She’s Got The Devil In Her … Again?

In case you missed it, I almost did, the television network Fox recently rebooted the Exorcist franchise into a series. I debated whether I wanted to watch it or not. I love the original movie, I’ve seen it countless times and even owned a super-delux-wit-cheese-and -special-sauce director’s cut on VHS (If you were born in the 90’s ask your grandparents what VHS is). In fact its probably collecting dust right now in the basement. I even watched the mediocre to horrible sequels of the original movie. I am not a fan of reboots, but after reading some online spoiler proof reviews I decided to give it a shot.

There are minor spoilers in the following paragraphs, avoid them if you are or planning to watch the series…

The Good: The scenes that really stood out to me were the ones that took place in Mexico  City and centered around Father Marcus’ difficulties with the exorcism of a young boy. The setting of the barrio was symbolism, with its derelict buildings and foreboding atmosphere, for the emotional state of Father Marcus. The exorcism scenes themselves were surprisingly graphic but perhaps more realistic than the split-pea soup spewing ones in the original movie.

That aside what really appealed to me was the scene between Father Marcus and Brother Bennett, which almost gets violent/deadly. I think that this scene really did a lot to show how frustrated and desperate Marcus is, not only by the demon inside the little boy but perhaps by the Church itself. Also, I thought it was interesting how the Church seemed to be opposed to Marcus’ work. Although it was a short scene, it did well to develop his character and perhaps set up future conflicts.

 

I also liked the scenes with Father Tomas in his apartment with his sister and nephew. Again, it was short but it showed that Tomas was not the pure innocent man who had no flaws or desires that were not Godly. Although his past was only hinted at, it suggested here was a man that was not always compelled to live the life of a Catholic priest. There’s also a later scene where he seems at least open to the idea of questioning/doubting God during a conversation with Angela Rance. All of which makes him relatable and realistic to me.

 

The Bad:

Despite the good character development and introductions of Tomas and Marcus, I felt that the writing of the show rushed too fast with the Rance family. I never had a feel for who they were and what they are about as individuals. Instead it felt like I was suppose to identify with them because they are an upper middle class white family living in ‘the city’. That they’re good people cause they go to church. That I was supposed to be sympathetic for Dad and his undisclosed generic mental disorder, just because I have a father or am a father myself. Sorry, I need more than that. I need to be shown who/what these people are.

I did not feel anything for them, and they felt like plot furniture rather than characters. Although I understand about Angela’s past, it still felt too quick for her to run to her priest and it felt like lazy writing for her to simply tell Marcus what was going on in the house. It would’ve been way more interesting and entertaining if the events she talks about were shown on screen.

I also found Casey and Kat to be incredibly annoying, which makes me care about them even less.

I think if the writers had spent a little more time showing me this family prior, I could have identified with them a bit more so that when problems start, I would actually care about their fate.

I also found the idea of a teen age/college age girl being the supposed victim of a demonic possession to be cliched. I mean seriously, there are countless movies out that do this same thing. Why not change it up and have Dad possessed? Why not add a grandmother to the family and make it her? Using a ‘attractive’ young woman is just gimmicky and trite. Frankly, it’s eye rolling inducing for me.

I know that there’s the potential for more to the series than just this family,  but right now it just feels like lazy writing.

I feel that the show missed a great opportunity to present exorcism in a new way. It would’ve been  far more interesting to see the events unfold either in Mexico City, or in a Latino neighborhood where the culture and belief system would be different than that of a middle class white family. Unfortunately, Fox decided to go all-white in this series so far with only a few token characters/scenes of other cultures and what they end up with is just more of the same that I’ve seen countless times in other movies/shows. Fox has reputation for ‘edgy’ shows and they should have pushed things with this series, but unfortunately it does not seem like they’re willing to go that route. I figure the most they’ll do to ‘push’ the boundaries is show some explicit gore or some sexually suggestive scenes with the girl and priest or even her younger sister. Just enough to rile up viewers and increase the ratings, but nothing to really push the plot or characters into new territory.

Summary: Exorcist is a well produced, and acted series with a solid cast. Much like American Horror Story it feels like it’ll be an ensemble story line rather than focusing on one character, which I like. The set designs feel contemporary but at times still have the visual feel of the original movie without being overly nostalgic or over the top.

Based on what I’ve seen in the pilot episode I’d say that the show understands the value of subtle creepiness, a la the homeless man outside the church, and explicit shock value,such as the boy in Mexico City. If it can keep this balance it could be a good horror series.

At this point I am not entirely sure if I’d watch another episode. If I do it will be because of Fathers Tomas and Marcus, rather than the Rance family. I feel like the strongest point of the series could be both priests’ personal struggles and backgrounds as well as the relationship/partnership they develop to help the Rance family.

