Movie Review: The TOWN

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book-review_-town-theBentley Little
Signet
2000

Gregory Tomasov has returned with his family to the quaint Arizona community of his youth. In McGuane, the air is clean, the land is unspoiled. Nothing much has changed. Except now, no one goes out after dark. And no one told Gregory that he shouldn’t have moved into the old abandoned farm on the edge of town. Once upon a time something bad happened there. Something that’s now buried in its walls. Something now reborn in the nightmares of Gregory’s young son. Something about to be unleashed. What happened once is going to happen again in…The Town.

The Town was the very first Bentley Little novel that I ever read. After hearing about the author (from the lady who owned the laundromat I did my clothes at, of all people), I spotted this particular novel of his on the shelves at Half Price Books, and since it was the only Bentley Little title there, I decided to pick it up and give it a read, just to see if his work was worth delving into.

The first thing I want to point out, if you haven’t picked up on the trend with my other Bentley Little reviews, is that the titles of Little’s novels are so very unassuming and generic sounding that they kind of lull you into a false sense of security as you wander unknowingly into what usually turns out to be Bentley Little’s patented brand of twisted brand of supernatural horror, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since discovering Clive Barker back in the later half of my teenage years.

For instance, in The Town, there is in fact a “town” involved. However, that obviously doesn’t give much beyond that of what to expect beyond that. It’s like opening up a can that’s marked “peaches” and, while finding peaches in there, also finding out that it was riddled with a flesh eating bacteria culture when halfway done with said peaches.

Here, a family wins a substantial lottery, and the husband/father moves his wife, three children and superstitious mother back to his small home town of McGuane, Arizona, because nostalgia or something or other. And because Arizona is to Bentley Little as Maine is to Stephen King, we soon learn that McGuane is a town that’s overrun by mischievous uninvited spirits. This results in a whole lot of off-putting wackiness, which include but are not limited to: Naked elderly ghosts, a murderous Bible, a cactus baby…yeah, that last one had me putting down the book for a bit to smoke a cigarette and get a grip on what I just read.

For the most part, The Town was a rather effective horror novel, written in what I call the grand tradition of pulp horror. Not much is explained as to the why of everything happening, and those of you who need to know the method to all the madness, I’m afraid you’re going to be frustrated by the time the book ends. However, if you’re into enjoying the ride itself, The Town is a rather effective horror yarn that more or less got me hooked by the time I put this down.

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Book Review: The REVELATION

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the-revelation-bentley-littleBentley Little
Signet
1990

Strange things are happening in the small town of Randall, Arizona. The local minister vanishes, his church defiled by blasphemous obscenities scrawled in blood…A crazed old woman in her eighties becomes pregnant…Herds of animals are discovered butchered in a field…And one by one, the good folks in town are falling victim to the same unspeakable fate…Now, an itinerant preacher has arrived spreading a gospel of cataclysmic fury. Darkness is falling on Randall, Arizona. The smell of fear lingers in the air. And stranger things are yet to come…

The Revelation was Bentley Little’s first novel published, and one that, since discovering his books years ago, I had some of the hardest times trying to locate and read. It never seemed to be available in print, Barnes & Nobel never carried Little’s stuff to begin with, and it was always hit-and-miss with the Half Price Books. And it wasn’t one of the titles that was available in eBook form on Google Play. But then, one late morning, while killing some time at the Half Price Books in the area in a vain attempt at getting my two younger nephews to spark an interest in literary contentment (don’t get me started), I noticed that there was, in fact, a copy of The Revelation in the Horror section of the mass paperback shelves. Yes, I snatched that sucker up faster than saving a kitten from the jaws of something…not nice. Those two spawn of my sister and brother-in-law can keep their noses in that Poke’-whatever game of theirs; I just caught a rare Little title. They don’t know what they’re missing. Or, maybe they do. I don’t know. Point is, I finally got to read this first novel from Bentley Little. Is it as crazy as the later works that I’m well acquainted with?

Well, yes. Yes it is.

