Monday, October 17, 2011

I Want To Thank You by Vivian Vande Velde

***(out of four stars)

This is another insanely short story by Vivian Vande Velde. This one is a bit shorter than Come in and Cast a Spell. Somebody, probably a woman during the witch trials is narrating the story. The narrator is constantly thanking the unnamed character for saving her from the townsfolk. They get a bit hysterical during All Hallows' Eve. They want her dead. But this nice man is hiding her from the mob. Unfortunately, he won't let her go. There's a coffin in the basement, where the narrator is and she's now begging him to let her go. Maybe the coffin will be for her.

That's all to this story. It's short, sweet and too the point. I actually really liked this story. I liked that fact that this women is saved only to possibly meet an untimely fate. Vande Velde does a really good job with this short. It goes to show that although it's very short, there's still good story telling within the one and a half pages. The irony is creepy, but the story is equally compelling. Obviously a fast, fun read.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Pretending by Vivian Vande Velde

**(out of four stars)

Brian is taking Kyla to the Halloween dance. There's a full moon overhead and he seems to be lost travelling to her house. He actually likes Kyla but seems annoyed that she lives out in the sticks. He's a city boy and driving on back roads isn't his idea of a good time.

Kyla's family is a bit eccentric to say the least. They really take this Halloween thing seriously. Their dressed in vampire costumes - they even use the cheesy accents. "I vant to suck your blood". Kyla's brother, Trevor, tells Brian that he has a flat tire. Already running late for the dance, Brian is a bit annoyed. The flat tire situation must be fixed and Trevor is the man to do the job. Trevor, however, disappears.

Meanwhile, back at the house, Brian finds that Kyla is still not ready and the rest of the family has also vanished. A bunch of weird shit happens while Brian tries to sort his situation out. He's about ready to leave the house and call it quits with Kyla. A dead rat cooking in boiling hot water over the stove sends him in a bit of hysteria and makes his decision that much easier. If only he had that back tire fixed. Where the hell is Trevor?

Kyla finally yells for Brian and he goes up stairs to get her. But the spookiness continues as a dead body falls out of one of the bedroom doors. Startled, Brian falls down the stairs and is hurt pretty badly. The family insists that it was all a bad joke. Brian is convinced that they are vampires. Mr. Zolla (Kyla's dad) phones the police, but only pretends too. In the end, it's revealed that the family is NOT vampires but a pack of hungry werewolves. The reason why they had stalled him the entire evening was because they were waiting for the full moon to rise.

This story was pretty cool, but a bit on the predictable side. References of the full moon give it away early on in the story. The characters themselves are also predictable. The Zolla family was way too weird. You knew that eventually they'd turn out to be the villains. Nice little story, but a little too predicable. I hated Brian. He's foolish. Why not just ditch the whole idea and phone a friend to get him the hell out of there? Brian's first date with Kyla is his last one. Because he's a moron.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Best Friends by Vivian Vande Velde

*(out of four stars)

This story is told with letters from two young women. Our characters are Aimee Ann and Nikki. Nikki and Aimee Ann come from two different families. Nikki comes from somewhat of a broken home; while Aimee Ann has a much more suited (and normal) teenage lifestyle.

Even though Nikki loves her best friend she doesn't blame Amiee Ann for her death. Amiee Ann did push her in front of a moving vehicle, but hey, it was all out of fun. No harm done. Nikki, in death, is making Amiee Ann pay though. She won't let her bestie forget her that easily. She's got the power to move things now. She plans on pushing her friend down the stairs so they can be best friends again, in the after life. After all, Nikki explains to us that death is quite lonely and why not try to mend that best friend status?

That's basically the story folks. The narrative was a little confusing; yet I found it original. Unfortunately, this story offers no "chills down your spine" as promised. Maybe it's because I'm a 29 year old man reading teen horror stories. I dunno. This story is the second weakest entry if you ask me. And although I'm not through with this entire book, I'm hoping the others step it up a notch. You can't win 'em all.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Cemetery Field Trip by Vivian Vande Velde

***(out of four stars)

Mrs. Hurston's ninth grade class is going on a field trip. A Cemetery field trip on the scariest day of the year... Halloween. The school kids are given specific rules such as: Don't embarrass the school, Don't Litter, don't damage shit, don't damage each other and don't get lost. Simple rules right? How about not fucking with the dead? That's one rule I'd take into effect.

