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Goodbye, Livejournal

So this is the end between the Livejournal and me.

Cat Dead: Details Later is sauntering over to its new home at kristindearborn.com. It's more than just a blog...it's a whole website. All about me.

If you go there today, you can read what I thought about Halloween II! So head on over, leave me some comments, welcome me to my new home on the internets.

It'll be fun! 

10,000 words!

Okay. So I am at 10,000 words on the new NaNoWriMo novel. That’s great. Only 70,000 more to go (only 40,000 this month!) After the pacing I used when I wrote my most recent WIP about werewolves in the 1900s, NaNoWriMo isn’t making me break much of a sweat. But as I’m writing, I’m realizing I don’t know where I’m going. With the werewolf book, I had my character motivation. I had the basic plot. It just poured out of me. Now granted the project I am working on now has a bunch more characters. There’s a lot more going on. It’s post apocalyptic AND there are lots of motorcycles AND there are monsters AND there’s a serial killer AND there’s a love thingie happening. But I think I need to take a time out and figure out some stuff or this book will collapse in on itself like a poorly made soufflé. I’m flinging characters in left and right, and since I don’t know where they’re going, some of them are just sort of sauntering around like slow zombies. Am I loosing my pants-ing-ness? Am I becoming a plotter? These feelings are all so strange to me. I guess I’m off to go outline a little bit, or at least get my thoughts a little bit organized.

 Happy November to everyone, and happy writing!
 

Snow

I'm not looking forward to winter. This book didn't help. I had never heard of Snow or Ronald Malfi before it was assigned for the Monsters class. This was a solid little book. I read it while I was traveling to Columbus for World Fantasy Con, and it was neat reading the opening in an airport while sitting in an airport. 

The characters, for the most part, behaved the way I expected them to, with the possible exception of Molly, who just seemed like a bitch for the sake of having a bitch. I wasn’t entirely sold on her motivation for hating Kate and Todd so very much. I also thought Kate and Todd used each other’s names in dialog WAY too much. And that is the end of my complaining. 

The monsters in Snow were pretty bitchin’. Extraterrestrial (or interdimensional—I don’t think it really matters which) in nature, these snow critters came from the sky and sealed off a Midwestern town, killing all electronic gadgets and blocking cell service. They were made of snow…or something that the humans in the book equated with snow…and could only take corporeal form long enough to slash into people’s backs and change them. It provided that element of horror that is so delicious of people who look like us and used to be us but are now very dangerous and very scary. Near the end the snow monsters came together and made mega-monsters, which I thought was much less scary and unsettling than the changed people. The best, creepiest part of the book was the kids: when the snow monsters tried to change children, it didn’t take, and the kids turned into creepy, listless little automatons, roaming around in the snowy woods. Demon kids are scary. The Brood and The Children are two excellent scary kid movies, both of which take place in winter. There’s something really creepy about bundled up kiddos who aren’t quite human. 

I liked that the characters would never have known what the monster’s motives were, what they were, or really anything about them. I am glad Malfi didn’t go into great detail about where they came from and why they were there, their motives, etc. That can sometimes suck the fun out of a story, and for these characters, whose POVs we were in, I don’t think it would have made sense for them to know too much more about the monsters than we were given. I also liked the insidious ending that implies that what the monsters did in this particular town was just the beginning. 

I think Malfi has a nice, readable style, and would certainly look up something else by him. This was a great addition to the class.

This is done by Jakaloftrades on Deviant Art.com. It gets the point across pretty well, though the snow monsters in Malfi's book sadly did not wear scarves or tophats.


 

The Thing. Squee.

What makes The Thing one of the most awesomest movies ever? I will side step the obvious (and correct) answer of "EVERYTHING!"

The setting: Stephen King has made a career of trapping his characters and watching what happens. Whether he traps them in a car with a rabid St. Bernard outside, traps them in a snowed in hotel, or in his most recent, just plan traps them in a glass jar, it's one of the major themes of his career. In Bill Lancaster's screenplay, the cast is trapped in Antarctica. I love snowy horror stories, be they the Arctic, the Antarctic or Colorado (The Terror, 30 Days of Night, Frankenstein) and am deliriously excited about the James Cameron/Guillermo Del Toro movie "At The Mountains of Madness" due out in 2013. But The Thing. The Thing is the best of all of them. The men are trapped for good reasons. There's no facepalms about someone forgetting to fill the car with gas, or not charging their cell batteries. It's winter in Antarctica (As MacReady tells us) and they get snowed in. Then, once infected, the only means of escape are destroyed. Winter by itself is enough to give people seasonal affective disorder, I know I hate long nights and short cold days. Winter with a monster is a killer.

