Mama is Now an Audiobook!

For those of you who have been waiting for Mama by Robin Morris to become an audiobook, your wait is over! Check it out on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes!

Mama Audio

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Is anybody out there?

Every day I get notices that there are new registrations on this blog. Are there any real people out there, or are they just spammers? I block spam comments, is there any way to keep spammers from registering?

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Purge This

 

thepurge412f

The recent film “The Purge” features one of the most rare things in modern cinema: a new idea. An idea that hasn’t been remade, rebooted, or reimagined. An idea that we haven’t seen in a bazillion other movies.

The idea is that in a not-too-distant future, a legal holiday is held once a year that allows anyone to commit any crime for a set period of twelve hours. Police, firefighters, and ambulance crews are unavailable during that time. No one is arrested, fires are left burning, and no one is taken to the hospital. This holiday has been declared by the sinister-sounding “New Founding Fathers.”

The scariest part about this idea is that it is only about a half-step crazier than some of the things that real politicians have proposed in the last few years.

So, even though the movie starts with a happy family preparing to celebrate this holiday by arming their elaborate security system and preparing to ignore any screams they hear from outside the house, it is already twisted and uncomfortable before any mayhem starts. The fact that people are treating this collective insanity as normal and wholesome makes the story feel wrong from the first shot.

Now, logically I would argue that The Purge couldn’t happen quite the way it is depicted. A fire could burn down most of a city in twelve hours, and once the purge ends firefighters could be battling that fire for days afterwards. Who is responsible for property damage and lives lost when the fire was started under The Purge but continues after it is over? Similarly, what about people who are attacked and beaten legally under The Purge, but survive? Do they get normal medical care after The Purge? Does their insurance count Purge-related injuries as a pre-existing condition? Hospitals would have to be barricaded during The Purge so people wouldn’t force their way in and force the staff to treat them. Every ER would be surrounded by corpses and injured people the morning after. Who bears the cost of treating the ones who can be saved and burying the ones who can’t?

Anyway, the youngest member of the happy family who are cowering behind their expensive security system commits the one unforgivable sin during The Purge; he helps someone. He hears a scream from the streets and lets a man into the house who is being hunted by a gang of local youths as they celebrate their legal and moral right to Purge by murdering everyone they can find.

What follows is pretty damn scary. The leader of the youths is scarier without his Halloween mask than he is with it. The insanity in his smile when he claims his right to murder reflects the insanity of his whole society.

As a practical matter, I would propose that the expensive security system needs some offensive capabilities. A few rifle ports, allowing the family to pick off the youths from the comfort of their home before the attackers can tear down the defenses, would be useful.

A sort-of twist near the end shows that rambunctious youth are not the only ones who take advantage of The Purge. The Purge is a sickness that forms the basis of the whole society.

It is stated at the beginning that police and government officials cannot be legally murdered during The Purge. A news report also questions whether the holiday is just a way to get rid of the poor. These are stated only briefly, but a big part of the chill of the film, at least for me, is not the slaughter on the streets but the government that allows it.

Since “The Purge” was made for three million dollars and pulled in many times that amount, the inevitable sequel has already been announced. “The Purge 2″ and all other sequels will no longer have a new idea, and I suspect all the thoughts and satire about the government and how close we are to such a system even now will drain away and leave each new film as a chronicle of blood and nothing else.

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Robin Morris is the author of Mama and Halloween Sky and Other Nightmares. Look for them on Amazon.com, BN.com, and other ebook markets.

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The Evil Dead are Evil. And Dead. And Stuff.

“The Evil Dead” is one of those no-budget classic horror movies that inspired a zillion other movies and launched its director into a film career. Sam Raimi is now making mega-budget mega-hits for big studios, though along the way he remade his first film as “Evil Dead 2″ and made a sequel, “Army of Darkness.” Oh, and also brought Hercules and Xena to TV.

So why would anyone want to remake those early movies when they have been remade and sequeled already? Why do movie studios make so many remakes these days, throwing big budgets at no-budget originals? Because they can, and remaking is easier than making.

“Evil Dead,” dropping “The” and “2,” is actually better than I expected. Probably because Raimi himself got involved and made them do it right. If this was a new movie, not a remake, I would call it wildly original and possibly pretty darn good. Since I rented the REAL Evil Dead movies on VHS in the ’80′s and 90′s, I kinda feel like I been there done that.

