Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating: 4 of 5

Synopsis: “A spellbinding and darkly humorous coming-of-age story about an unusual boy, whose family lives on the fringe of society and struggles to survive in a hostile world that shuns and fears them.” (source)

My thoughts: I was compelled to read this book thanks to an article/ interview posted on Cemetery Dance Online. During the interview, Jones mentioned WHEN ANIMALS DREAM; I thought, hey, this dude may be alright, so I picked up Mongrels.

A coming-of-age tale with werewolves seemed like a perfect idea to me, and Jones delivers. Seriously, I was hooked from sentence one: “My grandfather used to tell me he was a werewolf.”

I adored the unnamed narrator’s Grandpa from the get-go. And it wasn’t until I finished the story and started thinking about my “review” that I realized the narrator was never named; I felt like I knew him so completely. Crafty, sneaky author. While I did not enjoy the grisly details involving owls and bunnies and dogs, those added another layer of realism to the werewolves’ behavior. I simply looked away from those poor animals’ death scenes and read on.

I couldn’t stop reading either. Their dysfunctional little family was messed up, sure, but man there was a lot of heart there. Loyal and protective, accepting of one another. Hell, if one were to overlook their criminal tendencies and, you know, the occasional murdering, it’d be hard not to want family members like them to have your back.

There was also an interesting mix of new and old folklore surrounding the werewolves in Mongrels. I won’t go into specifics, because it’s more fun to let them unfold as you read, but I will say the whole story had a freshness that I’ve missed in horror recently. Plus, like I already mentioned, it had heart and, ultimately, I think that depth was what allowed me to overlook its minor imperfections.

Highly recommended especially if you devour everything werewolf.

Author’s website | Read an excerpt | Add on LibraryThing | Add on Goodreads

(Review cross-posted on LibraryThing and Goodreads.)

Howl (2015)

Rating: 7 of 10

movie poster Howl (2015)Hmm, where’s the worst possible place for a commuter train to break down? Oh, I don’t know: in the middle of nowhere, at night, surrounded by werewolves?!!

Synopsis: “A new psychological werewolf creature feature…” (source)

My thoughts: Wasn’t I just saying not too long ago that there weren’t enough werewolves in modern horror movies? Well ask and ye shall receive. While I did relate to Joe and his difficulties in having to work with the general public, most of the train’s passengers weren’t all that likable. So where HOWL succeeds brilliantly is in amping up the uber creepy atmosphere and delivering stellar creature effects. Plus, these werewolves seem the type based more on folklore than cinematic history.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like LAST PASSENGER or THE DESCENT.

Check out HOWL on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched DVD on 4/22/2016)

Uncaged (2016)

Rating: 6 of 10

movie poster Uncaged (2016)Most teens look at birthday #18 as the key to their freedom. Great things are supposed to happen when one is officially an “adult” … unless your family is hiding a curse triggered at age 18.

Synopsis: “A sleepwalking teen straps a camera to himself and discovers a sinister family secret.” (source)

My thoughts: Another random selection that surpassed my expectations. UNCAGED’s limited budget is obvious (especially in the transformation department) but it overcomes those constraints by casting Ben Getz as Jack, a young man with a tragic past who just turned 18 and is starting to sleepwalk. Liking Jack and wanting to know what was going to happen to him is really the only thing that kept me watching this movie. Jack’s cousin, Brandon, who Jack grew up with, is borderline douchey. And their friend Turner is 100 times worse. But I guess they provided some comic relief. Sure, the writing needed fleshed out (HA!) and the women needed to be actual people – you know, instead of being either a) a damsel in distress or b) a sex object – but all in all, I had fun. Plus, werewolves are sorely underrepresented in modern horror movies.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed films like WHEN ANIMALS DREAM or NIGHT WOLF.

Check out UNCAGED official website and trailer | on Facebook | on IMDb

(Watched on Netflix 3/31/2016)

When Animals Dream (2014)

Rating: 8 of 10

movie poster When Animals Dream (2014)Coming of age is itself a nightmare most everyone hopes to survive unscathed. Toss in supernatural DNA and things can go downhill real fast.

Synopsis: “Marie is a beautiful and lonely 16-year-old who lives in an isolated village on a small island of the west coast of Denmark. Marie’s mother is seriously ill, suffering from an unknown disease – on medication, mentally absent and tied to a wheelchair. Marie’s father, Thor, runs the small grocery store and tries to make life as normal as possible for the small family. On the surface, everything seems fine – and yet, Marie can’t help feeling that Thor is hiding something about her mother’s illness.” (source)

My thoughts: It’s not easy being a teenager in a small town. Feeling like you’re stuck in limbo, between being a kid and being an adult. There’s an inherent otherness to that stage of life. Twist up all those emotions and thoughts with a suspicion that you’re even more of an outsider because of a secret your father denies but your gut insists on, and you have the recipe for a thrilling coming of age horror movie. I absolutely loved Marie’s transformation; no, not the physical one (although it’s frighteningly awesome). I mean the one where she embraces her true self.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed movies like TEETH, CARRIE, or GINGER SNAPS.

Check out WHEN ANIMALS DREAM in Danish Film Catalogue | on IMDb | Watch the trailer

(Watched on Netflix 1/16/2016)