Book Review

Top 7 Horror Novels for Halloween

Halloween is nearly upon us! I can’t believe that this time next week, my apartment will be decorated for Christmas (don’t judge me!) Anyway, Halloween isn’t until Thursday so you definitely still have time to squeeze in another horror novel. Here are my top 7 suggestions for what you should read next!

Me + Snapchat filter = looking like an aging Wednesday Addams 

1.The Shining by Stephen King – This is one I read pretty much every Halloween. I’m a huge fan of both the book and movie (I even have an Overlook Hotel keychain!) This is some great horror that truly balances plot and character development. It’s atmospheric – the hotel almost seems like its own character. Overall, it’s just a really fun read! 

2.We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – This is a heavy one filled with realistic horrors. There’s some amazing psychology to unpack in this book that really questions the nature vs. nurture argument for what happens when children do unbelievably evil things.

3.Dracula by Bram Stoker – This is another one I tend to read every year. While not the first vampire novel, it is for sure one of the most famous of the vampire classics. I like the epistolary style and the gothic vibes. There’s a reason this one inspired so many retellings.

4.House of Bathory by Linda Lafferty – Elizabeth Bathory, one of history’s most prolific female serial killers, is at the heart of this novel. I thought this was a fun exploration of both history and a modern mystery. It’s fast-paced and super creepy!

5.The Ruins by Scott B. Smith – While killer plants in the Mexican jungle seems like a cheesy plot, I actually loved this book. It’s fascinating and delves into more psychological aspects of the characters than I was expecting. I couldn’t put this one down!

6.The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey – I actually HATE zombies (they just typically bore me) but I adored this book. It was such a unique addition to the super tired and overdone zombie subgenre. I’m really glad I gave it a chance.

7.Help for the Haunted by John Searles – This is more mystery than horror but it has enough paranormal stuff that I feel comfortable including it on the list. It definitely has spooky moments but the driving force really is the mystery of the protagonist’s parents deaths.

What’s your favorite horror novel? Be sure to let me know in the comments section – and while you’re there, tell me what costume you’ll be rocking this year!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Movie Review

Top 10 Horror Movies for Halloween

Halloween is less than 2 weeks away! In between prepping for a wedding (not mine) and a Halloween party (mine), I’ve been watching so many horror movies again this year. Of course, I think horror is a great genre year-round, but for those of you who only dabble in the black arts during Autumn, I thought I’d share my top 10 picks!

art dark eerie hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1.The Conjuring

IMDB Description: “Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse.”

I think this is one of the greatest modern horror movies. It’s based on a fascinating true story, and the cinematography is top-notch. It’s moody/atmospheric and the jump scares are kept to a minimum (which means that you’re always on guard and aren’t able to get used to them). There’s a reason that this film was successful enough to launch a huge franchise (The Conjuring 2, The Nun, Annabelle, etc.)

 

2.Hell House, LLC

IMDB Description: “Five years after an unexplained malfunction causes the death of 15 tour-goers and staff on the opening night of a Halloween haunted house tour, a documentary crew travels back to the scene of the tragedy to find out what really happened.”

This is for sure one of my favorite independent horror movies. Again, instead of being replete with jump scares, there are lots of subtly creepy things that gradually build into a great ending. I highly recommend this one (but I do not recommend its two sequels). Bonus: creepy clowns.

 

3.The Descent

IMDB Description: “A caving expedition goes horribly wrong, as the explorers become trapped and ultimately pursued by a strange breed of predators.”

This movie has multiple things going for it: female friendship, claustrophobia, and weird underground creatures. My favorite thing about it really is how well it manages to make the viewer to feel trapped as well. This is a fascinating, unique film (which did not need a sequel – don’t watch the sequel).

 

4.The Ring

IMDB Description: “A journalist must investigate a mysterious videotape which seems to cause the death of anyone one week to the day after they view it.”

I watched this film in junior high so it has a special place in my dark heart as being one of my first real horror movie experiences. Fun fact: I had a friend who was terrified of this movie. One day, she left her locker open and I put a note that said, “Seven Days” inside the locker and closed it. To this day, I think that’s one of the meanest things I’ve ever done. Overall, this is just a well-done horror movie with a surprisingly heartfelt plot and some stylistic cinematography.

 

5.Scream

IMDB Description: “A year after the murder of her mother, a teenage girl is terrorized by a new killer, who targets the girl and her friends by using horror films as part of a deadly game.”

I love that this is a self-aware horror movie. Fans of horror will love the references to various horror tropes that pervade this film. I love the entire Scream franchise (including the spin-off TV series). These movies are great slasher flicks which don’t take themselves too seriously.

 

6.The Rite

IMDB Description: “American seminary student Michael Kovak  travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.”

Inspired by a true story, this is a great movie about faith. The acting is also superb since it stars none other than Sir Anthony Hopkins! This is the kind of movie that has plenty of scares but also makes you think about your own beliefs.

 

7.Get Out

IMDB Description: “A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend, where his simmering uneasiness about their reception of him eventually reaches a boiling point.”

