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Posts Tagged ‘gross out’

Book Review: Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Purple and white face with large eyes and open mouth that looks frightened. Book title and author's name are written over it.Summary:
A bunch of people sign up, individually, for a writer’s retreat. Telling no one where they’re going, they vow to write the next great American novel. They wind up locked away in the opposite of the lap of luxury, however. Trapped in a dusty old theater, they quickly become focused on an entirely different type of story.  What happens to these writers is interspersed with poetry about each person and short stories written by each of them while locked in the retreat.

Review:
I am a huge Palahniuk fan. Fight Club spoke to me when I was at my late teens most intense angst that is indescribable.  To this day, I view the book (and the movie) as exemplary artforms that demonstrate how genre literature can say something incredibly serious and deep.  I also point to Palahniuk as a way to say that vulgarity and horror do not equate to bad writing.  All of which is to say, I’m pretty biased toward being a fan of anything Palahniuk does.  Just so you’re aware.

I struggle with short story collections. I like them to be all connected somehow, even if it’s just by theme, so at first I really liked the idea of a collection of short stories written by people at a writer’s retreat.  It’s a good idea, but it’s not executed very well.  The short stories are awesome! The connecting bits of narrative aren’t so much.  Basically, the writers decide that they should spin what happens at the retreat to be as horrible as possible to help get a movie deal out of it after the fact. So they focus on twisting the facts and committing atrocities against themselves and each other to make for a better story.  I totally got what is being said about writers procrastinating by making drama in their own lives instead of actually writing.  I liked that part. But there also wasn’t enough realness in the connecting bits to keep me interested.  I found myself dreading them whereas I really enjoyed the short stories, which made for an uneven reading experience.

One of the short stories contained in this collection is Palahniuk’s famous “Guts.” The one that makes people faint.  (Palahniuk has made it available online for free here).  This was definitely the best short story in the collection, and I can see why it became so famous.  It also sets the tone for a lot of the stories in the collection. There’s one with people randomly getting smashed in a city. There’s also one about the possible origins of the Sasquatch myth.  My second favorite after “Guts” was actually about an inn near a hot springs in the mountains.  That one grossed me out *almost* as much as “Guts,” and also had something deeper to say, I think.  All of this is to say that if you read and enjoyed “Guts,” you’ll like the short stories in this collection.  They’re gross, horrifying, and stick with you.

Overall, it’s an interesting idea for unifying a short story collection.  Ultimately, though, I would have liked it better as a straight-up short story collection, maybe even including the writer’s retreat as a short story by itself.  This fact might make me rate the book lower, but the inclusion of so many high quality short stories keeps the book itself rating highly.  Grab this if you’ve read and enjoyed “Guts.”

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: Brookline Booksmith

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Movie Review: The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)

October 26, 2010 4 comments

View of people and limbs through a glass.Summary:
Two American girls on a road trip through Europe get a flat tire late at night in Germany.  They walk to find help, and stumble upon the residence of Dr. Heiter, a first-class surgeon who separates Siamese twins.  He promptly kidnaps them, along with an unfortunate Japanese tourist, and announces to them that they will become part of a first-time experiment.  He will fuse them together mouth to anus to create the human centipede.

Review:
This independent film mixes two great horror movie classics–kidnapping and a deranged doctor–and combines them into a great idea.  It doesn’t quite attain the heights such a great idea should have, but I can easily see it becoming a cult classic.

Dieter Laser, who plays Dr. Leiter, does an excellent job.  His facial expressions are magnificently creepy.  He is actually German, so his German is perfect, as well as his German accent.  Akihiro Kitamura’s performance was also well-done, particularly given that he mostly just gets to yell in Japanese and whimper.  The actresses who play the two girls–Ashley C. Williams and Ashlyn Yennie–have painfully annoying voices.  It was a blessing that they were the two end sections of the human centipede, because it shut them up.

Given how incredibly idiotic and annoying the two girls are in the beginning of the film, I can’t help but suspect that the writer was trying to make us feel less sympathy for them.  Possibly with the hope that it would soften the blow of the gross idea?  Maybe.

As far as the grossness inherent in three people being sewed together mouth to anus, they could have taken it much further than they did in the film.  Only bits and pieces of the operation are shown, and the human centipede wears bandages so strategically that you don’t really see much of the actual connection.  It’s more about the viewer imagining it than actually seeing it.  Although the scene where the front unit of the human centipede (the Japanese man, Katsuro) must first *ahem* use the restroom post-surgery is quite gross, it is simultaneously hilarious.  If you have a bit of a quirky sense of humor, the horror and gross-out factors of this film are greatly lessened.  In fact, I found The Fly to be much more disturbing and disgusting than this film.

