Friday, October 21, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Nine – Year’s Best Horror Series One

All right, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a great short story, and when it comes to horror, short stories are often the best at delivering the scares, so when I first found a copy of DAW’s Year’s Best Horror volume eight at a used bookstore, I knew I would be adding the series to my ongoing collection.

Over the years I’ve collected eight of the twenty-two volumes published between 1972 and 1994, and although I don’t have the complete run yet, I did manage to find volume one last year and decided this month would be a good one to decide whether or not the series is worth collecting.

Short answer, absolutely.

Long answer, Year's Best Horror Stories: Series One (although missing some of my favourite parts of a good anthology – like an introduction, or bios on the author) collects a number of a pretty great horror fiction from 1972 (a year before Stephen King's first novel, Carrie, was published). The collection includes works by Robert Bloch (Psycho), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), and Brian Lumley (Necroscope), along with a lot of others. The standouts for me were Matheson's "Prey" wherein a young woman purchases a gift for her boyfriend that moves from curious to terrifying in one night, "Warp" by Ralph Norton, which moves nicely into the Science Fiction/Horror crossover work I find so good in shows like Rick & Morty, and "After Nightfall" by David A. Riley, a Lovecraft-influenced story which looks into why you should always pay attention to local culture.

The book is short, a lot of fun, and definitely going to lead me to finding more of this series.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Eight - The Quiet Ones

I'm a little embarrassed to say that as a long term horror fan, it took me almost until I was twenty-five to see my first Hammer Horror film. Hammer Films, a production company out of the UK is most well-known for making a series of Gothic horror films from the '50s through the '70s featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, and other assorted monsters, in films like House of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Mummy. These reinterpretations of the Universal monster movies of the '30s and '40s are all well worth the watch, and if you happen to catch one of the many directed by Terence Fisher, you are in for a real treat.

Although Hammer continued to produce stories into the 90s, it wasn't until 2010 that they began working in feature films again, with movies like The Woman in Black, Let Me In, and today's pick The Quiet Ones, once again working to create a brand in horror.

The Quiet Ones takes place in Britain in 1974 and follows a university experiment led by Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) who, along with a team of three students, attempt to cause a psychic manifestation from a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). In my opinion the two leads are the best part about the film, as the professor works as leader, father figure, and mad scientist, while the focus of the experiment, Jane, effectively straddles the line of victim or manipulator through the majority of the film. In addition the film has a fun use of the camera-as-viewer, as one of the main characters has been brought in to document the experiments, about 50% of the footage seen comes from his camera.

Where the film lost me was it's reliance on obvious tropes (pretty much the entire third act had little to no surprises for me), and an unfortunate use of CGI in the film looked fairly ridiculous - and was also fairly unnecessary - over the summer I've been watching the web series Marble Hornets which uses video film tracking errors and distortion to a much greater effect than the CGI in this film.

It was a pretty good horror movie, but no, I won't be keeping it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Seven - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Ok, so back in 2013 I started collecting my first Archie comic in about thirty years, Afterlife with Archie. The comic, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and with art done by Fansesco Francavilla, takes the familiar characters from the small town of Riverdale and throws them into a full-blown zombie apocalypse. The art was great, the story significantly more emotional than I was expecting, and the the throwaway lines and references to the horror genre ensured this comic would be immediately addd to my ongoing comic collection.

Then a year later a spinoff was announced, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which would follow the teenaged witch into her own horror-themed story. As Sabrina makes only one small (but crucial) appearance in the first collection of Afterlife with Archie comics, I wasn't sure at first if the new series would be a companion series or start something new all its own.

Then, as with virtually every title I've been enjoying this month, I dutifully collected each issue as it came out, stuck it in my "to be read" folder, and ignored the entire collection until last month when I began putting this theme month together for my blog.

The series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack, follows Sabrina through her teen years during the 1960s. Other than being part of the Archie Horror imprint, it has no connection with Afterlife with Archie, and feel a lot like the devil-focused witch movies brought out by Hammer Horror in the 60s.

The stories largely focus on Sabrina's backstory, as well as that of her nemeis, and like Afterlife with Archie, includes cameos by original Sabrina characters but shown in a very different light. The overall story is really quite eerie, and does, at times, get fairly gruesome.

Definitely not for kids, but if you grew up reading Sabrina, or (like me) are even vaguely familiar with the character, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a title well worth a look.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Six - Book of Blood

Following my viewing of The Midnight Meat Train, I was looking forward to the other longest-held item in my "to be viewed" collection, the 2009 film Book of Blood, based, strangely enough on the framing narrative of Clive Barker's Books of Blood collection of short stories, "The Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street (a postscript)". As these two stories offer an excellent way to view enter and exit the entire collection, they seemed a strange duo to turn into a film, but, as a long-time fan of Clive Barker's work, it certainly got me interested.