I have to admit, I really had a different idea of what this book was going to be about. I’ve read enough religious-themed horror novels in my time to have developed something of a preconceived notion of what to expect. You know: crazy-eyed preacher blows into town, causes all kinds of wackiness, turns out to be on the side of evil and such, plucky doubter has to take them out some how, yadda yadda yadda. Here, though, there is a crazy-eyed preacher…but the trope is turned on its head. In this case, he shows up to once again put to rest an evil that pops up every couple of centuries or so, at random places in the world. This time, the showdown is outside an obscure town in Arizona.

The Revelation hits the usual hallmarks that sets a Bentley Little novel apart: small Southwest town, claustrophobic atmosphere, evil undead babies…you know, a Bentley Little novel. It builds up the dread, has what I like to call “That Ain’t Right” moments sprinkled liberally throughout, and has this tendency to get under your skin at just the right moments, then zig when you expect the story to zag. It does seem a bit tame compared to his later output, but still is a very effective visceral horror novel. Check it out some time.

Book Review: The RESORT

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1-27 - Book Review_ The RESORTBentley Little
Signet
2004

The Reata is an exclusive spa isolated in the Arizona desert–a perfect getaway from the city for people like Lowell Thurman and his family booked for a relaxing five-day retreat. But what unfolds is anything but tranquil: unnerving encounters with strange employees, wild parties in empty rooms, something unspeakable in the pool. Then, one by one, guest begin disappearing. The Thurmans are afraid because out in the middle of nowhere, with no escape and no one to hear them scream, they’re left with only one terrifying choice: unlock the dark secrets of the Reata themselves before the real carnage begins.

My enjoyment of the works of Bentley Little have been well-documented, so I don’t think I need to bore you with yet another opening paragraph of how much I enjoy the works of Bentley Little (SPOILERS: A whole bunch). Saying that, I understand that there will be several moments where I would have to stop reading, shake my head and say to myself, “Self, that ain’t right.”

The Resort happens to hit all of the classic “that ain’t right” notes. This isn’t so much a haunted house type horror movie, as the titular resort in question just seems to be the chosen apex for the supernatural shenanigans that are going on.

The story revolves around a middle-aged husband and father who, in a grab to avoid going to his impending high school reunion, decides to take the entire family on holiday…er, vacation (sorry, I have this nasty habit of using British coloquialisms at times) at a rather posh remote hotel resort in the Arizona desert. And the place is gorgeous, what with the desert scenery, the swimming pool, the golf course, the theater and excercise room, not to mention the five-star restaurant. And such luxurious rooms. Totally a better idea than some kind of soul-rushing reunion with former classmates, right? But, since this is a Bentley Little story, things start going wrong the moment they all settle into their sweet suites: first the car breaks down. Then, because they had to be relocated to a different room than what was booked, the supposedly empty room that’s being renovated next door sounds like there’s all sorts of parties going on nightly there. Then the employees of the hotel start acting rather…badly, while the manager seems to be loosing his mind. Then, the hotel starts to rapidly lose its luster, literally, while the residents themselves start joining in on the insanity, which includes a rousing game of Bloodthirsty Gladiators. The answer behind all of this madness is rather mind-bending. And the resolution ends things in your standard Bentley Little style. Meaning, if you’re a fan of the happy ending, you’re going to be so very disappointed, here.

Yeah, reading this made my skin crawl. Very effective usage of the visceral hardcore horror devices. It lulls you into a false sense of security with its rather normal opening setup, but then hits you with the standard salvo of gleefully twisted and warped supernatural happenings that will stick itself into your brains long after you’ve finished all 400 pages of this mass-marketed paperback. The weird thing is, The Resort isn’t even the most extreme example in Bentley Little’s output.

Book Review: The BURNING

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1-21 - Book Review: The BURNINGBentley Little
Signet
2006

A college freshman finds herself stranded in Arizona with no place to stay and nowhere to run. Cabin Fever closes in on an isolated park ranger, as two sinister beauties lurk in the desert outside his door. A California divorcée is starting a promising new life. But her young son knows better—because he’s seen what’s creeping outside the window. A cross-country traveler is on a journey of self-discovery. But one tourist trap holds its own dreadful surprises… Four strangers with one thing in common: a mysterious train choking the sky with black smoke, charging trackless across the American night…and carrying an unstoppable evil raised from the bowels of history, that will bring their worst fears to life.

