Sinister Entity

March 17 , 2013 | | In: Book of the Month, Book Reviews

Sinister EntityThe Leigh family is your average all-American family.  A husband and wife, Greg and Rita, with a teenage daughter, Selena, and a young son, Ricky.  It all seems quite normal, with the usual turmoil that comes with a teen daughter and a little boy.  But the Leighs are soon to face a new problem, something unexplainable and beyond all reasoning.

It begins when Rita finds herself in a strange situation:  she is home alone.  No kids, no Greg, just a silent, empty house.  What to do?  Well, she decides on having some Rita time.  That’s when she hears footsteps bounding up the stairs and Selena calling “Mom!”  Rita goes to meet an empty hall.  Selena isn’t there.  The second occurrence is when Greg is in the garage preparing to change the oil in his car.  As he drives the car up on the ramp, he sees Selena directly in the path and it causes him to run the car off the ramp.  Selena, of course, is not in the garage, she’s up in her room.  The third, and most frightening thing, is when Selena is alone in her room and thinks her brother is hiding in her closet.  She flings the door open only to find a spectral image of herself crouching there.

History, or folklore, you decide, states that the sighting of your doppelgänger portents something bad happening.  Most times, it is a sign of death.  The Leigh family turns to Jessica Backman who knows a thing or two about bad things happening.  Her father was a paranormal investigator and she was present, at the age of six, when he died under unusual circumstances (as chronicled in Shea’s book Forrest of Shadows).  As an adult, Jessica took up her father’s work.  She has certain abilities that help in the vanquishing of pestering spirits.

Jessica can’t do it all herself, though, and as much as she hates to admit it, sometimes, even she, needs help.  Enter Eddie Home.  Jessica’s psychic talents are parlor tricks compared to Eddie’s.  The only reason Jessica even agrees to give a chance is because her father sent Eddie to her.  Yeah, Eddie’s that good.  Proving himself to her on a case that she was having trouble with, Jessica enlists Eddie’s assistance when the Leigh family calls, desperately, for help.

After an initial visit to the Leigh home, Eddie quickly discovers there is something else at work there besides the doppelgänger.  There is a darker, and much stronger, force lurking the house.  It is an entity full of rage and desire, and the object of its demented affection is Selena.

Hunter Shea begins Sinister Entity with a breathlessly creepy haunting sequence.  The rest of the book is just as scary.  This is a great honest-to-God horror novel.  The title may scream B-movie, or sound like a mockbuster from The Asylum film studio, but we should all know by now not to judge a book by its cover (though this one does have a good one).  The pace is swift and relentless, and it’s a decent mystery to boot; I only wish there had been more of the sinister entity’s back story.

This is the real deal, though.  The fear is palpable.  Horror novels don’t get much better than this.

5 out of 5
John Jason

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Mutated

March 17 , 2013 | | In: Book Reviews

MutatedIt would be an injustice to label Joe McKinney’s Dead World series as just zombie literature.  I don’t have anything against zombie lit, but McKinney’s books (Dead City, Apocalypse of the Dead, Flesh Eaters) are about more than just the dead being reanimated and feasting on the living.  His books are really about the living, the survivors.  In fact, McKinney’s zombies aren’t that dead- they breathe as well.

Mutated presents an evolution in the zombies.  There are Stage 1, 2, and 3 zombies.  The latter stage zombies are smarter, more organized, can problem solve.  Stage 3 zombies are so advanced, they are sort of the velociraptors of the living dead.  But they all pale in comparison to the one Stage 4 zombie, the Red Man.  The Red Man has improved mental faculties from when he was human.  He is superhuman, only he is a zombie and is filled with pure, unadulterated evil.  Think Randall Flagg infected with the necrosis filovirus and you’ll have a crystal clear picture of the Red Man.

The only threat to the Red Man, who used to be a loser meth head named Loren Skaggs, is Nate Royal.  Nate was pretty much a loser his entire life, too, but after the zombie apocalypse he did have something significant to contribute to society:  he is immune to the zombie virus.  But, Nate has never had the best luck.  The military installation at which he was being studied by Dr. Kellog was overrun and the good doctor, the only friend Nate ever really had, was killed.  So Nate is set adrift into the remains of the world, rambling aimlessly and trying to avoid being eaten by the living dead or shot by the just plain living.

