The Walking Dead: Call to Arms

81cmq5zqi-lDespite myself, I’m continuing to like the way things are going with The Walking Dead. Choices of questionable morality are resulting in the fragile peace tumbling out of control, but of course the counter question is whether the peace was ever worth having in the first place. And, for that matter, would it have lasted?

Y’know, human drama. Call to Arms contains basically no zombies, which is as things should be by now. The apocalypse was always the point, and how people dealt with it. The flavor of apocalypse is just what’s in vogue these days. Myself, I could do with a nice asteroid story again, I’ve only ever seen one of those that didn’t end in “yay, we got rid of the asteroid!” Or maybe one with dinosaurs?

Ahem. Sidetracked. But that’s because the person I’m most interested in these last couple of books, I’m not even really allowed to admit is still in the story. Thanks, TV show being like three or four years behind! Then again, considering the alternative there, I suppose I’m happy to have to bite my tongue. But seriously, I love the way <spoiler elided> is trying to make amends. It’s the very best kind of train wreck, and I actively look forward to the next book or two worth of fallout, because it promises to be hilarious.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words

91jopd0dlnlThing the first: it is undeniable that I have not given this series the attention it deserves. Mike Carey gives good pictorial fiction, and I definitely like the Unwritten. But it’s too dense for me to have spread the past four books across the past four years, so I’m going to have to reread it as a whole, afterwards. Which is annoying to know right now, too late to fix it and also, um, too soon to fix it.

Thing the second: even if I were well and truly timely in my reading of the series, at six books in, it would be hard to avoid spoilers. All the same, I have at least a little to say about Tommy Taylor and the War of Words. Structurally, it was very cool, with the main plot alternating issues with background details going back from a few months to thousands of years, depending. On top of that, both the main plot and the background details advanced in interestingly meaningful ways; above all, I actually feel like I know what’s going on again.

Pity I’ll go another year before reading the next one, probably.

Blair Witch

mv5bmji0nteymja3nv5bml5banbnxkftztgwodk5otu4ote-_v1_sy1000_cr006481000_al_Did you know that The Blair Witch Project came out seventeen years ago? That is a long time! And yet, here we are with a sequel[1]. And, uh… that’s kind of all I have? Which is bad. But the thing is, you saw the first one, right? Blair Witch is that movie, seventeen years later. Is there a documentary? Yep. Do they go into the woods? You betcha! Are there weird stick figures and creepy little piles of rocks? I think you know.

I mean, this is how you make a horror movie sequel. Same people[2], same plot. (This, I maintain, is why people didn’t like the other sequel. Different people, different plot. Also: Halloween 3.) But then they did the other thing that good horror movie sequels manage, which is to bring in more information and make things make more sense than they did before. So, long story short: if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. If you hated the first one (which I know a lot of people did, especially people who get motion sickness), you will still hate this one. So, y’know. Check in with the 1999 version of you and see what’s up.

[1] Technically, there was also a sequel sixteen years ago, but a) a lot of people incorrectly dislike it and b) more relevantly, this sequel ignores the one from 2000, so I will too.
[2] Okay, it’s Heather’s younger brother, who always wanted to know what happened to her, but same family basically counts as same people.

I Spit on Your Grave (2010)

mv5bmja4nzaxodi2of5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzqzmjq0mw-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Many and more years ago, I saw a screening of the original I Spit on Your Grave at the Alamo Drafthouse, hosted by my personal movie review hero, Joe Bob Briggs. It was one of the original 35mm prints that got passed from town to town because there wasn’t a budget to make enough for simultaneous wide release of most movies, in those days, and especially for drive-in features such as this. One historical artifact of this distribution method is that individual localities would decide to censor the print at various points of which they did not approve; I remember that his live commentary was thrown for a loop when an entire scene he intended to dissect was missing.

The problem, of course, is that I thought I had this as a review, but apparently it was from earlier days, and maybe exists on Livejournal or even Opendiary instead; in any event, it is to be considered unfindable for my sad purposes, and that is a pity because I intended my review of the 2010 remake to be largely comparative, instead of needing to stand on its own. Nevertheless, here we are, and I must persevere.

In short, then, a young woman on her own in a rural town (this time: to write a book; I don’t remember why in the original) is stalked by a group of men on the flimsiest of pretexts[1], raped repeatedly, and here the stories diverge: a) in 1978, left senseless in the woods, b) in 2010 accidentally escaped into a river before the men could kill her, criminal science (and not incidentally, rape prosecutions in general) having improved in the intervening 30 years. Then, after a little time has passed, she enacts her bloody revenge.

