Monday, February 28, 2011

Women in Horror: Wrap Up

Sadly, this is the last day in Women in Horror Recognition Month, but I wanted to leave you guys with a list of my favorite horror literature by female authors.

1) The Grant County series by Karin Slaughter is one of the most chilling and extreme mystery series I've ever read. I've only read the first two books, but I don't think I could ever rid my brain of the horrific situations detailed in these books. The first book is about Sara Linton, a pediatrician, and her sheriff ex-husband, Jeffrey Tolliver, trying to catch a killer who rapes and kills women, leaving their mutilated bodies crucified. The second book starts with the sheriff having to shoot a girl that threatened to kill a boy in a skating rink. The story that ensues is fast paced and not for the faint of heart. I highly recommend them.
2) The Archie Sheriden series by Chelsea Cain is another that bridges the gap between mystery and horror. In Heartsick, Archie is a veteran cop that worked for 10 years to capture the notorious serial killer known as the Beauty Killer only to find that she was a psychiatrist working with the police named Gretchen Lowell. He only found this out when he was captured by her and horrifically tortured for 10 days. She is in jail, but another serial killer has cropped up, leading Archie to come out of his Vicodin hazed retirement. Gretchen Lowell is one of the most memorable literary monsters in recent history. In Heartsick, she influences almost every event in the novel from her jail cell, yet she is still shrouded in mystery. The reader never gets to see the story from her perspective or know very much about her past. She is a fascinating and unpredictable character. Her relationship with Archie is like the one between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, but much more intense because of the long time they spend together while Archie was tortured. He is both drawn to and repulsed by her. The first three books (Heartsick, Sweetheart, and Evil at Heart) in the series center around Archie and Gretchen. The fourth book comes out March 1 and shifts focus away from her while still remaining the engaging and fluid writing style that I've come to love. I just finished reading this one, so keep an eye out for the review!

3) The Portero series by Dia Reeves combines fantasy and horror in a way I've never seen. Don't let the fact that it's a teen series fool you. Portero is town full of surprise, violence, and monsters, both the literal and figurative kind. Bleeding Violet is the first book, which follows bipolar Hanna as she tries to cultivate some sort of relationship with her mother. She also has to overcome the Porterenes' disapproval of her AND watch out for dangerous creatures that may pop up. This fantastical world full of portals blends perfectly with the warped psychology of its inhabitants. This is especially true with the second book, Slice of Cherry, which centers around serial killing sisters Kit and Fancy Cordelle. These characters remain endearing and sympathetic even as they commit acts of violence using the magic world they discovered. I love this series and I consider it one of the most unique in both adult and teen literature.

That's it for this event until next year!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Women in Horror: Bloodshot

Raylene Pendle is a flapper turned accomplished vampire thief who is tired of being hired to steal pornography. Thankfully, an interesting case falls into her lab involving the government experimenting on vampires and leaving her client, Ian Stott, blind for the rest of eternity. After overcoming her shock at knowing that a vampire could be mutilated like that, she takes the case and agrees to steal files detailing what happened to her client in hopes of finding a cure. Not long after that, she is chased by black suited government agents and her secret cache of expensive stolen valuables stashed away in a seemingly abandoned building is raided. Everywhere she goes, she is followed and chased. It eventually gets to be less about the money and more about not allowing such atrocities to happen to other vampires. Can she follow the paper trail fast enough to find what her client needs or will she suffer the same fate as Ian and become a government guinea pig?

This is Cherie Priest's first book in the urban fantasy genre and I enjoyed it very much. I know that the market is overflooded with vampire novels, but this one isn't cliche and tired like so many others. There is no romance to speak of, which is a refreshing change. The only thing that remotely resembles it is Raylene's attraction to two male characters, one human and one vampire, which could have been a super cheesy, typical love triangle. Thankfully, Priest decided to go a different way with the story. Raylene is pretty happy about her existence as a vampire, unlike those Angels and Edwards out there, so angst is in short supply here. The vampires in the novel aren't totally evil baby-eaters, but aren't super annoying goody two shoes either. This one-dimensional view of either side is getting really dull. They are normal people who drink blood and need to stay out of the sun in Cherie Priest's world. These vampires are multifaceted, complex characters.

I like that vampires aren't almost godlike with their powers in this novel. Raylene is stronger and faster than humans, but she does have her limitations. For example, she can take a few bullets, but the pain and blood loss will eventually weaken her severely. Her senses are superior to a human's, but within a logical realm. The ridiculous rules such as crosses or wooden stakes or garlic being fatal have thankfully been dispensed with. She has a little bit of psychic ability, but just a smidge really. It's just enough to feel out someone's intentions and general mood and not much more than that. The vampire powers and rules seem much more logical here, making it much easier to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the novel.

