Friday, November 29, 2013

My Childhood Horror Favorites

When Halloween was actually upon us, I began writing this post. It was going great, I was reliving my heyday, and then I got super ridiculously sick. I spent about four weeks battling some kind of upper respiratory infection and wound up on amoxicillin, prednisone, and levoquil. (The last one is known to cure anthrax encounters as well as...wait for it...wait for it...The Plauge. Whoa, damn!) In any event, I wanted to get going on some new posts, but I wanted to show you all this one first. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to let me know your favorites in the comments section!

Halloween is upon us, and so I thought it would be fitting to revisit some of my favorite horror films from when I was growing up. I want to warn you, there is a really good chance that nobody else holds these movies sacred but me, but that's cool. I can live with that. Another warning, if I may, by "childhood", I mean the 90s. Which pretty much means I'm going to subject you to some horrors from the 80s and earlier.

spookiesSPOOKIES (1988)

My first encounter with this gem was on a television network. I was channel surfing for a horror movie, and stumbled upon this creature feature. A house of horrors awaits travelers, who serve as fodder for the myriad creations of the evil sorcerer/necromancer/living dead guy Kreon. Kreon's sole purpose is to bring his wife back to life, The special effects are pretty terrible, the sets are dark, the acting is less than inspired, but the make-up is pretty good. Be on the lookout for a red-eyed grim reaper, a spider woman, and a plethora of farting mud-men. Altogether, it's a fun romp, though you'll have to watch it on YouTube, because it is only available for purchase in Region 2.

HOUSE (1986) & HOUSE II (1987)


houseEven if pressed, I couldn't tell you which movie I liked better. I had a huge crush on William Katt growing up, but then again, Aztec skulls are pretty interesting too! Both films follow the struggles of the inhabitants of the houses as they battle the various demons, spirits, and curses contained therein. The special effects in both movies are pretty good, considering the time period. In the first movie, William Katt's zombie Vietnam War buddy's makeup is pretty convincing, while House II featured a crazy long-dead relative in search of an Aztec skull. (While researching this part of the post, I saw that there is actually a movie called The Horror Show, aka House III, though I've never seen it. It was made in 1989, so it certainly follows chronologically. I will let you know if I ever get to see it.)


gremlinsGREMLINS (1984)


This tongue-in-cheek horror film scared me witless as a child! The scenes with the evil gremlin's hands reaching over desks and through wall vents terrified me. I still have trouble walking by wall vents today, and when I pass a floor vent, I can't help but stop and search it for a few minutes, just in case. Despite all the funny moments (leg-warmer gremlin anyone?) the movie was still extremely chilling, and the special effects hold up today. When I turned 16 and became a lifeguard at the local town pool, I couldn't help but think of Gremlins every time I dove or jumped into the deep end. I remembered the way the water bubbled and broiled as the gremlins inside began to multiply. I could only imagine what they looked like climbing out to go and terrorize the little community in the movie. Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Cory Feldman steal the show. (No, the sequel is not worth watching.)


CRITTERS (1986), CRITTERS 2 (1988), CRITTERS 3 (1991), & CRITTERS 4 (1994)critters


The Critters franchise is populated with a crew of misfit-Tribbles, who run amok wherever they can. Their preferred method of annihilation is to tuck themselves into a ball, roll like hell, and shoot quills that make people fall asleep. The franchise starts out in a quiet rural town, and ends up where most 80s franchises eventually wind up - Space. The sharp-toothed, murdering bastards somehow wind up cryogenically frozen, and wake up in space where they continue their hungry rampage. It's alright if you can't help but laugh at the thought of them barreling through a spaceship - you're not alone! Throughout the series, look for stand-out performances from Dee Wallace, Billy Zane, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, and Lin Shaye.


ghouliesGHOULIES (1985), GHOULIES II (1988), GHOULIES III (1991), & GHOULIES IV (1994)


I'll admit I've only seen the first two, and didn't realize there were two more movies until working on this post tonight. (Incidentally, I'm watching the first one on Netflix, which is what got me thinking about writing this post.) When I was a child, I was focused solely on how crazy the little Ghoulie pack looked, and it amused me that they were coming out of a toilet on the VHS cover. However, in watching it again, I realize I missed 95% of the plot. Apparently there's attempted child sacrifice, demonic possession, Satanic rituals, attempted murder, dwarven servants, a creepy clown doll, and zombies. Lots of zombies. And a woman who screams like a whistling teakettle. (That list ought to disappoint some deviant web searchers when they find out it's only a movie review!) The possession special effects are lacking, but the puppetry of the Ghoulies is still fun to watch. Standout cast include Mariska Hargitay, Jason Scott Lee, and Matthew Lillard.


THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)serpent


Good. Grief. This tale of voodoo, Haitian history, and the search for the elusive tetrodotoxin was extremely memorable. Bill Pullman stars as Wade Davis, the renowned ethnobotanist, in a highly fictionalized version of his search for the secret behind the voodoo powder. The film also delves shallowly into the world of the cruel dictatorship of Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier, who ruled Haiti at that time. The book (of the same name) is an extremely worthwhile read. Even though it's not a supernatural tale, the rich history contained is both interesting and enlightening.


ArachnophobiaARACHNOPHOBIA (1990)


If I had a penny for every time I made my parents sit through this movie with me, I would have enough money to bail our country out of debt. I literally turned the majority of the early 90s into a spider-infested Hell for my parents, insisting on watching this movie every time it came on TV. Then my parents gave in and bought me the VHS. Basically, a tarantula hitches a ride to America in a coffin, sucking the juices out of the body of the man it killed a few scenes prior, and gets loose. A rampage of epic proportions ensues as the spider's offspring dominate a small and peaceful town. (Some of the spider animatronics towards the end may look a little silly, but if you're like me and you hate spiders, it's the thought that counts. It's also worth noting that there are enough real spiders in the movie to inspire a healthy dose of terror from any arachnophobe.) It's up to Jeff Daniels, John Goodman, and Julian Sands to save the day in style.


TREMORS (1990)tremors


This movie also has the distinction of being the first DVD I ever owned. Once again, a favorite that I would coerce my parents into watching with me. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire have to battle giant underground worms. The idea is that the heroes have to stop the worms before they leave the valley and cause irrevocable damage to he rest of the world. 90s B-movie horror at it's best! This movie is gross as Hell, and pretty funny as well. Bacon leads a credible cast, and the special effects aren't bad either! The gore is just explicit enough that you may want to forego anything with tomato sauce immediately before or after watching it.


jawsJAWS (1975)


I wanted to save my ultimate favorite for last. From the moment I first saw JAWS, and continuing today, I have always loved this movie. It inspired in me a lifelong fascination with sharks. It also made sure that I will always look at the ocean with terrified respect. As a child, I would clean my room while listening to the soundtrack, reciting the lines. I watched every movie documentary and behind the scenes, any any other material I could get my hands on. I knew the name of the mechanical shark was Bruce, I knew that the salt water played havoc on all the models, and I knew the name of most of the crew that worked on the film. I used to make up trivia questions (the harbormaster is Frank Silva - don't believe me? Watch the movie!) The raw simplicity of the story line - three men out to conquer a monster - was enticing. Glimpses of the shark are infrequent, allowing suspense to build, but when it does make its appearance, it is no disappointment! This movie is based on a popular book by Peter Benchley, but I haven't read it yet. That's one book I'm not sure that I will ever read, because I've come across comparisons online, and I'm not sure if I am ready for the characters I grew up loving like family to turn out so differently.







