Top 10 Women in Horror Movies

So, guys and ghouls, it is that time of year again…

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts

Well, yes it is football season, but that was not what I was referring too.  I mean, do you think I want to be scared into a change pants?  Come on, now!

Well, actually I do.  And watching Indianapolis Colts football is one way to be scared, although many other emotions tend to be involved, which include extreme anger, exhilaration, puzzlement, denial, bargaining and resignation.

But, there are lots of other things that I can watch, other than Colts football, if I don’t want to experience the different stages of grief in a four hour setting (NFL math is funny that way:  one hour of football somehow turns into four hours yelling myself horse (you are welcome for that one) in front of my TV.)

In other words:  horror movies.  Horror movies everywhere…

At this time of year, I feel that autumn is right around the corner.  And this starts right after Labor Day, when the Christmas merchandise at the stores is on display!

And to counter the sight of Christmas decorations when the temperature is still at least 90 F, there is only one thing we can do…

That’s right, watch some horror movies.  Or maybe lots of horror movies.  All right, a metric shit ton of horror movies!

And so many movies to choose from.

We have our classics, like Carrie, Halloween and Friday the 13th.

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Or “new school,” like Horns.  You gotta admit, seeing Harry Potter as the devil is fun!

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Or, we don’t have to limit ourselves to movies.  There are plenty of good, horror themed shows not titled American Horror Story to chose from.  And most are available via the miracle of the 21st century otherwise known as Neflix.  Cable schmable, right?

Now, one thing about horror movies:  they seem to have an audience.  And no, not necessarily horror junkies.

Let’s face it:  most horror movies are geared towards white males.  That is often who your horror movie protagonist is, with a few exceptions, like Night of the Living Dead, which was decades ahead of its time for featuring an African American guy as its protagonist.

And it’s not to say that those movies are not good movies.  In fact, movies like Phantasm (I dare you to cross The Tall Man, boooyyyy!), The Shining, Horns and many others are either classics, or on their way to becoming classics.  And I have no problem with that, they are great movies and deserve their accolades.

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But, I feel like I am missing something when I watch certain movies.  In fact, I feel like I may be missing at least half of something…

That’s right, where are my ladies?  I mean, we make up half the population, right?  So where are we?  Where are we in one of my favorite movie genres?

Well, it turns out that if take the time (after all, rushing us is bad, on so many levels, haha) and look, you can find us ladies in horror movies.  And some bad ass ones at that!

In recent years, we have become even easier to find in the horror, genre and science fiction categories.  After all, Game of Thrones, anyone?  Plenty of kick ass women there!

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And The Master and The Master 2.0 have gotten in on the act, as both Stephen King and Joe Hill have managed to write convincing female characters, who have an identity beyond the wife or girlfriend of the guy who winds up kicking ass.

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So, if you look, we are there in horror movies.  Sometimes we get horribly victimized.  Sometimes we victimize others.  But other times, we throw down some serious shade, and you do not want to meet us in a dark alley!

With that being said, here is my list of top 10 women in horror (both on television and film.)  Keep in mind that this is my opinion only, and could be subject to change at any moment…

And, as always:

Spoiler alert


10.  Sally (The Nightmare Before Christmas)

Well, I may be a little biased with this statement, but I will say it anyway:

Gingers rule!

And as soon as we have enough freckles, we plan to take over the world!

Okay, I am kidding (you hope.)

But this entry on my list has earned her spot on it.  And yes, she just happens to be a ginger.

Guys and ghouls, I bring to you…Sally!

Now, Sally may literally owe her existence to a man.  However, do not underestimate her, as she is tough, smart and resourceful.

After all, a chic who clearly knows her poisons.  Who would want to cross her?

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Sally is a love interest in the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas (and one half of one of one my favorite onscreen couples ever), but to me, she is so much more than that.

For most of her life, Sally is held in captivity by her creator.  She understands that that she may be selling herself short, and she works to build a life for herself beyond captivity, and to connect with the outside world in a meaningful way.

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Sally also brings a message of self-acceptance.  After all, she literally falls apart, but that doesn’t stop her from picking herself back up and continuing on with her life.  That message of self-acceptance is one that Jack Skellington badly needs to hear, as he finally accepts that it is okay to be the Pumpkin King, and leave “Sandy Claws” to those who are better qualified for that job.

Is it a Halloween movie?  Is it a Christmas movie?  It’s an existential crisis!  But an awesome existential crisis!

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9.  Mrs. Vorhees (Friday the 13th)

Every movie needs a good guy (or bad girl.)  This is especially true of horror movies.  After all, where would we be without The Tall Man, Pennywise the Clown, Reverend Kane, along with many other bad guys that make these movies memorable?

Well, we can add Mrs. Vorhees to that list as well.

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When I bring up Friday the 13th, most people think of the guy in the hockey mask.  I then have to gently remind him that he is the protagonist in the 19 or so sequels that the franchise has generated, along with the awesomely bad crossover where Jason and Freddy meet…spoiler alert:  they don’t meet for Netflix and chill!

So, let’s go back to the beginning.

In other words, the infamous Camp Crystal Lake.  And a few horny teenagers.  And of course, the campers.

And…the camp’s cook?

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Yes, the camp’s cook.  And the mother to Jason Vorhees, who (supposedly) drowned due to the horny camp counselors not doing their job, due to fact of being…well…horny.

Again, Jason is a non-factor in the first film of the franchise.  We do see the “Jason half” of Mrs. Vorhees personality, as she rationalizes killing teenagers, but Mrs. Vorhees is responsible for all the blood and guts.  All.  The.  Blood.  And.  Guts.

All of it!

I personally love a lady vs. lady show down.  There is something much more fierce about those, and so primal.

Well, I got my wish when I watched Friday the 13th, in one of the most epic onscreen lady vs. lady show downs in the history of film and television!

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It doesn’t get much better than that, folks!


8)  Sidney Prescott (Scream)

When I watched Deadpool, I found it amusing that the title character seemed to be self-aware.  He knew he was in a movie, and made reference to that fact throughout the movie.  It was good for plenty of yuks!

The movie Scream also uses the concept of “self aware”, and perhaps one of the best uses of that concept.

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After all, Scream constantly makes references to horror movies throughout the movie.

In fact, in the opening scene, the killer begins by asking trivia questions (see the above entry.)  And that is just the beginning.

Scream pokes fun at the horror genre.  A lot.  After, we now all know to never say, “I’ll be right back?”  Or to drink or have sex in a horror movie, as those acts also mean certain death.

However, underneath the humor, Scream is still a horror movie.  With a protagonist who kicks ass.

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And oh yeah, this protagonist just happens to be a girl!

Sidney’s plight is something that is all too familiar:  her mother was raped and murdered.  The murderer was supposedly caught and put in jail, but Sidney is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s death, and the repressed emotions that come with the trauma.

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And then people start getting killed.  Sidney is still struggling with her trauma, and is now unsure of who she can trust.  Sidney is also now unsure that she did correctly identify her mother’s killer, and fears that she may have put the wrong man in jail.

Throughout the movie, Sidney shows herself to be a fighter.  From the reporter who will not stop harassing her to her friend and boyfriend who turn out to to be the killers, Sidney proves that she is resilient, and a force to be reckoned with.

Processing trauma and coming out on the other side is difficult, but is rewarding when it is finally accomplished.  The character of Sidney Prescott is a wonderful example of this.

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7.  Nancy Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street)

Often, I joke (well, sort of) that I am in a relationship with…my bed.

Hi, my name is Leah, and if I don’t get my sleep, I will cut a bitch!

In other words, my bed is a refuge, as is my sleep.

Well, sleep usually is.  Although sometimes I am given to having nightmares…

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But I am lucky in the fact that my nightmares, no matter how real they seem (that one featuring the Tall Man and strange Lovecraftian creatures was certainly a doozy), are just dreams in the end.

They can’t hurt me.

The subject of this particular entry, however, was not so lucky.

Poor Nancy.

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Falling asleep became dangerous for her, so no refuge for her.

I mean, she dozed off in class and nearly got killed for it.  Makes the detention one would normally expect seem kind of mild, right?

However, Nancy sleeps on it (see what I did there) and decides to do something about the evil creature who has been tormenting her and her friends in their dreams.

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First, she recruits her boyfriend, Glenn, to help her catch Freddy. But when that doesn’t work, she doesn’t give up, and instead persuades her father to help trap Freddy.

Nancy just will not take no for an answer, and will stop at nothing to destroy Freddy Kreuger for good (or at least until the next sequel, at any rate.)

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She will not go down without a fight, and I have always loved her for it.

Freddy Kreuger may be one of my favorite horror movie villains of all time, but let’s face it, without Nancy, he would be nothing.  And that is not just because he needs dreams from teenagers so that he can exist.

The fact that my favorite horror villain has to face off against a woman is just icing on the cake.  Wait, I take that back.  Nancy is the cake, icing and all.

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6.  Willow Rosenberg (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Now, I often tell people that high school was hell for me. And it was.

I spent most of my time isolated.  And being isolated was actually the good part.  When I was “only isolated,” I considered myself to be lucky, as least I wasn’t being tormented.

The lesser of the two evils, I suppose…

But what was that saying that I heard way back when, about a guy with no shoes who meets a guy with no feet and gets some kind of new perspective?

In other words, I should be lucky that my school was not built on a Hellmouth, right?

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Isolation and bullying is one thing.  We can talk about the lesser of two evils and so forth…

But when your school is built on a Hellmouth, and when you have to deal with vampires, werewolves, and all kinds of other Big Bads, I think we are beyond the discussion of the lesser of two evils.

In fact, you may just piss one of those Big Bads off by referring to him/her/it as “lesser.”  And that would be dangerous indeed.

And in the midst of all this…well…Hell, we have Willow Rosenberg.

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Now, Willow may be a classic “sidekick” to Buffy, who had the fortune (or is it misfortune?) of moving to Sunnydale, CA, where her destiny as The Slayer awaited her, but make no mistake about it:  Willow is also a bad ass herself.

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Not only did she fight along Buffy’s side (along with Xander, Giles and a few others), Willow also, like so many of us, struggled to find her identity in the Hell otherwise known as high school.

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As a result, one of the most fascinating character arcs in television history emerged.

How often do you see someone go from high school computer nerd, to fledgling witch, to full fledged witch, all the while never losing her integrity, making the arc seem so natural?

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Oh, and Willow also came out as a lesbian somewhere in there too, making her one of the first major characters in a TV show to be openly gay.  And it was all so natural too.  When Willow finally coupled up with Tara, it seemed so right, and to be true love, as opposed to some kind of fetish.  Her friends accepted her as gay, and nothing really changed between them…I loved it!

Oh, and any time I think any of my break ups were bad (along with my high school experience), I just think what was done to poor Willow in the name of entertainment for the masses.  I think this is where that term ugly cry comes into play.


5.   Carrie White (Carrie, 1976)

Yeah, see above…

I will say it once and I will say it again:  High school, aka government babysitting is overrated at best.  At worst, it is Hell.  And the high school in question does not even need to be built on a Hellmouth to suck.  High schools do that quite well on their own, thankyouverymuch.

And again, my high school experienced sucked.  It sucked bunches.  My best memory, other than finally graduating, was getting a 100% on a calculus test.

The teacher must have though I was a freak…

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Well, I am a freak.  But I actually think my freakage is pretty mild, compared to this particular entry.

Meet Carrie White.

On one hand, Carrie is your typical high school reject.  At best, the other students ignore her, and she is invisible to pretty much everyone.

But the at worst part is just horrible.  Getting pelted by tampons, while you are having your first period at age 17 and thinking you are dying…well, I think I would trade going to high school on the Hellmouth for that one!

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However, on the other hand, Carrie is not your typical high school reject.  For one thing, she has a religious fanatic for a mother at home, who shames her for getting her period, getting asked to prom, and pretty much shames her daughter for existing.

Carrie also possesses telekinetic powers.  And this turns out to be bad news for everyone.  When a high school prank goes horribly wrong, and Carrie is humiliated at prom, everyone is at the brunt of Carrie’s revenge.

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Carrie’s powers are unleashed, and the results are epic, to say the least.

I have always said that the villains in this movie are Margaret White, along with Carrie’s cruel classmates.  Carrie is the most innocent among all the characters.  How could you expect her not to finally retaliate, after the happiest night in her tormented life is ruined?

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I shed more than a few tears when Carrie died (see the part above about the ugly cry.)

And for the record, my high school classmates should be lucky that I did not possess telekinetic powers…

Very lucky…

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4.  Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

“Well, I’ve read through that handbook for the recently deceased. It says: ‘live people ignore the strange and unusual”. I myself am strange and unusual.”

Oh, the above quote…

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When I first heard it, there were so many emotions to process…

Happiness was one of them, of course.

And, believe it or not, relief was one of them as well.

I may have fallen in love a little that day, with a fictional character.  I have a bad habit of doing that, it seems.

Of course, I am speaking of Lydia Deetz.

As a 90’s kid, “Goth” was a thing.

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We all had them in at least one class.

The kids who wore all black, even in the summertime.

Often, they loved horror.

They had an affinity for creepy things.

Their taste in music was cutting edge, to say the least.  Nine Inch Nails, anyone?

Lydia Deetz started the Goth culture.

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She rocked the all black and pale-face make-up before it was cool (I mean, I was pale-face before it was cool, but no make-up needed here.  Gotta love being a soul stealing ginger, AmIrite?)

In case I have not made this clear, I was not a kid who fit in.  In fact, I didn’t really belong anywhere.

Growing up, I felt like a ghost.  Sometimes I wondered if I was actually dead, and everyone knew it but me and forgot to tell me.

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And like Lydia, I lived in a world of my creation.  I loved to read and write, and create art.

Those interests don’t exactly make one’s phone ring off the hook on Friday night, but I tried to remain true to myself.

That was the thing I admired most about Lydia:  she remained true to herself.

She preferred the company of ghosts over people (well, I preferred the company of animals, but close enough, right?)

Things that repelled most people attracted Lydia (to this day, my parents still think I am some kind of literary leper for loving Stephen King.)

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Being different is a good thing.  But often, it is lonely.

Characters like Lydia Deetz remind us of how awesome different is, and make the journey a little less lonely.


3.  Eleven (Stranger Things)

“She’s our friend and she’s crazy!”

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Stranger Things is my show and it’s awesome!

Now, no matter what else happens in 2016 (and we still have the presidential election to get through, so the season finale is still a bit far away), we can at say, “At least we had Stranger Things.”

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And there so many things to love about Stranger Things.

It is a tribute to all things 80’s.

It pays homage to all kinds of horror, including John Carpenter films, Wes Craven and even H.P. Lovecraft.

It is a gold mine for Stephen King fans.  The story line of people with PSI abilities is classic King (Firestarter, anyone?), not to mention the fact that The Master’s name is lovingly brought up in an episode.

I could go on and on, actually.  Lots of reasons to love Stranger Things

At least eleven, I would say…

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Oh, right.  Eleven.  The subject of this entry!

If you told me that the show Stranger Things centered on the subject of four friends (who are boys) and their entrance into adulthood, along with the loss of innocence they experience, you would be correct.

On the surface, that is what Stranger Things is about (along with a monster christened Mr. Tulip-Head and his band of merry slugs.)  That statement would not be incorrect.

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But, like the books written by a certain famous writer, Stranger Things is so much more than that.

Enter Eleven, everyone’s favorite waffle loving, bald-headed escapee from an evil government lab run by the creep known as Dr. Pedophile.

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And oh yeah, Eleven possesses PSI abilities, along with being on the run from “Papa” (shudder.)

At first, Eleven serves as kind of homing beacon, to help Mike and his friends try to find their missing friend Will, whose disappearance just happens to coincide with Eleven’s appearance.

However, the boys, especially Mike, grow to like Eleven on her own merits.  A friendship develops, and Eleven becomes fiercely protective of her new friends (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Through their friendship with Eleven, the boys mature, and also come to the realization that the world is not a safe place, nor is it always a fair place.  Eleven brings out the best in Mike, who begins to fall in love with her.

The realization that the world is not a safe or fair place comes in the final episode, when Eleven (seemingly) sacrifices herself to the alternate dimension known as the Upside-Down, when she battles the monster that was responsible for kidnapping Will.

Out of all the characters on the show, Eleven proves herself to the most selfless of the bunch, who takes the meaning of friendship to a new level, when she sacrifices herself for another child who she does not even know.  She also proves herself to be a tough fighter, in her journeys to the Upside-Down and her battle with the extra-dimensional monster.

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And a fierce protector of Eggo Waffles everywhere.  Do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess with that girl’s waffles, if you know what’s good for you!

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2.  Vanessa Ives (Penny Dreadful)

I love Eva Green

Oh, how I love Eva Green!

Eva Green is the bomb.com!

Did I mention that I love Eva Green?

Okay, just wanted to make my point clear.

And the reason I fell in love with Eva Green was her portrayal of Vanessa Ives on the show Penny Dreadful.

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I have problems.  I really do.  Sometimes they feel like they number around 99, although I am really not sure if a bitch accounts for more than a few (although my crazy dog could be put into that bitch category.)

But then, I can go watch the period horror/drama known as Penny Dreadful, and I get some perspective.

In other, my problems are pretty damn mild.  Or maybe even non-existent, really.

After all, I don’t have the Devil Himself after me.

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Or Dracula, for that matter.

I may have guys hit on me and give me unwanted attention, but at least they aren’t evil incarnate.

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(On a side note, no one has ever seen my ex and Lucifer in the same room together.  Fun fact of the day!)

Nor am I harassed by a coven of witches who are willing to hand me over to at least one of the above.

Oh, and I don’t live in Victorian London, where women are limited to only a couple of roles, and if they don’t fit in, then well, that’s just too bad, isn’t it?

I have just described a day in the life of Vanessa Ives, the main character of the show Penny Dreadful.  Yikes much?

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But somehow, despite all of the horrors she has to endure throughout her life (both supernatural and non-supernatural), Vanessa Ives is able to maintain a kind of grace that one rarely sees even in people who have not been cursed by an unknown evil force.

