Snow by Ronald Malfi

This week we read Snow by Ronald Malfi. It was a nice change of pace from what we had been reading so far. There was a flow the story had that just seemed to pull you in. Malfi had a fascinating way of weaving his story through his prose to keep you intrigued.
Let’s start with what I did not like about this story. The beginning was slow for me. I felt that it took too long to get things going. I love a story that hits the ground running and takes me along for a ride. This one did not do that for me. If the opening scene at the airport would have been shorter, I think that I would have liked it better. The cause for my dislike of the opening was due to the salesman. He was so annoying that he drove me insane just reading his words. While I did not like the salesman, I do see his purpose. He was meant to push Todd Curry away so he would go and run into Kate Jansen.
Now, on to what I liked about this story. The characters were intriguing and seemed real. I could see them as though they were right in front of me. Malfi has a great way with his prose that makes your heart race with things are tense and slow when things have settled down. The control he had over the written word made me forgive him for the slow beginning to the story.
My favorite character was Kate Jansen. She was tough and hard as nails with a soft, caring side at her core. This is the type of female character I love to read. Kate didn’t sit on the sidelines or hide behind Todd. She was there every step of the way and was a great compliment to Todd. Todd was an okay character, but Kate took the cake. She took no prisoners and spoke what was on her mind. In my opinion, Kate would have made a better main character than Todd except for the fact that we have no idea what would have been her goal or motivation. She did not have any children that we know of. All she had was her fiancé whom she wondered if they were ever going get married. To me, that doesn’t seem like a high motivation.
Let’s take a look at the monster. How scary would it be to have something so mundane as snow turn or used against you? It makes me shudder a little to even think about this. It would be a world of constant danger, and no one would be safe.
I enjoyed the fresh idea of an alien race being able to use something we see every day against us. It gave them the perfect camouflage to fool us and attack when we least expected it. The ability to hide in the snow almost made the entity un-killable but then where would the fun have been with that. Thankfully Malfi gave them a weakness so we could fight back. The story would have been no fun if we knew there was no hope.
Overall, I enjoyed this book once I got past the beginning with the annoying salesman. He served his purpose to push the story forward. The rest was done by Todd and Kate. They complimented each other in a way that made them flow together.

The Thing-A movie review

Today I watched The Thing. I realized it had been some time since I saw it the first time. I was a teenager when I first saw it so about 15-20 years ago give or take. I didn’t remember much of the movie, so it felt like I was watching it again for the first time.
I will say I liked this one. Yes, there were parts I found cheesy. For example the way the monster looked as it would burst out of its victims, but of course, that was what special effects were when the movie was produced. I think what made me like the film was the conflict between the humans and the monster and humans amongst themselves. Of course, the monster came off as unrealistic, but the key to this movie was the way everyone responded.
We have a group of men all the way out in the artic or somewhere cold. They are exposed to some organism that can invade the body and mutate it from the inside out. How creepy is that? It makes you wonder what you would do if this happened to you? I feel that this is what makes the story a little more relatable. The fact that these men all knew each other and were somewhat friends helped to make this story plausible. Their paranoia kept them alive but also drove a wedge through their comradery.
The idea of human versus human is an old trope, but I don’t know if it get’s old. There are so many different types of personalities that this can create the right amount of conflict and not seem like the same old story over and over.
At the basic level of this movie, it is the fear of the unknown. This organism can survive frigid temperatures and can reanimate itself once it warms up. There are actual organisms in nature that are like this, so I feel this adaptation for the monster made it easier to believe. Who wouldn’t be scared of this and everyone around them?
They did a good job creating that tension between the characters. MacReady was always trying to be on step ahead of the monster. He kept tensions high with his I’m taking control of the situation attitude. He was also the one who survived the longest. He came across and as the reluctant hero of the story. MacReady was perfectly happy sitting there drinking his alcohol and fighting with the computer.
Even though I had seen this movie a few times when I was younger, parts still made me jump. One part was when they were using the paddles to bring back one of the men who died. The belly crashing in on itself and his hands falling inside while sharp jagged teeth bit both arms off grossed me out. I knew in the back of my head that something was going to happen, but I couldn’t remember.
Another thing I found good about this movie was the way the monster tried to adapt itself. It wasn’t a mindless thing that just killed. It wanted to trick us and make use believe it was one of us until it could strike. Its whole goal was to get away from that cold, isolated place so it could multiply and take over. I wonder what would have happened if it had and then ran out of a food source. Would it have adapted and make sure that it only killed so many living things or would they have turned on each other till there was only one left?
For me, if I jump in a movie the director and writers did a good job. Most of the time I sit and laugh at horror movies. I don’t find most of them scary. This one wasn’t scary, but the idea of the unknown is what will get you in the end. So, if you are ever somewhere secluded and come across some weird piece of alien tech and it looks abandon I would suggest turning the other way and forget you ever saw it or you could wind up like the men in the movie The Thing.

