Friday, December 30, 2011

Book Review: The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide
By Max Brooks

Published: 2003

Synopsis: The Zombie Survival Guide is your key to survival against the hordes of undead who may be stalking you right now. Fully illustrated and exhaustively comprehensive, this book covers everything you need to know, including  how to understand zombie physiology and behavior, the most effective defense tactics and weaponry, ways to outfit your home for a long siege, and how to survive and adapt in any territory or terrain.

My thoughts: With 2012 fast approaching, and the supposed end of the world (in December I believe) it's only right that we're all up to date with our zombie apocalypse training. With that in mind I gave Max Brooks Zombie Survival Guide because people keep assuring me that if anyone knows how to survive the persistent attack of undead foes it's Mr Brooks. A quick perusal of his Survival Guide does suggest a certain readiness on Mr Brooks part as he outlines the best survival options regarding food, transport, weapons, accommodation and future preparations for surviving in a world populated by decaying ex-humans.

I thought the concept for this book was great, and it was obvious Brooks spent a long time researching and conceptualising the idea, but I found the format really, really dry. I was lucky if I could get through more that 15-20 pages at a time, so this book has taken me close to 2 weeks to get through, and I doubt I could have cut that time down. It was a similar experience for me as reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the gimmick wore off quickly and I sat there reading it thinking, "why am I wasting my time reading about barricading houses and head shots when I could be reading True Grit or World War Z?" Bottom line, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I love zombies, I love apocalypse or dystopian fiction, but this book was missing all that meat. It took the fun out of it for me, it reduced it to a school text book for me and...blechhh. That said, I do think there would be people who could enjoy this book (in fact I know some of them), you just have to be open to this format of book.

The final chapter somewhat redeemed the whole experience for me. Quite a bit longer than the others that proceeded it, this chapter was a chronological account of zombie threats and attacks that have happened in the past. Spanning from the earliest account in 60,000 B.C of cave painting depicting a zombie attack (central Africa) to the most recent (at time of publishing) in 2002 of a single zombie in St. Thomas which has spawned a tourist campaign similar to the loch ness monster, the chapter covers attacks from across the globe and is formulated mostly thanks to 'unnamed' informants who were able to take the original files or archived documents from police stations, government agencies and even the Vatican. I think if these accounts had been dotted through the other chapters more (although there already was the occasional anecdote) I would have found it easier to push through the drier content. The tales in this final chapter were full of conspiracies and government cover-ups and some even wound real historical figures (Alexander the Great makes an appearance) or events into the story, and, while still written rather academically, were far more interesting and engaging that the rest of the book put together.

While I found it a tough to read through this entire book, I can't actually fault it in terms of writing or ideas. Max Brooks clearly put a lot of time and energy into it and wrote in accordance with the style of book he was trying to create. The only problem is that I would never otherwise think to crack open a survival guide, perhaps even with an actual apocalypse breathing down my neck! I'd only recommend this to people who are interested with the idea of a survival guide, and are happy to read a book devoid of any plot, characters or action sequences. Definitely a book for specific people only!

3 out of 5 head shots.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Film Review: Pet Sematary (1989)

Directed by: Mary Lambert

Starring: Dale Midkiff,
Fred Gwynne
Denise Crosby
Miko Hughes

Synopsis: The Creeds have just moved into a new house in the countryside. Their house is perfect, except for two things: the semi-trailers that roar past and the mysterious cemetery in the woods behind the house. The Creed's neighbours are reluctant to talk about the cemetery, and for good reason too.

My Thoughts: OK, so I'm perhaps not the best person to go to for an unbiased account of Stephen King films. I hate to say it, but I'm a sucker for each and every one of them. Some of them truly are stand out films (Shawshank Redemption is in my top 5 films) but even the dodgiest adaptation has this weird Z-grade charm that I find hard to pass up. Because of my love for all of them, it's a little hard to distinguish with some of these older ones whether it's the quirk I enjoy, or the actual film. Especially in the ones filmed during the 1980s, where even the best are known to garner a little eye-rolling from modern audiences. So I guess this was a fairly roundabout way of saying that this film will get a high rating, but you probably should trust it.

 As I mentioned in my book review of the film, this was my very first bona fide horror film. I loved it, I remember relishing the foreshadowing, the haunting, Hermain Munster without the Hermain Munster gear (Fred Gwynne as the neighbour Jud) and all the other creepy things you expect in a horror film. It must have been weeks before I got sick of saying "First I played with Jud, then I played with mummy, now I want to play with you daddy" in a sing-song children's voice. It never really scared me (not like The Exorcist did a year or two later) but it introduced me to how fun horror can be, and how laughs can mingle with fear and general excitement. If I were to categorise this film it'd be as fun, one of those films where you know what's going to happen and you just can't wait.

Like with many Stephen King adaptations, the film does away with a great deal of the "real" horror, in this case the soul destroying loss of a child. It's still there, obviously, but rather than travel with Louis through his stages of grief, and witness the very upsetting reactions his wife and daughter also have, it fast forwards straight from Gage's death to his "rebirth". As a result there is much less time put into constructing any sort of normal life for the Creeds, or setting up any real characterisation for anyone other than Louis. Instead it chose to focus on the supernatural elements, specifically the warnings Louis received from the recently dead Victor Pascow, the insatiable pull of the Indian burial ground, and most importantly, the psychotic little rugrat that returns to play "stab daddy with a sharp scalpel". I personally found the book superior in introducing the supernatural forces and building the fear incrementally to a mighty crescendo of heart-skipping mind blowing "fuck don't turn out the lights" horror. The film relied on the more obvious methods of scaring audiences, haunting music, spooky tree branches rustling around, a neighbour who looks like Frankenstein...

That said, it wins over many other horror films simply because of the addition of a crazy murderous kid. There is something about children in horror that makes me whimper for my mummy. I guess it's the juxtaposition of precious little cherub faced Gage against precious little cherub faced Gage with a razor sharp scalpel. Mummy and daddy's worst nightmare, rather than wait for their kid to hit puberty and start resenting the parentals, he goes wild at the ripe old age of three. Gage (played by Miko Hughes) really was stupendous in the second half of the film. Not only does he have the best lines (see above), but he managed to wreck havoc and obliterate people four times his size, all with a big toothy smile on his face and not a hair out of place. You gotta hand it to the little demon child, he's got style.

