Missing Christmas

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I don’t have seasonal affective disorder. I actually experience the reverse, my mood becoming measurably better when it’s darker and colder outside and worse when it gets warm and bright.

But something happens to Christmas as you grow up, and it’s something that made the holidays difficult for roughly the last ten years. Both the spiritual and the secular sides suffered. In fact, it’s only just this year that I kind of got back into the spirit. I put up most of the Christmas decorations at home. At work, I’m decorating my cubicle in a Nightmare Before Christmas theme, which was a spontaneous decision that I’m really enjoying. I’m a Halloween-all-year kind of girl, so it fits my personality.

Christmas music is the one thing that’s been a constant through the ennui. With music on my mind, I wrote down a lot of these feelings about Christmas that people just don’t seem to talk about, especially when it comes to singletons and people who aren’t churchgoers. Sure, sometimes I feel like the Grinch (don’t most of us grow up into the Grinch?), but really, I’m more sad than angry. However, I think letting go of what Christmas used to be has helped me enjoy it in my new ways.

MISSING CHRISTMAS

As a child, I saw Santa through the open bedroom door
Sick with excitement at what morning had in store
I saw in him in the darkness, which fueled my belief
Of magical reindeer who come when you sleep

Half-eaten carrots and hoofprints on snow
Once you spot the lies they only start to grow
When magic becomes just another sleight of hand
One starts to wonder where Christmas should stand

The stories repeat so often, I know them by heart.
Growing up without children, I’ve no longer a part
Meaningless, meaning less every year
And now Christmas seems like every other part of the year, I fear…

The moment I stopped looking for Christmas
Was the same time the magic died
Its epitaph written in my attic-lost tree
I mourn for the death of a magical time

I love buying gifts for my family and friends
Receiving doesn’t matter much after it ends
The truth is I lost Christmas a long time ago.
I’ve struggled to find it again, but I know…

That feasts, friends, and families simply don’t
Make the time any more magical, the season just won’t
Reach as far inside of me as it did once before
When magic and miracles brought hope to my door

Half-eaten carrots and hoofprints on snow
Once you spot the lies they only start to grow
When magic becomes just another sleight of hand
One starts to wonder where Christmas should stand.

A ‘Christmas’ Song

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Last December, I thoroughly amused myself by writing Christmas songs, my first forays into lyric-writing and the inspiration behind this year’s push. Some of them are funny, some of them are sad, some more atmospheric than substantive.

Or in the case of “A ‘Christmas’ Song,” thoroughly ironic.

A ‘CHRISTMAS’ SONG

This is a Christmas song.
You can tell because of the word ‘Christmas’
I could avoid the word the whole song long
As long as I use the word ‘Christmas’ just once
As long as I use the word ‘Christmas’ just once

Even if I didn’t say ‘Christmas’ once
Radios would find a way to still play
A Christmas song, as long as winter is mentioned
So I pander to the Christmas pandemonium
And write a new Christmas song
And write a new Christmas song

These days, do I even mention winter at all
When all I need is a cold dark night and twinkling lights?

Do I bring up the feasts, the families, the weather
Or whether everyone’s going to make it home?
Should I bring up Krampus or Santa Claus,
Bright red noses, or roofs where reindeer pause?

I could bring up Jesus, the reason for the season,
Or axial tilt, the real reason for the season,
Solstice, Saturnalia, pagan trees and wreaths,
Make another Chanukah song. Any other beliefs?

It’s a Christmas song because I say it is.
It’s a Christmas song because I wrote it is.
As long as I use the word ‘Christmas’ just once.
As long as I use the word ‘Christmas’ just once.

 

THORNS now available!

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Thorns E CoverIt’s finally here! The first book in the series, THORNS, has been made available across the board.

To love a rose, you must also love its thorns. THORNS invites you down the twisted paths of classic fairy tales, myths, and legends into dark forests, urban jungles, otherworlds, underworlds, and your very own rose-red hearts.

Kindle e-book
Trade paperback
Universal link to all other vendors

When eccentric artist Olivia Rowe returns to the Castle to fulfill a childhood promise to its mysterious owner, Griffin, an assassination attempt against him catapults her into a world of hunters, witches, and enchantments—where fairy tales are real but happily-ever-afters are far from guaranteed.

