Review of A God of Hungry Walls

GodOfHungryWallsIf you’re looking for a haunted house novel that strays from tropes and formula, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for a unique style, settle on in, author Garrett Cook’s A God of Hungry Walls will see your quest for distinctive writing and raise you twenty!

But – If you’re looking for a quaint tale of chilling yet delightful specters, go away. These walls don’t want you and you will not want to read about what goes on inside of them. If you are easily offended; if graphic depictions of sexual acts disturb you, if you find vulgar language upsetting, then run like hell. Likewise, if you are unable to digest descriptive accounts of torture, stay away – stay far away. Do not enter the confines where there is a God of Hungry Walls. You will not like this god.

The story is told in the first person – the almighty capital “I”! Who is behind this “I”? Well let me say that the narrative is from the viewpoint of whatever it is that does the haunting. Perhaps it’s the house itself. Its power is great; it exceeds the limited scope of your average ghost or demon. It is the master of all that goes on within its walls. Often It refers to its occupants as ‘toys from the toy box’.

Four college-age students share the house – two young men and two young women. It manipulates them, locks them together in sexual intimacy; often times perverted with a touch of sadism. Okay, there’s more than a touch, more like a hard slap! Then, we see that the house is messing around with other occupants; such as a serial killer doctor and a tortured girl who lived in a cage like a dog. Where do these occupants suddenly come from? They were there since the day they died within the walls of the house (long before the college kids acquired the place). They belong to the house and It can toss them into being whenever it wants.

Admittedly, I didn’t always know where the story was going. At certain parts I was left thinking “what is the author getting at there?” But maybe I wasn’t meant to understand it all. After all, I am following the lead of a mad, mad force. The “mad” have no rhyme or reason. They are insatiable, always “hungry”, hence “The God of Hungry Walls.

A lot of the book is subject to interpretation. Certain names/concepts come up, such as “Closetsong.” What is that? In the end, I think I figured it out. But maybe my understanding will be different than yours, or the authors, or even The God of Hungry Walls.

For those that can pass the tests that I have outlined in the first two paragraphs of this review, I recommend giving this book a read. It certainly won’t be boring, that’s for sure.

 

Review of Burnt Offerings

Burnt offerings Hearse DriverI remember seeing Burnt Offerings on television when I was about ten years old. Certain images from the movie stayed with me all these years. One such image is the movie’s prominent haunting figure – a creepy looking hearse driver. His clothes, cap and even his glasses, are black; the appropriate color for a funeral. However, he dons an inappropriate smile, as if death is something delightful. Was he a ghost? Was he death itself? I couldn’t remember. Then there is the long row of photographs in the attic. Some sepia toned, some in modern color. Who were these people in the photos?

Burnt Offerings Photos

There are also certain scenes that replayed in mind from time to time. Our old friend the hearse driver bangs at the chamber door, frightening a dying old lady. He barges through the door with a coffin and his signature creepy smile.

Burnt offerings Betty

 

I also remembered layers of bricks breaking away from the house; the house shedding them the way a snake sheds its skin.

 

Yes sir, I thought it was quite the movie back in 1981. But would I feel the same way about this film as an adult? I wanted to find out. So I watched this on amazon.com last Sunday night. I was not disappointed. I was a good film when I was ten years old and it remains a good film at the ripe, young age of forty-four!

What I like most about the film is the overall theme. My favorite type of haunted house movie involves a house with a mind of its own; a house that acts independently of or in equal collusion with any spirits that may haunt it. Burnt Offerings “offers” viewers such a house. In return it asks for only one simple thing – the life force of the current occupants. Of course, we who sit safely in our homes cry out “it’s a deal!” Because we love such things! And the house benefits as well – it rejuvenates.

Oh don’t get all sour cause I’m treading into spoiler land! Any astute viewer should figure this out within the first thirty minutes of the film.

Ben and Marian Rolf (Oliver Reed and Karen Black), along with their twelve year burnt_offeringsold son David (Lee Montgomery – hey, did you know this kid played in a movie about a boy who befriends a pack of killer rats? Well now you do – The movie is Ben) and Ben’s elderly aunt (Bette Davis!) lease a house for the duration of the summer. The rent was just too cheap to pass up. But on the first day, the elderly brother and sister that own the house (played by Eileen Heckart and Burgess Meredith) explain the main catch – they will have to care for their elderly mother that lives in the attic. Oh but she’s not a bother, they say. She never comes out of her room and all that she would need is tray with a meal placed beside her door at the appropriate meal times.