Nate soon crosses paths with the Red Man.  He also crosses paths with former reporter Ben Richardson and professor Sylvia Carnes.  They are looking for Nikki Booth who has been taken hostage by the Red Man.  Booth is one of a group of people, along with Carnes, who have risen up to oppose the Red Man and his legions, and are also searching for Dr. Don Fisher.  Fisher is in seclusion working on a cure to the plague.

I make it sound a lot more complicated than it is.  My bad.  Once you get into Mutated, you won’t have any trouble getting lost in the tale.

Once you get into it.  It took a little time for me to get swept away by Mutated.  The character of the Red Man was hard to believe at first.  I know, I know, this book contains people who die and come back to life to have an all you can eat buffet on human flesh, and I find the evolution of the zombie difficult to digest (sorry, I had to use that word).  But yes, I couldn’t buy it at first.  It took time to accept him.  For about half the book, every time the Red Man appeared, the story felt like it was teetering on the edge of absurdity, and the story felt derivative.  By the end, the Red Man felt more like an actual menace.

The best of Mutated belongs to Ben Richardson and Sylvia Carnes.  Their relationship, their dilemmas, conflicts- these are real people and this is why you read a Joe McKinney novel.  This is why McKinney has become one of my favorite writers.  The monster-as-human Red Man is never as good as humans facing their own monsters, be they real or imagined.  McKinney just knows how to write, and it’s that talent, that divine ability, that makes Mutated into something other than just a zombie eating a person yarn.

4 out of 5
John Jason

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House of Skin

January 21 , 2013 | | In: Book of the Month, Book Reviews

house-skin-jonathan-janzWatermere stands as macabre evidence that a house can be cursed.  Its mortar and timbers have witnessed more than carnage– the house has been home to depravity and madness.

Paul Carver is pretty much a loser.  When it comes to relationships, jobs, and, basically, life itself, it’s all a dead end for Paul.  But his fortunes seem to be turning around when his elderly uncle, Myles Carver, dies and leaves everything to Paul.  The hapless slacker finds himself with a nice bank account, and Watermere.  So, he lets Emily, his ex, eat his dust, as well as his dysfunctional family, and he packs up and heads to his estranged uncle’s mansion in little town of Shadeland.

Uncle Myles is one of those relatives that no one talks about, but everybody talks about.  If you know what I mean.  That goes with infamy.  Myles and his brother, David, ruled the roost at Watermere back in the day.  All that came crumbling down when David met Annabel.  Annabel was drop dead gorgeous and attached to David’s hip.  Myles severed that relationship and took Annabel for himself.

Men, Myles included, had a way of killing for Annabel.  Of course, Annabel had a blood thirst all her own.  The couple was responsible for a series grisly murders, but, naturally, nothing could ever be proven.  Even though the entire town knew the guilty parties.

That legacy of evil has lasted beyond the grave.

Paul has started a new life at Watermere.  He can feel himself changing.

House of Skin quite literally has evil in the very air.  This is a steamy story with the right balance of suspense, gore, and sex.  I love a tale that can creep its way under your nerves and around the corners then pull the skin back to expose the tender flesh beneath.  It has a little bit of everything.

Telling a story in flashback can be a tricky a thing.  The story of Myles and Annabel and how they eventually connect with Paul and his new love interest Julia, and her link to the Carver clan, is handled well by author Jonathan Janz.  There is enough here, at least enough interest for me, for this to have been two novels.  I would have loved to have read more about Myles and Annabel and their lives of cruelty and debauchery.  But that’s just me.

This is a great haunted house story.  It’s a great haunted people story.  Even those that have nothing to do personally with the Carvers are haunted.  The modern day descendants in Shadeland feel the weight of all those sins.  If House of Skin had been stripped of its supernatural elements, it still would have been a fascinating read.  How the sins of the father visit the son, how one person can cast a shadow over a whole town until, probably, the end of time or the town, whichever comes first.

4.5 out of 5
John Jason

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Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend

January 21 , 2013 | | In: Pieces of Me

familyI don’t know if anyone has noticed or not, but it’s been nearly a year since I have posted anything at Literal Remains.  The reason for that is simple:  it’s been a whirlwind year.  A whole lotta life going on.

A little over a year ago I started a new relationship with a friend.  We met for dinner one evening, and as I have said to Bany (my nickname for her), I had dinner with a friend and walked away with a family.  That was our first date and, with the exception of one day, have seen each other every day since.  We were married this past June, and not long after we discovered were expecting a little monster.  He is due in February, to join his big brother and two big sisters in wreaking havoc on the innocent and unsuspecting.

