Tag Archives: horror

Hack/Slash: Dark Sides

71Fg3NXPbBLAmong many reasons for my quest to stop being behind on ongoing series is how much I hate unavoidable incidental spoilers. Example: since I have purchased ahead on volumes of Hack/Slash (habit from when the Amazon gold box used to offer random small discounts on things I was likely to buy anyway), I know that the series is drawing to a close.[1] This presents certain problems with my ability to justly detect foreshadowing.

I like to think, for example, that if I had seen the destruction of Cassie Hack[2]’s ubiquitous nail-studded baseball bat with “Kiss It” burned into the shaft at the hands of a maniac wielding a flaming sword, I would have maybe speculated that it was a sign that the odds eventually run out. But then again, I wouldn’t have, because Dark Sides was an anthology edition with multiple stories authored by people other than series creator Tim Seeley, so really I would have just expected to see it back in action next book as an at most side-mentioned replacement, more likely as an ignored continuity glitch.

But, you know, none of the stories were too bad and all of them advanced the main plot that has been building over the last two or three books (Vlad’s history and Cassie’s, er, complicated relationship with the harder-than-usual to kill Samhain, I explain as though anyone actually cares), so I can’t complain. Well, I can complain about yet another crossover with a differently-skinned cheesecake vs. monsters comic, because those never entertain me much or convince me to check out whatever comic is being crossed over with, and are instead just a huge waste of my time. But that was only one issue out of five, so.

[1] Well, sort of. Apparently it’s also starting back up again? But that’s more or less beside the point.
[2] I point this out in basically every review, but: you remember her? Gothy pin-up girl who wanders the country with her partner Vlad killing supernatural bad guys, like a parallel comics version of the Winchesters if Dean were hypersexualized and Sam stood around looming over people.[3]
[3] Ah, Supernatural jokes that maybe two people reading this will appreciate. I kill me!


MV5BNTMzMzc4ODc1M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTM0MTgxMTE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_A thing I like about monster movies is everything you need to know is presented up front and boldly in the title. I Was a Teenage Werewolf? I think you know how that film is going to go down. Sharknado? Piranha 3D? I’m just saying. Easy peasy.

Which brings me to Zombeavers, a film I first learned about when it popped up on Netflix sometime last month. Literally everything you need to write the script for this movie is contained in the title. Thing 1: these are radioactive chemical zombies, a la Return of the Living Dead. This is a foregone conclusion, because how else would it only affect beavers and not everything else, except if it was somehow tied to a limited geographic area? Thing 2: this is a college kids trapped in the woods movie, a la Evil Dead. This is also a foregone conclusion, because how else do you get the victims near the zombeavers? Ah!, you ask, but why college kids? Because it’s a one word title. Zombie Beavers, you might have some leeway, but with Zombeavers, you need people who are young enough that you know they’ll be naked sometimes, and old enough that this is permissible. The pun is just too on the spot for anything else, and also, man, the poster you are seeing here is unfortunately not the one I see on Netflix.

So, why should you watch a movie about college kids in the woods vs. zombie beavers? Because, despite everything I’ve just told you about the inevitability of the flick, this is the most subversive horror movie I’ve seen in years. Explaining how would be a spoiler, so I won’t do it here. But if anyone asks, I can definitely elaborate in comments, and in the meantime, if you have even a slim percentage of amusement in the base concept, you must see this movie. Like, yesterday.

Z 2134

z-2134-coverIn the afterword to the book, the two authors discuss how, in the wake of a few successful turns as serial authors (a la Dickens, Doyle, or once, briefly, King), they decided that a good idea for their next plot would be, “What if The Hunger Games had zombies in it?” And, you know what? Yep, that is exactly the book they wrote.

Okay, that’s unfair in at least two ways. 1) The teenage female character is nowhere near as unlikeable as the book version of Katniss Everdeen. 2) The authors developed a world that is… okay, look, neither this world nor the Hunger Games one hangs together very plausibly if you actually start staring at the underpinnings. But this world makes at least as much sense after correcting for the zombies, and honestly maybe a little bit more, even.

