Man, except for re-hitting ReAnimator the other day — and maybe even including it — Behind the Mask: the Rise of Leslie Vernon is far and away the best horror I’ve seen all year. Best I’ve seen since Feast, really.* And Feast is that holy kind of good for me. The only time I plan on being this horror-movie happy anytime soon is come fall, when we get the sure-to-be-beautiful All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. Cannot wait for that one.** Though I do suspect I’m going to have to.
Anyway, as for the best horror I’ve seen in the theatre this year, yep, as James Berardinelli says, 1408. Pure goodness there. Just the right mix of ingredients. Before that, I guess it’d be Dead Silence, maybe, a little movie without many pretentions but all the right conventions. But no, Hostel II : I was still laid up when it crashed through the theatres. Alas. And, as my town’s a Cinemark-only town, I catch little to-zero indie-type stuff. Except months later, on DVD. Why I had to wait so long for Leslie Vernon.
And of course, like I need to say this, but Live Free or Die Hard satisfies on just about every level, save that magical pairing of Christmas and violence that the first two operated on. Just to hear the cheery department store music as background for all these stunts and shooting. Almost like the fun front of Lethal Weapon: “Jingle Bell Rock” plus this plummeting swan dive. It worked.
And, reading-wise, I just inhaled, in one sitting, Toby Barlow’s super-excellent Sharp Teeth, about which I can’t say enough good things, except find it when it hits the shelves. Also finally got around to The Nick Adams Stories, which weren’t just absolutely bad or anything. But they weren’t Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, either; I prefer my outdoorsy stories to have something going on besides sadness and detail, I mean. And, holding my breath for the boy wizard’s seventh installment, of course, while at the same time being pre-sad that it’s about to be over, that whole magical ride.
Too, if you’re trolling the magazine rack, check out Bruno Maddox’s Discover article on the state of science fiction. It’s maybe good, maybe depressing, not sure yet.
As for what I’m reading now: CJ Box’s Free Fire. Book seven of his Joe Picket series. With a different editor now, if I understand correctly. For this one and the last one, I mean. Either way though, Box can flat-out just write, can tell the kind of story you can’t look away from. Really, the best single-character series I’ve read since Charles McCarry’s Paul Christoper stuff. That than which there can hardly be any better. Maybe even counting that boy wizard.
As to what I’ve been up to this last week, aside from all the reading, all those movies: wrote three stories — one horror, one science fiction, one not made-up at all — wrote an essay on prose, and finished up editing the second issue of Yellow Medicine Review. Which was a pleasure, an honor, a ball; got some really good and important stuff in there. Had no idea, before this, that I had any criteria for picking this poem over that one, or this essay over that memoir. But the good stuff, it rises (the fiction, of course, that’s always easy to pick, just in the space of a paragraph or two).
Other than that, I’ve been liking USA’s Burn Notice — I mean, it’s got Bruce Campbell, in what I think’s maybe his first TV role since Brisco County, Jr?^ — and, with no ability to play basketball for a while yet, that is, trapped indoors, I’ve been watching more Seinfeld than can be healthy for anybody too. And catching up on a lot of infomercial bargains. And discovering the crazy land of WhackedOutSports (.com, I hear, but have yet to click).
Other than that, just polishing up Ledfeather to stuff it in that chute that leads to the world.
And, next-to-last, this, which I dig, from that Bruno Maddox piece:
This is, after all, a gathering of fiction writers, and if fiction writers were good at going to parties, well, most of them wouldn’t be fiction writers.
Oh, and the booksigning in 1408: absolutely dead-on. Man.
* though of course it’s a lot closer to Man Bites Dog or The Last Horror Movie (with a touch of Freak-Out), just with a Donald Kaufman third act to provide that perfect little dose of escalation plus inevitability — which, when done right, can feel an awful lot like closure. Which so few writers have a proper grasp of (ie, they’re ‘subtle’ [I would use more quotation marks there, but I think you can maybe hear the intonation without them . . . ).
** and, talking just masks — the prop, the disguise, nothing metaphorical here — the one in Leslie Vernon’s as good as I’ve seen since Scream, I think. And before that, yeah, that mask in Nightbreed. Which was perfect, that kind of scary the sewn-together lips in that Millenium pilot had.
^ well, aside from that supercool Old Spice ad.