This husband and father business is new to me.  I have had the pleasure in contributing, in some ways, to the rearing of my niece and nephews (if you should happen to know them, don’t hold it against me), and they have all become well adjusted adults.  I think.  Apparently the judicial system does too.  All joking aside, they turned out well.  But being a parent?  A husband?  Those are scary things.

Not all fear is bad, though.

This is the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  All our lives.  This is a whole new book.  I don’t know what to expect, I have no outline for this adventure.  We, especially me, are delving into the unknown.  I couldn’t be happier.

Lastly, I want to share some more good news with everyone.  Some of you may remember there was a story here at Literal Remains titled “Daisy”.  It was a little story of the living dead.  Last October it was included in the horror anthology Tales For The Toilet from Crowded Quarantine.  Slowly but surely, slowly but surely….

In the middle of everything, I’ll be posting here at Literal Remains.  Remember, fear is a man’s best friend, and fear is a place where you just tell the truth.

Peace.

John Jason

 

 

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Little Deaths

March 15 , 2012 | | In: Movie Reviews

Way back in high school, my drama class did a performance of Much Ado About Nothing.  From that play I learned the term “to die in your lap”.  That line comes from the French term la petite mort, which means “the little death”.  During the Renaissance, I think it was, the French (those romantic devils) believed that when you had an orgasm, you died briefly, thus the little death.  So, when I picked up Little Deaths, I automatically figured it would be dealing with sex and death.  It does.  But you’ll most likely die from boredom.

Little Deaths consists of three stories:  ”House and Home”, “Mutant Tool”, and “Bitch”.  The first entry is about a wealthy couple who invite a homeless girl into their home.  They clean her up, give her clothes, and feed her.  Their good intentions and religious spouting aside, they find it fun to tie her to the bed and rape her.  That’s how the couple get their rocks off.  I don’t want to spoil the ending to this one, but it’s not really that surprising once it comes.

“Mutant Tool” is the weirdest, and considering what the third story covers, that’s saying something.  A former drug addict and prostitute is given a new medication.  That medication is made from the secretions of this person held prisoner at the pharmaceutical company.  They milk this dude dry to get the meds, you know.  For the poor recovering ex-prostitute, it has some trippy side effects.  The pill links her to the prisoner, and she feels his pain.

The last story, “Bitch”, is about another urban couple with their own set of problems.  The faithful husband is cuckolded, and must endure humiliation from his wife at home and in public.  Yet, he likes it, even when she has him dress like a dog.  Yes, he dresses like a dog, complete with leash, and has his own doghouse in a room in their apartment.  They even enjoy pegging.  Google it, with the filters off.  When the wife goes too far, the husband formulates a plan of revenge, involving real dogs because his wife is terrified of them.

Little Deaths is so cold and clinical by the end that it’s sleep inducing.  Nothing is shocking, which was the overall aim.  It’s a few years too late.  If it had been released in the mid- to late 1990s, maybe then it would have had more of an impact.  With the Internet, we’ve all seen more shocking sexually themed material.  We’ve all seen better.  Most modern thriller and horror novels are edgier.

Little Deaths is not scary, thought inducing, or arousing, even in a forbidden taboo kind of way. It’s not even repulsive. To riff on my high school days, it’s a whole lot about nothing.

2 out of 5
John Jason

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The Sorrows

March 8 , 2012 | | In: Book Reviews

Ben Shadeland and Eddie Blaze are film composers.  Very in demand, highly lauded, film composers for horror films.  They write the creepy music that make the movies work so well.  Ben writes it, Eddie arranges it, and the partnership works.  It works when Ben is able to write music, that is.  Ben has a creative block, and it doesn’t help that he’s divorced, his ex has a young stud fiance’, and is planning to move across the country with this new guy, and is threatening to take Ben’s young son with them.  So Ben’s head is full of things besides music, even with producers and a tyrannical director breathing down his neck.

It’s up to Eddie to inspire Ben to compose.  And what better way to gain inspiration for a horror film score than to stay in a castle that’s been home to murders, suicides, and other suspicious activities on a remote island?  Castle Blackwood is their destination, a working vacation that will keep them and their two companions, Eva and Claire, from civilization for a month.  Eddie is hoping the spooky place will break down the walls that are stifling Ben’s creativity.

