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Coherence

Mike and Lee are having friends over for dinner tonight. It's also the night Miller's comet will pass near the Earth. Smartphones crack, the Internet goes out, and then all power is lost. Mike has a generator which restores the lights. The landscape outside is dark except for one house in the distance with the lights on. Despite having been warned by a physicist friend to stay inside during the comet event, two of the party take glow sticks and attempt to visit the other house.

Then it really starts getting weird. This is one of those movies you have to watch over again to notice the clues you missed the first time. Don't look for car chases, fiery explosions, or gunfights. Coherence (2013) is more of a thought-provoking suspense puzzle.

I really liked Coherence and always recommend it when I'm asked for a good movie: you can place a hold on the dvd or watch it on Hoopla today.

Annihilation

If you enjoy science fiction, you should check out the 2014 Nebula Award winner Annihilation. It's the first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Four women; a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist, enter a quarantined area known as Area X. They make up the twelfth expedition tasked with researching and mapping the terrain. Little information has been gathered from previous expeditions because they have all ended in untimely mysterious circumstances. The story is told through the biologist's point of view as she writes down the group's findings in a field journal.

You may be familiar with the 2018 film adaptation directed by Alex Garland and starring Natalie Portman which I also highly recommend, but there are many differences between the book and the movie.

Check out Annihilation today – available as an eBook and eAudiobook through Overdrive.



The Others

During World War II while a woman waits to hear about her missing husband, she must protect her two young children who suffer from a rare disease that causes deadly photosensitivity.  Moving her family to a Gothic mansion on the English coast safe from war, she encounters a far more sinister enemy as paranormal activities spiral out of control.  The Others (2001, rated PG-13) starring Nicole Kidman, Alakina Mann, and James Bentley is a shockingly true to life ghost story!

Watch it on Hoopla today.



Perfect Blue (1997)

Follow the life of Mima, a singer in a popular group who leaves to pursue a life of acting in this Japanese anime movie. Her managers and handlers are continually murdered as she makes the transition though, leading to increased paranoia. Even worse, she begins to believe that she has a stalker as her paranoia and stress begin to change how she sees reality. The movie is a great look at the negative aspects of being famous and the physiological toll it can have on someone.

If you like psychological thrillers, this is one not to miss. Watch Perfect Blue (rated R) on Hoopla today.

In Japanese with English subtitles.

Series Spotlight: Eerie Elementary

Strange events are happening at Eerie Elementary School (note the name of the school). Third graders Sam, Lucy, and Antonio find themselves in very scary situations as they work together to keep the school safe from the evil Orson Eerie. Their job as hall monitors is to protect the students of Eerie Elementary School by using their magic sashes. Mr. Nekobi, the janitor, knows what is happening and why, and aids the children with clever ideas. Illustrations of Orson Eerie show that obviously he is a scary, evil man!

Children who can suspend disbelief, believe that the physical Eerie Elementary School is alive, who likes "scary" books, and who are ready for unusual adventures will enjoy this series. Start with The School is Alive! (2014).

Each of the 10 books in the Eerie Elementary series by Jack Chabert is 90 pages with black and white drawings on each page. It is clear from the covers that the books are scary, strange, unusual…for sure. The final page of each book has discussion questions and sometimes craft ideas. Lexile range is 430-600.



What We Do in the Shadows

Living with roommates is hard.  Living for hundreds of years with immature, dirty, narcissistic vampire roommates is even worse.  What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary (think The Office) focusing on the lives of four vampire housemates living in Staten Island as they try to deal with the changing world and fighting over who has to do the dishes.  Things become more complicated when one of their meals is turned into a vampire and brings the modern world even closer.

What We Do in the Shadows (2014, R) is one of my all-time favorite movies, never failing to make me laugh.  Each character is more outrageous than the last and the situations they find themselves in, even more so.  Director Taika Waititi, who is also a main character, brings a comedic quirk that is hard to explain but irresistible once you experience it.

If you enjoy the movie, check out the new TV show on Hulu by the same name.  Arguably even better than the movie, it's not to be missed. You can check out a Roku from our tech takeout for access to Hulu.


Sinking City

This game will hit all the marks for fans of horror and H. P. Lovecraft.  In the game, you play Charles Reed, an ex-navy man and current hardboiled detective, who just arrived in the city of Oakmont.  The town flooded a decade ago and ever since strange events have been happening in the lives of the people who live in the town.  Life in Oakmont is even stranger as you discover that creatures lurk in almost every home.

Sinking City (2019, rated M for mature) is story-driven with half of your time spent in action and the other half spent hunting down clues and doing research through public records at places like the old newspaper offices and the library.  The other dynamic of the game that lends well to the Lovecraft theme is that of the sanity meter.  As your character looks upon the horrors that lurk in the shadows, he must be careful not to go insane himself.

Sinking City is available for checkout for PS4 and Xbox One systems.

Midsommar

Stricken with grief after a tragic family loss, Dani Ardor goes on a spontaneous trip to Sweden with her boyfriend and his classmates.  Classmate Pelle is from Sweden and has invited his friends to join his family for their annual Midsommar festival to celebrate the changing of the seasons and give back to mother nature.  Unbeknownst to Dani and the rest of the group, the festival follows many sinister traditions that leave them questioning whether they should leave or stay.

