And The Next Great Zombie Live Action Adaptation Should Be…

One of my early op/ed pieces for THIS IS INFAMOUS. Judging from the second paragraph, this 7-year-old piece was published in tandem with the release of the film version of WWZ…

 

The zombie craze is at an all-time high in popular culture.  Pinnacle in the public eye is the television adaptation of THE WALKING DEAD, an incredible ratings and critical success.  The comic book source material continues to sell out consistently at newsstands.

Hot on the heels of THE WALKING DEAD, the big-budget film adaptation of WWZ opens today.  It’s drawn a bit of pre-criticism from purist loyal to Max Brook’s phenomenal novel for its depiction of the zombies and derivations from the original narrative.  I believe it’s unwarranted, and fans of the novel will enjoy the movie for what it is, a blockbuster special effects film that shares a name with a beloved work of literature.  Now, I am writing this sight unseen of the finished product. I know the movie was plagued with issues from day one, which is never a good sign for any movie, but I am optimistic.

What I’m really wishing for is a fresh take on zombies in the motion picture and television mediums.  They’re becoming tedious as a whole, zombie films are. It’s time to up the ante and start seeking for tried and true adaptable material.  The comic book medium has been beaten to death for zombies, how can you top THE WALKING DEAD? ZOMBIELAND, though a successful motion picture for the genre; failed miserably as a television program, mostly due to poor production, acting, and writing.  I believe there is source material out there that has been lingering around for years and needs to, well, rise from the dead and take a bite out of the zombie market and make it infectious again.

THE RISING:  Brian Keene is the current anti-hero rock star of small group of horror and suspense fiction writers, the last of a breed of authors I still affectionately call splatterpunks.  The term denotes both the authors and the sub-genre of horror fiction they wrote. The books and short stories these writers pumped out pushed the envelope where horror fiction could go.  The tales could be rather violent, vulgar, sexually explicit and/or/all of the above. Surprisingly these stories also have a high moralistic theme, utilizing their graphic nature to grab you by the balls and force you to pay attention to their message.  Call them Aesop’s Fables with a punk rock attitude.  Brian’s peers are writers the like of Joe R. Lansdale, Craig Spector, Nancy A. Collins (when she’s not writing teen-pire books), Jack Ketchum and John Skipp.  Keene infuses the common, unadulterated person into his characterizations into his novels.  All while utilizing the spiritual and mythological folk tales of his rearing in Pennsylvania and West Virginia for the preternatural elements present in their plots.  This makes his narratives and the players that inhabit the worlds in them relatable on a level that could make Stephen King jealous.  

Brian’s first full-length novel and contribution to zombie fiction, the Bram Stoker Award-winning THE RISING, is by far the first novel Hollywood needs to adapt into a zombie film.  What separates THE RISING from other works of zombie fiction is the ferocity of its prose and straight up in your face violence that permeates the pages. Optioned in 2004, this property is lingering in motion-picture limbo. 

As a Father’s Day treat to paternal zombie fans everywhere, Mr. Keene recently re-released his classic novel, unabridged, including nearly 30,000 words not previously published.  Earlier editions were heavily edited. Father’s Day was apt, as the novel tells the story of Jim Thurmond, a man on a familiar quest to find his son. They are separated by a continent of zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic real estate.  He picks up the traditional cast of fellow survivors to assist him on his quest; and this about where it ceases to be a traditional zombie tale. Not only does our protagonist have your standard shambling corpse zombies to deal with, but we quickly learn the fauna can also become undead.  A flock of zombie crows is difficult to deal with, to say the least. The Hero’s Journey is well represented in the narrative, as Jim fights his way to Boston to find his son with the aid of a fellowship of companions. 

Oh, and did I mention that by the novel’s end the zombies have gained sentience through demonic possession?  What Hollywood needs is INTELLIGENT, SENTIENT ZOMBIES! They’ve already begun to condition us to it through films such as FIDO and WARM BODIES.  This is the logical next step to fairly bend the Romero mold and THE RISING is the perfect source material. Due to this plot device, for the first time in a zombie story that I know of, our zombies have motivation other than simply munching on human flesh.  A motivated bad guy fighting for a principle is a more effective antagonist. In this case, he, or it, is Ob, a demonic entity with righteous purpose in this hellish new world.

