My journey continues through the 26 books and movies I challenged myself to read and see for Halloween. Featured here are my reviews for: The Murder on the Orient Express, I Remember You, “The Axe Murders of Villisca”, “The Bye Bye Man”, and “Gerald’s Game”. See last week’s post for my other reviews from this list!

For really great lists of books and movies that inspired a few of my selections, check out these Buzzfeed articles: 39 Books That Are Actually Scary and 31 Underrated Creepy, Disturbing, and Downright Scary Films You Can Watch Throughout October.

The Diviners – Libba Bray (2012)
Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman (2011)
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (1939)
The Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (1934) [My Rating: 5/5]

“The murderer is with us – on the train now…”
After a sudden change in plans, Detective Hercule Poirot finds himself aboard the unusually fully-booked Orient Express from Istanbul to London. When a man in the compartment next to him is found stabbed a dozen times in his compartment which was locked from the inside, Poirot must discover the killer trapped with them on the train before they can strike again – no easy task when one by one all of the passengers become suspects. This novel is really interesting as Christie clearly based an aspect of the story on the real-life kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh’s son in 1932, and she uses this novel to explore really heavy topics like thwarted justice, vigilantism, and morality as relative and not absolute. There was a great adaptation of this classic Christie whodunnit made in 1974 featuring some of the biggest names in 70’s Hollywood. A new adaptation is coming out November 3 with an insanely awesome cast, and I’m so freaking excited! If you’ve never read an Agatha Christie before, this is a great way to dive in.

The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel (2017) [4/5]
Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix (2014)
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2013)
The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin (1972)
Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link (2008)
Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu (2016) [3/5]
The Haunting at Hawke’s Moor – Camille Oster (Kindle) (2016)
Borrower of the Night – Elizabeth Peters (1973)
I Remember You – Yrsa Sigurdardóttir (2010) [My Rating: 2/5]

*Winner of the 2011 Icelandic Crime Fiction award*
In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends buy a rundown house (accessible only by a small ferry that only runs in good weather) as a renovation project. They soon realize they’re not so alone in this house, and whatever’s there really wants them to leave. Meanwhile, in another village across the fjord, a doctor investigates the suicide of a local woman and discovers she was obsessed with his vanished son. When these two stories collide, the terrifying truth is uncovered. It might sound like that description was pulled straight from the book jacket, but that’s only because it was pulled straight from the book jacket. To be perfectly honest, this book was super boring and slow-moving, and when I still have 9 books to read between now and the 31st, I most definitely don’t have time for a book that can’t hook me within 100 pages. It gets 2 stars for two reasons: 1) It’s probably not fair for me to give 1 star to an award-winning book when I didn’t actually finish the damn thing, and 2) Because a lot of reviews that I read about it online make it seem like I Remember You could be really creepy and interesting, but only if you’re ready to put in the work.   

III – The Ritual (2015)
The Axe Murders of Villisca (2016) [My Rating: 1/5]

In 1912, eight people were brutally murdered in their house. This house.
I had never heard of the unsolved 1912 axe murders of Villisca, Iowa until I started listening to true crime podcasts last year. Eight people (6 of them children) were axed to death in the middle of the night in their own home and no one was ever charged for it, even though one Reverend George Kelly was tried twice for the crime. In “The Axe Murders of Villisca”, three teenage misfits with a paranormal YouTube channel sneak into the murder house at night to try and record paranormal activity and end up discovering the “truth” of what happened in 1912. This movie is every teenagers-in-a-haunted-building movie you’ve seen before, except worse because the “teenagers” are very obviously played by thirty year-olds, and lines like “totes cray-balls” make it seem like the script was written by someone’s grandparent trying to be hip to what the cool kids are saying. If you want to see something “based on a true story” about people being terrorized in a haunted house, your time would be better spent watching something like “The Conjuring” (2013) or “The Amityville Horror” (1979/2005).

The Babadook (2014) [2/5]
The Bad Batch (2016)
The Black Room (2017)
The Bye Bye Man (2017) [My Rating: 2/5]

Don’t think it, don’t say it
Three college friends rent a creepy, run-down house together that is inhabited by an entity and his demon dog. This “bye bye man” will mess with your mind until you question reality, then claim the lives of everyone who knows his name while simultaneously compelling them to share it with others. It sounds like a story that’s been done before but I actually liked the idea that this being’s name is like an infectious disease, and if you so much as hear it you’re doomed. I would honestly rate this movie higher if the writing and the acting had led me to actually care what happened to any of the characters. Even cameos by Faye Dunaway and Carrie-Anne Moss didn’t help this situation, and honestly seeing Faye in this movie made me a little sad. It’s like seeing Bette Davis playing all those crazy old crone roles at the end of her career – is that all that we can offer actresses of a certain age who’ve had prolific, award-winning careers? Bit parts in bad horror movies? I say boo to that.  

Gerald’s Game (2017) [My Rating: 4/5]

Some games you play. Some you survive.
I had a feeling this movie would be pretty good – you can’t really go wrong with Stephen King (imho). Unlike some of his other famous works, this story doesn’t feature vampires, possessed cars, or bullied girls with psychic powers. The creepiest part about “Gerald’s Game” is that it could conceivably happen. It’s perfectly reasonable for a troubled married couple to plan a getaway at a secluded cabin to try and rekindle the romance. Perfectly reasonable that they might introduce something kinky like handcuffs to add some excitement. Perfectly reasonable that when tensions and emotions run high, an older man might have a heart attack and die, leaving his wife helpless and handcuffed to the bed with no one around for miles to hear her scream for help. Perfectly reasonable that the wife might start to lose her mind when she’s faced with a painful death by starvation and dehydration, a stray dog slowly consuming her husband’s corpse, her own repressed memories of a past trauma, and some deformed being who comes to her at night and seems to be anticipating her demise. I’ve never read the book, so I was expecting the movie to end the way you’d expect a movie like this to end, but I was pleasantly surprised. Would definitely watch again!     

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)
It Follows (2014)
Mercy (2014)
Rings (2017) [1/5]
XX (2017)
You’re Next (2011)

Read/watched some of these yourself? Let me know what you thought!

Want to follow along? This week (October 15 -21) I’ll be reading The Stepford Wives, Horrorstör and And Then There Were None, and watching “The Bad Batch”, “Mercy”, and “You’re Next”. Join me!