Three Things I Learned from ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

The Dead Dont Die Poster

I’ve been a fan of Jim Jarmusch since forever. What I love most about his movies is, he doesn’t waste time and money. His stories are lean, character-driven pieces that get to the point quickly. Films like ‘Stranger Than Paradise,’ ‘Down by Law,’ and ‘Broken Flowers.’ No boring backstory, no big government conspiracy. Just people dealing with everyday shit they have no control over.

Warning—Spoilers Ahead

Not Every Zombie Story Has to Be the Apocalypse

The Dead Don’t Die’ is the director’s latest film, and it’s a hoot. We’ve got Bill Murray as the police chief of a small town who, by his own admission, should’ve retired two years ago. Adam Driver as an officer, who seems to be the only person in Centerville that seems to know they are all in a Jim Jarmusch movie. And other wonderful actors like Chloë Sevigny, Tom Waits, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Tilda Swinton, and Selena Gomez.

The script is smart and low key. Lines are repeated by different characters, giving the film an almost Sartre vibe where everyone is caught up in an existential nightmare that won’t end. Here’s an example, which each character varies a little:

What the heck was it, a wild animal? Several wild animals?

Oh, and there’s the dead. Yeah, they’re coming out of the ground like in the original ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ with at least one of them reeking of cheap chardonnay.

When the Dead Start Rising, That’s When You Know Who Your Friends Are

As things go from bad to worse, people act out in different ways. Hermit Bob keeps an eye on the proceedings from a distance, making comments like this gem:

Cliff and little Ronnie. Warriors. Among the dead. Zombies. Remnants of the materialist people.

Officer Mindy continues to freak out with each new horror. Meanwhile, Hank and Bobby have banded together to try and save the hardware store—and themselves. And good ol’ Farmer Frank goes it alone with his gun and deep-seated prejudices as he discovers all his cows and chickens have vanished. Tilda Swinton, who is always mesmerizing, is perhaps the only one who confronts the danger head-on, using a razor-sharp Katana to behead the invaders.

And some are just clueless, like the three out-of-town hipsters staying at the local motel. For some reason, Cliff and Ronnie have decided they are from Cleveland.

If You’re Going to Die, You Might as Well Have a Good Theme Song

Just so you know, everyone—and I mean everyone—in this thing dies at the end. I think Officer Ronnie said it best:

If you ask me, this whole thing is going to end badly.

Well, okay, maybe not Hermit Bob. I mean, someone has to survive to tell the story, right? But here’s the thing. If you’re going to make a movie about zombies taking over a small, peaceful town and ripping everyone to pieces, then you’d better have a good theme song.

And this movie does. The song “The Dead Don’t Die,” written and performed by Sturgill Simpson, is perfect. In fact, for those who might be squeamish about seeing so much blood and guts, you might want to purchase the tune so you can at least feel you were a part of the experience.

Fun fact: According to the credits, someone got hired as a zombie movement consultant. What a country.

Movie Details

The Greatest Zombie Cast Ever Disassembled

The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tom Waits
Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language

Three Things I Learned from ‘The Rite’

The Rite Poster

The Rite’ is a wonderfully produced movie from 2011 starring Anthony Hopkins, perhaps the only actor alive today who could drop you simply by leveling his trademarked death-stare. I saw the film a few years ago, then recently read the nonfiction book that has to do with real-life exorcist Father Gary Thomas. In that work, the journalist Matt Baglio faithfully records what happens to the Northern California priest as he attends a series of exorcisms in Italy as part of his training. If you are interested in what happens during these rituals, I suggest you take a look at that book.

But I’m here to talk about the movie, which was suggested by the book. After watching it again, three things struck me that I’d like to share.

There’s Plenty of Evil in the World
When the main character, Michael Kovak, first meets Father Lucas, the exorcist he is to observe, he encounters a young woman who has been suffering from demonic possession for a long time. It turns out her predicament is not her fault. She was raped by her father and is now carrying his child.

We read about stuff like this all the time, and what it demonstrates is, as humans, we don’t need demons making us do bad things; we are perfectly capable of being evil all by ourselves. Nevertheless, when a tragedy like this occurs, it can open the door to something even worse. As proof, you can check out the scene where the poor girl coughs up black oxide nails.

