Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

tenTitle: Ten
Series: Standalone
Author: Gretchen McNeil
Genre: Thriller
Source:  Public Library
Published:  2012
Format: Hardcover
Buy Links: AMZ/BN/TBD

B&N Blurb: From Possess author Gretchen McNeil comes this teen horror novel inspired by Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Perfect for fans of Christopher Pike’s Chain Letter and Lois Duncan’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, Ten will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page!

It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—an exclusive house party on Henry Island. Best friends Meg and Minnie are looking forward to two days of boys, booze, and fun-filled luxury. But what starts out as fun turns twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine. And things only get worse from there.

With a storm raging outside, the teens are cut off from the outside world . . . so when a mysterious killer begins picking them off one by one, there’s no escape. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on one another, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

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Case File: Slasher Films/Valentine / Crossbow/ Minority Characters
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Ten was exactly what I expected from a novel that reminded me of all the slasher films that I have ever watched. People die one by one as one character struggles to understand their connection to each other and why they were chosen, it’s a murder-mystery party. Nothing new. That being said, it was a quick and enjoyable read.

I was very impressed the killer knew how to use a crossbow because besides Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead  and the Argent family from Teen Wolf, it’s rare for the crossbow to be use as weapon even though it is a weapon. Props to McNeil for that and for making the love interest of Meg Pritchett, be a black teenager boy, T.J Fletcher. The cast of Ten was diverse, there were three Asian girls, one black teenager, and possibly everyone else was white which is better than most slasher films where they have one minority represented in the cast. McNeil was self-aware of the genre and the tropes that are embedded in it so she twisted some of them like the love interest and calling out the genre for always having the minority character die first or just never surviving to the end of the film (which is also a problem in horror films but some have challenged it like A House on Haunted Hill, fantastic movie, watch it). The characters are still identifiable by the stereotypical role they play such as Meg being the shy virgin,  Minnie being the bitch or the whore, Nathan as the douchebag of the group, etc. McNeil changes some aspects of the genre but it is still recognizable as a thriller/horror novel.

The plot of the novel is just figuring out the mystery as the characters die one by one. Besides the survivors, half of the cast is unlikable starting with Minnie and the other half is one dimensional (like Lori who was a singer) that they don’t matter.  It’s a simple novel and the mystery in unraveled through a series of diary entries, there is a couple of red herrings but when the killer is revealed, it’s an “oh”, a small “o” moment.   Even the reason why they were selected for the island is not shocking, it’s just that some of them were shitty individuals like Nathan who needed to someone to kick his ass and the other half were oblivious to the effects of their actions. For the killer, it was about revenge for betrayals committed. I’m not saying they deserved to be on the island but they needed to re-evaluate their lives  but it is also high school, were people do shitty things in general because life after high school tends to be a foreign concept. Like the naivety of Meg in thinking that her relationship with Minnie will survive college  (most relationship don’t or maybe it was just mine that didn’t survive). It’s barely surviving high school and Minnie’s bipolar disorder which plays a very strong role in their relationship because the disorder dominates both of them .

Ten is inspired by And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. The original novel has a nursery rhyme which is replaced with the diary entries which is interesting because the deaths are more tailored to each individual and befitting of they crime committed.

Ten, as a book, is a fast-paced read that acts like a literary slasher film meaning that it will blend in with other murder-mystery parties. It will stand out for having a minority as a love interest but it is just an all right novel. It’s not a bad novel, it’s just… go in expecting a slasher film in writing and it’s a pretty good novel. I’m actually looking forward to reading Possess because Ten drops some interesting horror elements and the suspense was well-written. I want to see what McNeil can do when she focuses on demons.

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3.5 Hearts-Decent

3.5 Hearts-Decent

Film Review: Antiviral (2012)

antiviralTitle: Antiviral
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring:  Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon
Year: 2012
Source: On Netflix
Purchase: AMZ/BN

Blurb from IMDB: After becoming infected with the virus that killed superstar Hannah Geist, Syd March must unravel the mystery surrounding her death to save his own life.

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Case File: Body Horror/Intense Close-Ups/  Needle Shots/ Corporate Espionage/Videodrome
Rating: Buy It

Antiviral is a film that should have had a tighter storyline  in order to be bloody fantastic but even without it, it is still a fascinating movie. Surprisingly, it was hard to find a blurb for the movie because Amazon describes the movie as a “sexy thriller” (that’s inaccurate) and B&N’s blurb gives away too much (ironic that I didn’t pick that one when this is a review).

In the not-too distance future, “Celebrities are not people but mass hallucinations” meaning that people are so obsessed with celebrities that they want to catch their diseases. Syd March is  part of the Lucas Clinic that helps people acquire their favorite celebrities’ diseases. The problem arises when celebrities sell their diseases as exclusive lines to one corporation and not the other clinic, Vole & Tesser. It creates competition between them that leads to the thriller aspect of the film, especially in the end.  Syd March steps right into the middle of this corporate espionage battle and then sickness happens, with lots of blood.

Caleb Landry Jones as a sickly Syd March is fantastic. The way he moves and stands reflect the on-going debilitation that he is suffering from the virus as he increasingly becomes sicker. He cannot get any paler than he already is to portray the sickness but his poses and the way he carries his neck show how weak he is. Sarah Gadon as Hanna Geist is unrealistically beautiful, she sells the idea of celebrities are not people because she doe not look like a normal person. Besides Tesser, Hannah might be the only beautiful person in the film because everyone looks decent or average but Hannah is perfectly done with her makeup, her red lips are impeccable and even when they are not, they still add to her attraction. Her beauty marks her as different. Her difference was portrayed through sterile environment, she is constantly contrasted against stark whiteness that emphasize her body and her lips (at times, it felt like watching Sleeping Beauty). The relationship between Hannah and Syd is clearly one of a fan who doesn’t think that Hannah is a real person and it is seen through the interactions where Syd focuses more on her blood than on her as a person.

I like the cinematography of the film.  There are very intense close-ups of needles (fair warning), of body movement like the throat moving up and down, of the mouth, really well done shots that emphasize micro-movements. A couple of body horror shots like metal pipes coming out of March’s body and a bleeding cover of his mouth, it’s disturbing. A fascination with blood and the color red. There was a great throwback to Videodrome with the women inside the television set reference but it was different in that Nicki Brand from Videodrome seem to be more in control of her image on the television set where Hannah Geist was begging for release.

I do have a plot problem with the film and that is Geist’s goon leaving March unprotected which is why he is captured by Vole & Tesser where he is visually violated. March is carrying the same virus that Geist carries and virus are a commodity in this world, therefore, March is a very valuable commodity. He is a pearl necklace left unattended, someone is bound to steal him. What is the logic in leaving him alone or not providing assistance to him (other than providing a spare part for his machine)? There is none. It could have been easily fixed by having a cliché bad guy fight in his apartment which results in his kidnapping. That would have made the story more plausible.  It’s the major problem that I have with the film (as well as no representation of minorities in the film).

Antiviral has a fascinating concept that could have been explored in different ways, there is the corporate espionage, celebrities as objects, the public’s obsession with consuming celebrities (literally), biotechnology, all of which was explored in some ways but not in depth.   It was a good film but it could have taken things further (in my opinion), especially the whole concept of the afterlife but that might require a different film. Occasionally, the film has down movements that are boring but the concept is interesting enough that they didn’t bother me.

Randomly, I hate the DVD cover. It provides a different narrative than the film provides. It just screams to me that Syd March is a psychopath who captures celebrities whereas the bloody lips poster that is on Wikipedia, that is what the film is about, bodies and blood.

Buy