THE RISING has built-in franchise capabilities, as well.  The sequel, CITY OF THE DEAD answers the mysteries of THE RISING and further expands the mythology of its post-apocalyptic world.  Everything Hollywood wants in a single package.  

Brian also wrote the short-lived THE LAST ZOMBIE comic book, and since comic-book is one of Hollywood’s current favorite words.  With all these factors considered, Keene could very well become the motion picture industry’s new zombie darling and surpass Robert Kirkman.  I say it’s time to “Book him, Dano!”    

BOOK OF THE DEAD:  The foremost writers to front the initial splatterpunk “craze” of the late 80’s and early 90’s were John Skipp & Craig Spector, a writing duo hailing from Harrisburg, PA; not far from the Pennsylvania Dutch counties that helped produced Brian Keene’s vivid imagination.  The writing team has since separated, but the printed legacy that is their body of work lives on. An adaptation of their last novel together, ANIMALS, was made into a low budget movie that can be found online through various outlets.  John Skipp now writes with Cody Goodfellow, and though enjoyable, I find their material to lack the pizzazz and raw, written attitude of the Skipp & Spector days. Craig’s work, on the other hand, still maintains the same narrative style as the classic Skipp & Spector books, yet lacks that edge that I believe John Skipp added to their collaborations.  

Not to be confused with the ancient Egyptian tome The Book of the Dead, the 1989 horror anthology BOOK OF THE DEAD was Skipp & Spector’s first editorial effort.  Conceived as an anthology of short stories surrounding the events in George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, BOOK OF THE DEAD collects some of the most visceral and entertaining zombie stories ever written.  Featuring stories by, among others; Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, David J. Schow, and Richard Laymon, BOOK OF THE DEAD is considered to be among the first example of modern “zombie literature.” With this in mind, why hasn’t HBO or another cable network picked this up to make what would essentially become the greatest zombie anthology series we’ve ever seen on the tube? 

The jewel of the collection is David Schow’s Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy.  Wormboy is your typical survival nut, who teams up with a group born again Jesus freaks to wage war on opposite hills in a cemetery with the insane Right Reverend Jerry and his zombie Deacons.  Wormboy’s M60 is named Zombo. And it is “swell.” The story is not for the faint of heart as it breaches all conventions of moral ambiguity and goes right for the jugular with controversial topics and a gross-out twist ending for the ages. 

Sometimes you have to go old school and “reboot.”   Hollywood loves that word, it seems to be the magic term to drop in a pitch.  With this source material, we can re-imagine zombies in the public eye through the voices of a plethora of talented writers. BOOK OF THE DEAD clearly fills the criteria, with a trilogy of these collections coming out since, any smart cable network could pick up a huge ratings boost and give THE WALKING DEAD a run for its money with a multi-seasonal, zombie-themed, hour-long program.   

Zombies are nothing new to the creative minds of writers.  For years fantastic words breaching the subject of the mindless undead have graced bookshelves.  I believe it is time for the venerable tales that sit on the shelves of used book stores to reach a new audience, televised or theatrical.  They can breathe fresh life into a film genre, though still popular, that is becoming stagnant. How many times can we project what is fundamentally survival horror in a refreshing manner?  The framework for the zombie mythology that was laid by George Romero can only be twisted and bent so much until it is no longer a zombie movie at all.  

-30-

 

Good Boy

Finally, after a long road… the release of my debut novella, Good Boy, is upon us. Black Friday, 11/29/19, you can pre-order it. Tuesday 12/17/19 it hits bookshelves.

It’s my hope you all enjoy the story of a pack of Jack Russell Terriers and their animal friends as they endure to survive during a zombie apocalypse.

Good Boy is the first in a trilogy. I plan to release one a year over the next three. The next book is scheduled to be called GOOD GIRL.

This wouldn’t be a thing without the guidance of Lisa Vasquez at Stitched Smile Publications. To this woman, my mentor, I am grateful. I can’t forget Garrett Cook, either. He didn’t work on Good Boy, but he did work on me and how I write – so his influence is all over the words, too. Also, the artists involved with the project: Jeff Perdziak and Cayentano Valenzuela,  a pair of gentlemen who brought my story to visual life. And finally, my editors, Erin SweetAl-Mehairi and Donelle Pardee Whiting – thank you ladies for making sense of my words.

