Book Review: Feral

Synopsis:
Allie Hilts was still in high school when a fire at a top-secret research facility released an airborne pathogen that quickly spread to every male on the planet, killing most. Allie witnessed every man she ever knew be consumed by fearsome symptoms: scorching fevers, internal bleeding, madness and uncontrollable violence. The world crumbled around her. No man was spared, and the few survivors were irrevocably changed. They became disturbingly strong, aggressive, and ferocious. Feral.

Three years later, Allie has joined a group of hardened survivors in an isolated, walled-in encampment. Outside the guarded walls the ferals roam free, and hunt. Allie has been noticing troubling patterns in the ferals’ movements, and a disturbing number of new faces in the wild. Something catastrophic is brewing on the horizon, and time is running out. The ferals are coming, and there is no stopping them.

Review:
My first encounter with James DeMonaco’s work was the film Skinwalkers, which I hated. However, The Purge was fantastic, so I started reading Feral with a hopeful attitude. Having Brian Evenson as a co-writer was encouraging since I’ve read Father of Lies and enjoyed it. I’m also a fan of post-apoc fiction; another thumb on the scale for this book.

Feral started out strong. The confusion and fear during the outbreak are realistically portrayed. Scenes of sudden and horrific transformations are vividly described, as are the deaths of those unlucky enough to get caught by the feral packs of crazed men. The first few chapters hooked me, and I settled in for the rest of the book.

Allie is a bonafide badass, using her old skills as a lacrosse star in all new ways. She’s a lone hunter type of woman; hyper-alert and determined to keep her young sister and herself alive. Small camps of women who survived the outbreak live in fortified camps, keeping in touch via radio. Allie is one of the few who are brave (or reckless) enough to spend days outside the minefields and barricades while she thins out the feral population and scavenges for supplies. The ferals have a “hive” of their own and have taken over the river docks, where no woman dares approach for fear of literally being torn apart. It doesn’t take much to foresee the coming conflict.

There’s a lot to like in this book. It’s certainly entertaining. Narrow escapes, tense chase scenes, and extreme zom– er, feral-killing rampages will satisfy the bloodlust factor. The women in the camp do their best to survive while trying to create a sense of normalcy for the children and young teens among them. It’s no surprise that all of them are traumatized, but many of them pair up for comfort. There’s a romantic subplot, but revealing the details involves spoilers, so that’s all I’ll say.

Another bonus comes from the author’s skill at screenwriting. We get multiple points of view on the story that play out like scenes in a film. The storytelling here feels cinematic, so people who are more accustomed to watching TV and movies will be right at home here. As a book, it works, but it would be a kickass movie; enough so that I wonder if this started out as a screenplay.

It’s easy to see that Feral leans heavily on zombie and post-apocalyptic tropes. Catastrophic outbreak of an experimental pathogen? Horrific transformations into a bestial form? Hordes of indiscriminate killers who want to eat human flesh? Band of plucky survivors who figure out they can mask their scent with the blood of dead ferals? Forbidden romance and putting one’s life before someone you love? It’s all been done before. But as I’ve strongly hinted throughout, if you’re a fan of zompoc fiction, you’re going to enjoy Feral.

Boo! John Carpenter Returns to the Halloween Franchise

Boo! John Carpenter Returns to Halloween Franchise!

In case you missed it, Blumhouse has announced that they have brought John Carpenter back into the Halloween franchise.  He will be producing the next installment in the series, set to release in October 2017.

I do not like this.

As you all well know, Carpenter is the man responsible for first bringing Michael Myers into our world back in 1978, effectively giving birth to the slasher boom of the 80s.  Even after all these years, Halloween is just as good today as it was when it was released (I assume, anyway: I was -2 at the time of its release).  It looks amazing, the acting is incredible and it features one of the best theme songs in horror history.

Carpenter wrote and produced Halloween II (one of the best horror sequels ever made) and produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  He had success outside this series as well, with an insane filmography that includes The Thing, The Fog, Escape From New York, Prince of Darkness, They Live and In the Mouth of Madness, to name a few.

His recent history, however, has not been so kind.  The last three movies he directed were Vampires (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001) and The Ward (2010).  The Rotten Tomatoes scores for those are 37%, 21% and 32%, respectively.  Rotten Tomatoes scores are nothing compared to the losses these racked up.  Vampires brought in $20.3 million on a budget of $20 million.  Ghosts of Mars brought in $14 million on a budget of $28 million.  The Ward brought in $1.2 million on a budget of $10 million.

For the record, I didn’t hate any of those movies, but I wouldn’t call a single one of those a good movie.  They are terrible movies, but they’re bad enough that I can laugh at them.