I’m not sure what the problem with the remake actually is. Maybe simply that it’s a remake, and this is a thing I’ve seen before? Maybe something fundamental was missing instead, I don’t know. The impetus for her revenge felt no less horrific, but the revenge itself was hollow and meaningless in a way I did not feel about the original movie: visceral and gut-wrenching, but also entirely earned and effective. This time, like I said, it felt like she was just going through the motions, doing what was expected of her. So maybe it’s just the remake part after all. Especially because the last 10 minutes, involving a new character with a family to fear for that did not exist in the original[2] became immediately gripping and tense again.

In the unlikely event that you want to watch this movie, the first one is better, I guess is most of what I’m trying to say.

[1] Not to imply that a pretext is required; quite the opposite, in fact, and one thing I appreciate about the whole thing is how intentionally senseless it is.
[2] Original: four townies, one of them mentally deficient and almost sympathetic as a result; remake: ditto, plus an older man smart enough to leave fewer things to chance than the original four.

Fury’s Pilgrims

51xi6zpicnlDid I mention that the Deathlands series is over, as of earlier this year? Probably. It’s just so weird to me that this thing has an ending, 30 years after it started. Especially when I compare to my infinite and infinitely expanding Marvel comics thing, you know? I mean, I’m still only to 1992 here, so it’s not like I’m in any danger of running out, it’s just strange.

That said, it’s also strange that I’ve gotten so far into a men’s adventure series and it still shies away from being fully episodic, misogynistic, and militaristically triumphal at every turn. Fury’s Pilgrims gives our heroes another momentary glimpse at the pre-nuke world, with its time travel equipment and space stations and other wonders, all tantalizingly out of reach and all gradually decaying into uselessness.

I mean, some of the entries in the series are more hopeful than that description? But so far, I have to admit that Deathlands is not a rise from the ashes version of the post-apocalypse; this is not an aspect I’d ever really considered before. Still, I’m not opposed to grimdark, and even if I were, this is not really that. The characters find love, and sometimes long term peace, and keys to their past and the collective past alike, even if never quite as fast as I’d like for the latter. But I’ve got like 100 plus books to go, so I should probably give them some time, eh?

Don’t Breathe

MV5BMTg5ODA3MDkyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjU5MzczOTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Often, I am loath to say that you should go into a movie not knowing anything, especially if it is a genre film. Once you warn people not to know anything, it’s a short jump to “there must be a big twist!” and an even shorter jump to “oh, I know what the twist is, sigh.” Luckily, the nature of the one line synopsis of Don’t Breathe and its particular horror genre[1] conspire to make it possible for me to get away with ignoring my own advice.

So, in one two lines: a girl, her thuggish boyfriend, and the nice guy who wants to take her away from all this have formed an intimate crime ring, committing small-time burglaries in and around a Detroit that has not yet gotten the memo that Detroit is being rebuilt. They think they’ve found one last big score, enough to actually take [them] away from all this, in the form of a blind veteran sitting on top of a huge lawsuit settlement; except, this being a horror movie, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. There, that gets you through the first ten minutes and into the meat of the story.

It’s impossible not to think of It Follows[3], and equally impossible not to wonder if Michigan is trying to make itself a horror film production mecca or instead is really frustrated that nobody is taking their attempts to rebuild Detroit seriously, and they keep taking advantage of what urban decay remains, instead. Plus, thinking about things like that acts a pressure valve, because remember the ratcheting tension I mentioned in the footnote? This is one hell of a movie, and you might find yourself in need of occasional relief.

There is a feminist angle to the movie that I wish I could talk about without it being a massive spoiler, but it is, and I can’t. I mean, unless someone were to ask me about it in person or in the comments here, because those are fair game for spoilers.

[1] I quibble with the advertising here, though. This is definitely a thriller type movie way more than horror. Horror movies are a) usually supernatural in nature or at the minimum obsessed with a high body count and b) regularly break tension with jokes or misleads[2]. Thrillers, contrariwise, are allowed to ratchet the tension tighter and tighter with no obligation towards a release before someone (audience or cast, doesn’t often matter which) breaks.
[2] Like the cat in the cabinet. Whew, it was just a cat! You know the one I mean.
[3] Without bothering to compare plots, you should know that while the score for Don’t Breathe isn’t even in the same league, the sound editing is amazing; it won’t get an Oscar nod, but it might deserve one.

