Tag Archives: The Shining

Deadfall Hotel

I picked up Deadfall Hotel, by Steve Rasnic Tem, based solely on the wonderful cover art, which fell somewhere between the lovely stuff from Edward Gorey and those glorious interior end pages of the old Hitchcock anthologies. I was familiar with his work, mainly through the odd handful of stories I have read over the years, but I had never delved into his longer works.

Deadfall Hotel is fantastic, whimsical and dark and beautiful. Imagine, if you will, spending a season in the Overlook Hotel, if it were peopled by the family from those Bradbury stories. For all his lyrical prose and stunningly surreal imagery, there is plenty of darkness and horror to be had.

Richard Carter and his young daughter, Serena, arrive at the hotel in the opening pages. They approach the front desk scarred and stained from recent tragedy. They are welcomed by Jacob, the current caretaker and the man who will “train” Richard as his successor. He will show him the ropes and rules to the hotel, a place where nothing is what it seems and even the most simple things can be dangerous.

Along Richard and Serena’s journey to accept and embrace their grief, we encounter a sinister old man and his lupine alter-ego, Dragon, the King of the Cats, disturbing housekeepers, and things that scuttle and bite. Meet the pool man, easily one of the most haunting characters I’ve read in some time.

Tem is quite masterful with his words. And even when the pacing and story become a bit slow, his language is hypnotic. The characters are rich and real. But the real star here is his cunning skill at presenting a feeling of loss and sadness. He has done this in several shorts I’ve read. The man can put that feeling of empty and sadness into words like no one else.

This is a novel about grief and what a heavy yoke it is to bear. About how it can be a many-faced monster that will devour your life, all aspects, right from under your nose.

It’s also about a creepy hotel with boarders who are not always human and not always nice. An utter joy to read.

Deadfall Hotel is available through Solaris books.

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King Revives Our Favorite Demons

When I was 12, I experienced a horrid accident in which I lost the ankle bone and part of my foot in my left leg. Being summer in Michigan meant that it was nearly always 100% humidity, and hotter than Satan’s buttcrack. And me with a monstrously heavy, hot and unwieldy plaster cast from my toes to mid-thigh. It was a pain, to be certain. So I kept myself distracted through reading.

I’d already read through my mother’s entire collection of Sidney Sheldon novels, and went in search of something to take my mind off the infernal itching beneath my cast as my leg healed from surgery.

Tucked way to the back of the bookcase in the living room was a novel that intrigued me greatly.  I’d previously read Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home, which was gross and creepy, and utterly delicious. This book had a very similar cover. I had never heard of the author, some guy named Stephen King, but I snuck the book back to my bedroom and set out to read.

The Shining scared the living crap out of me. I found myself, for the first time in my young life, unable to put the book down. Every waking moment was spent with my nose burrowed in the margin, the stench of mother’s chain smoking redolent in the pages and the ink.  I didn’t care. Little Danny Torrance was the most compelling character I’d ever encountered, and his story caused me to sleep with lights on for months afterward.

King made the executive decision to follow up Danny’s story with Doctor Sleep.

We meet up with a slightly older Danny in the aftermath of events at the Overlook Hotel, which, if you’ll remember, died a fiery death when the faulty boiler exploded, taking Danny’s father, Jack, with it. But not the horrifying *things* that dwelled there. Oh, no sir. They followed Danny and Wendy to their new home somewhere in sunny, warm Florida. In this way, we know that “redrum” can’t be far behind.

Jump to a future in which Danny is a burned out alcoholic drug addict, drifting from town to town, trying in each location to begin again. His attempts to outrun his personal and all-too-real demons ineffective.

It’s not long before his imaginary childhood friend, Tony, begins appearing at odd times, and Danny, now just Dan, dreads what it might mean.

It’s risky for any author to create a sequel to a much beloved novel, especially thirty-some years later. If the original is meant to be a standalone, the decision to create a follow-up can be seen as “selling out,” trying too hard to cash in on former glory. I would use as an example Black House King’s follow-up to collaborative novel The Talisman which he co-wrote with ghostmeister Peter Straub. Black House  sadly fell short of capturing the originality and flavor of The Talisman. That’s the same risk King takes with Doctor Sleep.

Thankfully, it pays off. Big.

King jumps forward quickly in time from Danny as a child, to Dan as a highly dysfunctional adult.  But the reader is allowed to see that trajectory which also allows us to take the ride along with him, and invest emotionally in the character’s seemingly endless plight.