 

 

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Review: Ghouls of the Miskatonic by Graham McNeill

Ghouls of the Miskatonic is the first book in the Dark Waters triology by Graham McNeill. It is set in the ficitional town of Arkham and the university of Miskatonic, both of which were created by H.P. Lovecraft. The plot of the book involves the discovery of a young woman’s mutilated corpse on the campus, which ultimately brings together a motley group of characters ranging from a college proffesor to a Pinkerton agent and a bootlegger/thug. They soon discover themselves up against a force that not only threatens the town of Arkham, but their own sanity. McNeil has a good handle on the mythos that Lovecraft created in his short fiction and does a good job on expanding it through his characters and the conflict that they face over the course of the plot.

If you’re not familiar with Lovecraft’s mythos and ‘Elder Gods’, McNeill writes in a way in which the reader learns along with the characters through various encounters and situations along the way rather then bogging down the plot with needless exposition and ‘telling’. I felt that McNeill did a good job of keeping the overall plot going while revealing what the ‘Elder Gods’ were and what their plans were for humanity.

McNeill’s other strong point was use of description and action. He’s the type of writer that can paint the proverbial picture in your mind with his use of words. This makes his action scenes powerful and unlike Lovecraft he provides graphic descriptions of the creatures which are fantastic and horrorific which make for powerful reading.

Ghouls of the Miskatonic features several characters that really stood out me. In particular the reporter and photographer from the local newspaper as well as the thug/bootlegger, Finn. Unfortunately some of the other characters felt rather flat.

McNeill can get carried away with his use of description at times. There were a few times early in the book where he spent a bit too long describing a rather banal setting where a more concise one would’ve been sufficent. I felt that these scenes really dragged down the plot and felt more like filler. There’s also a rather long scene where the characters finally meet up and discuss recent events. Instead of simply telling the reader that the characters recap, McNeill spends way too much time spelling out information that he already went over earlier. I found myself skimming over these parts since it was far too redundant.  There are few other times where he repeats the same information or drawing it out too long.

Luckily, McNeill manages to get the plot back on track and the final confrontation is a great one. His style really shines during the raid/rescue attempt and it was one of those scenes where I found myself glued to the page. At no point was I certain that any of the main characters would survive. Great stuff which ends up bringing the main plot line to a good conclusion. Since this is the first book of the triology there are of course loose ends that aren’t closed. The way the book ends, I defintely want to read the next one.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a fun read with the plodding plot line of a typical investigation/detective/crime novel mixed with supernatural horror/weird fiction. McNeil isn’t merely writing a homage to Lovecraft’s mythos but adding to the pantheon.

I would recommend it to any horror fan that enjoys supernatural horror and/or Lovecraftian-esque stories.

Digital Popcorn: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead

I love zombies (Romero, Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and even the Dawn of the Dead reboot) but lately it seems like the living dead are the fast food of movies and they have a budget and talent pool just as dissatisfying and greasy.

But every once in a while there comes along a movie that makes me rejoice in exploding heads and disembowelment. Case in point, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014). This Australian entry into the zombie niche grabbed my attention right away with its explosive beginning, three dudes in body armor and low on ammo facing off against a mob of zombies.   Those of you who’re gore hounds won’t be disappointed. It’s a kick in the face in terms of action and special effects, all of which seems rather old school – in a good way.

But as much as I love me some zombie decapitation, I need something more to hold my interest. Fortunately, Wyrmwood takes the time to give background stories to the three main characters. This is done via flashbacks to a time prior to standoff you see in the beginning of the movie. To be honest, the transition to the flashbacks was a bit jarring and could’ve been written and edited better. But none the less the bits about Barry, his sister Brooke, and Benny does a good job giving insight into each character. Unfortunately, the story tends to focus on Barry more so than the other two. He’s an interesting character, but honestly, I would’ve liked to have seen more about the other two.

The basic gist of the movie is Barry has lost his family, except for his sister, Brooke. His sister in turn has been kidnapped by a crazed doctor and his military goons. I won’t give too much away in terms of what happens to Brooke but I will say she’s no ‘damsel in distress’. The chick can kick some ass, and I’m grateful that they didn’t go the exploitation route with her character. It was refreshing to see a strong female character in a genre where traditionally women are zombie fodder or only there to be saved by their man. The crazed doctor is one of those characters that’ll either annoy the hell out of you or you’ll love to hate him. Personally, I hated him and loved the fate he suffered in the end. The dude was seriously bat-shit crazy.

The general atmosphere of Wyrmwood is gritty and dark, but at moments there is dark humor. In particular there was a scene where Benny mistakenly blows another survivor’s head off. Those of you who are fans of the Evil Dead movies will notice some subtle references to its cinematic style, quick edits and use of gore. It’s subtle, but a nice touch, especially the scene where Barry is gearing up for combat.

