Friday, October 21, 2016

The Halloween List: Train to Busan and Flu

Today I’ve got two hot films from Korea, including one of the biggest Horror movies of the year. It’s going to be a good day.

But before we start, I have to talk about an unfortunate parallel. Our first movie, Train to Busan, is fictional Horror about zombies on a train headed to one of South Korean’s biggest cities. But this October, the real Busan was struck by a massive typhoon. If you have any spare money, please consider donating to relief efforts.

Train to Busan

For all the buzz this has gotten as Korean revitalizing the zombie genre, I’m almost surprised to report that Train to Busan is… just another zombie movie. There is no great innovation in Horror or change to the zombie formula in this movie. Instead, it’s two hours of people stuck on a train, trying to fend off zombies from the rear cars. If somehow you are craving more zombie-smashing and tragic losses of survivors, then this is for you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Halloween List: Creep and The Good Neighbor

Today we're talking about two movies I knew nothing about. These were recommended by good friends and I went in completely ignorant. Particularly in Creep's case, knowing nothing so greatly helped. I can't imagine enjoying that movie as much if I'd watched trailers full of bits from throughout the run time. I'll be sensitive about exposing too much of the plots of these movies, because if they sound fun to you, they're much more worth discovering as you're watching.

Creep (streaming on Netflix)

The great test for a Horror story is this: if the story was stopped at the end of any given scene, would you want to start it back up and see what happens next? In my little parade of Horror Movies so far, only Under the Skin and Pontypool have been this good at acing the test. Creep is expertly designed, a tight Found Footage movie running just 1:17.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Halloween List: Shin Godzilla is a Return to the Soul of Kaiju Film

It’s a two-second shot that defines the movie. The camera points up a cramped street as wreckage overflows into it, literal tons of boats and cottages rolling up the pavement like waves in a hellish river. A single young man runs from the camera and the tide of destruction so fast that his limbs are losing coordination. We don’t see him escape this street, and we never see him again. We can only hope he made it out of here. Shin Godzilla is an angry movie, angry that government has failed to save us, and insistent that it do better.

Shin Godzilla is the most political entry in the series since the original in 1954, which was an allegory for the horrors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Eventually kaiju film became more about giant monsters and robots fighting each other, and while fun, Shin Godzilla is from an older school. Godzilla has always been a hybrid of metaphors, and this movie shares influences from the 3/11 earthquake, Fukushima reactor incident, and recent tsunamis. It’s unnerving from its haunting score, to the camera so frequently switching to the point of view of his victims seconds before they die, to the pure nightmare fuel of Godzilla’s new appearance.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Halloween List: Tremors and Bone Tomahawk

Today is another one of those weird coincidences. Both of my movies were set out in the west - Bone Tomahawk attempting to blend Westerns and Horror, while Tremors is wonderfully cheesy Horror simply set out in the lesser-populated parts of Nevada. These are two movies that definitely wouldn't talk to each other at a party.

Tremors (streaming on Amazon Prime)

From the distant past of 1990 comes Tremors! A favorite of mine that I hadn’t watched in over a decade, and it ages very well.

Tremors is a classic 90’s B-Movie, cheesy and earnest, with an absolutely wild monster design. The “Graboid” is a prehistoric monster that tunnels under the ground, with an elephantine body, a mouth guarded by carapace mandibles, and inside lurk multiple obedient snakes that serve as biting tongues to drag prey down inside the beast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Halloween List: Pontypool and Southbound

Welcome back to The Halloween List! I'm already overjoyed with this project, as it's giving me fascinating movies to watch during otherwise grueling exercise sessions. I'm gradually rebuilding my lung capacity on the elliptical, which is great to do, but flares up my neuromuscular syndrome. A good show or movie takes my mind off things, and today's features definitely did that. I'm still thinking over the strangeness of Pontypool.

"What's Pontypool?" you ask. Well...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Halloween List: Attack of The The

It's my first week of Halloween movies and I'm already joyous. By pure coincidence, I watched all the movies beginning with "The" in a row. Today we're going back in time, to a dark forest in Japan, before stopping off in a doomed Korean fishing village. It's going to be a good time. Well, mostly.

The Final Girls (rentable on Amazon, iTunes, and Youtube for 2.99)

Imagine if Hot Tub Time Machine and Cabin in the Woods collided. The result is a punchy, funny Horror Comedy that has more heart than either of those two movies. It’s an unexpected delight that I’m still mulling over.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Halloween List

It’s my favorite time of the year! The air smells of falling leaves, the forest grows beautiful in color, the sunsets are richer, and all the cool movies show up on TV. I love Halloween from Jack O’Lanterns and costumes and candy for kids, to haunted house tours and the uptick in macabre media.

