Wonder Woman: Justice is Gender-Neutral

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I have always been a big fan of strong female characters, in both books and film. And I have to say that Wonder Woman completely met my demands for a movie that depicted a powerful female lead, as well as a powerful female cast. Here, the knight is a woman, sending a message to the world: that we can be heroes just as well as men can be.

In the present day, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) receives an email from fellow secret hero Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) that contains an image of her in her Wonder Woman garb, standing among friends.

Born of clay, young Diana spent her days with her fellow Amazonians, women warriors created by Zeus to protect the world from Ares. Here we can already see the movie’s casting of female heroes, while the main villain is a man. Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielson) believes that Ares will not return (after his first defeat by Zeus a long time ago) and does not allow Diana to be trained. However, Diana, stubborn from even a young age, learns in secret from Hippolyta’s sister General Antiope (Robin Wright).

Soon Diana grows to become a young adult and has properly mastered the fighting skills of the Amazons. One day, a man washes up on shore, swimming from a crash landing. He reveals himself to be Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), but before they can know each other well Germans come onto the island as well, in pursuit of Steve, who is actually a World War I spy for the British.

A fight ensues between the Amazonians and the Germans, in which Antiope is killed. Steve is taken by the women and is interrogated, forced to spit out the truth when bound by the Lasso of Hestia. He details the ongoings of World War I in the world, and how he stole a valuable notebook from the brilliant German scientist Isabel Maru (Elena Anaya), also known as Doctor Poison, who was attempting to engineer a deadly mustard gas. Diana believes that Ares is responsible for the war and arms herself, preparing to venture into the world with Steve to stop him.

The duo arrive in London, and Diana has trouble fitting in, with her outrageous costume and ridiculous weapons. They successfully deliver the notebook to Steve’s superiors. Among them is Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis), who is currently trying to negotiate diplomatically with Germany. Upon delivery, the Allies discover that the Germans, lead by the evil General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston), are preparing to release the gas at the warfront. Supported by Sir Patrick, Steve and Diana, along with a couple of friends, head to the front, in Belgium, to stop the Germans.

Naive and ignorant about the true darkness of warfare, Diana is shocked to see the poverty and the hurt the people are suffering from as a result of the fighting. She is outraged, as one should be, and demands to go into battle without a plan. Steve tries to hold her back, but Diana charges out and pushes along the German lines, inspiring the Allied soldiers to move out from the trench and fight behind her. They end up saving the village and celebrate.

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A photo taken during the celebration, which was later resent to Diana by Bruce Wayne.

The group learns about a gala that is taking place in the German High Command. Steve infiltrates it, aiming to find and destroy the gas, while the rest of the group wait in the woods. Fed up with having to stay without being able to help, Diana steals a woman’s dress and goes to the party herself. She attempts to follow Ludendorff and kill him, believing that he is Ares. Steve stops her, and the General manages to get away, ordering a release of mustard gas upon the village, killing all its inhabitants.

Furious at Steve, Diana leaves by herself to follow Ludendorff to a military base with all the gas. She manages to kill him, but strangely this does not stop the war. Confused, Diana feels defeated and does not leave with Steve to help with the rest of the war. However, Sir Patrick Morgan appears suddenly and reveals himself to be Ares, and tells her that although he whispered suggestions and inspirations within peoples’ ears, it was ultimately mankind that caused the fighting amongst themselves. He also reveals that Diana is the proclaimed Godkiller, as she is a deity herself (the youngest child of Zeus), and thus capable of slaughtering another god.

Meanwhile, Steve sacrifices himself by blowing up the plane containing the mustard gas while in the air. Enraged, Diana fights Ares. Ares tries to channel Diana’s anger by getting her to kill Dr. Maru, but Steve’s heroic act reminds Diana that humans still have goodness within them. She allows Dr. Maru to escape and manages to kill Ares, and the war stops.

Presently, Diana has taken residence amongst humankind and keeps a low profile. However, upon Bruce’s email, she decides to continue her duty as Wonder Woman, implying a future with the Justice League.

