Tag Archive: Horror Reviews

The Devil’s Rock, 2011

Set during WWII, The Devil’s Rock tells the story of two men (Craig Hall and Matthew Sunderland) trapped on an island on the eve of the Normandy Invasion.  The movie wouldn’t be very interesting from that aspect except one of the men is a Nazi and the other is an Allied soldier.  It also just so happens (or maybe not) that on the island with them is a demon, in this case a succubus.  As you know, I don’t give a lot of spoilers so as far as details go, this is all you get.  However, even though I refuse to tell you the whole story, I can tell you it is much better than you would think.

This film received 4.8 starts on IMDb, which I can only surmise came from people who are either not fans of the genre or turned it off before giving it a chance.  Why anyone would turn it off without giving it some time I don’t get because the opening scenery is fantastic.  That alone is what made me keep watching until things got interesting.

While the film is a tad short for my taste at 83 minutes, it still earns a solid 7 in my book.  I disagree with IMDb’s rating for several reasons, but the biggest is that this movie is quite simply one of the best horror films I have seen in a while.  The acting was great, the story was interesting (it kept me guessing) and the special effects were top-notch.  There was only one small scene where I balked at the special effects, and once you see the film you will know what I am talking about.  But that scene was still a good one.

This is one of those films that will no doubt get overlooked by many horror fans because they see a bad review or most likely, have never even heard of it.  So if you are a fan of great characters and the horror genre, do yourself a favor:  rent the movie, make some popcorn, relax and just enjoy this solid horror film.  I promise you won’t regret it.

ALSO WORTH NOTING:  Craig Hall, who some of you may remember as “Wilson” from 30 Days of Night, is an actor to watch — the man can act.  He is a refreshing change of pace from those pretty boy A-list actors that can’t act their way out of a paper bag.  I am looking forward to seeing more of him.  Also, don’t believe the cover art which says “Saw with a swastika.”  It’s not anything like Saw –but it’s still a great flick.

Rod Redux

Rod Redux’s horror and fantasy work as described on his Amazon page“The novels of Rod Redux are challenging, subversive and fantastical, merging genres and pushing the boundaries of propriety and good taste.”

I can agree with that.

When I first came across Mr. Redux’s name while searching out a good zombie book, two things struck me:  first, I honestly thought that the name “Rod Redux” had to be a pseudonym (a weird one at that) and second, due to my impression of his name, his books would be very cheesy.  However, instead of just moving on I found a book by him called Mort and read some of the reviews of it listed on Amazon.

At the time, I had been in a zombie book rut — it seemed like no matter which book I purchased I was being let down again and again.  The reviews of Mort on Amazon didn’t help all that much either, as some were good and some were bad.  I am well aware that reviews are all highly subjective and therefore in my mind, suspect.  This is important to me because after all, these books ain’t free.  Against the cynical voice in my head telling me not to, I went ahead and purchased the book.  Man, am I glad I didn’t listen to that negative little pissant voice.

Every once in a while, a book or film comes along that changes your mindset about a genre in such a way that it can never be switched back to its original setting.  This is what happened to me with Mort.  With Mort, Mr. Redux takes a done-to-death (ha ha) sub-genre (zombies) and instead of cheapening or exploiting it, actually manages to enhance it.  It’s not just that he added some twists to the mix (he did), but he was able to combine those twists with characters and a plot that were deep enough to not only keep you interested, but to make you feel involved.  I’m not saying that Mort is Shakespeare or that it’s going to change the world but that doesn’t mean it’s not still one heck of a great zombie book.

After being so pleased with Mort, I decided to check out some of Mr. Redux’s other offerings.  Next on my list was The Oldest Living Vampire Tells All — I wasn’t expecting much.  But again, my initial impression was proved wrong.  It’s an interesting book with a very unique main character.  Suffice it to say that after book number two, I went on and read his other books.  Not all of them had the impact on me that Mort did, but not one of them let me down.  He really is an author you just shouldn’t miss.

Here is a list of his current work, with my ratings:

  • Mort  5/5
  • The Oldest Living Vampire Tells All  5/5
  • The Oldest Living Vampire On The Prowl 5/5
  • Menace of Club Mephistopheles  4/5
  • Hole:  A Ghost Story  4/5
  • Indian Summer  5/5

Mr. Redux is currently working on a new novel, House of Dead Trees, and you can read an excerpt here.  He is also planning on a sequel to Mort, which this zombie fan ain’t gonna miss.

UPDATE 8/19/11:  On a whim, I decided to search around a bit about the sequel to Mort and found this, which indicates he is not writing a sequel.  However, I know I saw somewhere that he said he was after the date of the link above and will post it as soon as I find it again.  Maybe his mom convinced him to write a sequel?  Just keepin ya in the loop!

