Don’t Read This Book at Night!

I absolutely love horror and sci-fi – even better when they’re mixed in the same movie, book, or experience! You can find me crocheting like a woman possessed while watching scary movies with my dog and cat. (My husband is nearby, gaming on his computer and laughing when I jump or squeak in fear.)

When I found out that Kody Boye was writing a novel about an alien invasion I was giddy with excitement. He’s a talented author with solid world-building and character creation skills. I also know from reading his previous works that he’s not afraid to kill off a character – no matter how important the reader thinks they are!

kodyI got my paws on When They Came and couldn’t wait to start reading. Kody completely bypasses the lead-up to the invasion and instead drops the reader in the aftermath. Humans are trying to rebuild their society and struggling every step of the way.

The story is centered around the experiences of Ana Mia, a girl who is just coming into womanhood as the story begins. She is graduating from school and has to decide how she will contribute to her society. Against her mother’s wishes she joins The Midnight Guard, which is tasked with keeping the aliens out of the settlement, and fighting them face-to-face when necessary. It’s dangerous work but Ana Mia can’t imagine doing anything else. She has too much hatred for the aliens, since her father was harvested. (Harvesting is the terrifying practice of abducting humans. Nobody has ever come back from being harvested.)

Now, as if this isn’t all frightening enough, Kody introduces alien foot soldiers straight out of your worst fever dream. They are like werewolves, but more vicious. (No, I didn’t know that was a thing either until reading When They Came!) The reader is introduced to them one night when Ana Mia is guarding the wall, and it gets overrun. Suddenly her world is tossed into chaos and she’s forced to fight harder than ever for those she loves.

I really really want to go into more detail but I can’t. Part of the greatest fun in reading Kody’s novels is seeing what happens next. The obstacles that his characters face are never too fantastical as to be unrealistic, and they’re always heartbreaking to the extreme.

I read When They Came on my Kindle, in the dark, and with my trusty little Boston terrier. I absolutely couldn’t stop reading. Every page brought more depth to the story, more concern for the character’s plight, and more excitement. There are two more stories in the series, and I’m spacing them out a little because I know if I fly through them now, I’m going to be blowing up his social media begging for another installment.

Do yourself a solid favor and grab this series NOW. And, if you’re courageous enough, go read it in a dark room while wrapped up in a warm blanket. You’ll thank me later!

An Easter Movie Extravaganza!

Super 8 (film)

Super 8 (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Easter day, I sat down and watched “Super 8” for the first time.  (If you haven’t already guessed, I’m from an atypical family, and we don’t always watch sappy movies on the appropriate holiday…)  In any event, the enigmatic trailer combined with a rave review from a class of 5th graders at my previous school caused me to accept the invitation to watch “Super 8”.

At first, the movie seemed to go pretty slowly.  I sat there crocheting for most of the first half hour, positive that I wasn’t missing anything.  From what I could tell, it was a slightly updated version of “Stand By Me” – a bunch of boys running around doing their thing while the parents don’t watch them.  So far, so good.  The fact that the children were using a camera to make a zombie movie added a very nice touch.  Then there was the train crash scene.  I don’t think I have ever seen a more terrifying train crash scene in any movie.  I immediately dropped my crochet and watched as tons of metal went flying across the screen, all to the tune of various (glorious) explosions.  Absolute and unabashed awesome.  Arguably one of the best wreck scenes in any horror film I’ve seen in awhile.  It seemed to last forever, but never get boring.

From the train crash onward, it was hard to look away from the screen.  Each scene got progressively more interesting, and the plot thickened.  The usual suspects were in abundance: freaky military personnel, absentee father, crazed alien.  What was unusual about the movie, was the unexpected twist in the storyline.  “Super 8” gleefully transcends every alien movie you’ve ever seen, while retaining shades of “E.T.” and “Aliens“.

I wish I could tell you more about the plot, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.  This movie really is THAT good.

While you’re watching, you might recognize some familiar names in show biz.  (Fortunately, recognizing them doesn’t mean that they’ll stick out to you as a particular character to the point of it ruining their current role!)  The project was spearheaded by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg.  You  may remember J.J. Abrams from “Armageddon” and “Lost”, and if I have to tell you who Steven Spielberg is, well then you’re not fit to be reading this article.  Other familiar faces include Ron Eldard (who played Dodge in “Ghost Ship“), Joel McKinnon Miller (“Men in Black”, “Just Like Heaven”, and others), Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights“, “King Kong” and “Early Edition”), Amanda Michalka (AJ of “Ally and AJ”), and Elle Fanning (little sister to Dakota Fanning).  Whew!

If you’re looking for a movie that is out of the ordinary and very entertaining, I highly recommend watching “Super 8”.  The movie is well-acted, the plot is interesting, and the train crash is not to be missed.  If you do choose to view “Super 8”, make sure you stick around for the credits.  The kid’s zombie movie is included as part of the credits – and it’s actually pretty good!

The verdict is in.

A crop circle in the form of a triskelion

Crop Circle - Image via Wikipedia

I finished “The Middle of Nowhere: Horror in Rural America” a few months ago and have been staunchly refusing to review it since then.  It took me forever to finish the book because I couldn’t get into reading it.  Some of the stories were uninspired, some were predictable, and some were just downright boring.  I think my greatest pet peeve, however, was the editing (or severe lack thereof).  In one story alone, I stopped counting the errors when I reached 15.  Errors like words running together, misspellings, names that weren’t even in the story, all of that should have been fixed because I bought the Anniversary Edition.  (My theory being that when you re-release something you make it better.)

Ok – so I’ve bashed the book sufficiently to give you my opinion of it as a whole.  Now I’d like to take a few moments to single out some of the authors whose work was pretty good.

