Kbatz: Prometheus

Frightening Flix

 

Despite Its Flaws, Prometheus is Entertaining 

By Kristin Battestella

 

I feel like there’s a chest burster inside me.”

That’s what I said in the ER this past July when they asked me to answer their polite 1 to 10 point-at-the-smiley-frown pain scale. I didn’t know what was causing the increasingly horrible and unbearable pain beneath my right ribs. I could barely move, breath, or speak. I flailed my arms in pain and accidentally hit the nurse when she tried inserting my IV. Of course, this reminded me of one early hospital scene in Aliens, and later, after I clawed my husband’s hand and drew his blood, I said, “I guess this is what I get for going to see Prometheus!”

Doctors Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall Greene) petition the Weyland Company to support their archaeological discovery: ancient civilizations each repeated the same astronomical pictograph and alien “Engineers.”  Shaw sees the pattern as an invitation to the stars and the origins of humanity, and the state of the art Prometheus disembarks to the distant LV-223. Only the android David (Michael Fassbender) is awake for the journey while the rest of the crew- including the doctors, Captain Janek (Idris Elba), and Company representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) remain in hyper sleep. Once they reach the moon, the human crew rises to search an ancient monument full of dead Engineer bodies, mysterious urns, and surprising familiar iconography.  As storms fronts approach on the surface and the crew separates, one by one their fates and faiths are tested, for these Engineers and their perilous DNA projects aren’t as dormant as they seem….

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Plotting A Prequel Conundrum

Whew! It turns out it was just my gall bladder going, but director Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction with this pseudo Alien prequel was certainly on my mind most of the summer. I’d been waiting over a year for the release – even remaining spoiler free into its approach. The possibility of Alien’s back-story feels like its been in my subconscious for decades. I used to drive my father batty with speculation about how the crash on LV-426 happened, to where – or whom – that homing beacon was transmitting, and how the evil android Ash and the then unnamed but obviously money loving and corrupt Company were involved. Yes, most of these questions from Alien are not answered in Prometheus and that is this film’s blessing and curse. Some may rightfully dismiss Prometheus simply because it answers nothing beyond itself. After all, what’s the point if technically nothing gets us any closer to Alien’s mysteries? The connections and feelings are there, but it seems like Prometheus’ key elements are being spread out for its inevitable sequel or a completely new trilogy. It becomes both rushed in its foreboding yet too disjointed as the plots diverge and reveal. This almost feels like Alien 3, strangely, where one film had to suffice both its brooding horror and action SF predecessors. The internal pace is fine to start, with good cringe inducing moments and a horror styled pattern of storms and entrapped personnel. Though the deleted scenes were apparently cut for length and action pace, it feels as if Prometheus should have continued in this speculative science fiction or horror vein, with complete character intelligence and a scary food for thought.

There is room to speculate on the alien dangers and high concept religion and faith debates. However, writer Damon Lindelof (Lost) also left serious plot holes, unexplained developments, and changed script scenarios in rewriting newcomer John Spaihts’ original treatment. Nothing short of having all the action taking place on LV-426 as originally envisioned would have appeased die-hard fans. Whether Prometheus was going to be a direct sequel or not, whatever storyline you finally intended to go with – all those decisions should have been settled upon rather than be left hanging in the film. Frankly, nothing – no creature connections, planetary aspirations, or character motivations – should have been held back in the hopes for a sequel. In the theater, I was screaming to myself that this film better dang be successful enough to earn a sequel, otherwise, this will really not just disappoint, but anger the audience. If you open Pandora’s Box, do so all the way.  Innumerable plot holes and character head scratchers and inconsistencies linger in Prometheus. Some of that is answered in the viral and behind the scenes material, but you can’t hinge the full vision of your film on the extras or sequels. Not only are the big spiritual topics not as deep as could be, but the intentional ambiguity is far too on the nose. I thought I was alone in wishing for more from Lindelof’s weak touch, but Prometheus takes the easy way out by dropping its high concepts for a typical big action ending. The first half of the film is brimming with foreboding and body horrors just like Alien, but unexplained secrets become plot contrivances and what should be hidden personal or family connections are too obvious. Perhaps a truly sophisticated slow science fiction morality tale can’t achieve success today, but it feels like Lindelof didn’t even give Prometheus a chance to try.  In the behind the scenes materials, he admits he found Alien boring, and no studio today will accept boring! If one can let go of Alien and accept that Prometheus is not a direct prequel and will not answer your long held questions, then it can be enjoyed thanks to great sets, thoughts, and performances. Can a hardcore SF viewer accept the plot holes and screenplay mistakes? We don’t really have much of a choice until the supposedly in the works follow up is on the big screen.

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Powerful Performances

Well, well, Michael Fassbender does it again! Perhaps his ambiguous android David wasn’t meant to steal the show, but his artificial intrigue and robot speculations are the best part of Prometheus. Though his questionable actions initially support the faith versus science explorations and romance between Shaw and Holloway, David’s seamless orchestration of the crew and events around him subtly exceeds his programming. Fassbender’s (X-Men: First Class, Shame) uniquely devoid wizard behind the curtain pushes and pulls in true Vader fashion, and this malevolent Data is almost like a synthetic child on the verge of sociopathy. David is hyperactive, told not to go somewhere or touch anything, but he continually disobeys any instruction – maybe it’s for his own purpose, maybe not. He’s androgynous and prepubescent, almost not physically developed or impotent and thus uses his superior intellect and the low opinions of others to gain control. Despite his not having emotions, Shaw becomes the twisted object of David’s affection, and he scientifically violates her in a slick and premeditated plot. It’s not desire as we would think, but rather experimental curiosity. It’s third party rape because he can, and thus in David’s mind, he should.  Thanks to Fassbender’s well-played deceptions here and in Prometheus’ viral campaign, there are times where the viewer might swear David damn well does have emotions, and this Pandora of possibilities is a tad frightening.  An android who wants to be like Lawrence of Arabia? There are no Laws of Robotics here, and it’s creepy to see David’s graduation from playing with alien bugs to using human fodder go unchecked – particularly when it is such a cold and logical step to him.  Without internal censors to curb David’s motivations and ambitions, his last shall be first realization that people are inferior is allowed to run amok and create Prometheus’ finest moments.

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Naturally then, when Holloway belittles David, it is not only his own undoing, but it sets all of Prometheus’ events in motion. Rather than being the hero, Logan Marshall Green’s (Dark Blue) scientist comes off as big jerk thanks to script and character issues. He drinks because he is unhappy that he has discovered the existence of human progenitors on another planet. Huh? This writing faux pas ironically works in Fassbender’s favor. One might actually be sympathetic to David instead thanks to the way he is insulted or dismissed. The android is kind to Shaw, but her trust is betrayed and it makes for some fine work by Rapace. Noomi (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is up to snuff as our Ripley successor, oh yes.  Though younger than her co-stars, she may seem a bit too mature against Logan Marshall Green or too upscale European for American audiences. However, this edge is perfect for the deep, heavy, and spiritual Shaw. These beliefs drive her pursuit of science, but they should conflict – and her newfound alien discoveries spearhead Shaw’s reexamination of herself. It all seems kind of lofty or too high brow, but Rapace keeps Shaw likeable and believably kick ass. Yes, there are convoluted script moments and unrealistic post-injury scenes that do take the audience away from the character. She can run around alien planets and climb all over the place after that?! The lack of believability in the plot also takes a bit away from the awesomeness of her alien encounter, but no faults come from Rapace, and I look forward to more of her. 