Director Ari Aster has proven his place in the world of contemporary horror with his latest masterpiece.  Midsommar (2019, rated R) is at once a very unnerving and beautiful film, set in a very believable Swedish community with traditions and beliefs that feel just as real as they are unsettling.  The film features gorgeous cinematography, showcasing the beautiful landscape and transcendental music that lifts the viewer into another world full of wonder and intrigue.

While Midsommar is classified as a horror film, horror is more so the tool through which the movie's message is communicated: out with the old, in with the new.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

hauntingA short, spooky novel that will have you sleeping with the lights on, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House brings together four strangers to investigate reported paranormal activity at an unoccupied dwelling. The house itself is curiously constructed with a labyrinth of rooms and towers that seem to creep around corners all on their own. Ghostly events occur shortly after the guests arrive and each visitor has their own individual experience even when in the presence of the others. Hill House is alive. It breathes and sighs. It is as much a character of the book as the strangers it traps inside.

This classic was first published in 1959, adapted to the big screen in 1963 and again in 1999, and most recently released as a Netflix series in 2018. Read it before you binge watch—it’s a great story to curl up with on a cold winter night!
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World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (2006)

Full disclosure: I didn’t think I’d like World War Z (Zombies? No thank you.) and only started the novel because I had to (yes, that still happens). Nevertheless, author Max Brooks surprised me with a unique structure and intriguingly compelling story. Set 12 years after the end of the zombie war, character Max Brooks is traveling the globe interviewing those involved in the conflict. Each character shares their experiences, relaying information on the causes of the zombie uprising, challenges of the war, and the rebuilding process. The story is not graphic or gruesome and somehow, is realistic (despite the zombies and the post-apocalypse).

Listen to the audiobook: because the story is composed of a variety of interviews, a full cast narrates the immersive story—lending the book true crime and living history elements. Narrators include Alan Alda, Martin Scorsese, Simon Pegg, Alfred Molina, and many more.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2014)

A determined mother must lead her children to safety on a riverboat while they all remain blindfolded. In a world overrun by creatures that can kill a person merely from being looked at, this is their only option for survival. Josh Malerman’s Bird Box is both horrifying and beautiful, making the reader feel just as blind and helpless as its characters. Since it’s the month of scary stories, check out other contemporary horror novels too.
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Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar (2017)

Gwendy is a young girl that is desperate to lose weight before the start of the new school year. She spends her days running up and down what's known as the "suicide stairs" in her hometown of Stephen King's fictional Castle Rock, Maine. Her responsibility and dedication is strong enough to prove to a stranger dressed in black that Gwendy should be the recipient of what he calls the "button box." All Gwendy knows about the box is that it holds vast power and that she must do all she can to use it wisely.

In Gwendy’s Button Box, we follow Gwendy and how her life changes as she understands what it means to be the box's caretaker. Stephen King and Richard Chizmar have written a novella that is short and lean, every moment feeling crucial to the overall tone and story. This book perfectly demonstrates King’s ability to make the reader unable to stop themselves from turning page after page while simultaneously being terrified of what they might discover when they do.
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The Fisherman by John Langan (2016)

Two men have endured through the tragedy of what it means to become a widower. By being there for one another and bonding over their passion of fishing, they are able to slowly come to terms with their grief. However, upon discovery of a small body of water known as Dutchman’s Creek, they come across an age-old legend that may hold the secret to bringing their wives back from the dead. The book tells two stories: one of the two widowers and one of the titular Fisherman and the legend of how he cursed an entire town with his black magic.

The Fisherman is a horror story of human grief that transcends into fear at a much more cosmic scale. John Langan doesn’t shy away from his nightmarish portrayal of the afterlife and what it truly means in his world when someone is brought back from beyond. This novel takes realistic and grounded characters and introduces them to a world of horror that goes far beyond human comprehension. The Fisherman is a mature book for anyone that enjoys scary imagery and the fear of what may be lurking underneath our very feet.
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Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 2

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
headfullofghostsReality TV is perhaps one of the most simultaneously loved and hated forms of entertainment to ever exist. Many of us feel a sense of intrigue and fascination in having a fly on the wall perspective of lives that we ourselves will never experience, yet many of us find the idea of peering into the lives of other people to be disturbing. A Head Full of Ghosts takes the idea of reality television and crosses it with one of the most exploited genres in all of horror: demonic possession.

Set in New England, the Barret family's happy life is torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins showing signs of schizophrenia. Her outbursts and bizarre behavior are nothing short of terrifying, causing her parents to scramble her from doctor to doctor, until they meet a priest named Father Wanderly, who believes that Marjorie is in dire need of an exorcism--but not before he contacts a couple of television producers and tells them of the Barret family's plight. A Head Full of Ghosts takes place fifteen years after the reality TV show The Possession first aired, and the then eight-year-old Merry is the novel's narrator as she recounts her memories of the filming process to a present day writer that is attempting to find the truth beyond what the cameras on the TV show portrayed.