I would like to credit the writers of this version with coming up with a serious answer to the question, “Why don’t they leave when things start to get weird, instead of waiting until the car won’t start and/or the bridge is out?” These young people are not out in the woods for a weekend of sex and booze, they are helping a friend and have a reason to stick it out. The writers also have an interesting idea, with demonic possession as a metaphor for drug addiction.

Last year, Joss Whedon’s brilliant “The Cabin in the Woods” parodied this kind of movie, so not only have we seen this plot many times, we’ve seen movies that make fun of this plot. There is one big surprise at the end of the new “Evil Dead.” The character that ends up being the most Ash-like, the most like Bruce Campbell’s character in the REAL Evil Dead movies, is not only female, but for most of the movie she is, well, I don’t want to spoil it, so I will just refer you to the title.

This version could have used Bruce Campbell, even if he didn’t play Ash. If, say, Sam Axe from “Burn Notice” was in the cabin he would have sorted everything out in short order and then sat back and had a beer. I saw that Bruce got a producer credit in the titles, so I hope that means he got a chunk of the big budget. Even without him onscreen, the new actors are acceptable. I was in a big enough audience that I heard a lot of reactions to the most disgusting parts, so on the level of grossing people out, Evil Dead still has the chops.

 

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Mama vs. Mama

This image is from the Universal Pictures film Mama, directed by Andy Muschietti and produced by Guillermo del Toro. Andy and Barbara Muschietti created a three minute short several years ago, and del Toro offered to help them make it into a feature film.This is the cover of the novel Mama by yours truly. It has been available on Amazon and other ebook outlets since May 2011. Sales were regular but not great until suddenly in December of 2012 they started to shoot up. I searched for the cause but couldn’t find a new review or mention on a blog or anything. Then someone on the Kindleboards.com forum suggested that people were searching for the title of a movie that was coming out and discovering my book in the process.

In January of 2013 I had my best sales month ever. One enthusiastic reader found my Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/RobinRM?fref=ts When I asked her how she found the book she said she was looking on Amazon.com to see if there was a book on which the movie was based. Since there is no such book, she found mine instead. And she really liked it.

So I assume a lot of other people did the same thing and then bought my book. I have had one new five star review on Amazon since the sales boost started.

I finally saw the movie yesterday. It came out a few weeks ago, but my finances didn’t allow me to go until then. I liked it quite a bit. It works best as the mystery builds of who and what Mama is. One especially effective scene has the younger girl, name Lily, playing tug of war with a blanket in the bedroom. You can’t see who is pulling on the other end of the blanket but you assume it’s the older girl, named Victoria. Then Victoria walks into the hallway while the tug of war game in the bedroom is still going on. All of this is in one long shot so there is no possibility that Victoria is in the bedroom.

This is what I call a “goosebumps moment.” It gives the audience a chill. This is different than a jump scare, where something happens suddenly, accompanied by loud music or sound effects. Mama has some of those too, but I find them less scary than goosebumps moments. To create goosebumps you don’t need CGI or any kind of special effects. For the tug of war scene, just have a crew member holding the other end of the blanket in the bedroom where he or she can’t be seen. Then have the girl playing Victoria walk into the hallway. The audience’s imagination does the rest.

Andy (Actually Andrés, I wonder who decided he should use an Americanized first name) and Barbara Muschietti live in Spain, I think. I found a lot of publicity about the movie online but not a bio of the Muschiettis. Their short shows the two girls running from a scary Mama figure who is clearly CGI, but she is seen so briefly that you can’t take in exactly who or what she is. (The title of the short is actually Mama with an accent over the second a. I couldn’t figure out how to create that on my computer. I can get é but when I try for a with an accent I get å.)

The feature version overdoes the CGI, if you ask me. The more you see of Mama the less scary she is. It also gives her a sympathetic backstory, and once we feel sympathy for her we can’t see her completely as a monster. Sure, she was batshit crazy even when alive, but when a mother is searching for her baby, you can’t help but feel for her.

By the end we see Mama in full for quite a while, and she is less scary than pathetic and confused. At least the movie has the courage to fake us out with the ending we expect, then go with an ending we don’t expect. I won’t spoil it, but Mama does redeem herself in the scariness department at the very end.

If the movie didn’t give you enough maternal horror, check out my book, which has absolutely no connection to the movie. My Mama haunted my subconscious for many years. A few years ago I drove the route that the Conover family takes in the book, through Nevada, Arizona and Utah, then into Colorado. The locations and descriptions are exactly what I saw on that trip. Mama is a gift from my subconscious to yours, I hope she will give you some uncomfortable dreams after you read the book.