The cemetery is old. Victorian style. Mrs. Hurston walks the students around while talking about how certain flowers resemble that of the dead. They stop at a fountain and see some old "homeless guy" just hanging out; staring at the youths. They think nothing of it and continue the tour.

Janelle is our main character. She hardly seems interested. She eventually loses contact with the rest of the class because she hears a kitten meowing somewhere by an old mausoleum. She investigates and notices that the lock has been cut off. Did the kitten venture in there? She continues searching and at this point I'm asking myself why she even gives a shit. The mausoleum holds the Balsen family. Janelle is easily stirred because now her mind seems to be playing tricks on her. She often wonders if it's a little baby in the mausoleum instead of a kitten. If it was a child in there, with all those dead bodies, she'd surely have to help out. She walks into the crypt, still with that horrible cry or whine or meow. On the floor, just past the door lies a tweed coat. The same attire that she had seen the homeless man wearing earlier. The door closes behind her and she realizes that the homeless man now has her trapped inside. He was the one making those weird cries, or meows. She fears for her life. But the family of ghosts lying dormant in that crypt help her and kill the homeless bum. The ghosts tell her to go; her life is saved.

Janelle never repeats the story to anyone. Instead she finds out on the news that a homeless man had died in the mausoleum of natural causes.

For quite a while I had no idea where this story was going. I felt that it moved rather slowly. The last few pages are pretty killer though and I love the climax of this short. I never feared ghosts as much as I did the living. And with this story is was the homeless bum. I wonder if he ever lead any other helpless victims into the crypt. A serial killer killing in a cemetery? I like that concept very much. Had this story simply followed a ghost plot I probably would've past it off as a boring story. The thought of the dead coming back to help a would-be victim is very interesting and not at all that boring. Vande Velde has this way of setting up the story rather slowly, then hitting you with a good twist ending.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Horrifics - Now Fear This - CD Review

****(out of four stars)
1. The Overlook
2. Uzumaki
3. That Which Lurks
4. Forever The Night
5. Under My Knife
6. This Hungry Suffering
7. In Dark Descent
8. Do You Remember Hate?!
9. SCAREcrow Fields
10. Go! Go! Godzilla
11. Hell-O Mary Lou
12. Target Earth
13. Dead Kidz
14. Fury Of The Goat-Man
15. R.I.P
16. Shadowcaster
17. The Overlook (Reprise)

I received this Cd in the mail about five years ago. I was over on myspace (remember that place?) and I sent a friend request to Boo Gruesome, singer and partial songwriter for the band. After hearing some tracks on their myspace page I was hooked, but I wanted a little more to chew on, so I ordered the CD, which also came with patches, pins, flyers and stickers. Man, they hooked me up!

I'll admit that before I bought this album I was never a big punk fan. But I love when bands use horror as a main theme to the music. It's the best of both worlds if you ask me. Like I said, after listening to a few of their tracks, I just had to hear more.

I'm really not too educated with a lot of punk so I have nothing to reference them next to. I just know what I hear and if I like it then so be it. The album is fast; as expected, but some of the songs are a bit slower paced, which in my opinion balances this album out nicely.

The album starts out in a fury. Songs like Uzumaki, That Which Lurks and Under My Knife are quick in pace and drive a dagger to the soul immediately. Boo Gruesome's vocals are memorable and stand out from most of the Horror Punk bands out there. Some of my other favorites include, Shadowcaster, SCAREcrow Fields and This Hungry Suffering. I can honestly say that listening to this album from front to back is how I enjoy it the most. There's really not a weak track on the album. I never expected nor did I anticipate this album being this good. However, at the time I wanted something new and fresh to listen to. I will also state that you'll get the best out of this if you listen during this wonderful Halloween season. Now Fear This correlates well with Halloween and October.

Even if you're not into punk, and you like horror, check this record out. The musicianship between the four members is really tight and the sound of the album is crisp and clean. It's not garage style. There's a great professional quality to it. I'm not saying that I hate the raw, demo style. (in fact, I'd love to hear some of The Horrifics demo stuff, which I heard is floating out there somewhere).

A great album that mixes punk and some horror. You can't get any better. Except if it's horror and METAL! Either way, they go great together. If you love the two (and I know you do), check this fucker out!

Only on All Hallows' Eve by Vivian Vande Velde

**(out of four stars)

Martin lives in Farnham, a place where nothing exciting ever happens. His cousin, Raleigh, is too wrapped up with his girlfriend, Lissa. At one time Raleigh and Martin were close, always up for a good prank to pull on someone. It seems now that Martin is left to his own vices.

