Category Archives: Ghosts

Movie Review: Odd Thomas (2013) (3 ½ *’s)

Odd Thomas is a movie based on the novel of the same name by Dean R. Koontz. I haven’t read much of Dean R. Koontz’s work, just The Watchers and maybe one other book which I don’t recall. I was always impressed by the caliber of his writing, so a friend and I figured we’d give this movie a look (he’d actually read the book and said that he liked it). The movie tells the story of a young man living in a small town by the name of Odd Thomas. Yes, his first name is Odd. This is the result of a typo at birth; his parents were originally going to call him Todd.

Anyway, Odd has a number of special abilities, all psychic in nature. He can see the dead; he can see these evil demonic spirits that flock to chaos and death, and he can find people he’s looking for—provided they are relevant to his current psychic case—simply by wandering around town. He’s also a heck of a good fist-fighter. The story begins with him encountering the ghost of a girl who was recently slain. She leads him to her murderer, who he promptly chases down and beats into submission for the police to take care of. That’s just the intro. From there, the plot thickens when he notices a man at his restaurant who is attracting an unusually high number of demonic spirits. This portends a massacre in the making. And that is something he has stop. The other characters in the film include his girlfriend Stormy, the police captain, a number of policemen, a single mother of two, and a few others.

 

Strengths: the movie had good plot, good characters, and decent special effects. I didn’t notice any logical loopholes on a first viewing, nor was the violence gratuitous. And the acting, I thought, was pretty good. Weaknesses: I think it tried to be too clever. There were a number of “twists” which involved additional bad guys, that got a bit tiresome; I walked away thinking they’d used that twist just one too many times. I mean really—was the whole town out to get them? Anyway, it was still a good movie and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for some paranormal mystery-type entertainment.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give Odd Thomas three and a half, or maybe even four stars out of five.

Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula K. Le Guin 4 *’s)

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin is the first book of the Earthsea series, a rather famous series that has been around for decades. The copyright on A Wizard of Earthsea dates it to 1968, so it’s stayed the course of time. I’ll begin my book by saying, I didn’t really like the first chapter that much. It was written in that older style (I don’t recall the technical name—it’s like 3rd person narrative, or something like that) where every scene runs into every other scene and it consists of a shallow narrative that simply seems to connect dots in a line to me. I much prefer the modern style, where you sink into the scene getting glimpses of even the thoughts of the characters. Anyway, from the outset it is quite clear that Ursula K. Le Guin has incredible skill with the written word. Although I didn’t like the style, I was very much impressed with her technical skill.

 

The story told is of the early exploits of the young wizard named Ged. It’s worth pointing out that Ged is his true name (in normal affairs he goes by Sparrowhawk). I’ve always wondered where the notion that knowledge of a thing’s true name gives one power over that thing came from. I’ve seen such referenced in Dungeons and Dragons, The Black Company books by Glen Cook, and now here. As this dates to 1968 it is the current winner in my experience. Anyway, the character of Sparrowhawk begins the book as a precocious, power-hungry wizard-in-training. He is so precocious, and so power-hungry he gets himself in trouble and inadvertently, in an attempt to upstage a rival, unleashes a shadowy being from the underworld onto the real world. The rest of the book deals largely with him dealing with this shadowy being with only a few side adventures. It’s a short book, so the side adventures make up a good portion of it. It’s got a dragon in it, which is always a plus in my view, provided the dragon is done well—and this one is.

 

Strengths: like I said, Ursula K. Le Guin’s skill with the written word is quite impressive. The main character evolves quite convincingly over the course of the book from a rash impetuous youth, to a more mature seasoned individual. I must stress again the writer’s skill: it is very difficult to write in the style she chose. She used that old English type prose that Tolkien did many times (you know, kind of a Yoda-speak: “strong, it was, and sleek,” etc …) and it didn’t come across as tiresome and forced. That is an achievement in its own right. Weaknesses: although I found the tale to be entertaining, I was not fully smitten by it. It was an okay story, written in an earlier, more difficult to read style, but written with incredible skill.

 

Ultimately, I’ll give A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin four stars out of five.

Movie Review: The Conjuring (2013)

The movie The Conjuring is a tale of horror revolving around witchcraft and its attendant evil. Well, that’s how the movie tries to come across; the problem is, of course, that witchcraft as understood by most Wiccans has nothing to do with Satan and is not evil. That said, this movie is supposed to be based on a true story. And in this story, the witch in question sacrifices her young baby to “Satan,” (whether or not it was actually Satan or a misunderstanding of the Wiccan horned god, I don’t know) and after her own death goes about forcing other mothers to do the same. Hence, this particular witch—supposedly based on a true account—clearly is/was evil regardless of the religion she practiced or how one understands said religion. Well, enough of a digression into comparative religion and moral philosophy :), on with the movie …

 

This film tells the story of the Perrons, a family who recently moved into a house that is haunted by a dark presence (the aforementioned evil witch, to be precise). They are so terrorized they call on paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Ed and Lorraine Warren are actually quite famous in paranormal circles. As I said, the film is supposed to be based on a true account. The Perrons experience the whole bevy of demonic harassments. It begins with simple things: an occasional unexplainable sound, clocks stopping, and similar such things. It progresses to people being awoken by something pulling on their legs, to being attacked by ghostly apparitions and ghost-propelled objects. It culminates in a possession and an attempted murder.

 

Strengths: this movie held my attention from the very beginning. It was not your typical hacker/slasher horror movie filled with people being slain left and right. I won’t tell you how many people actually died in the film, because that would ruin the surprise (it is a very low number—I’ll tell you that much). The low death toll is actually a strength in my opinion; the movie got its scares without killing people … and it did a good job at that. It had all the potential of the movie Sinister, but it delivered because it didn’t end in a blood bath. Weaknesses: My one and only complaint was the over dramatization of the special effects in the end. As the movie reached its climax, so did the use of special effects. And if paranormal events involved such phenomena to such a degree in real life, I don’t think anyone would question their reality. But I guess that’s just Hollywood, dressing up the truth to better compete in the marketplace. Other than that, I don’t think there were any weaknesses.

 

I’ll give the movie The Conjuring four out of five stars.