The Burning is the first Bentley Little novel I have read in 2014, and considering it’s three-quarters of the way into the year, this seems odd, also considering I tend to suck down Little’s novels like they were sweet, sweet Hostess treats. And since he tends to write and release a new paperback of his trademark style of unnerving horror yarns, it’s not like there’s a lack of them for me to feed my addiction.

Anyway, I came across The Burning at the usual place where I’ve been supplementing my nasty “reading habit”, namely Half Price Books. Great and wondrous place, that is. Also rather dangerous, considering the prices. And once again, I find myself shilling for the place; I really need to get some sort of endorsement deal out of this. On to the book review.

The Burning deals with the revenge of thousands of Chinese immigrants that were murdered after the completion of the coast-to-coast railroad back after the Civil War. A ghost train is a-chargin’ along, from sea to shining sea, picking up those vengeful souls and sounding like a Johnny Cash ballad; meanwhile, at different points in the country, strange phenomena begin happening: nightmarish specters manifesting, strange mold that causes people to become irrationally racist hate-mongers, bizarre writings, and of course that ghost train mentioned before. In the meantime, a young college student, a divorcee’ mother and her child, a disaffected Chinese young man and a park ranger from different parts of the country find themselves a part of something greater, learning that the past can come back and haunt us, quite literally.

There’s no mistaking that The Burning is a Bentley Little novel. It’s got all the halmarks, really: extraordinarily bizarre situations and supernatural circumstances thrust upon unsuspecting and hapless protagonists, it’s tense and disturbing and viceral horror, with points where you have to pause and think, “did I just read that?” When compared to his other novels, The Burning may not be as great as his more memorable offerings, but it’s not bad, either. It’s a supernatural horror novel that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, and it’s rather good at being it. Not the first book I would recommend to check out if it’s your first time with Bentley Little, but it’s worth checking out.

Book Review: The WALKING

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bentley little the walkingBentley Little
Signet
2000

It begins in a small Southwestern town. Then it spreads. Across the country a series of strange deaths have overtaken the living. And a stranger compulsion has overtaken the dead. In a travesty of life they drift with bizarre purpose toward an unknown destination. The walkers have become an obsession for investigator Miles Huerdeen. His father is one of them. Now, lured into the shadow of the restless dead, Miles is a step closer to a secret as old as time…to a reality as dark as hell. For Miles is following them into the deep end of an unfathomable nightmare.

It had been a while since I’ve read a good Bentley Little yarn. He’s always good for a chilling tale of supernatural shenanigans. I’ve had this particular title of his, The Walking, seemed like your standard zombie tale–the dead somehow getting up and walking about, and all. And in a way, it is…only, it’s not the standard modern zombie story that most would assume it would be.

Because, let’s face it: ever since George A. Romero hit us all with his classic Night Of The Living Dead back in 1968, whenever we think of zombies, we think of flesh eating ghouls. But the zombies here in The Walking are of the classic pre-Romero era of zombie lore; the undead are reanimated by way of black magicks and controlled by whoever’s pulling the supernatural strings. In this case, it’s an ancient witch with strong succubus tendencies who put a curse on a settlement of witches in an Arizona town in the mid-1800s. This results in the decedents of the settlement to develop a tendency to just get up and walk off after they’re declared Living Impaired, much to the consternation of their family and loved ones. Seems, after all this time, and despite being trisected and having her pieces left inside a cave, the ancient succu-witch is still kickin’, and has plans for total and complete Armageddon. Gotta admire the ambition, there.

The Walking flashes back and forth between two eras–the modern day era, which focuses mainly on main character Miles Huerdeen and the odd occurrences that are happening with certain dead folk suddenly wanting to work on their cardio, and the mid-19th Century founding of a community of witches that became the epicenter of all the modern-day wackiness.

For the most part, The Walking was not what I was expecting by merely reading the back-cover blurb, and this is a good thing. I was expecting your standard zombie apocalypse type yarn…or if not an apocalypse, then at least a contained localized event. This is more of a supernatural noir-ish tale, which I found rather entertaining. It has Little’s signature quirkiness, and kept me engaged from page one to the end of the thing. Check it out for sometime.