I remember watching Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film Psycho and wondering where he came up with an idea for such a disturbing tale. Little did I know that the movie was actually based on the book by Robert Bloch. For those who have not read it. Psycho follows the extreme mental breakdown of Norman Bates who runs a motel with his verbally abusive mother on a stretch of road that people no longer travel on. He happens to meet Mary Crane an overworked, unappreciated secretary who has just stolen a large sum of money. Norman is unaware of this, but his attraction to Mary is the catalyst for this horrific tale.
It was interesting that the story starts out with much exposition as to why Mary Crane is on the run when she is somewhat of a minor character. As the story unfolds, we are given justifications as to why she did it. She was undervalued at her job both by her boss and his clients. Her boss was cheap but also money hungry. Mary tells us that a client offered her one hundred dollars for a weekend with her. Today something like that would not be tolerated, but if she had spoken up, then she probably would have lost her job. I felt all this explaining what she did after the fact to be boring. There were some intriguing parts to this, but I think it would have been better if Block had just started with Mary dealing with her boss and then decided at the last minute to leave. It was a somewhat ill-planned theft.
The thing that caught my attention the most was that both Mary Crane and Norman Bates were lying to themselves. Mary thinks she can get away with the money. Then convince her boyfriend that she came into the money by way of a family member passing. Mary even tries to be smart about it hiding her tracks by ditching her current car for something else and using false names. She created a very large paper trail and made it easy for anyone to track her down.
Norman Bates, on the other hand, lies to himself to justify his actions. We never see what his mother looks like but as people come to the hotel they talk about seeing a figure in the window. Norman quickly tells the tale that his mother is very ill, and he is her sole provider. The isolation caused by his mother’s verbal abuse and overall social isolation fuels his hatred towards women or anyone he deems to be a liar. The lies keep mounting as the story progress but to Norman they are real. They are the truth and no one should dare question him.
Bloch plays on this emotion when Norman invites Mary up to the house for a bite to eat. Norman is attracted to Mary, and he tries to connect with her. Unfortunately, Norman cannot form a relationship with Mary. There is a disconnect because he relationship with his mother always gets in the way. I think this garner some more sympathy for Norman. Mary happens to overhear a conversation with Norman and his mother, and it’s all down here from there once she recommends that Norman’s mother be put in a home. The fact that Norman and his mother are on in the same causes a knee-jerk reaction in Norman. He can’t stand his mother, yet he can’t lose her either. He loses his temper, and we see more signs of his other side creeping out. This was a beneficial way to show just how delusional Norman was. He gets visibly angry at Mary’s words and when he sees that he has frightened her he backs down.
The shower scene was a crucial part of the story. Here we have Norman spying on Mary because he could tell she was lying to him. However, he is also attracted to her. This is where his hatred for women is driven home. Bloch uses this moment to show just how intertwined Norman and his mother are and I found this to be very effective. Norman is disgusted with himself for watching but is it really Norman or more of his mother taking over his mind. Bloch causes us to question who is really in control. As long as Norman is calm and relatively happy he is himself but if anything should upset him or something he believes his mother would disapprove of, the other personality tries to take over and protect Norman. After “Mother” kills Mary, we see Norman react in horror at the carnage. The woman he was fantasying about while she showered is slashed multiple times.
I wish Bloch would have gone into more detail with the murder scene. It happens very much off, and we only get glimpses through Norman. I did find that it was weird how Norman describes his mother charging in and he seemed to be somewhat removed from the situation. It was like Norman wasn’t even inside his own body let alone his own head.
Even with the slow start, I enjoyed reading this book. The way Bloch used Norman’s character to draw the reader into the story was very well done, and we can forgive him leaving out specific details.
Drum roll, please. The final book we had to read was 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. I will preface this post with the statement I love graphic novels. I love being able to see what the author envisioned everything to look like. This was interesting for me because I have seen the movie 30 Days of Night and I did not like the movie. So, I had to try to separate my opinions of the film from the book.
I liked how the vampires were not drawn out as pretty. They looked like darker versions of what they had been when they were human. All the imperfections they had when they were created stayed. The artwork for this book was well done. Nothing seemed to be pretty except for the sunrise at the end of the story. It was interesting to recognize some of the vampires because the director of the movie had taken a lot from the book.
The colors used were an excellent choice. The blacks and greys gave you the impression that things were going to be bleak. Even the setting was a gloomy place to be. Thirty days without any sunlight would probably drive me insane. The only splash of color was red, and that was to signify death and blood. When using such stark colors and throwing in something that is bright, deep, or vibrant it draws the eye in and causes a person to focus on that one particular spot. I remember another movie who used red quiet efficiently to showcase death, and that was The Sixth Sense. In the movie places that were off limits to Bruce Willis’s character were in the end signified with a bright red.
I did feel there was a hole to the story. The part that took place in New Orleans with the mom and her son who appeared to be vampire hunters or trackers of some sort. I wanted to know if the video did, in fact, make it back to the man’s mom. What would she have done with that information? There was no follow up to what happens after he is recording and sending the data back.
