Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview with Author Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas is the author of the short story collections Midnight in New England, The Ghosts in the Garden and his newly released Quill and Candle anthology. His supernatural tales are sophisticated spookfests that are usually based in rustic locales that add to their creepy charm.

I was delighted to interview Mr. Thomas to find out the secrets behind his unnerving stories, how his older brother got him hooked on horror and how writing runs in the family. Enjoy the interview below!

Fatally Yours: When did you fall in love with the horror genre?

Scott Thomas: I can hardly think of a time when I wasn’t interested in horror, though in my younger days horror was not the primary focus so much as one of several major interests, the others being science fiction and fantasy. Not to diminish any fascination with the genre. It’s actually hard not to say we when referring to those more youthful times, because my interests were so interwoven with and influenced by those of my older brother Jeffrey — yes, Jeffrey Thomas the author of Punktown. My interests were our interests. We loved monster movies and Halloween, spooky old time radio classics like Lights Out, and publications such as Eerie, Creepy, and Famous Monsters of Filmland. Oh, yes, and TV shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

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

ST: I came from a home where creativity was highly regarded. My father was a poet and an artist and my mother used to have her own musing newspaper column, so, creating, whether it be art, or homemade comic books (and eventually penning stories) became a way of expressing and inventing, a way of processing and indulging interests. Story telling, in that environment, seemed to come naturally. As far back as 5th grade I was writing what I considered novels, though I don’t think the actual word counts would have justified the label. Even so, my desire to be an author goes back at least to that time.

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

ST: I wrote a certain vignette, an October mood piece called Only the Night Knows, that saw print in a pagan periodical called New Earth Journal some years before being published in anything like a horror publication.

Back in the early nineties there were a lot of small press genre magazines being put out with subject matter ranging from traditional horror and sci-fi to gothic stuff and hardcore fantasy (some will remember Deathrealm, Elegia, 2AM and Eldritch Tales, to name a few). Well, I started submitting short stories to some of those markets and scored a hit with a sale to a handsome magazine called Haunts. That was in February of 1991. The story, Memento Mori, came out in May of 1993 and later was scooped up for a reprint in DAW’s The Year’s Best Horror #22. Other short works appeared in this and that little magazine before the May issue of Haunts came out, but Memento Mori remains my first fiction acceptance.

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

ST: Well, whether I’m working on a novel, which is infrequent, or a short story, I guess I do it when I have time and energy and I’m in writing mode or mood. I can’t say there’s an actual pattern. I’d certainly like to write more often than I do.

FY: Your collection, The Garden of Ghosts, is set in Victorian times. What interests you about the Victorian period and why did you decide to set your book in this time period?

ST: My interest in that period stems, I would say, from my interest in the classic Victorian ghost story. The classic British Victorian ghost story especially. Some decades back, I was also rather taken with the architecture of the era, though I’ve since become more fond of earlier period houses. The Victorians were fascinated with death, of course, so setting stories in that environment seems appropriate. And, in my humble opinion, stories of a ghostly nature seem more at home in a time when people rode in carriages and relied on fireplaces and candles, and women wore long picturesque skirts. With The Garden of Ghosts I simply determined to do a collection of nothing but Victorian ghost stories, though in my own idiosyncratic interpretations of the tradition.

FY: Did you have to do a lot of research on the Victorian period before writing The Garden of Ghosts?

ST: I tend do quite a bit of research when I’m doing period stories. I get obsessive, learning more than I need. Even so, the research is a way of tuning into a certain place and period, so it proves a valuable expenditure of time. Yes, I would definitely say I did quite a bit for that particular collection. I recall looking into things such things as village life in 1830s New England, and the building styles and street lay-outs of old British villages, even the kinds of plants one would have encountered in Victorian times. A great deal of research went into the Jack-the-Ripper story Mr. Pickergill’s Unusual Oak-wood Box. I aimed to capture details of the actual crimes as well as the dreary slum environs where that gory bit of history took place. I wanted that crime-infested, down-trodden part of London to almost function as a character in the story.

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

ST: Favorites change over time, but one that I would absolutely list is The Swan of Prudence Street, which appeared in Ministry of Whimsy’s Leviathan 3. I’m rather proud of that one. Two others that I consider favorites are The Second Parsonage, from my collection Midnight in New England and the title story from The Garden of Ghosts. The collective stories of my book Westermead are very dear to me as well.

FY: How do you feel about ultra-gory horror novels as opposed to more psychologically chilling tales?

ST: I can’t say I’m much of a novel reader, but as regards horror fiction in general, I favor quiet ghost stories to gore. I’m a big fan of Thomas Harris, though, and his violent, bloody work borders on horror (but also works on a psychological level as well). It’s sort of ironic, I suppose, because back when I was in my early twenties I wanted my writing to be the most violent stuff around. Not that I’m a prude now by any means. I enjoy a good exploding heads zombie flick as much as the next guy.

FY: What do you think of the recent popularity of period-based horror novels that take established classic texts and infuse monsters in them, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters?

ST: I looked one of those books over in a store once. While some tolerant part of me almost wants to find the concept amusing and witty, I’m really pretty disgusted by the idea. It’s so smirky and arrogant to deface antique works of literature. Would it be cute and funny to spray paint giant boobs on the wall of some historical figure’s birth place, or to superimpose party hats on the portraits of historical figures? Splice silly blips of annoying music into a Bach cello piece? No, I can’t say I care for the trend and I hope I’m not alone in that sentiment. Is it, perhaps, just another emanation of a soulless, jaded, and barbaric pop culture?

FY: Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

ST: It really varies. Sometimes elements of a story will just sort of pop into mind. Sometimes it’s an image, or a line of descriptive, or I may get inspired by reading something about life in the past and roll from there. Reading or hearing something by a skilled author can stir the creative juices, certainly.

FY: Who are your main influences?

ST: My brother Jeffrey has always been an influence. Who knows, if it were not for his early interest in writing, I might not have gravitated to that pursuit myself. I’ve been influenced by M.R. James and Dylan Thomas, the singer/ musician/storyteller Robin Williamson and I’ve always loved Dickens’s A Christmas Carol with its ghostly elements.

FY: What are some of your favorite horror books and films?

ST: My favorite horror books are collections by M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and H. Russell Wakefield. And my brother’s work, of course! For novels I’d have to mention William Peter Blatty’s Legion. Films…The Innocents, which is a haunting 1961 black and white version of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. The masterful The Others! Carpenter’s Halloween! Others favorites include Eyes of Fire, Ghost Story, Kubrick’s The Shining, An American Werewolf in London, Carpenter’s The Thing, Reanimator.

FY: Who are your favorite authors?