What are some of your favorite movies?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

American Horror Story - Asylum

bleeding faceAfter the thrilling conclusion of Season 1 of American Horror Story, I couldn't wait to see the second season. I wanted to see how the show writers would incorporate familiar faces into new roles. Would they trade places? Would the sinister become the innocent, and the innocent become the deranged? How would the character's stories weave together this time? I waited for what seemed like an eternity, and finally was able to get my hands on American Horror Story - Asylum.

American-Horror-Story-poster-AsylumI have to confess, the first few episodes were extremely disappointing. While the writers put their actors to good use (look forward to strong performances by Lily Rabe, Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto, Evan Peters, James Cromwell, Chloe Sevigny, and Sarah Paulson), the stories just weren't as intriguing as Season 1. I was also disappointed that the stories were isolated, they weren't interconnected. There were story arcs that began, became interesting, and died within two episodes (Anne Frank story arc in specific), which left me frustrated. Yes, bits and pieces were referenced later, but overall, the story arcs came to a dead end. Additionally, the first episode began with an alien abduction, which came back here and there, but more as a minor backstory.

The season didn't start coming together until episode 6, when the writers brought a american-horror-story-asylum-premierefew storylines to the forefront. I also got my number one wish from Season 1 - more Zachary Quinto! Rather than being a peripheral character, he was one of the main characters, alongside veteran Jessica Lange.

The writers kept the same flashback format from Season 1. This format gives valuable insight into the character's motivations and experiences. The flashback sequences were mixed with scenes in the future, depicting events at the now-defunct asylum. I can't say any more because it gives away a major plot point in episode 9, but let's just say they upped the ante significantly!

I finished the final episode last night, and I found my views totally changed. It seemed that instead of slacking, the writers were only starting a trainwreck in motion that would have horrifying outcomes for everyone involved. My earlier gripe was also resolved - they brought back the alien abduction and made it relevant.

richardsonThe attention to detail and historical accuracy surprised me. When I was in high school, I did a senior thesis on modern medicine, which included a focus on chlorpromazine and ice-pick lobotomies. (Yes - I was a strange and curious child.) During the season, such practices as aversion therapy, electroshock therapy, and hydrotherapy were also showcased. What's more, their abuses were clearly showcased. Yes, some of the asylum abuses shown were for the shock value, but some of them were actual depictions of abuses suffered by those in asylums. (For the fun of it - here's my favorite one, located in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. May I introduce you to the H.H. Richardson Complex! And yes, if you're wondering, some of the same abuses occurred there as well.)

American Horror Story Season 2 - Asylum is available in local stores now, so head out and grab your copy! (Or, if you're particularly cheap, you can wait until it hits services like Netflix, but that might be awhile.)

 

American Horror Story - Murder House

americanhorrorstoryseason1When American Horror Story first aired, I was living with my parents. We were channel surfing as a family one night, and found it on FX. After watching a few minutes of the show, we changed the channel because the images were pretty disturbing. (We happened upon one of the episodes with the leather suit.) All throughout the first season, my friends kept raving about it and insisting that I watch. The picture of the person dressed in the leather suit kept coming to mind, and I couldn't figure out what they saw in me that would connect me to a leather S&M suit. I'll freely admit I'm a little strange - I like to start celebrating Halloween about a month before everyone else, and I almost never wear matching socks - but I'm not THAT KIND of strange. Well, about three months ago, my friend Steve (the one I go to haunted houses with) told me that at all costs, I have to get through the show. He told me I would love it, because the story was never predictable, and the cast was top-notch.

One night, I decided to seek out American Horror Story, Season 1 on Netflix and american_horror_story_ver4_xlg1see what all the hype was about. From the first scene, all the way to the soul-rending conclusion, I couldn't tear myself away from the screen. Episode after episode, each character that was introduced was more  exciting than the last. Choosing my favorite character or storyline continues to be difficult, even today, because there are too many to choose from. There is Moira, the housekeeper, who appears as an old lady to women but a fiery-haired seductress to any man who sees her. Constance and her daughter Adelaide, the strange next-door neighbors who seem to always find their way into the house. Ben and Vivien Harmon, a troubled married couple who move into the house at the start of the season with their daughter Violet. Tate, the troubled teen who has dark and violent visions. Chad and Patrick, a couple who hope to hope that the new house will save their failing relationship. The list goes on and on, and even the minor characters are a joy to watch.

American-Horror-Story-house-wide-560x282American Horror Story is not shy with any of it's storylines. Topics include school violence, infidelity, and a very realistic portrayal of a homosexual couple. Each of these issues is treated in an unflinching manner that invites open discussion. The storyline that hit home the hardest for me was the school shooting storyline. I immediately thought of the Columbine Massacre, which happened in the spring of my last year as a middle school student. It scared me deeply, because up until then I had thought that being at school was as safe as being at home, and that tragedy had proved me wrong. Seeing the tragedy in this show from the point of view of the shooter, those shot, and someone who got close to the shooter after the tragedy was extremely interesting. It made me seriously think about the people who committed the crimes, and the emotional pain and feelings of isolation that must have led them to do what they did.

By the end of the season, I was firmly hooked. I couldn't get enough of the 400px-Am-horror-chad-and-rubber-guy-300x212characters. I rooted for them, I cried with them, and my heart sunk with theirs. I liked both the villains and the heroes, though sometimes it was hard to tell which character fit which role. Each character acted their part so perfectly that even the minor characters came to life.

Additionally, I never saw any of the plot twists coming. Even when there were plenty of subtle clues pointing me in the right direction. Every single plot twist hit like a punch to the stomach - especially when the identity of the leather-clad person was revealed. I nearly died of surprise!

If you can push yourself past the freakier parts of the show, you will find that American Horror Story Season 1 is an enjoyable TV show. The characters are very multi-faceted, and the acting is superb. Today I will start Season 2 - I'm anxious to see if it lives up to the first season!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Slice of My Childhood

Tonight I wound up at Walmart, which in and of itself, is nothing exciting. There are many days when I am in Walmart at least once, and sometimes multiple occasions if I forget something. My mission tonight was to turn my change into money, return bottles for money, and purchase margarine so that I could make Krusteaz pumpkin bars. The last didn't happen, mostly because I decided to bake them later, possibly tomorrow. (I truly hate baking sometimes!)

