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Goodbye (The Last Letter)

Dear Saul (and readers),

After a year and a half, more than a hundred followers, and thousands of views, we’ve reached the end of our journey. It’s been a long one. I first set this place up as a kind of letter page to Saul, the imaginary muse I used to help me write. So much has happened. An entire month dedicated to blogging, a series on horror. I’ve overcome problems, earned awards, honours, and I’ve made a whole lotta friends.

But, after a year, I believe we’ve run our course.

A year changes people. You lose friends, you gain others, but there’s one thing that always remains certain: It is never the end. You learn, you change, but there’s always something new to be had. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters.

And believe me, we’ve only just hit the road.

Best Wishes, Saul,

-Fiachra

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The Holidays/Anniversary

Dear Saul,

Welp, it’s that time of year again, and my God has this year gone by quickly. Somehow though, I’ve managed to pack so much into this year, it doesn’t seem at all possible. I’ve been a part of a short film, I’ve been awarded the President’s award, and I’ve started writing one of my first ever novels, and continue to write it to this day.

But I suppose there’s another thing to be celebrating, apart from the birth of this kind of cute kid about 2000 years ago. You and I Saul have been doing this blogging shmuck for a whole year! One year, more than 100 followers, and 2000 views have given me pause to consider renaming “Christmas” to “Saulday” in celebration, but believe me, I couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of others. My amazingly talented blogger friends, Charlie and Evelyn, my amazingly talented filmmaker friends Oisin and Colm, and my amazingly talented not all that sane-in-the-head friends Francis, Anthony and Casey, not to mention Tara, Sorcha, Becky, Declan, Cian, Aaron, and the swathes of amazing people I am honoured to call my friends, practically my family . All of them have made this year one of the best so far.

A special thanks to Catherine-Ann, without whom I probably would have given up writing altogether. (You’re seriously one of the most amazing people I know, and I’m lucky to have someone like you around. Merry Christmas!)

Thank you too Saul. Without an imaginary muse like you, most of my stories would have fallen flat on their face!

Finally, thank you to YOU. Yes, YOU, reading this. I don’t care if you’ve been with me from the start, or just found this post by accident. The fact that you care enough to bother reading this is present enough for me, and I can’t thank you enough for everything ye have done.

Happy holidays Saul. Here’s to another amazing year.

Best Wishes,

-Fiachra

Hey guys. In celebration of nearly reaching 2000 views and 100 followers, I have something for you. the (Pre-first draft, I guess) chapter of a new book I’m working on: “Undesirables” , a superhero story told from the perspective of the villains. I’m enjoying writing it a lot, and I hope you guys will let me know what you think of it. Enjoy.

Note: No need to point out typos or mistakes, I probably know about them by now.Plus, WordPress has messed up paragraphs a little, so there may be spaces where there shouldn’t be at times 😉

