For October Horror Month, I figured I might as well drag out some of my reviews of the horror stuff I’ve read in the past two years. Not gonna lie – the majority will be Stephen King books! But there will be a few other authors I’ll be posting this month as well.
Here’s a Stephen King collection of four shorter stories & two of his Hard Case Crime novels to start…
If It Bleeds by Stephen King (Four Story Collection: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life Of Chuck, If It Bleeds & Rat)
I enjoyed this book. I always love his shorter story collections. I’ll say just a tiny bit about each…
– Mr. Harrigan’s Phone – Really liked this very simple story of a boy who gifts an iPhone to an elderly neighbour. But the story of course gets a little more weird later on…
– The Life Of Chuck – Thought this three-part story (told in reverse order) was interesting. The first story was really good & very clever when you later realise what’s going on. The second story was okay & the final one was good with the right amount of creepiness but also strong characters & not a full-on “horror”.
– If It Bleeds – This is a short story continuing on from The Outsider (which I actually didn’t like very much). However, it revolves around one of my favorite new Stephen King characters: Holly Gibney from Mr. Mercedes. She’s a love her or hate her & I love her so like that King keeps using her as well as other likeable previous characters. So I enjoyed this story mainly because I got to revisit these characters again.
– Rat– This is the most “Stephen King” story about a writer (shocker! can’t remember if he was also in Maine…) who makes a deal with a talking rat when he wishes to write a successful novel. It’s a twist on The Monkey’s Paw and is a better story than you’d think it could be considering it has a talking rat. But King can write the weird stuff well!
Not sure what to rate this book overall as it’s good but not as strong as some of his other collections. I suppose I’d give the whole thing this…
My Rating: 3.5/5
**Just going to add this bit from Wikipedia that I just read. Looks like at least three of the stories are going to be adapted: “On July 10, 2020, Deadline Hollywood reported that Netflix had acquired film rights to “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone”, to be produced by Blumhouse Productions and Ryan Murphy. “Rat” was optioned by Ben Stiller, who intends to produce, star and direct. Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures has optioned “The Life of Chuck”, with Aronofsky to produce.”
Wait. What? Darren Aronofsky?! What an odd choice. Okay, Ben Stiller is weird too. But Aronofsky doing King? I suppose it was a very strange story (the first part) that I can kind of see him doing after Mother!…
The Colorado Kid by Stephen King
Been wanting to read this for years as I really liked the TV show Haven which I knew was only very loosely based on this book. Loosely was an understatement! It just happens to be set in the same small town in Maine. That’s the only true link. At least I think it was Maine. It’s a King book – it must be Maine! It’s set in small-town fishing village Maine & I think I want to live out my elderly years in StephenKingesque small-town Maine. I read too much King.
This is one of his non-horrors and I really liked it. I often like his non-horrors where the focus is on good characters, and they were pretty well developed ones for what was a pretty short book. It’s not as good as the first one I read in this Hard Case Crime series, though (Joyland). Joyland was great! But I’d recommend both to King fans.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Later by Stephen King
This is the third novel of King’s in this Hard Case Crime series & I’ve enjoyed them all. They’re much shorter & “lighter” reads than his hefty horror tomes. This is probably my least favorite of the three, but that’s not saying it’s bad. It’s about a kid who sees dead people (yeah, kind of like in The Sixth Sense but not really & they do reference that film in this). It’s a solid ghost story with a likeable kid. It’s possibly a little forgettable but it’s a quick & fun read.
My favorite in this series is still Joyland, which I loved, and second is The Colorado Kid which felt very different from King’s “horror” stories. Maybe I should check out some of the many non-King books in this series??
Well, I posted a “Goodbye” post last week but I already had this post 90% written so there was no point keeping it in Drafts. I’ve now negotiated new marital terms & conditions and I might be allowed to watch some movies in July. So, yay, I guess maybe I’ll have some movies for a “July Roundup” post next month& this won’t have to become a cooking blog! Good, because I don’t want to learn how to cook.
