Tag Archives: Horror

Flickering Hope: A Review of Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Book cover for Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel by Seth Tucker. Black and white image on cover is of a large house on an overcast, winter day. Title: Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel

Author: Seth Tucker

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 25, 2013

Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 27 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

A murder in Whitechapel is not uncommon, but the state of the body requires someone more adept at unusual crime than Scotland Yard. Richard Rex, agent of the Queen, must track down this supernatural killer. Can he find it before it claims more victims?

Review:

How would you fight a monster whose speciality was hunting down folks just like you?

The world building was so well done in this story that after a few scenes I assumed I’d accidentally wandered into the middle of a series. While this didn’t seem to be the case after all, I was still impressed with how much detail the author packed into what this supernatural version of London was like as well as what his characters had been up to months and even years before the first scene began. It was thrilling to learn about this world. At times I forgot I was reading altogether because of how absorbed I was in what might happen next!

My first impression of Richard also turned out to be incorrect.  He felt a little too good to be true when I first met him, and I briefly wondered if he was exaggerating his kind deeds to the audience a bit to win us over. I soon realized that his wholesome image was legitimate. While he was a certainly a man of his time, especially when it came to how he interacted with people who didn’t share his station in life, those scenes only endeared me to him more. He wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but he was an admirable one.

The ending was everything I hoped it would be and more. I enjoyed the way Mr. Tucker tied up all of the important loose ends in this case while also leaving room for a sequel. Based on how much work he put into creating Richard and the other characters, my fingers are crossed that someday I’ll get to read more about them. There certainly seemed to be plenty of material to work with when it came to the lives they’d built so far as well as the hopefully wonderful things that might await them in the future.

Richard Rex & the Succubus of Whitechapel was a rollocking good time. If anything in this review tickled your fancy, do give it a try!

Suburban Gothic: A Review of The House on Abigail Lane

Book cover for The House on Abigail Lane by Kealan Patrick Burke. Image on cover is of a house that has all of its windows illuminated by light on a dark night. It is sitting next to a garden filled with sunflowers, one of which has a human-like eye in the centre of it staring straight ahead at the reader. Title: The House on Abigail Lane

Author: Kealan Patrick Burke

Publisher: Elderlemon Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: June 17, 2020

Genres: Science Fiction, Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 68 pages

Source: I bought it.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb:

From the outside, it looks like an ordinary American home, but since its construction in 1956, people have vanished as soon as they go upstairs, the only clues the things they leave behind: a wedding ring, a phone…an eye.

In its sixty-year history, a record number of strange events have been attributed to the house, from the neighbors waking up to find themselves standing in the yard outside, to the grieving man who vanished before a police officer’s eyes. The animals gathering in the yard as if summoned. The people who speak in reverse. The lights and sounds. The music. The grass dying overnight…and the ten-foot clown on the second floor.

And as long as there are mysteries, people will be compelled to solve them.

Here, then, is the most comprehensive account of the Abigail House phenomenon, the result of sixty years of eyewitness accounts, news reports, scientific research, and parapsychological investigations, all in an attempt to decode the enduring mystery that is…

…THE HOUSE ON ABIGAIL LANE.

Review:

Evil comes in many forms.

This short story was heavily plot driven. The mystery of why people from many different walks of life kept disappearing at Abigail House permeated every scene, and it didn’t give away any hints about what the answer may be at first. I liked the fact that the audience was left in the dark in the beginning. It made the last few scenes even more exciting.

While I definitely wasn’t expecting the characters to have quiet, introspective moments, I do wish I’d gotten to know them better. There were times when it was hard for me to emotionally connect with the latest poor soul who found themselves working, visiting, or living at this location because of how quickly the house cycled through its victims. No sooner were they introduced than many of them met their fates.

I’m saying that as someone who was deliciously terrified of this setting. Few things are more frightening to me than a place where horrible things happen for reasons that none of the characters have yet to figure out nd therefore have no way to predict or prevent. Had I been able to bond with at least some of the victims, this would have been the perfect read for this horror fan.

If there’s anything about the suburbs that gives you a gnawing sense of discomfort, The House on Abigail Lane might help to explain why.

