30 Days of Night: Far Away From Sparkles

This week’s reading is the first volume of 30 Days of Night. I first read this graphic novel when the (pretty bad) movie was coming out. It was always on the “to read” list but I’d never gotten around to it until then. Rereading it now, I was again more engaged by the visuals than the actual story. That probably happens a lot in comics, while the super successful ones have  the perfect balance of great story/arresting visuals. The story wasn’t enough to peak my interest to read the other volumes, though I think the world they’ve built is interesting. But really, we’re here to talk about the vampires, so let’s get to it.

First of all, thank you Mr. Steve Niles for not making these vampires flouncy, or sexy. For a raw story like this, in such a brutal setting as Alaska, having pretty boy vamps just wouldn’t work. Not that I mind pretty boy vamps. A girl can always use a sexy-but-scary vamp in her life. But for this kind of story, where the vamps are basically going on a feeding frenzy since they don’t have to worry about the sun for 30 days, the monsters should look like monsters. And they do, especially thanks to the art by Ben Templesmith. The vampires look appropriately human and not-human at the same time. Teeth are jagged and pointy. The older ones echo the classic Nosferatu look. And that’s fine by me.  One thing I am especially fond of was their screechy noise. It makes the vampires that much less human, and more animalistic, which works since they’re about to gorge themselves like a pack of lions on fenced-in antelope. Now, I did see the movie when it came out, and they pretty much made the vamps sound like the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings. So my friend and I ran around the movie theater parking lot screeching at the top of our lungs. It was one a.m. And I was 29. Didn’t matter. Screechy vampires are cool. And my dear friend who will remain nameless, does the hands-down best Nazgul impression I’ve ever heard 🙂

Though this is also scary:

Anyway, getting back to the book, we also have another classic human becoming the monster plot, though this time Eban, the town’s sheriff, chooses to do this of his own accord, rather than unconsciously evolving into a monster like our good old friend Neville from I Am Legend. Eban willfully injects himself with vamp blood because the only thing he’s seen do damage to the vamps were other vamps. A sound theory, if a little radical, but they are desperate humans, and Eban their protector. The one thing that I don’t buy is that newly vamped Eban could actually (spoilers!!!!) kill a super old and powerful vamp. Maybe it’s my years of being wound up in vamp rules from White Wolf and the rest, but I just don’t see how even a desperate baby vampire could actually kill an old vamp, even with a lucky shot. The believability went out the window. Well, what believability you have reading about vampires in Alaska.

No vamps biting on me!

No vamps biting on me!

So all in all, this is good. Vampires behaving like vampires, capitalizing on what in theory sounds like a great idea, feasting on a small town way up yonder when the sun goes down for a whole month. I’d be scared to death to live in a town like that, dark for a whole month. If the vamps don’t get you, seasonal affective disorder probably would. Hey I wonder if any of those people suffered from that, and had those special lights. Would those lights have worked on the vamps? Did Eban turn into a vamp for no reason? Dun dun DUUUUNNNN!!

Sorry. Been a long day.

If you haven’t read this, you should, just for the last few pages. Really poignant, and really my favorite part of the story. It’s why I love comics, and the emotions they can pull out with a simple image and a well-placed word or two.

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Rawhead Rex: Eating Babies Since Time Began

Finally, a story that hits all the creep, gross and horror buttons for me in one little package. I don’t say a neat package, because if you want to get into the technical side, “Rawhead Rex” is a mess of head-hopping reminiscent of a whack-a-mole machine. But we’re talking about monsters here, and Rawhead is definitely that. The more ancient the evil, the better it is. And Rawhead, bless his ugly mug, delivers evil in spades.

So Rawhead gets unearthed from his prison by some unsuspecting town folk guy, who of course bites it literally moments after first viewing this monstrosity he unwittingly helped escape. Rawhead definitely looks the way a boogie-monster that eats kids should look: inhumanly tall and strong, meaty face that looks like the moon (coincidentally this is happening around the “harvest festival”). Nasty sharp teeth that come out of his gums when he’s ready to eat or attack. For some reason I picture the way a shark’s mouth looks, with all those teeth, and rows of them. Teeth are scary. Teeth made to tear more succulent meat are even more scary.

