Pet Sematary by Stephen King

As an author known for his horror novels including It and The Outsider, Steven King lives up to his reputation once again through this novel. Despite being less gory than his other novels, Pet Sematary is arguably one of the most terrifying novels he has ever written surrounding grief, loss, and heartbreak—emotions that exceed the limits of even the most moral individuals.

The Creed family moves into a town called Ludlow, Maine, with their cat named Church. Louis Creed—the director of the health service in the University of Maine—meets his neighbor, an elderly man named Jud Crandall. The old man warns the Creed family about a dangerous highway that passes their house and shows them the “Pet Sematary” behind their home where children often bury dead pets who died from highway incidents. Following a series of traumatic events and nightmares for both Louis and his wife, the death of their beloved cat brings a major turn of events for the entire family.

Considering how much of the plot ties into the ending of the novel, there’s only so much that can be summarized without spoiling the book. Setting aside the terror and horror of the novel, the way King depicts grief and loss truly resonates with his readers including myself. King often puts flaws in his characters which creates a realistic perspective on the idea of death and loosing a loved one. As seen in Louis Creed’s parental decisions (or lack thereof), King does a fascinating job in showing readers what a true human does during times where rationalizing is no longer an option. Although it seems terrifying, emotions can bring out the best and worst in people, and that’s what makes them human.

As for the plot itself, its an extremely slow build. Similar to most Steven King novels, it’s best to read his books when you’re given enough time to do so. The longer you stop reading, the harder it becomes to understand the plot. Unfortunately, there’s not much to be said regarding King’s use of horror without spoiling the rest of the novel, but it’s definitely more scary psychologically than physically. Pet Sematary is a must-read for any horror fan and a novel I highly recommend for anyone willing to read this unsettling story.

– Natisha P.

Pet Sematary by Stephen King is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Frankenstein (1931) Movie Review

Movie Title: Frankenstein (1931)

Genre: Science Fiction Horror

My Rating: 2 stars

Summary: Henry Frankenstein, a scientist, creates a creature made out of dead body parts. The creature comes back to haunt Henry and kills and terrorizes people in Henry’s life.

Did I like the movie?: I honestly did not like the movie because it was not very exciting. The film did not make me want to keep watching it because you can predict what is going to happen next, even if you have not read Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein novel. If there was more action and suspense in the movie, it would be better. At least half of the film is Henry creating the creature. This meant that there wasn’t a lot of action or screen time for the creature which is the most exciting part! Even when the creature did kill someone, it happened very quickly. I feel the directors of the movie should have brought suspense and gotten viewers wondering what would happen next.

Would I recommend this movie?: I would not recommend this movie to people who have read Mary Shelley’s original novel, Frankenstein. The movie is nothing like the novel. I read the novel first, and then watched the film, and it was a big disappointment. However, if you have not read Mary Shelley’s original novel, Frankenstein, you could watch the movie and think it is really good! However, in my opinion, I think even if you haven’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the movie would still be somewhat of a disappointment because the action and suspense were not very exciting.

-Abby V.

Game Review: Andy’s Apple Farm

Andy's Apple Farm (Video Game) - TV Tropes

Andy’s Apple Farm is a horror game where you, a beta tester, play Andy’s Apple Farm.

In the game, you play and try to win back your house keys. However, the only way to get back your keys is to play games with the characters Margret the Mole, Claus the Clock, Felix the Fish, and Melody the Moon. As you play the game, it’s very obvious that everything is not as it seems.

The art style for the characters’ sprites looks similar to something a child might draw. While exploring or playing the minigames, everything is pixelated. Occasionally, you might come across glitches or things that don’t seem like they belong, but you don’t need to worry because they’re supposed to be there. The graphics help with creating an unsettling feeling within the game.

There is a secret plotline to Andy’s Apple Farm that can be unlocked by doing something very unique, which is not listening to the game and using glitches. One of the ways to unlock certain secrets and scenes is to do the minigames in the wrong order. However, there are other ways to unlock the secret plot.

Andy’s Apple Farm is a great game with interesting lore and unique gameplay. I think that Andy’s Apple Farm is something that might inspire more indie horror games in the future. My rating for it is a 8.5/10

-Nicole M.