Game of Thrones And Elric: The Influence of Michael Moorcock on TV’s Most Popular Show

Why do I love George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones? From the first episode right through to the very end? From the first page of the first volume through to what Martin hasn’t completed yet? I’ll tell you why.
Part of it is why I loved how Game of Thrones closed on the screen. I understood it because I was familiar with the story beats. It’s been told before. To me, Game of Thrones, be it on the screen or the written page – will always be the story of the Young Kingdoms from their point of view.
Who the fuck are the Young Kingdoms, you ask? The young kingdoms were the kingdoms of Man, rising through the ages as our world evolved. They soon overtook the old world of magic and sorcery and elementals, making the earth their own. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? No, it’s not the back story of Game of Thrones, a Song of Ice and Fire. It’s the setting of veteran author Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels. The similarities to Michael Moorcock’s fantasy world, best known for Elric of Melnibone and the soul-eating sword Stormbringer, and Westeros are many.
And what’s wonderful is Game of Thrones is the complete antithesis to all things Tolkein and seems to subscribe to Moorcock’s theory of #EpicPooh. It’s almost as if Martin’s been writing this as an answer to Epic Pooh theory all along. According to the theory, stories like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are flawed. They’re no more than fundamental Winnie the Pooh stories, wherein standard archetypes go on an adventure in the 100 Acre Wood with no real danger. They don’t take into account the real world ramifications of the wars being fought around their stories. There is death in the real world – and it has an effect on people. Subscribers to the theory are pretty grim in their narratives. Moorcock’s stories were nihilistic, designed as the alternative to Conan or The Hobbit. He was killing everybody long before Tarantino or Martin, for the sake of the matter.
Sounds like Game of Thrones, no?
Jon Snow is a hero not unlike Elric. His Dire Wolf, Ghost (a “White Wolf,” Elric’s moniker – he was an albino and feared in battle.). His sword, Longclaw, although not the cosmic entity that Elric’s Stormbringer was, is still a memorable weapon in canon. Jon was a reluctant prince, the last of his lineage, to a throne who fell in love with his aunt (Daenerys)… Elric was in love with his cousin, Cymorril. Most everyone who is a companion of Jon Snow’s ends up dead. It’s the same with Elric, except for the redheaded Moonglum. And Jon has Tormund, who seems to come out of things alive? Oh – and did I mention, Elric accidentally on purpose killed the cousin he was in love with? Didn’t Jon Snow kill Daeny?
There are similarities between the actual Elric character and the Night King, as well – in appearance and magical powers (Elric was a wizard who controlled the elements and demons).
The Targarians… they are not unlike the Melniboneans, insane, fair featured, inbred, magical in some aspect and oh… who can forget their dragons? And they ruled the world for eons. Yeah, they’re evil to the core and only care about power.
The Three-Eyed Raven who travels through time… and brings to mind the multiverse that is Moorcock’s playground. This makes Brandon Stark an eternal champion… and keeper of the balance.
A diligent eye can find many more similarities between the two. Yeah. Game of Thrones was/is Moorcock for the masses. And I thank George RR Martin for making it consumable for the mainstream. Call it what you want. A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones. Or even the history of the Young Kingdoms… I love it for the same reason we love Dune… and Star Wars. Another example of how one popular franchise was inspired by a previously popular franchise, but a bit Epic Pooh, if that’s your take.

A Book Of Light And Shadow

 

I’ve been writing and creating since I can remember. My Mom started teaching me how to read and write at about three years old and I didn’t waste any time applying what I learned. It was sometime around second grade when I read Edgar Rice Burrough’s Back to the Stone Age, and all I wanted to do was tell stories. My “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Goosebumps” was called “More Science Fiction Tales” and the attached volumes. School book drives allowed me access to the classics I knew from Monster Movie Matinee, Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. The made for TV horror of the 70s, from Trilogy of Terror and that goddamned Zuni doll to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark’s fairies. Heavy viewings of every Godzilla and King Kong movie, the OG Planet of the Apes franchise and, eventually, Star Wars… all of it molded my imagination and influenced me.

