🎃Harvest of Horror 2019🎃

The month of Halloween, the only socially acceptable time to be creepy, in both demeanor and your cerebral interests. And yes, I said month. As if Halloween lasted only a day, are you kidding? Not in this household.
Since I felt that last Harvest of Horror was churned out rushed and somewhat lackluster, I’ve planned this one way ahead of time. I’m always busy in October for whatever reason, usually because I have something being submitted for publishing around this time, so I’m actually writing my Halloween posts from back in May and June and touching them up from the present in October. Confused? So am I, by this point.

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Anyway, all this means is there is no particular schedule like there was last Halloween. There will be something horror-related every day. I thought I’d be a bit different this year and branch out into other things besides books and writing, so there’s to be a miniseries on the best and worst (in my opinion) horror video games, some artwork for Inktober on DeviantArt, some reviews and poems scattered throughout as usual, amongst other uncanny novelties.

The series on video games I think you’ll find especially interesting, since despite the cult following many of them have gotten, not many people discuss them in the same vein they would a book or film review. If you’re into games for the story aspect, or don’t know much about them and want to, you might like these. My recent trend of talking about video games probably won’t spill into the rest of the year, though, as I’ll likely be going back to a focus on writing and books when I can, but I feel like to be a writer-reader, it’s best to understand every medium.

I had considered doing a mini-series on the Fear Street saga by R.L. Stine, but I didn’t realize the later books were out of print, and quite expensive if you aren’t lucky enough to happen across them in a thrift shop. I certainly was not up to hunting them all down. I might talk about Fear Street and Goosebumps a bit, but no promises.
Anyway, enjoy the special, and have a horror-ific October!

Thoughts on the Silent Hill Films

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A recent debate, and by debate, I mean whiny, circular argument, when it comes to movies is the issue of swapping an established character’s gender without any real reason to. Is it ever a good idea? Well, in short, no. Except for the rare case where the character has no set gender – this sometimes happens in video games where the characters are androgynous or animals – it is never a good idea. Why? Because it’s almost always a lazy, cynical attempt to be “feminist”. Case in point, the first Silent Hill film.

I actually feel confident recommending the first Silent Hill movie to people. In my opinion, it’s the only good movie based off of a video game, and in its own right is a stylish, well-made horror movie. However, it takes some egregious liberties with the source material that make parts of frustrating if you’re familiar with the series. Probably the most obvious is swapping the protagonist Harry Mason’s gender, turning him into the female lead, Rose DaSilva.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think the actress does a really good job. I have no issue with her or even the character. What I do take issue with is the reason for the change, which is pretty damn offensive. Why they changed Harry to Rose is that they didn’t think a father would go to such odds to save his adopted daughter, that her mother would be more likely to. Like, that is seriously their reasoning. Just… why!? Have they never met human beings? Did they not learn anything from this series at all? The whole point of Silent Hill, when it’s boiled down, was the insane limits Harry would go to to get his daughter back.

The first Silent Hill already had an almost all-female cast, with the exceptions of Harry and Dr. Kaufmann, who wasn’t included in the film. If they wanted to make a film with a strong female lead, there was already three to choose from in Cybil, Lisa, or even Alessa Gillespie, though she’s more of an anti-villain. They tried to shove in Rose DaSilva, and another Harry Mason-esque character in her husband, rather than just have Harry be the main character. Oh, and they also added this weird witch-burning woman named Christabella as one of the main antagonists. That character wasn’t a terrible add-in, but nonetheless gives me traumatic flashbacks to the Silent Hill comics.

Rant aside, it’s still one of my favourite adaptations. True, I think they probably could have done a more accurate adaptation, and if this were to be remade as a mini-series (hint, hint, any filmmakers reading this) I wouldn’t mind, but it’s clear that so much talent and love went into making this movie. The special effects are phenomenal, over a decade later, and a lot was actually hand-crafted. If you have the time, there’s a 30-minute documentary on the making of this film that you should watch. It’s on most of the DVD versions, probably on YouTube too. It is probably better to view the first film as an homage rather than a straight-up adaptation, because it does glomp together themes from other parts of the series, not that that’s a bad thing. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Silent Hill Films”

Thoughts on the Scary Stories Movie

The new Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark film has broken my personal record for being the third book-to-film adaptation I’ve ever actually been hyped for. I mean, this means as much to me as a film adaptation of my own books would. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, if you’re not familiar, are a trilogy of books by folklorist Alvin Schwartz and artist Stephen Gammell. Its legacy is being one of the most banned and challenged children’s series in recent history, compiling folklore, ghost stories and urban legends and retelling them in a nightmarish and surreal tone.

Scary Stories has been challenged by a number of American and international school boards for its raw and unrelenting depictions of cannibalism, black magic, violence, death and the undead. The Grimms could get away with it but Schwartz and Gammell couldn’t, the reason being that there’s something these books have that the Grimms didn’t… and that’s the signature artwork.