A Head Full of Ghosts evolves into a whirlwind of horror, satire, and mystery  with an unreliable narrator that grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. By the end, I was left with a pit in my stomach as I reflected on the true horror of what I had read.

Revival by Stephen King
revivalWidely considered to be the greatest horror author of all time, Stephen King continues to write stories just as chilling and traumatizing as when he first started his career.

Young Jamie Morton is enamored with Charles Jacobs, the new minister that has just moved to his small Maine town with his beautiful wife. Almost as soon as their friendship begins to blossom, tragedy strikes the Jacobs family and Charles loses his faith in God, leading to his banishment from the small town. Several years later, Jamie and Charles cross paths again. With Charles claiming to now be a traveling faith healing minister, he recruits Jamie to travel with him and heal the believers across America. While Charles' abilities seem to be legitimate, it's clear to Jamie that what he does to cure those who are sick ends up leaving them a lot worse after Charles is done with them. Jamie takes it upon himself to discover how it is that Charles is “healing” people and whether or not it should continue.

Revival spans over five decades of Jamie's life and his run-ins with Charles Jacobs. Over this length of time, King is truly able to develop his characters and show how they grow and change over time, for better or worse. Revival may be Stephen King's clearest attempt at writing a story in the genre that is commonly referred to as “Lovecraftian Horror,” and marks one of his greatest achievements.

Want more horror recommendations? Check out Part 1 of this spotlight for 3 more titles.

Spotlight on Horror Novels to Read This October: Part 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That’s right, October is finally upon us! That means it’s time for crisp autumn weather, pumpkin spiced everything, and all sorts of ghouls and goblins traveling from house to house to keep us scared and entertained. So, before everyone starts getting ready for the winter holidays on November 1st (sorry Thanksgiving), I'll tell you about five horror themed novels that you can read this October. Today, we have 3, but check back on the 27th for 2 more!

The Fireman by Joe Hill
firemanJoe Hill's newest novel tackles familiar themes of the post-apocalyptic genre, such as war ravaged civilizations, dystopian societies trying to rebuild after a catastrophic event, and, simply: the end of the world. Harper Grayson is a nurse from New England who makes it her sole priority to help treat and comfort everyone she can who has become ravaged with what is commonly referred to as Dragonscale: a mysterious new disease that has begun to spread across the globe. While no one is able to determine its origin or how it is transmitted, the only thing people know is that there’s no fate worse than catching it. Anyone who becomes afflicted with the disease may burst into flames at any moment, endangering anyone unlucky enough to be nearby.

The Fireman is a novel full of dread and comic relief. While there is plenty to be scared of in this world, there is also much to love, laugh at, and find joy in. Joe Hill creates memorable characters that we care about and want to see survive, putting them through terrible situation after situation. Every horrifying conflict that arises feels natural and all too realistic, highlighting both the good, the bad, and the in between of humanity itself. The fear that Joe Hill instills within the humans of this world and how they choose to react to it is where the true horror lives.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
houseofleavesHouse of Leaves is a novel by Mark Z. Danielewski about a documentary directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning photo journalist Will Navidson about his family’s house. After moving into their new home, the Navidson family discovers rooms that weren’t originally there when they moved in and doorways leading to dark hallways that stretch on for impossible lengths. This is the center of focus for the horror story, as the Navidson family attempts to investigate and document their journeys into these very dark, dangerous, and ever changing hallways.

House of Leaves is perhaps the most interesting and unique book I've ever read. The pages and the words seem to twist and turn in impossible ways, much like the endless rooms and hallways in the Navidsons' home. Simply flipping through the pages and scanning how the words are laid out on the pages is a remarkable experience in and of itself and the way the book is written helps the reader to dive into the madness and experience what the characters are going through. At first glance, this book seems to be made up of the ramblings of a mad man. Interestingly enough, that's exactly what it is. My suggestion is to find a copy and flip through it yourself. If your eyes are drawn to and intrigued by the layout of the pages, you may want to take this book home and let it consume you. By the end, you may find that your sanity has slipped to some degree, but that's okay. After all, we all go a little mad sometimes.

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
dirtyjobA Dirty Job follows Charlie Asher, a new father and even newer widower. Charlie is forced to now raise his newborn daughter by himself while also continuing to run and operate his second hand resale shop with only two employees: a high school goth and a retired cop. Because of the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, Charlie has found himself to become one of the Grim Reaper’s little helpers. Charlie is now one of many in New York City that is responsible for collecting the souls of the recently departed and selling them to prospective new owners through their resale shops in order to stop an ancient evil from awakening and devouring the planet.

While this isn’t a straight horror story, the horror theme is present throughout and integral to the plot. For those that love horror stories, this is a great book to laugh with rather than be scared of. There aren’t many horror stories like that and even fewer that do it well. I laughed out loud while reading A Dirty Job more than I ever have with another book; it even caused me to stop reading because I needed a break to laugh about a good joke. And this book is just as heartwarming as it is funny. Many moments had me near tears and I genuinely cared for the characters that Christopher Moore wrote. Every character had their own unique voice and brought a level of depth and creativity to the story that many authors would find difficult to emulate.