In the spirit of the season, I’ve made a little list of movies I want to catch up on this October. Most are from the last few years, as I’ve missed so many. I’ll be blogging my thoughts on them as I go along, and I invite you all to join me. The current list is:

  • The Final Girls
  • The Forest
  • The Wailing
  • Southbound
  • Pontypool
  • Green Room
  • He Never Died
  • Train to Busan
  • Flytrap
  • Under the Skin
  • It Follows
  • Mind's Eye
  • The Good Neighbor
  • Under the Shadow
  • The Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
  • Tremors (a rewatch, to share the glory with a friend)
  • Don’t Breathe

While I’ll be doing thoughts-posts on 3-4 movies at a time, I want to devote a day to just Don’t Breathe. There’s so much to unpack, especially with the ableism it slams up against with its blind killer, and I am boiling over with thoughts.

I’ll be back Wednesday with thoughts on The Final Girls, The Forest, and The Wailing. For now: what are you reading and watching this October? And is there anything you’d recommend I add to my big list?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Blair Witch Problem

Horror Fan 1: And then what happens?

Horror Fan 2: That morning she thinks she finds his tongue outside her tent! But that night she hears him calling for her again! It’s so creepy.

Anonymous Nerd: (walks up) What are you talking about?

Horror Fan 1: We were talking about our favorite movies and Blair Witch Project came up. She loves it.

Anonymous Nerd: You know the problem with that movie? None of them were trained camera people so they couldn't keep it steady. And they should've gotten better actors, and came up with an actual script. Plus you just can't go a whole movie without showing the monster like that. It just makes it lame.

Horror Fan 2: It's fascinating that you could pinpoint all the problems in that movie, but noticed none of the problems in how you butted into this conversation about my favorite movie.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Six Great Movies Still Coming Out in 2016

September is half-over and Christmas decorations are starting to crop up in department stores. 2016 is a dying beast, and some people are already writing their Best Of lists. But there are books (yo, Wall of Storms), games (yo, Mafia 3), and even movies yet to be released that we’re craving. I just knocked off Don’t Breathe, which I have many, many thoughts on.

But that can wait. Let’s talk about cool movies that are coming out alarmingly soon.

1.     The Mermaid

You might not have heard that The Mermaid is the most popular film in the history of China. Releasing earlier this year, it has already doubled Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s lifetime box office, and is heralded as revolutionizing Chinese Fantasy films.

The Mermaid is a remix of Chinese folklore through the unique lens of director Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer). Trailers promise a comedy about a lovable loser being harassed by a mermaid, or a tragic love story of that same duo being pulled from each other by a cavalcade of figures from Chinese folklore. Despite the CG battles, I’m hoping for more of a comedy, because no director has Chow’s knack for oddballs.

You probably haven’t heard of it, though, because it was licensed by Sony Pictures. The company released it on just 35 theaters across the entire United States. Fortunately, it’s received an On Demand release.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Three Pieces of Good News!

I'm packing up for Worldcon right now, but I have three pieces of good news to share before I go!

1. I'll be making my second appearance at Daily Science Fiction later this year with "Where I'm From, We Eat Our Parents."  I'm flattered to be back, this time with a story of a tentacle monster and his purely consensual relationship with a nice human girl.

Forget all the rumors you've heard about tentacle monsters - he's polite, even sweet, though he's nervous now that he has to meet her parents. After all, her dad served in the war of the worlds.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post by Erica L. Satifka: Beyond the Symptoms

Erica is a writer whose short fiction I've admired for a while now, and I'm excited to share my blog today as she prepares to launch her debut novel. Characters navigating their mental health always catches my interest, but rarely does it let them save the local economy from interdimensional horrors. Over to Erica!

Emmeline Kalberg, the protagonist of my debut novel Stay Crazy, has paranoid schizophrenia. But she's so much more than that. While Stay Crazy is speculative fiction, it takes place in the present-day real world, and Em not only has to deal with the monsters in the store and in her mind, but also the stigma that comes with her very misunderstood condition.

That’s something I wanted to confront even in my title: the term "crazy" used in this context is not derogatory. My protagonist – like me! – comes from a working-class background, raised in a family that isn't exactly literate when it comes to mental health issues. "Crazy" is the word that other people would use to describe her, but it's also something Em herself is reclaiming.

Too often, folks with psychotic disorders don't get to be the heroes of their own stories. Nearly always, they're given the role of madman or mystic, and I'm not sure which is worse.

Okay, that's not true: the trope of the axe-wielding maniac is definitely worse.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

John's Worldcon Schedule

I'll be in Missouri next week for the annual Worldcon! It's my first year as a panelist, and I was invited to so many things I had to turn a couple down. The staff has been very welcoming so far and I look forward to meeting everyone.

