S.G. Browne

Movie Review Monday: Halloween Edition

To celebrate Halloween, I thought I’d throw out my Top 10 Favorite Spookiest/Scariest Films of all time. You’ll notice that the majority of the films listed were released in 1980 or earlier. I guess I just don’t scare as easily as I did when I was younger. Either that or they don’t know how to make scary films like they used to.

In no particular order…

Halloween (1978)
I watched this one at home alone on cable when I was fourteen-years-old and I stayed up until three in the morning pressed up against the wall in the corner of my bed with my baseball bat, watching my bedroom door. Not my finest hour.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)
This film is the reason I had nightmares about zombies growing up. The opening sequence is as creepy and terrifying as it gets. I still think it holds up after more than forty years. They’re coming to get you, Barbara.

The Exorcist (1973)
I haven’t watched this film in thirty years because it freaked me out so much the first time I saw it. Don’t ask me to watch it again.

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Yes, the girl gets kind of annoying (who yells out “hello” when you hear something making noises in the woods out in the dark?), but you never see what’s chasing them and when it comes to doing scary right, I’m a firm believer that less is more.

The Haunting (1963)
The book by Shirley Jackson is better, but this one is the classic haunted house film. A little dated, but still creepy and spooky. In the night. In the dark.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Just. Plain. Scary.

REC (2007)
This one delivers the scares almost from the start and once it gets going, it doesn’t let up. More intense than moody, but heavy on the creep factor.

The Shining (1980)
Admittedly, I find the book far superior, but on its own this is arguably the best haunted house film, scare for scare.

Psycho (1960)
Hitchcock set the standard with this one. Everything that followed pales in comparison. Anthony Hopkins creeps me out to this day.

The Ring (2002)
I admit, I have a thing for Naomi Watts, which is probably why I liked this one more than the original Japanese version. And I will NEVER watch an unmarked video tape in a cabin. NEVER.

Okay, that’s my Top 10 List of creepy movies that scared the hell out of me. What are some of yours?

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Filed under: Movie Review Mondays,Movies and Books — S.G. Browne @ 6:20 am

For the Love of Zombies

People are always asking me about zombies.

Have you always loved zombies?
Do you think you’ll survive the zombie apocalypse?

Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?

In case you’re curious, the answers are:
Yes, no, and I don’t think so.

Truth is, I’m not an authority on zombie sex. However, I do know a lot about sloughage, frothy purge, and cadaver impact testing.

For some reason, this troubles my parents.

I’ve been a zombie fan ever since I saw Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead on Creature Features back when I was in sixth grade and they instantly became my favorite monster. I even used to dream about them chasing me through the streets. Or surrounding my house. Or doing my taxes. And I’ll admit that I enjoy the fast moving zombies as well as the shuffling ones. They’re both terrifying in their own way.

I do realize, however, that there are zombie purists out there who only want their zombies to be of the post-apocalyptic variety. Slow and mindless and horrifying. They don’t like it when you do anything new or different when it comes to the living dead. They get very Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham about their zombies.

They do not like them when they run
They do not like them if they’re fun
They do not like them when they’re smart
They do not like them with a heart

While I respect this point of view, I have a large umbrella when it comes to zombies and I welcome all types to stand under it. Fast and slow. Sentient and mindless. Comical and terrifying. After all, can’t we all just get along?

Which relates to another question that often comes up:

Why do you think zombies are so popular right now?

You could make the argument that zombies are an allegory for the end of the world as we know it. That the current popularity of zombies is a direct reflection of global fears regarding the economy and terrorism. Horror as catharsis for the fears and anxiety of a society making commentary on itself. You could even argue that zombies are the proletarians of the monster hierarchy and in troubled economic times, they become the poster child for the financial ills of a nation.

A lot of other zombie authors and film makers who are asked about the popularity of zombies agree with this hypothesis. Me? Not so much.

While it makes sense that zombie films can flourish in an economic downturn due to their typical lower financial risk at the box office, I don’t know if I believe that the current surge in zombie popularity is a direct reflection of global fears.

Truth is, I think people have a tendency to apply social context where it doesn’t exist.

After all, where was the zombie mania during the Vietnam War? Watergate? The Iranian Hostage Crisis? The Stock Market crash of 1987? The first Persian Gulf War?

Where was it? It didn’t exist. Not on this scale.

I believe the recent surge in zombie popularity can instead be attributed to the fact that zombies have been taken out of their proverbial archetypal box. No longer are they just the shambling, mindless, flesh-eating ghouls we’ve known and loved for most of the past four decades.

They’re faster. Funnier. Sentient.

In addition to running like Olympic sprinters, making us laugh, and thinking for themselves, today’s zombies write poetry (Zombie Haiku), perform household chores (Fido), and fight for their civil rights (Breathers).  They can also be found on YouTube going to marriage counseling and on iTunes singing to their former co-workers (Jonathan Coulton’s “Re: Your Brains”).

They’ve expanded their range. Become more versatile. More well-rounded. And who doesn’t enjoy a well-rounded zombie? Plus they’re tragically comical, shuffling along, losing their hair and teeth and the occasional appendage. Add the fact that they used to be us, that we could all become them one day, and you can’t help but relate. Which is, ultimately, why I think we find them so compelling.

As for the other classic monsters, they don’t hold quite the same appeal for me as do zombies.

