Sunday, April 13, 2014

Oculus - A Review & A Sequel Speculation

I went into the theater worried I might spend the entire 105 minutes of the film tautly waiting for Rory or the Doctor to arrive and rescue Amelia Pond.  To my relief, Amelia Pond was nowhere in sight, and so there were no innate expectations in my geeky mind of Karen Gillan's former co-stars popping up.  I think I'll always see a little of Amy Pond in anything Karen Gillan does for the rest of her career, seeing as how I'm a Whovian and she was my favorite companion alongside my favorite Doctor, but it's a testament to her acting talent that she was very quickly able to show me, through her performance in Oculus, that she can become any character she sees fit to play.

Following my review is my take on what the sequel should or could be.

SPOILER ALERT: Read no further if you haven't yet seen the film and don't want to know anything going in beyond what the trailers might have shown.





















From the moment the adult Kaylie Russell is first shown at the auction, any Doctor Who fans can tell that our beloved, feisty Scottish companion is not going to be present in this film.  That's a good thing here, and I'll try not to mention it again.

On many levels, Oculus is a fantastic movie.  It only has a few drawbacks, but for me they did not detract too much from the experience.  Let's start with the strong points.

Katee Sackhoff and Karen Gillan disappear remarkably into their characters here, and it's kind of sad they were so removed from each other in the actual timeline of the film's story.  I suppose they were actually in front of each other once or twice, but largely, you could almost consider them to have not worked together here at all.  They are in the same space, but not the same time, and it makes for an interesting viewing experience.  The slow revelation of the events of the Russell family's tragic past coincides nicely with the unfolding events of the present, and at times the lines become so blurred you begin to wonder if this is about to become a time-travel piece.  In the end, it seems not to do this.

There are points where I began to wonder if the adult Kaylie and Tim even truly existed.  Could the Lasser Glass have produced delusions in these children of growing up and escaping, only to torment them further by painting a mental picture of falling under its influence again?  No, in the end, they did grow up… and were foolish enough to return to the last house their parents ever owned.

I can see how some people can walk away from this movie still wondering if anything supernatural can be said to have happened at all, within the confines of the story.  Was it all madness on the part of the Russell children?  Did their shared experience of surviving their parents' breakdowns break both of their grips on reality, to the point that once united in their adulthood, they could share hallucinations again?  No.  I don't buy that.  I believe this film represents the tale of a mirror that is a conduit to darker forces than we might want to believe exist, and to me, those darker forces are nothing more than the misery of our own souls.  Every "ghoul" shown in the film is a former victim of the mirror.  Perhaps the original creator of what became known as the Lasser Glass is the only true monster here, forever shadowing the mirror's journey through history and ensnaring anyone with the bad luck to possess it.

Possession is an underlying theme in Oculus.  Kaylie will not relinquish ownership of her belief that the mirror is responsible.  She spends the entirety of her life after her parents' deaths researching who else has fallen victim to the bogeyman from her childhood.  She allows it to become the Devil figure of her own personal religion, which she is all too thrilled to drag her brother back into upon his release.  He does try to resist the pull of her obsession, but in the end, he cannot escape it any more than his sister can escape the dread magnetism of the mirror itself.  The mirror possessed their father, their mother, and though they lived outside its influence for half their lives, it never really stopped owning them, as well.

In retrospect, Tim seems almost to have been a disposable fixture.  He didn't do much more than react to anything, at least in his adult incarnation.  Young Tim at least got to finish the family tragedy off with the gun, but adult Tim was nothing more than the mirror's tool in murdering its own would-be destroyer, Kaylie.  Brenton Thwaites performed the part well, but to me, he was lacking something.  Kaylie had passion, even if it was an obsessed form of passion that doomed her.  Tim was simply trying to run away from his tragedy, bury it beneath layers of psychological analysis and explanation for memories he could never convince people outside that house were true.  Delusion was the easier thing to believe.  Perhaps I'm being unfair; Karen did steal the show.  If given a chance, though, I think Tim could be taken to many more interesting places - in terms of his character - in a second film.

I thought briefly that if they'd gotten him at least half-naked for at least one scene, it might have made Tim Russell more interesting to me.  But, there was no nudity to speak of.  In fact, there was no sexuality to speak of, either.  There was next to no chemistry between Kaylie and her fiancé Michael.  Granted, they are barely shown on screen together so there's not much chance to develop their relationship, but the film didn't take advantage of its other couple for titillation, either.  Oculus didn't exploit the naked form to make up for any action viewers might find it to be lacking, and I have to respect the film makers for making that conscious decision to avoid the horror movie trope of the unnecessary sex or nude scene.  Some stories warrant that sort of thing; Oculus isn't one of them.