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All about the movie “Mama.”

 

I haven’t seen the movie “Mama” yet. It’s not in theaters until the 18th of January. I will see it and review it here when it comes out. But it’s mere existence may be helping me out. My book, also titled “Mama,” has picked up in sales quite a bit recently. I also see that this blog has had more visitors than usual. Can it be that people are searching for the movie and finding my book instead? If so, I plan to take full advantage of it. I am not above riding the coattails of a movie that coincidentally has the same title as my book.

So if you are looking for Guillermo del Toro’s movie “Mama” and find yourself here on my blog, please consider my book “Mama.” See the movie, then go home and buy an ebook or print copy of “Mama” the book. You will enjoy two fine horror stories with no connection except for the title and a scary mother figure in the story. The ebook is available at Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Mama-ebook/dp/B004ZG85SO or at BN.com at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mama-robin-morris/1102269787?ean=2940011308260 or at Apple or Kobo or a number of other places. For a print copy, you will have to visit Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Mama-Robin-Morris/dp/1468196987

Come back here after the movie opens for a review and another shameless attempt to cash in on all the publicity that is being put out by Universal Studios.

 

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Fun with Dead People.

I don’t know when I first saw “Night of the Living Dead.” Sometime in the 1970′s, probably when I was in high school. Everyone considered it a really scary movie at the time. Mainly because the zombies (who weren’t called zombies, if I remember correctly. I have seen the movie a bunch of times but it’s been a few years.) ate real looking flesh. It was cow parts from a local butcher, but in the context of the movie it was really disgusting.

I certainly didn’t expect zombies to become a big craze in the 21st century, to the point that cartoon versions are common in media meant for children. I suppose I should have expected that, the same had happened to the classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman and the Mummy around the time of my childhood.

As a would-be filmmaker I always thought the genius of NotLD was its premise. George Romero was making a film on very little budget, and creating a truly scary monster with no money would have been very hard. However, getting a few locals together, slapping some makeup on them and teaching them to walk funny was a much cheaper alternative.

I now find it amusing when big-budget zombie movies come out, most of them not nearly as scary as the original. In fact, the scariest movies tend to be the ones made on low budgets. The limitations force the filmmakers to come up with ways to scare that don’t cost much. That’s also why horror is having trouble in the age of computer graphics. It’s too easy to show too much.

One of Romero’s themes, which I have never seen anyone else mention, is that in a zombie apocalypse there would be living people who find that they really like shooting other people in the head. People who have been living normal lives, working, raising families, all the things people do in modern society, are suddenly given license to kill other people violently and discover that it is fun.

Of course they have to shoot zombies. Shooting living people would still be frowned upon. Unless that person has clearly crossed over into zombiedom. But there are always mistakes. When you get used to putting bullets into heads, and often have to do it very quickly, well, once in a while you’re going to target the wrong head. The ending of NotLD shows just such a mistake, as the troops mopping up the countryside casually kill the hero of the movie.

That one moment is unlike anything in any other zombie movie. They usually assume that everyone will shoot only zombies, and only zombies will be shot. But I guarantee you that if a real zombie apocalypse ever happens, a lot of perfectly alive people will die by friendly fire.

I have been watching “The Walking Dead” recently. I watch it on Netflix, and I am halfway through the second season. If you comment on this blog, no spoilers please! In an episode I saw recently, Andrea almost kills Daryl when she thinks he’s a “walker,” but just grazes him. That’s the closest I’ve seen to the ending of NotLD.

The episode I saw this morning has an official title, I’m sure, but I will always remember it as What Happened at the Barn. On a tangent, TWD is the only zombie story I have seen where the zombies or walkers regularly eat animals. This seems to me to change the complexion of the zompocalypse entirely. I haven’t seen a single dog in the show, for instance. There are horses at the farm where our group takes shelter, but a place like that surely had dogs before. What farm doesn’t?

Back to What Happened at the Barn. When I first saw the walkers in the barn I thought they were being kept for some sinister reason, and Hershel and his family would turn out to be trading with brigands or some mad scientist that was studying the walkers or something. Pure compassion, thinking of the walkers as sick people who might be cured someday, never occurred to me.

I have been conditioned for all these years to accept shooting human beings in the head, as long as they are in bad shape and walk funny, as acceptable. The episode of TWD that I just saw, ending with a massacre, the slaughter of people that we know are the relatives and neighbors of Hershel’s family, made me think of zombies as people again.

