Archive for the ‘scary’ Category
When a mysterious worldwide plague starts putting millions of people into deadly comas, Earth’s foremost expert on the bizarre, John Constantine, steps in with the “cure.” After traveling from the dreary alleys of London to the glittering boulevards of L.A., Constantine realizes that a cadre of wicked demons and hellish monsters is behind the outbreak, and he’ll have to sacrifice more than himself to put an end to the nightmare.
But will the cure be worse than the disease? Thus am I reintroduced to John Constantine, trench coat-clad antihero, magic junkie, and master manipulator. I first saw him in the film version starring Keanu Reeves. I rather enjoyed the movie never mind the critical lambasting. I guess, as usual, a movie failed to live up to the graphic novels. I had never seen the books so I only had my own enjoyment of other movies as basis for comparison.
I acquired the All His Engines through Bookmooch, a site where you can trade books like a book barter using points sending to other members as currency. Thinking it was an urban fantasy novel I mooched it, very surprised at receiving a glossy hardbound of a sallow, poisonous world in graphic details, a world where Constantine pits demon against demon.
I may understand a little now why the movie received such flak. Hollywood requires more than a few redeeming qualities in its heroes. The movie character was too noble when the graphic novel character was a conman, thief, and hero-as-a-side-effect more than anything else. From the background essays at the back of the book, I learned that Constantine is addicted to magic and would do anything to be able to practice it, even sell his soul and endanger his friends.
With over 200 volumes under his belt, Constantine has gone through changes. I saw from the information at the back that five writers have taken turns telling his story. This particular volume is a standalone, while the 14 other titles I saw were collections of comics issues. His long-time friend Chance is a grandfather here, which makes Constantine pushing, what?, 60? But still at the game of high-stakes poker with Hell, where if he loses Hell-on-Earth will enjoy enough souls to finance franchises worldwide, starting in Hollywood.
Whatever his motivations were, Constantine did succeed to save the world again and again. If a few innocents were sacrificed, maybe that’s just collateral damage. Because the world I got a glimpse of through this volume would certainly lose more than a few souls if there was no self-serving antihero using his smarts for a magic fix from Hell’s denizens. Am I sympathizing with him? Maybe, but not enough to want to be his friend; I’ll welcome chances to read his previous con-jobs with the Devil though.
Face off. The demon Beroul wants to set up a Hell franchise on Earth. His best work on display here. Remind me never to have a facial.
Constantine always smoking. Lung cancer didn’t faze him. Caught between two demons. A deal is brokered.
Is hell so overcrowded that they are coming back? Even if they are, they can be outsmarted, but no character managed to. If I were in the book, I’d hire someone to knock me out, and take me to the nearest plane. I’d be in Tahiti by the time I wake up.
It’s Halloween on my mind; when I saw Apartment 16 advertised in Fully Booked’s newsletter I could not help but rush to the bookstore to buy it, and read it–never mind my TBR challenge where I listed books gathering dust on my shelf and never mind my tight budget, almost exhausted by my recent trip to Hong Kong and Macau. A success story of book pushing, to my wallet’s detriment but my Halloween’s wicked glee.
I was drawn to the cover–an imposing apartment building, the kind that only the rich can afford; brooding; dark sky; with a sort of dust coming out of one of the windows. It could be smoke, the way its movement is depicted, yet I can see individual particles, moving synchronized with all the rest.
The book immediately reminded me of the Stephen King movie, Room 1408, where a grand but aging New York hotel harbors a haunted room. Guests check in, and come out dead or insane. No one knows what happens inside that room. Watching it made me feel claustrophobic, as whatever was inside that room can stretch minutes into days and memories into nightmares.
I don’t think Apartment 16 was scarier, or maybe it just suffered for not having John Cusack and Samuel Jackson in the cast, but it did go a step further than claustrophobia and added agoraphobia to the murkiness coming from one abandoned apartment.
In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it’s been that was for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight.
A young American woman, April, arrived at Barrington House to claim her inheritance. She was left an apartment by her estranged aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. She was mad, said many. Yet her diary suggested a horrific event decades ago, which took the life of her beloved husband.
As April investigated, she found out about the death-obsessed artist who used to live in Apartment 16. Practicing the occult, he may have opened a gateway into hell that has since permeated the block’s stone and woodwork. This evil infected everyone with spiritual malaise, making the world seem ugly. Or maybe it just made them see things as they really were? People also became more open to the psychic world; they saw distorted creatures everywhere even in broad daylight. When they tried to go out of London, the creatures that once were human would overwhelm them.
