Of Musings and Wonderings











{February 24, 2014}   Alone In The Dark [Films]

alone in the darkOh, God. I’d honestly forgotten I’d watched this one. The main reason I remembered is because I started keeping a list of movies and books, mainly so I would remember to get around and write about them. Well…the fact that this almost disappeared from my mind says a lot, doesn’t it?

Let me see how much I can actually remember of this…

Paranormal detective is hunting for some artifacts. Finds some, is chased down for it, teams up with super hot scientist Tara Reid, and together they, err, stumble across something weird and fight it. Also some stuff about him having grown up in an orphanage and losing his memory at the age of ten. Because he was experimented on, or something. Oh! The people he grew up with end up fighting him, too.

So yeah, there’s all that going on. Honestly? It really, really felt like this film was trying to do too much. There were moments where it could have been halfway good, but then they’d squeeze in some crap and just leave you going “Whha…”

The film jumps from one thing to the other with as little explanation as possible. The action scenes are really dark, which means there’s very little to see, and the ending gives an overall apocalypse feel…people are supposed to have been evacuated, yet they leave cars and such behind. Because when it comes to Alone In The Dark, clearly no one was thinking of the word ‘sense’.

No wonder some people believe it’s one of the worst films ever made. We did not know this when we watched it.

Basically, stay away. Stay far, far away, unless you want to feel like you’ve lost part of your life you can never get back.

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{January 5, 2014}   Thir13en Ghosts [Film]

thirteenWhen strange uncle Cyrus dies, he leaves his eccentric, strange house to his nephew and his family. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and Arthur and his children find themselves trapped in a home with a number of different ghosts, collected by Cyrus over the years.

The ghosts aren’t just normal ghosts. They’re violent and deadly, with each one representing part of the Black Zodiac. They’ve been captured and put in the house, which forms a machine. And when the machine activates, there is only a limited time before the Eye of Hell is revealed. With the Eye of Hell opened, the user can see into the past, present and future, making them insanely powerful.

It’s a sort of interesting plot, but the family at the centre of it are the weakest part of the film. Little kid who buggers off because he’s too curious, nanny who’s only role seems to be to freak out and scream, and daughter who’s there to get attacked. Oh yeah, and the dad who has to save them all. Blah blah blah. The most interesting aspects of the film are Dennis, played by Matthew Lillard, and the ghosts themselves. To be honest, I would have loved to have seen more about each of the ghosts, would have enjoyed their own back stories rather than seeing the family run around acting stupid for half the time. (The back stories are, apparently, part of the DVD extras, so I’m going to have to try to watch that somewhere at some point)

thirteen ghostsAnd who’d have thought a maths teacher would be so damn stupid?

Anyway. There’s a couple of jumps and scares in here, but not a hell of a lot. It’s not really a scary film but the premise is interesting and the ghost designs work really well. It’s also worth noting the setting of the house, designed so that it’s never quite clear where the characters are in relation to each other. Aspects of the film are done brilliantly, while others sort of let the film down. Worth watching though, especially if you’re in the mood for something  a little bit different.



casebookI have to admit, I was a little apprehensive going into this. For no other reason than my disappointment from Carrion In The Crow’s Nest. Yeah, I judged the second author based on a completely different author for no other reason than I picked up both books at Scardiff, and they both, I assume, were self-published. But I actually had the chance to talk a little to the author of this one, got the book signed, and was intrigued by the idea. Partly because of my own novel Moonlighting, still working on and which can be found at my Fictionpress page, which centres around a Private Investigator called, of all things, Sam, who ends up working with and for supernatural creatures that enter our world when something goes wrong in theirs. Part of me wanted to see if the two were in any way alike, part of me was just interested because I love supernatural novels.

It’s nothing like Moonlighting. Yay! And, luckily, my fears about the book quickly disappeared.

The Casebook Of Sam Spallucci follows the main character in his first week as an investigator of the paranormal. While trying to solve cases, he often finds himself in tricky situations, but is, lucky, helped out by those around him. Included are stories of a Satanic cult of daytime TV actors, a vampire Sci-Fi geek trying to adjust to his new life and a possible werewolf threat in Lancaster.

The book is, as the name suggests, a collection of the cases that Sam deals with, all split up into their own short stories but connected to each other via the characters and a couple of over-arching mysteries. It feels, almost, like reading a TV series.