Since seeing Oculus, I've found out it's essentially a remake of a low budget film the director made back in 2006.  From what little I've read on that older attempt at telling this story, it's clear he was willing to largely rework his story for the mass market big screen.  I'm not sure how much of his original plans he is sticking to, either in this film itself or any currently planned sequels, but I do know what I would like to see in an "Oculus 2."  What follows is my version of what might happen next.

OCULUS 2: INTO THE LASSER HOUSE
(Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the film makers.  This is purely my own speculation.)

Tim is incarcerated for the murder of his sister.  Once again, he is believed to be the one who killed a killer, so there is some sympathy for him from the jury as well as the public, but this doesn't help to set him free.  One female jury member from his trial begins a detached romance with Tim - at first corresponding tentatively with him through letters before leaving her husband to begin visiting Tim Russell in prison - and over time takes up a quest similar to Kaylie's; she seeks to prove her convicted murderer lover was in the thrall of the Lasser Glass, and thus not truly responsible for Kaylie's death, as Kaylie was not truly responsible for killing her fiancé Michael.  This jury member is the main living character in the second film.

Alongside the story of the jury member and Tim behind bars, another story unfolds for the viewing audience.  We see Kaylie again.  And her mother.  And every victim the Lasser Glass has ever claimed.  Whereas in the first film, we only saw any of the previous victims as ghouls completely under the mirror's control, here, we see them all as only themselves.  They know what their fate was, and understand fully that the mirror is to blame.  They exist in a liminal space between life and death.  They have died, but they are stuck in a world of the mirror's own making, which is a twisted, amalgamated reflection of every home the mirror has ever had.  Rooms are jumbled between houses.  Windows give views on dark, horrible versions of the exteriors of these people's houses in life.  No window can be broken to give escape.  No door leads to an outside, or even to the halls or rooms it should, according to the victims' memories of their lives.  Being new to this plane, Kaylie is far from willing to accept her situation.  Her parents, however they might try, cannot convince her that this place is inescapably their prison for the rest of eternity.  Kaylie tries to convince them and others in the Lasser House (as some of them have taken to calling it) that escape is possible.  She begins to see the mirror itself at different locations in the House, an occurrence she cannot get anyone else to admit to having witnessed.  She learns to catch it out of the corner of her eye, approach without looking directly at it, and finds that if she can touch it while looking away, she can keep it from disappearing when she does look full upon it.  The first thing she sees once she is able to hold it in place is the jury member who has fallen in love with her still-living brother.

The jury member - let's call her Sue - has gained temporary possession of the mirror.  The unseen buyer from the first film quickly relinquished ownership of the Lasser Glass, overcome with a superstitious fear of it after the same family commit such horribly crimes in its presence twice.  The Glass was then acquired by a dealer in objects associated with heinous crimes, who is happy to let Sue take the mirror to her hotel room for a single night, as long as she leaves Skype open so he can see the mirror at any moment he so wishes to do so.  Sue stares into the mirror for hours, trying to imagine the terrible things her lover has told her, which she first heard over the course of the trial.  She finds herself doubting his story.  She starts to laugh at herself for falling under the spell of just another conman behind bars.

Then, she sees Kaylie looking back at her out of the mirror.

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hello again



I always feel like I'm coming back to this place from very far away, and this time it's true, temporally speaking, anyway.  I haven't posted a single thing since December, and it's depressing as hell to me to see how infrequently I was posting even before that point.

A number of health concerns I was busily not being much concerned with culminated in a hospital stay a few weeks ago.  I found out that I'm diabetic.  I've started insulin treatment and altered my eating habits accordingly, and I'm happy to report that I have not felt this consistently good or capable of progress in a very, very long time.

And yet, I'm still not writing.  Editing?  Don't make me laugh!

(you ever want to doppelgänger yourself just to punch yourself in the face?  yeah. that's where I am.)

I have, predictably enough, launched and set aside a number of new projects in this time.  I have another concept album concept.  It's really just one song, and a friend's disagreement with the titling of said song lend to it becoming a concept album simply so I can still use the original name for SOMETHING (and because the original song didn't actually accomplish what, story wise, I was going for based on that title, so, yeah, a whole album does make sense).

The Killers Club remains the terminal focus of my "what I should be doing."  But, am I doing anything with it?  Not much.  I read through the whole works, which I suppose is some kind of an accomplishment.  At least I haven't forgotten it completely.  As of this writing, I have it open on my screen, but buried behind a number of other things (as per usual).

