I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you, but should you find yourself in a horror movie you are toast. You've seen the movies. You may have even yelled at the screen. Odds are if you have seen the movie with a group you have said something along the lines of "I would never do that."

For starters, bullshit. Yes you would You would do it in a heartbeat and you would end up dead because of it, just like the cannon fodder, cardboard cutout character did.

Yes, even if you have had discussions about this. Even if you know The Rules from
Scream and Zombieland (more on that later). There are certain things that you should or should not do if you plan to survive. It is almost guaranteed that you will do everything you shouldn't and avoid doing everything you should. There are certain characteristics which you possess which predisposes you to die a horrible, grisly death. Honestly, the best you can hope for is that your death is gruesome enough to make the highlight real.

Before we get into specific actions, lets look at some generalities. Specifically, let's look at some physical attributes. As far as attractiveness goes, odds are you are one to two standard deviations from average. By this I mean you are fairly average looking yourself. On the old numerical scale, you probably fall somewhere between a three and an eight. Don't get mad at me, get mad at the math. You can't dispute this. It is how averages work. Most people are average. Look it up, that is kind of what it means. If you want to argue this, I suggest you e-mail your junior high algebra teacher.

Why is this important? Well look at who survives the typical horror movie. Is it the super hot chick with the amazing rack or the studly jock with the six pack abs? Hell no! Your average movie goers don't look like that (they are
AVERAGE, remember?). In fact, the average movie goers, sitting there with office trash can sized tubs of pop corn and a sodas as big as their heads not only fail to identify with these super-hotties, they hate them. They remind them that instead of sitting on their ever growing posteriors in an air conditioned theater they could be out mountain biking or hiking or some other damn out door activity that the wealthy and attractive have time to do. When the hotties in question start having sex (and they will throw down and don't worry, we will be addressing those Scream Rules in a second, keep your pants on -- pun intended), the audience not only dislikes them, they want them to die.

Let's repeat that.

The audience wants the pretty people to die.

How do movie producers make money? By giving the audience what (they think) it wants.

Bottom line: if you are really attractive in real life you are gone by reel one.
So what if you are not a Victoria's Secret/Ambercrombie and Fitch model? What if you are, as I noted above, actually average?

If you are average or lower, sucks to be you. The audience does not care about average people. It certainly doesn't care enough for them to want you to live. More than one standard deviation towards the ugo end of the spectrum? You might not even die on screen. They might just find your homely ass stuffed in a closet or a locker or something, only to be discovered when you fall out and boo scare* the crap out of everyone.

Good news? If you are
two standard deviations on the ugly and unwanted side of average you just may survive the movie. Bad news? You are going to survive because you are the horribly disfigured villain. Still sucks to be you.

Who survives the movie? The person who survives (if there are any) is the slightly above average one. Say, a seven, seven and a half. Most of the time it is going to be a chick. Sorry dudes. Penis quite frequently equates to death.

The problem with this survivor theory is that she is a
movie seven and a half. You know what I mean. In a teen drama she is the one who everyone picks on until she lets her hair down and gets contacts for the prom and then you realize how smoking hot she is. Movie numbers right shift the bell curve. So a movie seven? Totally out of your league in real life.

Don't be too upset, she will probably be the first to bite it in the sequel.**

So we touched on the gender issue (dick and death both start with the same letter). What about race?

This is a tricky one. For a long time, being a minority meant you were the fist to meet the killer.*3 If you spend any time watching reruns of
At The Improv you will know that the "Why does the black man get killed first?" joke was almost as popular in the 80s as ripping on airline food.

By the way, if you are watching reruns of
At The Improv, for the sake of all that is holy and good get a life!

This became such an issue that there was a bit of backlash. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough of a backlash to guarantee the survival of minorities, it just meant you were going to die second. If there is more than one survivor, there is a better than even chance that it will be a non-caucasian. Odds are, survivor two will be a hot Asian.

On the plus side, horror movies are primarily populated by whites, so if you are of the darker tones, you might not find yourself in the movie at all. However, if you do?

Yeah, sucks to be you.

"But Michael," I hear you whine. "I know all the rules!"

Congratulations on getting your man.

Pasted Graphic

Not these Rules

No, no you mean these rules:

So what about the things you can control? Specifically, what about your actions?

There are a bunch of rules for surviving horror movies. A quick search of "surviving a horror movie" or "how to survive a horror movie" will produce a near infinite number of lists which vary in seriousness. I will not be making a list of my own *4, but I will address some of the issues which those lists raise.