-1-

Risking a glance behind him as he burst through the apartment block’s side door and tore down the alleyway, Beckett couldn’t see his pursuer. But he could hazard a guess that he was close behind.
This was monumentally bad. Weeks of preparation, reading through dossiers of his target, finding a location he was guaranteed to show up at, planning his hideout and escape routes, even pissing in empty jars so he didn’t have to pause his stakeouts and after nights of waiting, when he finally shows up, it all goes down the drain when he decides to turn around at the worst possible moment to see Beckett’s speckled eyes staring right at him through a pair of binoculars. From his vantage point in the third floor apartment overlooking the street, he’d thought he’d covered everything. But he realised, as he backed into one of his jars, that when it came to it he was just shit at spying at people.
That, or Snowfall had discovered psychic powers, and kept them a secret from him all this time. He missed nothing, it would seem.
He had hastily shaken his foot to get rid of any broken glass or urine that still clung to his shoe, and made a mad dash out of the apartment block into the cold Chicago night. If he wasn’t being chased by a dangerous and lethal super-powered freak, Beckett would have stopped to turn the air blue swearing. This could have led to something big. This would have led to something big. Snowfall, one of the world’s oldest and most renowned vigilantes, taken in thanks to the brave actions of Sam Beckett, a simple informant. It would have at least been worthy of a promotion, maybe becoming a full field agent if he’d played his cards right. The Coven wanted Snowfall. Badly. Any scrap of information that would lead to them getting their grubby hands on him would be a godsend to them, and the person who handed it to them would be reimbursed greatly for all the trouble they went to procure it. Promotions were the very least they could do.
Of course, right now, he didn’t really have any information to show them and was running for his life from a man able to create and control ice. And he happened to be running through Chicago on one of the coldest days winter so far. Luck was on the “good guy’s” side, it would seem, as he tried to avoid the icy puddles that littered the alleyway.
He really hated superheroes. Ever since real life superpowers had been brought to the attention of the world, all hell broke loose. You’d hear about it on the news: children dying in homemade attempts to acquire powers, millions of dollars spent by the rich and powerful in the hope of finding a way to shoot lasers out of their eyes. It was all for nothing, of course, but that didn’t stop them. All they wanted was to be like them. Different, unique, free of the chains that came with regular life. Beckett only had one question for those people: Why? Why try to become someone who was seen by many inside The Coven as a freak of nature, an outcast?
As a result of this landslide of adoration for vigilantes like Snowfall, some tried to be more like them then others, and those were the people Beckett hated the most. While some merely tried to have powers for the sake of having powers, others took to the streets to take the law into their own hands, to uphold justice, just like those brave super-powered men and women who did the same every day. Why they wanted to was anyone’s guess, but most would wind up dead in a gutter with a bullet in their head, unaware of just how in over their heads they had been. But the ones who didn’t, the ones who started meeting up with like-minded people, were dangerous. Lynch mobs could form as people accused others of crimes, sometimes requiring the intervention of the very people these people were trying to be like. Whole militias would rise with the intent of ‘peacekeeping’, but would usually end up as bad as the people they swore to eradicate. Anyone and everyone with a mask and a weapon if sorts wanted in on the action. With the introduction of superpowers into the world, chaos was ensuing. The whole novelty of having superheroes may have fooled others into accepting this change in the status quo, but not Beckett. He saw past this change for what it really was: hell on earth, or at least the lead up to it.
His mind snapped back to the present as he cleared the alleyway. He made a mad dash for the next apartment block across the street, trying to keep a steady foot on the icy road. It wasn’t easy and the fear of being caught by Snowfall wasn’t helping much. Managing to slide across to the sidewalk, he looked back to check for his pursuer. Beckett could find no trace of him. Had he actually given chase? Or had he overlooked the hideout? It was possible, in this weather, that he might have merely glanced in his direction and had seen nothing…
It was at this point that something picked its moment to land right in front of him. Beckett yelped and jumped back, losing his footing on the sidewalk and landing unceremoniously on his ass. Staggering back on his hands and feet, He looked up to see a giant of a man wearing hooded cloak. standing over him.

Everything about Snowfall looked like it was ripped straight out of the medieval times. The blue tunic and leather jerkin that fit snugly around his torso, the brown leather boots, the gloves and bracers, even the long cloak and hood that shielded his face gave him the look of a old worn traveler, a lost soldier. Here stood a superhero, in all his pretentious glory.
“Beckett?”
Watery grey eyes stared down at Beckett, and he could see Snowfall’s brow furrow in confusion.
“H…hey.” Was the only think he could bring himself to say. He didn’t know whether or not he was shivering from the cold or the fear. Snowfall tilted his head, like a dog trying to figure out what you were saying to it. He was obviously confused that the person he caught spying on him was a trusted ally to him in recent months. Nevertheless, he offered his hand out to Beckett. Taking it to pull himself up, Beckett noticed that even through the thick gloves he wore, his hand was deathly cold. One of the downsides to his powers, he guessed.
Snowfall still looked concerned as he helped Beckett of the ground. “You seem to be in a hurry.”
Beckett could only smile sheepishly. “Snowfall, you’ve got it all wrong” he mumbled, trying not to trip over his words, “This is all just a misunderstanding, I… I can explain myself, why I was here, I mean..” Beckett’s mind hadn’t caught up with his mouth though, and he struggled to think of something, anything that could get him out of this. But nothing came. He had caught him right in the act, their was nothing he could say to argue otherwise. What came next was anyone’s guess…
He wasn’t a man to be taken lightly. At just under 6″5, Snowfall towered over most folk. Broad shouldered and imposing, he was the type of person who drew attention to himself no matter what. Although the lower half of his face was obscured by thick layers of a scarf of sorts, what little Beckett could see of his face looked worn and scarred, showing His age.
Snowfall’s expression turned from concern to confusion. “Explain what?” the look on his face was so genuine, Beckett paused.
“W…what?”
“I saw you running like a madman down the street, you looked like you’d seen a ghost. Everything alright?”
Beckett’s mouth couldn’t help but fall open in disbelief. Was he that stupid? He had been staring directly at him through the window, of course he had seen him. He’d have to have been monumentally idiotic to not add 2 and 2 together and realise Beckett had been running to get away from him.
But Snowfall genuinely seemed worried about his safety. Incredible. He was that stupid.
Trying to compose himself, Beckett did his best not to laugh at the brainless lummox of a man that stood in front of him. Perhaps he wasn’t as perceptive as he thought.
“No, I’m fine, really.” he replied, warmly patting Snowfall on the shoulder. “Just trying to get out of the cold. With you around, it’s no wonder I’m freezing my ass off.”
Snowfall grinned and Beckett chuckled, glad to put that matter behind him. He could wait for a while, bide his time. Surely he’d get a second chance to get something useful to The Coven. The thought of promotions came back to him, and for a split second, he relaxed, letting the tension in his muscles go as he laughed.
As it turned out, a split second was all Snowfall needed.
Immediately, snowfall dropped the grin, and grabbed Becket by the collar of his coat. Before he even knew what the hell was happening to him, jets of ice burst from below Snowfall’s free hand and feet, propelling them up the side of the apartment block. Beckett could only cry out in horror as he was heaved over Snowfall’s shoulder. Facing the ground, there was nothing he could do but watch the ground become smaller and smaller, climbing higher and higher with each passing moment until they were the height the roof of the complex, at which point Snowfall flew across the building and unceremoniously dumped him onto it. Beckett landed in a heap on the roof, cursing and shouting as his arm took the brunt of the fall. Broken? Maybe. Trying to rise to his feet, he could see Snowfall hovering daintily over him, his gaze fixed on him.