With a rogue hunter hot on their heels, they must journey between the modern world and the last remaining magical enclaves to rescue Snow White, the Sleeping Kingdom, and Griffin himself from Bluebeard, a powerful sorcerer on a life-stealing spree to achieve immortality.

Voice

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I pick up a book and read the first lines.
I listen to new music all the time.
And I think, I want to sound like that.
Why can’t my cords vibrate like that?
Why can’t my brain string words like that?
Why can’t I be louder, lovelier, stronger, better, best?
Why am I trapped sounding like this?

I wish I could sound like them, but I can’t.
Because I’m not them.
My voice is my voice,
And imitation only gets so far.
Always pale and weak,
Nowhere near where they are.

My voice is my own.
And maybe someday someone will say,
I wish I could sound like you.
But they can’t.
Because my voice is my own,
And there will never be another one like it.
Like it or not, my voice is my own.

The Rose Less Taken

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I’ve been very busy with NaNoWriMo and the publication of Thorns was delayed, but it looks like it should be a go here within a week at most. I have a collection of Christmas songs that got this whole lyric-writing thing started, but I don’t want to start those until after Thanksgiving.

With Thorns coming out soon, I thought I’d share a song I wrote that was (very loosely) inspired by it. It’s got some themes connected to the series, but it’s not spoilerific, because it’s inspired by rather than based on.

It’s definitely got a darker rock edge to what was originally meant to be a pop sound. I’d put it in a pretty little minor key.

THE ROSE LESS TAKEN

She illuminates the room with crimson blue light
Fills up the spaces in everyone’s sight
For every step she takes, they all walk a mile
Velvet on her lips and thorns in her smile.

She is the eye in the center of the storm
The thickest of hides always gets torn
Making them wonder if she is the one
Love potion on her skin and poison in her tongue.

Chorus:
A rainbow in the gray
A slither out of sight
Woman by day
Temptation by night
I know that I shouldn’t
But I never say no
Wherever she takes me
I know that I’ll go
All she does is smile
And she leaves me broken
I’ll sink in her thorns
She’s the rose less taken.

Heaven knows she sends to me to hell
She was the very last angel who fell
She seems like honey, but you suffer her sting
And worship her for the pain that she brings.

Bridge:
She’s the vampire they cling to
The doll they desire
They pour gasoline
She sets them on fire
I’m only one of the beasts that she tames
She does what she does
And I’m the only one to blame.

Chorus

REVIEW: Silent Hill

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Silent_Hill_film_poster[Warning: Here there be spoilers]

I agonized over what movie I would review for Halloween. I wanted it to be one of my favorites, one I really liked. The Descent? A 1408/Oculus double feature (because yes, they go together)? American Mary? Candyman? I ultimately decided on Silent Hill, one of the first movies I saw during my freshman year of college, when I started watching R-rated horror and really got on the horror train. (Yes, I waited until I was seventeen. Yes, I am that person.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m prone to really like my early introductions to things, because that’s before I get jaded. But despite the fact it’s not a perfect film, Silent Hill was surprisingly good, especially for a video game to movie adaptation. Although from what I hear, if you’re going to do a VG2M horror adaptation, Silent Hill is the one to go to. I’ve never played the games myself. I’m too prone to habitual behavior for me to trust myself around video games. So I don’t have any expectations of someone who’s played the game, but the movie pushes so many of my personal buttons. It wasn’t a critical darling, and I can tell why. It’s monster-dense, melodramatic, and as stories go, not very original. But for me it’s less about originality (although that’s nice, too) and more about execution. It may be derivative, but is it a good story? Am I entertained for the night? Am I satisfied? Can I watch it over and over and over again and never get tired of it? Silent Hill is one of those films for me.

This is as much a contemplative retrospective as it is a review. Okay, it’s just me rewatching the movie and geeking out. Bear with me.

One of the most wonderful things about this movie is that the cast was originally so woman-heavy, they had to give Sean Bean a somewhat extraneous side plot just to make men feel included. And it’s one of those rare Sean Bean roles in which he doesn’t die, so… But the movie is a powerhouse of female roles with actresses known for genre films. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.

Despite being a generally misogynistic genre, horror also historically has these huge, powerful roles for women, especially with the Final Girl trope. But Silent Hill and The Descent, both movies with a majority female cast, are both in my top ten list of favorite movies, with layered, nuanced characters and all different kinds of strength. What’s more, while many of these women are sexy and beautiful, because Hollywood, the movies and their strength don’t derive from those qualities. Or rather, to me, the sexiness comes from the fact their strength isn’t from sex but from character and determination, if that makes sense.

