Posted in Monday Mayhem

The Walking Dead: Violence

Terminus. Bent over a trough with their hands tied behind their back, they await their fate. A baseball bat to the back of the head. Their throats slit. Another episode of The Walking Dead makes a debut.

The Walking Dead Season 5 Premier
The Walking Dead Season 5 Premier

For today’s Monday Mayhem I would like to talk a bit about the level of violence in The Walking Dead. Why is it there? And—is it necessary?

[Spoilers lie therein.]

If you have followed The Walking Dead for any length of time, you will know the show has gone through a transformation of sorts that, for lack of a better cliché, has pushed the envelope of dramatic series television. Season 5’s premier episode caught viewers off-guard with one of the most brutal scenes ever depicted on the small screen. If a phrase ought to typify the episode, it would be this one: “You’re either the butcher or the cattle.” If the viewer thought they had seen it all in the final episode of Season 4, they had miscalculated the show’s ability to deliver an even more shocking story.

You see, up to that point, the violence had always centered around the undead ending up splattered all over a wall or torn apart from gunfire. Humans receiving the brunt of their destruction typically came from walkers searching for food. That is until the absolute terror-inducing scene in the slaughterhouse of Season 5’s premier. It was then the viewer realized just how cruel a human could be toward another human.

The increasing level of viciousness from season-to-season attests to one thing the show has accomplished well—depicting that humans left to their own devices will kill without mercy.

Necessary? Yes.

The violence in The Walking Dead has become a symbol of what society would be like should an actual apocalypse take place. Brother will turn against brother. Hatred will spawn more hatred. And the concept of family will extend to those who will come to the aid of the less fortunate. If it sounds pessimistic, you’re right. But if you caught that last sentence, there will always be those who will not succumb to the human compulsion of killing. They are the ones who will make the world a better place.

Does that sound idealistic? Perhaps. But who’s to say how it will all play out until it actually happens? All I know is in every disaster, there are heroes.

And the heroes are the ones who will make a difference.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What do you think about the violence depicted in The Walking Dead? Have you had any nightmares yet?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

The Walking Dead Revisited

I’ve been binge watching. Is that an addiction? I’m certain one day I will be part of a support group for binge watchers everywhere. Until then, I’ll admit my fault, and say I’ve been binge watching The Walking Dead. It doesn’t sound so bad when I put it into that context. Doesn’t it? Well, binge watching is this: take a television series and watch it one episode after another until you’ve consumed every single one in a relatively short span. Who needs to wait for the next episode when you’re binge watching? Not me.

The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead

Anyway, for today’s Monday Mayhem, I have an observation for you Walking Dead fans.

Let’s talk about Season Three. Now, if you’ve never seen The Walking Dead, I suggest you skip to the last paragraph to see what I have to say about the series because I will certainly spoil it for you by revealing key elements of the plot.

Back to Season Three—I know The Walking Dead is a Drama/Horror show. I know that. AMC has established that by the story and plotlines. And I love that about the show. But what I’d like to see more of is humor. Inject a few bits of humor here and there, and I’ll love you even more. It’s not a criticism. Not at all. I just find after long stretches of binge watching, as a viewer, some levity would bring me back to focus on the stories.

Rick & Daryl
Rick & Daryl

For instance, when Rick and the other survivors take over the prison, they encounter the remnant of the prison population who haven’t turned. That to me is a great story. Even better is when the survivors try to explain to the former prisoners how to kill the walkers. They specifically instruct them how to aim for the head. Get rid of the brain. Get rid of the problem. Well, what happens? As soon as the group meets with walkers, the former prisoners hit prison riot mode and they assault the walkers in a flurry of body blows, which, by the way, has no effect on the undead other than to prove they can withstand stabbings and mutilations to the torso. In some respect, it’s a funny scene due to how it all went down. None of the former prisoners listened to any of the instructions, but instead did their own thing.

The other funny moment in Season Three, is when one of the former prisoners is hanging out with Beth as she coddles Lori’s baby in a prison cell. A known felon, he asks her how old she is. She says sixteen (I think that’s how it goes—I can’t remember). He then says, “Interesting.” All of a sudden, I roll my eyes thinking the worst. Fast forward to a minute later when Carol and the former prisoner have an off-the-cuff conversation away from the rest. He had convinced himself that she wasn’t interested in men. Guess what he says when he discovers otherwise. Yep. He says, “Interesting.” Of course, she says something that totally shoots him down. And there lies the humor.

