Tag Archives: horror

Z 2136

As you have no reason whatsoever to remember, I read the previous two books in this trilogy sometime in the last year or two I guess? And they were perfectly cromulent serial schlock. Hunger Games plus zombies, only a little light on the good half of that equation; and if I’m being honest with myself, probably they could have done a better job copycatting the game aspect of the equation. But still, if I don’t pause and think about the hundreds of better books on my to-read shelf, there was nothing wrong there.

As of Z 2136, consider that trend broken. And I mean, broken just really badly. This is the worst book that I’ve ever managed to finish. The writing didn’t change, and the already established characters were still, y’know, fine I guess. But the new viewpoint characters and the change in plot direction were just abysmally bad. Here’s my point, which I will need to entirely spoil the surprise ending of the second book plus I guess all of this one to make, but that’s okay because, seriously, do not read these books:

There were three main characters in the series, a father and two children. The father was part of the government apparatus but also had sympathies with the rebels who didn’t like living in six dystopian cities even though the walls kept the zombies out. Later, he killed his wife via mind control and was put into the zombie hunger games. Later still after learning the truth, his daughter was too. None of that really matters except that it’s an establishing shot for the shock ending of Z 2135, in which the father is executed, Ned Stark style. And then in the afterword, the authors were all, we weren’t really planning on this, but we decided we needed a big cliffhanger, so here you go!

Which leads into the third book, where one annoying guy is transformed into a raving lunatic, while another bad guy is transformed into a new father figure to replace the one they killed and then apparently realized they still needed. Result: half the book is spent on the motivations and travails of new characters about whom I already didn’t care, only now everything was so weird and forced that I actively hated them instead of just not caring much. Then, later, the book just kind of grinds to a halt instead of having an actual ending. Everything I’ve seen indicates this is a trilogy, which is a relief since Amazon would probably have already sold me book four at 99c before I knew how horribly things turned out; but I lost control of that sentence, and how I meant to end it was “but if I didn’t have these outside sources, I would be quite certain they were planning on writing more.” Because while it was not a cliffhanger demanding more story, it also was not the end of a story.

If everyone had died, that would have been more emotionally satisfying. First, because everyone never dies, and I’m pretty sure any real zombie apocalypse is much more likely to turn out that way than the way they always do turn out. But mostly because, fuck these people. They basically all deserved to die, and the ones who didn’t are at this point acceptable casualties in my vendetta.

A Cure for Wellness

A thing I’ve learned from movie-watching is to not go on vacation in Europe. I mean, remember Hostel? Or the second Hostel?

A Cure for Wellness, to be fair, is not about idiot backpacking teens with Eurorail passes. In fact, what it reminded me of for the first half hour or so was Dracula. (The book, I mean.) There’s this guy, probably not named Jonathan Harker, who is sent by his investment firm into the Swiss Alps to retrieve the company CEO from a health spa thingy, except it’s in a castle at the top of a mountain overlooking a subtly wrong village, and, okay, once he gets there the comparison mostly falls apart; after all, instead of an empty husk of a castle with a gothic warlord in a red dinner gown and the most elaborate updo of, I’m prepared to say, all time, it really is a health spa thingy. Or maybe a sanitarium? Or maybe a hospital? It’s fair to say that basically everyone there is getting treatments, no matter whether the issue is a nervous breakdown or a broken femur or just a couple weeks of downtime in a spa.

Also included: history lessons, vitamins, catacombs, a nubile ingenue, and eels. There is a plot, and it’s not a bad plot. It is not, I would posit, two and a half hours worth of plot? But that’s okay! The movie is not here for plot. It’s here for atmosphere, and it’s been a good long time since I’ve seen a horror movie with this much atmosphere. So, yeah. Check it out.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

I’ve reviewed, let’s see, four of these movies before. All of them except the first one, which predates my presence here by a couple years. And I’ve mostly liked all of them! (At least, as far as I can remember. I didn’t actually check any of the reviews, but that time when I rewatched the whole series in advance of the most recent movie but this one is pretty fresh in my mind too. So, I liked them is what we’re saying. If you have time to prove me wrong, feel free!)

The nominally final chapter, though? Like, the bits and pieces of new world building were cool, and I don’t want to give them up. But the plot was so damn linear. Alice gets in a fight, she gets a mission. She gets in another fight, she moves toward her mission. She gets in another fight, she gets a little closer to her mission. And so on. None of them felt this bland before!