ST: Jeffrey Thomas, Dylan Thomas, M.R. James, Charles Dickens, Thomas Harris, H. Russell Wakefield, H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Hardy, Truman Capote.

FY: What was the last book you read?

ST: Devil’s Gate by David Roberts. It’s a haunting tale of true life horror and suffering, a documentation of the plight of Mormon pilgrims who died from starvation, exhaustion and freezing weather while pushing handcarts for over a thousand miles in the western wilderness of 1856. The book explicitly illustrates how dangerous religions can sometimes be. Over two hundred people lost their lives. It was the greatest tragedy in the history of western migration. Devil’s Gate, which is wonderfully written and constructed, was an odd choice of a book for me to read, as I’m not terribly interested in western history. The human drama of the event was what drew my interest.

FY: Do you have any upcoming projects you are working on?

ST: Well, my latest collection of supernatural short stories, Quill and Candle, is now available from Dark Regions Press as part of their Ghost House imprint. It features superb cover and interior artwork by Erin Wells and, like my book Midnight in New England, contains stories set in New England’s past.
I’ll soon be starting another collection for Dark Regions, more ghostly tales.

Thanks for having me by for a chat!

FY: And many thanks to you, Scott!

Buy Scott Thomas’ novels on Amazon:
Midnight in New England: Strange and Mysterious Tales
The Garden of Ghosts

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: The End of Church Street by Gregory L. Hall

A group of homeless goth kids who run the back alleys of Orlando, Florida are being targeted by a vampire slayer who thinks they are real creatures of the night. Though the kids like to wear fake fangs and don black capes to terrorize the tourists, they are pretty much harmless and the only people to bother them are the bored cops. Now, Vampire King and Queen Adam and Lucy must protect their brood of runaways from a real threat that is staking and decapitating members. Everyone is a suspect, from a detective called Duncan to the kids’ strange butler Renfield and even some of the kids themselves. Can they catch the deranged Van Helsing-wannabe before it’s too late?

Gregory L. Hall’s The End of Church Street is a fast-paced, fun read that offers up plenty of interesting characters, from the level-headed Adam to the sensual Lucy to innocent newbie Lilith to hothead Timmy. Each character has a varied past and Hall takes the time to develop all the characters so they each have distinctive personalities and pasts, making us care about every single one. I also like how they weren’t just stereotypical cut-outs of either homeless runaways or vampire freaks, but were really varied in appearance and personality. Hall did an excellent job giving each and every one of the characters emotional depth to ensure they really resonated with the reader. I was really cheering for the kids to elude the killer!

As for the killer, I enjoyed how Hall kept the reader on his or her toes the whole way, and gave us plenty of red herrings! I was positive I knew who the killer was, but the reveal completely surprised me! Kudos to Hall for actually creating a solid mystery that was suspenseful and surprising. The book kept me guessing and therefore kept me interested!

I also enjoyed the theatrical settings of the old theatre where the vampire kids live and the local haunt where Adam works. Both locations really added to the atmosphere of the book. Besides those two spooky locations, the foreboding dark alleys also added much to the setting. Shadowy encounters in the alleys really made my hair stand on end!

The only thing I didn’t quite like about the book is that sometimes its characters have a tendency to fall into melodramatics. I suppose that since they are teens they are predisposed for drama, especially since most of them are goths, but sometimes they go a bit too far and the book starts to focus more on the tangled relationships between characters rather than the horror at hand. This occurs a couple times, but thankfully doesn’t detract too much from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

Despite this small complaint, overall The End of Church Street is a solid horror novel that kept me enthralled in its spell. It’s a perfect quick read that will keep you glued to its pages and has several twists and turns that are sure to surprise you!

Order it on Amazon!

Offerings (1989)

Good god…what the hell did I just watch? This bottom of the barrel offering (sorry, couldn’t resist) is an atrocious mix of awful characters, bad acting, threadbare story and weak kills. However, it is also (unintentionally?) hilarious, with characters who are trying to play Valley Girls over their twangy Oklahoman accents, a pizza party that turns cannibalistic and a hefty cop who likes to bust kids with boxes of porno mags in abandoned houses.

While all these shenanigans sound like a grand old time, they are assuredly not!

The plot is an oversimplified mix of Halloween and Slumber Party Massacre. It begins with a young mute boy who is not only abused at home (how ‘bout some cigarette ashes in your eggs, honey?) but also by the neighborhood kids. His only friend is a little blonde girl who stands up for him. However, one day the other kids “accidentally” cause the outcast to fall down a well…and after that he spends the next 10 years in a mental asylum because apparently he also killed his mother. When 10 years are up, our young scrappy psycho breaks out by killing a few nurses and returns to his boyhood home. To reminisce about happy childhood memories, you ask? Why no, silly, he’s returned to hunt down all the bullies that taunted him and regale his little blonde girlfriend with “offerings” of their slaughtered body parts like ears, a nose, etc. It’s up to Little Miss Blonde, her BFF and the corpulent sheriff to find out how to stop the psycho before he kills again. At least so that the icky “offerings” will stop. They are like, totally groddy!

Yeesh, this is one sorry excuse for a slasher flick! Of course the filmmakers themselves have admitted to making this just as an excuse to party, but why did they have to subject everyone else to this awful film?

Ok, ok, so it does have its moments of hilarity, unintentional or intentional. Take for example, the funny tasting “sausage” pizza the kids have at Little Miss Blonde’s house. It turns out the mystery meat is the other white meat…human! Yum! How sweet of the psycho to send the kids some snacks before their untimely demises! Then there are the obnoxious Valley Girl accents used by most of the characters…yes way! Or how ‘bout the little kid busted for reading (a box of) naughty magazines and telling the dense cop his name is “Ben Dover” before running away and flipping the policeman the bird? Pretty amusing stuff…

…However, the rest of the movie (like the remaining 98%) just plain sucked! The storyline drags, the pacing is horrible and it is just…weird! Like the scene where one of the kid’s parents are eating cake at 3 AM…it’s just feels so off and out of place! The kills are pretty absurd too, including a cheesy vice kill scene. All of the kills (and most of the movie) leave a lot to be desired.

Offerings is a pretty crappy movie that rips off Halloween, Slumber Party Massacre and numerous other slashers, and while I can’t really recommend it, it does have its entertaining moments. Be warned – these moments are far and in-between, so watch at your own risk!

Available on Amazon!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963)

The Virgin of Nuremberg was a medieval torture device that most of us know as the Iron Maiden. It was an upright sarcophagus with metal spikes on the inside. The victim was tied inside and when the doors were shut their body would be penetrating with the strategically placed spikes. These spikes were designed to not penetrate any vital organs, therefore extending the agony of the victim and ensuring they died a slow death.

