31 October 2012

+JMJ+

Thirteen Things about Return of the Living Dead Part II

13. Does anyone else look at the title and think that calling something "Part II" of the "Return" is redundant? . . . No one? . . . Wait, really? No one???

But it's also true that Return of the Living Dead Part II is the most accurate title for a movie that was compelled to be the sequel to another movie called Return of the Living Dead. The real debate is whether the first flick merits its own title when (as far as I can tell) its own zombies have no predecessors in their own canon. But that's not a question I'll be settling any time soon.

12. I don't like watching sequels out of chronological order, but when I saw this one was about to start on Cinemax, I made it an exception for two reasons: I didn't want Burial Grounds month to come and go without even one review of a Horror movie with a significant cemetery; and I was betting that this would be the kind of thoughtlessly produced sequel with only the most superficial connections to the original, anyway.

Well, yes and no . . .

30 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club Meeting 20

Can you believe we're finally done?!?!?! The best novel I read in 2012 is still F. Sionil Jose's Ermita (See my Reading Diary entry!)--but Stephen King's Pet Sematary certainly gave it a run for its money.

. . . And the house stood empty in the May sunshine, as it had stood empty on that August day the year before, waiting for the new people to arrive . . . as it would wait for other new people to arrive at some future date. A young married couple, perhaps, with no children (but with hopes and plans). Bright young marrieds with a taste for Mondavi wine and Lowenbrau beer . . . They would congratulate themselves on their lack of superstition, on their hardheadedness in snaring the house in spite of its history--they would tell their friends that it had been fire-sale-priced and joked about the ghost in the attic, and all of them would have another Lowenbrau or another glass of Moldavi, and they would play backgammon or Mille Bourne.

And perhaps they would have a dog.

One thing I never considered was that the house was in cahoots with the Micmac burying ground!!! (So now we know why Church is able to get in all those times . . .) Perhaps it's a good thing to be superstitious. At least once in a while.

And now I realise that "superstitions" is the word I wanted last week, which is when I started saying "taboos." =P


27 October 2012

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Two!


Welcome to the Burial Grounds Challenge:
The Movie Edition!

Can you believe the month is almost over??? Let's look at where we've been . . .

I opened the Burial Grounds challenge with an ancient tomb, moved on to a newly filled grave, wandered into a cemetery where the dead are safe from sharks, and am now topping everything off with a graveyard where no one is safe from the dead.

There must have been a million movie burial grounds to choose from, even if I hadn't decided to limit myself to Horror films; but in the end, I knew I had to stay true to my roots. And I think I have the perfect cemetery.

26 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 19

You know what really boggles my mind? The fact that I will have the exact number of of Pet Sematary covers that I need to have a different one in each discussion post until we're done with the novel!!! And I don't even have to look outside the English language to do it!


"You want to what?" Dory asked again. "Rachel . . . you're upset . . . a night's sleep . . ."

Rachel only shook her head. She could not explain to her mother why she had to go back. The feeling had risen in her the way a wind rises--an early stirring of the grasses, hardly noticed; then the air begins to move faster and harder, and there is no calm left; then the gusts become hard enough to make eerie screaming noises around the eaves; then they are shaking the house and you realise that this is something like a hurricane, and if the wind gets much higher, things are going to fall down . . .

And now the time has come . . . to talk about Rachel Creed.

25 October 2012

+JMJ+

Reading Diary: BSC #9: The Ghost at Dawn's House by Ann M. Martin

I picked up the phone in Mom's bedroom and called Mary Anne.

"Hi," I said. "Want to come over? I have this great idea. I want to invite the whole club to my house and we'll search for a hidden passage."

"Oooh," said Mary Anne. "Scary. I'd love to."

"Do you think the others are free?"

"I know they are. I was looking at the appointment calendar during the meeting yesterday. We all had jobs this morning and we're all free this afternoon. Stacey's mother can probably drive us over."

"Perfect," I said. "Listen, can you call Kristy? I'll call Stacey and Claudia."

Just to be nice, I waited until it was past 1:00 in the morning to start reading this ninth installment in Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitters Club series. The last time Martin tried to do scary, she kind of failed (See my Reading Diary entry on BSC #2: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls for details)--so I thought I'd more than meet her halfway this time. Well, I guess she had the same idea because she came prepared with the spookiest weapon in the storytelling arsenal: a Ghost Story.

Ghost Stories and Adventures in Baby-sitting are actually very compatible genres. I like to call the overlap "Governess Gothic"--and if you've read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Henry James's Turn of the Screw, then you know what I mean. Which is not to say that The Ghost at Dawn's House is worthy to be a bookend to them (ROFL!!!), but to explain why Martin doesn't do too badly this time around. Although I don't think this story is structured as seamlessly as it might have been--not when a second ghost story becomes necessary and the hidden passage they find doesn't get to freak them out during a baby-sitting job--I find I can forgive it.

But that's because I'd say that the highlight of the novel is neither the ghost stories nor the baby-sitting, but the development of the girls' friendship.