Vanessa makes everyone around her better.  Her influence is something to behold, as she brings out the best even in those who may not be the best humanity has to offer (Victor Frankenstein and Sir Malcolm being prime examples of this.)

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Vanessa’s influence even extends to the ‘non-human” characters in the show, including Caliban (otherwise known as The Creature) and Ethan, the werewolf.

Caliban, in particular, benefits from his friendship with Vanessa.  Even before he became “The Creature,” Caliban was in danger of his losing his humanity due to his employment with the Banning Clinic.  However, when he is forced to care for Vanessa, he begins to see his patients as individuals, as opposed to numbers, and realizes that his employer is in the wrong in its treatment of its patients, and that he can no longer work for them.

Eva Green as Vanessa Ives and Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 2, episode 5). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_205_1509

(Another side note:  anyone who watches the episode A Blade of Grass without tearing up at least a little bit has ice water instead of blood in his/her veins, and we cannot be friends.)

Even after Caliban is transformed into The Creature, Vanessa extends her friendship to him, reminding Caliban that he is more than a corpse stitched together and brought back to life as a science experiment.

Vanessa’s character serves to make the ending even more poignant, as she sacrifices herself so that others may live.

Vanessa’s friends mourn her death, but it is clear that she lives on in each of them, as her influence continues, even after her death.

Rory Kinnear as The Creature in Penny Dreadful (season 3, episode 9). - Photo: Jonathan Hession/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: PennyDreadful_309_3066


And now, for my number 1 woman in horror…

drum-roll-please

I give you…


Dana Scully (The X Files)

OK, let’s get one thing straight…

That’s Dr. Scully to you!

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Now, in case it wasn’t clear, I was a nerd growing up.

I liked math and science.

I read books on theoretical physics for fun.

A wild day for me consisted of visiting the library and finding five books.  OR SIX BOOKS.  SIX BOOKS!

So, as you can imagine, my social calendar was clear until approximately February 30th, 2087.  Although these days, I’m a little more booked, because that calendar is clear until May 32nd 2072, although if you need something, I may be able to shuffle things around and pencil you in.

But, in the fall of 1993, things began to look up.  Well, a little bit, at least.

For that is when we had the debut of The X Files.

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Before I watched The X Files, I did not see a lot of representation of women in my world, aka the world of nerd.  Now, this did not necessarily bother me much, at least on a conscious level.

However, deep inside, I knew that something was missing,  I could not tell you what, but I knew that my world was lacking.

But then Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully made their entrance to the screen.

And right away, it became evident of what my world was missing.

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You see, the world of horror and general nerdiness had been waiting for a woman like Scully.  Finally, she arrived.

And she did not disappoint.

Scully was smart (see the opening sentence to this entry.)

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Not only was Scully smart, she could throw down some serious shade.  And usually, she was wearing heels of at least three inches while doing that.

And her autopsies were so cool!  They almost made me want to go to medical school, just so I could throw around medical jargon like that.  Almost.

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Scully also kept her partner Mulder grounded.  Mulder could get a little nutty at times with his (literally) out of this world theories, but Scully was able to reign him in, and was the yin to yang.  They made a great team.

While Mulder often had to rescue Scully from cannibals, a death fetishist and a few other horrors (both human and supernatural), Scully often often rescued Mulder.

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I loved seeing her storm in with those heels, pointing her gun and flashing her FBI badge.  Sometimes her efforts backfired, and Scully would end up in a dire predicament as well.  But many times, Scully was able to get Mulder out whatever predicament he found himself in, and the two could go on to kick ass for another episode.

Scully also faced the same sexism many of us in the “real world” have to face on regular basis.  Sometimes people were reluctant to respect her, or would ignore her in favor of her male partner.  But Scully always handled that so well, and could silence her naysayers with a single look or sentence.  And I loved her for it.

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And I have one thing to say:  Representation matters.  I am someone who has spent her life feeling invisible and ignored.  And its not fun.  I do not wish that on anyone.

But when we create characters such as Dana Scully, the world becomes a little brighter.  And a little less lonely.

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At last, someone gets us.  And the journey becomes exciting,  At last, we begin to see the hope.


Well, that’s it for my top 10 ladies in horror.

I am sure I missed a few, but compiling this list was not an easy task.  So a shout out to any I may have left out:  You are not forgotten!

So, if you don’t feel like being horrified by Indianapolis Colts football, pop in one of these movies, or tune in to Netflix and watch one of these shows.

At the very least, you can kill a few hours.  Or maybe, just maybe, you can appreciate one of these films or TV shows in a new light, after seeing some kick ass ladies!

Happy watching!

 

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My Top 10 Horror Movies

For many years, horror has been a big part of my life.

And for the record, I am not talking about my marriage to my ex husband…

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Actually, I don’t think I was married to a psychotic clown living in the sewers.  However, no one ever saw my ex and Pennywise in the same room, so this remains open to debate.

No, I am talking horror in books and in movies.

I am huge Stephen King nut and I have been reading his books off and on since I was twelve years old.  Twenty six years, for you nosy folks!

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Of course, Stephen King was not the only thing in my horror diet.  I love pizza, but I can’t eat that every day.  And I love Stephen King, but my literary diet does need at least some variety, lest I suffer from vitamin L deficiency (literary deficiency, for the uninitiated.)

So, I read other writers.  Joe Hill does nicely in a pinch.  And I’m not saying that just because I consider him to be The Master 2.0 (I may be just a little biased, but oh well.)

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And of course, Clive Barker, Michaelbrent Collings, Joseph Duncan and quite a few others supplement my literary diet quite nicely, so I don’t have to worry about any deficiencies.

I can also turn to the screen to pick up some variety too.  In other words, there’s always movies and television.

I will be an X Phile for life.  I also love Penny Dreadful and am still officially in mourning because the series ended earlier this year.

And horror movies.  Who can forget horror movies?

Is there a better way to spend an afternoon, or perhaps an evening, than watching a good horror movie?

Maybe you snuggle up to your man and bury your head on his chest when the scary parts come on, but still peek anyway.  Or maybe you just have dogs for company, although burying your head on a dog may end up squishing the dog instead.  Or result in said dog moving REALLY far away.  REALLY FAR, maybe as much as five feet away from you!

Watching horror movies is fun.  The adrenaline rush is fun.  And horror movies tend to have some comedy in them, so you get the laughs too.  Or perhaps at least some soft core porn, since sex is usually a big part of most horror movies.

And there are so many horror flicks to choose from.  You have ones based on Stephen King books, like Carrie, Children of the Corn and that mini series with that really scary clown dude…hold on, I will think of It

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And classic slasher films.  Who doesn’t love Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or the escapades of goofy old Michael Myers?

Or perhaps your bag is more dark fantasy, and you get in the mood for some Horns!

At any rate, there are lots of good horror movies out there.  And after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to write a blog post, listing my top ten horror movies.  It took a few tries, but I have whittled it down to ten, so here goes nothing!

Reminder:  this is one blogger’s opinion only.  I am aware that I probably left your favorite movie off, but I really don’t care.  And if you are going to roast me, go with slow heat, the flavors will be more developed that way.

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Well, we all have to start somewhere, right?

And my somehow happened to be a movie where people died.

Lots of people died, in fact.

And in really inventive ways.

And klowns were responsible.  Killer Klowns.  And these Killer Klowns were from outer space!

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If I remember correctly, Killer Klowns from Outer Space was the first horror movie that I watched.  And it set the stage for me.

Yes, the movie is just ridiculous.  I mean, cotton candy somehow became a weapon…c’mon, man!

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And acting?  What acting?  Although, to be fair, it didn’t require much acting to die at the hands of the Killer Klowns who killed in inventive ways.

Shortly after I watched this (alternating between sort of hysterical laughter and gross out noises that only a 12 year old girl can make), I began to explore horror, in both books and films.  I became a Stephen King addict.  I started watching Alfred Hitchcock too.

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And, as they say, the rest is history.

Killer Klowns should be labeled a gateway movie.  Because it was, at least for me.

It was a gateway.  A gateway into the horror genre.  And I can’t think of a better (or is it horrible) movie to receive that honor.


9.  Candyman

Often, horror movies deal with morality…

Ok, now that you are done choking on your coffee (or whatever other beverage you may be imbibing at the moment), let’s talk about this.

Of course, sex is a theme in a lot of horror movies.  There is a direct correlation to how many clothes come off and the proximity to home base and how quickly one dies in a horror movie, it seems.

But many horror movies deal with other kinds of issues that actually don’t have anything to do with teenagers having sex.

One of these movies is Candyman.

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The villain in this movie, Candyman, was actually the son of a slave, who had become a well-known artist.  However, the man makes the mistake of falling in love with a white woman, and (literally) all hell breaks loose.  He is attacked by a white lynch mob, which cuts off his painting hand and replaces it with a hook.  The mob then smears the man with honey, chanting “Candyman”, as he is stung to death by bees.

Of course, the man continues to live on, even after death, as Candyman. a spirit who can be summoned when someone looks into a mirror and says “Candyman” five times.

Since this is a horror movie, there is someone stupid  brave enough to do just that.  And lots of people get murdered.  Lots and lots of people.  So that’s disturbing.

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But the movie is disturbing for more than just the fact that a guy can come out of a mirror and kill people.  It turns out that 26 people, all of whom were residents of the notorious Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago, have been murdered.  And the police have put forth no effort to solve the murders.  Some of these victims are children.  All of the victims are African American.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  In other words, just turn on the news, and something similar will likely pop up at some point.  Maybe.  Tragically, many people of color are murdered in this country.  If the victim is lucky, the media acknowledges the murder, and someone puts forth the effort to bring justice to the victim and his/her family.  However, more often than not, just like in this particular movie, the crime is ignored.  Or worse yet, the victim’s so-called criminal record is on display, and he or she is vilified, rubbing salt into the wounds of an already grieving family.

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Race plays a huge factor in murder, the solving of murders and policing in general in this society.  Often, there is more than enough real life horror to go around, and a ghost with a hook is nowhere nearly as frightening as our fellow man.


8.  Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

Often, the line between reality and fiction is blurred.

School shootings are tragically common in this country, and some shooters have stated that the Richard Bachman book, Rage, was their inspiration for the crimes committed, for example.

But what if a fictional character can somehow come to life?

I will admit, I spent a whole summer being frightened of storm drains after my responsible camp counselor took it upon herself to enlighten us about Pennywise the Clown.  So ten year old me spent a summer assiduously avoiding being in the bathroom by herself for too long, along with jumping at every shadow…good times, in other words!

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But luckily, Pennywise never came to life, and I was safe.  Although I still stand by my statement about never having seen my ex and Pennywise in the same room, but that’s another story!

Sometimes, characters that are created become all too real.  We mourn their deaths as we would the death of a friend or family member.  Or we shake our heads when a TV show or book character makes what we think to be terrible decisions, and we feel their pain at the consequences of those decisions.

Or, these characters scare into a change of pants, and they haunt our dreams…

Like Freddy Kreuger.

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The Nightmare on Elm Street franchise has become a bit of a joke, with all the sequels and even a reboot in 2010.  But when you get down to it, Freddy Kreuger is one scary motherfucker…and I will stand by that statement until my dying day!

The fact that Freddy Kreuger is believable is bad enough.  After all, guys murdering kids and our justice system letting them off on a technicality is something that happens, unfortunately.  And if I were a parent, I wouldn’t be above murder, in the interest of keeping my child and others safe from a monster like that.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare takes things up a level, and could be considered meta fiction, as Wes Craven and Heather Langenkamp both play themselves in the movie.  The movie also stars Robert Englund, who plays himself, along with an even more horrifying version of Freddy Kreuger.

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It turns out that Freddy is indeed real, and after Heather, because she defeated him onscreen.  And no one is safe, including her family.

Works of art can often have an effect on the creator, along with anyone else who may be influenced by that particular work of art.  This is a fascinating theme that New Nightmare explores.  The deaths are gruesome, and the entire film has a strange, dreamlike quality, which makes this movie even scarier than its “source material.”


7)  Freaks

It is no secret that people fear what they don’t understand.

As someone who spent much of her life being bullied for her looks and well…for just being herself, I have first hand experience with this.  I have had people makes assumptions about anything and everything about me, even questioning my intelligence, because of how I looked.  In fact, I had few friends when I was in high school, and did not even kiss a guy until I was 19 years old.  And most of this was due to my feelings of how I looked.  And I have come a long way, but even today, I am uncomfortable with almost any kind of comments in regards to my looks, even though no one has told me I am ugly in a long, long time.

In fact, I think I dreamed of joining the circus for a time.  But since that was not a practical solution, I did the next best thing:  I rented the movie Freaks.

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Freaks deals with quite a few hot button topics, but it really boils down to is one thing:  man’s inhumanity to man, along with the fact that you can’t really judge a book by its cover.  Oh, and karma is a real bitch!

This movie is controversial to some, because of how it depicts those who may suffer from disabilities.  However, when I watched this movie, the so-called “freaks” were the ones I rooted for, and the ones who actually behaved in a humane (well, sort of, given what they have gone through in their lifetimes) manner.  However, the so-called “normal” folks were the enemies, especially the beautiful woman who tried to trick one of the “freaks,” so she could get access to his money.

I thought of the “beautiful one” as one of the mean girls in high school who was only nice to me when she wanted something (like answers to the math homework) and who would talk about me behind her back any chance she got.  However, someone finally gave her what she deserved, and she got to take a walk on the other side…

Again, karma is a bitch!

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6)  Carrie

While we are on the topic of high school and the mean girls who rarely get what they deserve, let’s talk about the movie Carrie.  For clarification, we will be discussing the 1976 version.

I have mixed feelings about onscreen adaptations of Stephen King novels.  Some, like The Green Mile, are straightforward adaptations that remain almost word for word to the source material.  Others, like 1408 and 11.22.63, are not straightforward adaptations, but still remain faithful to the spirit of the books.  And of course, there are others, like The Running Man, that share little in common with the source material, other than the title.

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Carrie is one of those adaptations that fall into the second category:  it is not a slavish adaptation to the source material, but anyone familiar with the novel can still “see” the novel when watching the movie.  The changes add to the story, rather than detracting from it.  Additionally, the performances in the movie, especially by Piper Laurie and Sissy Spacek, are outstanding, and bring the movie from good to phenomenal.

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The title character in the movie Carrie is one many of us can sympathize with.  I also rooted for Carrie when I read the book and watched the movie.  And I understood why Carrie “snapped”:  there is only so much abuse one can take from her peers before she decides that enough is enough.  Carrie’s treatment at the hands of her peers cut me to the core, as I had to deal with bullying for most of my school career, and that bullying pretty much ruined my life for years to come.  And Carrie’s death was most upsetting, although I was glad that her bullies got their just desserts.

One of the changes from the novel in the movie was the ending.  Sue Snell (who had tried to help Carrie) dreams that she is visiting Carrie’s grave, which has been defaced.  Sue attempts to place flowers on the grave, but a hand suddenly comes up from the ground, grabbing Sue.  Sue then awakens in hysterics, and is seemingly still in the dream.

That scene gets me.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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5)  Jacob’s Ladder

My father was drafted during the Vietnam War and actually saw time in Vietnam.  We don’t talk about his experiences much, but, not surprisingly, Vietnam has been a huge shadow over my life.  I am also an 80’s child, so Vietnam is also a huge theme in many movies that I grew up watching, including Rambo, Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket.

In high school, I read Dante’s Inferno.  I was fascinated with the concept of Purgatory:  there is a stage between this life and the afterlife, where you are doomed to repeat all the worst moments in your life, before you finally figure it out, and move on to the next level, whatever that may be.  And some poor souls never figure it out, and are doomed to repeat their mistakes for all eternity.

The movie Jacob’s Ladder combines commentary on the Vietnam War, along with the concept of Purgatory.  The title character, Jacob, is troubled by horrible memories of his time in Vietnam, where he believes that he was drugged and committed atrocities.  Soon, he is unable to tell the difference between dreams and reality, as he begins to see odd things in his daily life that he cannot explain.  Jacob’s visions escalate, and he fears that he is going mad.

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Well, it turns out that Jacob is (literally) a lost soul.  See the part about Purgatory.  In other words, that creepy fortune teller is right:  Jacob is already dead.  He was placed in a body bag in Vietnam, but never accepted his death.  So he has been stuck in Purgatory and is haunted by his past sins.

It is only when Jacob faces the truth about what has happened to him, that he is able to move on.  He is led by his deceased son to whatever the next level of life is.  It is noted by the doctors that Jacob seems to now be at peace.

Like The Inferno, Jacob’s Ladder is a great metaphor for being able to let go and not hold on to something that no longer serves any purpose in one’s life (or afterlife.)  It also brings attentions to the horrors of war, and manages to still be a scary, effective horror movie.

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4)  Horns

Sometimes, we create our own monsters.  And the monster within is far more frightening than a bloodsucking vampire or a clown that lives in the sewers.

Horns explores the concept of the monster within in depth.  Based on a book by Joe Hill, this movie deals with many other themes other than “the monster within,” including family, friendship, first love and just who (or what) can be considered evil.

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One morning, Ignacio M. Parrish (note the initials), or Ig, wakes up and finds he has grown a pair of horns.  These horns are invisible (almost) everyone else, but Ig finds out that people will confess their darkest desires (and sometimes even act those desires out, having lost all inhibition) to him, as the horns seem to exude some sort of influence on (almost) everyone around him.

We also learn of Ig’s first love, Merrin, and that Merrin was murdered nearly a year prior.  Ig was accused of the murder, and no one in town believes that he is innocent.  For the rest of the movie, Ig struggles to understand what he has become, and to solve Merrin’s murder and clear his own name.  Ig also finds out that those he called friends and family are really anything but, and that he stands alone in his desire to bring justice to Merrin.

Horns appears to be a horror movie, and it is, but it is so much more.  It is a love story, a cat-and-mouse detective story and even a dark fantasy, with a lot of religious allegory.  In other words, a little something for everyone.

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3.  Burnt Offerings

Move over, The Amityville Horror  and The Conjuring.  There’s a new (well, not really) haunted house movie in town, and it goes by the name of Burnt Offerings.

Burnt Offerings may not be the movie one thinks of when anyone brings up the subject of the haunted house movie.  And that would be a grave oversight, as this movie is the movie I believe should represent the haunted house movie category.

