Blogs: Horror

In June of this year I brought home my first ever canine companion. My daughter named him SodaPop, and at one year old he is a bundle of energy. A bundle of energy who loves to go on long walks around the neighborhood. I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks, but now that hour long walks are a regular part of my daily routine, audiobooks have become a necessity. When you are going for lengthy foggy morning and rainy evening strolls, the perfect companion is a good horror story. 
 
It audiobook coverStephen King’s It is a monstrous audiobook, both in length (clocking in at 45 hours long) and in the amount of chills that it is sure to give you. It is the story of a small town that has been haunted by an evil shapeshifting entity and the seven children who face this nameless horror. The narrator, Steven Weber, does a fantastic job of embodying the voices of each of the many characters in this horror classic; from young Ben Denbrough’s stutter and Trashmouth Tozier’s impersonations to the nightmareish voice of Pennywise. It will give you many hours (days) of entertainment...but when you are out walking in the rain, steer clear of the storm drains.
 
Heart-Shaped Box audiobook coverI can’t really talk about Stephen King without talking about his son, Joe Hill, another one of my favorite masters of horror. Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box centers around Judas Coyne, an aging death metal rock star and collector of the macabre. When Judas buys a suit that is said to be haunted by its recently deceased owner, he gets a lot more than what he paid for. Narrator Stephen Lang’s deep, somber voice is the perfect match for this spine tingling ghost story.
 
Here in the Pacific Northwest we have a few months of long, rainy days and nights ahead of us. May I recommend that you spend some time wandering around our fine city, bundled up and warm while listening to a chilling story. 

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I had just started reading and appreciating manga. Well, my first touch of manga fever has become an acute case of manga-itis that has taken over my reading life. Biweekly trips to the Kinokuniya Bookstore in Beaverton have served only to further my new obsession. Pursuing their manga shelves provides regular inspiration for my “must read” list. Given my love for horror films and graphic novels it should come as no surprise that the manga that I have been most drawn to falls within the horror and supernatural genre. 

Seraph of the End book jacketSeraph of the End is set in a world that is ruled by vampires. After a mysterious virus kills all humans over the age of 13, vampires come out from the shadows to take over. Intent on avenging the deaths of his friends and family, a young, angry and impulsive Yuichiro joins the Japanese Imperial Army. Yuichiro is anxious to earn his demon weapon and start battling vampires, but first he has to take on a most difficult task, make friends with his fellow vampire slayers.

Tokyo Ghoul book jacketToyko Ghoul is a series that was first released in the U.S. this year. I was first drawn in by how beautifully illustrated this manga is but the story has made me want more.The plot centers around Ken Kaneki a shy, book loving college student who enjoys hanging out with his best friend Hide. After a violent encounter, Ken finds himself in the hospital with a new kidney, a kidney that once belonged to a ghoul. Now half-human and half-ghoul, Ken must learn how to straddle the thin line between the human world and the vicious underground world of the ghouls. 

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service book jacketAdapted and published in English by local darlings Dark Horse Comics, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service is a horror manga that I am in love with but that I recommend with a bit of caution. Some of the stories are quite gruesome. This series follows the adventures of five recent graduates from a Buddhist college who find that their special skills do not translate to employment. So what are a hacker, a dowser, an embalming specialist, a medium and a psychic to do? Carry out the wishes of the dead, of course. 

Kitaro book jacketThe last title that has sparked my manga loving heart is KitaroThe series was first published in the 1960s, but an English translation collection of the Kitaro episodes was published in 2013. The main character, Kitaro, appears to be at first glance a normal young boy, but he is really a 350-year-old yokai (supernatural monster). His hair serves as an antenna directing him towards paranormal activity, he has one eye and his yokai father lives in his other eye socket, he has jet powered sandals and he can seamlessly blend into his surroundings. In each episode Kitaro and his father cleverly battle criminals and malevolent yokai with the purpose of keeping humans safe. Kitaro is a wonderful melding of horror and whimsy where the good guy always wins.

 

string diaries coverEver wish you could be someone else?

Racing through a dark and stormy night with her daughter and bloodied husband, Hannah Wilde has strong opinions on that question. Their neverending search for refuge is fueled by more than the will to survive. Armed with a stack of diaries passed down through four generations and a few questionable allies, she must put an end to a century long pursuit or forever rest in peace.

The String Diaries is a  page turning, horror tinged thriller. It’s the intriguing tale of one man’s unsettling obsession with the unattainable. 

Check it out!