The other day, the opening scene to a potentially NEW kind of sequel to it occurred to me.  I want to start working on that next book in The Killers Club series (was never supposed to be a series but, yeah, it kind of became one all on its own).  I just have to figure out what book that's going to be, whether it's new or one I already conceived of in the scene of things Club.

You know what I'm gonna have to do before I can do that.  EDIT.  THE.  FIRST.  BOOK.

Paying an editor is nowhere near an option for me at this point.

I'm happy again with my job these days, after actually turning in a 3 weeks notice.  This was during the worst three or four weeks of my life in recent years, the weeks where my symptoms and health were deteriorating at such a rate I felt like I was in my eighties rather than my early thirties.  This led to my hospital visit, and stay, and diabetes diagnosis.  Thank you, everyone!  Honestly, everyone at Anderson Mercy hospital, thank you.  And thank you to everyone else in my life that PUT UP WITH ME in those weeks, and really, the months leading up to that event.

I wasn't much fun to be around.  Yet, some people stuck around anyway.

Anyway.

I just thought I'd drop a line here, drop a pebble in the pond to see if any ripples occur here from, or whatever.  Is anyone listening?  Reading?  Waiting for The Killers Club or, horrifically, the long-overdue second installment in Her Dawning Night?

Doubtful.  Very, very doubtful.  I fear I've let myself be forgotten as an author, and have slipped back into that dubious space where people actually would prefer I just never write again.  Don't get their hopes up.  Don't tease them with things that will never come.

The Killers Club is coming.  It's only a matter of time.  And will power.

And hoping my depression doesn't roar its ugly head again now that I've got my PHYSICAL problems well under control (largely (for the most part (blood sugar levels are actually looking good though))).

Heh.

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Erik the hermit pokes his head out of his digital hidey-hole

Hello out there. I'm still here. Mostly. As a writer, I've barely been living. I've been consumed by feeble attempts to deny how entrenched I've felt, in depression, menial job work, relationship stuff, et cetera. I've begun and set aside a number of projects, as usual. I've slipped back completely into my ways pre-Smashwords. *punches himself in the back of the head*

Life in general's been okay. Had to scrap my station wagon. In the same day, turned around and we got financed on an '09 PT Cruiser; still not at all sure how THAT happened. I won't complain.

Still in a relationship… despite all my subconscious and self-destructive attempts to lay waste to what Kurt and I've built over 4+ years. Humans will be humans, non?

I have a promising new novel about zombies that I've begun, touched upon in exactly three very short writing sessions, and haven't touched or thought much more about since. I want to work on it. No other new projects seems half as interesting over the past six months. Problem?

I have to move forward with The Killers Club. I have to do research on costs for eBook editing and formatting, formatting and set-up to do print-on-demand (a venture I've not yet attempted for any of my books), and marketing (another thing I've barely done, if you can count a short-lived Facebook ad run). I need to figure all these figures out and pull my plan together in a more concrete way because I mean to raise funds through indiegogo. Hopefully I'll get around to that soon…ish.

I do have this pesky habit of letting everything in the world get in the way of my Work. Where's my stun-gun when I need it? Oh… right. Don't have one. (Christmas gift, anyone?)

***

Live excellently. Forgive freely. Embrace weirdness. Hate no one.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I am Denied my Rights

I am denied one of my rights, and that is one right too many.

The other day, I saw a TV news piece about something to do with the fight for gay marriage rights in Ohio.  At the end of the piece, the other local anchor added something worded pretty much like this: "currently, twelve states allow gay marriage."  This sounds harmless.  Perhaps the wording means nothing.  To me, it bespeaks a deeper problem in this country.  The problem is that we've forgotten our roots.  Not all of us, maybe not even most of us, but enough Americans have forgotten it that it's a scary problem.

This nation was founded specifically because inherent rights were not being recognized by the government in power.  The pilgrims sought freedom from the oppressive rule of the British government, so they abandoned their entire lives and crossed the ocean to start a new life.  That new life became a new nation.  Revolution and war led to us, today, having the rights we now enjoy.

But that's misleading, too.  Revolution and war didn't GIVE us our rights; they just made it clear that our rights are to be recognized and respected by the government in power, be it foreign or domestic.