Alternate Ending for “The Landlady”

I recently read a short horror story called “The Landlady,” which was left on a cliffhanger. I decided to write an alternate ending for it! I would highly recommend that you read the original short story before reading the alternate ending. You can find the story at https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/landlady_text.pdf

Alternate Ending for “The Landlady”

Something, just something about this whole affair bothered Billy. He couldn’t quite place his finger on what it was, a stirring of the mind, a brief flash of thought. He attributed it, of course, to the heat of the room and the time of night. “I think I should like to go to bed now,” he said.

“Of course, dear,” cried the old lady, fussing over him, “I should think so!”
Billy sighed, stepping gingerly over the dachshund to make his way to the stairs. He turned back to look at the landlady. She had her back to him, serenely gazing into the dying embers of the fire, petting the dachshund, a cold, stiff travesty of a dog. Yes, something about this whole bloody business just wasn’t quite right. Shaking his head, he stumbled slowly up the stairs and into his room. He sat down heavily on the bed, still thinking. The fourth floor? The men were still here? But how? Eyes drooping, he fell straight to sleep, questions still echoing around his head.

3 a.m. the following morning
Billy started out of sleep, thrashing wildly about his bed like a trout out of water. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he looked blearily around the room. A quick check of the nightstand clock confirmed his suspicion that it was indeed very early in the morning. Just a minute! A voice was coming from the landing above his. It was a mere mumbling, but a voice nonetheless. It was a crooning, haunting tone that rose and fell eerily; yes, it was a voice as smooth as silk, yet as sharp as glass. Billy was wide awake now, no chance of ever falling asleep in this cursed house again! Pulling on his robe, he slowly pushed open the door to investigate.

He crept up the stairs, thoroughly examining his surroundings. He was on the third floor now. Looking about, he saw a small sewing machine, overflowing boxes of cloth, and shelves overflowing with a large variety of small bottles. The room itself smelled faintly of hospital disinfectant. Intrigued, Billy slowly stepped closer. A curious smell came from the flask closest to him. Reaching out, he pulled it from its place and gave it a cautious sniff. The flask reeked of bitter almonds and garlic. Covering his nose with his sleeve, Billy replaced the cask on its shelf and continued his trek.

Something wasn’t quite right. Billy was tripping now, stumbling and coughing. His vision doubled and his eyes watered. In front of him he saw the landlady, crooning gently to- to- he collapsed, the cold, dead face of Christopher Mulholland still swimming in his memory, mouth affixed in a plastic smile, ghastly and preserved.

The face of the landlady, cruel and hard, stared down at him. In the light, she looked a hundred years old, like the old Greek demons Billy had learned about in school. His head felt like a lump of stone. The woman leered down at him, spinning a scalpel expertly between her fingers. He rasped out one word. “Why?” The landlady’s lips turned down. She looked put out to see him awake. “Why, darling, I must keep you! You’ll wither away otherwise.” Billy coughed again, then screamed as a sharp pain sliced into his flesh, below his abdomen. As he floated in and out of consciousness, he heard the landlady singing. My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea, my Bonnie lies over the ocean. The landlady smiled cruelly as she pulled her final stitch. “Please bring back my Bonnie to me…”

I hope you enjoyed it!

-Vaidehi B.

Authors We Love: Junji Itō

American horror typically depicts a psycho lurking around in a motel, zombies brought back from the dead, or clowns eating frightened children. Junji Itō has shaped the way viewers define horror forever, bringing stories to life by drawings made from ink and paper. Unlike American horror, he illustrates supernatural events such as mysterious spirals, blood-sucking vampire bats, and much more.

Born on July 31st, 1963 in Nakatsugawa, Gifu, Japan, Junji Itō developed his love for horror at a young age. His older sisters would read him Kazuo Umezu and Shinichi Koga–famous horror manga authors during the 1960s–in Japanese magazines. Other authors such as Hideshi Hino, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Shinichi Koga, H. P. Lovecraft, and Edogawa Ranpo became major influences to his work as well.