I do, however, wish more religious connections were made out right between this trio. After all, we have a worshiped alien being birthed by a woman named Elizabeth after an impregnation orchestrated by a surrogate father. In keeping with the ABC android names of the previous films in the franchise, we have a D for David. But why the name David instead of any other D name? Was there meant to be some sort of Root of Jesse lineage and messianic message? It is Christmas aboard the ship after all, and the Shaw praying scene in the trailer was cut from the final film. One of the new creatures in Prometheus is also called a “deacon.” What exactly is all this religious iconography supposed to mean? Humanity is seeking out their alien creators and thus outgrowing their divine masters, and in some ways, David is doing the same thing to his human inventors. This ideological succession, oedipal shadings, and patricide hopes are touched upon in the script and chewed on nicely by the players when its given to them. The triumvirate keeps the entertainment and intelligence afloat for the audience, but unfortunately, the shaky foundations in the writing don’t answer these lofty questions. Had the cast been given complete character motivations and plot aspirations, nothing could have stopped Prometheus.

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Poorly Handled Ensemble

Oscar winner Charlize Theron (Monster) is ice queen good fun as Prometheus’ resident secret wielding company representative, but there could have been a lot more to her character than what we receive.  If you think about Vickers’ background and motivation too much, too many nonsensical red herrings emerge. Her big secret is quite obvious, but whether she is a human or robot isn’t hardly addressed, nor is her alternating bitchy, sympathy, intelligence and stupidity. As with David, serious Scott fans could have had their hearts set a flutter by Vickers and possible Blade Runner connections. Unfortunately, as is, the character ends up meh despite Theron’s best attempts to counter the iffy scripting. Likewise, it is always a delight to see Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) and that therein is another big hole in what could have been Prometheus glory. I’m going to be nice and say the aging make up isn’t that bad – we just know it is Guy Pearce and would rather see him be the power hungry and creator- complexed young Weyland as seen in the Ted Talks viral video. Why couldn’t he have a pre-mission briefing instead of that weird hologram recording? That right there would have gone a long way in explaining all the characters and their reasons for signing on to such a space flight! The waste of creative character developments and potential is actually almost as in your face as Weyland’s actual not so surprise twist!

Although the supporting cast is most definitely talented enough, they aren’t given much to do beyond making mistakes or being barely there. Idris Elba (Luther) certainly has the presence to be the rogue captain of this wonderful ensemble, but his heroics and humor are so broadly written all over the board in crayon that we can’t fully care about Janek despite Elba’s charisma.  He’s devil may care but spiritually sensitive and cares about his crew and ultimately, humanity. However, Janek doesn’t give two shits about crewmen in jeopardy and doesn’t bother to ask what the mission entails. This isn’t multi-dimensional character development; it’s more like the captain is just a script placeholder to use whenever something is needed. It’s a sacrilegious waste of Elba, and Rafe Spall (Anonymous), Sean Harris (Outlaw), and Kate Dickie (Game of Thrones, Red Road – Did no one in this production see Red Road?!) become plot points for alien high jinks instead of being truly developed characters. 

Similarly, we never really get to meet the potentially charming Emun Elliott (Black Death) and Benedict Wong (Dirty Pretty Things), and there are even more unnamed disappearing and reappearing soldiers aboard the titular vessel. If we’re not going to spend some time with these crewmembers in order to know their fears or faults intimately in a slow build of apprehension and peril, how can the viewer appreciate them? Deleted scenes and alternate takes improve the troop slightly, but the audience never gets the feeling this crew is in it together, as in Alien or Aliens. Sure, we need a conspirator or two, but these folks are so divided, it seems like they each had different versions of the script from which to work. If you’re not fans of the players, it is tempting to fast forward thru their stupidity and squandered opportunities. As Prometheus is, this talent becomes padding for the body count in the final act. 

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Positive Bells and Whistles

Fortunately, whatever you may think of Prometheus, it looks damn great, simply smashing. Instead of a dark and congested submarine – perhaps expected by our recent trends toward brooding, bleak, apocalyptic futures – the palette here is bright SF, with sweet looking, large-scale special effects and an imaginative ship design. It all looks sweeping, epic, and state of the art but somehow still natural and practical – a realistic progression and scientific advancement on our current technologies. There are some Alien allusions in the designs as well, and Prometheus does meld soundly as the mechanical precursor but 21st century offshoot to the franchise. Fortunately, the action scenes aren’t brimmed with unnecessary cool gadgetry for the sake of instant technological flash. The detailed and well-thought production here will outlast the in the moment product placements so often found in today’s films – remember all that MSN crap in The Island? Prometheus is not ‘sponsored by Sony’ in your face, and unlike the eighties 3D hurrah, there are no ridiculous foreground objects and actions thrusting at the screen desperation.  I dislike 3D and chose not to see Prometheus as such, however, you can still tell which swooping CGI effects shots are meant to be in the multidimensional glory. Thankfully, the exceptional Icelandic waterfalls and galactic scenery aren’t overruled or at worst ruined by the 3D as so many films are. 

Ironically, while writing this review, I received the Prometheus 4 Disc Collector’s Edition as a gift from my husband.  Of course, I’m not as interested in the 3D blu-ray disc as I am all the other critical bells, whistles, and special features.  I haven’t even gotten thru all the exhaustive behind the scenes interviews, production galleries, screen tests, commentaries, and more. Like the immensely detailed Prometheus: The Art of the Film companion book, alternate concepts, deleted scenes, storyboard ideas that didn’t make it into the film, and even those screen tests and viral videos all help to piece together a lot of the head scratching and character flaws in Prometheus.  The aforementioned video and several other blu ray and DVD editions are now available of course, each with varying degrees of special features. However, I thought it might still be amusing to share some of the quick notes from my original Prometheus Monday afternoon summer theater experience, for these trailer observations seem particularly prophetic now: “Frankenweenie looks dumb. Savages is too Oliver Stone generic, The Watch the usual comedy. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter looks too action badass can’t see the forest for the CGI, and Rock of Ages has great music but what a crappy ass cast! I would see none in the theater and would not be surprised if some or all do poorly.”   Hehe.

There is most certainly an audience for Prometheus, and viewers should see it at least twice for complete entertainment value – even more for finite assessment. Love it or hate it, general science fiction fans looking for a return to mature, sophisticated tales can find something here, and Alien fans tired of the Predator crossovers should definitely have a look. Granted, the separation from total Alien connections and the “is it or isn’t it” on the nose marketing approach was a deception to audiences expecting complete franchise resolutions. That audience burn alone is enough to not see Prometheus. Again, those expectations both helped put people in the seats to pad Prometheus’ box office and hurt its reputation by disappointing longtime fans.  Because of these botched Alien connections and the fly by night scripting, a necessary sequel is indeed forthcoming, although I wish the powers that be hadn’t mashed up Prometheus in anticipation of a follow up film or two and box office splendor. Behind the scenes flaws and Alien relations aside, Prometheus is nonetheless entertaining for fans of the cast and science fiction lovers.