In many ways, Burnt Offerings is your standard haunted house movie.  There is a nice young family, which includes the sweet old great aunt Elizabeth (played brilliantly by Bette Davis.)  The nice young family gets a deal for a summer home rental that is probably too good to be true.  The mother of the nice young family doesn’t listen, of course, and that spells doom for everyone.

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However, in many ways, Burnt Offerings is NOT your standard haunted house movie.  For one thing, ghosts are not a major of part of the movie. Instead, the movie relies on “real life horrors” (like a father trying to drown his child) and the house itself becomes a character, exerting its evil influence on the inhabitants.  The film also uses psychological horror, invading the minds of the inhabitants and terrorizing them with unpleasant past memories.

Oh, and before we move on to the next entry, let’s hear it for the chauffeur.  In other words, one of the many reasons I need to spend some quality time in my therapist’s chair, even as an adult.  He may have also been responsible for a soiled pair of underwear, but I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.

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2.  Phantasm

In any horror movie, you have to have a good villain.  After all, a good horror movie is nothing without a guy (or girl, or creature) that you love to hate.

For a long time, Pennywise the Clown was that creature.  Could anything be scarier than a homicidal clown who lives in the sewers and eats kids?

Well, I think I found someone to give good old Pennywise a run for his money (or is that a run for his souls?)

Enter The Tall Man, the villain from the movie Phantasm.  Again, I can neither confirm nor deny a rumor that this man may also have been responsible for a pair or two of soiled underwear.

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Phantasm may be old (only a year younger than yours truly…yikes!) but surprisingly, it stands the test of time.  I watched this movie recently, and it scared the crap out of me all over again…yikes!

As I have said before, Phantasm is all about the villain.  The Tall Man is definitely someone I would not want to meet in a dark alley (and I will pass on his dwarfs too, thank you.)  However, I was also struck by the movie’s use of ordinary objects to elicit a sense of foreboding and outright fear.  I think I can rightfully make the statement that this the only movie I know of that managed to make a guitar tuning fork frightening.  Along with the inside of the funeral home, although those are pretty frightening anyway.  Even Mike’s bedroom was frightening, although that may have just been the 1970’s decor (something that thankfully has NOT withstood the test of time.)

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It should be noted that while I generally have no use for sequels, especially with horror movies  (Carrie 2: The Rage anyone?), I think that Phantasm II is also very good and worth watching, although it seems to be more of a continuation than a sequel.


And now, for my favorite horror movie of all time…

drum-roll-please

Poltergeist (1982)

Yes, I have chosen Poltergeist as my favorite horror movie of all time.  This may seem like an odd choice, but roll with me on this, ok?

Poltergeist, on the surface, is not your typical horror movie.  There is no violence.  There is no sex.  There is hardly even any swearing…I believe that the worst word someone uses is “damn”, and there are certainly no f bombs.  In fact, the movie is rated PG, which is, again, unusual for a horror movie.

In fact, at points, this movie could be mistaken for a Disney movie…thank you, Zelda Rubinstein!

However, Poltergeist is one fucking scary movie.  I will mince no words:  this movie scared the shit out of me when I first saw, and still continues to scare the shit out of me to this day.

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Like I said before, this movie could almost be mistaken for a Disney movie.  At first, the hi-jinks of the ghosts haunting the home of the Freeling family are sort of amusing.  Chairs move on their own accord.  Drinking glasses break.  Furniture cannot stay still.

But slowly, the hi-jinks become a little more sinister.  Carol Anne’s pet bird mysteriously dies.  And then is the matter of that tree outside the bedroom window that is not as nice as it appears…

Then, we get to disgusting, as one of the parapsychologists who pays a visit to the Freelings helps himself to leftovers one night, and finds out he is not eating chicken…

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Very quickly, things go from benign to sort of disturbing to outright fucking terrifying, as Carol Anne is kidnapped and trapped in some sort of alternate dimension, between the living and the dead.

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But the nice medium pays a visit, to help the family.  And Carol Anne is rescued.  Dad finds out that the house was actually built on a graveyard (more on that in a minute), and the family decides to pack up and move.

Case closed, right?

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Well, no.  The last 15 minutes or so of Poltergeist is the biggest roller coaster ride in any movie, as literally all Hell breaks loose.

Turns out, there is a technicality.  So…a forgetful person not only built the house on a graveyard, but kind of forgot to move…you know…the DAMN BODIES that were buried in those graves!

In other words, we are FUBAR, ladies and gentleman!

Of course, all ends well (except for that television set, but I can’t blame Dad on that one).  But the suspense came close to killing me the first time I watched this movie as a teenager…would everyone survive, or would the spirits win?  And even as an adult, those last 15 minutes get the old heart rate up…

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The other thing I like about Poltergeist is that it was made long before CGI was even an idea, so Steven Spielberg had to rely on other things to tell the story, like props, makeup, acting and oh yeah…good writing and storytelling!  There is a reason why so few movies after, oh say, 1995 are on this list:  CGI has made for lazy storytelling and has been responsible for the decline of modern horror, in this humble blogger’s opinion.

Oh, and a side note:  I may have referred to Pennywise the Clown quite a few times in this blog post, but I think that Pennywise would do well to bow down to the Poltergeist Clown, as I believe this clown should take home the honor (or is horror?) of All Time Scariest Fucking Clown in a Movie Ever.

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Well, that’s it for my all time favorite horror movies.  It was hard to whittle the list down to just ten, and I am sure a few really good movies were left off.  What it is it that they say?  Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, right?

So, check some of these flicks out if you haven’t already.  I promise you, none of them are as scary as that thing they call the Republican National Convention, but at least the makeup job on the villains is much better than the makeup job on Donald Trump!

BOCA RATON, FL - MARCH 13: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during his campaign rally at the Sunset Cove Amphitheater on March 13, 2016 in Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Trump continues to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

And with that note, adios!  Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Women in Stephen King Books

I am a nerd (well, duh).

I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)

Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.

In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)

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And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty.  But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it.  And I wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position.  I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.

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But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.

That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.

At least, this was the case when I was growing up.  It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.

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There was also Dr. Crusher.

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(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental.  Nope, no bias here at all).

But there was no denying it:  nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me.  Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys.  And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality:  meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.

In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept.  At last, a female nerd!  She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade!  And do all that in three inch heels!

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As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions.  Slowly, I began to find them.

In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus.  And I found some great female role models…

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Ok, glad you have let that sink in.  So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.

Stephen King

King is the master of modern horror.  This fact is undisputed by most.  He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.

But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too.  Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.

King also has given us the Every Woman.  It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male.  Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.

But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.

So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check!  I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.

So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works.  This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!

And, as always:

Homer spoiler


10.  Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)

I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.

However, Jo Noonan won out in the end.  She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point.  Which makes her human to me.

Jo Noonan was a force.  In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.

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Even in death, she was unstoppable.  Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished:  expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history.  Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike.  However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.

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And Jo succeeded in that mission:  with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.

Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book.  Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died.  Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.


9.  Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)

In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations.  Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions.  And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.

Abra Stone is one of these “King children.”  And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list.  One of them is that she is female.  She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women.  Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker.  There is no other way to put it.

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In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player.  Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.)  So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be.  And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.

However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities.  Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.”  In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones.  The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.

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However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others.  In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed.  Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed:  redemption.


8)  Margaret White (Carrie)

No story is complete without a good bad guy.

Or bad gal, as the case may be.

Carrie is King’s first published work.  The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.

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The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right.  As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels.  In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)

But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains.  I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.

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Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way.  However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere.  Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.

Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter.  Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose.  Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence.  She is further alienated by her peers.  One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom.  Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again.  However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.

Margaret White

Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story.  If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all.  So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.


7.  Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)

Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others.  King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.

Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse.  However, there is a twist:  Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.

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Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe.  Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop.  But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else:  his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena.  Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost.  And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.

Dolores C

At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem.  But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy.  So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident.  Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”

However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer.  She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family.  The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her.  But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.


6)  Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)

Behind every good man, there is a good woman.  Or something like that, as the saying goes.  In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.

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And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63.  Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.

Initially, Jake is alone in his question.  But this is not the case for long.  Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband.  And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.

Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest.  When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time.  She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake.  Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.

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Sadie is also amazing in her own right.  She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women.  She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake.  Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)


5.  Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)

Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations.  This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.

Roland and Susan

Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth.  However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly.  Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.

However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland.  She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet.  Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation.  And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery:  she is burned alive for “treason.”  But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.

cuthbert and alain

Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.”  She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather.  However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.


4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)

When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind.  And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.

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However, Roland is not alone in this quest.  He had friends once, but they were lost.  But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.

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Enter Susannah Dean.  And Odetta Holmes.  And Detta Walker.  No, Roland was not given three women.  He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)

When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self.  One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle.  However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah.  Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.

Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges:  Susannah Dean.  Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates.  She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything.  Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.

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Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest.  First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean.  Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son.  But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.


3)  Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)

A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness.  Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.

One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story.  Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process.  Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.

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Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary.  However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.

Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer.  Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.)  However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.

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Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor.  When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him.  Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.

Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott.  However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength.  And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.


2)  Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)

I am a survivor of domestic abuse.  For years, I lived in hell.  At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.)  I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse.  This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage.  The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally.  Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.

Rose Madder 1

But something kept me going for all of these years.  That something was the book Rose Madder.

Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman.  Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away.  But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.

Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help.  She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.

I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath.  Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles.  She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life.  Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.

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Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser.  And this is indeed a major step.  However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath.  Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more.  In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.


And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…

drum-roll-please

Allow me the pleasure of introducing…

Beverly Marsh (It)

Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character.  There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.

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Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers.  She may not technically be a “gunslinger.”  But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.

When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things.  I did not play with Barbie dolls.  Instead, many of my interests were “male.”  I liked the Ninja Turtles.  I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.

Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me.  Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family.  I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.

Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It.  And I met Beverly Marsh.  Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either.  Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own.  Beverly was tough and seemed fearless.  And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.

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Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact.  Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.

As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well.  And this is evident in a book like It.  The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book.  Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.

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And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror.  For starters, she was an outcast.  She was poor, so she was bullied.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones.  Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.

Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly.  She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years.  However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.

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In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life.  She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom.  Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome.  And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.


So there you have it.

My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe.  I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.

Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in.  They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.

And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring  world known as a Stephen King book.

RoaldDahl

Top 10 Friendships in Stephen King Books

All my life, I have been a loner.  A Loser, some might say.

Loser

Making friends has never been my strong suit.  Although I do have one good one now.  And she knows who she is, and how much I love her.  And how proud I am to call her my friend.

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But throughout much of my life, its just been me, myself and I.  I like being alone, but sometimes it gets a little old.

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So what do I did I do (and still do)?

What any sensible person does?  Grab a good book…duh!  A good book is a cure for almost anything, including the flu, being dumped by your ass hat ex and yes…loneliness!

I was able to lose myself in the adventures in these books (everything from Anne McAffrey to David Eddings to Madeleine L’Engle to almost any other category that you could think of).  Another trip to Pern?  Sure, sign me up stat!

Pern 1

But perhaps the biggest part of these books were the characters.  I identified so much with these characters.  My spirit Losers, much of the time.  And how I wished I could have a cup of coffee with some of these guys, and just chew the fat with them for a few hours.

And some of my most memorable book friendships (not to be confused with my book boyfriends, thank you very much) came from stories by Stephen King.

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Believe it or not, the man known for rabid dogs, killer clowns that live in the sewers and shit weasels has also created some memorable friendships.   Really, is there anything he can’t write about?

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Stephen King is just great at creating memorable characters.  And he can also portray relationships very well.  This combination makes for some great friendships between his characters.  Sometimes these relationships end in tragedy and sometimes at least one party makes some kind of noble sacrifice for the good of the other.  Or sometimes what was once a beautiful relationship turns toxic.  However, these relationships are rich and woven seamlessly into the tapestry we call a Stephen King book.  In other words, they are never dull.

With that being said, here are my top 10 friendships in all of Stephen King’s books.


 

10)  Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton (Revival)

Some friendships withstand the test of time and just endear.  Normally, this is a good thing…

However, what is good in our world is not always good in a Stephen King novel.  In other words, there are some friendships that just should not be, and this includes the one between Charles Jacobs and Jamie Morton in Revival.

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Sure, the relationship between the two main characters in Revival starts off innocuously enough.  A young preacher with a beautiful family, who just happens to have an unusual hobby (electrifying, you might say).  And a five year old boy who is impressionable, and eager to please.  And he also gets caught up in the preacher’s new hobby and becomes an eager assistant to his new friend…kind of sweet, actually.

Well, the friendship between young Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobson does start off as sweet and even a little touching.  But like most things in the King universe, all good things must come to an end.  And the relationship between Charles and Jamie does seem to come to an end, when a tragedy strikes.  Charles flees town, but Jamie is never quite able to forget the dynamic preacher.

A chance meeting years later re-kindles the friendship between the two.  At first, it seems that this is a good thing, as Charles is able to help Jamie kick his heroin habit.  However, the friendship soon becomes dangerous, as Charles persuades Jamie to assist him him in one final experiment that should not have taken place.  The results are tragic, and the consequences for Jamie, Charles and several other people are simply horrible.  Throughout the book, Jamie refers to Charles as his fifth business, and feels that he owes the man a favor.  However, the relationship between Jamie and Charles is proof that some debts are best left unpaid.

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9)  Dolores Claiborne and Vera Donovan (Dolores Claiborne)

Vera Donovan reminds her friends Dolores Claiborne (in the book of the same name) that sometimes an accident is a woman’s best friend (especially when it comes to husbands who abuse their daughters in unspeakable ways).

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While it is true that the accident that befalls Joe St. George winds up being a very good friend to poor Dolores, Vera Donovan ends up being the best friend that Dolores ever had.  Vera is able to offer some sage advice to her employee that helps save the well being of her employee’s family.  However, more importantly, Vera provides a listening ear for Dolores and acts as a sounding board of sorts, allowing Dolores to vent in relative safety.  Dolores is poor and lives in a hard world.  The treatment she endures from her husband and society in general is a constant reminder of how hard the world is for a woman like Dolores.  Vera’s situation is not as difficult (due to her wealth), but is still actually not much better than Dolores’ situation (it is implied that Vera may have been great friends with an accident that befell her husband).  However, Vera suffers from extreme loneliness, and that loneliness is only abated by the presence of her housekeeper (and later full-time caregiver).  Each woman provides what the other is unable to provide for herself, and is a complement to the other.

The relationship between Dolores and Vera can almost be considered symbiotic, as there is mutual benefit enjoyed by each party.

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8)  Jack Sawyer and Henry Leyden (Black House)

Like I said before, making friends has never been a strength of mine.  I was an awkward kid.  Now I’m an awkward adult.  And not cute awkward either.  More like what the fuck is wrong with you kind of awkward…

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So my social calendar is still almost as empty as it was during my childhood, except for a few special people.  And finding those special people is just even more awesome, since making friends becomes harder as you age (one of the few benefits of government sponsored babysitting er school is that you do get to be around your peer group.  Adulthood is not so cut and dry).

Jack Sawyer is a King character that seems to have the same problem:  he has trouble connecting with people, and is therefore very isolated.  However, his friendship with his blind neighbor Henry Leyden helps to bring him out of that isolation.  Jack begins to realize, through his conversations with Henry, that he is part of a higher purpose, and that he cannot continue to ignore his calling.  Jack also realizes that he must open up in regards to his childhood experiences in The Territories, because his knowledge may save someone’s (or several someone’s, for that matter) life.

Henry and Jack’s friendship is another example of a King relationship that ends in tragedy.  The fact that Henry passes away shortly after Jack finally makes the decision to remove some his walls just makes this particular friendship even more bittersweet.

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7)  Roland and Sheemie (The Dark Tower series)

One of the reasons why I love King’s work is his portrayal of the disenfranchised (i.e. the underdogs).  The disenfranchised (or underdogs) often play major roles in King’s work.  Oftentimes, these characters are among King’s most memorable, and they are portrayed in a loving (as opposed to pitiful) light, causing the reader to emphasize with the character, as opposed to pitying the character.

Sheemie Ruiz is one of these underdogs.  Sheemie is a mildly mentally handicapped young man who is first encountered by Roland Deschain and his friends during a fateful few months spent in the town of Meijis.  Roland and his friends stand up for Sheemie when he is wronged, and a friendship is born.  Sheemie soon becomes part of the ka-tet, and an integral member, to boot.  Sheemie’s contribution to Roland’s quest is a large one, and the gunslinger is never able to forget the young man he met during those fateful months in Meijis.

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The friendship between Roland and Sheemie is another example of a bittersweet relationship.  Even though the two are reunited many years later (and Sheemie once again becomes a contributor to Roland’s quest), Sheemie also becomes yet another casualty in Roland’s quest.

sheemie


 

6)  Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran (The Shining, Dr. Sleep)

Some of the best friendships are ones that span a wide gulf, whether that gulf be age, social class or any number of other factors.  After all, variety is the spice of life!

Danny Torrance and Dick Halloran are a perfect example of this type of friendship.  On the outside, the two could not be more different:  when they first meet, Dick and Danny are nearly 50 years apart in age.  Danny is the only child of two loving parents, and Dick is a confirmed life-long bachelor.  However, there is more that meets the eye for both Dick and Danny, as both possess PSI abilities that Dick refers to “the shining.”  In other words, both possess paranormal talents that render them outsiders, especially Danny.  However, Danny is able to receive some comfort from Dick, as he begins to realize that he is no longer alone.  And Dick is able come through for Danny in a way that most of the adults in Danny’s life (especially his father) are unable to do, when Danny uses his abilities to call on Dick to rescue him and his family from a haunted hotel that wishes to use Danny as a sort of human generator.

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Although the two fall out of touch, Dick is still able to come through for Danny yet again when needed, this time when Danny is forced to become an adult and help another psychically gifted child who has become endangered.  However, there is an added twist:  Dick is able to reach out from beyond the grave and offer his assistance.  The fact that Dick is able to assist Danny from beyond the grave makes this friendship even more endearing and powerful.

