A truly terrifying time.

I know I don’t usually do back-to-back reviews, but this time around is an exception. Especially since this film is so damn good. It’s actually won a couple of awards and is nominated for plenty more, so I think it’s especially deserving of a review.

The Babadook follows Essie Davis as Amelia, a widow who refuses to confront her own grief over the death of her husband or the fact that her young son Samuel (played with convincing skill by Noah Wiseman), while brilliant enough to do advanced magic tricks and build weapons, has some behavioral problems (as evidenced by the weapons). One day Samuel finds a pop-up book entitled Mister Babadook, about a boogeyman-like creature whose name is derived from the onomatopoeia of two quick raps and three steady knocks. Anyone who sees it will be menaced by it until it kills them. Thus starts a terrifying saga in which both characters toe the line between reality, insanity and a world only barely glimpsed by man.

Jenifer Kent does an excellent job as a first time writer and director on a very small budget, easily weaving together a story where the audience can’t tell if the Babadook is real or a shared psychosis (or folie a deux for those poetic types) between mother and son. Throughout the film you’ll see evidence that it could be either or both (which is what I’m going with). Davis is wonderful, portraying a mother with heavy baggage who is trying to deal with what life has dealt her in the best way possible and suffering from it as well, while young Wiseman should get an award for how well he played such a psychologically demanding role. The atmosphere is great, the exploration of parenthood under rough circumstances is poignant, and the storytelling was executed well. I had to put my hands over my eyes several times because it was so scary.

I hope more people discover The Babadook, because it is a really awesome horror film that reminds one of the original Night of the Living Dead in its power to terrify and to tell a story worthy of analysis. All in all, I’m giving this film a 4.5 out of 5. I’m definitely hoping for more films from Ms. Kent, especially if they’re as terrifying as The Babadook was. And if there’s a copy of that picture book, I would like one.

Not recommended for anyone with a pet (especially a dog) or small children. Or both.

My friend and I (and the friend we ran into at the theater who joined us for the show) didn’t go into this movie with many expectations. We were trying to keep an open mind, trying not to form an opinion about a Biblical movie that apparently deviated a lot from the source material.

Well, I can’t speak for my friends with any sort of authority. But I can say that I was disappointed. And not because I thought it would’ve been better to have had Middle Eastern or black actors in the main roles rather than white people (I mean it is in Egypt). Or why a guy named Christian is playing Moses (so much irony in that).

I think what Ridley Scott was trying to do with this film was to tell the story of Moses as a very human story, of a man troubled by his decisions, his role as a leader, and possible brain damage or psychosis. I think those who go for the human story of Moses will like this movie. I however was still kind of hoping for the Exodus story, so I was kind of disappointed. And I don’t think they told the human story very well either.

Plus Ramses II’s motivation to exile Moses and try to take him down seemed a little weak. Didn’t help that Joel Edgerton, who plays Ramses, was pretty unconvincing as an actor. And sometimes the dialogue made us nearly burst out laughing because it was so awful. And why at the beginning do they have screen titles that explains what’s happening in Egypt at the time? Literally everyone knows this story! You would’ve done better actually telling us the minor characters’ names more than once!

Plus the traditional fourth plague isn’t flies, it’s wild animals! Lions and tigers and bears! I know with the profusion of frog and fish corpses out there flies seem like a better choice, but animals seem much scarier and harder to explain through science! Can’t we see that for once?

Still, the special effects are pretty impressive, especially around the scenes with the Ten Plagues. The decision of how to portray Moses’s interactions with God is pretty original. Plus there is a little bit of theological wrestling that really exemplifies Moses’s problems in this movie. I have to admit that those were high points.

All in all, I’m giving Exodus: Gods & Kings a 2.3 out of 5. I don’t think that, among movies about Biblical events, this one won’t be remembered as a classic and will more likely be remembered as a movie that got the people who prefer their stories closer to the book in conniptions.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m going to try to see The Legend of Princess Kaguya and Babadook later this week, might do a review of the former and probably will do a review of the latter. Keep an eye out.

Good night, my Followers of Fear.

I come from a family where it’s typical for most of us to obsess over certain TV shows, books or movies. One of those things that we love is Harry Potter. Around my mother’s house you will find copies of each book (sometimes more than one), the movies on DVD or VHS, a couple of wands and my mother’s acceptance letter to Hogwarts (apparently you can get those), and a few other knickknacks. Plus two very strange cats. When I told my mom that on Pottermore I’d been sorted into Slytherin, she considered not talking to me for a while (but does that choice surprise any of you?). And at some point soon, my mom and her partner, my stepmom, will be heading down to Florida, where my mom plans to visit Harry Potter World.