The biggest strength of the book is its colorful cast of characters. Raylene's narrative drew me in immediately. Her inner monologue is full of paranoia, neurosis, and OCD-ness despite the hard-as-nails persona she exudes. She also cares for people much more than she wants to admit to herself. This is best seen with the two kids that live in her abandoned warehouse full of stolen swag. At first, she was annoyed with them and tried to drive them out, but their relationship evolved over time. They have a mutual trust and Raylene feels an obligation to protect them from danger. She even gave them a phone so they can call her in an emergency like a concerned mother. These aspects made her much more human to me. Plus, she infuses her own brand of humor in much of the novel, making her voice memorable and fun to read.

I really liked Bloodshot. It really renewed my interest in vampire novels because it proved to be much different than many of the others out there. This book combined mystery, horror, and action into a compelling, fun story. It's a lot different from Boneshaker, her previous steampunk zombie novel, but Cherie Priest has proven that she can write in different genres really well. I loved the ending and, of course, it's left open for a sequel that will be released in August called Hellbent. I highly recommend this to urban fantasy and vampire readers.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Women in Horror: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Benjamin Barker and his beautiful wife Lucy have a daughter named Joanna and a wonderful life together. Judge Turpin is enticed by Lucy and falsely imprisons Barker to allow him to fully persue her. Benjamin returns after fifteen years only to find that his entire life is gone. His wife is dead and his daughter is in the clutches of the very man who imprisoned him. Revenge is the only thing on his mind after Mrs. Lovett, the owner of the place he used to live, filled him in on all the details of the events that transpired after he was gone. He assumes an new identity as Sweeney Todd and opens up a barber shop to lie in wait for the judge. In the meantime, before the Judge shows up, he practices on unsuspecting customers while Mrs. Lovett makes the most delicious meat pies with a very special ingredient...

The first experience I ever had with Sweeney Todd was watching the version with Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett and George Hern as Sweeney Todd. I was incredibly bored and shocked at how such a disturbing, interesting story could be turned into such a bore. As disappointing as this one was, I was looking forward to Tim Burton's new endeavor because he's one of my favorite directors of all time. I'm so happy that he gave the musical new life on the screen with his collaboration with the great Stephen Sondheim.

The music is wonderful throughout the film. I've heard a lot of people say there aren't any memorable songs, but I think this is more due to the fact that it sounds much more modern, syncopated, and dissonant than the typical Broadway musical. The songs have a great range from the dark and stormy Epiphany to the delightfully comical A Little Priest to the beautiful, melancholy Green Finch and Linnet Bird. My favorite song is My Friends because of the wonderful interweaving of Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett's voices. It's deceptively quiet and understated, but really reveals the truth in their relationship: Todd is completely consumed by his need for revenge and Mrs. Lovett, although forgotten by Todd, simply wants to be loved by him. I was relieved that Sondheim didn't choose to have operatic voices featured in the film because I think that's part of why I didn't like the previous rendition. I both love Johnny Depp's rough, rock influenced rendition and Helena Bonham Carter's wispy, fragile voice. They are by no means professional singers, but they embody their characters so well that their voices just fit. I really couldn't see anyone else as these characters. The two best singers in the film are easily young Ed Sanders as Toby and Jayne Wisener as Johanna. These two young people blew me away with their singing voices and I hope to see more from them.

The visuals of the film are striking, portraying the gritty and dark underbelly of London. The color scheme is mostly in black and white with the only real color being the blood that spills in copious amounts across the screen. The only really vibrant, saturated colors come from the songBy the Sea, which shows Mrs. Lovett's dream of a life with Todd and Toby as her family. The absence of color in the real world shows that there is really no hope for anyone in this story. The makeup used on the main characters is reminiscent of silent films and classic horror movies. It both sets them apart from the other characters and enhances the dark ambiance that encompasses the film. One of the things I most enjoy about the film is the cinematography during songs. This is no boring musical with one angle for an entire song. The visuals are just as striking as the music with the changes in camera angle, playing with reflective and transparent surfaces, and the use of wide shots as well as close-ups. This made the film dynamic and as interesting to watch as it is to listen to.

The two most compelling characters in the film are both women: Mrs. Lovett and Johanna. Mrs. Lovett is much more than a conniving woman that wants to use Todd to her own ends. Although it would be easy to simply portray her as an evil villain that cooks people into meat pies, she's really so much more than that. Everything that she does in the film is really fueled by love. She loves Sweeney Todd so much that she is willing to help him kill people so that he will be with her. Her efforts throughout the film are to protect and manipulate Todd to stay with her as long as possible. Her nurturing side is definitely featured in the film, shown through her taking Toby under her wing and treating him like a son. She also expresses sympathy for Johanna who never really had a mother or a loving family to take care of her. This different side of her really endeared her to me and made hopeful that she would get the family she wanted even though she wasn't a completely good person.