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Women can be warriors just as well as men.

Wonder Woman shows how women can be just as strong as men. They have the same capabilities to be heroic or evil, just like men; Wonder Woman a hero, while Dr. Maru is evil, and Steve is a hero, while General Ludendorff is evil. It does not serve to show the superiority of a gender, but instead advocates for equality between both. For anyone looking for an inspirational, powerful film, Wonder Woman is a must-watch.

AHS Season Three: Coven of Secrets

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While Asylum may be the best season of American Horror StoryCoven comes to a close second. Season Three features an assembly of witches in modern New Orleans, descended from their notorious ancestors during the Salem Witch Trials.

Zoe Benson (Taissa Farmiga) finds out about her lineage after she accidentally kills her boyfriend with her powers. She is then sent to a haven (under the name Miss Robichaux’s Academy) for girls like her, the only “safe place” for witches, who are still facing persecution in the modern world. While many women (and men) were condemned and burned at the stake back in the 1690’s, according to headmistress Cordelia Foxx (Sarah Paulson), but they weren’t actual witches, just innocent people– the real ones acted quickly and fled South, and eventually enough congregated there and New Orleans turned into the new place for witches.

At the academy, Zoe meets child actress Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts), a telekenetic, stuck-up, arrogant witch; African-American “human voodoo doll” Queenie (Gabourey Sibdibe); and clairvoyant witch Nan (Jamie Brewer). Cordelia, their headmistress, does not seem to exhibit impressive powers and constantly spends her days as an alchemist in the greenhouse, depressed and under the shadow of her mother Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), the current reigning Supreme (one witch in a generation who embodies all the powers).

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From left to right: Fiona, Madison, Nan, Zoe, and Queenie.

Things get messy when Fiona shows up at the coven again, treading on Cordelia and taking her role back as leader of the witches. She takes the girls to a museum, which is a house that belonged to a wealthy white lady, Delphine LaLaurie (Kathy Bates), who was famous for torturing her slaves. Nan uses her clairvoyant powers to find where Delphine was buried, and Fiona discovers that she is still alive, rendered immortal by the voodoo tribe queen Marie Laveau.

Fiona, obsessed with avoiding death, pays Marie a visit and demands that she tell her how she stayed alive. Marie refuses because Fiona blatantly disrespects her, and this sparks a renewed animosity between the white witches and the black voodoo witches, which was tempered for a while after Marie and the previous Supreme Anna Leigh Leighton signed a peace treaty– Fiona’s trespassing on the voodoo side of town as well as her crude remarks broke this truce.

Fiona returns to Miss Robichaux’s for one reason– she has cancer. A Supreme is supposed to be in stellar health for as long as she reigns. Once a new Supreme is on the rise, the current one will begin to deteriorate in well-being, until she dies and the spirit takes place in her successor. Fiona tries to eliminate possible candidates and carefully watches the girls over the next few days. Each one of them begins to grow, exhibiting new powers or strengthening their current ones.

After the girls find out the news, however, rivalry begins to spark amongst them. Zoe and Madison’s friendship begins to crumble after they fight over a boy they killed and subsequently resurrected at a frat party. Zoe is focused on trying to maintain the unity amongst the women of the coven, while Madison only wants to become Supreme. Meanwhile, Queenie feels that she is no longer part of the group and leaves to join the voodoo tribe.

Later, the coven gains another new member: Misty Day (Lily Rabe), who resurrected herself with her powers after being burned at the stake. The Council of Witchcraft strongly believe that she is destined to be Supreme, as her power of resurrection is more extraordinary than any of the Seven Wonders.