It's not as compelling as the book it was adapted from, but perhaps it's because of the fond history I have with this film... I just...I really can't fault it. It's the perfect mix of creepy kids, cheesy acting, 80s horror clichés and it has a theme song by The Ramones (see below). I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for a serious scare, and again, I'm probably just a tad biassed, but I think it's a film everyone should watch at some point, even if only to poke fun at the hokey effects!

4 out of 5 misguided attempts to bring back a loved one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Night Shift by Stephen King

Night Shift
Written by Stephen King

Published: 1976

Synopsis: A collection of 20 short stories written by the king of horror. Includes some of his extremely well known stories like Children of the Corn and Jerusalem's Lot.

My thoughts: This was my first trip into Stephen King's short stories and I absolutely loved it. I thought that the mix between the stories in terms of genre and structure was fantastic, it slipped so seamlessly from Lovecraft-esque horror to sci-fi, to heart-wrenching tales of regret. I think people tend to forget that King is not simply a horror writer because that is generally what he's famed for, but this collection really showcased his storytelling talents.

One aspect that really interested me with this novel was the insight into where some of the full length books and films started out, the seeds that lead to their making. In that sense it was almost like a sneak peek into his workshop or diary, even though they were published as stand alone stories perhaps with no intention to ever extend upon them. I love The Stand so I found the short story Night Surf extremely interesting. Rather than looking at the overarching tale of good and evil, this short story took place at the time that Captain Trips (the virus that eliminates 99% of the population) was raging through the public. The story captures the fear and desperation that would abound if we were all on the run from an invisible enemy, but juxtaposes it against a group of young people who are struggling to maintain their outward appearance of 'who gives a shit' attitude as they witness the world falling apart.

As with most anthologies of short stories some stories are better than others. At times I felt like a story was a little too childish or rushed or incomplete, but for the most part I found the stories to be of a high quality. The one exception that I really didn't like was Battleground. The story takes place in Renshaw's (paid assassin) apartment when a mysterious package arrives. When he decides to open it a battalion of tiny soldiers pour out and attack Renshaw with a barrage of weapons, guns, cannons, aircraft and nuclear weapons (all teeny tiny).  I think perhaps the crux of my indifference for this story was due to the character of Renshaw. I found him a little flat. I felt like he was too much the archetype of the suave, intelligent killer, and I always find that character extremely annoying and boring. I just didn't care what happened with him, I didn't care if the tiny soldiers killed him and I didn't where they came from. I completely lacked any emotional ties with the guy and since the story was about what was happening to him I just couldn't get into it.

That was the only story out of all 20 that I had to force myself to read, the rest flowed easily and quickly and before long the entire book was finished.  There was a real eclectic mix of stories here, and King really pushed the bar in terms of the wild and wacky with some of them (I'm thinking the animated trucks and cars story in particular, but since there are such a great number of stories in this book I thought I'd list a couple that were my absolute favourites...

*Jerusalem's Lot (very Lovecraftian in feel)
*I am the Doorway (a standout sci-fi)
*Sometimes they come back (a haunting tale of fears returning)
*The last Rung on the Ladder (a beautiful tale of a brother's regret)
*One for the Road (a great bookend for 'Salem's Lot)

I probably wouldn't recommend this to people who haven't read King before, however if you have and you enjoy his work then I think this book will reinforce that love and provide amazing insight into how long some of his stories have been tinkling around in his head. Similarly if you've only read his horror then this book will open up a whole new world of King for you, while still providing the area of his that you're comfortable with to help you through.

 4 out of 5 creepy corn fed children.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Film Review: Salem's Lot (1979)

As a follow up to my Twilight rant the other week, I thought I should review a very different vampire story: Tobe Hooper's adaptation of Stephen King's novel Salem's Lot. I was pretty excited to see this, as we're big fans of both Tobe Hooper and Stephen King here at Hail Horrors, but I have to say, I wasn't blown away by this film.

Since seeing the film, I have begun reading King's fascinating book Danse Macabre about his thoughts on the horror genre. One thing he's made clear so far (I'm about half way through: review to come) is that he has thought A LOT about Bram Stoker's Dracula. He identifies the vampire as one of the three major archetypes that the bulk of horror is built upon, the others being the werewolf and the Thing That Can't be Named (he places Frankenstein's monster in this category). One of the attributes of the vampire which he spends some time discussing is the sexual relationship that they have with their victims, which he likens to a primal rape fantasy. Knowing how conscious King was of this, it was surprising that he intentionally de-sexed vampires in the story. Well, I haven't read the book, but sex and vampires wasn't really a theme in the movie. I don't think the story was hurt by this, it's just an interesting decision.

Instead, the film focuses on vampires as a predator - a silent stalker, hunting from the shadow and surrounding itself with minions. Stephen King understands the myth of the vampire and which of our fears it plays to. King's vampires possess little apparent consciousness, lacking the aptitude for social interaction that vampires are traditionally written with. But as I mentioned before, these vampires are the killing kind, not the flirting kind. There is no reason to be able to make small talk when you can just hypnotise victims with your gaze.

In terms of film-making, it was fairly well directed, with the exception of some freeze frame stings when the vampire claims it's first few victims. They have not aged well and are less than I'd expect from the director of the timeless film the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. However, the master vampire's make-up by Jack Young and Ben Lane still looks terrific. Looking back on it, it is probably a good thing Stephen King didn't go for sexy vampires. I don't know how well the Nosferatu-esque bat-guy would have been at pulling chicks, even with supernatural powers of suggestion. This version of Salem's Lot was intended to be two TV-movies, but the DVD we own rolled them into one 3 hour epic, which did get a little tough to sit through towards the end.

The climax follows the classic descent into the hunters into the vampire's lair. The surviving characters and their sub-plots dove tail satisfyingly into the finale - and in true King style, he kills off a few of them for good measure. This was probably my favourite part of the film, followed by the 'window scratching' - an inspired moment of horror genius.

I had high hopes for this movie which weren't met, but it wasn't terrible by any stretch of the imagination. King successfully brought Dracula to small-town USA, but the vampires felt a little sterile compared to those in Bram Stoker's story (again, I'm talking about the movie. I have not read the book). Well worth checking out for King/Hooper fans and hardcore horror aficionados.

3.5 out of 5 (hours to watch this thing)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Horror Film Night

Tom and I have started hosting a horror movie night for our friends once a fortnight or so. The plan is to eventually ramp it up to an actual event held around town for other horror enthusiasts to join, but that's a far way off in the future.