I wish for more humor in subsequent seasons, not only for us binge watchers, but also for the new viewers.

What do you think?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What do you like about The Walking Dead? Do you have a favorite season?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

The Wicked Witch of the West

No one can deny after seeing The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is a frightening gal. The first time I saw her on TV was when I was four. If you want to cite childhood memories that may have traumatized a growing young lad, this was it.

The Wicked Witch of the West
The Wicked Witch of the West

What would the end of Women Who Wow Wednesday‘s Horror month be without The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West? I dare you to count the number of w’s in that sentence.

The Wicked Witch of the West
The Wicked Witch of the West

There’s a whole history behind the green-skinned lady, but this post won’t contain any of that. In fact, I’m not even going to include how her sister, the Wicked Witch of the East, died. Well, we know a house fell on her. That’s about it. Has anyone else ever asked what that woman was doing there in the first place? Was she just standing around waiting for it or was she flying on her broomstick when the house slammed into her? Okay, so maybe I have included a little history with this post.

The other thing I remember about the Wicked Witch was her cackle. Oh, such a dastardly laugh it was. That line where she says, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” It still sends chills up my spine. Is it me or does she get meaner as the years go on? Maybe it’s just me. She certainly knows how to scare the pants off a grownup.

Since I’m quoting lines from the movie, here are a few more that make me want to run away and lock myself in my room with the covers over my head:

“Well, my little pretty, I can cause accidents, too!”

“How about a little fire, Scarecrow?”

“Auntie Em! Auntie Em! Come back! I’ll give you Auntie Em, my pretty! Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh!”

“Going so soon? I wouldn’t hear of it. Why my little party’s just beginning.”

“What a nice little dog. And you, my dear, what an unexpected pleasure. It’s so kind of you to want to visit me in my loneliness.”

“The last to go will see the first three go before her. And her mangy little dog too.”

“You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness? Oooooh, look out! I’m going! Oooooh! Ooooooh!”

Tell me you don’t hear her voice when you’re reading those lines to yourself. I still can hear it and I’m not even trying.

Yes, the Wicked Witch belongs in an asylum, but you can’t tell me she doesn’t wow. As bad as she is, she is a character everyone recognizes. For this reason, her image has remained with me since a child. Maybe one day, I can watch The Wizard of Oz without that scary feeling I get in the pit of my stomach reminding me of the first time.

Until then, I’ll watch her again and again covering my eyes as if I were on a roller coaster. It’s the only way to survive a scary ride.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

What do you remember of the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz? Were you as frightened to see her the first time I was?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Heather Donahue

“In October of 1994, three student filmmakers disappeared in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland while shooting a documentary. A year later their footage was found.”

This is how The Blair Witch Project begins.

Heather Donahue
Heather Donahue

I think enough time has passed for me to talk comfortably about this movie without feeling bad for dishing out spoilers. If you haven’t seen this movie, skip to the second-last paragraph because this Women Who Wow Wednesday post, which continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, will center on Heather Donahue, one of the three students who disappeared in the woods in Maryland that year.

If you’re still with me, then you’ll know the whole movie really wasn’t more than a perfectly timed viral campaign to garner attention and load the theater seats with curious moviegoers. Three student filmmakers didn’t really disappear. In addition, what happened in the film didn’t really happen, except it was all part of the planned filming schedule scripted to provide a documentary-style backdrop to what would occur twenty years later.

What I’m referring to is today’s entertainment industry’s absolute quest to fill our minds with reality show madness. I’m positive I said that correctly without offending, don’t you think? Mind you, I have nothing against reality shows—I’m an avid fan of Hell’s Kitchen. But does every channel now have to have reality TV?

It all started with The Blair Witch Project. Thank goodness for The Walking Dead.

The Blair Witch Project
The Blair Witch Project

Nonetheless, when the movie came out, the producers made the film on a razor-thin budget of $60,000. That’s right, sixty grand. Peanuts. It went on to make $140 Million. Yes, you read that right. I’ll say it again—one-hundred-and-forty Million bucks. It was big. Some moviegoers had to leave the theater because they were getting sick from all the motion blur that was taking place.

Anyway, let’s get to the heart of this post, as you don’t need any more of my long-winded backstory.

