Stephen King Marathon: “Graveyard Shift”

Today’s blog will be the only one for this week, I’m afraid. From tomorrow until Sunday, my husband and I will be in California for our overdue honeymoon! We’re both very excited and looking forward to getting some relaxation and fun. For now, I’ve decided to look at an aspect of Stephen King that doesn’t immediately come to my mind: short stories. He’s written tons of them and in the interest of time, I’ve chosen to look at the story “Graveyard Shift” from the “Night Shift” collection. Let’s start things off with the plot.

Hall is a drifter currently working in a textile mill in Maine when his boss, Warwick, comes to him with an offer. For a small raise, Hall is tasked to work the graveyard shift with a few others cleaning up the mill’s basement. The mill has a rat infestation problem which only seems to get worse and more dangerous as they venture into the basement. But when Hall discovers a hidden level below the basement, he in turn makes Warwick help him investigate. What sort of things might they find lurking down there?

Once again, King fills this story will plenty of vivid details to the point of some of them being disturbing. Luckily, because of the short story format, he also keeps the pace relatively quick. However, this does mean that the characters are pretty bare bones as a result. All I learned about Hall was that he moves from place to place, hates Warwick, and loves throwing cans at the rats. His co-worker, Wisconsky, barely gets any characterization outside of being nervous around rats, and Warwick is a bit cruel and dickish to all his employees. He especially prefers to pick on Hall for formally being in college. These minor details made it hard for me to care what (if anything) happened to them.

While I liked that the story was short and to the point, the ending was a bit lackluster. The imagery was well done, but the whole thing kind of ends on a anti-climatic note. I suppose it’s an appropriate ending for this type of story, but I wasn’t a fan of it. I also feel like the scare factor only came in for me around the end, because rats as a general concept don’t bother me that much.

Overall, “Graveyard Shift” is a decent but kinda forgettable short story. The detailed descriptions help sell the situation, but the characters are a bit one-note and the ending wasn’t all that satisfying. So, your mileage may vary on this one. Thankfully, as I mentioned earlier, King has written many short stories so I would encourage people to at least look into his collection books.

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Stephen King Marathon: Reflecting on “Carrie”

Today’s blog is going to be a little different from the others. Instead of doing a normal review of the novel “Carrie,” I’m going to talk about my experience with it. If you don’t already know the story, the book is about a teenage girl named Carrie who is ostracized by her classmates and abused by her overly Christian mother. Over time, she gains psychic abilities which she eventually uses against everyone who ever wronged her. It’s basically a coming-of-age story mixed with that classic Stephen King supernatural flair.

I wanted to talk about “Carrie” for one simple reason: It’s the first Stephen King book I’d ever read. Back when I was still a teenager, my best friend Mackenzie and I would sometimes go camping for the weekend with her parents. We stayed in a camper close to a huge lake and enjoyed swimming and having barbecued food for dinner. Of course, being nerdy, we also enjoyed watching movies and reading on days when the weather was either too hot or too rainy. It was during one of these weekends that she introduced me to “Carrie.”

Before the weekend was over and I had to go home, I read the whole book. The story gripped me immediately with Carrie being someone close to my age at that time. I’ve also had a love for any kind of psychic ability in fiction, so reading about her using these cool and terrifying powers was a lot of fun. You sympathize with Carrie, want to cheer when her mother and the bullies get their due comeuppance, and understand when fellow classmate Sue tries to show her that not everyone was against Carrie as she believed. I remember the imagery was so vivid and in hindsight set the high standard of detailed imagery King is now known for. It’s weird to think it was his first ever story, and yet even though I’m still pretty new to his work, it remains one of his best to me.

“Carrie” is a story that can still hold up all these years later and, with a breezy length, it’s one of the easiest starting points for all things Stephen King. I still remember that weekend partially because it was the first time in a long while that I’d been invested in a book. It feels redundant to say this, but if you still haven’t tried reading or watching “Carrie”, I would highly recommend doing so.

