Friday, August 31, 2012

We've Moved!

Because of how busy we both are, and how much we enjoy the visuals in horror films we've decided to make the move to Tumblr. Over there we'll be posting a movie/book/game/TV show review every Friday and the rest of the week we'll be posting gifs, trailers, book excerpts, photo sets and other horror related posts for everyone's enjoyment! 

When we have a bit more time we'll customise the html a little more and set up a comments function, but for now if you want to discuss any of our reviews (which will be a mix of reviews from here and brand spankin' new ones) you can comment, question, disagree with us in our "ask box". 

So hopefully you'll follow us over to our new home - it'll be a much bigger, better and more exciting blog which is a bit more suited to our eclectic personalities! 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible by C.G. Bauer

Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible
Written by C.G Bauer

Published: 2008

Synopsis: Hex signs protect every barn and outbuilding. Babies disappear at birth. When a brick wall unearthed at the site of a new restaurant collapses, and raw sewage carries hundreds of baby bones into the pit left behind, it looks like the devil's made Three Bridges his playground.


"Wump", in case you didn't know, is the noise a crowbar makes when it hits a man's head. It's also the nickname of the protagonist in C.G Bauer's fantastic novel Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible for that exact reason. Wump (or Mr Holzer if you'd prefer) had a troubled childhood which lead to a violent adulthood, ultimately landing him in jail. That's his past, and it haunts him, just as the true meaning of his nickname constantly follows him where ever he turns.

Wump isn't the only person in the town of Three Bridges (previously known as Schuetten) with a tortured or hidden past. From early in the prologue chapter, it's clear that Schuetten/Three Bridges isn't the kind of town the Brady bunch would settle in. Originally settled by fervent German Catholics, Schuetten in the early 1900s was plagued by poverty, hunger, dangerous work for minimal pay, child abuse, superstition and the death of countless infants - typically disposed of in the large river running through town. Now, (in the 1960s) development has occurred and the town generally seems to be in better spirits, even if a large portion of children are born handicapped and townspeople are dying of leukaemia left, right and centre. However, after a wall collapses and reopens a sewer that had been barricaded for nearly 50 years, a flood of baby bones sheds a bright light on Schuetten's dark past.

As Wump, motivated by a childhood encounter with one of the abandoned babies, investigates where these babies came from and why they were abandoned he is joined by the new priest and former baseball player, Father Duncan, on a secret mission of his own, and two wonderful little orphans Leo and Raymond who are more than meets the eye. While the investigation of the baby bones form the backbone (sorry, sorry!) of the narrative, there are dozens of other intricate little storylines threaded into it. Stories to do with Wump's wife and recently deceased son, stories about the Schuetten's orphanage back when he was a child there, stories about the wealthy Volkheimer family and the mysterious disappearance/death of the (only) kindly Volkheimer male, stories about the church in Schuetten and the priests who have been employed there, and stories about an intelligent but dark 14 year old named Adam. All of these stories are tied, one way or another, to Wump and they all interact with one another to not only paint a vibrant and complex picture of the town and its inhabitants, but to build the mystery of the abandoned babies and introduce countless red herrings which kept me wondering "what if" the whole way through.

The inclusion of these red herrings were fantastic. With each new chapter another possibility or perspective was added, and any preconceived ideas you may have had needed to be reworked or completely thrown out the window. Even though some of my theories were what actually eventuated, I was kept guessing to the very end, and this quest for answers kept me motivated and desiring to keep on reading long after I should really have gone back to work or off to sleep! Importantly, nothing was added to just throw the reader off. Some of the red herrings were to do with the smaller mysteries that were operating in tandem to the main story, but even these smaller threads were tied up neatly at the end and their connection to the main story made clear. Don't take this to mean that the story is merely some kind of mystery/crime novel, it's not. It's this wonderful blend of horror, fantasy, mystery and thriller. Each element adding something special to the mix, and has made it near impossible to define its genre. So let's just shelve it as reality-bending, wonderfully interesting mind candy, OK?

The final thing I want to discuss, is the role of religion in this book. Since two of the main settings in the book is the town church and church run orphanage and one of the primary characters is a priest, clearly religion is going to have a role. However, it's more than simply a setting and background for a character. Religion was central to the formation of Schuetten and a key motivator to much of the town during their days during the 1900s. It's also integral to the character of Wump. Though he was raised Catholic, the death of his son the year before shook his faith to the very core and is constantly raised as a source of frustration, anger and confusion as he progresses through the narrative. Further still, religion plays a vital role in the mystery with the babies and the finale of the book, I'll say no more because I don't want to spoil it for you, but C.G Bauer beautifully weaves some very complex religious concepts through the story, without taking focus away from the real story - the struggle of Wump, a struggle that he's been fighting ever since he was a young boy in the Schuetten orphanage.