I’m not going to recap the whole story. You should go and read it, if you haven’t (though of course some of the people reading this blog are along with me in the RIG and had better of read it 😉 ). Needless to say, Rawhead goes on a rampage, and kills a lot of people, before finally being brought down by an equally ancient power, the Mother Goddess. We’ll get into that later.

Don’t judge, but I’m glad that Clive Barker actually shows Rawhead eating kids. That’s what he does right? And not only do we get to see him eat the kids, we get to be in his head while he enjoys it, like he’s dining at a five star restaurant. I know this is probably more in movies than in books, but there’s some kind of rule that you don’t kill the kid, or the dog. We can already thank Richard Matheson for the dog part, but now we get the kids from Barker, with some eloquent details that just make it sound so deliciously evil. And yes, I used delicious on purpose. Rawhead is just doing what he does best, what he was supposedly put on this earth to do, and that’s terrorize us by taking something that is more precious than our own lives, and that is the lives of our children.

Not quite as scary, but still...

Not quite as scary, but still…

I love that we get into Rawhead’s POV and hear him puzzle out this new world while trying to balance his appetite and his need for destruction. He has to learn about cars and their “blood” and uses that knowledge to set a ton of fires. He learns to fear guns as a new weapon, but isn’t overly concerned by them. It’s always nice to hear why the monsters are driven toward what they are doing. In Rawhead’s case, it’s just how he was built. He is the ancient king of his Wild Domain, and humans are there to prey on. And that’s how it should be, in his opinion. I also love that the thing that finally makes him afraid is his antithesis, the Mother Goddess that is the source of life and not death. Even though it’s been a long time since humans worshiped her, her image still has sway over Rawhead, weakening him enough for the humans to take him down.

One thing that definitely grossed me out, even more than the eating of kids, was Declan’s “baptism” by Rawhead’s piss. While pee is not the highest on my list of bodily fluids that gross me out, people drinking said pee is still pretty gross. And reading about it while eating lunch was definitely not a good idea.

Reading The Books of Blood collection is my first experience with Clive Barker, and while the POV-hopping is annoying, the way he uses description in almost a beautiful way, to describe some horrible things, is awesome. Pairing eloquence with dread makes the horror story that much more sublime. “Rawhead Rex” is a great example of a monster that parents would use to scare their children into behaving, never realizing that once long ago, that monster was real, and was only waiting for the opportunity to be free to rule his domain again.

Breeding Ground: …whaaa?

This week’s adventure in Monster Mashing puts us in a small English town, that becomes Breeding Ground, by Sarah Pinborough. While spiders creep me out A LOT, and telepathic mutant spiders that grow inside humans and burst out Alien-style from women’s wombs REALLY creeps me out, there was enough WTF moments in here to diminish the creep factor and make me just shake my head when I was done. Literally. That’s what I did. I closed the book, and shook my head. Then I immediately tried to describe the craziness to my boyfriend, who also got that glazed-over WTF? look too.

It's reading my MIND!!!

It’s reading my MIND!!!

The story is vaguely typical. Main character guy Matt is happy with his girlfriend, then she gets pregnant. Things are okay, but she gets fat. Too fat. Too fat to just be pregnant. Then she changes and gets creepy, gross stuff happens, and Matt is out of there. Comes across telepathic mutant spider things, that have apparently burst out of all the women in the town. Eventually he meets up with other survivors, including a young woman with her little sister that are apparently not affected. The try to survive, blah blah, end up at a military compound with some more survivors, everything looks bleak, the weather changes, there are suicides, and murder by mutant spiders, and then male spiders start to appear out of the blue, and then…that’s it. Oh and there’s a deaf dog.

My biggest beef with this story is that there is no reason whatsoever for this to be happening in the first place. It just…happens. The closest thing you get to even a hint of a reason is that the scientist that the survivors meet in the military compound says the reason is genetically-modified food. COME ON. I just can’t buy it. Sure that stuff is scary, and who knows what kind of effect it has and will have on our bodies if we consume mass quantities of it. But growing mutant-spiders that burst out of you then cocoon you from the inside out to eat you? Doesn’t even have a hint of plausibility to me. I would have been more content if there was a hint, even a vague hint, of alien abduction, or a crazy experiment gone wrong, or something from the past coming back all mutated. But I don’t buy into that excuse, and I really hoped the scientist was just being crazy or dumb. But he wasn’t. Oh and I don’t think it explains much about the weather either; the weather suddenly turns almost rain-forest like. It pours tepid water every day and it gets really humid and hot. I’m supposing that these conditions are great for the spiders. But outside of people noticing that the weather is weird, no one makes any kind of connection between the spiders and the weather. None that I saw anyway. Maybe I missed something. I’m not going to reread it to find out.

