October 27 – The Ruins – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

By Author Scott Smith who also wrote The Simple Plan, later made into a movie starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda. Oh and directed by Sam Raimi – The Evid Dead dude. I both read and saw the film The Simple Plan.  Oops I’m supposed to be writing about The Ruins. Let me redirect.

Anyway, with The Ruins, Smith writes a suspenseful, gory book about young American tourists trapped on the ruins of a Mayan temple in Mexico.  Local Mayas will shoot them dead if they try to leave, and eventually, the vines that grow all along the pyramid-like structure will kill them. They are nasty things, these vines. They pry into the skin, strangle the neck, and their flowers are like mouths and they mimic the screams of its victims and replay personal conversations to pit the survivors against each other.

The book and the film (directed by Carter Smith) pretty much tell the same story with some variations. What happens to certain characters in the book happens instead to other characters in the movie, etc. The endings are different. The book goes for a hopeless conclusion while the film has an inkling of hope.

Book or movie? Hmm. When working out my decision, I kept alternating between “a tie” or “the book as the winner”.  But since I reserved one option for the book as the sole winner and no option for the film as a standalone victor, then I have to go for the book.

Winner: BOOK

October 26 – Friday the 13th Part 3 (in 3D) – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

Yes I actually read the novelization of this film. I remember reading and then exclaiming “Wow, this character, his head got “severe + d.””  That’s how I pronounced it; severe with a “d”.  My sister didn’t know what “severe + d’ meant, so she looked at he word. “Danny, that’s severed!” she said.  (But it was a severe act, you have to admit.)

What do you think I thought of this book? Well, I got some Jason backstory I didn’t get elsewhere. But overall, it’s more fun to see teenagers get sliced to death that to read about such a phenomenon. Plus, the words didn’t jump out at me in 3D like the eyeballs did in the movie theater. Jason put some guy’s head in a vice (or was it a vice-like grip with his own two hands? I can’t remember), all that pressure and boing! His eyeball shot out and almost landed in my box of popcorn.  That’s better than the book, doncha’ think?

Winner: FILM

October 25 – The Funhouse – Book Vs. Movie – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

Remember this movie? It’s somewhat obscure, I guess. Came out in 1981. Directed by Tobe Hooper; he’s not so obscure! (Salem’s Lot director). My Daddy took me to see this in the theater at his suggestion. It was the first time I saw teenagers hacked to death on the big screen.

It’s the story of a shady carnival. Four teenagers spend the night in The Funhouse. They witness a carnival barker’s deformed son kill the carnival’s fortune teller. As witnesses to this crime they must be destroyed. Let the “fun” of “funhouse” begin!

The book is a bit different. It’s the novelization of the film, based on the screenplay. It was written by Owen West, but that’s not the author’s real name. His real name is Dean Koontz. You might have heard of him. Anyway, the entirety of the “trapped inside the funhouse” plot of the film is just one mere chapter in the book – the final chapter. Most of the book is backstory concerning the Conrad the Carnival Barker, his deformed son, and a different story regarding the teenagers. In the book, one of the teenager’s is a daughter or an ex-wife of Conrad and he purposely lures her and her friends into the funhouse so that he may kill them, extracting revenge on his ex-wife for something he did.

The book really does have an interesting backstory. But the film is more thrilling and interesting. It focuses solely on the carnival and funhouse, but details very well the depravity and overall freakiness of this traveling band of misfits. The animatronic attractions in the funhouse are pretty awewome.

Winner: FILM

October 24 – Children of the Corn – Book Vs. Movie – Which Medium Wins (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

Would you like to know when I first began reading Stephen King’s Children of the Corn?  (To tell you the truth, Cheely, I really don’t care…) Great! I will tell you. It was two weeks ago. I read for a few minutes and then suddenly my eReader is telling me that I’m already 25% finished with the story. Read a bit more the next day and discover that I am over 80% done. So, I reread, trying to keep the experience going for as long as I can. Okay, done rereading, I’ll just progress a little further…Congratulations! I’m all done. Boo! I want more!

Okay, I went in knowing it was a short story. But this was like, really short. It was much darker and more wretched than the movie though. The two adult characters, husband and wife, that find themselves in the middle of nowhere in a small abandoned town surrounded by cornfields and killer children are obnoxiously sugar coated in the movie. The young childless couple, hero and heroine, are destined to overcome the supernatural force of “he who walks behind the rows,” escape the evil and thwart the plot of the meanie kids. They are awarded with two adorable children that they rescue from the kid cult. In the book they are flawed individuals struggling to save their rocky marriage. More relatable if you ask me.

Oh but the movie gives us memorable evil children like Malachi, the killer with long red hair and the younger Isaac with the unnerving squeaky voice who leads the pack!  They are simply mentioned in the book. It takes a screen and a longer story to bring them to life.

So which do I prefer? Tough choice. I’ll go with the book (short story) for its commitment to dark storytelling. Maybe later I will flip a coin and let fate decide my preference. But not now.

