Haven

haven

I love the horror genre. I grew up with it, staying up late, watching bad horror flicks and even badder ones, sometimes alone, sometimes with my grandma. “Alien” had been my first real taste of horror, when the chestburster blew out of John Hurt’s heart. Last night, the wife and I watched “Aliens” and it was her first time to, and she was terrified. That’s a timeless piece there, folks. It’s not much data, but to me, it’s proof why “Aliens” is highly regarded as the best in the entire damn franchise.

Tom Deady, winner of this year’s Bram Stoker Award for his debut novel, “Haven” has that timeless feel swirling in me. Anybody who’s new to this might say it’s reminiscent to Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which is, to me, a tribute to some dude named Stephen for his stories “It”  and “Stand by Me” (Originally, “The Body”). Both are excellent stories that should become required reading in schools.

The story begins with Paul Greymore walking out of prison as a free man, where he returns to his hometown called Haven, the place where he was arrested 16 years ago, accused of murdering children.

Let’s not kid ourselves here. We know Paul is innocent all along and it’s just a matter for us to find out what’s really happening. Deady drops hints early in the book to confirm that, so we don’t overthink things through.

What I loved about the book was the depiction of the monster. Better yet, monsters. A lot of people in Haven are pissed that Greymore has returned, and many of them are wary, paranoid, and ready to kill.

While in a way book feels like “It,” “Haven” is much shorter, and points you toward the action without introducing too much backstories from random people that would no longer be breathing and be in one piece by the chapter’s end.

“Haven” is a story about family. Yes, there is a monster in the book, and don’t be surprised by that. But it plays more in the sidelines, always hidden in the dark, compared to the real horrors humanity may inflict on to each other: The horrors what an angry lynch mob can do, domestic abuse, police brutality, and bullying.

I love this book. I gorged through it in two nights. And it’s exciting what other things Tom Deady can come up with.

To wrap things up, here’s “Dead Memories” by Slipknot. Cause, Paul Greymore reminds me of Paul Gray.

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On films and videogames

Both films and videogames have had important impacts in my life. As an aspiring novelist, I drew my inspirations and influences through the visual medium I saw on screen, cause, I hated reading at that time, I really did until my early adulthood. It was through videogames and film that was I able to experience the worlds shaped by H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Philip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkien, among others. To this day, I continue to draw inspirations from the things I see, allowing me to craft things in greater detail—or so I like to believe. In any case, the top 3 films and videogames below hits closer to home more than anything else I’ve experienced.

Film

“Alien”

Ridley Scott’s 1979 sci-fi horror, “Alien,” is and will always be among my top 3 favorite films of all time. I remember my first encounter with it at the tender age of five or six, alone in the living room at night, turning a heavy knob to change the channel, making loud “thud, thud, thud” sounds: First there was some late night news from then RPN 9, and hitting channel 13: A man was screaming as people looked down on him with confused horror in their faces. The man stopped screaming and this dick-shaped thing burst from his chest, all soaked up in blood and gore. It’s the most violent metaphor I have seen on film about sex. Oh, H.R. Giger. You are missed, truly.

“American Graffiti”

The end of high school life means massive mental reconfiguration. Well, of course college years are awesome, the level of freedom someone attains can lead to world-shattering disasters, orgies, or both. In some cases, college life means you’re legal, you can go to bars and have a drink, and think yourself an adult, where you’re soon to start paying bills and the inner struggle to do the responsible thing. But high school life is, how shall we put it, innocent? Pure? It’s a life full of misadventures, an age of ignorance and arrogant. It’s that phase in life where it’s all right to make “some” mistakes and learn from it, a phase where you continue to struggle with the ropes of life until you have a tight grip on it and yank that shit down and hold it in your hands. That’s how “American Graffiti” is to me, the constant search and yearning for that white Ford Thunderbird. When Curt turns the Blonde, the one who he had been desperately searching the entire night, down, because he needed to leave, that’s the responsible thing. No matter how sad that is. It’s a journey where the best of times needs to be settled down as you get on a plane to adulthood, getting ready to embrace newer things ahead.