“I’m not one to sound threatening…” he began.

“Bull,” Beckett managed to cough out, “you’ve been threatening ever since you put on that costume of yours.”

Snowfall’s stare didn’t waver “I don’t want to sound threatening, but I don’t like it when the people I put my trust in are watching me behind my back.”

“Well, it’s not like you didn’t expect a rat like me to stay loyal for long, did you?” Beckett grimaced, but managed to stand upright, his left arm bruised and aching like mad.

Landing on the roof himself, Snowfall started walking towards Beckett, his eyes always fixed on him, flickering every now and again to his arm, waiting for him to pull a weapon. Perhaps he was even tempting him to. “Oh, I don’t know about that, I thought you were quite a nice guy. For a rat.”

Beckett started backing away from the slowly approaching Englishman, clutching his battered arm. Trying to scramble an explanation was difficult when he was trapped on the roof of a building late at night with his arm sending jolts of pain up and down his body. “Look, I dunno how thing’s are working out between us right now, but can I go out on a limb here and guess I’m not your best friend right now?”

Snowfall shook his head. “Why were you spying on me?”

Beckett laughed, causing his arm to shake with pain. It was a guttural laugh, and Beckett noticed how psychotic it had made him sound. Maybe he was more scared of him then he was willing to admit.

Snowfall’s step never faltered across the snowy rooftop. “I’m not going to ask again, Beckett. Why were you here? Who sent you?” There was something in that tone of his that made Beckett pause, and begin to sweat, despite the freezing temperatures.

“I… whatever a freak like you can do to me, I swear, they could do it a lot worse.” He had momentarily found his courage, but immediately lost it again when he realised Snowfall had stopped walking.

“We’ll have to see about that, won’t we?” he mused and began walking towards him again. Beckett started moving faster away from him, pain still raking his arm. He was breathing heavily now and something deep down was screaming at him. “Panic, panic, for the love of God, please, do something.” The only thing that came to mind though, was to keep backing away from the man spouting ice from his fingers. It was a horrible plan, but it was the only thing that seem to make sense. “Keep backing up, get away from him, get away,” the voice inside of him was crying. He could feel tears welling up inside him, he had never been this scared before. Why was he so scared? Snowfall was getting closer, walking faster towards him. Beckett’s cheeks were red, and he was starting to tremble. “Get away,”the voice was screeching at him, and now Beckett had begun shouting it out loud, “Get away, get away, get away!”…

And then, his foot was over the edge of the roof. Beckett stumbled, surprised that he had reached the end of the roof without knowing it. He struggled to keep his balance, one foot hovering over empty air. He shot his arms forward, blindly trying to grab the space between him and Snowfall, as if he could pull himself forward with it. He saw Snowfall’s eyes widen as he realised what was happening, he lurched forward, trying to grab one of Beckett’s outstretched hands. Too late, he thought, as he slipped over the edge.