Stephen King Marathon: “Gerald’s Game” (Netflix)

Well, it took some time, but I finally got around to watching Netflix’s movie adaptation of “Gerald’s Game.” I will admit upfront that I avoided watching what I consider the goriest part of the book redone in live action for the sake of my stomach, but beyond that what I saw was a relatively accurate adaptation. So, did I like it? Well, yes and no.

The plot isn’t too difficult to sum up since it’s essentially the same as the book’s. Jessie and Gerald Burlingame head to their remote lakeside cabin for a day of romance and sex. But after getting too into his game involving handcuffing Jessie to their bed, Gerald suffers a heart attack and dies. Now Jessie must find a way out of her predicament, all while dealing with a ravenous dog and both some past and present trauma along the way.

As far as what I liked, I commend Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood for their performances. As this version’s embodiment of the voices in Jessie’s head, they were able go beyond their roles as Jessie and Gerald and be even more compelling. However, I did feel they purposely made Gerald…nicer in this? He was still a bit of a dick for the small amount of screen time he had, but he and Jessie seemed to have a little more affection for each other than what I got out of the book. I also adored the dog they chose, even if it did seem a lot less mangy than the one described in the book. Both my husband and I also enjoyed the editing techniques that were used to bring some of Jessie’s memories of her father into the present. We both kind of wished that the flashbacks had been incorporated more often in this manner.

But like with the book, I had some issues. Once again, that twist is showcased here and while it’s executed creepily well, it still felt like a lousy conclusion to the story. Also, the movie itself felt slightly padded, though not nearly as egregiously as the book was. However, at the same time, I felt a few parts were almost rushed. Specific examples I can think of would be those flashbacks, because the book fleshed out Jessie’s family life to make you understand her past trauma even more. In this, it cuts directly to the incident and a brief bit of aftermath. While it’s still scummy and feels like something that could happen in real life, it didn’t resonate as much with me this time around.

For me, “Gerald’s Game” is a decent film based on a decent book. It’s pretty well-acted and is at least faithful to the source material (for better and for worse). Plus, thankfully, it’s quicker to get through compared to the book (for me anyway). I can at least give kudos to the director for keeping this one under two hours. And much like the book, if you’re looking for a Stephen King story that is less supernatural and more “realistic,” this might be for you.

Stephen King Marathon: “Gerald’s Game” (Book)

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While I still haven’t gathered up the courage to watch the Netflix movie of “Gerald’s Game” (as I said last blog, I’m a bit squeamish), I did start reading the book while we were holed up inside during Hurricane Irma. It took me a little longer than I would’ve liked to finish it, but this makes the second of King’s books I’ve read from start to finish. Yes, I know, I’m way behind, but I’ve found it easier and less time-consuming to watch adaptations of his work. I’ll be getting into more of those this month, as well as that Netflix movie at some point. For now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what this story’s about.

Jessie Burlingame and her husband Gerald go to their isolated cabin to spend some quality time together both in and out of the bedroom. While Jessie has gotten sick of bondage, she allows Gerald to handcuff her to their bed. However, Gerald soon starts taking his game too far and Jessie’s discomfort escalates into hitting him. This causes him to suffer a heart attack and die when he falls off the bed head-first. Now alone and utterly helpless, Jessie must find a way to escape her predicament. But she’ll also have to contend with some obnoxious voices in her head as well as a hungry dog in the meantime.

So, as you can tell, the story is actually pretty “normal.” It didn’t strike me as a Stephen King story at first because when I think of him, I tend to think of his more supernatural tales. That being said, it was a bit hard to get into. I know King loves to add a lot of detail in his descriptions, and the book overall is well-written. But the subject matter was pretty disturbing at times and I kinda felt the story was a bit padded. To me, what this story boils down to is a woman trapped on a bed dealing with her own trauma. It sounds like material that would make a solid short story, but here I just felt like the book was a little too long for its own good.