But that doesn’t mean that we’re above poking fun at the thing we love or pointing out the flaws. For example, my family is pretty much in agreement that the fact that Harry grew up with the Dursleys and was such a good person despite the abuse and isolation he suffered is very improbable. As I finished the conversation one evening after a long car-ride discussing HP, “At the very least he should have some self-esteem and trust issues. At the very worst he should be a full-on sociopath to rival Voldemort in evil.”

“I grew up in a broken home. Don’t mess with me, baldy.”

One of these days I’ll have to revisit the trope of the righteous orphan in literature, but now is not the time or the place.

The point is, this small flaw is one of a few that people could point out and make a big deal about in the HP series. In fact, if you look at many different works of literature, TV shows, and movies, you’re bound to find something that doesn’t make sense if you really think about it. Even if you don’t count the prequels, there’s some stuff about the Star Wars films that don’t add up (*cough* Princess Leia’s adoption and royal status *cough*). All of Frozen could’ve been avoided if the King and Queen had actually tried to help their daughter instead of trying to shut up her growing powers (but where would the fun in that be?). And don’t get me started on some of the stuff that happens in some comic books and superhero films. Or Hunger Games.

And there are people who LOVE pointing out these flaws to audience, sometimes making it difficult to enjoy these things ever again. How It Should Have Ended, CinemaSins, Nostalgia Critic, so many more. These guys love deconstructing these things and pointing out their flaws. It’s enough to make you want to root out every plot hole you can find in your story so that you don’t get caught in the web of these guys. Or you might just be too afraid to write at all.

The thing is, no story is perfect. Harry Potter is one of the bestselling franchises in the world, yet it’s not free of flaws. And look at Doctor Who! I’m a huge Whovian, yet I’ll admit that it sometimes  falters in the stories it tells (honestly, I thought I’d throw a shoe at the TV after I saw Kill the Moon. What an awful story that makes no sense!). Heck, I’ll admit I have stories that aren’t problem-free. The latter half of Snake has been criticized in the past of being slightly a little hard to justify (though not outside the realm of possibility). And if I learned one thing from my creative writing class, my short stories “Evil Began in a Bar” and “What Happened Saturday Night/Frauwolf”, will need several drafts. Heck, the latter is going to need one more draft before I can even think about submitting it somewhere. Don’t even get me started on the former.

What you have to keep in mind is that you can’t stress over the teeniest, tiniest detail and hoping there’s not something some blogger or YouTube producer or whatever is going to seize upon and make it into a reason to destroy the book. First worry about the big stuff. For example, if you have a plot that basically goes “In a world everyone has a gun but no one uses them, until someone does”, people are going to definitely look at that one and be like, “Say what?” Hash out the big details first. Then worry about the smaller ones. And know that you won’t get them all. Just try and make sure the ones you don’t get are ones that won’t really matter in the end.

“You are of questionable royal lineage and you will need to undergo a blood test. Take her away!”

Sure, Princess Leia’s adoption would probably draw some questions, maybe even the attention of the Empire. Doesn’t mean that it has to draw the attention of the Empire and Leia’s real father Vader. Or that Star Wars isn’t still one of the most awesome stories in the universe (and I count even the prequels, though I’m a little iffy on Episode III).

Keep that in mind for your own work as well. Nothing’s ever perfect, but it can still be great.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Hope you enjoyed this slightly-rambling post. I’m taking the rest of the night off. You have a good one, and remember to check out my big holiday sale. All books are marked down till December 31st, so check them out now while you got the chance.

Pleasant nightmares.

I’ve been meaning to write about this all week, but…well, you know how it is! Busy life! Especially right before finals. Well, I have a moment before a final this evening, so I’ll take advantage of it right now.

As you know, I’ve been raising money for Buckeyethon again this year. Buckeyethon is an annual charity drive that raises money for research into juvenile cancer. I’ve raised money for it the past two years, and I’m raising money again this year. I was a little worried that I’d have trouble reaching this year’s minimum goal because it’s a bit higher (the university is trying to hit one million dollars this year), but I’m happy to say that a lot of people pulled through and helped me not only reach, but surpass the minimum goal! That’s right. As of this writing, I’m at $298, which is more than the previous years combined. Can I just say one thing? Cowabunga!