Wyrmwood does feature fast zombies. I know that’s the source of many bitch-fests amongst horror fans, but they actually have an explanation for why the zombies are fast. They also have a reason for why the zombies slow down. All of this is learned through the characters’ experiences. There’s no wise old man to explain everything to them or the viewer. There’s also only a loose explanation as to how/why the plague started. It’s things like this that piques my curiosity about Wyrmwood’s world.

Wyrmwood manages to present itself as a classic zombie movie, while adding some interesting spins on the zombie archetype. Most of these occur during Brooke’s scenes. The whole idea of controlling or manipulating the zombie mind is an interesting one and the end results of these experiments prove to be more than just weird/disturbing scenes between Brooke and the doctor. In fact, they play a major part in the final climax of Wyrmwood.

The plot of Wyrmwood is pretty simple stuff – survival and finding Brooke. It works well and is entertaining. I didn’t feel that the movie dragged at any point or had any needless filler scene. The climax of movie is intense and has one hell of a conclusion.

When the time the movie ended, I wanted more. I wanted to know more about this fictional world and the characters. I wanted to know more about the crazy doctor and the goons that worked for him. Were they part of something bigger? Fortunately, a part two is currently being made and the actors that portrayed Benny and Brooke are returning. It’ll be interesting to see where they take the ideas started in this movie. If they can do a quality job on the second film I would love Wyrmwood become a cult classic trilogy. I think horror fans need something like it after a serious drought in quality zombie horror.

I would suggest this movie to gore hounds and zombie fans in general. The plot moves at a good pace and there wasn’t any scenes that I felt were merely filler or too long. Wyrmwood manages to take the great things of old school zombie horror while keeping it fresh with its characters and unconventional twists on the zombie archetype.

Digital Popcorn: Horns

Earlier this week I watched the movie Horns (2013) which is adapted from the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. You can read my review of the book I wrote awhile back here.  When the movie was first announced I was a bit skeptical. I loved the book but I didn’t like what I’d seen from press releases. I wasn’t too impressed with the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as the main character Ig. He just didn’t fit the vision of the character I had while reading the book. Not saying he’s a bad actor. I gave it some time and watched the movie with an open mind, and I’d say that it is a pretty good adaptation of the novel. Yeah, there are little bits that annoy me, like why’s it set in Washington state? Wasn’t the book in Maine? And the casting of Lee didn’t work for me at all. In the book I had the impression he was a slick lawyer with a clean cut appearance and charming smile. A dashing good looking man while Ig was the scruffy nerd. The actor that played Lee didn’t look the part at all, not that he did a bad job acting – he was fine, it just looked like he was in his freshman year at a junior college instead of being a lawyer. There were some other minor changes but not too bad. I really liked the opening scene with Ig and his girlfriend and how they repeated it later in the movie. Visually it clever. There are scenes such as the one with the mother of the bratty girl in the doctor’s office and the fist fight between members of the media that are brilliantly acted and well adapted from the book. In fact I believe it’s exactly the same which is great cause Hill has a flair for dark comedy. Dark twisted comedy.  The best scene I would say is the one between Ig and his mom. That one even elicited a surprised gasp and laugh from my wife. One of t hose ‘Oh shit!’ moments and definitely one that’ll stand out in my memory.

On the downside I didn’t care for the heavy CGI effects toward the end of movie, but I did love the makeup sfx on Ig in the later half of the movie. Quite brilliant stuff. Ig’s horns grew on me, yes that’s a pun, as I watched the movie. When I first saw them I thought they looked really fake. Like Halloween costume fake. But honestly, I stopped nitpicking while watching the movie because the storyline and characters were engaging. I think that’s the sign of a good movie.

As far as the book goes what really appealed to me about it was the characters and the relationships they had in it. I felt that the movie fell short in this department. The love between Ig and his girl is a major part of the book and the driving force behind Ig’s actions after her death. The movie tried to capture this but it’s hard to do through short flashbacks. In that way the movie was lacking in depth.

Horns is well acted and directed as a stand alone movie and as an book adaption. It’s plot is plodding prior to Ig’s horns so if you’re looking for busted heads and zombies and gore you’ll have to wait quite awhile before you see any blood. But if you like smartly written and well acted supernatural horror that deals more with people then beasties then you’ll dig this one even if you’ve not read the book.

Digital Popcorn: Evil Lurks In Innocence

The video I posted above is a short horror film that is part of the HB Film Fest which is taking place online via YouTube. I learned of this particular short film via my friends over at Thy Demons Be Scribblin (which are worthy of your time if you enjoy horror and heavy metal).