Johanna is an interesting character. Because she has been isolated and ogled by Judge Turpin her whole life, one would assume that she would be naive and probably warped in some way. This isn't true at all. She is melancholy obviously because her guardian is abusive, but she sees the world in a practical way. Anthony has seen locations all over the world as a sailor, but he remains convinced that they will run away and live happily ever after together. Johanna knows that all their problems won't be solved and reveals herself to be more realistic than him. Her strength and resilience are truly impressive. It was easy to portray her as a wilting flower of a girl who was weak and bland. Jayne Wisener takes a small role and makes it truly memorable with her quiet confidence and beautiful singing voice.

Sweeney Todd is one of the best musicals made in recent years. I love how Tim Burton combined silent movie horror with the more bloody, gory horror of the present. I am still impressed with all of the acting, no matter how small the role. It is a film I will be watching again and again for many years to come.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

Friday, February 25, 2011

Cover Contest and Giveaway: Boyfriend from Hell by E. Van Lowe

Author E. Van Lowe needs your help in choosing the cover for his new novel Boyfriend From Hell. To entice you into entering, he's giving away some awesome swag. The contest is easy. All you need to do to qualify is choose which of the three covers below you like best.

Boyfriend From Hell by E. Van Lowe
Release date: September 2011

Blurb from author:

Have you ever had a boyfriend from hell? You know the kind: guy who messes with your life so much he turns it into Swiss cheese. Or maybe he was the guy who followed you home like a lost puppy, then turned into the pit bull you couldn't get rid of, no matter how hard you tried. Or maybe he was abusive. I'm sure we've all had a bad boyfriend or two (or girlfriend in my case). My new novel, Boyfriend From Hell, is about a boyfriend from hell--literally. It's a YA paranormal like Never Slow Dance With A Zombie, but I've cut back on the comedy a bit in this one. It's the story of Megan Barnett, the fifteen year-old daughter of a 39 year-old single mom, Suze. When Suze decides it's time she had a man in her life, Megan is not happy. With good reason: "First off, if anyone in my family should be dating, it should be me. I'm primo dating age here. How's it going to look if my mother has a boyfriend and I don't?" So Megan and Suze both set out to meet boyfriends. That's when all hell breaks loose.

Cover #1:

Cover #2:

Cover #3

ARC Book Giveaway courtesy of author

Prizes: ARCs (when they are available in April) or a tee shirt. 2 prizes in all.

Open to all.

Offer ends: March 4, 2011

TO DO: Of the three book covers above, which do you like best? Tell me the answer and leave your email in comments. On March 5th I will hold a random drawing of all who left a comment. There will be two winners who will receive their choice of an ARC or a tee shirt. I will email the winners and post the winning cover design on the blog.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Women in Horror: In My Skin

Esther is a self conscious woman who is moving up in the public relations firm she works at. Her boyfriend wants further their relationship and move in together. Her life is pretty successful as a whole, but this all changes when she goes to a party and she severely cuts her leg open when she falls down in her friends' unfinished backyard. The wound goes unnoticed as she dances and mingles until she goes to the bathroom and sees blood running down her leg. She is shocked at the severity of the injury, but still goes out for drinks with her friends before going to the doctor. While patching her up, the doctor notes that it was unusual that she waited hours to get help. The next day, she goes to work as usual, but she is distracted by her wounds and goes into a private room to create new gouges in her leg. This is the start of her obsession with harming herself. Her boyfriend and her co-workers worry about her and are horrified by her sick impulse, but she does it all the same and going to great lengths to blame the injuries on other things. Why is she hurting herself? Can she stop so she can resume her seemingly idyllic life?

In My Skin is a French film that was written and directed Marina de Van, who also starred as Esther. The film is incredibly disturbing and undeniably original. It's far from the conventional slasher type horror film, but features a more subtle Cronenburgian type of horror. Esther could be any one of us because she is the typical middle class everyman. The real triumph of a work like this is the realism and intimacy of the self mutilation scenes and the lack of any clear, defined reason for it. I like that this prompts the viewer to substitute in their own meanings and think for themselves.