This is one of those films that have many moments that are subject to interpretation. I still don’t know the identity or composition of that scary hearse driver dude. And there is something about that brother and sister, The Allardyces, that will have viewers wondering. Oh and the ending, what did it mean when he opened #$% $*$* and saw &*^^ as the *^ !@#$% and then ended up being &*&*# &  out  the *#%$@# ??   (Yeah, I’m not going to totally spoil this film for ya, so ya have to bear with the font symbols.)

Speaking of the Allardyces, Burgess Meredith has a brief but commanding role. He is awesome!

This film is based on the 1973 novel of the same name, written by Robert Morasco. I haven’t read it, but I’m betting the book is mighty darn good as well. I will read it, but for now, I will just live with the experience of this movie. It’s a pretty good experience after all!

 

 

 

Back to the Summer of 1985 – Retro Movies

back-to-the-future-2Everything is a buzz with Back to the Future  these days. Go to backtothefuture.com and you will see the words “The Future is now!”  Back in 1985, time travelers Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown traveled to the seemingly “far away future” of 2015.  This was after several misadventures in the year 1955 where Marty almost fucked the future up by nearly erasing himself and his siblings out of existence. But they straightened all that out, and at the end of the movie….WHEEEE! They took their time traveling DeLorean to the real future – 2015.  They had gone thirty years back and then thirty years forward. What a deal!

Back to the Future was the best movie of the summer of 85 in my opinion. I admit that, before seeing it, I was skeptical. Yeah yeah, “that guy” is good at playing Alex P Keaton on Family Ties (I’m not even sure I knew the name Michael J Fox yet!), but does he deserve his own movie?  It turns out, he did. He was great. I believe I sat through several viewings of BTTF at the Norridge Theater, a suburb of the northwest side of Chicago. So many memories that summer!  And now that far away future that was depicted in the movie is here. How time flies!  “Literally” flies, according to the movie. The DeLorean lifted into the air as Doc Brown gave his famous line, “where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

The Internet is filled with jokes about how the year 2015 was depicted in the Back to the Future series.  Flying cars taking precedent over road bound vehicles, hover boards replacing skate board, teenagers wearing silly silver hats and other gaudy costumes. Yeah we didn’t achieve any of that (thank god we missed out on that dress style) But remember, back in 1985, we didn’t know about any of that either. This “future” was not presented to moviegoers until 1989 – the year Back to the Future II  came out.  So it’s sort of a misplaced association to unite those scenes with the thirty-year movie anniversary. But I digress.

Summer of 1985 – it was one of my favorites.  Fresh out of the 8th grade, the exciting future of high school was a couple months away and in between was some kind of magical moratorium that remains forever in my memories.  First dates, first buzzes, first…well, a lot of firsts.  Anyway, a big part of that summer was going to the movies. We would pay a cheap price for the first movie of the day, see it, and then cross over the ropes into other theaters.  One day I was at the theater complex for twelve hours, from 11:00 AM to 11:00PM.

I just want to give a run down of some of the other films I saw that summer.  They might not have had the same appeal as Back to the Future, nor did they point to this wonderful current year of 2015, but they deserve an honorable mention. Okay, some of the films I am going to mention are downright silly, but oh well!  They served me well for that innocent time of my life and so I am thankful for their existence.


Secret Admirer

Yeah so, I remember very little about this movie.  In fact, I remember nothing about it.  I only remember that I saw it and then stayed around for the next movie that was to come on after this was finished.

But lookie! It’s free on YouTube.  I wasted $2.50 on this movie when I could have waited thirty years to see it free on you tube!


Perfect

This is the movie they were showing after “The Secret Admirer.”  Again, I remember very little.  It had John Travolta as a reporter for Rolling Stone magaizne and Jamie Lee Curtis as an aerobic instructor at a health club.  They did stuff.


Volunteers

Once again, I remember very little about this movie. I just remember Chevy Chase being in another country and declaring out loud to a crowd “We’re Americans!”  I think he was then tied to post, set on fire, or something.

And wouldn’t ya know it – it’s free on Youtube! Another two dollars and fifty cents I wasted thirty years ago.


Return of the Living Dead

This movie I remember.  I remember loving it! Went out and bought the soundtrack too!  Who could forget this song:


The Heavenly Kid

Here’s the third movie I could have seen for free had I waited thirty years! I do remember this. I do remember liking it. Why did I like it? I was young.

And look why I just discovered.  The mother who had The Heavenly Kid’s son?  She would go on to be the mother of Malcolm in the Middle!


Teen Wolf

Two Michael J Fox films in one summer!  I thought this was the shit! When he said to the liquor store man “Give me..a keg..of beer!”  Fantabulous!  Every fourteen year old kid wanted to be able to say that to a liquor store guy!  Well, put it this way, every fourteen year old kid that hung out with me wanted the power to intimidate a grown up into selling them beer!