Normally, I find movies that use hand-held camera shots to be annoying. It seems like every time it’s done by someone with a case of the shakes. But in ‘Evil Lurks In Innocence’ the hand held shots are tolerable and I didn’t really get bothered by them. The only time they get wild is during a fight scene which makes sense given the circumstances. This scene is rather short as well which helps, too.

Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. It’s hard to take a trope like exorcism and put a new twist on it but ‘Evil Lurks In Innocence’ manages to do just that.  The story begins with the main character doing a video blog about movies, which is a regular staple on YouTube. What starts off as a typical playfully antagonistic relationship between the main character and his sister rapidly transcends into creepy and bizarre behavior on this sister’s part.  This behavior has negative effects on the family as well which ultimately leads to an exorcism which goes awry.

The acting in the film over all is well done, in particular by Jacob Brooks who plays the main character, Jeremey.  His reactions to what happens to his sister are believable and help carry the movie. I think with a lesser actor the film would’ve fallen flat especially since Jeremy has the lion’s share of dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast do well in their limited roles.  I felt that Irene Leonard (Mom) and Arthur Hedin (Dad) did a good job conveying the stress/anger/horror of the situation.  Although they had only a few lines their body language and expressions did a superb job at expression a feeling of  anxiety and terror and frustration.  Kimberly Rosewell who plays the sister Kelly, is equally great. There’s a stark contrast between Kelly’s behavior in the first part of the movie compared to how she transforms through the movie. The scene with her in the kitchen is one of those scenes that’s both shocking and disturbing without a single drop of stereotypical gore you’d expect from a horror movie.  It one of those scenes that’ll stick in my memory.  It clearly conveyed that there’s something really fucking wrong with her.

Where the film reveals shines is at the end with the climax of the excorcism. The special effects are quite superb and the shock factor is fantastic.  Although it is the shortest part of the film it is most certainly the most memorable part of it.  That’s not a slight against the rest of the film.

Since it comes in at around seven minutes long, Evil Lurks In Innocence doesn’t tie up all its loose ends or develop the characters as deeply as a feature length film will do.  But that’s not necessarily the purpose of a short film.  Evil Lurks In Innocence is a tightly written, well acted film with good camera work and great special effects on a small budget that any fan of horror should enjoy, and if you like it go on and vote for it!

Digital Popcorn: My Top Ten Halloween Movies.

10)

Dracula (1931) is obviously a classic.  Hell the movie was made for 80 years ago and it still has profound influence on pop culture and horror today.  What I like about this one is not only Bella Lugosi’s performance but the set design and atmospheric quality of the movie.  Lugosi manages to capture the charming allure and repulsive qualities of Dracula in a way that few have come close to matching.  If you seek this one out get the 75th anniversary edition which has some great extra features about Lugosi and the movie.  Plus, the movie has been masterfully restored in this edition.

9)

The Mist is based on Stephen King novella of the same name.  Given that a lot of the movie adaptations of his books are crap, I was glad to discover that The Mist isn’t one of those movies.  What I like about The Mist is that you have all the trappings of a classic horror/suspense movie.  A small group of characters with conflicting personalities/ideals stuck in a vunerable locale with no sign of  help coming to the rescue.  The acting and writing are done well enough that it doesn’t take long to form an opinion about the characters.  Having someone to root for and against in a story always makes it more rewarding and engaging.  But this is a horror movie, not a Tenesse Williams play, and in The Mist they don’t hold back on the gore/action.  The creature design is quite brilliant and the use of digital effects with physical sfx works great.  During the entire movie I never really felt ‘safe’.  Instead I felt varying degrees of suspense and apprhension. The scene in the drug store is a perfect example of the movie amping up the horror to a beautiful level.  I  never felt like anyone was guranteed an escape from The Mist.  The ending is rather unsettling, and some don’t like it.  Myself I found it like a kick in the nuts, at least in the metaphorical sense, and I give the studio/director kudos from not shying away from it.  This isn’t your typical Hollywood ending, and that’s a good thing.  Horror is meant to unsettle you, and for most people the ending does just that.

8)

In The Mouth of Madness is not only a brilliant tribute/homage to HP Lovecraft but its also one of my favorite movies by John Carpenter.  The movie has all the classic elements of Lovecraft story, missing author that writes books that have strange influence on readers, a investigator searching for the author in New England, and the blurred line of reality. Sam Neil is quite brilliant as a prick-ish investigator and his descent into madness unfolds nicely over the course of the plot. Along the way fans of Lovecraft will pick up on nods to his stories, such as an inn named after Pickman’s Model and etc. But In The Mouth of Madness isn’t merely a fan boy homage to Lovecraft.  The plot and characters stand on their own as a story which I found interesting and engaging.  Especially when one of the characters brings up the idea that reality is just a shared idea. The town of Hobb’s End is a character unto itself as well, whether its a victim or a villian is ambigous. The special effects and creature design is great, and at times rather unsettling which is exactly what I want.  The ending is rather twisted but it perfectly reflects the Lovecraft influence.