Real_Monsters_title_cardAfter completing the majority of my mission, I took a detour through the electronics section. Mostly, I wanted to see what movies were for sale, and plan any forthcoming purchases for Thursday, when I get my paycheck from work. Suffice to say, the only thing of interest was Pacific Rim (can it - I liked that movie!) and a little gem from my childhood. Usually I don' t purchase series, since Netflix and Hulu are extremely good at covering what I watch. However, tonight there was a lone copy of AAAHH!!! REAL MONSTERS, which I watched with rapt attention as a child. It was $19.99, but I couldn't argue since it was all 52 episodes on 4 discs. I grabbed my copy, paid for my other merchandise, and got out of Dodge. For those of you not lucky enough to watch the show during it's original run (from October 30, 1994 to December 7, 1997), I highly suggest you get a copy of the series. This show was part of my own personal Golden Age of Nickelodeon, which varies greatly based on when you grew up. My shows were AAAHH!!! REAL MONSTERS, Doug, Rugrats, and Rocko's Modern Life, if you were wondering. Yes, Ren & Stimpy fits in there technically, but the show scared me out of my wits, so I don't list it as something I watched with any sort of regularity.

From top to bottom, the monsters are Oblina, Ickis, and Krumm. As a youngling, I watched this show on Nickelodeon. Each episode has the same basic format - the three monster students get themselves into a pickle while trying to complete assignments for their monster

aaahacademy classes. They rely on their own talents, as well as their friendship, to get them through. When I was a child, Ickis was my favorite character, mostly because he was the least scary. He was also the most normal, if any of them could be so termed. Oblina was the most scary, and I'm not sure if it was her eyes, or her pseudo-psycho approach to solving problems. I regarded poor Krumm as the smelly monster who spent the majority of the episodes tossing his eyeballs around, and as a comic relief. Reading up on the Wikipedia entry, I also see that Oblina was able to make children have nightmares by tickling their brains through their ears. No wonder she made me nervous!

I have yet to actually start watching, since I have been itching to see Alien for the last week or so. I'm hoping to start on the series tomorrow afternoon, after Chris and I get back from the local science museum. They're hosting an Aliens and Androids exhibit that features Tony Stark, Alien (from the movie I'm watching right now), and other favorites from the sci-fi world. I'm taking him on a date as part of his birthday present.

 

 

The First Haunt of the Year...

Nine years ago, I met one of my closest friends, Steve, through the Astronomy Club at my college. He was an alumnus, and I was a current student. While on a camping trip, we discovered our mutual love for all things horror: movies, music, and most of all - haunts. We decided to start going haunting every October - during which we would visit every haunted attraction in our area. (That may seem like nothing much, but here in Western New York, there's a large variety of things to do and see during Fall!) This came to the relief of our other friend, also named Steve, who was pretty much done with haunting. As our tradition is nearing it's 10th year, we decided to start spicing things up by adding an out of town haunt per season. You see, we are in a great location in New York state, since we have attractions like the Haunted Horseman Hayride in the Hudson Valley, and we're extremely close to both Pennsylvania and Canada.

Steve has been talking about Pittsburgh Scarehouse for the last few years. This year, we decided to go, since we'd be closer to Pennsylvania for our bi-scarehouseannual Astronomy Camp weekend. We left camp Sunday night, and within three hours were sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Pittsburgh waiting for our arrival time. The Scarehouse organizers came up with a really great way to field their traffic without jamming the narrow street in front of the Scarehouse, and jamming the neighboring streets. Visitors can only arrive via school bus shuttle, which leaves from the Pittsburgh zoo parking lot. When you buy tickets, they come in time slots, starting at 7:00, and going every half hour. The staff  is very efficient at getting people lined up, loaded, and off to the attraction. The bus ride takes less than 10 minutes, but when we arrived, we were thankful that we didn't have to drive. It would have been awful! The Scarehouse is tucked away on the outskirts of a residential area, and the streets are narrow. The jam would have been colossal!

After leaving the shuttle, visitors walk around the building to a back entrance. While they wait in line, they are entertained by a man dressed as a woman, a man in a straightjacket, and a man in a bunny suit. Don't start laughing yet. Bunny-man carries an axe, straight-jacket man pops up when you least expect it, and the last guy, well, he just taunts the crowd and draws your attention away so the others can get to you easier. The front of the building looks like something out of a Vincent Price film, which adds effortlessly to the atmosphere. You just know you're in for it when you enter the building!

I elected not to purchase the speed pass when I purchased the tickets, because I was against the $34.99 price tag. If I'm spending that amount, I want more than a chance to be a line-skipper. In any event, we paid the standard $19.99, waited in line for a half an hour, and then were led in. (The line inside the building is a little claustrophobic, but at least there's a barker for entertainment and some interesting displays). Visitors were led into the Scarehouse in groups of four, though the groups quickly caught up with one another. Within a few moments of entering, the groups had become a conga-line of terrified lambs. One house bleeds into another, and all you can hear are sound effects and people screaming and shrieking.

THE SCAREHOUSE BUNNYScarehouse definitely lived up to the hype! Visitors went from house to interconnected house, encountering all sorts of nasty costumes and props. This year's haunts were Creepo's Christmas in 3-D, Pittsburgh Zombies, and The Foresaken. All were phenomenal! Below are brief descriptions of each house, as well as the lobby, but not in the order in which the visitor encounters them. Not afraid of Mister Bunny (pictured at left)? Meet him in person. It's terrifying!

  • The Lobby: While visitors wait to enter the house, they are treated to an old-school stage show, with a creepy barker. He handed Steve a nail to verify that it was real, and Steve did. Then, the barker stuck it into his nose through a hole that I can only assume was a pre-existing piercing. I thought Steve was going to throw up, knowing he'd touched the nail. In retrospect, we were one of the first groups, so chances are it was relatively clean. There were also all sorts of creepy showcases with old props. The whole atmosphere was Art Deco - think "Great Gatsby in Hell". Very cool!

  • Creeop's Christmas in 3-D: The only clown-house that I've ever enjoyed in a haunt. Most of the time, clown houses feel like a rubble pile covered in black light reactive paint, and built haphazardly. This house didn't have many actors, but that was alright, since there was enough detail to make it interesting. The painted scenes on the walls predominately featured gingerbread men in a variety of terrifying situations. Gingerbread as victims and murderers, and even a horde of them being consumed by crazed Christmas trees. It also contained the usual tunnel, which I almost fell out of at the end. Good ole' Creepo Claus himself is pictured below, for all of your clown-filled nightmares.

  • The Foresaken: This house was a dollhouse from hell! I don't like dolls, I don't like people dressed as dolls, and I really really don't like dark places with dolls! In short, this house was terrifying. Dolls were dismembered, watching my every move, and apparently peeling themselves off the walls and talking to me. Thank goodness the guys behind me in the conga-line had a sense of humor - that house was creepy!

  • Pittsburgh Zombies: To be fair, there were a bunch of stationary zombies, hanging out of windows, scrunched into corners, and  generally waiting around for people. However, these were some of the best zombie performers I've ever seen. In most haunted attractions, the zombies stumble around like over-sugared children playing with a pinata. These zoms, however, were of the Danny Boyle type. You could almost feel them retching up the contagion as their bodies jerked spasmodically. As a friend of mine would say, "Gold".