Junji Itō’s career as a manga author began around the 1980s, when he won the Kazuo Umezu Prize after entering a short tale to Gekkan Halloween. The submission later turned into a Japanese horror manga series titled Tomie. Afterwards, he quit his previous job and pursued his hobby of writing and drawing as a full career.

Junji Itō’s works were popular in Japan, yet they only gained popularity in the United States late into his career. In 2019, Itō won an Eisner Award for his manga reinterpretation of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Known as the Academy Awards of the comic industry, Itō became one of few foreigners to receive an Eisner Award. This year, he was once again nominated for an Eisner Award under the category of “The Best Writer/Artist” for his horror comic Jigokusei Remina.

Most of Junji Itō’s creations portray a dark, impulsive universe filled with the worst traits in any human, specifically greed, jealousy, and irrationality. There are recurring themes of grotesque horror, inevitable consequences of one’s own actions, seemingly ordinary characters that gradually submit to compulsion, and settings that break down and collapse into a state which reflects our own society. As a result, all of his mangas portray the beauty and underlying horror in every story. Itō’s most popular manga is arguably Uzumaki, a three-volume novel that depicts the journey of a teenager, Kirie Goshima, who witnesses an ordinary town fall under a curse of spirals. Another famous novel is Smashed, consisting of multiple short stories such as addictive honey that flattens those who drink it, a valley of mirrors, and “earthbound” people. These novels may be the most well-known, but Itō has a variety of underrated books, series, and movies to choose from.

As a lover of horror, I’ve grown to admire Junji Itō’s novels for their distinctive illustrations and plots. They truly allow readers to feel more than just fear. The ties between Itō’s fictional and nonfictional factors truly brings out different emotions because it reflects our own world.

Junji Itō is still alive at the age of 57. Although he may not be publishing any novels in the near future, his history of twisted tales that connect our deepest unknown fears to real life truly proves he’s the master of horror.

-Natasha P.

The works of Junji Ito are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

“Keep a fire burning; a fire is what saves you.”

Such is the number one rule in Margot’s household, set by her mother before she could even walk. 17-year-old Margot lives with her emotionally distant mother in a small town where it is difficult to find peace and solitude. They constantly struggle to get along, butting heads at the smallest of issues while ignoring the largest insecurities plaguing them. However, nothing compares to the biggest secret held from Margot; the girl has no idea where she came from, and her mother gives no clues or mention to any extended family. Eventually, several discoveries lead her down a new path, leaving home to gain independence and seek out the truth behind her mysterious origins.

Burn Our Bodies Down depicts the journey Margot takes to discover that hidden side of her history, to a town called Phalene. As the story develops, we are introduced to characters within the town, each reacting to Margot’s appearance in an unexpected way. One of my favorite elements of this book is the characterization of Margot and her new friend Tess, foils in ideas and influences. Margot sees the world through the eyes of someone living a tragedy, unable to get a firm grasp on a stable and happy life. Tess, on the other hand, is privileged enough to see the world as a written tragedy, experiencing the horrifying events that unfold as if they were a story and not someone’s real life. She treats her new friend’s dilemma as a mystery to be theorized about, not realizing that her life can too become tragic until it’s too late.

As the story unfolds, tension builds to the point where we can only throw blind guesses at the page, with a final reveal that sent chills down my spine. Themes of responsibility, love, and empathy reign supreme throughout the novel, creating a beautiful coming-of-age story (if you consider horrifying supernatural occurrences to be typical in a teenage experience). Unlike Power’s previous book “Wilder Girls”, I found this book difficult to get into. However, knowing the author’s potential, I luckily stuck with the story as it picked up steam. The final chapters are a whirlwind of shock and excitement that I was grateful to experience, and wholeheartedly recommend the book to any fan of mysteries, thrillers, and emotional dramas.

Bailey L.

Game Review: Eyes

The game eyes is a horror game that has the player navigate through a mansion in hopes to find twenty money bags. If you get the twenty money bags through the door your free, but there is a catch. The house consists of one spirit that wanders around trying to ensure that you do not leave.