Mood: I read a review of The Thing by Linda Gross. She didn't like it and titled her article The Thing: No Thing to Cheer about. A lot of what she didn't like about the picture was precisely, for me, what made it really resonate. "Instead of providing us with love, wonder and delight, The Thing is bereft, despairing and nihilistic." Yeah! "The most disturbing aspect of The Thing  is its terrible absence of love. The film is so frigid and devoid of feeling that death no longer has any meaning." Woo hoo! Carpenter and Lancaster really strip away everything except these men and this monster. They may have been fond of one another once upon a time, but not when anyone could be carrying death. "The Thing traffics in paranoia. Since you can't always tell the differences between humans and the "thing" in human form, it's open season on murder. It's better to have a dead friend than a live enemy. Hamlet wouldn't have lasted five minutes in this Antarctic realm of paranoia where nobody trusts anybody. In the 1951 version, the movie's paranoia had its roots in McCarthyism. Here, it serves no real purpose except as a kind of nihilistic chic." I think she makes some good points, but would argue that last statement. The AIDS epidemic was just beginning in the 1980's, and I think the all male cast could be a mirror of a disease which, back then, was primarily a men's disease. Kenneth Muir says: "Additionally, it’s difficult not to interpret the “invasion” by the shape-shifting thing as an early harbinger of AIDS, a malady whispered about at the time of the film’s genesis as a “wasting disease” or “The Gay Plague.” In much more general form, the film succeeds in raising hackles over the universal fear of contagion, of disease…of the body subverted, co-opted and deformed by an implacable and invisible intruder." But I digress.

Finally, I will take a moment to gush about the best part of the best movie (no, not Kurt Russell and his hair [not gonna lie--I am in love with 80's era Kurt Russell as Jack Burton/Snake Plisskin/R.J. MacReady]) The Monster: From the moment we first see it as a panicked husky (or malamute--I'm not sure which it is), this isn't your normal monster. For one thing, we (and the fellows in the movie) immediately empathize with the dog, and think the Norwegians are the bad guys. The creature designs of The Thing blow me away. I would take The Thing's 1982 visual effects and make up over glossy, boring CGI any day (which is why I am so timid about next year's Thing prequel). The Thing is a perfect predator (we saw that on the high tech computer projection) too perfect, because it overruns planets in weeks. My discussion grows disjointed with joy, and my lunch break draws to a close. But all that said: The Thing is perfect and I'll pout at anyone who says otherwise.

IF you haven't gotten enough Thinginess, check out this story. It's from Clarkesworld Magazine, The Thing told from the POV of The Thing. Wicked cool. Just like Kurt Russell's hair. Mmm...dreamy.

Seriously. Just look at it.

Day 20: The Damned Thing

 So tonight I watched an episode of Masters of Horror. It was the season 2 premiere, The Damned Thing, based on the short story by Ambrose Bierce, teleplay by Richard Christian Matheson (son of the horror great), and directed by Tobe Hooper. I didn’t much care for it. First, I didn’t like the camera work/editing. The episode started with a scene around the dinner table, and the camera was just spinning around them. Around and around. I found it distracting. (Though not nauseating.) I thought it moved too slowly, even as I was telling myself they were staying true to the gothic roots of horror by taking the time to establish the setting. The characterizations were good, I especially liked the Deputy who was an aspiring cartoonist (but who wasn’t very good at it.) The gore was delightful and graphic. A fellow killed himself by hammering himself to death in the face, first with the hammer part, then with the claw. I like the idea of a…thing…which can take over people, turning friends and family into deranged killers, but the CGI monster at the end was just a joke. It had its moments, though. This was the first time I have so totally disagreed with Dread Central’s review. (Did you write that one, Scott?) I thought the end felt like it came in an odd place (spoilers: though I am a fan of thinking main characters will live only to see them get dead. Or implied dead.). It was all right, but I think I might hold off on more Masters of Horror episodes. Tomorrow I hope to watch two movies. Friday, instead of watching a movie, I’m going to discuss Burlington VT’s live action horror movie, the awesome haunted event Nightmare VT! It’s like a movie, but it’s REAL!