So here are the SIXTEEN MOVIES I watched in June. Hope that number is acceptable!
MOVIES WATCHED IN JUNE (ranked best to worst):
– Gandhi – I finally made myself watch a film that fulfils both my Best Picture Project AND my IMDb Top 250 Challenge! It was between this & Lawrence Of Arabia which I also really need to get around to watching. Gandhi won because, I’ll be totally honest, it’s about half an hour shorter. Well, this film is fantastic & I’m so glad I finally took the time to watch it. In fact, I can now say I have a new “best & favorite film watched in 2021” so I’m happy enough to take a small movie break now since I’ve finally watched a truly great film.
I’m absolutely rubbish when it comes to having, well, pretty much any historical knowledge. So I admittedly knew very little about Gandhi & can’t comment on this film’s accuracy, though what little I’ve read since seems to be what I saw in this movie. But, as a film, it’s excellent and fully deserving of a Best Picture Oscar. Remember when Best Pictures gave us truly epic filmmaking like this?! I miss those days. Let’s see what it beat: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Missing, Tootsie & The Verdict. Well, I’ve only seen Tootsie & E.T., which I love, but I think I can safely say that Gandhi is the clear winner here despite not seeing the other two. Gandhi won eight of its eleven nominations. Richard Attenborough also deservingly won Best Director & Ben Kingsley won for his absolutely brilliant performance as Mahatma Gandhi. It was worth watching just for his performance, as I thought it was truly one of the best performances I’ve ever seen (and I watch a lot of movies – just ask my family!). But, luckily, the movie lived up to its great central performance as well. I feel the actors can sometimes outshine a film & I prefer a really good film to a really good performance. I was very happy to get both in this case.
When it comes to movies like these, I don’t know what else to say. The awards were rightly deserved & I highly recommend it to all film lovers. A great film is a great film. What annoys me is that this film is shockingly not in the IMDb Top 250 anymore. I’m still working off the 2013 Top 250 list and classics such as Gandhi are being replaced by too many current releases now such as the Marvel superhero films. I think IMDb need to re-think how they determine what ends up in the 250! Infinity War is NOT better than Gandhi. Ridiculous! I know it’s just a stupid list but people do look at it & really good old films are now not getting the recognition they still deserve. – 8.5/10
– Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Not entirely sure why but I really liked this movie. Just like with The Woman In The Window, I read the book in preparation for the film but then the movie took years to come out so I don’t even really remember the book now. Why didn’t this film come out in the U.K. until 2021?! So I re-read my mini-review of the book (HERE) & I was very meh about it. I think, in the film, I could just really relate to Cate Blanchett’s character. Not her genius, of course, because I suck at everything – I mean her social awkwardness & introversion. She’s a good character & I felt for her losing her way & giving up on something she loved. And I had completely forgotten this was a Richard Linklater film (so I may be in trouble for watching this alone as the hubby & I are both fans but I can’t see him liking this). It’s not as good as his best movies but it’s still a decent film – it’s just very unlike his other stuff. Not everyone will go for this but I think those who buy into Blanchett’s quirky character will enjoy it. – 7/10
– From Here To Eternity – Another movie watched for my Best Picture Project! I’m on a roll! This was also good but not nearly as good as Gandhi. I of course have wanted to see this for years because of that kiss on the beach scene up there. It’s one of those scenes where, unfortunately, it’s not as romantic as I was expecting. In fact, the guy is sort of a jerk in the scene (but I know this was set during WWII and women were treated differently then – I don’t judge old movies based on modern values). Anyway, that’s now three Deborah Kerr movies I’ve watched this year so I’m on a roll with her too! I preferred the others, Black Narcissus & The Innocents, but she was really good in all of these & I’m amazed I’d seen her in so little before now. Everyone was good in this & I was surprised to see Donna Reed as she’s so linked to It’s A Wonderful Life for me. But I was most surprised to like Frank Sinatra’s character the most as I wasn’t really a fan of him as a person. But his character was a strong one & I thought he was really good in this. It’s a good film & probably worthy of its Best Picture Oscar but it’s not going to be a favorite of mine of all the winners. Here’s what it beat: Julius Caesar, The Robe, Roman Holiday & Shane. I’ve only seen the latter two but I’d say the three I’ve seen are equally good. – 7/10
