Just a month into the year...
Kid Lit Frights
It’s obviously no surprise that I grew up with Goosebumps, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and devouring all the Halloween-themed books as a kid. Those books were definitely a gateway into that genre. And I know so many others share the exact sentiment.
When I was interviewing for what ended up to being my first publishing job, I remember being asked about what would be my dream manuscript to acquire. It wasn’t a question I was expecting. But it was so welcomed. And I immediately answered with “I want something that scares the living bejeezus out of children.”
I love editing kid lit. It’s such a fun time getting to acquire books for the current and next generation of kid and teen readers. But I have often thought that a lot of the current middle-grade horror (for those 8 to 12 years old) being published has not been as scary as they could be. As adults, we underestimate how much kids love horror and how much they can handle it.
But of course, publishing is made up of adults —many stuck in their old ways— who don’t like or understand horror and also possibly afraid of receiving angry emails or letters from parents about the “content” in their children’s books. Not to mention that horror, like sci-fi and fantasy, are still not taken as “seriously” as other genres in publishing. But there definitely are the horror fans who constantly ask for these truly scary books for their manuscript wishlists.
Before I left my last job at Scholastic, I had just gotten to acquire an incredible creator and his project. Like all things in publishing, announcing good news takes forever. Thankfully, last week the deal announcement went through and we were able to publicly celebrated.
The creator and project in question? Trevor Henderson’s debut middle-grade series. Trevor is such an incredible person and creator. He knows horror so well. And to no one’s surprise, he even has little kids dressing up as his creations such as Cartoon Cat and Siren Head. Writing and illustrating middle-grade was just so perfect for him. This project Channel Zero meets Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated with a dash of Welcome to Night Vale. The book will have black and white illustrations that feature the completely new entities that Trevor is crafting for the story. And yes, it will be really scary.
It’s a project that I’m very proud to have gotten to acquire. And one that I am so excited to be a cheerleader for.
Antlers (2021) A Disappointing Adaptation
Speaking of writing…like a lot of others, Nick Antosca’s short story, “The Quiet Boy,” has lived in my thoughts since I read it. It’s a masterclass in tension and dread, building up to an absolutely chilling conclusion. So when it was announced that the story would be adapted as a movie, I was very excited.
But I should’ve known to be wary. As a book editor, I know that adapting books to film can be a feat. Adapting short stories, condensed into a few pages, for an hour and half runtime? Well, unfortunately Antlers is an example of how great storytelling can become lost thanks to Hollywood’s expectations for a story and its characters.
The standouts of the film are definitely the young actors Jeremy T. Thomas and Sawyer Jones who portray brothers Lucas and Aidan Weaver respectively. The movie, with its portrayals of abuse and horror, can be intense for adult viewers let alone young boys but the two are phenomenal. The creature design is also incredibly horrifying…when it is seen. Look, I’m all for building up to a reveal of the creature and letting the audience’s imagination go wild, but the creature in Antlers is barely in the movie. Especially when you consider…that it’s supposed to be a creature feature.
The other issue I have with this movie is the lack of Indigenous representation and its misuse of the windy-nope legend. (Yes, I’m not writing its name out). There is a Native woman at the very beginning speaking on the legend and then we have Sheriff Stokes (Graham Greene). Stokes appears in the movie for literally 5 minutes (or less, probably) total just to help the white characters out with the folklore of the creature. Absolutely feeding into the film stereotype of Native Americans only being useful on screen to be spiritual guides.
Not to mention, it perverse what the myth of the windy-nope is and *spoilers* makes the main antagonist out of a poor, single-father, who is a drug addict. Yes, the movie vilifies a man and turns him into a horrifying creature because he is broken from having to raise his two young sons alone, losing a steady job, and becoming an addict.
If you were considering this one…just skip it. It’s not worth it.
One Good Scare — La Llorona (2019)
Jayro Bustamante’s La Llorona is such an incredibly gothic and haunting movie. If you were looking for a movie based around folklore and by a Guatemalan director, this is one I highly recommend.
Bustamante’s take on La Llorona sets the movie years after a mass genocide committed against Maya people. Elderly dictator Enrique Monteverde goes on trial for the crimes his regime committed and though he does get a conviction, the courts throw it out on the basis that they could not prove that he, himself, was guilty. This leads to Enrique and his family, including wife Carmen, daughter Natalia, and granddaughter Sara, arriving to their grande estate to mass protests.
When the family’s staff, comprised of Kaqchikel people, quit, the devoted head maid Valeria brings home Alma (María Mercedes Coroy) to work for the Monteverdes. With Alma’s arrival, strange supernatural events begin to occur.
The movie is a slow-burn, filled with incredible actors and cinematography. La Llorona is one of the first horror movies that I’ve seen with Indigenous actors centered around a plot that focuses on the injustice and horrors committed against native people, specifically women, in Central American countries.
This is not a horror movie with jump scares or grotesque imagery. It is rooted in historical references and the folklore surrounding the wronged and tragic women in the center one of the La Llorona’s variations. And I completely recommend it.
Back in October, Variety reported that cult classic Hellraiser was receiving a reboot with Jamie Clayton playing Pinhead. Anytime a reboot is announced, it always seems like half of the fans are absolutely against it and the other half are curious or excited. And while I love the first two movies and think them to be phenomenal, I am actually very intrigued by this one.
The Cenobites are incredibly fascinating and to have a trans woman play the most infamous Cenobite is going to be so interesting. Not to mention, that if people are upset about Pinhead being a woman now, let me remind y’all that Kirsty Cotton actually ends up becoming Pinhead in the Boom! comics that Clive Barker was involved with. Kirsty, after losing everything, decides to make a trade with Elliot Spencer’s Pinhead. In turn, he becomes human again and she becomes a Hell Priestess.
With Clive Barker producing this new installment/reboot, I have a bit of faith. How much of a faithful or loose adaptation this one will be to either The Hellbound Heart or to the original 1987 movie is yet to be seen.
Looking Forward To…
Jawbone by Mónica Ojeda (adult | Feb. 8, 2022)
Hide by Kiersten White (young adult | May 24, 2022)
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (adult | Jul. 19, 2022 )
The Witchery by S.Isabelle (young adult | Jul. 26, 2022)
Full transparency — I got to edit this incredible debut YA from Sophie and it is just so wonderful. I am biased but you’re not gonna want to miss out on it.
The Honeys by Ryan La Sala (young adult | Aug. 2, 2022)
Nanny | Jan. 22, 2022 (Sundance)
Texas Chainsaw Massacre | Feb. 18, 2022
Master | Mar. 18, 2022
X | Mar. 18, 2022
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | May 6, 2022
Nope | Jul. 22, 2022
Halloween Ends | Oct. 14, 2022
Hocus Pocus 2 | Oct. 31, 2022
These are just a few from my current list and I’m looking forward to adding more. So definitely let me know if you have any recs to shoot my way!
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