We decided our first night should be an introduction to good, solid horror so we showed The Thing, Rosemary's Baby and The Evil Dead (which we ran out of time to watch). We were pretty conservative with our theming for that night but we want to do something a little more creative with each night's choices. So instead of 'classic horror', 'Asian horror', 'zombie films' we're going to try and raise the bar just a touch.

Not being the over-organised types we'll be choosing the categories in the weeks between showing but I'll be sure to post the latest choice up on here when we come up with it, and will be over-joyed if anyone offers up any tasty horror morsels that would better fit the theme. Our next night will be in a week or so, and will probably have something Asian-y horror-y since our friend's Korean girlfriend will be up for a holiday and we wanted to do something in her honour. I'll repost once we know, but if anyone has any ideas let us know in the comments!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Synopsis: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.

My Thoughts:  I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this novel, nor how exactly the zombie storyline would be woven into the original tale. For the most part the splicing of the old with the new worked fairly well although there were the occasional zombie reference or alteration of the original text that I found to be a little messy and awkward, but I guess that would be expected from a feat such as this. It did seem to remain fairly true to the original, however I haven't read the original (past chapter 2), I've only seen the BBC adaptation (which I believe to be quite close) and I certainly recognised not only scenes but entire chunks of dialogue from the series in the book.

Before I began reading I had wondered about the author's intention with the zombie plot, whether it'd seem contrived or gimmicky, the result of a guy merely trying to cash in on the zombie trend and make the most out of the freedom of public domain texts. Surprisingly though I thought it worked quite well in reinforcing Austen's original character traits and themes (again this is an assumption made from the BBC series and the general talk I've head). I thought this was so especially regarding Elizabeth, she now has a superior external strength, talent and ruthlessness to her character which I think better exemplifies her qualities of uniqueness, strength and courage that Austen had originally depicted her with.

It was missing some of the subtlety of the original which is to be expected when you chuck zombies into the mix, but overall I thought it quite a charming book. My favourite parts were definitely when the zombie inserts were juxtaposed with some of the more heavily focused aspects of the novel such as propriety and manners which I thought was brilliantly done in the scene at the first ball. An attack from a horde of zombies force the girls into the "pentagram of death" "stepping outward in unison- each thrusting a razor-sharp dagger with one hand, the other hand modestly tucked into the small of their back," (page 14).

Often having seen the movie, or in this case series, before reading the book ruins my ability to visualise the characters how I'd like to, however either it's been long enough since I've seen the series for it not to overshadow, or the slight alterations Seth Grahame-Smith made to the characters were great enough to change them from their depiction in the series. I had no problem letting the book spark my imagination in terms of character appearance and accent etc except in the case of Mr Darcy. Perhaps because of the universal acknowledgement that Colin Firth is Mr Darcy, I couldn't visualise anyone else and it was only his voice I ever heard saying Mr Darcy's lines. This wasn't a problem though, it actually added to the comedy quite substantially to imagine Colin Firth running around in a suit and top hat decapitating zombies with a katana.

I did enjoy this book, but at times I did really have to force myself to keep reading, setting myself page goals I had to reach before I put it down. I think this was close enough for me to grasp the intentions of Austen without having to fall asleep one more trying to read it. I've heard complaints from Austen fans that they found this gimmicky and didn't feel like they needed to read the whole thing and I'd say they'd probably be right. If you know the story and read it often the addition of the zombies might seem quaint and comical at the start but it doesn't alter the plot enough for it to really engage someone who knows the book well, or at least that's how I (the Austen novice) feel.

That said the book is well written and for the most part I though Seth Grahame-Smith did an amazing job seamlessly combining his words with Austen, although once more I have to remind you I haven't read the original so an Austen fan, like a Trekkie critiquing the latest Star Trek film, might be completely insulted by the additions made in this edition. The zombies gave it that push of action I really needed so that I could get through it because this is a book from an era I tend to steer clear of, in a writing style I tend to dislike on a subject I can't stand, so the fact I got through it (even with the help of zombies) is quite remarkable indeed.

 3.5 out of 5 etiquette trained zombie hunters.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Opinion: The Twilight Phenomenon

"Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend."
- Stephen King

I'm going to make a concession that many horror fans would drive a stake through my heart and shove garlic down my throat for making: there is an acceptable circumstance in which you are allowed to read and enjoy the Twilight series*. This requires you to be a) a girl, and b) between the ages on 12 and 15. It's OK to like crappy things when you're a kid. I used to like the band Korn when I was that age. It's embarrassing but I grew out of it . No one has impeccable taste in their early teens. I send my blessing out to all the 12-15 year old girls in the world to giggle and fart over Edward and Bella and Jacob, role-play their confused, sick, little sexual fantasies with their newly pubescent friends, and create an unrealistic expectation of romance that with follow them through the multiple divorces they will have in their lifetime. Sure, the character of Bella is a shitty role-model for girls this age (feminists can burn all the bras in the world and it won't undo the damage this series has done) but so was Korn's frontman Jonathan Davis, and I like to think I turned out alright despite his influence.

However, you don't become a phenomenon by appealing exclusively to 12-15 year old girls. And this is where I find myself standing stalwartly next to my fellow Twilight haters. Outside of that narrow demographic, there is no excuse to like these stories. And I mean that beyond a 'romance is icky' kind of way. I like plenty of romantic stories. The on-screen romance (probably helped by the off-screen romance) between Jeff Goldblum and Stewart Little's mum in The Fly not only made it the greatest romantic film ever, but one of the greatest films ever. Twilight fans will often praise the dedication of the series' lovers had for each other. Bullshit. Did Bella stick with Edward even after he decayed into the hideous Brundlefly? Would she have pulled the trigger and ended Edward's life after he accidentally spliced himself into a hybrid of man, insect and machine? No, she would have curled up and cried, like she did every time something didn't go exactly the way she wanted it to.
So no, my problem isn't the romance**. It's the wider ramification that the series might have or potentially has had on horror. Some academics argue that Michael Jackson's Thriller can be attributed as the catalyst in the decline of zombie films in the 80s. The logic was that his version of the 'zombie' became the default cultural perception of what a zombie was. This resulted in zombies becoming a gimmick and fading out of popularity until director's learnt how to make them scary again in the early 2000s (just ask Kayleigh. She wrote a thesis on it). And if we are using this little girl as a barometer***, then we are already too late people.