“Stand by Me”

If you disagree that the greatest films ever shown to mankind, then you can go away, die, and burn in hell, because “Stand by Me” is the greatest film ever. I’m not even being subjective here. It’s just plain fact that this film is the best thing there ever will be in modern and future cinemas. Don’t even say “Citizen Kane” is best god damn film of all time, just because everyone says so, I dare you to explain what made Orson Welles’ magnum opus the best of all in film history? You can’t and you won’t, because “Stand by Me” is a billion times better and I’m just shouting at you like a little kid, ready to get violent just to prove my point!

For reals though, “Stand by Me” is everything what I have ever wanted as a kid: A treehouse, a quest in the wild, misadventures and campfire, getting chased by a dog or a train, having friends that I can stand by with.

 

Videogames

“Digimon World”

I’ve always had an obsession to Digimon ever since I first heard about it as a youth. I’ve even had distinct dreams, almost a premonition, a poster of which highlighted the next Digimon that will evolve and what it will turn into. So, when I got the “Digimon World” for the PSOne, I was more than thrilled to run around with either an Agumon or a Gabumon trailing after me like a Pikachu in “Pokemon Yellow.” It’s an exciting mix between playing “Monster Rancher” and owning the Digivice-like “Tamagotchi.” In “Digimon World,” you actually get to train a Digimon, coaching it to various exercises to boost up specific stats, feeding them and rationing your food as you travel, and making sure they properly shit in the toilet (seriously), all while roaming around the vast Digimon world, rescuing and recruiting Digimons to populate the city. Only the wonderful exotic sights of Tifa Lockhart can beat that.

“Xenogears”

I got this game almost the same time as “Digimon World,” also for the PSOne. It was the first big game for adults that I’ve played and on my first playthrough, couldn’t exactly quite grasp how deep and sophisticated and heartfelt “Xenogears” has to offer. Also, it has kickass mechas, a unique gameplay mechanic, a frightening boss music, and a bitch slap plot twist (in a good way).

“Breath of Fire III and Street Fighter II”

I’m cheating the system, fuck it, but it’s a tie between these two. In Capcom’s glorious days, when it was a significant games publisher before it went all-out remaking “Resident Evil” time and time again, they put a lot of impressive games. “Breath of Fire III” and “Street Fighter II” among them. The former caught my attention and held onto it with an iron-grip, because it early adventures of Ryu, Rei, and Teepo. How, both Ryu and Teepo were orphans, and turned out to become epic motherfuckers that literally can rule the world. There were also a bunch of mini games and several side quests that all added to spicing up the game. It was also a time when you collect things in-game they actually added value to the gameplay and isn’t just “1 out of 10 notebooks.”

And “Street Fighter II” was the first game I played with my mom when she first came home with a SNES from the states. It was among our first bonding moments, I played between Ryu and Ken, then went on full Guilde (cause, ‘murica) and she played Chun Li. We’d play together after school, on the weekends, we’d also play “Super Mario World,” but we weren’t good at it at that time, so we often switched back to punching each other. It was good, sweet times before she had to leave and it wouldn’t be until several years later that we saw it each other again.

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

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One of the few book covers of The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree by S.A. Hunt

Holy shit! Did I just do another self-published book review? Damn right I did. This one’s by S.A. Hunt, and this is another Western fantasy story, with bits of horror elements thrown here and there. To save some time, is it every bit as worth it as a lot of people say it is? Damn straight it is.

I have seen people compare this book to Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” and some have pointed out that it’s a bad thing. I don’t understand why, since dark western stories and people magically walking into another world are nothing new. If anything, S.A. Hunt traps us into a world that is rich in lore and ideas that matches a woman’s skirt: Long enough to cover the subject, short enough to be interesting. (I read that in a journalism book and I was blown away by it, the original unedited quote turned out to be from Winston S. Churchill.)

