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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Year End Review (2103)

Year End Review (2013) - Another year has past and as it is for blogs we take a look back at the pleasures and pains of the time just completed. As I write this there are countless horror bloggers out there tapping away at their Best Of lists, lots of horror pod casters arguing about what should be the number one movie that came out last year. Having seen and reviewed almost every new scary film last year they are doing what we all do at times, evaluating the value of the art. Well I think I will take a different approach to the end of the year. I watched probably 75 horror, exploitation, semi porn presented as horror themed films last year and then wrote about 50 of them. Although it would not be too much a task to reread my thoughts and list the ones I liked best, it seems unnecessary with all that is already being published by others. Many of them more astute viewers than I and most of them better writers. So instead of yet another year in review for movies I have already seen and written about, I will share with you from the other input for ideas and talk to you about what I read this year.
  This year I read 9 books and also read a couple magazine regularly so here they are in no particular order.

Paracinema Magazine - "The Magazine for people who love genre movies" is how they bill themselves and they really do cover a lot of the genre world. On Facebook at...  At six issues a year each one is jam packed with interesting pieces competently written on a wide range of genre favorites. Articles on Robocop & Reagan's America, Horror parodies of the 80's, Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creature's, Ken Russell's the Devil's, Assault of the Killer Bimbos, Found Footage and Mockumentary Horror, An entire issue on Revenge Films, another on Classic Horror, A Kill Bill issue, An interview article with Kelli Maroney of "Night of the Comet" by one of my favorite writers Chris Hallock (@ChrisDIYDriveIn), Then there are things like talking about Duality in the film "The Dark Chrystal" or "Lesbian Vampires and the Failure of Heterosexuality in "Daughters of Darkness" so much good writing about the obscure and famous films I love so much. Editor Christine Makepeace, (@paraXtine) does a fine job at putting together a wide lens approach to genre film making this one of the two subscriptions I keep.

Diabolique Magazine - "Horror for the Connoisseur" Another bimonthly that is worth your time, a good old fashion glossy that focuses a bit more on classical and period piece horror but is not afraid to step across to what is hot and happening in the horror world of today. The writing is a step above most magazines and the presentation is beautiful, this is not the magazine you read and throw out but more a saved reference for when you revisit films they have covered. Props must be given to the whole team that puts this fine magazine together. Contributing writers are excellent including at times Chris Hallock and Michelle Galgana (@m_galgana). Editor Brandon Kosters uses a fine eye in picking the high quality talent that appears on the pages. The Horror Unlimited Website is the place to find individual issues as well as many other interesting things. Subscriptions as well as individual issues can be purchased at the Diabolique Magazine website.


Zombies: An Illustrated History of the Undead by Jovanka Vuckovic  (@JovankaVuckovic) - This is a really nice book I like to leave on a coffee table of my TV room because anyone can and should pick it up and browse through it. It is a great image filled history of Zombies in popular culture that is easily glanced through and enjoyed. More it is a pretty good read and you should take the time to read it at least once before leaving it out as a reference when someone brings up the idea that Romero was the first  to have a "true" zombie in film. Vuckovic a writer and director of short films.  The president of She Wolf Films is a significant figure in moving women to the forefront of the horror genre. Her website at...

Bitches, Bimbos, and Virgins : Women in the Horror Film by editors Gary J. and Susan Svehla - Furthering my feminist leaning through education I was fortunate to read this great history of women's role in horror films from the earliest to the Ass kicking. But this excerpt from the introduction captures it best. "... Bitches, Bimbos and Virgins is the history of women in horror cinema, profiling their evolution from coffee-making to scientist, from seductress and victim to kick-ass heroine, and finally detailing their emergence as well drawn characters who play important roles in horror movie history- past present and future." I really enjoyed this book and spent time viewing many of the classics used as examples to get the full impact of the words.

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman (@zinoman) "How a few eccentric outsiders gave us nightmares, conquered Hollywood and invented modern horror."  Just a wonderful book of the back stories of some of the great seventies horror directors and writers who changed horror films forever. The makers of such films of Rosemary's Baby, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Carrie, Last House on the Left,  Halloween, The Exorcist and Alien are interviewed and studied with great back stories of their relationships with each other. Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon, Tobe Hooper, George Romero, David Cronenberg all contributed to the changing of horror from ghost stories and monster tales to a more visceral reality based shockfest which holds to this day. The writer is excellent and the content fascinating and well researched. Lovers of horror should all read this book. It may be because I just finished it as it was the last book I was reading when the year ended but with it fresh in my mind I can say I loved it.

