Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Review: Jenny's Dance by Bruce Kaplan

Jenny’s Dance was originally published in Australia in 1989, but after the small publisher went belly up the book went out of print. Twenty years later author Bruce Kaplan made a few small tweaks and decided to re-release the book himself in 2009.

Of course if you ask me, the book needs A LOT more editing despite its fascinating story…

After a traumatizing incident, journalist Michael Baird’s therapist recommends he take a nice long vacation. Michael heads to the sleepy resort town of Koala Bay, but it turns out things aren’t quite so quiet there. A violent series of murders is being covered up by the local authorities, murders which just might involve some young children with high I.Q.’s. Though Michael has been warned not to get involved or cause himself any undue stress, his journalistic instincts tell him otherwise and he is soon in the thick of it. Can Michael find out who or what is killing the residents of Koala Bay before either the authorities or the killer(s) kill him first?

Jenny’s Dance has an intriguing sci-fi/horror storyline, but unfortunately tends to get bogged down by sloppy grammatical and punctuation errors and slim character development.

First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way – apparently author Bruce Kaplan has never heard of punctuation or it doesn’t exist in Australia, because he uses it as little as possible. And by “as little as possible” I mean it is usually just used at the end of sentences, if you’re lucky. There are no quotation marks when dialogue is used, there are no apostrophes – neither to mark possession nor to mark the omission of letters (like “shouldn’t” for “should not”), there are no commas to mark pauses in sentences – pretty much the only punctuation that is used is the period at the end of sentences. I understand the creative omission of punctuation in something like poetry, but in a novel it’s kinda vital, doncha think? I had a hard time getting into the book (or taking it seriously) because of the heinous misuse (no use?) of punctuation. And the author even had a second time to fix all this nonsense since this was his second time releasing the book!!

Secondly, the characters all feel and act like stereotypical cardboard cut-outs (with about that much personality). The hero of the novel has a tragic past, but overcomes it to solve the case and win the girl…yada yada yada. There are the typical crooked cops and authorities, the “creepy” kids (who aren’t all that fleshed out and not so creepy) and the underdeveloped female characters. The female characters are probably the flimsiest, and exist in the book to only play mothers or love interests. Psh…I could go on a rant about this alone, but this book has so many other problems that I’ll refrain. Just know that all of the characters are stereotypical and aren’t that well fleshed out, making the reader not care that much about them. Also, things happen to the characters that just seem too convenient. Michael falls in love with a local school teacher awfully fast (their relationship seemed a bit forced and contrived) and he always happens to stumble upon bodies, among other things. At times, even the dialogue and interactions between people in the book seems off and a little stilted.

However, I will say that the storyline was intriguing and was the only thing that kept me reading. Despite the poor use of punctuation and the cardboard characters the idea behind the book was unique and interesting. I liked how Kaplan kept me guessing as to who or what was doing the killing and I especially liked entertaining the fact that it could be kids sucking the brains out of victims. I also thought the final explanation was satisfying and definitely not something you read every day. Though in the end there is a sci-fi twist, I still enjoyed the horror of the story (even though I had to sit through the horror of the formatting).

If you can stomach sacrificing proper punctuation, grammar and decent characters for a cool story,  you may want to check out Jenny’s Dance. The title doesn’t really do the book any favors, nor is it really relevant to the plot, but despite its flaws the actual story isn’t half bad. Just be prepared to slog through a messy manuscript to get to the gem of the story!

Available on Amazon!

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2010)

It’s never a good sign when a director quits a production half-way through, which is exactly what happened with Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever. Director Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Roost) just didn’t agree with the direction the studios wanted to take the film, so he bailed on the production. He was never replaced and the film was completed without a director. Usually, this spells disaster for a film, but Cabin Fever 2 still managed to be surprisingly entertaining!

This silly and fun sequel bears no resemblance to Eli Roth’s great Cabin Fever (which, for the record, I love!). First off, instead of an isolated cabin the location has been moved to a crowded high school. Secondly, the tone is totally different. Gone is the tension and suspense from Roth’s flick as it’s replaced with funny gross-out gags and outrageous gore. In fact, it helps to think of this sequel as a whole different story, because besides the flesh-eating virus it really doesn’t feel or look like the original!

The film picks up right where Cabin Fever left off – Rider Strong’s character has escaped the cabin in the woods only to realize he still has a very short shelf life. Meanwhile, the contaminated water containing the flesh-eating virus is bottled in a plant and shipped off to the local high school, which is gearing up for their prom. The prom ends up being ground zero for a whole new epidemic as the teens meet all kinds of nasty fates while the military quarantines the whole school. Can anyone make it out alive?

While I expected this sequel to be downright awful, I was pleasantly surprised by its energy, quirkiness and gore factor! If you like gross-out gore shocks, you are going to love Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever! There is copious vomiting along with buckets of blood, sores, pus, infected private parts and lots of ooey gooey ickiness! The action is completely over-the-top and every few minutes I found myself saying “ewwwwww” or “grossssssssssss”!! It’s not easy to gross me out but this film definitely did the trick!