There are a few typos, but they are fairly easy to overlook. The voice of Sam is entertaining, even when he seems a little dense at times. The supporting cast, as it were, is made up of Sam’s close friends, and each brings their own charm to the book.

There are a few questions that could have been answered; some people seem to fully accept the paranormal in the book, while others scoff at the idea. It’s hard to tell if the paranormal is something known and accepted in Sam’s world, or something that most people don’t believe in. After all, surely it would be difficult to be a paranormal investigator if most people don’t believe in that sort of thing? It’s a little confusing, and something that Chambers could maybe work on a little more.

Anyway. The Casebook of Sam Spallucci is a fun, entertaining book. It has its faults, but in amongst the drama, horror and Sam’s very likeable voice, the faults are very easy to overlook. Worth reading if you’re looking for something slightly different.



{December 21, 2013}   Darkness [Film]

imagesCATE8IGIIn supernatural horror Darkness (2002), Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) finds herself, and her family, in dangerous trouble, though due to her father’s past, she doesn’t know if this comes from him or from outside sources.

One of the scariest things about this film is how everyone in Spain speaks perfect English, and how the family – despite living in, working in and going to school in Spain – don’t seem to have bothered picking up on any of the language. Seriously, Regina (Paquin) has a Spanish boyfriend/love interest, and you’d think at some point he could maybe say something to her in his native language. Just one scene, maybe a little light-hearted, trying to teach her the language. Or, seeing as the father grew up in Spain, and his father is Spanish, maybe he could use just a little bit of Spanish?

The film wasn’t bad. It was actually kind of enjoyable. The plot was, however, weak in some points, and the decisions made by Regina just make absolutely no sense whatsoever. The acting…okay, with Anna Paquin and Iain Glen – yeah, Jorah Mormont is the anger issues father in the film – I know they can do better acting than what’s seen here. It’s like, in some parts, they’re really not even trying. And Glen just can’t do extreme anger, without it coming across as feeling fake and forced. As for Paquin, until this film I thought some of her acting in True Blood was just her trying to get across Sookie’s simplicity and whatnot. Err, apparently it’s just part of Paquin. Not that I don’t like her, I liked her as Rogue and I like her as Sookie, but does anyone else notice that weird smile thing that she seems to do, when it feels like the character should totally not be smiling?

I still don't understand how these guys fit into anything...

I still don’t understand how these guys fit into anything…

The twist is a little obvious, and the ending…well, feels like I’ve seen it a fair few times, but then again this is over ten years old by now, so maybe when it came out the ending was a little more fresh. Either way, some of the moments that are meant to be scary do kind of jolt you a little. There are typical moments when I felt like screaming why are you doing that? at the screen, and found myself shaking my head at some idiotic decision made by the characters. And, God, the parents are crap. Seriously. Like, your husband has a history of a bad temperament and possibly violence, your youngest child has random bruises that appear in the middle of the night and as a mother, you just…accept it? Say the kid must have done it in his sleep?

Jesus.

Like I said, it was enjoyable. But nothing more. Not a great film and not one I’d suggest going out of your way to watch, but if you’re really stuck for something to watch, you could do worse than Darkness.



Prologue

Chapter One

He always called it my baptism by blood. Always tried to smile when he said it, too, but Jefferson, as I would learn, was terrible with kids. Didn’t know how to handle them. Especially not a traumatised kid who had seen his whole family slaughtered by vampires. Vampires that, by all right, should have been under the ground with stakes through their hearts and their heads cut off.

Still don’t know if they somehow managed to survive the fire. Still don’t know the bastard that brought them back to life.

But yeah, Jefferson. Terrible with kids, despite the fact that I wasn’t the first orphan he’d come across to have witnessed their whole family torn apart. Part of me always wondered if that was why he worked with Diane, as much as possible. Now she, she was good with kids. Maternal instinct and all that crap.

She was the one who soaked me in the bath for hours as I slept, trying to get the blood off. Kept my head above the water, drained and refilled the tub whenever the water went cold. Carried me to a bed with fresh, clean sheets, sat there and watched over me as I woke screaming and thrashing. Calmed me down, made sure I slept, and went through the whole routine again.

It lasted for days.

I had an aunt and uncle, somewhere up north. People who knew nothing of my family’s secrets, who could have taken me in and brought me up with a normal life, like my parents had wanted for me.

Diane had posed the question to me, when I was awake and lucid. Asked if I wanted to live with them, or stay with her and Jefferson, learn the tricks of the trade so to speak.

My first question had been to ask if those things were still alive.