Demons Are Real—and They Have Names
In 1973, ‘The Exorcist’ showed us that demonic possession is real and that the entities doing the possessing have names. Apparently, they also have ranks. Now, as a reminder, these creatures are pure spirit; that is, they never walked the earth, and they are as old as time itself. They’re also smart, so good luck engaging in wordplay with them.

As a matter of fact, this is precisely what the young seminarian does against the priest’s orders—he tries parrying with the demon possessing the girl. Big mistake. As a result, the beast begins toying with him, getting under the young man’s skin.

Without Faith, You Are Lost
Here’s something interesting that was hinted at in the movie but is prominent in the book: many Catholic priests do not believe in the devil which, when you stop to think about it, is messed up. Have these people not read the New Testament? Anyway, just because these are modern times, that doesn’t mean the old truths don’t apply.

What’s interesting about Michael is, on the surface, it’s not so much about his lack of faith in God as it is about his refusal to believe in evil during these exorcisms. It’s almost as if it’s the demon’s mission is to prove to Michael that he exists. And of course, once the seminarian can accept that, he can then be confident in the belief that God exists.

Wrap-Up
I am a huge fan of this movie. I’ve said often that my all-time favorite horror movie is ‘The Exorcist.’ But this film is a close second. It’s intelligently written and beautifully acted and directed. And it doesn’t hurt that it was shot in Italy. If you enjoy horror that makes you think, watch ‘The Rite.’

Movie Details
American seminary student Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donaghue) travels to Italy to take an exorcism course.

Director: Mikael Håfström
Writers: Michael Petroni, Matt Baglio (book)
Stars: Colin O’Donoghue, Anthony Hopkins, Ciarán Hinds

Three Things I Learned from Ghost Story

Ghost Story Cover

I first read Peter Straub’s terrifying Ghost Story decades ago, and I recently decided to pick it up again to see if my impressions had changed. They hadn’t. The work is mesmerizing. The author has created in the fictional town of Millburn a waystation steeped in snow where people live their separate lives, oblivious to the horrid things lurking in the forest waiting to strike. Eventually, these corrupt creatures come for the hapless residents, and they are caught unawares.

In many ways, this tale of ghostly revenge is instructive in how it shows us the consequences of mistreatment people visit on one another. The town itself is filled with characters surviving in escalating degrees of guilt, and it is precisely these stains on their souls that mark the victims for the marauders intent on feeding on them.

I admire this book so much, and I wanted to share three things I learned.

Turn It Up to Eleven
If you’re going to get revenge, it’s better if, instead of concentrating on a few elderly townsfolk, you turn it up to eleven and destroy the whole town. The chief villain who is known by many names—all of them with the initials AM—is going to do just that. And, like the author, she proceeds to instruct her victims in the ways of the occult and the reasons why they must die. Fortunately, because of the combined bravery of Ricky Hawthorne, Peter Barnes, and Don Wanderly, the monster’s coup de grâce cannot be delivered. Good effort, though.

Make Sure There’s Plenty of Guilt to Go Around
Stories in which the innocent are slaughtered like sheep are not fun, in my view. But take a town full of characters who have done everything from the despicable to the merely annoying and go after them—now you’ve got something. Of course, the Chowder Society members are the worst, because they caused a young woman’s death (well, she looked like a young woman, Officer) and literally buried the evidence. Then add a crazed farmer who is forever suing people and seeing Martians, a drunken shell of a sheriff, and a wife who would rather have sex with just about every other man in town than stay home. Plenty of ammunition for a vengeful, murderous, supernatural being, wouldn’t you agree?

Make the Ghost Something Else
This last point speaks to Straub’s brilliance. He could’ve done as Henry James did in The Turn of the Screw and delivered a good old-fashioned vengeful spirit. But he went one better—he created a being—or, God help us, a race of beings—that have occupied the planet for thousands of years, and enjoy feeding not only on people’s flesh but on their fears. For me, that’s what sends this novel over the top. Because you can’t just cower inside a circle of salt, holding up a crucifix. These things are real, my friend.

If you haven’t had a chance to read Ghost Story, I suggest you grab a copy and prepare not to sleep. And while you’re at it, check out the movie, which was released in 1981 and features the esteemed Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, and John Houseman.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
#1 New York Times bestselling author Peter Straub’s classic tale of horror, secrets, and the dangerous ghosts of the past…

What was the worst thing you’ve ever done?

In the sleepy town of Milburn, New York, four old men gather to tell each other stories—some true, some made-up, all of them frightening. A simple pastime to divert themselves from their quiet lives.