I also enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of Giuseppe Andrews as party-hardy Sheriff Winston and the brief appearance from Rider Strong, both from the original! Other recognizable faces included Marc Senter from The Lost and Noah Segan from Deadgirl. The characters weren’t too terribly annoying, and I was actually rooting for the lead characters!

It’s too bad Ti West walked away from this film, because it’s buckets of mindless fun! It may not resemble the original at all, but it sure is an entertaining way to be grossed out!

Available on Amazon!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with Actress and Producer Katrena Rochell

Katrena Rochell co-stars in the much anticipated comic book adapted film Kick-Ass starring Nicholas Cage and Mark Strong. Katrena plays a sexy junkie in the Matthew Vaughn directed film, produced by Brad Pitt’s Plan B Production Company, which was recently released in the US from Lionsgate. Also in 2010, Katrena stars in the, Psychosis opposite Charisma Carpenter and Paul Sculfor. She plays “Helena” in the psychological thriller that she co-wrote and executive produced.

On the small screen in her native Untied Kingdom, Katrena will be seen this year in the made for TV movie, Casting Nina a British mockumentary about the absurdities that surround the world of the entertainment industry. She is best known for her role in television film currently airing on the BBC The Last Days of Lehman Brothers, where she plays “Ezzy” opposite esteemed actor, James Cromwell.

Katrena was just cast opposite Michelle Morrow in an untitled sci-fi thriller about the end of times directed by Michael Shelton. She also just signed on to produce and star in a new untitled film that deals with a small town family’s struggles with crystal meth addicts. Her other film credits include the independent film, Joy Division and the video short  JD Pilot.

Katrena is co-director of the British production company Kingsway Films that produced Psychosis and Joy Division. She began her acting studies at Mesa Conservatory and continues to study at the Impulse Theatre Company when in the UK. She divides her time between London and Los Angeles. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting, hiking, tennis and cooking.

Fatally Yours: What are your first memories of the horror genre and what drew you to it?

Katrena Rochell:  Friday the 13th was my first memory… I was a little girl and having a slumber party. We somehow got one without my parents knowing. I remember I felt so  terrified…and alive! Then we would all go outside in the dark and walk…Terrified.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Katrena Rochell: Fear of the unknown

Fatally Yours: What made you want to pursue acting as a career and how did you get your start in the entertainment industry?

Katrena Rochell: I love the stage and performing on it. I fell into it by accident really at university. I was terribly shy and when it was my turn to go on stage, I would just die….But it made me feel so alive! It also made me curious and question things….look at things differently. I did what everyone else trying to be an actor did. Moved to LA and auditioned and did as many plays and films as I could. I have been doing it for awhile, it’s just lately things have started taking off for me.

Fatally Yours: What made you want to create your own production company and what kind of films are you hoping to produce? 

Katrena Rochell: I was frustrated being in London and never being “right” for the part. I’ve always been told I’m very hard to pinpoint. I decided if I was ever going to do anything I would have to do it myself. I was lucky because I was surrounded by people who make things happen as opposed to waiting for things to come…I guess it rubbed off on me…When I started doing my own things, that is, when I started booking. What type films would I want to produce? Anything dark with shock value! I also want my films to be honest and explore the dark side to our humanity.

Fatally Yours: You are in the comic-book adaptation of Kick-Ass, a film that everyone seems to be buzzing about! Tell us about your experience working on the film with the cast and crew and your overall thoughts on the film itself. 

Katrena Rochell: The film is great! Matthew Vaughn was a dream to work for. He is so creative and willing to play to create something that fits. I also worked the two weeks with the stunt guys, which are so amazing.  It was the biggest film set I have ever been on and it was absolutely fabulous…I didn’t want it to end.

Fatally Yours: You will also be starring in the upcoming Psychosis, alongside Charisma Carpenter. You not only star in the film, but also executive produced as well as co-wrote Psychosis. Tell us what it was it like acting and producing simultaneously, as well as being a writer on the film. 

Katrena Rochell:  Reg Traviss and I had wrote Charisma’s part for me and we were only making a short. It just continued to grow and we gained amazing support along the way. I ended up playing a smaller role. It was not anymore difficult than just acting because Reg was so on top of everything. I consider that film my “film school”  as it is where I educated myself on the ways of making a film from start to finish.

Fatally Yours: Speaking of being a writer, do you wish to pursue that career more along with acting and producing? Are there any scripts, etc. you are working on now?

Katrena Rochell: I don’t consider my self a writer. I could not do it alone. I am currently working on a film about crystal meth set in Tennessee that I developed along with my partner Andrew Docker. We are also producing it and plan on shooting at the end of summer. I also have an idea that I am going to do next which is something I have wanted to do for a very long time….

Fatally Yours: We celebrated Women in Horror Month here on Fatally Yours back in February, so now I’d like to ask you a few female-centric questions. Do you think female roles in horror films have shown improvement and that there are more strong female characters being featured in films nowadays? 