In The Virgin of Nuremberg (aka Horror Castle), a 1963 film directed by Antonio Margheriti, this torture device plays an integral part of the plot. Max (Georges Rivière) and Mary (Rosanna Podesta) Hunter are staying at a castle in Germany Max has inherited. One night, Mary is awoken with screams…and sees a mysterious figure in a red cloak kill a maid. It seems that the original owner of the castle has returned…and is back killing innocent victims with the castle’s old torture instruments! Who is this madman, what are his ties to the Hunters and how can he be stopped?

The Virgin of Nuremberg is a decent gothic horror tale. While not as good at Margheriti’s later effort Castle of Blood, it is still an elegant and atmospheric film. Plus, Christopher Lee stars in a small role as the castle’s disfigured man-servant!

The story of the castle’s owner and his sordid history were interesting. You were never quite sure whether he was back from the dead or if it was just someone posing as him, which kept me in suspense until the final “unveiling” of the killer (whew, and what an unveiling it is!). The castle’s inhabitants and servants also did a nice job of creating enough red herrings to keep me guessing. The character of Rosanna wasn’t that developed, but Podesta did a good job of playing the stereotypical “damsel in distress” in her white flowy nightgowns that faints away at any sign of trouble.

The setting of the big, dark castle was appropriately creepy and I especially liked the shadowy torture room filled with steel cages, surgical implements and various torture devices. The eye-popping color red is used throughout the film (as accent colors in rooms as well as the killer’s red robe and, of course, the blood!) and really pops against the rest of the dark castle. The gothic visuals really add to the film’s ambiance and made me enjoy it even more.

Quite a bit of blood is spilled in the film, surprising for its time. It is certainly not a gorefest, but there are some nice deaths throughout the film. Memorable scenes include a woman with her eyes gouged out impaled within the ubiquitous iron maiden, a cage with a hungry rat inside place over a living woman’s head and, as previously mentioned, the unveiling of the killer.

The Virgin of Nuremberg is a stunning Italian gothic horror film and while it isn’t appreciated as much as other films in the genre, I believe it definitely deserves a look!

Available from Amazon!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review: A Boy Born from Mold and Other Delectable Morsels by Lorin Morgan-Richards

Following his unique first book, Simon Snootle and Other Small Stories (which I absolutely adored), author Lorin Morgan-Richards has released another delightfully delectable collection of illustrated short stories in A Boy Born From Mold. In this, the author’s second pocket-sized, handmade and handbound book, he returns with quirky stories of fantastical characters, from the titular boy born from mold named Ruin (or Rune proper) to a young vampire named Zoog whose parents are distressed at his distaste for blood. The small tome boasts seven new tales, each a delight to read!

Just like the first book from Morgan-Richards, A Boy Born From Mold boasts a very high quality with the handmade craftsmanship. This book’s longevity is ensured with the high quality of its faux leather, black ribbon and acid-free blue linen paper used. Only 400 copies of the book were handmade by the author, so these are definitely a collector’s item!

A Boy Born From Mold and Other Delectable Morsels from Lorin Morgan-Richards is a fun collection of stories for those with darker sensibilities. Fans of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton are sure to fall hopelessly in love with Morgan-Richards’ unusual characters and their disturbing situations. Plus, it’s the perfect size to fit in your pocket so you can take it with you during your daily stroll through the cemetery!

Available from Amazon!

Visit Lorin Morgan-Richards’ Official Site!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Death of a Ghost Hunter (2008)

Ever since The Blair Witch Project there have been a plethora of “found footage” faux documentaries. Some are good while others are just groan-worthy. Can you guess which category Death of a Ghost Hunter falls into?

Death of a Ghost Hunter is about paranormal investigator Carter Simms (Patti Tindall) investigating a supposedly haunted house. The history of the house is that an entire family was slaughtered there, including husband, young son and daughter. Supposedly, when the mother discovered them all dead she blew her brains out because she couldn’t deal with their deaths. There have been reports of a haunting ever since this tragedy. The owner of the house, who has never lived there himself, tells Carter she will be joined by a few other people to help her document anything that occurs.

I wasn’t expecting much out of this movie, but the first half hour or so was actually pretty promising. We found out the whole cursed history of the house and one of the investigators (a 20-something church girl who was there to ensure the dead were “honored”) becomes especially affected by the surroundings. There is also a very creepy moment where the investigators discover something in their footage (a little hand gripping a doorframe and a small head slowly peering around – ya, it’s on the DVD cover) that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!

However, this was the ONLY scary part of the film and the rest just went downhill from there. The other “ghostly” appearances were too obvious and the special FX looked lame. The best films make you believe something is there but either don’t show it or only show a peek, but in most of Death of a Ghost Hunter they show too much and it ruins the tense mood of the first part of the film.

Also ruining the mood were the many plot holes and plot inconsistencies. When the investigators found a bunch of incriminating photos I practically threw up my hands and said, “Right. Like the police wouldn’t have found those!” Or how the police couldn’t have figured out the killer from all the forensic evidence.

When the mood is ruined for the rest of the film I pretty much stopped caring about the characters. I thought the actors all gave okay performances, but their characters were written just kinda blah. A huge backstory wasn’t necessarily needed, but something that would make the audience relate to them would have been nice and perhaps make us care for them more.

To top it all off, the “finale” dragged on for far too long and really should have ended with the death of a ghost hunter (I’m not giving anything away, it’s all there in the title!). Instead, it was drawn out for another 20 minutes or so (all I know is that it felt like FOR-evvvver!). At this point I just wanted the movie to end, but it just kept going and going and going…

I will say that the “Jesus box” (a huge box with crucifixes all over it that is worn over the head and has an eyehole to see out of) used throughout the film and prominently in the end was pretty creepy.  However, that and the previous scare I mentioned do not make a good movie all on their own. This film was just riddled with too many pacing, storyline, character and mood problems to call it a good (or even okay) film. I understand the limitations of plot, but if they had stayed away from the cheesy ghost visuals (with the exception of that first scare) and beefed up their story a little bit and shortened the ending I think it would have made a much better film. As it stands, though, Death of a Ghost Hunter is a weak entry into the faux documentary subgenre.

Available from Amazon!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Witchouse (1999)

Full Moon Pictures’ films are always hit and miss (mostly miss, at least for me), so I had pretty low expectations for Witchouse. Like most Full Moon Pictures’ movies, it is low-budget, has no-name actors (except for Ariauna Albright and an ex-Red Power Ranger!) and has a plot that sounds ripped off from Night of the Demons. However, I adore Night of the Demons, so I can’t deny that there was a part of me really hoping that Witchouse was a hidden horror gem.