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5)  Wolf and Jack Sawyer (The Talisman)

Move over, Seth Rogen and James Franco.  You guys may be seen as the quintessential bromance, but someone has you beat on that front!

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Yes, Wolf and Jack Sawyer are actually the quintessential bromance (at least in this blogger’s humble opinion that worth at least 2 pesos, dammit).  And werewolves and 12 year old boys nicknamed Traveling Jack make much better couples, anyway.

wolf and jack

In all seriousness, Wolf and Jack are another example of a friendship that spans a great divide.  And the great divide is literal, since Wolf and Jack are actually from different worlds.  And not of the same species, as Wolf is a werewolf.  However, that does not matter to either Wolf or Jack, as they draw together in Jack’s quest to save his mother from dying of cancer (and save her Territories Twinner in the process).  Wolf becomes Jack’s guide in a world he does not understand, and Jack returns that favor to Wolf when the two are forced to continue their question in Jack’s world.  This friendship is truly complementary, as Wolf and Jack are able to provide each other with what the other needs.

And Wolf and Jack also fight together, to the very end.  This is yet another example of one of King’s tragic friendships, as Wolf sacrifices his life doing what he does best:  protecting the herd.

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4)  Nick Andros and Tom Cullen (The Stand)

Again, the underdogs and disenfranchised.  I cannot emphasize enough that these guys are some of King’s most well rounded and well written characters.  And Tom Cullen and Nick Andros definitely fall into the underdog category.  And both also fall into the well rounded and well written category.

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Nick Andros is a deaf mute, while Tom Cullen is a mildly mentally handicapped man.  Both are survivors of Captain Trips, aka the super flu that has killed off 99.999% of the population.  Nick communicates through writing, and Tom cannot read.  But somehow, these two manage to save each other, both from actual physical dangers and from loneliness.  Even though they cannot communicate at first (due to their handicaps), a deep lasting bond develops between the two.  The two men are able to eventually communicate when they meet Ralph Brenter, and all three become integral members of the Boulder Free Zone.  However, this friendship ends in tragedy when Nick is killed by a bomb placed in house that he is in while meeting with other members of the Free Zone.  Tom never forgets his friend, and thinks of him fondly.

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This is another relationship that extends beyond the grave, as Nick’s ghost helps Tom save Stu Redman from certain death after the defeat of Randall Flagg.

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3)  Jake and Oy (The Dark Tower series)

Ah, a boy and his dog…does it get any sweeter than that?

lassie-and-timmy

Well, actually, make that a boy and his bumbler.  But its still the same in principle.

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Animals are often major players in King’s works.  Cujo, Kojak and even the unfortunate cat Church all played major roles in the lives of the human beings around them.  Oftentimes, King’s animals are better people than the people in his stories, and Oy is no exception to that rule.

Cujo

Oy and Jake are another pair who manage to save each other.  Oy was an outcast from his pack and rescued by Jake, and joins Roland and the tet in their quest to save the Dark Tower.  Oy repays that favor in spades when he helps Roland save Jake from Gasher, a psychotic pedophile who seeks to rob Jake of his innocence.  This is just one of many times when Oy proves his worth as a four-legged gunslinger.  Oy is also the final piece of the puzzle for Jake, in that it is Oy who finally helps Jake feel at home in Mid-World, after his violent exit from his own world.  Oy becomes the glue that holds Jake to the quest, and to his new home in a strange place.

“I ake.”

Truer words could not be said by a billy bumbler (or anyone else), in expressing his feelings after what is one of the saddest deaths in any piece of literature I have ever read.

Jake and Oy


2) Duddits, Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy (Dreamcatcher)

Childhood and all the joys and traumas associated with it is a major theme in many King books, and these books are among some of his best works.  Dreamcatcher is a novel that deals with childhood, especially the friendships that are formed between children.

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Pete, Henry, Beaver and Jonesy are a foursome.  They are the quintessential best friends, and are seemingly average children.  However, when they stand up for child with Down syndrome (Douglas “Duddits” Cavell), that changes.  Not only do the boys do something courageous and even noble, they make a new friend who will change their lives forever.  Duddits is able to open the boys’ eyes, making them see the world in a new light.  Duddits also gives the boys a gift of telepathy, as Duddits is no ordinary child.  This gift (and Duddits’ powers) will come in handy in adulthood, when the boys (who are now men) must face another adversary, one that is far worse than the bully they confronted as children.  Once again, Duddits brings the men together, and allows them to defeat the enemy before it has a chance to endanger our planet.  The ending is bittersweet, as Duddits, Pete and Jonesy sacrifice their lives in the fight.

Quality: Original.   Film Title: Dreamcatcher (2003).   Pictured: (L to R) DAMIAN LEWIS, THOMAS JANE, TIMOTHY OLYPHANT and JASON LEE in Castle Rock Entertainment's and Village Roadshow Pictures' science fiction/horror film Dreamcatcher distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.   Photo Credit:   Doane Gregory.   Copyright:   Warner Bros. Pictures 2002. For further information: please contact The Warner Bros. Press Office on 020 7984 5000.

Oh, and shit weasels.  Perhaps one of the most delight creatures in any Stephen King book (or any book, for that matter).

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And now, I present to you my favorite Stephen King friendship of all time…

*drum roll please*

drum-roll-please


1)  The Losers Club (It)

Well, what can I say, I’m not sure how else I can put it…

So I will just come out and say it.

Childhood is hell.  Really, I can’t think of a better way to say it.  And its so so true.

childhood is hell

Matt Groening even wrote a book about it…

However, the rabbit-like creatures (or whatever the heck they are, jury is still out on that one) in Matt Groening’s work have nothing on Ben, Beverly, Bill, Richie, Eddie, Stan and Mike.

Losers club 1

These guys really did have one hell of a childhood (see what I did there).  And that’s not necessarily a good thing…

Well, shape-shifting clowns that live in the sewers cannot possibly ever be a good thing.  And when the clown employs local bullies to do its dirty work, that is also not a good thing.

So what’s a kid living in scenic Derry, Maine to do?
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Somehow survive the encounters with that evil clown, and find other survivors to help fight that motherfucker!  And bonus points in giving that group of friends a cool name, aka The Losers Club!

It 3

It was the book that popped my Stephen King cherry, and unlike certain other “first times”, I enjoyed this cherry popping immensely.  And my favorite part of It was the friendship between the kids.  I identified with all of them in one way or another, as I was bullied, and the notion of a clown living in the sewers of my hometown wasn’t really THAT far-fetched.

Beverly

I actually would have gladly fought alongside the Losers Club, risking my neck to defeat that bad, nasty old clown who had a horrible habit of killing the local kids (although he wasn’t picky, adults would do if times were lean).  I often felt invisible as a child, and I saw so many parallels to Derry in my own small, hometown, as it seemed everyone overlooked the wrong, and chose not to see what was really going on right underneath their noses.  I especially identified with Beverly Marsh, the lone female of the group (gingers of above average height, unite!) and longed for a love such as the one Ben had for Beverly.

Ben and Beverly

At one point in the book, one of the characters states that the other members of The Losers Club were the best friends he/she ever had.  And I agreed:  the members of The Losers Club were the best (book) friends I ever had.  And that is still true today.

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So there it is:  my top 10 friendships in Stephen King’s books.  Well, some of these friendships may not exactly be healthy ones, but all of them are certainly memorable.  And they are just one part of the amazing tapestry that we call a Stephen King book, adding layers of richness and color to an already elaborate, complex design.

So do you really want to be a friend to someone?  Well, here’s an idea:  introduce them to a Stephen King book, if he/she has never had the pleasure of experiencing one.  And I will guarantee you that you will make a friend for life!

RoaldDahl

 

Top 10 non-horror Stephen King books

So let me paraphrase a conversation I had on Facebook recently.  COFG is me (Crazy Obsessed Fan Girl).  FOAF is the friend of a friend with whom I had this rather interesting conversation.

FOAF:  I don’t like Stephen King, his books are too scary!

FOAF:  I love The Shawshank Redemption, that is one of my favorite movies!

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COFG:  Stephen King wrote the story The Shawshank Redemption is based on.  Contrary to popular belief, the man known for shit weasels and scary clowns is an excellent writer.

FOAF: (Silence on her end.  Obviously, her mind was blown.  Does not compute.  Programming must be re-adjusted).

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Well, like I said, it was paraphrased.  Although you would be surprised how many people need to re-adjust their programming when they learn that scary dude wrote a story that was turned into a movie that received Oscar nods.,.gasp!  Oh, the horror (pun intended).

Stephen King

Which leads me to this blog post.

Yes, Stephen King writes scary stories.  Who hasn’t had a nightmare (or five) about an evil clown who emerges from the sewers and kills kids?  Who doesn’t scream when watching a movie like Pet Sematary, which is also probably the scariest book in existence on this planet?

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And all of the above is correct.  Stephen King can scare you to where you just might need a change of pants.  And oh boy, is he good at it!

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But…wait for it…Stephen King is also a great writer.  And I am completely leaving anything about horror off that last sentence.

Yes, Stephen King can write scary stories.  But he writes good stories.  Great stories, actually.  Really, really great stories, as a matter of fact.

And no, they are not scary stories.  Even in his “scary” stories, King is able to include universal themes.  For example, the theme of family is huge in The Shining.  And bullying is also a huge theme in stories such as Dreamcatcher and It.

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And in his “non-scary” stories, King often writes about frightening situations.  For example, domestic abuse is prevalent in stories such as Rose Madder and Dolores Claiborne.  Domestic violence is a situation that many people can identify with, and characters such as Norman Daniels are terrifying because they are so plausible.

To sum it up, King is a great writer.  However, he is somewhat stigmatized, because of the “horror” label.  And no one is more aware of it than the master himself, as he has been typecast for nearly 40 years.  However, this has not stopped him from churning out some amazing novels that cannot be categorized as horror.  And anyone who takes the time to read these works is in for a treat.  As these works are simply great writing, with the ability to grip the reader, and keep him/her trapped in the pages of the book until the last word.  And that is exactly what a good writer should do:  make the reader not want to put down that book.

So, without further ado, here are my top “non-horror” Stephen King books, for the the non-horror fans in our lives.

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10)  Lisey’s Story

Marriage is something that everyone is familiar with (especially me, since I’m on my second trip to the rodeo).  And almost everyone agrees that when you marry someone, you don’t really know them, even if the marriage lasts a good number of years.  Even when you live with someone day in and day out, there is still a secret side (or maybe more than one secret side) of that person.  And sometimes the secrets are harmless (like my book boyfriends I spend hours obsessing over).  Or sometimes the secrets are not so harmless.

Yes, those not so harmless secrets.  You know, when your spouse has the ability to travel to another dimension, and then heal himself but has to be careful not to attract the attention of a creature he calls “the Long Boy” since that creature is hungry for yummy things called human beings.

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That kind of secret does suck, and it is actually what the title character from Lisey’s Story encounters.  Upon the death of her husband Scott Landon, who was an accomplished writer during his lifetime, Lisey Landon begins to learn (or rather, have her memory jogged) as to what kind of man her husband really was.  And she also has an adventure in the alternate dimension mentioned above (complete with an encounter or two with a scary monster), so that she can set her life and memory of her husband right.  Yes, there is a monster or two (although the human monster is one of the scariest), but this book deals more with marriage and what we may keep from our spouses (harmless or not).  The book also deals with the still somewhat taboo subject of mental illness, which is a prevalent theme in this society, and manages to treat this sensitive subject with compassion.  Lisey’s Story may have a couple of monsters, but the themes are themes that resonate with everyone, and the book makes an enjoyable read for almost anyone.

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9)  Dolores Claiborne

So let’s talk about human monsters again.

“Lupus est homo homini.”  Man is a wolf to man.  In other words, let’s talk about man’s inhumanity to man.  Or technically, with this entry, man (and society’s) horrible treatment of women.

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Dolores Claiborne is disturbing.  Yet there are no monsters, at least of the supernatural variety.  The monsters in this one are all human.

The title character marries a man, thinking she will get to live happily ever after.  However, her life becomes anything but happy.  Dolores’ husband Joe begins to abuse her not long after he and Dolores marry.  Dolores takes matters into her own hands, as local law enforcement is proven to be useless (and is shown to be just that throughout the rest of the book).  Dolores does not endure any more abuse by Joe, but what follows is much, much worse.  Joe begins to turns his attentions on their daughter Selena, and begins sexually abusing Selena.  Again, local law enforcement (and society, for that matter), show their true colors, as no one is one the side of Dolores and her children.  Feeling desperate, Dolores seeks out advice from her employer, and decides that “an accident can be a woman’s best friend.”  She pushes Joe down a well, and convinces local authorities that is is an accident.  She is believed, but the incident comes back to haunt her upon the death of her employer, Vera.  The book is a recounting of what led Dolores to her actions, and of the terrible gender inequality that existed (and still exists in our society today) in 1960’s Maine island communities.

When I started reading Dolores Claiborne, I wondered why she did it.  About a third of the way through the book, I wondered why she didn’t do away with Joe much sooner than she did.  And I rooted for her.  I rooted for her to be able to take some control of her life, as no one, including her husband or even our society, was willing to let her have any control of anything in life, including the well-being of her children.  And Dolores was able to take a stand, and came out the winner.  And I like it when the good guys  girls win.

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8)  Rose Madder

Human monsters.  Yes, more human monsters.  In case you didn’t notice, this is a huge theme in this blog post and in King’s works.  In the book Rose Madder, once again, the biggest monster is completely human, and is someone you are supposed to trust.

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Norman Daniels is a cop.  And he is a very good good cop.  However, Norman is also a corrupt cop who has literally gotten away with murder.  Oh, and he beats his wife.  Real peach of a guy, huh?

Fortunately, Norma’s wife Rosie does not think her husband is a peach.  She endures terrible abuse from him for nearly 14 years.  King’s description of the abuse is quite graphic (Norman even sodomizes his wife with a tennis racket).  Rosie finally finds the courage to leave her husband, catch a Greyhound bus and start over in another city nearly 800 miles away from her home.  Rosie is helped along the way by the kindness of strangers and receives much needed support from a local women’s shelter.  She even meets and falls in love with a new man, and finds an interesting painting to hang in her new apartment.  However, Rosie’s past catches up with her, as Norman leaves behind a trail of bodies in his attempt to track down his estranged wife.  The new painting literally provides a means of escape for Rosie, as it leads her into another world (along with Norman) and Norman is finally given his just desserts.

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It is true that there is a supernatural element to Rose Madder.  However, most of the book takes place in a setting that almost everyone is familiar with (suburban America) and the characters (abusive men and abused women) are also sadly familiar.  Norman Daniels is a corrupt cop and an abusive husband.  He is one of the most believable characters ever written by King.  Watch your local or even national news, and a Norman Daniels is bound to surface.

The fact that Rose Madder partially takes place in the world of our friendly neighborhood gunslinger is just an added bonus to a fantastic story.

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7)  Hearts in Atlantis

The horrors of war are also something we are all familiar with, including Stephen King.  King brilliantly addresses this topic in his collections of novellas titled Hearts in Atlantis.  Although King made many allusions in prior works to his feelings on the Viet Nam War, he addresses the subject head on in the collection Hearts in Atlantis.  The result is an insightful analysis on the experience of coming in age during one of the most tumultuous times in American history.

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Hearts in Atlantis consists of two novellas and three short stories.  The first of these is titled Low Men in Yellow Coats, and is the only story that really contains any hint of the supernatural.  While the Viet Nam War is not directly referenced in this work, the protagonist Bobby Garfield learns a lesson about taking a stand against evil when his friend and elderly neighbor is pursued by sinister creatures that are clearly not of this world.  Bobby’s actions and stances on this will color his life for years to come, and serve as foreshadowing as to how some of his peers will take a stance against the conflict in Viet Nam.  The title story tells of a college student who nearly flunks out of college due to excessive amounts of time spent playing a card game.  However, the stakes of failure are very high, as anyone who fails out of college at the beginning of the Viet Nam War risks being sent overseas to fight a war in a country that most can barely pronounce or spell.  While struggling with his studies, Pete also struggles (in much the same manner as Bobby Garfield) with his stance on what is happening overseas.  Like Bobby, Pete also makes a stance that will forever change his life.  Blind Willie and Why We’re in Vietnam take place some years after the Viet Nam War is over, and are told from the prospective of those who served during that time.  The collection ends with the short story Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, where we meet an adult Bobby Garfield who finally receives some closure in regards to the events during his childhood that have troubled him for so many years.

While many younger readers may find some of the stories in Hearts in Atlantis a bit dated, the themes (war, bullying, tolerance and taking a stance) are themes that anyone of any age should identify with, making the stories ones that will always be relevant and therefore timeless.

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6)  Different Seasons

As I stated before, Stephen King has struggled with typecasting.  However, the publication of the book Different Seasons put at least some of those criticisms to rest.  Different Seasons consists of three novellas, and the last work could be probably be considered a short story.  All four stories contain themes that we all familiar with:  injustice, bullying, parents’ relationships with their children, people who are not who they seem to be, etc.  In other words, they are stories of the human condition.

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The first story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, tells the story of a man who is wrongfully imprisoned for killing him wife, and his struggles inside a system that seeks to keep him oppressed.  The story is told from the perspective of another prisoner, and reminds the reader time and time again that we must never give up hope. The second story, Apt Pupil, tells of a former Nazi war criminal who moves to suburban America and lives under an assumed name.  The man develops an unhealthy relationship with the boy next door, and his past comes back to haunt him and change his young neighbor in a way that is not for the better.  The third story, The Body, is the tale of four childhood friends and the last adventure that they have together before adulthood conspires to lead them on different paths.  The final story, The Breathing Method, tells of a young mother who gives birth out of wedlock in turn of the century America, and just how far she will go to deliver her baby safely, even when society and another unfortunate turn of events try to tell her otherwise.

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Humanity can be scary sometimes.  Oftentimes, humans, whether they are a former Nazi war criminal, a corrupt prison warden or even the innocent boy next door, are the scariest creatures on this planet.  But sometimes humans can be wonderful as well, and make marks on our lives that we will never forget.  Different Seasons does a wonderful job illustrating both sides of humanity and is just a fascinating study into what makes our species tick.