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David’s Haunted Library: Lost World Of Patagonia

David's Haunted Library

 

25526371Many people believe that there are creatures out there that exist where science says it’s not possible. One of those people is Cryptozoologist and university professor, Alex Klasse. Alex has learned of a place where dinosaurs still exist and he has received a grant from the Ace corporation to lead an expedition to find them. Alex will be accompanied by students from his university and a band of mercenaries who are in search of rare jewels. The team is taking two nuclear powered all-terrain vehicles into the unknown where danger lurks around every corner.

Lost World Of Patagonia by Dane Hatchell is an action adventure story complete with man-eating dinosaurs that really did exist at one point. It seemed like the author did his homework on what archaeologists and paleontologists believe dinosaurs looked like, complete with some of them having feathers. It also gets into the idea that mammals may have evolved from lizards. One of my favorite scenes in this book was when the explorers send a drone with a camera attached to explore Patagonia and we get to see the dinosaurs in their natural habitat, If you are into dinosaurs and the science behind their existence this is a good book to pick up.

While Lost World Of Patagonia maybe more science fiction than horror it does have some moments that are pretty terrifying. The book opens with two people running through the wilderness being hunted by dinosaurs. Dane does a great job building suspense as you see these two try to survive in a desperate situation. I don’t want to give anything away, but I loved how the beginning was set up with one character, surviving several cliffhangers. I had figured this character would be the hero of the story but then it goes into a different direction. From the beginning this book had a real anything goes feeling to it.

The action scenes in this book were great and I liked hearing about the dinosaurs, but a lot of the characters came across as one-dimensional. There is a love triangle going on here that had the feel of something out of a bad Syfy channel movie. The way they wrap the love story up made me want to stop reading and the ending to the book was enough to make you yell “what the hell?” I think the story should have spent less time on the characters and more time on the dinosaurs because I didn’t care about these people. Where this book really shines is with the focus on a world that time has forgotten.

Lost World Of Patagonia is a book that starts with a gruesome bang, slows down and then has a crazy ending. I love the concept here, as I was reading I kept thinking it would make a great Science fiction/horror movie. It’s like Jurassic Park but with a lot more detail on the creatures that live in this world. Patagonia is a fascinating place to explore and I’m happy to see that there is a second book available.

Kbatz: The Strain Season 1

Frightening Flix

 

The Strain Struggles Late in Its Debut  by Kristin Battestella

 

Guillermo Del Toro (Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak) executive produced the 2014 FX debut of The Strain – a thirteen episode vampire zombie plague thriller based upon Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s (Prince of Thieves) own novel trilogy. While the series starts strong with scientific updates on traditional horror lore, the pacing flounders in the latter half with muddled, drawn-out storytelling.

CDC Canary Team members Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), and Jim Kent (Sean Astin) investigate the strange circumstances surrounding a plane landing in New York. Everyone on board is seemingly dead, and a mysterious box of Earth lies in its cargo hold. Despite plague symptoms and infectious worm-like creatures, higher up authorities dismiss Eph’s insistence for a quarantine thanks to the powerful but ill mogul Eldritch Palmer (Jonathan Hyde). Rodent inspector Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), however, realizes larger vermin are afoot, and ex-con Augustin “Gus” Elizalde (Miguel Gomez) reluctantly takes jobs for the bizarre Thomas Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) – who has tormented the supposedly unassuming antique dealer Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) in the past. Fortunately, Setrakian wields a silver sword cane and having seen this kind of vampire killer previously, uses his strigoi wisdom to help Eph stop this outbreak before it is too late.

 

A super-sized seventy-two minute “Night Zero” written and directed by Del Toro starts The Strain with waxing on hunger, unquenchable thirst, and love – the forces that make us human. Airplane tedium, radio chatter, familiar travel fears, and ornery passengers create realism, grounding the ominous scares in the cargo hold with jurisdiction, stupidity, press, and red tape. Family troubles versus work priorities layer values, packing in smart dialogue and character backgrounds without being rushed or in your face. Spiritual character names and “Holy Jesus!” exclaims over creepy jar specimens and biohazard suits invoke a whiff of religion alongside doctors talking of 210 souls on board this modern Dementer ala Horror Express. Well shot horror movie accents set the scene amid numerous locations, disaster response action, quarantine technicalities, and paranormal simmer. The Strain uses horror to mirror politics and acknowledges public panic, PR responses, famous survivors, and disaster containment while building suspense and updating traditional vampire lore with contemporary science and plague cliffhangers. Television reports and leaked documents are not to be trusted – nor is the titular coffin decorated with Faust demonography in The Box.” It’s tough to get everyone’s name on The Strain, however, the not all white, not all speaking English characters are real people dealing with prejudice to match rather than stock Hollywood pretties. Supposed criminals go to mass and respect their families while the villains at the top are more concerned with looking in control as they cover their asses. Shrewd commentary on the press making a scoundrel for the public to detest sets off terse conversations and hatred coming full circle as the empty body bags, zombies at the morgue, and bath tub body horror mounts. Selfish bureaucrats look the other way to tentacles and bone cracking transformations – orchestrating suffering to belie the facade in “Gone Smooth.”

The Strain may start slow for some viewers, but we are now invested in the players even before the horror escalates. Be it cravings for blood, liver transplants, custody battles, or sobriety, everyone is trapped by their own needs – not to mention the intrusive media and corrupt disease officials. The Strain tells its scary story with authentic hopes, wills, and weakness rather than expected television gimmicks, and frightful moments of invasive violence create scientifically based monsters for 21st century audiences in “It’s Not for Everyone.” Basement autopsies and pets beware disrupt rosaries and prayers yet gruesome new appendages and genital mutations become increasingly intriguing. Blood on snow, husbands and wives that can’t do what needs to be done, dishonest team members – if you love someone, how far are you willing to go? Hackers and lying politicians are just as dangerous as biological agents, and the ye olde Van Helsing and front line doctors lock horns over how to proceed in “Runaways.” This strigoi vampire history is tough for men of science to accept! Instead of listening to rat catchers, Spanish traditions, or our elders when they say to stay away from monsters, today these horrors demand documentation, cell phone video, and proof splashed upon the unreliable internet – idle inaction as this tiered metamorphosis grows from plague to vampires to zombies in “Occultation.” Apocalyptic gloom, biblical pestilence, and contemporary virus talk refresh the vampire genre while leaving the comforts of sunlight to save the day. Unless there’s a gosh darn lunar eclipse imminent that is! External planetary zooms further show how small humans are once we’re the tasty victims chained in a padded room, and The Strain reminds us this outbreak will get worse before it gets better. Can we protect loved ones when families won’t have it? A plague that isn’t on the news means it isn’t really happening, right? Nail gun action matches slowing or rapid heart rates as the untrustworthy phones, backward security systems, and interrogations help things fall apart in “For Services Rendered.” Sirens, bridges shutting down, cabbies with a gun and silver bullets…oh yeah.