But one story is coming back to haunt them and their small town. A tale of something they did long ago. A wicked mistake. A horrifying accident. And they are about to learn that no one can bury the past forever…

Where to Buy
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Three Things I Learned from ‘100 Bloody Acres’

100 Bloody Acres Poster

I finally got a chance to catch ‘100 Bloody Acres,’ a hilarious horror movie from Australia that was released in 2012. As of this writing, it’s free for Amazon Prime members. If, like me, you are a fan of ‘Motel Hell’ and ‘Delicatessen,’ then you might enjoy this madcap take on the hitchhiker horror trope that features three millennials headed to a music festival and two sketchy brothers who manufacture a special blend, organic fertilizer. Pardon the reference, but here’s some food for thought.

Never Accept a Ride When the Back of the Truck Smells Funny
This is a given. Yet, three hapless travelers, whose car has broken down, decide to accept a ride from Reg Morgan, who is “making a delivery.” That’s right, air quotes. As in most horror movies, Sophie, James, and Wes ignore all the signs and merrily plod on. Usually, this is a hallmark of a plot-driven story. On the other hand, if they didn’t just go with it, the movie would have ended right after the opening credits, and we’d miss all the fun.

Nevertheless, know this: if you should find yourself on a lonely, backwoods road, and a guy offers you a ride in his truck that happens to have a dead animal (and possibly something else) in the back, take a pass. No good ever comes from roadkill. And for crying out loud, if you do decide to brave it out, do not for the love of all that is good and holy take acid to enhance the experience.

Knocking the Bad Guy Out Never Works
One of the oldest movie tropes—and this doesn’t just go for horror—features the hero knocking out the bad guy with a gun or a club, then gleefully running away. Repeat after me: this never works. If you don’t have the stomach to finish off the villain, then at least tie him up so he can’t wake up and come after you again.

And as long as you’re being thorough, take his weapon away. The characters who do not follow this advice once again betray a plot-driven movie, but in this case, the story is so comical, I didn’t mind. I suppose you could argue that when in a situation like this, you’re not thinking straight. Well, of course, you aren’t—you just took acid, you moron!

Surprise! Love Conquers All
To add to the hilarity, ‘100 Bloody Acres’ features a love triangle between Sophie, James, and Wes. Apparently, the girl is searching for something more in a relationship and, though she is technically “with” James, she’s been carrying on with Wes on the sly. But even that dalliance isn’t enough for her.

I won’t spoil the ending for you. Suffice it to say that love—or lust—really does conquer all. And speaking of endings, the interplay between all the characters sets this movie apart. Now, go watch. Hey, does anybody notice a weird smell in here?

Logline
Reg and Lindsay run an organic fertiliser business. They need a fresh supply of their “secret ingredient” to process through the meat grinder. Reg comes across two guys and a girl with a broken-down vehicle on their way to a music festival.

The Girl in the Mirror—Official Teaser Trailer

Teaser trailer for The Girl in the Mirror, a Sarah Greene Mystery.

Check out the teaser trailer for my new supernatural suspense novel, The Girl in the Mirror. This is the first book in my new Sarah Greene Mysteries series, and I couldn’t be more excited. Enjoy!

Book Description

While renovating an old house with her ex-husband, Sarah Greene finds a mirror that holds the spirit of a dead girl. As she learns more about the people who built Casa Abrigo—and about their demon-worshiping son—Sarah comes to believe the girl did not die a natural death, and she sets out to discover the truth. But prying into someone’s sketchy past can be risky, especially when it awakens dangerous dark forces.

More information here. Coming summer 2019.

 

Halloween Treats—23 Women Horror Authors

23 Great Women Horror Authors

Okay, I thought this was such a great find, I had to share it. Check out this post from Literary Hub. By golly, I think I just hit the motherlode!

It’s finally October, which as we all know is officially the spookiest month—and thus the perfect moment to brush up on your literary horror bookshelf. Sure, it’s really on-brand for the season, but sometimes it actually is nice to accompany the new chills in the air with some new chills in your reading list. Horror writing is traditionally overrun by zombies men, but in recent years (and if you think about it, all along) women have been exploding the genre, writing entertaining, immersive, frightening novels and stories that run the gamut from high-brow, award-winning literary horror to bloody, murky genre masterpieces. So if you’re not sure where to start this season, here are a few recommendations of great writers of horror (the genre admittedly here broadly defined) to get you started. Of course, this is by no means a definitive list—one has to stop somewhere, lest the madness descend. On that note, please feel free to add on in the comments section.