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5)  Eyes of the Dragon

When you think of kid friendly writers, Stephen King does not usually come to mind.  And rightfully so, as much of King’s work would be deemed “inappropriate” at best, and maybe “will traumatize one for life” at worst (as we can all see how reading King at age 12 made me the well-adjusted adult I am today…ha).  However, the book Eyes of the Dragon could be probably be an exception to that statement (if we leave out the parts about flaccid penises…yikes, awkward much?)

It said that King wanted to write a book that his daughter Naomi would want be allowed  to read.  So he wrote Eyes of the Dragon.  In many ways, Eyes of the Dragon is similar to the fairy tales that we all grew reading (or maybe our parents read them to us).  There are princes in a faraway kingdom.  The princes become orphaned and one becomes wrongfully imprisoned, but pulls off a daring escape plan using his mother’s childhood dollhouse, of all things.  And there is even an evil wizard thrown in the mix.  However, Eyes of the Dragon also has a decidedly darker tone than some of the fairy tales that I grew up with.  The protagonist does escape, but his captor never faces punishment.  And it could also be argued that the younger brother of the protagonist, who was also responsible for the imprisonment of his older brother, has not really become any wiser for all the troubles he has been through.

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Even though it is dark (this is a Stephen King book after all), Eyes of the Dragon is an unusual but fun departure from King’s normal work into a peculiar type of dark fantasy.  And like the fairy tales I remember from my youth, it does teach a few lessons that anyone of any age could stand to hear.

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4)  The Dead Zone

Its an age old question:  do we have the ability to see the future, and possible try to change it?  More importantly, should we have that ability?  This is a question that is explored in depth in the book The Dead Zone.

The Dead Zone is actually a scary book.  But again, there are no monsters, except for a couple of the human ones.  The Dead Zone is also a tragic book.  The protagonist, Johnny Smith (how can a name be more Every Man than Johnny Smith?) falls into a coma after a horrible car accident.  Johnny stays in the coma for nearly five years.  In the meantime, his world moves on without him.  This includes the woman he loves, who marries another.  Johnny wakes up from his coma, and discovers that he has the somewhat limited ability to see future events.  Sometimes this is a good thing, as it saves people’s lives and helps catch serial killers.  However, more often than not, Johnny’s unwanted gift brings unintended consequences and isolates him from his fellow man.  When Johnny discovers that a popular politician will one day become president and start World War III, he embarks on a quixotic quest to try and stop the man.  Again, Johnny finds himself isolated from his few remaining friends and family members.  Johnny is ultimately successful in his quest to stop the politician, but the success comes at a huge personal cost for Johnny and his loved ones.

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In The Dead Zone, King once again embarks upon a study in the human condition.  The ultimate result is tragedy, but the book is one of his most thought provoking reads of all time.

3)  Insomnia

It may be odd to think of horror and fantasy (in the style of Lord of the Rings) as being two sides of the same coin, but oftentimes these two categories blur, and it can get hard to distinguish one from the other.  The book Insomnia definitely falls into the category of dark fantasy and has therefore earned its place on this list.

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Insomnia follows the adventures of Ralph Roberts, a widower in his late 60’s.  Ralph has become inflicted with insomnia and is unable to sleep at night.  He then begins seeing some strange sights in his hometown of Derry, Maine. Ralph also discovers that his neighbor Lois has also become inflicted with insomnia and is seeing the same strange sights that he is.  The two discover that they are actually pawns in a game of sorts, and that the stakes are very, very high, and losing the game could spell disaster for not just them, but all of existence.  The story switches from fantasy (alternate dimensions) to reality throughout the book, and also gives the viewpoint of the world from senior citizens, who are often invisible at best, or treated as sub-humans at worst.  Ralph and Lois manage to save the day, but like many “saves” in a Stephen King book, it comes at a huge personal cost to Ralph and Lois some years later.  We also see Ralph and Lois fall in love during their ordeal, which is one of the most endearing love stories in any book, let alone a Stephen King book.

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Insomnia does a wonderful job playing up the darker aspects of the fantasy genre (The characters Atropos and The Crimson King are a great example of this) and also manages to treat the subject of aging in our youth obsessed society with sensitivity and even a little bit of humor.

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2)  The Talisman

Stephen King is often criticized for not being “literary” enough.  This may be because he sells so many books.  Or it may be the subject matter that he addresses in his books.  However, these critics fail to realize that Charles Dickens was a best-selling author in his lifetime.  Or that both Dickens and Mark Twain also took on social issues in their works, and that both authors’ works had some degree of darkness.  And both Twain and Dickens are taught in high schools and colleges across the world today.  Someday, Stephen King will be held in the same regard, and his work will be seen as “literature” and become part of standard college reading lists.  When that is the case, college professors would do well to include the next entry on this list:  The Talisman.

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Much like Insomnia, The Talisman can be categorized as dark fantasy.  It is the story of Jack Sawyer, who embarks on a trip across the United States in order to obtain a magical object referred to as The Talisman, in order to save his mother from dying of cancer.  Jack learns (or rather, has his memory jogged) that he has the ability to travel to an alternate reality that he calls The Territories.  Magic is commonplace in The Territories, but The Territories also come with their own dangers, as monsters and evil rulers are encountered at almost every turn.  Jack also has to deal with evil men who conspire against him in the “real” world, but has friends who guide him on his journey.  These friends include a werewolf and a wise old man named Speedy Parker, who is much more than what he seems.  In the true spirit of any fantasy/adventure story, Jack is ultimately successful in his quest, and is able to defeat his enemies and save his mother’s life.

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Much like the works of Twain, Dickens and even Robert Lewis Stevenson, The Talisman is a story of fantastical high adventure.  And much like the works of Charles Dickens and others, it explores controversial subjects, which include sexual and physical abuse of children, crime and punishment in our society and just how far someone will go to save the life of a loved one.  In other words, The Talisman may look like a children’s story, but like Speedy Parker, it is much more that what it seems.

And now, for our number entry on this list…

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I bring you…

1) 11/22/63

As stated before, Stephen King came of age during one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.  Not only did King attend college during the height of the Viet Nam War, he was also just entering adulthood upon the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Like most of his generation, this impacted King, and likely even affected his writing.  King alluded to this event many times (Wolves of the Calla and The Drawing of the Three contain a few references to Kennedy) but never addressed the subject head-on.  That is, until he wrote the number one entry on this list: 11/22/63.

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11/22/63 tells the story of Jake Epping, who lives in present day Maine.  Jake has an academic idea of John F. Kennedy, but has never really given the subject much thought.  However, Jake begins to give the subject much more thought when his friend Al reveals to him that there is a portal in the local diner owned by Al that allows one to travel back in time into 1958.  One can travel back and forth between time periods, and return to the present with only two minutes passing.  It is also revealed that traveling back to the present may “un-do” changes in the past.  Al persuades Jake to travel back in time and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and possible change history for the better.  Jake becomes convinced of this and travels back in time to do just that.  Jake takes up residence in 1958, and makes new friends.  He also falls in love with a woman named Sadie, and actually begins to re-think his quest.  He realizes that the past is stubborn and does not want to be changed, but still continues on his quest.  Jake is ultimately successful in preventing the assassination, but at the cost of Sadie’s life.  Jake travels back to 2011 but barely recognizes his present, as the prevention of the assassination has indeed led to drastic changes in history that are not for the better.  Jake travels back to the portal and re-enters the present, therefore restoring the timeline.  This also restores the life of Sadie.  Jake realizes his presence in the past can only lead to disaster, and chooses not to travel back in time and pursue Sadie.  The book ends with Jake encountering an elderly lady who can only be Sadie, and sharing one last dance with her.

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11/22/63 is an epic story.  The story is equal parts historical fiction and a suspense thriller.  It also contains one of the best cases of a “doomed love” affair, as the romance between Jake and Sadie so sadly demonstrates.  The book is rich in detail with what life was really like in late 1950’s America, as many perceive that to be a simpler time period.  However, there is an incident where Jake encounters a sign for the “colored” restroom, and follows the sign.  The sign leads a tangle of grass and brier patches, providing Jake (and the reader) with a reality check as to what life was really like during that time period.  King provides a fascinating character study of Lee Harvey Oswald, who, to most people, is just a historical figure.  However, King manages to make him a little more human and even somewhat sympathetic, even though his actions are still ultimately evil.  In short, 11/22/63 is complex and rich book, that deals with major events in history (JFK, Viet Nam War, etc), while providing a human perspective on what many (especially younger readers like myself) view in an academic manner.  11/22/63 truly makes history come alive and actually become relevant.

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King has stated that 11/22/63 was the book that he always wanted to write about Viet Nam, JFK, etc.  However, this is Stephen King.  He always has a trick up his sleeve.  And the trick in 11/22/63 is a great one:  Jake encounters none other than Richie Tozier and Beverly Marsh, shortly after the Losers Club’s first confrontation with Pennywise the Clown.  And King is correct:  11/22/63 is the book about JFK, Viet Nam, etc that needed to be written.  But the fact that he was able to incorporate the evil clown from a novel that has inspired so many nightmares in what many would consider to be a historical (not horror) novel  is just further testament to the true genius that is Stephen King.

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So there it is.  The top 10 non-horror novels written by Stephen King.  So for the non-horror fan in your life, maybe one (or five) of these would make a great stocking stuffer!  Or if you have not read these, self present giving is always allowed!  And the only scary thing about these is that maybe you will just get hooked and be unable to stop reading!  But sometimes being scared is a good thing…happy reading, all!

RoaldDahl

 

Top 10 Shocking Moments in Television and Film

As I have stated before, I am not much a movie person.  I am a book nerd, and I prefer to read my stories, as opposed to watching them on a screen.  Oftentimes, my imagination fills in a lot more details than a movie or television screen ever can.

However, I do enjoy some movies and some television shows.  The ones I enjoy the most have a lot of action.  But my favorite part of any movie or television show is The Twist.  Or The Shocking Moment That No One Saw Coming in a Million Years.

Long before we had Facebook, Twitter or any other medium that allowed a moment in film and television to be a shocker for all of about 30 seconds, people would tune into a movie or TV show blissfully unaware of the shocker or twist, and were actually surprised by it.  And the discussions that were had not online, but by the water cooler, outside of class, etc.    In other words, we operated differently in pre-history and it was still possible for people to not know of the plot twists for hours or even days before watching the film or TV show…the good old days!  And I have no words to describe the feelings I got when I watched something and got to actually be surprised by it…it was just priceless!

All that being said, some plot twists and shocking moments will always remain classic and withstand the test of time.  Here are my personal top 10:

10)  Hulk Hogan turns heel (WCW)

Yes, wrestling may technically be considered a sport and not a movie or television show.  However, we all know that most shows featuring wrestling are as scripted as any movie, so I will count this as a TV show moment for this list.

Hulk Hogan was the consummate good guy.  His image was wholesome.  He told kids to take their vitamins and say their prayers.  He was untouched by any scandal and was someone every little boy (at least the ones growing up in the 80’s and 90’s) looked up to.  In fact, he was such a good guy that Bevis and Butthead mocked him.

However, Hogan was not to remain a good guy forever, as he wanted to take his career to another level.  And in 1996, he took his career to another level and then some, when Hogan turned “heel.”  The iconic good guy of professional wrestling shocked the world by joining NWO (New World Order), teaming with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash and turning into a “bad guy.”  The man who reminded the world to take its vitamins and say its prayers would now go on to participate in acts of vandalism and to make obscene gestures on television.    Audience members even threw trash into the ring, out of surprise and anger.  Hollywood Hogan was born.  Hollywood Hogan was just one of many characters who would usher in the edgier, raunchier “Attitude Era” in professional wresting.  However, change is never easy, and the fallout from Hulk Hogan turning “heel” is a prime example of that, as Hogan lost many fans when when he decided to take his career to another level.

“Turning heel” is actually quite a common occurrence in the world of professional wrestling.  In fact, many fans even suggest it to their favorite wrestlers.  But it is rare for a wrestler like Hogan to seemingly out of the blue make such as drastic change, risking losing so many fans and also risking his career.  But it was a gutsy move that paid off in the end, and will always be remembered, for better or worse, as the day Hogan turned heel.

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9)  Hand coming out of the grave (Carrie, 1976)

I like good old fashioned scares that make me jump out of my seat when I watch something that is supposed to be a horror movie.  The slasher flickers and “found footage” films that pass for horror movies today are seriously lacking in that area, so as a result, I don’t watch too many modern flicks.  If I am going to get my fix out of a horror movie, I will watch something older.  Like the 1976 version of Carrie.

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Carrie is probably best known for the scenes where the title characters wreaks havoc at her high school prom, and rightfully so. Brian  De Palma did a beautiful job filming those scenes, using slow motion and dual shots to showcase the destruction.  However, the scene that is likely responsible for many a nightmare, even almost 40 years later is the final scene, where Carrie’s hand comes out of the grave, reaching for poor Sue Snell.  This was a dream scene, so it wasn’t “real” but it was terrifying nonetheless.  De Palma filmed the scene backwards to give it a dream-like quality, and also included images such as Carrie White’s vandalized gravestone.  The result is a surreal quality, but when the hand grabs Sue Snell, the surreal quality vanishes and the viewer is brought back to earth, along with a terrified Sue Snell.  This brief scene plays a big role in setting the tone for the entire film, and is still unsettling, even today.

Stephen King himself went to see Carrie when it was released in the theaters.  He stated that he watched the film to the end, and knew it was a success because two large men in the row in front of him grabbed each other and screamed in surprise when the final scene was shown.  And if its good enough for the master, its certainly good enough for me.

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8)  Rue’s death (The Hunger Games)

A lot of movies and books have what I call “a shit just got real scene.”  The Hunger Games probably can be said to have more than one of these scenes, given the content of the film and the books.  But one scene in particular stands out, and that is Rue’s death scene.  Rue is an 12 year girl who is an unwilling participant in a reality show mandated by a dystopian society which glorifies suffering and violence.  We root for Rue and Katniss Everdeen (the main protagonist) because they are good guys, and good guys don’t die, right?  Well, sometimes that may work in the movies, but The Hunger Games brings us back to reality when Rue is killed off, reminding us that good guys do NOT always win, and that they oftentimes suffer more than the bad guys.  Rue’s death also drives home that no one in this world is safe, not even children, and that children are often put in danger due to the horrible decisions made by adults that they have no control over.

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7)  The death of Optimus Prime (Transformers, 1986)

Again, let’s talk about good guys.  And how they don’t die.  Except in animated movies intended for children…

Yep, reality sets in again but this time in an animated movie about talking robots who transform into different vehicles.  Most people look back on Transformers as a bit of nostalgia from the 1980’s (before the one known as Michael Bay took over, anyway) and not necessarily as a reality check.  However, we are treated to a reality check anyway with the death of Optimus Prime (the childhood icon to the many of us who grew in up in the 1980’s).  Deaths of major characters who are “good guys” are actually not that unusual.  What was unusual about this particular death was that it occurred in an animated movie intended for children of an average age of about 9 years old.  The Transformers cartoon of the 1980’s was irreverent for the most part (the lessons on morality were left for GI Joe and Masters of the Universe, for the most part).  So a death of a major character in this cartoon was a bit jarring, and likely many viewers felt the loss of their childhood after that particular death was witnessed.  And were reminded that no one, including their friends, family or even the Autobots were safe from danger or even death.

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6)  Barf-o-Rama (Stand By Me)

Stephen King has also stated that if he can’t scare you, he will go for the gross out instead, because he is not proud.  Of course, gross outs are not uncommon in horror movies and can really add to the movie if done properly.

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Where one does not expect to see a gross out is a coming of age movie, even if the movie is based on a novella written by the master of modern horror.  The publication of the collection Different Seasons allowed King to break out of mold of “horror writer” and finally be acknowledged a writer, and an excellent one at that.  Three of the four novellas were made into movies, and The Body was one of them (also known as the movie Stand by Me).  The story tells of four adolescent boys who are on the cusp of adulthood, and have one last adventure together.  One of the young men, Gordy, tells the story of the hapless character he calls Lard Ass.  Lard Ass seeks revenge on the townspeople who wronged him by inducing a mass vomiting session at a pie eating contest.  To the surprise of a few, this scene was included in the movie, with full visuals.  Gordy’s voice over describes how the men, women and children of the town (the Eternal Order of Antelopes was my personal favorite), begin to vomit on one another, while the screen shots actually show the vomiting, instead of merely implying it.  This scene is just unexpected and disgusting, yet funny at the same time. It is actually able to invoke simultaneous shuddering and laughing.  The best of both worlds, in other words.

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We often forget that bodily functions can be funny at times.  And the gross out, that is not above the likes of Stephen King, can also be funny.  Hence, the Barf-o-Rama scene in Stand By Me will always remain one of the funniest and best gross out scenes in cinematic history.

5)  The reveal of Two Face (The Dark Knight)

To many, the movie The Dark Knight is about The Joker.  And it is.  The main villain in that movie is The Joker.  Heath Ledger gave a performance for the ages in his portrayal of one of the most recognized villains in the comic book and movie world.  In fact, the story line focuses heavily on The Joker and his antics.  So heavily that the viewer almost misses the other villain in the movie.  One that is almost as iconic as The Joker.  Two Face, in other words.

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Yes, The Joker storyline almost overshadows the story of Two Face in The Dark Knight.  However, the key word is almost.  And the nearly overshadowing of Harvey Dent aka Two Face actually works, as the reveal of Two Face takes the story in a new direction, as Harvey Dent had previously been on the side of the good, even putting his life at risk to protect Bruce Wayne’s identity as Batman. Dent also puts himself directly in the line of fire from The Joker. However, Dent’s accident and subsequent mental breakdown pushes him to the other side and open to the power of suggestion from The Joker, and Gotham is now faced with dual threats.  Two Face is dispatched by Batman, but the damage has been done, and the movie ends with a manhunt for Batman, while Harvey Dent is still viewed as a hero.

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Oftentimes, less is more.  The reveal of Two Face in The Dark Knight is a prime example of this, as it allows the development of multiple story lines in what is a true masterpiece of a movie.