She admitted she didn’t know. Unlikely, but possible. In their world, nothing was impossible.

Second question. If they were alive, and I stayed with them, would I face them again. Would I get the chance to do to them what they had done to my family.

As soon as she said yes, I was in. And Jefferson, not being the tender loving kind, wasted no time. Taught me how to move, how to fight, how to use weapons that probably no eleven year old should know how to use.

Diane taught me lore. Sat and went over old books with me. Not just vampires, either. Made sure I said my prayers every night. Made sure I knew enough Latin to speak them. Fed me, clothed me, made sure I washed and brushed my teeth.

In the big house, the kind that as I kid I only associated with fiction, where rich people lived or where magical things happened, we lived mostly alone. Other hunters came and went, though for a while I was kept out of sight of them, unable to sit in as they told their stories and caught up with Diane and Jefferson.

Part of it was because they’d told people I’d died with my family. First name stayed the same but when I was old enough I was allowed to give myself a second name.

For some reason I can’t quite remember, I settled on Crane.

Jefferson went out on hunts every so often. Diane less so, and they never hunted together. Not back then, not when I was still new and slightly traumatised.

The rest of it came later, and it started when I was fourteen.

Middle of winter, not long after my birthday. Waking up in the dark sucked. The sun going down early sucked. And I didn’t like the dark. Slept with a nightlight, because in the dark, everything came out to play.

Not that I had seen anything. Not since my parents died and Jefferson set fire to the house. But I knew enough. And I knew in the dark spaces the light couldn’t quite reach, there could be anything.

So when I woke up in the early morning darkness and saw a girl, completely white in a tank top and jeans, I screamed. The girl flickered, almost faded and came back, stronger, colour filtering in like someone was using crayons on her.

The door slammed open. Jefferson stood in the doorway, gun out, eyes scanning the room.

“Mason? What is it?” His eyes fell to the window, before he looked to me. I was pointing at the wall, where the girl stood.

“You can see me?” she said, a grin stretching across her face. “Awesome!”

“G-g-girl,” I said. His eyes looked right through her. His face relaxed, he lowered the gun and ran a hand through his hair.

“Damn kid,” he muttered. “With everything you’ve been through, I was really hoping you wouldn’t get this.”

Diane appeared behind him, peeking into the room before Jefferson moved out the way and she scrambled to the bed.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Kid can see Cassandra.”

“Cassie, actually.” The girl rolled her eyes. “Never get it right, do they? Tell them, kid. It’s Cassie. Not Cassandra. I hate that full name shit.”

I screamed. Again. To my horror, Diane laughed.

“It’s okay, Mason. It’s okay.” Even though I was fourteen, she still wrapped me in her arms and drew me close to her like I was a kid. “Cassandra means you no harm. She actually helps us.”

“Hell yeah I do! Been watching you for ages, kid.”

The girl glided forward.

“Just glad to have another resident of the house be able to see me. I think we’re going to be great friends.”
“F-f-friends?” I pulled myself out of Diane’s grip, rounded on her. “Why can’t you see her?”

All of them looked at me, eyes wide and full of pity.

“Some of us aren’t as sensitive,” Jefferson said, finally. “Your mother could see them. Your father couldn’t. Guess we were hoping you’d follow after him.”

“And you never thought to, you know, tell me? That this might happen?” My voice was all over the place. Bobbing up and down, cracking. Ah. Fear and puberty. A bloody great mix.

They looked at each other, as if to say, ‘oops. My bad.’

“We’ll have to call Sheps,” Jefferson said, more to Diane than me. “He’ll need to train the boy so he can control it.”
“Yes!” The girl fist bumped the air, winked at me. Taking a good look at her, I realised she was around nineteen, maybe twenty. Hard to tell when she died, though. Could have been anytime in the last thirty years.

“Go back to sleep, Mason,” Diane urged. “We’ll talk more in the morning.”

“Nuh uh. Not with her in the room.”

The girl held her hands up. “All right. All right. You were fine with it when you couldn’t see me.” Another eye roll, before she faded out of view.

“Never mind,” I said. “She’s gone.”

Diane nodded, smoothed my hair back and kissed my forehead, before leaving with Jefferson.

“Most ghosts won’t hurt you, kid,” he said, over his shoulder. “But some are downright dangerous. Sheps will go through all that with you when he gets here.”

Sheps, a thin, weedy man with thick black glasses, arrived a week later, and the second part of my training began.

