Halloween Read: “Little Heaven” by Nick Cutter

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Little Heaven is an intense read.  Three bounty hunters are hired to save a boy from a cult called Little Heaven in New Mexico.  It’s obvious something is very badly wrong in Little Heaven–monsters lurk in the woods and children have been disappearing.  Our bounty hunters, Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva, just want to get the job done, but they find themselves drawn into something dark and otherworldly, threatening everyone’s lives.

The narrative goes back and forth in time from the 1980’s to the 1960’s.  In the present, Micah’s daughter has been lured away from home by a creature.  And in the past, we get the history of Micah, Ebenezer, and Minerva’s first encounter with this same creature, and how they ended up bound together as well as bound to the darkness.  There’s also the story of Little Heaven itself, and the Reverend Amos Flesher, who founded it (and who has his own dark secrets and leanings).

Little Heaven is gory and dripping with dread all the way through.  There’s also a feeling almost like a Western.  The sense of foreboding, and of an otherworldly threat, saturate the story, but the mercenaries are lone-wolf types who just do the jobs they’re hired to do.  The desert setting is gritty, vast, and lonely, well-suited to the bleak mood.

Yet, the ending has a tiny, tiny shred of hope, both for the characters and for humanity.  It’s not happy by any stretch, but there is that hope.  There’s also some black humor throughout which helps to balance the dark imagery.

If you like gory horror with great action, monsters, and an intense mood, give this one a try this Halloween!   There’s also a lot to like if you’re a fan of vintage Stephen King–the tone and themes are pretty similar.

 

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Halloween Read: “You Should Have Left” by Daniel Kehlmann

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Claustrophobic and bizarre, and super creepy! Daniel Kehlmann’s You Should Have Left is a very tightly written and strange horror story.

Our narrator is a screenwriter with a bad case of writer’s block.  He’s spending a few days in a rented house in the mountains with this wife and daughter.  He’s keeping a notebook of ideas and false starts for his screenplay.  Soon, though, weird things start to happen.  Strange shadows appear.  Things he doesn’t remember writing end up in his notebook.  And, as is traditional, the locals are very weird about the house he’s rented and look at him funny when he’s in town.

The first-person format allows you to go crazy right along with our narrator.  What is actually going on?  Is this all actually happening?  Is he truly going crazy?  Or is he right, and the house is haunted?

That isn’t quite right.  It’s not the house that’s haunted.  It’s the place.  The very ground where the house is built is just one of those weird, off-kilter places where human beings don’t belong.  That idea is a striking one, and kind of reminds me of those creepily weird stories about missing people and staircases in the woods on Reddit.

Read this in one sitting in a quiet room to get the atmosphere and tension just right!

Halloween Read: “Brother” by Ania Ahlborn

 

Brother

This story is absolutely heartbreaking on top of being dreadfully creepy.  Brother is about a deeply, deeply dysfunctional and warped family dynamic.  The cannibalism is nearly incidental, though Ahlborn certainly doesn’t skimp on that side of the story.

Michael Morrow is different than the rest of his family.  He wants to get out of Appalachia someday.  He wants to have a normal life.  He doesn’t want to be a monster.  But his brother, Rebel, is determined to keep Michael in the family.  And he won’t stop at anything to teach Michael his place.

The ending is a kick in the gut.  There are tons of kicks to the gut in this story.  You’re on Michael’s side even as you cringe at him.  His situation seems so hopeless.  The sense of inevitable tragedy runs all through this novel.

If you liked the movie We Are What We Are (and I sure did!), you should give Brother a try.

 

Halloween Staff Picks

Halloween Staff Picks

You know what I read when Halloween-time rolls around.  You probably know more than you want to.  So below you can discover what other librarians here read during October.  I opened the field to any kind of autumnal read, not just horror.  Not everyone enjoys Horror, as we have discussed during previous Halloweens.

Cayla always thinks of Anne of Green Gables around this time of year, and the fitting quote, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!”