Werewolves?  They’re like the jocks of the monster world. Full of testosterone, pumped up on steroids, sprouting hair all over the place, and always trying to be the center of attention. I just can’t take them seriously. Plus no one ever worries about a werewolf apocalypse. That would be ridiculous.

Vampires? They’re the frat boys of monsters. All pretty and full of themselves and constantly trying to get you into bed. Every move they make, all the posturing they do, is just a smoke screen to lure you in so they can feed on you. Drink your blood.

They’re insincere. Hiding their true motives. Scam artists.

Zombies, on the other hand, don’t try to impress you with their good looks or their charms or their ability to burst out of their Lacoste polo shirt every four weeks. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They wear their decomposing hearts on their sleeves and aren’t ashamed to say, “I’m a zombie and I want to eat your brains.”

They have an unpretentious veracity. You have to admire that in a monster.

The other question I’ve been asked is:

Do you think zombies are here to stay?

Truth is, zombies never went anywhere. They’ve been starring in low-budget films and mass market paperbacks for most of the past forty years. They’re just finally being appreciated for their diverse talents and given the opportunity to show that they’re more than one-dimensional monsters. Instead of being cast in supporting roles, they’ve become the leads, the stars, the marquee attraction. And as long as writers and film makers continue to push the boundaries of the mythology, I think zombies will remains as popular tomorrow as they are today.

(*Author’s Note: Portions of the content of this post have appeared before on this blog as well as on other guest blog posts, so please forgive the redundancy. However, this is the first time they’ve all appeared together in one place.)

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Filed under: Breathers,Zombies — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 5:55 am

ZomBcon

I’ll be up in Seattle this weekend for ZomBcon, October 21-23 at the SeaTac Hilton. You’ll be able to find me at Table #2 in the Artists Alley, located in the Crystal Ballroom. I’ll have Zombies Are People Too buttons, along with limited edition 11″ x 17″ posters of the cover art of Breathers, including the U.S. version as well as the covers from the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, and Japan.

I will NOT have any books with me for sale, as it’s my understanding that the local Barnes & Noble will have a presence at the convention and will have stock on hand. However, if you would like to bring your copies of Breathers or Fated with you, I’ll be more than happy to sign them. Just don’t ask me to sing them.

As for any other scheduled book signings or panels where you might find me over the weekend, at this point I’m not aware of anything. If that changes, I’ll be sure to post about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Hope to see you in Seattle!

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Filed under: Breathers,Conventions,Signings,Zombies — Tags: , , — S.G. Browne @ 11:48 pm

Anatomy of a Writer

When I first started writing more than twenty years ago, I was reading a steady diet of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, F. Paul Wilson, and Peter Straub. So most of what I wrote from 1990-2002 was supernatural horror. Alternate realities. Things that went bump in the night.

And Stephen King is the reason I wanted to become a writer.

That thirteen year period from 1990-2002 produced three novels and about four dozen short stories, several of which were more dark comedy and social satire than supernatural horror and written in the first person point-of-view.

In 2001, I wrote the last of those darkly comedic stories, “A Zombie’s Lament.” The following year, while rewriting two of my supernatural horror novels, I realized I didn’t like what I was writing. Worse, I didn’t enjoy the process. Writing had become tedious rather than joyful. So after several months of this, I stopped writing.

Nearly a year later, in 2003, after reading Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, I was inspired to take “A Zombie’s Lament” and do something more with it. That something more became Breathers. With Breathers I found a voice and a style that resonated with me and made writing enjoyable again and also allowed me to maintain some of my roots in the supernatural and the fantastic.

In addition to King and Palahniuk, I’ve been inspired by authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, Christopher Moore, and Douglas Adams. I’m also inspired by films like Being John Malkovich, The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, and I Heart Huckabees.

I write social satire because I enjoy poking fun at human beings. There’s a lot to poke fun at. Including myself. And I write dark comedy because that’s just my sense of humor. Plus I have a lot more fun trying to make myself laugh than trying to make myself wonder what’s lurking in the shadows.

Admittedly my main protagonists aren’t your classic heroes. They’re not imbued with a sense of honor or altruistic motives. They’re not someone you would necessarily want to bring home to meet your mother.

They’re selfish.
They’re cynical.
They’re decomposing corpses.

In other words, they’re flawed. But even if they’re zombies, incarnations of fate, or genetic mutants who have the ability to steal luck, they’re very much human. And my challenge is to find a way to make the reader want to root for them or be their friend in spite of their shortcomings.

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Filed under: Breathers,Fiction,The Writing Life — S.G. Browne @ 9:12 am

Fiction Friday: Zombie Gigolo

For this edition of Fiction Friday, I bring you Issue #7 of Strange Aeons magazine. Inside their Autumn 2011 issue, you’ll find my short story “Zombie Gigolo,” which appeared in last year’s release of the zombie anthology The Living Dead 2.

Originally written for and performed at the Gross Out Contest at the 2008 World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, “Zombie Gigolo” takes some of the more disgusting elements from Breathers and ratchets them up a few notches while exploring that age old question:

Is it necrophilia if you’re both dead?

“Zombie Gigolo” took third place in the Gross Out Contest and earned me the coveted gummi haggis prize, which I seem to have misplaced.

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Filed under: Breathers,Fiction,Fiction Fridays,Zombies — Tags: , , , — S.G. Browne @ 6:42 am