I found Scars on the Face of God: The Devil's Bible to be an intelligent, thoughtful and insightful story. The writing alternated between beautifully descriptive and informative yet sparse prose depending on what the narrative required, and the characters were dynamic, spirited and wonderfully constructed. I found the story an absolute pleasure to read, and C.G Bauer has definitely earned a fan in me.

My Rating: 4/5

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Carrie by Stephen King

Written by Stephen King

Published: 1974

Synopsis: The story of misunderstood high school girl Carrie White, her extraordinary telekinetic powers, and her violent rampage of revenge, remains one of the most barrier-breaking and shocking novels of all time.


What the hell do you write about the horror book that's probably been the centre of more reviews and discussions that any other horror book on the planet?

I'm a little late to the game, and I'm actually a little embarrassed that it took me 10 years of reading Stephen King to finally read his first published novel. I don't really know why it took me so long to pick up Carrie, I actually saw the film version as a 12 or 13 year old along with The Shining at a sleepover. I loved the movie, I mean seriously, Sissy Spacek is awesome sauce, but I kept reading different King books and forgetting about poor little Carrie. I finally bought a copy last year at Book Fest, and it took me another complete year to decide to finally read it! But man, I'm glad I finally did. This book is so good, and so different to the movie (yet also kinda the same...I'll get into that soon) and I can completely understand why it launched Stephen King's career.

So if you haven't heard the plot for Carrie before (ummmm, has anyone not?) here it is. Carrie White is controlled by her uber-religious mother (who makes every religion nut you've ever heard about sound sane), who dictates every facet of Carrie's existence. Understandably, this makes Carrie stand out from the other kids at school, and we all know how kids are when they come across someone different... The opening scene (which is also the opening scene in the movie) has the girls (led by the nastiest girl of the lot, Chris) surrounding Carrie and pelting her with tampons when she gets her first period in the shower and chanting nasty things at her. This event is the catalyst for pretty much everything in the book, from all-around nice girl Sue's decision to arrange for her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to the prom to assuage her feelings of guilt for being involved, to inciting Chris's rage when she's punished (unjustly in her eyes) for tampon-gate, causing a chain reaction of events that hurtles the entire town towards destruction.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the telekinesis? Much like the wizards in the Harry Potter world (was anyone expecting a HP reference in a King review?!), Carrie inadvertently caused light bulbs to blow, or things to fall off desks when she feels a spike in emotion, but as she begins to hone this skill, she remembers/realises that it's actually something she's been able to do all her life. The telekinesis provides Carrie with a sense of control over her life that was missing before, but this sort of power in the hands of a tormented teenager is never going to end somewhere good, which is definitely true of Carrie.

There is no denying that Carrie is a sympathetic figure, as her confidence grows as she arrives at the prom (thanks to her date and her new-found control over her telekinesis) you realise that in a different world she might have been one of the "cool" or "popular" girls. She's still a little awkward and reserved, but far from being the plain and weird girl that she's originally painted as, she's funny (a real wicked sense of humour actually), beautiful, and seems to hold people's attention and affection well. But because she grew up with her mother's weird mandates shadowing her she never had a chance to make friends. They all wrote her off the second she said something strange because that's what they all expected of the girl with the religious freak for a mum. The small pockets of happiness that occur make the whole thing all the more sad, because it just seems so ridiculous that this poor girl felt so trapped and tormented for so long just because of a few labels plastered on her at such an early age. In this sense it actually acts as quite a powerful anti-bullying message - I imagine less kids would be inclined to pick on the strange girl in class if they thought she'd be able to slice them in two with a table!

What I found amazing about the book (other than the engrossing story), is how distinct and intact Stephen King's voice is in it. I had expected the book to be quite different in style and tone from his more recent books, and while there has been definite growth and skill in King's writing over the million decades he's been writing, there are traits that exist in Carrie which are signature stylistic devices he still uses today. It blows me away that he had his voice so figured out at such an early stage, I think most writers would be pretty damn envious of this! I also really liked the format which this book was written in. It mostly followed Carrie (with a few looks into Sue, Chris and other characters) but interspersed were excerpts from books and articles that were written after the Carrie White Event and the investigation which was launched after it. Some of these excerpts were used to describe how other kids or people in town saw Carrie and to deliver the facts, while others focused on Carrie's telekinesis and the "science" behind it. I can imagine that some people wouldn't like these aspects of the story telling, but I really liked them. It removed the mystery and climax to an extent (it matter-of-factly referred to the final event very early on) but because I'd seen the film I knew what was coming anyway. If you went into this book expecting a standard horror story that builds and builds and builds until it finally explodes, then these intrusions would probably annoy the hell out of you. But I think they worked because this book isn't really about that build of horror for horror's sake. It's a book about a girl pushed to the edge, who finally can't take it anymore and loses control. Yes there are supernatural elements with the telekinesis, and it definitely fits within the horror genre, but the focus of the story is Carrie, and these little excerpts help keep the attention squarely on her. You may think differently (which is totally OK) but that's how I felt about them.