4)  The killer toy clown (Poltergeist)

People are supposed to be safe in their own homes.  Kids are supposed to be safe when their parents are also home.  It should also be safe at home after an escapee from Munchkinland a medium comes over, rescues your daughter from evil spirits holding her hostage and then declares your home free from those pesky evil spirits…

Well, except if your house is actually built on a burial ground because some jerk removed the headstones and not the bodies, desecrating the ground and royally pissing off a bunch of ghosts.  Like in the movie Poltergeist

And let’s face it, clowns are really, really scary…terrifying actually.  Why anyone would put a toy clown in their kids’ room and not expect them to not need extensive psychiatric help in adulthood is beyond me, but that’s my personal opinion.  And the toy clown that comes to life and attacks the little boy is one of the scariest moments in any movie ever, especially as we are led to believe that the home and its inhabitants are now safe, as the ghosts are supposed to be gone.  But they are not, and attempting to kidnap Carol Anne Freeling was not enough for these spirits…now they are after everyone in the house and will not rest until they destroy everyone in the house.  The ghosts don’t care that its a family home, and that the parents are home and everyone should be safe in that home.  The ghosts will do anything to seek revenge, and that includes possessing a doll and attacking a child.  The result is a scene that surely has haunted the dreams of many an 80’s child throughout the years.

People often forget that Poltergeist has a mere PG rating.  Somehow a film with no violence, no sexuality and very few swear words still manages to stand the test of time and be one of the most frightening horror movies to date.

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3)  Darth Vader reveals Luke’s parentage (The Empire Strikes Back)

“Luke, I am your father.”  This is perhaps one of the most quoted lines out of any movie, and probably one of the most parodied.  However, it is still one of the most shocking lines ever uttered as well.

Human beings like to draw lines to distinguish good from evil.  We call good The Side of the White, while the bad is black or red.  And bad guys are separate from the good guys, while the good guys don’t have an ounce of bad in them at all…

Except, that’s not how it works.  It is said that Lucifer himself started out as an archangel, and was the most beautiful of the angels, until he fell.  And good guys are tempted by evil all the time, even good guys like Luke Skywalker.  Luke is shocked and unhappy to be revealed as the son of Darth Vader, who is the bad guy he and his friends are fighting against, as it makes him question his own motives.  After all, Luke’s own father was once a Jedi, but fell, in much the same way as Lucifer the archangel.  And if a Jedi like Anakin Skywalker can fall, that means no one is safe.  And that includes Luke Skywalker.  When it is revealed that Darth Vader, the ultimate bad guy, is actually the father to Luke Skywalker, the story quickly takes a different direction, and the viewer begins to question Luke and his intentions.  Will Luke be tempted by the dark side now?  Will Luke break the alliance and betray his friends?  After all, he came from the bad so that makes him bad, right?  Well, as we all know, Luke and his friends triumphed in the end, with Luke overcoming the temptation and defeating the Darth Vader in the final battle.  However, Luke does not forget where he comes from and is still saddened over the fate of his father, proving that his humanity will never leave him and that he will always be a “good guy.”

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The fact that Luke was attracted to who would later be revealed to be his twin sister Leia and almost engaged in an incestuous affair with her is an added bonus to the reveal of his true parentage.

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2)  The chicken baby (M*A*S*H)

On the surface, M*A*S*H was a comedy set in the Korean War, told from the viewpoint of doctors and other medical personnel who are working from the trenches.  And that would be a pretty accurate description of the show.  However, the writers of the show often managed to tackle tough issues, and make statements in regards to issues that our country faced during the airing of the show (the Viet Nam War is a prime example).

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One of these issues that the writers tackled was the effect that war has on everyone, from the soldiers fighting the war to the doctors who work in the trenches to the civilians that the military is supposed to be protecting.  This issue was actually discussed several times, but the most memorable time was actually in the last episode of the series, titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.  This episode was the series finale, and presumably a happy episode, as the war was finally over and everyone would be able to return home.  And the episode did deliver on that premise.  However, as stated before, the episode also tackled some major issues.  These were from the perspective of Captain Hawkeye Pierce.  Throughout the series, Hawkeye was a vocal protester of the war in Korea, as he felt many of his country’s actions were wrong.  However, he is still dutiful and does everything he can to serve his country, the Korean citizens and his fellow soldiers.  But the war begins to take its tolls on Hawkeye (and his friends), and an incident on a bus sends Hawkeye to a mental institution.  The incident is re-told through a series of flashbacks to Dr. Sidney Freedman, a military psychiatrist.  The re-telling of the incident first takes a comedic turn, as Hawkeye talks of whiskey and chickens boarding the bus.  However, Dr. Sidney understands that humor is Hawkeye’s way of trying to process the unimaginable, and is slowly able to get Hawkeye to tell the real story.  The story then takes a chilling turn, as the chickens were stand-ins for villagers who took refuge in the bus after their village was invaded.  The lady holding a “chicken” was actually holding a human child.  Hawkeye tells her to keep the “chicken” quiet, as he and the other passengers on the bus must hide from the invaders.  The villager takes Hawkeye’s words to heart, and smothers the “chicken.”  However, it is revealed that the villager actually smothered her human baby to death as opposed to a clucking chicken.  Again, this reveal reminds us that war can have many consequences, even on those we are supposed to be protecting.  It also reminds us that while the soldiers fighting the wars may have it hard, that we cannot forget the doctors who sometimes make enormous sacrifices in order to fulfill their Hippocratic Oath.

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Someone once told me that when you laugh and cry at the same time, you are having “a rainbow day.”  I often thought of this phrase after I watched M*A*S*H, a show that made me laugh and cry on a regular basis, therefore giving me many rainbows.

And, now for the number 1 shocking moment in television and film history…

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1)  The reveal of “mother” (Psycho)

Yes, the “master of shock” aka Alfred Hitchcock has a film in the number one spot on this list.  Real shock there, huh?  (See what I did there).

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Alfred Hitchcock can easily be argued to be the greatest filmmaker of his generation, if not the greatest filmmaker in history.  Hitchcock was prolific, directing over 50 films in his career.  Hitchcock was also not afraid to push boundaries, as his films featured sexuality and violence, which were in contrast to some of the more lighthearted fare of his time.  So, many of Hitchcock’s films contained material that was bound to shock his audience.

Psycho is one of those films that was sure to shock Hitchcock’s audience.  And the movie is loaded with those moments.  The movie begins with the “protagonist” committing an illegal act.  Then there is the scene in the shower.  The shower scene alone was considered risque for its time, due to the implied nudity.  However, the protagonist is murdered while taking a shower, which ups the ante for the shock value.  And then there was that old woman who was committing the murders and unable to be stopped by her son (who went by the name of Norman Bates)…

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Except there was no old woman.  And no son trying to stop her from committing murders.  Throughout the movie, we see evidence of the old woman.  We hear her talk and see her shadowy figure.  Norman also speaks of her often, and will not hear a bad word about her.  However, its all a ruse.  At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Norman’s mother is deceased and we see her corpse.  We then see Norman dressed as a old woman, carrying a knife.  Norman was not the innocent son who tried to stop his mother from committing atrocious acts.  Rather, Norman was the one committing the murders all along under the guise of his “mother personality.”  That personality was so convincing that he manages to fool everyone (including the viewer) up until the last few minutes of the movie.  Even more shocking, the “mother” personality has now asserted her dominance even in death, as she did during life, and completely taken over Norman at the end of the movie.  In what is one of the most unsettling endings of any film ever, we hear Mrs. Bates voice stating that she “should have put Norman way forever” and that she would “never hurt a fly.”  We then see a double exposure of Norman’s face merging with the face of Mrs. Bates, symbolizing the dominance of the “mother” personality.

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Psycho is a film that touches on so many taboos:  stealing, sexuality, violence and incest are a few.  The ending, with its reveal of the true “mother”, manages to take a disturbing film to another level of creepy, with some frightening long term implications.  Psycho is truly deserving of the number 1 spot on this list.

 

Even though I have seen most of these movies and television shows many times, these (and other) moments never fail to get my attention even now, and I still sometimes  gasp, even when I know what is coming.  Such is the power of good film making.

 

 

Top 10 Stephen King Baddies

Its no secret that I just love bad guys (and gals, I’m equal opportunity).  I am a Batman junkie, but Joker and Harley Quinn are actually my favorite Batman characters.  You can’t get much worse than Joker and Harley Quinn…

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Except maybe in a Stephen King novel.  King’s universe is riddled with villains of all kinds, from sentient, murderous monorails to religious fanatics who will attempt to convert people to their ways, using any and all means possible.  In other words, there are almost too many “baddies” to choose from in the King Universe.  So what’s an enterprising blogger to do?

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One of the reasons I love Joker and Harley Quinn is that like Batman, they are human.  Behind the insane makeup and kooky costumes are actual human beings.  This adds an element of realism.  Any one of us could become a “baddie” at any moment.  And the element of realism is just one of many things that makes King’s stories so great.  So I am limiting this post to flesh and blood humans.  Sorry, Tak, Pennywise, Randall Flagg and whomever else may feel slighted at being left off of this list…you have to be fully human to make it!  Better luck next time!

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I am also limiting this list to people whom I feel are truly bad to the core.  Characters such as Jack Torrance, Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross are people whom I consider to be more victims of circumstance than anything.  Gage Creed does not count either, since he was possessed by the Wendigo and not accountable for his actions (wouldn’t that be a good defense in court?)

With all that being said, here are my top 10 Stephen King baddies of all time.

10)  Henry Bowers (It)

When the book or movie It is mentioned, most people automatically think of Pennywise the clown and his balloons.  And rightfully so…Pennywise is terrifying in both the book and the movie.  Pennywise is one of the most iconic villains out there and will likely remain that way for quite some time.  After all, he can take the form of your worst fears?  Could it get any scarier?

Actually, yes.  As I mentioned before, King brings an element of realism to the story.  He frequently reminds us that humans are their own worst enemy.  This is a topic visited with a vengeance in It, as it is laced with themes such as bullying, child abuse and spouse abuse.  And one of his most memorable characters in It is Henry Bowers.

Henry Bowers is the archetype of every evil bully that we all have encountered.  He torments those who are “different” in any way.  He is racist and sexist.  He also intimidates others into doing his dirty work for him as well. In other words, he is all around great, upstanding citizen, at least in Bully-ville.

However, in the summer of 1958, Henry’s bullying of those weaker than himself takes a sinister turn.  He carves his initials on one kid’s stomach.  This leads to some of Henry’s victims forming the Losers Club, partially as a way to band together and protect themselves.  This group of children also becomes strong enough to hurt and possibly kill Pennywise.  Pennywise realizes this, and uses Henry both in the summer of 1958 and again in 1985 to hurt The Losers.  Henry’s hatred makes him an easy vessel for Pennywise, although it can be argued that Pennywise is just dumping gasoline into an existing fire.  In 1958, Henry is unable to put aside his hatred for one minute and chases The Losers into the sewer.  This results in the deaths of Henry’s friends.  It c an be argued that Henry’s hatred was really the ultimate demise of his friends and later Henry himself.

I was bullied as a child, and the themes in It heavily resonated with me.  Anyone who bullies another for any reason will face my wrath.  Or they will earn the honor of being included on this list.

Henry Bowers

9)  Margaret White (Carrie)

Its no secret that religion is a major theme in most Stephen King books, from The Stand to Revival, his latest work.  Religion is even present in the novella The Mist, which is about inter-dimensional creatures invading our planet.  King will show all aspects of religion, from the good (the hypnotism of Tom Cullen in The Stand) and also the bad (Mrs. Carmody in The Mist).  It one thing that makes his works so complex and intriguing.

Margaret White is a shining (or not so shining, depending on your viewpoint) example of the “bad” part of religion in King’s work.  She is Carrie’s mother in King’s first published novel, Carrie.  Margaret White is a fanatic.  There is no other way to put it.  Her views on God and sin are extreme, to say the least.  This spills over on to her parenting style, as she raises Carrie in a very restrictive environment.  When Carrie buys material for a dress that is pink, Margaret does not approve because it is too close to the color red.  Carrie is not allowed to participate in even the most innocuous activities, like summer camp for children.  Even worse, Margaret does not inform Carrie at all about menstruation and fails to consult a doctor when Carrie does experience her first menstrual period until she is nearly 17.  The creates trouble for Carrie, as she is bullied by her peers and fails to fit in at school.  This is made worse when she has her first period in the girls’ locker room at school, as she does not understand what is happening and thinks she is bleeding to death.

We can argue that the events in the novel Carrie are a direct result of Margaret White’s fanaticism, as the fanaticism made Carrie White into an outcast who ultimately turned on her tormentors and later on herself.  This fanaticism also resulted in the demise of both mother and daughter.  Margaret White is truly an evil character who has earned her spot on this list.

Margaret White

8)  Jim Rennie (Under the Dome)

Under the Dome is perhaps one of King’s most political novels.  King himself has said that the book is an allegory for a world that is slim on resources, with power resting in the hands of a few.  Under the Dome also takes a stance on religion, or perhaps more accurately, fanaticism.  King shows us in the novel what can happen when we put a fanatic in charge.  And the results are not pretty.

King makes a statement on fanaticism in Under the Dome through his character Jim Rennie.  Rennie is the second town selectman and a used car dealer.  Rennie rejoices when the town is suddenly, inexplicably blanketed by a large dome of unknown origin.  Jim Rennie has been running a covert meth lab and the appearance of the dome provides a distraction from his illegal activities.  Rennie takes full advantage of the dome and the chaos it creates in the town of Chesters Mills by staging a riot in a grocery store so that he can exert his authority.  He is convinced that he is doing the work of God Himself and is above any kind of authority, even the President of the United States.  He also uses his authority and religion to bully and exploit those weaker than him who have experienced tragedy due to the dome.  He is also not afraid to kill in the name of his religion, as he beats the town pastor to death to ensure silence about the meth lab.  He also has Dale Barbara, the protagonist of the story, arrested on trumped up murder charges in his attempt to fully rule the town.

Like Henry Bowers, Jim Rennie is another character whose hatred brings the demise of himself and several others.  But Rennie nearly brings on the demise of an entire town along with his own through his actions.  He is definite proof “that all the glitters is not gold” and is worthy a spot on this list.

Rennie

7)  Morgan Sloat/Morgan of Orris (The Talisman)

A major theme in King’s work is adults that do not behave as adults.  Even worse, many of these adults fail to protect the ones they are supposed to love the most.  The Shining is the most tragic example of this, as Jack Torrance fails to protect his son and nearly sacrifices him to the demons that possess the Overlook Hotel.  It is another example of adults who fail children, in that many adults witness bullying and abuse and fail to do anything about it.

The Talisman is another example of children facing extreme danger.  Jack Sawyer must travel across America on a journey in an attempt to save his mother, who is dying of cancer.  Jack also visits a world parallel to our own, which he calls The Territories.  In our world, he is pursed by his father’s former business partner, Morgan Sloat.  When he visits The Territories, he is also pursued by Morgan’s Twinner, known as Morgan of Orris.  Both versions of Morgan are greedy and corrupt.  Morgan is interested only in extending his power, and will stop at nothing to do it.  He sends many of his minions after Jack.  His Twinner has access to magic harnessed in The Territories, giving him an unfair advantage over Jack.  Morgan also cajoles and blackmails Jack’s mother even when she is on her deathbed.  We learn that he was responsible for the death of Jack’s father (and his twinner) along with the death of another business partner.  Morgan also attempted to kill Jack when Jack was an infant by smothering him.  Fortunately, Jack is saved by his father.  However, Morgan’s Twinner is successful in murdering Jack’s Territories counterpart.  This turns out to be a mistake for Morgan, as the death of Jason (Jack’s Twinner) is responsible for Jack’s ability to to cross into The Territories and ultimately save his mother’s life.  However, Morgan is willing to stop at nothing to attempt to defeat Jack and even attempts to sacrifice his own son, Richard to further his goals.  He is truly a character with no moral center and no remorse for any of his actions.  In other words, he has rightfully earned his spot on this list.

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6)  Sunlight Gardener/Osmond (Talisman)

While we are on the subject of adults in King novels who are cruel to children, we must discuss Sunlight Gardner (twinner to Osmond in The Territories).  Sunlight Gardener is just one on a list of many adults in King’s universe who abuse and betray children.  However, Gardener is able to take this abuse to a much larger scale, in that he opens a home for “wayward boys” which is really an operation that is used to mask the slavery and abuse of young children.  Gardener also uses the home to obtain state funds, as he is not really accountable for those funds.  He is responsible for the deaths of many boys during his tenure at the home.  Gardener also physically abuses those who do not obey him.  However, the most notable of these deaths is Wolf.  Wolf is actually a werewolf who is accidentally pulled from The Territories by Jack Sawyer and forced to attempt to survive in Jack’s reality.  Wolf is innocent and naive to the cruelties of our world, despite the fact he is a werewolf.  Wolf ultimately dies protecting Jack from the evil intentions of Gardener.  Gardener teams with Morgan Sloat and further attempts to hinder Jack on his quest to obtain the Talisman and save his mother, but he is unsuccessful.

Stephen King has repeatedly stated that Charles Dickens has had an enormous influence on his writing.  This is evident in The Talisman, as Sunlight  Gardener is similar to a character such as Fagin, in that he uses children to do his evil bidding, although on a much larger scale.  His spot on this list is rightfully earned.

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5)  Lee Harvey Oswald (11/22/63)

Lee Harvey Oswald is different from all of the characters on this list as he is an actual person.  Most people know that he is responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas TX on November 22, 1963.  Many would argue that he is one of the most evil men in history, and they would be correct.  In 11/22/63, King is able to make a historical figure into a character who fits into his universe.  The image King paints of Oswald is not flattering, although this is not a surprise.  What is surprising is the amount of detail that King gives to this character to bring him to life in such a convincing manner.  Oswald is described as being controlling and abusive towards his wife.  He is also described as being a failure in almost everything he tries, from being a husband and father to holding down a steady job.  The main character, Jake Epping, spies on Oswald in his attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination.  We see Oswald as a weak man who becomes mentally unstable over a period of several years, and this culminates with his attempt to assassinate the President of the United States.   However, Oswald has opportunities to back out of this attempt but still chooses to embark on the wrong path.  In both our reality and King’s alternate reality, he pays for his obsession dearly.