Overall, if you enjoy gross-out, B-level horror films, you will have a fun time watching this movie.  It’s short, interesting, and different.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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Movie Review: Slither (2006)

August 19, 2010 3 comments

Woman in bathtub surrounded by slugs.Summary:
When an asteroid comes to a small, southern US town, it brings with it alien slug-like creatures who infest a local man.  His wife is the first to notice something askew, but not before the slugs manage to impregnante a local woman.  Can she and the golden-hearted sherriff save the day?

Review:
The two most important things to know about this movie are: 1) It was written and directed by James Gunn Dawn of the Dead and 2) the part of the sherriff is played by Nathan Fillion of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog fame.  Fans of either absolutely must watch this movie, particularly fans of Fillion as there’s nothing quite like watching him face slugs.  That said, I can’t tell if this movie was actually trying to be scary.  It certainly isn’t scary at all.  It is deliciously disgusting and hilarious, however.  It kind of reminds me of Killer Klowns from Outer Spaceonly with slugs and a woman who looks like Cartman at his fattest because she’s so full of alien spawn.  If that sort of thing is up your alley, you’re going to enjoy this movie.

Probably the best part of this movie, besides watching Fillion, is the special effects.  The slugs look totally believable, and as the husband becomes more taken over by the aliens, he looks increasingly like Brundle in The Fly.  Plus the slugs naturally do all sorts of disgusting things and the effects aren’t the type that take you out of the gross-out moment.  

My main gripes with the film are that the husband is kind of miscast.  It’s really not believable that his wife ever married him to start with.  He at least needed a better looking face or something.  Plus his acting prior to all the special effects taking place is kind of iffy.  I also wished the slugs had wreaked a bit more havoc prior to entering the bodies whereupon we can’t see them anymore.  They were cool to look at.

Overall, you’re going to enjoy this film if you enjoy B-level, gross-out horror.  It’s not up the level of The Fly, but it is a fun watch. 

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Netflix

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Book Review: Slither by Edward Lee

June 28, 2010 4 comments

Woman wrapped up in a giant pink worm.Summary:
Nora and Loren are polychaetologists–worm scientists.  They are asked by their college to accompany a National Geographic photographer to an island off the coast of Florida to help her photograph a rare worm.  They are accompanied by a member of the military, as it is an island that is unused military property.  Also coming surreptitiously to the island are two criminal brothers and their mutual girlfriend to check on their pot growing operation and a group of four college students looking to party.  What they don’t know is that the island is gradually becoming infested with a parasitic worm.  Only this worm isn’t microscopic.  It’s huge and has multiple, gruesome ways of using its hosts.  As the various groups try frantically to avoid the worms and their ova, it seems that someone in toxin-blocking suits is watching them.

Review:
I originally picked this book up and read its blurb because of the cover.  I mean, look at that!  Such a striking piece of art.  Upon reading the description, I decided it sounded a bit like a slightly more phallic Michael Crichton-esque book.  In a way, it certainly is.  It has the group with scientists attempting to solve a situation that is putting civilians at risk.  The similarities kind of end there, however.

This is definitely a horror book, but I wouldn’t call it a scientific horror book.  There’s nothing particularly plausible about any of it.  I’d absolutely classify it more as the B-type movie gross-out fest.  Lee does the gross-out part well.  I found myself continually surprised and disgusted by the various things the worms do to human beings.  The worms are…well, they’re so gross that it took me a bit longer than usual to read this book because I couldn’t read it right before bed or while I was eating.  So he’s definitely good at that!

The book blurb hints at exciting sexual tension, but the sex veers much more strongly toward sexual abuse or gross sex than fun, crazy sex.  I didn’t particularly find this bothersome, although a bit sad for the characters.  However, I know some readers find that triggering, so you should be aware.

I enjoy watching B films with silly effects and bad dialogue, but it’s a lot more tedious to read awful dialogue than it is to hear it, for some reason.  The dialogue really, truly is atrocious.  Particularly bad is when Nora talks or thinks.  It’s like Lee has never been around a nerdy woman in his life.  It’s not much better when he’s writing anyone’s thoughts.  They all have the most inane thoughts I’ve ever read.  This actually was so tedious to get through that I almost gave up on the book a few times in the beginning.  I’m glad I didn’t, because the end is absolutely a surprise.  Not so much in the who survives sense, but in the mystery of the worms.  It was a satisfying payoff, but I wish he’d either gotten to it sooner.

I feel that overall this is a decent horror book.  It’s entirely possible that the beginning just didn’t jive with me, but would with others.  I recommend it to fans of gross out horror who don’t mind flimsy dialogue.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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