Wolfman Media tie in...missing...something

 Oh, Wolfman. I was so excited to see your movie last winter. It was technically perfect. Good cast, good effects, great moody shots of Talbot Hall and the moors. A really bitchin’ scene where Lawrence changes in the face of a hall full of doctors who are determined to prove that he isn’t a werewolf. The subplots: the Talbot family secrets and the Scotland Yard inspector sound great. But there wasn’t enough…something to carry it through. The picture changed directors at the last minute, there were re-shoots, re-edits, rewrites…I blamed the movie’s shortcomings on those facts.

Surely the awesome Jonathan Maberry could fix all that in his media tie in novel, right? Right? Nope. I think part of the lacking was in Sir John’s character. Neither Anthony Hopkins or Maberry sold me on him. His motivations didn’t seem real or genuine. Yeah, I get that he was throwing Larry under the bus to divert suspicion from him, but I guess I didn’t care. The scene in the movie when the two fought was laughable, at least Maberry made it into something other than a joke (I liked his distinction between “Werewolf” and “Wolf Man”. That spoke nicely to their respective humanities). I thought Lawrence was fleshed out pretty well, but neither Gwen, John, or Aberline was developed as well as they could have been. The book was pretty much in Lawrence’s POV with some erratic side-trips into other POVs. Breaking up the POV to other characters might have made me care about them more. The character I wanted more of—in fact, I could have done without the entire Talbot clan—was Singh. I would like the book written solely from his POV…having to deal with Sir John and watching him get crazier and crazier over the years. His off-screen (and off-page) death was a raw deal

The monster in The Wolfman struck me as pretty generic. Whenever it arrived, a bloodbath ensued. I much prefer the blind thirst killing machine werewolf to the thinking-feeling-Twilight werewolf. I like the idea that as the wolf, the person’s humanity is stripped away. But this one just didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t scary like an Alien, it wasn’t delightful in its gore providing like piranhas can be. It killed people I only felt neutral about, there was no fear for characters I cared about (a la Alien) or devouring people I found obnoxious (a la Piranha 3-D). I felt like I should have been rooting for Lawrence-The-Wolfman when he was nomming MacQueen and his peeps, but they never felt like a real threat. They felt like 2-D bumbling townsfolk monster fodder. I felt a little bit bad for the gypsies as Sir-John-The-Werewolf was devouring them, but they were only there for exposition.

So what was up with the dude in the train giving Lawrence the wolf’s head cane? Who was he? How did he know what was to come? He kind of annoyed me, as he seemed to come from nowhere.

I am much more excited to read Patient Zero. Maberry is a good writer.

I think this is my favorite werewolf: Name the movie and win the satisfaction of naming the movie!

 Is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon my new favorite movie? It might have a place on the top ten list. Grad student Taylor Gentry and her two camera men are making a documentary about a serial killer. Leslie Vernon has given them permission to tag along as he lures a bunch of drunk, horny teens to a cabin in the woods and slaughters them all. At first, Vernon is a downright likable guy. He’s funny, attractive, personable…it’s hard to think of him murdering people as he laughs and smiles, drinks beer and shares his secrets. The way the picture transitions Vernon from friendly pal to bloodthirsty killer is brilliant. As he walks the camera crew through his set up, he deconstructs the horror genre, its archetypes and conventions. He talks about his virgin survivor-girl (I’ve heard her referred to as a “final girl”) and how if she triumphs it was meant to be, and if he can kill her, then she wasn’t right for him. While the movie seems straightforward at first, it gradually unfurls, transitioning from dark humor into horror. There is a whiz-bang line up of cameos, Robert Englund, Zelda Rubinstein, and Kane Hodder all make an appearance. It’s a must watch for any horror fan, funny and scary, when you think it’s predictable it makes twists and turns. This movie was so good, not only did Chris watch it with me, he really liked it. Like a lot of horror movies, what it elects to show and what it hides is where its strength lies. I think if I was less tired tonight, I could have said more about that picture. Watch it. Just go watch it. Now. Go. I’ll wait.

