Tags: films

scared

R.I.P. Challenge book #6, and wrap-up


As I continued to be in a reading mood, I didn't watch any films from my provisional list after all. Instead, while browsing my bookshelves, I picked up this book by Richard Brautigan and discovered the title (The Hawkline Monster: a Gothic Western) was surprisingly apt for this time of year, if not for the Challenge.

But even though this quick read (many short chapters, each starting on a new page) was funny and frequently made me giggle, enough eerily strange things happened in it to make it appropriate after all. This quote from page 46 displays the nice mixture of wacky humour and foreboding:

The road stopped like a dying man's signature on a last-minute will.

It is difficult not to give too much of the plot away, so I'll just quote the back cover:

In the dead centre of the Dead Hills of Eastern Oregon stands Hawkline Manor, an elaborate Victorian mansion, festooned with chandeliers and valuable paintings, and looked after by a giant butler. It is the home of the two Miss Hawklines [Misses Hawkline?], beautiful, generous with their favours — and identical. But it also houses a very unwelcome guest... whom Greer and Cameron, professional killers, are required to dispose of.

I've had a soft spot for Brautigan ever since reading his short story "The Weather in San Francisco", and have read several more of his short stories since. When I came across this novel at the book market a few years ago, I snapped it up immediately. I sort of regretted this impulse buy later on, but now I'm glad I bought it. Brautigan is not to everyone's taste, but I really enjoyed myself.

4/5


To wrap up: although I had chosen to do Peril the Third (one book), I have read all four books on my provisional list (abandoning one of them), plus two more.

I have watched none of the films on my list, but I did see several things on TV that qualify:

Belgian TV showed El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth). I would call this a grim fairytale, but boston.com placed it on #17 in their Top 50 scariest movies of all time, so I figure it counts. Good film, beautiful art direction, and what I particularly liked about it was that the faun was such an ambiguous character: I wasn't sure until the end whether his intentions were good or evil. 3/5

Belgian TV has also started broadcasting True Blood, but after seeing the first two episodes I decided I didn't like it enough to continue watching.

Dutch TV is broadcasting Sherlock at the moment. I had missed this when it was shown on the BBC and so was taken by surprise by the massive amount of fangirly squee that suddenly erupted around LJ. Now that I know it consists of only three episodes, I'm even more surprised by the level of fandom it has generated so quickly. Anyway, I have seen two episodes so far and it's good, mysterious fun. 3.5/5

And last night I watched the Psychoville Halloween special, by two members of the League of Gentlemen. I had watched and enjoyed last year's series, so made sure not to miss this. It was deliciously creepy.

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These two little trick-or-treaters showing up on the misanthropist clown's doorstep were the scariest in my opinion. They didn't do or say anything, just stood and stared, and stared, and stared, unnerving not only the clown, but me as well. 4/5, and I was pleased to learn there is going to be a second series.

As always, many thanks to Carl for hosting the R.I.P. Challenge! I had a great time.


thinking

R.I.P. Challenge V


Lately I've been trying very hard to get my reading mojo back, and it looks like I've finally succeeded. Not a moment too soon, because it turned out there is an R.I.P. Challenge being held after all. Carl's announcement for R.I.P. V was just a little later than usual.

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Not wanting to scare my r.m. away again by being overly ambitious, I've decided to do Peril the Third: reading one book between now and 31 October that fits into one (or more) of the following categories: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural.

Most of the books on my provisional list appeared on last year's list as well. I picked these because they do not seem too challenging (and also because I hope to be able to free some much-needed shelf space):

Christie, Agatha: They Came to Baghdad — personally I tend to associate Christie's cosy mysteries with comfort reading rather than with nail-biting tension, but IIRC (I read this a looong time ago, in Dutch) this is one of her espionage stories, a genre I find more confusing than anything

Homes, A.M.: The End of Alice — third time lucky?

Krabbé, Tim: De grot (The Cave)

Verhoef, Esther: Erken mij ("acknowledge me") — a short thriller


I like the newly added Peril on the Screen. In previous years I have already unofficially watched films in keeping with the theme, so this year I intend to participate in this Peril as well. My provisional list:

Images (Robert Altman, 1972) — I watched this at least 30 years ago and the only thing I remember about it is Susannah York looking into a mirror and being very, very confused

Memento mori (Tae-Yong Kim & Kyu-Dong Min, 1999) — Korean horror

Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2007) — one of the blurbs calls this a poetic horror film


Looking forward to starting the challenge. The first month is almost over already, so I'd better get cracking.


omgwtf

R.I.P. Challenge books #1 and #2, and wrap-up


Well, I managed to complete the R.I.P. Challenge by the skin of my teeth, or, as the literal and more appropriate translation of the Dutch saying goes, by hanging and strangling.

