Christopher Rice’s The Vines: A Dark Entanglement

Cover of The Vines

The Vines was actually the first book by Christopher Rice that I have read, and while I have to admit I wasn’t completely blown away, there were quite a few things in this book to like.

The gist of the story is that a well-off, but less than attractive woman who is old Louisiana money, catches her husband cheating on her on her birthday. Distraught, she retreats to the outdoor gazebo, smashes a wine glass and prepares to slit her wrists. However, her first drop of blood awakens something in the soil, and it displays itself as a vine that grows up around her wrist, sucking the blood from her veins. The vine then proceeds to take care of her cheating husband problem. The woman starts to view it as an ally, a force to wield, but there are complications and the mysterious, deadly force cannot be contained.

This is most definitely a horror story, but there are also some elements of dark fantasy, or dark fairy tale, here. Not only is the presence unleashed a terrifying conceptualization of nature gone wild, but the back story of violence and mystery adds substantially to the darkness of the book. In my mind, it was never daylight in this story.

NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD

So, here is what I liked about the book:

  • I liked that Rice went with a very different kind of menace in this book. It was an interesting combination of earth magic, blood curse, and actually there were some interesting old school sci-fi influences (think Little Shop of Horrors). And, I would also say that it was heavily influenced by the weird. We never really find out what the force is behind the vines – there are people identified as being in control of the situation (the old land owner) but it seems that he really wasn’t in complete control. He was more of a front man for whatever was working behind the scenes, whatever craved blood and revenge.
  • I also liked the character of Blake. I wasn’t prepared for him to end up being the hero of the story, and I love that this is an non-traditional hero. Blake’s scarring from the tragedy inflicted upon him because of his sexuality led him to become someone who was ready for the challenges that he had to face, and who may be able to control the forces for some time into the future. He is an interesting protector figure, and I would say one of the most interesting characters that I’ve encountered in some time.

If you are a fan of dark fantasy and the weird, then you will probably enjoy this book. I know that I will definitely be picking up more of Christopher Rice in the future.

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The Damned Shows That You Should Be Careful Who You Rescue

Movie poster for The DamnedPossession has been a popular topic for horror over the past few years. The Damned adds its own special twist to this horror sub-genre. David Reynolds (Peter Facinelli) and his fiancee, Lauren (Sophia Myles), go to Spain to collect his daughter, Jill (Nathalia Ramos), so that she can attend their upcoming wedding. But, of course, Jill has left her passport at some godforesaken place out in the country, so they all — David, Lauren, Jill, Gina (David’s former sister-in-law who is a reporter), and Ramon (Gina’s photographer, but also Jill’s Spanish boyfriend) — have to travel back there to retrieve the passport. As they start out, it begins to storm, and even though the police warn them off of the road they have chosen, Gina declares it to be safe and the fastest way. So, of course, they are caught in a mudslide, which injures Lauren and leaves the car unusable. They then hike to the nearest shelter, an old inn, where they are met with less than a welcoming attitude by the elderly owner who reluctantly allows them to come inside. While there, David begins nosing around and comes across a small girl being kept in a filthy box in the cellar. He thinks this is probably not the best location for her and takes it upon himself to free her, holding off the innkeeper at gunpoint, and this is when things go from bad to worse. The girl is actually possessed and the spirit inside her is able to move from person to person. The group is caught without a way to escape, and has to attempt to fight off the spirit and save themselves.

The possessed girl, Anna, in The Damned

NOTE: There are some spoilers below!!

While I won’t say that I loved this movie, I did enjoy it for a few different reasons:

  • The mixing of language was interesting and provided for a more foreign feel. Even though much of the movie is in English, there is a lot of Spanish that is spoken. What is different about this movie is that not all of the Spanish sections include subtitles. It creates an interesting language equilibrium. I know enough Spanish to keep up, but others might find this challenging. To me, though, I found it refreshing and different, and very much enjoyed it.
  • Movement of the spirit from person to person is accomplished in an interesting manner. This aspect of the movie most closely resembled that in Fallen, but the spirit in this movie infects the body of whoever kills the previously infected. So, getting rid of those infected by the spirit is rather complicated.
  • While some of the reviews I read brought up the obvious question — why wouldn’t you just lock the possessed person up again? — I think that this becomes a difficult decision based upon the situation. For the most part, everyone is family (or at least “family like”), so you really don’t want to be killing someone unless you absolutely have to, which, at first, no one knows. Additionally, you’re in a strange, out of the way house, so locking someone up there and then what — leaving them? While these considerations don’t really get covered as much in the film as they could have, I think that they are definitely there and add some complexity to the situation.

So, I would definitely say that this film is worth a watch if you are interested in the possession sub-genre!

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