I have watched some EXTREMELY awesome movies this month.


Day 17: Teeth

In Bare Bones: Conversations on Terror With Stephen King, King tells an interviewer his greatest sexual fear: “The vagina dentata, the vagina with teeth. A story where you were making love to a woman and it just slammed shut and cut your penis off. That’d do it.” I hope he’s seen the 2007 film Teeth. The vagina dentata myth permeates most cultures in the world, from Native America, to India, to some of our fairy tales, the idea of toothed vaginas is prevalent. Where do you think the term “man-eater” comes from? Or why the prince had to hack through thorns in sleeping beauty?

Teeth is a great movie about teen-abstinence spokesgirl Dawn, who wears a promise ring, and has taken a solemn vow not to have sex until she’s married. The real horror here is Dawn has no context for what her vagina is supposed to be like. While she is lucky to have a sex-ed class, the school board has put a big sticker over the picture of the vagina, and it is a sin for her to go exploring herself. (Even if it’s for science and not pleasure.) Pretty early on, Dawn is sexually assaulted…and wackiness ensues! The rest of the movie is her coming to terms with what she is, and how that conflicts with her conservative Christian values.

This could come across as heavy handed feminism, or anti-Christian rhetoric, but the film manages a straight face and a wink that allow the metaphor to work nicely. There’s a lot of severed penises in this movie (made me think of Piranha 3-D. In fact made me think Piranha 3-D ripped off Teeth) and for some reason, Chris was much more disturbed by it than I was. Reading about the vagina dentata trope was almost more interesting than the movie itself. It opens up a lot of thought about female sexual power and rape. It also made me think about ducks, and the rape-proof vaginas that they have evolved. Teeth was a great film, and I whole heartedly recommend it. If you dare.

This is the more whimsical movie poster. She really does wear that shirt in the movie.


Day 16: Creepshow

 Written by Stephen King, and directed by George A. Romero, Creepshow was an anthology movie inspired by EC Comics. I really liked the theatrical feel, the five casts play like they’re on stage as opposed to the screen, and the lighting is very obvious and noticeable. The first story, “Father’s Day”, features a very young Ed Harris doing quite the little dance. Its twist hearkens back to Finnegan’s Wake, and the restorative powers of whiskey. The second story stars Stephen King himself, as the titular Jordy Verrill in “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill”. Almost thirty years later it’s almost uncomfortable to watch King playing a “simple country folk”, but it was easy to get into the role and have a good laugh. Then cringe. The third segment “Something to Tide You Over” features Leslie Neilson and Ted Danson. Neilson gives a great serious (mostly) performance as a cuckolded husband. But sympathy must lie with Danson’s character, the adulterer. The fourth segment “The Crate” featuring Hal Holbrook, is an interesting take on academia…and other options to divorce. The final segment “They’re Creeping up on You” is all about cockroaches. These five stories are bookended with a young Joe Hill getting in trouble for reading comic books. Dad throws the comics away, but the kiddo has already sent away for the voodoo doll. Tom Savini did all the makeup special effects and has a cameo as a garbage man. The film keeps its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, and if you try and take the movie seriously, it will be a disappointment. All of the stories run with the satisfying theme of just desserts (the first one, quite literally). A fun classic, one I’d never seen before.

Day 15: Lake Mungo

 A horror movie with no blood and no scares? How does that work? Lake Mungo is a documentary style movie, in which 16 year old Alice Palmer drowns in a lake. What follows is, I would say, more suitably labeled as an exploration of grief, and how her surviving family deals with their loss. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but no scares, no gore. (The poster, I think, is the scariest part of the movie.) I don’t want to go into the mechanics of some of the twists because if this type of movie is up your alley, you’ll love it. It builds slowly to a disturbing climax which is ultimately quite satisfying. The whole picture is unsettling, and leaves you feeling uneasy. It make some interesting statements about what we hide from people we love. All in all it was pretty good, but you need to be in the right frame of mind and know what kind of movie you’re getting.