  • The Basement: The last house is below the other three, but you have to pay another $19.99 fee for access, and sign a waiver. The actors are allowedcreepo to push you and restrain you, which is not something I'm up for. Those who know me in real life know that I'm not too good on my feet, so I didn't like the idea of being pushed off-balance. After we left the Scarehouse, we ran into people we had met in line that went to The Basement. Steve was a little disappointed that we didn't go, but we both agreed that with not knowing total time, or the lines, we would have been hard-pressed to make it back on time. As it was, we arrived back home around 12:30 am.


At the end of the haunt, visitors can either purchase merchandise, line up for The Basement, or take a shuttle back to the parking lot. We opted for the parking lot. Pittsburgh Scarehouse was a great attraction, but I recommend that any potential visitors spend $19.99 on the ticket, arrive early, and make sure they're at the parking lot about an hour before their time slot. The attraction is great, but it's better if you can get in, get scared, and get out like Steve and I.

Have you ever been to The Scarehouse? What did you think? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Monday, September 30, 2013

 

 

dream-house-movie-poster

Saturday night Chris and I went to have dinner at my parent's house. My father had been taking almost nonstop about themovie Dream House, which neither Chris nor I had seen. I didn't remember much about it, except that it starred Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, both of whom I enjoy watching immensely. Naomi Watts also stars, and just like Rachel, she's pretty much fabulous in any movie she makes.

My apologies in advance, because this post will be excruciatingly short. There is no way to go in depth about what makes this movie great, without completely giving away the ending - or information pertinent to figuring out the ending. Trust me - you'll want to be surprised!

The movie begins with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz playing a happily married couple, with two have two lovely daughters. As they settle into their new home, strange things begin to happen. The children begin to see a man outside the house, who only stands under the tree at the edge of the property and stares at them. At first, their parents think that the girls are imagining things, but then they begin to see footprints in the snow. Over the course of the movie, an unforgettable mystery unfolds, leaving the family at once devastated and whole.

I can't say enough about this movie. The acting is top-notch, including the two little girls who are sisters in real life. There was never a point in the movie where anyone was out of character. Additionally, there were so many layers to explore within the storyline that I constantly kept changing my predictions for how the movie would progress. From the mysterious neighbor (Watts) and her dysfunctional ex-husband all the way to Craig's own children, there are so many characters to explore.  Dream House begins slowly, and it gradually speeds up as Craig gets closer to solving the mystery surrounding his family's home. By the end of the movie, I was so tense and heart-broken, I could hardly watch. The rolling credits found me on the floor with Lily (my parent's Boston Terrier) crying my eyes out. GREAT MOVIE. At all costs - you NEED to see it!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fun for Everyone!

Resident_evil_rev._2012_CapcomI know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but so be it! Two weekends ago, my husband Chris and I were at our local Best Buy. He was searching for a pair of headphones and a keyboard for his computer. I was along for the ride (and secretly scouting the price of Xbox games). I was eyeing Resident Evil Revelations, deciding whether or not to purchase it at the buyer-friendly price of $59.99, when my husband handed a game to me. It was a Blizzard offering - Diablo III - that I had glimpsed on Chris' computer. I hadn't ever played a Diablo game, but had spent many an hour yoked to World of Warcraft, and I knew the quality of the game in my hand.

Flipping it over, I read the back of the game. You know what word got me? Witch doctor. Hell yes, witch doctor! The words "masses of loot" didn't exactly damageDiablo_III_cover my thoughts on the game either. (The other classes mentioned on the back of the case were barbarian, monk, demon hunter, and wizard, if you're wondering.) Five minutes later, and I was in the checkout line holding the video game, game guide, and Resident Evil Revelations. Chris was smiling as though it were Christmas morning - I was just happy to have a colorful game that saw me tearing through demons with my husband at my side.

Now fast forward two weeks. Chris and I are sitting in the basement on a Friday night in front of the TV set, our surround sound at near-full blast, pumpkin spice coffee at our side. The opening cinematic was the typical lush style long associated with Blizzard games, and immediately drew me into the storyline, after which we were tasked with choosing our classes. As mentioned above, I chose the witch doctor. I have to admit it was tough, I was drawn to the wizard, but also to the monk. In World of Warcraft, which I played for just over five years, I had always played a healer and paired with some muscle, or I was a DPS class. I let Chris choose first, because he had played the PC version of the game. His choice was easy - barbarian. A simple hack-and-slash character, but bound to be fun, who he named TkOut (technical knock-out). I finished flipping through the game guide and chose a witch doctor, whom I named Erzulee. For quick class comparison - take a look at the chart below.

Diablo-3-classes

After choosing our classes, we are shown another cinematic - this time the history of New Tristram. New Tristram is the cursed town from which most of the Act 1 action originates. When the cinematic ends, you and any companions playing with you begin on Overlook road with one ability. You take the road into New Tristram and from there you're off!

grotesquesIt's pretty difficult not to get sucked into the easy gameplay, which lends itself more to Xbox gaming than to PC if you're wondering. There is no need to conserve on ammo, which allows you to freely destroy any monsters you come across, as well as most of the free-standing structures. This feature comes in handy especially when you're in graveyards and tombs. Don't worry - the first several quests have you romping and stomping your way through graveyards, cathedrals, and tombs a plenty. You face all manner of uglies - worms, crawling zombies, and these fat monsters that run around with their arms in the air. To the left, you'll find a monster called, aptly enough, a grotestque. When they are put down, their body explodes and you're stuck fighting various trios of ugly over-sized grave worms.

The actual narrative that drives the story is very interesting, and interspersed well between fighting. When you encounter various NPCs, you can choose the parts of the story you want to hear. This is an added bonus, because if you're a hack-slash-ignore-the-story type, you can blow past that. Also, you can replay the game without the story scenes that can make other games tedious. However, if you're like Chris and I, and you prefer a bit of story to go with your zombie meat, there's more than enough. The music is great too - it's never too loud or invasive, and it doesn't have annoying recurring themes that pop up and make the game predictable.

There is no reason you can give me that is good enough for not playing this game. It's fun, colorful, and well-made. Every quest is new and exciting, you accrue gold and gear quickly, and the dialog is fast-paced. The monsters are appropriately scaled so that they don't whale on you or drop dead too easily. Loot is duplicated for each player, and it's easy to swap gear with others. In short - it's an awesome game! If you don't have this game - go buy it NOW!

 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Make way for the Temptress!

It's been quite some time since I've read any poetry, or written any.  To be honest, aside from the tongue-in-cheek holiday poetry books at Barnes & Noble, I didn't even know that there was horror poetry available.  Thankfully, my ignorance was corrected earlier this year when I met Ladyaslan.   I met the remarkably intuitive poet in quite an unremarkable way.  We followed the same page on Facebook, and gradually began messaging.  I told her I ran a blog, she told me she wrote, and the rest is history.

