I’ve had fifteen broken bones throughout my life. Some have been broken multiple times.
I was shot in the lower left leg with an arrow.
I underwent reconstructive surgery after a dog ripped off the lower right quadrant of my face.
Another dog severed my left wrist nearly a quarter of the way through.
I suffered a major head injury when a stack of steel containers fell on me while I was working on a commercial fishing boat in Alaska.
I’ve been bitten by brown recluse spiders three times.
I’ve been bitten by copperhead snakes four times.
I’ve had my front teeth knocked out and wired back into my mouth.
I was stabbed in the right femoral artery with a broken bottle.
I was struck full-on by a drunk driver as I was walking along the side of a road.
I’ve been knocked unconscious three times.
I’ve had at least five concussions.
I was severely burned on my right thigh with phosphoric acid.
I’ve had approximately 25% of the flesh of my left wrist destroyed by fire.
I impaled my right foot clear through on the blunt end of a large nail.
I impaled my left leg just below the knee on the blunt end of a property stake.
I was a passenger in a pickup truck that flipped five times down a steep embankment.
When I was a teenager, I was kidnapped while hitch-hiking by three guys who drove me to an abandoned park and tried to kill me.
Most folks would say I’m pretty unlucky.
I would say I’m pretty blessed.
So I just saw the film everyone is talking about, and thought I’d go ahead and throw my own two pennies into the conversational pot. Since I hadn’t seen Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic in about twenty-five years or so, I snuggled up in the dark with it a few days ago to get me in the mood for Fede Alvarez’s reboot. Oh, how far we’ve come since Raimi’s buckets of karo syrup and bizarre claymation, which totally scared the shit out of me at the age of twelve. And Ash. Fucking Ash. Was there ever a cooler hero in a horror film? I think not. I wasn’t sure how Alvarez was going to pull off an Evil Dead film without Ash Williams…but somehow, he did it.
I’m not going to get into plot here; if you’ve seen the original film, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Evil Dead isn’t a remake of The Evil Dead, but a sequel that picks up thirty years after the original, with a whole new cast of characters: David, Eric, Mia, Olivia and Natalie (the first letters of their names spells what? Well played Mr. Alvarez). I can’t say these characters are anywhere near as memorable as those in the original (by “those”, I mean Ash Williams specifically), but the film makes up for it with stellar makeup effects (no CGI here, folks), first-rate cinematography, atmosphere, and gore galore. Speaking of gore, there were moments that actually had me squirming in my popcorn-scented seat. It’s unfortunate that some of the stupid decisions made by the characters had me squirming as well, but this is horror, right? If characters in mainstream horror movies had a collective half a brain, it would make for some pretty short films.
The baddies–deadites, demons, what have you–were a scary lot. If their sole purpose was to inflict as much prolonged fear and pain on humans as possible, then they served that purpose well. No doubt you will be reminded of Friedkin’s The Exorcist, or Bava’s Demons, but that’s mostly a good thing. It’s pretty damned difficult to create devil-spawn as frightening as those in the aforementioned films, but Alvarez is batting in the same ballpark for sure. I found the evil bastards unsettling, if not outright terrifying. There was a couple of times when I glanced over my shoulder to assure I wasn’t all alone in the theater, and that, for me, is a rare feeling.
Overall, I had a blast with this one. It was good, creepy fun that kept me highly entertained throughout. Sure, the characters weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, and could have benefited from a little more development, but none of that was a deal-breaker for me. The film didn’t give me chills or goosebumps, or make me wet my pants or anything, but it was still scarier than 90-something percent of Hollywood’s best horror efforts of late. I can’t wait to see it again, along with Alvarez’s forthcoming Evil Dead 2, Raimi’s forthcoming Army of Darkness 2, and the later film, in which both Raimi’s and Alvarez’s stories will converge.
It’s a good day to be a horror fan.