Teenage Tom found Terry Brooks, Frederick Pohl, Richard Matheson, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Michael Moorcock, the magic of Richard Adams and John Carpenter. Each of these people made impressions upon me like none other, further molding how I told the stories I was developing in my mind. Dungeons and Dragons gave me a further outlet for story telling. This carried on into adult Tom and led to his true love, the extremes of horror. Nancy A. Collins, Skipp & Spector, Joe Lansdale, and Brian Keene. Oh, and the beauty of Cormac McCarthy. Through these people I learned there are no barriers. Nothing is taboo. And all of it can – and does – blend together.

And now it gets real. Friday, I share a bunch of my fucked up stories with the world in “A Book of Light And Shadow.” A goal I set nearly 5 and a half years ago has been met. It’s funny how my writing career was launched by my ability to talk. Radio, and in turn podcasting, has opened so many doors for me,. Considering I started upon my writing path as a teenager… to say it’s been a long, strange trip is an understatement. None of it was easy. I wrote 300,000 words for This Is Infamous over two years, allowing me to establish my voice as a writer. I learn more every day. I firmly believe you can never learn enough. I’m a gamer, and why do we play games? To learn. Workshops, mentoring… I suck it all in and apply it.

And the end result is this. A Book Of Light And Shadow. I wanted to release it in May. Back then, the title was Unplugged: Live From R’Lyeh & Tanelorn. I had designed a cover for it, using old friend Patrick Fitzgerald’s drawing of my hero, Ami Nightswan (thus Pat’s credit in the book as an illustrator). None of it sat well with me. So I held off.

What is special about these stories? Why have I included them? Well, some are a great example of things to come from me. Other pieces were previously published, and I’ve touched them up some for this release. Regardless of the why, each story is a chronicle of my progress as a writer. Some were first written, at least in part, over 30 years ago, while I was still in high school. The stories within are genre bending, much like the novels I read growing up. It’s a diverse lot, covering science fiction, horror and fantasy. Much of it blurs together, mashing up the genres. New readers to my fiction need this disclaimer: Don’t expect happy endings. And the whole cat thing… well… yeah (Thanks, Church!).

I hope you enjoy the stories. I know I enjoyed telling them, crafting them. There shall be more to come, coming sooner than you think…

You can pre-order the Kindle version A Book Of Light And Shadow here, or get yourself a paperback copy from me or on Amazon, and it’s available on Prime now.

Anti-Heroes Never Disappoint You

The adage says never meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint you. I guess I’m safe. The only hero I ever had was New York Yankee catcher Thurman Munson.

The Captain died when I was a ripe old age of 11, 40 years ago last month, to be precise. The small engine plane he flew crashed, and my hero was gone, taken from my during a my formative years. I got to see him play live, once, it had been earlier that year. He didn’t exactly play the game, he was nursing an injury preventing him from performing his usual role as catcher. But he did come on as a DH, and nailed a walk off home run for the Yanks only score in a losing effort against the Chicago White Sox.

Since this time, I’ve had Anti-Heroes.

Anti-Heroes aren’t far off from heroes. Much like my departed hero, my Anti-Heroes are blessed with extraordinary skills, regardless of their origin. Anti-Heroes can’t disappoint you. They’re either fictionalized entities or normal peeps, and the irony is the latter often gives birth to the former. As a result, because normal peeps are fallible, both are inherently flawed.

Some of my early Anti-Heroes are obvious figures from fiction…

Conan. Snake Plissken. George Taylor. Robert Neville. Hazel. Elric. Hawkeye. Tarzan. John Carter. Starbuck & Apollo. Han Solo. Moon Knight. Supergirl. Carl Kolchak. The Man With No Name…

And some are real people, living and dead…

Musicians…

Ozzy. Dio. Bruce Dickenson & Steve Harris, fuck it – all of Iron Maiden. Ritchie Blackmore. Zakk fucking Wylde. Gary Moore. The Bard: Phil Lynott. Godamn KISS. Shawn Morgan. Johnny Reznik…

Filmmakers…

John fucking Carpenter. James Cameron. Kathryn Bigelow. Quentin Tarantino. Neil Marshal. Adam Wingard.

