Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Better Than It Has A Right to Be

For a film that exists solely because of it's high concept, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is far better than it has any right to be.

I know it's based on a novel whose reason for being is the title as well, and I haven't had a chance to check it out yet. As a summer blockbuster, though, Abe proved a pleasant surprise.

Check back with me after I've mulled it over a little, but I may decide I like it better than Prometheus, which I liked quite a bit.

Benjamin Walker is one key, delivering a likable interpretation of the young Lincoln as well as the older version we're most familiar with from paintings, coins and monuments.

He's backed up by a cool-looking Dominic Cooper as his mentor and Rufus Sewel as the key vampire opponent, who's, well, Rufus Sewel.

The alternate history of vampires as a factor in the Civil War doesn't seemed as forced as I'd expected either, and what real events that wind up getting utilized weave nicely with the fabrication.

Escalating set pieces are really the focus, however, and they're well conceived and fun beginning with Abe's first attempt to off the vampire responsible for his mother's demise. That's how the whole vampire-hunting business gets injected.

When a pistol shot fails to defeat his opponent, deft action and visuals follow, especially when Cooper's  Henry Sturgess, who has vampire-hating cred of his own, begins to train Abe to wield a rail-splitting ax as a weapon.

That inspired touch and the fight choreography that goes with it keep things moving, and horse stampedes, vampire battles and more soon follow.

Train sequences are a cinematic corner stone, and ultimately a train battle delivers a fun, visual and energetic conclusion.

While it sounds a bit like a front office decision for a film, don't dismiss Abe too quickly. If you can allow yourself to slip into the right frame of mind, it's a blast.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New in Young Adult Horror Audio - Deadly Delivery

Deadly Delivery, the first young adult novel I wrote as Michael August, has just become available as an audiobook from Crossroad Press. It's read by actor Maxwell Glick, who also read New Year's Evil.

The Kindle edition has been the bestseller among my titles of late. It's always hard to tell what makes one title take off, but it's unseated Blood Hunter, longtime champion.

Deadly Delivery is the tale of a group of teens who decide to play a monster-making game one summer. It seems a little lame, but they're bored. Soon their monsters have come to life, and they have to be stopped.

The tale's release comes at an interesting time since I'm in the process of creating monster-building activities as an instructor.

I'm not imitating the novel for classroom activities, but the current effort does bring back memories.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

RIP Cosmic Ray

I was chatting about Ray Bradbury with someone just the other day. When I mentioned that I was thinking of including discussion on his work in the horror section of my genre course, the inevitable question arose.

"I thought he was just a sci-fi guy."

"Well the Mars tales are famous," I said, "But then there's Something Wicked This Way Comes."

And The October Country and scores of tales that fall on the darker side plus the haunting The Foghorn, technically SF but poignant and chilling. 

Many of the Ray Bradbury Theater episodes reflected the chilling side, of course, but adaptations  came long before that. 

Some of my class prep is immersion, so I watched The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents version of "The Jar" the other night. It's on You Tube at the moment at least.

It recasts the original backwoods setting to the modern art world, an interesting re-tooling, though I think the original, which can be found adapted in black and white on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour is a bit more eerie. 

As I've mentioned here before, I was fortunate enough to meet and interview Mr. Bradbury for a newspaper article in the '90s

It was one of the highlights of my journalism days, and I'm very sad to see one of the world's true visionary talents passing.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Driving, Reading and Re-Reading Runes and Yellow Wallpaper

The last few days, I've been driving across the Southeast by day and continuing my reading and re-reading of mystery and weird fiction by night. Planning a creative writing class has its perks.

The drive
As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm going to be teaching in Florida. Christine and I decided not to red line the car trip from Texas. We broke it up over a few days, a few hotels along the Gulf Coast and quite a few chain restaurants.

A long car journey  took me on more than a geographic trip. I went back in time a little, to vacations of my youth, with my old man at the wheel of  a series of Fords.

Christine and I took a different tunnel under the Mobile River than my folks did in the sixties, but I recalled the thrill of the old days as we took the plunge then drove the bridge across Mobile Bay.

I kept thinking of my parents and their era as we drove. Destin was the destination in the old days, a vacation spot with beaches and Western ghost towns as well. How did that get to be so long ago?

Christine and I drove further, through some of the mid-week storms in fact. The Florida panhandle sure is long, but overall we had fun.

The reading
I've been re-visiting, or in some cases visiting, some of the genre classics. I won't be using each and every one for class, but I wanted to make sure I was well versed in some of the seminal pieces.

Those took me back as well.

I don't remember when I first read "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James, but it was a great one to delve into again. Re-reading removed some of the blur from various old time radio adaptations I've listened to since we got the Internet, and since I first saw Curse of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur's tampered-with masterpiece.

The original tale makes clear how perfect the film would have been without the tacked-on creature, who always looked cross-eyed to me when I encountered his features in Famous Monsters of Filmland, long before I got to see the film.

I'm not sure I'd ever read "The Yellow Wallpaper," though I've listened to various audio versions over time.

Engaging with the words allows a  better immersion into the narrator's madness, I believe, and I picked up a bit of trivia. Character actor Silas Weir Mitchell of "My Name is Earl" and "Grimm" is apparently named after his ancestor -- the doctor whose treatment methods Charlotte Perkins Gilman was attempting to influence in penning "Yellow Wallpaper."

All in all, it's been an interesting few days, and the journey continues.
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