An American Werewolf in London-Movie

This week we watched An America Werewolf in London. I honestly do not know what to think about this movie. I wasn’t scared or horrified as I sat and watched it. I felt it was more a blend of horror and comedy than anything else.

It starts out with David and his friend Jack hitching hiking across the countryside. The director tries to build some mystery and suspense to the story by having a kind farmer tell them to stay on the road and head straight to town. Okay, so nothing fascinating about this. They arrive at a pub named the “Slaughtered Lamb.” I felt this was way too obvious of a name for the pub. Let’s just call it bloodbath and be done. The cheesiness goes further with the pentacle on the wall. Most of the time they try to hide it or obscure it in some way. They went for the gusto and had it right in plain sight. I wonder if there was indeed a point to have it out in the open. I think it would have been better to have it hidden somewhere and then it’s discovered, but that’s just me.

I don’t feel that the werewolf attacks were realistic because as Jack is attacked he just lays there and does nothing but scream for help. It honestly looked like it was a mechanical werewolf they had made for this scene. I would have liked to have seen more here. Why didn’t David try to hit the werewolf? He had his large backpack he could have used. I know that may not seem like a smart move, but something else would have been nice.

Something else that bothered me about this movie was the dreams that David had after his attack. I will say the first one he had where he is running through the forest was a good illustration as to what was happening with him. It made him seem more like an animal than a human. The rest of the dreams were just him not being in control of himself; which for a werewolf can happen. There were points that you couldn’t tell if he was dreaming or actually committing the act. I know they did this to cause conflict within David. I don’t know if it worked for me. I felt it was more confusing than if they had just shown in committing the acts.

I did find parts of this movie entertaining. I loved how Jack followed David around like his own little Jimmy Cricket. Now, Jimmy Cricket wasn’t trying to get Pinocchio to kill himself, but he did remind Pinocchio of what he was doing. Jack was a darker version of Jimmy Cricket in the sense that he kept telling David that the only way to end this was to kill himself. He had to end the bloodline of the werewolf to end the curse. I thought it was funny that the more we saw Jack, the more his body decayed. I don’t think that was effective. It made it more comical than serious.

They tried to add a darker element to the movie with all the victims haunting David. I don’t know if all of them needed to do this. I felt like it was trying to force the sympathy card and lay a massive guilt trip on David. I think Jack and maybe one other would have been effective enough to push that in. The director could have pitted his victims against each other, and it would have made David seem crazier.

Something I haven’t touch on yet was the transformation. I found this to be annoying and over the top. All he did was scream as he changed. I guess I wanted to be more believable. I don’t see someone transforming and still retaining that human sound to their voice. I felt the screams should have been more like howls than anything. Oh, and on this idea of the transformation and screaming why didn’t any of the neighbors come running to see what was going on. The door was even open.

Overall the movie isn’t bad. I just don’t feel it was a really good werewolf movie. It came across as comical to me. They tried to set it up as something scary and wound up blending horror and comedy. I feel this made it fall flat.