There are three floors and to find the money bags you must search in cupboards, drawers, and shelves. 

This game is different from every other game because around the house there are symbols of eyes drawn on the walls and when you collect them they show you what the spirit sees. This can help you tell what floor the spirit is on and if it is safe to leave the room or not. 

When the spirit is within ten feet of you everything around you will start to rattle, you will start to hear heavy breathing, and rats will start coming out of the floorboards. 

Overall the CGI in the game is very well done and looks realistic. The plot and goal of the game are very intriguing. The game is very fun to play especially in the dark and I would recommend this game to anyone who likes jumpscares. 

-Sanjana S.

Book vs. Movie: “The Shining”

I have spent the last couple weeks making my way through Stephen King’s The Shining a horror literature classic that my dad gave me for Christmas. As I was reading the book, my parents asked me about some familiar and iconic movie scenes and how I enjoyed reading them. After finishing the book and not coming across those scenes, I realized that there were some stark contrasts between the novel and Stanley Kubrick’s re-imagined classic. Thus, I decided to do research and have conversations with my dad about the differences between the two entertainment sources, and analyze their impact on their respective audiences.

Several subtle differences to the atmosphere have occurred to properly terrify audiences according to the type of media consumed. For instance, Danny’s interaction with the “wolf-man” is replaced with Wendy’s vision of a man in a bear suit in the movie. While both concepts are frightening in description and convey similar themes, the “wolf-man” is more cartoonish and sudden, showing the experience as one would expect from a terrified child’s mind. However, the movie interpretation is more unnerving than a typical jumpscare, showcased in a quick zoom shot that cannot be as successfully accomplished in a literary style. These differences in interpretation thus offer a similar effect using entirely different scare techniques, both appropriate for the interpretation and entertainment style it’s present in. Additional scenes, such as Danny turning a corner to find himself faced with the twins and the blood-filled elevator, are not present in the book due to their unnerving and sudden appearances, something that cannot be done through King’s detailed descriptive writing. The strongest and most important setting difference between the book and the movie is the animal-shaped hedges, replaced in the move by a maze. This has a profound effect on the plot, and is known as one of the most memorable features of the film’s Overlook hotel.

Concept and character differences make up an even more influential part of the contrast between the two versions. In King’s book, it is made abundantly clear that while Jack has his demons to deal with regardless of his position, the hotel is genuinely haunted and a large factor in his eventual descent into madness. This is shown through his son Danny, and the kid’s ability to sense the ghosts of the Overlook through what the cook Halloran calls “The Shine”. In the movie, however, Danny’s power is less intense, and we are forced to question if Jack is truly seeing things and going crazy due to his own guilt and violent tendencies. One of my least favorite aspects of Kubrick’s adaptation is his treatment of Wendy Torrance, the leading lady of the story. In the novel, Wendy is much more powerful and independent, able to defend herself and her son from Jack. She even goes as far as to use a tiny shaving razor to defend herself, showing her resourcefulness when faced with impossible odds.

Because a story is always most well known for its plot, it is important to take note of the plot differences between the two media forms. In the book, the story ends with Halloran trudging through the snow to rescue Danny, taking the mother and son away on a snowmobile as the Overlook explodes with Jack inside. However, the movie takes a more eerie and suspenseful approach, all while killing off Halloran once he steps inside the hotel. Jack chases Danny through the hedge maze, and he eventually escapes, leaving Jack to freeze to death in his madness. The movie closes with an image from a 1920’s scrapbook picture, Jack being seen at the center of the party, symbolizing how Jack has become one of the eternal ghosts of the Overlook. Due to plot differences, this haunting final image does not present itself in the novel. Additional plot differences such as Jack’s weapon (an axe in the movie and a mallet in the novel) and the fate of Jack’s play are changed for the sake of forwarding the plot, allowing for characters to meet certain fates or build up to truly terrifying moments.

The Shining as a whole is a brilliant story filled with terrors, dread, and undeniably interesting characters. Both materials have stood the test of time and lived up to their reputation. As a literature fan, I am impartial to King’s original story due to its fascinating writing style and descriptions of themes and slow dread building to the plot’s climax. However, I also give credit to Kubrick’s film for its ability to terrify audiences in its own way. While not exactly holding true to the source material and thus an inadequate adaptation, it carves its own path in horror media as a phenomenally crafted film with its own story to tell.