Sex in vampire mythology have been around since Bram Stoker (or John William Polidori if you really want to go back). But the interesting thing to me about the attraction to vampires in fiction is that it happens in spite of the fact that they're an undead creature that sees us as little more than prey. Seduction is one of the weapons of vampires, an allegory of how sexuality can be used to assert power. Succumbing to its charms is to assure yourself a fate worse than death, and something that you fight against as it attacks you on a primal level. It's not about being a hot high school teen forever. And yes, there are plenty of themes about sexuality in Twilight, but they deal with sexual frustration and restraint rather than any of the things that vampires are good at exploring. Bella grinds and gyrates in front of Edward, begging him to feed off her for the best part of three books, taking Count Duckula's title as worst vampire ever. Please no hate mail from Duckula fans, but you have to admit, he wasn't very good at being a vampire. An interesting point of comparison: both Edward Cullen and Count Duckula are vegetarians, but at least Count Duckula was taking the piss.

But these concepts seem to be aloof to Stephanie Meyer. In her own words:

"I don't think my books are going to be really graphic or dark, because of who I am. There's always going to be a lot of light in my stories."
Then why did she use vampires? It's the exact opposite what she would have used if she didn't want to explore dark or graphic themes. How would she feel if I wanted to explore the theme of domestic violence in a novel using characters from Mormon bible stories?

My book store doesn't have a horror section any more. It has a 'Paranormal Romance' section. I struggle to track down novels by Clive Barker or Richard Matheson, yet am overwhelmed by Twilight rip-offs trying to cash in on the fad, devoid of all originality and value. Perusing this wall, the only two authors I recognise are Stephanie Meyers and Anne Rice. The only exposure I've had to Anne Rice's work is the film Queen of the Damned, the score of which was written by Korn's Jonathan Davis. See a pattern?

* Many people opt to call Twilight a 'saga' rather than a 'series', but I find this disingenuous. Google defines 'saga' as 'A long story of heroic achievement.' While it is very true that the Twilight saga is long, it's hardly fair to describe crying yourself into a catatonic state because you were dumped and getting knocked up as 'heroic'
** OK, so I don't have a traditional sense of romance, but there is usually a tenderness to Cronenberg movies
*** We shouldn't. It's probably illegal

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Film Review: The Exorcist (1973)

Director: William Friendkin.

Synopsis: When a child is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her daughter.

My Thoughts: When I reviewed the book version of The Exorcist the other week I kept making rather vague references to what I remembered of the film. It seems I perhaps should have re-watched the film before I shared some of those perspectives because it seems like I misremembered much of the film!

Watching the film as a 13 year old what really stood out to me was the girl descending into deeper levels of creepy possessed demon-ness. Her transformation from loveable, happy child into a creature hell-bent on destroying the lives of everyone it comes into contact with was a stark shock for little me, and the images of Regan's head spinning, and the "help me" formed on her stomach haunted me for nights after I first saw the film. Because the poignant transformation had such an impact on the young impressionable me, when I read the book and found an abundance of conflict between psychology and religion and how religion can survive alongside the sciences in the modern world, it felt like a new addition to the story. What I  found upon rewatching it though, is that this conflict is indeed present in the film, and like the book actually takes prescendence over much of the exorcism/possession stuff.

Not being particularly religious (read: stone-cold atheist) the conflict isn't something I've come into contact with, but the representation of it on film with the character of Father Karras makes it painfully clear that religion is much harder to sell, shall we say, and also much harder to swallow. Though he seems clear that there is a god, his psychology background makes it impossible to believe that Regan could possibly be possessed. Though it's explained more within the book, he's clearly more confident with saying she's suffering from some undiagnosable mental disorder than a mystical being possessing her body. It's an interesting predicament, because as an atheist/agnostic I really can't see the difference between demons and god, but for Karras there is a definite difference between them and his scientific background doesn't allow him to suspend his disbelief quite that far. It makes for a possession narrative that's much better equipped for modern audiences and modern society, far more accessible and believable.

For anyone who hasn't seen the film (shame on you) the special effects are hardly of the standard that we're used to today, but I still found them realistic enough to have me hugging  my legs to my chest. To be honest, I find it much more effective to use the physical special effects, as used in The Exorcist, than the CGI ones favoured today. They don't always pass as more realistic, but they have a tangibility that you simply can't get from CGI, regardless of the studio designing them. This is definitely true in this film. The shaking bed and possessed puppetry does border on laughable from time to time, but you can get a real sense of why this film had people in hysterics when it was released. In fact, I think it's one of the few old films where you're completely excused for still feeling fear during. Night of the Living Dead, though a favourite of mine, is decidedly unscary, even though I recognise where the fear would be for older audiences.

The atmosphere is fantastic in this film, and the soundtrack further amplifies the overall feeling of the movie. Perhaps the best example of this film's dark and moody atmosphere is the shot used on most DVD covers of the film. Father Merrin standing underneath the streetlight as light shines down on him in the dark from the open window of Regan's bedroom. Stunning. While the rest of the film doesn't quite meet the same high standard of this image, it does reflect the general cinematic style of the film.

All of this adds up to create a phenomenal, and understandably classic, horror film. One that I implore you all watch, and even if you've seen it before, watch it again. No more discussion, just do it. Now.

4.5 out of 5 pints of pea soup vomit

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Double Review: Spiral / Rasen (1998) Review

Written by: Kôji Suzuki.
Directed by: Jōji Iida

Spiral had big shoes to fill. Both Hideo Nakata's and Gore Verbinski's versions of The Ring will be immortalised in horror history for popularising Eastern horror in the West, reinvigorating the horror genre after a fairly lacklustre decade, creating one of the scariest moments in film (do I really have to mention it's the part where Sadaku crawls out of the TV at Ryūji?) and achieving the prestigious title of one of my favourite movies ever. Spiral was never going to exceed that. I know that. And reading the book / watching the film, I was painfully aware that I would have to separate my feeling for the Ring from this story to fairly judge it on its own merits. Despite this, it is still difficult for me to admit that Spiral did not meet my deliberately lowered expectations.

The copy of Spiral (the book) I own describes Kôji Suzuki as "Haruki Murakami blended with Stephen King" on the front cover. This leads me to believe that the journalist quoted here has either never read Stephen King and Haruki Murakami, or instead has never read Kôji Suzuki and just assumed he is Haruki Murakami blended with Stephen King because he is both Japanese and a horror author. My largest qualm about this comparison is Kôji Suzuki's contempt for excessive characterisation. He tends to jump into the crux of the story, attempting to short-cut sympathy for characters by having them deal with some traumatic event or memory, rather than create rich backstories. This is a completely legitimate strategy in films: you don't have long to get the audience on your side. However, in a novel, without those extra details about the character and their motivation, I felt like I was missing a piece of the picture. I should also mention that I read the English version of Spiral, so I can't say with complete conviction that things were lost in translation.