Fiona continues to neglect her duties as head witch, and refuses to name her successor. Then, the coven stumbles upon a new but old enemy: witch hunters. At first, Marie rejects Fiona’s offer to ally against their shared foe, but after the witch hunters massacre her tribemates she joins the Academy, and teams up with Fiona to begin eliminating Supreme candidates (after first bankrupting the witch hunters’ corporation). While doing so, Fiona discovers Marie’s secret to immortality: her soul. Papa Legba, the ruler of hell, has traded Marie’s soul in exchange for a yearly offering of an innocent baby. When Fiona offers her own deal to Papa Legba he rejects her; she has nothing to give.

The Council decides to hold a competition for the four surviving witches– Misty, Madison, Zoe, and Queenie– to chose the next Supreme. They must pass the test of the Seven Wonders, seven extraordinary magical powers that must all be mastered in order to rise to the throne. They are:

  • Telekinesis, the ability to move objects with one’s mind.
  • Concilium, the ability to impose one’s will onto another (also known as mind control).
  • Pyrokinesis, the ability to summon and control fire at one’s will.
  • Divination, the ability to obtain knowledge about an object, person, event, or location through means other than the user’s physical senses.
  • Transmutation, the ability to move from one place to another at will (also known as teleportation).
  • Vitalum Vitalis, the ability to balance the scales between one life force and another.
  • Descensum, the ability to descend into one’s own personal hell (through an incantation) and return.

Unfortunately, each of the girls begin to fail. Misty is the first, unable to come back during the Descensum test; Zoe loses focus and impales herself on a gate while playing Transmutation tag; and Queenie is disqualified after being unable to revive Zoe through Vitalum Vitalis. The Council and Cordelia watch helplessly as Madison is the only one left; knowing her, they refuse to allow her to ascend to the throne. Cordelia then joins the competition, emerging victorious after Madison fails in Divination. She also manages to bring Zoe back to life through Vitalum Vitalis, thus completing her test and winning the title.

As the new Supreme, Cordelia chooses to reveal the coven to the world. As a result, the academy gains several hundred new girls, and Cordelia, Zoe, Queenie, and Kyle open the doors for a new beginning.

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The Coven welcomes several girls into its numbers.

The central theme of this season’s American Horror Story is oppression; we can see from the very start that the witches are oppressed by society, and the slaves (as well as the present-day blacks) are oppressed by white people. Though Coven could not compete with Asylum, and it had a fair amount of plot holes, it certainly offers its own brand of fun and twists.

My favorite character is, once again, played by Sarah Paulson. Cordelia has a lot of potential, but is constantly kept in the shadows by Fiona. She herself is tyrannized, firstly by her mother as her daughter, then by her husband as a woman, and then finally by society as a witch. After her rise as the Supreme, we can see, albeit shortly, her beginning to take charge and become the strong leader she is destined to be. Murphy makes an empowering point by having Cordelia go public about witchcraft: that in order to break free from oppression, you have stop hiding and let yourself be seen, and prove to others that you are worthy of being accepted as an equal. Cordelia’s new mannerisms have yet to be fully seen and evaluated, and hopefully we can see that in a future season with the Murder House and Coven crossover; but the small bits that are shown in Coven portray Cordelia as an inspirational leader with a lot to give.

What I also love about the show is the fact that it casts almost all females; while Asylum portrayed strong female characters, Coven does so even more. The fact that the girls have gone so far and have had the strength to keep going show that women can be just as strong as men. I have always been a fan of powerful female characters, and season three has given me a healthy dose of them. For all girls looking for inspiration and strength, you’ll find kindred spirits with the witches in the academy, who all sport unique powers and personalities.

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For those who have enjoyed watching CluelessCoven offers a new twist on teen life in a clique. For those who have enjoyed watching Vampire Diaries, Coven offers the same fantastical excitement. And finally, if you enjoy watching AHS, season three is essential to your repertoire. Enjoy the many antics of the young witches, and be ready some shocking twists, turns, and of course, horrors.

 

 

 

 

 

Macbeth: A Relatable Tragedy

Perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Macbeth tells the tragic tale of King Macbeth, who falls from his heroic status after hearing a prophecy about his golden future.