Winner: BOOK

October 23 – Salem’s Lot – Book Vs. Movie – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

I wish I could remember the finer details of this story. How long has it been since I read this Stephen King classic? Too long. It deserves a second read, even though, despite how others feel, it is not a King favorite of mine. Don’t get me wrong, I like it. It’s probably in his top ten. But not top five.

A vampire takes up resident at Salem’s Lot’s “haunted house”. Soon, the populace of this small town will be infected by vampirism. One by one they become the walking undead.

If you were a kid in the 1970’s, then you probably remember stumbling upon some TV vampire movie and watch young boy vampires floating in the air before a bedroom window, scratching their fingernails the window, wanting in. Pretty scary stuff. This was the Made-For-TV miniseries of Salem’s Lot, directed by Tobe Hooper. Pretty damn good for a TV movie. I watched it for the first time as an adult the other night.

When all is said and done, I favor the book for its thick yet rich plot and interesting characters. The movie attempts a thickness of the plot (over three hours long but meant to be watched over the course of two nights) but it is a bit overbearing at times. Again I must revisit the book.

Winner: BOOK

October 22 – The Shining – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

The debate will continue until the end of time. What are we to make of Stanley Kubrick’s film version of Stephen King’s The Shining? I’m going out on a limb here, but I think it breaks down like this. Those that saw the film but have never read the book loooove the movie. Those that have read the book really don’t think much of the film. King himself didn’t like the movie although his opinion has evolved a bit and he has recently noticed the things that worked very well with the film. Still the criticism exist.  In brief, the film flattens out the characters, or turns them into caricatures. Jack Torrance, played by Jack Nicholson, is pretty much a loose cannon throughout the whole film. This is not the case of the character in the book. 

I, of course, have seen both the film and read the book. I’ve seen the film several times. I read the book twice. My verdict? I really, really love the film. It comes close to being just as good as the book for its visuals and brilliant camera work and use of space. But the book is better. So I guess not everyone fits into the dichotomy I described in the above paragraph.

The Shining is my favorite book by Stephen King. It is in my list of top ten books. It is my favorite haunted house novel. Yes, I like it even better than The Haunting of Hill House.

For a more thorough comparison, read my article: The Shining Book – Movie- Miniseries

 Winner: BOOK

October 21 – Carrie – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

Stephen King’s first novel. Brian De Palma’s award-winning film. The story of “Carrie”, a troubled teenager tormented by her peers. After she has her first period, she develops telekinetic powers, although in the book she was perhaps born a “sensitive”, for as a child, stones from the sky fell on her house while she was in a traumatized state of emotion. Powers went latent until the onset of puberty. By the story’s end, she will use these powers to extract revenge on her peers in a most climatic way.

 Carrie is one of my favorite horror movies, if not my most favorite. It is chilling, atmospheric, sad, and heartbreaking. It leaves a viewer with a sense of unease while allowing the same viewer to appreciate the film’s style.  Did King have the same effect on me with his novel. Sadly no.  There are several reasons for this.

In between the regular narrative there are reports and memoirs, written after the events of the story, by a paranormal committee and one of the survivors of the “Carrie” story. For me, these interludes only distract from the narrative. Also, King ends his story with Carrie running amok, not only burning down the school with her classmates trapped inside, but destroying half the town as well. In the film, Carrie only burns the school in a sort of fit of temporary insanity. One can sympathize with her situation. It is more difficult to sympathize with the Carrie of the book, who, I do believe, even sports a malicious grin during her rampage on the town.

King might have invented the story but screen writer Lawrence D Cohen and director Brian De Palma make it so much better with the film. And you know what? I do believe King agrees.

Winner: FILM

October 20 – Beloved – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

If I ever make a list of my top ten favorite novels, Beloved would be on it.  I’m not alone in my praise. It is, after all, a Pulitzer prize winning novel, written by the renowned Toni Morrison, may she rest in peace.  It’s a story of a haunting, with some of the stuff of the supernatural on the surface. Deep down, the true horror is slavery and its aftermath.

How is the movie? It received mixed reviews, much to Oprah Winfrey’s disappointment. She is the lead character alongside Danny Glover. I thought they did well.  For me the movie is good, not a masterpiece, but better than alright.  It is the book that is the masterpiece.

Winner: BOOK

The Haunting of Bly Manor – Mike Flanagan Reimagines a Classic Ghost Story Once Again

It Began at Hill House

I didn’t think it would work. Back in 2018 when I first heard that Netflix was turning the Shirley Jackson classic The Haunting of Hill House into a series, I feared the worst. It was to be a “reimagining.”   I turned to the normal arguments. Why mess with the originals?  The original is always the best.  And what is this “reimagining” business; probably something to do with pointless gore and unnecessary jump scares.  Certainly the worst came true back in 1999 with the remake of the original film for which the book is based on. The Haunting 1999 Vs. The Haunting 1963 – anyone with a modicum of taste would say that it is no contest; the film from 1963 is far superior. And this was another reason for me to have low expectations. They already tried to ruin the legacy of the film with that horrendous remake, so what’s to stop them from committing a similar atrocity.

How wrong I was!

As it turns out, Director Mike Flanagan has got a great imagination. So when he reimagined the story, the “imagery” (from “image”, the root word in imagination or “reimagination”) that came forth onto the screen was stunning, chilling, thoughtful and downright creepy. I’m talking about middle-of-the-night, lights-not-working, thunder storm creepy. Now he’s at it again, reimagining yet another classic ghost story.  He’s taking Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and turning it into The Haunting of Bly Manor.  Is it as good as his version of The Haunting of Hill House? Gosh I don’t know, I’m only three episodes into this nine-part series. Except for several Easter eggs and the usage of the same character names, The Haunting of Hill House Netflix series is a vastly different story when compared to Shirley Jackson’s tale. For a brief description of the differences, see this article: The Haunting of Hill House – The Netflix Series – What it is and What it Isn’t. (And it’s still available on Netflix if you wish to see it. However such a viewing is not required in order to enjoy The Haunting of Bly Manor. The stories have nothing to do with each other.) So I was surprised that The Haunting of Bly Manor follows the same plot points as James’ tale. At least it does for the first three episodes.

(Articles I wrote for further reading:

Review of the Haunting of Hill House/ The Haunting: Book Vs. Movie

The Haunting 1963 Vs The Haunting 1999 – Which Film Wins? )

The Classic Henry James Story

Here be the similarities. The classic novella The Turn of the Screw begins at a party where guests are telling ghost stories. One lady relays a tale, and that tale is the main story of the book. The story is about an au pair who cares for two charming children at a country estate. The parents of the children, young Flora and Miles, died tragically. The children are simply delightful; very bright and well refined. But there is something “haunted” about them. The former caretaker had a scandalous affair with the former butler. Sometimes they coupled right in front of the children. Now the pair are missing or dead and it seems as if the children are taking on the personality traits of these former members of the household staff. The book leaves open the possibility that that the new au pair is simply projecting her own fears and insecurities about sexuality onto the children and they are not really haunted at all. In the series, the au pair sees a dark phantom following her inside the reflection of mirrors. The phantom also emerges when she is confronted with something sexual.  So she is most certainly bringing her own baggage to this dark situation.

Read my article Review of The Turn of the Screw (Book) and The Innocents (Film)

Trying to Find that Damned Screwdriver

The “turn of the screw” is an expression that means “the heightening of tension”.  To turn the screw is to create suspense. I’ll say this, the first few episodes of the series seem to be all about finding that damned screwdriver! In other words, the series begins slowly. Real slowly. As with Flanagan’s former series The Haunting of Hill House, there are many characters that are not present in the book. Along with these characters come the backstories.  So far there hasn’t been much “haunting” going on in Bly Manor after three episodes.  With the “Hill House” series, hauntings are there in the backstories. Not so much with “Bly Manor.”  I wish the story was paced differently.  It seems as of Flanagan is trying to get all the backstories out of the way before he lets the ghosts in. Kind of like a classic rock band with a crappy new album that goes on tour; the band will suffer the audience with material from the new album before it rocks on to the songs the people really want to hear.  Also, the characters go into these monologues and talk on and on and on.  Finally, if I have to hear little Flora speak the word “splendid” in her little pretentious voice one more time, I’ll scream!!

Yeah it’s tough setting up the screw driver.  I have read comments from people that have watched this series in its entirety and they say it starts slow but picks up and in the end it’s soooooo great. So I will continue on.  Don’t get me wrong, I like what I have seen so far. It’s just tedious at time. Tell ya what, I’m going to watch two more episodes and then continue this article? Okay, take a rest from reading while I resume watching.

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

Cheely’s watching episode 4 and 5…….Please wait…..

The Screw Turns

Wow! A lot happens in episode 4 and 5!  Finally the screw is turning. Suspense, suspense and mind-fuckery! I don’t know what is real and what is an illusion. Usher in some hauntings!  It’s a whole new ballgame now. Ghosts might be lurking where you least suspect. I can’t wait for episode 6, 7, 8 and 9!

And here you were worried it wouldn’t be good. All you had to do was wait!

What’s next for Flanagan in The Haunting of….Series?

I don’t know the answer to this header question, but I sure hope it will be The Haunting of The House of Usher.  Please make this be so, Flanagan! Please?  I love the Edgar Allan Poe tale The Fall of the House of Usher and there is so many ways to reimagine this tale in good creepy ways.  Brother Vs. Sister, two siblings with different forms of madness, pitted against each other, in a house that is doomed to come apart down the middle and bring an end to a family’s lineage. Think about it, Mike, I know you are reading this article. (Ha HA Ha HA HA! I wish he was!)

October 19 – The Queen of the Damned – Book Vs. Film – Which Medium Wins? (Thirty-One Days of Halloween)

This is the third book in author Anne Rice’s vampire series. It’s one of my favorites. She introduces many interesting vampire characters in this book. And, she traces the origin of vampires to its source – The Queen of the Damned.

The movie combines plot points from Rice’s second vampire book (The Vampire Lestat) and the third. It does so poorly, brushing hectically though important plot points. It’s not a good movie. So the book wins.

Winner: BOOK