Jacob Henry Orloff delivers an interesting take on alien abduction in “Crop Circles“.  A man living alone on a farm starts to see circles in his crops, and he decides to stay on his farm.  The aliens arrive and all hell breaks loose, with a creepy ending.  What makes this story even more interesting is that it’s written in first person as a letter to the man’s parents, telling them what is going to happen.  He’s writing urgently because he’s sure that any moment will be the moment the aliens come for him.  An overall interesting take on abduction.

Alison Seay adds yet another creepy child to the annals of horror fiction with “A Hopeful Mother”.  This story centers around a little girl who has an affection for bugs that goes much deeper than her parents think.  As it turns out, the girl understands bugs (as in, can hear them).  As the little girl grows up, her ability to live with humans decreases, and she’s sucked further and further into her own bug-world.  Her mother is desperate to have a normal relationship with her daughter, and they decide to go on a hike.  The hike, however, reveals just how far the girl’s bug obsession goes.

Michelle Bredeson’s story “Lone September Night” has very little action, save for the sound of a scream that keeps repeating at odd intervals.  What makes it creepy is that there are three teenagers stranded in a house in the middle of the country with nothing but a shotgun.  (I mean nothing – they leave the house to figure out what the noise is, and somehow the door gets locked behind them, their car doesn’t work, the power and phone go out.  Absolutely nothing but each other, a gun, and the dark.)  They wind up hiding in a barn.  We never find out what exactly is terrorizing them, and I think that only adds to the terror of the story.  Instead of opting for a lame ending with a predictable monster, Bredeson opts to remind us that the most frightening thing isn’t what we know, it’s what we can’t see or explain.

My favorite story of the whole bunch was “Push” by Lucas Pederson.  As it is the last story in the book, I’m really glad that I kept reading.  It’s really frustrating how little I can tell you about this story since it’s all based on surprise.  Suffice it to say, I read the story and then went back and read it again.  It’s tragic, thought-provoking, and has a few well-timed scares.  Overall, it’s a very well written story that isn’t predictable in the least.  What I will tell you is that it centers on a girl, her brother, and a dog alone in a house at night.

To be fair to the publishing house, I bought a few more of it’s books for my Kindle, just so that I could give it another try.  I don’t like condemning a publishing house or author based on one not-so-good book.  Therefore, you will see some more Pill Hill books up here as soon as I read them (or perhaps a little after).  This book can be rough to get through from time to time, but it has some interesting stories.  Overall, I’d say it was a so-so book, and as always I’m going to recommend that you read it (not immediately, but do get around to it) and then let me know if you find some more gems that I left out.

Mel Gibson and the aliens…

Signs (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes its interesting to look back over the years and see where certain people have found themselves.  Mel Gibson, for example, has been through numerous scandals since “Signs” was first released in 2002.  He has battled abuse, drug, alcohol, and other allegations.  Joaquin Phoenix supposedly tried to start a career as a rapper.  Rory Culkin, brother to Macaulay Culkin, recently appeared in the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs the World.  Abigail Breslin grew up to become the witty girl who survives the zombie apocalypse in “Zombieland“.  Last but not least, M. Night Shyamalan has had mixed reviews for his films, some being successful, and others not so much.  Its funny where life takes you sometimes.

“Signs” is my go-to scary alien movie.  There are very few scenes in which you can see the actual aliens, and I think that makes the film all the more special.  What’s worse than fighting an enemy that you know nothing about, including the appearance and motives?  When we do catch glimpses of the aliens, they are reptilian, color-changing, and equipped with the ability to emit poison.  And they sneer (seriously – look in the reflection of the tv at the end – pause it and you’ll see exactly what I’m saying !)

The acting was superb.  Mel Gibson plays Graham Hess, a reverend who has lost his faith following the death of his wife in an accident.  Joaquin Phoenix shines as Graham’s brother Merrill, a baseball player who never made it into a professional league.  Abigail Breslin and Rory Culkin are better performers than their years would suggest.  Both affect a calm maturity throughout the film that is in keeping with losing their mother and living with a devastated father.

There is a scene in this movie that never fails to frighten me.  Its the main reason why I don’t watch this movie at night, and why I keep my curtains closed when I go to bed.  In the very beginning of the movie Mel Gibson is awakened by Abigail Breslin, who is complaining that there’s a monster outside her window.  So far its a normal exchange between a parent and a young child.  Gibson follows her into her room to tuck her into bed, and they begin discussing how the loss of Colleen (Gibson’s wife, Breslin’s mom) has affected them both.  When Gibson is getting ready to leave his daughter’s room, he glances outside the window at the adjacent room.  Silhouetted on the roof in the moonlight is a tall, dark, inhumanly slender figure standing stock still.  I think that scene will haunt me for the rest of my life.  There is something malicious in the way the alien is standing there just watching.  Standing so still you can’t even believe at first that its alive.

The film focuses on the interaction between the characters and the depth of the plot.  There are some philosophical bits in there too, about what kinds of people are in the world and how they react to a crisis.  Far from being preachy, this enhances the viewing experience because it leaves you with something deep to think about long after the credits have rolled.  Seeing little of the aliens during the film also makes them that much more terrifying when they’re glimpsed.  You don’t get time to get used to how they look.

“Signs” was and is a great film.  As alien movies go, I think its the best I’ve ever seen.  Its certainly the most scary – because it deals with an alien invasion on a human scale.  And honestly, if that were ever to happen, you’d be worrying about how to take care of your family and what comes after, not worrying about it on a global scale.  When all is said and done, the invasion in your front yard is more pressing than what’s happening elsewhere, and that’s exactly why this movie is terrifying.