Monday, May 31, 2010

Heart-Shaped Box

Heart-Shaped Box: A Novel
I read a review of Heart-Shaped Box when it came out in 2007, thought it sounded interesting, and promptly forgot about it.  I was pleased to find the paperback edition in one of the two used bookstores within driving distance, the one that is so tiny browsing is almost impossible if there are any other customers.

In the novel, an aging rocker with a taste for the macabre and the unlikely stage name of Judas Coyne buys a purported ghost in a box from an online auction site.  He soon realizes that he's being targeted by vengeful relatives of his ex-girlfriend, who committed suicide, and that the ghost is real.  The rest of the novel depicts Coyne, along with his current girlfriend and faithful dogs, attempting to escape the vengeful ghost.

Heart-Shaped Box is an action-packed, inventive novel that is difficult to put down, as the hunted humans travel the south looking for a way to banish their pursuer.  There are some extremely scary sequences, and some of the best are some of the more subtle, such as when the ghost first appears in Coyne's darkened hallway.  Along with the horror, Hill writes with a great deal of humor and poignancy, as Coyne is forced to examine his life and relationships past and present, as he struggles to avoid losing them.  

My only (minor) quibbles are that the frantic pace of the action sometimes takes away from the horror, and that sometimes villains are more frightening when they're portrayed with dimensions, not just evil and crazy.  Still, this is an engrossing, well-written, and scary read.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review of Showtime's "Masters of Horror" on AC

With some misgivings, I've started writing articles on various subjects for Associated Content.  I recently added a derisive review of Dance of the Dead, one of the worst entries in Showtime's hit or miss "Masters of Horror" series.  The link is here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tombs of the Blind Dead

Tombs of the Blind DeadThis 1971 film is the first installment of Spanish writer-director Amando de Ossorio’s four-part zombie epic. The zombies are withered, wispy-bearded Knights Templars, who have made a pact with the Devil, drinking blood to become immortal. Unfortunately for them, they are also blind (the Devil is like that). ”Don’t let them hear your heart beating!” is the tag line. A young camper (María Elena Arpón) vanishes after wandering into the crumbling castle where the dead lurk, and her friends must solve the mystery of her disappearance. There are some genuinely scary scenes and a nicely grim ending, but this is a ‘70s exploitation film with gratuitous cheesecake and violence towards women, not a classic. Still, where else can you see blind zombie knights on horseback?

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth - In COLOR! Also Includes the Original Black-and-White Version which has been Beautifully Restored and Enhanced!
Vincent Price plays the titular protagonist in this 1964 film based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend.  Price is the lone survivor of biological warfare which has turned the populace into ghouls.  Although the ghouls are as much vampires as zombies, George Romero was obviously inspired by the plot and particularly by the scenes of shambling undead trying to get into Price's fortified bungalow.  Price does well portraying a lonely, half-crazed man grimly hanging on against the odds, but the film overall is a little slow and lackluster.  The similarities between it and Night of the Living Dead are interesting, but for entertainment, read Matheson's novel instead.  And don't bother with the Will Smith version, either.