24 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 18

What a great choice Pet Sematary has turned out to be for Burial Grounds month! There are as many final resting places here as in all the month's Locus Focus posts (so far) combined! More, if you count the tomb of Lazarus, which is featured in two epigraphs and the thoughts of a couple of characters.

"God can take it back if he wants to," Ellie said. "He can do anything He wants to."

"Ellie, God doesn't do things like that," Louis said uneasily, and in his mind's eye he saw Church squatting on the closed lid of the toilet, staring at him with those muddy eyes as Louis lay in the tub.

"He does so," she said. "In Sunday school, the teacher told us about this guy Lazarus. He was dead and Jesus brought him back to life. He said, 'Lazarus, come forth,' and the teacher said if he'd just said 'Come forth,' probably everyone in that graveyard, and Jesus only wanted Lazarus."

An absurdity popped out of his mouth . . . "That was a long time ago, Ellie."

I really love Ellie Creed. If I don't write about her that much in these readalong posts, it's because I'm saving my thoughts for a Character Connection special.

20 October 2012

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Eighty-One!


As I explained on Twitter last weekend, this post is late because I forgot the novel I was supposed to be featuring in the office. (And for some reason, I feel more guilty saying that than I ever felt in school when turning something in late because I had forgotten it at home the day before.)

Now that I've written about a tomb in Ancient Egypt and a grave in modern America, I thought I'd feature a Burial Ground from a setting where nobody really expects to find one . . .

19 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 17

Do you know the only thing that's creepier than Church the cat? The cover I share with you today. You're probably not even reading this introduction because your retinas have been damaged by all the pink that undoubtedly caught your eye as this page loaded . . .

"I believe that we go on," he told his daughter slowly. "But as to what it's like, I have no opinion. It may be that it's different for different people. It may be that you get what you believed all your life. But I believe we go on, and I believe that Mrs. Crandall is probably someplace where she can be happy."

"You have faith in that," Ellie said. It was not a question. She sounded awed . . . "Do you think animals go on?"

"Yes," he said without thinking. And for a moment, he almost added,
Especially cats . . .

. . . "I was really silly about Church that day, wasn't I? Crying like that . . . If he died now, I could take it."


I usually don't mind updated covers that emphasise style over sensationalism . . . but whoever thought this palette would be good for Pet Sematary probably never read the book.

17 October 2012

+JMJ+

Thirteen Things about The Tunnel

13. What surprised me most about The Tunnel was that it's more of a Drama with Conspiracy Thriller elements than a conventional Horror movie.

Until the main characters actually enter the eponymous setting, the conflicts that drive the story are workplace politics and government secrets. A tight-knit group of (male) journalists are not too happy about the new (female) hire whom the (male) boss seems to be giving preferential treatment, while she is after the real reason the New South Wales government has silently abandoned its big plan to use one city's underground tunnels for recycling water. And as reporters might say, it's actually a good story.

12. This is also a Found Footage film--a very believable one. I find it a bit much when characters in similar movies record absolutely everything with personal digital cameras, because that doesn't plausibly happen in real life; but the characters in The Tunnel, being TV journalists, are supposed to do that.

At one point, the camera man even says that the reason he is keeping his camera on is that he has realised a colleague might be leading the whole team into a professional disaster, and he wants everyone else's arses covered. And this is how the movie's arse gets covered, too. Very nice.

16 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 16

How did I ever get this far without a post to discuss Church the cat properly??? What is a book called Pet Sematary without a featured pet?

Looking at Church made Louis feel sad. It was ridiculous but that didn't change the emotion. There was no sign of Church's former feistiness. No more did he walk like a gunslinger; now his walk was the slow, careful walk of the convalescent. He allowed Ellie to hand-feed him. He showed no sign of wanting to go outside, not even to the garage. He had changed. Perhaps it was ultimately for the better that he had changed.

Neither Rachel nor Ellie seemed to notice.

The above cover is silly, but it lets Church be the centre of attention.
And if you think that's some random cat, give it a squint
and see whose name is on that grave marker! ;-)


Do you know what's really interesting about the passage I've just quoted? Read on and find out . . .

13 October 2012

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Eighty!


The Burial Grounds challenge opened last week with not just a dead body, but also a dead civilisation. (Sometimes I like to over-deliver like that. See Take Seventy-Nine for details.)

Today, I've returned to the modern world and a still-living civilisation--but one which may, come to think of it, already be in its terminal stage. This side of the grave, nothing lasts forever--not even with all the wealth, power, or even goodness in the world.


12 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 15

I may be jumping the gun now, but I think that having two Book Club posts a week was an excellent idea! There's no way I could have waited any longer to keep discussing Pet Sematary.

The first thing I want to share is that Chapter 10 pretty much confirms my Rite of Passage theory from Meeting 14:

"Sometimes that pet cemetery is [children's] first eyeball-to-eyeball with death," Jud said. "They see people die on TV, but they know that's pretend, like the old Westerns the used to have at the movies on Saturday afternoons. On TV and in the Western movies, they just hold their stomachs or their chests and fall over. Place up on that hill seems a lot more real to most of em than all those movies and TV shows put together, don't you know? . . .