Katrena Rochell: I think it is better but still has room for improvements…

Fatally Yours: Have there been any roles that you’ve turned down because you found them too stereotypical, offensive, exploitative, etc.?

Katrena Rochell:   Yes.

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed by the stereotypical “bimbo in distress” who always seems to end up naked for no apparent reason in some horror movies?

Katrena Rochell:  It has its place… but that is it…

Fatally Yours: Do you think there is a horror movie that is equally fair in terms of men being objectified or at least losing the same amount of clothes?

Katrena Rochell: Nothing comes to mind

Fatally Yours: What are your overall thoughts on how women are portrayed in horror films (or in films in general)?

Katrena Rochell:  Obviously women do not get the same opportunities as men…which is totally unfair. Now more women are moving into other aspects of film making (myself for instance) so I believe they have a responsibility to create change. Saying that, generally, women do not care so much if you have a hot man taking off his clothes…we find it cheesy… or at least I do…I suppose that is the difference in men and women.

Fatally Yours: Behind the scenes, do you think more and more women are getting involved in directing, producing, writing, etc.? Why do you think that traditionally more men have been involved in the behind-the-scenes aspects of filmmaking than women? 

Katrena Rochell: I’m not sure why men have been more behind the scenes in the past, but I certainly know that is not the case anymore. I produce and act and have occasionally tried writing…anybody these days can create anything.

Fatally Yours: And now, back to some fun questions! What has been your favorite character you’ve portrayed? The most challenging? 

Katrena Rochell: I loved playing Desserick in Finding Nina. She is absolutely a lunatic…crazy alive character. We did mostly improv for that  show.

Fatally Yours: If you could play or go up against any fictional horror villain in a film, who would it be and why?

Katrena Rochell: I’ve I always wanted to play a serial killer… It is fascinating to see what makes them tick. I’d love to explore that.

Fatally Yours: What women in the entertainment business, specifically the horror genre, do you admire and look up to?

Katrena Rochell: I honestly look up to any woman who manages to have a career. It is so difficult and even more so the women who manage to keep working once they get a hand in the door. It’s easy for people to sit around and criticize and judge. I try to see the good in all.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role/project?

Katrena Rochell: I’m working on that one at the moment. We have just commissioned a writer to write it and as soon as I’m finished with the crystal meth project, I will focus on “my baby”.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to pursue a career in the entertainment business?

Katrena Rochell: Do it. It’s the time now… it’s just like the revolution of the 70′s. People can do it themselves now… and women have already started leading the way… [like] The Hurt Locker [Kathryn Bigelow was the first female director to win the Best Director Academy Award].

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Katrena Rochell: Psychosis will be out in July!  And Kick-Ass opens this Friday [since this interview was conducted, Kick-Ass has opened in theaters across the country].

Triangle (2009)

Triangle is a surprising straight-to-DVD flick…when I first watched it I hadn’t heard anything about it, so I wasn’t expecting too much out of it. However, it’s a great little flick that offers plenty of twists and turns that will keep your mind reeling!

I’m not even sure how to describe it so I’ll let the Netflix description do the synopsizing:

“Murder strikes the Bermuda Triangle in this gripping high-seas horror starring Melissa George, Liam Hemsworth and Rachael Carpani. Jess encounters the first of many bad omens when her car kills a seagull near the local harbor. Later that night, her yacht hits a storm, forcing her and her friends to board a mysterious deserted ship. The clock on the ship has stopped — and so has any sense of safety. Christopher Smith writes and directs.”

Though the synopsis mentions the Bermuda Triangle, it’s never explicitly mentioned within the film and the above synopsis doesn’t quite do the movie justice. When Jess (a perfectly manic Melissa George) and friends board the ship, a strange time loop occurs and Jess must essentially battle future and past selves to get off the ship. Ok, so it sounds a little hokey, but rest assured it isn’t! The film is played as straight as can be with plenty of shocks, suspense and scares! This is certainly one film that gets inside your head…even when you think you can relax Triangle surprises you with more twists and turns.

Christopher Smith, who writes and directs, did a fantastic job creating an ominous atmosphere, both within the story as well as with the visuals of the film. I really didn’t know what was going to happen and the script kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time! Also, the decrepit old ship was definitely foreboding, especially with its dark mazes of hallways and the washed-out color palate Smith used when shooting above-deck or on land. The visuals helped create a sense of disorientation that mimicked the emotions of Jess as she tried to figure out what was happening and how to stop it.

Along with messing with your head, the film also features some pretty impressive violence. People are shot, stabbed, choked, drowned and so on. This isn’t a “gore” film by any means, but I thought the amount of blood was quite appropriate for the tone of the film. It also boasts plenty of creepy scenes, like when a masked killer is going after Jess and her friends. My favorite scene? When Jess stumbles upon the duplicate bodies and bodies of her friend who, in this strange time loop, has died again and again and again and again…

Just awesomeness…

I think it’s better to go into Triangle with little or no expectations, so I don’t wanna blab and give too much away. This horror flick comes highly recommended from yours truly…and just wait for a jaw-dropper of an ending!