Macbeth, a noble general of Scotland, is visited by three meddling witches, who prophesize that he will become Thane of Cawdor, and then King of Scotland. Currently, he is the Thane of Glamis, but after winning a war King Duncan awards him the title of Thane of Cawdor, and the first part of the prophecy comes true. This leads to Macbeth and his wife believing that the second part, therefore, must be true as well. In an impulsive act, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth (his wife) murder Duncan. After the king’s two sons flee in terror, Macbeth is crowned the new King of Scotland.

However, Macbeth is fearful of what he has done, and attempts to keep his status as king and prevent any possibilities of his own demise. Drowned in his own ambition, Macbeth’s morality begins to burn away as he commits crime after crime in an attempt to maintain his status as king and prevent anyone else from taking the throne. Eventually, his humanity and morality crumbles as he succumbs to his underlying guilt and burning ambition, and ultimately causes his own downfall.

In his play, Shakespeare warns us of the dangers of ambition, and how we must not submit to tantalizing offers and allow them to destroy us. We must not abandon our principles and our morals just to pursue something– nothing in the world is worth throwing away our souls. Macbeth isn’t omnipotent– armed with the prophecy and foresight, he thinks he is, and therefore he tries to control his fate, control what will happen– and all that results in is chaos. In murdering Duncan, he has essentially committed suicide. Perhaps he acted too fast– as natural was his ascension to the position of Thane of Cawdor, he seized the crown by himself; he did not permit it to happen in due time, which, if it did, may have prevented all this mayhem. 

As Stephen Fry recently said, “the enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” We cannot believe that we know everything that’s going to happen, and hammer and twist the universe to fit our vision of the future. Shakespeare reminds us here that Macbeth, like the rest of us, is not God– and that we cannot try to control what we are not supposed to control.

 

 

Forrest Gump (1994)

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Forrest Gump is my all-time favorite movie, and one that I’ve watched countless times. It has brought me to tears and has made me laugh over and over again, and it never gets old with each reviewing.

In the present, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) is waiting at the bus stop to ride to a particular destination. While sitting, various people join him, and he recounts his life story as they listen.

Unintelligent, and born needing leg braces, Forrest’s childhood is constantly hindered by people’s judgment. His mother goes to great lengths to give him a good education, and his only friend is a girl whom he meets on his first day of school and falls in love with, Jenny Curan (Robin Wright). One miraculous day, Forrest and Jenny are walking in the woods when three bullies give chase to Forrest; Jenny tells him to run and he does, resulting in his leg braces breaking, which allows him to sprint away.

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Forrest and Jenny stick together all throughout high school. Forrest is constantly badgered by the boys who pick on him, who now chase him in a truck. While running to evade the bullies, Forrest’s running skills catches the attention of a college football coach who happens to be nearby, scouting for players. Forrest then receives a football scholarship to the University of Alabama.

Meanwhile, Jenny also attends college at an all-girls university. She is eventually expelled for her troubles and Forrest goes on to graduate, and subsequently enlists in the military. There, he meets Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue. Shortly after their training, both are sent to fight in the Vietnam War. Forrest agrees to join Bubba and his family in the shrimping business after the war is over. However, in the midst of a fight, Bubba is killed. Forrest saves many men in his platoon, including Lieutenant Dan, who, afterwards, was furious at him for doing so; it was his destiny, he claimed, to die on the battlefield. Dan’s legs are amputated, and Forrest is awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

While in recovery, Forrest discovers his talent in ping-pong and begins to play competitively, eventually becoming a celebrity and going on to play against the Chinese team.

At a Vietnam War-protest in D.C., Forrest reunites with Jenny, who has begun living life as a hippie, and has been doing her own travels. She then boards a bus, leaving Forrest behind once more. They continue their lives separately: Forrest enters into the shrimping business with Lieutenant Dan, while Jenny embraces the counterculture life.