– Raya And The Last Dragon – Managed to review this in full at the link. I enjoyed this. I’m always excited for a new animated Disney film but this didn’t quite live up to other recent ones such as Moana. Still a fun film, though, and Raya as a character is a good addition to all the other strong female Disney characters. – 7/10
– One Cut Of The Dead(カメラを止めるな!, Kamera o Tomeru na!) – This was fun! I found it weirdly…. Wholesome? Here’s the IMDb synopsis: “Things go badly for a hack director and film crew shooting a low budget zombie movie in an abandoned WWII Japanese facility, when they are attacked by real zombies.” This is a Japanese horror comedy (or, I guess, a ZomCom) & it’s one where you’re better off not knowing too much before watching it. It also gets better as it goes along so stick with it – I really enjoyed the final act of this movie when it all comes together. The characters were good & I liked the family of three who are involved in the film (especially the mother who goes a little overboard). And it’s not at all “gory” so is worth a watch if you want a lighthearted ZomCom. This was on Film4 in the U.K. but, sadly, I think it has disappeared by now. Sorry! I should review movies while they’re still available to watch. – 7/10
– Misbehaviour – I really enjoyed this film based on an interesting true story despite my weird hatred for Keira Knightley (her acting bothers me yet I seem to watch all her damn movies?!). I’ve already reviewed it in full so here’s the very basic IMDb synopsis: “A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.” Recommended if you want to watch some women try to bring down the patriarchy & all that. – 7/10
– Timecop – This is now the second Jean-Claude Van Damme film I’ve ever watched after seeing Bloodsport a couple of months ago. Goddamn, that movie was FUN! I liked it so much I gave it a full-length review HERE. It was cheesy & cliché & just the right amount of ridiculous to make it into that “so bad it’s good” category (like my beloved Road House!). Timecop, unfortunately, was not nearly as much fun but I did still quite enjoy it and also give it a full review at the link. I’m totally going to watch more Van Damme movies because I want to see how many different ways he can do those sexy splits. – 6.5/10
– Shoplifters Of The World – I reviewed this as well. I liked the idea behind it but the way they shoved The Smiths & quotes from their songs very awkwardly into this story as much as possible sadly felt too forced. Here’s the synopsis from Wikipedia: “Set in Denver, four friends reel from the sudden break up of The Smiths, while the local radio station is held at gunpoint by a fan, forcing a disgruntled heavy metal DJ to play The Smiths all night.” Yeah, that’s a great idea and could’ve been a great movie if done right. I still enjoyed it, though, and liked hearing all The Smiths songs in it. But for a movie that better incorporated a band’s music into an interesting story, I far preferred Yesterday with all of The Beatles music. – 6.5/10
– Kajillionaire – As I said recently in my Butt Boy review, I like weird movies. This is mainly because I watch so many films that it’s nice to see ones that aren’t so predictable for a change. But the weird movies are rarely good movies & some are just plain bad. I’m not sure how I feel about this weird one about a family of three who try to get through life by engaging in small crimes. It’s not bad but I found it a bit of a chore to sit through and it wasn’t weird enough to keep me truly interested. Evan Rachel Wood was interesting as the very awkward daughter & I liked her relationship with Gina Rodriguez who befriends her & joins the family in their petty crimes. They were fun but the parents were hateful. It’s an awkward film and the tone was all over the place. It’s a hard one to describe. I did enjoy watching something so different & unpredictable, though. Glad I watched it but I wouldn’t watch it again. – 6.5/10