I’m sure I’ll give it another chance when it’s time to marathon the whole series, but until then, I’m pretty disappointed in a mediocre capper on such an otherwise reliable sequence. Cool graphic design on the poster though, right?

Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile

A very long time ago, I read an already out of print self-published book about a military guy’s shortly pre- and mostly post-zombie apocalypse diary. It was, you know, fine? I said then and have been vindicated now that it needed a little more copyediting than it got, but otherwise.

Beyond Exile begins immediately where the previous book left off. Our intrepid military hero and a handful of other survivors have found safety in one of those old nuclear silos you might want to buy as a home, only in this case it’s abandoned because of current events instead of just being decommissioned like usual. Much like last time, the book starts with lots of logistics. Let’s use radios to find other people. Let’s fly this plane we have to nearby (to southeast Texas) airfields and look for supplies and other survivors. Perfectly fine diary fodder, but as a book, not much is going on.

Not that there aren’t pieces of worldbuilding along the way, and not that the, er, day by day trials and tribulations are not in themselves interesting. The real flaw here is that the narrator’s affect is so flat and journalistic that it’s difficult at any point to get truly invested in his life, much less the lives of anyone else around him. Once he ends up in a situation that qualifies as beyond exile, the narrative picks up a little; but even then, this is the kind of book where, instead of being engrossed by his situation, I was constantly pulling up Google Maps to follow his progress and see how close to realism he was getting.

I do not have the third book (there’s more than a third book in this series now!), and despite it being once again fine, I had no particular interest in reading more. Until the last five pages had a plot hook so tempting that I really want to see where the worldbuilding goes now. It would be a mistake, I know this in my heart. But still.

Thankskilling

mv5botczmdy2njq5nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwnzeznzy5mg-_v1_Off of a dare[1] on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, I turned on Thankskilling while setting my fantasy football line-ups. I ended up watching all sixty-six minutes of the feature due to Mary falling asleep on the couch before I finished my research.

I had said, after watching the first 100 seconds, before the title drop, that they had accomplished pretty much the perfect iteration of that title in distilled movie form, and that I bet the rest of the movie could not stand up to it. It turns out, I was right.

[1] I was bet that it had worse dialogue than Troll 2. Nnnnnnnope.

Army of Darkness Vs. Hack/Slash

81dqwq1jflAs of this writing, my new job and then the world’s pre-eminent boardgame convention have kept me too busy and/or access-blocked to do much in the way of reviewing. Well, no, that’s not right. As you can see, I’ve been reviewing, I just haven’t been posting them. The previous one, I think about a movie I saw a week or two ago, has been sitting in my inbox for days waiting for me to punch up the HTML and then post it. On the (let’s say) bright side, I haven’t had time to fall farther behind, so I’ve got that going for me at least.

Remember when I read the conclusion of the Hack/Slash series, about a teenage serial-killer killer who was opposed by the shadowy cult responsible for all those supernatural horror slasher guys that gleefully dismember summer camp teens? Like I said then, it turns out more books have been written even though the story ended. I appreciated, therefore, that the plot of Army of Darkness vs. Hack/Slash went out of its way to acknowledge this. Cassie Hack is retired, dealing with the mental trauma of her losses, and living the least intense life she can find. Until, you know, Bruce Campbell[1] shows up to get her to team up with him to fight against the Necronomicon and its army of Deadites.

Like all good team-up / crossover comics, they fight each other as well as common enemies; and like very few team-up / crossover comics, they change along the way, paving the road for future events. Well, I mean, Cassie does; I have no idea about Ash due to lack of familiarity with his comic, but since growth is anathema to the on-screen version of the character, it’s probably fine that he did not appear to. Also, I’m pretty sure there will be future events in store for Cassie’s life. I have no idea how many, though. If so: probably they will continue to contain explosions of bloody gore, supernatural mysteries, and lingerie cheesecake.

[1] I mean, not literally Bruce Campbell. It’s actually Ash from the Evil Dead movies and that new show on Starz, but you probably already knew that. For the record, he’s still young Ash, no more than a few years after Army of Darkness. He is apparently the topic of a different comics series I do not (and probably will not ever) read.

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.

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.

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.