The end of the cigarette glowed cherry red in the dark. Knowing how much it pissed off the man next to me, I took great pleasure in blowing the smoke out slowly, relishing every second of the scowl on his face.

We were standing at the end of a long driveway, staring up at a neatly kept two up two down house. The only lights that were on were in one of the upstairs bedrooms, and even they were flickering.

“You sure, Mason?”

“See those lights, Father Grey?” I said, nodding my head towards the house. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

The house pulsed with energy. A fair few hunters would have picked it up, and I was surprised Grey couldn’t. Not much longer and it would grow stronger. He’d feel it then. Grey wasn’t his real surname, just what we nicknamed him. Something to do with being wise like Gandalf or something like that. Honestly, I thought the guy was an idiot. But every group of hunters needed a priest and, bless him, he was ours.

“It’s a pretty standard one, mind,” I said. “Not killed or maimed or anything serious. Yet.”

Father Grey sniffed, glancing up and down the street.

“Have you spoken to the family yet?”

“Nah. Spoke to a few of his teachers though.” I flicked the cigarette butt away, watching as it spiralled through the air before landing on the road, still glowing, wisps of smoke rising up.

“You can be fined for that, you know.”

“When they put more bins out, I’ll stop dropping them on the floor.”

Grey rolled his eyes. “What did the teachers say?”

“That up until about three weeks ago, he was a very mild mannered, intelligent student. Started acting odd, then acting out. They called it disruptive behaviour.”

“Could just be a normal teenage thing,” Father Grey said, though I doubted very much he actually remembered what it was like to be a teenager. Hormones and shit all over the place. Not that I knew what being normal was like, not for twelve years. I could understand some of the kid’s behaviour. Like getting caught shagging one of the girls from his English class behind the bike shed. Hell, I’d almost slept with Cassie before we realised that couldn’t even happen.

We were better off as not quite friends, anyway.

But there was other stuff, stuff that didn’t make any sense. Yeah, it looked like a typical possession, but we had to tread carefully. Like I’d told Father Grey, nothing too serious had happened yet.

Except…

“He tried to set his teacher on fire,” I explained, glancing up towards the house.

“Three weeks ago,” he muttered. “The same time as the storm.”

“Yep. And the fish turning up dead in the river, cows keeling over and birds dropping out the sky.”

He nodded. “Jefferson’s been waiting for the demon to crop up, hasn’t he?”

“Yep.”

“All right. Let’s go talk to the family. And, Mason, let me do the talking.”

“Aye aye, Captain.” I saluted him, my grin widening as his scowl deepened. Man, it was easy to piss him off.

Grey led the way up the path and I followed, hands stuffed in my pockets and head kept down. Families didn’t tend to like seeing a young kid entering their house to take care of a possessed family member. Tended to value age over experience. But I’d seen people start out as hunters in their fifties, and I’d been the one to take them to their first hunt. Just goes to show, I guess.

Grey pressed his finger against the doorbell, taking a step back once he’d rung hard enough. No lights were turned on, but footsteps clomped down the stairs and a figure appeared through the frosted glass. The figure opened the door, just an inch, leaving the chain on, and half a face appeared, green eye staring at Grey.

“What do you want?” the man growled.

“To help,” Grey said. “My name is Father Grey. This is my associate, Mr Crane.”

“Help?” The man’s eye widened. “A priest?” Didn’t say it like he was suspicious or confused. Actually, the man sounded almost glad.

And yeah, Grey used his fake name when dealing with normal people. Made it harder for them to track him down.

“We heard you’ve been having trouble with your son,” Grey said. “And if there is anything we can do…”

“God be praised!” the man cried, before shouting into the house. “Kate! Kate, there’s a priest here!”

He unhooked the chain and stepped back, waving his arms.

“Come in, man, come in!”

And people thought faith in religion was declining.

Father Grey only took a quick glance around the room, as a pretty woman in her forties came down the stairs. She stopped about halfway down, leaning over the railings to look at us. Pretty, but tired. Black bags sat under her eyes, her skin was pale and drawn, almost grey, and she had the look of someone who hadn’t eaten in weeks.

Possibly sensitive. Not as strong as me, or even Father Grey, but to have the look she had, she’d probably sensed the demon in her house before shit started getting really weird.

There was a clatter and bang upstairs, and Father Grey’s fingers tightened on the handle of his bag.

I could feel it.