Still, though. You cannot really define derivative more precisely than a book whose authors gleefully admit they combined a different successful book with a pop-culture staple. And as much as I’m a sucker for Rube Goldbergian arena combat to the death, that wasn’t even more than a third of the focus of the book. I guess I actually liked the characters and the premise enough to want to know how things turn out? Huh. Okay.

Warning: Z 2134[1] has two sequels and ends on several cliffhangers. Anti-warning: I think maybe there are only two sequels? And they’re all published, so. I know it sounds like my standards have plummeted here, but a) let’s be honest, they were never really so high as that, and b) it’s always nice to have a mindless book to read at a burn.

[1] Oh, also, the title is super-imaginative, right?

The Walking Dead: Whispers into Screams

81+TMcOUkvLBravo, Kirkman. You’ve done it again.

That is to say, he has lived up to and/or refused to live up to (depending on your perspective) the immortal words, Set me free, why don’t you babe? Get out my life, why don’t you babe? Woo-oo-oo-ooo. ‘Cause you don’t really love me, you just keep me hanging on. 

So, it’s like this. I still believe that he has reached the natural end of his story possibilities like two books ago, and that all of this is superfluous at best, wasted opportunities at worst. That said, I will continue reading the Adventures of  Carl Grimes and His Incredible Hat until the cows come home, and that was about 75% of the focus of Whispers into Screams. So, y’know, that’s cool I guess? Or incredibly diabolical, again depending on your perspective.


MV5BMTUwNzg3Mzg1OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDY2NTAwNDE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Friday morning, bright and early, time for an Aven-. Wait. Uh-oh. Yep, it’s like that. I watched a movie like two Tuesdays ago, and its review has sat languishing in my brain ever since. In my defense, I’ve been swamped between work and social time and trying[1] to watch a stupid amount of TV before the release of that other movie I’m not reviewing yet. Mostly work. And commuting to work. I miss not commuting to work, or at least I miss my commute not being from the bedroom to the TV room.

Enough about me. This is about Unfriended, a movie that does its level best to remind you that it’s time to trim down your facebook account by at least a third[2] of the people in it that you have not thought about in the past year. Well, it’s probably only tangentially about that? What it is about is a very rough night experienced in approximately real time by a group of highschoolers whose classmate committed suicide last year due to cyberbullying. Probably also regular bullying, but the cyber part is certainly more relevant in a modern movie about antisocial media.

Plotwise, it’s a by-the-numbers revenge mystery, which, y’know, cool enough. What makes it stand out is the format, which is entirely comprised of a first person perspective of the main character’s computer screen. There’s still plenty of footage and people/events to look at, because, after all, skype is a thing. But I find that the focus on chat windows, music programs, web research, troubleshooting, and so forth was very cinéma vérité in a way that so few films with computers have ever been[3]. These kids live on their computers, and the movie was made for that audience, by someone who knows exactly what it looks like. By-the-numbers horror or not, that’s a hell of an accomplishment.

[1] And failing.
[2] AT LEAST. If this is untrue, you are either lying or you really have basically no #friends. Or no facebook account, which I applaud.
[3] It is a tragedy that the blonde kid in Jurassic Park has been so roundly mocked for saying, “This is a UNIX system. I know this!” I mean, it straight up was, and hardly anyone else has gotten computers on screen right before or since.

It Follows

MV5BMTUwMDEzNDI1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzAyODU5MzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I’ve been looking forward to this movie for several weeks, and no lie, both because it seems like the only horror movies lately have been possession oriented and also because it doesn’t seem like any at all came out in February as is good and proper. And then lots of other people saw it before I did, and I’ve already been reading and internalizing reviews, which I hate it when that happens, but here we are nonetheless.