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SARS masks in the crowded subway station keep the fears immediate for Creatures of the Night” while vampires and virus debates reveal similar preferences for lying dormant in dark, damp areas. Looting is small in comparison to what’s at stake once zombie movie aspects pick up the outbreak action. Our everyday heroes are besieged – fighting off the approaching, growling prowlers with rudimentary weapons. With teamwork, they can get the job done, and it’s great to see characters who have been apart on The Strain finally meet. Will they work together or is it everyone for themselves? What do you do when one of your own is infected? Do you treat a victim or save one’s soul? Fortunately, a convenience store is a good place to hold up, and UV light is your friend against a smart monster mob. Back room surgery, however, is to no avail. Everyone on The Strain is fair game, and people must be smart with Macguyver tricks and proactive measures against the increasing enemy and disturbing child attacks. Once noble citizens must sneak into corporate offices, investigate underground tunnels for vampires, and experiment with science and weapons – breaking the rules they once felt paramount to save all they hold dear. Hefty decision making comes in “The Third Rail” with plans to attack and big, matricide choices thanks to not the fantastic but regular human sickness. Do we leave family behind or commit a worse sin? World Trade Center ties give The Strain a firm reality while containers packed with strigoi are apparently being bought and shipped in a quite creepy, but gosh darn it not surprisingly corporate turn. Science versus bible quotes accent the tiptoeing into the lair as everyone gets on the same page for some great confrontations. Evil so easily tricks the well-intentioned does it not? An almost Hammer-esque sixties flashback sets off “Last Rites” as personal parallels are strongly felt past and present. This battle has been going on longer than we think, and there’s no time for current stubbornness and disrespect amid such bittersweet loss.

Sadly, The Strain degenerates somewhat when too many disposable characters and dead-end tangents behave in dumb horror movie fashion and disrupt the interesting but unanswered vampire hive hierarchy designs, creature differences, and mystery SWAT teams. The solid Holocaust flashback scenes should also not be intercut with the modern narrative as if they were just any standard B plot. I don’t like Holocaust material as it is, and splicing it with horror plots compromises the real world impact – this provenance should have been told in its entirety in one episode. The Strain falls into an alternating pattern with the same character plots together – which forces important developments to wait while others catch up – and the storylines become increasingly busy and repetitive. Redundant scares aren’t surprising the fourth time around in “The Disappeared,” and The Strain sags when boosting annoying child questions and plots. The audience doesn’t need any rabies for people explanations, and more inconsistencies creep into the debates, grief, and jailbreak infections. Some victims are infected by a little nick while others unafflicted fight hand to hand versus the tentacles, and these later episodes becoming increasingly padded with either extreme as needed. Maybe there are biological time differences for a strigoi turning, but a serious amount of artistic license plays a part as Loved Ones” further sidetracks The Strain with convenient laptop uses, secondary A/B plot holes, and unrealistic turns. Isn’t anybody getting out of dodge to warn somebody about this huge happening in New York City? Where is the military? Secretary of Health quarantines and National Guard calls comes too late – as does an attempt to broadcast information. Shouldn’t a way to call for help have been the first course of action, not last? Surely, these intelligent vampires could have looked up everyone’s addresses and come knocking on some doors much sooner, too. Although the miniseries styled international ensemble represents all walks of life and the characters themselves are well done, the show would have been a lot shorter – and maybe should have been only ten episodes – had several plots and players been woven tighter. Half the survivors are completely superfluous with stray shock stories wasting time The Strain doesn’t have to spare. The Master” finale does tie up some loose ends by pulling together speakeasy secret passages and survivor connections, but such obvious information and smart uses of sunlight feel unnecessarily delayed just to entice for the second season. You can get away with that on the page, but on television the string along action becomes too chaotic, ending The Strain with poorly choreographed fights and a vampire turf war voiceover.

 

Ephraim Goodweather is a fittingly ironic name for Corey Stoll’s (House of Cards) relatable CDC doctor reluctant to choose between his falling apart family and work commitments. Eph is frank with the press on the job yet has to be the bigger man and leave his family happy without him. Drinking questions are thrown in his face, and Eph can’t convince the FBI to just consider the possibility of an outbreak – making viewers glad when he gets to say I told you so. The family angles do become too cliché as the season goes on, unfortunately slowing the main story down while The Strain decides whether these side characters are important or not. Such uneveness compromises Eph at times, like when he sleeps with a woman one moment but professes to love his wife in the next. Fortunately, this scientist is thrust out of his element with swords and medieval monsters thanks to David Bradley’s (Harry Potter) tough pawn shop owner Abraham Setrakian. Our Armenian Jew Holocaust survivor has seen these strigoi before as a young craftsman learning how to stay alive, and his old-fashioned ways are a pleasant marker amid the contemporary battles. After all Setrakian’s witnessed, we don’t blame him for his chopping heads with a sword first and the heck with CDC rules after crusty attitude. He vomits at the gore but Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) as Jim Kent plays the fence when it comes to doing the right thing thanks to an understandably sick wife behind his reasons. What do you expect him to do but what any one of us would have done? Jim is the audience layman and sums up the scares quite plainly, inducing dry chuckles to alleviate the tension. We hope Samwise will make amends, but will it be too late? Likewise, Mia Maestro (Frida) as Nora Martinez cracks and can’t always handle The Strain’s gruesome or deaths. They are supposed to be doctors helping people, right? Nora cares deeply but doesn’t need a man to tell her what to do. She researchers her own information and shares her input with Eph against superiors and red tape. Though reluctant to believe what’s happening – much less fire a gun or kill – Nora must protect her mother while on the run and accepts the necessary defiance of their ‘do no harm’ creed.

Kevin Durand’s (Lost) Vasiliy Fet has a thankless job as a city exterminator aka rat catcher. However, he’s quite well educated and has a sense of humor about his work. Fet can be both harsh to the uppity deserving it and kind to others in need – he knows what’s happening below is a sign of worse to come and to hell with those who disagree with him. He does what he has to do without help from others, but comes to respect Setrakian’s knowledge and ingenuity in this fight. Miguel Gomez’ (Southpaw) Gus Elizalde is also doing the best he can to get legit and help his family now that he’s out of juvenile prison. He quickly grows suspicious of Eichhorst and wants out of his dirty work, but, like most of us, he just plum needs the cash. When his friend is infected and the prisoners are chained together, the cops see rap sheets rather than what’s really happening, naturally. Yes, how do you stop a plague from running rampant in a jailhouse? I know there is a reason for it, however, I wish Gus wasn’t separate from the other main storylines. His literally bumping into another main cast member on the street is not enough. Thankfully, Richard Sammel (Inglourious Basterds) as the not quite breathing Thomas Eichhorst is wonderfully creepy unto himself with a Nazi to the core defense of the Reich and a suave, godless collaborator veneer. He counters every argument with a justifiable defense and is frighteningly not wrong when he says people accept the choice to suffer and comply rather than die. Eichhorst’s strong arm and menace increases as The Strain goes on, and Jonathan Hyde’s (Jumanji) terminal magnate Eldritch Palmer wishes he were as ruthless. He believes in a higher power and thinks The Master will reward him with immortality, but faith in evil or one’s own wealth and power may not get you very far in the end. We should have seen more of Roger Cross (24) as Palmer’s loyal but suspicious aide Fitzwilliam, and Ruta Gedmintas (The Tudors) as regretful hacker Dutch Velders is a strong character with superb chemistry who’s story is dealt with too late. Jack Kesy (Baywatch) as the goth musician Gabriel Bolivar and Regina King (American Crime) as his manager Ruby are also underutilized – The Strain glaringly derails by conveniently forgetting to check up on his storyline much, much sooner.

