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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Cover for The Dead Next Door

Been busy lately so I apologize for the radio silence. I'll have some new posts for you soon. In the meantime, I'd like to present the new cover for the Kindle version of The Dead Next Door. I'll be redoing the covers for books two and three as well in the coming weeks/months. Then I'll most likely be migrating them to the paperback versions as well.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

As horror fans, we all have series that are our favorites. For me, Halloween comes first. Then there's Romero's Dead series. After that, it has to be Puppet Master. I don't know what drew me to the series at first. Maybe it was an article in Fangoria or Gorezone. Maybe it was the VHS covers that featured puppets and promised mayhem. Maybe it was just because I was a sucker for Full Moon films. While they first two films had the puppets as the antagonists and murdering those who came to stay at the Bodega Bay Inn with stop motion goodness, the latter films turned them into heroes and used them to fight off Nazis. It was an interesting change and resulted in the best film of the series, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge. But something for me was lost. While I enjoyed the new direction, I missed the puppets being the little bastards that they were built to be.

Fortunately, it seems that someone else felt the same way and graced us with a reboot to the series in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Ditching the bogged down continuity the films had created until now, the movie finds us in America, where Toulon (now a Nazi) is hiding out and using his puppets to continue the horrible work he had started in Germany of killing those who do not fit into the master race and also to keep himself alive. He runs afoul of the law after they catch wind of the murders he is committing and dies in the ensuing gunfight. Fast forward to thirty years later where Edgar (Thomas Lennon), his new girlfriend Ashley (Jenny Pellicer) and friend Markowitz (Nelson Franklin) attend a convention celebrating the anniversary of Toulon's death in the hopes of selling a Blade puppet Edgar found in his late brother's possessions. Things are going swimmingly until the puppets are reanimated by a mysterious force and all hell breaks loose.

Working from a script by S. Craig Zahler, director's Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund give us a fun ride that gives us some great character performances and some room to breathe and get to know then before bringing the bloody good fun of puppets vs. people. They don't shy away from showing the puppets doing what they do best, and while there isn't as much stop motion as in previous entries, they look good and believable. The new designs for the puppets are great, too. Blade has has a complete overhaul, with his trademark albino face now a more skull-like sculpt and shines as the leader off the puppets.

Lennon shines in the part and I don't understand why he doesn't get more lead roles as he is often the best part of the movies he is in, and this is no exception. He plays a man who is broken and with a tragic past, trying to find happiness again while dealing with a story so ludicrous it could be in one of the comic books that he writes. His co-stars are equally impressive and the trio form a tight knit group that forms the heart of the film. As if that wasn't enough, we have Udo Kier in a flashback as Toulon, Barbara Crampton as cop and Michael Pare as a detective showing up to breathe even more life into the film. There's also a character played by an actor I'm not familiar with who really steals the show. You'll know who I'm talking about when you see it.

Did I mention that Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombie 2, City of the Living Dead) did the score for the film? His work is as good as ever and his new theme for the series is fantastic and I hope to hear more of it in the inevitable sequels as it is never overpowering and complements the action on screen nicely.

It's a fun flick that hits you fast and furious. There are a few missteps here and there, namely some plot questions that go unanswered, but it's a solid entry that has breathed new life into a series that has grown slightly stale over the years. If you're a fan of the OG puppets, fear not, as Charles Band is still making new movies featuring the old favorites. But with this reboot we have a new world to play in and the promise of a sequel is great and I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with it.

Check it out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review: How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Sometimes on the weekends when I'm trying to find something to watch and relax to, I end up finding something horrid or a piece of fried gold. How to Talk to Girls at Parties definitely falls into the latter category and is a transcendent slice of the 70's punk scene in England cross-pollinated with the goofiest aliens I've seen since Dude, Where's My Car?

The story, which is based on the story of the same name by Neil Gaiman, follows a young punk named Enn who just wants to go to shows and hang out with his friends. It is on this quest to have fun that they stumble upon a strange group living in a house, of which the lovely Zan is a member. What they don't realize that these people aren't just odd--they're out of this world! That doesn't stop Enn and Zan from falling in love, but can they make it work or will their story burn up on reentry?

The visual language in this film is amazing. From the opening scene, shot with a frame-rate that staggers and stutters, imbuing the whole proceedings with the "fuck it" attitude of the punks, to meeting the dizzying and colorful and bizarre aliens, I was hooked. It's a weird movie, but it's a movie with something to say that just wants you to watch and listen and enjoy the ride. The closest analogue that I can think of would be a cross between SLC Punk and Dude, Where's My Car? but even that falls short in the world John Cameron Mitchell has presented us with.