Though the castle doesn’t immediately work magic on Ben, it eventually casts a dark spell on the group.  Castle Blackwood summons ghosts and specters, especially for those haunted by the past.  Plus there is something living in the deep dark bowels of Castle Blackwood that has finally woke and is hungry.  Something from myth and older than man is stalking the grounds, and it has voracious desires and deadly appetites.


The Sorrows is the debut novel by Jonathan Janz.  It feels familiar, but never feels old or as if it has been told before.  It did call to mind Brian Keene’s Dark Hollow, but that book was nowhere near as good as this one.  Where Keene’s book flew off the rails into needless degradation and boredom, Janz keeps The Sorrows actually quite tasteful for its subject matter. He isn’t afraid to tell a story, keeping the pacing pitch perfect just like the atmosphere.  This is top quality midnight movie stuff.

For me, the story of how Castle Blackwood came to be so damned was a little more interesting than the present day story of Ben and Eddie.  The characters that dominate the history of Blackwood were slightly thinner and less defined than Ben and his companions, and I wanted to know more of them and their world.

All in all, though, I can’t complain.  The Sorrows is a splendid, creepy read, and a good start to what I hope is a long and fruitful career for Mr. Janz.

4 out of 5
John Jason

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Slashers 101

February 2 , 2012 | | In: Book of the Month, Book Reviews

Stacie Ponder is my Internet crush.  Read her blog, Final Girl, and tell me she isn’t the funniest, most informative and incisive, horror aficionado out there.  So, this review may be a little biased, but her comic, Slashers 101, speaks for itself.

What can be said about a comic that tells the history of the slasher sub-genre with guest appearances from Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Dr. Loomis, and Columbo? It can be truthfully said that it’s witty, charming, and packed with facts.  And spoilers, so, beware.

Beginning the history lesson of the slasher movie with its origins in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Ponder covers what makes a slasher a slasher, such as the various killers, masks, weapons, stock characters, and even location.  As Columbo warns at the beginning, Slashers 101 mainly details North American slasher films of the late ’70s and early ’80s, although some Italian slashers are mentioned solely for their influence and brilliant names.  Ponder even comes up with what may be the best Italian slasher film name ever.  It’s so good, someone needs to make a movie of it.

The comic is fairly balanced, citing the best of the slasher villains and also listing some of the more boring characters– see section Dull Killers In Jeans.  Non-horror fans will enjoy this mini-comic, but for seasoned veterans such as myself it was wonderful; there were a few films I have never seen I’ll have to check out, and a couple I had never heard of.

You can’t go wrong with this comic. It manages to work the magic of leaving you wanting more.

To purchase Slashers 101, visit Final Girl’s World of Purchasable Things.

4.5 out of 5
John Jason

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Armageddon Yellowstone: Hell Unleashed

January 19 , 2012 | | In: Book Reviews

Tom Havyn is a man in a crisis.  After his grandfather dies,Tom inherits his Idaho ranch and decides to move there, where he spent so many wonderful times as a child.  So he leaves behind his research job as a biological psychologist and moves to Idaho with the ultimate goal of killing himself.  See, his grandfather had a mental breakdown and suffered from hallucinations and behavioral problems, including paranoia.  Tom has been suffering from hallucinations himself, and these hallucinations may have led to his young son’s near fatal drowning.  His son survived, but suffered brain damage as a result.  This put a strain on Tom’s marriage which ended in divorce.  Full of guilt, and fearing a complete breakdown with reality just like his grandfather, Tom’s thinks blowing his head off is the answer to the pain he already suffers, and the pain yet to come.

But the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray, and Tom’s suicide attempt is thwarted by a giant of a man named Connie. Connie is on the run because there was a freak accident which killed one of his coworkers, and it really looks like Connie did it.  How do you explain a swarm of…something…flying out of nowhere and boring holes into somebody?  Connie is a recreational drug user, and even he is having a hard time getting a handle on the situation.

And then there are the earthquakes.  And Tom suddenly has the talent of predicting the future, especially when a news camera is pointed at him.  Don’t forget the secret underground labs, highly advanced nanotechnology used by militia groups  that could cure Tom’s son, and something in the water turning average citizens into psychotic, merciless, killers.