We begin with Radha Mitchell, who is a wonderful, solid leading lady. One of the things you might keep an eye on in subsequent viewings is how her main outfit changes over the course of the movie. It’s supposed to be the same outfit, but the colors subtly change from scene to scene to fit the hue and mood and transitions during the movie. Props to the costume department for coming up with so many forms of the same outfit and making it feel seamless. (Another trivia side note, this is supposed to take place in West Virginia, but it was shot in Canada, which means a certain percentage of the cast needs to be local, so there are all these Canadian accents here and there. It’s a little hilarious, especially when the script has more regional dialogue.)

Mitchell’s character, Rose, and Bean’s character, Christopher, are searching for their daughter Sharon, who’s sleepwalked far from home, screaming “Silent Hill!” when they try to wake her up. This prompts Rose’s research into her adoptive daughter’s origin in the ghost town Silent Hill–a former coal town rendered uninhabitable by a fire–and her plan to secretly take Sharon to Silent Hill to see why she has these terrible night terrors and somnambulism episodes.

Seems like a wonderful plan.

Sharon is played by at-the-time child actress Jodelle Ferland, who’d already dipped her toes into horror by the time she did something as mainstream and big budget as Silent Hill. She was around ten or eleven during filming, and she was still a small girl, but some of her lines suggest that she was supposed to be playing younger, and it doesn’t always land well, maybe because she’s using a little girl voice in her higher register to contrast with the lower Alessa voice. She’s a convincing kid, but there’s a maturity to her that doesn’t really fit the age I felt she was playing. It works when she’s Alessa but not always as Sharon. Still, there’s a reason this girl keeps playing the devil. She’s very good at old-young, which is part of the reason she’s one of the inspirations behind my Snow White character, though she’d now be too old for the role. Nevertheless, her work in Silent Hill has led to me watching her career, and I’m rooting for her as she transitions into adult roles.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. One semi-abduction, police car chase, and car crash later, Rose wakes up on the edge of Silent Hill, surrounded by dense fog and ash floating from the sky like snow. Since I’m not familiar with the games, a lot of these atmospheric elements are new to me, and extremely effective. It’s a beautiful, muted visual. I’m a sucker for pretty horror, and Silent Hill has a lot of pretty and ugly-pretty horror for my needy little eyes. Among all the ash, Sharon is nowhere to be found, thus beginning the scavenger hunt portion of the movie.

I’m being flippant, but it’s actually a good conflict–mother seeking daughter and willing to do anything to find her and keep her safe–and that conflict plus a lot of what follows pays plenty of homage to the video games without feeling too much like one. Finding what’s lost is a classic video game device, and it works just as well in more linear storytelling. It’s basically an ‘into the woods’ quest, with all kinds of monsters and allies along the way.

Once in Silent Hill, Rose quickly discovers that this town is not normal. In Ash Mode, it’s just haunting, unsettling. But Rose follows what she thinks is Sharon into a warehouse. That’s when the emergency siren goes off, and the Ash world flakes away to reveal a hellish interior. It’s a pretty, darn good effect, and I’m not usually a fan of CGI. In Hell Mode (or Rust Mode), that’s when the monsters really come out to play. In the warehouse, it’s the Gray Children, which look like misshapen burning babies. Here’s where the CGI loses it a bit for me. People should be people whenever possible, because anything less than the best motion capture doesn’t move like living things actually move. In the special features of the DVD, I watched the green screen where a small female contortionist donned her Gray Child costume and moved around in it, and that’s honestly creepier for me. Upon another viewing, I think it’s because the proportion of the Gray Children to Rose keeps changing, which jars me out of the suspension of disbelief. However, the Gray Child was my least favorite CGI monster in the movie. All the others are better.

(When the Gray Children scene ends with everything flaking back into Ash Mode, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” plays on a jukebox in the bowling alley. Everyone in the original theater laughed; good release of tension, and the only funny bit in the movie.)