Much like most small towns, small talk and rumors seem to be the most interesting thing going on. One such rumor was of Old Man Tomlin, who one day, just up and left his wife, Elfirda. It was said that Tomlin left to join the army and after some time of not returning it was thought that he may have died as a soldier.

Meanwhile a preacher, Brother Wade comes to town and talks about how the souls in purgatory will rise on All Hallows' Eve and ascend to the heavens. And during that sermon Elfirda looked awful distraught. Would she finally get to see her missing husband as he went up to the pearly gates? Was he even dead?

Elfirda is kind of an old naggy women and Martin gets the bright idea that he'll dress up like her husband and scare her on All Hallows' Eve. He wants Raleigh to join him, but the boy turns him down and thinks it's a bad, distasteful prank. Martin decides to go through with the prank all by his lonesome. He dresses up to look like a ghost and goes up to Elfirda's house.

Once he's up there he begins hooting and howling like a ghost; tapping on the walls, trying to scare the old woman. It's apparent that either she's not home or she's just ignoring the prank. But what Martin fails to realize is Elfirda sneaking up behind him. It's too late, as she brings a rock crashing down upon his head. Her final words are, "Drat, I killed you once and pushed your body in the stream to rid myself of you. Why would I want to say goodbye again?"

I very much liked the twist ending. Elfirda proves to be a murderous wife and now poor Martin, who she supposes is her husband, is dead. It kind of reminded me of a Tales from the Crypt episode where the villain seems to always get what's coming to him. A morality play of sorts.

I'm not entirely sure at what point in history this story comes from. The dialogue and the writing makes me think of some where in the past, maybe the Victorian era? It was a pretty fast read and made my bowel movement an enjoyable one. Again the characters are paper thin, but the back story is what interested me and kept the pages turning. I feel that Vande Velde does a pretty good job with keeping the important points of the story prevalent, while the characters seem secondary. I can live with that as long as the story comes to fruition with a decent ending.

Another pretty good story worth checking out.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Morgan Roehmar's Boys by Vivian Vande Velde

**1/2(out of four stars)

Morgan Roehmar's Boys by Vivian Vande Velde is yet another ghost story in her anthology book, All Hallows' Eve.

Ashley is working for a haunted hayride at Cristanis Family Farm. The hayride is located on the same spot, where decades earlier serial killer, Morgan Roehmar, killed and buried young men. Now the new owners have revamped the place and have no interest in rehashing the horrible events that once occurred on the property. They just want to have fun with the hayride during the most festive time of the year. A storm hits and the hayride is momentarily on hold. Soon, after a bout of lightning, Ashley's headset fails to work. What surrounds her is a bunch of fake props featuring dead bodies and such. But Ashley isn't alone in this barn. Somebody else is in there with her. With her headset out of whack, she begins to freak out once she starts to notice the ghost of a young man lingering about in the barn.

Ashley doesn't want to believe that the boy is a ghost. However, he is a ghost and he's talking with her, telling her that he was killed and that, although most of Roehmar's victims had been recovered, his body was never found. Vande Velde often brings up the question: Could a ghost still linger on, in the same form long after death?

I don't know. I can't answer that question.

But I can tell you that the story's final twist is pretty good. Poor trustworthy Ashley is lead over by the boy who turns out to be the resurrected serial killer, Morgan Roehmar. Roehmar has taken form of his seven or eight year old self. Ashley is strangled and killed. The serial killer anticipates more victims before the night is over.

There you have it. Yes, another ghost story delivered by Vivian Vande Velde. I've got to say this right off the bat. Some of these stories are for any type of reader. Although the subject matter in this one may be a little unsuitable for the "teen" readers. It's not really the story that's all that creepy but where the story derives from. After reading this I assume this story is heavily influenced by the murders of John Wayne Gacy, who like the fictitious Morgan Roehmar, actually tricked young boys into trusting him, tied them up, killed them - then buried them beneath the house where he lived. Gacy was put to death in 1994 (or '95, can't remember) and thankfully he has not been resurrected.

This story mainly focused on the basis of the farm's past. Although there wasn't much to the character's, Vande Velde does a good job of setting up Morgan's past. When Morgan was finally caught (after his girlfriend ratted on him) he commits suicide. The only question that I have is exactly how he became resurrected. Maybe I missed something. I'd have to say that if you're into these types of stories, check this one out. So far it's the better of the three that I've read.