This is a groundbreaking movie that deserves a place in history for causing critics to start taking horror more seriously. This film, through its fantastic and nuanced discussion of race in America, proved that horror can have something to say. I highly recommend this one!

 

8.Silent Hill

IMDB Description: “A woman, Rose, goes in search for her adopted daughter within the confines of a strange, desolate town called Silent Hill.”

This is definitely my most controversial pick as it was panned by critics and horror-lovers alike. But I don’t care – I love this movie! Yes, it’s cheesy and based on a video game, but I think the special effects are great and some of the monsters (the nurses, pyramid-head, etc.) are super cool!

 

9.Trick ‘r Treat

IMDB Description: “Five interwoven stories that occur on Halloween: An everyday high school principal has a secret life as a serial killer; a college virgin might have just met the guy for her; a group of teenagers pull a mean prank; a woman who loathes the night has to contend with her holiday-obsessed husband; and a mean old man meets his match with a demonic, supernatural trick-or-treater.”

I don’t often like anthology films, but this is a really good one (which is also perfect thematically for Halloween). What sets this film apart is that the five stories are actually connected in a loose but organic way which makes it feel really complete. This one is definitely worth a watch!

 

10.They Look Like People

IMDB Description: “Suspecting that people around him are turning into evil creatures, a troubled man questions whether to protect his only friend from an impending war, or from himself.”

I love psychological horror and this one kept me guessing until the very end – is this guy crazy or are evil things lurking about? This one is dark and suspenseful but more disturbing than scary. Overall, it’s one of the best low-budget horror options out there.

 

Well, I hope I’ve inspired you to give horror a try this Halloween season! Are you already a horror fan? What are some of your favorites? Please, let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany

 

Personal, Update

New Short Story FREE – St. Isabelle’s Downfall

I have exciting news! One of my favorite short stories is now available to read FREE on Fiction on the Web. I wrote “St. Isabelle’s Downfall” as an undergrad, and it took a really long time to find it a home. It’s a psychological horror story about a character I was developing at the time for a novel that I finished but was never happy with. I know I’ve grown so much as a writer since this story (this was pre-MFA!) but I just have always liked the concept and couldn’t give up on it.

architectural photography of stairs
Photo by Yoss Cinematic on Pexels.com

Going back through the short stories I’ve workshopped over the years has really reminded me that I prefer shorter mediums. I just don’t think I have the attention span needed to be a good novelist, and I honestly prefer the brevity and experimentation that are allowed in short stories and flash fiction. Hopefully, I’ll have more stories to share soon!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

Movie Review

Movie Review: The Mermaid – Lake of the Dead

I love discovering weird, unique horror movies. Too often while I’m watching a movie, I feel overwhelmed by the familiarity – let’s be honest, most zombie and exorcism movies play out the same way every time. So, I get really excited when I stumble across something different. Last night, I took a chance and watched a lesser known Russian film The Mermaid – Lake of the Dead, and it far exceeded my expectations!

The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead Poster

Here’s the IMDB Description: “An evil Mermaid falls in love with Marina’s fiancé Roman and aims to keep him away from Marina in her Kingdom of Death under water. The Mermaid is a young woman who drowned a few centuries ago. Marina only has one week to overcome her fear of the dark water, to remain human in the deathly fight with the monsters and not to become one herself.”

Honestly, I think that the description does this film a disservice. It’s extremely basic, while the film itself is rife with complexities. Rather than the mermaids I’ve been used to (thanks to Disney, of course), this type of mermaid is actually based on the Russian folklore about the rusalka. Also, the film focuses a lot on Roman’s family, which is very much linked to the Mermaid. His sister is a very dynamic, complicated character (actually, far more complex than his fiance Marina).

I was expecting something extra cheesy, but this was actually quite artsy in terms of cinematography. The repeating images of water (in all types of situation, with all different camera angles) were masterfully done. Originally shot in Russian, this was dubbed in English. I would almost always rather read subtitles, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at how organic the dub felt for this particular film. It wasn’t at all distracting.

In terms of the plot and writing, there were a few clarity issues, but they weren’t glaring. Mostly, if you’re familiar with the rusalka folklore or if you really pay attention to the black and white illustrated prologue which quickly explains the folklore, it should be easy to fill in some of the gaps. While mostly predictable, I still enjoyed the uniqueness of the story and the beauty of the cinematography.

In terms of the scare-factor, this was not the kind of horror movie that’s going to keep you up at night or make you afraid to swim in a lake (though, for the record, I’m already afraid of swimming in lakes – who knows what kind of bacteria is lurking!) However, there are some effective jump scares and creepy imagery for sure. I definitely recommend this film to horror-lovers with a soft spot for dark fairytales!

If you’ve seen this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts too! Feel free to share them in the comment section.

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Book Review

Book Review: Pet Sematary

I recently saw some previews for the new film adaptation of Pet Sematary and it made me realize I had never actually read it. I have a huge amount of respect for Stephen King and all that he’s done for the horror genre, but his writing style isn’t always my favorite, especially in his longer, more recent books. Still, since this one is Classic King, I thought I’d give it a try before seeing the movie!