Well, Witchouse wasn’t the gem I wished for, but it still wasn’t THAT bad.

The plot is awfully familiar: gothy outcast invites kids who have wronged her to a party at an isolated, creepy house, conjures a demon to get revenge and pretty soon everyone is popping up as scrunchy-faced demons.

You are probably thinking you’ve seen this all before in better movies (which is exactly what I thought when the film started) because Witchouse is pretty much a lower budget version of Night of the Demons. It has some pretty bad acting and silly effects, but despite these flaws, it still manages to have that Full Moon charm!

Take the first killing: a couple is first to arrive at the creepy house and head down to the basement for some quality “bow-chikka-bow-wow” time. However, they are not alone in the basement and a silhouetted shape seems to glide over to them, eyes glowing green, before they are both impaled. The green glowing eyes completely sold this scene for me, despite the fact that it never happens or is referenced again in the movie! I also thought a scene where a potential victim uses a silver plate to reflect some bolts of electricity being hurled by a demon was pretty cool. The effects were certainly cheesy, but they reminded me of old-school horror movies, which gave me the warm fuzzies! Both of these scenes could be described as “bad” and/or “corny” by most movie viewers, but I found them oddly endearing. Charming scenes like this make this otherwise derivative movie worthwhile!

While director David DeCoteau is known for parading around male flesh, Witchouse is remarkable restrained in this respect. The few pecs he does put on display are amazingly refined, though, and there are a few instances of men running around in their tighty-whities (both which I enjoyed!). There is also restraint when it comes to gore, as most deaths occur off screen and the focus is more on the special makeup FX of the demons. They look okay, but nothing too special.

The story, by Matthew Jason Walsh, is pretty generic as discussed earlier. The characters and dialogue are both pretty bland, but one stoner couple is pretty hilarious AND the girl totally kicks a demon’s ass. It’s pretty sweet when she just cold clocks the demon and it goes tumbling backwards into a room. However, the rest of the characters are all pretty interchangeable and forgettable, so there’s not really anyone to root for.

Still, Witchouse has its moments despite its many flaws! If you enjoy cheesy, corny B-movies from Full Moon Pictures you should definitely check this out. Just keep your expectations low, drink a few beers and enjoy this Night of the Demons-lite movie!

Available from Amazon!

Screamplay (1985)

Screamplay has got to be one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. It is filmed like a washed-out, grainy black and white movie from the silent era mixed with sparse, geometric set design of German Expressionism and all pulled together by a murder mystery. I’m surprised more people don’t know about this film because it’s a very creative and mesmerizing effort from filmmaker (he co-wrote, directed, edited, did the visual effects, etc. for the whole film) and actor (he also plays the lead!) Rufus Butler Seder.

It has been released by Troma, the only studio that would pick up the film (originally, New Line expressed interest but pulled out when the film received a bad review from the Boston Film Festival). However, it is definitely not a “typical” Troma blood and boobs B-movie and I don’t think it was fairly marketed back during its release. So since then, the film has pretty much languished in obscurity…

I happened to chance upon it while browsing through Netflix and decided to give it a shot. The premise sounded pretty interesting:

“Aspiring screenwriter Edgar Allen (Rufus B. Seder) works as a janitor for room and board at the Welcome Apartments, a run-down building filled with freaky characters and bizarre plot twists that wriggle their way into Edgar’s horror movie script. Reality blurs with Edgar’s vivid imagination, driving him into a state of creative madness.”

So, I decided to give the film a whirl and had no idea how intriguing it would turn out to be…however, within the first few moments of seeing the simple sets and stark black and white film I was hooked. Screamplay has its faults and isn’t the best film out there, but its artistic merit more than makes up for its few problems.

Let me just say that I love the story (ok, that’s not a problem, but give me a minute…), written by Ed Greenberg and Seder! Basically, the writer’s creations on the page on coming to life and all the murders look like he perpetrated them. Great premise, right? Right. However, the interactions between characters feel a bit stilted and the dialogue doesn’t really grab you, causing the pace to drag at times. Even Seder admitted his film was “kinda boring” and that “When it gets to the point where the actors are acting, just sitting talking in a room, the scene pretty much goes dead” (from an excellent Movieline article on the film).

However, the film does have some very memorable lines (“You f*cked Karloff?!”), kooky, well-written characters and a storyline that speaks to every struggling creative talent in Hollyweird. In fact, anyone who has ever had any experience with the fickle entertainment industry can appreciate the many clever jabs the film makes at the expense of “the industry”.

The film’s biggest draw besides its fun storyline is its aesthetic. Filmed in washed-out black and white, with the appropriate scratches added to make it look even more vintage, the film reminded me of silent classics like Nosferatu or The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In fact, the sparse, simple and inexpensive (they used Plexiglas to mimic a pool) sets, with their sharp corners and minimalist decoration, tended to echo German Expressionist films like Caligari. In short, the visuals of the film were entirely mesmerizing and Seder did an astounding job with the art direction (yup, another task he took on!).

Further cementing the comparison to silent films were the melodramatic performances from the oddball characters that included a sleazy landlord (played by underground film legend George Kuchar), an aging but lustful actress, a starlet, a prophetic ex-rock star and a couple of noir-like gumshoes tracking down the killer. I especially liked Seder’s performance of the manic screenwriter, who looks like he would fit perfectly with any of the silent film stars with his over-exaggerated facial expressions!

Though Screamplay won’t be a film everyone will enjoy, those that appreciate a good surrealist slasher with silent film-like aesthetics will no doubt fall in love with the underrated and little-know Screamplay. Go check it out!

Available on Amazon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Uncle Sam (1997)

When it comes to 4th of July, horror fiends pretty much only have one genre film to watch – Uncle Sam. I admit I am a little obsessed with horror films set during holidays, but for some reason I had never seen Uncle Sam. Once July rolls around the movie I usually watch is Jaws (which is only incidentally related to Independence Day), but this year I was determined to watch Uncle Sam…even if I got to it AFTER the 4th had already passed!

Uncle Sam tells the tale of uber-patriot Sam Harper who is killed while serving his country in the Middle East. His body is shipped back to his hometown, where his nephew Jody lives with his mom and aunt. Jody worships his uncle and aspires to be just like him. Somehow Uncle Sam is brought back to life, dons an “Uncle Sam” costume and goes around killing any un-patriotic townsfolk.