– Poms – I liked this! It was a bit dumb but fun. I’ve noticed I’m liking movies about old women more & more lately and I realised it’s probably because I’m getting soooo old & that’s depressing. But I’ve loved The Golden Girls since a young age so maybe I just like fun female friendships. Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “Poms is a 2019 American comedy film directed by Zara Hayes, starring Diane Keaton, Jacki Weaver, Pam Grier, Celia Weston, Alisha Boe, Phyllis Somerville, Charlie Tahan, Bruce McGill, and Rhea Perlman. The film follows a group of women from a retirement community who decide to start a cheerleading squad.” As you can see it has an impressive cast & I especially enjoyed the friendship between Diane Keaton & Jacki Weaver. The movie is a bit silly & slightly far-fetched at times but it’s a nice story about friendship & living your life. – 6.5/10
– When A Stranger Calls – I’d been wanting to see this 1979 horror classic for years! “Have you checked the children?” Such a famous line & I think every teen in the ’80s knew where those calls were coming from even if we hadn’t seen this movie. And, yeah, the beginning of this movie is GREAT. The beginning, as a short story on its own, is a classic. I have a feeling that the beginning bit is all that anyone truly remembers because, man, this one falls apart in the middle. It kind of completely goes in a different direction & we don’t see Carol Kane again until the very end when it finally picks up slightly again. So I’m glad I finally watched this but it felt like I’d already seen it since I knew all about the beginning. Didn’t realize there would be so little of that good stuff & then the rest of the movie would drag. But I’m still giving it an extra half a point for having such a well known & often spoofed beginning. – 6.5/10
– Saint Maud – Watched this British psychological horror as so many went on about it but it’s one of those films being raved over for the performance. And I agree that Morfydd Clark was very good so this was worth watching for that. Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “The story follows hospice nurse Maud (portrayed by Morfydd Clark), a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, who becomes obsessed with a former dancer in her care (Jennifer Ehle), believing she must save her soul.” The movie is fine but does drag a bit. I did like the slowly building tension, though, and thought the ending was good. Not one I’d watch again but am glad I checked out. I recommend it only if you like the more serious type of horrors with good acting. Oh! And was I going crazy or did her face do a weird Soundgarden Black Hole Sun video thing a couple of times when she was having one of her God orgasms?? That was kind of freaky fun. – 6.5/10
– Martha Marcy May Marlene – This was okay but not really my sort of thing. I think I put it on as I’m always a little fascinated by cults. As in, I don’t understand how people end up in them. I barely like people as it is so why would I want to live with a bunch of weirdos and have to farm & cook & clean for the rapeymen?? I wouldn’t say this film is a good exploration of cults & the thinking involved as you really get NO backstory on how Elizabeth Olsen’s character ended up in this cult or why she chose to stay or even why she chose to leave. I guess it’s a character study film & is more about the performances, which were fine. I suppose it’s a hard topic to explore, though, as I think it’s quite a hard thing for most people to understand. Well, as I said the performances were fine & Elizabeth Olsen gets naked a lot if you want to see that. Here’s the Wikipedia synopsis: “The plot focuses on a young woman suffering from delusions and paranoia after returning to her family from an abusive cult in the Catskill Mountains.” – 6.5/10
– Luca – This movie was very sweet & the characters were likeable and I don’t feel right saying anything bad about it as it was so wholesome. But I mostly just found it boring. Unfortunately, it’s just not up to Pixar standards (but those standards are very high). – 6/10
– Antebellum – This was… Okay? I really like Janelle Monáe & she was the main reason I watched this so I wish it had been a better film for her. I think the idea for the story was good enough but the execution was pretty terrible. And Jena Malone was awful – I seem to always really dislike her acting (especially after she screwed the dead person in that stupid The Neon Demon pile of shit). I think her performance, as well as that of all the one-dimensional “baddies”, really hurt this movie. But more than anything, I think the big twist being SUCH a huge rip-off of a well known director’s movie really didn’t help (don’t want to name the director but you’ll know exactly what movie I mean if you watch this). It just made me think of how well the other director pulled off that twist & that it was a much better film than this one. Disappointing. – 6/10