One take on the film is that Esther's motivation for her self mutilation stems from a need to fill the void of her shallow, vapid life, much like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho. He focused his violence outwardly and Esther looks within. This view is most apparent during a scene where she's having dinner with her boss and some of their clients. At first, Esther is the model employee, engaging intelligently in conversation and making her boss happy. Then she hallucinates that her arm is separate from her body and becomes distracted, succumbing to her self mutilating urges in the wine cellar of the restaurant. This hollow feeling extends to every part of her life. Her boyfriend is controlling, borderline abusive, and picks a fight at every little opportunity. It's no wonder why she seems passively resistant to moving in together. Esther tells her only friend, a coworker, of her obsession perhaps in a cry for help. The next day, that same friend abandons her and allows her to be humiliated at a work party all because she was jealous that Esther was promoted above her. These are the only two real relationships Esther has and they are revealed to be void of any actual human connection.

Another view of the film is that Esther feels disconnected from her body, much like Dawn from Teeth. Again, this is most exemplified in the restaurant scene with her disembodied arm. The only way her body feels whole again is through pain. The scenes of self mutilation are filmed in an intimate, erotic way, as if it's a twisted form of masturbation for her. From the very beginning, she treats it as an illicit affair: hiding it from her boyfriend, telling her friend to gauge her reaction, and lying to hide how often she does it. She even flaunts the behavior in public like an exhibitionist when she stabs herself under the table at a business dinner, cuts herself at work, and fondles chunks of her flesh on the street. Her love and connectedness with her body can only be shown through blood and pain, but she seems to also get pleasure from it.

The self mutilation in the film can also be taken as a metaphor for self destructive behavior such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or eating disorders. It starts out small. The mutilation goes from cutting to drinking her own blood to cutting parts of her flesh off and eating them. At first, the cutting gives her energy and keeps her focused on work. As it worsens, it consumes her life, making it impossible to function normally. At this stage, the behavior is so extreme that it threatens her life. The blood loss and cutting of pieces of flesh invites infection and the possibility of nicking an artery or major vein and bleeding to death. Any other addictive behavior could have been substituted in and it would have fit perfectly. Her attempts to reach out to her friend seems to be a cry for help, but jealousy and bitterness causes the friend to turn her back on Esther. Her boyfriend seems more concerned about controlling her as opposed to actually helping her.

There are probably a million ways for this film to be interpreted, so I'll stop here. This film definitely isn't for everyone. It's not very gory, but it's guaranteed to make you feel uncomfortable. I highly recommend this film, but be warned that it is slow in some parts. This doesn't bother me at all because I think it fits the type of film that it is, but it might bother some. I watched this film over a year ago for the first time and I still feel the need to rewatch it and re-evaluate my theories on it. I highly recommend this engaging and memorable film.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Singles Awareness Day: Playlist

This list of songs is for those of you who hate Valentine's Day or are just indifferent to such an insipid holiday. I personally hold no preference and support both sides.

1) Ex Lover's Lover by Voltaire is a song about a guy who fantasizes about killing his ex-girlfriend's new love. It's morbid, gory, and creepy. A perfect solution to Valentine's Day sappiness,

2) This is The Raveonettes' cover of I'm So Lonesome I Could Dry. It's originally a country song, so a bit of twang is retained. I love this song as a duet. The harmony and the weighted guitar strokes give it a completely different and darker feel.

3) My Eyes is a song from the epic Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog. Dr. Horrible is hopelessly smitten with Penny, but can never bring himself to speak to her. Captain Hammer, his archnemesis, saves her and they start a relationship. Dr. Horrible watches their feelings for each other develop from afar while he stews in his own misery.

4) Backstabber by the Dresden Dolls is a cheery sounding song about a backstabber. I think everyone can relate. I love it and this adorable video about the Dresden Dolls and Panic at the Disco wanting to kill each other.

5) Mad World covered by Gary Jules is the best version of this song ever. It's depressing as hell and the lyrics are better when sung slower. In this version, the music matches the sentiment. I chose this song because of one person's comment on the video: "I always listen to this song when i'm feeling down . . . So i'm going to be here a lot today since it is valentines day."

Happy Valentine's Day: Playlist

I have compiled a playlist for those that love Valentine's Day. Of course, these aren't all sappy love songs, but also include songs about torturous and horrible relationships.

1) Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes by Kirby Krackle is a cute nerdy ballad about love and nostalgia.

2) Love Me Dead by Ludo is an upbeat song about the pain of being in love with a beautiful, horrible woman. It's a great song and the video is campy and adorable.

3) My Heart by Paramore is a pop rock ballad that I can't stop listening to. It's beautiful with a little bit of edge.

4) Stuck with You is sung by both Amanda Palmer and Voltaire as an unhappy couple whose hate for each other escalates throughout the song. They take out this hate on each other through violence and can't separate because of their marriage vows. It all ends happily though.

