31 Horrifying days: Day1- SkinWalkers (2007)

In honor of the upcoming TerrorCon, June 7&8, I’ve decided to embark on a month (and a day) long horror movie marathon. This will consist of classics, new films, things I’ve been meaning to watch and old favorites I haven’t viewed in a while- anything from horror themed action comedies to old school slasher to big name monsters. 

SkinWalkers may seem like a weird place to start, but i’m a huge fan of werewolves. In the film, there are two werewolf packs. One embraces the beast and the other wants “the curse to end” (wack. being a werewolf would be the coolest). A half werewolf half human child on the eve of his 13th birthday controls the fate of the species. So basically: sharp teeth +ancient prophecies +special snowflake children +sexy people and CGI.

One thing is immediately obvious: Skinwalkers are not actually Werewolves. Skinwalkers are part of a Navajo legend, those who would become Skinwalkers are highly skilled priests who take the form of animals to inflict pain and suffering, to achieve the ability to shapeshift they must kill a close family member. Popular forms include coyote, crow, owl fox.. and wolf. Which is where the skinwalkers = werewolves came into play for these particular Hollywood types. Skinwalkers’ identities must remain a secret, in the legend pronouncing the evil one’s full name would mean his death. That’s a tad easier than a well aimed silver bullet. Recent fantasy lit and TV has grabbed on to alternate versions of Skinwalkers lately, from Patricia Brigg’s main protag Mercy Thompson who shapeshifts solely to coyote, to ML Brennan’s white blooded/sharp-nailed literally wearing human skin villain, it was True Blood that came closest to the original tale with Sam Merlotte’s short time lover, Luna- she technically killed her mother (being born) and could change skin to a human. None are an exact match, the Navajo took the threat of skinwalkers so seriously that wearing animal pelts was taboo, worn only for ceremony and they did not use the hides of predator animals. 

The movie does little justice to the original source material, aside from shots that show the soon to be teenager’s gun toting grandma becoming suspicious of a hawk over head before a leather wearing biker type werewolf comes into view. If Tim lives to be 13, the werewolf curse will be broken. 3 days prior, the moon turns red and team “I ❤ being a werewolf” goes on the hunt, Tim and his human mother are quickly scooped up by the good guys. As if the threat to Tim’s life wasn’t enough from badass wolves, he’s also a sickly and asthmatic little dude. It ramps up the urgency and it’s not bad.

The awesomeness of werewolves are usually smothered by misogyny: From the barren and bitter female wolves in the Mercy Thompson series, to the dominant male wolves and crazy wild women in Sookie Stackhouse novels (and TrueBlood’s out of control Debbie Pelt) to the naked and crazy slutty slut slut wolf women in the Anita Blake novels (who are powerful, but hardly ever lead a pack, and if they do it’s because they are impulsive and brutal, not because they are good leaders). Skinwalkers escapes that trope with competent females on both sides:

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From Sonja, who wants to be a werewolf: she’s as vicious and badass as her male counterparts, fierce and no one’s lover or plaything. Sonja was played by Natassia Malthe who major had roles in Bloodrayne: Deliverance, Bloodrayne:Third Reich, Alone in the Dark 2. Not exactly big hits. But her character had value, and man could she wear that bikini top and Levis.

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Sarah Carter (TV series Falling Skies) played Katherine, sweet cute and loyal… well, that goes awry, but she’s smart and nice and still vicious when necessary. 

And of course:

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Holding it down for the humans: Rhona Mitra (Number 23, SGU:Stargate Universe, UnderWorld:Rise of the Lycans) cool headed protector willing to take on man and beast alike. She goes from disbelief to gun toting final-girl esque action-mom rather quickly.

The cinematography is good, most scenes are filmed with a reddish hue, scenes of team “keep Tim alive” are often tense while they hide from the bad dudes. Slow motion angle changes intensify action sequences There’s not much focus on the transformations but the full werewolf make up is decent if uninspired. 