The last thing he saw was Snowfall jumping off the roof after him, frantically trying to catch up with him as he plummeted to the ground.

The second-to-last thing to go through Beckett’s mind was how lucky Snowfall was to be able to fly and how jealous he was that he could survive all this.

The last thing to go through it was the pavement.

Proof-Reading

Dear Saul,

I’m proud to say, when it comes to writing, I know my way around it. I’ve still got a hell of a lot to learn, but I’m optimistic that I can string together a coherent sentence. Maybe I’m not the fastest at typing, but I get it done, and maybe it’s not top notch quality, but it’s entertaining (I hope). But even me with my mastery of… mediocrity… cannot help but sin every once in a while. And I’m afraid it’s a big ‘un. I dun goof every once in a while, and I’m not proud of it.

I never proof-read my work properly. And I mean never.

Before you start lighting your torches and grabbing your pitchforks, let me say that I do not recommend doing what I do. Proof-reading your work is one of the most important skills when it comes to writing and editing your own work. If you don’t proof-read for grammatical errors, typos, and simple mistakes, you make you work come off as just a little bit shit.

Just a little bit.

“But why would *someone* (and I’m not saying who) choose not to proof-read their own work? Surely they practice what they preach.” Well, to answer this, you need to know how much of a lazy git I am. I procrastinate a lot, and I’m afraid of missing deadlines, so everything is usually done in a last minute panic (which is such a good mindset for a writer, I might add…). As such, proof-reading isn’t as high up on the list as “getting the work done, and getting it done well” is. Of course, getting it done well requires me to proof-read my work., but I’m too busy “getting the work done, and getting it done well” to proof-read…

See the paradox I’ve created? I’m trying desperately to climb out of the rut I’ve made for myself, but no luck so far. The simple answer is, I’m lazy, and if I want to fix the issue of me correcting my own work, I first have to fix the issue of me not wanting to do anything except sleep in and play video games. And for a teenager, that is a steep hill to climb, my friend. Why not stay at the base of the hill and eat chocolate, you ask? Well, believe me, as soon as you bring yourself to check your own work, you’ll soon notice the quality of your writing is improving as well, and not just the little things. You may notice huge plot holes you managed to overlook originally. You’ll see scenes and characters that don’t work, and you’ll get a feel for your own style of writing, one that will continue to improve as time goes on.

So surprise surprise, being lazy hasn’t really helped me accomplish anything, or make me better in my craft, and chances are, it won’t work for you either. So get off your backside, put down that controller, and go read your own work. But what can you do to stop yourself from caving in and just being lazy all day?

Well, give yourself an incentive to work, and reward yourself for getting to a certain goal you’ve set. Just try not to overdo things too much:

Also, get a schedule, and stick to it. If you get into a routine, it’s easier to break that habit of  going off to procrastinate. Give yourself a set amount of time to do something, and give yourself some short breaks throughout the day. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your schedule, start later or just have a shorter amount of time for work, then slowly build it up over time. Don’t just rush into things expecting to break out of your old habits straight away.

Finally, hang a nice “Hang in there, baby” poster on your wall. It’s the single most important thing for breaking out of laziness. Seriously.

Well that’s all I’ve got. Any thoughts on being lazy? Do you have problems proof-reading?

I have to go proof-read this post now. Maybe.

Best wishes,

-Fiachra

Dear Saul,

Hope you had a good Halloween, because November is gonna get busy. Real busy. I ‘moustache’ you a question, (geddit?) ever heard of Movember? Movember is a charity event that takes place throughout the month of November, in which brave men (and possibly women) shave their face on the first day of November, then duke it out to grow the most fabulous hair on their top lip, all in the name of raising funds and awareness for men’s health.  It’s a hilarious event. and it goes towards a good cause.

Obviously, given my teenage gumption and stubbornness, I shaved off my peach fuzz of a beard, and got to work, sitting there, slowly straining until my face went red. I kind of gave up after that, and just sat there looking slightly disappointed in myself for not being able to pop out a luscious comb of hair over my mouth. But, I still have a month to go, so it’s not all bad.

Want to have a go at it yourself? You can sign up via their website. Even if you can’t grow a moustache (You big girl’s blouse), you can support the more manly of the human race in their endeavours to make men’s health a nicer, fuzzier topic.