Available on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Commune (2009)

I really wanted to love this movie, fiends, I really did!! First off, it’s written, directed, produced, etc. by firecracker filmmaker Lis Fies. I just love her spunk and attitude, especially when we interviewed her for Women in Horror Month! Secondly, it sounded like it was going to be an homage to the sleazy 70s satanic slashers where a creepy cult goes after a nubile young virgin. I love me some killer cult horror flicks! Thirdly, I had heard so much hype about this movie I was thinking there was no way I could dislike it.

Oops…I was wrong. Ultimately I was let down by The Commune.

Soon to be 16-year-old Jenny (Chauntal Lewis, looking, ahem, more than slightly older than 15) is sent to live with her hippie dad on a commune for the summer. The community of hippies seems pretty harmless at first, with their stereotypical Earth Mother worship, yoga classes and uber-healthy diets, but things take a sinister turn as Jenny’s 16th birthday approaches. Does the commune want to turn her into a hemp-wearing flower child or do they have more ominous plans for her?

Technically, The Commune was impressive. As a director, Fies excels at making the film look like it had a much bigger budget than it did. The film looks sharp and professional and includes many establishing shots of the commune to give the audience a feel for its atmosphere. I liked that Fies took the time to set up different shots and compositions to make the film visually interesting.

Also impressive was the acting (even though some of the actors couldn’t pass for the ages they were portraying…ahem Chauntal Lewis!). Chauntal Lewis did a great job with the naïve Jenny. While at first she comes off as bratty and annoying, her character really starts to grow on you after a while. I also thought that Stuart G. Bennett did an amazingly job as the creepy Dr. Polieos, Jenny’s dad, with glances at his daughter that last far too long and leave you feeling very icky.

However, despite these glimmers of greatness, the film overall lacked a certain “oomph!” I was looking for and in the end was pretty predictable. The script seemed a bit bare and it seemed the film would have worked better as a short. Without very much of anything happening, the pacing was off and the film felt drawn out and slow. Besides a few startling moments the film had neither scares nor did it create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere. The characters seemed pretty one-dimensional as well, with only Jenny and Dr. Polieos fully fleshed out. I would have like to have seen more menace from the members of the commune and more development of their characters. I understand the filmmaker may have wanted to make them appear as “sheep”, but they all could have used more edginess in order to give the film more suspense. And portraying them as “weird” or “evil” just because they ate healthy and were “hippies” seemed like lazy and irresponsible screenwriting to me.

The Commune is supposed to be based on Greek tragedy with a 70s psycho-sexual slant (which sounds pretty cool, right?), but for me it just failed to deliver anything but yawns, something I’m definitely not looking for when watching a horror movie. The technical aspects of the film make me look forward to Lis Fies future work behind the camera, but I do hope she bones up on her screenwriting skills and conceives a less predictable story than The Commune.

Check out the official site!

After Dark Horrorfest 4 - All 8 Films to Die For Reviewed (2010)

I finally got around to checking out all of After Dark Horrorfest’s “8 Films to Die For” since they were only in theaters for two seconds!

I don’t feel like writing a lengthy review for each film, so I’m going to do a quickie review of each and list them from best to worst.

Note: All synopsis are courtesy of Netflix. Yeah, I’m lazy like that sometimes.

1.) Hidden (aka Skjult)- Kai Koss (Kristoffer Joner) returns to his family’s eerie woodland estate and makes plans to sell the house, hoping to put the memories of his tragic childhood behind him. But a presence even more wicked than his abusive mother has taken up residence in the place. Pål Øie (Dark Woods) writes and directs this atmospheric horror flick from Norway. Karin Park, Arthur Berning and Bjarte Hjelmeland co-star.

Definitely the best of the bunch, Hidden’s atmospheric story was intriguing, mysterious, and, best of all, scary! The psychological thriller is methodically paced and offers plenty of twists and turns. It is also gorgeous to look at (the creepy house, the weird, woodland-themed hotel, the eerie woods)! I also enjoyed how it is a mixture of haunted house/ghost/serial killer/slasher themes and makes you think. If you like subtle horror that slowly gets under your skin, Hidden is for you!

2.) Lake Mungo – When a series of inexplicable supernatural events strikes their home, Russell (David Pledger) and June (Rosie Traynor) Palmer try to figure out exactly what is behind the tragic drowning death of Alice (Talia Zucker), their 16-year-old daughter. A psychic (Steve Jodrell) might be able to help them. Joel Anderson writes and directs this psychological thriller; Martin Sharpe, Scott Terrill and Tamara Donnellan co-star.

Another methodically paced spookfest, Lake Mungo plays like a faux docu-drama where family members, police, doctors, neighbors, etc. are interviewed about the drowning death of Alice and subsequent home video is shown that appears to capture Alice’s ghost. The spook-factor comes from the fact that this film feels so real and offers some definitively creepy grainy video evidence of a haunting. The film loses some steam after a twist towards the middle, but the creepy images will haunt you for days!