7)

Two Evil Eyes is a hidden gem that I came across on DVD years ago.  It features a short film by Georgeo Romero and Dario Argento.  Both of the movies are based on a different Poe short story and its great fun to see how these two film makers adapt Poe’s classic work. Both are well done adaptations and do a great job of creating atmosphere and tension.  Overall, I enjoyed both of the movies, but I will say that the performance by Harvey Kitell really stands out.  Even in his early days of acting its clear that he’s a powerful actor.

6)

HellRaiser is at its roots a haunted house movie but is twisted into something utterly bizzare and macabre by Clive Barker.  The concept of the Cenobites and the mixture of lust/suffering/pain/pleasure is revolutionary in horror.  In a lot of ways Barker pushes the envelope of what horror is in HellRaiser and the end results are something disturbing and brilliant.  Visually, this an impressive movie as well.  The transformation sequence of Frank is nothing short of a masterpiece and goes to show what you can do with stop animation.  Besides all that HellRaiser has characters I can despise as well as ones I can root for throughout.  In the end HellRaiser is brilliant because it takes the themes and influences of the past and twists them into something new.  Although it is visceral it is very much a thinking person’s horror story.

5)

Zombie Land is a brilliant blend of comedy and gore.  Although the overall plot is realtively straightforward and simple it is the ensemble of characters and a surprise cameo that really make the movie a great one. Columbus’ list of rules is quite brilliant and the CGI use of them in certain scenes is hilarious and clever.  Zombie Land is definetly a ‘popcorn’ movie, and in this case that’s not a bad thing.

4)

Sean of the Dead is a fun movie because it manages to be a rather suspenseful zombie movie while balancing the comedic aspects without becoming cartoonish.  The characters really drive the movie and I quickly formed a love or hate relationship with each of them.  Not to mention that for any horror fan there’s plenty of subtle and not so subtle references/influences from Romero’s zombie movies throughout. Plus, the ending is probably one of the most hilarious and fitting ones I’ve seen in a long time.

3)

What more can I say about Night of the Living Dead that hasn’t already been said?  The influence it has on movie making and the horror genre is profound.  I’ve seen this movie countless amounts of times and I still find myself engaged in it every time.  The characters are well written and believable.  The conflict between the survivors in the house is probably more interesting then the zombie threat, but Romero knows how to use horror/gore/violence like a maestro.  What really makes this movie appealing to me is that it engages my imagination.  I often wonder what would’ve happened if they’d all gone into the basement originally?  Or if other events had turned out differently.

2)

The reason I put Day of the Dead ahead of Night of the Living Dead is not because it had a bigger budget for more elaborate sfx.  The reasons are because I really enjoyed the whole idea of showing what the remenants of the military/scientific community were doing during the zombie outbreak.  The previous two zombie movies by Romero hinted at it, but never delved into it.  The conflicting approach of how to handle the zombies by the military and scienstists is great stuff and gives a glimpse into perhaps why the government failed to handle the crisis.  Then there’s Bub, a zombie that supposedly has some sentience and isn’t a mindless eatting machine.  Bub is my favorite character in the whole series of Romero’s zombie movies.  Romero raises a lot of interesting questions with Bub, and the scientist studying him. Romero breaks away from the traditional idea of what a zombie is in Day of the Dead. Traditions that he himself helped establish in movies.  Some people hate the idea of Bub, but I always liked the way Romero presented him.  Bub was the tip of the iceberg of possibilies of what a zombie could be. Besides all this philosophical bullshit, Romero proves he still has the chops to make a gory horror movie and amp up the suspense. The end scene with Rhodes meeting his grisly fate at the hands of the zombies is one of the most memorable scenes in horror for me.  A brilliant piece of sfx and acting.

1)

The Thing is my favorite movie by John Carpenter.  What I love about The Thing is that there is a constant atmosphere of dread and paranoia.  Both the characters and the audience never really know for sure if someone is human or a ‘thing’.  Add to that the fact that the movie is set in a desolate location with no chance of a quick rescue and you have a fantastic setting that only amps up the tension. There’s a certain level of Lovecraft influence in this movie as well, something ancient and alien being dug up and causing havoc, but where Lovecraft was prone to having his characters ramble on about things, The Thing doesn’t shy away from the action/violence.  Got flame throwers? Yes, indeed.  But the movie doesn’t simply rely on blowing shit up to resolve the conflict.  The use of scientific method to figure out what the hell The Thing is and how to see is people are ‘things’ is great.  Not only does it show us something about the characters but it also creates tension/suspense.  The scene where they’re doing the blood test is fantastic in terms of apprehension/suspense.  The casting and acting in the movie are great, and Russell gives one of his best performances in it.  Add Keith David is one of my favorites as well and manages to chew the scenery right along with Russell.  Although the use of sfx is limited, they’re are brilliantly disgusting when they do occur.  In particular the scene in the dog kennel.  The ending is rather ambigous, but I always loved how it ended.  The movie doesn’t give  you a clear answer as to who is who.  Nor does it tell you who will survive.  It leaves it up to the viewer, and I like it that way.