What I did like about this section were the warmer colors they used. It signaled to the reader that life was not as bleak as it could be and there was still some glimmer of hope. They used the darkness around the warmth to foreshadow. In the end, it was foreshadowing that the son was going to die to get the information his mother needed.
The authors gave the people in Alaska no hope of survival. I thought it was neat how they took all the superstitions and beliefs that people had about how to kill a vampire and have them not work at all. The whole stories premises was to make you feel hopeless against your attacker, and not even the “tools” people used in stories were able to deter the vampires.
It ultimately came down to one person’s sacrifice. The sheriff who is charged with protecting the town does the only thing he can think of, and that is to turn himself into one of them. It is said that to kill a monster you have to become one and that is precisely what Sheriff Eeben did. He gives up everything to save the woman he loves and the surviving townspeople. It’s a beautiful and sad moment in the story. I think that it reminds us that there are hero’s out and sometimes even the smallest decision and make an impact.
Overall the 30 Days of Night was a fast read. The author’s honed in on the idea of no hope and used the lack of vibrant colors to convey that message. They also used red to pull your attention to one specific event. It has given me pause to maybe rewatch the movie again and give it a second chance.
This week’s fun read was Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I had initially watched the movie The Relic back when it was released in 1997. Yes, I know, I am dating myself a little here. I did enjoy the film and as I read the book, I realized that events were very similar. I will say that I think the book was by far better than the movie but that is due to all the detail the book was allowed to give that the film simply could not. So, to refresh my memory of how the movie was done, I dragged my son along to watch it again to me. He says it won’t scare him, but we will see.
There were so many moving parts to this story that you had to pay attention. I enjoy stories that are constructed this way. They keep you guessing so that you go along for the ride with the characters. Of course, I tried to figure out what is going on before the writers revealed it to us, we all do.
They built up the suspense in this novel. Almost every chapter left you hanging off the edge off the edge of a cliff. I felt like I wanted to rush through to the next chapter just to connect the dots from the previous section. Unfortunately, if you do this, you miss out on another vital clue. That was something else I liked about this book. They sprinkled the clues and wove them around the story.
The story had a lot of scientific detail that was vital to the story, and I think the authors did an excellent job of using it but not letting it slow down the story. So many times I have read books that are so heavy with the scientific data that I find myself skipping over it. For me, the scientific information was intriguing, and I wanted to know more about what the characters were discovering.
I enjoyed the different personalities of the characters involved. I think my favorite guys were Prendergast and Augusta. Pendergast was the embodiment of a southern gentleman. Even his name Aloysius X.L. Pendergast gave him that southern quality. Throughout the whole story not much seemed to ruffle his feathers. In stark contrast, you had D’Agosta who was as crash and rough around the edges. They played off each other rather well, and when others turned against them, they were able to come together to help each other.
Generally, for me, I like a strong female character from the beginning, but I found myself liking Margo. She started off as someone who I would view as quiet and reserved. As the story progressed, we were able to see that she was strong and brave. Her knowledge and ability think quickly on her feet was a great asset to the other characters involved. She was a neat character to follow because you were able to watch her grow.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. It kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting me to turn the pages even though I had seen the movie. In my opinion, the book was much better than the movie. If you want something that will keep you guessing and combines science, then this is the book for you.
This week’s adventure was The Blob. I will say I usually do not watch the older horror movies because I don’t like the special effects. I know they were the best at the time the film was made, but I am perhaps a tad spoiled with today’s movies. With that being said it still held my interest.
The movie starts out with a group of teenagers who run in the same circles and some who do not. It gives you the feel of a typical high school movie. There is your standard “bad boy,” jock, and homecoming queen set in a small town. Nothing exciting there. The video gives you a little backstory on these characters. I felt the movie was a slow start, but it did have to provide you with a setup to the story.
Once the meteor hit’s then the story starts to get interesting. I found myself sitting there yelling at the crazy old man not to touch the bubbling mass inside the meteor. Of course, we all know he will because if he doesn’t, and nothing else ever touches it, then we would have no movie to watch. The story was very predictable with the old man running from the bad boy, Brian Flag to him running into Meg and Paul out on their date.
I liked Meg Penny. They didn’t portray her as a weak person needing someone’s help all the time. She showed intelligence and took the initiative when she needed to. It always drives me nuts in movies and books when they have that one character that comes off so stupid that you want to reach through the screen and shake some sense into them. In most horror movies they will most likely be one of the first to die unless they are there for comic relief. I laughed so hard when she got up on the tanks for the snow truck and went all Rambo on the monster.
To me, this movie was more comedic than horror. There were some parts where I found myself holding my breath or cringing. When Meg sneaks off to find her brother and save him from the blob, I couldn’t help but hold my breath. I held my breath when they were in the sewer, and she was trying to save both boys. I don’t know if that was because at that moment I felt Meg was acting more like a mother than a big sister to her little brother.
