Summer time reading and writing

 

Happy Summer to you all! Now, just because the days are brighter and warmer, there is no reason to give up reading. Pack away your winter coats, not your books! Like to go to the beach? Then by all means, bring your book and read in the sun. Read by the poolside. Read, read, read!

Now if I can only replace the word “read” with “write” and follow my own advice. Truth be told, the summer is getting in the way of my writing projects. Not that it’s being replaced with torturous activities. Quite the contrary! Warmer weather has ignited in me an inclination toward physical, outdoor activity. Bike riding, tennis, jogging. It’s time to exercise and lose some of this fat. At the same time, much maintenance is required to keep up the ol’ backyard. Lawn mowing, hedge trimming, fountain-filling (just go with this last one, okay? Thanks!). All of this activity has rewards in both “the doing” and “the done.” Then there are the social and recreational events. I have family visiting from Europe. In a few days, we are going on a two week vacation. We’re gonna have us some fun!

So please forgive me if you don’t hear from me very much in the next several weeks. However, in addition to all these summer activities, I do have several author-like projects on the back-burners. The Fourth of July might be right around the corner, but it’s never too early to be thinking about Halloween! I’ve been thinkin’ up some nifty promotional ideas for my books Voices and The House Sitter I wanna’ crank these out at the end of summer, in preparation for the October frights! But as of right now, I’m still in the figurative drawing room, planning them out when I find the time. Also, I’ve been editing/rewriting a novel I had “completed” several years ago. As it turns out, it needed a lot of rework. Section by section, paragraph by paragraph, I am doing the necessary rewrites. It’s a daunting task but someone has to do it!  I still haven’t decided on a title, but for now I am calling it “The House of Haunted Light.”

And this brings this article to full circle. No matter how busy I am, no matter how much of my writing time is compromised, I ALWAYS find amble time for reading. Right now I am reading two books: a classic novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne (House of the Seven Gables) and an indie novel by horror author Michael Bray (Whisper: Whisper Trilogy Book 1). I read everywhere: inside our den, outside on the patio. On the train or at a performance (between breaks). If I can read while simultaneously enjoying the summer, so can you! And if you need help deciding what to read, I think I can recommend a book or two for ya!

 

Review of The Changeling

ChanglingCoverGeorge C Scott portrays John Russell, a grieving widower that rents a historical mansion where things go “bump in the night.” Truthfully, it’s more of a “bang”, but it’s no less creepy. Searching to begin anew after tragically losing his family, Russell, a music composer, accepts a teaching job at university. With a new job comes a new life, new acquaintances – and a new home. New and scary. He has no idea what experiences are waiting for him; what mysteries he will help to unravel in The Changeling 

Most of the scares come from sounds, and effectively so. In the tradition of The Haunting, loud disturbances haunt the rooms and halls. Joining the audible haunts are the ghostly cries of a young child. The background music is quite chilling as well. But there are plenty of terrifying images to accompany these sounds and cries. These are largely the ghostly recreations of tragedies past. In one scene in particular, a ghost submerged in water cries for help; his cries rise to the surface in bubbles. This scene is an example of awesome editing and creative synchronization of visuals and sound. In another scene, a locket and chain rise up from the soil of a well like a slithering snake. A decent scene indeed!

The drawback of this film has to do with the back-and-forth change in scenery. Just when the viewer is settling into the dark and chilling atmosphere of this dark house, the scene awkwardly changes to a busy street on a bright morning of another day. Too much time is spent solving mysteries outside of the house rather than in the very heart of the haunting.

However the overall story is good and the resolution – the reason this film is called “The  the-changeling-1980Changeling” is intriguing indeed.   This isn’t the best haunted house film out there but it has its redeeming moments. It is definitely worth seeing.

 

 

 

 

Review of The Conjuring 2

the-conjuring-2 2

Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren heed their call and once again come to the aid of a family that is plagued by evil spirits. This time, their call takes them across the ocean. They pack their bags and leave their New England home, bound for “Old” England, where they are to investigate a phenomenon that has been described as “London’s Amityville.” The Hodgson household consists of a single mother, her four children, and one or two unwanted presences. Will the Warrens be able to rid their home of these unwanted guests? And, more specifically, will they be able to help Janet Hodgson – the young girl who frequently becomes possessed by this evil? Go see The Conjuring 2 and these questions will be answered. Until then, read the rest of this article for informative tidbits and opinions.

Oh good, you listened to me and continued reading. Let’s begin with some background information. For those new to The Conjuring series, the reoccurring characters of Ed and Lorraine Warren are based on a real married couple that investigated paranormal phenomenon back in the 1970’s and 80’s. According to wikipedia, the Warrens claimed to have investigated over 10,000 cases of “actual” or “potential” of supernatural activity. Does this mean that we should settle in for 10,000 movies? Probably not – that’s overkill. But the Warren case files have spawned several movies, including both Conjuring movies. The first film is based on the 1971 Perron Family case – ghosts and or/demons haunt the Rhode Island home of this poor family (click here to read my review of The Conjuring). This second film is based on the Enfield Poltergeist case, which documents moving furniture, overturned chairs and levitating children. The film shows all this and so much more. Other films loosely related to the Warrens are AnnabelleThe Haunting in Connecticut, and The Amityville Horror. While there are no references to the Warrens in The Haunting in Connecticut and Amityville Horror, The Conjuring 2 opens with Ed and Lorraine investigating the Amityville House after The Lutz’s have fled. In order to determine if there is an evil presence associated with the house, Lorraine uses her skills as a medium to experience the horrific murders that claimed the lives of The Defeos –the family that lived in the house before The Lutz’s. From the killer’s perspective, she comes to understand what happened that fateful evening while uncovering a clue she does not yet understand, for it is a clue that is linked to things that would occur later in the Hodgson house. This opening sequence is brutal, chilling and captivating all at the same time.