I have to confess my heart wasn't really in it this time around. To be sure, these past two months my attention has been taken up by ghosts, werewolves and vampires, but they featured in a TV series (Being Human) and a film (Let the Right One In) rather than in books. (Although after seeing the film I have put the book, by John Ajvide Lindqvist, on my reading list.)

Because I still wanted to complete the challenge I picked two of the shortest books on my list.

Book #1, The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski, is about a woman who falls asleep on a chaise-longue and wakes up in 1864, almost a hundred years earlier, in the body of another woman. How to get back to her own time?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIt left me feeling rather blank. When I finished it I had actually no idea whether I liked it or not. I guess I felt slightly disappointed and found the ending a bit unsatisfactory. In my opinion Penelope Farmer handled the same subject matter better and with more logic in her book Charlotte Sometimes. Still, I give it 3/5, because I do want to keep it for now, and maybe reread it at some point.

Book #2, Het heksershol by Joost Hiddes Halbertsma is an odd little folktale about a man who sells his soul to the devil, the adventures he has, the tricks he plays, and his eventual bad end.

Upon Googling I found a review in English, focusing on the folkloristic aspects, here. I also discovered that Halbertsma, who died in 1869, is a rather big name in Friesland, with him and his brother working in the same field as the Grimm brothers in Germany. However, I thought this tale was only mildly amusing at best. 2/5, but I'm keeping it because I do like the cover illustration and frontispiece by Jaap Kuyper, plus the fact that, exactly 44 years and 1 day ago, my mum received this as a birthday present from her brother-in-law's parents. Their note is still in the book.


omgwtf

R.I.P. Challenge books #6 and #7, and wrap-up


Yesterday I finished book #6, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I liked it, but not as much as I did Coraline.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAfter someone has murdered his family, a toddler is taken in and lovingly raised by the inhabitants of an old graveyard. "Bod" is to stay there until he is grown and it's safe for him to go and live in the outside world (because his family's murderer is still out there and wants to finish the job).

The first chapter and last two chapters were very good, I thought. The ones in-between felt a bit uneven. There were some improbabilities that bothered me: f.e. when Bod goes into town to sell a jewel, because he needs money to buy something for a friend. He is 8 years old, has never been outside the graveyard, has never seen money or shops — how would he know where to go, what to say, what to do? Also, in his reasoning he often seemed older than he actually was.

I thought it was a pity that none of the dead were really scary. Even the ghouls were rather comical, with the Bishop of Bath and Wells giving me a right Blackadder moment. The only threat to Bod's existence is posed by living people. It gave me the impression that the book was written for a slightly younger age group than Coraline was.

I didn't much care for Dave McKean's illustrations, I think I would have preferred Chris Riddell's (was that the UK edition he did?). Something I did like: the way the dead are introduced by what's written on their headstone, f.e.:

'Bod's left ankle was swollen and purple. Doctor Trefusis (1870-1936, May He Wake to Glory) inspected it and pronounced it merely sprained.' (p.96)

All in all I give the book 3/5.


#7 is not a book but a short story. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a mere 6 pages long (in print-out). I read it this morning, so officially it doesn't count I guess, but let's pretend that in the U.S. it was still 31 October, even if it was after midnight.

I already knew The Lottery from a film I saw on TV, but even if I hadn't I would have seen what was coming from a mile away. Still, it was a good story. I've nothing to say about it that hasn't been said a hundred times before. 3/5


So this wraps up the R.I.P. III Challenge for me. This was my initial list:

Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle — read, 3/5
A.A. Merritt: Burn, Witch, Burn! — read, 2/5
Poppy Z. Brite: His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and other stories — read, 1/5
Shirley Jackson: The Lottery — read, 3/5

Albert Sánchez Piñol: Nachtlicht (La pell freda/Cold Skin), and
A.M. Homes: The End of Alice — still going to read these two, as I may not wish to keep them and desperately need to make some room on my shelves

Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White — saving for winter
Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue — saving, for the next R.I.P. Challenge perhaps?
W.F. Hermans: De donkere kamer van Damokles (The Darkroom of Damocles) — saving for now


Not on my list, but also read (and bought, ack!*):

Chris Priestley: Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, 3/5
Neil Gaiman: Coraline, 4/5
Neil Gaiman: The Graveyard Book, 3/5

Also watched the TV film of The Woman in Black — not as scary as I had hoped/feared, but very atmospheric and nicely done; 3/5.