I was surprised by the appearance of three little hairless girls with the strangest misshapen heads, all long and thinnish. They were wearing surgical gowns tied at the neck and they did a horrible little dance on their stick legs, right there on the pavement before my eyes. Under the gowns I think their bodies were stitched together. But it was the way they moved…
Seth, the night watchman, was easily influenced. A struggling artist, he was trying to make ends meet while seeking his muse. His muse found him, unfortunately, and gave him nightmares. Pages were devoted to describing the horrors the death-obsessed artist created, by himself at first and then through Seth. He liked his subjects torn, mutilated, trapped, hanging, decaying, despairing, about to be swallowed up by a vast and seething nothingness. Stagnancy and a descent into a primitive animal state were also favorite themes.
Definitely, the power of the atmosphere put most characters in the shade. Seth was ok, but April was just a device to give the readers important background information. Excited though I was to acquire this book, it took me a while to get into the story. I was slightly bored with Seth’s introspection, not knowing yet of course how it related to what followed. When April learned more about her aunt from the head porter, the pace picked up. I said “most” not “all” because The Friends of Hessen were interesting. Sad rather than scary, and freaky rather than macabre, they have embraced ugliness while pretending they were special. I wished they can be given an opportunity to stay in Apartment 16.
According to the brief author bio, Nevill used to be a night watchman in exclusive apartment buildings in West London. I wonder what he has seen and heard inside those snooty walls inspiring this horror story? I myself daydream about living in an old yet prestigious apartment building. Maybe I should stop not because of ghosts but because only the rich, old and paranoid for neighbors until the end of my days is a truly horrifying thought. I’d die of boredom first before the ghosts can come and get me.
My normal made paranormal, my inviolate ordinary faking all this time.
When I said I liked Neil Gaiman I should have said I liked the idea I have of his works which is he put modern faces to ancient myths and gives them pop culture voices. I’ve only read parts of Neverwhere and saw the movie Stardust, which is probably not enough to give me good idea of his genius. My Gaiman-fan friends rave about him, going to the extreme effort (for me) of lining up for autographs the couple of times he visited. On the bright side, being not yet intimate with his works (because I do have them TBR) I have not developed any prejudice against other works with similar themes. I can appreciate them from a fresh point of view. I’m glad because no prejudice interfered with how I enjoyed Waking the Dead by Yvette Tan.
RocketKapre lent books by Filipino authors during the first meetup by the Filipino Book Bloggers a month ago. Others got books on speculative fiction while I chose Tan’s collection of horror stories. I figured why not? It was thin, at only 149 pages with maybe size 12 font. A fast read. Normally, its appearance would not have attracted me, looking like the dreaded reading assignments way back in high school when I wanted to read only science fiction and fantasy. Secretly I was afraid it would contain highly literary short stories too rarified for my taste.
I couldn’t be more wrong. Not because it wasn’t literary nor written well, but because I had assumed I would be bored reading them. The book flipped open at Delivering the Goods, and I was in shock seven pages later. In my imagination I heard no creepy background music, no dark shadows, just business-like rustlings of equipment and clinical white light. It was horrible.
The other nine stories were also good, ranging from weird to disturbing to outright scary. One story, Kulog, about a kapre (a giant tree elemental) who comes to care for a little girl, was very sad. My favorite was The Bridge. Who else can that beautiful but cruel Madame be? This story recalls urban legends about children sacrificed to make a bridge sturdy. The foundations of major bridges were well watered with the blood of innocents, I heard someone say before.
Click here to hear the audio version of The Bridge.
To make sure I am not giving the wrong impression, these stories are dark and ruthless. They are fairy tales for adults. There is sick love and tragic endings. According to some readers, though, they read too much like Neil Gaiman, said RocketKapre. “Just read Neil Gaiman, then,” he quoted.
I don’t know about that. Would Gaiman set his stories in Quiapo, and invented a character selling memories at Virra Mall? If you’re not local you would not get the references. There is an unholy glee in recognizing the familiar in the weird, a major appeal of urban fantasy or speculative fiction in my opinion. I went crazy over the graphic novel-series Trese because of my unholy glee over seeing tyanaks overun Megamall (spelled a little differently in the book) and zombies taking over Makati Cementery… My normal made paranormal, my inviolate ordinary faking all this time.