While Uncle Sam is certainly a “holiday horror” movie and evokes the spirit of summertime and 4th of July, it is a pretty awful movie. Now I understand why I avoided it for so long! From its inconsistent, silly and plot-hole filled storyline to its slow pace, the movie just isn’t that enjoyable. First off, when Sam is shipped back to his hometown his coffin just sits nonchalantly in the house for days! Who in the world just leaves a coffin in the middle of their front room anyway? Secondly, it never really explains HOW he comes back to life. One minute some kids are burning an American flag and the next he is at attention offing the juvenile delinquents. Also, characters, like a crippled kid, show up the last half of the movie as major players when they should have been included since the first half of the film! The film also moves slowly, there aren’t that many kills, and Uncle Sam isn’t scary.

I expected much more from director William Lustig (Maniac, Maniac Cop series) and writer Larry Cohen (Maniac Cop, It’s Alive, God Told Me To), but instead got a watered down, sub-par slasher flick. The one thing that Uncle Sam has going for it is its scathing political commentary, which was way ahead of its time. The Patriot Act didn’t go into effect ‘til years after Uncle Sam was released, but the film really feels like an indictment of that law and how it punishes people that are deemed “un-patriotic” for the silliest of reasons. There’s also a nice social commentary on the United States military and government.

Other than that, though, there isn’t much to recommend for Uncle Sam. It’s too much of a jumbled mess to truly enjoy, though there are a few entertaining kills. For example, the ridiculous potato sack race scene where a cheater ends up losing his head to Uncle Sam’s hatchet is pretty entertaining. Another well-done scene is a fireworks display where the mayor (or senator? I don’t remember) has his body covered in fireworks and mouth stuffed with explosives before being blown up by Uncle Sam.

However, two mildly entertaining scenes do not make up for the fact that Uncle Sam is pretty mediocre…not even the late, great Isaac Hayes (I cannot help but imagine Chef from South Park whenever I hear his voice!) can save this messy mish-mash of a film.

Next year I’ll just stick to re-watching the Jaws films instead of ever watching this weak supernatural slasher again!

Available from Amazon!

The Perfect Witness (2007)

What was it that grabbed my attention and made me want to sit down and watch this flick? Well, it certainly wasn’t the crappy DVD artwork or the generic name (thought its other title, The Ungodly, is just as clunky-sounding). No, this film was in my queue for a long time before I realized that hunky Wes Bentley was in it, which shot it to the top of my must-see list! Yes, call me shallow but I’m a sucker for the blue-eyed, dark-haired actor and would pretty much watch whatever he’s in! While his scruffy, “independent filmmaker” look in this film didn’t do him justice (no offense to all the fab independent filmmakers out there!), I nonetheless found myself riveted to The Perfect Witness.

The story is about struggling documentary filmmaker Mickey (Wes Bentley) who plans to make it big by tracking down and filming an elusive serial killer. He finally catches up to his subject and films him brutally killing a girl. He then blackmails the serial killer, named James (Mark Borkowski, who also co-wrote the film), into being interviewed on camera in exchange for Mickey not turning in the video of James murdering the girl. However, the tables are soon turned as a tense cat-and-mouse game begins between the filmmaker and the serial killer.

Surprisingly, this film was pretty engaging! It’s definitely not a “perfect” film (hardy har har), but it is an underrated little flick. The use of hand-held camera footage actually works within the film and never once becomes annoying. Plus, the direction by Thomas Dunn is well done…there are several scenes that are nicely framed and he really captures the grittiness of the city setting. In fact, the dingy surroundings – back alleyways, dark apartments, etc. – really add both character and atmosphere to the film.

As for the story, penned by Dunn and Borkowski, it may sound similar to films like Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but it has enough twists, turns and distinct characters to differentiate itself from other flicks. Though James, like many other serial killers, had an abusive upbringing, the film really takes a different direction with the backstory, bringing it to the forefront of film instead of using it as a convenient “explanation” as to why James is the way he is. I loved how his childhood demons came full-circle by the end of the film (in very surprising ways, I may add).

The chemistry between the characters of James and Mickey was spot-on – at first there was uneasiness between the two of them, then acceptance, then a tense trust and then…well, let’s just say that the turn of events is surprising towards the end. Bentley and Borkowski do a really bang-up job portraying their characters. Of special note is Borkowski, who just oozes danger despite his character’s penchant for charity work. He always seems on the verge, and when he finally snaps it is quite explosive!

Though there are some disturbing scenes of violence (one in particular involving a home invasion and subsequent murder of a waitress is particularly cringe-worthy), this is more of a psychological film than anything else. While this might turn off some viewers, I actually appreciated the slow build-up of the film and its increasing tension. The story, acting and direction kept me engaged, and the topsy-turvy ending was just icing on a very satisfying cake!

The Perfect Witness certainly isn’t the best thriller out there, but it was a surprisingly interesting film that kept my attention, especially with its strong acting and story, making it well-worth checking out.

Available from Amazon!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review: Pay Phone by Brandon Ford

In Pay Phone, Brandon Ford’s (author of Splattered Beauty) newest novel, charming serial killer Jake stalks victims from his tenement, calling a pay phone he can see from his isolated apartment and luring victims up where they meet their grisly deaths. Jake may be a charismatic and handsome young man, but he is haunted and tormented by the voice of a mysterious woman named Susan.

One morning Jake spies a very special victim from his perch…one who looks almost exactly like Susan. Amazingly, she answers “his” pay phone and the two strike up a conversation. Jake learns her name is Chelsea and she is a struggling actress trying to make it in the big city. Jake thinks this one is different and that she may be able to stop him from his murderous ways, but Susan’s voice whispering in his head tells him different.

Pay Phone is a quick, easy and suspenseful read from indie author Brandon Ford. The characters, from the twisted Jake to innocent Chelsea to greasy landlord Ackley to Chelsea’s bitchy roommate Haley, are all fleshed out and given ample background, though this isn’t always necessary. For example, there is a sub-plot about Haley trying to sleep her way to the top of her company that doesn’t quite fit. Though Ford goes to great lengths to describe her anguish, her chunk of the story seems unjustified considering her abrupt leave of the story. However, it’s not like Haley’s subplot took anything away from the meat of Pay Phone, and her feelings of isolation, frustration and disappointment mirrored all of the other characters’ feelings and fit the tone of the book.

I also enjoyed all of the shocking and perverse revelations about Jake, his relationship with Susan and the grisly way he dispatches of victims. There are some very gory, explicit descriptions throughout the book, including necrophilia, which are sure to satisfy gorehounds and extreme fiction readers alike!

The pacing of the novel is quick, and Ford has the ability to suck you into the story and make you want to keep reading all the way through. The character of Jake is oddly likable, despite all the horrific things he does, and you just don’t want to stop reading about this psycho. Though there are some instances in the plot that aren’t entirely believable (it’s very convenient that Chelsea decides to pick up the pay phone – and who in their right mind would actually pick up a germ-infested pay phone? Ick!), but because of the breezy nature of the novel I was able to overlook the inconsistencies of the plot and just have fun.