"Gay" rights are some of the latest to begin to be recognized within our own borders.  The right for a man and another man (or a woman and another woman, et cetera) to be married is not something the government can give us.  That right is ours inherently, like absolutely every other right a human being possesses during their time upon this earth.  Rights are not given or sold.  Rights exist and should be RECOGNIZED.  They must be recognized, if this is truly the land of the brave and the free.

The attitude in this nation has become tolerance over acceptance, as if mere tolerance is anywhere near as good or important as true, honest, open acceptance.  To tolerate something is not the same as to accept it.  Saying "allow" gives the wrong impression, and it saddens me that to many people, it's enough.  I'm sorry, but I don't want to be "allowed" to have a right.  I want my rights to be acknowledged, legally recognized, and respected by my fellow man (and woman, et cetera).

Do you not like the idea of gay marriage?  I don't like the idea of someone who doesn't know me controlling whether or not I can exercise rights that they can, simply because I happen to want to do something a little different from what they would do.  Don't we celebrate diversity in this country?  I remember when my teachers proudly taught me that America is the "melting pot nation."  Did they take that out of the curriculum at some point?

Think about the phrase "gay marriage."  It saddens me that I have to use that phrase.  It reminds me, every day, that there is still segregation in this country.  I remember learning about the now historical segregation of schools between whites and blacks.  I remember learning about the ordeals of people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. and so many others, people who proudly fought so that their contemporaries and their children and their children's children could enjoy INHERENT RIGHTS that they themselves were being denied by the government.  Now, in 2013, I am denied my rights.

Would you enjoy having ANY of your rights stripped from you?  Held back from you, just out of reach?  "Oh, look, you can go over there and do this thing, but when you come back HOME WHERE YOU LIVE... nah, we can't let it fly here, sorry!  Maybe next decade!"  Not.  Good.  Enough.

This nation is divided.  Fractured, really, and it's pathetic and sad.  It's a bit terrifying, too.

I am denied my rights.  Who next will find himself or herself told, you get to have less rights now?  That day is coming, if we let it come.

I refuse to let that rule my life.  I live with my partner and there is no one whom would swoop in and take from either of us what we would keep, if the other were to unexpectedly die.  We're lucky that way.  A LOT of people are not so lucky.  A LOT of people deserve to have their rights respected, acknowledged, and accepted.  ACCEPTED; not allowed.

What's to be done about this?  I can't say.  The problem is deeper than mere laws.  It's a problem in the way we think.  It's a problem in the very shape of our society.  It makes me think of a Doctor Who episode I watched recently, from the Christopher Ecclseton era, where the Doctor comments on how society must be being manipulated on a massive scale because they've been held back, stunted, and it's funny and also NOT FUNNY AT ALL because that sounds sickeningly like our society today.

We celebrate the battles we've won, as a society.  How long before we celebrate the victory of acceptance over ignorant, stubborn theft of rights?  It is a theft.  It is nothing less than theft.

"Nanner nanner.  I don't like you.  I'm going to blame my religion, but really, it's my own personal fear.  I can blame my upbringing all I want, but every day, I CHOOSE not to like you.  I don't know you, but I don't like you all the same.  Thus, I will deny you some rights, just because I can."

That's exactly the whole of how it seems to me.

I am denied my rights.

I've said that enough for today.  It's time I turned my attentions to something more positive, or productive, or simply entertaining.

Do you enjoy the whole of your rights?  Enjoy that while you can.

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Monday, June 24, 2013

My Oldest Universe

I am living my dream.  Right now.

Since I was a kid, I have wanted to write for comics.  For the longest time, I wanted to break into the comics business.  Possibly like a lot of people who have a similar dream, I felt like it was a nearly impossible feat to become a successful comic book writer.  A comic book scribe knew the secret passwords and routes to enter that strange landscape.  He or she worked the magic I couldn't begin to imagine, let alone understand enough to repeat.  I was wrong on every level.

Image Comics showed me the light on that.  Image Comics publishes creator-owned comics, and since I discovered their submission policies years ago, I've had hope of breaking into comics on my own.

Two things have always stopped me.

I don't know any comic book artists personally.

I stop myself finishing anything.  Everything.  Almost invariably.  (the almost part is true these days, thank gods)

While the work on my novel The Killers Club has slowed to a snail's pace, but not ceased entirely (it never will until the damnable thing's complete, beta-tested, editor-approved, and reader-ready), I have begun a few side projects.  The first DEATH TO: story begun at a decent pace but has joined TKC in pace of production.  Slow Wreck Train was easily to complete because it was a simple concept; write a love story tragedy in 13 parts here on the blog, slap together in word processor, fix minor editing flubs, and publish.  It's the first thing I've published since Her Longest Night came out in late 2011.  That's both fantastic and saddening to me, but I digress.