Documentaries, Shorts & Miscellaneous
– Stop Making Sense – I don’t really know what to say about a concert film. Weirdly, as a huge lover of movies as well as music, I for some reason never really watch any concerts. But I love the Talking Heads and this has had such great reviews that I decided to check it out since it’s now on Amazon Prime U.K. Yep – it’s great! David Byrne especially is so damn talented & I’ll always love that brilliant voice of his. It’s fantastic how it starts out so stripped down with only Byrne onstage then continues to build & build. I loved it but, hey, you have to love the band to love the concert, right? I’d definitely recommend this but only to Talking Heads fans or to those who maybe don’t know their stuff but want to check it out (makes me sad to type that but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m super old & some readers may not have even heard of the Talking Heads). Hey, my preteen loves them! Especially Psycho Killer. Hmm. Does that make me a good or a bad parent?! (I think it makes me cool). 🙂 – 8/10
– Us Again – Enjoyed this lovely short on Disney Plus (which I think was meant to be the one before Raya And The Last Dragon?). Could very much relate to the feeling of being old & not living life to its fullest. Also a nice love story in this one. Very sweet.
Launchpad Shorts On Disney Plus:
Watched this new series on Disney Plus as well. All good & worth a quick watch. I won’t go into the details of each but I’ll rank them starting with my favorite. The two kids were so cute in The Little Prince(ss)…
The Little Prince(ss)
The Last of the Chupacabras
Let’s Be Tigers
Dinner Is Served
BOOKS, TV, MUSIC, MISCELLANEOUS IN JUNE
– The Running Man by Stephen King – Finally finished re-reading The Bachman Books collection. The Long Walk is still easily my favorite, Rage is okay, and Roadwork is a bit crap. The Running Man is my second favorite of the four. I think it’s a good story & am looking forward to the new film adaptation from Edgar Wright (if that’s still happening??). But I did also really like the Schwarzenegger film which, if I remember, was nothing whatsoever like the book anyway?! Need to rewatch that now to refresh my memory of that too. What can I say? I like dystopian future stories and I liked this world where people have to “play for their lives” on game shows. I didn’t find this story very far-fetched when I first read it over 20 years ago & I find it even more plausible now. The ending is maybe a little silly but, whatever – it’s Stephen King! Who cares. I’m a fan. I feel like I’ve read only Stephen King books in 2021, though. Hmm. Oh well – libraries have been closed thanks to the pandemic & I mainly only buy King’s stuff these days so it’s pretty much all I have to read in the house. 🙂 – 3.5/5
– Later by Stephen King – Stephen King again! This is the third of his in this Hard Case Crime series & I’ve enjoyed them all. They’re much shorter & “lighter” reads than his huge horror tomes. This is probably my least favorite of the three, but that’s not saying it’s bad. It’s about a kid who sees dead people (yeah, kind of like in The Sixth Sense but not really & they do reference that film in this). It’s a solid ghost story with a likeable kid. It’s possibly a little forgettable but it’s a quick & fun read. My favorite in this series is still Joyland, which I loved, and second is The Colorado Kid which felt very different from King’s “horror” stories. Maybe I should check out some of the many non-King books in this series?? – 3/5
TV SHOWS WATCHED
Keeping what I say very short!!
– Loki: S1 E1-4– Enjoying this!! Liking it FAR more than The Falcon & The Winter Soldier but still prefer WandaVision.
– Children Of The Stones: S1 E4 – Still liking this & wish the hubby would make the time to finish it with me!!! I reviewed what I’ve seen so far HERE if you’re wondering what the heck this is.
– My Name Is Earl: S2 E5-9 – Still funny!
– Grey’s Anatomy: S17 E10-13 – Still annoying!
– The Masked Dancer U.K. – This was a bit stupid & I can’t for the life of me remember who won.