Weird Science

I remember this and I still love it. I own it and rewatch it every few years.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve put this on for quite a while.  It’s time to schedule it in.

 


Summer Rental

John Candy got a bad case of sunburn.  He and his family settled in to the wrong cabin/cottage.  That’s about all I remember of this flick.

Review of The David Morgan Ghost Series

FR 5 Ghost storiesHouses in need of love and renovation – historical tales surrounding such houses and the ghosts that come with them. This is what readers encounter in Frank Robert’s anthology: Ghost Stories: 5-Volume Set (The David Morgan Ghost Series)

David Morgan has a love for old buildings; churches, stores, theaters, houses, inns, etc. He sees the beauty that lies hidden underneath the savagery of time. Being a skilled carpenter and all around handy man, he embarks upon projects to restore these buildings to their original state, preserving the historical value, quirks and all.  Now you can’t go through the process of demolishing and reconstructing such historical buildings without churning out few ghosts! Exhuming spirits is all part of the job; it comes with the territory. And there is no better man for the job than David Morgan.  Ghosts have been visiting him ever since he was a little boy.

I can tell you one thing: Author Frank Roberts had fun writing these stories. I have never met the man and no, I can’t read his mind. But I can (and did) read his work and it is clear that he is at home in these tales. He loves the building restoration business and all that comes with it – the blueprints, the multiple parties that are FMorganinvolved in the planning, the camaraderie of the workers while on the worksite.   Likewise, he enjoys learning about local history. His invented accounts of community life from eras long gone are quite intriguing; readers learn what gave these fictional buildings life.  Finally, he loves a good ghost story, as do I.  And there are plenty of interesting ghosts floating about in his stories.

Sprinkled throughout the pages are themes of Americana. These include customs and traditions, such as Memorial Day parades and Fourth of July picnics.  But when hosting such events, watch out!  You never know if a ghost of a soldier might show up to give salute, or if a ghostly brass band starts to perform deep into the nights preceding the celebration. Then there are accounts of early colonial life and the struggle to forge out an existence in the harsh elements. Harsh times can produce some violent characters, and don’t be surprised is these characters reappear a century or two later.  In one story, David is called upon to restore an old-time theater that, when completed, will be running the classics, such as Laurel and Hardy films. All will go well so long as his restoration efforts are not upstaged by a deceased actor from the days of yore!

As previously mentioned, the ghosts in these stories are alive and colorful! (Well, maybe not “alive” but you know what I mean.) There is a ghost of a little girl that resides in a tree. There are spirits trapped inside mirrors. There are vengeful ghosts that seek to harm the living.  And let’s not forget the spirit of a dog and the ghostly antics of a deceased monkey!

As intriguing as the spirits in these stories are, it is the spirit OF these tales the captures the reader’s interest.  This “spirit” is made up of everything I have written above – local histories, Americana, and a deep seeded love for the material.

There are some drawbacks to this series. It would benefit from another round of editing in all areas: grammar, style and content. In numerous places throughout these tales, the plot derails.  This is especially true when the stories come to completion; some of these stories “end” but do not “conclude.”  Readers are left with loose ends, and in one case in particular my sole reaction was along the line of “WTF??” Too often, the narrative gets bogged down in the nitty-gritty details of building reconstruction.  What is written is fine for readers who are fans of the home remodeling show “This Old House”, but for lay people with little knowledge of carpentry, the narrative can get a bit daunting.  Finally there are frequent instances of typos and awkwardly constructed sentences.

Now get this; I choose not to take off too many points for the grammar errors and occasional dents in the story structure. Being an indie author myself, I know how difficult it is to have a book edited.  I have heard that one should NEVER edit their own work. However, sometimes “one’s own self” is all that a struggling writer can afford when it comes to editing. Hell, I’ll bet those reading this blog entry have stumbled across some typos that I have made.

So I ask prospective readers to give these stories a chance in spite of the imperfections.  They come from the author’s heart and soul, and these are two wonderful places for any story to originate.

These five stories are published both as separate books and as a collection. I have already posted the link for the collection in the first paragraph.  Below are links for each individual story.


The Haunted Hardware Store: Growing Up Haunted (The David Morgan Series Book 1)

FR Hardware


The Sleepy Little Village Called Foggybottom (The David Morgan Series Book 2)

FR Foggybottom


The Lost River Town: Fiona’s Tree (The David Morgan Series Book 3)

FR Rivertown


The Haunting of Old Liberty: Where Not All Performances are Live (The David Morgan Series Book 4)

FR Liberty


The Brick House: The Curse of Hope Island (The David Morgan Series Book 5)

FR Brick House

 

 

Frank Roberts frequently visits and posts at my Haunted House Facebook page. Stop by and say “Hi” to Frank!  (And like my page if you haven’t don so already.)