In many ways, Oswald is similar to many of the villains on this list:  he is unsuccessful in most of his endeavors but longs to make a name for himself.  However, despite being integrated into the Stephen King Universe, he is still a historical figure that most people are familiar with. This adds dimension to his character and makes an even more terrifying King villain.

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4)  Gregg Stillson (Dead Zone)

Stephen King often includes sociopaths as major characters in his books.  Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone is a good example of this type of character.  However, he is a little different from some of King’s sociopathic characters (such as Patrick Hockstetter from It) in that he appears normal and is quite charming.  However, Stillson is anything but normal.  It is revealed that he was abused as a child and suffers from an over-inflated ego and sense of entitlement.  He enjoys the suffering of other living beings, even animals.  Like Lee Harvey Oswald, he is power hungry and longs for control.  Unlike Oswald, Stillson is craftier and is able to blackmail people into doing his bidding.  He successfully runs for Congress and is eyeing a presidential campaign run.  However, when Johnny Smith, blessed (or possibly cursed) with precognitive abilities, makes physical contact with Stillson and realizes that Stillson will be elected president.  However, this will not be a good thing for America, as Stillson will use his power to worsen conflicts and eventually orchestrate WW III.  Johnny attempts to stop Stillson but is killed by the security guards at the rally in the process.  However, Greg Stillson commits an act of cowardice and uses an infant as a human shield against the bullets.  This act of cowardice is captured on camera, and all of Stillson’s political hopes are dashed upon publication of the photo.

King often reminds us that evil is cowardly and that fear can be used manipulate people into committing deeds that they may not otherwise commit.  He also reminds us that acts of cowardice hardly win in the end.  Greg Stillson is a perfect example of this, and hence the inclusion on this list.

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3)  Norman Daniels (Rose Madder)

Spousal abuse is a topic visited with a vengeance in many King novels.  It and Delores Claiborne both make statements on this subject.  Rose Madder, however, is a novel devoted to the topic.  And Norman Daniels, the main antagonist in the book, is one of the most abusive men in any King novel.  Norman Daniels marries Rosie McClendon a few weeks after Rosie graduates from high school.  The abuse starts on their wedding night, as Norman punches Rosie for slamming a door too hard.  He then continues to abuse her for the remainder of her marriage.  Despite the abuse, Rosie becomes pregnant with Norman’s child.  Norman then beats Rosie so badly that she miscarries and loses the baby.  Rosie continues to remain married to Norman for several more years, until she sees a drop of blood on their bedding and then flees.  Rosie is able to flee almost 800 miles away from Norman and begins a new life.  She makes new friends and even finds new romance.  However, this is still not enough to keep Norman away from her.  Norman uses his police officer instincts and tracks her down, leaving a trail of bodies in his search for Rosie.  Many of Rosie’s friends are murdered by Norman.  Not even the local police force is able to bring Norman down.  It takes Rosie stepping into a portal into another world to finally stop Norman.  However, Rosie must live with the memories of the abuse for the rest of her life.

King portrays men who abuse women as monsters to be feared.  Norman Daniels is human in appearance only.  Inside, he is a monster capable of feeling no remorse for his heinous acts and will stop at nothing to cause pain and suffering for anyone who gets in his way.  He is truly deserving of the spot on this list.

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2)  Charles Burnside (Black House)

Black House is a continuation of the story begun in Talisman.  And again, the theme of children in danger surfaces.  However, Jack Sawyer is an adult and is no longer a child in danger.  He has moved to the town of French Landing in WI, after an early “retirement” from the LA Police force.  But Jack does not remain in retirement for long.  For children are disappearing in French Landing.  When the children are found, they are dead.  Not only are the children dead, they are mutilated and dismembered.  When Tyler Marshall, the son of a local salesman disappears, the stakes become even higher.  For Tyler is special.  He possesses psionic abilities and has caught the eye of the Crimson King, the king of all villains in the Stephen King universe.  The Crimson King, however, uses a human to capture Tyler.  However, this man is human in appearance only.  Charles Burnside appears to an Alzheimer’s patient in the last stages of life.  He lives in a nursing home, where most pity him, as he does not appear to possess any of his facilities.  However, this is a ruse.  Charles Burnside has been in the business of murdering children for a long time.  He has even changed his name to escape law enforcement.  He indeed is not physically capable of much.  However, he is aided by a creature known only as “Mr. Munshun.”  This creature is another minion of the Crimson King, and is able to possess Burnside’s body.  Burnside’s soul is so dark that it welcomes the evil creature.  He allows Burnside to murder children as long as it is determined that the children do not possess any psionic abilities, making them useful to the Crimson King.  When Burnside, aided by the creature known as Munshun, encounters Tyler Marshall, he kidnaps Tyler and transports him into another dimension.  Burnside is ordered by Munshun to keep Tyler alive, but he still torments Tyler.  Tyler is nearly killed by Burnside but is saved by the intervention of Jack Sawyer and his friends.  Burnside is disposed of, but never faces true justice for the awful crimes he has committed.

Stephen King based Charles Burnside on Albert Fish, a real life serial killer who preyed upon several children in the 1920’s before finally being brought to justice.  Minus the supernatural/fantasy aspect, the events in Black House (murders of children) are perfectly plausible and all too sadly common.  King reminds us that is a special kind of monster that preys on defenseless children.  Again, Burnside is another character rightfully deserving of his spot on this list.

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And now, for the number villain in the Stephen King Universe…

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1) Eldred Jonas (Wizard and Glass)

Yes, you heard it here.  This blogger believes that Eldred Jonas, the main antagonist in Wizard and Glass (book 4 of the Dark Tower series) is the biggest villain of them all.  And there are good reasons for that, so let’s talk about them.

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Eldred Jonas is just a bad guy, period.  We see him and his henchman (The Big Coffin Hunters) tormenting Sheemie, a mentally challenged young boy, at the beginning of the events in Wizard and Glass.  Jonas and his friends also vandalize some of the belongings our heroes Roland, Cuthbert and Alain.  He seems to enjoy cruelty for the sake of cruelty, and will go out of his way to cause suffering to people, especially those he feels do not serve his purpose.  A sociopath, like many other King villains, in other words.

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However, Eldred Jonas is on a different level than most King villains.  If the Crimson King (the ultimate King bad guy) had a human henchman, Jonas fits that role perfectly.  Jonas also works for John Farson (known as The Good Man, although this is quite the misnomer).  John Farson is the entity that is ultimately responsible for overthrowing the system of rule that has been in place in the Baronies of Midworld for centuries.  Jonas also works for Randall Flagg, who thrives on misery and chaos.  Randall Flagg also plays a part in the demise of Midworld,which is referred to as “the world moving on.”  Jonas definitely keeps bad company, as well as being a sociopath.

There is an object in the King Universe known as Maerlyn’s Rainbow.  It consists of glass balls that are different colors of the rainbow.  Not surprisingly, this object can be used for mischief.  Jonas and the band of Big Coffin Hunters obtain one piece of the Rainbow.  It is pink in color and allows the user to view events in remote locations.  Jonas gives this piece of the glass to a witch known as Rhea of the Coos.  Not surprisingly, Rhea uses the magical piece of glass for mischief and becomes even more evil and corrupt under its power.  This later causes trouble for Roland his friends.

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All of the above deeds are pretty terrible, but I think the biggest reason why I consider Eldred Jonas to be so evil is because he was responsible for the death of Roland’s one true love, Susan Delgado.  Susan was also pregnant with Roland’s unborn son.  Jonas charms Susan’s greedy Aunt Cordelia, and is able to bring Cordelia to his side.  Jonas then has mayor Thorin murdered, and has Roland and his friends arrested on false murder charges, so that they are no longer in his way.  Jonas also plots to have war machines fueled with oil from Meijis. However, Susan is able to free Roland and his friends from prison.  But since Jonas has turned Cordelia against her own niece, Cordelia becomes part of a lynch mob that ends up burning Susan and her unborn child at the stake.  Roland and his friends are able to foil Jonas’ plot and dispose of Jonas himself, but the actions of Jonas have caused irreparable damage in the form of Susan Delgado’s death and the start of a war that will also destroy Roland’s way of life and cost him his friends and family.  Anyone responsible for that much damage (in both direct and indirect ways) is worthy of the number one spot on this list.

Roland and Susan

One of the reasons that I love the Batman series so much is that it portrays human beings in situations where they are forced to make difficult decisions.  Some of these humans try to take the right path, like Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon.  However, others such as The Joker, Harley Quinn and Two Face choose to take a much darker road.  And sometimes the darker road is the more interesting road.  It is no different in the Stephen King Universe.  Some, such as Roland Deschain and Jack Sawyer, face adversity and still choose to fight for the Side of the White.  But there are others, such as Eldred Jonas and Greg Stillson, who choose to travel down the dark path.  And while I support the Side of the White, I can’t help but be intrigued by the darker path, and to also want to hitch a ride with the travelers of that path.

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My top 10 movies

Admittedly, I am not a movie geek.  I fall into the category of book geek.  I much prefer books to movies, hands down.  And movies based on books?  Don’t get me started, you do not want to watch most of those with me.

However, I am married to someone who is a movie geek (and a pretty cute one at that).  So I make concessions.  My movie watching time has increased in the past several years.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  I still think books are better, but the screen is a valid artistic medium.  There is no denying that.  Some tell stories with pen and paper, and some use film.  Both can give rise to some great works.

With all that being said, here is my list of my top 10 favorite movies of all time.

10)  The Stand

Yes, I know this never hit the theaters.  And I know its technically a mini series and not a movie.  However, it is about 6 hours long, so I count it as 3 three movies.

With all this being said, The Stand is one of the best adaptations of an author who has too many books that have become the victims to horrible adaptations (Running Man, anyone?)  The Stand is one in a long line of movies that can be categorized as “dystopian”  However, The Stand has a few things to make it stand out (no pun intended).  The casting was brilliant, for the most part.  Who can forget Bill Fagerbakke in the role of Tom Cullen, a mentally challenged man who risks life and limb to fight for the side of the good?  Gary Sinise was also memorable as Stu Redmond, the quiet man from east Texas thrust into the role of the leadership that he did not really want.  And then there is Rob Lowe’s (before his fame as Meathead Rob Lowe on the Direct TV commercials) role as Nick Andros, a deaf mute.  Lowe only had few lines of dialogue in the entire movie, but it is the non-speaking performance that will be remembered for years to come.  The Stand was also limited by network TV and the lack of any real CGI technology (this was 1994 after all) but was still an overall great (and faithful to the source material) adaptation to what many consider to be the greatest Stephen King book ever written.  And it has rightfully earned its place on my list.

Nick

9) Carrie (1976)

Poor Carrie…why can’t she catch a break?  She was just trying to be a normal teenager for once.  Her mother tries to ruin it for her but wildly underestimated Carrie’s…talents, shall we say?  And those horrible girls at the prom then tried to ruin it again but then they became victim to Carrie’s,..uh…talents.  Don’t people ever learn?  Do not mess with someone endowed with telekinesis…it just doesn’t pay!

As someone who has been the victim of bullying for most of her natural life, there is no way that the 1976 version of Carrie does not deserve a place on this list of all time great movies.  Not only did I completely identify with Carrie (I was her, minus the religious fanatic mother), I was blown out of the water by the performance of Sissy Spacek in the title role.  However, even though Sissy Spacek was great in her role, Piper Laurie stole the show in her role as Carrie’s fanatically religious mother Margaret White.  Many say she was robbed of the Oscar for that role.  I can’t really argue against that.  And this was made in 1976, so Sissy Spacek and company could not rely on CGI.  In other words, all acting, baby.  And some really great acting at that.

Myself and all the other bullied children should have a special place in our hearts for Carrie White.  And this movie indeed has a special place on this list as well.

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8)  Nightmare Before Christmas

So, its Halloween and things are feeling autumn-like.  Time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

The snow is in the air and the holiday spirit is a-flowing.  Sounds like it may be time to watch…Nightmare Before Christmas!

What a dichotomy!  Halloween movie or Christmas movie?  How do we choose?

Well, it doesn’t matter…its Nightmare Before Christmas, the movie of dual functions!  And also yet another example of the genius of Tim Burton.  The special effects were ahead for the time and helped pave the way for many other movies.  The soundtrack was catchy too, and the characters were cute but cute in a nightmare-ish different sort of way (it is a Tim Burton film after all).  After all, who can forget Sandy Claws, The Pumpkin King, Lock, Shock and Barrel and all the rest of the charmers?

Actually, it doesn’t really matter when you watch Nightmare Before Christmas.  It is a treat no matter what time of year it is!

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7) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

When the news came out that Lord of the Rings would be made in a live action movie consisting of three films, the nerd world collectively jumped for joy.  Well, at least this nerd did.  Finally, we were going to get what we had been clamoring for and the technology was advanced enough to do it justice.  Gandolf, Frodo, Boromir and the rest of the gang were going to come to life, and we gleefully rubbed our hands in anticipation.  And it did not disappoint.  I saw Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on opening weekend and was already counting down the minutes to the next movie when I left the theater.

And I was right to be counting down the minutes to the release of The Two Towers.  In one word:  Ents.  For those who don’t know, Ents were the sentient tree creatures that chose to fight evil along with Gandolf and co.  And that fight scene was one for the ages.  Hands down, one of the best battle scenes in cinematic history.  Of course, the movie consisted of much more than that particular scene.  We were also introduced to Grima.  Gandalf the White reunited with his friends.  But I will never be able to get images from the battle fought by the Ents out of my mind, especially the scene where one dies in battle…still sends shivers down my spine.

A movie with sentient trees making the list?  Crazy, huh?  Well, wait til you get a load of the rest of the list before you jump to any conclusions!

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6)  Masters of the Universe

I am married to He-Man’s number one fan.  I don’t think he would ever capture He-Man and try to hobble him but check out his shelf dedicated all things Masters of the Universe sometime…its a beauty!  And if its not a sign of dedication then I don’t know what is.

When someone says “He-Man”, most people’s minds automatically conjure up the 1980’s cartoon, or maybe even the 2002 remake.  Only the extremely dedicated will also conjure up the 1987 live action film titled Masters of the Universe.  And that’s a shame.  The cartoon was campy.  And it taught morals!  What would He Man do was the guiding light to every 80’s kid when he/she faced a moral dilemma.  Well, I may be exaggerating, but there is no denying the impact of that cartoon show on the 27-40 year old demographic.  But the live action film also has its place.  True, there were some pretty significant deviations from the cartoons.  And we didn’t get any lessons on morality at the end.  Actually, the very end has one of the best endings to a film ever but I will not spoil it here.  But it has that campyness similar to the cartoons.  As for the special effects…well, they tried.  And Frank Langella as Skeletor?  My 9 year old self had to hide her hands behind her eyes, although she still peaked between her fingers.  That performance easily makes the movie.  Plus, its He-Man!  How could anyone ever go wrong with He-Man?

This was also the first movie I saw when my family and I moved back to the United States after living in Japan for several years.  It got me re-introduced to the good old USA. I will always remember that.  And rank it number 6 on my list.

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5)  Burnt Offerings

Movies about haunted houses are nothing new.  They were not really even new back in 1976, as works such as Haunting in Hill House firmly established themselves as standards.  However, one with a really scary chauffeur, Bette Davis and Burgess Meredith tend to stand out.  This is where Burnt Offerings comes in.  In my opinion, this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time, and is also one of the most underrated horror films of all time.

CGI effects have been par for the course for quite some time now.  Almost any action or horror film relies on them for story telling.  And this is both a blessing and a curse.  Movies like The Avengers would not be the same with out CGI effects.  However, CGI effects can make for extremely lazy story telling, especially in modern horror movies.  When filmmakers rely on the special effects, the acting and the creation of the atmosphere take a back seat.  Therefore, horror have the “gross factor” but often fail to be genuinely scary.  However, this is not so with Burnt Offerings.

The character that will always stick out in the mind is that chauffeur in Burnt Offerings.  This character is actually only a memory of Ben Rolf’s at first, as his mother died at a young age and the chauffeur was present at the funeral.  However, this character actually comes to life when Ben and his family move into an old house that is actually haunted.  This character actually has no lines to speak of, but is very frightening.  Ben sees this apparition before his elderly aunt passes away and the ghost acts as a psychopomp (harbringer between the living and the dead).  This is one the scariest scenes I have ever witnessed.  The effects that the director was able to create with the haunted house also added to the movie, but the ghost of the chauffeur truly made the movie.

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And there is a bonus to this movie:  We are treated to an appearance of Burgess Meredith aka The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV series…how much better can it get?

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4)  Boondock Saints

Long before Norman Reedus became known as the sex symbol Darryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, he was Murphy McManus aka 1/2 of the Boondock Saints in the movie with the same title.  Many may associate him with Darryl Dixon.  And that’s fine.  But to me, he will always be Murphy McManus.  In other words, Darryl Dixon can’t hold a candle to Murphy McManus.

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Movies about vigilante justice are nothing new.  After all, Batman is the original vigilante.  However, Boondock Saints features the Every Man (the McManus brothers), who become accidental vigilantes when they kill Russian mobsters in self defense.  And they have to do it all without any special Batman gadgets.  The Saints are also able to bring local law enforcement to their side, especially Agent Paul Smecker, a conflicted FBI agent.  The Saints are able to accomplish their mission, after much bloodshed.  The movie is also laced with black comedy and is extremely quotable as well.

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In other words, this is a perfect movie to watch on an early date with your future husband…doesn’t get more romantic than that.  Or is that just me?

3)  Pulp Fiction

Note to self:  when your grandparents offer to take you to a movie when you are 16, its probably best NOT to choose Pulp Fiction.  In fact, choosing Pulp Fiction is just not good decision making.  Believe me, I did not hear the end of that one for a while.

But I never forgot the movie either.  Who would be able to forget this one?  Like the previous entry, it is extremely quotable.  Royale with cheese, anyone?  That metric system is so overrated, after all.