Wrestlers…

Roddy Piper. Jake Roberts. HHH. Buzz Sawyer. Paul Ellering. Bobby Heenan. Paul Heyman.

Actors…

Michael Biehn. Lee Van Cleef. Kurt Russell. Daniel Day-Lewis.

Actresses…

Fay Wray. Nicole Kidman. Sigourney Weaver.

Writers…

Richard Matheson. John Skipp & Craig Spector. Stephen King. Brian fucking Keene. Nancy A. Collins. Robert E. Howard. L Sprague De Camp. Cormac McCarthy. Frederick Pohl. Richard Adams. William Gibson.

Anti-Heroes can never disappoint you. They’re only human. They only do as a much as humans can do.

The weekend of my birthday in 2005, I had an opportunity to talk to one of these Anti-Heroes: Zakk fucking Wylde. I took that time to express to him not my adoration, but to tell him how much my wife, who typically isn’t a fan of his music, loved a particular song he wrote (In This River.). He appreciated our time – because it wasn’t what he expected. The mother fucker gave me a bear hug. The song has gone on to be his eulogy to Darrell Abbot. When my father in law passed in 2013, I hired Joe Altier to record the song as a special Christmas gift for my wife. It had become her song to identify with her Dad. Zakk Wylde is an amazing musician, but he’s a fucking human.

Last year was a bucket list of Anti-Heroes. I was able to pick the minds of both John Skipp & Craig Spector, and express to them how I always wrote, but I didn’t learn how to write until I read their material. For those not in the “know,” the former rock stars of Splatterpunk horror aren’t on amicable speaking terms. Skipp thought Craig was in the room with us and the look of anxiety over it I saw in his eyes told me he was terrified of seeing his former writing partner. It’s very much on a John Fogherty vs. CCR level. BUT – Craig is battling prostate cancer, the same disease that took my father from me on Superbowl Sunday, 2017. As a result, the empathy I have for Craig is immeasurable.  So, yeah… without a doubt, Skipp & Spector are fucking human.

Later, I got to spend 10 minutes alone with another of my Anti-Heroes, Brian fucking Keene. The talk was rather casual, and when asked for advice on how to apply my work ethic, he reminded me of his blue collar roots, and how he applied that in his approach to writing. He also revealed to me that he, too, suffers from ADHD, a demon I’ve battled since I was a child. He’s fucking Brian Keene. But he’s fucking human. And when he had the fire and burn scare earlier this year… it only reinforced this notion with me.

If you place your heroes, idols, inspirations or muses on too high a pedestal, it’s a set up for failure. You imprint yourself with hubris. It blinds you to the simple fact, these people… they’re only human. They’ll always disappoint you if you look for it, and when you suffer from hubris, it becomes a delusional poison.

Here’s to the Anti-Heroes. Long may they live, flaws and all, to show us…

We’re only human.

Ghost Prequelle: A Rainbow Rising

Ring-a-ring o’ rosies,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down…

Prequelle, Ghost’s latest opus, is a Baroquian masterpiece ripe with enough medieval imagery and hooks to make Ritchie Blackmore jealous. The band’s fourth full length release is, without a doubt, their Rainbow album, and it achieves this feat by summarizing the aforementioned guitar maestro’s body of work into 10 songs. It is a work of aural art, and as any good art should be, it is polarizing. Their fan base, as well as the rock and metal community, are divided on how they feel about Prequelle’s grandiose blend of metal, rock, pop and your local Renaissance Fair. It’s nothing they’ve ever heard before. Or have they?

Outside of the metal community, nobody really knew of Ghost, even when they had won the Grammy for their album Meliora in 2015. Formed in 2006, band leader and lead vocalist Tobias Forge, along with a group of Nameless Ghouls, started on a journey that led them from blending the black metal imagery of King Diamond with a bastardized Catholic mass to what we see today; the world’s premiere theatrical hard rock band. It wasn’t until their second E.P., Popestar and the hit single Square Hammer and a gig opening for Iron Maiden on their latest worldwide tour, that the public began to take notice of the Swedish band. With success also came the lawsuits and controversy, over what and who Ghost was, started. You can google that and form your own opinion. I will say this, the lawsuit may have actually helped Ghost’s cause. Removing the demonic pope characters of Papa Emeritus and replacing them with a Christopher Plummer mask and a new player, Cardinal Copia, may very well have been the last hurdle this band needed to overcome on their path to the top of the charts.