3.) The Graves – When sisters Megan (Clare Grant) and Abby (Jillian Murray) Graves go on a road trip before recent college graduate Megan starts a job in New York, their fun search for a silly roadside attraction turns into a nightmare after they stumble into evil Skull City. The supernatural residents of this abandoned mine town like to rip out visitors’ souls, and after Megan is badly wounded, Abby must fight to save them both in this bloody spine-chiller.

While the two previous films are subtle and psychological horror, The Graves is straight up survival horror as Megan and Abby try to survive the nasty residents of a former mining town. This is a fast-paced and entertaining film, especially since the two lead female characters are so strong and a joy to root for. However, it does become a bit repetitive after a while (they keep running and hiding) and it would have been nice if the townsfolk were a bit more developed. However, it’s a fun flick that doesn’t disappoint!

4.) Kill Theory – A celebratory vacation turns into a nightmare for a group of recent college graduates when a sadistic sociopath forces them into a horrific game: They must kill each other off until only one survivor remains. As tensions grow and the murders begin, relationships falter and new alliances are formed. Chris Moore directs this gory slasher flick that stars Agnes Bruckner, Taryn Manning and Patrick Flueger.

Though this sounds like a stereotypical slasher, it actually has some tricks up its sleeves and turned out to be pretty entertaining. It has an interesting premise that it follows through with until the end and even throws us for a loop with a nice twist! It does have its “meh” moments, but overall Kill Theory turned out a lot better than I expected it to.

5.) Dread – Assisted by two naïve classmates, duplicitous Quaid (Shaun Evans) conducts a devious research project examining students’ innermost fears. Once armed with data, Quaid methodically torments his hapless subjects, taking full advantage of their weaknesses. Adapted from a short story by Clive Barker, writer-director Anthony DiBlasi’s horror movie offers a potent mixture of heart-pounding thrills and extreme violence. Jackson Rathbone co-stars.

I was really looking forward to this film, especially since it was adapted from a Clive Barker story. However, I found it kind of boring and meandering. I lost interest in the film pretty quickly and was disappointed in its predictable story and ending. However, I will say that it has one of the best (worst?) scenes of torturing a vegetarian ever! The vegetarian is locked in a room and will starve unless she eats a hunk of groddy meat left in her cell. As a vegan, this scene definitely skeeved me out! However, that was the only scene that really “got” me…the rest of the film was pretty blah.

6.) The Final – Dane (Marc Donato), an unpopular high school student, leads a group of outcasts seeking revenge on the popular kids who harassed and humiliated them for years — and their plan includes gruesome forms of torture learned in history class and horror films. Confining the bullies at the remote house Dane inherited, the outcasts turn the tables and subject their victims to a night of grisly treatment in this gory horror flick.

Ya know, this film didn’t start out so bad, but after a while it just felt like a high school version of Saw. It definitely needed more character development of both the popular (victims) and unpopular (killers) kids. It really went downhill when the characters we are supposed to identify with, the unpopular kids, turn into the bad guys and start killing indiscriminately. When that happened I didn’t have anyone to root for or identify with so I was pretty ambivalent for the rest of the film. The set-up of the costume party to get revenge on the popular kids was pretty clever, though, and made for some great scenes! Too bad it went downhill after about 30 – 45 minutes. FAIL!

7.) Zombies of Mass Destruction (ZMD) – When flesh-eating zombies assault their idyllic town, a ragtag group of locals — including gay couple Tom (Doug Fahl) and Lance (Cooper Hopkins), Iranian American college student Frida (Janette Armand) and conservative Rev. Haggis (Bill Johns) — join forces to repel the brutal onslaught. Set in a paranoid post-9/11 America, this nerve-racking horror movie offers witty social satire as well as an abundance of blood and guts.

I just could not get into this movie and was bored all the way through. I don’t know what it was but it didn’t engage me at all. It just felt like any other zombie movie except with two gay dudes in it. I guess I was expecting it to be funnier or something, but I can hardly remember this film at all. Pass.

8.) The Reeds – When a group of London friends boating through Norfolk Broads takes a wrong turn in the dense, reedy waters, they find themselves haunted by a terrifying and ancient evil in this eerie spine chiller directed by Nick Cohen. It soon becomes apparent that they’re no match for the malevolent forces that lurk in the vast waterway. Eli Marienthal, Scarlett Alice Johnson, Geoff Bell and Emma Catherwood star.

The bottom of the barrel is The Reeds, which just feels unoriginal and that you’ve  seen the same movie 100 times before. It boasts a few gross-out/spooky scenes (the scenes of the burned dog were sick), but overall the story is just weak and didn’t keep my interest. Even the “twist” at the end was predictable. I think I even started doing chores while this was on because I was so bored. Definitely pass!

Order the box set on Amazon!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Book Review: The Best Horror of the Year - Volume Two

Ellen Datlow has done it again! Not only has she compiled seventeen great short horror stories for this collection, but she has also given us, dear readers, an exhaustive run-down on notable horror literature releases of 2009, from books to anthologies to poetry to magazines. If you want a complete year in review for horror literature, look no further than The Best Horror of the Year – Volume Two!