 

I'll never forget the first time I watched a horror movie. I was in fifth grade. A bunch of us neighborhood kids met up at a friend's house to watch the first Friday the 13th. One of the kids had snagged the video from their parents' VHS collection. I don't remember much of the movie because a boy that I had a long standing crush on was sitting with his friend on the other side of the living room. Much of my attention was focused on trying figure out how to sit next to him without seeming too obvious. But as the body count started to pile up on screen, my mood went from twitterpated to terrified. When (spoiler alert) Alice cut off Mrs. Voorhees head with a machete, I was done. I quickly excused myself, jumped on my bike and pedaled home as fast as I could, crying all the way.  I vowed to never watch another horror movie.

For a decade or so, I kept that vow, convinced that watching horror movies would only lead to months of nightmares. My attitude towards the terror inducing genre was forever changed when I watched the film Shaun of the Dead and realized just how hilarious horror movies can be. The more over the top the better. Copious amounts of fake blood. Awesome! Unrealistic and insane death and dismemberment. Perfect. Bumbling zombies. Of course. Killer clowns. Yes please. My favorite film genre is without question horror-comedies. Check out the list below to see some of my favorites.

 

 

I found  Dan Simmons' The Terror  positively ripping, a great big adventure story filled with interesting characters-- men of the sea testing themselves against the many, many things the Arctic throws at them. Then it changed, and it started to remind me of a book I read once about the Donner party. And then it changed again and became something unexpected and unusual, and I don't want to talk about that too much and spoil it for you.

The Terror is based on the real expedition of Sir John Franklin and his two ships, the Erebus and the Terror, which in the 1840s disappeared in the Arctic on a doomed search for the Northwest Passage. There's not much sailing in The Terror, as a the ships get frozen into the ice pretty early on and stay there, the result of several exceptionally cold winters. Things start out pretty bad-- Franklin, the commander of the expedition, is something of a fool who fails to respect the Arctic as he should, the canned food is tainted and spoiling, there are no animals to be found by the hunters, crewmen are coming down with scurvy, and it’s unbelievably cold-- like -50 degrees Fahrenheit cold. The ship is crowded and the darkness is constant. And then things get worse. Something-- an enormous polar bear?-- is stalking the crew. And the ships, frozen in the ice for years, are starting to crack up under the pressure.

This is not for the faint of heart-- it’s almost a thousand pages long (or 22 CDs), and contains vast amounts of research about nineteenth century ships, polar ice, the early days of canned food, Inuit mythology, and more. But while I can’t believe that human beings actually signed up for these expeditions, I  just loved the time I spent in the world of this book. The writing is good,  the plot is thrilling, and it’s so compelling that I couldn’t stop listening. Oh, and if you are considering listening to the audiobook, as I did, you should know that the voice actor is excellent, as well, with a plummy English accent and great ability to express characters of different ages, classes and dispositions.

This list will provide you with even more opportunities to head into the cold during the hot summer days that will be coming back soon.

Sometimes children do horrible things. Sometimes children are horrible things. Well, in fiction, at any rate.

In Mike Carey’s new book, The Girl with All the Gifts, the titular girl is one of those horrible ones. But she doesn’t know it, at least not at the beginning of the novel.

Melanie spends most of her life alone in a cell. Every weekday morning she is bound by soldiers that handle her with prods and cuffs, then take her to a schoolroom full of similarly restrained children. There Melanie, with her voracious and brilliant mind, learns a great deal about the world that used to be. Her favorite lessons are from her beloved teacher Miss Justineau, who teaches her about the Greek myths.

Slowly Melanie learns that her life is the way it is for a good reason. At first she cannot believe she is so dangerous, but she bravely, impressively, does accept it. In fact, she practically embraces it, using her power to protect the one person she loves.

Carey has created an ultra-compelling story of a lovable fiend. For other stories with really, really bad children check out the list My beloved monster.

Kitty cats. We love them. They power the internet (proof). The little dears surely deserve their crystal goblets of Fancy Feast, don’t they?  Or is that a more malign glint I see in that crescent-pupiled eye?

House dvd coverThe most unhinged, bats-in-the-belfry-surreal cat movie of all time has to be House (Hausu), a must-see for all crazy cat ladies (and men) in training. In this cult film from Japan, high school girl Gorgeous is upset when her father introduces her to his new fiancee - perhaps understandably so, since the fiancee enters in a white dress that conveniently streams in the wind every time the camera settles on her. Outraged at this soft-focus replacement for her dearly departed mother, Gorgeous plans a summer vacation to her aunt’s country house instead of with her father. She takes comfort in the companionship of a white cat named Blanche who has mysteriously appeared in her room at the same time as her aunt agrees to host her.  All her friends, who have unlikely names like Fantasy, Prof, Mac, Kung-Fu, Melody, and Sweet, are invited, and they think nothing of it when Blanche appears on the train. But when they arrive at the aunt’s house, she is a little too eager to see them, and they begin to be killed off one by one.  The cat starts shooting green lasers from its eyes, pianos eat people, mattresses swallow others, and then things really get weird.