Having so many books as yet unread, or read so long ago that I don't remember a thing about them, I am rather spoiled for choice. A challenge like this helps to narrow down my choices. I really enjoyed the R.I.P. Challenge and I'd like to thank Carl for hosting it. I hope to join again next year!


*It had not been my intention to buy more books, and having no place on the shelves for these three, I made a firm resolve not to add to the pile until I had gotten rid of a respectable number. Next thing I know I'm reading an email by Persephone Books informing me that the new catalogue and Biannually are on their way and my first reaction is "Ooh! Ordering time!"
Somebody save me.


thinking

Ready for autumn


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Danielle's post on Carl's R.I.P. Challenge made me aware of this yearly event running from 1 September through 31 October, when participants read one, two, or four books fitting into the following categories:

Mystery
Suspense
Thriller
Dark Fantasy
Gothic
Horror
Supernatural

Usually these challenges don't appeal to me because all too soon it starts to feel like homework, but reading one book of your choice must be doable for anyone and as I had planned on reading a few scary novels this autumn anyway, I decided to join and do Peril #2: read two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories.

Scouring my shelves I was surprised to find at least 25 books that fitted into these categories. Here is my shortlist of 9 titles:


Shirley Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle — a recent addition to my library

Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue — also bought recently

Albert Sánchez Piñol: Nachtlicht (La pell freda/Cold Skin)

A.A. Merritt: Burn, Witch, Burn! — pulp, but a R.I.P.ing yarn nevertheless. I tore through this twice when I was a teen (in the Dutch translation, with the less sensationalist title De poppen van Madame Mandilip), and probably will again. Public domain.

W.F. Hermans: De donkere kamer van Damokles (The Darkroom of Damocles) — this is also a reread. The English translation that appeared recently is very good and I urge everyone to read it, because this brilliant Dutch classic deserves a wider audience.

Poppy Z. Brite: His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood and other stories

A.M. Homes: The End of Alice

Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White

Shirley Jackson: The Lottery — a (very) short story, also public domain.


I hope to be able to read four of these, but as I had already planned on reading some other books in September, I will be happy with two.

Oh yes, and I intend to watch The Woman in Black (based on the novel by Susan Hill), and A Bucket of Blood. Finally!


lewis furey

Last week's recap, part 2


When I came back from the doctor it was still quite early, and I decided to watch the second half of Angels in America, finally! I found it just as brilliant as I did last year, and I'm thinking of making it a tradition to watch it every autumn.

With the arrival of Marianne Faithfull the next day the angelfest was continued a little longer (her "Crazy love" will forever be linked to AiA in my mind). "Last song" is another favourite of mine on the album.

The latter half of the week the weather turned lovely, or heavenly, to keep in style, with temperatures of around 20°C. On Thursday I was even moved to tear myself away from the computer in my lunch break in order to go for a walk with J.

The weekend was the warmest last weekend of October ever recorded. It was also the end of daylight saving time, which meant an extra hour of sleep. Hurrah! My biological clock hates DST, and 7 months out of 12 is simply too long.

Oh yes, and on Wednesday I watched All the Queen's men. Rather disappointing on the whole, but Eddie Izzard was hilarious as the diva giving a performance for the Germans. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. :D


thinking

Quick update


Nothing much has happened.

While shopping on 21 September I came across a DVD box with the first season of Dead like me and thinking it was a stroke of luck I immediately bought it, but a few days later I saw several of those boxes in another shop at 5 euros cheaper.

I am rather surprised that Dead like me should be released on DVD here when it was only broadcast by one rather obscure TV station, while The league of gentlemen, which has been shown several times on two Dutch stations, a Belgian station and the BBC, has been impossible to get so far, at least the complete box set including the Christmas specials. But I'll keep looking out for it.

The next Friday, 23 September, I could pick up Yossi & Jagger from the post office. When I came home I immediately tried out the DVD and fortunately this time the image was fine. I watched the film over the weekend, in bits and pieces, because I kept being interrupted by phonecalls and people stopping by unexpectedly. I was very happy to find it was the film version after all, and not the shorter TV version. The DVD also includes the trailer, two music videos, a "making of" (without subtitles, which made me want to learn Hebrew), and an earlier short film by the same director. I watched that one last week, but I must say I didn't care for it.