As always, if you feel like saying hi, please do! It should be a busy week, but I'm always happy to meet new folks.

Anime Stories to Watch in the Dark

Thursday 22:00 - 23:00, 2504B (Kansas City Convention Center)
When one hears "anime", horror may not be the first thing to come to mind. This panel might change that. Don't be scared, and join us as we explore horror in anime.
John Wiswell, Lyda Morehouse

It's Not Torture If It's The Good Guys

Friday 10:00 - 11:00, 2208 (Kansas City Convention Center)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Zootopia at first glance appear to have little in common but both use the premise "I won't kill you, but my friend will." Just a few scenes apart in season 2 of Daredevil the lead is shown torturing someone "heroically" followed by a mob boss torturing someone "evilly." In this session we discuss the hows and whys this dichotomy can have developed and whether it is time to start challenging the notion of good torture on screen.
Scott Lynch (M), Seth Dickinson, John Wiswell, Kij Johnson, Marc Zicree

Flash Fiction: Short, But Not Easy

Saturday 10:00 - 11:00, 3501D (Kansas City Convention Center)
Many people think that Flash Fiction must be easy to write since the stories are so short.  It takes real skill to be able to tell a compelling story in only a few hundred words. Our panel will discuss some of the key skills needed, and the best places to get your flash fiction noticed.
John Wiswell, Anna Yeatts, Caroline M. Yoachim (M), Betsy Dornbusch, Chris Phillips, David VonAllmen

The Horror Melting Pot

Saturday 16:00 - 17:00, 2503B (Kansas City Convention Center)
Ghost stories, supernatural, suspense, gore, shock horror - all of these used to be more or less recognizable and identifed as distinct genres. Today they are increasingly clumped together as just horror. What effect does this have on horror as a genre?
Alasdair Stuart (M), John Wiswell, David Boop, Steve Rasnic Tem

Monday, August 1, 2016

Great Things I Read in July, 2016 Edition

July is the month when I slammed into a wall. Going from 4th Street to driveway maintenance to Readercon to a college reunion pretty much destroyed me, but one thing that kept me sane on the road was all the short fiction I had with me. God bless free public wifi. As always, every piece included in my list is free to read by clicking the link included. If you enjoy a story or article, please let the writer know with a tweet, fan mail, or a handy Patreon donation.

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

"The Journey and the Jewel" by Rebecca Campbell at The Sockdolager
-It's Magical Realist story about a Magical Realist story bleeding into a Magical Realist story! What excellence. The Journey and the Jewel was the last and greatest puzzle-book written by a genius couple, but they died without leaving a solution to the world, and so their daughter Ananda never figured out where its treasure was hidden. Ananda grows up having to deal with what the powerful book may have conjured, like a Shapeshifter whose face is constantly rotating new shapes, and a treasure that might possibly be out there. And it's sewn with lovely lines about the book itself, like, "The Journey and the Jewel’s last page is its most dreadful, the kind of page a kid might fasten shut with paper clips to prevent it opening by accident," which kick the tone in wonderful ways.

"Straight Lines" by Naru Sundar at Mothership Zeta
-“It must have been hard for you, Em.”
“I’m a ship mind. Hard is relative.”
It's that kind of zaniness that leaves you grateful Mothership Zeta exists. It's a very chatty story as the sentient ship tries to work out its relationship with Xiao, the woman who's trying to take it on an adventure. While her motives are interesting, the real strength of the story is in the keen rhythm of the dialogue between the two of them, something that any emerging SciFi writer would do well to study.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Great Things I Read in June, 2016 Edition

June is over! It has been conquered, and there is no more of it. I'm back from the first of three conventions this summer, and had a wonderful time on panels at 4th Street. While I was on the road, I read some fantastic shorts and non-fiction that I'll share with you today. As always every piece is free to read, no pay wall or anything. If you like what you're reading, though, please consider sharing it, or tipping the zine or author's Patreons.

Flash Fiction and Short Stories

"Other Metamorphoses" by Fábio Fernandes at Lightspeed Magazine
-The third paragraph positively killed me - one of the funniest reveals in any flash I've ever read. This flash is a great twist on Kafka's classic novella, and as badly as I want to discuss Fernandez's worldbuilding, it'd spoil the reveal. The story is too short to give away. Just click and come back when you hit "dreamtime."

"The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One" by J.Y. Yang at Uncanny Magazine
-A vicious piece of second-person narrative, explaining how you are being physically cut out of the narrator's body, and then dissected. The most uncomfortable story Uncanny has yet published, dark and ponderous, where the real game is figuring out the context for why all this is happening, and what you and the narrator are.
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