Part of the joy of the film is in its unabashed use of the most cheesy, improbable special effects - it really must be seen to be believed, and even then you still won’t believe it. What’s that, Puff? You need me to bike home from Fred Meyer with a can of tuna and 20 lbs of litter on my back? At your service, my feline overlord, at your service.

I don't actively look for vampire books. Or zombie books. (The only undead I like are skeletons.) That said, some horrific stories are so darned good that I have to like them despite my prejudice. The novella     I Am Legend and the book World War Z were of that calibre. Old-fashioned horror like Frankenstein is just plain fascinating. And so is Rick Yancey's tetralogy that begins with The Monstrumologist.
 
The Monstrumologist book jacketThe story begins with old folios and copious notes written by someone who appears to have lived an unusually long life. They chronicle Will Henry's days as an apprentice to a 'monstrumologist', a professional scientist who pursues and studies monsters. His new master, Pellinore Warthrop, is arrogant and mercurial, brilliant and generally uninterested in humanity. He's larger than life, yet he soon comes to find his young ward 'indispensable'.
 
These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for nearly ninety years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me. 
 
Orphaned Will Henry (never just 'Will') is taken in by this unlikely mentor and soon finds himself tested, body, mind and soul. How much horror can he endure and still remain himself? And can he avoid the fate of his father, Warthrop's assistant before him, who met... an untimely demise?
 
The writing feels like classic horror; the reader wanders street, crypt and drawing room in a Lovecraftian New England and then much further afield in the later books.  It's absolutely accessible to teens (my 16-year old loves them), but I recommend this most often for people who like Dracula rather than Twilight
 
The books are The Monstrumologist, The Curse of the Wendigo, The Isle of Blood and The Final Descent. Now that the last one is out, get them all. This Dark Endeavor book jacketFreeze your holds until they're all ready. Set aside a weekend, pull the shades, and read by candlelight for maximum shivers. And then thank me or shake your fist and vow vengeance.
 
For other deliciously eerie fun (that involves beginning a career dabbling with dark forces) I also recommend Kenneth Oppel's series-in-progress featuring the apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. Start with This Dark Endeavour.

The Sixth Gun Volume One Book coverThere were no undead in the wild wild west.  At least, not that we know of…Toss in six magical guns with unfathomable power, a world turned upside down, and a reluctant heroine and you’ve got the fatastically addictive graphic novel series, The Sixth Gun.

Not a graphic novel reader?  Well, pardner, maybe it’s about time you started. Combining the classic western genre with a touch of the supernatural and fantasy, The Sixth Gun has something for everyone.

Becky Montcrief is the reluctant heroine who inherited one of the pistols.  Not knowing the repercussions of picking up a gun, she’s thrust into the unforeseen adventure of fighting for her life. You see, once you pick the gun, it’s with you till death do you part.

Drake Sinclair is an enigma draped in black with a complicated past. Crossing his path means trouble from him or the folks on his tail. Will his past deeds catch up with his mission of atonement?

The other folks?  Their stories are even better.

Strap on your holster and get ready for the adventure of a life and an afterlife time…

The ReturnedLast week, I was immersed in zombies and honestly, I'm not really a zombie-loving-type person. Okay, I love Shaun of the Dead and when I was younger, I watched my share of The Night, Dawn, etc., of the Living Dead. But then I got older and people rising from the grave just became too creepy and scary for me. Then I found The Returned (Les Revenants). It's a French TV series that is amazing! It's like a beautiful French film only better because it's 8 episodes long! The basic premise is that random people have returned from the dead. I like to believe that it's pretty farfetched that the dead will come back to us in the same form they left, however The Returned seems a pretty realistic portrayal of how people might react. Some of the living view it all with disbelief or suspicion, hostility, joy, or as a sign from God. There are twists and turns throughout the season as the histories of the dead are revealed. There's a serial killer that returns, just to keep you on the edge of your seat. Mon dieu! And thankfully, there's going to be a second season. I can't wait! It's available on Netflix right now or you can add your name to the waiting list at MCL.

While I'm waiting for the second season, I might see what Resurrection, a new, heavily-hyped TV show is like. This show is loosely based on a book called The Returned by Jason Mott (they changed the name of the show so that it wouldn't be confused with the French show). I zipped through this book in less than a day but I'm still thinking about it days later. In this version of the dead coming back, we see people (or some version of those people) appearing far from their homes. A huge bureaucracy has been set up to deal with the vast number of the returning dead. Some families want their loved ones back and some do not; some of the townsfolk are welcoming and some become openly hostile. It's a sweetly melancholy book and a page-turning thriller. I hope that the TV show, Resurrection, can pull it off.

And in the time between watching The Returned and Resurrection, try one of my favorite horror shows.

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