Don’t feel like growing a moustache? There’s always NaNoWriMo. If you have even the slightest interest in writing, then I’m guessing you have an idea of what NaNoWriMo, or National November Writing Month is.  30 days to write 50,000 word novel alongside tens of thousands others. This one isn’t for anyone else but yourself. If you succeed, it’s a testament to your dedication to the art of literature.

If you should fail…

Well…

We don’t mention those who fail…

Actually they do fine.

Seriously. And if you think you can achieve his goal, and forever be entombed in the annals of writing history, sign up on their website, and get cracking.

I’ll leave you with those for now Saul, I have to get my stache goin’.

-Fiachra

Dear Saul,

I’m baaaaaaaaaack. Did ya miss me? You can put down the pitchfork and torches now, I know you’re pissed…

I hope. Wouldn’t be much of a homecoming if I didn’t stay long. But yes, even though school sucks the life outta me (I swear, I have a life), I’ve found the time to do a bit of writing. Even though school sucks the life outta me, I managed to plan out a few things. And even though school sucks and will suck the life outta me (I’m a little sore over this), I managed to make a list of things I wanna update you on:

  • I’ve been working alongside some really amazing bloggers and writers, picking up some skills, and hopefully bringing you guys better content. Some of these folks might make the occasional appearance here, and I’ll be updating the friends section so you can go annoy them for me 🙂
  • I completed The President’s Award! I’m really happy to have completed this, and the blog is one of the ways that gave me the drive to finish it. Thanks for the help.
  • I may-or-may not be working on a fully-fledged novel, which is in very early planning. More to follow…
  • I’ve been working on the first few episodes of The Downcast, a new podcast where sit down with a friend and chat about video games while we wait for one to download. The first episode is already up. Quality is, well, crap, but give us credit, it’s passable crap 😉 I’ve also been working alongside other writers, and maybe, in the future, I may have a writing podcast for you to (maybe) enjoy.
  • I have a fun idea for a series of posts, provided I have willing volunteers. I believe it could be called ‘Writing Tennis’. I’ll essentially have a second person, one person writes the opening paragraph to a story, or post, puts on their blog and the other one follows on, either furthering the plot or idea. They post their response, and the first person will follow on from that. Repeat for hilarity. Any volunteers? 😉
  • I have a maths exam Friday. Bugger.
  • Wait that last one wasn’t really interesting.
  • I should probably stop this.
  • Jesus Christ I can’t make lists.
  • What am I doing.
  • Fiachra.
  • Stahp.

So, yeah, that’s, in a slightly broken sense, what I’ve been up to. I have lots of stuff planned for you, and I can’t wait for you to see it all.

Glad to be back,

Best Wishes,

-Fiachra

If you haven’t seen part 1, you can find it here.

With most horror films, sequels come about because the original premise brought in enough interest. Horror sequels are rarely done out of passion, and because of this, many of them end up turning out completely rubbish. And I mean serious garbage. If Paranormal Activity didn’t show you how money-grubbing sequels can get, another prime example would be the ever popular Friday the 13th series, which is blieved to have been made to capitalise on the success of the film Halloween. The first film, though poorly scored, has gained a cult following, and the series has churned out… how many films, again?

12 films

12 FILMS

NO

Bad Jason. And don’t drag Freddy into this, he knows what he did. At least he didn’t go INTO SPACE.

If there was ever a series that people begged to continue, I doubt it was this one. I think the major complaint for me going forward was this (Slightly gory, you’ve been warned):

I mean, really? Robocop goes bad? I appreciate that they tried getting away from previous films, an indeed, most slashers. But Robo-Vorhees? It’s like a borg got all pissed and a hockey mask a machete were all he had to work with. (I hope people know what a Borg is, or this’ll be awkward). The sheer humour of this, and the fact that it’s in space keeps the film afloat for about 5 minutes, at that point, I’m afraid the film fails at the first hurdle: It’s not even scary. It’s about as enjoyable as being shot into space. Which is the problem with the series as a whole. It’s not enjoyable, the repetition of it is astounding, never mind the change of scenery. It became ridiculous, and unfortunately, it suffered greatly for it.

I can’t stress enough how horrifically cheesy and awesome this is.

Now, a good sequel is easily possible, as long as the director (who is hopefully quite competent) puts a little passion into it. Films like Predator 2, Aliens, Silence of the Lambs (Yes, that’s a sequel), all off these films bleed character. They seem like everyone involved believed wholeheartedly that this project could succeed, and every inch of effort they had was put into it. It may not be the case, but with enough intelligent and well-crafted design, you can certainly make it look like it was a blockbuster.