I was introduced the to band through their first E.P., If You Have Ghost, and their cover of Erickson’s If You Have Ghosts. The influence of Dave Grohl, a producer on the E.P., is strong. The Foo Fighters front man plays guitar on their popular cover of Erickson’s classic song about haunted pasts, as well as drums on two of the other tracks. Tobais Forge is a wise student, absorbing everything he observes. He learned from Grohl, of that I have no doubt, and he’s applied every last bit of it since. Forge is much like Grohl, much like Blackmore, in that he is a musical genius seeking to create a specific vision.

Prequelle is anthemic and epic, if it is nothing at all. Set during the time of the Black Death, it tells a loose story about love and death during a time when half the world’s population died. Laden with pop hooks that would make Lady Gaga and her song writing team proud, Prequelle is on par with other classics throughout the decades. Sgt. Pepper’s lonely Hearts Club Band, Machine Head, Rumors, Destroyer, Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind and Metallica’s Black album are its peers. It’s the album Blue Oyster Cult always wanted to make, but never did.

Songs such as Dance Macabre and Rats force you to move your hips while they play, channeling KISS’s underrated disco album, Dynasty, if George Lynch and Dokken had played it. He takes a page from John Carpenter with Miasma, a wave synth 80s soundtrack homage ripped straight out of the director’s Prince of Darkness. Ghost openers Zombi no doubt influenced this track, except for the left field saxophone a the song’s epoch, which neatly brings us back to the 80s. The albums other instrumentals are straight out of Ritchie Blackmore’s playbook. The introductory track, Ashes, and the album’s penultimate track, a window into a Hellish cathedral, Helvetesfönster remind one of Rainbow’s Greensleeves adaptation and his current work with Blackmore’s Night. Whereas Blackmore chooses the stringed approach, Forge has gone the route of major chords on an organ and harpsichord. The album’s ballads are its heart. See the Light, Pro Memoria and Life Eternal all lament love through death, reminding you not to forget your mortality. The heaviest song would be Faith, and perhaps the song that will be most overlooked is one of my other favorites, Witch Image. The latter hearkens back to great deep cuts like S.A.T.O. or Little Dolls from Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman.

Prequelle is an album about death, and life and change and rebirth. It is the album Ghost needed to make, the album Tobias Forge needed to make. It is a masterpiece rising from a perfect storm of controversy and growth in an artist. Ghost now stands aside the likes of Deep Purple, Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac. Inspired and beautiful to behold, Prequelle stands out as our first masterpiece album of the 21st century.

A Quiet Place, Jim and the Smell of Home

John Krasinski’s third directorial outing and first genre film, A QUIET PLACE, has taken America by storm. The survival horror film, focusing on a family living in fear of someTHING in a post apocalyptic Adirondack mountains setting, has been able to suspend disbelief with Middle Americans. Making over $50 million in its opening weekend, it becomes the first original horror movie to reach this summit and continues the trend of well made horror films dominating the screen. I’ve seen the film twice since it opened last Thursday. My second viewing was on a Tuesday evening. Each time the theater was packed. And silent. You could hear every bag crinkle, cough and sniffle for 90 minutes.

This seems to be the most common statement a person makes after seeing A QUIET PLACE, now being heralded as the movie that made Millennials shut up in the theater. But there’s much more to this film than this superficial indicator. The film’s story is simple, which allows for basic understanding by the masses inhabiting Middle America. As is the case in most horror films, we establish the rules early on. Much like last year’s IT, the first incident our family encounters lays the foundation that all bets are off and nobody is safe. Unlike IT, which is a well made and entertaining movie but is missing something (like a second half?), A QUIET PLACE pays off in spades.

Like any good horror story there are rules. In this case, they are a titular establishment. A QUIET PLACE indicates sound will be an element and play a key role in the story and it’s the story that propels this film. Screen writers Bryan Wood and Scott Beck, with a little help from Krasinski, keep it simple and stupid. They don’t waste a moment of screen time, either. Each and every thing that happens on screen is for a reason. Some of it is blatant foreshadowing, some is little moments of character development. No matter what a scene establishes, all of it moves the narrative along at a brisk pace. The trailers for A QUIET PLACE are misleading. This is not a slow burn.