This is a full slate of a story.  The title, Armageddon Yellowstone: Hell Unleashed, is a mouthful, and there’s a lot of plot to go along with that lengthy name.  It is a feat in and of itself that the author, Terry Rich Hartley, pulls all the strands together; major kudos to him given that this is a rather short novel.  Which is the problem:  there’s just too much.  It almost feels like, at times, that Hartley combined the plots of two or three books and put them into just this one.

That’s not to say that Armageddon isn’t worth a read.  It’s a fast moving story, and it keeps you hooked; I had no idea where this book was going, and by the middle of it I was just wanting to see how everything met and fit together. With some better editing, this could have been a killer high tech thriller.  It falters and stumbles here and there, and though it may not ultimately succeed, if you’re looking for something different it may be worth a look.

2.5 out of 5
John Jason 

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Yes, yes,yes, it’s Poe’s birthday. And mine. So, I guess it’s my tradition now to post a reading of “The Raven”, which is my favorite of Poe’s poems. Enjoy.

John Jason

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Year End Review 2011

December 30 , 2011 | | In: Book Reviews, Movie Reviews, Pieces of Me

Before I go any further, I want to point out three movies that should really be seen.  They are three very different independent films, and they represent the best of what the horror genre has to offer.  D4, Emerging Past, and Mask Maker.  They represent science run amok, psychological horror, and the slasher categories respectively.  They are quality films made on tight budgets that give the big league Hollywood machine a run for their money.  Talk about filmmakers using ingenuity, these three movies should not be missed.

Clicking on the title will take you to my original review.

Best Books
Dead of Winter by Brian Moreland
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney
A Season of Darkness by Douglas Jones and Phyllis Gobbel
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford
The Ice Princess by  Camilla Läckberg
Alan Wake by Rick Burroughs

Honorable Mention:  The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, Dimiter by William Peter Blatty and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Worst Books
A Dark Matter by Peter Straub
Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
The Dead Path by Stephen M. Irwin

Best Movies
 Super 8
Husk
Insidious
Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Honorable Mention:   Captain America: The First Avenger, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Valhalla Rising, Dread,Stag Night, Monsters, Attack the Block, Green Lantern, Outpost, Source Code, Let Me In and Black Death

Worst Movies
Hellraiser: Revelations
Chain Letter
Chillerama
Fright Night
Skyline
My Soul To Take
Red Riding Hood
Final Destination 5 

John Jason

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I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I was about six years old or so.  For me, Jeremy Brett will always personify the world’s greatest detective.  But Robert Downey, Jr., he ain’t so bad.  He is a pretty good Sherlock for the modern audience.  In A Game of Shadows, Holmes is pitted against his archenemy, the diabolical and equally genius, Professor Moriarty.  Moriarty has an intricately woven plan to, well, get rich.  Of course, according to the plan, a lot of people have to die for him to get his obscene amounts of money.  Fortunately, Holmes has some intricately woven plans himself to stop the mad professor.  I liked this movie a little bit more than the first one, I think this one has a little bit of mystery to it.  Not much, but a little.  I think it’s funnier than the first one.  Towards the end, though, it gets a little too stylized, and a little too Matrix-like.  Noomi Rapace had nothing to do in this movie, which is sad; she was vastly underutilized.  And one thing I don’t understand, for Dr. Watson to be limping due to an old injury, he sure can haul ass pretty fast.  4.5 out of 5


I loved the original Quarantine, based on the Spanish film REC (I have those two movies still to watch).  Quarantine 2 finds a group of airplane passengers exposed to the super-rabies-virus-whatever-you-call-it, and quarantined to a terminal.  If you have seen the first film, or the original Spanish films, you know that means the infected get really mean and violent.  And like to bite, tear, and gnash.  Q2 is a pretty good low budget effort, though it lacks the ferocity of the first film.  There are no real shocks or Oh My God! moments, and you know just about everything that is going to happen.  Yet, I liked it maybe more than I should have, and they may be because it is better made than you would expect.  3.5 out 5

How best to describe The Orphan Killer?  Long.  Tedious.  With a few fleeting moments of interest (mainly the nudity).  I’d like to see what the makers of this film could do with a bigger budget and, let’s face it, a tighter script that doesn’t take itself so serious.  A kid, an orphan to be exact, grows up hating the Catholic church and people in general, I think.  I don’t know.  I have to confess, I kind of zoned out watching this movie for a while.  It has a sort of bargain basement kinetic, grungy, style that’s likable, but it needs some editing.  Watch it as a midnight movie with friends.  It tries too hard to be hardcore, and comes up cliched and limp.  Click here for ordering info.  2 out of 5


