using sound and darkness to invoke terror, and Radcliffe does a credible job playing a grieving young father.  In reality, the role should have gone to an older actor, but that fact never bothered me while watching the film.  I never thought of Harry Potter once!  Really.  O.K., maybe just a little.

My one complaint about the film is the use of CGI.  It's not overused, but I just can't see why they used it all.  Every effect could have been done using old school methods, and I think it would have added to the overall feeling of the film.  I liked the ending (which I think must be a bit different in novel) and I didn't feel at all like it was a "tacked on happy ending" (which is what some are saying.)  There are moments in the film that gave me true chills.  It's been a long time since I could say that.  During one scene I got the shakes so bad that I thought this film must have some evil mojo.  We will see how I sleep tonight.  One thing is for sure: if I hear something in the living room I am not going to try to creep up on it!! 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rare Book Review: Dead of Night

I am usually not one for Zombie novels.  Quite frankly, I can only handle Zombies for a short period of time.  Night after night after night is too much for me to handle (I am really, really scared of Zombies.)  As I suspected, I had nightmares EVERY night I was reading Dead of Night: A Zombie Novel by Bram Stoker Award winning author Jonathan Maberry.

Don't let the fact that I dreaded nightfall make you think I didn't love this book.  I love anything that gives me nightmares!  I will admit to only reading a few pages at a time. It was all I could handle.  The sense of dread in Dead of Night is overwhelming.

If you decided to read Dead of Night, and I think you should, familiarize yourself with T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men.  A hollow man is how the first zombie we meet describes himself.  Yes, in this novel Zombies, well, at least two of them, have a consciousness.  In the case of Doc. Hartnup, our intro Zombie, he is aware of his actions, but completely unable to control them.  His body, so to speak, has a mind of it's own.  The only thing on it's mind is eating.  The only thing on Doc's mind is the hope that one of the few humans left will shoot him in the head and put him out of his misery.  I believe the Doc's journey is the most heart wrenching in the novel. 

But how did Doc get to this sorry state?  Maberry has an explanation: Ex-Nazi CIA Stooge Doctor hell bent on revenge!  This Doctor decided to inject condemned killer Homer Gibbon with a bit of biological warfare: a virus that keeps the mind alive while the body rots.  When Gibbon gets out in the open, all hell breaks loose.  Fighting the onslaught are good cops J.T. and Dez Fox.  Dez is one of the best female characters I have encountered in a long time.  She is a total mess but dedicated to her job and trying to do the right thing (like me!).  It doesn't help that Dez's ex, a reporter named Trout, is also on the scene, trying to break the story that the Government will go to any lengths to keep quiet. 

Dead of Night shifts POV from Dez to Trout on one end, to Homer and Doc Hartnup on the other. It is an effective tool that lets us sympathize with every character, even the detestable Homer.  There is plenty of gore and action in Dead of Night, and the fresher the Zombie, the faster.  I am all about the siege in Zombie stories, but in Dead of Night I found the quest to stay alive out in the open the most harrowing.  The action takes place in a small town, and around every corner our heroes face friends and family who have turned.  Around every corner our hollow man, Doc, faces another friend he will destroy. 

Maberry leaves the ending open for a sequel, although this works really well as a stand alone.  I will revisit this world if I must, but this time I might try to get the book over in a night.  I don't know if my Husband will stand for another two weeks of me getting up in the middle of the night to check the locks and board the windows.