But he’s not directing this new Halloween movie, so let’s throw those out the window.  Get outta here, Ghosts of Mars.  He’s merely producing this movie.  So let’s look at the last two movies he produced.

Uh…
Vampires: Los Muertos and The Fog.  Yeeeesh.
Vampires: Los Muertos is best known for starring Jon Bon Jovi, Darius McCrary and Natasha Gregson Wagner.  Rotten Tomatoes has this at 20%.  I can’t find budget/box office numbers.
The Fog is a remake of Carpenter’s classic.  It stars Maggie Grace, Selma Blair and some other random people.  Rotten Tomatoes has this at 4%.  It brought in $46.2 million on a budget of $18 million, so it did pretty well there.  However, as the Rotten Tomatoes score shows, this was not a good movie.

Due to circumstances I don’t care to explain, I have seen each of these movies no less than 4 times each.  I have problems.  I know it.
Again, like Vampires, Ghosts of Mars and The Ward, I don’t hate these movies, but they are not good movies.  These are both very bad movies.  They just happen to be bad in a way that I can laugh at them.

That’s not what I want for a new Halloween film.  I don’t want a Halloween movie that is so bad it’s funny.  They tried that with Resurrection, but they tried to actually make it funny and failed miserably.  MISERABLY.  I hate that movie so much.

A producer could be anything.  Carpenter could just be put in the role as a figurehead: a way to drum up press and get people talking.  When work starts on the movie, Carpenter could be a thousand miles away, with absolutely no involvement.  He could just as easily be in some kind of on-set consultant role.  Whichever way it goes, it doesn’t guarantee the movie is going to be good just because his name is slapped on it.  This could just as easily turn into The Fog remake all over again.

Carpenter stepped away from movies after 2001’s Ghosts of Mars because he felt “burned out.”  I doubt his experience with The Ward lit any fire underneath him.  He has released two stellar albums (Lost Themes and Lost Themes II), but nothing in regards to film.  I love John Carpenter.  He has done wonders for the horror genre, but I think it’s time for him to finally fade into the cinematic sunset.

This movie could be good, but Carpenter won’t likely have much to do with it.  Call me when a writer/director is announced.

Yay! John Carpenter Returns to Halloween Franchise!

In case you missed it, Blumhouse has announced that they have brought John Carpenter back to the Halloween franchise.  He will be producing the next installment in the series, set to release in October 2017.

I love this.

As you all well know, Carpenter is the man responsible for first bringing Michael Myers into our world back in 1978, effectively giving birth to the slasher boom of the 80s.  Even after all these years, Halloween is just as good today as it was when it was released (I assume, anyway: I was -2 at the time of its release).  It looks amazing, the acting is incredible and it features one of the best theme songs in horror history.

Carpenter wrote and produced Halloween II (one of the best horror sequels ever made) and produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch.  He had success outside this series as well, with an insane filmography that includes The Thing, The Fog, Escape From New York, Prince of Darkness, They Live and In the Mouth of Madness, to name a few.

Meanwhile, Rob Zombie’s Halloween series has slowly withered and died.  They didn’t do terribly in the box office (Halloween II brought in $39.3 million on a budget of $15 million), but interest waned with each passing year since the release of Halloween II in 2009.  All we had were rumors.  Zombie is coming back.  No he isn’t.  Scout Taylor-Compton is coming back.  No she isn’t.  The script has been written.  There is no script.  The movie is a go.  It’s not.  It is.  It’s not.  And on it went, until Dimension finally lost the rights.

I didn’t hate Zombie’s Halloween series.  I think saying that I “enjoyed” them might be a bit much, but I liked them both.  I didn’t really care about Myers’ childhood, but, for the most part I thought the first movie was a perfectly fine slasher movie.  The second one wasn’t as good, but I found it the more interesting movie of the two.  It mainly dealt with the fallout from the events of Halloween, and attempted to answer the question of what happens to a person after they experience such intense psychological trauma.  It’s not all sunshine and roses after the credits end; there’s pain and suffering and fear, and those feelings can completely reshape who a person is.  It wasn’t necessarily handled with the nuance it deserved, but it at least took on that subject.  (This is the movie that inspired my short-lived What Comes Next series.)

Still, it felt like Zombie’s Halloween had run its course.  It was time to bring the series back to basics.  And if anyone could do that, it would be John Carpenter.

I think the world is finally ready for another Halloween movie.  It’s hard to shock audiences nowadays, especially with a silent, masked killer.  But Halloween doesn’t need to shock.  It needs some tension.  It needs Michael Myers lurking in the shadows and a synth chord ready to hit at the best possible moment.  We all knew Michael Myers wasn’t gone forever.  He was always going to come back.  Who better to take the reins than Carpenter?  And in the month of October, no less.

I’m fully on board.