Can anything stop the remake steamroller?  We can only pray.  Now, some of the remakes I like.  I am in that minority that liked the remakes of The Fog and Halloween.  And The Wolfman.  I do not like this remake of Fright Night.  I like the original, but was never a die hard fan of it.  This remake is just boring.  I thought The Orphan Killer went on for too long; that masked slasher needs to cut this steaming pile to shreds.  Right off the bat we know the neighbor (played by a boring Colin Farrell) is a vampire.  Everybody in the movie knows it pretty much too.  And then it just goes on and on and on.  At one point I checked the time because I thought it was near the end, but, no, there was still like forty or so minutes left.  Put a stake in this damn thing’s heart already.  1 out of 5

John Jason

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I’m still trying to catch up on some reviews, especially since I injured my knee recently and I have a little time on my hands.  So, this will be the first of a few reviews deemed Knee Injury ’11.

Attack the Block is the kind of movie you have to watch more than once.  There are two reasons for that.  Reason number one:  If you’re not up on your English slang, especially when the accent is rather heavy like it is here, you’ll have have to watch a second time (and possibly a third and fourth) to catch what all is said and what is meant by it.  Reason number two:  It’s just a good movie.  It has that late night feel to it, even if it does feel too cool for the room at times.  Short and sweet, it’s about a group of inner city London teens fending off some big, furry, mouth-glowing, aliens who invade their turf.  It’s fierce, fast, and funny, though the ending overdoes it in the message department.  4 out of 5

Moon was the debut feature film of director Duncan Jones, and remains a favorite of mine.  Source Code is his second film, and a mainstream Hollywood sci-fi foray.  It’s not on the same level as Moon, but displays a lot of the same heart and soul that can be found in that masterpiece.  Military pilot Colter Stephens (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself inhabiting the body of a man on a train that explodes.  It’s Stephen’s mission to locate the bomb and the bomber, and he only has eight minutes to do it.  Through the miracles of some radical science, he is able to share the dead man’s brain.  He has to piece the puzzle together each time the program starts over.  Stephens is also trying to unravel the mystery of how he got recruited into this science program because the last thing he remembers is flying a helicopter in Afghanistan.  It’s the kind of movie that isn’t easily explained, you just have to watch it.  4 out of 5

Kafka is Steven Soderbergh’s best film.  That’s my opinion.  I just thought I’d throw that out there.  Contagion is a zombie movie without zombies, or, at least, that’s how I saw it.  To be exact, I saw it as a zombie movie for the sweater-wearing, high-rise apartment dwelling, Ira Levin reading percentage of the population.  Not that there’s anything really wrong with that.  A killer new virus is spreading around the world and it’s, well, killing off a butt load of people.  The virus spreads, the sick people die, the not sick go criminal and loot, and the husband of the woman that brought the illness back to the U.S. discovers his wife was cheating on him.  Things don’t happen so much in that order, but it’s the highlights.  This is an interesting movie, the disease side of it anyways.  The rest of it, the “human” side, let’s call it, is less interesting.  It begins on Day 2, and at the end we see how the entire thing started on Day 1, but by then I really didn’t care. 3 out of 5

John Jason

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Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

December 14 , 2011 | | In: Movie Reviews

Sometimes you find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Sometimes things happen around you that you have no control over.  That just may be what you call Life, I don’t know.  But if you are Tucker or Dale, you may want to become a recluse, because the things that happen around you, through misunderstanding and through demented and cruel twists of fate, are just plain bad and offer up a world of pain.  And death.  And dismemberment.

Tucker and Dale are two good ol’ boys heading to the woods.  Tucker (Alan Tudyk) has just purchased a cabin, what he declares his vacation home.  He brings along his best friend, Dale (Tyler Labine), to help do some repairs and cleaning on the rundown little place.  Also going camping that weekend near toTucker and Dale are a group of college kids.  The kids sit around the campfire and tell the story of the Memorial Day Massacre; it amounts to a hillbilly going crazy on some campers.  The college kids then go for a late night swim.  Tucker and Dale, who could be called hillbillies, are doing some night fishing.  Allison, one of the girls from the college campers, sees the two fishing and thinks they are spying on them.  She slips into the water and hits her head.  Tucker and Dale fish her out of the water and into the their boat, saving her life.  The other young campers see them and think they are kidnapping her and run screaming.

