Deadfest 2017 – Final Week of Screams and Scares

For Halloween I challenged myself to read 13 books and watch 13 movies with creepy/spooky/deadly content in a quest to give myself nightmares. And it was way too ambitious – I’ve learned my lesson for next year.

But I’ve finally reached the end with these final picks: The Diviners, Pretty Monsters, and Borrower of the Night, “It Follows” and “XX”. See my related “Deadfest” posts for my other Halloween reviews!

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.

BOOKS

The Diviners – Libba Bray (2012) [My rating: 3/5]

It’s 1926, and Evie O’Neill is sent to live with her occult-obsessed uncle in New York City after her parents feel her behaviour has gotten too wild. She’s thrilled to be there, but when people start turning up dead Evie may need to embrace her supernatural gifts to try and stop a killer. I really wanted to love this book because I ate up Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy (2003-2007) with a frigging spoon, but sadly I was underwhelmed. I actually liked all of the characters, and it was satisfyingly gory. More than you’d expect for a YA book. But it was sooooo loooooong, and I kind of felt like Bray had a reference book of 20’s slang and social mores that she couldn’t pick and choose from, so decided to include literally everything, everywhere possible. We get it, Libba Bray, your book is set in the 20’s. We’ve all seen “The Great Gatsby”, we know what it looks like. For me, it just had the opposite effect than what I’m sure was intended. Instead of helping to paint a picture of the 1920’s, after a very short while it started to actually take me out of the narrative because it was just becoming repetitive. Bottom line: it’s an original concept with a pretty kick-ass female protagonist, but it could maybe have used a more ruthless editing.

Those Across the River – Christopher Buehlman (2011) [2/5]
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie (1939) [5/5]
The Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie (1934) [5/5]
The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel (2017) [4/5]
Horrorstör – Grady Hendrix (2014) [4/5]
Hex – Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2013) [4/5]
The Stepford Wives – Ira Levin (1972) [4/5]
Pretty Monsters – Kelly Link (2008) [My Rating: 3/5]

“…an alchemical mixture of Borges, Raymond Chandler, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” – Laura Miller, Salon
This is a collection of nine short stories, highlights of which include possibly carnivorous sofas, a handbag with a village inside it, and an undead babysitter. I borrowed my copy of Pretty Monsters from my friend…five years ago? I’ve definitely moved with it at least twice, so I made sure to add it to my Halloween list because seriously, woman. And for all that waiting to sit down and get into this book, I have to say that it was an alright read, but not fantastic. I have a consistent issue with short stories, mainly that they’re too short. When I read a book I want a really fleshed out story, not a sampling of an interesting plot for a handful of pages. That’s like craving a big juicy burger, but the only thing you can find is a canapé. That being said, these stories are delightfully quirky and weird. I’d say if you’re a fan of shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, or podcasts like “Welcome to Night Vale”, you’ll probably really like this book. I’m sure I would have loved it more if each short story had been a little longer. I’ll settle for a novella! I just need more faerie handbags in my life.

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu (2016) [3/5]
The Haunting at Hawke’s Moor – Camille Oster (Kindle) (2016) [3/5]
Borrower of the Night – Elizabeth Peters (1973) [My Rating: 5/5]

“Peters really knows how to spin romance and adventure into a mystery.” – Boston Herald
Borrower of the Night is the first of the Vicky Bliss mystery series, following the smart, buxom art historian on various adventures around the globe in the pursuit of lost or stolen masterpieces. In this book, she’s in Germany on the hunt for a legendary 16th century masterwork in a reportedly haunted medieval castle. Vicky doesn’t believe in ghosts, but must eventually face the possibility that either a supernatural evil inhabits the castle, or a real someone is willing to kill for what Vicky is determined to find. To me, Vicky is like if Nancy Drew, Veronica Mars, and Lara Croft had a three-way and made a beautiful Scandinavian baby who grew up and majored in art history. She’s smart and courageous, and I’ve had a crush on her since I first found these books at 14. The one thing I find really frustrating about this book is that Vicky often comments how difficult it is to be taken seriously in the male-dominated realm of art history; like The Stepford Wives, it’s just astounding that this message from 44 years ago still resonates today. I’ll be reviewing the entire series at some point, but I always recommend these books to anyone who loves kick ass girls who solve crime.

I Remember You – Yrsa Sigurdardóttir (2010) [2/5]

MOVIES

III – The Ritual (2015) [3/5]
The Axe Murders of Villisca (2016) [1/5]
The Babadook (2014) [2/5]
The Bad Batch (2016) [1/5]
The Black Room (2017) [1/5]
The Bye Bye Man (2017) [2/5]
Gerald’s Game (2017) [4/5]
The Girl with All the Gifts (2016) [4/5]
It Follows (2014) [My rating: 4/5]

It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.
This is a supernatural, psychological horror movie. My favourite kind! A teenage girl is pursued by a supernatural entity after a sexual encounter. It can take any form, and will keep following her and getting closer unless she passes it on to someone else. This movie has a lot of great jump scares and creepy scenes, but it also has a pretty thought-provoking concept: supernatural consequences being spread like STDs. It’s one of the reasons I also liked “Contracted” (2013). In both “Contracted” and “It Follows”, we see men who are perfectly okay with preying on unsuspecting women for their own dark purposes, and then leaving them to deal with the consequences without a second thought. I mean, it’s not like that’s at all relatable to real life. In the end, what I actually think is the most interesting thing about “It Follows” is the complete impossibility of Jay’s situation. If she sleeps with someone else, she saves herself but dooms that person and everyone that comes after in a terrible ripple effect. But if she accepts her fate and lets the monster kill her, it will go up the line and start going after all the previous people who passed it on. I have no idea what I would do, so I guess it’s a good thing this is a work of fiction.

Mercy (2014) [1/5]
Rings (2017) [1/5]
XX (2017) [My Rating: 2/5]

Four deadly tales by four killer women
This anthology horror film is comprised of the following short stories written and directed by women:

The Box – A boy stops eating after looking inside a mysterious gift box on the subway. Based on the short story by Jack Ketchum.
The Birthday Party – A woman refuses to let an untimely death ruin her daughter’s birthday party.
Don’t Fall – A camping trip in the desert turns deadly when four friends disturb an evil spirit.
Her Only Living Son – A mother must deal with the child from hell.

I’m actually not sure if someone was trying to be funny by calling this a horror anthology, because there’s really nothing scary about it imho. For me, the most disturbing thing was the creepy stop motion animation that frames the film. Some creepy-AF dollhouse with a cracked doll face and spindly legs *shudders*. This movie would get a 1/5 from me if not for “The Birthday Party”, which I legitimately enjoyed. Although again, not scary, just very darkly funny. I wanted so badly for “XX” to be awesome, because yay girl power! But ultimately I found it was just a whole lot of meh.

You’re Next (2011) [4/5]

catana comicsThat’s it, that’s all! Now I can move on to anything and everything holiday-related for the next two months. Because in my world, Christmas officially begins November 1st!!

 

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