And then there is Samuel L. Jackson.  Or should I say Samuel Motherfuckin’ Jackson.  His performance as Jules Winnfield is the stuff of legend.  Jackson is also able to pull off quoting the Bible verses without sounding forced.  And the chemistry between Jackson and his co-star John Travolta is something special too.  While Travolta, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman give great performances, Jackson’s performance is what makes the movie.  And is one of the reasons why he will be a legend for a long time.

This is another great date night movie.  Trust me, it is…hunny bunny!

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2)  The Shawshank Redemption

I have made my feelings on movies based on books pretty well known.  Most of them are pretty bad.  And movies based on Stephen King books are usually a particular brand of awful (Firestarter, anyone?)  And The Shining…I could do a separate blog post on that one.

But The Shawshank Redemption is a rare exception to the rule.  Everything about this movie is simply perfect.  The casting is spot on, especially with Tim Robbins.  Robbins brings Andy to life perfectly.

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And we have Morgan Freeman as Red.  If I see any internet meme with Morgan Freeman in it, my mind reads the words in Red’s voice.  His role was that iconic. In fact, this movie has inspired the extremely talented Frank Caliendo so much that Caliendo is able to tie it in to Lebron James and the NBA.  Talk about iconic.

Speaking of iconic, Family Guy (of all shows), has done a takeoff on this movie.  Now, that must mean it is something special.

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Books are almost always better than movies.  No contact.  But that’s almost.  Sometimes a movie can actually exceed the book, as rare as that it is.  And The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect example of a film able to exceed its source material.

And now…drum roll please…my number 1 movie of all time…

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1)  The Dark Knight

Yes, it all came down to this.  If you are still here reading this, then yes indeed it did.  You slogged your way through this list just to come to a Batman movie at the number 1 spot.  So it goes…are we really surprised?

Ok, put your eyeballs back in your head (you know you were rolling them way back) and let’s talk about why this movie is number 1.

Batman is kind of like pizza (or maybe sex, for those of you with dirty minds).  Even when its bad, its still kind of good and you just really can’t resist.  Even the bad Joel Schumacher Batman movies are still kind of good.  The cheesy 1960’s Adam West Batman is spectacular.  And The Dark Knight is good…after all, its Batman!

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However, The Dark Knight has a lot more going for it than simply being a movie about Batman.  It is well directed and well written.  And it also has some phenomenal performances.  The most well known of these performances is Heath Ledger’s Joker.  The Joker has always been a disturbed character, but Ledger takes it to a whole new level.  Some of his lines as The Joker are very quotable (Wanna know how I got these scars?)  It is also true that Ledger improvised much of the role in the movie (a little known fact).  And the character’s story is not very well fleshed out.  This makes The Joker even more terrifying, as its plausible that anyone could become him.  Ledger received a posthumous Oscar for his performance.  The only bad thing about this particular Oscar winner is that he won the Oscar posthumously and was never able to enjoy it.  Truly the stuff of legends.

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The Dark Knight is associated with The Joker.  And for good reason.  However, the movie also incorporates Two Face, another outstanding performance credited to Aaron Eckhart.  Eckhart is able to convincingly portray Harvey Dent and Two Face.  And the incorporation of Two Face into the story is very slick, as the viewer is caught up more with The Joker story line.  However, the slow transformation of Harvey Dent into the madman known as Two Face is seamlessly woven into the film, and once Two Face is officially introduced, the results are nothing short of spectacular.  The Dark Knight did receive one Oscar (Heath Ledger, supporting actor) but really should have won more Academy awards, especially for the writing and the performance of Aaron Eckhart.

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I have always loved Batman.  I always will love Batman, for better or for worse.  The Dark Knight has everything that I love about Batman:  Alfred, the Bat himself, the Commish, and some great villains.  However, the writing, acting and directing takes it to another level, making it into a true work of art.  And therefore number 1 on my top 10 movies of all time.

There they are.  The top 10 movies of all time, from the perspective of someone who normally prefers to read books. Tune in next week: same bat time, same bat channel.

batman and robin

Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time

I am a Stephen King fan.  In other words, water is wet, the sun sets in the west and Batman is better than Superman…ok, kidding on that last part…maybe.

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I am a constant Constant Reader.  I have read most of his works, except for a very few.  I have even read much of the work of poor Richard Bachman, which has made me sympathetic to those who suffer from cancer of the pseudonym…maybe we can all dump buckets of water on our head to raise awareness for that.  Ok, I am kidding again…

With all of this being said, I have compiled a list of King’s top 10 works, ranking from good to really good to THE BEST IN THE WORLD.  This list is my opinion only and will probably hopefully incur some argument and controversy.  So here it goes:

10)  Revival

Yes, I am going there.  I know this was only published in November of 2014.  But I was sufficiently impressed with it.  In the past, a work such as Rose Madder or maybe even Carrie may have occupied this spot.  However, I was impressed enough with Revival to bump those two off the list (for now, at any rate).

This book deals with faith, addiction and the mystery of what happens when we die.  The two main characters, Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs, are drawn out extremely well and are very sympathetic.  King displays not only his ability to portray ordinary people in extraordinary situations, but also his ability to write about the ordinary and make it memorable.  I will not say too much more about Revival since I don’t want to include too many spoilers, but it has earned its spot on this list.

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9)  Cell

I thought that nothing could top The Stand in terms of dystopian literature (King or otherwise).  And really, nothing does.  However, if anything is going to come close, Cell would fit the bill.

In many ways, Cell looks no different from the zombie films and TV that become so popular as of late, such as The Walking Dead.  In Cell, a mysterious signal, referred to as The Pulse, is sent to all cell phones one fine fall afternoon.  The Pulse turns its victims into vicious zombie like creatures, who do disgusting things, like tear limbs off of their fellow humans (or zombies) with their bare teeth or tear their own eyeballs out.  In other words, it’s pretty typical of the zombie genre.

But, there is a twist.  As usual, King manages to make this his own.  The strength in Cell is that King draws out several characters, zombie and non-zombie alike, that have depth and make us care deeply for them.  And he turns the monsters loose, as quite a few of these characters meet an untimely demise.  And its unclear which is more terrifying:  the head of the zombies, who is known as the Raggedy Man and is the major Big Bad in the book, or how the “normies” (those not affected by The Pulse) react towards their fellow humans.  It is a classic tale of man’s inhumanity to man, but modernized and set squarely in the King Universe.

And there is a great reference to The Dark Tower series at the end of the book, in the form of a train that has a suspicious resemblance to our favorite psychotic, sentient monorail, known as Blaine.

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8)  Needful Things

I think almost everyone is familiar with the movie Wall Street, with its famous tagline of “Greed is good”, along with the bad guy we all love to hate, Gordon Gekko.

However, many may not be so familiar with King’s work Needful Things.  Needful Things is set in Castle Rock, a familiar location to the Constant Reader, as it is also the setting for stories such as Dead Zone, The Dark Half and The Sun Dog.  Needful Things was meant to be “the last Castle Rock story” and King delivers on that.  Castle Rock is sent off in typical, gruesome King style.  In other words, the send-off is honorable.

Needful Things deals with a small shop opened by a mysterious owner, Leland Gaunt.  It quickly becomes apparent that Gaunt operates as a supernatural version of Gordon Gekko.  He has anything that the casual shopper dreams of…but for a price.  Gaunt trades the desired items for vicious pranks played on unsuspecting victims, and soon the entire town is in an uproar.  Gaunt also takes “greed is good” to a whole new level, as he causes misery and collects human souls as his bounty.  Needful Things was meant to be a metaphor for the materialism that was rampant in the 1980’s.  King does a wonderful job taking this metaphor to a gruesome level, but never losing the humanity that is so present in his works.

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7)  Insomnia

I am also a fan of Lord of the Rings.  In reading Insomnia, it is apparent that King is as well, as he pays homage to Tolkien and his work throughout the entire book.  There is even a ring that takes on significance in the story.

Insomnia centers around a man named Ralph Roberts.  Ralph is a typical King character in some ways but not so typical in others.  The most striking way that Ralph veers away from the typical King characters is that he is an elderly, widowed man in his late 60’s.  Many readers are turned off by the fact that the book centers around Ralph and his elderly friends, but it is really one of the strengths of the book.  King portrays the trials of aging with sensitivity and grace, and even a little humor.  This is not something accomplished very often, especially by a writer known for horror, but King is able to pull it off.

In the book, Ralph is afflicted with insomnia.  If that weren’t bad enough, he begins to see another level of reality that causes him to question his sanity.  However, Ralph soon realizes that insomnia and his visions are really the least of his problems.  He is one of the pawns in a powerful game of chess, and much like Frodo in Lord of the Rings, he must make a decision and do what is right, or the consequences will be beyond disastrous.  Ralph does indeed step up, and the saga that plays out is worthy of Tolkien and his saga of hobbits, dwarves and elves, although Insomnia (mostly) consists of ordinary humans called upon to take on extraordinary tasks.

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6) 11/22/63

If you could go back in time, would you change the past?  More importantly, should you change the past?  This is a theme explored time and time again in both film and literature, with varying perspectives.  11/22/63 is King’s unique take on this subject and provides much food for thought.

The protagonist in 11/22/63 is Jake Epping.  Jake is someone born in 1976.  He is far removed from the subject of the JFK assassination, like much of my generation.  However, he is provided with an opportunity to travel back to 1958 where he can begin the process of attempting to change history.  King’s portrayal of Jake and the people he meets on his journey is beautiful.  King also takes Lee Harvey Oswald, a major figure from US history that most of us only know in an academic sense, and turns him into a convincing character in the King universe.  This would be just one reason why this book is on my list at number six, and why this book has received so many accolades from critics and the public alike.

There is also a nice little Easter egg in 11/22/63.  Part of the book takes place in Derry (a major part of the King universe) and Jake runs into none other than Beverly Marsh and Richie Tozier.  Beverly and Richie, as any King fan knows, are two of the main characters in It.  This Easter egg is just one of many King uses to reinforce the idea of the Stephen King universe.

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5)  Salem’s Lot

Buffy the Vampire SlayerInterview with the VampireThe Vampire Diaries.  Even (*shudder*)  Twilight.  These are all titles we make think of when we think of the modern vampire.  However, these titles, along with many others, owe an enormous debt to the next book on the list:  Salem’s Lot.

King spent much time toying with idea of the modern vampire.  He was not convinced that Dracula could be terrifying in a place such as New York City.  However, he hit upon the idea of placing Dracula in Small Town, USA.  And then Salem’s Lot was born.

It is in Salem’s Lot that King shows his ability to juxtapose the mundane and supernatural, with spectacular results.  The description of the town and its inhabitants are something we are all familiar with.  King is not afraid to show the unflattering aspects of the inhabitants’ characters either, making us question who is more frightening:  the mother who cruelly abuses her infant son or the vampire that descends upon the small town, with the intent to enslave as many of the townsfolk as he can.  King also places children in precarious situations in this work, reinforcing the idea that children and adults really do live in separate worlds, and that children are the stronger ones most of the time.  This is a theme that will resurface in many of his later works, often with a vengeance.

King considered writing a sequel to Salem’s Lot.  The sequel never materialized.  However, Father Donald Callahan, the damned priest last seen fleeing town in Salem’s Lot, resurfaces in Wolves of the Calla (book 5 of The Dark Tower series) of all places.  We get a backstory on Father Callahan and a resolution to that story that is quite satisfying.

salem's lot

4)  The Shining

I struggled with The Shining.  More specifically, I struggled where to rank The Shining on my list.  But since I (and many others) have lived so many of the events in this book, it deserves to be ranked at number 4.

We all know the horror elements of The Shining (kudos to Stanley Kubrick).  Even non-King fans giggle at the mention of “redrum” and are frightened of the portrayal of Jack Torrance, courtesy of Jack Nicholson (thank you again, Stanley Kubrick).  However, at its core, The Shining is a story about family.  More specifically, it is a story about family sticking together through thick and thin, wanting to provide for one’s family and the unshakeable bond shared by parents and children.  And it is also a story about the deterioration of family.  DIVORCE is something that is frequently discussed in the book, especially from the perspective of five year old Danny Torrance.  The visions experienced by Danny are not nearly as frightening as DIVORCE and the collapse of his family.  Of course, once King builds up the tension with his portrayal of the family unit, he unleashes the ghosts that inhabit the cursed Overlook Hotel.  The payoff is satisfying and frightening (who can forget the spirit of the lustful old woman in Room 217) but we are saddened at the end, as the family unit is broken and will never be fixed.

the-overlook-hotel

3)  The Dark Tower series

King said that the Dark Tower is really one long book.  So I am including all eight books and ranking it at number 3 on my list.

King has frequently reminded us that all of his books, from Insomnia to the tales of abused women to the tale of the little boy with supernatural powers, are all tied into the Dark Tower series in some fashion.  He has often referred to The Dark Tower as his Jupiter.  And a Jupiter it is indeed, both in the sheer size (again, eight books) and the content of the books.

The Dark Tower series starts out with Roland Deschain in his travels across a desert landscape.  The world is eerily similar to our own, but is not quite our own.  As Roland’s journey progresses it becomes more and more evident that Roland’s world is a dystopian mirror of our own world but is not our world.  Roland starts off as a hardened man.  Nothing will stop him in his quest to seek The Dark Tower, the nexus of all creation.  He is even willing to let a child die.  He kills an entire town, which includes men, women and children, because they are a detriment to his quest.  However, as the books progress, we see more and more humanity in Roland.  He is given friends to aid his quest.  He even takes on a lover.  He helps a village that has their children stolen once every generation.   He suffers from enormous losses as well, as members of his tet are sacrificed in his quest, one by one.  However, Roland continues to persevere in his quest to seek the Tower.  And we are left wondering, when will Roland finally be rewarded in his quest for truth?  Or is he doomed to remain in purgatory for all eternity, because he continues to make mistakes in his quest and is never able to satisfy whatever higher power is in control of his life?  The Dark Tower has everything we come to expect in a fantasy series:  an anti-hero, a daunting quest, frightening villains, even doomed love affairs.  But The Dark Tower is a wonderful metaphor of how we may make mistakes in our lives, but none of us are ever beyond redemption.  And this is why it is the third best King book of all time.

dark tower

2)  It

Childhood is hell.  I have said this over and over.  Matt Groening has discussed this topic at length as well.  Many would agree on this.  But once again, Stephen King takes this concept to a new level in his book titled It.

It takes place in Derry, Maine.  In many ways, Derry is postcard perfect.  It is a biggish small town in Maine.  It’s not rural, but it is far away from the problems faced by more urban areas.  Or so we think.

In fact, Derry is far from normal.  The murder rate is extremely high.  The disappearances and murders of children are even more troubling.  There is evil at work in Derry, and it takes the form of a clown named Pennywise.  In the summer of 1958, seven children form a club that they term the Losers Club.  The children find friendship in each other and protection from the town’s bullies.  More importantly, they team together to attempt to destroy the creature known as Pennywise.  The seven children are able to hurt this supernatural creature and stop the killings of children, which occur approximately every 27 years or so, prematurely.  However, they are unable to destroy Pennywise on their first attempt.  Twenty seven years later, in 1985, the children are adults with little to no memory of the events of that terrible summer.  However, they are forced to reunite, in another attempt to destroy Pennywise, who has announced his presence by the way of more murders of children.  The adults have shed their pasts as Losers and take care of business the second time around in spectacular fashion, although it is accomplished at a high cost.

It has earned its place as number on this list.  Pennywise has haunted many a nightmare and the imagery in this book makes it a worthwhile read on its own merit.  However, King also tackles issues such as child abuse, spousal abuse, bullying and intolerances of differences in general.  He is able to weave all of these themes into a book about the monsters that frighten children and do it in a convincing manner.  This is just one of many reasons why so fans proclaim It to be their favorite King book.

pennywise

Finally, we are on to the number one Stephen King book (in my opinion only) of all time…drum roll please…here it is!

drum-roll-please

Dystopian literature has enjoyed resurgence in recent years.  Works such as The Hunger Games, The Giver and Divergent are great examples.  But no one can do dystopian literature better than King, and The Stand is proof of that.

The beginning of The Stand is frightening enough.  The government creates a bio weapon capable of killing 99.99% of the population.  The weapon is a flu virus.  Due to an accident, the virus escapes.  The result is that most of the world’s population is killed.  Hardly anyone is spared, not even the horses and dogs.  The remaining survivors are left to pick up the pieces and wonder about the survival of the human race.

King does a great job leaving us wondering about the survival of the human race.  But he is not done.  The survivors are plagued with nightmares about a dark man, capable of horrible acts.  But they are also dreaming of an elderly woman in the cornfields of Nebraska.  Soon, the survivors begin to gravitate to one of two places:  Boulder, CO, on the side of The White, represented by the elderly lady, or to Las Vegas, NV, to the side of the dark man, who represents evil.  A showdown soon results, in classic good vs. evil fashion, as the dark man and the survivors who represent the good battle for control of a post-apocalyptic world.

The Stand consists of unforgettable characters.  We have Larry Underwood, a recovering drug addict struggling to do right by his lover and adopted child.  There is Stu Redman, a quiet man from Texas thrust into the role of a leader.  We have the elderly woman known as Mother Abagail, the granddaughter of a slave who is chosen to represent good.  And then there are the misguided souls drawn to the side of evil.  There is Trashcan Man, a pyromaniac is perhaps the most sympathetic villain in the King Universe.  We also have Rat Man and Ace High.  All are unforgettable characters in their own ways.

The main villain of The Stand is Randall Flagg.  Flagg deserves specific mention.  He is not only able to wreak havoc in The Stand, but is also able to cause trouble for Roland and his friends in The Dark Tower series.  Flagg crops up in many other King works, including Hearts in Atlantis and Eyes of the Dragon.  Flagg is the ultimate uber villain, and is just part of what makes The Stand such a good journey.

Randall_Flagg_by_Clayman84

The Stand may be a lengthy book, but we are left with the feeling the story was told too quickly at the end.  The characters (both good and bad) stay with us forever.  We are rooting for humanity to survive and hopefully not repeat its mistakes.  The Stand is timeless, and will continue to remain timeless for a long, long time.

the stand

And there you have it.  My top ten Stephen King books.  Some may be unconventional, but I feel every book deserves a place on this list.  Agree or disagree with me in the comments below!