The cover art of Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights alludes to the mysteries in the pages that follow.  While reading herladyaslan1 poetry, I couldn't help but marvel at her boundless versatility.  Some of the poems are from the point of view of the hapless victims, sucked into the arms of the shadows of the night.  Other poems are voiced by the huntress, stalking the unaware who have only minutes of innocence left to them.  Still others are dark musings under moonlit skies.  You'll meet vampires and revenants, and if you're keen enough, you might pick out a succubus or two.  There are poems of regret and loss, poems of love and warning.  Ladyaslan moves deftly from emotion to emotion, all the while making it look easier than breathing.

By far, my favorite entry was entitled Gothix, which is a an opium and absinthe-soaked nightmare.  All of my favorite elements were in attendance: great atmosphere, graveyard charm, and fantastical monsters.  I have to confess that after I finished it, I had to read it again!  The second time was even better, because I picked up on nuances that I had missed the first time.

When you pick up your copy of Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights, make sure you set aside a long block for reading.  Once you start, you're not going to want to stop.  Before you begin, make sure your tea is ready, your chores are done, and your phone is turned off.  You'll want to give her your full attention.  Extra points if you're reading this in a dimly lit room on a dark and stormy night, wrapped in your favorite lace shawl (gentlemen - feel free to substitute your favorite robe for shawl!)

If you're wondering where you can purchase your own copy, have no fear!  Victorian Days and Punk Rock Nights is available in every format you could want - electronic, paperback, and hardcover.  You can purchase it on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and directly from her publisher, Xlibris.  In short, there's no reason you don't own this book right now.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Genre Clash - Zombies Meet Body Horror

The-New-Ecology-of-Death-James-Robert-SmithYou know what I miss?  Classic monster movies.  Godzilla destroying a city.  An alien Thing terrorizing people in a god-forsaken wilderness of ice and snow.  A ginormous shark cruising beaches during the 4th of July.  Bring it on!  But, in spite of all of that, I do love my zombies.  I love those pus-filled, shambling wrecks.  I love the runners and sprinters, the spitters, and the groaners.

Why choose when I can have both?  Severed Press just released The New Ecology of Death, written by James Robert Smith.  It combines all the terror of a standard zombie apocalypse with the excitement and innovation of a monster story, and then he goes one step further.  Smith taps into the body horror genre, adding the right amount of classy gore.

The New Ecology of Death begins with zombie Alex Wenzler recovering his consciousness - one might go so far as to say that the fog of death was lifted.  Alex is drawn inexorably to his son Mark, and begins a dangerous trek that brings him ever closer to the living.  Meanwhile, Alex's widow Beth has remarried and moved on with her life.  She, her son Mark, and her new husband Davis now live in a mansion surrounded by an iron gate.  Her new husband works for the CDC as a statistician.  It's largely a comfortable life, marred only by the possibility that Alex might stagger hungrily back into it at an inopportune moment.  Alex's journey will bring them all to a train wreck of epic proportions, one that will set in motion a horrible second  apocalypse that will bring new and more frightening threats to everyone.  Lives will once again be at stake, and it will leave readers begging for a sequel.

I couldn't have hoped for a better cover for this story.  The pulp fiction style cover (even sporting an out-dated price of 10 cents) speaks to the retro roots of this tale.  It also gives readers a peek at what's to come - hinting at the zombie transformation concealed within the pages of the book.  Fans of classic body horror movies such as John Carpenter's The Thing and classic zombie movies such as Romero's trilogy, will be thrilled with Smith's literary skill.

The New Ecology of Death by James Robert Smith should be on every horror fanatic's bookshelf, and likewise in every horror fanatic's Kindle.  The way Smith ends his book suggests a strong possibility of a sequel.  Grab The New Ecology now, so that you're not stuck playing catch-up later!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Second Viewing...

Chris_Chloe

Tonight I'm sitting in the basement with my husband Chris (pictured left), our friend Brian (graphic designer extraordinaire), and Chloe (The Overlord - also pictured left).  When I got home from work, Chris told me that he had gotten his pre-order copy of Evil Dead from iTunes, and that he and Brian wanted to watch it.  I promised the night that I wrote the first review, that I would write a second review when I saw it again.

So, here we are, watching this gory-as-a-slaughterhouse film, and I'm once again wondering why I do this to myself.  To be fair, I like the movie more than the first time I saw it.  However, the massive gore and body horror hasn't become any less shocking.  To say that this movie lives up to a second watching is an understatement.  I'm also second-guessing my decision to eat food before sitting down to this.  I knew better.  I knew what was coming.  I absolutely HATE this kind of movie.  I can't deal with the gore and self-mutiliation.  Then why am I doing this?  That's a great question.  I promised when I wrote the first review that I would revisit the movie, and I like to keep my promises.

Evil-Dead-Evil-Basement-chick

In my last review of this movie (read it here), I tore it apart for not having enough elements in it from the original movie.  Knowing what is going to happen next has given me the advantage of being able to watch for specific original movie tie-ins.  I'm starting to see all the allusions to the first film (any any I miss from Army of Darkness are gleefully pointed out by Chris as we watch).  There are so many!  The changes that were made enhance the movie experience.  During this second viewing, I enjoyed the peeks at the Book (faceless, but still made of skin, and covered in barbed wire and plastic) and watching the steps of possession that the characters experience.  The filmmakers certainly upped the ante!  For the sake of not spoiling the film for anyone, let's just say that the possession and mutilation scenes leave nothing to the imagination.  Each one seems to be worse than the last in terms of being horrifying and unbearable.  Characters get up close and personal with electric kitchen knives, glass, needles, and toilets.

While the first viewing of the Evil Dead remake left me underwhelmed, the second viewing got me thinking.  I believe it to be a faithful remake, maintaining key elements of the first film, but also adding amazing makeup effects and changing the plot enough to distinguish itself from the Raimi version.  However, this knowledge in no way makes it easier for me to watch this film again.  I respect the special effects, the amazing acting, and the superb make-up team, but I won't be watching Evil Dead again without severe coercion from my husband.  The all-out gore is too realistic for me!

 

World War Z Part 2: Quit Your Bitching

wwz2I have been to World War Z, lived to tell the tale...and loved it.

For the past 3 years I have read horror (specifically zombies) to the exclusion of almost anything else (barring food box ingredient lists and one accidental slip where I read The Silver Linings Playbook.  Yeah, I loved that one too.)  The point I'm trying to make is that I had high expectations for this movie because I knew what the genre was capable of, and it payed off.

World War Z is one of the first zombie movies to really be believable.  The movie focuses on a "real disease" that moves from person to person through bites and has a frighteningly short incubation period after which the victims become rabid.  A few months before World War Z came out in theaters, The National Geographic released an article detailing the possibility of a zombie virus.  The article discusses the conditions necessary to create the Rage Virus out of the 28 Days franchise.  Thankfully for all of us, it seems that Nature safeguarded us and we aren't going to experience anything like the movies.  Then again who knows, I just found this new article about a new strain of rabies.