The cast is great too, and own their roles completely. A standout for me is Nicole Kidman as a queen of the punks looking to promote her son as the next big thing. She rules every scene that she is in and kicks so much ass it hurts. But Alex Sharp and Elle Fanning have a great chemistry that rivals any romance that I’ve seen on screen lately. Their characters ache with a longing that springs off the screen whenever they are near each other. Despite their differences as human and alien, they find a way to connect in a mad world, and isn’t that what we all want at times?

If you’re a fan of punk rock, aliens and romance and don’t mind a little quirkiness, this flick is for you.

Check it out.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle

Note: Spoilers abound for Godzilla: Monster Planet!!!

The second movie in the animated Godzilla trilogy, City on the Edge of Battle has arrived on Netflix, and it corrects the main issue I had with the first movie. Mainly it is a little more exciting throughout and better paced, whereas the first one was infodump after infodump in space. While the setting is interesting, it becomes a bit of a slog to sit through all of that at once. This movie picks up right where the last one left off, with Harou and his team defeated and scattered by the counterattack of the real Godzilla. When he comes to, he is in the care of a strange girl who can’t speak  his language but looks remarkably human. He finds that they have saved some of his comrades as well and can communicate with him via telepathy, which they use to ask why they were dropping bombs on their land earlier. It turns out that making a parking spot for your ships and fighting Godzilla has a way of upsetting the indigenous wildlife.

Once all of that is cleared up, the natives—who are called the Houtua—agree to release Harou and his friends so they can continue on their way. The strange girl and her twin sister follow along and, when they fight off a monster with some special arrowheads, the alien Bilusaludo realize that the metal that the weapons are made from are pieces of Mechagodzilla. With this information, a new plan is devised. When they get to Mechagodzilla, they find it has grown into a city that can produce weapons of its own that can be used to fight Godzilla. But does using this new weapon come with a deadly cost? And why are the Houtoa so afraid of it? And the most important question—can they get everything operational before Godzilla notices and comes to kill them all?

City on the Edge of Battle is an entertaining middle part of the story, with enough action and intrigue to keep the story moving along. It is nice to see more of the aliens this time too, as we learn more about their methods and beliefs as they fight alongside the humans. We also get to see more of Godzilla, who is truly a beast in this movie and his power is incredible. When you have people in space worried about what might happen if the monster notices you, you know you have a truly terrifying threat on your hands. I would say my only quibble is that the poster and some of the promo materials hint that Mechagodzilla will join the fight, but other than using it as a factory to make weapons, he never does show up. That’s a shame, because I kept hoping the city would transform ala Trypticon and we would get a gigantic royal rumble.

As with the first movie, it does end on a cliffhanger (that hints at an even bigger threat than Godzilla!), so if you’re the kind who needs closure on their story, you may want to wait to watch them all until the third one is released.

It’s on Netflix now. Check it out.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

I have to admit that superhero movies are a favorite of mine. The landscape has changed greatly from when I was growing up and we had Superman, Batman and not much else. Now it seems like every year we get several movies based on the comics I loved and most of them are pretty damn great. The Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular has been on a tear and I'm sure you're familiar with their films. The latest one, Ant-Man and the Wasp, comes hot on the heels of the epic Avengers: Infinity War and to be honest, I liked it a lot more. Part of that has to do with an incredibly likable cast and also the fact that it's a lot more fun and lighthearted, which I needed as of late.

The movie picks up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest for helping out Captain America and violating the Sokovia Accords in his Ant-Man guise. He's been stuck in his house for two years and is days from finally getting the ankle monitor off so he can enjoy the outside world with his daughter.

Then he has a strange dream that features the missing wife of Dr. Henry Pym, Scott's mentor and the original Ant-Man. Dr. Pym and his daughter Hope are a bit miffed--and rightly so--that Scott acted on his own as by getting caught, he drew them into the eyes of the authorities and now they've been on the run for two years. However, when he calls them up to tell them about his dream, he gets brought back into their world as it turns out the dream is a side-effect of opening the quantum tunnel to try and bring Janet Van Dyne back from the quantum realm. What should be an easy mission to pick up the last part that the team needs to finish the device goes sideways and Scott and Hope find themselves suiting up as Ant-Man and the Wasp to fight arms dealers, the FBI and a strange new adversary that can phase through walls. All the while, Scott has to make sure he doesn't get caught breaking his house arrest or he'll be sent away to prison for a long, long time.

I really love the smaller scale superhero movies. No pun intended. You can only save the world so many times before it gets sort of boring, and after the cosmic adventure of Infinity War, this was just what the doctor ordered. The stakes are smaller but still important, as it's not the fate of the world but the fate of families involved this time, both Scott's and the Pym's. It's those stakes that give the movie a lot of heart and resonates with me quite a bit and makes their plight strike close to home.

