Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A House of the Unholy and a Trip of Terror

I recently picked up The Red Church by Scott Nicholson and Joyride by Jack Ketchum. I'm especially looking forward to The Red Church. The idea sounds diabolical. Reviews will be posted, of course.

Upcoming Horror Movies

Due out on March 10 is The Hills Have Eyes. This one is kind of intriguing. The EW link says that the original was a cult classic, and I suppose they're right, but I thought it was mediocre. The concept had a ton of possibility, but it just didn't deliver. Frankly, I'd take Wrong Turn over it (actually Wrong Turn was an underrated movie; it was quite a little hellfest). So this is one of those rare cases where I think the remake is worth doing, and I'm hoping that they can make some improvements.

Friday, February 24, 2006

American Idol Elimination

Nothing really to complain about here. I didn't watch the girls, so I'll assume that the general consensus that the two who got booted were unworthy is correct. As for the guys, Patrick had to go. They should have immediately booted him off when he sang "Come to My Window." What a horrible song choice. Bobby wasn't much better with his lemming-like Barry Manilow cover. Even though this elimination wasn't too exciting or controversial, I'm looking forward to the boys competition later down the road, because there are some pretty talented guys. Plus, they seemd to pick some decent songs. Prediction? I think David Radford is not long for this competition.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Isle Royale...

...is where I'll be in 85 days. Here's a picture from my cousin's trip last year:

American Idol

I also got my first AI watching of the season in last night. I don't like the "drama" of the whole audition process. I didn't really watch it last year, and I was happy to skip all of it this year. I do like taking in the variety of songs that the contestants try out now that they get to choose. Song selection is huge for me -- I immediately took a liking to Bucky for singing Skynyrd's "Simple Man." I thought Chris Daughtry was amazing with "Dead or Alive" also. Of course, they're both from North Carolina, and I am a fan of that state (I could live in the Smokies, no problem). So I guess it makes sense. I think the best, though, and by far the most interesting, was Taylor Hicks. Yes, another Southerner, but one singing Elton John. Overall, assuming that some of the deadwood is thinned out quickly, watching the guys sing should be pretty enjoyable. I'll have to force myself to watch the gals, but I typically dislike most of the songs they choose to sing. I wonder if anyone has ever sung Portishead? That would be pretty cool.


I started this one last night, and it's off to a rip-roaring start. I'm just hoping it's not like The Stand, with an incredible apocalyptic beginning and indifferent storyline the rest of the way.

Also, the cover is great. I especially like the big black lettering of STEPHEN KING. Very cool.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Winter Haunting -- Wow!

Recently, I blogged on Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons. I gave it high praise rated it as a five star level book.

I finished A Winter Haunting last night, and, if Summer of Night is five stars, then A Winter Haunting is a six star one. It was just an amazing, amazing book. I don't want to get into any specifics with it, because I don't want to influence anyone's thinking about the book. I will say that the story and characters are phenomenal, and the fact that the setting is the same as Summer of Night, many years later, gives the book a certain depth that is really a pleasure.

And this one is scary too. The creepy kind of scary that has you looking behind you as you read or listening extra careful to that sound from the basement. Buy it, and read it -- but you have to read Summer of Night first.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Darko (Not Donny)

This article by Chad Ford, one of Espn.com's better basketball writers, reads almost as an elegy for Darko Milicic, now that the Pistons have dumped the kid on Orlando. In a way it's too bad, because I still could see Darko developing into a decent player. At the same time, there's no way he was going to do it with the Pistons, especially not when most of the time he was playing two or three minutes as the Human Victory Cigar. It just seems like Joe Dumars could have gotten a little more than a lottery-protected draft pick and the Green Hornet's side kick.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

You Got to Have Faith

My faith in Dan Simmons (and in Stephen King's critical abilities) is restored. Summer of Night was a phenomenal book, one of those few that actually lives up the lavish praise in the book jacket. One of the reviewers quoted compares it to Itand The Body. It's not really much like the latter, but it does bear a lot of similarity to It.

The story of a group of boys confronting an evil that is assaulting their town in the summer of 1960, it is also just the story of the boys' youths. I've always had a special fondness for stories like that, especially how the imaginations of the kids open up so many fun avenues that aren't there with adult characters, and Mr. Simmons captures the "sweet nostalgia" of youth, as Mr. King's quote says.

Without giving too much away, I hope, one of the main characters dies midway through, and I was sorely disappointed about that. I actually lost my enthusiasm for the book for a little while, but in the end the very fact that I liked the character so much made me go back to it, if only out of appreciation that Mr. Simmons could draw such a compelling character.

Fortunately, the second half of the book rewarded my return, with an explanation of the events that I would rate as satisfactory, not spectacular. Everything leading up to the climax was so entertaining and/or spooky that I didn't mind if the ultimate explanation was a tad hokey.

Summer of Night is a five star kind of book, a horror must-read, especially for aspiring authors. Mr. Simmons work can teach a lot.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Good Voodoo

I'll have lots of new stuff over the next few days, because I've been consuming horror at an accelerated rate lately. First off is my review of Skeleton Key. I'll admit up front on this one that I really think scary movies dealing with voodoo are creepy, so I was looking forward to this movie. Still, expectations can cut the other way: it's easier to be let down when your expectations are high. I'm glad to report the Skeleton Key was not a letdown. In fact, it was actually pretty surprising: good set up, excellent use of spooky old pictures, and a great surprise ending. Kate Hudson was solid and did a good job of avoiding overacting.

I'm rating this one as a three star horror movie: a solid effort, good script and actors, not too much silliness. It's certainly not anything startingly new or a new addition to the horror canon, but you could do a lot worse in renting a scary movie.

By the way, if you like reading about voodoo and zombies, an excellent non-fiction account of this is The Serpent and the Rainbow. This is the story of the author's attempt to discover the pharmacological truth behind the zombie phenomenon. Along the way, he reveals some fascinating tidbits about native use of hallucinogenic drugs in Central and South America. Good stuff.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Call Somebody Else

Sadly, When A Stranger Calls won the box office this past weekend. Not only is this one more in a string of annoying, unnecessary remakes, but it also manages to blow the big scare line in the previews! I know, I know, a lot of people saw the original and won't be surprised. But. Some haven't, and others have rusty memories. What possible reason could there be for spoiling it?

What really turned me off was the snippet of an interview with the female lead I heard, in which she said she got pretty beat up in the "big fight scene." Big fight scene? Right. Why didn't they just cast Neve Campbell and call it Scream 4?

I wouldn't waste my time, but coming soon I will have a couple of reviews of moving that are not wastes of time at all.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

It Was a Pleasure to Burn

Here's a list of the 100 best first lines for novels. The above line is not necessarily my favorite, but I think it deserved to be a lot higher, and certainly above that Joyce crap. I also liked the one that begins: "It was a dark and stormy night..." I don't know if that belongs on the "best" list, but it sure it a classic.

It's Not Just Groundhog Day

Happy Candlemass.