Dr Ando is the tragic protagonist of this story. In both the film and book, he is still dealing with the drowning of his son which he blames himself for, living alone and working as a pathologist who performs autopsies. As I mentioned before, tragic, dark characters are good for audience sympathy but one of the biggest problems is that Ando was made TOO dark and tragic. He lacked any readily identifiable motivation. He contemplates suicide several times, razor at the wrists ready, but never follows through. And I never knew why. His desire to stay alive is slightly clearer in the book, which describes his lust towards his dead friends' lover and later her 'sister.' This did a lot to hurt the sympathy created for him at the start of the narrative. He's tortured by his son's death, but not tortured enough to stop him from thinking with his dick. Compare this to Reiko Asakawa in the first movie (I know I said I wouldn't compare the two, I'm sorry), who is first motivated by her own inherit curiosity and a sense of duty, then the stakes are raised again when her own life is threatened, then again when her son is put at risk. Ando seems to have nothing to lose except the chance to get laid.

The other horror faux pas it commits is explaining loose ends from its predecessor. Spiral demystifies the Ring mythos so much, I'm almost tempted to call it science fiction rather than horror. Supernatural horror needs a sense of mystery and the unexplained, it prevents the horror from becoming familiar and killing the suspense.

If I had to pick one over the other, I'd say the book was slightly better than the film. The detail it could go into just made it less hokey. The code breaking sections of the book were actually really interesting, but could not have possibly be translated to the film, meaning the film missed out on those satisfying "a-ha" moments when Ando cracked them (note: 'a-ha' as in an exclamation of working something out, not the Norwegian pop band. The latter are rarely praised for their contributions to the horror genre). Exposition in Rasen was pretty laboured, resulting in some awkward dialogue and a few of the characters having psychic abilities in order for the story to foreshadow necessary plot reveals. The film did have some cool moments, like Ando's hallucinations and nightmare sequences, but these were spoilt by poor characters, an ill-conceived plot and a vanilla twist ending.

Hopefully, I will get around to watching Hideo Nakata's original version Ring 2 in the next few weeks. While I wasn't a fan of his American version, his competency as a film-maker is abundantly evident, and it surely can't be as disappointing as the legitimate sequel to Suzuki's Ring.

Book: 2 out of 5

Film: 1.5 out of 5

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review: Cell by Stephen King

Synopsis: Graphic artist Clay Riddell was in the heart of Boston on that brilliant autumn afternoon when hell was unleashed before his eyes. Without warning, carnage and chaos reigned. Ordinary people fell victim to the basest, most animalistic destruction.

And the apocalypse began with the ring of a cell phone...

My Thoughts: Even though I've just spent a year researching and writing about zombies I actually don't read much zombie fiction. Much of the stuff I've read, or glimpsed into, has been appalling. Don't get me wrong, there is some great horror fiction out there involving zombies, but there is also a lot of trash, and it always seems to be the trash that finds its way across my path.

Cellisn't really a zombie novel. At first it seems like it may be. Within minutes of the "pulse" (more on that in a moment) people seemed to have lost their minds and developed a thirst for human blood/flesh and a desire to rip limbs from the nearest person. Several characters unaffected by the pulse exclaim that the others are like the zombies they've seen in films, but as time passes it becomes clear that these aren't reanimated corpses hungry for human flesh. They're something different, more complex and not nearly as dangerous. Well, they're dangerous, but not in the same way that zombies are. To make my life a little easier I'm going to continue to refer to them as zombies or pulse infecteds.

The central character is Clay, a graphic novel illustrator visiting Boston to try and sell his graphic novel. As the novel begins he's making his way back to his hotel, hoping the good news on his sale will be the catalyst needed to convince his estranged wife that he's not a failure and that their marriage stands a chance of survival. As he stops for ice-cream things start to fall apart. He notices a man attacking a dog, some loud bangs and screams from further away, and the business woman in front of him drop her phone and start freaking out. Within seconds hell is unleashed and the world as we know it will never be the same again.

Along with the zombie-like people attacking anyone unfortunate enough to get in their path, there seems to be a rush of people trying to end their lives. People jump from buildings, crash cars and even crash planes into buildings. Clay recognises similarities to the chaos that reigned in the aftermath of 9/11 and assumes that it's a terrorist attack of some kind. He's probably right on the money, but we'll never truly know for sure. What we do know is what the characters learn as the book continues. A pulse of some kind spread across the country (and presumably the world) and affected anyone using a mobile phone for a phone conversation. Without giving away too many of the details which you should learn for yourself as you read, the pulse appears to work almost like a computer virus, completely eliminating regular brain function and reactivating it in a more primitive and incomplete sense. During the first moments of the attack Clay finds himself joined by Tom, a man whose life was saved by his cat when the cat knocked his phone of a table that morning and broke it. And as the two men make their way back to Clay's hotel they save Alice, a 15 year old also visiting Boston, who just saw her mother turned into one of "them".

The three of them form a band of "normies" who strike north to try to make it back to Clay's home town to rescue his wife and 12 year son. So begins the post-apocalyptic road trip that King is so fantastic at writing, and so begins the unravelling of a story that had me captivated from the first page. The band of three make their way through deserted towns, occasionally passing by other survivors, sticking to travelling at night when the zombies are "asleep". The group grows larger when they happen across a school and meet Jordan, a 12 year old computer wizz and Charles Ardai, the acting headmaster of the school. It's here that the story starts to progress from a survival novel into a more action driven novel, and then begins to parallel one of my favourite books, I Am Legend.

I've heard a few people make comparisons between Cell and The Stand, and while there are definite similarities, at the core they are completely different books. The real connections are between Cell and I Am Legend, on the surface very different, but fundamentally the same. The heart of this novel is about the similarities and disparities between the survivors and those affected by the pulse. I don't want to give away any spoilers about the lasting results of the pulse, but like I said earlier, they only appear to be zombies at first. After that they change, and as the majority of people left (it's never established if the pulse affected everyone worldwide or just Americans) the question is raised whether they're the "freaks" and the "monsters" or are the few survivors, the ones who wish harm on the zombie pulse victims and are in the minority, the true monsters? This, essentially, is the driving force in I Am Legend as Robert Neville finds himself the only human being left not infected, and proves to be the most interesting aspect of both the novels.