Then of course Sophia steps out of the barn. I saw it coming, I think she was even in one shot inside the barn in the previous episode, but that didn’t make it easier. And Rick has to hero up and do the deed. That one gun shot made me so sad.

So what is it about zombies that make them so popular these days? The cartoon versions are green and have straggly teeth. They clearly aren’t people. We can shoot them in the head without compunction. But there is still an idea buried in the concept that someday we will be given permission to shoot just about anybody in the head. Who’s going to punish you for murder during an apocalypse? Everyone around you will understand that it was a mistake. Things happen in the heat of battle. If you secretly liked it, who will know?

My one and only zombie story is “The Mayor,” set about fifteen years after the zombie apocalypse. I call my zombies “zeds.” It is available in my collection, “Halloween Sky and Other Nightmares.” The book is available in all ebook stores and in print at Amazon.com.

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All the reasons “Prometheus” is stupid.

This isn’t exactly a horror topic, but the movie has horror elements, and I really wanted to say this stuff, so I am putting it here. This assumes you have seen the movie, don’t read it if you don’t want to read spoilers.

Ridley Scott has made some pretty good movies, and I was looking forward to seeing Prometheus. It has gotten good reviews, including from the increasingly curmudgeonly Roger Ebert. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too far into it when I started thinking it was a really stupid movie.

I started thinking that when everyone took their helmets off in the alien dome. This is an ancient SF-movie moment. I assume it used to be done because a bunch of actors in space helmets are hard to tell apart, so as soon as they can they find out that the air is breathable and ditch their helmets. Prometheus has nicely designed space suits with fish-bowl helmets that are completely clear, plus each character has his or her name displayed on their foreheads. For once, it was easy to tell them apart, yet they still took their helmets off. Why shouldn’t they, you ask, if the air is breathable? I will tell you. Just because the air is breathable doesn’t mean it doesn’t contain alien organisms, poisons, or other hazards.
(Why is the air breathable on an alien planet? Well, it does turn out that the aliens the crew went there to meet are human (just taller and grayer than us) and they made the dome and they breathe the same kind of air. I’m okay with that, but the crew of the Prometheus doesn’t know that yet. Also, just because the aliens have the same DNA as us doesn’t mean they don’t carry diseases that would kill us. Ask the Native Americans about aliens with diseases.
Then there are the too-stupid-to-live characters that make a lot of the plot happen just because they are idiots. Sure, crouch down and try to make friends with an eyeless snake-like thing on an alien planet and then be surprised when it turns out to be hostile. If they ran away like any normal person would, a lot of the movie wouldn’t happen. And one of these morons is supposed to be a geologist. The Weyland Corporation couldn’t find a small crew, out of all the possible people on Earth from which to choose, that had IQs over 100?
A medical pod on the ship is configured only for male patients. So the female scientist that uses it has to go into manual mode and give herself an alien abortion. I thought this was utterly stupid, especially since a female executive brings the pod with her for her personal use, but later I figured out it was really there for Mr. Weyland himself, who wants the aliens to make him immortal, or at least give him a few more years of life. But why would a medical pod ever be configured for one gender only? All it takes to configure it for both genders is a little more data storage, probably less than is in your average iPhone. If it’s really there only for Mr. Weyland, why isn’t it configured only for him, not all males?
The same scientist who later has to be her own surgeon finds out that the aliens have identical DNA as humans. This is a big surprise in the plot. The mission was sent because a map to a star location was found at five ancient sites on Earth. Okay, so far so good. The prologue has one of the big gray goofs dissolving into an Earth river, where his DNA presumably provides the spark for all life on Earth.
Um, except every species on Earth has different DNA. Does the alien’s DNA morph into all those different forms, then billions of years later come back together perfectly to make people? Is there some program built into the alien’s DNA that makes it detour through a huge variety of ocean life, plants of all kinds, dinosaurs, beetles, kangaroos, wooly mammoths, the various early hominids that archaeology has discovered, chimps, gorillas, and wrestling fans before replicating exactly the DNA of the alien to create humans?
Then, it turns out the star maps found on Earth lead to a moon on which the aliens (The Engineers, as they are dubbed) created biological weapons. They planted clues on worlds they seeded with life to come to a weapons lab? “Hey, future intelligent life forms that look a lot like us, come on over to where we do dangerous experiments and say hi.”
Another problem with the movie is that anyone that saw Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and/or Alien Resurrection can not be surprised at all by anything that happens. The android is programmed with a secret company objective. The pods (shipping containers in this version) burst and bad things come out. Things burst out of people. Yawn.
A lot of publicity has been put out that Prometheus (the only clever thing in the whole movie is the title, tying the mythical titan who gave fire to mankind to the gray alien who brings DNA to Earth) is not a direct prequel to Alien. Pish tosh. The end of the movie dovetails perfectly into what the crew of the Nostromo finds when it lands. Sigourney Weaver and friends must land near a different Engineer ship, but it is established that there are many on the planet (actually the moon of a gas giant, just as in Avatar.) We find out that the alien pilot with its chest burst out in Alien is an Engineer in a funky helmet. (Though I remembered that pilot as being much bigger.) We see a nascent H.R. Giger alien pop out of an Engineer. The scene is set for the 1979 movie to start.
Actually, the prequel needs a prequel. David the android knows more than he should. He is able to make things on the Engineer ship work. He reads their language and can speak to them. Is there yet another previous trip to this planet by humans, or was this knowledge found on Earth? In either case, it is unlikely that I will see any other movies Mr. Scott may turn out in this franchise. I sat through this one thinking to myself, “This is stupid.”

