Archive for Stephen King

Review: The Witch (2016)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2016 by Xander Woolf

Written and Directed by: Robert Eggers
Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie
Release Date: Feb. 19, 2016


The Witch was a much anticipated indie horror film that has won six awards from six separate film festivals, including the London Film Festival and the infamous Sundance Film Festival.

What’s it about?
The Witch follows a teenage girl by the name of Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) and her family in 1630s America. The family is forced out of the town in which they lived and made to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. When strange and horrible things begin to happen, the highly religious family suspects witchcraft is involved.

Here’s the trailer:

What did I think?
I was so excited to see this movie, especially after Stephen King praised it so highly. I tried for months to get a screener from the film maker, but received no reply. After so many festival wins, though, I’m not surprised.

To be completely honest, I didn’t find the film to be scary. That’s not to say it isn’t a brilliant film, I’m just not afraid of witches or the threat of witchcraft. That being said, the film did a majorly good job in building the suspense and surprising me in the end.

The plot itself was thorough and well constructed. The Witch is a brilliant portrayal of the very real fears that religious Americans in the early 1600s had. There wasn’t one part where I thought, “But what about…?” There were no holes. Instead, I was intrigued from the very first moment to the last.

The actors did an amazing job, as well. They each handled the older language well and were believable in their many flaws. I did have a bit of an issue understanding a lot of what they said, so I would love to watch it over again with some subtitles, but I was still able to follow along very well.

The ending shocked me, to say the least, but I won’t elaborate as to avoid spoilers.

Do I recommend it?
Oh yes, I do. Even if I didn’t find it scary, plenty of other people did. It’s got everything historical horror should have: realism, suspense, wonder and a dab of the unknown. Go watch it for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below!



Guest Post: Review of The Shining, by Stephen King

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Published in 1977 by Doubleday Publishing

Currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The 25 Best Horror Books Ever Written

Written by Bridget Cannon

Are you looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit? The Shining has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was my first “grown up” horror experience. Since then, I have seen a lot of horror movies and read a lot of horror books. Stephen King has remained on the top of my list. I think it is because of the nature of his writing. He brilliantly weaves real life with the supernatural. This is a clever way to allow the reader to feel secure about reading things that normally might just hit a little too close to home. I happen to think that this layer of reality is what makes his books scary. It gives them some real teeth.

The Shining is no exception. In fact, I think it is one of the best books of his to start with because it showcases his early writing so well. We have an ordinary family, the Torrances, with very ordinary problems. They are then thrown into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; specifically, a haunted hotel called the Overlook. The extraordinary then pushes these people to the brink, forcing them to either battle their monsters or to become them.

These battles, in my humble opinion, are far scarier than whatever is in room 217 or the hedge monsters because these are the battles that people have to fight every day. It is a battle that can be lost at any time with very real consequences. The reader gets to see that early on with Jack Torrance. Yes, the ghosts are scary and, yes, we worry about Danny but it is the humanness of it all that is the scariest. That really makes us care about what is happening in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is one of my favorite books for these reasons. If you are looking to try the film, there are two versions. I like do the 1980 movie version despite it losing parts of the book, but Jack Nicholson is wonderful in it. The 1997 miniseries is a lot closer to the book and the version I prefer. I have found that to be true with a lot of King’s miniseries since they were able to keep more of the book without having to worry about a run time.

So, if you are looking for a good scare this Halloween, pick up a copy of The Shining! You won’t regret it. If you have read it, then perhaps you should give it a quick reread before picking up a copy of Doctor Sleep, which is the wonderful sequel.

Review of The Mist (2007)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the final installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review the movie The Mist, starring Thomas Jane.


The Mist (2007)

Dir. Frank Darabont; Starring Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Toby Jones

I went into The Mist already knowing the ending, thanks to a conversation with another film critic a few months ago. Despite this, however, the emotional impact of this movie was not lost on me. In fact, knowing the ending made it all the more powerful. But I won’t assume you all feel the same way, so this post will remain free of spoilers.

