If It Bleeds

I don’t know if you know this about very small children, but they take up a lot of your time. That’s not the only reason the number of books I’ve read in the past month totals one, but it’s definitely high up on the list. But: when Stephen King arrives on my doorstep, I persevere and do the thing.

If It Bleeds is a novella collection whose stories are each largely concerned with mortality. Which is certainly timely, although I’m not sure it’s what I would have asked for as my leisure reading during the [first?] summer of Covid-19. But it also makes sense that an aging prolific author is thinking about death. Like, natural causes death, not horror fiction death, which to be fair he has always been thinking about.

The title story has the least to do with this theme; it is instead another Holly Gibney mystery story, and I liked it, but it’s hard to feel like it belonged. But weighing in at half the length of the book, it was good to not overstuff it into a full-sized book, and it had to go somewhere? As for the other stories: The Life of Chuck was the most ambitious, and while I don’t think it quite hit the mark, I have a lot of respect for the story it was trying to tell. Mr. Harrigan’s Phone continues King’s fascination with the dark cracks in modern technology through which supernatural horror can slip. And Rat is yet another in a long line of stories about authors in dire straits. But, well, write what you know, I’m told? And he is pretty good at that particular topic!

Anyway: if you ever thought he had it, he’s still got it.

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be, part two

A number of months ago, I had read half(-ish) of a book, and reviewed it, in part because reading a book for nine plus months makes it hard to review the whole thing after that long, and in part by way of announcement. This review is not by way of any additional announcement; I have simply finished The Expectant Father.

For the most part, my initial review stands. There’s a lot of good information here, some questionable information, and a few things that are maybe bad. The authors source a great deal of their information, and cross-reference back and forth within the book as well. But every once in a while, Armin Brott’s anecdotal style goes off the rails when he makes a point of generalizing that anything he happened to do to make his wife unhappy during once of her pregnancies into ironclad advice for all fathers about all mothers everywhere.

This is a minor complaint in a sea of good, mostly because it doesn’t happen super often. Less than once per chapter? Like I said last time: I don’t know how much of what I learned was directly applicable, or even correct, but the sense of security and confidence was meaningful either way. Of course, now my streak of reading every chapter just in time is broken, since I’ve read not only the labor and delivery (and emergency c-section if needed) chapters, but the “now you have a human in front of you” closing chapter, but none of these things have occurred.

Still, though: if you find yourself in the position of being a first time father, or at least first time partner to a pregnant woman even if you’re a father previously through some series of events, I can recommend this book with few to no reservations. Not that this is exactly controversial, what with its best-seller, multiple editions status.

Monster Party

Monster Party is a pretty weird movie. Like, it starts off as a crime drama that suddenly takes a left turn into horror at about the halfway point. (And even knowing that it would, the turn is shocking in its suddenness.) But all of that would be fine and I could just call it riffing on the same themes as Ready or Not[1], just with a different set up.

Except that every aspect of the movie is just deeply nihilistic and dark. Going into why would be way more spoiler-laden than the already inevitable spoilers I have provided, but in retrospect, geeze. Recommended for people who like their movies like they like their coffee: blacker than the blackest depths of their empty souls.

[1] Which I briefly mistook for Hide and Seek, a movie about which I had completely forgotten and even now remember almost nothing, but which via downstream links on my review have lead me down a rabbit hole of old creepy internet stories for the past half hour, and selected my next movie for me.

Blue My Mind

Another week or so, another movie or so.

This time, a not-particularly-horror movie that combines teen angst bullshit[1] with a modicum of weird body horror, which for the most part seemed out of place, to be honest? 15 year old Mia is going through puberty, which means she doesn’t like her parents, does like the mean girl clique at school, and wants to have all the sex and drugs and cigarettes it is possible for a nearly-legal German teen to have.