Alien-Movie Review

This week we watched Alien with Sigourney Weaver. I remember seeing this moving when I was a kid, and I enjoyed it. There are still parts that make me jump even today. I have always been fascinated by the idea of a species that had perfected a way to survive and dominate anything that got in its way. I think what made this movie so good wasn’t the gore, but the way in which the crew responded and how the alien was able to hide in plain sight.
The movie sets us up to see that the crew is kind of like a tightknit family. Everyone has their role and interacts with each other as best they can. In a movie like this, I think it’s imperative that there is some comradery with the characters. It helps to draw you and make you feel like; yeah I could be part of the crew too. I could do what Sirgnoey Weaver’s character does any day and so on.
One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when the alien baby rips open the man’s abdomen. It’s a great example of the director blending horror and humor. You might be asking how that scene is funny? The reason it’s comical is in the way the alien makes her escape. I know special effects were still coming along but the way it moved reminded me my son’s windup cars. You pull it back, and it shoots straight forward. You can’t help but laugh at this. That is why I think it was funny. I don’t know if that was the intention the director had, but it was effective.
I think the way they designed the alien was rather effective. They made it so that it could blend in with the machinery and other types of equipment inside the ship. If you weren’t paying attention, it got the drop on you. There were two beneficial uses of this ability. One is when they decide to go hunt the alien down and find the cat instead. They send one from their group after the cat, which I think was pretty dumb. He’s so focused on the cat that he missed the alien hanging right there in the chains. It helped to build the suspense in that scene.
At the end the movie where Sigourney Weaver’s character thinks everything is safe and she defeated the alien do we find out how wrong she was. That creature was smart and if she hadn’t of stumbled upon it hiding in the hoses she would have been it’s next victim. What a great use of the setting to trick the viewer. This I think could work well in a book if written correctly.
One thing that did not work for me was how fast the alien went from this little thing about a foot or so tall to something the size of a grown man. I know we are supposed to suspend belief that since they are in space and dealing with an unknown species it’s growth rate is accelerated. If they had had a scene where they tracked it, then it would be more believable to me. That part just didn’t work.
Overall I enjoyed the movie then and still to this day. It was a great example of horror in that it doesn’t go overboard with the gore but pulls you into the story. I think that’s why all the subsequent alien movies did so well. They kept upping the creep factor but kept the gore realist.

Word War Z by Max Brooks

This week we read World War Z by Max Brooks, and I enjoyed it. Now I have seen the movie, and I thought the movie was okay. It was interesting, but of course, it had the Hollywood flare. The book, on the other hand, was set up as a series of interviews and was much more interesting to me.
I switched between the audio and the actual novel just due to limited time to sit and read. I have to say listening to this on audio, was for lack of a better word, awesome and I highly recommend “reading” it this way. It reminded me, in a way, of Interview with the Vampire, where one person was asking all the questions and recording the responses. With the audio, you got a feel for each of the other characters being interviewed. It wasn’t just one person reading the story and changing their voice. Each character questioned had their distinct sound.
I loved the uniqueness of each character as the voice actors read their lines. They did more than just read it but brought life to these words and you were able to get a sense of how these people felt reliving the nightmare they went through. It made me feel like I was in an old war movie where the main character had experienced so much horror that reliving those memories re-opened old wounds.
Now I liked how the novel was set up. The book had a flow that was easy to get swept up in. There was a natural back and forth between the characters that sometimes you don’t see much in a story written like an interview. The characters seemed to almost dance as they spoke to each other. While listening to the story, I found myself able to see what they saw all those years ago for them. I felt like I was there.
One group of accounts that made me feel like I was in the thick of it with them was the military personnel who were in the hot zones. I don’t know if it is because of my military background in weapons. I was taught to line up my sights and aim for the center of mass because I did security detail. Our reactions to situations were more rushed, not the way the soldiers talked in the book and it made me wonder how they would have instructed us if something like this happened. Our goal was always to respond quickly and secure the area. When the guy started to talk about how they were taught to take their time killing each zombie because those things weren’t in any hurry. He described in vivid detail how he lined up his sights and nailed them right between the eyes. You could tell from the way he spoke that this excited him and frightened him.
Even though the book was a collection of eyewitness accounts, it still gave the feel of a story to me. Each person was strategically placed in an order that leads you from the beginning to the middle to the very end of the story. I felt as though there was more to the story than what had been told and I wanted to read more of it.
Overall, whether you read the novel or listen to the audio, I think you will enjoy this story more than the movie. The details these characters give is so much better than anything they did in the movie.