Month: April 2013

Walking With Giants

I’m a writer. I’d like to think of myself as a decent writer who loves telling horror stories. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following me for a while now. I’ve been thinking about what will happen once I’m published lately. I realize you need a publishing contract first, but you can’t be too prepared, right? ūüėČ

The answer I came up with is readers will compare me, and my writing style, to¬†some of the more popular¬†horror writers. We’re talking King, Koontz, Matheson, Lovecraft, Maberry, and the list goes on and on. The thing is no matter what genre we write, the same thing will happen. It’s the natural thing to do. Write Paranormal Romance? You may be compared to Sherrilyn Kenyon. You get the point.

Think of what the guy who had to guard Michael Jordan thought. He was the best in the game. If you were intimidated, you lost. Too cocky and Jordan would burn you. All you could really do was try your best and forget anything else. That’s what we must do with our writing, try our best and forget¬†anything else.

If we, as writers, get caught up comparing our words with anyone else’s, we walk head first into the danger zone. I’ll never write like Stephen King, just like Stephen King will never write like me. But that’s what readers want to see on the cover of our books. They look for those endorsements. You know, the ones where a famous author gives their seal of approval, gushing over the words within. The more famous the author, the more credibility we give the unknown author. It’s okay, I do it too. I’m just as guilty as the next reader.

This may intimidate some writers. Others probably haven’t thought about any of this. The fact is no matter what we do, our words/books will be compared to others. I don’t know about anyone else but I welcome those comparisons. We’ll never know how good we really are without them. Sure, if we walk with giants we may get crushed. But we may just discover that’s where we belong. If we are committed to excellence, those comparisons shouldn’t help, or hinder, our writing. They may, however,¬†be a good measuring stick.

When we’re published we will be thrust out amongst those literary giants. We can stand and stare as their oversized boots race toward us, or we can walk along. I don’t plan on cowering or being¬†awestruck.¬†That’s where I want to be. Walking with giants.

 

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Weekend Horror: Evil Dead (2013)

EvilDead-2013

Like many of you, I heard about this remake before I saw any previews. I was skeptical. I loved the original for the campiness and innocent feel the college actors brought to the table. Then I saw a preview. Still wasn’t sold. Then I learned the original director, producer, and star were involved and gave their seal of approval. Now I was intrigued.

Too bad I didn’t listen to those first instincts.

The Evil Dead follows much of the same story as the original. Five young adults are spending the weekend in a decrepit cabin in the woods, miles from civilization. In the remake, they’re there to help Mia (played by Jane Levy) kick her drug habit. Two of her life-long friends Eric, the annoying know-it-all teacher, and Olivia, who just so happens to be a nurse, are along for support. We mustn’t forget Mia’s brother, David, who has abandoned the family long ago and recently resurfaced with his girlfriend, Natalie, to support his sister. Turns out someone broke into their family cabin. GASP!

After a quick search, they find no one…or the 30,000 dead cats in the basement either. So our fearless fivesome proceed to “make this place livable.” Mia makes it a few hours before she starts screaming and throwing tantrums for some drugs. Meanwhile, Eric decides to open something wrapped in barbed wire and garbage bags because…we don’t know. When he opens it, he discovers a book bound in human flesh. Now most of us would not touch the book further, but not Eric. He’s a teacher! He’s smart! It seems like Eric’s only purpose in this film was to open the book and read it aloud…exactly what it says NOT to do.

PossessedMia

Something comes out of the woods and starts possessing our hapless heroes. Chaos, blood, and dismemberment follow.

What I liked.

  • The special effects were awesome. The burns looked real. Blood, blood, everywhere! Severed limbs, cut flesh, all looked great.
  • The sound. Even though I wouldn’t recommend wasting your money watching this at the theater, the sound alone almost makes up for that. Disembodied voices come at you from all angles. The gross sounds of sawing flesh, puke, and other scary noises was one of the highlights of this film.
  • Jane Levy. The actress who plays Mia did an excellent job. I believed she was terrified in the beginning when things were trying to possess her. After she was possessed, she became a whole different being. Again, her performance almost makes this film bearable.

What I didn’t like.