Digital Popcorn: The Colony

image via imdb.com
image via imdb.com

The Colony (2013)

A few weekends ago I sat down and streamed The Colony via Netflix. I’m a sucker for post apoclyptic stories and considering both Laurence Fishburn and Bill Paxton were in it I figured it could be a hidden gem of a movie.  Overall, the premise of The Colony is that it’s set in a verision of earth where mankind attempted to control global warming with technology and of course it went bad.  Instead of the desert wasteland worlds of Mad Max and Fallout  and even the dusty setting of The Book of Eli, the world of The Colony is an icy wasteland.  I found that rather refreshing, a setting can be a character/adversary a story and the freezing cold and snow is defintely a great one if used in that regard.  Further more the survivors in the movie’s setting dwell in underground bunkers and only a handful exist in the world. The colony where Fishburn/Baxton are in charge has a cache of seeds, unfortuantely you can’t grow crops in permafrost but they manage to use hydroponics and etc to eek out an existance.  Yet the threat of disease, especially the flu, is a constant danger and those that are sick are quarantiend until they recover. Those that don’t recover by the deadline are either exiled or excecuted. The choice is left to the victim.  Or at least that’s the way its supposed to be, but early in the movie we see Baxton popping a cap in some poor bastards head even though he wanted to be exiled. The movie does a good job at setting tension and potential conflict for power between Baxton and Fishburn.  Soon after we learn that the Fishburn/Baxton colony is allied with another of these so called colonies and when they lose contact with them Fishburn and company go out to see what has happened to them.

The movie then switches gears and focus on Fishburn leading a group of men to the other colony while Baxton strongarms his way to power while Fishburn is gone.  Once they arrive at the other Colony Fishburn and company quickly realize that something’s wrong.  The movie does a good job at developing tension and suspense and the revelation of what happened is disturbing.  There’s also a new revelation in the subplot of global freezing that’s intriquing as well.  When Fishburn and company head home there’s a rather exciting chase scene that has terrific suspense in it and some great action sequences.

But when the story returns back to the home colony it loses steam.  Instead of really developing the struggle for power with Baxton and the threat of disease or the subplot about reversing the permafrost, the story devolves into a simple cat and mouse game between the home colony and the antagonists from the other colony.  Bodies drop and heads roll but in the end it’s rather disappointing and shallow.  In the end the movie ends with a bit of a cliff hanger that leaves the subplot unresolved which is disappointing.

I think the Colony had a lot of potential but it failed to stoke the embers of the plot into something more intense then the same old same old.  In a lot of ways The Colony ended up reminding me of 28 Days Later if it happened in the snow instead of London.  Minus the character development and strong writing.

Final Score: 2 out of 5.

The Bumbling Dead

I have a like/hate relationship with Robert Kirkman’s opus The Walking Dead both in comic book and television mediums. Early in the comic book I liked it a lot because it was far more about the characters internal and external relationships then it was about zombies. Although, I like zombies. I think Kirkman reached the apex of this when with the prison/Woodbury arc. In the comic verision the Governor was one of the best anatagonists I’ve ever experienced. He was a character I loved to hate, and his actions had long lasting consequences on not just Rick but the entire band of survivors in his group, both physically and psychologically. Unfortunately, when it came to the television series the casting and writing for the Governor felt neutered. The governor and the whole town of Woodbury felt too ridiculous on the television show when it felt believable in the comic. I think it comes down to the acting and the poor casting the show has at times.

That being said I think they did a fantastic job casting Micchone and have excelled at developing into something more then a female verision of Logan/Wolverine. I think the writing and character development excels when there are scenes with Carl and Michone interacting. It’s that relationship that keeps me interested in the show more then anything else. The other character I’m impressed with in terms of acting and casting is Carl. In the comic book Carl took the proverbial back seat, for the most part, but I’m really enjoying how the character is developing. Especially after the end of the prison arc. I think charcter is where Kirkman shines and fails miserably. The character Abraham in particular is a huge bomb both in the comic and television series. Kirkman also has a tendacy to write some horrendous dialogue, ie the exchange between Rick and the Gov outside the prison prior to the final conflict. And Abraham’s cliché spewed rant about his ‘mission’.