The early onset parts were damn good. From the prologue’s one-shot scene, to the protagonist’s arrival from the airport, and his seemingly increasing obsession to learn more about what his father had been doing before the event’s of the prologue happened, were total page turners. This entire sequence has been called out once as an “over exposition.” I disagree with that, I felt that this entire process moved too fast. Give or take, “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree” would have been a better book if it gave us more time with the characters exploring the mysterious phenomenon they keep on experiencing. That’s not to say that this book wasn’t fun, because it’s full of it.

There were just two others things I didn’t like. First, there were times where S.A. Hunt tried a little bit too hard to be florid. I don’t mind a little poetry in writing, but you tend to run into one too many in this book, and many of them were awkward in a not-too-cool way.

The second thing I didn’t like in the book, is how the characters from characters easily accepted the idea that our heroes are from another world. I suppose that just shows how strange this alien world is, where inter-dimensional travel is something far more believable than someone who had lived their entire lives in a faraway country.

As the book progress, the more it edges into an epic fantasy with guns. We’re guided, step-by-step into this new world: We feast on one of the many cultures, see exotic sights and races that would freak out the next person on Earth. The story may start out dry at first, because of the protagonist’s strained relationship with the people around him, but just around the corner of this book, things do lighten up in a bright cheerful manner. (I am talking specifically about the “table scene,” which was hilarious.) I like to this that is a metaphor in some way, in how life is beginning to seep back into protagonist’s life.

Here’s the Amazon page of S.A. Hunt’s “The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree,” in case any one out there who read this post hasn’t read the book and is interested to check it out.

 

The hedgehog review of Insidious 3

Why hedgehog? No idea, it just sounded cool.

Insidious 3 fires up all cylinders for a fast-paced, “breathtaking,” soul-wrecking, fear mongering machine, but stumbles a bit on the final quarter.

This is a movie that explores the loss of someone. It is also a sort of an origins tale, dwelling more into the background of Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye), which has, as the previous Insidious chapters, showed outstanding performance (which is most likely how she has been upgraded from a supporting role to a main cast.”

Insidious 3 opens up with the initial creep fest and slows down to a long sizzle. There are many places to rest, no jump scares, and you know something is about to happen when the demon-prey, Quin, is alone. Insidious 3 relies on good old scares, using the dark as a commonplace to generate tension and stress for the audience, at least it did for me, and the red lighting scheme just ain’t funny, at all.

There had been truly two big scares in the entire film. These scenes had everyone in the theater gasping and screaming. The first, tells us that just because we feel safe, doesn’t mean there aren’t anything out there ogling at us.

The second, was more like, “Hey there, what’cha doing? Just lie, feeling hopeless with literally no one here to help you, while I do this… and this… and… this… buying my sweet, sweet time, while I do this!”

Seriously, everyone in the cinema just crapped their pants there.

However, the scene that terrified me the most was during the film’s rising action, where we are shown a fragment of what would happen to Quin, if she were to be taken whole by the Man who Can’t Breathe.

The demons shown in the movie, as hoped for, been fantastic and terrifying. The demon who can’t breathe, itself tells us a rich lore of itself. Nothing much is said about it, but looking at it, we can speculate his story and how sad its life had been, turning into this vindictive son of a bitch.

The second half of the film, we’re introduced with two characters that are much welcomed to the ghost fighting crew. Their inclusion, however, is like having Gordon Ramsay filleting the horror genre. It becomes less scary from this point on. It’s still creepy as hell, but it’s no longer scary enough to cover your eyes.

It is not a spoiler to say the movie resolves its conflict, as the pattern of these movies shows the movie’s climax is reminiscent from that of The Conjuring. It bolsters on love, hope, and faith. And it is a sweet thing, though it is not as sweet here as in The Conjuring – perhaps because we’ve seen it done already?

We’re also introduced to a bunch of characters that have no greater role whatsoever. What I enjoyed from the first two Insidious films is that everyone shown has a greater role to play, and not just “Hey man, I’m here for you.” No, you’re not here when they needed you! Maybe that’s the point?