Many of these have real world applications. Sure, there are warnings against buying property built on ancient Indian burial mounds, that used to house Satanic rituals or witch burnings.*5 These may not seem to apply in the really, real world. However, if someone is selling you a house for a ridiculously low price (even in this market), perhaps you should ask why.

The most widely known survival rules are from the
Scream franchise and the movie Zombieland. Most of Columbus' rules parlay into the real world quite nicely. You should be doing cardio to stay fit. You should limber up before exerting yourself. Confined spaces, particularly bathrooms, are good places to get jumped. Make sure you know your exit routes. You should wear your seatbelt, but make sure you check the back seat when you get into the car.*6

This is where we run into our first harsh dose of reality. Notice I left off some of the more zombie-centric items from Columbus' list. I didn't put on Rule #2 -- The Double-Tap, for example. All of the items I listed in the previous paragraph are things which, while on a list of ways to survive the zombie apocalypse*7, they are also things which you should be doing right now. Things that don't require flesh eating ghouls as prompts. Things which will actually improve your actual life.

Things like exercise.

Things which you aren't doing.

So you're going to wait until there is no more room in Hell before you start your exercise regime. Until then you are just going to curl up in front of the TV with a pint of Chunky Monkey? This is not a good survival plan for real life, much less for surviving a horror movie should you find yourself in one.

About that double-tap, what are planning on tapping with? Everyone knows the first rule of Zed removal...

...say it with me now...


Admit it, you've yelled it at the screen. In fact, this one I will give you. You have seen enough zombie/monster/ghost/alien/whatever movies that you do have one up on the characters on the screen. You know what to do. Even if that thing that is shambling after you isn't a "classic Romero zombie,"*8 you would be surprised at the number of things which can be stopped if you pop the top of their brain cans. People in most horror movies (with a few notable exceptions) act as if they live in a world where there are no horror movies. They're first reaction to the creeping flesh eaters is to ask "Dude, are you ok?"

In all honesty, it will probably be your reaction too, but before I get sidetracked, a note on firearms.

If you have never held one, you are screwed. Seriously. If you don't already own a firearm when dead arise, you are not going to be able to get one easily. I know, part of your plan is to raid the gun shop, maybe even hold out there until help arrives. Have you ever been to a gun shop? They make great places of fortification. This means you are going to have a Hell of a time getting in. Don't think that you are the only one who has had this idea either. Everyone and their grandmother thinks they will be running down to Ol' Mike's Ammo and Bait Shop. Unless you are the first one there you are SOL. I can almost guarantee you won't be the first one there.

Ol' Mike will.

The guy that owns the place. They guy that has been dealing firearms for forty years, who probably served in at least one sanctioned military activity. The guy who knows how to use every weapon in the building and is probably pretty intent on holding on to them.

Ol' Mike has been selling firearms during peace time and making a tidy profit. Don't expect him to go all soft and start handing out free Glocks once the dead arise.

The same goes for every other sporting goods place. There are rednecks who practically live at Gander Mountain. Odds are they will be living there before you make the hour long trip there.

You'll be lucky to find a BB gun at Toys R Us.*9

This is just as well. Despite what the movies have taught us, you can not simply pick up a riffle and start making head shots at 1000 yards. It's hard enough hitting those little paper targets when they are not moving and you have been practicing for years. Add to this the fact that you don't know the first thing about cleaning and maintaining a weapon and you have an unfortunate equation in which your gun (at best) jams at a crucial moment or (slightly worse) blows up in your hand.

So, you don't have a gun. Well what do you have? A few years ago the Centers for Disease Control released a zombie preparedness plan*10. They claim it was an amusing way to make sure that people were prepared for natural disasters, citing that preparing for a zombie uprising would make one just as prepared for an extended power outage, blizzard, tornado, what have you.*11 Their plan calls for having three days worth of food which will not spoil, a supply of clean drinking water, sleeping rolls, batteries, a flashlight, emergency radio...

Yeah, you don't have any of that stuff either, do you? Unless you are a camper, hiker, or other type of outdoor enthusiast, you won't have any of that stuff. Even if you are, you probably don't have it ready in a bug out bag.

Again, you're not even ready for real life, how are you going to survive the horror?

Perhaps you are going to fall back on Randy's Rules*12. I prefer to address these rather than all of the Rules which arise in the
Scream series as they actually pertain only to survival. As the sequels progressed, the additional rules became derivative and often pertained to thematic aspects of movies rather than how to survive them.

