Reviews - Books

Guardian Article: Chapter and curse: is the horror novel entering a golden age?

I don’t normally do this, but today I wanted to share an article from the Guardian that made me happy.

Horror fiction, says author Stephen Graham Jones, is booming right now. “It’s blooming, it’s blossoming. I mean, night blooms, of course, with a bloody centre. Probably some flies crawling over those petals.”

Jones, a Blackfeet Native American, should know: his terrifying tale about a spirit out for reveng, The Only Good Indians, swept the boards at last year’s horror fiction awards, taking both the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson awards for best horror novel. Opening as Ricky is beaten to death by white drinkers at a bar, the novel moves back in time to show how he and his friends slaughtered part of an elk herd on their reservation as teenagers, including one pregnant elk. Now they are dying, brutally, as adults, while asking if their past is catching up with them.

Keep reading on theGuardian.com

Katie Recommends

Katie Recommends: Tales from the Gas Station

Looking for something spooky this halloween? Then look no further!

Tales From the Gas Station 

Working at a dead-end retail job in the middle of nowhere can be hard. The long hours. The helpless customers. The enormous eldritch horror living deep below the building. As the only full-time employee at the 24-hour gas station at the edge of town, Jack has pretty much seen it all. But when he decides to start an online journal documenting the bizarre day-to-day occurrences, he unwittingly attracts the attention of much more than just a few conspiracy theorists. 

With the body count steadily on the rise and a dark, ancient force infecting the dreams of everyone around him, Jack will do everything in his power to stay out of the way and mind his own business. After all, he’s just a gas station clerk. It’s not like he’s getting paid enough to wage battle against the nightmarish aberrations plaguing his community. Besides, he already has his hands full attempting to manage all those mysterious lawn gnomes, the mutant raccoons, and the charming phantom cowboy who lives in the bathroom.  

Based on the award-winning creepypasta by GasStationJack, Tales from the Gas Station: Volume One is a love letter to the pioneers of classic horror tailored to a generation that grew up in the era of smartphones and WiFi.

Reviews - Films

Review: Midsommer

Today I want to talk to you about the film, Midsommer.

Midsommer is a folk horror story that was released in 2019. It was written and directed by Ari Aster, who you may remember from Hereditary. Midsommer and Hereditary are both very similar in their ability to build and hold tension as well as the sheer depth of the atmosphere.

In these blogs I usually go heavily into spoiler territory but I’m going to avoid that with this film, just because the best experience you can have with this film is when you go in blind. While the strength of this film comes from its atmosphere and its ability to build tension and keep you up there for as long as it damn well pleases, that does diminish when you know exactly what’s coming. Though that being said this isn’t a film that relies on a twist its got wonderfully crafted characters, and well thought out settings, the story is a very strong one and when you rewatch it you’ll notice all the little foreshadowing hints that you might have missed on first viewing.

Synopsis

Psychology student Dani is left distraught after her parents are killed by her sister in a murder suicide. When she tries to seek support and comfort from her boyfriend, Christan, he is emotionally distant and it is revealed to the audience that he was looking to end the relationship but felt that he couldn’t due to her recent tragedy.

Christian and his friends have been invited to Sweden, by their Swedish friend Pelle, and Dani kind of guilts them into taking her along as well. They go to witness a celebration that occurs only once every 90 years. However, on arrival they discover that there’s a lot more going on at the Hårga than some cute folk festival and the people/cult throwing the festival have ulterior motives and not all is as it seems.

My thoughts

So, this is a little difficult without going into spoiler territory but I am determined that if you’ve not seen the film then I won’t be the one who ruins your first viewing.

The pacing in this film is superb, the story advances quickly but at no point feels rushed or like things are being skipped over, nothing in my opinion felt like it lacked depth or needed to be looked into further. The pacing allowed tension to build expertly well and remain at a tolerable level for far longer than I would have expected. The film is very suspenseful, the score really helps with this.

The world building is masterful, the small settlement with the cultists feels fully developed, again with depth. This is done in many ways, one of which being the setting, the buildings and the costumes, all of which were clearly well researched. You can feel the love that Ari has for the story he was telling.

The film terrifies its audience in a number of ways, it taps into common fears with a few gross out moments as well as tapping to the fear of things such as heights, darkness etc. It taps into the fear we feel when in an alien society and the threat of that society towards outsiders. Lastly it also looks into more abstract fears, such as the fear of isolation, losing our community and support network.

Again without spoilers the ending is a mixed bag, both tragic and hopeful in the same breath.

Overall I strongly recommend this film.

Reviews - Films

Review: The Platform

Today I want to talk to you about a film I only watched recently, The Platform. This was a very intense film and an interesting exploration of human nature, and the class system, it affected me more than I expected it to. The film came out on Netflix in 2019 and is Spanish, directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.

It is described as a social science thriller.