So yes, Carrie was amazing and I really loved reading it and I'm still kicking myself for taking so long to read it! If this book is sitting on your bookcase or TBR list (like it was for me) get it down and get stuck into it! It's amazing and a damn short read, so you have no excuse to leave it for later! I loved the movie, Brian De Palma is a fantastic filmmaker, but the movie is a much more contained version of the book. It focuses more of the mother/daughter relationship and lacks the full extent of the torment that Carrie encounters and then dishes out after the horrors at the prom. But anyway, watch the film, read the book, then watch the film and read the book again because they're awesome and Stephen King is awesome.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Another year, another shark movie. I'm finding myself a little tired of these very aware B-grade shark/water films, and the inclusion of Jersey Shore (even if just in name, and not the actual "stars") and a washed-up N'Sync-er makes me groan...but there is a chance that this could rise to the ridiculous and awesome heights of Raging Sharks (SCIENCE!). And let's be honest, thanks to Jaws there will never be another awesome and terrifying shark movie so we may as well revel in the so-bad-it's-good scraps that come out right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
Written by Cormac McCarthy

Published in: 2006

Synopsis: A father and his young son walk alone through burned America, heading slowly for the coast. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. They have nothing but a pistol to defend themselves against the men who stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food--and each other.

(Jesus, how fantastic are these typography covers he has? I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I'd like to marry this cover and make beautiful typographic babies with it.)

This isn't a traditional horror novel, but because of the themes, narrative and god damn bleakness I'm including it here. I mean, this isn't a cheery book. If you're even slightly bummed it will make you 1000 times worse, guaranteed. Yet it's an incredible and captivating book. I actually am finding it hard to describe what it is I loved about this book, and why I consider it a success. For all intents and purposes this kind of Capital L writing is not my thing. Usually I find it a little wanky and pretentious, and I find it pretty lazy since they usually spend more time trying to craft the "perfect" sentence rather than develop a decent story or character. Certainly The Road is full of Capital L writing, some of which made me giggle it was so over the top, but mostly it just felt right. Same with the characters. They're nameless and are only referred to as The Man and The Boy (or something similar), and there is little in the way of a past developed for them. Similarly, considering the entire story takes place as they walk along a road in a dystopian America with very little happening, there are few instances where you get a really clear idea of their personalities, motivations or idiosyncrasies. However this doesn't bother me, because in the context of this story all you need to know is that they're continuing on. They keep moving and moving because they don't know what else to do, and The Man, perhaps selfishly, keeps his young son alive and starving in this poisonous world because he loves him too much to think of a world without him.

I guess it's the simplicity of this concept at the heart of this novel that I loved. It was a father's unconditional, earth-moving love of his son (who he refers to as a god several times) that motivates every event and non-event that forms this book, and that's kinda beautiful. Or maybe their defined idea of right and wrong, even in the face of complete destruction and catastrophe, speaks to the romantic in me. They're the good guys, the ones who carry the fire, who would rather stave than kill another human for food. Perhaps in reality we'd all turn to cannibalism, but I'd like to think that's a line I'd never cross, at least if it meant killing a person (especially a child or baby). In fact, I think that pretty much sums up the two primary points why I loved this book, and why, amidst the Capital L writing, lack of punctuation and sparse, sometimes ridiculous dialogue (the conversation between The Man and an Old Man On The Road was the only thing I actively disliked in the whole book) I still love this book more than many others I've read this year. Or maybe it's something else, maybe I should stop searching for the reason and just accept that this novel effected me in a completely visceral level, and no amount of discussion will uncover any real answers.

Also, one thing before I end this terrible review. How in the hell did they get the green light to adapt this book to film?! I mean that in the best possible way. Normally a book will be twisted and abused until it better represents the ideal Hollywood blockbuster (case in point: I Am Legend )but not this one. The film is just as quiet and bleak and full of nothingness (and yet everythingness) as the book and I'm astounded that no one tried to add at least one huge action sequence or flashback to the end of the world. Regardless of if you like the book or not, all of you bibliophiles must surely recognise the amazability of this! (yes I'm full of fake, made up words in this review!)

The Road is a minimalist novel filled with bleaker than bleak imagery and events and it won't be for everyone, and I imagine you probably have to be in a rather exact mind-frame to be able to accept it, but perhaps you will find yourself loving the book as much as I do. I don't know if I'll ever re-read this one, I don't imagine it'll ever become one of my "read once a year" books, but I really, really, really loved this book. It's just...unexplainable.

4.5 out of 5