That’s not to say the very few characters in it are bad. Gerald isn’t around for long, but a lot of his character is developed through Jessie reflecting on their marriage. I thought Jessie herself was fine, even if there were times I got slightly annoyed with her. Part of this was through the voices in her head. Yes, this is one of the weirder and psychological aspects in the book. The voices are meant to reflect people she knew in her life, and they can occasionally be obnoxious. I still liked the idea and thought King executed it well. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the gore aspect, it was to be expected in a story involving a dead guy. I was a little surprised that the aforementioned dog was given a full backstory, though it did add another side to those parts of the story besides Jessie’s.

I won’t go into spoilers, but the most disturbing parts of the book (again, besides the gore) had to do with both trauma that Jessie deals with and the “twist” ending of the book. The trauma was disturbing because it felt like something that could occur in real life. While the twist could arguably be realistic as well, it was such an over the top amount of disturbing that it didn’t work as well for me. I generally didn’t like the twist anyway, as it felt like King was hinting at supernatural stuff that didn’t seem necessary to the story. It just felt tacked on and made the book feel all the more padded.

Overall, “Gerald’s Game” is a gruesome story that probably could’ve been edited down just a tad more. Despite that, the lead character was well-written, the situation and induced trauma/gore were horrifying, and, for better or for worse, the description were richly detailed. If you’re looking for a more “realistic” King story similar to something like “Misery”, give this one a read.

Stephen King Marathon: “It” (2017)

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I didn’t want to wait a whole week to blog, but since it’s now October, welcome to another themed month! A lot has happened in the past couple weeks. My parents came to visit and had a great vacation to boot, my fiance and I finally got married and had a nice, simple ceremony befitting of us, and we also saw the new “It” movie in theater! Since we have our honeymoon planned for the 18th and will be enjoying some early Halloween fun in Disneyland, I decided this blog will be updated at least two to three times a week. And since I want to break away from anthologies this year, I’m going to dedicate this month to Stephen King. So, with that, let’s check out this remake.

Before I sum up the story, I’ll let it be known that I haven’t watched the 90’s mini-series in its entirety nor have I read the 1000+ page book. That being said, the story is split up between this movie and its eventual sequel. This half focuses on a group of children from Derry, Maine, who call themselves The Loser’s Club and their terrifying encounters with an evil creature of unknown origin. This thing takes on different forms to feed off the children’s fears to turn each of them into a tasty meal, although its primary form is of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The kids must band together to ward off and hopefully destroy it before it tries to kill them all.

I really enjoyed this version of the story. While it remains to be seen if the sequel will be remotely as good, this movie was a great starting point. I especially liked the performances for leader Bill and lovestruck Ben, though all the kids were well-acted. I thought it was a smart idea from the get-go to focus on this side of the story, not just for length but also to get you on these kid’s sides. I also really enjoyed Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise/It, and his version definitely stands apart from Tim Curry’s in the mini-series. That’s not to say Curry’s was bad, but it was clearly more campy and silly. This Pennywise constantly did things that freaked out both myself and my husband, and it doesn’t pull any punches in how it scares the kids. I liked the realistic, non-It problems each kid faces as many times they felt even creepier than the Pennywise scenes (for example, Beverly and her touchy-feely dad). I also preferred this movie’s way of showing how Pennywise influences the townspeople to make them basically ignore the bad things going on. There was one scene in particular with a subtle moment alluding to this that my husband and I absolutely loved.

I did find some things to nitpick, however. There were a couple times that the CGI on Pennywise was a bit silly and obvious, and the now infamous dancing scene was more funny than creepy. I could easily see why some people didn’t enjoy some of the horror, as there were a few straight up jumpscares. They didn’t bother me as much, but I could see how others would take issue with them. I also found it weird that we’re meant to semi-sympathize with Henry Bowers, the main bully in the movie. I didn’t entirely buy it, although I did feel he was fleshed out far better than the mini-series version.