Some possessions, the demon wasn’t evil. Same with some hauntings. You got ones that just wanted to cause mischief. They could, as long as they weren’t too bad, be quite funny. Demons who you could actually just sit and talk to, have a laugh with. Odd, right? But they existed. And on those cases, I didn’t have to bring our resident priest in. I could get them out myself.

But the severity of the storm had told us enough to know this wasn’t a run of the mill mischief possession. This one wouldn’t settle with just trying to sleep with everything in sight – though it would try to do that – and sending things flying across the room like a poltergeist. This one would want everything around it to die.

And it would succeed, unless we acted fast.

“Where’s the boy?” Grey asked.

The woman gestured up the stairs. Grey glanced at me, nodded, and I moved past him, past the father and towards the mother.

“I’m going to explain what we will do,” Grey said, gesturing to the sofa. “You may wish to sit down. I will detail exactly what may or may not happen to your son, and the risks involved. Whether we continue down the path is totally up to you.”
“Where’s he going, then?” the father asked.

I stopped, halfway up the stairs and past the mother. Glanced at Grey.

“Mr Crane is just going to see what sort of, well, state your son is in.” He said state delicately, the same way a doctor would say cancer. “Just so we know where to stand.”
The woman looked me, locked her eyes on mine.

Even just a hint of sensitivity, and some people could pick up on just a tiny bit of what I’d seen, what I’d done. Sometimes, though, all they had to do was look into my eyes.

She just nodded at me, one dip of her head, slow, and I could read it in her face.

Do what you have to do.

                I continued up the stairs. Another crash, followed by laughter. Not a teenage boy’s laughter, either, but harsh, raw, sounding, perhaps, like I might, if I survived another seventy years and kept up the thirty a day habit.

Most hunters had their vices. Stuff to help them relax, either on the job or when the hunt was finished. And it didn’t matter what it was, as long as it wasn’t going to kill you before the monsters did. No one cared that I smoked. No one cared Jefferson drank or that Rich gambled, that the Vampire’s Terror, a man I had never met but had heard a shit load about, slept around. If you were a good hunter, you did what the hell you liked. I’d be dead before lung cancer got me. Jefferson would be six feet under before the alcohol destroyed him.

It was all relative.

If it helped you relax, helped you keep focus, it was fine. Accepted. Embraced.

I turned the corner, finding myself opposite a neat looking bathroom. The sounds were coming from the room on my right, but the bathroom was always a good place to check, just to see how bad things were.

Inching forward, I brushed my finger against the cross hanging on my chest.

It hadn’t helped the night my parents died. The vampires were so old, so very undead that it just hadn’t affected them. But since, well, since then it had saved my life, more than once.

The light in the bathroom flickered before coming on fully. It was nice, clearly kept very clean with every surface gleaming. Some people liked to clean when stressed, so maybe that was what she did.

Opposite the toilet was a shower slash bath. Against the wall, under the medicine cabinet with mirrors on the doors, was a basin, toothbrushes and toothpaste in small cups resting on it next to the taps. I stood in front of it, feeling a surge of energy from the next room.

I ran the tap.

Wondered how long the water had been running black.

Demons don’t like water. Not just holy water, but any sort of pure water. Holy was the best, of course. It burned their skin. But pure water could work in a pinch.

So whenever they went somewhere, they’d ruin the water supply. I’d put money on the idea that the whole street had been frantically phoning their local water department.

I knew I had to be careful with this one. Tread lightly. It was powerful and I didn’t need to actually see the possessed kid to know that.

Stepping back into the hall, I glanced at the photographs on the wall. The boy was an only child, and probably spoilt because of it. Not always a bad thing, not if the parents could push the kid towards a decent life. Photographs on the wall showed Mum, Dad and the kid, neat haircut, winning smile, good looking. Did he have a girlfriend? Was there a girl, breaking her heart over what he had been caught doing?

The teachers had said he was quiet, mild mannered in class, but always hung out with the same people outside of class. The kind of kids who always did their homework. Because demons love the good ones. They like people noticing the changes. No point riding a kid who sleeps with everyone in sight, drinks to excess and does any drug they can get their hands on.

Time to face the demon.

The door shuddered as I stepped towards it, and I knew in an instant that the bastard knew I was here.

Pushing the door open, I moved into the room we’d seen the light flickering from. The bulb exploded the moment I was over the threshold, sending shards of glass everywhere.

But I had a job to do, and a damn demon wasn’t going to stop me.

Word Count: 4,034



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