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I truly believe that this is one of King’s best! It doesn’t quite reach the level of my top three favorite King stories: It, The Shining, and ‘Salem’s Lot – but it was still a very enjoyable reading experience. Generally, the premise is about a young family that moves to a small town shrouded in local legend about a Native American cemetery with powers to raise the dead. I’ll avoid giving too many details because I abhor spoilers.

Overall, this novel proves that King is a master of suspense and foreshadowing. Coming in at about 400 pages, this book was much longer than it needed to be (which is another trademark of Stephen King), yet just when the story was seeming to drag too much, hints of future horror were dropped in expert fashion. It was absolutely enough to keep the momentum and intrigue.

I was surprised at how long the buildup took before we got to the crux of the story. Much of the beginning half is devoted to intricate character development, which I did like (but which I know many will not). When we finally get to the story’s climax, the rest of the book felt rushed compared to the slow pacing of the beginning, but it still left me with that great eerie feeling long after the last page. Now, I’m super excited to see the two film adaptations as I know this plot really lends itself to a more visual medium!

I definitely recommend this one to readers looking for Classic King nostalgia (before his books became all 600+ pages) and to those who like moderately frightening horror with strong character development!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

Personal

March 2019 Favorites

Another month is basically gone – I can’t believe how fast this year is flying. I wanted to check in really quick and list four of my favorite things for the month:

  • Tilda Swinton – I realized this month that Tilda Swinton is the common link shared by many of my favorite horror movies: Only Lovers Left Alive, Suspiria, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. She is extremely talented and versatile!

Image result for tilda swinton only lovers left alive

 

  • Cozy Mystery Audiobooks – I adore the fun, lighthearted nature of cozy mysteries where you get to solve a murder alongside an amateur sleuth and a cast of colorful characters set against an endearing, small-town backdrop. Lately, I’ve been making my way through the Magical Bakery series by Bailey Cates and the Needlecraft Mysteries by Monica Ferris.

Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery Book 6) by [Cates, Bailey]

 

  • Knitting – Even though warmer weather is creeping in, I’m still knitting away to create hats and scarves for the homeless through the charity Warm Up Ohio. It’s both relaxing and rewarding!
four green yarns on chopping board
Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

 

  • Kindle Paperwhite – While I love my Kindle Fire, the e-ink screen of the Kindle Paperwhite makes it so much easier on the eyes to read for long periods of time. It’s also so thin and portable that it will squeeze into even my smallest purse – because I obviously need to be connected to my library at all times!
kindle technology amazon tablet
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

Well, that’s what I loved in March! I’m hoping that April brings more adventure into my life 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

Movie Review

Movie Review: Us (2019)

Last weekend, I decided to do something I’d never done before: I saw a movie all by myself. Now, I know that may seem like something really small (I mean, movies are basically just sitting in silence in a dark room – which seems like the perfect solo activity) but this was something I’d always been nervous to do. However, with the release of Jordan Peele’s Us, I really wanted to see it before someone had a chance to slip me some spoilers, so I went out to see it right away!

Us Poster

Here’s the IMDB description of Us: “A family’s serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.”

A lot of people are very excited about Us because of Peele’s directorial debut Get Out (2017).  While Get Out was a nearly flawless movie filled with great metaphors about race in America, Us is perhaps too ambitious. While I definitely enjoyed Us, it was much messier from a craft perspective than Get Out. I was entertained as we followed this family, and I loved that this was more of a traditional horror story than Get Out (which some critics still refuse to acknowledge was also horror). Still, there were things that made me feel a bit disappointed in the film overall.

Here are my pros and cons for this movie!

PROS:

  • Great cinematography!
  • Superb acting from many characters, especially Lupita Nyong’o (even when the dialogue wasn’t doing justice to the acting).
  • While the plot had many classic horror tropes, it managed to feel like a very fresh take on the genre.
  • The tension continually increased throughout the movie and there were many twists and turns that kept the plot from slowing down in the middle.
  • There were a few moments of dark humor that definitely added to the experience.

CONS:

  • Some of the symbolism and metaphors were REALLY heavy-handed. Whereas the symbolism and metaphors in Get Out served the larger plot and added an element of social commentary that greatly enhanced the movie, the symbolism and metaphors in Us seemed to be the sole driving force with the plot acting in service to the theme of the movie.
  • Other metaphors and symbols of the movie weren’t clear enough, which seemed to take a lot of people out of the movie (based on my experience, the experience of several people I know, and the general eavesdropping I did after the movie).
  • The “twist” at the end added confusion and radically changed how the movie is viewed. While there were elements I liked about the twist (which I don’t want to give away in case you haven’t yet seen the movie), it seemed gimmicky to me. It didn’t make the overall film stronger (the metaphorical parallel drawn between the characters was already clear), but it did leave many scratching their heads and wondering how to literally interpret and explain the feasibility of what they just watched.

Overall, I’m really glad that I watched Us. I think my expectations might have been a bit too high based on how much I loved Get Out, but I’ll absolutely watch whatever Jordan Peele’s next horror movie ends up being…and I’m very excited for his reboot of The Twilight Zone which debuts Monday 4/1.

Have you seen this movie yet? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!

-Tiffany Renee Harmon