Never the Same Again: A Review of The Cured

Film poster for The Cured. There are three characters on the poster. Two are former zombies, and one is the sister-in-law of one of them.Content warning: Blood, violence, the death of a child, mental illness, and trauma. I will be mentioning these topics in my review.

The Cured is a 2017 Irish horror drama about former zombies being reintegrated into society after being cured of their disease.

While there are some violent scenes in it, this film is much more about how society stitches itself back together after a pandemic has ripped everything apart.

In short, this wasn’t about watching characters get hurt. It was about how everyone dealt with the traumatic aftermath of this sort of event several years after order was restored and everyone went back to work and school.

I’ve never seen a zombie film focus on this part of that story arc before. It was so unique that I had to watch this despite rarely being into zombies or post-apocalyptic fiction these days.

The character list is quite small this time because the vast majority of the scenes centred on this one family and how they coped.

Characters

Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne
Sam Keeley (right) as Senan Browne

Senan Browne was a former zombie who was cured. He was deeply traumatized by his experiences and struggled to find any sense of normality even after he was deemed to no longer be a threat to society.

After his release from the treatment centre, he was sent to live with his sister-in-law, Abbie, and young nephew, Cillian, who can be partially seen in Senan’s arms in the above photo.

Senan’s social worker assigned him to work as a porter at the same treatment centre that cured him. He was such a quiet, withdrawn man that I really wondered how he’d respond to this work environment.

Ellen Page as Abbie
Ellen Page as Abbie (Abigail) Reynolds

 

Abbie was Senan’s sister-in-law. Cillian is her son. Her husband, Luke, died early on in the zombie outbreak, so she raised her son alone in a violent and unpredictable environment.

She was just as traumatized as her brother-in-law, but she expressed it in completely different ways. Abbie was hyper-aware of everything going on around her and insisted on always knowing where her loved ones were for obvious reasons.

My Review

This is one of those rare zombie films that I’d wholeheartedly recommend to people who hate that genre. The zombies could easily have been substituted for real-world issues like pandemics or war and come to almost the same conclusion. It was the characters’ reactions to them that pushed the plot forward in the vast majority of cases.

Actually living through a zombie attack would be traumatizing for anyone, and the plot did an excellent job of showing how the two main characters reacted both in the moment and several years later when they were safe and together again.  Both of them showed clear signs of mental illness as a result of these experiences, including flashbacks, panic attacks, guilt, rage, anxiety, mood swings, serious trouble focusing, and avoidance of things that reminded them of those terrible days. All of these scenes were handled sensitively.

Senan’s experiences had been unique ones. Without giving too much information away, life for people in his position was extremely difficult. Not only did he have to deal with prejudice and mistreatment from people who’d survived the initial outbreak without being turned, he also had to come to terms with what he’d done while he was a zombie. The social commentary on how we treat people whose choices have disgusted and terrified us was filled with food for thought. It almost reminded me of how some folks responded to people who had AIDS in the 1980s or to people who abuse drugs in the present day.

It would have been nice to see more time spent on the backstories of Abbie and of the doctor who cured Senan. Both of these women gave small hints about their experiences during the zombiepocalypse, but there was so much more room there for development. Yes, Senan had a unique tale to tell, but so did a woman who kept her baby alive for four years as a single parent in such a harrowing environment as well as a doctor who bravely treated and eventually cured many of the zombies while paying a terrible price for her courage.

I liked the way this film explored how Senan’s life  had been forever altered by their pasts. Finally having a cure is by no means the same as an outbreak never occurring at all. While he had found a new sense of normalcy, he’d never be able to forget the events that set his story into motion in the first place.

I’d recommend The Cured to anyone who likes dramas.

(If you decide to watch the trailer below before watching this film, do keep in mind that it gives away some big plot twists. Someday I should write a post about why trailers shouldn’t do that!)

The Cured is available on Netflix.

Unlikely Gleaning: A Review of Harvest

Harvest - A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch book cover. Image on cover is of silhoutte of man with a pumpkin for a head walking in a pumpkin field while a full moon glows behind him. I’d like to thank Berthold Gambrel for reviewing this book and bringing it to my attention.