I once knew a guy who’s father attempted to burn him alive in a kitchen oven when he was a child, simply because he told his father “no” in response to an unreasonable request. The kid managed to survive, but was continually subjected to further acts of violence from his dad until he finally ran away from home some years later. This, as well as other accounts of extreme child abuse, inspired me to write a short story called Steel-Toed Boots, in which I explore the relationship between a boy and his abusive father. But unlike the situation I mentioned above, Boots is a story of revenge. It deals with the possibility of what might happen if you push a child too far.
Sometimes they don’t run away.
I didn’t find a home for this story right away. Many publishers won’t even touch a story that involves violence to children of any kind. Fortunately, James Ward Kirk Fiction doesn’t shy away from this sort of thing. When I heard they were putting together a literary horror anthology titled Songs For The Raven, which examines “thoughtful perspectives of the painful truths that humanity tries to hide from itself,” I submitted my story immediately. I was thrilled to receive an acceptance letter the following day. To add to my excitement, I learned that Paula Ashe’s controversial short, Bereft, would also be included in the anthology. I was privileged to have read Bereft a few weeks earlier, and was completely blown away by the story. It grabbed me and shook me and left me breathless…
…and absolutely disturbed. Such a thing is a rarity, considering my decades-old horror fanaticism. I feel honored to have my work included alongside such brilliance.
And speaking of brilliance, Songs For The Raven also includes work by gifted authors such as Vincenzo Bilof, William Cook, Timothy Lee Frasier, Rich Orth, Mike Jansen, Chantal Noordeloos, David S. Pointer, James Ward Kirk himself, and others.
The book was released yesterday in paperback, and I understand it will be released in e-book format 5/1/13, one month from today. I hope everyone gets a chance to read it.
In the dense woods about fifty miles west of Raleigh, North Carolina, near a town named after a creek that flows into Rocky River (which I like to joke is named after me), sits this little two-bedroom farmhouse in which I live. I don’t live here alone, of course; I share its cozy space and its surrounding thirteen acres with my gorgeous wife, twelve dogs, cat, six rabbits, two donkeys, half a dozen sheep, turkey, numerous feral game chickens, tyrannical Toulouse, and badass little one-eyed guinea who, I’m quite certain, was a bald eagle in his former life. Then there are the wild things that live in the tree dark: creeping things and flying things and things that watch me through the branches at night with eyes that glow red or green in the occasional sweeping beam of my flashlight.
In the summer, there are slithering things. They come out of their holes to bask in the sun, or to hunt scurrying things, or to steal eggs from feathered things. I once observed a battle between a hungry copperhead snake and a tenacious mother hen intent on preventing her unhatched offspring from becoming dinner for the slimy fellow. Much to my surprise, the chicken won, and Mr. Copperhead slithered off in search of an easier meal.
I can’t say that I have fared as well as Mama Hen when it comes to encounters with the venomous snakes that crawl around outside the house in which I live. As a boxer, my overall record is 43-2-1. Against North Carolina copperheads: 0-2. In July of 2011 I was bitten twice by one of the loathsome serpents while he was coiled in the weeds at the edge of my yard. Then, in July of last year, I was bitten again by another guy who was hanging out near my porch steps. I’ve since invested in a good pair of high-topped rubber boots.
But this place is my Eden, and Eden isn’t without its serpents. Prior to moving to this little slice of Nirvana in 2008, I spent much of my life as a city-dweller, lived in twelve different states, and never in one house, apartment, boat, etc. for more than a couple of years at a time. Now, going into the fifth year of my life in the middle of the North Carolina woods, as I drive up my 500-foot driveway, perfectly lined with tall, swaying trees, to the sounds of barking dogs and braying donkeys and clucking chickens, I feel at home for the first time in my life. I don’t miss the air pollution or the honking horns or the bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s been replaced with the beauty of an encompassing wall of green foliage and a starry night sky, the inviting warmth of a wood-burning stove, and the perpetual music of the creatures who allow me to share their home with them. I think I shall finally grow some roots, gather a bit of proverbial moss.