The Mist, based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, follows David Drayton (Jane) and his son Billy (Nathan Gamble) after a violent storm takes down trees and power lines, destroying parts of their property in the process. The two are tasked to go to the supermarket to pick up necessary, non-perishable supplies to hold them over until the power comes back on. While in the crowded market, a heavy fog overtakes the building. It’s not long before those trapped inside begin to realize that there’s something more sinister waiting for them outside.

Honestly, I’m just going to come out and say that I loved this movie. The Mist cleverly uses the theme of the unknown to its advantage. It’s a common horror device, this idea that what you can’t see is much more frightening than what you can see. Everyone fears the unknown, especially when that unknown is producing dead bodies. I found myself clutching my poor cat to my chest, I was so on edge. Even Stephen King himself has said that he was genuinely frightened by this adaptation of his novel (Source).

There are no jump scenes. Or, at least, there are no scenes that made me jump, thankfully (my cat is a different story!). This story relies on the content to create the fear, which always leads to quality work, in my own opinion. The great thing about this movie, however, is that the scariest part isn’t even necessarily the monsters lurking in the mist. Sure, that’s terrifying, the unknown, but the scariest part was how the people reacted to their situation. The Mist really shows what fear and mob mentality can do to a group of people, and that’s both fascinating and terrifying.

The acting was good. I won’t say phenomenal, but it was good. Marcia Gay Harden’s performance as Mrs. Carmody was pretty amazing. She really captured the ultra-religious, unstable woman that she needed to be. Toby Jones was also great as Ollie Weeks. He was the level headed beta male that followed all of David’s orders. He was sarcastic and brave and funny. In fact, after Harden and Jones’ performances, Thomas Jane fell short as our heroic lead. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but his performance was just a bit off. I didn’t believe him.

All in all, though, this movie is a great horror film. It’s terrifying and tragic; it doesn’t rely on jump scares; and it even terrified the great Stephen King! I highly recommend it to anyone who isn’t a new parent (seriously, you can’t say I didn’t warn you).

Let us know what you think in the comments!


Review of Secret Window (2004)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the second installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review the movie Secret Window starring Johnny Depp.

Secret Window (2004)
Dir. David Koepp; Starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro, Maria Bello

The first time I saw Secret Window was back in 2004. I was in high school and I had gone to a theater we affectionately called the “Cheap Seats” because the tickets were only $2. The tickets could be so low because they didn’t receive the movies until after their runs in regular theaters. Every weekend, my best friend at the time and I would walk down to the “Cheap Seats” and see a movie. When we saw that Johnny Depp – our favorite actor – was in Secret Window, our eyes were on nothing else.

At that time, I was already pretty adamant that I would become a writer. I had already written a good portion of my first novel, which my best friend swore up and down was amazing (I knew better; she was just being nice). After we saw Secret Window, however, she got her kicks out of telling me that I would end up just like Mort Rainey (Depp), which made me shudder at the thought. Far be it from me that I would end up the main character in a Stephen King story. No thank you!

For those of you who don’t know, the movie Secret Window is based on a Stephen King novella titled Secret Window, Secret Garden, which was published in the anthology Four Past Midnight. The story follows Mort Rainey, a writer who secludes himself in his cabin to get away from his failed marriage. Rainey is visited by a man named John Shooter (Turturro), who claims that Rainey plagiarized his short story and demands that it be acknowledged. As Rainey attempts to get his hands on his original published copy of the story to prove it was written first, Shooter terrorizes him and his family.

This movie has received mixed reviews over the years and I’m here to not help you at all with that. This movie was okay. I loved it when I first saw it, but I can’t say I had the same perception of movies back then. This time around, I was intrigued, but I wasn’t wowed. The movie poked at my nostalgia a bit, but not enough for me to exclaim how much I’ve always loved it.