Also, I’d like to name and thank the many people who donated. You not only helped me, you helped the many children and adults out there who are suffering from their own cells gone awry. By donating, you are funding treatments that will go a long way to stopping cancer and allowing these people to live full and wonderful lives. These are my great benefactors:

  • Sarah Strasser
  • Chad Foust
  • Vicki Miller
  • Angela Misri
  • Michael Ungar
  • Wendy Mohr and Wendy Ungar
  • Anna Wilkinson
  • Michele Ungar
  • Diane Stemper

All of you, thank you so much for your patronage.

Of course, just because I’ve surpassed my goal doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near done. I’m still collecting through late January/early February, so you have till then to donate by clicking on this link. Every donation, no matter how small, helps to combat the threat of cancer, so every donation is greatly appreciated.

That’s all for now. Once again, thanks to all my donors for your help. It means a whole lot to me.

snake

How far would you go for love and revenge?

Boy, do I have plenty of good news to share with everyone. Including the publication of two of my stories in Strange Portals, today is the six month anniversary of the publication of my second novel, Snake. Maybe because I’ve been so busy this past semester, but it feels like so much longer since that book came out.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Snake yet, it’s a thriller novel following a young man who dons a mask and becomes a dangerous serial killer in order to save the woman he loves. It’s gotten some very good reviews since it came out, and I’m quite proud of how it’s done. Here’s what some people have said since Snake has come out:

Rami Ungar makes a promise to (the reader) in all his writings: he WILL scare you, and if he does “his job is done.” Snake will scare you. I am a huge Stephen King fan, so this should give you some idea of my tolerance level for gore, death and mayhem – I was scared. Rami takes you into places you would never have believed possible, and manages to pull his hero (and eventually his heroine) out of them against all odds. If you like to be scared. If you LOVE to be scared. You should read this book.

Angela Misri, author of Jewel of the Thames

Quite gripping story. enjoyed a lot reading this.

Jyoti

Well, I took yet another vacation where I made my family “just wait until I finish this chapter.” This page-turning read was another great effort by Rami. He is not afraid to take risks in plot twists and turns, character development and he takes the reader on quite the journey in this book. So looking forward to his next creation!

Michele Kurland

And partly in honor of this milestone, but mostly because of the holiday season, all my books are on sale from today December 10th through December 31st. This includes e-books and paperbacks getting marked down. So if you haven’t read The Quiet Game, Reborn City, or Snake yet, this is the best time to do so. Especially if you want or need something new and different to read this month.

So anyway, I hope you decide to check out any of my books, as well as Strange Portals (which, by the way, is free to download). And if you like, or if you dislike, what you read, please let me know. Just leave me a comment or write a review. I would love to hear what you say.

Well, that’s all for now. Happy reading and happy holidays, my Followers of Fear. You are all, as far as I’m concerned, a gift to me.

It’s been a while, but I’ve written a new article for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This one is called Writing a Blurb for Your Book Cover and has some wonderful tips for writing that little summary on the backs of books that you read before you decide whether or not you want to invest time and money in reading this book.

If you like the article, please let me know. And if you like what you read and want to read more, please check out the rest of the website. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a website from indie authors, by indie authors, and for indie authors in order to help authors write, edit, market, and publish in an easy and affordable manner. You never know what bit of advice might help you publish that next big novel.

All for now. See you later, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got to get to class.

Some exciting news to share with you all. I’ve been holding off until I had some more details, but it’s out now and I’ve got to share it with you all.

Last month I received word from colleague and fellow author Joleene Naylor that she was putting together an anthology of horror/paranormal/sci-fi/fantasy short stories for a holiday season release and she was looking for submissions. Despite my crazy busy life I did some editing on two short stories of mine, “Buried Alive” and “Travelers of the Loneliest Roads”, and sent them in. I’m extremely pleased, grateful, and proud to say that they both got into the final anthology!

I’d like to thank Joleene for this awesome opportunity (you should seriously check out her blog, the link for which is above), and I’d encourage you to check out the anthology “Strange Portals”, which contains works from several different authors, including AK Stein, Adan Ramie, Roxanna Matthews, Jolene, myself, and many more. Right now the anthology is only available from Smashwords as an e-book (the link to download it is right here), but it’ll be available for Amazon soon (and I’ll be updating this post when it is, so keep an eye out for that update). Did I mention it’s free to download? Well, it’s free to download. So that’s even more incentive to check it out.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m really excited, as you can understand. I’m even listening to my go-to celebration song, “Voodoo Child” by Rogue Traders, playing now, that’s how excited I am. I’m taking the rest of the night off, my Followers of Fear. You have a good one, okay?

*Update: As of December 9th, the Amazon link was posted. It costs $0.99 because Amazon never does anything free, but what are you going to do? Anyway, the link is here if you want to check it out. I certainly will.