 

Fortunately, fine cinematography and cinematic editing anchor The Strain’s usual forty-five-minute episodes. Viewer discretion is advised alongside brief title credits with bloody smears on white tiles and a fitting sense of medical gone wrong. Onscreen locations and time stamp countdowns with the occasional pop-up text messages are nicer than having to read tiny print on a dated phone screen, and the realistic mix of languages, Spanish lyrics, and cultural accents match the city locales. The antique store base provides a sense of old patina hidden in the borough, contrasting the bright yellow warning tape, flashlights, bio gear, and technology screens, laptops, and communications. Simple buzzing sounds, ringing noises, “Did you hear that?” calls, and recoils over ammonia smells invoke more senses than obnoxious jump scare sounds while slimy tentacles, oozing worms, slushy squirts, and gurgling slurps add to the monstrous. Autopsy saws and dissections increase the body horror as Neil Diamond tunes, pop music cues, and nursery rhymes create irony. Colorful orange and green hues pop during night scenery, drafting a super-sized count on acid, comic book style, however dark tunnels and UV lighting can be tough to see at times. There’s also a subtle ‘Spot the Cross’ thread in The Strain thanks to necklaces, crucifixes, altars, and other veiled spiritual reminders seemingly hidden in every scene – good visually counteracting evil. Several common directors and writers doing multiple episodes each including Keith Gordon (Dexter), Peter Weller (Sons of Anarchy), David Weddle and Bradley Thompson (Battlestar Galactica), David Semel (American Dreams), Regina Corrado (Deadwood), and Gennifer Hutchinson (Breaking Bad) help maintain The Strain’s overall cohesive feel and well done horror design. I must also say, I actually don’t mind the commercials when watching The Strain on Hulu, for these fast moving ads get back to the show – unlike the seven minutes or more on television when you forget what you were watching!

The Strain starts with plenty of layered horror parallels and intriguing monsters versus science enthusiasm and well developed characters. However, poor pacing and struggling storylines in the second half of this debut kind of make me want to read the books instead of watch Season Two. Some harsh language and brief nudity are nothing major for horror tweens today, but it is best for sophisticated scary fans to go into The Strain cold for a maximum on the surprises, plague versus horror politics, historical commentaries, and religious context. Despite a piecemeal, trickling along exit, The Strain is a unique combination of mad science, vampires, and zombies with a little something to appease all horror audiences.

It Came From The Vault: The Mouth of the Mountain

vault

The Mouth of the Mountain

by Michael Gormley

October 27th, 1912

 

The luminescent moon shone brightly through the clouds as I descended my usual mountain path.  When finally, the moon was admitted a gasp of air from the clouds, a ring of white light formed around it, and reverberated so viciously that my eyes became strained. My head pounded as brutally as the pulsations.

My evening strolls to the wooded top was a nightly adventure, and it was not until as of late that the trip had actually become adventurous.  Prior to the past few weeks my late walks were nothing more than routine.  After dinner, Edgar – my seven-year-old Weimaraner, a retired hunting dog – and I would head into the mountain’s path, blanketed by conifers and limber pines.  The entrance to the woods was decorated with a few weeping willows that were now fading as the fall was coming to an abrupt end.

Within the last month or so, Edgar became violent.  Not towards me, as I do not think he ever would, but more so to the intensifying moon.

Edgar was orphaned by his previous master, an esteemed hunter in the eastern states, from what I have learned.  I also, unfortunately, had learned that Edgar was orphaned in a disturbing, almost fatal manner.  It was not much for me to bring him back to health, since I did not do as much as I had before.  Now being sixty-seven years old, I spent most of my prolonged days within the woods.

Edgar went through complex stages over the last few weeks.  First, he was increasingly curious on our walks, mostly after the sun had set and the moon prowled behind the clouds.  Then he became angry with the subtle sounds and critters in the brush.  The week after, Edgar became disgruntled with myself for leaving him behind in our quaint cabin as I took my own walks in solitude.  It was as if Edgar knew what lay in wait within the lush mountains behind our cabin. It was as if Edgar’s insightful perspective had made me curious as to know the same as him.

Other than the uneasy feeling of being alone after dusk in the wooded mountains, which I had been growing more accustomed to, it was not until that night that I felt uneased – I assumed it was the same feeling Edgar had experience a few weeks prior.  Covert at first by the spontaneous migraine, the sense of dread veiled my thoughts.

Normal nights were dark by the time I had reached the top of the mountain, but this night was more somber than usual, even with the effulgent moon above.

I sat in the cold, dew covered grass.  I could feel them crawling all over my body, like the distressing itch that shows on one during an over bearing and sticky night.  It was the itch that even tossing off the sheets cannot cure.  I could feel them crawling, a feeling so strong that I knew which had four legs, which had eight, or even more.  I could feel their antennae brushing across my porous skin.  I knew that they could taste my fear.  Yet as hard as I tried – and the scratches that I had inflicted all the way down my arms would attest to my trial – could not remove them from my now violated body, let alone even see them.

I cannot recall the time spent running, tripping, and staggering down the root-full mountain path.  As I broke the forest line, beyond the weeping willows, swaying in the breeze, – as if they laughed and mocked my fear – my body was free from whatever itching invaders had turned my body into their shelter.  My pulsating head ceased its pounding.  I could almost feel the sense of dread seeping from my body, but my fear was so great that I could not have been so certain.  I was almost sure, however, because I felt lighter.

Edgar whimpered, like a stricken child cowering behind his mother, and found a corner of darkness when I erupted through the cabin door.  I could tell he wanted to smell me, to again investigate the odd events that he had surely encountered weeks before I had, but he was too afraid.  The smell of whatever was in the forest was on my clothes, and the eerie recognition had dazed him.  I pitied Edgar – he had been through enough to have that fear – but I did not care.

I needed to wash away the darkness.

The fire was easier to light than ever.  My clothes that I had worn into the woods burned easier than any kindling, and Edgar finally welcomed my return.  As I sat on my torn sofa in front of the crackling fire, he licked my hand like I had been wounded.  Before I even had the chance to plop my hand on his brown-speckled head, and scratch behind his ear in reassurance that we were both fine, I was fast asleep.  I needed the rest for my journey back into the fateful forest tomorrow evening.

I awoke early after a foolproof sleep.  I could not recall dreaming or, as I had half expected, recalled any nightmares.  I was rested, and more so than I should have been.

Edgar was still asleep, breathing heavily from his heart palpitations – another side-effect caused by his abandonment, as I was told – in front of the still simmering and smoky fireplace.  The stench from the burned clothes made my stomach turn, and I decided that there would be no breakfast this morning.

My day was restless.  My mind turned and twisted as I attempted to pass the time with a novel from above my hearth.  After I remained on the first page for an hour or so, I sealed the booked and it coughed a stagnant cloud of dust as it was slammed shut.

With the sun setting, I hesitantly dug out my Winchester Seventy-Three from the shed.  I sat, loading it full of stale cartridges, and received the reaction that I had rightfully expected from Edgar.  Again he found a dark corner of the house to hide and whine.