Johnny Depp, as usual, was great. I mean, nobody plays mental breakdown like Tim Burton’s go-to guy. Being based on a Stephen King story, the plot itself was also amazing. Right up to the end, you’re held in suspense. I’m not sure if it’s because I’d seen it before or because there are so many of these types of movies out there now, but I found myself disconnecting from the story a little bit. Sure, it’s creepy. Sure, it can be scary at some points. Sure, Johnny Depp really holds up as Mort Rainey. But there was something that was just… off.

I don’t know. Am I crazy? Let me know what you thought of Secret Window in the comments!


Review of “Misery,” a Novel by Stephen King and Movie (1990)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2015 by Xander Woolf

In honor of Stephen King’s birthday this past Monday, September 21, this entry is the first installment of my three-post review trilogy. In this post, I will review not only the novel Misery, but also the movie of the same name.

Novel: Misery, by Stephen King. Published: 1987; Viking Publications.

Movie: Misery (1990). Dir. By: Rob Reiner; Starring: James Caan and Kathy Bates. Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movies list.

For those of you who don’t know, Misery, by Stephen King, is about a fairly successful writer named Paul Sheldon who gets into a traumatic car accident and ends up the hostage of Annie Wilkes, a paranoid, manic-depressive shut-in with psychotic tendencies who happens to be Paul’s self-declared “number one fan.” As Paul pieces together what’s happened to him and slowly gets to know Annie’s dark side, the novel becomes more and more intriguing. In fact, I had to force myself to put it down a few times so that I wouldn’t end up having nightmares about Annie Wilkes throwing poisoned sand in my face… or worse.

The novel itself is extremely well-written, as can only be expected of Stephen King. It contains absolutely no typos, which is rare now-a-days, and this reader could tell that every single word was carefully chosen and placed exactly where Mr. King intended. This is crucial to a good horror story, as one misplaced word can disrupt the suspense and quell the reader’s growing fear. But good writing isn’t only made up of carefully chosen, grammatically correct words and punctuation. No, good writing has soul, which Stephen King delivers by the truckload.

The characters are fully formed and well researched. Paul Sheldon is a romance novelist who has houses in New York and LA to show just how successful he is. He has a thorough back story and a distinguishable voice that is maintained throughout the story. Annie Wilkes is a former nurse turned recluse with a mysterious and dark history of death and mental illness. She’s terrifying when she’s angry and almost childlike when she’s happy, which makes her psychosis even more frightening. The key to a good antagonist is the element of surprise. You never know when Annie Wilkes is going to go off.

The novel has just the right amount of suspense to keep the reader engaged until the very end, and the movie is the exact same way. Actually, I’m surprised that the film adaptation is able to capture the exact essence of the novel. Sure, lot of things were changed, as can be expected when a story switches mediums, but the changes seem right. They’re fair, as Annie Wilkes would say.

While James Caan does an amazing job playing Paul Sheldon, I want to focus on Kathy Bates’ version of Annie Wilkes. James Caan was good, but Kathy Bates was phenomenal. Kathy Bates was Annie Wilkes. It can be argued that Kathy Bates is the glue that holds this horrifying story together. She just captures Annie’s psychotic personality and brings her to life, to my horror. Sometimes, when I’m watching a horror adaptation of a book, I pray and pray that the person who plays the villain will be so bad at it that I’m able to laugh. This was not the case with Bates. She was so good that I’m afraid that if I go to sleep, I’ll wake up in that little room with her looming over me.

Whether you prefer to read books or watch movies, I highly suggest Misery in either of her forms. If you prefer to read, take pleasure in King’s easy prose with vivid and horrifying imagery. If you prefer to watch, take pleasure in Kathy Bates’ riveting and frightening performance of Annie Wilkes. Or, if you’re like me, do both and compare, then let me know what you think of it all!


Review of Carrie (1976)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Dir. Brian De Palma; Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, William Katt
Currently on Rotten Tomatoes Top 100 Horror Movie List
*May contain spoilers*

Carrie has a special place in horror film history. Not only has every horror fan heard of this 1970s classic, but it was the first movie adaptation ever made of a Stephen King story. As we all know today, you can barely swing a stick without hitting a Stephen King film/television adaptation (and for good reason, if you ask me).