As a kid, Sarah enjoyed a little book called Spooky Tricks, perfect for planning just the right trick in case you don’t get a treat on Halloween night.  You can learn to make a ghost on the wall!

Diane went for classic frights with Edgar Allan Poe (particularly “The Tell-Tale Heartand The Cask of Amontillado”) and Rod Serling’s scripts for The Twilight Zone–“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” being one that stuck with her.  As far as Halloween viewing goes these days, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and From Hell are must-watch every year!

What’s Halloween frights without some childhood trauma?  Loraine recalls reading Six Months to Live by Lurlene McDaniels at a very impressionable age–it’s about a thirteen-year-old girl who is diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live.  Yikes.

We’re two weeks from Halloween, so it’s time to buckle down and get your spooky or autumn reading on before the big day!

 

 

 

 

Halloween Watch: “What We Do in the Shadows”

What the what?  What We Do In the Shadows didn’t win the Bram Stoker Award?  Seriously?

I hope this fawning blog post is some small comfort to all those involved with the film.

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To be fair, technically the Bram Stoker award is for a written screenplay, not just a really cool, original, and funny idea.  If there was an award for that, this movie would win.

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What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary about four vampires in Wellington, New Zealand.  As one of them explains, not all vampires like to live in spooky old castles.  Some prefer a flatting situation with other vampires in small countries like New Zealand.  There’s a loose plot, involving the lead-up to a big vampire social event, but mostly the movie is a documentary film crew following the vampires around as they go about their business, eventually including an accidental new recruit.  And a pack of werewolves.  And a nemesis simply called The Beast.

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It’s hilarious and charming, and looks fantastic–the vampires’ flat is kind of shabby and old and filled with antiques.  The characters are wonderful.  The flatmates include Viago, an uptight 18th century dandy; Vladislav, a vampire since the Middle Ages who once had a thing for torture; Deacon, the “young bad boy of the group” at 183; and Peytr, a Nosferatu-type who is 8,000 years old and rarely leaves the basement.

Really, this is the cutest vampire comedy you will ever watch.  Every bit of blood and every horror trope is played for laughs. Give it a try at this year’s Halloween party!

You can watch the first couple of minutes on YouTube for a sense of the style and humor!

Halloween Read: Two by Susan Hill

The Man in the Picture and The Small Hand today on a ghost story double feature!

Both of these tales are little gems of revenge from beyond the grave.  In The Man in the Picture, a mysterious painting of a Venetian scene becomes a tool for malice.  And in The Small Hand, a ghost reaches out of the past and quite literally touches someone.

Hill has a very elegant but spare style that suits these stories well.  Both employ lots of wonderful tension-building and atmosphere, and a fantastic sense of the strange and foreboding.  They’re slim stories, and Hill manages to pack a lot into a small frame in each one.

There’s a sort of dusty old feel to these, as if you’ve uncovered a box in an attic with a lot of forgotten, oddball items inside.  And then those items somehow unleash the supernatural on you.

Pick these stories up this October if you like barely-there scares and old-fashioned strange tales.  They’re straightforward ghost stories with some elegant layering, perfect for an afternoon during the witching season.

Halloween Read: “This House is Haunted” by John Boyne

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A lovely, old-style ghost story, with echoes of Dickens and James.  Perfect if you’re in the mood for a Halloween read with a classic feel.  It’s old-fashioned and creepy, relying on a sense of foreboding to up the scares.

Following the death of her father, Eliza Caine takes a governess position at Gaudlin Hall in Norfolk.  Right away, the strangeness begins–there are no adults anywhere at the Hall, and the children have run through several governesses.  Something is clearly very wrong.  The more Eliza learns about the history of the house and its family, the more dangerous the situation becomes.  Eliza must figure out how to stop whatever force is in the Hall before she and the children become victims.

This story is very rooted in its time and place (London and Norfolk in 1867), so you might enjoy it as an historical novel as well.  The atmosphere is rich, and it’s poignant and melancholy on top of being creepy–as the best ghost stories are.