Most of the stories in this collection are quite enjoyable, but there are a few that stood out more than the rest. The collection is kicked off with a bang with Suzy McKee Charnas’ Lowland Sea, a clever take on Poe’s famous The Masque of the Red Death. An entourage from the Cannes festival secludes themselves from the “Red Sweat” in a director’s isolated and impenetrable mansion…but they can’t escape the virus forever.

In the stunningly jaw dropping each thing i show you is a piece of my death by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer, a strange “background man” starts showing up in different movies, TV shows, etc. but no one has a clue as to how he got there. A digital hoax is suspected at first, but his strange appearances remain unexplained. The story is told entirely in email communications and instant messages between two filmmakers, transcribed interviews, official documents, police transcripts and so on. It’s an entirely inventive and intriguing narrative structure, with the added menace and mystery of the “background man”.

These two stories described above were my favorites of the collection, but many more grabbed my attention, including Lonegan’s Luck by Stephen Graham, about a Wild West salesman spreading a zombie virus from town to town, The Lion’s Den by Steve Duffy, about strange happenings at a zoo, Strappado by Laird Barron, about an exclusive art installation that’s to die for, The Lammas Worm by Nina Allan, about a strange girl that falls in with a circus sideshow and Technicolor by John Langan, another creative take on Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.

If you are looking for a great guide to some of the best horror literature published in 2009, pick up a copy of The Best Horror of the Year – Volume Two. It’s worth picking up solely for its superb write-up of numerous horror books, magazines, stories, etc., but as an added bonus the short stories also included are excellent examples of the cream of the crop of horror literature.

This is the second Best of Horror collection from Ellen Datlow I’ve had the pleasure to read, and I’m already looking forward to the third detailing the best of 2010!

Check it out on Amazon!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TV Review: Happy Town "In this Home on Ice"

Last year network TV gave horror fans the thrilling and entertaining Harper’s Island (which I was shamelessly hooked on and still highly recommend checking out) and ever since then I’ve been keen to see if other networks would jump on this trend to make their own chilling horror-themed mini-series. Well, the waiting is over because starting on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 ABC will air Happy Town, a deliciously eerie series that (allegedly) echoes the classic Twin Peaks and promises to slake horror fans’ thirst for a substantially spooky series.

I recently got a sneak peek at the first episode of the eagerly anticipated series, which I’ve been looking forward to since early promos surfaced, and as far as I can tell from the intriguing first episode we are definitely in for a thrilling rollercoaster ride through Happy Town!

The first episode begins with a vicious murder by a masked killer before introducing us to a colorful cast of locals. Among them is young Henley (Lauren German), who has just moved to picturesque Haplin, Minnesota with hopes of opening her own candle shop. She soon befriends the mysterious Merritt Grieves (Sam Neill), who has also moved to Haplin, Minnesota (aka “Happy Town”) to open his movie memorabilia store. The people are friendly, the scenery is beautiful and the air smells like fresh-baked bread (thanks to the local bread factory), but the town can’t hide its secrets and soon dark truths about its past, including mysterious disappearances perpetrated by someone called the “Magic Man”, are being revealed.

I was really sucked in by the first episode and there are some seriously strange things afoot in Happy Town that I want to find out about! I want to find out the backstory on the Haplins, the namesakes of the town, and what happened to their little girl who vanished at the hands of the Magic Man. And there is something very sinister going on with Henley…if that is even her real name. And why is the third floor of the boarding house strictly off limits? What exactly does the film “The Blue Door” stand for and why is Merritt Grieves so obsessed with it? And who is Chloe and why does Sheriff Griffin Conroy (M.C. Gainey) keep speaking her name in a trance? And what is up with the symbol of the question mark with a halo over it?

Sooooo many questions…which is why I must see more!

Seriously, I didn’t know quite what to expect when going into the first episode of Happy Town, and while I hoped for the best I also had to prepare for the worse. Luckily, it seems that writers Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Scott Rosenberg as well as directors Gary Fleder and Darnell Martin have (so far) done a fantastic job with Happy Town and I am salivating for the next episode!

Catch the very first episode on ABC at 10 PM (9 PM Central) on Wednesday, April 28th, 2010!

For more info, check out!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: Brains - A Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker

“Professor Jack Barnes has a new passion: Brains. It’s in his nature…he’s a zombie. But Barnes has something most other victims of the zombie apocalypse don’t have: sentience. In fact, he can even write. And the story he has to tell is truly disturbing – yet strangely heartwarming.

Convinced he’ll bring about the peaceful co-existence between zombies and humans if he can demonstrate his unique condition to Howard Stein, the man responsible for the zombie virus, Barnes sets off on a grueling cross-country journey to meet his maker. Along the way he recruits a small army of “super” zombies that will stop at nothing to reach their goal. There’s Guts, the agile, dread-locked boy who can run like the wind; Joan, the matronly nurse adept at reattaching decaying appendages; Annie, the young girl with a fierce quick-draw; and Ros, who can actually speak. Together they make their way through an eerie new world of roving zombie hunters and empty McMansions on a quest to attain what all men, women – and apparently zombies – yearn for: equality.”