I had decided, almost fully subconsciously, that Edgar would again, after almost a full month now, rejoin me in the curious woods.

Therefore, the Seventy-Three would not.

I spent the last hour before dusk contemplating, and in more ways fighting with my conscious, about my decision to be accompanied by Edgar.  He had sensed the darkness, the queer happenings of the woods almost a full month prior to my odd experience (and for all that I knew) he understood them but was not granted the ability to properly communicate to me his knowledge.

Edgar would join me.

That night, as the sun was bleeding over the horizon-line in a cast of dark orange, Edgar and I – unfortunately without the sound reassurance of my Seventy-Three – set out toward the mountain path.

The air was brisk and cool, nipping at my skin through my plaid jacket.  We approached the entrance to the mountain path, and I could see Edgar shivering with each step.  I wanted to believe it was from the chill in the air, but I knew that he felt the same fear as I.

The entrance seemed to fold in on itself more than normal, and the branches hung over the opening like large, rotten teeth, waiting for us to feed its appetite.

Edgar and I obliged the woods.  We entered through the mountain’s starved mouth – hesitantly, I will admit – yet I did not feel anything unusual other than the goosebumps rising on my arms and the back of my exposed neck.

Fight through the depths of your will, Edgar.  I need you by my side.

I did not even receive the slightest amount of recognition from my companion, but with me, he trudged on.

With no issue, we reached the mountain top and gazed out upon the forest’s canopy.  The leaves were almost gone, granted the pines still held their beauty.  The mountain peak was empty, and the grass duller and dead than the night before.  I sat beside Edgar – who panted happily – and together we watched the radiant moon rise high into the sky.

How frivolous was I?  To justify my hallucinations on my mentally unstable canine companion.

Another restful night had passed, and the day had gone by just as flawlessly.  Edgar and I had gone into town for errands.  I returned to mount my Seventy-Three above the hearth.

It wasn’t until 5 PM that I had realized I still had not eaten since the night before.  Anxious to return to our now normal nightly walks, I scarfed down my dinner and allowed Edgar to indulge himself in my scraps as I laced my boots.

The mouth of the forest was again more closed than the nights before, yet I no longer felt any apprehension.

I entered through the mouth yet again, this time Edgar trotting ahead of me.  He held a spirited walk.  I had not seen that in months.

The moon was already high, tucked again behind the clouds, and as I gazed through the breaches in the canopy, a strong sense of anger filled my soul.

I looked again to Edgar, who gained some ground on me as he continued his carefree trot.

This angered me; exceedingly.

Heel mutt.

            The bizarre size of my voice caused Edgar to leap an entire foot off the hardened ground, and with that he was seated by my side.  His head was lowered in anticipation of the strike he so justifiably assumed, but his eyes were raised up to meet mine.

I could feel the very distinct dread from within his hazel eyes, as if his entire soul was pouring itself out to me.  I am not sure what heinous thoughts crossed my mind in my anger, or maybe I just did not want to believe them.

I walked on past Edgar.

My stomach was an endless pit, filling expeditiously with malicious hatred towards these woods, towards Edgar, and towards that damned, reverberating moon.

The peak of the mountain brought back the uneasy itch over the entirety of my body, anger rising.

Less than a full twenty-four hours prior, Edgar and I gazed upon the stars, sitting in the grass before me.  At that moment it would not have been possible – even if I had contained half of the anger inside of me – since the ground in front of my fully conscious eyes were filched by three slate-grey stones, as large as the ones of Stonehenge.

Two lay fallen, with another laying perfectly across the others.  The curious structure stood no higher than my dinner table, but the stones were too large to have been placed by human hands, at least within one day.

I reached out with my left hand, trembling, unaware of any consequences, and ran my calloused fingers against the stone top.  It was smoother than even the most polished garnet, or even coated wood.

The hundreds of legs again crawled over my body, sent into an immense frenzy as I brushed the stone.

Four legs I could feel on one, eight on another.  There were countless limbs traversing my helpless body, yet I still could not find them.  I tore at my jacket and shirt until they were ripped from me in miniscule pieces at my feet.

I felt the legs on my chest but still could not see them with my own eyes.

Again, I scratched and clawed, but they would not cease their incessant hurrying.  From deep within my pants pocket I pulled my whittling knife and hacked across my chest.  The blood ran wild like the steam coursing down the mountain’s path, but it did not wash away the legs.

I tried my arms, and again, the blood poured, but the insects – or whatever they were in their visual absence – remained.

Edgar’s delicate whimper broke my concentration and ended my irrational slashing.

Had I not told him to heel?

In the midst of licking the recently inflicted wounds on my left arm, I grew more disgusted with the mongrel.

I hacked at him.

Edgar had lived an unfortunate life, but a lucky life at that.  Blind in my hatred for these woods, for Edgar, and for the moon, I missed him with my scarlet blade.

As quickly as my hatred had consumed me, I brought back the handle of my small knife onto Edgar’s fragile spine, and with an agonizing yelp he bolted back down towards the mouth of the mountain.

I felt no guilt, only uncontrollable rage, and I too bolted after the mutt.

The descent detached from my mind all recollection of the assemblage of legs, from the woods, and from the migraine that pounded in unison with the pulsating moon.  But not, this time, from Edgar.

Breaking through the mouth of the mountain felt as if I had reached the surface, still alive, after an impossible and tedious swim from the ocean depths.

A crackling of thunder rolled through the air as a drizzle fell upon my aching head, already soaked from my perspiration.  Lightning ripped apart the gloomy clouds above and seemed to reach the ground, possibly closer to my unoccupied cabin.

Had Edgar gone back?  More importantly, would Edgar ever return to me?  Another corrupt master in his poor life.

I had spent the following day on my porch waiting for Edgar.  I did not call for him.  I did not want him to hear my traitorous voice.  Frankly, I did not want to hear it either.

Heavy rain fell from the sky all day, splashing upon the porch.  The pattering was soothing, but it did not put my mind at ease, and it did not help that the sky remained a dull grey for the remainder of the day.

Until the sun was setting I had not recalled smashing my whittling knife into Edgar’s back, only my vile language and anger.  The chances were high that he remained in the wicked woods, injured or expired on the ground.  I had done nothing but merely sit on the porch, listening to the now annoying rain.  I would go back through the mountain’s mouth.

I would rescue Edgar again.

The willows at the mountain’s jaw – as I had come to expect – drooped ever so slightly more than the night before.  On this night, dull and gloomy – like the relationship had turned between Edgar and myself – the pelting rain crashed upon me, the woods whispered to me.  It was not as if I heard the voices clearly, but I could feel that I was anxiously invited in.

I was hesitant, but I entered through the mouth of the mountain.  I would not return without Edgar in my arms.

Looking up through the sporadic breaches in the canopy top – for the last time I had hoped– again, I felt the moon absorb my soul, filling me with irreversible emotion.  Thankfully, I prayed that I was correct in my gratitude, it was not the rage returning.

Twenty-seven years ago, I lost my wife commencing my decision to relocate to my cottage in the hills.  For nearly twenty-seven years, until I fostered Edgar, I lived in my remote homestead – peacefully I would add – no less than ten miles from the nearest town.