BLOG PLANS FOR THE COMING MONTH
Need to watch fewer movies (not my choice!) but plan to be back in August with a post of what I watched in July.
I always end with music I liked in a movie I watched. Screw The Smiths – I have to go with something from Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense! BUT, I just have to go with this Kermit The Frog version of one of my all-time favorite songs: Once In A Lifetime…
It’s 1973 and heartbroken college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland. What should just be a simple summer job brings Devin lifelong friends, heartache, and some of his best & also most horrific life experiences. These experiences make him an adult but will also forever haunt him as much as the ghost of the girl named Linda Gray, who four years previously was mysteriously murdered in and now haunts Joyland’s Horror House ride.
I adore Stephen King. I don’t read as much as I’d like but I always make time for King’s books. Love him or hate him (does anyone hate him?), I think he’s an amazing writer and I find myself “lost” in the world of his books as I read them far more than I do with other authors. I suppose he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because of the whole horror thing but I’ve always preferred the supernatural and horror genres when it comes to books so he writes the sort of stories I love. And what a great storyteller! I’d love to see inside that crazy-ass brain of his.
Joyland is quite a simple and pretty straightforward sort of pulp murder mystery. This appears to be King’s second book published by “Hard Case Crime”. The Colorado Kid was the first, which I’ve not read but should as I love the Haven TV show that’s (loosely?) based on it.
I won’t go into the story much as it would ruin it for anyone who reads it. Yes, the Linda Gray ghost & murder mystery is a fairly big part of the story but there’s much more to the book than just that. I’ve also always been fascinated by books with a funfair type setting & the whole carny thing so we get a great big dose of that in this book.
It takes a while for the story to really get going and the best part of the story & a couple of the most important characters (other than Devin) don’t make much of an appearance until over halfway through the book. But King spends a lot of time developing the character of Devin and I really enjoyed that. My favorite King books are the ones in which he focuses more on character development and giving us characters that we really like & care about. He doesn’t always do this and those in which he doesn’t give us characters that are very memorable or gives us ones that are pretty much all downright hateful (Under The Dome) are the books that end up being my least favorite.
Speaking of Under The Dome, that book definitely had a better overall concept than Joyland but then was filled with main characters I didn’t really care about (and can barely even remember as I type this) and such over the top “baddies” that it was one of the more difficult King books to work through despite the great story idea and really wanting to know how it would end. I loved the characters in Joyland, especially Devin & the two important characters he meets later in the book (I won’t go into that as they’re only hinted at on the back cover) but also the other college friends he makes at Joyland and all the regular Joyland employees. For a short book, I felt like I knew more about even the most minor characters in Joyland than I did about anyone in Under The Dome.
The story in Joyland isn’t going to change the world – it’s simple and pretty predictable but I had fun with it & thoroughly enjoyed the book thanks to the setting & especially the great cast of characters. They’re still quite black & white but that works in this “Hard Case Crime” style of book. When you buy a book as thick as Under The Dome, you expect a bit more.
Note: Sorry to compare it to Under The Dome so much but it’s on my mind as the series is finally starting in the UK (this coming Monday night on Channel Five). Yay! As disappointing as the book was, I still enjoy watching ALL things Stephen King-related and never miss them even though I know some adaptations have been truly horrible.
Joyland was a great read. It’s pretty “light” for a King novel but that doesn’t make it any less worthy than his more lengthy books. It’s quite a straightforward crime thriller but with just enough of the weird & supernatural to keep King fans happy. But the thing that works best is a great set of well-developed characters, even down to the minor ones. We care about the people in Joyland and the last half of the book, a big part of which has nothing to do with Linda Gray’s murder, is surprisingly moving and reminds us how great King’s books can be when he focuses on making us understand and truly like the people in his fictional worlds.
My Rating: 4/5
This is my favorite book I’ve read this year, closely followed by The Perks Of Being A Wallflower then the rest below. I haven’t managed to read a lot so far but they’ve all been pretty good: