Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Review: Anna and the Apocalypse

Christmas and horror movies seem to go as well with each other as peppermint and schnapps. From Black Christmas to Gremlins to Krampus, there is no shortage of them. Maybe it’s the idea that is should be such a peaceful and loving time that makes it such a fertile ground for frightening scenarios. Maybe it’s because some family gatherings are so nightmarish that a slasher on the loose seems like a fine change of pace. Either way, when the season rolls around, I’m always happy to throw a couple on and get in the spirit. Some of them can be downright horrid, which is why it is a pleasure when you find a gem of a movie out there that you want to keep in your holiday rotation from that day on. Anna and the Apocalypse is such a film.

The movie can be messily summed up as a Christmas musical horror-comedy set against a zombie outbreak. A Christmas zom-com-ical, if you will. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to use that. Ever. I hate myself for even thinking of it.)

On the cusp of the holiday, a group of seniors at a Scottish high school have their futures ahead of them and their own problems to deal with. Anna wants to graduate and go travelling, much to her widowed father’s dismay. Her best friend John pines for her and wants her to stay. Steph is dealing with a girlfriend that doesn’t want to be with her on Christmas and parents that seemingly feel the same. Their friend Chris needs something real to say with his show reel, something that sells him. Lisa wants Chris and herself to be together forever. Their headmaster just wants the students to obey his every word. And also to use hand sanitizer, because there is a killer new bug going around. You might have a guess as to what happens when you contract said bug and, on the evening of the school pageant, the infection makes its way to the town, bringing along the zombies it creates. Now, the friends must band together as they try to find a way to survive a zombie apocalypse while singing and dancing through the most bloody Christmas of their lives.

 While the beats are standard for a lot of zombie films out there, some even straying quite near to Shaun of the Dead, the music and the heart of the film set it apart from the pack. Indeed, the musical numbers and so well done and catchy that it’s hard to leave the theater without an ear worm stuck in your head for the rest of the day. “There’s No Such Thing as a Hollywood Ending” is the promoted single from it and somehow also not the best in the film, which is great praise as that song itself is a great, toe-tapping number. The fact that the movie is filled with these guarantees you will be bopping your head throughout the runtime, especially when they are set to some rather brilliant choreography.

The cast is a solid bunch and all have the pipes to perform their singing duties and then some. If there’s a weak link among them, these ears couldn’t hear it. Most of the songs are ensemble pieces too, so you’ll hear them all singing plenty of times. In their regular speaking roles, they are excellent as well, and in a short amount of time manage to create likeable characters that we are invested in seeing through until their ends. Not a small feat in horror movies, where it seems like so many are despicable or played so badly that you can’t wait until they are killed. Anna, played by Ella Hunt, is the standout in the title role, but her co-stars aren’t far behind and show off some amazing talent that will serve them well in their hopefully long careers. The villain, played by Paul Kaye (Thoros on Game of Thrones) gets to sing as well, evoking a performance that was so reminiscent of Richard O’Brien that I had to check to make sure it wasn’t actually the latter.

Director John McPhail and the screenwriters (not to mention the songwriters) had an amazing task before them in getting all of these moving parts together and with great skill, managed to make one fantastic movie, one that should be part of your holiday tradition for years to come. I’ll be looking forward to see what they come up with next.

 Anna and the Apocalypse is currently in theaters now. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

NaNoWriMo Recap

Well friends, I did what I set out to do. I won NaNoWriMo this year by laying down over 50,000 words into a new fantasy novel I've had percolating for some time. In fact, it's been bouncing around since the early 90s, where it drew inspiration from a character in a short-lived D&D campaign I played in. It looked a lot different then and was more of a power-fantasy than anything substantial, so I shelved it. Then a year or two ago I started thinking about it again and how everything could play out differently. That led to a quick outlining session and I knew that it would be the book I worked on this year.

The bad news? I'm only a third of the way done with it by my estimation, so it's going to be awhile before you can see the fruits of this labor. On the bright side, I have put down the finishing words into She-Wolf, Take a Bow and will start revising that this week, so you will have that to look forward to.

All in all, it was a productive endeavor, but one that really takes it out of you. It's something I both love and hate. I love NaNo because it gets me pretty far along in a novel and forces me to write. I hate it because doing a set amount of words a day can be sort of a slog. Though I write just about every day anyway, this feels less organic and as such, you might not be fully putting your heart in it at times, which will show when you are revising. I'm feeling good about this one as the size of the outline meant I was never just spinning my wheels for word count and I'm looking forward to finishing it up.

In 2019, of course.

I'll keep you updated, as always.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

NaNoWriMo 2018

Well, I was off to a great start and writing up a storm in my 2018 NaNoWriMo novel. That promptly fell by the wayside once I went on vacation. Now I'm a few thousand words behind and still have to make today's words as well. Anybody else in the same boat? I'm pretty sure I can get it done, but it is going to be a close one this year.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Outlines and Preparations

Greetings. It's been a busy October for me. In addition to hitting a variety of horror conventions and comic conventions, I've also been working diligently on a few new works. The first up is the latest in the Friday Night Frights saga, tentatively titled She-Wolf, Take a Bow, which I've almost completed the first draft on.

Next up is the outline for a romantic comedy called Whiskey and Misery. It's a little bit Californication and Friday the 13th. I know neither of those really scream rom-com but you'll just have to trust me on it. No idea when I'm going to start work on the draft but I'm happy with the way it is shaping up so far.

Finally, I have the outline for my NaNoWriMo novel this year finished. I tend to do outlines as it helps me stay on track. Even a simple one is better than nothing and lets me look back to check something in case I forgot a plot point or need a refresher on a scene. This is going to be a new genre for me as it is a fantasy novel. I have a bunch of titles for it and at one time it was called The Goblin King, but that changed when working on the outline. On the NaNo site I have it listed as The Goblin and The Witch, which is closer to what the story is about but I'm not quite in love with it. I feel like it needs to be something more epic. Like the Days and Nights of Molly Dodd. Wait, that's already taken.You get the idea.

If anyone else is doing NaNoWriMo this year, feel free to hit me up and write along with me.

See you there.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: Halloween (2018)

It's been 40 years since the original Halloween graced the screens of theaters across the nation, giving us a boogeyman like no other in Michael Myers and creating a popular horror film franchise that has endured throughout the years. However, it has been almost ten years since the last entry and the second attempt to revitalize the series so the presence of the Shape has been sorely missed on the screen.

For those just joining us, the first attempt to discard the unwieldy continuity of the Halloween series (discounting Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, which was an attempt to create an anthology series out of the brand) was Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Said movie (which also happened to be the last one I saw in theaters) discarded the later films and picked up after Halloween II with Michael Myers still on the loose and Laurie having faked her death only to find that her brother has found her and is hunting her once again. This spawned a follow-up film that was widely derided, even with Busta Rhymes performing kung-fun on Michael Myers. The second attempt was by Rob Zombie and remade the first film and added more backstory as to why Michael was the way he was and resulted in a movie that had a mixed reaction amongst fans. The sequel had the same reaction and the series went dormant after that.

This new iteration follows the same route as H20 but goes even a step further and serves as a direct follow-up to the original Halloween. Forty years later after the Haddonfield massacre, Michael Myers is locked up securely in Smith's Grove Sanitarium and Laurie has never quite gotten over the night a stranger came into town, killed her friends and tried to do the same to her. As a result, she's been preparing herself and her family for the inevitable night that the Shape once again comes home to Haddonfield. What makes him decide to escape after so long? That can be attributed to the appearance of two Serial-esque podcasters showing up to interview him (he doesn't say anything) while working on an episode based on the Haddonfield Murders, even bringing along the mask to show him. That was a mistake, as during a transfer to a more secure facility, Myers escapes and a new night of horror begins that will lead to a showdown between the killer and the victim who escaped him so many years ago.

The director of the new movie, David Gordon Green, as well as his co-writer, Danny McBride, are known more for their comedies. However, they bring the horror this time around and do it well in a tightly directed piece that lovingly homages previous films in the series but doesn't go overboard with it. Fans of the series will notice these Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film that enhance and never distract, which helps to not alienate newer viewers. But Green doesn't just ape what has come before and creates new scenes to go down in a series full of iconic shots. One particular standout for me is in the sanitarium when we are introduced to Michael. It's a beautiful and eerie courtyard made of a red and white checkerboard that looks like it could be something out of an Argento film. The sound design in that scene is as unsettling and alien as the location, culminating when the mask is revealed and the inmates all around Michael know that evil is stirring once again.

Halloween's cast is superb. Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the role she originated and plays it well and with more depth than she was given in the script for H20. Her Laurie Strode is a traumatized survivor and it has affected her own life and those of her daughter and granddaughter. But that doesn't mean she's running scared. No, this Laurie Strode isn't so much hiding as she is waiting for that day she knows is an inevitability and has prepared for it as such. Judy Greer plays her daughter and does what she can with an underwritten role and shines in it. Newcomer Andi Matichak does a great job as the youngest Strode, Allyson, who finds herself and her friends caught up in the mayhem of Myers' rampage and learns that her grandmother wasn't overselling the menace. Will Patton plays an officer who knows as well as Laurie the horror Myer's is capable of inflicting on their town and vows to stop it.

The violence comes fast and furious in this film. Gone is the almost playful Michael who will stalk his victims for hours and toy with them. This Michael Myers is full of pent up rage and he lashes out with it indiscriminately, sparing few from the fruits of his madness. The brutality brings to mind the original Halloween II, where he displays a similar viciousness, and also the Zombie remake. Myers is a superhuman force to be reckoned with, using his bare hands and his trusty knife to savagely dispatch his victims. That's not to say there isn't suspense. Interspersed are some truly terrifying and tense moments where he closes in on his next target, leaving us unsure of where he might pop up and if they will escape. Once scene in particular involving a security light is particularly harrowing along with the scene in the restroom that you might have seen in the trailer.

John Carpenter, who scored the original as well as directed it, returns with his son Cody and Daniel Davies to supply the music and it is fantastic. Old cues and themes are remixed and new ones added, all featuring the trademark Carpenter sound but with more depth the them, reminiscent of his Lost Themes album. The tracks never overpower and serve to heighten the action on screen, a welcome change from movies that are looking to sell a soundtrack instead of a scare.

All of this adds up to a solid entry in the Halloween series and creating a film worthy of being a direct successor to the original. The story is solid, if a little light on some backstory elements, with scares that come at a regular pace but never enough to overwhelm. Some levity is injected into parts, no surprise considering the authors, but these moments never overpower the horror or turn it into a farce. There are a few missteps in the film that make it stumble, such as a reveal late in the second act that is resolved nearly as soon as it arrives and doesn't serve much purpose. It doesn't derail the movie though and we are back on track soon enough on our way to the final showdown.

Also, for those interested, the mask is damn near perfect. After years of getting masks that seem progressively worse, its nice that they can finally get it right.

Check it out at a theater near you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Elvira at the New Jersey Horror Con Part 2

One of the fun things to do at conventions if you have some free time is attend the various panels that the show has. These can be on just about anything. Some are how-to's on cosplay or comic book creation, others concern what new products a company has coming up, while others might feature the cast and crew of an upcoming movie that will be discussed in detail. At the New Jersey Horror Con, these panels took the form of  Q&A sessions with the various celebrities in attendance. I didn't realize that Ms. Peterson (Elvira) was having one until I got there. Fortunately it was scheduled for right after my photo-op so I could run over there and grab a seat without having to spend a lot of time waiting around.

The Q&A stage was a simple set up,featuring a chair and microphone each for the Ms. Peterson and the moderator in front of a white backdrop with the con's logo on it. The photo-op ran a bit longer than expected so Ms. Peterson was a little late to the panel, but was greeted with thunderous applause anyway when she showed up. After all, you can't show disrespect to the Queen of Halloween.

The moderator started things off first, with questions from the audience to be fielded later. The first question he had was the influence that Elvis had on the creation of Elvira. The answer to that? Not very much at all, outside the similarity of the names. Ms. Peterson did meet him while performing as a showgirl in Las Vegas and recounted a story where they spent all night talking and "doing other things," but nothing too bad because she was underage at the time and Elvis had handlers to prevent that sort of thing from happening. However, he did give her some advice. The first bit was to stop smoking weed, which she ignored. The second bit, which was to get out of Vegas, she did follow. "I was the youngest showgirl in Las Vegas history, and if I stayed there, I'd be the oldest." On an amusing side-note, she said that Elvis' manager did note later on that her signature as Elvira looked like a dead ringer for Elvis' own signature. Just a funny coincidence.

The conversation then moved to her involvement with The Groundlings, a comedy troupe that featured the likes of Phil Hartman, Paul Reubens and Laraine Newman. She suggested everyone should take one of their classes and it helped her learn to think on her feet. You had to when you went out on stage with no script and had to make an audience laugh. In fact, the character of Elvira is based on a valley girl character she was using in Groundlings. The director of her show saw it when they were in the planning stages and said to do that so she did. Ms. Peterson said you wouldn't think the vampire outfit and the valley girl would go together, but that's what made it unique. Advice she gave for people wanting to make their own characters for acting and the like is that they should choose like on a Chinese menu. and pick little from each column. It might not be the best thing ever invented, but it'll be unique.

Concerning the character's creation the original concept was for a scarier costume with more color in it and red hair, basing some of it off of Sharon Tate's character in The Fearless Vampire Killers, as Ms. Peterson wanted to avoid all of the Morticia Addams and Vampira styles that were popular. However, when they presented it to the station, the higher-ups said it had to be black. The hair is based on Ronnie Spector's in a style the singer called a "knowledge bump." As for the dress, the station had a problem with the amount of cleavage showing at first and told her to "take care of it." She said "ok" but did nothing to change the outfit. When they asked her if she fixed the issue, Elvira said "yes" and it never came up again.

Due to her hand in creating Elvira, Ms. Peterson is one of the few people who own the character that they became famous for. Pee-Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) is the other one. She said they might let others into that exclusive club, like Alice Cooper and Gene Simmons. Well, maybe not Gene Simmons.

Speaking of Pee-Wee, Paul Reubens and Ms. Peterson text each other every day. For her, the Groundlings was her high school and where she made the friends that she still has to this very day. She had a part as a biker in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and tried to get Tim Burton to direct Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. However, after the success of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Burton became too expensive for the job. 

Ms. Peterson shared a few anecdotes about the filming of the movie. She loves animals and refused to let the wranglers use permanent or semi-permanent dye on the poodle in the film. Instead they had to use a vegetable based one that they had to apply every day. Said poodle was also the meanest dog that she had ever met and bit several of the cast and crew members--the worst of which was received by Kurt Fuller, who then had to get stitches on his ankle. Though she had an improv background, there wasn't any improv in the movie. Ms. Peterson said the improv came when she and John Paragon were writing the script and that became what they ended up filming.

For the Macabre Mobile, they used a 1958 Ford Thunderbird. However, the convertible models were rare and rather expensive, so they got a regular edition and chainsawed off the roof and made it a permanent convertible. It also barely ran and so they had to use a tow-truck to drag it along or they would push it into frame to make it appear that it was running. After the movie was done filming, she was asked if she wanted to buy it, but didn't want a car that didn't work. Years later, the purchaser of it wanted to sell it and gave her the chance to buy it and this time she did. After a $30,000 restoration performed by the legendary George Barris (designer of the Batmobile and others), the car was running perfectly and is now on display at Sweet!Hollywood so the public can enjoy it. 

Ms. Peterson doesn't appear at cons in costume any more, much to the dismay of fans. However, there is good reason for that. The first of which, she says, is that nobody else shows up in character and nobody expects them to, which is rather unfair. The second reason is that it takes two hours to get ready when putting on the costume and it would require her to bring a hair and makeup assistant along on trip. The third--and most important reason--is that while it looks great, it is uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time, so she will only bring it out for special occasions. That's fine with this reporter as I want her to wear whatever she is comfortable in so she can keep regaling us with her wonderful stories.

While she is a horror host icon for the audience, Ms. Peterson revealed that she didn't watch any when she was growing up, mainly because her part of the country didn't have any. However, once she became Elvira, she got caught up on many of them and became friends with hosts like Zacherley, Svengoolie and others.

An audience member asked if she enjoyed watching the horror movies that she hosted and if she still liked watching them. Ms. Peterson confirmed that she does watch horror movies, but doesn't enjoy slasher films very much and enjoys movies with a bit of humor to break up the scares. She prefers the older movies and watches them on Svengoolie when she can to relax.

In terms of her older work, Ms. Peterson said that she doesn't like watching it. Mainly because she spoke so slowly that "you could fall asleep between words." The movie she liked least on her show was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. This wasn't because of the movie's quality, as it's a good movie, but because the writers of the movie used up every tomato and ketchup joke in it so that she had nothing to do for her sketches during the breaks.

Currently, Ms. Peterson is doing more cons as she isn't doing Knott's Scary Farm this year as she had been for awhile. Doing two shows a night made for a rough schedule and though she was thankful for the opportunity, she was glad to stop. She'll be attending cons the weekend before and the weekend after Halloween as it falls on a Wednesday this year, which means two Halloween weekends.

One of the last questions concerned the fact that Dave Navarro bought a house next to her. Ms. Peterson said he was great and that she held his hand as he got an Elvira tattoo over the last open bit of skin. She offered a bit of advice concerning that last part. "Do you have a neighbor with your name tattooed on them? If so, move." Navarro has Suspension Sundays where he hangs himself with hooks and chains over the pool and everyone drinks beer while he drips blood in it. That's why she doesn't like to go swimming over there.

Although Elvira doesn't have a show on currently, that doesn't mean she doesn't have anything in the works. Ms. Peterson revealed that she is in talks with a cable network to do a third Elvira movie. After all, she saw Pee-Wee's latest movie and he's only a year younger and still has it so she has another movie in her. Plus he can wear more makeup than he can. This development came about due to her shopping around the idea of an Elvira animated cartoon. The network passed on that but said they would be interested in something live-action so she started work on a treatment. Look for news about that in the future.

For information on Cassandra Peterson's future appearances, please visit: https://www.elvira.com/

That's all, folks! Thanks for reading! 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Elvira at New Jersey Horror Con

It was a rainy Sunday on the first full day of fall that I headed on down to Atlantic City and the New Jersey Horror Con with one goal in mind--to meet Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. If you're unfamiliar with her, she is a horror host whose persona was that of a Valley Girl dressed like she stepped out of a Hammer vampire film. The clash between the two elements made her one of the most memorable and long-lived characters to come out of the 1980s.

I caught her show through the magic of VHS as a kid and became entranced with her and her peers at the time like Zacherley. The outfit she wore was clearly part of her appeal for me, but the humor was what kept me coming back to her show. Elvira could fire off witty one-liners with the best of them and her skits were often the highlights of the show as some of the films could be pretty dreadful.

Despite being an avid con goer for the past twenty years, I've never actually gotten a chance to meet this idol of mine. Some of it was due to logistics and being unable to attend the cons she has been to, and some of it was that Ms. Peterson was busy around Halloween with other commitments so she wouldn't be able to attend the shows that popped up around that time of year like Chiller Theatre. When I saw that she was going to be attending the relatively-new-on-the-scene New Jersey Horror Con, I jumped at the chance to go and see her and tell her what an inspiration that she has been to my love of horror and writing.

The convention was being held at the old Showboat Casino down in Atlantic City, now just referred to as The Showboat. It's changed a lot since I had last been there. All of the machines that had littered the floor were removed, though the light up displays that could be found above them are still there and blinking away. Gone is the House of Blues where I enjoyed many a show and sprained my ankle once. The bar we sat at while waiting to go up to see the bands we loved sits empty next to broken escalators. All of this empty space was ripe for the taking, and the NJHC filled it up to the best of its ability.

Vendors from all over came to set up tables and hawk their wares. Looking for horror themed prints? They had them. Maybe you were looking for an old movie that you half-remember seeing on a cable channel one night. There was a booth selling them too, as well as representation from official outlets like Troma and Vinegar Syndrome. Mixed in between these were vendors selling toys and props and replicas and crafts of all sorts. The amount of dealers wasn't as large as in a con like Chiller, but it was an impressive showing.

Lining the edge of the show floor were the celebrity guests. While Elvira and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider had a place of honor in one of the old poker rooms, the rest could be found out here--not that they were any slouches. Genre favorites young and old like Linda Blair, Ted Raimi, Amy Steel, Adrienne King, Edward Furlong, Tiffany Shepis, William Katt and more were on the scene and ready to meet with their adoring fans and sell some 8x10s and other memorabilia. In addition, the celebrities were all available for photo ops so you could get a picture to remember the day by that would turn out better than the one you could just snap with your phone.

If people in costume were your scene, you'd find plenty of them wandering around. Evil clowns seemed to be the theme that day and there were a few Pennywises and others running around. My favorite had to be a young girl dressed in the sackhead outfit from Friday the 13th Part 2. She was killing it.

After a quick tour of the show floor, I went to the photo op I had scheduled with Elvira. Meeting her was an amazing experience. She is warm and funny and an altogether wonderful human being. We only had a minute to chat before the next person so I didn't have too much time to make a fool of myself but got to say how great it was to meet her and how much she meant to me growing up as a young horror fan. The set we were on was recreated to look like the one she used on her show. I might not have gotten a photo otherwise, but being on the set of Movie Macabre? That was too good to pass up. Now I have a memory that I will always treasure...and probably hang up at the bar in the basement with the other horror hosts I've met. She'll be in good company with them.

One my photo was done, I scurried across the show floor to the next destination and to where I knew Elvira would be showing up next--the Q&A room.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Cheerleaders of the Blind Dead is Now Available!

The anticipated fourth entry in the terrifying Fright Night Frights series is here! Now you too can read the continuing adventures of Dave and Mike, the erstwhile vampire hunters, as they travel to the town of Sikoraville to answer a call for help and find that everything is not what it seems. This town's dark secret likes to come out at night and feed on the blood of the living and it is up to the boys and two new friends to stop it once and for all in Cheerleaders of the Blind Dead.

Get your copy here!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Cheerleaders of the Blind Dead is Available for Pre-Order

Greetings boys and ghouls. I've been a busy beaver and due to that, have a second book release in a calendar year coming up. The fourth book in the Friday Night Frights series, Cheerleaders of the Blind Dead, is now available for pre-order up at Amazon.com. The paperback will be available around the same time, as usual. So if you're interested in the continuing adventures of David Gale and friends, head on over and check it out.

Click here to Pre-Order

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Pacific Rim Uprising

It's no surprise that Pacific Rim was one of my favorite movies from the past few years. It was the perfect mix of giant robots fighting even bigger monsters and hit a sweet spot that had been missing in my life. Sadly, it didn't really light the box office on fire so it seemed like a sequel would never materialize. Fortunately that was not the case and just this month we were graced with a brand new installment in the franchise--Pacific Rim Uprising.

This film takes place ten years after the original. The war has been one and the world is starting to move on. New jaegers are being built as peacekeepers and still training just in case there is another incursion, but so far things have been peaceful. Jake Pentecost, son of the hero Stacker Pentecost, is drawn back into the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps after running afoul of the law to help train some of the new recruits. It should be an easy job and it would have been, until a new threat emerges.

This one might not be from another dimension. It might be home grown.