If you are looking for a disturbing but quick horror read this summer, look no further than Brandon Ford’s Pay Phone…just don’t pick up if you ever hear a pay phone ringing; you never know who is on the other end!

Available from Amazon!

Maniacts (2001)

What an odd little film! I’d never really heard of Maniacts before, but happened upon it while browsing Netflix. Starring genre regular Jeff Fahey and recognizable actress Kellie Waymire, Maniacts is a weird mix of drama, romance, comedy and horror. It certainly doesn’t always work because of its slow pace and lackluster atmosphere, but it is undeniably original.

It tells the tale of “Blueblood” serial killer Joseph (Jeff Fahey) who is sent to a mental hospital after he is caught and convicted of murdering six people. There he meets the quirky Beth (Kellie Waymire) and the two fall in love. Joe escapes, but returns to the institution to rescue Beth. The two try to leave their murderous pasts behind them and lead a normal life on a farm, but find “normal” life can be just as crazy.

The strongest part of the film is the acting from both Fahey and Waymire. Though their characters are psychotic murderers, you still come to like them both. Despite the film’s slow pacing, they are the ones that keep you watching.

Speaking of, the film’s pacing if probably its biggest flaw. It starts off very slow and the action never really takes off. There are a few scenes of bloodshed (including a nice impalement and a memorable death by water hose), but I wouldn’t really call the film “horror”. It feels like more of a mix of Natural Born Killers and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. The tone is also uneven and vacillates between B-movie comedy and melodramatic romance.

The atmosphere also feels off and lacking, making the whole film fall flat. While the film is unique, I wish it had a bit more bite and edge. It is pretty dialogue heavy, but I wish it had spent more time developing the characters instead of the lame dialogue (except for the AWESOME line, “Welcome. I will now demonstrate the payback-is-a-bitch procedure”) it featured.

Maniacts is no doubt like nothing you’ve seen, but its slow pace and lack of atmosphere really hamper its original storyline. Check it out if you are a fan of Jeff Fahey or weird, little-seen flicks, but personally this film didn’t really do it for me.

Available from Amazon!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Red Mist (2008)

After loving Paddy Breathnach’s hallucinogenic and freaky Shrooms, I was excited to check out Red Mist, another film from the Irish director. In Shrooms, Breathnach combined many different horror tropes to create a very inventive and visually stylish film, something I hoped would be replicated in Red Mist. Breathnach does use familiar horror scenarios in Mist, but they are so cliché that the film is just a bore to sit through.

The story is about some stereotypical med students (the good girl, the goth, the bookworm, the asshole, the rich girl, the sensitive guy, etc.) who apparently think they are all still in high school because they pick on socially awkward stutterer Kenneth (Andrew Lee Potts). As in most horror films of this ilk, a prank goes horribly wrong and dear old Kenny ends up on a coma. No one wants to implicate themselves, so they decide to keep the secret within the group and not tell the police or hospital staff. The only one who seems upset over this decision and the overall situation is good girl Catherine (Arielle Kebbel), who feels somewhat responsible since Kenneth had a crush on her. She secretly pumps Kenneth full of experimental drugs that she hopes will pull him out of his coma…unfortunately all that awakens is Ken’s spirit and it’s out for revenge! Kenneth’s spirit begins taking over bodies and killing off the group one by one as payback for leaving him in a coma. Can Catherine stop Kenneth before she’s next?

I really wanted to like this movie since it was directed by Paddy Breathnach, but the more I think about it the more I dislike it. It just felt so generic and predictable, not to mention how silly the premise was. I mean, a coma patient’s spirit possessing others’ bodies and killing people for revenge? Really??? The story just kinda plodded along, and while the direction was competent the film just couldn’t keep my interest, especially with some gaping plot holes (since when can med students pick up any drugs they fancy in the hospital pharmacy?). The film tries to combine elements of a slasher movie, medical drama and possession tale but here the combo just doesn’t work. While the clever combination of sub-genres worked in Breathnach’s Shrooms, here it just feels trite and lazy.

Besides the snooze-worthy story, the characters are pretty unlikable. They try to give Kenneth a tragic backstory, but it never really goes anywhere and the opening scenes (which are quite horrifying and effective) are never really referenced again in the film. Plus, all of the other characters are stereotypes and even the final girl Catherine is bland, so there is really no one to truly root for. The acting varies from grating to annoying to tolerable, so it’s not like the actors make their characters any more likable.

To top it off, none of the deaths are memorable. One girl gets her head slammed multiple times in a car door, another gets her wrists slit open, one slams her head repeatedly against a mirror and stabs herself, a dude gets seduced and then gets Drain-O poured down his gullet, yada, yada, yada. Nothing to write home about.

The only positive thing about the film was the direction, which creates a surprisingly claustrophobic feel in such sprawling hospital. The lighting, believe it or not, is also very well done and while it’s not something I talk about in every film review I believe it bears mention here. However, technical details will not save a doomed film, and the fact still remains that there are better, more entertaining films out there besides Red Mist. Shrooms, for example!

Red Mist was a disappointing effort from director Paddy Breathnach. It’s just plain boring, too cliché and its premise is silly (but not in a good way). Furthermore it has shoddy character development and the acting isn’t what you would call Oscar worthy. It may have nice direction and technical details, but those alone don’t make a memorable film and already Red Mist is dissipating from my memory. Skip it.

Available from Amazon!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

I finally got my grubby little hands on the new Nightmare on Elm Street documentary and this past holiday weekend was the perfect opportunity to watch the four-hour film uninterrupted. As soon as I popped it in I knew I was in for a treat because the opening credits are done in amazing stop-motion animation, replicating memorable scenes from the series. This stop-motion technique is used throughout the film to introduce each segment, which are broken down chronologically by film. The doc starts with the first Nightmare on Elm Street, helmed by Wes Craven, and then goes through each and every one of the series’ films, including the ill-fated television show all the way through to Freddy vs. Jason. For each film all the appropriate players, from directors, producers, actors, writers, special FX artists, etc., discuss their involvement in the films.

I loved how directors Daniel Farrands and Andrew Kasch took us through all the films chronologically to really show the progression of the series and all the hard work that went into each film, whether it was dealing with difficult directors/producers/actors, etc., working with silly scripts or creating complex special FX (most in the series were practical FX and didn’t utilize the then non-existent CGI technique). The film even touches on New Line, “the studio that Freddy built”, and how the NoES series basically launched the studio and put it on the map.