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That’s Jason Behr- Tim’s father, Bad Wolf former star of Roswell and the Grudge. 

Also starring Elias Koteas from Shutter Island, Let Me In and the Killing as the leader of Team Tim. 

Directed by James Isaac …also known for Jason X ..This flick was much better than that. The ending was awesome, while the plot (by James Roday- the white guy from Psych, James DeMonaco and Todd Harthan) was somewhat convoluted, it was snappy and enjoyable and looked as flashy and spectacular as one would hope. 

But was it scary? Well, not really. It was so action packed and zany that there is no stretch of the imagination that this would happen to me and there weren’t any “jump out of your seat moments.” This is more in the vein of Underworld, Van Helsing, Resident Evil action with a horror twist. 

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Book Review #30- Iron Night

Oh man. Since the first in this series was so good that i had to start a blog because of it my expectation for book 2 may have been higher than average, but it lived up in nearly every way. There is no way to replicate that feeling of something new and glorious, but ML Brennan skillfully avoids a slump while the nerdy and impoverished Fortitude Scott gets in over his head (again) in a supernatural plot that runs deeper than he could ever imagine (…again). Suzume Hollis, ‘co-main character’ and kitsune is still more kick ass than Fort. She has his back, consistently, even though she likes to give him a hard time. Parts are genuinely sweet, but don’t linger too long in the sap as they attempt to track down those responsible for the murder of Fort’s roommate. 

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They uncover a plot by elves to create less human purebloods and preserve the bloodlines through incest and magic. It’s incredibly messed up. To say the least. Fort meets a girl, and Brennan does the right thing here and makes Lilah the elf capable, caring and on their side. fort has every reason to fall for a girl with a peculiar upbringing -he himself was raised mostly in solitude under crazy freaky family rules (Fort’s still drinking his mother’s blood, consuming fluids from your mother in your 20s is hella bizarre). He can sympathize with a character who knows it’s wrong that she went to prom with her cousin, who is embroiled in her family’s crazy and criminal behavior against her will. She likens her upbringing to being raised in a cult. 

So the elves, growingly discontent with low birth rates and dwindling numbers and watered down powerless too-human children get crazy like the ancient royals and start breeding anyone that will make a viable elf child… no matter how young or closely related. If that wasn’t gross enough, the plot also involves a hyper-violent skinwalker and magical roofies.

Fort’s still trying to keep himself human, but he has to team up with his VERY vampiric sister, Prudence while his dashing brother is tending to his wife. Fort’s also terrified of Prudence. And with good reason. Torture is her cup of tea. She waffles between “antagonist” and “ally” as she herself becomes concerned that their family is weakening with this more human approach to raising Fort. The pure elves “Themselves” are willing to do ANYTHING to elevate their elite status.. and so is Prudence.

There’s more! Fort’s human father figure gets caught up in the mix and he has to make hard choices about where his allegiances lie. He still tries to make it to his shifts at a high end restaurant with an egomaniacal chef and he still buys his clothes at Ocean State Job Lot. Suzume still just about steals every page for me, although she wasn’t as focussed on as in the last book. Suzume is still all about playing pranks and showing Fort up, but she’s sweet when he needs her. She’s an awesome *friend* ..even if she might have set up book 3 with a strange new roommate for Fort. There’s a ton going on in just 305 pages. There were some interactions that made me crack up with laughter and ones that broke my heart. 

ML Brennan presents vampires as apex predators (which I think is awesome, because it shouldn’t be easy to make a vampire: there would be vampires everywhere. And if they say ‘immortality is a curse’ and that why they don’t turn anyone, I will hate that book) and in this one she makes a real monster out of the skinwalker (with it’s own powerset outside of those presented by Patricia Briggs or shown in TrueBlood) and concocts an intricate elf hierarchy system. It’s fabulously detailed. There’s also close relation between personalities and their species/customs. Lilah is meek from being sheltered by her family. These creepy things start out as the norm until she sees how deep it runs, but until Fort’s arrival calls attention, she would never have questioned. Fort is rebellious because he was at one point raised human, he is quite literally not like his family. Suzume is a frigging badass because she was raised in a matriarchal society by women who don’t take husbands and she needs to support herself in every way. It’s not just random traits. They were born and raised to be what they are. Personalities develop around experiences and there aren’t any shortcuts taken in the backstories.