Three stories down and ten more to go.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Marian by Vivian Vande Velde

**(out of four stars)

I'm continuing my journey through Vivian Vande Velde's anthology, All Hallows' Eve. As you know from the first review, I wasn't a huge fan of the first story, Come in and Rest a Spell. But I'm giving Miss Velde the benefit of the doubt. I know I'm bound to catch a good story within the pages of this book. And let me tell you, the second story is better.

Have you ever read in the newspaper about some smock who takes a wrong turn with a GPS system? I remember reading about some tool who actually listened to the GPS and parked his car on a set of train tracks. Let's just say he lived but the car was demolished by an oncoming train. The story I read last night kind of has the same scenario, but with a ghostly, supernatural twist.

It's Halloween night and Justin is just coming from a lame Halloween party. From the get go we can tell this kid is a douche bag. He's a careless driver and as he's leaving the apartment complex parking lot, he barrels over a speed bump. This triggers the car's GPS system, named Marian, to come to life. Justin had purchased the car a few months prior from some college kid looking to score a quick buck. The car isn't in the best of shape, so Justin is surprised to see that the GPS actually works. Marian has a sexy voice and will do anything to get Justin to his next destination; which is home. Marian is state-of-the-art and has pinpoint accuracy. Anywhere you need to be she'll get you there with the fastest route. Hell, she even helps you stay away from highways that are clogged with traffic and accidents.

Justin knows the area and obviously doesn't need to be assisted home. However, for the sake of just feeding into this machine, he obliges her and lets Marian lead the way.

Justin's car eventually stalls due to the vapor lock coupled with some bad antifreeze. In horror, he realizes that the car has stalled right on the tracks. A train is scheduled to pass by momentarily. Marian tells Justin that the car has to sit for a period of five minutes or so. When the car is supposed to be started this would give him a few precious seconds to start the car and get out of harms way from the oncoming train. It takes him a while and he gullible sits as he's instructed. Eventually he comes to the realization that Marian is purposely making him wait there; hoping that he meets an untimely fate.

The End of the story reveals that Marian is actually a ghost who has possessed the car's GPS. She was the victim of a careless drunk driver. The drunk driver who owned the car before Justin. Marian is ready to possess something else and possibly bring harm to another careless punk. Vengeance is her method of madness.

I really like the fact that this story had a ghost possessing the car's GPS. I mean, that is actually a really good, original idea. Why Justin listened to this GPS is beyond me. If you know your way around what would the point be? If he died in this story I wouldn't have felt bad. He just seemed like he was a pompous, arrogant character that I could care less about. A question I asked while reading was if Marian actually made the car stall in the first place. Premeditated murder by a ghost. Nice concept. One thing I really enjoyed was the short and precise way Vivian told this story. She didn't linger on and on about anything pointless. The story is smooth and it's a quick, fun read. Too bad Justin's experience wasn't as good as mine.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company


*Next story will be Morgan Roehmar's Boys*

Will the stories get better? I guess we'll find out!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Come in and Rest a Spell by Vivian Vande Velde

*(out of four stars)

Last year around this time, I was at some haunted house attraction and stopped into their little gift shop. I came upon this book of 13 short horror stories by an author named, Vivian Vande Velde. I've never read nor heard of her before, but any anthology based on Halloween will peak my interest. The book is called, All Hallows Eve. Since October is the greatest and most festive time of year, I'll certainly enjoy sharing some of these tales with you. And of course, I'll try and watch a film or two to review as well. Now, I haven't finished this book yet, so each review will come as I read them. I'm hoping to finish them all and write them up right here. But like I said, I've also got some movies to catch up on. Either way, it's gonna be fun.

The first story I'll review is the first one in this book. It's really short, seven pages to be exact, so this one will be brief.

Come in and Rest a Spell really has no depth. It's told by "Granny", a women who is concocting a potion for some girl, whom remains unnamed. The granny wishes to cast a spell for the young girl, so her crush will fall in love with her. All the while little old granny actually concocts a potion and poisons the girl. Now, granny will have the young man all to herself. Like she says at the end of the story, if the young man and granny are unhappy, well, she's also got a spell for that too.

That is literally the first story. There really isn't much more to it. I guess it's a slow opening and I'm hoping the remaining 12 stories have a little more to them. There really isn't much else to say about Come in and Rest a Spell. Sorry.

Author: Vivian Vande Velde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company