This brings me along to my final example. One which pretty much incorporates a lot of the sins I despise to see in horror, and then some. A series which, to my surprise, people enjoy the hell out of.

Good old gory Saw.

It took seven films, but finally, we’re about to finish this monument to the elderly.

If you enjoy horror in any form, chance are Saw has popped up in the conversation at least once. 2 video games, a comic book, 7 films. I won’t lie though, I actually quite enjoyed the first film. Despite it getting trashed a lot, I think it gets bonus points for ‘innovation through limitation’. With it’s budget being relatively low for a modern day film, only a few takes could be shot, which resulted in some at-times bad scenes. However, scenes shot through still photography and surveillance cameras are examples of how good cinematography can be achieved with little money. And no matter the criticisms, I still enjoyed it.

Everything else in that franchise though? Lemme help you tear that down. I really don’t mind.

Perhaps 2 and 3, while still under the supervision of the original director, had their small merits. Perhaps. And that’s a big perhaps. After James Wan left, it was a bit of a nightmare, made even worse by the fact that Saw is so well known, Horror can be, at times, quite a niche genre, and Saw was extremely popular for something like it. I think it’s fame(or infamy, I dunno) is what kept the series alive for so long. It was always profitable enough to warrant more movies. Despite it’s very noticeable flaws (and for the life of me, I don’t know how this happened), Saw lived on for 7 films, each one adding a little piece to the lore, requiring you to have at least seen some of the previous ones to get the references, kind of like a torturous Easter egg hunt. That is, until you get to the last film, in which case, you ad to have seen pretty much all of them to have a complete an utter understanding of it all. You can fill in the gaps here and there, but many of the characters that appear only appear in select films. It’s a reasonably good payoff for die-hard fans of the series. For those of us who aren’t, sorry, you’re on your own.

Considering gall the damn notes I have on this franchise, I should just leave the rest for a whole other post, but anyway…

I like horror. really, I do. I sound so much like a crotchety old man in these posts, but I love the genre to death. Some people get thrills riding rollercoasters, I get mine from staying up at the dead of night watch terrifying films. There’s a point though where there’s simply too much of it. I don’t want to watch most sequels for the simple reason of, well, I’ve already seen the first. If there’s no progression, why bother? If there’s no innovation, the series stagnates, and at that point, there is very little hope for it.

BUT. (I’d put an image here for a corny ‘butt’ joke, but Google images is far too NSFW for some reason XD)

Like I said, a sequel born out of passion, done with the idea of improving the original concept through tweaks and changing it into something new, appeals to me. I’d love to see something like that. If only there was such a film, with which I could end this post on a generic cliffhanger for a future episode…

Hmmmmm…

-Fiachra

 

 

Math

Dear Saul,

Are you any good with geometry? I hope to god you are, I’m gonna need a bit of help. It’s strange, the way life can give you a second chance or two.  It’s even stranger that those second chances can be a little… intimidating. Sure, you’d like a second shot, you wanna get back in the ring, throw at least one more punch. Then the weight of the task at hand can be a little bit of a reality shock. Things might be a little more jarring, a little bit bigger than anticipated, and honestly, it’s okay to feel a little intimidated at first, I’m sure most people would, and I’m no exception.  For instance, lemme give you a little backstory to my school.

I am, currently, shit at maths. Or math, however you wanna pronounce it. I somehow believed in second year that I could handle higher level math pretty well, and… well… the big fat ‘D’ on my Junior Certificate exam speaks volumes as to how that turned out.  So I took a year off, did something called Transition Year, which kinda was a non-exam year meant to prep you for the next major exam, the big one, the one that would decide whether colleges and universities would except you as a paragon of society, a useful, productive human (that’s what it sounds like to me, at least). The Leaving Certificate. I kinda forgot about my troubles in math, until nearing end of the year, I began to wonder if I would remain in higher, or drop down to ordinary, also called lower level.

Welp, I believe I’ve either dodged a bullet, or jumped in front of one, because, on my very first day of fifth year in secondary school (think second last year of high school), I’ve been put into higher level math. Because a second chance can be, and is, a bitch.

This, naturally, filled me with doubt. At this point, my drive to succeed in maths was pretty much gone, I needed to focus on the subjects I could actually pass. This sounds ridiculous, but higher maths at Leaving Cert level is hard. Really hard. And I barely made it past higher maths in third year. Naturally, I was worried, especially given that the new teacher I had was one I had never interacted with, never met in the corridors, and one I might not have felt comfortable being taught by.