The disturbing artwork is the primary reason it was banned. Gammell’s work is stunningly beautiful from a technical perspective, but often featured grotesque, deformed humanoid monsters and scenes of surreal horror that were difficult to describe even as an adult. Obviously, they gave a number of children unlikely and specific phobias, but that hardly stopped them from loving the series.
There exists an alternate version with more subdued artwork by Brett Helquist that is largely, and unfairly, disliked by fans. Brett Helquist is a great artist, but his style is not the most suited to this collection, in my opinion. I feel the artist caught an unwarranted amount of hell for his work on the rerelease, seeing as Helquist was just doing his job, and his illustrations were good. They just weren’t Gammell’s.

Stephen Gammell’s notorious illustrations are one of the driving forces behind my desire to create. I had and have never seen anything vaguely akin to his style. It can’t be replicated, by anyone who retains their sanity, at least. Something interesting is that Gammell is quoted as being bemused that so many children found the illustrations scary, believing they were far too unrealistic to creep anyone out. About that…

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When I heard that the plot of the upcoming film, which comes out in August, would involve teenagers in a haunted house, I was devastated… I thought, oh God, they’ve turned my beloved into another cheese-laden summer slasher movie… but I was relieved quite a lot when I saw who the directors were and the monsters’ visual appeal in the trailers. I was severely anxious for a minute there. My reaction was about to become a horror story of its own, but I’m less doubtful now. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Scary Stories Movie”

Book Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling

★★★★ 4 Stars

Series: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplays
Genre:
 Fantasy / Adventure
Publication Date: November 18th, 2016
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

“My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.”

In my honest opinion, the Fantastic Beasts series was a fantastic way for Rowling to rejuvenate the Harry Potter universe and spread its branches in fresh, inventive directions. It needed this after Cursed Child, which I didn’t particularly like and thought was a mishandled retcon of the original novels. Like virtually every witchy soul in this strange little world, the novels remain amongst my favourites, and if ever somehow they don’t age well for me in years to come, I will forever be fond towards them.

Screenplays, by their nature, aren’t exactly “engaging” in the way a novel is, but it’s fun and a quick read nonetheless, and the movie the script goes with is really entertaining. Fantastic Beasts wins where Cursed Child faltered. The characters are consistent, moreso because they are new characters that haven’t really been a major part of the series before, and because Rowling herself actually developed and wrote this one in its entirety. Cursed Child took established characters from the novels and… descended into strange, fanfiction-like caricatures of them. Traumatic flashes of My Immortal and its infamous poetic prose dashed through my head the entire time with that screenplay. Continue reading “Book Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Screenplay) by J.K. Rowling”

Musings on Dreams and Classic Monsters

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This is peculiar and specific, but it’s something I’ve noticed with hearing people’s dreams, what they often have nightmares about. I’ve noticed there’s always a certain monster that’s prevalent to that particular person’s nightmares. It’s usually a classic one, like vampires or werewolves, I think because there’s a form of those in most cultures, and a lot of this century’s generations have grown up around horror movies. Even if they never watched them, they saw horror movies everywhere in posters and references, and now online. Vampires seem to be really common. I have had some insane dreams that I recall having some kind of vampire before.

Everyone has their individual classic monster. My personal one is actually zombies. If there’s a threat or presence I recognize in a dream, it’s often zombies or mummy-like humans. No clue why. I don’t recall ever being scared of zombies. Mummies, yes, at least as a kid. But it’s more frequently zombies, and I used to think zombies were like an ideal beauty standard or something.

Okay, maybe not that far, but I did love the way zombies looked. Continue reading “Musings on Dreams and Classic Monsters”

Book Review – Death is a Bloodstained Shadow by B. B. Frank

Death Is A Bloodstained Shadow: The Giallo Cinema Chopping List

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Full Title: Death is a Bloodstained Shadow – The Giallo Cinema Chopping List
Genre: Horror / Nonfiction
Publication Date: November 5th, 2015
Publisher: Videogeddon

If you didn’t know, giallo is a subset of horror-thriller film, set apart by its blend of both psychological and visceral themes. Giallo is considered the grandfather of the slasher film genre and had a significant influence on modern psychological horror. Most giallo are Italian or Spanish, and in fact giallo is just ‘yellow’ in Italian – the genre named after the colour most mystery paperbacks were at the time these movies started to become popular, in the early 70s. Giallo posters tend to be outrageous, beautiful and psychedelic. Vibrant infernal colours abound.

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Death is a Bloodstained Shadow is a pretty solid list – it goes beyond the mainstream Argento and Bava into more obscure gems (or ironically enjoyable grubby rocks, depending on your personal taste), and the poster art is extremely entertaining. Many remind me of pulp book covers from around the same era.

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However, the eBook version could be better and less cramped, and some crucial info is missing. The actors are never listed and there isn’t any DVD information! I know that several of these are likely to be extremely expensive and difficult to find in print, especially outside of Europe. Nonetheless, an engaging look at a much-loved genre (at least by me, anyway.)

One more neat fact and I’ll leave you to be scarred by this artwork – the Dario Argento film Phenomena, known also as a butchered version called Creepers, was the inspiration behind one of the innovating survival horror series, Clock Tower. Dario Argento’s filmography is, in fact, a fantastic place to begin if you want to get into the giallo genre, as they are the easiest to find and for the most part masterpieces of their time.
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