Heather Donahue, along with Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams (their real names), travel to the woods to explore the legend of the Blair Witch. Leading the team with her straightforward attitude, Heather makes it clear she’s in charge, requesting of the makeshift crew not to produce a movie they’re shooting into a cheesy affair. As Josh fills in the first filming slate, he can’t help but ask if there should be an honorary opening of the veins to christen the first slate. Of course, he’s being facetious—little did he know what a foreshadowing his words would be.

There’s no simple way to say this. In the woods, they get lost. As time pushes forward to an inevitable conclusion, Heather attempts to keep the crew together by remaining positive in spite of the odd noises they hear each night just outside their tents.

The creepier things get, the more Heather tries to rally the guys to not lose faith. She holds on to the belief that things would eventually get better.

They don’t get better.

And as much as Heather tries to remain calm, she loses it, too, which isn’t much different than anyone else in that situation. However, she has the fortitude within herself to come back and lead the others—a trait all true great leaders possess, regardless if they win or lose in a battle.

That, in itself, is a perfect reason to study the character Heather in this film.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you watched The Blair Witch Project? What do you think of Heather?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Clarice Starling

Nailed to a tree as five separate signs, the message to everyone who dares venture into the FBI training ground is clear: Hurt. Agony. Pain. Love—it. Pride. With those words, the chilling movie The Silence of the Lambs begins.

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster
Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began with Maleficent, and continued last week with Claudia from Interview with the Vampire, today we’ll have a look at Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), the detective who uses one psychopath to catch another with horrifying results.

She’s in the top quarter of her class, double major in psychology, criminology, and graduated Magna. She was an intern at the Reitzinger Clinic, and more than anything wants to work for Mr. Crawford (Scott Glenn) in Behavioral Science.

From the moment Clarice steps into the Behavioral Science Services office, the images of serial killer Buffalo Bill’s victims sink into her eyes. When Mr. Crawford walks in and offers her a seat. He remembers her from his seminar at UVA where she grilled him about the bureau’s civil rights record during the Hoover years—he gave her an A. Not quite. She remembers an A minus.

He has a job for her. The FBI is interviewing serial killers in custody for a psycho-behavioral profile. They’re looking for help in unsolved cases. He asks, “Do you spook easily, Starling?”

“Not yet.” She answers.

Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling

Crawford then asks Clarice to profile Hannibal Lecter—“Hannibal the Cannibal” as he is known. But he warns her to be very careful with Hannibal Lecter. She cannot deviate from the physical procedures she will take when interviewing him. Above all else, she cannot tell him anything personal. She cannot afford to have Hannibal Lecter inside her head.

Once Clarice realizes Hannibal the Cannibal is a monster, a pure psychopath and the asylum’s most prized asset, she takes precautions by heeding to the rules:

  • Do not touch or approach the glass.
  • Pass him nothing but soft paper.
  • No pencils or pens, no staples or paper clips in his paper.
  • Use the sliding food carrier, no exception.
  • If he passes anything, do not accept.

From there, Clarice takes it upon herself to play the game she needs to play with Lecter in order to get what she needs. She attempts different ways to get into his head, but he proves, with his genius ability to sense her next move, he isn’t a pushover. If anyone’s getting played, it’s her.

Throughout her interviews, she adapts and modifies her methodology to Lecter’s coy ways. With every play and counter-play, they raise the stakes until someone surrenders.

In the dark world Clarice inhabits, there are serial killers, murderers and psychos. However, that’s not to say she is weak when terrifying events knock her from her seat. She’s resilient, making it easy for anyone to choose her as the perfect example of a woman who stands up for her convictions against the evil in this world.

With Clarice in the room, darkness has nowhere to hide.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen Silence of the Lambs, what did you find most frightening?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Claudia

They are flesh and blood, but not human. Probably haven’t been human for hundreds of years. Some might call it being born into darkness. For a little girl who has lost her parents to the plague in New Orleans, it certainly feels that way.

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia
Kirsten Dunst as Claudia

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began last week with Maleficent, let’s examine the short life of Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) the vampire from the movie Interview with the Vampire, based on the book written by Anne Rice.

In 1791, Louis du Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) is only twenty-four when Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) turns him into a vampire. Before then, as the master of a large plantation, just south of New Orleans, Louis’ riches meant nothing to him. He’d lost his wife and child months earlier, and he longed for death. Young, vibrant, full of life, Lestat cuts Louis’ life short in an act of pure selfishness. Some may say, though, Lestat imparted Louis the essence of eternal life. However, how eternal is a life if it rests in the throes of damnation?