To be honest I stopped reading the comic maybe half a year after the prison arc. The main reason is because Kirkman seemed to loose his focus on the overall plot of the story. In a lot of ways I think he should’ve let the comic series end with the prison arc. Hopefully, he has learned from this lack luster writing in the comic and will keep the plot of the television show tight. With the addition of Terminus to the show gives me hope. I also hope that he continues to develop the relationship between Michone and Carl. I think that is the future of the series. I think Rick should eventualy take the back seat when it comes to being a ‘leader’. The Walking Dead has always been an ensemble series, in both forms of media, and I see no reason to keep Rick alive any longer then any other character. I’m hoping Kirkman has the guts to deverge from the comic from this point on not just in terms of characters but in plot. Otherwise I see this series falling apart quickly.

Review: The Innswich Horror by Edward Lee

A few weeks ago while perusing the Nook store, I came across The Innswhich Horror by Edward Lee.  I was a bit skeptical, given my experiences with Mr. Lee’s other fiction, but after reading the free sample I was pleasantly surprised by the content and ended up purchasing it.  Overall, I feel like I didn’t waste my money, or more importantly – my time.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Edward Lee, the quick and the short of it is that he’s considered one of the more shocking horror novelists out there.  Sexual perversity, gore, violence, perverision.  Its all in there, when it comes to his previous books.  Now, I’m not a prude by any means but for me a little goes a long way and Lee’s previous books tend to be very heavy handed with the aforementioned things.  There’s definitely a target audience out there for Lee’s sub-genre, obviously since the dude’s been hacking away at the keyboard quite successfully for quite some time, but its not exactly my ideal sub-genre of horror.

That being said, I was impressed with Lee’s novel The Innswich Horror.  If the word ‘Innswich’ doesn’t tickle your subconscious then  apparently you’ve never read any Lovecraft.  You see, old HP Lovecraft wrote a novella back in 1936 called Shadow Over Innsmouth.  Essentially it’s about this dude that ends up in this crappy little seaside town that’s home to a cross-bred human/fishy-man hybrid.  The country bumpkins that live in said town worship the fishy-men and this god called Dagon.  Hilarity ensues.  Or maybe mayhem.  Either way it’s one of Lovecraft’s finer pieces.

So…Edward Lee’s The Innswich Horror is essentially about this dude who’s obssessed with Lovecraft.  The dude goes on a road trip through New England, retracing the travels of Lovecraft in hopes of seeing and visiting the places that Lovecraft did.  The story takes place several years after the death of the Lovecraft.  So, this dude’s on the ultimate fanboy experience when he comes to a town called Innswich.  Long story short, the dude begins to realize that Innswich was the real life inspiration for Lovecraft’s Innsmouth.  Dude decides to stay and check it out.  The town turns out to be nothing like Lovecraft’s depiction since it’s recently been revamped courtesy of FDR’s public works program.  Despite the disppointment in not being able to go slumming, the dude sticks around since the folks are nice and he plans on catching the bus in a day or so to continue his tour of Lovecraft-land.  Unfortunately for the dude, the town has a much darker and twisted side to it and he quickly finds himself in deep shit after sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.  Hilarity…well…dismemberment ensues…

Essentially The Innswich Horror is both a sequel and homage to Lovecraft’s Shadow Over Innsmouth and Lovecraft in general.  Lee shows tremendous skill in capturing Lovecraft’s literary voice.  Not only does it read like a Lovecraft story in terms of vocabulary and verbose sentence structure, but Lee does a good job at capturing the personalities that populated Lovecraft’s world.  Especially in the protagonist’s personality, and narration.

Unlike Lovecraft, who never had any graphic violence in his stories or romance, or even female characters, Lee spices things up with the inclusion of a subplot involving the romance between the protagonist and a townie.  Although not as intense as his usual style, Lee also doesn’t shy away from violence and gore.  I think his somewhat limited use of it makes it more impactful, and inducing of horror.  Lee does excel at creating tension and suspense where it is needed in the novel, through short sentences and knowing the fine art of how to invoke a sense of action/danger through proper description.

The only faults I found with The Innswich Horror is occasionally Lee throws in some references to events or people that were current during the time, but the way he references them in dialogue comes across as forced and awkward.  It feels more like he’s saying ‘hey check out this cool tidbit about Hitler or FDR I came across.’ rather then a natural conversation two characters would have.  Other then that the conversation feels natural, and fortunately Lee limits his tidbits to early parts of the book.  The subplot of the love interest between the protagonist and the townie is a bit absurd, only a day or two passes and their suddenly in love?  Really?  If they were teenagers, I could understand it as ‘puppy love’ but two adults in their 30s?  I suppose it could happen but it felt kinda forced.  The protagonist is a philanthropist and does want to use his inherited wealth to alleviate the downtrodden family of the townie, I buy that but the love story is kind of weak.