There’s also the “Jim Factor.” John Krasinski’s long time role on TV’s THE OFFICE has made him a darling among the Amy Schumer-something female demographic. He’s everyone’s favorite guy. No attempt to hide Jim works for Krasinski. He’s like an action figure. Give him a beard, he’s still Jim with a beard. Stick him in a war movie (13 HOURS), he’s still Jim, with a gun. Make him angry on screen, he’s still Jim, being angry. In this movie, we get to see Jim as a loving Dad and husband at the end of the world. The natural chemistry he has with his wife, Emily Blunt, on screen also contributes to this movie’s success. She’s no Pam, thank God. Quite honestly, everyone hates Pam for dicking Jim around for the better part of a decade. The young actors playing their children are also outstanding. The entire cast contributes to making this believable.

For me it was more than a sense of familiarity with Jim. It was a feeling of home. I’d like to welcome the rest of America to upstate New York. I’ve called it my home most of the past 50 years. There have been a few times I’ve left for extended periods of time, all of them paid for by Uncle Sam and the United States Army. Missouri, Indiana and Arkansas were nice, but they weren’t New York. They smelled different. The flora and fauna was different. Even the weather. As a teenage in boot camp in Missouri I witnessed my first storm coming across the plains. It resembled a demonic gateway to another dimension, floating in space in the distance, lightning erupting from its black, clouded heart. Of course it wasn’t a rift in time and space, it was an illusion created by the horizon. Locals assumed I’d never seen such a spectacle before because I came from the big city of New York. That wasn’t the case. Where I grew up had mountains. Up until this point in my life, I’d never seen a horizon except on water.

There’s something about upstate New York. It’s rolling hills, its corn fields and cow pastures. We’re blessed with two mountain ranges. Our mountains aren’t your traditional mountains. They’re lower peaked than the high, snow-covered points of the Rocky’s, more like hills in the grand scheme of things. The southern tier’s Catskills are a spur of the range that includes the Poconos of Pennsylvania and the Berkshires of Massachusetts. The Castkills are one of the most commercialized mountain ranges in the country and densely populated to the point where they are nearly a suburb of New York City. Further north, our claim to fame becomes the world famous Adirondack range. Where as most mountains are formed when two plates crash together, the ADKs (as we call them) were formed when a massive glacier ground down a massive volcanic dome over a few million years. As a result, beach sand is as prolific in the Adirondacks as clay earth is in the foothills close to the mountains.

Nestled in the heart of the river valleys surrounding the Adirondacks lies the small town of Little Falls, NY, where much of A QUIET PLACE was filmed. Like most small towns in New York, it’s felt the economic crunch most of New York has been under the past few decades. Many businesses have closed over the years as people have made a mass exodus from the harsh winters and humid summers, leaving brown fields scattered about the terrain. These temperature extremes bring about distinct scents, many of which change with the seasons. Spring, for example, smells of mud and pollen. Summers are a cornucopia of aromas. Rust and mildew mixed with mowed grass, corn and cow shit. Fall brings the distinct scent of dead leaves. By winter, the combined odors of vehicle exhaust and salt are so thick you can taste them.

I made a similar comparison to Ted Geohagen’s WE ARE STILL HERE three years ago, filmed in Palmyra, NY. Geohagen’s follow up, MOHAWK, was similarly filmed in Highland forest near the towns of Tully and Fabius, NY – no more than a twenty minute drive from my house. POTTERSVILLE, last year’s Netflix Bigfoot comedy featuring Michael Shannon, was filmed in Hamilton, NY. Now, with A QUIET PLACE, the rest of America is finally seeing how beautiful upstate New York is.

Much like the under appreciated BOOK OF ELI, a movie that utilized sound as a factor in its story, A QUIET PLACE is a unique film you should enjoy in a theatrical setting, wherein a complete sensory experience awaits you. You’ll smell and taste this film as much as you see it and hear it. When a good movie is made, the public will follow, and man have they followed this movie. After the award winning success of genre films GET OUT and THE SHAPE OF WATER, A QUIET PLACE stands firmly on my short list of Oscar contenders for 2019.