There were plenty of parts where I laughed at this movie. The scene where the guy and girl where on a hill looking down over the hospital was funny. If you were going to take someone one to make out why would you take them to look out over a hospital? It sets the perfect spot for the blob to find it’s next victim. The way the young man dies is funny. He thinks his girl has passed out but instead the blob has already killed her and jumps out at him after he puts his hand down her shirt. Might make some have second thoughts about doing that.
Overall the movie wasn’t bad. It was entertaining enough that I didn’t want to turn off the movie and walk away. Is it something I will watch again? Probably. My son might get a kick out of this one.
I know some may not like me for my thoughts on this one, but I have to say I do not like H.P. Lovecraft. I feel the man wants to prattle on just to hear himself use big words and sound important. I also did not like how everything that seemed to go wrong or was terrible was directed at people with dark skin, mixed heritage, or were African Americans.
He acts as though everything that he and the White-Anglo Saxons has done is of the highest quality and none of them are in the wrong. There is a massive chip on his shoulder, and I wanted to knock him down a few pegs. I could barely stand to read The Call of Cthulhu. It was not fun trying to get past the constant racist accusation and belittling he slung around like you would a scarf over your shoulders.
This section of work only became interesting to me when one of the prisoners started talking about the lore behind Cthulhu. In all honesty, he could have skipped the part about the dreams and shortened finding the box with the strange markings down to a page or two and then went into the interview with the man who had been arrested.
Moving on to The Outsider, this one was slightly better. There was some really good use of words to describe what came across to me as someone on an LSD trip. I like part of the opening paragraph because it seemed to set the stage and tone of for this passage. I was not impressed as time went on with this one. Lovecraft seems to get bogged down by describing what feels like mundane things. His narrator talks about never having spoken a word and yet he could read it all and have never been urged to learn. After he started on that, I became bored with this one as well. He began to prattle on in this one as well, and I was left wanting something different. I am not sure exactly what I wanted, but it was not there. Too many times I had to stop myself and go back and re-read a passage because I got bored.
Finally, The Pickman was just plain weird. It was hard to follow who was talking and about what. I swear the narrator was neurotic or something. The story didn’t do it for me. It was hard to get inside his head, and then he would stop mid-story and talk about something else. The story felt very disjointed, and I got the impression we were more inside someone’s mind like their actual scattered thoughts than actually listening to the tell a story. I felt like it was more a dream or a world they had created inside their head and nothing inside your head is ever linear.
Overall, I don’t think I will ever touch Lovecraft unless I have too. The condescending tone he took towards those of other races angered me. His stories were hard to follow, and I just could not get into it. I can not see why people like his writing. I had hope for The Outsider in the beginning, but then it let me down. I tried to have hope for The Pickman, but the sudden interjections of things completely off topic did not help to follow the story.
This week we watch the 2014 movie version of Godzilla. I have seen this movie many times over the past few years, and it’s a pretty good action-packed film. There are a lot of moving parts to this story from the human side of the story to how that impacts the monsters.
Godzilla is the byproduct of nuclear testing and spends fifteen years hiding under water after he hatches. Now for me, that doesn’t make any sense. If he has grown as tall as some skyscrapers how did he go undetected all those years? I am sure that a submarine’s sonar would have found it. Another thing that bothered me was the fact that these monster(s) buried themselves deep close to the Earth’s core to absorb radiation. If something this large and massive did this and then rises back up to the surface wouldn’t that cause massive waves but the only wave we get is the one that hits Hawaii, but this is Hollywood, so we have to give them some leeway.
Overall it is neat concept because we have seen what happens after a nuclear reactor has a meltdown. Chernobyl is a prime example of what can happen. I don’t think they have ever been able to get close to the reactor. I wonder if they could not have gone further with this. Why are these the only super predators that are left? Did they kill off all the others? I know there was not much time to go into this, but it does make me wonder.
What I found interesting is that Godzilla is portrayed more as a “hero” than a scary, destructive, killing machine. Now he does do his share of damage when he heads to Hawaii to go after the other monster that humanity caused to hatch. I don’t know if I see Godzilla as a real hero. Here’s why. First of all, there seems to be no reasoning or understand going on with Godzilla. He views the other monster as a threat to himself and possibly his food source. Now compare him to Kong in the move Kong: Skull Island. Kong can reason and tell right from wrong. It showed on his face and that I think makes him more relatable, a hero to root for. Kong even recognizes that some of the humans are there to help. Godzilla in this movie acted more on his primal survival instincts. He doesn’t even seem to register the humans around him.
A question that needs to be answered is what makes a hero? We all have our idea of what a hero is. Some may think a hero is someone who always does the right thing and puts others before his/herself. Others may think it’s someone who does what’s right in the end. What do we do when the “hero” is a monster than barely even notices us? Its whole mission is to survive. It acts on instinct. Does this make it any less of a hero? I am not sure if I can answer that question right now. But what do you think?
Overall, if you are looking for a good action-packed movie with lots of destruction, then this one is for you. It keeps the action rolling from beginning to the very end. I enjoyed this movie and watching the epic monster battles.
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.
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.
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.
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.