Brains: A Zombie Memoir is an entertaining, intelligent, bloody, and yes, even touching novel that puts zombies in a totally new light. Author Robin Becker weaves a delightful narrative as we follow the rag-tag, decomposing group of zombies across America as they try to make sense of their un-life. My first thought when reading? Why hasn’t anyone else done this before?! Of course, we’ve seen intelligent zombies in a few films and books, but I’ve never read anything that comes close to Brains before! I mean, Brains has brains! The exploration of the zombie perspective is fun, ferocious and phenomenal!

I absolutely loved every second of the gut-munching and bone-crushing Brains. Becker writes with a sure-fire confidence and fluidity all the while infusing the text with witty pop culture-isms. Her characters were also well-developed and her zombies had more life and personality than many human characters in other horror novels!

If you are a zombie lover, you won’t want to miss Brains!

Order it on Amazon!

Gory Gear: Screaming Brain Studios

Want a horror tee that is different from the typical horror-movie-poster-slapped-on-a-t-shirt design that most vendors carry? I mean, everyone’s got a black shirt in the closet with their fave horror movie on it…but original horror tees are hard to come by.

Which is why, dear fiends, you have me to highlight some of the most original and innovative horror clothing companies around!

And I have no doubt that Screaming Brain Studios is one of these imaginative horror companies.

You see, Artist Terry Callen runs Screaming Brain Studios and creates unique t-shirts and artwork whose roots are in the macabre. Callen is a lifetime artist and started Screaming Brain to bring his obsession with the dark themes of horror to life and to infuse a new perspective into the tired imagery of horror tees and artwork.

Callen was kind enough to send Fatally-Yours some of his wicked, horror-inspired creations for review. Among the items we received were t-shirts “Skullyard”, “Spider Heart” and “Terror Shock”.

“Skullyard” is a green t-shirt that features a skull ‘n’ crossbones with a graveyard and flying bats in the background. This is a fun, whimsical t-shirt that is playful and cartoonish while still maintaining a dark, macabre feel. I especially love the background detail of the graveyard and bats on this t-shirt. This tee comes in unisex sizes and is made out of very sturdy cotton – no flimsy material here!

“Spider Heart” is a girl’s baby doll tee that hugs me in all the right places! It is a super-soft black tee with a pink and purple heart graced by a black widow and encased in its web. This shirt is the perfect mix of girly and spooky and I absolutely love it!

“Terror Shock” is a white shirt accented by black, red and green colors. In bold letters it proclaims “BLOOD-CURDLING TERROR! & SHOCK! AROUND EVER CORNER” as a ghoulish skeleton (or zombie) head gazes on. I love how the design reminds me of old exploitation movie posters! It’s fun, but still manages to have that ooky-spooky feeling about it.

Besides tees, Screaming Brain also sells one-of-a-kind artwork by artist Terry Callen himself! I received two very special prints (which I don’t think are being sold) of Callen’s interpretation of Frankenstein’s Monster (appropriately called “The Monster”) and Nosferatu, called “The Parasite”. Both are GORE-geous works of art and I am honored to hang them in my house! They are the perfect mix of fun, fantastical and fearsome!

Screaming Brain Studios excels at making one-of-a-kind works of art and designs for horror lovers! Besides the products mentioned above they have a collection of other t-shirts, prints, sculptures and other pieces of art for sale. Artist Terry Callen is an extremely talented artist who is helping to bring some much-needed originality to horror tee companies, and I’m glad he is doing it from a dark artist’s perspective!

Visit Screaming Brain Studios’ Official Site!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Interview with Author Jeremy C. Shipp

Jeremy C. Shipp is a weird author of Bizarro, horror, dark fantasy, and magic realism. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 50 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Harlan County Horrors, Apex Magazine, Pseudopod, and The Bizarro Starter Kit (blue). While preparing for the forthcoming collapse of civilization, Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse with his wife, Lisa, and their legion of yard gnomes. He’s currently working on many stories and novels and is losing his hair, though not because of the ghosts. His books include Vacation, Sheep and Wolves, and Cursed. And thankfully, only one mime was killed during the making of his first short film, Egg.

Fatally Yours: When and how did you fall in love with the darker genres of horror, fantasy and sci-fi?

Jeremy Shipp: In truth, I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love dark tales. My favorite movies as a kid included Dark Crystal, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Return to Oz. And when I played pretend with my brothers, our recurring characters consisted of a mummy, the grim reaper, and a floating mouth that could eat people and transport them to another dimension.

Fatally Yours: When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing? Have you always known you wanted to be an author?