I'm still writing, and got myself back onto a decent daily routine.  More or less.

Where does this "living my dream" part come in?

I am writing for comics.  My own comic book.  It will be creator-owned, and published by Image Comics (assuming they appreciate the passion behind the story and agree to publish it).

I began looking for artists.  I have an ad up on a couple of forums.  An inker has shown interest.  A penciller showed interest as well, though he isn't free to start working on my project until August.  I breathe and try to accept that delay; it might even be a good thing to wait, so I can get all my scripting and character development ducks in a row.  But, I'm still sort of looking for a penciller in the meantime, although I WANT the penciller who showed interest already.  His portfolio and that of the inker who contacted me give me hope that this series can actually happen relatively soon.

I have no doubt that if I keep working on this project and the two artists who I've been in contact with become as passionate about this book as I am, Image Comics' people in charge will want to publish this.  I'm still very protective; only a very few people, anywhere, even know the title right now.

This project has been brewing on my back burners since my pre-teens.  This is my oldest universe, which a long time ago I dreadfully, wrongfully accepted would never see print.  I grew to fear I could never choose exactly when, where, or around who to begin telling these stories.  Thank gods, I was wrong!  It's been coming together slowly over the past several months, and now the title and logo are set, everything's rolling along at a nice pace toward my oldest ideas coming to fruition in an actual, ongoing comic book series.

I have decided that this time, I will not let the story slip away.  I'm scripting issue one.  I'm connecting the dots between where issue one will end and the way I envision this opening story arc coming to an end.  The beginning of the next arc came to me out of the blue yesterday and I cannot stop being excited about this project.

I'm contemplating revealing the logo here, which would of course give away the title of the series.  I should really wait until I have some artwork from someone attaching themselves to this project before I reveal the logo.  A mock cover alone won't do, unless it displays at least one of my characters.

Comic books.  I haven't been collecting them for some time now.  If this comes together soon enough, gets picked up to series by Image, and draws a following as quickly as I can probably only dream, maybe that will change... by sometime next year (lol).

***

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Comic Book Series? Really? YES!

Lately, I've been toying with a new for-comics project.  It had fantasy, modern day, and deep-future science fiction-y things going on, all bound together by a single character's mind-warping journey across multiple, simultaneous lives.  It still seems interesting, yet rather hollow at this point.  I'm ready to shelve it.  Not because it doesn't have inherent value, but because, as usual, my interest wanders.

I'm still working on both The Killers Club (novel) and the first DEATH TO: short story.  No worries there, though I am endlessly perturbed at the slow pace at finishing both.  Anyway.

I will very very very soon be actively working on a new comic book project to be announced more properly very very very soon.  It is the story of my oldest fictional universe, which has been un-neatly crammed into my overall background framework omniverse(s) for a long time.  This universe was the first time I took random characters and worlds I'd been dreaming up and putting on various forms of paper (snippets of plot, names, scrawled event concepts, endless #1 cover mock-ups, rude character sketches, et cetera) and actually threw them in a pot (metaphorically speaking), mixed, and attempted a cohesive whole.  The problem with it's always been there are too many elements, I'm only one writer, and I could never decide exactly where, when, and whom to start the actual STORY with.  I keep coming back to my very first creation that lies within this universe, a "superhero" who within the framework of this particular earth isn't the first or even the greatest of them, but still holds a special place in my heart.  He's never going to properly be in this story at all, not as he was always meant to be before.  That's a key element of this last form of this plan.  He was meant to be so many things, now actually WITHIN this story, and that's really important.  He was meant to be, but never will.  Now it all falls to his sister, because he's been murdered... but he's still watching over her and a core cast of... but I can't say much more than that!  Not yet!  I've probably let out too many spoilers already but I'm just too excited.  I fell asleep thinking about early elements of a first year, if this goes to series WHICH IT MUST, and those thoughts woke me after less than five hours sleep.  I'm still not totatlly over this whatever-it-is bug in my system, but my mind decided I DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT.  I must begin work on this "new" project and FINALLY... finally... start telling this story.

Send me a comic book artist, would ya?  Anyone?  Caged, spell-bound, hungry for a story to tell, who enjoys superheroes, tragedies, maybe noir (this gets dark fast and repeatedly but I myself have little to no direct exposure to noir though I love the idea of noir), and cosmic things.  ASAP.  Thankee-sai.

Live excellently.  Forgive freely.  Embrace weirdness.  Hate no one.