5) I Will Follow You into the Dark by Death Cab for Cutie is a beautiful song that frequently brings me to tears. It's a simple ballad with only a voice and a guitar. The love expressed in this song extends past death.

The official video can be found here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day: Zombie Style!

I just wanted to wish all of you out there a Happy Valentine's Day and share with you some super cute zombie themed valentines you might want to give to your loved ones.

* This one is from Orbit Books' zombie novel Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen. It also has a wise message: the infected don't make great valentines because they usually literally want your heart.

* These adorable ones were created by Elliot Quince and are available on his website, Quinky Art, in high resolution to print out for personal use. I think my favorite is the one that says, "Be My Valentestine." You can even see the process he went through to make them. Awesome!
* This romantic valentine comes from ~RoscoFink at DeviantArt. I love the hand drawn zombie and the adorable message.

* This valentine is a little more cutesy and with chickens, but zombified nonetheless. It comes from the site Savage Chickens and was created by John Savage.

* This last one is also from DeviantArt and it was created by ~beavotron. It features the Boomer zombie from Left 4 Dead in a sweet yet disgusting valentine.
If you're in the mood to zombify your romantic day, here are some appropriate films to watch and books to read:

* Breathers by S.G. Browne is a hilarious zombie romantic comedy that I really loved. It features a romance between zombies, so be prepared from some squicky scenes.

* The Jesse Petersen series that is now up to 2 books: Married with Zombies and Flip this Zombie. I haven't read these, but I've heard they are really good and fun.

* Shaun of the Dead is a must see as it is the classic zombie romantic comedy that manages to both make the audience laugh and cry. Consider this film mandatory viewing for every zombie fan.

* Warm Bodies is a British zombie novel that has a zombie falling in love with a human. I ordered this from because I want to read it ASAP, but if you feel like waiting, it will be released in the US on April 26. It looks cute and I can't wait to read it!

* Hungry for Love is an anthology of zombie romance stories. I've read mixed reviews, but I hope at least some of them are more on the disturbing side than the cutesy side.

* My Zombie Valentine is another anthology that I read and reviewed for last year's September Zombies. The stories were kind of hit or miss for me, but the ones that hit were excellent.

* Dance of the Dead is a light and funny zombie flick that has a zombie apocalypse breaking out during prom at a high school. Hilarity and loud music ensue.

* Fido is a zombie film set in the 1950's after the zombie war had taken place. Zombies are enslaved and used for menial labor. Despite the social stigma, the zombie Fido befriends a young boy and his lonely mother. I highly recommend this film. It's a bright, sunny, and funny zombie film that is a nice break from the usual gloom and doom.

* The Generation Dead YA series by Daniel Waters is bursting with zombie romance, teen angst, and social injustice. I love the series and I eagerly await for it to continue.

This list is a lot longer than I meant it to be because there is just too much good zombie stuff out there. I just couldn't just choose a couple!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Internet Awesomeness 2

Just like last time, I found super awesome videos on the internet and feel like sharing them with you!

1) This first video is Neil Gaiman explaining why he isn't concerned about internet piracy. I completely agree. I know lots of authors and other types of artists that make their work available online for free that are still successful, such as Amanda Palmer, Richard Kadrey, and Cory Doctorow. I had never even heard of Richard Kadrey before his novel Butcher Bird was made available for free on Now he's one of my favorite authors. I can say that many of the other authors I like came from friends lending me books they love. Even Monty Python experienced a huge jump in sales after they made their videos available for free online. Plus I think Neil Gaiman is brilliant. :)

2) Amanda Palmer has become much more prolific recently now that she has been dropped from her label. She no longer has to use them as a mediator to get music to her fans. Since then, she has put out 2 albums: Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under and Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magical Ukulele. On the latter album, I'm completely obsessed with her cover of Fake Plastic Trees. Her rendition is completely stripped down and bare, making it her own. The tone is completely different from the Radiohead original. It's so honest and beautiful, it seems to come straight out of her soul.

3) I also found two very interesting horror shorts that are available to view online. The first is called The 3rd Letter, which I found on It takes place in a futuristic world where people can no longer survive the poisonous and deteriorating climate and depend on biomechanical machinery to survive. It's similar to Repo the Genetic Opera, although much more serious. It isn't a perfect film, but has aspects we can appreciate with today's healthcare situation in the US and some great effects and visuals. If you like dystopian fiction or David Cronenberg's films, I would recommend this to you. It's only about 15 minutes long and can be viewed here. Unfortunately I can't embed it, but here's the trailer to pique your interest.

