Archive for horror

A good thrill

Posted in All posts, On writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2008 by Trina

After last posting that I like to read, I thought I’d dedicate this post to my favorite writers. During my teenage years, I read romances and watched soaps. Eventually, I grew bored. Real life is not the happily ever after of romances, and I wanted more from the books I read. I discovered horror: Stephen King, and werewolf and vampire stories. I began to enjoy the excitement of a good scare. I also began collecting the works of Lawrence Sanders, Grisham and Crichton. After watching SILENCE OF THE LAMBS I realized that I liked psychological thrillers. I read the Hannibal series by Thomas Harris. Harris did such a good job developing Hannibal’s character that I found myself being repulsed and empathizing with Hannibal at the same time and wanting more. And so began my relationship with fictional serial killers and their catchers.

I also stumbled upon the genre of medical thrillers, thanks to Michael Palmer. The combination of medicine, science and suspense makes an awesome read. Looking for more medical thrillers, I discovered Tess Gerritsen. Gerritsen is one of my favorite authors because of the rich characters she creates, normal and flawed people who are interesting because of it. She writes from the point of view of killer, detective and medical examiner equally well. I especially like medical examiner Maura Isles’ character because she must deal with death on a daily basis, and yet is likable as a woman with insecurities like the rest of us. What I most like about Gerritsen is that she fully develops the autopsy scenes to give the reader medical details not found in any other thrillers I’ve read except for the work of Kathy Reichs.

Reichs’s series is fascinating in its detail. How Tempe Brennan can discover the age or race of a skeleton and more from just bones. Tempe’s character is also fully developed. Reichs does not, however, write from the killer’s point of view. Her pov character is always Tempe. But it works for the series. Reichs also uses humor to lighten up the heavy topics Tempe deals with, which makes an entertaining read. I like BONES, the TV series loosely based on Reich’s books. I say loosely because Television Tempe is completely different from the alcoholic divorcée with a twenty something daughter from the books.

In terms of humor, JA Konrath is the king. I discovered his detective series with star Jack (Jacqueline) Daniels after reading one of his short stories in a thriller anthology edited by James Patterson. I bought WHISKY SOUR, read it, and then bought the next three books. I laughed my way through all four books, one right after another. I didn’t want to stop to sleep, eat or work. Konrath’s is the only series I read straight through like that. He doesn’t skimp on the details. One killer drove nails into the bones of his victims, one peeled off the victim’s skin, all while the victims were alive. One scene that sticks in my memory is when one of the killers put razor blades into candy bars. The resulting scene after a detective bit into the razor blade was both graphic and humorous. The humor lightens the story and works with the graphic scenes in this series. I’ve preordered the fifth Jack Daniel’s book and can’t wait to read it.

Lucas Davenport is my favorite detective. I love John Sanford’s PREY series. In the introduction to RULES OF PREY Sanford said, “Cops don’t act like Lucas Davenport–they’d be fired or even imprisoned if they did. They aren’t rich, they don’t drive Porches, most could give a rat’s ass about fashion. Lucas Davenport does all of that. … he’s a cross between a cop and a movie star. I wanted him to be a star. I wanted him to be different. I wanted him to be a mean, tough cop that women liked.” Sanford succeeded. Davenport is a star. He’s gruff, mean and yet he’s likeable and sexy. But more importantly, John Sanford’s writing is stellar. I’d rank him with literary writers. He is a former Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and it shows in his writing. He also draws from his experiences as a newspaper reporter, the dead bodies and crime scenes he witnessed ground his novels in reality.

I like David Baldacci for the same reason, the way he can string words together. I am in awe when I read his novels. His recent works are political thrillers that are well researched, interesting and powerful. His latest, THE WHOLE TRUTH, explored one possible scenario for the return of the cold war.

I would be remiss not to mention James Patterson. I like detective doctor Alex Cross almost as much as Lucas Davenport. The African-American psychologist detective raising several children alone in DC makes for great reading. The Cross novels are page turners. Patterson’s works may lack the depth of Gerritsen and Sanford, but I can always count on him for a good thrill.

I have only mentioned some of my favorites writers. There are many others, like Diane Chamberlain, who does a fantastic job writing about the interrelationships between people. I am happy to have such a vast selection of great literature to choose from.

Here’s to summer reading and staying cool. Temps should reach the triple digits in Raleigh this afternoon. I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than sitting in the air conditioning with a good book.

30 Days of Night

Posted in All posts with tags , on October 23, 2007 by Trina

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Barrow, Alaska. Dark. Cold. Isolated. Bleak. A chilling setting for one of the best bloodcurdling brutally portrayed vampire movies I’ve seen.

Harry asked me to go with him to see 30 DAYS OF NIGHT because he loves horror movies, and it is set in Barrow, the northernmost point in the US. Just for a reality check, he has a habit of looking up the temperature in Barrow during our relatively warm Raleigh winters.

David Slade directs this horror-on-ice from a graphic novel by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith. Barrow is 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle. With approximately 4,500 residents, the Barrow area is probably the harshest polar location in Alaska. The sun sets and doesn’t rise again for 30 days during winter. Though most of the residents of Barrow head south for the winter, some townspeople remain behind. However, those that stay regret their decision when, vampires descend on Barrow to feed. A dwindling band of survivors must try to last until dawn breaks over Barrow’s monthlong twilight.

Matt Zoller Seitz of the NY Times Review says, “30 DAYS OF NIGHT is a series of gory set pieces that seems to have been edited with a meat ax. A major early transition is so clumsy that you may assume that the projectionist accidentally skipped a reel. No such luck: it’s a style thing.” Seitz is right. It is a style thing and he just doesn’t get it.

Atmosphere — dark and chilling. The dark primeval fear captured by the barren snow covered terrain as the movie opens stays with you. If you love the atmosphere of the early horror movies, you will find that 30 DAYS OF NIGHT surpasses the classics in its brutally realistic depiction of the vampire. No tall dark stranger with fangs and a black coat, like the one created by the literary and cinematic portrayal of Count Dracula. If the creature responsible for the vampire legend were to come to your house this Halloween, you might open the door to a less than charming black-eyed creature with a bloody mouth full of teeth and a primal appetite. A creature like Marlow.

The leader of the vampire pack is Marlow, well acted by Danny Huston. Marlow is cruel and motivated only by his hunger for blood. Using only clicks and grunts, Huston makes Marlow graphically primeval. Wearing clothing designed more for a nightclub than the bitter cold, using cunning and military precision, and with apparently no conscience or soul, these creatures suck the town dry, human by human.

Holed up in the attic of a desolate house that was once a home is a cross section of survivors led by Josh Hartnett as the town sheriff and Melissa George as his estranged wife, a fire marshal. Both roles were well acted. While we know that the couple were headed for divorce and are now forced to rely on each other for their very lives, we aren’t privy to the reason for their split. The sexual chemistry between the two is enough.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT doesn’t romanticize the harsh environs, nor is it so ugly you don’t want to spend two hours there. We get just enough information, a touch of gallows humor, and plenty of white-knuckle suspense and massively gory and unflinching horror. I will concede there are a few logic-leaps required. For example the white-out snow does not cover the bloody gore remaining on the ground throughout the movie. But what horror movie doesn’t make us suspend disbelief. My only real criticism of the movie is that I found the ending both unsatisfying and unbelievable. I expected the minor characters to be picked off one by one, but I did not expect or appreciate what I got.

I don’t remember his exact words, but toward the end of the movie Marlow said something like, “It took us three centuries to make them think we are the stuff of nightmares.” 30 DAYS OF NIGHT does a good job of bringing the nightmare to the large screen.