After the more neutral Ash Mode (I’m sure there’s an actual name for these modes in the video game, but I don’t want to look them up at the moment) returns, Rose runs into Dahlia, a Miss Havisham-meets-Cassandra type character in the movies, although I understand she’s more of an antagonist in the games. Here, she’s the sorrowful mother, a broken woman heavy with cobwebs, dust, and regret, played by the gently altoed Deborah Kara Unger. She chews the scenery in a wonderfully maudlin way and gives us the first bit of exposition about Alessa, the child that was taken from her. When Rose shows her a locket with Sharon’s picture, Dahlia becomes agitated and insists it’s Alessa, her own child.

As Rose continues to look for Sharon and for a way out of Silent Hill, which seems completely cut off from the rest of the world–literally, with the streets out of town broken away and nothing but an abyss on every side–she runs into the cop that chased her into the town, Sybil Bennett, played by genre royalty Laurie Holden.

From what I can tell, people either love her or find her annoying. Silent Hill was my first introduction to her, and I won’t lie. When she first pulled off her helmet and started shooting at the Armless Man (much creepier than the Gray Child), I developed a serious crush on this woman, hardass cop notwithstanding. Sure, it seems ridiculous to us for Cybil to handcuff Rose with everything that’s happening, but as far as Cybil knows, she’s followed a parent kidnapper into Silent Hill, and it wouldn’t be the first (which is a nod to one of the games, apparently).

At this point, the Sean Bean side plot makes it perfectly clear that the ashy Silent Hill isn’t just cut off, it’s a completely different dimension existing parallel to the real Silent Hill, where it’s pouring down rain and police are searching for Rose, Sharon, and Cybil. Through the inspector on the case, we’re given a little more exposition about what happened to Alessa and to the town. But on their side, it’s just a normal ghost town–singed, smoky, dangerous due to the coal fires still burning and sending fumes up to the surface, but otherwise normal. When Rose is at her most distressed, Christopher senses her, which leads to a so-close-yet-so-far moment that I think played pretty well. Extraneous though it may be, I feel like the side plot does provide a much-needed atmosphere respite from the fantasy-horror Silent Hill world. The doses of reality offer enough of a contrast that the hellscape seems all the more hellish.

Rose follows the clues left behind for her by the child she keeps thinking is Sharon running away from her, all the way to a school marked by a curious-looking cross. Inside, there’s evidence that Alessa was decried as a witch even by the children and that something obscene happened to her by a janitor named Colin, given what this hell universe tends to do to the people who hurt her. Colin is dead, wrapped and contorted with barbed wire, and in his mouth is something Rose needed to find, a hotel key. But before Rose can leave, she discovers men in coal miner gear outside the bathroom. Their canary goes crazy right before the emergency siren goes off and Hell Mode returns, bringing Colin’s dead, desecrated body to life.

This is one of those cases where practical effects really paid off, and it’s no wonder that the same man who plays Colin is also the one who played Pyramid Head. He does amazing pantomime work, conveying so much with body language in roles where he doesn’t speak. Just as Pyramid Head is a pretty undeniable symbol of uniquely male violence (noticeable especially within a majority female cast), his Colin is a tortured obscenity. The artistry in his dual performances is a pleasure to watch.

With the cockroach-like Creepers and Pyramid Head after her in the rusty, bloody hellscape, Rose finally meets up with Cybil again, who can’t deny there’s something rotten in the state of Silent Hill. As soon as Ash Mode returns and most of the monster danger is gone, they continue following the clues the girl who looks like Sharon left behind, all the way to a hotel. The music they use on their way reminds me that I love the soundtrack of the movie, which borrows themes from a number of the games. It’s a great industrial sound that translates well to the movie.

At the hotel, we finally get a good look at Alessa, who’s the spitting image of Sharon except for the dark hair and school uniform. And we meet one of the first fundamentalists left over from the fire. They’re a sect off of Christianity, with theology built around witch-burning and maintaining purity in the community. In the case of Anna and most of the other members of the congregation, this is where the story tends to turn overwrought and overly simplistic. The only grounding influence is the cult leader Christabella, played by the wonderfully hypnotic Alice Krige, another member of genre royalty. Have I mentioned how stellar this cast is?

And how unique is it that this fundamentalist cult is run by a soft-spoken, steely woman instead of a charismatic man? What could have turned into something laughable is given a more solid foundation by Christabella, who is clearly a true believer of her own religion (also unusual in cult movies, where the man is clearly a con using his charisma to gain power and respect). She may be an antagonist and an evil person, but I respect true believers more than cons, and she has no reason to believe she’s wrong–after all, their people have remained safe, and the church remains a refuge from the darkness whenever Hell Mode settles over the town.