The second short I found on DeviantArt. I had never seen a film on the site and barely realized there were any. It was a feature for the day and the description drew my interest: "This is probably one of the most gruesome videos I've seen on dA." The film takes place in an elevator that is stuck with two guys and a woman inside. The scenes that follow are their efforts to escape and survive in the confined space. There is really no telling how long they spent in there, but the ending is priceless. Although it is a bit gruesome, there are aspects of the film that I have seen over and over in films like The Ruins and Devil. It's the ending that sets it apart as even better than all those typical movies, despite its length. The acting is really great. In a film that is only 5 minutes long, the unnamed characters undergo a series of changes that make them almost unrecognizable to the people they started out as. I loved it!

I wish films like these two could be the ones being released globally and making loads of money as opposed to the endless assembly line of bad remakes and tired sequels. Let me know what you think of these videos.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Women in Horror: Deadgirl

Misfits Rickie and JT decide to skip school and drink beer in an abandoned insane asylum. After taking out their teen angst on the place, they incur the wrath of a guard dog. They narrowly escape it deep in the bowels of the building and find a room that's been sealed for a long time. In that room, they find something that will change their lives forever: a dead girl tied to a gurney and wrapped in plastic. They soon find out that she is alive, but extremely savage and seemingly immortal. JT wants to take advantage of having a nude, helpless female lying around, while Rickie feels quite the opposite. When word gets around and more people get involved, Rickie and JT embark in a power struggle that spins out of control and leads to an unexpected and dark resolution. 

I just want to start by saying this is a very polarizing film: you'll either love it or despise it. The film as a whole is hard to watch because of the nonchalance the characters have with their own horrific actions. It's really chilling how calmly JT describes how he raped, beat, and attempted to kill the woman multiple times. He seems to think that it's ok because he sees her as being less than an animal. Zombies are usually the monsters in works of fiction, but in this case, it's the teenage boys that are infinitely more monstrous. Human nature can be an ugly and savage thing when out of the gaze of society. 

These boys have discovered a world where they are the supreme rulers. They don't have to follow the rules or accept that they are pathetic losers who will contribute nothing to the real world. In this world, they always get the girl and call the shots. It's the ultimate fantasy for them. Their world is completely removed from reality, in a dark, dank basement that is the polar opposite of reality in almost every way. I hate the characters. They are pathetic excuses for human beings, but I can see where they come from: a place where no one cares what happens to them and where they have no future. It's a great character piece where I don't agree at all with them and I think they are horrible and stupid, but understand them just the same. That's the mark of great story telling. 

Rickie is the only male character with any sort of promise. The others are satisfied to get sexual gratification from a mute, unaware woman than have a real, healthy, consensual relationship. Rickie still isn't completely innocent because he knows that what his friends are doing is wrong, but he hesitates to do something about it. He seems to be torn between resigning himself to the emotionless situation with the dead girl or attempting to make a real human connection with a living, breathing classmate. This film is kind of a sick and twisted coming of age story. 

The woman being used and raped in this film is a zombie. This fact doesn't make her any less of a victim. Society in general objectifies women in the advertising and the media all the time. Women are frequently equated to objects or animals and shown as inherently inferior to men. Sometimes I find myself desensitized against such advertising because it's so pervasive and we as a society see literally thousands of advertisements each day. This general environment can make it easy for some to internalize this sexist thinking and go even further to say that anything can justifiably be done to them. The woman’s rapists distance themselves from her by thinking of her as less than them, less than human. This film holds up a mirror to our society and makes us see the ugliness within it. 

Deadgirl is a powerful and uncomfortable film to watch. It's well produced, written, and acted. Jean Spain gives a wonderful performance as the Deadgirl and manages to make her both sympathetic and dangerous without even speaking. A lot of you probably wouldn't like this movie, but if you like dark films that deal with the horror within humanity then this is probably the movie for you.
My rating: 8/10 fishmuffins
Here's the trailer for Deadgirl:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Women in Horror: Teeth

Dawn O'Keefe is an abstinent Christian that advocates for everyone to wait until marriage, avoid masturbation, and only have sex for procreation. She speaks at the local chastity groups meetings and does everything she can to keep away from temptation: only hanging out with chastity group members, dating in groups, only watching G rated films, and, of course, wearing her purity ring. Her pretty veneer hides the fact that she has a sick mother at home, a passive and weak father, and a violent creepy stepbrother at home. Everything is going pretty well (as far as abstinence goes) until she starts dating Tobey, a fellow chastity group member. Their resolve dissolves as they meet at a secluded lake known for being popular with couples. Dawn comes to her senses and refuses Tobey's sexual advances, but he doesn't take no for an answer. She tries to fight him off and in the process discovers an attribute of her body she never knew she had. Is she a mutant freak or can she use this newfound ability to her advantage?