Okay.  What follows is Tucker and Dale just trying to relax and do some work.  Allison, upon waking, learns what happened and becomes friends with them, and helps them around their vacation home.  Allison’s friends, though, think she was abducted, has Stockholm Syndrome, and try to rescue her.  All their attempts at rescue go horribly awry.  How horrible?  They keep getting themselves accidentally killed.  Tucker and Dale have no idea why these kids keep killing themselves on Tucker’s property; they can only figure it some kind of crazy mass suicide pact, and it is majorly freaking them out.

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil has some truly great moments, but it is never really as funny as it should be.  It is chuckle inducing, but doesn’t have the belly laughs.  The college kids get themselves killed in some truly outlandish, and ingenious, ways, and Tudyk and Labine are good comedy team.  I’d like to see them together again, either in a Tucker and Dale sequel, or something else.  Their charm, chemistry, and timing are what really make this film as successful as it is.  I felt the movie went on for too long, mainly because there are so many damn college kids to kill off.  The entire Memorial Day Massacre subplot wasn’t really needed.  In fact, I think they should have cut the Massacre thread and saved it for part two.

All in all, it’s above average.  Definitely a lot better than Chillerama.  Gore for gore’s sake isn’t funny; someone tripping and going head first into a wood chipper ain’t exactly comedy.  That’s were it relies on Tudyk and Labine, they make it digestible.  Plus, Tucker and Dale has a big heart, believe it or not, that helps to overlook their faults.

3.5 out of 5
John Jason

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Chillerama

December 14 , 2011 | | In: Movie Reviews

I wasn’t born until 1977, so I missed out on the heyday of the drive-in.  I just caught, and barely remember, its swan song.  I have an aunt who worked part-time at our town’s drive-in (she also worked at our local cinema, the Capri, and would get us in for free– she was the coolest) and I can remember going with my grandfather to pick her up as her shift ended.  I can remember standing in the bed of his pick-up truck, on the toolbox, and seeing snippets of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho II, and Six Pack (which I’m kind of glad I can scarcely recall that one without the aid of any pharmaceutical substance).  Of course, drive-ins have made a somewhat comeback in the last few years, and we (my friends and family and I) go to one nearby and it’s all good fun and I highly recommend it.  If we had seen Chillerama at our drive-in of preference, a movie that wishes to fondly recreate and give the viewer the experience of lovely B-movie trash from long ago, we probably would have skipped it.

Chillerama gets the look right, but misses out on everything else.  It’s never funny, and it tries to be funny, Lord how it tries.  And watching it try to strangle the laughs out of the material made me feel sorry for it.  It’s like watching a comedian die a miserable death on stage.

There are four segments that comprise this anthology: “Wadzilla”, “I Was a Teenage Werebear”, “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, and the wrap-around story “Zom-B-Movie”.  The characters of “Zom-B-Movie” are attending the last night of business for their local drive-in before it closes.  The movies they watch are the ones listed above, but a zombie plague is breaking out among the patrons thanks to a drive-in employee who tried to get his groove on with his wife’s corpse.  The corpse came alive, bit him on his daddy parts, and now he is spreading the zombie disease through some neon colored goo-goo juice.  The result is that the zombies are really horny, and that this segment quickly descends into stupidity.

Speaking of stupidity, there is still “Wadzilla” and “I Was a Teenage Werebear” to cover.  In “Wadzilla”, a man takes a pill to strength his sperm count, but all it does is strengthen the one bullet he has in his chamber.  It’s not funny.  ”I Was a Teenage Werebear” is about a teenager who tries to suppress his homosexual feelings.  During a wrestling match in gym class, he gets bit on the butt.  That bite turns him into a leather clad, S&M loving, werebear.  This one is a musical.  This one is also the worst of the lot.

“The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” is the best of the bunch.  It is mildly amusing.  Anne is the niece of Dr. Frankenstein, and in possession of his diary.  Hitler steals the diary and learns how to create his own monster.  That the monster is Jewish and has his own feelings about killing, and who he kills, ultimately goes against Hitler’s plan.  The simple minded Hitler is kind of cliche’, but well played, as is the monster, named Meshugannah, and the lusty Eva Braun.

Chillerama should have been so bad it’s good, but too much effort was used to make it bad.  Black Dynamite it is not.  If you do decide to watch it, watch it with a group of friends MST3K style.

1 out of 5
John Jason 

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