Halloween Read: Two by Susan Hill

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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.

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Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

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I used a Creepypasta name generator to come up with this year’s title, as I’m sure countless horror movie screenwriters have done before me.  The title I used is the one that made me laugh first.  (“Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Pull My Finger” was runner-up)

I started my creepy reading nice and early this season, so I’ve got a whole bunch of favorite freaky reads for you this time around.  There are some ghost stories, some haunted houses, some cannibals, some crazy VHS tapes, and some cartoon kids solving mysteries.  I think this year’s list covers a broad area of different kinds of Horror, so no matter what your taste, you might find something you like here!

Several of these will have posts of their own this month, so stay tuned!  This list is also up on the Suggested Reading section of the blog, which you can find here.  If you’re the type who must enjoy things in order, you can begin with the very first Marie’s Favorite Scary Books and work your way up.

Marie’s Favorite Scary Books Part VI: Get Freaky

Brother by Ania Ahlborn
It’s obvious fairly early on that this family is a family of cannibals.  But the story is tragic and gruesome and sad, with one of the most downer endings I’ve ever read.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
Creepy and weird.  It’s extremely unsettling, particularly if you’ve got a vivid imagination.

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
A taut and atmospheric tale of revenge.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne
A deliciously old-fashioned ghost story, with shades of The Turn of the Screw.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
Atmospheric and disturbing, a great tale of monsters and science in the 19th century.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
A delightful mix of weird fiction and horror, with plenty of truly unsettling images and stories.

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Scooby Doo meets Lovecraft in this comedy of horrors, all about a crack team of kid detectives who have grown up and have one last mystery to solve.

 

Halloween Watch: “Over the Garden Wall”

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Just as everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is from New England on Halloween.

The colors, the graveyard imagery, the artwork, the historical touches, the sense of folklore.  Over the Garden Wall (created by Patrick McHale) evokes New England in the autumn beautifully, with all the melancholy and wistfulness of the season.

over the garden wall

There’s nostalgia, beautiful animation, wonderful songs, scary bits, and a touching story. It’s also jam-packed with references and jokes.  On repeated viewings you realize how intricate Over the Garden Wall really is, how the stories and themes and images feed into one another and build upon each other.

The story: Greg and Wirt are lost in a forest, and they need to find their way back home.  Along the way they encounter several strange people and a few threatening ones.  Each installment is stand-alone, and only lasts ten or fifteen minutes.  By the end they string together a complete story, which I will not spoil at all for you because you should go in knowing as little as possible.

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Like the best folktales, you can come up with your own meaning and lessons from Over the Garden Wall.  You can also take away a survey course in animation history, which is pretty awesome.

It’s only three years old, and already it’s a Halloween classic.  Give it a watch this year!

 

 

 

 

IT’S OCTOBER!

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its-october

Welcome to our 6th Annual Horror Month, fellow Halloweenies!  For the month of October the blog will be devoted to all things Horror and Halloween.  Check back often for suggested reading, viewing, the latest installment of Marie’s Scary Reads, and much more!

…no, not much more.  That’s about it, really.

But Happy Horror Month all the same!

Halloween

 

Please join me in singing along to our traditional Horror Month opening number:

 

Not-So-Horrific-Horror: “Security” by Gina Wohlsdorf

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Okay, that’s a lie.  It’s pretty horrific for a thriller.  I’m talking blood, slashers, more blood, chase scenes, Michael Myers costumes, and yet more blood.  But it’s not straight-up Horror so I’m putting in the Not-So-Horrific category.

It’s also a quick, compelling read, so you might even finish it before the big day tomorrow!

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Manderley, an expensive luxury hotel, is in the final stages of preparation before its grand opening.  Several employees are inside the building.  There’s also an unexpected early guest–a knife-wielding murderer who takes out the employees one by one.  And all the while, a mysterious first-person narrator is watching everything on Manderley’s state of the art security system.

It’s a very complex book stylistically–the formatting of a page will sometimes reflect all of the many things going on in different cameras, to different characters.  Black humor and a love story play out against the gory backdrop.

Really, I’m not kidding you.  Gory.  Blood in the elevators, bodies in the bathtubs, bits  of employee strewn around various rooms.  But even so, the characters are wonderful and the story is so compelling you get past it.

The narrator is revealed slowly over the course of the story.  As the story unfolds and you learn more about the narrator and his background, as well as his present circumstances, you realize how elegant and original the “twist” is.

Enjoy, and see you tomorrow, pals!  I’m putting candy out again this year, so come on down to the library!

–Marie

 

 

Seven Days Until Halloween!

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If, like my husband, you can read at the speed of a maglev bullet train, you probably have plenty of time to read several scary books between now and Halloween.  If, like me, you read roughly at the pace of a sleepy tortoise, you should have a creepy back-up plan.

Watch a movie!

Each of these movies won a Bram Stoker Award for Best Screenplay.  I took the summaries from the Internet Movie Database, parentheticals are mine.  Here are my personal top 3 faves from the awards list:

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2014: THE BABADOOK (JENNIFER KENT)–A single mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.  (atmospheric old-style horror, with plenty of creeping madness and a sympathetic lead)

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2012: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (JOSS WHEDON AND DREW GODDARD–Five friends go for a break at a remote cabin in the woods, where they get more than they bargained for. Together, they must discover the truth behind the cabin in the woods. (I wrote a whole post about this! Read it here)

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2004: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (SIMON PEGG AND EDGAR WRIGHT)–A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.  (this duo can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned.  This movie is funny, smart, scary, and moving, with great actors filling every role)

If you need more ideas, check out Daniel Kraus over at Booklist.  He wrote two of my favorite scary books, Rotters and Scowlerand for the past several years he’s run the “31 Horror Films in 31 Days” Challenge. Great suggestions there!

 

Halloween Read: “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix

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You might remember Grady Hendrix from such quirky horror novels as Horrorstor, in which retail employees fend off ghosts and torture devices in a big box store.  In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, a night of drugs and skinny-dipping leads to demonic possession.

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Abby and Gretchen have been friends since they were kids.  But now that they’re in high school, something between them has shifted.  Gretchen’s acting awfully weird, and despite everyone saying it’s just a teenage girl phase, Abby’s convinced it’s something much darker than that.  And she’s willing to do anything to save her best friend.

This novel does a lot less with framing than Horrorstor, but the yearbook endpages are spot-on gold.  And the exorcism scene toward the end is suitably disturbing and moving.  Hendrix is great with blending creepiness, action, and humor, and it’s all used to very good effect here.

At its heart, this is the story of a friendship, and that core holds the novel together.  You really care about Abby and Gretchen, and you want their friendship to succeed against all odds.  Possession works incredibly well as a metaphor for adolescence, and while Hendrix doesn’t beat you over the head with it, that element plays a big part in the story.

If you like 80’s flicks and possession stories, give this one a try!

–Marie