It is revealed that Forrest is waiting for the bus to see Jenny. Once they reunite again, he meets her son, Forrest Jr., who is named after his father. Jenny proposes to Forrest and they marry, and she passes away a while later.

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My favorite scene from the movie was the hug between Forrest and Jenny in front of the Washington Monument– cheesy as it sounds, it brings me to tears every time. An inspirational, deeply moving and deeply thoughtful picture, Forrest Gump examines the aspects of love, hope, friendship, and warfare in life. Forrest encourages all of us to make the best out of life, and to each enjoy our own box of chocolates.You may not know what you’re going to get– but in the end, they’re all sweet.

 

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is truly a touching coming-of-age drama. I’ve always been a sucker for heartfelt movies, but this one particularly stood out to me. This film has a vastly optimistic view on life, and teaches us all to appreciate what we have. With its lively characters and colorful plot, we join Charlie as he navigates through life, learning about the joys of love, friendship, music, and writing.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) has always been a socially awkward teen, a “wallflower.” Suffering from depression, he has only recently been discharged from the hospital, and sets out to live a normal teenage life. While he is lonely during his first few days of high school, two charismatic kids, Sam (Emma Watson) and her stepbrother Patrick (Ezra Miller) notice him alone one day and take him into their friend group. From there, Charlie beings to grow, transgressing his mental illness and coming out to fully embrace and enjoy life. While not all of the things he tried and experienced were pleasant, they contributed to his change and emergence as a new and worldly person.

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Before high school, Charlie had seen a lot of sadness– the death of his aunt, as well as the suicide of his best friend, and the abusive relationship of his sister with her boyfriend. He came from a dark place, and couldn’t not see the pain that people went through. However, when Sam and Patrick befriend him, they show him a very different perspective on life. Instead of dwelling on the past, they lived in the moment. Sam even dares to climb out of the truck and stand in the back while Patrick drives, holding out her arms and feeling the wind blow through her hair. While they both have their own share of problems and homework, they still find the time to attend big parties and treasure the small moments– and slowly, their philosophy brushes off onto Charlie, and us as well.

‘Wallflower is a movie that many people can relate to. We’ve all been the wallflower, the observer, at some point– but we need to learn to step out of our comfort zone to truly appreciate and experience all that life has to offer, to find a place for ourselves in the world. There are people– nice people– who can and are willing to help us through our difficulties– but only if we make our difficulties known. Of all the pain in the world, we must believe that there is always more good. We must believe that the day will get better, and it will– but only if you’re willing make it so.

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So next time, don’t be afraid to stretch out your arms, and feel the wind blow through your hair. Brave through life with a smile on your face and your friends by your side. Emerge victorious from each battle. Don’t let the negatives you experience hold you back from being who you are. Embrace the happiness in each moment, and enjoy the feeling of infinity.

 

 

Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Futuristic Present

What makes George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 so chilling is the fact that its futuristic setting is extremely close to our present. Orwell imagines a dystopian society with a totalitarian government, the Party, in which the people are woefully trapped under the hand of its notorious leader, Big Brother (who is, apparently, always watching), a mysterious figure only seen on posters.

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Winston Smith’s homeland Oceania is in a state of constant war with the other two reigning lands, East Asia and Eurasia (who both have similar governments). This forces all supplies to be channeled in supporting the war, and thus the rest of Oceania remains poor. Winston Smith is a member of the lower tier of the government, and works for the Ministry of Truth, rewriting past articles so that history always supports the Party. There is to be nothing in the past showing that the Party has made mistakes; the Party must always be right. The Party is always in rule.  The Party maintains a strict rule over the Proletariats (the lower-class citizens) by four main operations, located in four vast pyramid-like governmental structures overlooking the land: the Ministry of Truth (Winston’s workplace), which alters history (and consequently, reality), the Ministry of Love, which dealts out torturous punishments to criminals, the Ministry of Peace, which ensures constant warfare, and the Ministry of Plenty, which deals with economic affairs and checks that Oceania is in a state of endless starvation. We can see the irony in the buildings’ names.