Mary Shelley
Start with: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Most obvious (and most venerable) first. With the staunch prominence of male writers in the genre, it’s easy to forget that one of the earliest and best horror novels was written 200 years ago by a teenage girl showing off for her boyfriend and their friends. I’d say she won that famous campfire competition of who could tell the best horror story by a significant margin—unless you count what happened to Percy’s heart after his death. Actually, that was probably her story too, so she wins twice.

lauren beukes broken monstersLauren Beukes
Start with: Broken Monsters

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South African writer Beukes is one of the biggest names in contemporary horror right now, and for good reason: her novels are intelligent, fast-paced, and leave you with that horrible sick feeling—you know, the one you read horror novels for. For me it was a toss-up between Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls, but considering I locate the nexus of horror in the Internet right now, I’d say start with the former, which opens with the discovery of a body in Detroit: a young boy, whose lower half has been cut off and replaced with that of a deer’s.

Tananarive Due my soul to keepTananarive Due
Start with: My Soul to Keep

“What I think readers should understand,” the beloved and brilliant Due said in an interview, “[is that] it’s not just that I like to scare people, although I do like to scare people, because I myself get scared, but I’m trying to take things that are not real, at least to me.”

I have not experienced—I have not had a ghost encounter, for example. So these are not experiences from my life. These are nightmare scenarios that actually act as metaphors for the real-life horrible things that happen to us every day.

All of us on this journey are going to sustain losses, and some of them are going to be quite, quite devastating. And I’ve always felt so ill-prepared for that. I think I decided to write about nightmare scenarios so often, really, to create characters who can walk me through the process. “This is what you do when your world falls apart.” And every book is sort of a re-examination of how all of us and all these characters have to triumph over whatever life throws at us.

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

Tell Me When I’m Dead—Back to School Sale

TMWID Cover eBook Quote (Small)

 

Just a quick announcement to let you know that Tell Me When I’m Dead is on sale from August 13th through the 19th. So, if you love zombies and mayhem and haven’t yet read this novel, then now is your chance to get it on the cheap.

Normally, this book is $4.99, but during the sale, you can get it for a cool $1.99.

What Critics Are Saying
“The zombie genre has exploded in recent years, and unfortunately, so many similar stories have begun to run together, making it less of a desirable avenue for both writers and readers. However, there is still hope for this genre niche in the form of Tell Me When I’m Dead by Steven Ramirez. The first book in a trilogy, this slow-burning thriller does far more than simply promote an everyman into a zombie-killing hero, introducing readers to a uniquely compelling protagonist.” — Self-Publishing Review

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

“The sense of pace in Tell Me When I’m Dead is impressive, Ramirez building the suspense and stakes with skill, and ensuring that you care about the characters at the heart of events. As a lead character, Dave is layered, with a compelling backstory and an admirably drawn humanity. He’s not your run-of-the-mill horror hero, and his decisions are believable yet at times unexpected, keeping the reader on their toes and ensuring that this isn’t a predictable tale in the slightest. Chilling, pulse racing, and hugely compelling, Ramirez has brought something new to a popular genre.” — The Bookbag

Tell Me When I’m Dead—Time for the Free Stuff!

TMWID Cover eBook Quote (Small)

I’ll make this short and sweet. I am giving away five paperback copies of Tell Me When I’m Dead (Second Edition). And all you have to do is visit my Facebook page. While you’re there, could you also give it a Like?

Enter now for a chance to win a copy of what Self-Publishing Review said is “a gritty, pulse-pounding read” and “an original and well-rounded work of zombie fiction.”

Good luck!

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Tell Me When I’m Dead New Edition Cover Reveal

Forget world events for a second, people. The big question of the day is, what in the world have I been spending my time on for the past six months? Don’t worry, it’s good news. Late last year, I decided to create a second edition of my horror thriller trilogy, Tell Me When I’m Dead. That means updated chapters and (wait for it) new covers! Also, I am finally creating print versions of the books for those of you who prefer the feel of paper to an eReader.

I plan to release the books in July, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the new covers. I hope you love them as much as I do. Ready? Here goes.