The documentary’s focus is on the people involved in creating each NoES film, and many familiar faces pop up throughout the film. Heather Langenkamp, star of the original film, Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and New Nightmare, does a fantastic job both narrating and appearing in the documentary. Also a prevalent face is Wes Craven, who is known for hating all NoES sequels (besides his New Nightmare) and the direction the series took after the original. And, of course, the doc stars the only true “Freddy” (at least according to this horror fiend), Robert Englund. However, I love how the doc features a wide variety of people involved with the franchise instead of just focusing on just a few of the more famous face. There are lots of “where are they now?” type moments as many actors from the films are interviewed. It was a real kick to see so many actors from the films and find out what they are doing now! I loved hearing each and every one’s memories of working on the series and appreciated everyone’s honesty as they discussed tensions involved while filming, problems encountered, obstacles overcome and so on. There is definitely no sugar-coating here!

You would think a four-hour documentary would get old after a while, but this is definitely not the case with Never Sleep Again. My eyes were glued to the screen the entire time and never once did I get bored. Everyone’s personal recollections on the franchise were so unique and engaging and the filmmaking was so sharp and focused that once I started watching I couldn’t stop! I didn’t even want to take a bathroom break I was so engrossed in the film!

This retrospective is absolutely stunning – from the awesome stop-motion animation used (a clever nod to some of the special FX used within the franchise) to the sheer number of participants interviewed (pretty much the only people missing are Johnny Depp from the first film and Patricia Arquette from the third film) with everyone from Craven to Alice Cooper to metal band Dokken to all of the “final girls” (from Heather Langenkamp to Monica Keena) making an appearance, this documentary is all-encompassing! Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is the definitive behind-the-scenes look at the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise and boogeyman Freddy Krueger himself.

Required viewing for all horror nuts and Freddy fans!

Available from Amazon!

Book Review: The Living Dead 2 edited by John Joseph Adams

Ah, short story collections, how I love thee! Seriously, is there anything better than bite-sized horror tales? They are perfect for when you don’t have much time in your day but still want to sneak in 30 minutes of mayhem into your schedule. Being a busy bee myself, I love short horror stories for this very reason, and therefore was totally stoked upon receiving The Living Dead 2, a collection from varying authors edited by John Joseph Adams that is a follow up to his first volume of The Living Dead, called by Barnes and Noble “the best collection of zombie fiction ever”.

As the name suggests, the theme of this short story collection is…zombies!! They are another fave of mine, so I eagerly dug into the book’s 43 diverse zombie tales. At around 500 pages, this is one hefty tome, but it certainly packs the best of the best within its numerous pages! With contributions from horror authors Max Brooks, Cherie Priest, David Wellington, John Skipp, Brian Keene, Amelia Beamer, David Moody, Kim Paffenroth, Jonathan Maberry, Sarah Langan and many, many more, the book boasts quality along with its quantity!

All of the stories contained within The Living Dead 2 are sure to delight any horror and zombie fan, but personally I have a few favorites.

My personal favorite is “The Price of a Slice” by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow, about the last functioning city in the world, San Francisco, after the zombie apocalypse. The organized and fortified city is now using remote controlled zombies to wipe out small pockets of resistance, and these zombots are controlled by video game jockeys. Except, some of the zombies are starting to think and act on their own…The tale focuses on a well-liked pizza delivery boy who finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time facing down these zombots. The characters and setting are extremely well-developed in this story, and I just raced through it to find out what happened at the end! I loved its mix of social commentary, sci-fi, action and horror!

Coming in for a close second favorite is Brian Keene’s “Lost Canyon of the Dead”. This tale mixes a Western, zombies and dinosaurs to create an utterly unique, mesmerizing and bone-crunching tale!
Another unusual and original tale is “Twenty-Three Snapshots of San Francisco” by Seth Lindberg, a story told entirely by the lead character as he describes 23 photographs that occurred leading up to, during and after a zombie outbreak. Pure genius and wonderfully written!

Other favorites included steampunk/zombie hybrid “Reluctance” by Cherie Priest, the surprisingly unexpected tale of the “Last Stand” by Kelley Armstrong, the action-packed and surprisingly sweet “Dating in a Dead World” by Joe McKinney and Genevieve Valentine’s truly frightening “And the Next, And the Next”.

Like its predecessor, The Living Dead 2 truly is one of the great zombie short story collections out there and you are definitely getting a lot of bang for your buck here! Kudos to editor John Joseph Adams for putting together another memorable anthology sure to delight zombie and horror fans everywhere!

Order it on Amazon!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: Dead Set - A Zombie Anthology

Zombies…what more can really be said about them? Our culture is inundated with zombie imagery in films, video games, magazines and books, familiar to pretty much anyone. In the horror genre there are dozens of new zombie films and books every year, so it’s amazing that fans aren’t fed up with the whole zombacalypse theme. However, it seems that despite the genre being flooded zombie stories, fans can’t get enough of them and the subgenre seems stronger than ever.

So I was stoked rather than chagrined when I received Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology, edited by Michelle McCrary and Joe McKinney. Despite the hundreds (thousands?) of zombie novels, films, etc. I’ve experienced, I couldn’t wait to dive into another one, this one with short stories from authors like Lisa Mannetti, Lee Thomas, Bev Vincent, Harry Shannon, David Dunwoody, Nate Southard, Boyd E. Harris and many more.

The anthology is divided into sections, starting with Origin, The Plague Begins, moving on to In Dubious Battle and Losing Ground and ending with And to the Dust Returneth. This was an interesting and effective way to organize the anthology, giving it a more cohesive feel.

I enjoyed all the stories contained in the anthology, but my favorites included “Recess” by Rob Fox, about kids battling zombies on the playground; “Hatfield the Usurper” by Matthew Lewis, about a stunt man who decides to take full advantage of the lawlessness the zombie apocalypse brings; “Ruminations from Tri-Omega House” by David Dunwoody, a story that really makes us care about the lead character before pulling the rug out from underneath us at the finale; “Recovery” by Boyd E. Harris about “good” zombies who have been re-introduced back into society but face discrimination from most humans; “Survivor Talk” by Mitchel Whitington about a survivor-turned-radio-host that decides to risk making a dangerous trek to join other survivors; and “Good Neighbor Sam” by Mark Onspaugh that featured skewed points of view and a totally unexpected twists.

