ALIENS versus PADDINGTON

Forgive the clickbait title of this post, there is a serious point to this. I regularly recommend films here, but today’s recommendation is completely out of character and I wanted to give you some context. I saw PADDINGTON 2 this weekend just gone, and it was quite simply one of the best films I’ve seen. I laughed a lot, I cried a bit, and I loved it completely.

I’d read a review before seeing the film which said “Following a year of big-budget disappointments, this sequel is an hour and forty minutes of absolute joy.” That’s played on my mind since we left the cinema, and I decided to devote a little time to trying to work out why some sequels work whilst many others don’t. Looking back through other movies I’ve watched this year, one particular film stood out as an obvious counterpoint to PADDINGTON 2’s success, and that’s ALIEN: COVENANT. Yes, these are diametrically opposite movies intended for wholly different audiences, but they’re both sequels and therefore have certain things in common. Bear with me and I’ll explain (pun absolutely not intended – I may be a hack at times, but I’m not that bad).

In the interests of full disclosure, I have a real affection for PADDINGTON. I grew up watching and reading about the furry little bugger, and my wife and I made sure to indoctrinate our daughters in the cult of the little bear from darkest Peru before they were old enough to protest. My wife’s far, far worse than me, by the way. She has it really bad. She has a Paddington tattoo (honest).

Also in the interests of full disclosure, I love the ALIEN movies and will watch every single one that’s made, no matter what. The first and second (and third, to a lesser extent) films are ground-breaking in many ways. Ridley Scott’s original 1979 film in particular is incredibly influential and had a huge impact on me back in the day. It’s a masterclass in creeping, claustrophobic terror and features a creature which, to my mind, remains one of the ultimate movie monsters.

Sequels are funny things. ALIENS, for example, is often cited along with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and TERMINATOR 2 as a prime example of how to do it right, but for every good sequel there are many, many more inferior follow-up films. So why am I so enthusiastic about PADDINGTON 2 but was underwhelmed by COVENANT?

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One Of Us Will Be Dead By Morning – read the opening chapter

“She gasps for breath, her mind in overload, struggling to work out what, who, how, and why? and at the same time trying to cope with the most horrific pain imaginable. It fills her whole body, hurting so much it steals her breath from her lungs. Her arms give way and she hits the deck and rolls over onto her back, looking up into the rain and spray. She’s numb and slow to move, and the chain lashes down again and again. She instinctively raises her hands to protect her face, but it does her no good. Busted fingers, split skin, broken teeth, more blood, and so much more pain that it almost stops hurting.”

Less than a month now until the new HATER novel – ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING – hits the shelves. You can read the gruesome, tone-setting first chapter right here.

In the meantime, don’t forget that signed copies are exclusively available to pre-order from this link. They’ll be shipping shortly, so please get your orders in quick.

A starred review from BOOKLIST for ONE OF US…

Not long now until ONE OF US WILL BE DEAD BY MORNING hits the shelves, and the novel has received a starred review from BOOKLIST. “Moody really knows how to write creeping, claustrophobic terror, effectively sneaking up on his readers and, finally, scaring the life out of them. Top-drawer horror.” Very happy with that!

Pre-order your signed copy today.

The book is released in hardcover by Thomas Dunne Books on 5 December, and pre-orders will be shipped by that date (if not a little before). You can also order the book from AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book DepositoryIndiebound and all other good bookstores. Ebooks are also available, and an audio version is coming soon.

THE RITUAL

I first met ADAM NEVILL in 2011, shortly after our mutual US publisher asked me to write a cover quote for THE RITUAL. If you look at my post about the book, you’ll see that he and I were born a year apart in the same city, but it took the involvement of St Martin’s Press in New York for our paths to cross. I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few horror conventions with Adam recently (next up – The Birmingham Horror Con Halloween Special next weekend) and it’s been great to catch up again and compare experiences. Adam recently moved into independent publishing, and I wholeheartedly recommend his two recent short story collections.

The film adaptation of THE RITUAL opened in the UK last weekend, and knowing the book well and having had opportunity to discuss the production of the film with Adam (and the frustrations of film-making for authors – which we talked about on a panel in Liverpool recently – photo below courtesy of Dan Burgess Photography) I was keen to watch it. It didn’t disappoint.

Here’s the blurb and the trailer. Click the link below for my thoughts.

Four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions rise as they struggle to connect. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut that turns their hike into a nightmare that could cost them their lives.

Lost, hungry and surrounded by forest untouched for millennia, they stumble across an isolated old house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of old rites and pagan sacrifices; ancient artefacts and unidentifiable bones. A place of dark ritual and home to a bestial presence that is still present in the ancient forest, and now they’re the prey.

As the four friends struggle toward salvation they discover that death doesn’t come easy among these ancient trees…

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Recommended Reading – THE DARKEST HAND trilogy

I recently had the pleasure of reading TARN RICHARDSON’S THE DARKEST HAND trilogy. The final book in the series – THE RISEN – was released earlier this year. This is an excellent series of books which deserves to find a wide audience. Set in Europe in an alternative twentieth century against the backdrop of World War I, it’s the story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit. Tacit is sent by the Catholic Inquisition to investigate the murder of a priest in France, and finds himself neck deep in a battle between demons, werewolves, and heretics to prevent the world spiralling into oblivion. Don’t get the impression that Tacit is a quiet little fellow in robes wandering around Europe dispensing words of wisdom to placate the opposing sides – he’s anything but. He’s a battle-damaged, emotionally scarred, vicious, ruthless bastard, and one of the most entertaining protagonists I’ve read about in a long, long time.

I had a blast with these books, and I’d like to encourage you to do the same. Here’s the spiel for book one, THE DAMNED:

1914 – the outbreak of war. In the French city of Arras, a priest is brutally murdered. The Catholic Inquisition—still powerful, but now working in the shadows—sends its most determined and unhinged of Inquisitors, Poldek Tacit, to investigate: his mission to protect the Church from those who would seek to undermine it, no matter what the cost.

Yet as Tacit arrives, armed forces led by Britain and Germany confront each other across No Man’s Land. As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful and spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British soldier Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields that answers to no human force and wreaks havoc by the light of the moon.

Faced with impossible odds and his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil, and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims, to reach the heart of a dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it ever deeper into conflict.

This is the perfect time to pick up THE DAMNED and work your way through the trilogy. The first book is the next novel to be featured on the excellent IN THE SHEETS podcast, hosted by Brendan Cooney. Head over to the site and join the discussion. And while you’re there, there’s still time to take part in the HATER re-read. I’ll be joining Brendan later this month to talk about HATER and answer questions about the novel, the rest of the series and the film adaptation etc.

THE DARKEST HAND trilogy – THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN and THE RISEN – is available now. Find out more about Tarn at his website. You can also pick up THE HUNTED, a free ebook prequel, and dive into Richardson’s bloody and brutal world. Highly recommended!