This is really better than I could explain. 5 out of 5. Throw down you $8 and get pumped for book #3 out in November.

I would recommend this series for anyone who’s an urban fantasy fan, those looking to get beyond supernatural YA fare (it’s grown up, sans-smut) and.. well, anyone who daydreams about going on crazy adventures while they’re working their crap-job. Fort’s a good hero while still acknowledging that he’s in over his head, Suzume is a good friend without becoming an insta-love interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the characters progress.

Book Review #19- Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

The review in which I discuss “what’s up with all the misogynist werewolf societies?”

Mercy Thompson is a VW mechanic living in Washington State. She’s a skinwalker (she can turn in to a coyote) who was raised by werewolves. Her next door neighbor is the local pack’s Alpha. Her old boss is a gremlin. She works on a vampire’s van to keep in good with the Vampire Mafia. Things get extremely weird when a new werewolf shows up on her door step. Extremely weird even in a world where fae have been exposed and werewolves are on the cusp of doing the same. Trouble comes her way and leads her back to the pack that raised her, the pack that sent her away, for help.

This book was really fun, I’ll definitely be reading more of this series. Mercedes is pretty rad. As a coyote, she’s not as tough as a werewolf. But that’s okay. It’s rare to be the biggest bad ass in the room, anyway. It takes guts to run head long into danger when the outcome can’t be assured. The writing is really great, I could easily picture their world and I dug the aesthetic. Everyone takes turns saving each other. The pacing of the story is excellent.

Werewolves can live hundreds of years, but few survive the change, which explains why there aren’t you know, a million of them. That’s one of those things that, if unaddressed really eats away at me.

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Now, the same thing I always complain about: No women like Mercedes. Except Jesse, who is her werewolf neighbor’s human daughter. Everyone else HATES her. And do you know why they hate her? Because as a magical coyote Skinwalker, instead of a werewolf, she can have babies. I don’t know exactly when this whole werewolves can’t carry children started. I have a strong suspicion that all these popular UF authors all get their mythology ideas from other UF authors. I understand it as it’s written: Shifting into werewolves is violent, your body tears itself apart and resets itself, probably not conducive to child bearing. Here’s the thing: Werewolves aren’t real. You can write it different, authors! Wolves only carry babies for 63 days, maybe they could stay a wolf for that long. Or I don’t know, write your usual crap but instead of the part when all these bitter women who missed their chance at being parents go crazy pants and start attacking fertile young women… they, like, adopt. Or, I don’t know, this novel concept of a woman’s life not revolving around an overwhelming need to be a mother. But anyway *sigh* none of the women in Bran’s pack like Mercy and only one of the women in Adam’s pack tolerated her. Ridiculous.

And all the women (except the Alpha’s mate) are submissive to all the men. No. It is not like that for humans, it is not like that for wolves. In fact the male and female alphas in a real wolf pack don’t even have to be mates. They just have to be awesome hunters. Furthering my point about this irrational “women be crazy because they need babies” nonsense.

That aside, Mercy is frequently telling the men around her that she is not their property to fight over, a prize to be won, a minion to be bossed around. She sticks her neck out for the friends that she has. She’s not perfect and she doesn’t pretend she is. The book had tons of action and tons of funny and eccentric, interesting characters.

5 Silver Bullets!

This was my first book of the week, check what’s up next to join in the discussion.

I know there are several in this series so far… no one tell me about what happens  Mercy’s love life!! (Personally, I think she should find herself a nice vampire)