Despite the faults, The Innswich Horror was an enjoyable read, both on its own and as a homage/tribute to Lovecraft’s mythos.  If your a fan of Lovecraft or speculative fiction in general it’d be worth checking out regardless if you are a fan of Lee’s or not.

Evil Dead 2013 Review

Last night my fiance and I went down town to see the remake of the cult classic movie Evil Dead.  While I was in college the original Evil Dead trilogy was the proverbial Holy Grail of movies for myself and my friends.  There were countless viewings or references to the movies throughout my years at college.  It got to the point where I had practically most of the lines memorized.  I was never a huge fan of Star Wars or Star Trek like the majority of geekdom, but to me Evil Dead was on par with it.  I think it was due to the fact that it combined the campness of Bruce Campbell’s chewing the scenery and the odd ball creatures.  Part of the appeal was the stop animation, it has a visceral appeal that CGI has never been able to compete with visually in my opinion.  I’m glad that the remake relies more on physical effects then CGI.

I had heard the various rumors for years that they were remaking Evil Dead, everything from Bruce Campbell directing the remake and Rami directing a new Evil Dead movie with Campbell once again as the lead.  Then there were the dreadful rumors and speculations that what’s his face Ashton from ‘That 70’s Show’ would reprise the roll of Ash.  I paid them little mind, and when the remake came out I paid it little heed.  I’m not prone to getting onto my soapbox and shaking my fist at ”corporate” Hollywood for violating my memories with shite remakes.  Nor am I inclined to bellyache about Hollywood force feeding us remakes instead of original material.  Its pointless really to whine about it, pretty much cerebral masturbation.

So, I didn’t pay much heed to it when it was released, hadn’t even bothered watching the trailer online.  I had heard from a friend that it was more of reboot and that Rami/Campbell were involved in a producer/consultant aspect that did pique my curiosity a little bit.  The fact is sometimes a writer/director will be credited as a ‘producer’ but all it means is they let their name be used in exchange for a pay check.

When I went into the theater last night I approached the remake with an open mind.  Overall, I enjoyed the movie.  It kept my interest piqued and the plot did not drag.  I enjoyed the subtle tribute they gave to the original, such as Mia wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt, similar to what was worn by a cast member in the original, the old car upon which Mia is sitting on early in the movie appears to be similar to what Ash drove in the original.  There’s also some editing and excessive camera zooming that Rami is notorious for using in the original trilogy.  A few other lines or scenes are in it that harken back to the original.  There’s also a similarity in appearance between Bruce Campbell and Shiloh Ferandez,  the actor playing Mia’s brother.  I also noticed that he wears a very similar outfit as Ash. The excessive amount of blood spewing, chainsaws, and dismembered arms referenced the original Evil Dead 1 and 2 as well.

Aside from that I enjoyed the new parts that added to the movie, in particular the opening scenes.  There were also some scenes that could easily become part of the horror iconography, especially the self mutilation scene in the bathroom and the tongue scene in the basement.  I think that one of the more powerful scenes took place in bathroom involving the character Olivia, played Jessica Lucas.  Her reflected image in the bathroom mirror is the type of horror that appeals to me, subtle and surreal.  I’d more suspected someone to attack her from behind rather then the image to pop up, and the results that it would have on her.  Another great image from the movie is the appearance of Eric toward the end of the movie.  It makes for a fantastic creepy image of him in the hallway.

I also liked that the remake did not stick entirely to the original script, but deviated in terms of the climax.  The movie doesn’t end in the typical Hollywood fashion which is a nice change of pace.  The remake also had a traditional style to it in that there wasn’t the campy humor of the original which I thought was a good choice for it.  I don’t know if anyone can compete with Campbell’s quirkiness or the awful-but-good performances of the original cast.

Overall the acting was decent, but at times some of the lines seemed forced or poorly done.  It didn’t have the standout one liners that the original movie did.  Even the supposed catch phrase by Mia seemed forced.  Plus, it’s hard to get emotionally invested in a movie when I really don’t know anything about any of the characters.  You know some back story on Mia and David but that’s about it.  I know the movie is only an hour and a half, but  I think an extra 15 minutes or so to build some back story/character development would’ve helped it  a lot.  I think that they had too many characters, I mean David’s girlfriend rarely appears in the scenes except for the end.  During her  big scene I almost forgot who she was, and her role had no really emotionally impact.

In terms of plot, it moves along well and they manage to create tension and suspense in the movie very well which is important in a movie like this one.

Although it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, or even in my top ten I enjoyed the 2013 version on Evil Dead.  It was entertaining and a good mix of the old and new.  In a world saturated with ”paranormal” movies shot by hand held cameras and tween vampire/werewolf romances the 2013 version of Evil Dead comes as a welcomed relief.  Like a shot of whiskey after being limited to syrupy sweetness of sophomoric sensibilities.