Summary

Our main character, Goreng, who we experience the prison through, wakes in a concrete cell marked with the number 48. He has no memory of how he came there or any understanding of where he is. The situation is explained to him by his cell mate they are in a “Vertical Self-Management Centre”. It is later explained that Goreng volunteered to enter the prison, though others are incarcerated.

The ‘gimmick’ of this prison is that food, a veritable feast arrives on a platform that starts on the top floor and slowly moves down through the building. This means that the people at the top have access to all the food and the people below have less and less and less, those on lower floors will starve.

Continue reading “Review: The Platform”
Reviews - Books

Review: Watchers by Dean Koontz

Today I want to talk to you about Watcher by Dean Koontz, while this is not typically thought of as a horror novel, rather it is listed as suspense, I feel it works well enough as a horror to look at it here.

The book was published in 1987 and is credited as being on of the books that raised Koontz’s status to that of a best-selling author.

Summary

Our main character Travis is a former solider and retired real estate salesman, who has become depressed due to his previous life experiences and now feels that his life is pointless. While on a hike, he encounters a golden retriever which follows him, and they take an instant liking to each other. Travis takes the doggo home and calls him Einstein due to the pooch’s high intelligence levels. The dog does not speak but clearly understands English and can respond in such a way that his intelligence in unmistakable.

We also meet Nora, who is being stalked by a creepy asshole, Arthur. Eventually Travis and Nora meet when Travis rescues Nora from Arthur, with Einstein’s help. Travis, Einstein, and Nora become a family and Travis and Nora keep working to find better ways to communicate with Einstein.

However, through the story it is apparent that Einstein is afraid of something. That something is the outsider. Einstein and the Outsider are both genetically modified creatures, hence Einstein’s intelligence. However, where Einstein only had his intelligence modified the Outsider is an amalgamation of various animals with the soul drive to kill Einstein.

Federal agents are also in pursuit of Einstein, and finally they are also pursued by an assassin who was hired to kill those who know how to kill the Outsider but also wants Einstein to sell.

I don’t want to spoil the ending here, it’s best experienced first-hand. There’s a reason this book is credited with being on of the ones that made Koontz a best seller.

Continue reading “Review: Watchers by Dean Koontz”
Reviews - Games

Review: Pathologic

Today I want to talk to you about a game, it is a divisive game. A game that has been praised to hell and back by those that like it and pretty much outright ignored by the rest of the world. 

Rock paper shotgun has called it the best game you’ve never played. 

Yup, today I want to talk about Pathologic.

Pathologic is a 2005 survival game developed by Russian studio Ice-Pick Lodge. It was released in Russia in June 2005 to a strong positive response. It was then released to English audiences in 2006 to a less positive response, in large part due to a poor translation. A re-release with a new translation took place in October 2015 and currently a remake is in progress, with part of it being released in 2019. 

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Katie Recommends

Katie Recommends: Caitlin Doughty

Today on Katie Recommends, I want to talk to you about Caitlin Doughty.

Caitlin runs a YouTube channel called Ask a Mortician.

Now you might think I’m recommending this becuase, after all we are a horror appreceation blog, and oooOOooo dead bodies, that’s got to be horror. But that’s not why I’m recommending her, Caitlin works hard to demystify and remove the ‘ick’ and the ‘horror’ from death, and she does this well, in part due to her humor and delivery.

I am an avid horror fan but I do also think it’s important that we reconnect with certain things that have been labelled as ‘horrifying’ and realise just what’s involved.

That and it is morbidly fascinating.

Sadly Caitlin does not have a channel trailer for me to share with you, so I’m going to try and sum up her channel and share with you one of my favourite videos. She does a great deal of discussion about the funeral industry, demystifying it, but she also does other series like her iconic corpse series, fave of mine linked below.

Reviews - Films

Top Three Well Written Horror Films

Today I want to talk (let’s be honest I’m going to gush) to you about some of the best written horror films, in my humble opinion.

Horror films can be great for a multitude of reasons, such as great characters, great effects, great jump scares (lol kidding), great lore, the list goes on. There’s so much to like and enjoy in this genre and medium.

But one of my favourite things is when I encounter a film that’s been beautifully written.

There’s real thought and nuance behind the dialogue and storytelling, so much so that you get sucked in and its not till the story is over that you realise the craft involved in keeping you that engrossed. I especially enjoy it when I find a film that’s premise is utterly ridiculous, for example the killer grass field by Stephen King. This is literally a film about scary grass. But the writing has taken what is a ridiculous concept and turned it into something, that while not flawless, certainly held my attention and kept me guessing.

So, with that in mind, today I want to talk to you about my top 3 well written horror films.

Continue reading “Top Three Well Written Horror Films”
Reviews - Games

Review: The Witches House

Today I want to talk to you about one of my favourite RPG Maker games. It’s a pretty well known one in both horror and RPG Maker circles.

I am talking about The Witches House.

The witches house ais a horror game, where you solve puzzles to uncover the story of the witches house. It was made by Fummy, a Japanese creator and released in 2021 for Windows and Mac.

Continue reading “Review: The Witches House”