The film follows a young man named Simon McNeal (played by Jonas Armstrong) as a young medium hired by a paranormal researcher to investigate a haunted house. Unlike the original work, which, like The Midnight Meat Train,is quite short, the film expands the original story to include background on the researcher, Mary Florescu (Sophie Ward), and her own relationship with the events in a haunted house.

Overall the film does a good job with scares and like The Midnight Meat Train, is pretty gruesome, but it falls to the same problem as the previous adaptation, in that I feel it would have done better as a short film. This isn't to say every short story must be made into a short film, as stories from the same collection were made into the films Candyman and Lord of Illusions, both great films on their own, and adaptations which brought more to the original story. I just felt that these two stories in particular, would have been served better in a shorter (perhaps televised) format.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bookmonkey vs the Hoard: Post Five - Outcast

One of the titles I've been meaning to get around to the most in the hoard is Robert Kirkman's Outcast. This demonic possession story, written by the fellow who came up with both Incredible and The Walking Dead, has had me intrigued since I first heard about it back in 2014. The fact that a TV adaption began earlier this year just added to my interest, but as I've been on a Marvel kick as of late, I just couldn't seem to find the time.

Having now read the first two collections, A Darkness Surrounds Him, and A Vast and Unending Ruin, I've got to say I'm pretty impressed, and really creeped out. The series follows a young man named Kyle Barnes, who has twice had his life interrupted by demonic possession, first his mother during his childhood, and later his wife.

The series opens with a small family seeing the first occurrence of a possession, and then quickly moves into the troubled life of Kyle Barnes, a man desperately trying to make his way through the world day-by-day, and who seems almost completely disassociated with everyone and everything around him. The story follows Kyle as he joins a local Reverend to help in an exorcism, and then moves into an area of demoic possession fiction I don't think I've every come across before. What if the possession was real, but the exorcism only partly worked?

This series was incredibly immersive and had me pulling for Kyle and desperately trying to understand his new world. An excellent read, and one I hope to continue very soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Four - The Midnight Meat Train

One of the first horror authors I actively began to collect in life was Clive Barker.  As a younger teen I saw both Hellraiser and Nightbreed, and somewhere in my teens I happened across the first of his short stories series The Books of Blood, and as the price was right, I snapped it up.

The very first story (after the framing story), was "The Midnight Meat Train", a twenty-page journey into one of the most terrifying concepts I had every come across.  It follows a man named Leon who happens to see something while riding on a train, something horrifying, methodical, and something that sees him back.

The story began my interest in collecting the works of Clive Barker, and over the years I've built up a pretty decent collection of his writing, so when I found they had made a film adaptation of "The Midnight Meat Train" I knew I'd have to check it out.

Due to the short nature of the story, the movie fleshes out the narrative, changing the main character from an everyman into a photographer, he's given a girlfriend, a job, and a goal - to see the reality of New York City.

The film works fairly well, but honestly, I think the story works if told quickly - an introduction to the horror that is about to be read by the reader.  In the end it wasn't a keeper, but an interesting adaptation of one of the most startlingly horrifying stories I read in my youth.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Three - Revival

I've been a fan of Tim Seeley's work since i first checked out his horror movie-themed series Hack/Slash in 2011 and after spending a month in 2013 reading my way through that entire title, I began collecting his latest series, a Rural Noir called Revival, written by Seeley, and illustrated by Mike Norton. As often happens with collections, I ended up with five of these before I got around to reading any past the first volume, and that brings us up-to-date.

This week, I went through the first five collections and this series is pretty darn great. Having been a long-time fan of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead (whether in original comic, adapted television show, or even video game form), I wasn't exactly sure if I wanted to start another comic about the dead rising, but Revival is something entirely different.

Taking place in a fictionalized version of Seeley's hometown of Wausau Wisconsin, the story focuses on police officer Dana Cypress and the events set after "Revival Day", when the dead rose in the area surrounding the town, not as zombies, but apparently as themselves, and (mostly) wanting to get on with the business of living. The series works as a mystery, both on the large scale, as no one know why this specific geographical area has been effected, and on the small scale, involving murders, kidnappings and the types of crimes than can happen in a small town cut off from the rest of the world (Wausau is quickly put under quarantine by the United States Government).

Although the series does have a large number of truly gruesome scenes, much of the story is driven by family drama, Dana works with her father (the town's Sheriff), has a younger sister in college, and an eight-year-old son, each of which has their own secrets and story lines.

A really great series, and one I'm quite happy to have finally gotten around to reading!