"Some kids it don't affect at all, at least not that you can see it, although I guess most of em kinda . . . kinda take it home in their pockets to look over later, like all the other stuff they collect. Most of em are fine. But some . . . you remember the little Holloway boy, Norma?"

She nodded . . . "He had
such nightmares," she said. "Dreams about corpses coming out of the ground and I don't know whatall. Then his dog died . . ."

(Like the retro cover? I thought it would be nice to change up the cover art with each post!)

Just when we think Billy Holloway's dog dying and needing its own burial in the pet cemetery only made things worse, we learn that it actually made things better. He had a coffin made, organised a funeral procession, got all the kids in the neighbourhood together . . . and the nightmares stopped. And we may consider the case as closed as the casket.

Of course, poor Ellie has a pet, too--and so this memory seems to foreshadow her own triumph (however anguishing) over the same rite of passage. But it's not Ellie who is having "such nightmares," is it?

10 October 2012

+JMJ+

A Poem That Plays a Trick

Stickle Brick Letter w ampersand Scrabble Trickster Letter Q
number 2

I hope the two players who provided my word and my question for this game will be happy with what I've done with their prompts. For it is not just a treat, but also a trick! It doubles as a riddle, giving us a game within a game. Or as my brother Cue-card Boy might say, "A game-ception!!!"

Read the poem and see if you can guess what I mean . . .

09 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 14

My original plan was to have one Readalong post a week and to discuss nine chapters per post, but I really can't wait until Friday. So I may do two a week, one on Friday and one on whichever day happens to be free.

Now, in case anyone is still wondering whether Pet Sematary was the right choice after all, let me share what I found in this edition's new introduction from Stephen King himself:

"When I'm asked (as I frequently am) what I consider to be the most frightening book I've ever written, the answer I give comes easily and with no hesitation: Pet Sematary.

It may not be the one that scares readers the most--based on the mail, I'd guess the one that does that is The Shining--but the fearbone, like the funnybone, is located in different places on different people.

All I know is that Pet Sematary is the one I put away in a drawer, thinking I had finally gone too far.

Time suggests that I had not, at least in terms of what the public would accept, but certainly I had gone too far in terms of my own personal feelings. Put simply, I was horrified by what I had written, and the conclusions I had drawn . . ."

So in one sense, it's the right choice, and in another sense, it's the wrong choice. =P But I'm really, really happy with it and will explain why in this post. The rest of the introduction discusses how Pet Sematary came to be written--probably an oft-told legend among veteran King readers. But I haven't read it yet and won't get back to it until after I'm done with the whole novel.


06 October 2012

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Seventy-Nine!


Welcome to the Burial Grounds Challenge!

One reason I've been so confident about the Burial Grounds theme is that I had my first setting all picked out. And then, of course, I reread the book and realised it wouldn't actually do--which put me right back at Square One. (That's a recurring refrain of this meme, actually. Have you ever been able to tell? LOL!)

The good news was that I had a back up. Sort of . . . =P

05 October 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 13

Last week, I asked the readers of Shredded Cheddar and all my other online friends a question that would decide the course of the rest of my . . . month.

vs.
Which Book Should We Read Next?

Votes came in through both the combox and Twitter, and after seven days and an extension, I saw we had a winner.

04 October 2012

+JMJ+

Thirteen Things about April Fool's Day
(As you can see, Horror movies I review in October get some special love!)

13. After each production of Agatha Christie's play The Mousetrap, the cast step out to ask the audience for a special favour: to keep the secret of the ending so that everyone else who watches the play for the first time can be as surprised as they. I feel as if the cast of April Fool's Day have made the same request of me. Which means that my challenge is to blog about this movie without giving anything but the heaviest veiled clues away. Well, challenge accepted! =D

And yes, this is your first heavily veiled clue. LOL!

12. April Fool's Day opens with all the expected 80s Slasher elements: an isolated location, a pretty teenage cast, the smell of hormones in the morning, and the best hair and fashion the "Me Decade" had to offer.

Perhaps the only "postmodern" element is the video camera one character uses to record his memories and annoy everyone else at the same time. In the present decade, it would have served as satiric commentary on Horror as entertainment--and it is really because of the present decade that I gave it more than a moment's notice. Which I'm now glad I did, because it actually has something to say about its own film. Something almost Shakespearean.

But of course I can't tell you any more than that. =P

11. Now about that pretty teenage cast and their 80s styling . . .

03 October 2012

+JMJ+

October Prompts for October Poems


Shredded Cheddar's official theme for October may be Burial Grounds (And you're all linking up, okay???), but I'm also making an unofficial theme out of "Back to Normal". A Horror extravaganza is definitely a return to normalcy around here--as is the tradition of writing one poem a month. (I mean, where would the world be without poetry? Even bad poetry?) I have such a good feeling about October.

I'm sure there are a few skeptical readers who are wondering why this month should be any different from those which have gone before. For them, there is Exhibit A: Poems Both Greasy and Graceful. It took me over a year to write those four promised poems and to complete the challenge. But I did it.

And I felt so fabulous afterwards that I poked around for another Word and another Question so that I could do it again. Behold Exhibit B . . .