Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I'm currently in the final editing stage of my novel and have just nuked all the song lyrics from orbit. It's the only way to be sure. This is my first book, started over a few years back, and I thought I could do it like Stephen King with some lines from classic songs to help set the mood. Unfortunately, without the big bucks of SK and the savvy assistant with the time to research the publishing details of each song, acquire permission, and hack out a deal, the songs must go. 

I was sad to cut them, though. I consider myself almost equally addicted to music as to movies and books. I find that a soundtrack can make or break a movie. Music is familiar and helps the viewer/reader relate to a scene and maybe even remember it better, long after the movie is over or the book has been closed. No one could forget that scene from Reservoir Dogs paired perfectly with Stealers Wheel's "Stuck In the Middle With You." Quentin Tarantino is a music supervision god.

Some claim that putting lyrics in your novel can date it, and I guess that's possible - if a bunch of your "cool" characters are rocking out to K-Fed or the Spice Girls. I've recently watched several movies from the 90s with big soundtracks that I remember enjoying and found myself cringing. Coolness can definitely be fleeting. So if you are willing to go through the process and front the money, realize that that will be the risk you're taking. Also, what you feel toward a song may not be what someone else feels toward that song. You might hear Celine Dion and think LOVE while someone else might hear her and think KILL NOW (disclaimer: I do not want to kill Celine Dion and have merely put the statement out there for comedic value). 

If you come to the decision that your novel cannot do without the song lyrics, I'll discuss a few tips in my next post.

Sunday, February 12, 2012



My plan isn't to review only obscure D horror movies, but it's just happened that way so far. I have seen a ton of horror movies in my lifetime, not all of them but the majority, so mostly I come across the random missed ones on cable and I record them to watch in my spare time. 

Mask Maker (2010) is about a group of college friends who go to renovate an isolated house and are subsequently attacked by an axe-wielding maniac. Sound familiar? There's a sliver of unique back story relayed through "olden time" flashbacks that interrupt the flow of the movie like a big, well, axe. 

Two washed-up actors have small bit roles in this film: Treat Williams and Jason London. I think you just need to see this movie to check out Jason London's role at the very end. It's quite surreal and would be hilariously funny if it wasn't really, really sad. I just want to give him a hug. Also making an appearance is Michael Berryman from The Hills Have Eyes. 

The death scenes are mediocre. You won't really be sitting on the edge of your seat, more like sliding off as a result of boring-killer-induced coma. Don't worry, it's treatable (see HORROR MOVIE HIDDEN GEMS).

What saved this movie, surprisingly, is that the acting is quite natural and the dialogue is witty. Also, the friends have such a good rapport with one another that I didn't want any of them to die. I wanted to see what would happen when they all graduated college together, got married, and got jobs. Instead, their faces are being carved off, and that made me mad. When was the last time you saw a horror movie that did that? Generally, you're begging for the characters to be picked off painfully. 

So, in the end, if Maid in Manhattan and Twilight Full Moon are the only things going on cable, give this one a try.                    

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Here are a few (mostly older) horror movies you might keep passing up on Netflix or at your local video store (are there any of those left?) but check them out. Bet they'll scare you. 

The Descent: A group of girls goes cave diving only to find some thrills they weren't looking for. Lots of action, very scary.
My Little Eye: Five people go to live in an isolated house and have their time inside filmed in order to win a million bucks. If one leaves, they all lose. Very claustrophobic, you'll be scratching at the walls.
Dead Snow: Nazi Zombies. Enough said.

Ginger Snaps: A young girl is bitten and turned into a werewolf, and her sister fights to save her from herself.
Frailty: Father wrangles his two sons into killing people for God. Written and directed by Bill Paxton. This movie made me very uncomfortable.
The House of the Devil: College student goes to babysit in a creepy old house where things are exactly what they seem. A throwback to 70s/early 80s horror. Nicely filmed. Classic scene to The Fixx's "One Thing Leads to Another."
The Hidden: An alien that likes hot cars and hot music takes over people's bodies and goes on a killing spree. So maybe it's science fiction, but I threw it in anyway.
Seventh Moon: A couple honeymooning in China are pursued by ancient creatures and must find a way to survive the night. Will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Borderland: Friends on vacation in Mexico cross paths with a human sacrifice cult. Happened to me just the other day. Very violent. Sean Astin has a small (as small as a hobbit) role.
The Orphanage: Woman searches for her missing son. Creepy children, creepy masks. Jump-back car accident scene and an "Oh, that's fucked" ending. 
Cold Prey: Snowboarders get pursued by axe-wielding maniac. Sounds horrible, but it's not. Pulse-pounding. 
Anything you'd like to add to this list? Found some gems of your own? Let me know!                                        

Sunday, February 5, 2012



Rest Stop was a direct-to-video movie that I caught on cable the other night. Written and directed by John Shiban and released in 2006, the film follows a girl, Nicole, who is traveling to California with her boyfriend Jess. They stop at a deserted rest stop, and Nicole comes out of the bathroom to find her boyfriend is gone with the car. Enter psychotic red-headed hillbilly. Yeehaw. I half completely hated this movie. Does that mean I half completely liked it? No, it doesn't. I would say if you're a horror movie fan, there's enough in this movie to keep you watching until the end. Five things, actually. The acting isn't all that bad. The camerawork isn't all that bad and is reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original). The plot, admittedly, is kind of creepy (who even stops at rest stops nowadays?) and a couple of good scares are delivered. There is a deformed, picture-taking midget (sorry, little person) in this movie. People like midgets, and I am no different. Okay, so that's the fourth thing. The fifth thing is that Joey Lawrence from Blossom makes an all-too-short appearance. Can you believe Blossom was on for FIVE seasons?!

On to why I half completely hated this movie. First and foremost, this film was very low on the scary, jump-out-of-your-fucking-seat totem pole. I mean, what's the point, right? The director throws in a side of gratuitous violence, and he thinks he's going to win me over? It's not scary, it's just gross. Shiban also tosses in an incestuous, Winnebago-driving, preacher family who are seemingly oblivious to the violent goings-on at the rest stop. "Oh, come in and have a cup of tea, little girl. Oh, the psychotic red-headed hillbilly chasing you is just misunderstood. And you're going to hell." Snore. It's been done a billion times, you make me weep. Next up is the "Is this all really happening or is the girl herself crazy?" conundrum.

In the end, if you take Rest Stop for what it is - a been-there-done-that horror movie with a couple good scares - then you won't be cursing yourself for the 90 minutes or so you lost of your life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Too many times, I have found myself over-comma-ing during my novel edits, only to have to go back the next day and take away like a billion unnecessary commas. Generally, I'm a comma factory when I'm overtired. I don't know why. I guess I just feel the need to pause a lot when I'm sleepy. 

I do know the rules, but grammar rules seem to be in a constant state of flux, no? And so many novelists take liberties. Cormac McCarthy, for instance. The Road is one of my favorite books of all time. The writing is beautiful. Moving. But dear old Cormac does have an aversion to punctuation - at least in this book. But he makes it his thing. Saying "No!" to punctuation is his thing, and it works. 

Other writers seem to put commas in as they choose, maybe as they feel it, while still others are comma Nazis. I guess I fall somewhere in between. Maybe the point is to not stray too far from the rules and to stay consistent in your own writing. Has anyone else experienced their comma bottom? Have you woken up with a keyboard imprint on your face and a head-splitting comma hangover?