Looking to the natural world again, the filmmakers patterned their zombies after ants and other animals that exhibit pack and herd behavior.  The idea is that the individual becomes less important and the main need is spreading the virus to the next host.  This explains their lack of interest in their own physical pain or well-being.  The article also includes some cool footage of the zombies taking down a chopper.  Speaking of spreading the virus, I was pleased to see that the filmmakers actually made the passing of the virus believable as well.  They tamed the zombie virus, and made it follow real world rules.  According to the American Red Cross (I used to be an instructor for several of their courses), there are rules that viruses and bacteria have to follow in order to infect people.  They are (paraphrased):

1) The virus/bacteria has to be present

2) The host needs to be susceptible (i.e. no immunity OR the right kind of host)

3) The virus/bacteria has to have the right entry method (i.e. bite, scrape, injection, airborne)

4) There needs to be enough of the virus/bacteria to cause infection

whoamigodWithout giving away a spoiler, there is a scene where Brad Pitt comes into contact with the blood, and I was positive he was infected.  (The picture to the left is not from that scene - it's from another part of the movie.)  I was surprised and confused when he didn't contract the disease.  However, I saw later on that the filmmakers had stayed true to their rule regarding infection when another character was most likely going to be infected in a similar manner.  Similarly, the "camouflage" that seems to be drawing the ire of the Internet community was actually a really great idea.  Within context of the rules of the disease that the movie sets down, it makes perfect sense.  Just refer to the American Red Cross rules - it's number 2.  Susceptibility due to being the right kind of host.  Trust me, when you see the movie it will make sense.  Also trust me when I say that if you haven't found the spoiler on the Internet, don't go looking for it.  The idea of the "camouflage" is the driving force of the last third of the movie, and the resolution of the movie.

For those that don't believe that this movie is in the spirit of Max Brooks' iconic book (including the author himself), put aside your prejudice.  Any attempts to be true to the book would require a Game of Thrones-sized undertaking with a huge budget.  When you strip away the expectations of the book, the movie is actually really good.  In fact, it's the scariest zombie film I've ever seen.  Zombies rise as cities fall in this PG-13 thriller.  Worried there won't be enough blood?  Don't be - there's enough suspense to more than make up for the PG rating.  The CGI zombie sequences and makeup are all top notch, and the acting isn't half bad either.  Big name Brad Pitt manages to fade into the story, instead of sticking out like a multi-million dollar sore thumb.

In short, don't cheat yourself out of seeing this on the big screen.  When you finally put your big-kid pants on and see it, you'll be sorry you missed it on the big screen.

 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

World War Z Part 1: Why I Saw It

wwz1wwz3


The picture to the left is one of the official posters for the movie World War Z, which I saw this past week with my wonderful husband Chris.  The picture to the right is of the original book, by author Max Brooks.  When this movie was first announced, it caused quite the stir in the horror community.  There were some who thought it would be  a good movie.  The rest of us in the community were worried it wouldn't be a faithful adaptation. I think I was just pissed that Brad Pitt was pushing the project.  I didn't think he had the appropriate reverence to pull it off.  Those of us who feared, feared the bastardization and ruination of one of the most important pieces of zombie literature.  Not many zombie books make the New York Times Bestseller list, but Max Brooks' did, which means it crossed over got noticed.

I was hardcore against this movie.  If you don't believe me, just ask my husband, family, friends, and co-workers how bitterly and incessantly I bitched about it.  I nearly broke my soapbox from all the time I spent lamenting.  And then, I read a blog post that changed everything.  Author Timothy W. Long wrote a post titled, "World War Z - Everybody Just Calm The Fuck Down".  Long makes several very compelling arguments for watching the film, but below is the game-changer:

"This movie represents something that most zombie fans wouldn’t have though possible ten years ago. A huge summer action movie with zombies as the driving force, Massive military battles against hordes of Z’s, worldwide settings, and a huge Hollywood A-list actor to bring in the crowds.

So that’s why I’m seeing it. I want to watch a big budget Z movie. I can’t wait to see the world overrun by zombies while the military guns them down by the thousands, and make no mistake, the scale of this movie appears to be that large and I want it on the big screen. I want zombies so in my face I reach for a Remington Versa Max Tactical Zombie, 12 Gauge shotgun".

That got me thinking about the movies that he referenced in his post.  Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead (remake).  28 Days Later.  28 Weeks Later.  Shaun of the Dead.  Zombieland.  Long made another great point.  There aren't that many zombie blockbusters out there.  Why was I trying to boycott what could be the greatest zombie movie since 2009?  I realized that I had to do my part to support the genre.  If World War Z fails during the height of zombie popularity, that's pretty much it.  I will be relegated to showing my future children only a handful of films.

As for my thoughts on Brad Pitt, here's what Long has to say:

"Brad Pitt, you scoff? If you hate him I have two words for you: Inglorious Basterds, here’s three more: Fight Club, Seven. Here’s a number and a word: 12 Monkeys."  

Fair enough.  Fair enough.  Let me add my own:  Legends of the Fall.  I must confess, I am sick and tired of hearing all the tabloid press.  I miss Brad Pitt the actor.  His abilities have been overshadowed by the press-made drama.  It was time to bring back Brad Pitt the actor.

My husband and I made after work date plans to go see it.  What comes after, you can read about in World War Z Part 2:  Movie Review.

 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Who knew Armageddon could be such fun?!

rtefWhen I first laid eyes on Read the End First, I couldn't wait to read it.  (Seriously - look at that cover!)  I've been a long-time fan of Suzanne Robb's literary antics, and figured that anyone she teamed up with would be top-notch.  After my initial excitement, I started wondering what kinds of stories would be in the anthology.  I couldn't figure out how anyone could come up with 24 separate Apocalypses.  As far as I was concerned, there were limited options:  a) zombies b) disease c) asteroid(s?) d) Biblical.  That's four.  Possibly eight if you can find some variation on the aforementioned methods, but definitely not the 24 (one for each hour) that the book's description boasted.  Nor could I figure out 24 interesting locations from which to destroy the Earth.  Little did I know that the anthology would not only surpass my expectations, but would start an interest in Apocalyptic stories of all sorts!

From introductions by Graham Masterton and Joe McKinney until the very last page, Read the End First is a labor of love.  Each story is set at a different time, and in a different place on our Earth.  Suzanne Robb and Adrian Chamberlain went to great lengths to make sure that each story was completely different, so as to make each story a unique experience for the reader.  Without getting into too much detail and ruining 24 surprises, you will find the religious Apocalypses and the zombies and the diseases.  But you'll also find man-made disasters, natural disasters, demons, and creatures who defy classification.  There are stories in which the end comes swiftly and stories in which the end comes slowly.  Always the end comes inexorably, for both the hero and the anti-hero.