King is a master of character development, and is at the top of his game in Doctor Sleep. Rather than allowing his protagonist to wallow in his self-pity for the entirety of the book, he brings in another character, a young girl named Abra, who has a Shining stronger than Danny ever did. And she is being pursued by a cult named The True Knot.

Allowing Dan to focus on something and someone outside of himself, it brings him to sobriety, because, like Chef Dick Halloran coming to his rescue decades before, only he knows what she’s going through, and has to save Abra.

King also writes children in peril better than anyone. Think of Jake in the Dark Tower series, or Travelin’ Jack in The Talisman. And of course, Dan was that character in The Shining. To be able to follow Dan into adulthood, where at last—at least we hope as we fervently flip through the pages—he’ll gain closure over his horrifying past, allows the reader to likewise experience closure. First, though, we, along with Dan, will have to deal with the dead woman from the Overlook’s Room 217 and several other nasties that are likewise pursuing Dan, intent on finishing long ago business.

Doctor Sleep is another shining star (pun intended) in King’s catalogue, and well worth reading.

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American Horror Story: The Drinking Game

Let’s play a drinking game! Yay!

Now here’s the plan: I’m gonna put in the first episode of American Horror Story. Every time we see a horror movie cliché, take a shot. Here’s some vodka I stole from my dad.


Foreboding house like in The Haunting. Take a shot.

Creepy twins like in The Shining. Take a shot.

Handicapped child with mystical connection to the paranormal like in The Stand. Take a shot.

Kids being assholes, like THOSE ASSHOLE KIDS ACROSS THE STREET. Take a shot.

Oh God. We haven’t even gotten to the OPENING CREDITS YET! This might be tough, guys.

Anyone else feel like playing Contra? What was the code for 99 lives again?

Oh yeah, TV show. Uh…family moves into foreboding house like in Amityville Horror. Take a shot.

Previous owners = murder/suicide, also like in Amityville Horror. Take a shot.

Crap. I’m hammered. You hammered? Cause I’m… Hey, your friend doesn’t look so good, are his eyes normally like that…

Dad in show = psychiatrist who wants to see his patients in his own home…where his teenage daughter lives? Take two shots ’cause that’s JUST STUPID.

Take another shot, cause this show is STILL ON and doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon.

Hold on. Hold on. Just keep swallowing and turn down the A/C. Not gonna puke. I’m a CHAMP. Why’s your buddy screaming over in the corner?

You hammered? ‘Cause I am HAMMERED!1

Uhhhh. Reviuwelz?>

TV SHOW! Take a shot, cause it’s a TV SHOW! On TV! Wish I was on TV—I got the looks, mom says so {} :D I AM DAPPER

Nothing cool or scary is happening, just like in The Happening. Take a shot.

Dylan McDermott’s bare ass…

…okay, guys. Here’s the part where we diverge. You stick to the vodka I gave you. I’m moving on to bleach to see if that helps. Wait, is that blood on your shirt? Oh, good. Not your blood? Good.

[ written and recorded after watching American Horror Story ]

All right, back to it. Dylan McDermott sees a hot chick, but she’s really all wrinkly and in disguise, just like in The Shining. Take a shot.

Oh, God. Bleach is different, guys. I don’t know what you’re drawing on my wall right now, but I’m telling you, this bleach? Not a party.

DO NOT DRINK BLEACH. I’m not feeling…

This cannot be. We are now watching Dylan McDermott whacking off. Bare-assed—again. Done, we are done. Take two more shots to retain your sanity and stop the video. Hey, someone has blue pixie sticks in the laundry room…gonna get me some, hold on, I’ll be back in a jiff.


Author’s Note:

The somewhat embarrassing publication of this review stemmed from the unfortunate situation of having nothing else written, on account of a last minute and unexpected hospital stay in which my stomach was pumped, revealing a lethal combination of vodka, bleach, and five teaspoons of powdered laundry detergent. Upon returning to the mansion where I live (NOT my mom’s basement, as rumors would have you believe), I found (in addition to three eviscerated bodies and a green-glowing portal with a woman’s unending, desperate sobs emanating from the other side) this review of American Horror Story. I can only assume it was I myself who wrote it, in the midst of whatever horror had occurred around me.

That being said, I think it safest for all of us if we forget this terrible, cliché-ridden show ever existed and never, NEVER attempt to finish a complete episode, lest we risk our very souls.

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