Sunday, June 2, 2013

Reader's Review - J. Joseph Wright (Gramma's Freezer)

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Many people mistakenly believe that horror is a primitive kind of writing style anyone can dig into. They think that as long as a movie or book contains enough blood and splatter, then all claims about horror are honored. They are wrong! A study in the classic horror genre will quickly reveal that the most powerful horror stories DON'T contains endless amounts of blood and guts. This does not mean that this element should not be present, absolutely not. but if it becomes excessive or abused, this kind of effects will loose its shocking impact. The proficient writer, tells the story in a way that the reader will experience the protagonist's anxiety, frustration and confusion as a physical pain to himself. How is this done in the most powerful way?

As I regularly mention in my blog, we need to consider the ancient authors eminent techniques. Let me mention just one: H. P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft's short stories and novels are built up slowly. Often the story is written in first person. In other words, the reader doesn't know more than the protagonist. He doesn't throw the reader into the abyss of horror at once, but
he slowly builds the experience with lots of details about the physical surroundings and the protagonist's state of mind. Only when the reader at last has been brought far into the story, Lovecraft unleashes hell in a highly effective manner. Not all his stories have the same high standard, but all of his stories contain some elements, the modern storyteller of horror must learn from.

What happens if you do not hit this delicate balance between the unsaid and the violent splatter? If there is too little action and physical and psychological violence, the story is pointless and boring - especially because the reader expects a horror story to contain these elements. Conversely, a history, where action and violence becomes exaggerated will seem grotesque and perhaps even amusing to the reader, which must be a nightmare to the serious horror writer. If you laugh when you should have been scared to death, everything is lost. Not everyone can write effective horror. It is seen too often in zombie movies. Ask yourself: How many of all the zombie movies I've seen over time, have been labled as quality movies. Often producer and screenwriter
abandon the intention to create a serious horror movie, and instead chooses to make a parody of genre.

OK. J. Joseph Wright was kind enough to let me download a copy of "Gamma's Freezer". I will not spoil the reading experience for others by mentioning too many details, but if you going to read "Gramma's Freezer" you should probably stop reading here.

In brief, the story is about a boy named Eddy Mitchell who are going on vacation at her grandmother's house. It turns out that his grandmother's killing people brutally and his vacation shows to be anything but relaxing - if you understand a hint.

Let me
say, basically I like the story. It has certain features in common with Stephen King's "The Mangler". But while "The Mangler" brings the story up to climax by slowly opening up to the history's heinous context, "Gamma's Freezer" plunges the reader into the wildest orgy of splatter from the first chapter. The first time we become acquainted with Eddy's grandmother, is down her basement where she's eating a dead man's liver. I'm sorry to say, but the picture that was drawn did not work for me. In fact, I sat and laughed aloud, imagining the crazy situation unfolds and I must say, that in my mind the story shifted from horror to clean splatter from that point."Gramma's Freezer" has its moments in which the events takes an unexpected turn and the reader is surprised. It's certainly not a bad story. It's just not classic horror.  

A writer should ask himself: How would my story be perceived if it was transferred into a film? In the case of "Gramma's Freezer" I hardly think that it would be nominated for any award.There is nothing wrong with the plot. But in my opinion the story ought to be rewritten in a way that the whole ghastly context could slowly unfolds, until the true horror finally stands crystal clear to the reader. Keep the blood and gore, but save it for the end of the story. In fact, the final chapters of "Gramma's Freezer" was incredibly exciting. At a certain point there were reminiscence of "The Shining" without loosing the storys originality.

I know, that as a writer, you have strong feelings for your novels, and that it may be difficult to accept that others do not share or understand the thoughts you are trying to convey. But I hope that this review will be seen as constructive criticism from someone who truly loves horror and really would like to see it maintain a strong and loyal audience. And this can only be done when we, the writers, treat this genre with all the respect and love it deserves.

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