Title: Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch

Author: Jason H. Abbott

Publisher: Blue Boar Press

Publication Date: October 7, 2019

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Holidays

Length: 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Equal parts eerie, humorous and heartwarming, Harvest is a short story of down-home fantasy and a fairytale for grown-ups best told in the dark…

With whimsical humor and eccentric fantasy dappled in darkness, fans of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett will enjoy this short tale of kindness found in odd places. If quirky characters with a country twang and a fairytale detoured to the pumpkin patch sound good to you, then Harvest will surely prove an entertaining read!

Review:

It’s not every day that horror and humour coexist in the same plot.

Imagine waking up in a pumpkin field and not being able to see or speak. That idea sure made me shudder, especially once Edgar (the protagonist) realized that his head felt like a pumpkin instead of flesh and bone.

What intrigued me even more about it was the fact that this scene was written humorously even more than it was meant to frighten anyone. If horror isn’t a genre you typically read, consider giving this a try anyway. While there was one scary moment near the beginning, the plot has so much else going on in it that I think it will appeal to a lot of different reading demographics.

Sometimes this felt like the opening chapter of a long fantasy novel. There were hints sprinkled here and there to explain what was going on with Edgar’s head and how other folks were dealing with the strange phenomenon on this farm. They quickly coalesced into a surprisingly thorough explanation of how this world worked, especially given the fact that the author had less than twenty pages to work with.

While I was satisfied with what the narrator revealed, I also wanted more. I enjoyed the way the author wrote a short, encapsulated story that also left a lot of room for readers to come up with our own theories about what might happen to the Edgar and Emelia, the woman who helped him, next.

The fairy tale elements of the storyline are best left to new readers to discover for themselves. As much as I want to gush about them, they’re revealed late enough that I don’t want to share any plot twists. Let’s just say that this is a truly magical farm where anything can happen.

Do note that the full blurb for this tale contains spoilers, so reader beware if you’re like me and prefer to be surprised by a book.

If you love Halloween or the fantasy genre, I highly recommend checking out Harvest – A Short Story from the Pumpkin Patch.

 

Dodging Doppelgängers: A Review of Us

Film poster for Us. Image on poster is a photograph of one of the main characters holding a mask that is identical to their face. Their real face is crying. Content warning: mental illness, blood, violence, and trauma.

Us is a 2019 American horror film about a family who was terrorized by their doppelgängers while they were on what was supposed to be a peaceful beach vacation.

It was directed by Jordan Peele, the same director who released Get Out in 2017.

This is one of those films that works best in my opinion if you know as little about the storyline in advance as possible.

For this reason, my review is going to skirt the fine line between avoiding all spoilers and still managing to discuss the important social messages in this story.

Save this post to read after you’ve finished watching Us if you’re the sort of viewer who wants to know nothing at all about it in advance.

For everyone else, this will be a 99% spoiler-free review.

Characters

Lupita Nyong'o as Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson (née Thomas)

 

Adelaide had never fully recovered from a traumatic childhood experience she had at the same beach her family now wants to visit on their vacation. Her hyper-vigilance and flashbacks were now threatening to derail the cheerful trip her husband and kids had been looking forward to for so long.

She was an intelligent, dedicated person who always thought through every possible scenario before making a decision.

 

Winston Duke as Gabriel "Gabe" Wilson
Winston Duke as Gabriel “Gabe” Wilson

 

Gabriel was Adelaide’s fun-loving husband. He had a trusting, kind personality and usually looked for the best interpretation of possibly unsettling events.

Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson

 

Zora was Adelaide and Gabriel’s exasperated teenage daughter. She was just a little too old now to still fully enjoy family vacations, especially when they involved a cottage that didn’t have Internet access.

Her hobbies included jogging and googling everything before she believed it.

 

Evan Alex as Jason Wilson
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson

 

Jason was Adelaide and Gabriel’s son. He was approximately ten years old and still thought family beach vacations were the highlight of the summer.

