I Have The Sight by Rick Wood – Book Review

Dead girl. Halloween theme.

Dead girl. Halloween theme.

I Have The Sight by Rick Wood – Book Review by Ben Walker

For many, the most chilling thing about a possession story is lack of control, whether it’s a malevolent demon taking over someone you love, or the idea that your own mind may be pushed out by forces unknown.

An important thing in a possession story then, is to touch on this theme of control. Not to harp on about it, but The Exorcist does this masterfully, as Chris’ life rapidly goes from happy to hellish, Regan becomes a vessel of hatred and chaos, and both Karras and Merrin realise their faith is no protection from fate.

In I Have The Sight, Rick Wood plays off this core concept of control, with titular sight-haver Edward (Eddie) King showing his confident demonologist side before walking us down the road he trod to get there. And as it turns out, it’s a long hard road out of…you know where.

I’ve realised recently that The Exorcist may have spoiled me in terms of expectations for this kind of story. Judging …Sight on its own merits, it’s a perfectly serviceable story. But compared to the grandparent of all exorcism tales, this is a less weighty take on the genre.

Reason being, the opening chapter sets up a demonic showdown, then weaves back & forth between past & present to reveal that Eddie is really the one in need of of help. So there’s your lack of control. Even though Eddie seems helpless for the majority of the story, he’s still introduced as a hero type. So when the demonic threat emerges, it never comes off as threatening as it could’ve, because by page thirteen, it’s already clear that Eddie has control. Taking us back through a shaky past doesn’t change that, so the tension never really builds enough to make you worry for him.

Along the way, there are some knockabout exorcism/demon battle scenes, which end up favouring physicality (hands beating back demonic flames, slashing claws, force powers etc) over mental games, which didn’t really do it for me. I can appreciate the visuals, but they felt like acrobatic fight scenes from a movie (which would make sense given the author’s background in screenwriting), rather than complelling narrative nightmares.

Taken as a standalone story, …Sight works fine as a one-off read. However, it’s the start of a series, and I’m not convinced that I want to follow Eddie’s journey any further. Most questions about his past are answered throughout, so there’s no itch in my brain for more, even with the final question the story lazily throws out. Check it out if you’d like a novel spin on the standard girl in peril exorcism trope, just don’t expect pea soup and terror.

Score: 5/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MFDCMYT/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MFDCMYT/

And you can follow Rick Wood on twitter @rickwoodwriter

Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons – Book Review

dbu1Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons by Christopher Lombardo & Jeff Kirschner

Available now in Paperback & Kindle (links at bottom of review)

I don’t much like lists. If I go shopping, I prefer using my increasingly colander-like memory to go over what I need for the week. I avoid Buzzfeed as much as possible, and if people ask me what my Top 3 somethings are – well, I don’t have a Top 3 anything. Why collate likes on some mental spreadsheet? I like to enjoy things on the fly, apart from chili. That’s probably my favourite foods. And I do have favourite bands, movies, books, authors… Hypocritical? Maybe, but that’s what makes me OK with loving Death by Umbrella so much.

Lovingly curated by Christopher Lombardo and Jeff Kirschner, Death…is a list of 100+ unusual & creative movie weapons. After a suitably Tromaesque introduction by Uncle Lloyd Kaufman, I dove in expecting a few brief rundowns of gloriously daft death scenes, but this book has a lot more to offer than that.

Like a Buzzfeed article pumped up on the brain juice from Gremlins 2, Death… takes a gleeful yet insightful look into the world of movie gore, celebrating bizarre offings in schlockfests like Leprechaun 2 and Killer Rack to more surprising inclusions like There Will be Blood and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. The deaths from these non-horror titles deserve their place as much as the corny (ha!) killing in Sleepwalkers, showing that the authors really know their stuff when it comes to cinema.

And that’s what makes this so much more than a read-and-forget coffee table book. Every article goes beyond a simple recounting of death scenes to include making-of trivia, references to related movies, nods to classic literature and more. The authors clearly know horror, but it isn’t their only area of expertise, which makes for a fascinating read. Of course, you could just skim through to the juicy bits – and for the far less attentive, there are plenty of stills, theatrical posters and illustrations to gawp at – but take your time and you’ll find yourself up to your eyeballs in well-researched facts. Now there’s a way to go!

dbu2Even though this is out on Kindle, I’d recommend picking up the paperback. This is one you’re going to want to keep handy every time you watch an Asylum movie and think “there’s nothing stupider than that out there, is there?” Not a page or sentence is wasted, and I genuinely can’t think of another non-fiction horror movie book that’s gripped me as much as this one in a long time. Though that could just be the lack of oxygen from laughing so hard.

Score: 10/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1593939310/
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/1593939310/

You can get more goodness from Lombardo and Kirschner by checking out their podcast Really Awful Movies, their website of the same name, and their twitter @awful_movies

Prince of Nightmares by John McNee – Book Review

princeofnightmaresPrince of Nightmares by John McNee – Book Review by Ben Walker

There’s a dream I always remember from back in my childhood, mainly because it terrified the hell out of me. Every now and then I’ll think of it again and shudder. It’s part of me, buried in my brain’s back yard, bursting out when I don’t want it to. Some books have the same effect; their scenes digging into that same, hidden place of dread. Prince of Nightmares – the masterful first novel by John McNee – is already one of those.

It’s a simple premise. A widower goes to a hotel which is rumoured to give its guests nightmares. He plans on using the hotel’s supposed links to the nightmare realm as a way of seeing his deceased wife one last time, but there are other things out there with plans of their own.

Right from the start, McNee lays down the foundations of terror and never lets you relax for long. Chapters end with gut-punching cliffhangers or uneasy suggestions. Every time I put the book down for a break, I felt wary of reading more, in case the horror became too much to take. There are definite nods to Clive Barker and his hellscapes suggested in The Hellbound Heart (and explored further in the Hellraiser movies), which is no bad thing. Flesh-ripping chains share space with ugly giants and foul demons, all of which lurk, threaten and destroy the hotel residents with spine-chilling efficiency.

Fittingly for a book about dreams, the narrative starts to weave in and out of reality, with dreams crossing into the waking world and vice-versa. By the midpoint, McNee starts to blend in callbacks to previous events, making this a joy to re-read. I rushed through the book, enjoying the fast pace and terrifying ramping up of the nightmares, so much so that it felt like I;d missed out on some details. Taking a slower approach will reward you greatly, as there’s just so much to appreciate here.

The beauty is in the story’s simplicity, and the small cast of characters. Everyone who appears has something to do, and by the end you’re in no doubt as to their fate. It reads like a well-made horror movie somehow transformed into a book, all winding down into a satisfying ending. I can honestly say this is one of the best horror novels I’ve read in years, and I can guarantee you’ll have a good time reading it. Let’s hope McNee doesn’t keep us waiting too long for his next novel. There are bound to be a few sleepless nights between now and then…

Score: 10/10

Book links

Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016Z8BSXS

Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/B016Z8BSXS

You can also follow John McNee on Twitter @THEJohnMcNee