Tag Archives: Carrie

“Heart Shaped Box” not for the faint of heart

In Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill, Judas Jude Coyne, aging grunge rocker and collector of oddities and antiquities, purchases a ghost online. He later learns the ghost, Craddock McDermott, is the step-father of his ex-girlfriend, Anna, and he has a vendetta settle with Jude. Both Craddock and Anna’s sister, Jessica blame Jude for Anna’s death. After the ghost kills Jude’s assistant Danny and nearly killing Jude, he and his current girlfriend, Marybeth (whom Jude has nicknamed Georgia) set out on a quest to deliver Craddock’s ghost home.

Heart Shaped Box is a novel reminiscent of Stephen King’s early horror stories, such as Christine, Carrie or The Shining, that is to say, it is more gory horror than spooky horror. For me, the joy of reading horror should have the same effect as rushing down the highest embankment of a roller coaster–heart pumpingly scary. When I was a preteen, I was hooked on the Real Canadian Ghost Stories series I used to buy from the Scholastic Books magazine. Those stories were freaky, so much so that I had to stop reading them once I found I couldn’t sleep soundly without my bedroom door open, the hallway light on, and first checking in my closet and under my bed for ethereal trespassers. In this respect, Heart Shaped Box does not deliver.

Hill’s horror is gruesome and violent and not for the faint of heart. After Marybeth pricks her finger on a ghostly pin hidden in Craddock’s suit, and the wound festers, Hill describes it in high definition. When Jude’s finger is blown off after he’s shot, Hill paints the picture for the reader in glorious, living technicolor. It’s a testament to Hill’s prose and storytelling ability that I continued to read in spite of being utterly and totally grossed out. Coyne’s character (think Treasure Trader’s Billy Jamieson) is a reluctant anti-hero. A drug abuser and alcoholic raised by an abusive father, he goes through a series of girls half his age, referring to them by their cities of origin rather than their given names. He pities himself enough to want to give in to Craddock’s mind control and end his life, but when that plan is thwarted by Marybeth, Jude turns around, vowing to do her the same favour. The only way to do that is to see his quest through to the bitter end, in spite of the fact that it may mean the end of his life as well.

Heart Shaped Box is a good read, but it’s not true horror. Quite frankly, there are more chills to be had listening to voices from Zak Bagans’s ghost box on The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures series or TAPS EVPs than reading this novel, but that’s not to say it’s not worth reading. Joe Hill is an excellent author, worthy of my earlier King comparison. He tells a great story, sure to put a chill in your heart and a churn in your belly.

Do you read Joe Hill? What do you think about his knack for tale telling this bloody brand of horror?


“Ravenswood” rocks the horror cliche

A haunted funeral home, shadow figures, disembodied hands, and distant relative doppelgangers; these are the foundations of Ravenswood, spin-off of Pretty Little Liars. In Ravenswood, runaway Miranda Collins, strikes up a friendship with Caleb Rivers, regular on Pretty Little Liars. Together they delve into the mysteries that plague Ravenswood, including why their names and pictures appear on ancient tombstones, why Miranda’s Lurch-like uncle didn’t raise her when her parents died, and what Caleb’s ties to the town are. Mysteries aren’t the only thing plaguing Ravenswood. True to scary form, there is a curse. Twice in history, a bunch of teens drowned after a soldier returned from the war, both times the sole survivours of their troops. As a portend, Remy Beaumont’s mom has just returned from Afghanistan, the only survivour of her troop. When Remy stops her car on a dark road to pick up twins Luke and Olivia Matheson bringing the body count in the car to five, you know something’s going to happen. The episode ends with Remy’s car partially submerged after going off the edge of a bridge.

While watching the episode, my fourteen year old daughter ran upstairs during every commercial to fill me in on the horrors of Ravenswood. She was both excited and a little spooked by the pilot plot. Though intrigued while watching, I found the horror more cliche than bonafide. I grew up watching horror flicks like Friday the Thirteenth, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, and gave up on them some time in my twenties because sooner or later, the stories and the franchises began to blur. Something’s always not quite right at the funeral home. Whenever someone crawls into a hot bath they’re always going under (kudos to Ravenswood for putting the boy–rather than the curvy blonde girl–into the tub, breaking the stereotype). And there’s always an adult or two trying to keep the pesky kids from uncovering town secrets. In a nod to Stephen King’s Carrie (currently enjoying a re-release at the theatres), the disgraced prom queen–in this case, Olivia trying to come to grips with the fact that the town (her brother included) believes her mother has just murdered her father–is doused with blood.

Though the pilot didn’t bring the nail-biting moments for me as for my daughter, I will be watching the next episode. I liked the first two seasons of Pretty Little Liars, and watched as long as I was curious about who “A” was, why s/he was tormenting the main characters, and if Alison really was dead. I gave up midway through season three because the mystery grew lacklustre, there wasn’t enough character growth, and the clues were too few and far between to hold my interest. Ravenswood sets up enough mysteries to promise intrigue for years to come, provided they don’t try to kill all of the main characters at the end of every episode. It’s pretty obvious Miranda’s Uncle Lurch got rid of her because Ravenswood’s not the best place to raise a child. I predict the twins’ father probably faked his death to escape the far reaching fingers of the town curse. I’m also left wondering about Remy’s mother who remains silent as long as Remy’s father is around and who sleeps on the couch, allegedly due to nightmares. Has her mother actually returned in body as well as in soul?

Why do you think Miranda’s uncle sent her away? Who really killed the twins’ father? Has Remy’s mother returned to anyone but Remy? Who is the wet shadow woman Miranda saw in her uncle’s parlour?