Randy's Rules, and many of the rules for horror movie survival, are based on one of two essential truths: Sin must be punished. The exception to this is that the sin of not adhering to social convention is not only tolerable, it is preferred.

The Sin Factor is pretty straight forward. If you do something morally wrong, you will be punished for it. Torment a kid? You can bet he'll come back with a knife. Ignore the kids swimming? You can bet SPOILER ALERT*13. You get the point, no pun intended.

It doesn't have to be one of the big Sins with a capital S either. Drinking, drugs, sex? Death, death, spectacular topless death. Pretty much anything your mom wouldn't want you doing gets punished. Oh, in case you didn't get it yet, punished means dead.

The exceptions are the polite things like saying "I'll be right back." In order to survive a horror movie you are just supposed to get up and walk out of the room. Don't let anyone know if they should pause the episode of
Ghost Facers you TiVoed. Don't ask if they want anything from the fridge. Just be a total douche and go take a giant dump.

Similarly, don't go looking for your friend who may or may not have already gotten axed in the face. That's a sure way to get your own dental cleavage. Don't split up to search, that would be the socially acceptable brave thing to do.

Once again, these are not things that you are going to do naturally. Hopefully your mom raised you better than that. You do say "Excuse me for a moment, I'll be right back." You actually care about your family and friends and in the face of an indestructible horror, you will actually go out of your way to make sure they survive too.

And the Sin Factor? You can't be persuaded out of a one night stand with the cute chick you met at the bar and she might be a for real psychopath, or have a biker boyfriend, or be riddled with disease, or all of the above. The fact this might make some other psychopath want to kill you? Dude, you just hit on her and you know she isn't in to you.

The problem with Randy's Rules is that unlike Columbus' they really don't apply to the real world. In order to want to follow them, you have to first understand that you are IN a horror movie. By the time you realize you are in a horror movie, it will probably be too late.

So you see, there is nothing you can do that will enable you to survive. It's out of your hands. Nothing you can to will help.*15

Not even reading this article.

*Boo scare is a term I use for the stupid thing that happens that makes you jump even when you know it's coming. Other terms include jump scare and bang scare. Primary example include, but are in no way limited to, the body that falls out on to a screaming girl, the cat the jumps out (often distracting the character from the fact that the killer/ghost/xenomorph is right behind him or her), and the image in the mirror/reflective glass/behind the door/around the corner that is not actually threatening but is just startling.

**Oh yes, there will be a sequel. Fucking Hollywood.

*3 This is not an honor. Think about it for a second.

*4 Here. That's a topic for a different blog.

*5 Or hosted John Denver Christmas specials.

*6 Seriously people. How are you NOT checking the back seat BEFORE getting into the car. There could be a knife wielding psychopath, a crazed homeless person, an ex-girlfriend, or someone who is all three just waiting back there for you! And for Cthulhu's sake get automatic locks for your car. It's 20freakin12. There is no reason for you to be slashed to death because you are fumbling to get your key into the lock. You should have your damn keys ready anyway! Set them up so you can identify your house key in the dark so you can get inside and away from whatever is chasing you, be it natural or supernatural.

*7 Which, all kidding aside, IS coming.

*8 Do NOT get me started on zombie classification. That's at least one blog post if not three.

*9 And then you'll probably shoot your eye out.


*11 We know better. Sure, they have since declared that there is no zombie outbreak, but are you going to believe that?

*12 Or Meeks' Law if you prefer.

*13 That his mom will come back and exact revenge. Just in case you haven't seen the original Friday the 13th.*14

*14 The fact that movie was referenced in the 13th footnote was not planned, but is totally awesome.

*15 Except maybe sleep with the director.*16

*16 Even then you will probably die in the sequel.*17

*17 See the second footnote.

Kermit Would Not Approve A brief rant on sock puppetry.

There has been a lot of furor in the media recently about the use of sock puppets by well known authors. You can be excused if you missed, there was some kind of political thing going on in the States which diverted all media attention to what people were wearing.

In brief, a sock puppet is a false account created for use on a public site, usually a public forum. This includes bulletin boards, social media sites, and others but in the cases in question we are referring to public sites where material is reviewed. The big one is, of course, Amazon.

The debate started when a number of authors (among them some rather famous English mystery authors) admitted to using false accounts to promote their own material. In some cases these same accounts were used to leave negative reviews ("trash" would be a better word), material written by other authors viewed as the competition.