Book One—Tell Me When I’m Dead

TMWID Cover Reveal

“As Dave’s life slowly starts to unravel, and the body count continues to grow higher through the help of an unknown virus, he is left with a gruesome choice: either wallow in his sorrows or stay alive. In this thrilling novel, Ramirez details an antihero’s struggles for family and love, and to find beauty in a world ruled by the dead.” — Readers’ Favorite

Thanks to Holly, a beautiful, strong-willed woman, recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski is getting his life together. Then, a plague decimates the town, turning its victims into shrieking flesh-eaters who hunt the living. Now Dave, Holly, and a band of soldiers must kill the living and the dead to survive. But Dave is this close to drinking again. A woman he cheated with—and no longer human—is after him. The hordes of undead are growing, and the beleaguered security forces are far outnumbered. Hell has arrived in Tres Marias.

Book Two—Dead Is All You Get

DIAYG Cover Reveal

“Dead Is All You Get is cunningly plotted, and the author uses suspense to deepen the quality of horror as he creates scenes that make the reader feel like something could go wrong at any moment. A lot happens in this story, and the pacing is fast and the action intense. The writing is filled with enjoyable and engaging dialogue that enhances the reading experience of this gripping story. Great prose, sophisticated characters, and a very clever plot.” — Readers’ Favorite

After months of fighting the hordes of undead ravaging the town of Tres Marias, Dave Pulaski and his wife, Holly, catch a break when Black Dragon Security suddenly shows up to rescue them. But things are about to get worse. The virus is mutating, and the infected are getting smarter. Then, while struggling to protect Holly and those closest to him, Dave discovers the truth behind the contagion—a revelation that will drive him past the limits of faith and reason.

Book Three—Even The Dead Will Bleed

ETDWB Cover Reveal

“This action-packed zombie gore-fest is not for the faint of heart as carnage and rising body counts are described in stomach churning, gruesome detail, but at no point is character development sacrificed. There is a perfect balance of character growth and development, action, intrigue, and suspense that will keep the reader hooked from the first page to the ultimate conclusion. I’ve read my fair share of zombie style books, and this one certainly stands up there with the best. It’s not your run-of-the-mill, mass-produced, zombie book; rather, it is intricately designed, well executed, imaginative, and plausible.” — Readers’ Favorite

Dave Pulaski is headed to Los Angeles to kill Walt Freeman, the man responsible for the out-of-control human experiments that devastated his hometown of Tres Marias. But the mission goes sideways when Dave decides to rescue Sasha, a Russian girl who escaped Walt’s secret testing facility. Now, pursued by a ruthless, ex-military sociopath working for Walt and by scientifically engineered humans who flay their victims alive, chances are good that Dave will die before he can save the girl.

Book Review—Pocketful of Bones

Pocketful of Bones Cover

Pocketful of Bones is a quiet story in the way Psycho and The Lottery are quiet. At least, that’s what I was thinking as I made my way through this marvelous and absorbing tale of villains, victims, and valentines. Maybe unsettling is a better description. One minute, someone is having a conversation, and the next, they are dead. And it’s hard to know where you stand with well-drawn characters like Tibba and Finny because, at times, someone can at a moment’s notice turn from victim to villain. And someone who you thought might be conniving turns out to be sweet and loyal.

For me, the best thing about the novel was, I really didn’t know what to expect. For the record, I’ve had my fill of serial killers. So, as the bodies piled up in Pocketful of Bones, I was surprised at the logic and—dare I suggest it?—the correctness of it. The story unfolds as though Fate itself were guiding mother and son to their inescapable destinies. And along the way, they planted the annuals. In short, they were born for this.

If you’re looking for a satisfying read that both perplexes and horrifies in a Canadian sort of way, I suggest you read this book. And remember: anyone is capable of murder; some see it as just another tool in the toolbox.

You can find this review at Goodreads.

Book Description
Finnegan MacGillivray, red-haired, freckle-faced social pariah, finds solace in his mother’s garden while she entertains “dates” in his home. When an accident takes the life of a friend, Finnegan buries the evidence amid the purple dead nettle and bougainvillea, and unearths a treasure trove of human remains. Did his house rest atop an ancient burial ground? Or was there a killer tucking him into bed at night?

His fascination with bones grows as fast as his obsession with his mother. She rejects his advances, and he escapes to the other side of the country. Years later, he returns to his childhood home, to the secrets and the guilt and the bones — and to fulfill his destiny.

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