Really, why bow when going head-to-head is much more fun? Give local books a makeover: a little shine and color to covers, strong glue for the binding, improved paper quality, and shelving according to genre right beside Harry Potter, Twilight, and American Gods. Let’s see if readers will continue giving local books a wide berth. I bet a little smart pushing is all that’s needed for local gems to shine, maybe outshine foreign bestsellers.
Step up on the unholy glee, you know.
Like I said, Takod, first book by Hontiveros I read, was an epic fail. There were more parts I disliked than liked. At less than 100 pages, with big font-text, there was little to like.
I should have read Craving first.
The story is about a couple desperate for a child. She had already miscarried twice. On her third pregnancy, her obstetrician advised the couple to take a break from the city, offering her vacation house beside the sea for the couple to stay in.
Every weekend she would drive back from the city to make sure the pregnancy was going well.
For a while it was, despite the rustlings from the tall grass surrounding the house, despite the owls leaving rat skeletons by the big mango tree in the yard, despite the hungry look the townswomen had for Anne, despite Lester’s sickening sense of dread.
Hontiveros created a trilogy of gothic horror, drawing on traditional folklore. Just like with Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, he capitalizes on the idea that there are worse things to happen than dying. Certainly I was creeped out by this:
“She will screech, and she will wail, but you will capture her, you will cut off her hair, and her fingernails, for they grow, so very quickly; cut all of that off, and stuff everything into the hole in the back of her neck. That way, she will be tame, and will not suffer the wretched thirst.”
The hole in the back of her neck?! That image is burning a hole in my imagination blacker than the ghost of a raped woman in the movie Shutter, sitting, always sitting, on the shoulders of the man who wronged her.
I still don’t see what the fuss is, though, about Hontiveros’s writing. He won a Palanca? Instead of letting readers feel for themselves the menace, he keeps saying there is a menace:
“And Anne, alone in bed, stirred, her hand going to her belly, resting there, as if to shield her unborn child from some unseen, unknown menace…. He had failed to notice though, that there had been no wind, and the tree‘s leaves had been still, and silent, unmoving, though pensive, as if patiently waiting for some cruel inevitability to unfold.”
Ah, well, the horror story in this case was good enough that the metaphor and simile-stuffed narrative was less irritating.
A journalist investigates strange stories in the once-sleepy town of Mapayapa. Like Fox Mulder, he has a personal issue to settle.
Awkward sentence construction. Overuse of analogies. Abuse of the modernization-as-a-world-evil theme. Weak characterization.
As a novel (or novella) Takod, for me, is an epic fail. As a horror story, the kind I look forward to from midnight gettogethers, where only storytelling really matters, it works.
The idea that more than human evil haunts the world creeps me out.
In a country where a convicted plunderer almost becomes president again, a pardoned pedophile produces a party list advertisement in which he is surrounded by children pleading for help, and a senatorial lineup has excellent face-value and star power but little else, can we afford more than human stupidity to muck things up further?
underpass by gerry alanguilan, david hontiveros, budjette tan, oliver pulumbarit, ian sta maria, kajo baldisimo
Why I read it…
Trese reminded me that I used to love comics. I wanted to see if I will also enjoy other authors and illustrators from the current crop.
What’s the story?
Is it a glossy magazine? An anthology of edgy music trivia and lyrics? Nah, it’s a collection of four horror stories set in Metro Manila.
In Gerry Alanguilan’s The Sim, a man picks up a SIM card. After inserting it in his cellphone, he receives frantic calls for help. The illustration takes me back to the time newsprint komiks were the vogue in my Manila neighborhood.
In Judas Kiss by David Hontiveros, Budjette Tan, and Oliver Pulumbarit, a murderer has more than murder on his conscience… I think. Very angsty. From purple to green to red to blue to red, the colors added to the visceral impact of the story.
In Katumbas by Hontiveros and Ian Sta Maria, Kadasig is a myth in a shirtless, sword-wielding, muscled warrior form. He hunts a demon who preys on the despair of pedestrians passing through one of Ayala Avenue’s underpass. The drawings were very right for this action story.
In The Clinic, Tan and Baldisimo found another way to place the monsters in our grandmothers’s tales right in the middle of our beloved pop culture icons, like a beauty clinic—staffed by manananggals! Clever of the manananggal, I should think. Who says scary half-women who fly on batlike wings, trailing entrails, wouldn’t have business sense?