Honestly, I had a good time with “It” and I’m excited for the sequel to come out in 2019. The acting is spot-on from both the child and adult actors, Pennywise/It is scarier than ever, and the movie had some cool set pieces for the scares and the big, climatic ending. And, thankfully, the gore is limited so even squeamish people like me could sit through it fairly easily (barring one scene that I had to turn away from). If you’ve read the book or seen the mini-series and didn’t like either, it’s highly unlikely this version will change your mind. But if you’re interested in a good horror movie for this spooky month, I encourage you to give it a watch (especially while it’s still in theaters). Stay tuned for more Stephen King blogs!

Marriage Updates and More!

So, due to last week being busier than I anticipated, I didn’t make a blog post. Needless to say, the internet service at my fiance’s house was spotty after Hurricane Irma. Luckily, we didn’t suffer any major damage and no injuries, so I survived my first hurricane pretty easily.

I also wanted to take time to blog now because the rest of this week is going to be even more hectic. Tomorrow, September 22nd, I’ll be getting married! We’re going to a courthouse for a brief ceremony surrounded by friends and family (I was never one to have a big “dream” wedding), and then heading off to a nice restaurant to say our vows and enjoy a tasty dinner. Hopefully we’ll all have room for some wedding cake afterwards, and then we’ll be going off by ourselves to stay overnight at a hotel for some alone time.¬†We then plan to spend Saturday celebrating our post-wedding with our circle of friends since a couple of them are unable to come tomorrow, and Sunday will continue our trend of taking my parents out somewhere cool for their vacation.

I’ll probably write a more detailed blog about these events next week, and as far as my green card goes, we’ve gotten a consultation appointment set up on October 4th. However, I’d like to mention that from here on out, I can’t guarantee I’ll have a blog up every week like I’ve usually tried to do. I’m thinking of doing my usual horror-themed string of blogs for October, though, so we’ll see if I can pull that off. I just read Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game” and am thinking about seeing the Netflix movie, plus my fiance and I saw the “It” remake yesterday, so maybe I’ll make some of my entries about his work. We’ll see when the time comes, as we’ll be taking our honeymoon to California midway through the month as well.

I’m just so happy to finally be at this point in both our relationship and the visa process. This is basically the endgame to what we started back in November last year, and I’m relieved we had a smooth ride getting to it (hurricane notwithstanding). Until next week!

Welcome to Miami!

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After making it through immigration and a long, long layover at the Toronto Pearson Airport last Saturday, I’ve been relaxing and enjoying my time with my fiance in Miami. It hasn’t been without its downsides, however, as we’ve been bracing ourselves to either hunker down or evacuate in the wake of Hurricane Irma. We’ve both had to get used to knowing that I won’t be leaving after a short period of time, but we’re more than happy about that. My parents are also doing well in spite of missing me, and I know it’ll be hard on all of us once they leave after their 10-day vacation starting at the end of next week.

As far as Saturday, immigration went pretty smoothly in Toronto with me only spending less than an hour between it and customs. On my Miami flight, we did run into a moment of scariness when we attempted to land. Because of an error made by the air traffic controller, we came close to running into another plane who was also trying to land. Thankfully, our captain slammed on the pedal (I don’t know plane terminology that well) and got us out of there to loop around and try landing again. After the day I’d had, I was just eager to be on the ground and was even happier when I saw my fiance and future mother-in-law waiting for me. I didn’t even run into any issues with the two large suitcases I’d brought, so the rest of the night was a breeze.

Yesterday, we finally went to a courthouse in Coral Gables to obtain our marriage license. Even though we won’t be using it for a couple weeks yet, I’m glad we got around to it this quickly (partly because of the storm). I’m still eager to jump into my green card process as soon as possible, and we’ve got a fun Californian honeymoon planned in mid-October as well. And while our wedding won’t be all that big or fancy or traditional, we’re just relieved to have made it to this point. Neither of us have wanted a ginormous ceremony anyway, so a private, civil ceremony is perfect for us.

Of course, before we can make further plans, we have to deal with this hurricane. So, depending on circumstances (loss of power and such), I may not have a blog up until later next week. For now, we’ve got the house prepared in case we stay, and we have a solid idea about what to take if we head north. I’m not as nervous as I thought I’d be, but hopefully we’ll get through it unscathed regardless. Until next time!