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So, what did I think of the rest of the movie? Before I get into that, let me be honest about the-conjuring-2certain biases on my part. First, I prefer the ghosts and demons of films and literature to be somewhat elusive; their origins speculative, their nature not limited to the narrow parameters of “good” and “evil”. The spirits of The Conjuring films are evil demons as defined by the Bible. Adhering to tradition of well-known demon lore, we assume they will take possession of someone, mostly likely a young woman. We suppose that the possessed victim will at some point rant in a guttural, inhuman voice. We expect the demons to get a little testy when confronted with a crucifix – the symbol of “goodness.” All of these assumptions, suppositions, and expectations come true. Second, I favor unhurried and carefully crafted atmospheres of disturbances to the flashy and loud jump scares. Creepy over shocking, I say! The Conjuring 2 has a lot of jump scares for sure, more than its predecessor. For these reasons, it is doubtful that any films of The Conjuring series will make it to the top of my preferences list.

All this being said, The Conjuring 2 is a decent film with plenty of scares for everyone. While the film relies heavily on “jump scares”, they are done effectively and creatively. A person or object is on one side of the room and then suddenly, there s/he/it is right before the camera and this “jump” is unexpected. The ghosts and demons in this film manifest in scary forms. If you are the type of person that wants to see the phantoms that are doing the haunting, you will not be disappointed. And overall, the acting is good, the characters are sympathetic, and there are some touching moments outside of the realms of the scare factor.

I’ll let you be the judge as to what’s “true” about this film. In my opinion, it is fiction based on fabrications of truth. Ah but who am I? Maybe the events portrayed in this film are very real for some of you. If so, great – all the more reason to be scared. And isn’t that why we see horror movies in the first place – to be scared?

 


 

Thank you for reading this article.  If you enjoy my writing, please consider buying my latest book The House Sitter.  A writer/house sitter haunts a house with his stories. They haunt him back in return. Click on picture to see the book on Amazon

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Review of Terror in the Haunted House (My World Dies Screaming)

 

terror_in_haunted_house_poster_02Let’s begin with the first several moments of the film. It begins with hypnotic spirals overlaid by the text “The first picture in Psycho Rama – The Fourth Dimension –Subliminal Communication.”

Next there is an establishing shot of a three-story house. Credits are rising in the air! (Likewise, according to the rock band Rush, “the sigh of Eth is rising in the air”. Check it out here! ) Then, ‘she’ speaks. She the narrator – she that is sharing her nightmare with us. It is a reoccurring dream of an old house that “stands like a moldering tombstone.” The camera zooms in on the front door. It opens on its own accord.  We the viewers enter, trespassing further into her nightmare.

Up the stairs we follow the unseen camera. Old portraits hang on the walls. Another door opens and we see a stairway leading to an attic. The narrator is very worried about what’s up there. Stairwell curtains dance to the whims of a draft. Scary. Terror! The hypnotic spirals return.  She screams!

That’s about as far as we need to go. Anybody who starts watching this film can stop at this point.  The rest of the film is an exercise in “suck-o-rama.”

Alright, fine, here’s some more info. It turns out that this nightmare house really exists, so the husband/boyfriend/whothehellcares guy takes this freaked out wife/girlfriend/Iforget woman to the house and they stay in it, seeking to unveil any clues as to why she keeps having this dream. This might have been her childhood house, I don’t recall, but trust me; it’s not worth remembering these details. The rest of the film is all talk and screaming.

Talk-Talk-Talk-Talk “EEEEEEEE!”  Talk-Talk-Talk-Talk  “EEEEEEEE!”

 

The mystery (none), the twists (yawn) the revelations (oh.) – all are smashed claustrophobically into the dialogue.  Every fifteen minutes or so, she the main character is screaming at something: a shadow, a mouse, a mirror, a clown, a hairpin, a can of soup. Okay, most of the preceding scares I made up. I don’t remember or care what she screamed about. All I remember was that it was annoying as hell. But these audile annoyances are soothing interludes when compared to the eye-irritating “visuals” that these filmmakers thought would be so innovative to flash on the screen. Yes, this is the “Pyscho Rama” – The “Fourth Dimension”,  the “Subliminal Communication”

Every so often, images of cartoonish faces flash on the screen. Here are some examples captured from the film:

 

They come and go in the blink of an eye, disturbing our sensitive corneas. They’re as welcome as flying pests at a picnic. What were the filmmakers hoping to achieve with these… things?  I personally have no idea. They didn’t frighten me.  And no, I don’t believe in “subliminal communication.” I did not succumb to mind control and I’m quite certain that I did not open my subconscious mind to demonic possession by absorbing the content within these annoying flickers.  Back in the 80s, certain pastors tried to tell me that whenever I would listen to the song “Stairway to Heaven”, a backwards message would enter my brain, rearrange itself to communicate “forwardly” to my subconscious and then deposit the damning words “Here’s to my sweet Satan” deep down in the bosom of my being. It was bunk then just as it was bunk thirty five years earlier in 1958, the year of this film’s release.

So – to recap. If you feel that you must  watch some of this film, set aside five minutes and watch the opening. It is a good opening. Enjoy the creepy mood but do your best to endure the “subliminal” flashes. There are at least two of them, maybe more, within these first five minutes. But that’s better than enduring ninety minutes of these incessant intrusions.