LA Times has done a good job of summarizing the happenings here:,0,5360238.story.

If you are like most people, your initial reaction is something along the lines of "Wow, that's a totally shitting thing to do. What kind of douche canoe would do that?"*

I'll answer that, but let me throw in a caveat first: I am in no way condoning this behavior. I find it loathsome (more on that in a minute) and have signed an on-line petition stating this and promising to never engage in this behavior.

That being said, I can almost understand it. Writing is a damn difficult way to make a living. The temptation to get a little extra publicity, that little extra nudge, must have been very tempting for the authors in question. Granted, some of them have gone WAAAAAAY over the top. Some of the reviews were so blatantly full of ass-kissery that were I using them to determine whether or not to purchase a title, I would have dismissed them.

More on that can be found at the following article at the Atlantic Wire

This is the nature of on-line reviews. While it is exceptionally easy to do, most people do not take the time to review their purchases, hotel stays, service, what have you. This is why places like travel sites send you fifteen e-mails asking you to review your stay as soon as you get home. Who actually writes on-line reviews? Generally, it is the outliers. It is the people who absolutely loved something or who absolutely hated it. It's the people who were really moved to do so because of an exceptional experience.

This is why, when comparison shopping, one should take a close look at the three and four star reviews. Generally, these are the more lengthy ones anyway. They are the ones which give both the pros and cons.

"The vacuum's suction power is exceptional, however this drops when utilizing the crevice tool or other attachments."

The previous statement is a lot more helpful than "This is the best thing since a unicorn farted a rainbow." or "THIS EFFIN SUX."**

The exception to this, is the review of some type of entertainment. I am going to lump books in with movies, television, and music here, but I am primarily talking about books. The reason I do so is because these reviews are more subjective than those of other products. Sure, there is a degree of subjectivity to ones appreciation of a vacuum cleaner***, stove, or automobile. However, there are also specific factors which one can point to most items which allow it to be compared to other items of similar function. If you don't believe me, go check out anything on Consumer Reports or the Kelly Blue Book site.

Conversely, there will be people who enjoy some forms of entertainment despite their obvious flaws.*4 I personally love the occasional shoot 'em up movie, regardless of the degree or acting ability or lack of plot. In fact, there were many times that I would go see a film just because Gene Siskel hated it.

A great many people, at this point, will be asking the "Who Cares?" question. Why is this important? Aren't all reviews subjective anyway?

These are some of the questions raised by outspoken Indie author JA Konrath and

Allow my friends at
Forbes to field that one:

My own take on the whole thing boils down to a couple of points:
People rely on the opinions of others when it comes to entertainment purchases.
This is even truer when it comes to on-line sales.
The negative affect of these reviews is compounded when it directly affects sales.
Engaging in anonymous doucebaggery is cowardly.

Confession time: I have only reviewed a handful of items on Amazon. Honestly, I try to avoid the on-line retail giant as much as possible. I still haven't gotten over their questionable publishing practices and I would rather my money went elsewhere. In fact, I did not even know that they had guidelines for reviews until I read about them in one of those articles I linked to.*5

That being said, I do enjoy reading and writing reviews. I am a compulsive card filler outer. If I can make my next stay at the hotel, next year's convention, next meal a little better, then I am more than willing to take the time to fill out the form. I am also a compulsive quiz taker on-line.

I do have a GoodReads account and I rely on the reviews of others. I am currently enjoying Kim Harrison's Hollows series because of a friend's recommendation.*6 Sometimes I even rely on the questionable recommendations of sales sites.*7 I suspect a lot of people do when it comes to entertainment purchases.

The usual reasons for this apply. People don't have the time to do their own comparison shopping unless it is a big ticket item. Blah blah blah. The oft sited reason that applies most to book purchases is that people are indeed purchasing them on-line. There is a difference between picking up a book in a book store and browsing a few pages on-line. This is where leaving false reviews becomes especially heinous. When someone picks up a book in a brick and mortar bookstore, they are relying on their own judgement to make the decision. Yes, this may be influenced by the opinions of others, what they heard on the radio, what the bookseller tells them, etc. However, a big chunk of the decision will be based on that person flipping through the book, sampling a bit here, a bit there.

While this option is available to a limited degree on sites like Amazon, it is far easier to read other people's reviews of the item. You actually have to click through the book a bit to get a feel for it yourself. The reviews, on the other hand, are right there at the bottom. On the gripping hand, you don't even have to read the reviews. You can just look at the handy dandy star rating system and go from there.