SIDE NOTE THAT HAS (ALMOST) NO BEARING ON THIS REVIEW:  I have seen a lot of horror book reviews that complain about the amount of sex and harsh language contained within them.  Here is my bottom line on this subject:  if the sex and language is even slightly pertinent to the story, I could care less if they are having orgies on Mars while screaming “Fuck Me Harder Beltran!” every other sentence.  It’s a HORROR book people; it is supposed to push boundaries.  If you don’t like that, there are plenty of books written in the same genre that leave all of that out.  To be fair however, some authors do like to add extra curse words and detailed sex scenes for no apparent reason and I agree it gets annoying, but only because it can take away from the story.  But even if they do that though, there is something you can do to make it go away right quick — flip the page.  You might just enjoy the book in spite of it.

Alright, if you have not seen the movie Cowboys & Aliens and are planning to do so, be aware —  here there be spoilers.  As always though, I will do my best to keep them to a minimum.

Before you even walk into a movie with the title Cowboys & Aliens, you automatically know (or you should anyway) that there is going to be a pretty significant amount of disregarding reality you will need to do to enjoy the film.  While that is true with almost all films, a movie with this title demands it.  So, let’s set aside the obvious ridiculousness of the premise:  the idea that people in the wild west could possibly stand a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating aliens who came to Earth from outer space with technology and weapons that we in the 21st century don’t even have.  You will also have to really take a leap and believe that Harrison Ford is actually a nice person (at least for a portion of the movie).  Still with me so far?  Okay, good.

Our protagonist, Jake (played by Daniel Craig of James Bond fame) wakes up with amnesia (shocka!) in the middle of nowhere USA with some sort of wound in his side and a fancy bracelet attached to his wrist, which he cannot get off.  He is then  approached by some cowboys who threaten to kill him for no discernible reason that I could find, other than to give Jake a reason to kill them and take their horses, clothes and their dog.  He somehow manages to find his way into town, where he meets a preacher, the towns richest-man’s-obligatory-spoiled-and-annoying-son, Percy (Paul Dano) and a woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde, widely known as “13” from House).

Yada, yada, yada, the aliens come in ships and start taking townsfolk from above using what looked to me like an electrified version of the claw game we all play at the beach and never win — which just goes to show that apparently aliens are much better at that game than any human I’ve ever met, but I digress.  Turns out, they are taking humans to “study our weaknesses” (do I even need to insert a snarky comment here?) and the people taken may or may not still be alive.

Jake has flashbacks that he was abducted by aliens along with his girlfriend (although throughout the film she was really only referred to as “whore” and “prostitute” as if that had any bearing on the film, which by the way, it didn’t) which becomes his motivation for finding the aliens and kicking some alien ass.  Harrison Ford’s (Woodrow) son Percy was also taken (naturally), which is his motivation.  Along the way Jake realizes the thingamajig on his arm is a weapon and can blast the hell out of whatever he wants.

Lots of dull things happen between the abductions and the next interesting part of the movie, so let’s just skip to the end shall we?  The cowboys team up with the Indians, and some robbers that Jake apparently was involved with pre-abduction join in as well.  Turns out Ella isn’t quite who everyone thought she was, and there is some sort of weird Jake and Ella attraction plot which made no sense really, except they were of roughly the same age and the two most attractive people in the movie.  Earthlings and aliens fight, Earthlings win.  Hopefully, that part wasn’t too much of a spoiler for ya.

Summarizing this movie is simple:  it didn’t totally suck, but it wasn’t all that good either.  I found myself looking for a way to root for the Earth people for a reason other than just that they were, well, Earth people — but I couldn’t find one.  The film gives you no reason whatsoever to give a shit about anybody in this movie except the little boy (Emmett, played by Noah Ringer) and the dog (named “Dog” for crying out loud).  You just can’t discount the innocence factor of a boy and his dog no matter what the movie, except maybe Cujo.

I didn’t even hate the aliens all that much.  They weren’t scary (the CGI aliens from Signs were scarier, to give you a hint) and all they really wanted  was our gold.  Since I am trying not to give everything away, just trust me on this one, the aliens blew.  Aside from some hands coming out of their chests (we never find out why they do that BTW) they were unoriginal, mainly humanoid and felt like you had seen them a million times before.  Oh, how this movie makes you long for the aliens in Independence Day.

Bottom line:  I felt like this film was forced.  It came across as more of a vehicle to give Olivia Wilde some screen cred and to suck up to Harrison Ford (the signs are subtle, but there).  The things that  should have been important in this film were cast aside — there was no character development (other than Ford turning from total ass to mostly-not-an-ass by the end), there was only a slight motivation for the audience to care about the outcome and the aliens stunk.

The story line listed on IMDb was more interesting than the actual film, which is sad because the movie had a lot of great actors; but even great acting cannot overcome a bad script.  I’m not saying don’t go see it, just don’t expect it to live up to 1/10th the hype that has been generated for it.  Set your expectation meter to very low and you just may enjoy it.  Otherwise, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

From my brain to yours — peace out.

