Sunday, February 26, 2017
BRYAN PEDUS + BRANDON MEYERS × EDGAR ALLAN POE ÷ BY ROD SERLING – HALF OF STEPHEN KING = ‘THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT’ (Or, ‘MACABRE MATHEMATICS FOR MUMMIES’)
THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT
by Bryan Pedus & Brandon Meyers
When I was a kid, my friend Old Weird Eric (he was six feet nine and weighed 50 pounds) and I LOVED the old Horror movies. We used to stay at each other's houses on weekends and watch the scary movies they showed late at night on TV. We lost track of how many times we saw ‘War Of The Worlds’.
As I got older, I mostly lost interest in the Horror genre. Today, there are only a small handful of scary movies that really appeal to me –- but I will say that the ones I still dig, I pretty much LOVE. ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ (1990), the original ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973), John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ (1982), the wrongly maligned ‘Ghost Story’ (1981), and even [*gulp*] ‘The Sentinel’ (1977) all have a common denominator: the horror is more psychological than gruesome. What makes them scary is that the viewer is as confused as the characters in the stories; there’s that constant worry, that constant fear due to the fact that we aren’t really sure what’s happening -- we’re out of our “comfort zone” and into the “twilight zone”.
Movies where some madman is running amok with a chainsaw, or some dude is slicing and dicing with fingers made of knife blades -– those seem more silly than scary to me. (The best parts of ‘The Shining’ are those psychologically disturbing moments that occur before the whole thing culminates in just plain “craziness” and “Here’s Johnny!”)
I did 97% of my fiction reading in my teen years and my early twenties. I’ve remained a book junkie but since that time I have concentrated almost exclusively on nonfiction. However, I recently read the book ‘THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT’ by BRYAN PEDAS and BRANDON MEYERS. And, coincidentally, I read the book while working “graveyard” shifts at a retirement home where the average resident age is 86 and rarely does a week go by without some resident dying. ‘GRAVEYARD SHIFT’ meet “Graveyard Shift”.
There are some people and some things that seem to complement each other so perfectly that you have to suspect God created them (or made their development possible) so that they would ultimately work together to become something very unique, very special, very popular -– maybe achieving more together than they would have apart from each other. Below is a partial list of classic companions:
SIMON & GARFUNKEL
LAUREL & HARDY
RICHARD & KAREN CARPENTER
ROCKY & BULLWINKLE
ANDY & BARNEY
SALT & PEPPER
PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY
ROY ROGERS & TRIGGER
THE LONE RANGER & TONTO
ROCK & ROLL
RHYTHM & BLUES
CHEECH Y CHONG
(“We’re just here together and, uh –- I mean, like, we’re not TOGETHER, you know, like, THAT way!”
TOM SAWYER & HUCK FINN
LEWIS & CLARK
FISH & CHIPS
CHIPS & DIP
PEAS & CARROTS
(Uhm... nah. Scratch that one off. Yuk!)
GIN & TONIC
ROMEO & JULIET
JANE & TARZAN
LADY & THE TRAMP
ME & BOBBY McGEE
ME & MRS. JONES
ME & JULIO DOWN BY THE SCHOOLYARD
DAVID & DAVID
BATMAN & ROBIN
NICK & NORA CHARLES
BOB & RAY
(Genius radio comedians well ahead of their time.)
YO HO HO & A BOTTLE OF RUM
BASEBALL & BEER
PEANUTS & BEER
PIZZA & BEER
BEER & BEER
To that list I have no hesitation in adding...
BRYAN & BRANDON
I don’t think it’s any coincidence that they were born and raised in the same area and met each other at a very young age. I believe God had a plan and there is a very specific reason why “they’re here together and, uh -– I mean, like, they’re not TOGETHER, you know, like, THAT way!”
BRYAN & BRANDON make a great writing team, and I was fully convinced of that even before I had finished reading ‘THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT’.
