Victor LaValle’s The Changeling (Book Review)

Although Penguin Random House classifies The Changeling by Victor LaValle as “Literary Fiction” and “Contemporary Fantasy,” LaValle’s book doesn’t fit neatly into either  genre. The novel defines itself in its first line: “This fairy tale begins in 1968 during a garbage strike” (3). While modern audiences may have become accustomed to seeing Hans Christian Andersen’s tales in their sanitized Disney form, LaValle, as well as the characters in The Changeling, work to return fairy tales to their visceral origins, packed with social commentary while incorporating technology and addressing race.

LaValle’s protagonist, Apollo Kwaga, is a rare and antiquarian bookseller and for the first one-hundred pages or so, his life is mundane. The only hints of a supernatural world emerging in the opening pages are seen in pictures texted to his wife Emma that mysteriously disappear before she can show them to Apollo. They have their first child, and Emma suffers from something that looks very much like postpartum depression; however, something shocking happens, forcing Apollo into a new, much darker, magical world…

Read the rest at Spectator and Spooks!

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Birds of Prey (Short Fiction) via Entropy

Entropy picked up my story “Birds of Prey.” Check out this excerpt, and if you like it continue reading here.

Since Sarah had had Travis, her mother had called every day. Sometimes two or three times a day. “I hope you’ve decided to do the right thing about your job?”  “Do you need help with the baby?” “I’m an expert.” Her voice was nasally in person, and the static from her phone exaggerated it. Her mother was indisputably experienced, but she’d shipped her six kids off to swimming practice every night so she could “cook dinner,” but the only smell in the house was the chlorine dripping off Sarah and her siblings when they got back from their nightly swimming lessons. Her mother was calling again, but Sarah declined. She’d had enough for one day and Dave was out of town on business. The last thing she needed was more stress.

She popped in her headphones and sock hopped from Travis’s nursery to the laundry room, swaying to Frank Sinatra’s “Witchcraft.” She was shoveling wet clothing from the washer to the dryer when the first knock came.

There were three frame shaking clunks, like a man battering on the door. She paused the music and headed down the stairs. She wasn’t expecting anyone. The floorboards creaked and groaned under her weight.

What’s that at the door? Who’s there? Find out at Entropy!

Han Kang’s Human Acts Review via Spectator and Spooks

Human Acts, Han Kang’s second novel translated into English (and 6th overall), is breathtakingly good. Its opening follows Dong-Ho from a close second-person perspective and slowly reveals to the reader that he is surrounded by the bodies of those who were killed in the brutal put-down of the Gwangju Uprising, a real demonstration in South Korea where paratroopers opened fire on protesters. Dong Ho is helping families find the bodies of their loved ones and helping the other volunteers dispose of the unclaimed.  Kang writes that Dong-Ho is young enough that his “PE jacket is buttoned up to the top,” cleverly showing with that detail that he’s much too young to be helping families identify corpses. There are so many dead in the city that they cannot perform individual ceremonies for each of them.

Continue reading at Spectator and Spooks.

The Belko Experiment is Chaotic Fun That Needs a Peer Review via Wicked Horror

The Belko Experiment opens with Michael Milch (John Gallagher Jr., 10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush) driving through a market in Bogotá, Columbia. Two little boys in skull masks are playing. A third boy in a creepier mask stares Michael down. He looks back at the boy, and an old man selling safety charms pounds on the opposite window, jolting Michael and the audience. He buys a charm and the opening montage starts introducing the other characters to José Prieto’s upbeat, Spanish cover of “I Will Survive.”

Continue reading at Wicked Horror.

Get Out And See Jordan Peele’s First Movie in Theaters (Movie Review) via Wicked Horror

Get Out marks Jordan Peele’s — known for his role in the phenomenal sketch comedy Key and Peele — feature length directorial debut. It’s shocking how well he does as he writes and directs this excellent film. It was clear from his comedy that Peele was talented, but his transition from one side of the camera to the other is flawless. Get Out opens with a young Black man (credited as Keith Stanfield, now going by Lakeith Stanfield) walking down the street in a hedge-filled suburb, quipping to someone on the other end of his phone that he “sticks out like a sore thumb.” A car passes him driving in the opposite direction and he tenses but keeps walking. The car makes a u-turn, and the camera swings around with it, following the car while simultaneously framing Stanfield’s face in the center of the shot. It’s technically dazzling, and puts the audience in the head of the character as he reacts. The people in my packed early screening collectively gasped. The dread was palpable before the opening credits had rolled.

Keep reading at Wicked Horror!

Don’t Knock Twice (Movie Review) via Wicked Horror

Caradog W. James’s third movie Don’t Knock Twice follows a mother and the daughter, separated by social services, reconnecting after the daughter summons an angry demon. While the cast’s résumés speak for themselves (Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica plays the mother, while Lucy Boynton of The Blackcoat’s Daughter and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House plays daughter Chloe) the demon is, hands down, the best part of the movie.

In The Conjuring and Insidious series, James Wan’s demons play games with the audience. The music builds to a climax before a character opens a closet. And then it’s empty. Four seconds later the character turns around. Boom. There’s a ghost in their face. The audience jumps. Don’t Knock Twice refines that by having the demon play games with the characters instead of the audience. Early on, Chloe and Danny (Jordan Bolger) are video chatting. Chloe hears a knock on the door and gets up. The audience watches through the Chloe’s webcam as the demon visits Danny without a witness.

What is the witch’s goal in The Conjuring when she jumps out at the characters? It seems that she’s only trying to scare them, which is dull after the initial jolt. What is the demon in Don’t Knock Twice accomplishing by jumping out? Well, it depends on the scene. Sometimes it’s herding characters away from their protectors, others luring guardians away. In most scenes, it’s clear that the demon is working with a strategy, which is a terrifying concept that the film executes wonderfully.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!