It Follows is a very succinct title, in that it gives you like 80% of the knowledge necessary to understand the movie. Because there’s this person-looking thing, right? Different people at different moments, but always there (and only you can see it!), walking toward you. Always. Which means you can drive away and escape, right? Yes, but you have to sleep or let your guard down sometime, and it doesn’t. It only, y’know, follows.

What’s great about this movie is the lessons in fear that we have all learned over the past thirty or forty years of film-making. Because, I think anyone reading this knows full well that Michael Myers, for example, has never run a yard in his life. But he’s still just a slasher in a mask, whereas this thing was a little bit terrifying. In the audience, without the slightest inkling of a stake, I could not stop myself from looking for every single person walking with purpose toward the camera (or the heroine), because until they identified who else could see the walker, it might have been… the follower, I guess.

So, that’s that, pretty much. If you like quiet, moody, atmospheric dread that does not hold your hand and lead you from plot point to plot point, where even the frequent nudity is more terrifying than titillating, this movie is for you. Not quite nightmare-inducing, but definitely nerve-wracking. I dug it. Also, a quick spoiler-filled social commentary paragraph in the first comment.

Hack/Slash: Marry, F*ck, Kill

51Pv51LcgJLAs usual with an 11th volume of a series, it’s hard to not end up deep in spoiler territory. So, instead, a series of mostly unconnected thoughts.

1) It has been a long time since I’ve read one of these, so I guess I’m not surprised I couldn’t remember exactly where things had left off. What I guess is important to “know” is that the long-running arc with the (let’s say) Black Lamp Society had finally been wrapped up. Taking it a step further than that: by the end of this book, all but one dangling plot thread had been wrapped up, and only one new dangling thread had been created. It’s almost like the series is angling toward an ending of some kind?

2) The book is split into two arcs, of which the second arc is both the better and the more important. The first arc either highlights that the artist only knows how to draw one type of chick, or else it is meant to clumsily indicate that Cassie Hack[1] is lots of different characters in lots of different dimensions, depending on how she was raised, I guess? Including an oversexed lady in even skimpier clothing who likes to take over by blowing things up and the warden of an interdimensional women’s prison, for the incarceration of the kind of oversexed lady in extremely skimpy clothing who would choose to take over by blowing things up.

3) I’m glad the next book promises to be a lot more about Vlad[2], what with almost everything else being wrapped up and all, because I didn’t even remember that there was something wrong with him (spoiler alert: there is), but I was very disappointed that he was sidelined almost the whole book. Though I can definitely see why it was structurally necessary to get to the end point they got to.

4) The title: I cannot find any specific thing that fits Marry, Fuck, Kill, but if I squint sideways at it, I can see where there’s sort of vaguely a game of that going on throughout the book, just barely enough so to justify someone trying to get titles moved via shock value.

[1] She, you’ll no doubt have forgotten by now, is the teenager on the road in fishnets and carrying a nailed-up bat with “Kiss It” burned into the non-naily portions who hunts supernatural slashers to make them be more specifically dead than they previously had been.
[2] Cassie’s green-skinned, monstrous companion who helps her out on the whole destroying mystical psychos task, mainly because she’s nice to him when everyone else thinks he’s one of those same kinds of monsters.


MV5BODg4OTMxNDAxMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjM4ODQ0OQ@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_I know what you’re thinking. Why am I reading a review about a crazy former hot werewolf when I was promised a review explaining how V/H/S maybe actually does make sense as a series?[1] Answer: I can’t[2] review things out of order, can I? And I watched that other movie in between because my girlfriend was over, and she had not even seen V/H/S, so I couldn’t very well throw her right into the middle of things, could I?