Yesterday Kink FM celebrated their 10th anniversary. :) They will broadcast the Outlaw 666 from tomorrow, but as it is from 9 am until 8 pm, I won't be able to hear much of it.

It also was the final day of the DDD (three crazy days) at the Bijenkorf. Most things I wanted were either sold out already or disappointing irl, but I did score The crying game for 4 euros. :)

And I had another dizzy spell yesterday. I was sitting at the computer and I suddenly felt as if I would keel over. The feeling lasted for hours, it was as if my head kept being pulled sideways. I have had those spells occasionally for about a year, I think. Maybe I should go to the doctor. Also, since I've gone back to work I have gradually started coughing again. Something in the airconditioning, perhaps? But if that were the case I wouldn't be coughing at home too, would I? Although this weekend I haven't been, come to think of it. Hmmm.

It is now 22.30 and I am dead tired. And I'm a bit unsatisfied with what I've (not) accomplished this weekend. Mail has been piling up for weeks and I haven't even looked at it yet. Nor have I vacuumed or done the ironing. *sigh* Oh well. If I go to bed early I may feel more energetic tomorrow. If the mosquito that woke me up at 5.30 this morning will leave me alone, that is..


thinking

Oh, really?


I don't think I have ever said here how much I love my iPod. I have never wanted to have a walkman or discman, I didn't feel the need, and I only bought an iPod because I fell for the clever marketing. It took me until this year to actually start using it, but now I wouldn't want to do without any more.

I don't particularly care for the feel of the earphones in my ears, but hearing the music so "close" is a revelation to me. It is wonderful to discern all the rich detail in beautifully produced albums, like the ones by Tori, Nick Drake, Spinvis or David Bowie. On the other hand, there are songs which I can't bear to hear over my earphones; "Hurt" by NIN springs to mind.

Last week I was busy in the kitchen, listening to my iPod (in shuffle mode, as usual), when a song by The Smiths came by that I don't think I had ever heard before. It hit me like a hammer. I stopped whatever I was doing and sat down to listen to it quietly. The song was "Pretty girls make graves". I can't believe I have never heard it before, it is so good. It shot right up into my top 3 of favourite songs by them. It is not that often that I am swept off my feet by a song at first hearing, and it has completely rekindled my love affair with The Smiths.

There was a summer (it must have been 1984) when every good song I heard on the radio — and radio to me then meant Radio Caroline — was by The Smiths. Except for "Hand in glove" by Sandie Shaw, which, I later found out, was actually also by The Smiths.

I especially liked the combination of the cheerful, upbeat music with Morrissey's whiny voice and lyrics. The songs that also had whiny music, like "How soon is now?" took a little longer to get into, but in time I learned to love them, too.

Over the years I have listened to them on and off; sometimes intensively, sometimes not at all. Especially at this time of year, with autumn around the corner, I need to be careful with them, because no matter how happy I feel, they never fail to make me melancholy, and if I feel melancholy to begin with they can make me depressed. So after a few days of immersing myself in Smiths music I thought it wise to start listening again to some happier tunes as well.

But before that, on one Smiths-drenched night, I was looking around the IMDb forums and found a review of a DVD which contained the original TV production of Yossi & Jagger, in Hebrew with English subtitles. The TV film is even shorter than the cinema release, but as the review was very favourable and also said that the image was crisp and clear, I followed the link to the Israeli Internet shop selling it, and I ordered it straightaway. The next morning I already had confirmation (and in faultless Dutch, too) that they had sent off the DVD. So I am in happy (and slightly anxious) anticipation of that.

And on Friday afternoon I went to the hairdresser's to get a haircut and a colour rinse. This was the first time ever I had my hair coloured and I was surprised at the amount of time it took. Very expensive too, and all for something that will wash out in about 8 times. But I am very pleased with the results. It is now quite short again, I was getting fed up with hair falling into my eyes and causing irritation and inflammation. And the colour is slightly darker brown than my own colour, and neatly covers the grey. I think next time I'll go for this same colour, but in permanent dye.


In other news, Waking the dead is getting weirder with each new series, and I can't say I care for it much. And I see that tomorrow night ARTE is going to repeat Yossi & Jagger. Ack! I hope I can resist the temptation to watch it again, it is on until 2.30.