-Bailey L.

The Shining by Stephen King is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was, and still is, a well-renowned author known for his science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories and novels.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury’s start as a writer began very early on at the age of 12. He had a fateful encounter with a carnival magician by the name of Mr. Electrico who proclaimed “Live forever!” to which Bradbury decided to never stop writing.

Soon after this encounter at age 14, the Bradbury family moved to Los Angeles. When the Great Depression hit, Bradbury couldn’t afford to attend college so he instead attended the local library three days a week for ten whole years to acquire his education.

Over the course of his career, Bradbury published thousands of literary works including 400 short stories and 50 novels. In addition to this, Bradbury has also earned dozens of awards including the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award, and the Pulitzer Prize Citation.

I was first introduced to Ray Bradbury in the 6th grade with one of his short stories titled All Summer in a Day. The story is about a group of students who live on the never-ending rainy planet of Venus that have never seen the sun with the exception of a young girl named Margot who only moved to Venus five years prior. As our class read through in monotone uninterested voices (as most children do), I remember sitting there in awe at his simple yet elaborate descriptions of simple things such as the sun or the rain, the fantastical world he created on Venus, and the development of the characters in only a couple of pages. I remember that being the first time a short story truly made me feel something, like a deep pit in my chest.

The second short story I ready from Ray Bradbury was A Sound of Thunder, a story about time travelers who have something in drastic in store when they arrive in the past and return to the present. It was in this short story that I was truly enamored by his descriptions of the dinosaurs which were so incredibly elaborate that I felt like I was standing right there in front of them. It was when I read this short story that I set my own goal of creating scenes of such immaculate sensory description.

Ray Bradbury was not only a spectacular author but a person with an incredibly inspiring story and a true passion for something he loved to do. If you’re looking for a good long read or a good quick read, this is an author that will give you something interesting to read for years and years on end.

-Elia T.

The works of Ray Bradbury are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

GTFO Game Review

GTFO, an action-packed horror game filled with twists and turns. As you drop through levels and levels of zombie-filled rooms, players team up in groups of fours to try and survive. Choosing different weapons, strategies, and equipment, each team member must think hard about what they can contribute to the group’s survival. This game was extremely fun, and my friends had a blast screaming, shooting, and laughing together while playing GTFO.

I want to talk about the graphics and gameplay of GTFO. This game was insane. It had amazing graphics and was extremely realistic. When my friends and I were dropped down into the hot zone filled with zombies, the music and ambiance of our surroundings were amazing. The heavy breathing and rain sound effects really made me feel like I was the person being dropped down. The zombies and guns both looked very realistic and were very scary. When a player killed a zombie, there was blood that splattered onto the screen, and I really liked that small detail.

GTFO was both extremely fun and difficult. It took me a long time to get past the first couple of levels with my friends, but I enjoyed the challenge. I don’t think this is one of the games that should be easy, and I personally liked the tense situations that you were put in. Because of these difficult situations, our squad had to make very accurate callouts and we had to make sure our positioning was very accurate. I found playing GTFO with only 3 people was very difficult. You need to have a full squad of players in order to complete the levels. Luckily, you can go onto the GTFO discord and search for games to join. This allows players to get into games with other people, so they can have full squads to complete the levels with.

There were only a couple of problems I had with GTFO. I think the bad thing about GTFO was the difficulty. If someone did not have a full squad to play with and wanted to play with themselves or another friend, it would be very difficult to complete even the first level. Even though GTFO has a discord, a lot of the people on that server are very high level and do not help low levels. When they do, it is hard to follow along with the experienced players, and they tend to get mad at you. GTFO should try to add matchmaking with people of your skill level, so you could get through the levels much faster. Overall, GTFO was an amazing game. With amazing graphics, gameplay, etc, this game definitely deserves the hype it is receiving. Adding a matchmaking function would only improve this game. I rate it a nine out of ten.

-Daniel C.