But then, a night or two later: here we are. The open question is, does V/H/S/2[3] make a damn lick of sense, and, even trickier, does it retroactively make its precedent make sense? That’s what we in the radio business call a tease[4]. First, I will say that all of the short films that tied the sequel together were as skin-crawly and engrossing as last time. (Well, one of them had a monster that should never have been shown closely and in slow movement, but that was like the last 15 seconds and did not ruin the Lovecraftian splatterfest that had gone before.) I don’t know if it’s that most horror movies are too long and the compactness packs a punch, or if it’s that the first person nature of all found footage movies makes me identify more closely with what’s going on, or what, but these stories, one and all, were genuinely disturbing.

Okay, I’m doing it for real this time. Yes, there is a small degree to which the cohesion stories about finding these houses full of screens and creepy tapes does make sense now that did not exist last time, and it even sort of works retroactively. It’s a pretty small degree, but still, if you were really here because you desperately wanted to understand the underground world of tapes of supernatural events, you would hate these movies I think for their inability to deliver. And since that’s the only way they don’t deliver, well then.

[1] Well, correction: I know what you were thinking.
[2] Well, correction: I don’t
[3] These movies are irritating as fuck to type out, b/t/w.
[4] Well, correction: they in the radio business.[5]
[5] I know what you’re thinking this time, too. And no, I really have no idea what I’m doing, much less why. You gets what you pays for.


MV5BMTUwODAxMzMwNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTk3MTQ5Nw@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_I was so confused by the overarching “plot” of V/H/S that I watched the sequel before writing this review, in the hope that it would clear things up for me. Answer: maybe it did? But since I’m going to end up writing two reviews anyway, I may as well wait ’til then.

Anyway, there’s this group of punks with a camcorder documenting their asshole exploits and re-editing them together in exactly the sort of way that someone with a VHS camcorder would never, ever do. Then, later, they break into an old abandoned house. The IMDB summary says they were being paid to find something, but if that was actually communicated in the movie, I sure missed it. What they do find is a dead guy who was watching about 15 TV screens all hooked up to VCRs, and surrounded by piles of VHS tapes. Then, while all the other punks search the house for whatever it was they were looking for, one of them sits down to watch some of the tapes, which is the actual point of the movie, because they portray various horror short story events that are clearly set in a future beyond when anyone would be filming their exploits on a VHS camcorder. (Plausibly, I am thinking about this too much.)

The important part, though, is that the short story segments were really well done, scary, suspenseful, and affecting in the way that I always want my horror to be and it so very rarely is. So, if you wanna watch something modern and reasonably frightening (and with an adequate amount of breasts, which like being scary have also abandoned the horror scene of late), this is your movie. Just don’t try to understand anything that’s going on outside of the short stories.


51bE7-Wac9LI’ve been glaring at this screen metaphorically for a few days now, although literally for less than five minutes tops. But like, when you know the review is sitting there, unwritten, and you even know why, and it’s not a simple reason like a broken site or a boring reason like you’ve been too busy or too lazy, but instead it’s a really good reason like you know exactly what about the book you want to praise, but to do so would be a massive spoiler? That’s glare-worthy, is my point.

Because Stephen King’s latest book, Revival, does (successfully!) something I’ve never seen attempted before. But it does it at such a slow build that you’re most of the way through the story before you know what sub-genre the story is properly classified in. And I’m quite convinced that knowing in advance would kill the impact, because everything going on in the early days is a fantastic story in its own right[1], and if you’re waiting for the Big Thing, spinning your hand irritatedly and it keeps not happening, you’d end up hating the whole book, without any kind of justification.

So, y’know, it’s cool. Go read it, if you like Stephen King. If you don’t, you’re possibly wrong about that, but this is not the book I would use to convince you. Either way, first comment is a mood-destroying spoiler for the book in which I reveal the genre. So, that’s a warning about that.

[1] Family drama, religious drama, rock and roll, and carnies, for starters. King just gets small towns, and the 1950s/60s, and tragedy. Or else I’ve been tricked into thinking he has, since to be fair I’ve never really experienced any of those things myself. (Well, at least not on a brutal scale, in the latter case.)