Monday, February 3, 2014

Horror vs. Sci-fi: Genre and the Nature of Disbelief

In my opinion, Sci-fi/Horror is one of the greatest genre hybrids of all time. It reaches all the way back to Mary Shelley writing about Frankenstein's Monster, which was a defining work in both genres. They fit together so well in part because they inspire questions about the consequences we face as individual people, as a society, as creatures on a planet that may or may not be alone in time or space. They both deal in the unknown, or unexplained, but often in different ways. For example, science fiction looks into the vastness of space and sees possibility, advanced technology, the enlightenment of discovery and the awesome potential of meeting new intelligent life. Horror wants to show you why you should be very, very afraid of those things.

But that's a shallow reading of the potential of each genre. The truth is, they can reach and be so much more. They are not mutually exclusive, and sometimes they can even swap M.O.'s and really blow your mind. 

Merging science fiction and horror has resulted in some amazing films. The adaptations of FRANKENSTEIN should be mentioned, but two of the best and most successful examples are ALIEN and ALIENS. Other films worth mentioning include THE THING, SCANNERS, and VIDEODROME. Even the 1953 version of WAR OF THE WORLDS is considered to be a hybrid of the two genres. 

Thinking about this has made me wonder, though: Even if the two genres fit together well, do we experience them differently? Do I approach them differently? Do I expect more from science fiction than I do of horror?

And I'll tell you what made me even entertain the idea that there might be a difference: EVENT HORIZON.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Film review: The Haunting in Connecticut 2

I used to be a lot better about staying up to date on new movies, but the fact of the matter is, it's a hell of a lot of work and I sort of gave up the past few months. I have a feeling I'm missing out on a lot by being passive, and waiting for this information to work its way to me via the few channels I still use on a semi-regular basis. So it wasn't until recently that I realized a) The Haunting in Connecticut 2 was out and b) on DVD and c) on Netflix. Yep.

I really liked the first film, I've watched it maybe three or four times now. It's got some of my favorite story themes: spiritualism, haunted house, horror of physical disease, historical content, a mystery demanding to be solved. I find it creepy as hell, and appreciate the hopeful ending. So I gave the sequel a shot, hoping beyond hope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Film review: The Conjuring

Thanks to a youth spent reading everything I could on the paranormal, I was already familiar with the real Warrens and their reputations. Even better, thanks to Lorraine appearing occasionally on Paranormal State, I was primed for catching her cameo in THE CONJURING.

So part of my interest in seeing the film was based in prior knowledge and an appreciation for ghost stories. But more than that, even early reports on the movie gave a glimmer of hope that this might be one of those rare, genuinely good modern horror films. The casting seemed excellent, and while it's based on a true story that's similar to many other haunted house tales (fiction or not) it's a formula that just kind of works.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Day Terror

Tradition dictates that Thanksgiving is a time for family, and turkey slaughter. I say the latter with joy in my heart, as I harbor a grudge against all turkeys thanks to one biting me when I was young. I've been biting back with pleasure ever since.

Whether you're planning a traditional full-course turkey dinner with parents and kids and aunts and uncles and cousins and hobos (give that turkey an extra stab for me) or spending your day with the MST3K Turkey Day Marathon (Ahem... hi) it's certainly a time that gets you thinking about family. For better or for worse.

On the other hand, if yours is too much of a headache, you could always think about someone else's family, especially ones that make you more grateful for even your own potentially wacky kin. On that note, here are some of my favorite horror films featuring creepy relatives and terrified families.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book review: Doctor Sleep

It's sad, but I can count the number of Stephen King books I've read on one hand. THE SHINING, DUMA KEY and now, DOCTOR SLEEP. I've also read ON WRITING, I believe because it was required reading in a creative writing class I took in college. Deservedly so. If you're a writer and haven't read it yet, get on it right away.

And yet I wouldn't hesitate to say King is one of my favorite writers. I'm much more familiar with the film adaptations of his stories, but they are still his stories. So I'm a fan.

It is on my ever growing to-do list to read the original novels of stories like IT, CARRIE, THE STAND, PET SEMATARY, etc. but we all know how those lists tend to fare. I still haven't gotten to a bunch of Neil Gaiman books, like GOOD OMENS, AMERICAN GODS, and then of course, ANANSI BOYS. So King is in good company, I suppose.

I've missed a couple of his more recent novels, but I could not pass up DOCTOR SLEEP. It's the sequel to THE SHINING, which is one of my favorite horror novels, and in it King catches us up with how life has been treating Danny Torrance ever since he and his mother survived the insanity at the Overlook Hotel.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book & Brew: Halloween Edition

During September my library featured a display I put together where I paired up books with beers based on a theme. We used it to help advertise an event we had in October on home brewing called You Can Brew It! I had a lot of fun coming up with the pairings and lists, and I'm sharing a handful of them each week here on the blog.

This is my last Book & Brew post, just in time for my favorite holiday. While I was developing a list of books and beers, I made a trip to my local liquor store to take advantage of their customizable six-pack in hopes that their selection would trigger some new ideas (plus... yes, I'd get to try some new beers.)

One of the selections I couldn't resist was New Holland Brewing Company's Ichabod Ale. It was an easy book reference, a pumpkin beer, and brand new to me.

(See the end of the entry for the thumbnail and link to the brewmark!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

5 Bloodcurdling Birthdays

Before Carmageddon 2013 happened and I ended up on a week-long quest for a less crappy used car than the one I was perilously driving, I had a birthday.

Many of my friends are at the stage of life where they don't necessarily do anything major to celebrate. If they do, it's with their spouse, family, a couple of close friends maybe. Welcome to the 30+ club, I guess. I, on the other hand, coordinate something every year. Lately it's been game nights, which have been extremely fun. My theory is: I've had some really shitty birthdays. I've had some really shitty years of not having real friends, of being really lonely, and I still have a hard time reaching out to people because of all of that. So, being an adult with a nice group of really awesome friends, I've totally earned my right to surround myself with all the people I like at least once a year. You know, in person. As in, not on Facebook.

So I had a fantastic birthday with fantastic people, fantastic games, food and beverages.

But as most life events do, it got me wondering about birthdays in horror. What were some of the absolute worst birthdays on film? Here are my top 5, in a general order of how creepy I find them.