Claudia’s parents die by the plague. With the desire of wanting to revive her mother, the five-year-old asks Louis for help. Instead of bringing her mother back from the dead, a power Louis does not possess, he feeds off Claudia short of taking her life. Leaving her for dead, and with Louis’ conscience tearing at him for having drained Claudia of her life, Lestat bestows upon her eternal life, thus making her a vampire just like them.

Unlike Louis, whose manner of killing involves butchering animals but not people, Claudia’s hunger for blood has no bounds. From the moment Lestat made her into a predator, Claudia shows no regard for human life. Housekeepers fall to her scheming, leading Lestat to scold her, “Now, who will we get to finish your dress? There’s a practicality here! Remember, never in our home!”

Interview with the Vampire's Claudia
Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia

In the early days, Claudia’s victims died quickly. As time passes, she learns how to play with them, delaying the moment until she takes what she wants. No one is safe. She uses her diminutive appearance to draw victims into her arms. Shopkeepers easily surrender their goods to the vicious killer. Even her piano teacher dies at her hands, prompting Lestat once again to ask, “Claudia, what have we told you?” Of course she remembers, “Never in the house.”

One day, Claudia sees a woman bathing, then realizes she will never grow older than the eternal child she is. She discovers the truth, provoking her to loathe both Louis for taking her life and Lestat for giving her another. However, she also realizes she and Louis are in the same predicament, locked together in hatred.

But she admits, she can’t hate Louis.

As the story goes, Claudia takes vengeance upon Lestat, breaking one of the everlasting laws among vampires—vampire shall not kill vampire. As opposed to physical strength, she uses stealth and cunning to do it. Those attributes make Claudia one of the most feared fictional characters in Horror. It’s also the reason she takes one of the top spots in Women Who Wow Wednesday. She proves someone doesn’t have to bulge with muscle in order to get things done.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen Interview with a Vampire, what did you think of Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Claudia?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Why I Like Zombies

Have I ever told you why I like zombies? I mean, I write my Monday Mayhem posts, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned the reason why I’m drawn to these ill-fated, putrid-smelling, bile-seeping maggot bags the media affectionately calls zombies. I have a number of reasons for liking them, and today, you’re going to find out.

Asbury Park Zombie Walk 2010 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)
Asbury Park Zombie Walk 2010 (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

As many of my regular readers know, I have an affinity for 80’s movies. Because of that love for all things retro, Terminator has always been at the top of my list of sci-fi/action flicks for a cold Friday night. Why? You see, terminators keep coming after you. No matter how many bullets you pump into them, two-by-fours you break over their head, and knives you use to gut them, they still keep coming after you. I like that idea. Zombies are like that, too. If a zombie does not sustain a bullet to the head, it will drag, pull and follow its way to you until you are dead. They don’t know pain. They don’t know exhaustion. They don’t even have a clue they are undead. But one thing’s for sure, they will not give up until they see you screaming in absolute terror, awaiting your fate under their feet.

Apart from my enjoyment of seeing the zombie inclination to persevere, I have fun with the idea that their walk, in a subtle sort of way, embodies the afterlife. Who doesn’t want to know what happens to them when they die? For years, vampires have shown themselves as Horror’s answer to everlasting life. In all truth, though, all things have to end. Enter the zombie. Not much different from vampires, the zombie life depends entirely on the consumption of human victims. The difference being, zombies hunt as part of hordes. Humanity’s fascination with the afterlife has created these creatures as a way to understand what it means to die. What will happen to us? What is the purpose of this life? Why are we here? I don’t know about you, but if I die, I’d rather not imagine a life befitting a zombie. Sounds like a messy affair to me.

The biggest reason I love zombies, and this is purely from a writer’s perspective, is that they can represent anything a writer wants to convey by way of metaphor. In other words, if I want to talk about how oppressive a society is of its people, I can simply write the zombies as a depiction of that society and of its willingness to destroy its victims, eating them to the bone. Same goes for cults that have a way of controlling their brethren. You know the kind, where the members can’t do anything without church consent or recommendation. The zombies in that story become despicable demons bent on absolute destruction of its family members.

The possibility of using metaphors is endless.

So much of what goes on in the media becomes fodder for zombie stories. I can’t dispute the fact that the undead have a way of bringing people together. One day, I’m sure I’ll find out what it all means. Until that day, I’ll keep enjoying movies featuring zombies in thrilling chases, stories about the undead living forever, and of life’s little metaphors.

Now do you see why I like zombies?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Why do you like zombies?