If those ratings have been artificially inflated or deflated by numerous (and we are not talking about one puppet per person here) fake reviews, the puppeteer is directly affecting sales.

But Michael, you say, aren't all reviews directly affecting sales?

Yes, that's why each person gets to voice their opinion.


Post fifty negative reviews on the competition is simply wrong. There is no way around that fact. Nothing you say will convince me otherwise. If someone reads something of mine and thinks that it sucks, I welcome the review. I would hope that it would be thorough enough that it will include WHY it sucked so I can examine that. Were the characters flat and unbelievable? Oh shit! They are right! I will have to work on that next time.

More importantly, everyone gets to voice their own opinion once
under their own name.

A friend of mine who runs a business from her own home recently received a barrage of negative reviews on her website. While they were all posted under different names, they were all sent from the same IP address. The culprit? You guessed it, the competition. I don't think that anyone has a problem viewing this is improper behavior. The possibility of legal action is being pursued.

Mr. Konrath brings up a number of points including blurbing another author's work, receiving free review copies, and negative reviews among them.

Free review copies sent to reviewers is a question that never made any sense to me. The debate goes like this: the reviewer got sent a copy of the book (album, movie, whatever) and therefore they can not be unbiased as they received something as payment.

Umm, no. They were sent their work. Their job (whether they get paid to do it or not) is to review books (albums, movies, I'm not going to keep writing this). If they don't get the material, there can be no reviews. The fact that they have the material to do their job does not influence how they feel about the material.

I honestly don't see how blurbing someone else's work enters into this discussion. By blurbing I mean when one author gives a little mini-review (what the kids used to call a shout out) to another author. It's usually only one or two lines, but it can include those full page deals in the front of the book that only people with OCD read. The idea is that if someone who is respected in the field approves of this material, that will influence the potential reader to purchase said material.

Usually it works. If I see the phrase "Stephen King calls MR.AUTHOR.GUY the crown prince of horror" I am going to pick that book up and give it a second look. I may not buy it, but I will give it more than a quick glance.

This is where Mr. Konrath has it backwards. Blurbing is the exact opposite of sock puppetry. When someone famous puts their name on a review, they are relying on their name to boost that book's sales. One person, one name, one review. Not fifty reviews from the same person using false names.

I have given positive reviews to books written by people I know. I placed my name next to them. I someone wants to do a little two click research, they will see how I know that individual. The important thing is, I do not blindly review the works of people I know. I have given positive reviews, but only after reading the material in question. You can tell because my reviews are thorough enough to list WHY I enjoyed the material.

And yes, they also include what I did not like about the material.

Which brings us to the "Amazon allows one star reviews" argument. No one said it is wrong to review something negatively IF you have actually read the material. Simply blasting the competition because you are insecure in your own ability as a writer is just sad.

I have given negative reviews. Sometimes it bothers me. This is especially true if it is an author I like. A recent example was for
The Fall the second book in the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book. It had some very creative ideas, a new take on vampirism which was refreshing, and some interesting characters. Book two felt like book two in a trilogy. It was a place keeper. The more I read the more I felt like nothing would be resolved until the next book.

Sometimes it does not bother me to give negative reviews. A recent example was
The Night Enternal, the third book in the same series. I didn't finish it. I got to the middle of the book and realized I just didn't care anymore. I asked someone else who had read it*8 who survived at the end and moved on.

Now, see what I did there? I read the books. I credit the reviews to myself. In case anyone missed whose site they are on, I, Michael Cieslak, a real flesh and blood person, take responsibility for the reviews listed above.

No one is saying that you are not allowed to leave negative reviews. What we are saying is that if you are going to do so, have the cajones to put your real name next to them.

*Douche Canoe is currently one of my favorite expressions. It is impossible to say out loud without smiling. Go ahead, try it.

**Which one would think would be glowing praise for a review of a vacuum cleaner.

***Sorry, the last thing I looked at a lot of reviews for was a hand vac for cleaning up dog hair.

*4 For example,
Twilight of Fifty Shades of Gray.

*5 In case you were interested, the Amazon review guidelines can be found here:

*6 Thanks Mary!

*7 I tend to screw up
word that is not analog by purchasing unrelated items. "People who purchased Resident Evil also purchased Women's Flip Flops."

*8 Thanks MontiLee.