In that, I never felt more alone than in my ascent to the mountain plateau.

With each step growing ever so wearisome I began to sob.  Initially, I assumed that it was in the dreadful reality of Edgar’s situation.  I also decided, more than that, it was from the desire to see my wife again.  I remembered the moon, pumping its white light in unison with my escalating heartbeat.  The forest was the causation of my isolation and seclusion.

I was alone.

A distant, muffled yelp came from the mountain, breaking my mind out of its daunting state of inconsistency.

I began to run, my legs felt heavier with each step.  In the likes of my mind, I again blamed these woods.  I walked this path an inordinate amount of times to becoming sluggish on that night of all.

I should have been blinded as I broke out into the mountain plateau, for still stood those stones.  A fog had settled there, and I could barely see even my knees.

Around the enigmatic stones, at least two-handful of sable-like figures stood, shrouded by the fog, all facing the stones.  Human in size, still I could not make out any distinctive features other than their inverse knees, pointed backwards as they stood.

Their rhythmic chanting in unison filled the night and echoed off of the peak.

Dum nalag Ro

            Dum nalag Nath

            Dum nalag RoNath

         

   With deficient reason I stood listening, growing more careful with each repetition as the chant mesmerized me.  It was an odd language in which I never heard. Somehow, as if they wanted me to comprehend – which was the more frightful matter, knowing I had been noticed – the elementary word “follower” materialized in my mind.

With that word, I knew.  What it was specifically I could not be certain, but beyond any reasonable doubt I knew.

Each step closer to the stones abated my heartbeat.  Each step sucked more of the emotional pressure from my tainted soul.

With each step closer that I had taken, those fearsome figures, with their satiric knees took equally attentive steps away from the stones, still deep in chant.  Still in precise unison.

As they regressed, and their shadowy forms faded into the mist – I saw him.

I saw Edgar, suspended to a grand pine by splintered, detached branches, two pierced through his withered ribcage.

I wanted to blame myself for Edgar’s demise.  I wanted to blame the monster that I had become, but I knew the adverse truth.  It was these poisonous woods that were to blame.

The pain I felt was none, and the absence of my guilt was resolute, because that is what the celestial moon had decided for me on that night.

I laid down on the stone table, staring up into the night sky, now clear of all its rain clouds.  The pulse of the moon had almost wholly subsided, and I assumed that my heart would match its pace yet again.

This was my peaceful confinement.

The sky blackened and the moon faded as the menacing branches folded in over me, fingertips of the wicked woods.  Closing my eyes, I hoped that I would soon again have Edgar by my side.

The gradual pulse of the shimmering moon finally ended.

_________

Michael Gormley is a student at Cleveland State University. Born and raised in Ohio, Michael resides roughly an hour outside of Cleveland. Writing in the genres of horror, thriller, and science-fiction, Michael traverses the ideas and phenomenons that are associated with human emotions.

David’s Haunted Library: Kill By Numbers

David's Haunted Library

 

 

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It’s tough to be a human in space. Other races look down on humans because they think of them as violent sociopaths. With the human empire disbanded, they are spread out across the galaxy trying to make a living. This brings us to former assassin Raena  who is trying to get a new start on board the alien space ship,the Veracity. Raena has a complicated past, she was a prisoner as the Templars were wiped out by a genetic plague and the situation has created some bad psychological effects.

Raena is having nightmares of shooting her ex-lover in the head and she has to deal with the fact that the now extinct Templars have left booby-trapped biotechnology throughout the galaxy and her ship is infected. Raena and the pirate crew that she is with must learn to trust each other and figure out how to fix the booby-trapped technology or the galactic economy could collapse.

Kill By Numbers by Loren Rhoads is the second book in the wake of the Templars series and could be best described as a character driven action adventure story. This book starts off slow and gets deep into the character’s personalities before getting into the  story. The thing I really enjoy about Loren Rhoads writing is that she creates characters that seem real and gives a lot of detail on them.  To me the sign of a great character in a book is if you want to read about them even if there is no conflict with them. I love good character development in a story before we get into the action and Kill By Numbers does an excellent job of it.

I love the concept behind this book, Raena is a human on a ship of aliens so Raena doesn’t fit in. Raena is trying to start a new life and escape her past, the crew of the Veracity is trying to help but what they want for her and what she wants for herself are two different things. Everyone on the ship is a different kind of alien but because of her past, Raena is the oddest one. I liked the idea that everyone on the ship was so different making it like a melting pot of races.

Another interesting aspect of this book is how the media is portrayed in this futuristic setting. The crew of the ship gathers at the same time every day to see the news and then talk about the new scandals across the galaxy. The media are a lot like how it is in the present and everything that goes on in the news is seen as truth even if there are no facts to back it up. The media are a small part of the story but I liked how even in the future people are addicted to getting information about other political systems and alien races. The best part of the book is the relationship between Raena and Gavin. Gavin wants to help Raena with her new life but seems to hurt her as he tries to help. Kill By Numbers is like an action packed soap opera in space and the kind of book that hard-core Science Fiction fans will love.

An Interview with H.E. Roulo

On February 29th Horroraddicts.net publishing released its newest book:Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome by H.E. Roulo. She has had stories in other Horroraddicts.net publications such as:   The Wickeds, Horrible Disasters and Horror Addicts Guide To Life. She has also been on the Horror Addicts podcast on several occasions and won our Most Wicked award in 2009. Here is what some people are saying about Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome:

10497226_786392101430051_367125154057381978_o“A perfect mix of classic sci-fi and zombie horror. Once you start, you are hooked!”
-Jake Bible, author of Little Dead Man.
“Sanctuary Dome starts with a bang, is complicated by a kiss, and ends with a promise. This is a YA zombie love story like no other.”
-Jennifer Brozek, author of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming
“A smart zombie novel with relatable characters you’ll be rooting for until the end.”
-Emerian Rich, author of Night’s Knights Vampire Series
“Sanctuary Dome is fast-paced zombie sci-fi on a prison planet of the dying and the undead.”
-Stephen North, author of Beneath the Mask

“H.E. Roulo transports the reader to an eerie, futuristic environment. Her efficiency of prose will absorb readers of all ages. Macabre, frightening, but always hopeful.”
-Philip E. Carroll, author of Shooting Stars

Here is an interview Horroraddicts.net did with H.E. Roulo about her new book:

When did you start writing?

From the top bunk, I’d tell my younger sister stories at night. As soon as I knew enough letters, I put  pencil to paper to write stories. By the time I was in the third grade I knew I wanted to be an author. I just didn’t know how badly it paid.

You produced your first book Fractured Horizon as a podcast. Why did you go this route and where can people listen to it?

For a lot of years, I didn’t tell people I wrote. Co-workers didn’t know. It was my secret.
When I finally decided to take my writing public, I wanted to see whether there was interest. Did people like my stories? Podcasting my novel let me get immediate, week-by-week feedback. I also didn’t have to worry about hiring an editor, I did all the recording myself at night or while my toddler slept.
Fractured Horizon was my first big success, even a Parsec Finalist, and it will always be dear to me. The story of Kay Downs traveling through time the hard way, by living through it, until she reached the damaged future and repaired it, started my career. Peoples’ responses to that story encouraged me to continue. I’ve learned a lot since then. I recently rewrote the text of Fractured Horizon to be clearer. I’ve had it edited. I need to release it, it’s just a matter of finding the time.fractured-horizon

Is writing an audio drama different from writing a novel?