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Book Signing at Dark Delicacies

I signed copies of Mama at a great bookstore that specializes in horror:

Check it out at http://www.darkdel.com

Of course, other writers were there also, but none as unknown as me. We had

Harry Shannon and

Steven W. Booth, co-authors of The Hungry.

Also,

Dana Fredsti, author of Plague Town.

And it couldn’t have happened without

Del Howison, owner of Dark Delicacies.

The first person to show up and buy my book was

Ken Hughes, member of the Greater Los Angeles Writers’ Society and author of Shadowed.

I sold ten copies, made some new friends, and hopefully I have some new fans. All in all it was a great day!

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World Horror Convention 2012

I took this picture of the Church of the Latter Day Saints temple in Salt Lake City, which is just two blocks from the Radisson hotel where the World Horror Convention 2012 was held. The golden guy at the top is Moroni, (I learned that the vowel at the end is a long i, I had always thought that it was like the i in macaroni.) the angel who allegedly appeared to Joseph Smith and started the whole LDS shebang.

Salt Lake City wouldn’t exist if Brigham Young, leader of Smith’s followers after Smith was killed in Illinois, hadn’t famously said, “This is the place.” Whether he knew that the large lake nearby was salty, or if any fresh water was available, I don’t know. They must have found some, for the city has thrived and now is large, clean, and has extremely wide streets.

A city started by a religious group and a convention of horror writers and fans may seem like a strange mix, but after all both religion and horror fiction are human responses to the fact that we are all going to die. Frankly, I find horror stories a lot more fun than going to church every Sunday and listening to a boring preacher.

The World Horror Convention is fairly small and focuses on writers. A few zombies were seen ushering people into the Bram Stoker awards banquet, but otherwise there are no people in costume, as you see in larger, fan-based conventions.

I talked to Dacre (pronounced like an acre of land with a D stuck on the front)  Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. He has written the first sequel to the famous novel that is authorized by the Stoker family. I will write another post about an interesting discussion I had with him.

I went to a “kaffeeklatsch” with Mike Mignola, writer and artist of Hellboy. He entertained a small group with stories about his experiences working on several movies, including Disney’s Atlantis and of course two Hellboy films.

I attended a class in comic book writing with Scott Allie, Managing Editor at Dark Horse Comics. The crowd worked together to write two pages of a comic book, and Mr. Allie showed us how to pace the story, make the visuals advance the story, and use words judiciously in this visual medium.

Conventions are known for late-night parties, but I am an early-to-bed type person so I rarely attend many of them. On Friday night I took a nap so I could make it to a party thrown by Damnation Books, and I was glad I did. Some of their authors read from their books, and I enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies. A man and a woman volunteered to do their acts of magic and wonder. The woman did fire eating and the man did the old carnie act “The Blockhead,” which consists of inserting a large four inch nail into one’s nose, and pounding it in with a hammer. Not having brought a hammer, he substituted a beer bottle as the instrument with which to make the nail go deeper into his head. There is no trickery to this, it just depends on the open cavities within a human noggin and knowing how to insert the nail correctly, but it looks very scary as you wonder if the nail will pierce the performer’s brain.

I gave away some paperback copies of Mama, hoping to become known to the horror community as an up and coming author. All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend.

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