Technology plays an integral role in this book. It is the tool utilised by the nameless/faceless terrorists (if it was terrorists) to destroy modern society, but just as technology ruled our lives before the pulse it informs our lives afterwards as well. Though the "normies" are forced to live in a world devoid of electricity, mobile phones (lest you wish to be turned), transport and computers, the zombies are markedly similar to the technology that destroyed them. Again, I'm not sure what else I can say without spoiling the revelations of the story, but just as their brains were wiped and rebooted there are other parallels drawn through the story. To help establish these similarities King uses the young character Jordan to bridge the gap between technology and the techno-illiterates that have survived the pulse. This is where my one complaint comes in. Though I really loved the character of Jordan, he's vulnerable and innocent and becomes the son and younger brother of the other survivors in the group, his role as an expositionary device was a little too obvious for me. Even if he were a complete computer genius, his ability to understand the organic technological aspects of the zombies and explain these similarities, as well as how the pulse would have worked, were a little too detailed and unlikely for me. He is the bridge between the two groups, understanding how things work on both sides, but I just don't feel like he thought or talked like a 12 year old when technology comes up. He will be scared and vulnerable and talking in teen slang one minute, and the next it sounds like he should be helming Microsoft. Basically, while he was a charming and loveable character, his position as a literary device stuck out like a sore thumb and occasionally distracted from the story.

This is one of those books that can incite hours of discussion about the condition of the zombies, the role of technology and the comparison between it and other books (namely The Stand and I Am Legend). It's an adventurous, compassionate and thought-proving tale of a post-apocalypse brought about by our own dependence, and a father's journey to find his son. A really great read, one of the best Stephen King novels I've read this year.

5 out of 5 mind destroying phone calls.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Film Review: Shark Night 3D

Synopsis: A weekend at a lake house in the Louisiana Gulf turns into a nightmare for seven vacationers as they are subjected to shark attacks.

My Thoughts: It's inevitable that any film about sharks will be compared to Jaws, and Jaws this ain't. I didn't go into Shark Night with anything resembling high, or even mediocre, expectations, but it fell short of even my smallest of hopes.

The story begins with "nerdy" pre-med student Nick, struggling to study while his "crazy" room mate plays video games. After giving in his studious pursuits to join the game they're joined by Malik, the jock being tutored by Nick. He comes terrorising into the room ranting about how he needed a C average in order to stay on the team, and Nick "the best tutor on campus" would pay if his football career went down the drain. Anyway, menace, menace, menace "Nah just kidding Brah, I got a B-" Yuk Yuk Yuk. As a reward for Nick's awesome tutorial skills he invites the two "nerds" (actually, that's unfair, one is at least pretty geeky) to spend the weekend at Sara's summer house on a lake in Louisiana.

The cast are the usual suspects in your typical teen slasher/mutilation horror. You have the nerdy guy who in actuality has a waxed chest and muscles almost as big as the jock.  Then there is his geeky, talkative sex-mad side-kick, the token minority guy who is in a relationship with the token minority girl (multiculturalism! Yay!), the sweet girl next door that the nerd is into but has a troubled past, the pretty boy and the "bad" girl (this one was getting a tattoo but set it up as if it was a one night stand . LFMAO!).

After arriving at the fancy summer house equipped with every mod-con except a phone, things quickly turn to shit when Malik is targeted by a shark while doing mad flips on a wakeboard. As he struggles to survive, minus one arm, the rest struggle to find away to get home. There are no phones, the boats aren't safe, nor are jet-skis, "friendly" rednecks, and there is no way off their secluded island retreat except through the water. The rest cycles through your typical formula, sweet girl's troubled past comes back to haunt them, a good guy is actually a bad guy, people die and a weak comment on modern society is explained obviously enough for a dog to understand.

The real problem with this film is that it tries to hard to have a story. I didn't come into this film to see everyone come out the other side better, wiser and stronger people. I wanted to see the obnoxious college students become shark food, and I wanted to see that done as gory and as perversely as possible. The film needed to cut out half the weak story-line and dialogue and introduce at least 20 new characters, even if their only role is to run into the water and straight into the shark's open mouth. Even though the lake is literally teeming with shark we only see one shark attack that isn't directly linked to the group of college kids we're following through the film. The film-makers seemed torn between delivering a balls to the wall gory and ridiculous attack flick (think Piranha 3D) and trying to create a horror story that had a coherent storyline and message. They failed abysmally in the storyline department, a 10 year old could probably do better, and only on occasion delivered decently obscene and 3D-worthy shark attacks. It needed to channel a little bit of Pirahna 3D, and the scene where dozens of college kids were obliterated in the most offensive and bloody ways possible was perfect for this style of film, but Shark Night was missing anything that came even close to hilarious and sickening.

I didn't walk into this film expecting the greatest horror film released this year, but I didn't walk out with the giddy feeling of watching a ridiculously fun teen horror romp either. Stack the unsatisfying lack of gore and insane shark attacks with the poor acting, atrocious storyline and pointless 3D and you've got a film not worth seeing.

1.5 out of 5 thrashing sharks.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Film Review: Cronos (1993)

Directed by: Guillermo del Toro.

With the Brisbane International Film Festival fresh in mind, I'm really excited that my first review on this blog is one of my personal highlights from the festival. Guillermo del Toro's debut feature, Cronos, is my favourite kind of horror film. It was restrained and intelligent, with tasteful body horror themes reminiscent of David Cronenberg. It is incredibly satisfying (and horrifying) to watch a character you genuinely empathise with transform physically and emotionally into something monstrous, wondering how far from their original form they will descend and whether they have crossed the point of no return.

The tragic protagonist in this tale is Jesus Gris (played by Federico Luppi), an antique store owner and loving grandfather. His tender relationship with his young granddaughter, Aurora, initially endears him to us. We are also introduced to his wife, a dance instructor, who appears to have grown distant from Jesus (possibly due to their difference in age). This adds another element of fragility to Jesus' character, as he dutifully trudges through his morning routine and goes to work.

This turns for Gris when he discovers in his shop a 16th century, golden, alchemical mechanism that, unbeknownst to our hero, grants the user eternal life. After innocently winding up the device, it latches onto his hand and injects him with what the audience is shown to be the secretions of an insect still living inside it. This first use is forgiveable, but Gris' weakness becomes apparent as he becomes addicted to it. Thus begins Gris' descent. It immediately reminded me of Seth Brundle from The Fly's transformation. Initially, both characters see physical benefits, becoming younger and stronger, but this new found sense of power also drives them away from those closest to them. And then skin starts to come off and you see what's been growing underneath... but more about that later. Despite the similarities, the two characters aren't carbon copies. Jesus Gris' rejuvenation, while scaring his granddaughter, actually brings him closer to his wife. And rather than letting his hubris destroy his relationship with Aurora completely, Gris works hard to convince his granddaughter that he knows what he's doing, though he's clearly trying to convince himself just as much.

