Tag Archive: horror

Review: Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe Hill is a terrific, imaginative writer. I read Horns a while back and was blown away by the bizarre nightmare-like quality of the events. It’s easy to see the beginnings of that in this, his first book. He certainly excels—and the story is at its best—when the odd and surreal are at the forefront.

What I love about Hill’s style is that he paints intricate portraits. He provides the reader with vivid descriptions of what’s going on, how it looks, and what direction its going. You needn’t guess how big an apparition is or to which side of it the protagonist is standing, because the author tells you. He has a keen sense of place and continuity, the lack of which can be incredibly annoying and confusing for readers. (This detailed quality of narrative is also something I have always loved about his dad, Stephen King. Maybe Joe inherited it! It’s certainly hard to teach—I know from years of teaching composition and rhetoric…)

The only thing that lacked for me was the ending. “After all, that’s the most important part of the story, the ending” (Secret Window, Secret Garden by Stephen King). Here’s why I was slightly disappointed with it:

[SPOILER ahead]

While dark and violent, the book as a whole is quite hopeful—it’s all about fighting something that seems indomitable, love conquering all, and that kind of shmaltz. Well, the ending got a bit too wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow for me: Jude and Marybeth live happily ever after, travel the world, and can even be friends with a girl who tried to kill them and is related to the demented dead dude that they narrowly escaped. Hmm.

Another issue with the ending that is that it was wrapped up in that neat bow too quickly and tersely. For example, we get told that Jude has some more musical success, and that he rebuilds another car—all portraying the return to normalcy. I’m not a big fan of being told; I’d rather SEE. It would have been great to witness instead a few scenes of that return to normalcy.

Finally, something seemed incomplete … the story is seeped in the triumph of the human spirit, grounded love, and hope for the future; what better symbol could there be of that than if Marybeth were pregnant at the end? Instead, she and a rapidly aging Jude take a trip once in while and otherwise live in seclusion. Is that all there is after all they went through? But, of course, that’s just my opinion; others might think their life is bliss.

Overall, this is a satisfyingly creepy thrill-ride (on the nightroad) for fans of the macabre. Enjoy!

Review: Seed

Seed by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a ride! This is a creepy possession story akin to Japanese lore, in which the evil spirit never rests and can’t be exorcised. That’s tough to take in our “hero makes everything right” culture. The details unfold slowly, revealing layers of horror. I was confused at times, wondering what exactly was going on and what the possessing entity really wanted. But in the end, that’s the point — it doesn’t matter. It just feeds on angst and grief and fear and terror. In that respect, this fast, fascinating read is well constructed … and very creepy!


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It took me a while to crack this one open, since I had not enjoyed Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at all. But the pacing and prose were much improved here, and the sheer amount of history between the pages was engrossing. I wondered sometimes why it wasn’t a straight biography, as it could have been an engaging and humanizing one, but then I remembered …

Horror is the game!

And it’s well played. The vampire lore is woven fairly seamlessly into Lincoln’s tragic family life, even though at times it appears (as it often does creature-centered literature, film, and television) that every other person in his world was a vampire. But the action was engaging, the characters well built, and the historic backdrop richly drawn.

Especially enjoyable was the tenuous and strange relationship between Abe and Henry. H’s favorite epithets of “Some people are just too interesting to kill” and “Judge us not equally” resonated without being overused.

Something niggled at me, though, about the concept. I am very, very good at suspending disbelief, but at times the story felt conspicuously untrue, almost blasphemous, since it was about one of history’s most revered leaders. It’s a bit like reading a tale about Gandhi becoming a zombie … it’s just wrong. After all, the mantle this fantasy places on Abe is not necessarily all flattering. Sure, he still fought so that good could triumph over evil, but he was violent and angry and vengeful. He wanted to spill blood. And he had to get in bed with the evil just a bit to fulfill his mission — but maybe that’s just a commentary on politics.

Yes, it was a fun read. But I feel a little, hmm, guilty that it was a fun read.

Bloody Brilliant Vampire Tale

I love a good horror movie, and I’ve always been partial to vampires in both literature and film.  Dracula.  Lestat. The Hunger. The Lost Boys. The old Hammer films. Makes a heart happy to beat. This newfangled stuff of the Twilight and True Blood ilk is fun, but I’ll always adore the classics (neoclassic as some may be). And the more off-beat, the better … like Near Dark, The Addiction., and Shadow of the Vampire.

There’s a new contender on the (longish) list of my favorite vampire flicks. The tenderly tragic and provocatively sweet Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In) is a 2008 Swedish film based on the 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist. It follows the desperate little life of 12-year-old Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) as he’s all but ignored by his single mom, rarely sees his dad (who’s found new amusements), and is mercilessly bullied at school. He dreams of bloody revenge, practicing knife-play and lifting weights to try building up his fragile physique.

Then a dark-haired girl of apparently his own age moves into his apartment building, with someone we all assume is her father, and Oskar’s life changes forever. Oskar and Eli (Lina Leandersson) become friends, and she slowly becomes his protector, grooming him to eventually become hers.

The two principal child actors (both 11 at the time the film was made) are superbly unselfconscious and refreshingly real, yet undeniably creepy when they need to be. The story moves at a cathartic pace, picking up speed as the worlds of Oskar and Eli collide and irrevocably fuse.  What special effects there are blend seamlessly into the storytelling. In the end, we’re left with a thought-provoking peek at the bittersweet torment of immortality, akin to the laments of Louis is Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles or the anguished survival of Miriam in The Hunger.

Vampire movie fans and bizarre love story enthusiasts alike should check out this little gem.


Bonus: There’s a great rundown of 70 + vampire flicks at Snarkerati.

Another bonus: Read Gina McIntyre’s article about the remake.

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