And the cast is an absolute blast. Just about everyone from the original film is back and get to be involved in the quest to save Janet. Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have a great chemistry and it's awesome that she got to be more involved in the adventure and kick some ass after being on the sidelines in the first movie. The unsung heroes for me are Lang's friends and co-workers, played by Michael Peña, T.I Harris and David Dastmalchian. This trio is a hoot and whenever they are on screen, it's a good time.

The movie is definitely worth checking out on the big screen and it is one of the most enjoyable times I've had at the theater this year. Check it out.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Last Drive-In

Just like Whovians each have their Doctor, most of us out there in the horror world have their own horror host. They aren't as prevalent as they were back in the 80s when I was growing up, where we had Grandpa Munster, Zacherle, Elvira and more but they are still around. While I loved the others, my go to horror host was Joe Bob Briggs.

I first discovered the laid back Texan persona of John Bloom in the early 90s, when I stumbled across his shown on TMC while looking for horror movies to watch. I'm fairly certain the movie was Zombie Island Massacre and I'm pretty sure it was terrible but Joe Bob's parts enthralled me. Not only was he funny, but the reverence he had for the movies and the behind the scenes workings of them was amazing. I kept tuning in week after week to see what new movies he had to show. When he jumped to TNT and the show became Monstervision, I followed along. It became a formative show for me in my college years as my love for horror grew stronger. I got to watch the movies I loved with a host who knew so much about them it was astounding and it was funny to boot. The mail girls only added to my appreciation for it.

Once it was cancelled, I kept waiting for some other channel to pick him up, but it never happened. Thus we were left without Joe Bob and his wonderful movies for a long, long time.

Until this weekend.

For 24ish glorious hours, the nation got to bask in the glow of Joe Bob Briggs once again, as he hosted thirteen movies on the Shudder streaming service. There were some technical difficulties at first, as the demand for Joe Bob overwhelmed the servers. (Add that to the drive in totals--one fried server) Once that was ironed out, I got to relive my college years, drinking and laughing and having a great time with some great movies and some real odd ones too. And despite all of the warts, it was perfect.

It was sad though too, watching him sign off at the end of it all, not knowing if he would come back for another round next year or if someone would notice the demand and give him a show again. That's part of life and why we have to enjoy what we get, when we get it, no matter if it's for one night or multiple seasons. Hopefully, Shudder enjoys money and decides to give us a new Monstervision so we can enjoy a regular dose of him once again.

If you missed any of it (I know I did) or just want to check in and see what it is all about, the whole marathon is available movie by glorious movie on Shudder. Check it out here.

Remember, the drive-in will never die.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Death Line (1972)

I finally got some time to myself this weekend and had myself a Friday Night Frights session. What did I watch? Read on and find out.

Some of the most effective horror movies work so well because they take a simple idea and run with it. Maybe it's a shark terrorizing a town. Maybe it's a bogeyman who stalks you while you are babysitting. Or maybe, in the case of Death Line, it's a cannibal living in the subway tunnels.

In a London Underground station, a man propositions a prostitute while waiting for the trains. She declines and walks off, leaving him there alone when someone unseen approaches him. Two university students are on their way home one night when they encounter the man collapsed on the stairs leading to the subway. When they come back with help for him, the body is gone. The theory is that he woke up and wandered off, but the actual reason is that the cannibal retrieved his prey to give a snack to his dying companion.

An investigation is opened by a team led by Donald Pleasance (who is an absolute hoot and miles away from his Dr. Loomis performance). They initially suspect the students of foul play, but they find that the rumors of a group of survivors who survived a cave-in years ago is quite true as the cannibal goes on a rampage, saddened by the death of his loved one. The students find themselves caught in the middle and must try to survive without becoming the next item on his menu.

The subways have always been creepy to me. Dark tunnels filled with steam and rats that stretch on for miles. You wait for the train, alone, while others mill about. And when there isn't anybody around? Well, the quiet makes your mind jump to all sorts of things that might be lurking about. In a way, the darkness down there is sort of like the ocean, where it hides the danger inside it. Death Line manages to play on these fears and turns a place where you should be relatively safe into a nightmare labyrinth.

Gary Sherman (Vice Squad, Dead and Buried) crafts this tale exquisitely, from the jazzy music at the beginning to lull you into a false sense of security, to the slow pans over the domain of the cannibal that remind me of the attic shots from Black Christmas. The tension builds until the final confrontation, and even the comedic turn by Pleasance only serves as a temporary relief valve. The only scene that truly feels out of place is one where he meets Christopher Lee as a MI5 agent in the missing man's apartment. While the banter between them is nice, it does feel like they just wanted to get the two together, resulting in a fun bit that doesn't really offer much to the movie.

All in all it's an excellent little thriller and worth checking out.