There were a lot of other things that bothered me, almost too much to get into them all. Matt was apparently a total pimp in this book, starting out with his girlfriend, then moving on to survivor Katie in mere days after his girlfriend gives spider-birth. Then after unfortunateness happens to Katie Matt ends up with Rebecca the deaf lady and gets her preggers.

Really?

Add to that the whole deaf-blood-acts-like-acid-to-the-spiders thing, and the fact that no one has a cell phone or a computer (a minor detail to be sure but it still bothered me), and then the male spiders start popping out of all the men that are left except for the old guy George and Matt, our red-blooded virile protagonist that is in perfect heath and should have become a spider incubator with the rest of them. Maybe being intimate with the deaf girl gave him immunity? Who knows. All these questions made my head hurt.

You'll be scared when they come out of YOUR FACE.

You’ll be scared when they come out of YOUR FACE.

It really sounds like I hated this book. And I did really bitch about it when I was done ( and in the previous paragraphs). But you know, I still read it in two days. When I wasn’t reading it, I thought about where the story was going. And I still got the tenseness of the atmosphere, and the creepiness of the whole thing. Especially the four chapters, when things are just slowly starting to change; watching Chloe’s slow transformation as she grew fatter and changed was more horrifying for me than anything else. So even if, in the end, I was left scratching my head, I do have to admit that it was still an eerie and compelling read. Minus the part about the GM foods.

The Funeral: One Happening Place!

This week we’re taking a look at a short story called “The Funeral”, written by Richard Matheson (of last week’s I am Legend fame). This short story is a complete opposite in tone and theme than I am Legend. Where as the longer novella really dealt with the concept of who exactly was the monster, and loneliness and desperation in the end times, “The Funeral” read to me like a who’s who of creepy crawlies, just out to celebrate and support each other. And what better way for them to celebrate than by going to a funeral?

funeral

Poor Morton Silkline, the funeral director. He gets thrown into it right away, having to plan an extravagant funeral for a Mister Asper, who actually comes into his office to do all of his arrangements. The guy is physically there, so he’s definitely not dead, or at least not yet. Silkline can’t even fathom what this is all about, but it’s made pretty clear the night of the funeral, when Asper comes in with a witch, a creepy dude that keeps saying “tasty”, a hunchback named Ygor (of course) and other classic spooky characters. The “funeral” goes off with only a slight hitch and an almost brawl with lightning involved, but the overall festivities pleased Asper so much he recommended the funeral home to another of his “friends.”

One of the great details of this story is the description of Morton Silkline. I actually thought for a moment that he was the one that was part of the creepy-crawly brigade. His simpering manners, and his “liver-colored” eyes instantly set him apart for me. Though, to be honest, I think there is something about working at a funeral home that makes you straddle the line between here and there. I quickly realized though that he was the odd one of the bunch, being very human, and (pardon the pun) extremely mortified by the funeral and its guests.

This looks like a party to me!

This looks like a party to me!

This story feels like a party, or a high school reunion, more than an actual funeral. This may sound weird, but it kind of reminded me of the movie Hotel Transylvania. I could totally see these guys celebrating their friend, then having a party, or a wake of sorts, where there’s all sorts of nasty nibbles that creepies like to eat, and funky dance moves, and the occasional row. And I love that kind of vision. It’s the “monsters are people too” thought, or at least “monsters were once people too”.

Why wouldn’t they band together, compare notes, share experiences, be friends, or at least have tolerable working relationships? We as human beings do the same thing. And if one of us had an important party planned, like a wedding, or a shower, or a graduation, we’d want our friends there to support us.

Hopefully our friends wouldn’t throw lightning around or try to eat any of the other guests.