QUICK NOTE:  I usually mostly agree with IMDb’s movie ratings, but don’t here.  This film did not deserve a 6.8.  Using their 10 star rating system, I would give it a 4, maybe 5 at best — and either one is being kind.

The Dying of the Light:  End by Jason Kristopher

The Dying of the Light: End

This is one of many books I choose sort of haphazardly based on the “items others have purchased” function on Amazon’s website.  Whereas this tactic often lands me with a book that I have to struggle to finish and/or deal with poor to non-existent editing, it’s still a worthwhile endeavor for a few reasons.  First, there are some real gems to be found this way and second, I am a true believer in reading works by authors who would have never been published back in the day (support unknown authors dammit!).   This is how I found The Dying of the Light:  End.  I should warn you, I am a fan of reading a story as fresh as possible.  So, I give as few details as possible on everything I review, while still attempting to ensure it is accurate and informative.  I also do not read any reviews before I write mine, so for better or worse, they are untainted by what others  have said.  On to the review…

The story is a zombie tale which is told primarily from the point of view of a somewhat reluctant soldier, David.  It begins with an interesting few chapters of a fictional history of the first zombies and a couple of characters brought in again later in the book.  Overall a nice, if a bit oddly placed lead-in to the rest of the story.

The majority of the book tells the tale of a government group of super-secret (aren’t they all?),  elite soldiers known as AEGIS (Advanced Experimental Genetics Intelligence Service) and their role with a zombie problem facing the world.  It’s not a typical “end of the world” tale, as it does not take place after bazillions of zombies decided to start chomping on humanity.  As I tend to enjoy those types of books, I thought this would make the book boring, but Mr. Kristopher does such a good job of character development and story telling that I was happy to be wrong.  (It also has some pretty good zombie chow-downs to boot, but lacked a little in the gore department for my tastes.)

Although there is a bit more soldier and gun lingo than I would like, it’s not nearly as bad as some books that ooze with so many military acronyms I lose track of what weapon is what, much less which calibers.  In this book the lingo makes sense, and it seems like the author tried to tone it down a bit for the sake of us civilian readers.  Thanks man, I appreciate it.

All in all, this was a solid book with a pleasant mix of zombies, military good guys, science and history (albeit fake history) and I recommend it.  On the negative side, there were a few slow areas but not enough to make me lose interest.  There were also a couple too many love scenes between the main character and his woman, but we are saved from falling into the romance novel porn pit that some horror books  throw us into.  Lastly, I would have liked to have seen more of a few of the lesser characters, some of which didn’t make it to the end.  That sucks.  But, since a sequel is on the way, The Dying of the Light:  Interval, I am hopeful to see the ones who did manage to make it very soon.  If that link doesn’t work for you, here’s another just in case.

YOU JUST MIGHT CARE, SO:   The Kindle version of The Dying of the Light:  End includes a preview of Interval.  I was impressed and very much intrigued.  It’s a definite buy once released.

For those that are unfamiliar with Jeff Strand, he’s a horror fiction writer whose work is probably best described as horror/comedy.  Probably.  Well, maybe.  It’s hard to pin down exactly what he does in his books without writing an essay — and since I wouldn’t torture you with what would surely be a hot mess — I suggest you go and grab a copy of one of his books and see for yourself what I mean.

Jeff Strand

To date, the books I have read of his are limited to what is currently available on Kindle, which means there are a few out there (The Haunted Forest Tour, for one) that I am totally pissed off I can’t get from Amazon.  (Yes, I know I could order the paperback and wait for it in the mail, but that would require some degree of patience, of which I have none.)  Anyway, his books have a way of blending horror and comedy that turns the horror story on its head.  You end up (at least I did) caring a great deal about the so-called “monsters” in the stories and coming away with a kind of reinforcement of the morals mom tried to teach us, and we promptly forgot (or mentally deleted on purpose).  Odd?  Yes.  Fantastically different?  Absolutely.

Take Benjamin’s Parasite.  I sincerely feel that you have no soul if you didn’t care about well, Benjamin’s parasite.  Sure, you cared about Benjamin (mostly) but what is not to love about a parasite that can speak to you in your head and tells you it’s your best friend constantly?  It knows you really, really well and still loves you.  I don’t know about you, but I need more friends like that.

So, if my blathering didn’t turn you off to Jeff Strand’s work, here are some of his other offerings I highly recommend (in no particular order):

  • Dweller
  • Fangboy
  • Wolf Hunt
  • The Mad and the Macabre:  Kutter
  • Mandibles
  • Pressure
  • The Sinister Mr. Corpse

For a complete list of Mr. Strands work, click here:  http://jeffstrand.wordpress.com/

PS.  If by chance you ever read this Mr. Strand, you did kind of piss me off with the ending of Dweller, but I forgive you.  More importantly, I am sure Owen forgives you.

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