FacebookHauntedHouse2

 

 

 

Voices: The Chorus – An Anthology of my “Voices” stories – available electronically AND in print!

Voices Collection CoverI am proud to finally have a book available in print.  It is a collection of the three stories I have published so far, PLUS one additional tale!

Here is the buy link:

http://www.amazon.com/Voices-Chorus-Daniel-W-Cheely/dp/1518622720

Would an ebook be more to your liking? Have no fear, another link in here:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B017MBV7RY

Review of Lovely Molly

Of all the haunted house movies I have reviewed, Lovely Molly is by far the most disturbing. There is madness. Rape. Murder. Sounds like a standard horror movie so far, eh? Um, not quite. There are films that deal with these same horrific themes, but by the movie’s end, any disquieting feelings on the part of viewers are left behind in the theaters or concealed within the DVD box.   However, there is this raw quality about Lovely Molly that allows it to hammer those brutal themes deep into the psyche like nails into the coffin.

With your average slasher film, murder is part of the “game” and the remains of victims are often sprawled about in a way that is mimicked by Halloween yard decorations. Lovely Molly shows close ups of a murdered victim – body bloated, draping arms of a purplish hue, sightless eyes wide open…still open…not going to close.. ever. Insanity has become comical with the likes of Jack Nicholson in movies such as The Shining (Heeeeeere’s Johnny!). There is nothing humorous about poor Molly’s plight into madness. There are the non-erotic nude scenes with Molly in near LovelyMolly2fetal position; vulnerable, beyond help. When it came to certain scenes where she acted out violently, I had to turn away from the screen. Then there’s rape, never a subject to be taken lightly. While there are no scenes of forced penetration, the implications of such brutal acts are there and they are just as unsettling, perhaps even more so.

All this said, this is well made film. Admittedly, it’s difficult to watch. It is NOT for the timid or easily frazzled viewer. I’ll be honest; I was not in the right emotional state when I began watching this movie. I had to turn it off. I continued it the next day.

It is directed and partially written by Eduardo Sanchez,   the same guy at the helm of The Blair Witch Project.  So yes, a good part of the film is shown through the eyes of a video camera operated by one of the movie’s main characters. Ah but relax all you Blair Witch Project haters, the camera doesn’t shake! Not one bit.

On the surface, the story is simple. Newlyweds Molly and Tim move into Molly’s childhood house. It is haunted. But by what? This is where the story gets more complex. It is Molly that is on the receiving end of the terror. Her husband and sister cannot figure out what is troubling her. Is she haunted by hallucinations? A tormented past? Ghosts? Demons? Or all of the above? The film leaves this vague, appropriately so. An unknown assailant is one of the scariest of all tormentors. Isn’t that what fear is all about anyway, the apprehension of the unknown?

Another terrorizing agent of equal stature is one’s own mind. For me, the manifestation of fear is most traumatizing when the object of such fear originates from your own head. It is terrifying when reality is deemed untrustworthy. One’s own traumatic confusion about the “objective” world is far more frightening than a ghost that is visible to all.

However, I don’t mean to imply that ghosts and/or demons are absent from this film. All I’m saying is that maybe they’re there and maybe they’re not. Or maybe they are present in a figurative sense. It’s up to you to decide.

LovelyMollyEverything I have written so far is based exclusively on the film. The DVD comes with extra features. There are four short segments. I recommend skipping these. They are tempting to watch on account of the film being vague. To alleviate confusion, I went for the bonus material. Bad mistake! The bonus material removes all of the mystery from the film. How does it do that? I’m not gonna tell ya, cause then it will be me that ruins the mystery. I am not, nor have I ever been a “ruiner.”   Trust me, just skip it.

Since this is a brutal and disconcerting film, it’s difficult to call it ‘enjoyable.’ None of it was “encased in ‘joy.’”   But it is a decent film and I recommend it for those who can withstand it. It’s not a film for everyone.

**** Here’s an interesting side note. The soundtrack for the film is composed by Tortoise. This is a Chicago based indie/post punk band. My friend is really into them but I confess that I am not that familiar with them. After seeing this movie, I am still unfamiliar with them because for the life of me, I can’t remember any music in the film. And, there appears not to be a soundtrack that is for sale. So I don’t know how I can ever hear what Tortoise did for this film. Boo hoo! I guess I’ll just explore their standard studio albums.