Ringu

MV5BMTIyMDEyMjY3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTg3NDEzMQ@@._V1_A thing I had never gotten around to watching is the Japanese movie that inspired The Ring. I was pretty much saving it, maybe for a marathon? I don’t know. See, I’ve got this box filled with horror movies on DVD that I collected over the course of the Oughts, and for a good chunk of that time it sat in my car so I’d have it with me when I went places. Mostly the only person who would put up with the kinds of movies that went into the box was my oldest friend, Jeff. So, occasionally movies would be watched (Mulva: Zombie Ass-Kicker, anyone?) and removed from the box, only to be replaced by others. And then I managed to lose the box for most of a decade, as a consequence of a move in late 2006. (Or I lost it later than that in my garage of doom, because of all the other boxes that really did languish there for most of said decade? Either way.)

But I found it during last year’s move, hooray! Only, most of the time since then, Jeff was in and out of hospital rooms until, y’know, he stopped being in and out of hospitals, so the box has languished in a storage closet once again, Ringu and its many sequels (not to mention dozens of other, mostly worse movies) still unwatched. But for some reason, I thought of it after we watched As Above, So Below last weekend, and we made a double feature of it.

Anyway, it was pretty much exactly the same as my memory of The Ring, so there’s not a lot to say in terms of review. In case you don’t know, there’s a VHS tape that, when you watch it, you die seven days later. And nobody knows why! I could digress on the laughability of VHS being applicable to modern life, but a) I’ve done this before, b) the movie is nearly 20 years old, and mostly c) my heart’s just not in it. Too busy being sad about how full the horror movie box is, and how long it sat there, thinking it had all the time in the world.

As Above, So Below

MV5BMTQzNzg0NDI2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgxNzY2MTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,631,1000_AL_Perhaps it’s because I’ve been playing Rise of the Tomb Raider[1], but As Above, So Below struck me as only barely a horror movie, despite that being the most obvious genre it contains. See, there’s this self-funded multiple-PhD, multiple-language archaeologist who saw her father commit suicide and is now trying to prove he wasn’t crazy after all, by finding a certain stone once owned by noted philosopher Nicholas Flamel. I trust the parallels are mostly obvious?

Anyway, pretty much the rest of the movie is spoiler towne, except the first sliver of premise, which is that she has decided the place to look for said stone is in the catacombs beneath Paris. If you were to guess that not everything goes according to plan… well, like I said, that way spoiler towne lies. But seriously: it’s a solid thinky movie with yes, some scares and yes, some blood, but it’s a lot more thinky and adventure archaeology than it is horror. You might just dig it be into it!

Oh, also, found footage subgenre.

[1] Review forthcoming, but not for a good long while

Flirt

41gFgp0FhpLThree years between Anita Blake books this time. Oops, I guess? I should read things I like next, clearly. Anyway, Flirt was quite a bit better than its predecessor, despite having an equally inexplicable cover. (For one thing, the title actually makes sense.) But the main reason for this is how short it is. Hamilton did not have enough time to throw in the authorial tics that have made me twitch so much, more than once or twice a piece; and the plot doesn’t have time to get buried up its own ass. There is a pointless chapter early on that exists solely to be a mislead about what’s actually going on once the mystery murdery part kicks into gear in the second half, but otherwise: no wasted space. I am impressed.

But it really is a book mostly premised on flirting, which is bad enough if you’ve read the rest of these. It’s also a book in which Anita must once again regretfully use her vampiric sex magic to make some other were-animal fall helplessly in love with her, thus further complicating her life (just as if the enslaved guy doesn’t have, y’know, bigger problems). Pretty much par for the course.

If the huge moral event horizon she crossed (unrelated to mental enslavement, no less!) were going to pay off in future books, I think I’d be more interested in what comes next? Nonetheless, this is still one of only two good books I can remember in this series since it made that original hard left turn into awfulness. I’d give you links here, but I don’t want to dig through my past reviews finding them, as it would only waste that much more of my life than I’ve already burned through.

Y’know?

Powers: The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time

51MZiHDIU8LThe last Powers book had a giant cliffhanger, right? Well, the 100% randomly named The 25 Coolest Dead Superheroes of All Time starts a year later. Some cliffhanger, guys! Aside from that letdown and the complete incongruity of the name compared to anything that happens[1], though, the plot was perfectly cromulent and pushed things a lot further forward than I would have guessed.

I… thought I’d have more to say, but then I realized a laundry list of plot elements being resolved is kind of massively spoilerish, so I won’t be doing that. But still, pretty much every outstanding thread has been resolved, in ways that I was entirely satisfied by. That said: not loving Christian Walker’s new partner. Maybe next book? Because to be fair, she was set up as a bit of an antagonist from the first page, this time out.

[1] It was a line from the book, during a schoolyard conversation. But still completely detached from any plot point or theme I could detect. I think someone was just proud of the line. That said: man, a lot of superheroes die in this world. Not like Marvel at all!