This fact alone raises a number of questions for me that are never answered. It’s clear that if Alessa hadn’t been burned as a witch, Silent Hill would never have been sucked into a hellscape by the demon that Alessa accepted inside of her, so Christabella is clearly the author of her own people’s destruction. But it’s curious that people portrayed as evil, as those who have twisted faith into something ugly and vicious, can still keep the demon at bay in their church. It’s curious that the church is still a sanctuary from the darkness. Demon!Alessa calls it ‘blind conviction’ that keeps her from entering, but is it really? Or does their ugly faith come with enough good intentions that it affords them some protection? Why would a demon not be able to enter everywhere in her own hell? Is their illusion of protection as much a part of the hellscape as their illusion of righteousness? They certainly don’t seem to be happy with either.

So many questions unanswered, but I’m not one to think that something a plot hole just because it doesn’t have an answer. I’d like to think that things are more complicated than good and evil, even in heaven and hell.

Once in the church, Rose and Cybil are questioned by Christabella, but despite some reservations and suspicion on both sides, Christabella agrees to take them to where the demon waits and might have answers about how to find Sharon. However, when Christabella discovers that Sharon looks like Alessa, she tries to stop the two women. Cybil sacrifices herself to the fanatics to let Rose continue down into the center of the hellscape, where we encounter the sexiest of the monsters, the iconic Dark Nurses. This is one of the places where the movie feels more like a video game, but it doesn’t suffer from comparison. Instead, it helps build the tension, and the fact that all the nurses are made-up people really helps bring the realism to the moment that too much CGI would have destroyed.

Then we enter the realm of pure exposition where we learn the full story behind Alessa, Sharon, and what happened to Silent Hill. We still have questions: Why does the inspector look the same thirty years ago as today? Who’s Alessa’s father? Why was some of Silent Hill sucked into hell and not everyone? How much of what the demon says can we believe? And again, why can’t the demon enter the church without being brought in? What caused Silent Hill to become a ghost town–the fire that burned Alessa or the demon sucking most of Silent Hill down into its hell? Because I originally thought it was the fire, but Alessa was put into a Silent Hill hospital. Ghost towns don’t happen overnight, but if the fire caused the coal mines to burn, one would think it would have been pretty quick. Maybe these answers were lost in editing. They’re ultimately irrelevant to the story, but curious minds still want to know.

The story reaches the climax back at the church, where the fundamentalists–miserable, judgmental murderers that they are–receive what seems like just deserts. The only quibble I have is Christabella’s fate, which seems gratuitously sexual to me. Don’t get me wrong, the whole movie is graphically violent, sometimes beautifully so. Brutal beatings, a woman skinned alive, torture totems, the burning of Alessa and Cybil, the Dark Nurses… I just felt that Christabella’s fate could have been more poetry and less rape. Please.

The weakest parts of even good horror movies tend to fall at the end. Sometimes I like Silent Hill‘s ending and sometimes I don’t. Ambiguity is a horror movie maker’s friend, but it often leads to a frustrated audience. Then again, a solid, safe ending can hit a supernatural rather than a horror note, which can be a bit jarring, and a dark ending can be kind of despairing. It’s really difficult for horror movies to win.

TL;DR: Silent Hill is a badass, female-dominated, visually horrific and stunning movie–far from a masterpiece, but in my opinion, a solid offering and one I don’t mind rewatching on the regular. The sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation, is a hot mess. I enjoy it and it has some good moments, but it’s a mess. I feel like a good Silent Hill sequel could be made, but I doubt it ever will. The original manages to stand strong, strange, and horrifying all on its own.

Would You Rather

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Wrote something loosely inspired by NOCTURNE for Halloween, because I love writing horror songs. It’s another rock piece that I wouldn’t know how to do myself, but it’s got a nice beat in my head.

WOULD YOU RATHER

The dark of the night doesn’t scare me
Unseen eyes stare at me
Teeth bare at me
But they don’t scare me.

Beasts of the night are what they are
Each tear and each scar
Each extinguished star
Just what beasts are.

It’s the liars and thieves that live in the light
That scare me at night
Keep the door locked tight
These monsters of light.

The monsters at night don’t try to pretend
Hunger for the end
But hold your hand like a friend
‘Cause they don’t have to pretend.