Besides editing the past, the Ministry of Truth works hard each day to condense the language of Oceania (called newspeak) more and more, until it is it to be something that is merely a simple form of communication. This way, with less and less words to work with, the human mind shrinks and becomes less complex; this is one of the twisted ways the Party manipulates its people to become more and more ignorant, until they are nothing more than an animal.

The Party’s three slogans are: Slavery is Freedom, War is Peace, and Ignorance is Strength. These statements reflect the philosophy of doublethink, in which a person holds two contradictory beliefs as simultaneously correct; in doing so, we can see that the person lacks the ability to conscious awareness that these two ideals conflict, that the person lacks the ability to think. With their intelligence gone, the Proletariats are helplessly subject to any action of the Party.

Winston is one of the few people who are still fighting against the Party, desperately trying to hold onto his soul, waiting until the day the Party comes to take it away. And each day, the Party takes a small chuck of humanity away from the Proletariats. He eventually meets Julia, a young, lively woman with free will like him. Together, they team up and think of ways to take down the government.

But in a world so twisted, such a happiness can never last. Winston and Julia will fall, back into the dark, embracing arms of the government, welcoming them into a comfortable life of true sanity, where the only things that matter are the Party and Big Brother…

Although the society of 1984 sounds too scary to be true, our community today bears some striking similarities. The government is slowly taking over our privacy; with surveillance cameras in unknown places and with the Internet being tracked constantly, we can no longer trust that our backs aren’t being watched. And when will the government stop, if it is willing to? The Fourth Amendment, our right to privacy, is already being invaded; will a time come when it is completely abolished? And what about the First Amendment, our right to free speech? Will a time come where the government will begin to reduce our language, our ability to think? Alter our history, our reality as we know it?

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1984 is a must-read for all those who loved Hunger GamesUnwound, or any science fiction book. It contains a strong political message cleverly woven in a dystopian novel, and scarily accurate predictions about our world’s future. Orwell wrote this book during the times of World War II, and shows us the bitter consequences of totalitarian government. Although democracy still stands in America, we can already begin to see the effects of a too-strong government. Orwell calls out to all of us, to remain strong and to persevere. We must keep fighting for what is right, for what is ours. We must not let the future fall into the wrong hands.

 

‘Salem’s Lot: The Fantastical Apocalypse of a Small Town

Quick review on an old favorite.

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Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot is sure to give you thrills and chills as you read. The name of the novel is based on the setting, a small, sleepy town in Maine called Jerusalem’s Lot, protagonist Ben Mears’s hometown.

Ben returns to Jerusalem’s Lot to get inspiration for his writing career– particularly, to get inspiration for the infamous, decrepit Marsten House, where he himself suffered a bad experience as a child. However, upon arriving, Ben discovers that, amazingly, the Marsten House has been purchased, by two furniture sellers: Richard Straker, whom the town meets, and Kurt Barlow, who is on an “extended buying trip.”

Things start to get troublesome when two young boys disappear. Ben Mears begins to investigate himself and finds that his town has been invaded by dark forces. In the end, the entire town is overtaken by the evil that has arrived.

This was the first Stephen King book I read– and the first horror book as well; I’ve always shied away from horror novels, afraid of their graphic and twisted content. I decided to give it a shot, though, and tried to pick a lighter-looking book off from the bookshelf to ease myself into the genre.

‘Salem’s Lot is not “light.” It is intense and complex, with a myriad of brilliant characters who are all interconnected, and, consequently, in the end, all kill one another off. King did an amazing job of making me flip the pages– I was always wondering who the next victim was, and when they would be killed.

However, it does not run too deep thematically– yes, there are horror themes, but mostly this is just a fun chiller for anyone to enjoy. If you’re looking to pick up a good scary story to enjoy on the road or at night with no one home, ‘Salem’s Lot is for you. Guaranteed to keep you on your feet, Stephen King’s 1975 horror novel is not one to miss out on.