I’ve deliberately attempted new things so I would be a better writer. I learned a lot about story, being concise, setting the scene, and pacing, from experimenting. The podcast novel, Fractured Horizon, was an audio book. I simply read the written novel, edited the audio to take out pauses, and added an episode introduction to catch listeners up. It’s a little rough, and moves too fast. I could do better now. Of course, I think that about every project I finish.
Once I was done releasing Fractured Horizon, I was looking to do more audio. I released short stories, including three for HorrorAddicts.net. Those stories did a lot for me. I won the first annual Wicked Women Writer’s challenge with “Graveyard Shift”; released “Undergrowth” as my first ebook single; and “Great Asp & Little Death” became one of the stories in the Rich & Roulo series.
After that, I had several stories traditionally published in markets like Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue.
Finally, I wrote a script for a full-cast audio drama. An audio drama is different from an audio book because the voices of the characters and sound effects tell the story—just like old radio plays. I had to be creative; there’s only sound to tell the story. I couldn’t rely on descriptions or go inside the character’s head. That audio drama, and the world I created, led to much more.

What is the inspiration behind Plague Masters: Sanctuary Dome?

The novel took a long path. It started as an audio drama submitted to Necropolis Studio Productions for their Omega Road Chronicles, which is a series of moody unconnected short stories, much like The Twilight Show. My script was for a 40 minute show. They selected it right away. Next, I turned the idea into a short for the Live and Let Undead anthology, which is themed around putting zombies to work. And that sold right away.
At that point, it seemed a no-brainer to expand the world I’d come to love. I already had Samantha, who is searching for her brother’s murderer. For the novel, I added the story of Trevor, a teenager from a downtrodden planet. He wants to fight against the zombies swarming his world, but opportunity is scarce. He’s working as zombie-bait for the local militia when the girl he likes becomes infected. They get sent to the Sanctuary Dome, a punishment that’s actually a big improvement, but he’s not infected and is trying to save everyone, even his home world, from this disease.

Are the zombies in your story fast-moving or slow-moving?

24899021Mythology is so important in a story like this. It drives the tension and action. In my world, a bite means a change to a zombie, but there are also blood infections. Get splashed with zombie blood, and you’ll change but no one knows how soon. It turns people into ticking time bombs. That’s what happened to Samantha, and to the girl Trevor loves. They’re infected, but not changed into zombies, yet.
When someone does change, they go through stages of madness and rage. They’re still fast. Eventually, zombies become slow and docile. They will wander with sheep in a field, but they can get aggressive again if provoked. Don’t provoke the zombies, it gets ugly fast.

How many books do you have planned in the Plague Masters series?

It’s a tidy trilogy with an ending I’m really excited to write. At this point, the first book is available for purchase. I’ve finished writing the second one. Now, I get the dig into the finale of the series. There’s going to be even more action, and more at stake for every character.
All the worlds in this system are suffering. The series has to end soon, before there’s no one left for me to torture.

Why do you think people are so fascinated with the zombie apocalypse?

I think there are lots of different reasons. A zombie apocalypse lets us imagine a world starting over. Old, boring problems are gone. No one_IMG_8000 worries about grades or taxes in a zombie apocalypse.
Life becomes purer, it’s about survival, testing ourselves, and hopefully rising to the occasion. With zombies, there’s no guilt in killing them, no gray area, no reason to understand their point of view. There’s fairness in knowing that they’ll kill you if they can, and you can respond on that level. If you’re smart and careful, you’ll survive. Our world is a complicated place. The zombie apocalypse simplifies it.
Until the Plague Masters rise, of course.

Heather Roulo is a Seattle author. Her short stories appear in several dozen publications, including Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue. Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome is the first book in her Plague Masters Series.

To hear the audio drama of the short story that inspired Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, visit The Omega Road Chronicles Audio Drama online.

Find out more at heroulo.com

http://podiobooks.com/title/fractured-horizon/

http://www.fracturedhorizonnovel.com/2015/04/13/free-audio-drama-omega-road-chronicles-ep-3-the-killer-with-eyes-of-ice/

Horroraddicts.net Publishing presents: Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome

10497226_786392101430051_367125154057381978_oOn February 29th Horroraddicts.net publishing released its newest book: Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome by H.E. Roulo. She has had stories in other Horroraddicts.net publications such as:   The Wickeds, Horrible Disasters and  Horror Addicts Guide To Life. She has also been on the Horror Addicts podcast on several occasions and won our Most Wicked award in 2009. Much of H.E. Roulo’s writing mixes horror and Science Fiction and her latest book is no exception. My full review is below:

Some teenage boys dream of getting a car or having a nice girlfriend. When you’re a teenager who lives in a run down neighborhood on a planet that is being over run by zombies, you dream of helping your planet’s army kill them all. Trevor wanted to do all he could to help his planet and jumped at the chance to be zombie bait. The soldiers send him into buildings to draw the zombies out and he gets to feel like he is helping society.

Life changes quickly for Trevor as he saves his dream girl but finds out she is infected. Trevor then escapes his planet and ends up in the Sanctuary Dome where the people infected with the zombie virus stay until they are changed. On another planet not far away, a teenage girl named Samantha is trying to find her missing brother and believes that the person responsible is a man named Julius. Julius is a rich man and his money built the Sanctuary Dome, can he be responsible for murder? Secrets are being kept under the dome and soon the zombies will be free to infect the universe.

Plague Master Sanctuary Dome is a book that horror fans and Science Fiction fans will enjoy. Science fiction fans will love the futuristic mythology and the political system that reminded me of The Hunger Games. I love the concept of a dome on another planet where diseased people are kept and the technology they have to see if someone is infected. I also liked how different the zombies are, they can be fast-moving or slow-moving based on how they were infected.

My favorite part of this book was Trevor’s story. Trevor is your average teenager thrown into a harsh situation. He simply wants to protect his family and everyone else on his planet but he finds out that everyone has an agenda and nothing is as it seems. He is used as zombie bait by an army that doesn’t care about him because he is from a poor area of the planet. While he sees himself as helping people against the zombies, his father is against what he is doing and is the only one who is looking out for him. The relationship between father and son is easy to relate to, Trevor’s father just wants to protect his son but Trevor is naive and thinks he knows whats best for himself.

There may be a lot of zombie books out there but Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome is a fresh spin on the genre. What I liked best about it was the characters who are mostly young people who were forced to grow up to fast. Not only do they have to deal with zombies they also have to deal with a corrupt political system that doesn’t have everyone’s best interests at heart. This book has something for everyone. Younger readers will like the action and the characters while older readers will like the setting that H.E. Roulo created. This is the first book in a trilogy and it will be exciting to see where the story will go next.

 

_IMG_8000Heather Roulo is a Seattle author. Her short stories appear in several dozen publications, including Nature and Fantasy’s special Women Destroy Fantasy issue. Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome is the first book in her Plague Masters Series.

To hear the audio drama of the short story that inspired Plague Master: Sanctuary Dome, visit The Omega Road Chronicles Audio Drama online.

Find out more at heroulo.com