Chorus:
I live with my nightmares
I don’t close my eyes
They feed on my fears
Can’t run and can’t hide
Consuming my body
The demons inside
I’d rather live with my nightmares
Than wake up to dreams that have died.

They hide in the closet and under the bed
That’s what they said
The quick and the dead
Hide under the bed.

In shadows they creep and crawl ‘cross the floor
Desperate for more
Than daylight is for
They beg me for more.

I pull back my covers, won’t cover my head
Let them find me instead
Crawl into my bed
Might as well be dead.

But with nightmares even dead can be fun
The night’s never done
Far away from the sun
I’m always the one.

Chorus

Bridge:
Tremble and shiver
My pulse starts to quiver
Cold skin grows warm under my hand
Tooth, nail, and claw
A cavernous maw
I’d follow them down to a dark, colder land.
But they like me alive
These beasts and their knives
They sink inside
I open my eyes
And the nightmare is always alive inside
It’s the soul that has died
As their spirits reside
In the shell I denied
For their pleasure and mine.

Chorus

REVIEW: The ReZort

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The Rezort[Warning: Here there be spoilers]

THE REZORT was one of those movies I didn’t expect much from, and I ended up getting a lot more than I thought I needed. I’m not sure whether the premise of the movie is original, but if not, I’m surprised it hadn’t been done before, because it made so much sense as a concept.

Basically, JURASSIC PARK meets zombies. And it’s surprisingly decent.

Great? Not so much. There are parts of the movie that seem far-fetched, although my threshold for disbelief is a lot lower than it used to be. Whenever I tell myself there’s no way anyone’s going to let a multibillionaire build a resort on an island where people can shoot zombies, I look at the world today, and I go, “Nope. There’d be protests and marches and debates, then they’d totally let her do that.” We have game preserves and hunting trails all over the world, dead people wouldn’t legally be considered people, and it would boost a post-apocalyptic economy. You think some of the lines in the movie regarding why the ReZort was allowed to happen are kind of ridiculous until you really start to think about them. Then you realize all the rhetoric is of the kind used in a number of other controversial but totally legal practices. Zombies aren’t real, folks, but if they were, it wouldn’t be too long before something like this happened.

There are parts of the movie that play a bit rote, with a cookie-cutter selection of side characters introduced to us: the immature gamers, the long-suffering soldier who misses the war, the pacifist-activist, the loving couple, the obnoxious businessmen, the evil billionaire. And these characters are put into a predictable string of zombie situations. I mean, it’s the ReZort. It’s a zombie theme park. You know it’s going to go wrong because you’ve seen JURASSIC PARK, and you know how it’s going to go wrong because you’ve seen at least one zombie movie in your life, and with few exceptions, they’re all really similar. But the actors bite into the meat of their roles, approaching the movie as though it’s more than it is, and so they make it that way.

Our main character Melanie is played by actress Jessica de Gouw, who’s on my celebrity doppelganger list as the spitting image of Rachel McAdams. I’d call her a poor man’s Rachel McAdams, and when I first saw her in the movie, that’s what I thought I’d be getting, but her acting chops hold their own. Come on, Hollywood, there’s a long-lost twin story in there somewhere.

We come into the movie post-zombie-war, when the world has fought its way back to something approaching normal due to a policy known as Operation Brimstone. In short, they firebombed the hell out of anywhere the zombies arose, which took a lot of innocent lives along with them and left thousands upon thousands of people without homes, causing a serious refugee crisis. The movie opens with a series of maddeningly realistic news clips from partisan channels bringing us up to speed on 1) what happened and 2) where the post-zombie-war controversies are. There are a lot of traumatized people. War equals trauma, and zombies equal personal trauma. There are soldiers adjusting to civilian life, because of the aforementioned war equals trauma. There’s the refugee crisis that’s moving at a crawl.

There are also people who challenge Operation Brimstone as causing too much collateral damage and those who challenge the concept of the ReZort as being callous with the dead. As activist Sadie points out, “If this is how we treat the dead, who’s to say the living won’t be next?” It has roots in pro-life and animal rights activism, but it doesn’t firmly hang its hat with either. It’s not a stretch to imagine how dead rights activists might address the zombie issue. After all, these are people’s families and friends that they watched change, sometimes right before their eyes, and it’s a moral and ethical dilemma what to do with them (and depending on spiritual views of life after death and how to treat dead bodies, it could be a religious dilemma,too). Like I said, personal trauma.