Jeremy Shipp: In 4th grade, I wrote a rather long short story about a semi-friendly opera-loving alien named Chomper. That’s when I first realized how much I loved the writing process. Then, when I was 13, I wrote my first novel, and I’ve been writing about one book a year ever since. I think I’ve always wanted to be a writer. As a baby, one of my favorite toys was a pen.

Fatally Yours: How did you start your writing career and what was the very first thing that you had published? 

Jeremy Shipp: When I was 18, my high school creative writing teacher took me under his wing and encouraged me to send out my work. So that’s what I did. The first story I sent out was a horror comedy called “Love Thy Demon,” which was soon published in an online magazine.

Fatally Yours: Do you follow a certain routine when writing a novel? Do you put in a certain number of hours per day?

Jeremy Shipp: After an idea wriggles its way into my skull, I brainstorm my brains out. Then, I start writing the novel from the beginning. And I carry around an Idea Notebook everywhere I go. My novel-writing process also involves eating copious amounts of peanut butter. I try to write at least a few hours every day.

Fatally Yours: The worlds you create are usually surreal distortions of reality. How do you come up with such imaginative worlds and make their issues so relevant to our own reality?

Jeremy Shipp: When writing a tale, I let my imagination run wild and I let my muse dance a strange jig, but my mind is always rooted deeply in reality. And so, my stories are funhouse mirror reflections of my life and of our world.

Fatally Yours: Do you hope to convey a certain message to your readers through your writing? When a reader is finished with one of your books, what do you hope they take away from it? 

Jeremy Shipp: I want my readers to explore the evils of our world. Evils like racism, sexism, class stratification, factory farming, hierarchical thinking. And, above all else, I want my readers to recognize the light in the darkness. There is evil everywhere, yes. But there is good everywhere too. And that’s a wonderful thing.

Fatally Yours: Does your writing ever involve any kind of research or do you make it up as you go?

Jeremy Shipp: I’m always researching various topics and interviewing people. Even when writing a story set in unfamiliar reality, I want the details of that reality to ring true. For instance, I recently spoke to a guy who eats raw animal organs, so that I could realistically describe the taste of brains.

Fatally Yours: Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

Jeremy Shipp: I’m inspired by the wide, wide world of twisted social systems, and I’m inspired by my small world of family and friends and strangers (the stranger the better).

Fatally Yours: Tell us about Cursed, your novel that is on the Stoker Awards final ballot. 

Jeremy Shipp: Cursed is the story of Nicholas and Cicely. They’re cursed, so they decide to create a support group of sorts for cursed individuals. Together, this group of oddballs and outcasts attempt to figure out who cursed them, why, and what the heck they can do about it.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite stories that you’ve written?

Jeremy Shipp: Right now, I feel especially fond of Camp, Those Below, Dog, The Sun Never Rises in the Big City, Fungus of the Heart, Monkey Boy and the Monsters, Ula Morales, and Agape Walrus.
Fatally Yours: How do you feel about the trend of ultra-gory horror novels as opposed to the classically more psychological tales? 

Jeremy Shipp: I’m actually rather wimpy when it comes to reading and writing and watching ultra-gory tales. For instance, I could barely read American Psycho, and my soul ached for weeks after watching Martyrs. I don’t have a problem with ultra-gory horror novels, but as far as my own preferences go, I don’t like reading or writing stories where violence exists for its own sake.

Fatally Yours: Who are your main influences?

Jeremy Shipp: I started writing novels when I was 13, and back then, my main influences were Ray Bradbury, HG Wells, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne. These days, I’m inspired by many of my favorite writers, including Arundhati Roy, Lois Lowry, Franny Billingsley, George Orwell, Jeff Kinney, Francesca Lia Block, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Hempel, Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami.

Fatally Yours: What are some of your favorite books and films?

Jeremy Shipp: Some of my favorite books: The God of Small Things, 1984, The Giver, The Mighty Book of Boosh, Wicked, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, American Born Chinese, The Folk Keeper, Let the Right One In, Slaughterhouse-Five, Like Water for Chocolate, Kafka on the Shore, Original Wisdom, Ishmael, I Was a Teenage Fairy, A Clockwork Orange. Some of my favorite films: The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, Princess Mononoke, Oldboy, Memento, Happiness of the Katakuris, Fight Club, the original Star Wars trilogy, Spirited Away, Kung Fu Hustle, Lagaan, Lord of the Rings, Ponyo, Totoro, Dead Alive, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, City of Lost Children, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Up, Robin Hood, Enchanted.

Fatally Yours: What is one horror novel you think more people should read?

Jeremy Shipp: Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Fatally Yours: What was the last book you read?

Jeremy Shipp: Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata, which is a superb novel about family and illness. One of my goals right now is to read all the Newbery Medal winning books.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects and/or new novels you are working on? 

Jeremy Shipp: My newest story collection, Fungus of the Heart, is coming out later this year. I also have short stories forthcoming in Cemetery Dance, Rosebud, Apex Magazine, Agape Walrus, Wicked, and other publications. In addition to this, I’m working on a new novel, a comic book series, and a short film. You can learn more about all my projects at
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