This teacher, as it turns out, found me my drive. By inadvertently calling me dead weight.

After being sorted into our classes, each teacher gave their own prep talk for what they would do for the exam. Mine, as it turns out, had the same effect as a Drill Sergeant. That is to say, I’ll learn, whether I hate them or not. But a few of the remarks they made kinda stuck in my head, one of them being ‘I’m looking at the class now, and I can tell you now, there’s some dead weight here’, as well as ‘I can guarantee, by Monday, not all of you will still be in this class’.

Hmm

‘Okay, well, in the first period I’ve had her, she’s referred to the slackers and, looking at my own difficulty in maths, what I can only guess, me, as dead weight holding back others from learning, and she’s hinted at the class being cut down.

Well, it’s on now.’

This was pretty much, as silly as it is, my thought process. I mean, them telling me I should go down to lower is fine, but being kicked out when I’ve already, against the odds, made it into higher? Nuh-uh, nope, no way, it’s on like Donkey Kong, now.

I guess, at that point, something just snapped, a good snap, but a snap nonetheless. At this point, it was no longer about studying for an exam, it was no longer about points, and it was no longer about being dead weight. Now, it was about proof. Proof to myself that I can and will pass, and not just pass, but succeed. I needed to prove to myself that I could beat maths. No more laying back, no more worrying about exams, at this point, the only thing that mattered in maths, was the fact that I would beat it.

And for that, I thank you, drill sergeant maths teacher.  You helped me find my drive. Before this, I was apathetic, I didn’t know how it would go for me, and frankly, I didn’t care. Now, I’ve begun to realise what I’ve missed out on, what I could have done, and dammit I’m pissed. Now, I have a goal, a reason to do something about this. I’m not doing it for exams anymore. I;m doing it for me. Because I’m sure as hell not letting numbers on a page beat me anymore.

The buck, as they say, stops here.

Best wishes, and wish me luck,

Fiachra

 

 

 

This post seems, if anything, to be one giant sell out.  To be fair, it’s the last week of summer before I head back to school, so nothing major has really happened. Did my training for mentoring 1st year students, slept a lot, starred in a local short film…

…wait…

Yes, I checked, I am actually in a short film. It’s a lovely little movie called Cathy’s Mate, directed by Oisin Beaudalot, and in a similar vein to some of John Green’s work. My performance was… well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. Please show your support by watching the trailer and liking it on Facebook. I moderate the page, so please, come say hi and tell me how bad a job I’m doing.

Speaking of social media, someone finally set one up. Yes, now you too can join the… fun…  by following me on my Facebook page and Twitter. Because social media is the only way forward 😉

And lastly (the promotions are n early over, bare with me), if you guys haven’t seen it yet, Part 1 of my look at horror sequels is up and running, with more to come. Considering the whole thing adds up to about 3000 words, it seemed sensible to split it up.

And that’s it. Next week, I start my fifth year of secondary school.

Bugger.

-Fiachra

Since this is the first That’s Horror-ble for a while, I thought I’d start with something easy, something in horror that is universally thought as ‘not a good idea’ territory. Think the Twilight Zone of the movie industry, where bottles roll uphill and Shia Labeouf isn’t Indiana Jones’ son. This, my dears, is sequel territory, the wild west of filmaking, the true test of a director that will prove he’s able to hold up a series with good cinematography and interesting plots, rather than just sells outs to a broken and dead franchise.

Sequels, or as I call them, farm animals (because they’re just big cash cows. Geddit?), are a continuation of a story, a successor made to improve on the original idea while taking criticism and flaws into account. Sequels are natural, some stories are just made to be continued. Hell, even books dating back to ancient Greece had sequels (The writer Homer’s Odyssey expands upon themes and characters introduced in his earlier work Iliad). And if the Greeks did it, no doubt Hollywood would take a crack at it, with the first ‘film’ sequels being introduced in silent, black and white films. I’ll be honest, I can’t really bash sequels all that much. Sure, most of them are done for monetary gain, and many companies do tend to beat a dead horse. A whole herd of them, in the case of the Friday the 13th series. But a lot of sequels actuall do what sequels intended, and improve the films they were based on. Mad Max 2, Toy Story 2 & 3, Aliens, Star Wars Ep. 5, Terminator 2, Spider Man 2, the list goes on. All of them are testament to how to set up and keep a franchise alive. There are so many good films in So many genres.