Another condenado might be living in the underpass in Ayala. Maybe I should jaywalk until I’m over my funk?
What I liked about it…
The cover. It looks like a Silent Hill version of an underpass. That light at the end of the tunnel? Avoid it. It’s scarier than the dark.
The inversion of our hopes and dreams. In my nightmares, God becomes helpless. In this collection, having hope is senseless. The night terrors are part of the living world.
So what’s to like about that? If I read a horror story, I want to be horrified, duh.
What I didn’t like about it…
I still would have enjoyed these stories even if they were on newsprint. Reading comics these days is so expensive. But then, maybe my grievance has more to do with my own lack of proper respect for graphic novels, as I hardly bat an eye these days spending up to 2K on my book hauls from Fully Booked.
Short stories are nice, but I prefer series. I’d love to see more of Kadasig’s exploits.
I really liked this book: evil winning over good, but with good fighting on, in the archetype of the gunslinger. I didn’t mind that the setting was vague and foggy; with details left out, our imagination worked overtime to create a scarier world than what maybe king had intended!
But I read it some four years ago for me to remember details. What I have are impressions. And when someone asked me about the book, I was surprised at how deep they run.
ispywithmy Great artwork. Did you read the “original release” version or the one he revised in light of the later books? I’ve been somewhat curious about this.
artseblis i think i must have read the original version. my copy was old, bought at booksale. but i read this a long time ago, some 4 years maybe. i used a shelfari reply post as my text for the book review (just so i can post something).
if i did read the original. i don’t think i’d want to read the revised version. the original is a classic, nevermind the continuity issue.
freifallen I have this on my TBR but am hesitant to read it because I know it goes on for 6 more books that get thicker and thicker. Now maybe I’ll put it on the upper portion of Mt TBR. Thanks!
ispywithmy Same here. The other issue I have is that if I get hooked on The Gunslinger (and I might, since I really enjoyed the Dark Tower short story “The Little Sisters of Eluria”), I not only have to read the six other novels but also a huge chunk of King’s work because of all the other connections he makes here and there.
ispywithmy Thanks. I’ll have to check my copy: I’m pretty sure it’s the old version, though I might also have the revised one somewhere. Did you ever read the succeeding novels?
artseblis @ispywithmy — oh, yes: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE and THE WASTELANDS.
@cecile — the books may be thick, but the pace is fast. i was too engrossed to realize i was reading such thick tomes. the haunted house sequence involving the boy from our world was maybe the scariest i have ever read.
@ everyone — the Gunslinger can actually stand on its own. it reads like a myth or a legend, an archetype or symbolism of the battle between good and evil. as such, the world is dreamlike, like something you had a bad dream of, or a mesh of otherwordly fragments pulled from your subconscious reassembled by your mind into something comprehensible.
the sequels are different animals altogether. they remade the gunslinger into a person, with more flaws than you can imagine, driven by duty but needing the help of companions so he can complete his mission, which is to reach the Dark Tower, the source of the reality-bending forces devouring all the universes.
but in bringing down (or up, depends on your point of view) the struggle of the gunslinger and the three companions into very human terms (read an aging soldier, a junkie, a legless woman with split personalities, a little boy), the sequels become less mystical and more accessible; just replace the goons with zombies and the evil rancher with a dark tower.
even if you loved the first book, you won’t necessarily like the following ones. there is a jarring discontinuity of mood, tone, pace, and writing between Gunslinger and the continuation of the saga.
for me though, adjusting was not problematic. the story, and action!, was too gripping to care that the gunslinger is now, still extraordinary, but not so mysterious anymore. i get my mystery fix, in high enough doses, from this search for the dark tower thing.
ispywithmy Fantastic! Now that’s more than enough information to help me finally get off my bum and start reading the first novel at least. Thanks!
*the artwork is from Google search.
what is horror?
it’s having to plow through 500+ pages of drawn out suffering and the mind-ramblings of characters scared out of their wits.
certainly there wasn’t any wit at all in this book, just a bloated re-use of a classic horror theme: young people trapped in the middle of nowhere; there are monsters out to get them (in this case, man-eating, semi-sentient vines); they all die; another group of young people wanders in; they all die again….
the book was so slow (everything seemed to be going in slow motion!), too full of the mental ramblings of the characters…. in fairness, i think the story would have worked if it were just a short story. as a novel, the power of the psychic horror experienced by the characters was diffused.