Events escalate again for Gris when he develops a taste for human blood and is murdered (temporarily) by a thug trying to track down the esoteric device on behalf of his terminally ill employer/uncle. Gris luckily regains mortality just before he is cremated, and the gravity of what he has become sets in. I don't really want to go into the plot too much more lest I ruin it for anyone who is yet to see it, but trust me when I say it's a satisfying story from beginning until the end.

The character of Aurora is the innocent of the story, an archetype that appears in several of del Toro's films (Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone, and we can assume from the trailers, Don't be Afraid of the Dark). She is almost completely silent the entire film, which seems to be a good way to stop child actors screwing up your movie. Not that she didn't perform well, its just a good rule of thumb. But I digress.

As Gris' addiction to the device worsens, he starts to put Aurora at risk. These selfish acts are far removed from those of the dutiful grandfather we're introduced to at the beginning of the film. Body horror is often an allegory for all kinds of issues, such as disease, our relationship to technology and (more often than you'd think) emasculation, but I'm hard strung trying to remember of another body horror movie that deals with addiction. But when you think about the physical and mental degradation that an addict goes through, I wonder why there aren't more.

Federico Luppi carries us expertly through the Jesus Gris' character arch, from endearment to pity. Another great piece of casting was Ron Perlman, playing the cocky thug trying to track down the device. Perlman apparently offers even more value for Guillermo del Toro, generously agreeing to pay-cuts when the film went over budget. Del Toro did make him Hellboy 10 years later, so they're probably about even now...

Watching this film reminded me just how good del Toro is and how important he is to modern horror, but also how clear his vision has been since he started making films. You really must watch this move if the opportunity presents itself. It will leave you feeling very satisfied.

4.5 alchemical devices of immortality out of 5

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

Synopsis: When Louis Creed & his family move from Chicago into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son--and now an idyllic home. As a family, they've got it all...right down to the friendly cat. The road in front of their home frequently claims the lives of neighborhood pets. Near their house, local children have created a cemetery for the dogs & cats killed by the steady stream of transports on the busy highway. Deeper in the woods lies another graveyard, an ancient Indian burial ground whose sinister properties Louis discovers when the family cat is killed.

My Thoughts: On Mother's Day, at age 10, I went across to my neighbours house to watch a film. My neighbour had a history of corrupting the innocent and girly child that I was, thanks to him I swapped my Cabbage Patch Doll for a skateboard, and my Spice Girls, B*witched and Hanson Cd's for Blink 182, Korn and Frenzel Rhomb. Films though, I don't think I ever watched age appropriate films. I was six or seven when I watched Silence of the Lambs, and Death Becomes Her and The Witches of Eastwick were on repeat when I was about 7 or 8. So my corrupting neighbour couldn't really corrupt my position as a film enthusiast, but he did introduce me to horror with this gem of a film. I loved it, and quickly became a fan, devouring other Stephen King films quickly after before moving on to the typical teen slasher fair and then branching out even further. It wasn't until I was about 14 that I read my first Stephen King book (I failed an attempt to read It at 13, fucking clowns!) and it wasn't until this year that I visited the book that inspired the film that began my journey into the world of horror.

As a 10 year old girl I do remember jumping in fright as I watched the film, but I also remember that fear being rather secondary to my general enjoyment of the film. The fear was much more present as I read through the book, building slowly yet fiercely as I made my way through the story. All that considered there is very little 'horror' for much of the book, instead it is the extremely effective use of ominous foreshadowing and a somewhat brutally stark view on the horror that surrounds the loss of a loved one, particularly the loss of a child.

The loss of a loved one is always difficult, but it produces a different reaction in different people. When Judd loses his wife, he takes it hard but he handles it with strength and silence. When Rachel's sister Zelda died as a 10 year old of spinal meningitis her parents tried to disappear her from their home as quickly as possible, while Rachel was haunted by her memory for decades more. When the Creeds lose their two year old son Gage to a speeding truck on the highway that runs past their house, they break down. Their six year old daughter Ellie stops speaking and carries a picture of her brother with her at all time, Rachel breaks down physically and mentally and Louis is struck perhaps hardest of all, since he was only inches from grabbing his son before the truck came past and he knows a way he can help Gage live again.

The desire to find a way for a lost child to live again isn't unique to Louis, however it is only a character in the hands of King who happens to have an Indian burial ground a quick walk from the backyard. As he considers whether the risk of a resurrected son is worth the risk he faces the questions many parents struggle with when they have a child in a major accident of some kind. What if he can't talk or think for himself? What if he can't smile the way he used to? What if he comes back different? What if he isn't the son they knew? Could they still love him? Sure Louis has the added concern that his son could come back 'touched' by evil, but the real fear is that the Gage that returns won't be the Gage he loved so much.

Perhaps my fear was preempted because I'd seen the film and knew what was coming, but I did find the general atmosphere thick with looming horror. There are several instances where characters experience moments of premonition, hairs sticking up on the back on necks, desires to run far, far away, the return of old nightmares and strange glints in eyes. As the months roll by and the seasons change the characters ignore the signs until they can no longer stop the wheels that are in motion. As it continues to build it finally explodes in 50 odd pages of complete heart-stopping horror that picks you up and throws you against a wall, again and again and again.

Now I know it may seem like I've given away some major spoilers but rest assured everything I've told you can be found either on the cover or within the first couple of chapters. What I've withheld though, are the much smaller though extremely important events that are crucial to the book's finale. I'll leave them for you to discover yourself. This book was a fantastic read and delivered far more than I was expecting. I was sure I'd read a well-crafted novel that terrified my pants off, but I hadn't expected it to have the human element that it did. It was so raw, personal and emotional and it completely broke my heart.

5 out of 5 smooshed toddler heads.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Book Review: The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Synopsis: The terror began unobtrusively. Noises in Regan's room, an odd smell, misplaced furniture, and icy chill. Small annoyances for which Chris MacNeil, Regan's actress mother, easily found explanations. The changes in eleven-year-old Regan were so gradual, too, that Chris did not recognise for some time how much her daughter's behaviour had altered. Even when she did, the medical tests which followed shed no light on Regan's symptoms, which grew more severe and frightening. It was almost as if a different personality had invaded the child. Desperate, Chris turned from the doctors to Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest who was trained as a psychiatrist and had a deep knowledge of such phenomena as satanism and possession. Was it possible that a demonic force was at large? IF psychiatry could not help, might exorcism be the answer?

