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There’s truth in the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. However, I would argue that in some cases, you CAN judge a book by its title.

For instance, take Raymond A. Villareal’s new novel “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” (Mulholland, $27). That is one judgeable title – evocative and provocative at the same time, offering a tantalizing and crystal-clear description of what you’re about to experience.

This book is exactly what its title purports it to be – a complex and engaging sort of future history that follows the gradual appearance and assimilation of vampires into modern society. It follows a disparate cast of characters from both sides of the divide, offering first-person accounts from key players while also interspersing interview transcripts and news articles and other secondary and tertiary materials throughout.

What ultimately emerges is a thoughtful and finely-crafted work that reads as particularly insightful pop history – the title’s allusion to Howard Zinn’s seminal book isn’t an accident. It’s got a lot of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” in its DNA as well (though, it should be noted, not in a derivative way). It bears its influences proudly, but is very much its own beast.

Published in Buzz

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Stephen King is the preeminent American storyteller.

Apologies for my broken-recordness on the subject, but it always bears repeating – there is no one in American letters over the past half-century who has managed to be as prolific and as culturally relevant as Stephen King.

And there’s a reason the zeitgeist is awash with King-inspired and -adjacent properties. Not only have the majority of his iconic earlier works withstood the test of time, but his late-career renaissance puts on display a King who has evolved while still maintaining an unprecedented degree of narrative skillfulness.

Oh yeah – and his stuff is still REALLY scary.

King’s latest is “The Outsider” (Scribner, $30), a pulpy, propulsive tale reminiscent of some of his earlier highlights. Yet even as he elicits memories of his own creepy stylings from 30 years ago, he infuses that throwback thriller with pointed references to the present. The end result is a book that is somehow both Now and Then, where early King and late King combine with an eerie smoothness. It is dark and creepy and thought-provoking and engrossing – everything you hope for from Stephen King.

Published in Buzz

One could make the argument that we’re currently in the midst of a horror movie renaissance. While the genre still offers up its share of misfires, horror has provided fertile ground for filmmakers looking to explore ideas big and small in sophisticated ways. It’s an arena where chances can still be taken. And when those risks pay off, you get some pretty great movies.

Movies like “A Quiet Place.”

Published in Movies

There are certain literary works that, for one reason or another, are deemed unfilmable. Whether it’s a question of scale or story or power or perspective, these books seemingly defy any effort to effectively translate them to the big screen.

A lot of people hung that label on Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, a collection of genre-bending books telling a surreal, dreamlike and very weird story about an unknown presence encroaching on the southern United States and the agencies tasked with dealing with it. VanderMeer isn’t what you’d call a conventional storyteller – the three books (“Annihilation,” “Authority” and “Acceptance”) are well-written, well-regarded and compelling as hell, but stylistically, they’d seem to warrant the unfilmable tag.

But Alex Garland cares not for your labels.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 10:28

‘Flatliners’ dead on arrival

Hollywood’s current tendency toward remakes and reboots of preexisting properties isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes, the right filmmaking team can take an older idea and breathe new life into it, creating something that both honors the source material and brings something uniquely its own to the table. The end result can be a really enjoyable movie.

Other times, a filmmaking team can completely miss whatever it was that made a property engaging in the first place and create something that is utterly devoid of anything remotely resembling value – entertainment or otherwise. That end result can be a truly terrible movie.

A movie like “Flatliners.”

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 12 July 2017 11:24

Scooby-Cthulhu – ‘Meddling Kids’

Genre mashup brings together kid detectives and Lovecraftian horror

Published in Buzz
Friday, 19 May 2017 09:34

The arc of ‘Alien: Covenant’

Latest franchise installment a worthwhile addition

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:57

‘Life’ and death

Sci-fi horror film familiar, but compelling

Published in Movies
Saturday, 25 February 2017 14:54

‘Get Out’ outstanding

Scary, smart horror film an instant classic

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 08 February 2017 13:34

‘Rings’ a sloppy, unnecessary sequel

Ill-conceived third horror installment lacks scares

Published in Movies
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