But also, strange things are afoot with, uh, her feet. And the family goldfish. What can it all mean? Was she adopted like she thinks, or did she just fall in with the wrong crowd, like her parents think? Does the body horror have any place in this movie? I can answer that one: no, but it did give them a way to wrap things up, instead of just trailing off into disaffected adulthood like most people making “bad” choices end up in fiction. So… yay?

I’m carefully avoiding the spoiler at the center of Blue My Mind, mostly because it was impossible to not know it from the presentation on my streaming service of choice, and the expectation that it would turn out to matter is mostly what ruined the movie for me. Counterpoint: I probably wouldn’t have watched it without that expectation. Counter counterpoint: would that have been so bad?

[1] but no body count

The Babysitter (2017)

So, good news, Netflix has done right by me after Shudder let me down. Okay, playing that back in my head, it doesn’t actually sound like good news. I guess I’m just saying I’m glad that there are decent horror movies outside of Shudder, is all. Although if I’m getting my money’s worth out of them, why should I really care? Plausibly of much more import, why should you care, prospective blog reader?

Starting again, then: The movie I watched today was The Babysitter, in which a twelve year-old boy[1] is babysat by a hot teenage neighbor girl with whom he has a pre-existing friendship, one would presume from prior babysitting endeavors, while his parents go out of town for the weekend[2]. Later, after being egged on by a school friend, he resolves to stay up past his bedtime and see what the babysitter really gets up to at night, instead of being tired and going to sleep herself as she claims.

Is it a handsy boyfriend? Is it a spin the bottle game that will pretty definitely lead to an orgy? Is it human sacrifice to fulfill a ritual in an ancient, unbound manuscript? Regardless of any of those, will the babysat kid get a chance to make out with the girl of his dreams? The answer to these, and many other question that may have arisen in response to this premise: maybe!

It’s pretty funny, in any case, and definitely made funnier by the letterer, a role which maybe more movies should have.

[1] They call this out, which is called lampshading for some reason, in the dialogue. Yes, it’s silly, but you can’t very well have burgeoning pubescent sexual tension in a babysitter horror movie if the kid being sat is age appropriate.
[2] This, on the other hand, is blown right past. Who hires out a weekend babysitter? There’s no way that’s a real thing that people do.

Lizzie (2018)

If you’re like me, all you really know about Lizzie Borden is the rhyme about the many whacks she gave her parents, and that it was an axe murder. This week, I learned that it was her stepmother, and also that she was not found guilty of the crime, which I think speaks to the importance of the court of public opinion.

Anyway, all of that has changed, thanks to Lizzie, on Shudder.

Well, okay, none of that has changed. The things I know now that I didn’t know then are just about identical. But I definitely have insight into someone’s idea of how it could have happened, which is a combination ill will between Lizzie and the folks over what her place in society and in the family should be, coupled with a spendthrift uncle set to be named trustee of the inheritance in the will and a psychosexual triangle between Lizzie, her father, and the recently hired Irish maid. So, the odds of all three of those things having happened are pretty low, and that’s even assuming she really did the murders in the first place, which: beats me!

Anyway, for my money, if I’m going to watch a lesbian family murder thriller, it will always be Heavenly Creatures. Which is not to say that this was bad; it’s just that if you’re going to make a one-note movie, you have to make the best one of that note, or else what’s the point?

Last Ones Out

Another zombie movie, this time out of South Africa! With a weird poster that does not accurately reflect the title of the movie. So that’s weird.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a fresh new take on zombies, Last Ones Out isn’t it. Hey look, there are a few survivors out of a hospital who have banded together. Hey look, the jerky American is making everyone hate him. Honestly, I’m bored just trying to think of more things to say.

The zombie movie you actually want to see is One Cut of the Dead. I’m not reviewing it because I watched it hosted with commentary, and it’s a relief to not have to, because honestly I don’t know that I could do so. But it is probably going to be my most highly recommended movie of the year, even if you don’t like zombie movies. (Yes, even if you, specifically you, don’t like zombie movies.)

The only “downside” is it’s exclusive to Shudder, so you have to watch it there.

The Last Showing

A few years ago, pre-Iron Fist on Netflix and decidedly post- whichever was the last Freddy Krueger[1] movie, Finn Jones and Robert Englund decided to face off in a movie theater, for supremacy!

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Actually, without Englund’s brand recognition and the movie streaming on Shudder to make it really clear what you’ll get, The Last Showing spends at least the first act of the movie being a character study on how we dispose of the elderly, for really no reason at all. Not-Freddy has worked as a film projectionist for decades, but due to his unwillingness[2] to get certified on the latest digital equipment in a classroom with sixteen year old part timers, he has been relegated to serving popcorn and sweeping and the kinds of things that the aforementioned sixteen year olds usually end up doing.

So he snaps, of course, and Not Danny Rand and girlfriend randomly end up as the focus of his snapping. Everything else is plot spoilers and a different character study in how just because you think you’d be great at something doesn’t make you great. Not all dreams can come true! But there’s the kernel of a serious film buried down in the middle of the running around a theater yelling at killers and toying with victims that is the schlocky meat of the thing.

The irony is that Englund is and has always been a pretty good actor, and dropping him in the role of someone who is not as suited to a thing as he believes himself to be is a little mean-spirited.

[1] To me, though, he’ll always be Willy in V
[2] Not because he resents the technological upgrades, but because the new equipment is legitimately easier to use in the first place and he doesn’t need the training, only the cert, and man, certs for their own sake are dumb.

Summer of 84

I watched another movie this week, which was Summer of 84. This is a pretty basic horror movie which combines Gen X childhood nostalgia for the summer of our youth with Rear Window. And now I have to come up with more to say.

It is not a complaint that I can sum up the movie that succinctly. There’s something to be said for nostalgia, especially when it’s nostalgia for what other people had. I never really made friends in my neighborhood, the way I read about in Stephen King novels or see in kid movies from the 1980s and earlier. Like, I definitely had friends, but private school through elementary (or, and this is plausible, most of the kids my age in my neighborhood were just assholes) meant that I never made close local bonds with those people. So any hanging out was a carefully scheduled affair, not just going outside on a summer evening for a giant game of hide and seek, or constant contact via walkie-talkies no matter how late at night. Also, the suburbs are different from small towns.

Anyway, that’s really the movie. Teenage newspaper boy and friends in a cluster of small towns where a serial killer has been murdering tween and teenage boys, even though tween was not a word that existed at the time. And one of them (guess which one!) thinks he saw something suspicious happen across the street, at the home of the bachelor cop on the cul-de-sac. And either the kid has an overactive imagination, or the cop is legit terrifying, which all depends upon your perspective and your expectations about how the movie will go, and I wish I could add something I found offputting, but it would guaranteed be a confirmation spoiler about which movie they’re making. Maybe in a comment, if anyone cares. (Note that this being a horror movie does not inform that tension’s outcome, because there’s definitely a serial killer, no matter whether it’s the neighbor cop or not.)

Hack/Slash: Resurrection

Some time back, I came to the [second] end of the Hack/Slash comic series, a little disappointed that it really was over this time. Well, joke’s on me, because three years later, someone came along and tried again.

The Resurrection series is another continuation by another author, but this one is a little more successful because she understands that the point wasn’t tying up loose ends from previous big stories, it was getting to the root of what makes Cassie appealing and restoring the status quo by bringing someone back. I mean, spoilers, but it’s really right there in the title, innit?

Basically, it’s this: Cassie is done with monsters, living in a trailer in the middle of nowhere making money off Twitch subscribers, which may be the most modern thing I’ve ever read in any comic in all of history. Except an acquaintance of her mother has opened a summer camp nearby, to help the victims of slasher trauma be strong and ready instead of ripe to get angry and disturbed and turn into more slashers themselves. And except zombies keep showing up outside her trailer. And except the nearby prison seems awfully suspicious. Before you know it: new story, continued from the prior series but without the weight of almost any continuity to worry about.

Worthwhile!