Bear in mind that I rarely read fiction to begin with, and I’m not a natural fan of the ‘Horror’ genre on top of that. Nevertheless, I HIGHLY recommend ‘THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT’ -- it’s filled with psychological horror and surprisingly sharp (don’t cut yourself!) plot twists. If these stories could appeal to me -– far from the ideal reader of this sort of book -– then it’s going to knock you right out of your SOCKS & SHOES if you’re a fan of fiction and Horror to begin with.
The book begins on a rainy night when Leonard, a gravedigger with a grave to dig, decides to wait out the storm in the caretaker’s shed. He happens to discover an old, dark brown leather, blood-spattered book on a shelf. Leonard blows a thick layer of dust off the book, cracks the book open and cracks open a can of Hamm’s beer (Hamm’s beer -– in my opinion, that’s where the horror in this book really begins to manifest) and Leonard begins to drink and read.
The ensuing chapters in the book that Leonard reads (and we with him) are separate stories of psychological horror, and if you think you know where these stories are headed... you have clearly lost your head, because there are some fantastic plot twists ahead. You think you’re reading the map correctly and driving down a straight desert floor highway at night and the next thing you know, you’ve come upon a hairpin turn at 75 miles per hour and YOU & YOUR CAR go flying off some Rocky Mountain way.
If I had to name one short story in this collection as my favorite, it might be ‘AN AXE THROUGH BONE’. It’s highly imaginative and contains moments of Black Comedy (which I’m a huge fan of). Here are a few selected quotations
“Clutching my axe to my chest like a prom queen clutching a bouquet of flowers.”
“The only difference between an axe murderer and a gardener is employment.”
“If people choose to remarry when their spouse dies, fine. I don’t care. But that’s not for me. My wife was not a dog -– one dies, you just buy another. I will wait for her, and I will be with her again.”
Under no circumstances would I wish to spoil it for you, so I will merely state that the last thing Robb says to Officer Brody is absolutely CLASSIC!
The story ‘THESE WALLS’ lends new meaning to the expression “a haunted house”. It’s positively creepy how Bryan & Brandon, the B-EER BOYS, manage to infiltrate the “mind” of Eastlake Manor, a Victorian mansion, and share with us its increasingly irritated thoughts and emotions.
There was only one story in the entire book that I essentially foresaw how it would likely end. I don’t know why I saw this one coming; maybe it wasn’t cloaked enough, or maybe I’ve seen some similar plot in an old ‘Twilight Zone’, ‘Outer Limits’, or ‘Night Gallery’ episode. I don’t know why I knew. But regardless, the writing was still excellent, so I didn’t feel disappointed that the plot twist at the end did not really send me flying off some Rocky Mountain way at 75 miles per hour.
I couldn’t help noticing that a character in one of the stories is named CARMELITA. Hmmm... a nod to Warren “Werewolves Of London” Zevon perhaps? Another one of my favorite artists with a Black Comedy side to him. (‘Carmelita’ also happens to be one of my Top Ten favorite Zevon zongs; I can personally relate to it.)
BRYAN PEDUS & BRANDON MEYERS are extremely imaginative and talented, and they make an exceptional writing team. I suggest you buy and read this book, hitching your wagon to these rising literary stars, so that in the future you will be able to honestly say, “I was a Bryan and Brandon fan even before they were routinely being mentioned in the same sentences with Poe, Serling, Hitchcock, and King.”
‘THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT’ ends with gravedigger Leonard closing the old, blood-spattered leather book and leaving the caretaker’s shed, heading out into the wet cemetary to dig that grave after having finished his fourth can of Hamm’s beer. But... this story is not quite finished yet...
Leonard drank FOUR cans of Hamm’s beer?
That might actually be the most
horrifying thing in the entire book!
“Vow, kids, vasn’t it SKEDY vhen Leonard the gravedigger killed off those four cans of Hamm’s?”
~ Count Floyd
‘Monster Chiller Horror Theater’