While the movie lacks some of the polish and grit of the original, Pacific Rim Uprising shines when it comes to continuing to build up the world the Guillermo Del Toro created and it feels like an organic extension. I really liked seeing how the world recovered after the attacks. Usually in monster movies you don't get to see much of that and instead the creatures just destroy the city again and again as if nothing happened the first time. Here you have ravaged parts of the world that are trying to spring back but some are too far gone after the kaiju invasion and are still littered with the bones of the defeated.

The story is solid and and cast is great, particularly John Boyega, who just oozes charisma and is a treat to watch on the screen. The jaeger action is where the movie really shines, with multiple daylight battles featuring a variety of foes. In the first movie, we really didn't get to see anyone other than Gipsy Danger perform. Here, Gipsy Avenger is joined by a host of others and each one gets to shine a little in the battle to save the world.

Fun movie that's a good way to pass some time on a weekend. If you like monster movies, you'll enjoy it and be grinning ear to ear through the whole thing like I was. Check it out.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Secret Life of Astrogirl is Now Available!

Good news, everyone!

The Secret Life of Astrogirl is officially released and available for purchase for the Kindle and in paperback.

The versions haven't been linked in the store yet but you can find them easily by searching my name or using the following links.

Kindle Version

Paperback Version

Whatever version you choose, I hope you enjoy it and don't forget to leave a review!

Thank you for your support and happy reading!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Secret Life of Astrogirl is Available for Pre-Order

That's right. My latest novel, The Secret Life of Astrogirl, is now available for pre-order for the Kindle on Amazon.com. Or, you know, through your Kindle. The paperback will be available for sale on the same date, they just don't allow pre-orders for them yet on there.

What's this book all about? In case you missed it, TSLOA is face-punching, adrenaline-filled adventure about a superhero who gets suspended from her super team, the Global Defenders, and now has to try and keep her head down and live a normal life in a secret identity so she can get reinstated and back to saving the world.

So she gets herself a job.

The only problem? There are monsters appearing all New York and looking to eat some of her fellow citizens and juggling both careers is going to take some fancy footwork that has her wondering if a 9-5 job might just be the thing that does her in.

Pre-Order it here!

Friday, February 02, 2018

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (Review)

If you've been following this blog for any time, you know that I am a big Godzilla fan. I have been since I was a kid and it hasn't changed in the many years since then. I don't think there's a Godzilla movie that I outright hate, but the cartoons featuring the big G are a different matter. Sure I loved watching the Hanna Barbera Godzilla on Saturdays, but the design was too different and it never really stuck with me the way the movies did, even if there were some cool monster fights.The cartoon based on the 1998 film is good, correcting some of the missteps that the movie made and turning the lead monster into a creature that resembled the one we knew and love. Hell, he even got to breathe atomic fire!

As such, I wasn't too sure how the anime movie was going to end up being. I was happy to find out that it was good, and wildly different from what I expected.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters deals with a world where, when Godzilla appeared, instead of fighting him to the last man, humanity (with the help of some aliens) built ships and left for the stars. However, after twenty years in space and no new planet in sight, the crew decides to turn around and head back to Earth and see if they can take it back from Godzilla. However, when they get there, they find that the world has changed, as 20 years for them was actually 20,000 years back home. Oops.

Undaunted, the crew sets out with their plan to find Godzilla, destroy him, and reclaim the planet they used to call home.

The story was a fine sci-fi tale and it was a nice change from the contemporary settings of the regular Godzilla movies. The animation was crisp and clean, though there were some hiccups at points with the CGI due to it being 24fps instead and creating a stuttering effect. My only real complaint is that besides Godzilla, the only other monster we see is rather unremarkable, a Rodan-like creature that flies in flocks. The other, named monsters from the movies show up in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shots in the opening credits but that’s it. Hopefully they give us some more in the future installments.

It’s an entertaining way to kill an hour and a half and a fine watch even if you aren’t a Godzilla fan, as quite a bit of the story revolves around human drama and machinations. The ending is one hell of a ride and I can’t wait to see the next one.

Check it out on Netflix streaming now.