Except for one.

Can you guess which?

I think you can?

Need a clue? It’s the whole point of this series, Einstein.

No, it’s not romance. Just go sit down, you’re not helping.

it’s horror, obviously.  In a genre usually so limited by budget, and so focused on the connection between it and the viewer used to scare it, sequels are, to put it bluntly, awful. More often than not, they’re just not scary, which to be honest, defeats the entire point of horror.  There are a ton of reasons why it just doesn’t have as many good, long lasting franchise compared to other genres. The main one being, as stated, lack of scariness.

The biggest sinner of all in this regard is Paranormal Activity. Even though the jump scares were plentiful, and the plot was simple, it reignited the public’s interest in found footage films. Supposedly, so scary that people left during the Cannes Film Festival, the film, love it or hate it,  brought tremendous success with limited tools, and being as successful as it was, well, it has to be at least reasonably good, right?

Then they made a second one.

And a third, a prequel, of course.

And a fourth.

And an unofficial spin off. Wait, counting those cheap ‘Mockbuster’ rip offs that company The Asylum creates, I think we can raise that to 3 spin offs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now, after one whole year without a new film in the series, they’re launching into numero cinco, and a Latino spin off called The Marked Ones. Now, I’d like to know, at what point did this series drop off the relevancy chart? I mean, sure, I like found footage, I enjoyed Blair Witch, but seriously? Even the rip off got a sequel, the rip off!At this point, there is no innovation, there’s no fear, all the jump scares have worn off, and beating the dead horse is putting it gently. They bought a whole second horse that’s identical to the first one, and pummeled that one as well. The series is the prime example of what happens when you try to capitalise on the first of a series in horror without innovating. A sequel should be able to stand on its own as a title, be able to tell it’s story while improving on the faults of the first one. This, on the other hand, was done for money. I see no other reason as to why so many were created other than to capitalise on the success of the first Paranormal Activity, and because they were scared of changing anything for fear of losing fans, they stagnated completely.

It’s sad, but it’s a lesson you must learn in horror, or indeed in any form of entertainment: You cannot just slap the number 2 on somehing and call it a sequel. You have to be different. If you already have an established world, monster, villain, you cannot expect people to be interested if we learn nothing more about said world or monster, which is difficult with something like this, as an air of mystery is actually required. Nevertheless, expand upon your idea,give your audience a reason to want to go back to the world you’ve created, and you’ll have a successful sequel

Let’s talk survival horror, because it gives a good insight into another way horror sequels fail miserably, particularly in video games

Survival horror is a term taken from Resident Evil, and it describes a certain type of horror game.  In it, the player is given limited weapons ammo, or in some cases is left completely defenseless. Many of these games used clunky controls and what would be now considered bad gameplay to their advantage. Controlling the character and camera would be difficult, especially under times of pressure, adding an element of panic, which worked really well. As said though, nowadays, if one were to do that, given that we have such powerful technology, there’s no excuse, and it just comes off as cheap. Many series fell due to this, but Resident Evil, right up to number 4, really showed how well done survival horror can be done, even without clunky mechanics and gimmicks. the player had to stop walking to shoot, the camera controlled better but still added to the panic, and it was overall just a joy to play.

But here’s where things went downhill, as the next in the series, Resident Evil 5, received positive reviews, but fans of the older titles (myself included) didn’t enjoy it. Why? For the simple reason that it was not longer survival horror anymore. 5 had a lot more action, and gathered tension more from the adrenaline rush, of fighting of hordes of baddies, and things were generally more fast paced and exciting, which turned it more into an action-adventure game. It was no longer intended to have the same scare factor the others did. That’s alright to do, there’s nothing wrong with branching out of survival horror, a genre which really is dying. The only problem was that it didn’t completely cut it’s ties with horror. The player still had to stop moving to shoot, the game never paused, which meant enemies could attack you at anytime, and it still tried to freak you out with disturbing enemy designs. perhaps it’s just me, but when a game still holds on to tropes just for the sake of retaining some ties to a genre, it falls flat. Sequels need to know which ties to cut, which flaws to improve on, and what it needs to change genres.

Considering how long this post is, we’ll leave it at that for now, but stayed tuned for part two on sequels. Have an idea for a post or just want to leave feedback? Leave a comment letting me know your opinion. This isn’t YouTube, the comments section should be fine 😉

-Fiachra

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