Horror, Death, Grief; Oh and Free Stuff!

Once again there are so many things going on that it's hard to decide what to talk about. Baen Books has a fabulous announcement in honor of Veterans Day and those injured in the line of duty. Horror fans should set aside time to head out this weekend for a festival of work too gruesome, graphic or just plain strange for conventional theatrical release. A big gaming site has some tools and fun to help you become a healthier person and I've got a few words about a wonderful, heartbreaking non-fiction book that speaks to anyone who has lost a loved one. And of course we've got our world famous one sentence review, expanded this week to an entire paragraph.

Baen Books has long had an interesting and exciting program where they release some of their catalogue online for free, available at http://www.baen.com/library/. If you like the free books you can sign up for an online subscription and pay to get access to new books online before they’re published. On Veterans Day the publisher announced that they "will provide its books to fans who are blind, paralyzed, or dyslexic, or are amputees, in electronic form free of charge, effective immediately." They went on to say, "Baen Books is making this offer in recognition of Veterans Day, and all our disabled military veterans. Many Baen authors are veterans themselves, using a military setting as the setting of their tales. Right now convalescing vets might welcome an exciting, fast-action tale to pass the time." This is a wonderful opportunity and we should pass this information on to anyone we know who could use it. The link to sign up is here.

The After Dark Horror Fest rolls this weekend, offering eight movies for the horror aficionado.

  • Unrest bills itself as the first movie to use real bodies. (Does that make you want to see this film? It scares me. Which is the point, but they’re scaring me for free.) Alison Blanchard passes out at the first sight of her first cadaver on the first day of medical school. When she comes to she becomes aware that something is terribly wrong. Spookiness and danger ensue.

  • Penny Dreadful (tagline - Don't Forget to Breathe) stars Rachel Miner as an orphan who's terrified of cars following the accident that killed her parents. Mimi Rogers is her well-meaning therapist who takes her to the scene of the accident in an attempt to help her overcome her fears. Unfortunately they meet a horrible hitchhiker and terrible things ensue.

  • The Gravedances is a traditional horror film about a group of friends who accidentally invoke an ancient curse resulting in an entire month of haunting, no doubt leading up to a terrible end of the month grand finale. You can read the actual curse at the official website, but don't blame me if three psychopathic ghosts come around bothering you and pain and torment ensue.

  • The Hamiltons, a film by The Butcher Brothers, is about orphan siblings who are trying to get a new start in quiet town. The youngest starts to explore his new world through a video camera that belonged to his dead parents and slowly realizes that his parents had a dark secret. Murders and corruption of the innocent ensue.

  • Reincarnation, brought to us by the directors of The Grudge, (both one and two) is a story of um, reincarnation. Sadly I can't read Japanese so the official website did me little good. But I'm pretty sure that murder and hauntings ensue.

  • Dark Ride is a classical horror story about a man who escapes from a mental institution a decade after killing two girls. Some college students visit a theme park called Dark Ride and are somewhat startled to discover he's hiding there. Bloodshed and thrill rides ensue.

  • The Abandoned takes place in Russia and tells the story a filmmaker who goes back to the country of her birth to explore the death of her mother. Mysteries and ghostly apparitions ensue.

  • Wicked Little Things is yet another tale of someone in unfamiliar terrain. A widow and her two girls move to an inherited home in a town where a terrible accident mining accident buried some of the town's children alive. Nearly a hundred years later the children are still alive. Or are they undead? The working title of this film was Zombies so it seems to me there could be a touch of the undead about these supposedly alive children. Horror and disgust ensues.

  • Snoop Dog's Hood of Horror is the ninth film in this eight film festival. Isn't that scary in and of itself? I thought so too. This might turn out to be my favorite of the bunch as it sounds like it's going to be a Creep Show style horror/comedy anthology. How can you resist a film with the tagline of It Ain't All Good in da Hood? I certainly can't. Hilarity and gore ensues.

And now we mix a little health in with our entertainment as pogo.com debuts their special program called "Kick the Habit With Pogo," designed to give you the support and distraction you need to quit smoking. Details can be found here. There are several tools available including special gaming rooms where you can play with other quitters who can cheer you on and commiserate with your cravings. Best wishes to everyone who takes part in this program, I know it's a difficult habit to break.

The best book I read this month is called The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and it's a memoir about the year immediately following the sudden death of her husband and the terrifying illnesses that strike her daughter, putting her in a coma not once but twice. It's a brutally honest look at the sheer craziness we can experience when caught in the clutches of deep grief. Despite being described as a "cool customer" by a hospital employee and thinking of herself a rational person, Ms. Didion gradually realizes she's not thinking rationally at all. She can't bring herself to give her dead husband's shoes away because then what would he wear when he came home? In my experience very few authors are willing, or interested, in talking about how easy it is to come unglued and drift away from stark reality. Ms. Didion displays immense courage as well as beautiful writing in this healing and enlightening book. If you get nothing else from this book you'll come away thinking you aren't the only one who was convinced your dead loved one would return to you if you just did the right things, in the right sequence of events.

Once again we give Paul Muolo special dispensation and allow him to mutilate the rules for our one word sentence reviews. He's clocking in with an entire paragraph with this lovely review, "The tales of three different families -- on three different continents -- are woven through the new movie 'Babel.' It's about loneliness, and tragedy (and almost tragedy) -- an American tourist shot in Morocco, a deaf-mute school girl in Japan coping with her mother's suicide, and an illegal alien taking chances returning to Mexico (and then back) for the wedding of her son. Three un-related tales? Not at all. A stellar cast and a fine movie that manages, somehow, an uplifting ending." Have you got a one-sentence review you’d like to submit to Quality Time? Send it in to me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com, and I'll run the best ones. You may focus on just about anything that fits a family entertainment format; games, movies, books, music - the sky is the limit, or is it? Want to review the status of poor ex-planet Pluto? Go right ahead.