Even with a veritable host of Apocalyptic horrors, Read the End First truly shines in its portrayal of humanity.  While each author gleefully destroys the Earth in his or her own chosen fashion, they also give us a glimpse into the human soul.  The reader can only watch helplessly as the characters struggle to deal with the end of all that is familiar to them - and to us.  In the characters we find caricatures of our friends, lovers, neighbors, co-workers, and ourselves.  Who will you recognize?  The reader follows each character into their unique demise, seeing it as though through their own eyes.  There are characters who make their last peace, lament missed opportunities, and try to squeeze a lifetime of experiences and emotions into a finite moment.  Over and over again the reader is reminded that for all that is important in life, we are specks of dust in an immense and incomprehensible universe.  It's humbling and thought-provoking and sometimes too much to take in one sitting.

On a personal note, I was very much excited to see the city of Rochester, NY utterly destroyed.  You see, Rochester is my father's hometown, and very much like Buffalo, the city of my birth.  Don't get me wrong, Rochester is a gorgeous city, boasting old architecture, and the birthplace of Kodak.  However, I rarely get the excitement of being familiar on a personal basis with many cities that always seem to be slated for mention.  I have never visited Los Angeles, or the West Coast for that matter, and have only spotty memories of Pennsylvania.  While it's true I've been to Maine, Stephen King has created his own towns and cities there, and populated them with horrors of his own devising.  However, it's still fun to see a town you know destroyed by a very talented writer.

The long and short of the matter is that there is no reason you can come up with that will be sufficient to explain why you didn't buy Read the End First.  It's a unique anthology filled with talented writers, and spearheaded by an amazing author team.  I loved every single story in the anthology, which is a rarity for me.  Usually when reading anthologies, I find there is a story or two that just doesn't fit in.  Not so with Read the End First - a book filled with Apocalyptic wonder from cover to cover.

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Damnit, Netflix!

I don't even know where to begin.  I guess the saying should be, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me thrice, shame on Netflix."  As mentioned earlier, I'm still working my way through TKout and my Netflix queue, watching the movies that I added that he didn't seem to excited to watch.  I figure it's only fair - it weeds out the movies he won't want to see, and he can weed out the ones I won't want to see.  So far as I can tell, he's getting the better end of the deal.

Tonight began with a little disaster from 2004, titled Zombie Nation.  Again, the poster looks pretty awesome.  It's a Ulli_Lommel's_Zombie_Nationgruesome face with the title carved into it's forehead.  Apparently the production company spent it's entire make-up budget on the poster.  Despite the fact that our femme fatale zombies climb out of the dirt, the only indication we have that they are dead is the heavy black and purple eye makeup.  Raccoons of the world, it's time to be jealous.  Zombie Nation is supposed to be about a psychotic cop who abducts, tortures, and kills women.  Then they come back as zombies.  Pretty simple plot.  However, we get instead is an existential batch of women zombies, who stagger, run, and talk their way through the movie.  Oh, and as a sign of the times, the soundtrack is that deplorable club sound so prevalent in the early part of the 2000s, which gives the whole movie more of a softcore porn feel than an actual zombie movie.  (No offense to any fetish readers out there - if that's your thing, more power to you, but I'd at least like a little warning since that's not exactly my bag of chips.)  Production value is pretty bad, looking more like it was filmed sometime in the 80s.  Not to mention that the set for the inside of the police station looks like the other side of the torture room the cop uses.  All in all, it's a pretty bad movie.  I must confess that I played it through until the end.  I just had to know if it truly was that bad.

MV5BNTUxMjUyMzk1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzg4NjYxNA@@._V1_SY317_CR4,0,214,317_After Zombie Nation, I went to a little flick called RetarDEAD, more out of curiosity than anything else.  Anything zombie draws my attention, and usually without a second thought.  I should have seen it coming a mile away from the title though, and I feel guilty for not giving the title more thought from the get-go.  RetarDEAD started off with a string of home movie quality trailers for obscure movies, which I think was supposed to lead up to the main film.  I barely made it through this lackluster attempt at an artsy opening.  While it was playing, I hopped on over to my staple, IMDB.com to check the film out.  The description in IMDB.com did not match the description in Netflix, or I never would have considered this movie.  Netflix describes it as the tale of a mad scientist who alters students to make them smarter, while cops are more interested in catching a sex fiend than the zombies.  Not the most scintillating plot, but not bad.  IMDB.com however, goes a little more in-depth.  The reason the mad scientist is able to enhance the students is because they are mentally handicapped.  I turned the movie off immediately and rated it with a 1 star.  I don't think that the people involved with the movie must have had any dealings with that particular community.  What few dealings I have had with special needs children (students in my classroom and students that I taught to swim) have taught me that they are loving and wonderful souls.  They are kind and caring, and do not tend to dwell on the skills they don't possess.  When I used to lifeguard, I worked with the Special Olympics swimmers.  All throughout the practice, they cheered each other on and freely gave tips to each other to improve their swimming.  I'm not a holier-than-thou type, and enjoy my share of politically incorrect entertainment, but I can't watch this one.  Having met the people I've met and seen what I've seen, I can't watch this movie.

Now I'm off to the third attempt of the night.  It's a crazy flick titled Deadgirl.  Both the Netflix and IMDB.com descriptions are close, so I think I know what I'm getting into this time.  Look for my review of it, possibly later tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend Survival Guide

Memorial Day weekend is upon us at last, which means it's time for hot dogs, grilling, backyard swimming pools, and time with loved ones.  If you're looking to have some extra-special fun this weekend, check out the ideas below.  But whatever you choose to do, make sure you send your warmest thanks to our Vets, and keep the ones no longer with us in your memory.  Holiday-of-the-Dead-front

1.  Holiday of the Dead -  Driving into work this morning, I was thinking about leaving this one to the last, so I could spend forever raving about it.  However, since it's $2.99 on Kindle (a steal) why wait?  This book is a riot.  It features stories by Iain McKinnon, David Dunwoody, Eric S. Brown, Shawn M Riddle, Joe McKinney, Bowie V. Ibarra, and so many other talented authors.  It even features a story set in a nudist colony!  There are stories about vacations in other countries, stories about popular vacation hot spots, and stories about all kinds of zombie mayhem.  I read this book last winter and I couldn't put it down.  Every single story is better than the last.  I found myself laughing, crying, and cringing in terror.  Grab this for a great holiday read!

components2.  Zombie Dice -  This simple game comes in a can and features dice with pictures on them.  This game lasts about 10 minutes and can be played by up to 8 people at a time.  The rules are simple: roll the dice to eat brains and dodge bullets.  Being a zombie is easy!  So easy and portable, you can play it anywhere!  Take it to the beach, a picnic, or on the road to your next destination.  Having personally played this game, I can tell you that it's a great conversation starter when you need to break the ice and get to know someone.

3.  Run For Your Lives - If you like running, physical fitness, or zombies, check out this site.  There may be a run site near you!  Basically, you run an obstacle course and get chased by zombies.  All you have to do is survive until you hit the finish line.  Or, if you'd just like to train like it's the Apocalypse, pick up Zombies, Run! for your mobile device.  Over your music, you'll hear instructions of zombie attacks.  Collect items when you complete missions, and build up your base.  Interval training just got awesome!