My top favorites out of the whole anthology were “Category Five” by Richard Jeter, “Pierre and Remy Hatch a Plan” by co-editor Michelle McCrary and “That Which Survives” by Morgan Ashe. “Category Five” is set in New Orleans during a fierce hurricane and follows a group of locals holed up in a bar who must battle against rising flood waters as well as zombies. I loved the original premise of the story as well as the evocative setting and colorful characters. Quite a nice little surprise at the end as well! Michelle McCrary’s contribution to the anthology is the comical “Pierre and Remy Hatch a Plan” in which two lovable but bumbling rednecks decide to steal the local tiger mascot to protect their property against zombies…but all doesn’t go as planned. McCrary crafts memorable, humorous characters and an engaging storyline. The anthology ends with the stunning “That Which Survives” by Morgan Ashe, in which a scientist describes all that’s been done to study zombies and find out what caused them…only to finally make a devastating discovery. This complex tale hits you right in the gut with its implications and features some relevant social commentary to boot!

Dead Set is a wonderful zombie anthology and shows that there is still life in the sub-genre! All of the stories were unique twists on zombies and featured unforgettable characters, situations and settings. This indie anthology is well worth your time so check it out!

Order it on Amazon!

The Crazies (2010)

I’ve never been a big fan of George A. Romero’s 1973 film The Crazies. I’ve probably only seen it a few times and remember being very underwhelmed by the horror flick. I understand its message and significance, and while I appreciate a good socially conscious film, the original Romero film just didn’t grab me and was largely forgettable.

So, I wasn’t too excited for the 2010 remake, helmed by Breck Eisner (same dude who is in discussions to direct remakes of The Brood and Creature from the Black Lagoon…ugh, it never ends! He also directed an episode for Fear Itself). I saw The Crazies reboot when it was released on DVD last week, but it has taken me this long to write a review since the remake, like the original, left me feeling pretty “meh”.

A military plane crashes in a small Midwest town and releases a secret biological weapon into the town’s water supply. As people become exposed they become gravely ill, ultimately descending into homicidal madness. Soon, the military quarantines the town to contain the virus at all costs. Sheriff David Dutton (Timothy Olyphant), his pregnant wife Doctor Judy Dutton (Radha Mitchell) and a few other uninfected inhabitants attempt to escape, but who can they trust when anyone can be infected?

This remake doesn’t really try anything differently and is pretty much the same film as the original except it looks more slick and polished. It starts off pretty strongly (a man holding a gun stumbles across a baseball game, a mad look in his eyes, as Sheriff Dutton pleads with him to put the gun down – a scene you’ve undoubtedly seen in the trailer), but after the characters and plot are established the story begins to wear thin and the proceedings become pretty boring.

However, the film also has its positives. For one, the acting was pretty decent. Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell do a good job as the married couple, though their chemistry felt a little off at times. And dang…Olyphant looks mighty fine in that police uniform! Joe Anderson who plays the deputy also gave a strong performance, especially towards the end. Everyone else in the cast did a good job, so not many complaints from me regarding the acting.

I also thought the special effects were quite good and the “infected”, with bloodshot eyes, sores erupting on their faces, their blank-eyed stares, looked great! There is a scene at a truck stop where a few groddy infected attack the Sheriff and his wife that is VERY effective and actually made me jump! The film isn’t gore-focused, but has its fair share of bloodshed. One memorable scene that comes to mind is the pitchfork scene where a “crazy” kabobs a victim with the implement.

Saying all that, I was still bored watching the film. A few good scenes do not a movie make, and while The Crazies isn’t a horrible, dumbed-down remake like most horror “reimagings” are, I was still managed to be let down. The story is just too familiar, not only because it’s a remake, but because we’ve seen virus/quarantine movies so many times before…and yet films like 28 Days/Weeks Later and [REC] actually managed to keep me from falling asleep while watching them, something I can’t say for The Crazies.

Saying The Crazies is one of the better horror remakes out there really isn’t saying much, and while The Crazies is better than most reboots coming out of Hollywood,  it still failed to entertain me.

Watch at your own risk!

Available from Amazon!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Silver Bullet (1985)

Ah, the nostalgia that a Stephen King work brings to me…his stories remind me of being in elementary school and devouring his novels. Of course, it also helped that I could identify with many of his characters, who were usually around my age in the books. I remember reading IT and then enjoying the movie on VHS (remember how it came with two VHS tapes since its 3 hour length couldn’t all fit on one?). Even though I didn’t really dig the ending of the film I loved the story and at the time was obsessed with actor Jonathan Brandis, so I pretty much wore out those VHS tapes. I enjoyed many of King’s other books and subsequent adaptations, but one (short) story I never read was Cycle of the Werewolf, which Silver Bullet is based on.

Silver Bullet is about young, wheelchair-bound Marty (Corey Haim) who lives in a small town with his family, including mom, dad, older sister and crazy Uncle Red (Gary Busey). He spends his days tormenting his older sister, hanging out with his best friend and best girl and tooling around in a tricked out wheelchair, courtesy of Uncle Red.

That is, until one day in May when the moon is full and the killings start. Townsfolk are being ripped to shreds but no one has any idea who (or what) the killer is. Every month when the moon is full the killings start again…

When the killer murders Marty’s best pal, drives his best girl and her family out of town and causes the town to cancel some firework festivities, he decides to take matters into his own hands…especially once he discovers exactly who and what the killer is. After convincing his older sister and Uncle Red, the three of them make one final stand against the monster on Halloween night.

Silver Bullet is a pretty decent Stephen King adaptation and a good werewolf film to boot! I really enjoyed how the main character was a kid and how this gave the film a sweet, nostalgic feel. The film may be rated R (there is lots of cussing and some gore), but I think it’s pretty kid-friendly and Marty is an extremely likable character you can root for all the way through. If you’re a kid you will have no problem relating to Marty and all the adventures he has (disabled or not) and if you’re an adult you’ll blissfully remember those carefree days as a kid (minus the werewolf…at least I hope so).

Corey Haim as Marty is the absolute star of the film and does a fantastic job in his role. His talent definitely shines through in this film and really makes you realize what a great actor we lost. Gary Busey is his usual scenery-chewing self in the film, but his boisterous Uncle Red gives the film a pleasant manic edge. And he’s got some of the most hilarious lines in the film (“Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino!”). 

The film does have a few instances of bloodshed (victims getting diced and sliced, some ocular horror, etc.) but gore is not the focus of the film, so don’t go in expecting too much (it’s kid-friendly horror, remember?). However, I did like the impressive werewolf transformation scenes, especially one set in the church. Sure, some of the prosthetics look a little rubbery or fake, but at least all practical effects are used…and I was expecting much less out of the film!

Silver Bullet is a fun and entertaining werewolf film that is definitely worth viewing. Haim and Busey’s performances give the film bite, but it’s also King’s nostalgic tone and the practical effects that make this underrated flick a must-see for all Stephen King and horror fans.

Buy it on Amazon!
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