Teeth seems to be a typical cheesy teen gorefest on the surface. Well, it is, but there is a lot of things happening below the surface that the average audience member may not get on the first viewing as a result. The general tone of the film is light and comical, but there are a couple of serious scenes as well. The penis and finger severing scenes are usually pretty funny and, as expected, accompanied with lots of blood and screaming. This film doesn't take itself completely seriously, but it does say a lot about our society and the way women are viewed.

At first, Dawn seems to be a shell of a person. She's a Christian, but she doesn't seem to be very devout beyond abstinence. She doesn't go to church or help the homeless or get involved in any other church activities. Her interests aren't really known either. It seems her only desire is to get married and have children. In our society and in the view of the popular Christian religions, she is the perfect poster girl. People are still shocked when I tell them I have no interest in having children as if it's my obligation to do so just because I happen to have a vagina. It's simply ridiculous. Anyway, even though they are both actively abstinent, Dawn and Tobey meet in a secluded lake known as a sex/makeout spot. This scene is a commentary for all those people who are resistant to having proper sex education in schools. In abstinence only classes, the same amount of kids have sex, but more of them now have diseases they were never educated about or become pregnant.

Dawn progresses from a one dimensional, perfect, almost robotic girl to a real one with emotions, confusion, and a will to discover herself. When her teeth make themselves known, she is afraid and has no idea what's happening. Her fear stems from her ignorance of her own body. In an earlier scene, she saw a horrible vision of a toothed insect when she attempted to masturbate. She sees her own sexuality as monstrous and disgusting and she fears it. In sex education at her school, there was a big sticker over the diagram of the vulva. Society doesn't want feminine sexuality depicted in an earnest and real way. This diagram isn't shown, but throughout the film there are advertisements with scantily clad women with only their bodies on display all over the place. It seems as if the only way a women can be seen as sexual is as a sex object. The scene where Dawn removes the sticker and stares in shock and wonder is beautiful because she sees that her body and her sexuality isn't something to fear. Her vagina dentata then becomes a weapon she can wield to protect herself. Jess Weixler does a beautiful job portraying Dawn and her emotional journey.

Brad is the opposite of Dawn. He is her creepy stepbrother who has lusted after her since their parents married when they were children. Warped and disturbed, he views women only as sex objects and subhuman, seen with the pornographic photos on his walls, the abusive relationship with his girlfriend, the disregard he has for his ailing mother, and the fact that he named his dog Mother. There really aren't any consequences to his actions because of the inaction of his parents and society in general, which enables him to keep being a misogynist douche. There really aren't any men in this film that aren't either sexually abusive or insanely weak. Also, the only people who are mutilated by Dawn are men. I guess this could be seen as misandrist, but since horror is famous for being misogynistic, I think it's only fair for there to be a different persepective on things. I also don't think its saying all men are this way, but to prove his point the filmmaker only included horrible, reprehensible men.

The film also features small things that may not be obvious to the undiscerning viewer. Like Dawn's last name is a reference to a feminist painter, Georgia O'Keeffe. Medusa is depicted in the film more than once, which is a reference to the Greek myth version of vagina dentata. This trope is seen in ancient mythology all over the world, stemming from man's fear of castration and female sexuality. This tale reverses this myth and makes it one of female empowerment.

The bottom line with this film is that it's unique, cerebral, and aware of its long history. Teeth is a mixture of good, bloody fun and social commentary. I would recommend this to just about everyone, but those who might be offended by severed members and toothed vaginas should avoid this.

My rating: 10/10 fishmuffins

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Women in Horror: Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee's The Woman

I absolutely love both Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee. Jack Ketchum wrote one of my favorite books The Girl Next Door, which details the extreme abuse of a young girl by her aunt. The violence wasn't gratuitous in the novel, but shows the reader the depths of the evil humanity is capable of with an idyllic 50's neighborhood as a backdrop. It is one of the most powerful and disturbing books I have ever read. Lucky McKee directed May, a modern retelling of Frankenstein with a lonely, odd girl as the creator instead of a scientist. In the film, May is a sympathetic character even as she hacks up those that have hurt to to create an all new friend from their parts. She is never demonized or seen as monstrous, but just as a misguided girl whose every attempt at reaching out to anyone has failed miserably. These two working together sounds like a match made in heaven to me. They have collaborating on a film called The Woman, which is a sequel to one of Jack Ketchum's previous novels called Offspring. Here is the synopsis from

The Woman is the last surviving member of a feral clan that has roamed the Northeast Coast for decades. When the last of her family is killed in a battle with the police, The Woman finds herself alone, severely wounded and vulnerable. Unfortunately, she is now a far too easy prey for local hunter, successful country lawyer and seriously disturbed family man Christopher Cleek. With his twisted set of ideals, Cleek decides to embark upon a deranged project - to capture her and "break" The Woman - a decision that will soon threaten the lives of Cleek, his family and The Woman.