4.  The Walking Dead -  You can choose to catch up on either the AMC series, or the original graphic novel.  AMC recently walking-dead-daryl-merle-dixonannounced that they will be continuing the series.  If you've been caught up in other pursuits, now's the time to get your Walking Dead on.  If you're like me and prefer to read the story before watching the show, rest assured - they're different enough that you don't need to be familiar with one to enjoy the other.  Reading and TV not your style?  Play AMC's The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct.  If ou're a fan of the antics of Daryl and Merle Dixon, you'll be pleased to know that the game is voiced by Norman Reedus and Michael Rooker.  And if you're also like me, you can't deny your fascination for Norman Reedus.

FFP0101_LastNightOnEarth5.  Last Night On Earth -  Do you like role-playing games?  Then you'll love this one.  Play out different scenarios as different people.  Just remember not to become a zombie!  Don't fret - if you're not the goody-goody type you can also opt to play as a zombie.  To quote John Leguizamo in Land of the Dead, "I've always wanted to see how the other half lives."  All of the fun of zombie-dom without the pain of dying.

6.  For the Gardener - If you're like my father, and tend to see Memorial Day Weekend as a time to get ahead on your gardening, take a look at this organizer wall posted on Instructables.com.  It's called a Zombiewall, and features a cheeky design for storing your gardening gear.  I might actually do this - but hang a sign over my things.  Maybe even hang my bicycle on a few hooks near it for extra cheesy appeal.  It seems fitting, considering Rum-Genericpretty much every other facet of my life has been invaded by zombies.  Why not the garden too?

7.  Last, but certainly not least, if you're in charge of the celebratory drinks, let's not forget to bring some zombies to the party.  Here are some zombie drinks that are sure to bring any party to life!  Just remember to drink responsibly.  If you're going to drink, stay off the roads.  Call a cab, stay on a friend's couch, sleep in your own bed.  There's no reason to be turning yourself, a loved one, or a complete stranger into a zombie.


As for my plans, I'll be at home hopefully finishing two books which need to be posted up for review, as well as working my way through Games of Thrones Seasons 1 & 2.  I might even get my garden in order, since my husband and I moved into our first house a few months ago and it was still snowing then.  Oh!  And lest I forget - my husband and I will be welcoming a new member to our family.  My parents have a few stray cats in their care, and TKout and I will be adopting one of the kittens, Tom.  He'll be hanging out for a day or so before he visits our resident Overlord (our Bengal cat, Chloe).    



What are you going to be up to this wonderful weekend? 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Suggested Reading for Teens

When I used to be a teacher, I would often overhear my students talking about zombies.  They played Left 4 Dead, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, and talked 9781442402331_p0_v1_s260x420non-stop about what to do in a zombie apocalypse.  (If you were wondering, I taught middle school for three years, which puts my students at about age of 13.)  As an adult, I find that I can read whatever I choose.  My students, on the other hand, need more carefully selected materials.  I remember thinking that it was such a shame that there were no horror books on the reading lists.  That seems to be the one genre that schools avoid, and it's a pity.

Over the course of my last year as a teacher, I befriended one of the parents.  She and I talk about pretty much everything and anything, and I count her among my closest friends.  Her son, my previous student, has the run of my zombie library (with his mom's permission - I let her know if I think there's anything she might object to in the books and she makes the decision).  That being said, I'm always on the lookout for suitable reading material that I will be able to pass along to my own future children so that they can know the joy I feel in reading, and in specific, horror.

There's one book in particular that keeps coming to mind as a suitable entry-level zombie book.  Make no mistake - I read it when I was twice my student's age, and I loved it, so when I say it's appropriate don't make the mistake of thinking it's "tame".  It's very deep, and the characters have to survive a host of growing pains in addition to the struggles of living in a zombie-infested world.  Jonathan Maberry has a way with telling a story about young people in an apocalyptic world that is engaging and realistic.  His story Rot & Ruin, based on one of my all time favorite short stories, centers around two brothers and their tumultuous relationship.  Benny Immura's last memories of his parents cause resentment towards his older brother Tom, whom he views as a coward.  The story centers around the two brothers struggles.  Benny struggles to find his place in the community in the shadow of his brother's achievements (though he's not entirely sure what they are, just that everyone adores his brother), and Tom's struggle to help his brother grow up in a harsh world.

Any way you slice it, this is a great book, and it becomes an even better series.  There are four books total.  I have only read up to the second book, as I want to take my time.  Series like this don't come around often, and I want to make sure the magic lasts just a little bit longer.  If there's a zombie fan of any age in your home or family, pick this book up.  If you're not sure what the big deal is with this whole zombie craze, pick this book up.  You won't be disappointed.

Netflix Failed Me Again

RISE-OF-THE-ZOMBIESAnother night at work, another zombie flick on the screen.  My husband shares his Netflix account with me, and anyone who knows us both can tell which movies were chosen by each of us.  He tends to favor Asian fight flicks and any other action movies, and I can't pull myself away from anything zombie or foreign.  In any event, it's time to thin the queue.

Tonight, I'm watching Rise of the Zombies, which features Danny Trejo on the movie poster.  Shame on Netflix!  I'm almost done with this movie, and I have been able to follow along with it, despite pausing it for calls and half watching while I enter tickets into the computer.  What I'm trying to say is that start power from Danny Trejo, Mariel Hemingway, and LeVar Burton can't save this film.  It's a non-descript zombie shooter that is more like a film adaptation of Left 4 Dead than an actual movie.  Any moments that could possibly be suspenseful or sad are ruined by a soundtrack that has been nothing but overly dramatic the entire time.

The plot for Rise of the Zombies is pretty run-of-the-mill.  People are stranded at Alcatraz while the zombie apocalypse rages outside.  Others are not so lucky - they're still trapped in the city just across the water.  They see on TV that there's a scientist who is working on a cure.  Some people leave the island to go see him, some people leave the island just to go out on their own, and some people stay behind to work on their own kind of research.  There are too many characters and none are developed enough to make them or their names memorable, but they do die in interesting ways.

 When I was reading the IMDB.com entry for Rise of the Zombies, I saw that the film was made in 2010, and was a TV film for the SyFy Channel.  That new tidbit actually made me appreciate the film a little more.  You see, as a child, I would watch SyFy all the time with my parents.  They would show reruns of The Twilight Zone, as well as The Outer Limits.  I also used to watch the movies that SyFy produced.  Therefore, I can say with a conscience backed by experience, that this has to be the best film SyFy has come up with on it's own.  They didn't use too much CG, and the makeup was actually pretty good.


All that being said, Rise of the Zombies wasn't the best zombie film out there, but it certainly wasn't the worst.  It's helped greatly by LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge of Star Trek: Next Generation, Kunta Kinte of Roots, and star of Reading Rainbow) and Danny Trejo (Machete, Predators, and pretty much every movie that requires a bad-ass Latino or Mexican).  Put on Rise of the Zombies if you just want a movie to play in the background while you chat with some friends over pizza at a sleepover, or any time that you want a horror film that you don't have to pay very close attention to while you watch.