The Undead and Theology edited by Kim Paffenroth (@kpaffenroth) and John W. Morehead (@JohnWMorehead) - This is example one of how Twitter drives business. Somewhere in time I started following Kim Paffenroth, "Professor of religious studies by day, horror novelist by night" and when he hocked his book one day I took a chance and bought it. Broken up into three parts, Vampires, Zombies and Other Undead, each part is a collection of essays about the subject as it connects to theology. Although I found some of the essays very interesting like W. Scott Poole The Vampire that Haunts Highgate: Theological Evil, Hammer Horror, and the Highgate Vampire Panic in Britain, 1963-1974, and editor Paffenroth's Apocalyptic Images and Prophetic Function in Zombie Films there are other like the one on the Laurell K. Hamilton books that I have no interest in reading that I just could not connect to. As an Atheist I generally have an interest in the beliefs people are holding (better to see a burning at the stake coming than to be surprised when they knock down your door) Seeing this connected to popular culture was very interesting, so this book was a good way to learn something about how believers may approach horror without having to talk to anyone about religion. Morehead has a cool webpage at The Fantastique.

Seed by Ania Ahlborn (@aniaahlborn) - Another example of how the Twitterverse effects our choices. Again I am not sure how I came to follow writer Ania Ahlborn but at some point I decided to read something she wrote. I picked up Seed and enjoyed the dark tail of Jack Winter a man running from his past until it catches up to him and threatens everyone he holds dear. Ania, not one to go soft on an ending, pushes towards an inevitable conclusion that  the reader wants to turn out okay, but is always nagged by the atmosphere of the story which says nothing good happens in the end. If there was a draw back in Seed I would say that the character Jack never takes ownership of his own power. He seems defeated by the thing is his past the entire story making the final wonderfully dark finish a fore gone conclusion. Far be it from me to pretend I know how to write a novel, but I can say how the story and its characters made me feel and Jack seemed defeated without a fight right from his first realization that his past was back. Whatever effort he was going to make seemed destined to fail. Certainly that contributes to the dread factor the book a carries but I want that real hope before the dark ending. I liked the book enough that I purchased and read a second, "The Shuddering". See her at her website

The Shuddering by Ania Ahlborn (@aniaahlborn) - Fast on the heels of finishing Seed I started in on this one. A fantastical story about people going missing in the ski mountains of Colorado. Based heavily in the characters relationships of love lost and renewed and the choices that get us into uncomfortable situation The Shuddering is a monster lovers book. Highlighted with sharp descriptions of creatures that appear with the snow and feed while they can; it is a monster tale for anyone who spend time in a winter wonderland. The story centers around a brother and sister and their friends meeting at their father's mountain getaway one last time before it is sold. Strained relationship abound as people who have separated and drifted apart are mixed back together years later with unresolved feelings. Worst than that there is something(s) in the forest and they are hungry. Basing the story around the human characters Ahlborn pushes the story forward with their longing and grudges and regrets while at the same time creating an external threat that trumps all these feelings. Ania again is a master at the hard ending, besides who wants there horror books to end "happily ever after"? The plot moves well although more of an explanation of the history of the threat could have made the book more enjoyable. As in the case with Seed the threat is presented but never really explained, which I suppose is a valid approach. There is nothing worse than a character know it all trying to explain why and how something is happening. It makes me long for a bigger story though where I get to learn abut the conspiracy that must exist in these small mountain towns that loose dozens of lives every some number of years. Good book worth the price. Now if I can just get Ania to sign a copy for me.

 Dario Argento: Mediane Libri - This lovely picture book of Argento's films is short on text but makes up for in stylish presentation, behind the scenes photography, Movie posters and high gloss finish. It is basically a picture filled filmography that I impulse bought at The Coop when I wanted something to look at while I ate lunch at the Border Cafe in Harvard Square. I should probably make note of the Editor and art director Max Serio for putting this together. If you are an Argento fan as I am this is worth the $15 dollars or so that it costs.

- The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle: By Lou Schuler (@LouSchuler) and Alwyn Cosgrove (@alwyncosgrove) - I got this with the accompanying women's version for myself and daughter in the hope we would be better at staying in shape. Now she is a Captain on the Mount Saint Mary's Women's Rugby team and lifts regularly. I on the other hand am more in the shape of round. Funny thing is I read my version of this book while she did not. Now I am not saying that I have practice the principles, I can barely force myself into the gym a few times a week before slacking off again. The one draw back I saw in this book was that to do free weights under this regime I would need a lifting buddy. Since a lot of the theory is about pushing limits and changing routines there just seems to be an assumption that there is someone there to spot. Maybe this year I will try to execute some of what I learned.

 Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson  - I love Bill Bryson from the first thing I read "A Walk in the Woods" about his idea to walk the Appalachian trail, to his informative and hilarious adventures in Australia with "In a Sunburned Country" to his "A Short History of Nearly Everything" he is a thoroughly entertaining writer with a self effacing humor I really enjoy. So when I picked up this book at a yard sale for 25 cents I was thrilled. It is about traveling around England and it is very enjoyable. Not for everyone because the exceptional descriptive detail after a while will leave your head spinning about where on the island he is. Still the historical information and low adventure stories are wonderful if every now and again you pull out a map to orient yourself to the reading. On Facebook at...

A later addendum is I forgot that I also read Dan O'Bannon's wonderful book on screenwriting.

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