My Thoughts: The Exorcist was one of the first horror movies to really scare me. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I'm thinking it had something to do with a girl of around my age (I think I was 13 when I watched it) and creepy things happening in the bedroom (I have a bedroom! Oh shit!). For a few weeks my active imagination would have me imagine Regan crab-walking into my bedroom and vomiting pea soup all over me! With those sorts of memories in mind I began the book wondering if it'd exceed the film's scare factor.

It starts off really, really well. I knew what was coming, and it almost felt like the author knew I knew, and was playing on it. I'm not quite sure what the marketing for the book was (did they do much marketing in the 1970s?) but I guess most people knew they were reading a book about possession, so Blatty slowly introduces a few small changes, taps on the wall and Regan's conversations with Captain Howdy through a Ouija board. Perhaps this is strange, but chapter conclusions saying things like "there were no disturbances.That night" really creeped me out. It must have been tied with knowing what was to come, and that idea of impending doom. The build is slow, but it doesn't take long for the mother, Chris, to realise things aren't quite right with her daughter, and once the trips to the hospital start things take a turn for the worse. Compounding the frustration that all the tests come back negative, Chris has a fear of the doctors because her young son died as a result of a reaction to a new medicine prescribed by a doctor some time in the past. So at the same time that she's terrified that something is wrong with her daughter, she's even more terrified to let her out of her sight or let the doctor's have free reign to monitor her in a secure location.

Actually, I might take a moment to discuss the character of Chris. I think she was really well created, her relationship with her daughter at the start of the book is quite charming. Chris makes a real effort to spend time with her daughter around her busy shooting schedule, and Regan wakes up early every morning to pick her mum a flower. Regan's father is out of the picture after a recent (so it seems) divorce, because he couldn't handle being the husband of a famous actress and he'd met someone new. His absence seems to have strengthened the relationship of Chris and Regan, although it becomes the (presumed) key cause of Regan's "illness" later on. Once Regan gets sick though, Chris becomes unbearable. Her aversion to doctors puts her daughter at risk, as she refuses to consider the option of extensive care in a facility, and decides to administer all the drugs and feeding tubes herself. Because she's now both doctor and mother she becomes conflicted. On the one hand she refuses to let her daughter go to a treatment facility because she doesn't want her out of her sight, but then she demands an exorcism from Father Karras, even as he describes the risks and potential death that could eventuate from performing one. She both wants to cure her daughter, and keep her away from danger, but her conflicting roles mean she's basically put her daughter in far more danger than any doctor could. it's a really interesting situation to watch play out, although as an outsider sometimes I wanted to slap her across the face and tell her to get a grip! That said, if I was a mother watching my daughter change both physically, psychologically and emotionally within the space of a few short weeks I'd probably be at my wit's end too!

It's been awhile since I've seen the film, so perhaps some of my comments won't be quite accurate, but I remember the exorcism being a primary part of the film. However, the book is more about the complicated journey that finally results in an exorcism. In fact, the exorcism only takes place in the last 30 or so pages, and the introduction of Father Karras arrives onto the scene and is asked as a priest who has knowledge of "satanism" to perform an exorcism, he instead approaches it as a psychiatrist. The presence of a book with an extensive chapter on possession and possible symptoms of demonic possession within the NacNeil house serves as his guide, and at times I even thought there was a potential turn around about to happen when we discover that perhaps she is faking it. Well, perhaps not faking it, but manifesting the possessed symptoms due to hysteria or a number of other psychological disorders the doctors suggest throughout the book. Although I found this aspect of the book incredibly interesting, and I presume for a horror book written in the early 1970s quite revolutionary in approach, it did remove some of the horror for me. Instead of feeling scared, which I had for the first third of the book, I was simply interested and intrigued where the story was going. Not that that is a bad thing, it certainly isn't, but I was a little disappointed that it didn't keep me up all night frantically fearing the shadows.

Before I wrap up I want to just touch briefly on the actual possession of Regan and how the writing of her symptoms compared to the film. I usually find books more terrifying than films purely because you're able to do a lot of the imagining yourself, and therefore fill in the blanks with your own personal brand of fearful monster. I found this the case in The Exorcist as well. Especially at the start when it was simple things like rappings on the walls, Regan talking to Captain Howdy etc I was able to imagine how little things like that would spook me. Later on when things got a little more intense I preferred the book over the film because there was a little more detail and finesse to the symptoms. For instance, the crab walk down the stairs. In the film, and again forgive my foggy memory, I remember it being a split second, though terrifying, shot of Regan maneuvering her way down the stairs in a way no human could. In the book however, Chris is talking with Sharon (her live-in assistant) when Regan appears in the crab like position behind Sharon, her tongue flicking and brushing against Sharon's leg. She then continues to follows Sharon around, as though tied to her, her tongue always flickering. I found the cinematic version creepy, but after reading that part of the book I had to put it down for half an hour and regain my composure. Basically I found the scares in the book much more sophisticated and detailed and generally, more terrifying.

This review has barely brushed the surface of the various smaller plot points and characters that take part in the story. The personal journey the priest Karras goes on provides a fascinating examination of religion in the late 20th century, especially when burdened by the knowledge of modern psychology. Similarly Kinderman, the cop, plays an interesting role which added greater depth and scope to this classic tale of possession. If you've seen the film you know what's going to happen, but the book satisfies in ways the film can't, and is well worth your time.

Five out of five revolving heads. 

It begins...

Howdy folks. Do you like blood, violence and freaks of nature? Then welcome to Hail Horrors, Hail, the blog where we will be talking about all things horror.

We're two horror nerds who really like horror. Like, really, REALLY, like horror. Together we can spend hours discussing the humourless brutality of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the off-the-wall bat-shit craziness of Helldriver. So why have we decided to blog about it now? What we really want is to explore the genre we love with other people, and start discussions about the best or worst horror films, books, games and music. This blog will become a home for interesting investigations into what makes horror work and exactly what it is that tickles us about the stories that delve into the darkest recesses of the human condition.

Each week we'll add a few new reviews, opinion pieces and report on the latest horror news, all we ask for in return is for  you guys to tell us what you think about the topic.

Stay tuned...

Kayleigh and Tom