If you haven’t seen it, Carrie centers around a telekinetic young woman named Carrie White (Spacek), who not only lives in an abusive household with her mentally unstable mother, Margaret (Laurie), but also deals with a brutal amount of bullying at school. The plot itself consists of Carrie learning how to use her telekinetic powers while her fellow students prepare for the senior prom.

This movie captures what it means to be a Stephen King story. The biggest praise for Stephen King is that his characters are all everyday people. Carrie is just a teenage girl with an abusive, religious zealot of a mother. The other students are typical high school students, who pick on the weird girl. Carrie discovers her telekinetic powers and, when provoked, uses them for revenge. If this isn’t an anti-bullying story for the ages, I don’t know what is. Don’t pick on the weird girl. You’ll regret it.

The use of imagery in this movie is powerful. A major image in this film is the statue of a bleeding, crucified Jesus, at which Carrie is forced to stare whenever her mother locks her in the closet for sinning. This icon sticks with Carrie throughout the film, creating an air of oppression and punishment. Blood is another powerful image that surrounds Carrie wherever she goes. Blood causes Carrie nothing but pain and suffering and, eventually, leads to her eventual provocation.

Carrie isn’t the type of film that’s designed to make you jump. Instead of going for the traditional jump scares associated with modern horror, the director decided to let Carrie White’s story create that air of horror. Not only do we, the audience, feel bad for Carrie and the way she’s treated, we also start to fear her as the movie progresses. We see how she’s tortured both at school and at home; we see how she develops her powers; and we see how it all drives her crazy. We know that she’s going to snap at some point – nobody can endure that much bullying without lashing out at least once – and this knowledge is what keeps the audience on the edge of their seat. This knowledge is what makes Stephen King such a genius.

Carrie is so well done, with an amazing cast, and will leave you with chills. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend you rectify this situation.

Let me know what you think in the comments.


Guest Post: Review of Stephen King’s “It”

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Written by Donna Hardy Johnston

#1 on Amazon’s “Books from Hell – The 25 Best Horror Books Ever Written”

It by Stephen King (who else) is in the top 50 of almost every ranked list of horror books. For those of you who are King fans, It was published between the Shining and Misery and, in the same time period, King was publishing under the name of Richard Bachman. At any rate, it is Stephan King horror at its best. If there is something/someone that scares the hell out of you, it is in this book: from werewolves to clowns to mummies. And it comes at you from every direction, including through the sewer and up the toilet!

As with all of King’s stories, It is a battle between good and evil. In this horror classic; it is the positive synergy of the 7 main characters that provides the shining, white strength of the good guys. While, it is the sewer odors and the creatures you fear most – those that hide under your bed or in your closet or under the grates in the sewers—that define the shifting image of evil that is It/Pennywise.

This story opens in 1957-1958 with the 7 as children, and closes in 1984-1985 with the 7 as adults. The timeline shifts back and forth between the two periods, as the adults return to Derry, Maine, to finish what they started as children: destroy It/Pennywise.

The 7 totally baffle, which results in It/Pennywise fearing them. It is a study in horror, fear and what King is best at, an accelerating spiral into madness. It/Pennywise brings out the worst in the not so good characters that surround the 7. He feeds the small kernel of evil in the bullies/antagonists and drives them until they are walking automata of hate. King is one of the best at twisting, turning, and growing evil to the point that it (It) becomes the single minded, demented drive of a character. There is no one better at describing the descent into hell.

In It, no one is safe from dismemberment and death in the most horrible manner. So, even if you follow the 15 Rules to Stay Alive, in a King story you could still die in a chance encounter.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you want a good scare. It is the stuff of good nightmares, of creeping claws from under the bed, and gooey monsters watching from the closet. I found it a good read… as long as the lights were on.