At first, I was sorely disappointed that the movie doesn’t bridge anything from the epilogue of Insidious 2 – the scene where we see Elise terrified for the first time. But as my uncle pointed out when he saw it, a lot of demons and dead things are pretty much pissed off with Elise and her repeated meddling to “police the spirit world.” So, it would make simply make sense that many demons are after Elise, and are attempting to lure her into twisted machinations to rid of her for good.

We learn that there are two worlds beyond this place known to mortals. Wandering in the dark, follows through much like the film’s theme of loss. If someone you love has died, you feel lost, and wander around the dark, fumbling your way to move away from it. And if there is anything you want to tell them, tell them, before those words fall in the dark. It was just interesting to point that out.

In a nutshell, until I see the fourth film, Insidious: Chapter 3 feels like a filler between stories, something to keep interest up while the studio figures out how to milk out the series for as long as possible.

Now listening: Live Like We’re Dying, The Script.

Innards of An Erratic Writer #2

It is, detestable, to have made very little progress over my WIP. Which is why I’m writing this, in high hopes once I’m through bitching about my self-worth as a writer, I can finally get my ass up and work at full capacity. Well, here goes…

Scar City managed a few edits, a full chapter haul, a few more edits, and nothing to move the story forward. At the very least, I’m seeing a clearer picture where this is all going and how to get there. The characters are revealing more about themselves and actually suggesting a few odd things that just might work. A friend suggested I do research on certain topics just to get a better grasp of the situation as things were quite similar to Scar. I did what she said, more thorough, and the outcome had me puking in front of a toilet until I turned into a half-witted cretin begging to die. Reality is indeed, a lot fucking stranger than fiction.

Tunnel Crow Town is worst. In a way, I’ve called for a hit on my protagonists and even though I know how they will get by this, I just can’t seem to set the scene right. So, I’ve skipped the entire first part and moved on the second part. It’s pretty weird, like missing an entire season of Lost, and you don’t want to go back yet because the current event is pretty darn interesting, regardless of the confusion. I’m just hoping it will just sort itself out eventually.

Bonsai‘s first chapter is a quarter from completion. I’m pretty much stuck at this point, I just have that one big battle in my head. I’ll probably just write that and be done with it.  And from four POVs, I’ve decided to cut one out, and save him for the sequel. And, yeah, next topic.

* * *

I have shelved three new ideas that are on my must-do list. I’m very excited to get them done, one of them has a few quick chapters and so far, it looks good – I hope. Thus, this piece shall be code-named, Harry. Because one of the main characters is named Harry. He’s a 15-year-old kid that’s pretty messed up in certain ways, like, Dexter Morgan messed up, and his freakishly hot best friend is just as fucked up, like, Hannibal Lecter fucked up.  See how excited I am with this? Well, it’s not as macabre as how I just described it, it’s just a story about Harry and his father coping with the loss of a dearly loved woman.

The other two shelved are still mysteries to me. But I’ve got the basic idea how I want it to go. The first, will be a post-apocalyptic dieselpunk-slash-Fallout and will have all sorts of things in them like epic air battles with zeppelins and hovercrafts, gangsters, flappers, and possibly a Captain America – a loyal soldier who asks no questions, a patriot of the last surviving city, a symbol of hope and strength whose presence alone boosts morale so much, his men are willing to go on fighting even with chopped limbs and all that, plus he’s taking orders from a Red Skull. I’m pretty psyche with this one and filled half a notebook with brainstorm ideas, no solid story yet though, so yeah, this is sure to hit my priority list soon.

The second is basically an experimental novel. Have you seen Christopher Nolan’s Memento? Yeah. Something like that.

Argh. Remember my Itch post? See how destructive new ideas can be. Anyway, Alice in Chains, Alice Cooper, Slipknot, 30 Seconds to Mars, and My Chemical Romance, cycling through my raffle-won Sound Blaster. This thing is freaking loud.