Melanie, who’s part of a post-zombie-war grief support group, and her ex-soldier boyfriend agree to go to the ReZort, a luxury hotel and game trail for people who want revenge on the zombie virus that upended their lives and killed their family and friends. Apparently, the controlled circumstances did wonders for someone else in her group, and she thinks it might serve her PTSD to indulge in some R&R and carnage—confronting her fears, but with cocktails.

Among the other resort guests, we also have a scowly, steely-eyed Dougray Scott, who most mainstreamers know from EVER AFTER, but who’s made something of a name for himself in the horror genre as well (hello, HEMLOCK GROVE, you pretty little mess). If anyone else is a significant actor, I don’t recognize them.

Their time at the ReZort begins with evening drinks by the pool, where the billionaire creator of the ReZort comes out and addresses her crowd. She’s definitely not what you expect, not least because the person who created an island retreat for zombie hunting is a woman. She’s trim, fastidiously neat and polished, like the owner of a tropical paradise hotel rather than one with a gruesome underbelly. She contrasts strongly with the zombie woman they bring out, shackled, dirty, and decayed. They stare each other down face to face (I’m pretty sure there’s enough slack on the shackles for the zombie woman to reach her if she lunges, but whatever), and it all feels exploitative as hell, especially since the zombie still has some soul in her eyes, although she acts like an animal. Everyone else is raucously cheering—”Every apocalypse deserves to have an afterparty!”—but Melanie’s clearly uncomfortable with how human the zombie still appears to be.

There’s only one other person there who seems just as ambivalent, the pink-streaked jilted fiancee supposedly there because the tickets were nonrefundable. But during the party, Sadie sneaks away to where she doesn’t belong and downloads some files in a personnel-only part of the resort. Because if everything went as planned, it wouldn’t be much of a movie.

The point at which everything goes wrong is where the movie is at its most predictable, and where it tends to falter. I would have liked to see more ReZort amenities beyond one day shooting at herds or at zombies set up in an abandoned compound like the guests are playing a real-life video game. What other sick ways do they use the dead? But there’s a twist toward the climax that I really like, because it’s just so awful and fits right into the post-Z world they’ve created, addressing an issue that you probably figured out already. I’m terrible at predicting twist endings (I’m getting better, which of course makes movies worse, so it’s a double-edged sword), and I didn’t see this one coming. Even if you do, it’s perfect enough to work.

Like I said, THE REZORT isn’t great. But when you turn it on just expecting the usual, getting the taste of a pretty darn juicy concept might just give you the popcorn evening in you’re looking for.

Floodwaters

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tidal wave wall painring

Photo by Sean Manning on Pexels.com

Put this one down as ‘when you piss off a poet.’ Well, not much of a poet, but I like to rhyme now and then. Whenever I hear something from this one, I hear a power ballad, but don’t let that fool you.

FLOODWATERS

The end is near
The end is nigh
Whispers in your ear
Poison in the wine

All warnings failed
All signs ignored
We lost the Grail
No cracks restored

Some people are waiting for the whole world to burn
I’m just waiting for the floodwaters to return

Chorus:
The rain will fall
The winds will howl
Rushing water running with rivers of blood
We can’t go back
We can’t stop what’s to come
Everything we built consumed by a raging flood.

Repent, repent
Judgment descends
Condemning us all
To an inevitable end

No peaceful God
Promises aside
Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide

Some people are waiting for the whole world to burn
I’m just waiting for the floodwaters to return

Chorus

Bridge:
He is not here
He won’t dry your tears
Tears that run down
From short-sighted years
The angels have flown
The devil’s in us
Did we really think
The world needed us?
We can’t wait too much longer
To do what we must.
We won’t do what we must.
We just wait for the waters
To drown us to dust.

No one to stop it
No one to save
We were given a garden
And made it a grave.

Some people are waiting for the whole world to burn
I’m just waiting for the floodwaters to return

Chorus

 

Cover Reveal

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I just can’t keep a lid on it anymore, especially since I set up the Thorns series page and bought the domain name.

After working with Covers by Combs, she came up with an amazing custom cover for THORNS, the first book in the series. It’s just so gorgeous, I can’t stand it. Sometimes, when I’m nervous or lacking confidence or wondering what the point of this is, I just open the cover file and stare at it for a while.

THORNS will be available at the end of the month!

Thorns E Cover