His hobbies included practicing magic tricks and pushing the limits on which words his parents would add to their list of forbidden swear words if he said them with the right intonation.

 

Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler

 

Kitty was Adelaide’s saucy childhood friend who always spoke her mind. Her hobbies included finding the humour in everything and dreaming of what her life would have been like if she’d waited until she was older to become a mother.

 

Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler

 

Josh was Kitty’s husband. Finding the right drink for every occasion was his favourite hobby. I understood him as someone who genuinely enjoyed alcohol but who did not have an unhealthy dependency on it. He simply loved the challenge of matching drinks to people’s moods and current activities.

My Review

Some of the films I’ve reviewed in the past can be watched while doing other things that briefly take your attention away from the screen. The first clue about what was really happening here technically popped up before the first scene even started, so I strongly recommend giving this your full attention from beginning to end. In other words, grab your snacks and mute your cellphone ahead of time!

Adelaide clutching her children in fearOne of my favourite type of horror is anything that comes embedded with a social message. The preview for this film makes it look like a slasher flick. While there were certainly elements of that horror genre, there was a lot of thought-provoking material that couldn’t be included in that clip for spoiler reasons.

I find it difficult to say much about what that social message was or why it was so thought-provoking because of how late in the storyline it was fully revealed. What I can say is that it is a good idea to have a basic grasp of U.S. history before watching Us if you’re not already familiar with it. Don’t worry about memorizing dates or names or anything like that. Just get a feel for how that country was founded and how it’s developed over the past few hundred years.

This was the sort of story that can be interpreted in multiple ways. There are at least four of them, and maybe more than that depending on which viewers are polled. Don’t worry, I won’t be listing those theories here. What I will say is that the plot gives varying levels of evidence for all of them and I personally suspect more than one of them is right. (Maybe all of them are right!)

The doppelgängers were simultaneously frightening and fascinating. Yes, there were  logical reasons given for their existences. Somehow figuring out what those reasons were only made them scarier to me. I really liked the way they quickly evolved from generic bad guys into something much more than that.

Gabriel and Adelaide singing in the car. There was one subplot that I wish had been given more attention and development. It involved the inclusion of rabbits of all things. I still haven’t been able to figure out why that particular animal was added to such a dark storyline. It’s a minor criticism of something I really enjoyed, but I do wish they’d either been cut out of the plot altogether or, even better, given more opportunities to get tied in with everything else.

The characters occasionally pivoted from terrifying experiences to brief moments of humour. That was a pleasant surprise, and it was one of the many reasons why I enjoyed Us so much.

So long as none of the content warnings involve things that you personally avoid watching, I recommend Us to all adult viewers.

 

Us is available on Crave and Apple TV.

Love and Regret: A Review of The Curse of La Llorona

Content warning: deaths of children. I will be discussing this in my review.  The Curse of La Llorona is an American 2019 supernatural horror film set in 1973 about a mother who tries to save her children from a malevolent spirit who is trying to keep them for herself. La Llorona, or The Weeping Woman, is… Read More

Satirical Thanksgiving: A Review of Addams Family Values

Content warning: Childbirth and dark humour. I will go into detail about the latter in this review.  Addams Family Values is a 1993 fantasy comedy film about a macabre but loving family who is trying to rescue their uncle from his new girlfriend who has a dark past and may have ulterior motives for dating… Read More

Rural Frights: A Review of Cabin for Rent

Title: Cabin for Rent – A Short Horror Story Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: February 19, 2018 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary Length: 19 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Learn about the macabre history of the cabin on the lake, as you take a… Read More

A Review of A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories 

Title: A Bit of Pickled Pumpkin and Other Short Horror Stories Author: B.A. Loudon Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: September 12, 2019 Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary Length: 45 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Review: In this collection of stories, all is not what it seems…Broken… Read More

A Review of Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead 

Title: Friends Don’t Let Friends Be Undead Author: Seth Tucker Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: November 17, 2014 Genres: Science Fiction, Horror, Contemporary Length: 62 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3.5 Stars Blurb: Three days after her husband dies, Lily is shocked to see him staring at her from outside… Read More