  • The script. I can hear some of you grumble that this is only a horror movie. I don’t care. Any good movie starts with a good script. This movie had a few good ideas that didn’t pan out because the script was so thin. I spent much of the movie shaking my head in disbelief because I didn’t believe the characters would do many of the things they did. They lacked motivation. When¬†Natalie (who no one other than David knows) is sent for some lifesaving supplies, she stops to check on¬†possessed Mia. It doesn’t make sense. Someone is going to die if she doesn’t get back¬†ASAP, yet she stops to check on someone she has no reason to check on. Don’t get me started on Eric. All he does is bitch, moan,¬†and unleash the demons.¬†When demons are¬†running amok, he¬†calls David¬†a coward for¬†always running away throughout their lives. What? There were simply too many plotholes and no rational character motivations. The home-made defibrillator was the best. Get an old car battery, some needles, and some wires to connect them, and you too can bring people back from the dead!
  • The acting. I’m sorry, but Shiloh Fernandez was horrible as¬†David.¬†I don’t know if he was intentionally trying to show no emotion, but that’s what audiences are treated to.¬†I never believed he cared for anyone, at any time. The same goes for¬†Lou David Pucci, who played Eric. I didn’t believe he had a relevant purpose in the movie. Part of that was due to the script, but there’s a part where he’s whining why everything isn’t all right. All he does is talk in little more than a whisper. He says things like, “we’re all going to die,” but it was so nonchalantly acted that I laughed.
  • Doors slamming every ten minutes. Seriously, every time something was about to happen, a door slammed. It was annoying after the second time, but they just kept doing it.
  • A dog named Grandpa. I didn’t have a problem with them having a dog. I just didn’t see the point. He didn’t do anything and is killed rather early in the film, but we don’t see how, or why. We’re led to believe Mia did it (it was her dog) but that part is quickly brushed under the rug.
  • The book of the dead. Look, I didn’t mind the concept behind the book. I had problems with¬†a lack of¬†reasoning behind anything in the book. It was like someone came up with what they thought were cool ideas and threw them in there. In order to save the possessed soul you have to either dismember them, bury them alive, or burn them alive. Why? Because the book says so. How would killing them save their soul? Because the book says so.
  • The atmosphere. The cabin, and surrounding woods, didn’t feel creepy. When we see the cabin, it just looks like a rundown shack and not a foreboding death house. The whole possession angle hinges on our group of heroes being isolated and stranded, trapped. Other than them showing the overflowing river (which happens in a matter of hours), I didn’t feel like they had to stay in the cabin. I wondered why they didn’t leave, more than once.
  • The prologue moment. Other than explain why there were a million dead cats strung up in the basement, and how the book was there, the prologue left me scratching my head. We never see those people again. It didn’t make sense, or fit in with the rest of the movie.

This movie suffers from poor direction and an even poorer script. Coincidentally, they were both done by the same person, Fede Alvarez. Instead of an intelligent horror film, audiences are treated to one bloody moment after another with no apparent reason. It felt like the director was trying too hard to gross the audience out instead of making a good film, and it shows. Halfway through the movie I said out loud, “I don’t care.” And that’s exactly how the actors interacted with each other on screen. They didn’t seem to care about one another either. Without a good story any movie will fail. And that’s exactly what this film does, fail. If all you’re looking for is¬†gore, see The Evil Dead. That’s one of the few things they get right. For those of you looking for a good movie, skip it. It’s not worth your time, or money.

The Magic of a Great Book–The Warded Man

I’m a notoriously picky reader. Ask anyone I critique for. If there’s¬†a major flaw in a book I can’t get past, I stop reading.

The Warded ManSo when a book comes along that exceeds my already high expectations, I can’t help but shout it out to the world. That book is Peter V. Brett’s debut novel, THE WARDED MAN. Yes, this is Peter’s first published book. They got almost everything right.

Why did I like it? The answer may surprise you. It’s not overdone. The writing is simple, crisp, and seamless. Peter doesn’t get all flowery and overload readers with literary extravagance. His writing is rugged and accesible for everyone. His characters jump off the page, even those we barely get to know. I found myself identifying with many of them and nodding my head in approval. We understand their frustrations, and fear with the world they’re forced to live in. We also understand why they want to change it. Readers are treated to a well planned and flowing story. By the end of The Warded Man, I couldn’t wait to read the Desert Spear, it’s sequel (which I immediately ordered).

The only minor complaint¬†I had was the use of sex as a weapon. Not an easy topic to address. Something I understand first hand. I recently changed a near rape from my WIP because it didn’t feel right. While I understand Peter’s dilemma–creating a world where re-populating it means more than cultivating it–I just wish he would have found a few different ways to get these points across without the constant threat of rape. Most of¬†the time¬†I didn’t have a problem. But there was one spot where I felt uncomfortable. That’s saying a lot from a horror writer/movie lover. I’ve seen it all. If you plan on reading and are uncomfortable with sexual situations,¬†you’ve been warned. To be fair to Peter, it’s his world and he can do what he wants. The threat of rape is a very real thing in any world, ours included. If nothing esle, it’s up to each author to decide how to approach¬†such a sensitive topic.¬†I¬†plan on reading, and enjoying, the rest of the series.¬†I hope you do too.

Stodgy Epic Fantasy purists may have a problem (no long winded world building here) with Peter’s direct writing style, but I found¬†his voice refreshing. Readers looking for a great story that will captivate their imaginations won’t be able to put this book down. Plus, there’s demons–scary, sharp toothed, want to kill everyone demons! Being a writer, I find the best books don’t just captivate me, but inspire me to tell better stories.¬†The Warded Man did just that. That, my friends, is magic. Pick up a copy today. You won’t regret it.

Peter’s official website can be found here: petervbrett.com

Click on this link to find Peter on Twitter. He’s a pretty cool guy to talk to. Just don’t get all stalkerish or he’ll summon some corelings to eat your face.