This new film that was screened at the Sundance film festival has stirred up a lot of controversy. During the screening of the film, a woman tried to run out of the theater, but tripped and was injured. Another man got up afterwards and started yelling that it was garbage, demeaning to women, and should be burned. Here is the video of this man backstage ranting about it after he was escorted by security from the Q&A.

With these two people working together, I don't see anything misogynistic coming from it. The problem is the concept of rape and abuse. These are obviously horrible and would never be condoned or encouraged by anyone. When it is included in a film, it's easy to just see the abuse, take it at face value, and just assume that the filmmaker wants to promote violence towards women. In most films, this isn't the case at all. For example, in Deadgirl, a couple of young men find a zombie-like woman tied to a table and take the opportunity to rape and torture her. It doesn't promote rape, but shows how rapists see their victims as less than human and therefore it's ok to treat them in whatever way they see fit. I know that rape is hard to watch in a film. I've seen Irreversible and I never, ever want to see it again. However, I want to watch and analyse this film before we start passing judgment on it being misogynistic. It seems like the film is going to challenge the audience to judge who is the real monster: the Woman, who is part of a violent clan of people and has never been part of society/civilization, or Christopher Cleek, who decides to "civilize" her through the most barbaric means imaginable. I'm really interested in seeing how the story ends and if the film is as bad as the controversy surrounding it portrays it to be. Too bad I'll have to wait until it makes it to DVD.

If you'd like to read the book the film is based on, you can buy it here in ebook form in whatever format you'd like.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Women in Horror Recognition Month

February is Women in Horror Recognition Month!! I heard about this event of BJ-C's blog Day of the Woman. Her blog is one of the only recognized horror blogs authored by a woman that I know of. Her view of films and horror through a feminist lens is refreshing and speaks to me as a female fan of horror. The event was founded by Hannah Neurotica and she encourages others to spread the word and recognize women in horror. So, this month, I decided to feature and review films I feel are overlooked, feature women, are by women, and/or comment on women in our society. So keep an eye out here for reviews and discussions about Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee's controversial film The Woman, The Descent, Teeth, Inside, and High Tension, just to name a few.

There are those, such as this Canadian blogger, that deny that there is even the existence of feminism or misogyny in horror films. Just like any text, my reading of a film may not agree with your reading, but it doesn't make my version any less valid. I don't even understand how this fact can be denied. Look at the slasher films of the 70's and 80's. There is one final girl that beats the big bad, which may be read as feminist, but take a closer look. The final girl is always a pretty, virginal, middle class, all American girl. It's pretty much screaming to teenage girls that they shouldn't drink or have sex to be an accepted part of society. The slutty, parting girls that get killed are acting in a way not socially acceptable and therefore are looked down upon. One argument that always irks me is "oh, the director/filmmaker/whatever didn't intend that to be in the film." As in literature, I quite frankly don't care what the author/director/writer intended. As long as I can provide evidence from the novel or film, my reading is completely valid, whether you like it or not. As an avid viewer of any and all horror films, I can say that gender issues are still very much alive and well in the genre.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Internet Awesomeness

I encountered some interesting things on the internet that I wanted to share with you all!

1) Kirby Krackle has just released a video for their superhero inspired single "Secret Identity." If you like superheroes or comic books in general, you're sure to like this song a normal guy that goes out and fights crime.

2) I absolutely love Amanda Palmer. This is a blog post in the form of a song about Lady Gaga and if pop music is art. Not only does she show off her catchy song writing, but she makes a good point. Please join in the discussion if you have an opinion!

3) I don't usually post about politics because I understand that not everyone is a crazy liberal like me. However, this young man's impassioned speech about his unique family should be heard by everyone, no matter what your stance on the issue of same-sex marriage. It's incredibly inspiring and just shows how important love really is and how it is largely ignored in the world.

4) Another song from a nerdy person!! This time the song is called Nerdy Girls Need Love Too. It's an adorable and catchy song by Amy Lee Radigan rife with nerdy allusions to Doctor Who, Nintendo, Lord of the Rings, and Star Trek, among others. I totally relate (being a nerdy girl myself) and I love this song. She also has another song from Princess Peach's point of view called Save Me Mario. Check it out on her website or her Facebook. I look forward to hearing more from this new artist!

I hope you guys enjoyed these as much as I did!! <3