Tag Archives: horror

Hack/Slash: Final

71itNyUBO5LAnd thus comes to an end (at the auspicious and (let’s be honest) inevitable volume 13, no less) the adventures of psycho killer killer of psychos Cassandra Hack and her longtime partner Vlad. Looking back, this is definitely a series that would have benefitted from binging, in that it started out episodic but then turned out to have a guiding arc that I didn’t spot until far too late to pay the proper amount of attention. Like, as of Final[1] I have pretty much wrapped my head around most of what’s going on, why I care about it, and what it means for the characters. But there were two or three previous books where I was definitely floundering, which is a pity, because the series ends very strongly indeed, which maybe means that it was strong back when it felt like it was a slog, too.

So yeah. If you like snarky, cheesecakey horror comics that will probably never win any feminism awards despite frequently passing the Bechdel Test, this series is probably the only example of that. Enjoy!

[1] It is important to note that there are two new volumes that have been published since the so-called final one. Not loving that, especially because it ended so cleanly.

The Walking Dead: No Turning Back

517KPsoOcxLFor a wonder, the latest Walking Dead has a title that isn’t trite and a storyline to match. No Turning Back chronicles the aftermath of Rick Grimes’ meeting with the latest, direst threat to his community. See, everyone is scared and reactionary, because of the spoilers at the end of the last book. Now Rick has to decide how far he will go to hold it all together.

Which, y’know. Yet another big threat, I’ve seen all that before. Rick struggling to decide whether his soul or his community’s safety is more expendable, that’s the kind of human drama I can still get behind. I’d be annoyed that the question isn’t resolved in this volume, but if it had been, it would definitively be in favor of him not taking some action that crosses The Line, so uncertainty is the best I could have hoped for.

Downside: still more books coming.

The Witch (2015)

MV5BMTY4MTU2NjMyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzUwMDk4NzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_For reasons not known to me, The Witch was brought back into broad release this weekend, and I finally managed to find company to see it on Monday night (extremely late, but that’s what 5 hours of energy in a tiny bottle are for). It’s a thin movie, lacking quite a bit in plot and premise, but extremely meaty on execution. All of the actors were solid and believable, even when their motivations or reactions to what was happening around them bewildered me, and the young twins were just incredibly creepy.

In case you don’t know anything at all, this is a moody 17th century piece about an isolated family dealing with a number of severe setbacks all at once, as the last dregs of harvest season threaten to give way to winter. They may or may not (but definitely will) suspect deviltry and witchcraft is behind the string of ill fortune, and then… but, like I said, it’s a thin movie, so any “and then” I could follow this up with pretty much completes the film.

Between the lingering shots of the small farm and the forbidding forest beyond it, the total isolation, and the spare, screeching soundtrack, it feels like horror by way of the ’70s art film scene, or maybe Kubrick if he’d ever made a movie where every single shot failed to contain an onion’s worth of hidden meanings. Other than an ending that outstayed its welcome, I have basically nothing bad to say about this self-described New England folktale. Mood, acting, and cinematography can carry a thin plot a long way.

Z 2135

51r4bMhNxML._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Once again, my review material comes from the author’s afterword. This time, apparently, the authors of Z 2134 were disheartened by people who gave them crap for gleefully stealing from popular literature to mish mash their dystopic zombie-laden future. The goal for Z 2135 was to amp up the characterizations and the plot turns and prove everyone wrong while once again exciting their true fans.

Well… first of all, the series suffers from Harry Dresden disease. Despite being named after the year in which it occurs, everything took place over the course of two or three weeks, just like last time. Which doesn’t actually matter, but I always side eye that kind of thing a little. Otherwise? The characterizations were fine, but nothing to write home about. The plot turns are frequent and dramatic, that I’ll grant. In the end, though, the problem is that there’s hardly anyone to like. Sure, the teenage couple are nice enough, but the kid brother is too annoyingly indecisive to really latch onto, and while the government were always the bad guys, of course, I ended up with no interest in the rebellion either.

So there’s just this one family in the whole world that’s especially worth a damn? That makes for a pretty lonely world, even if they figure out a way to win in the third serial novel that doesn’t reward either horrible side of the struggle and only the innocent bystanders.

I mean, I’ll read it.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

MV5BYmQ5MWI1ZGMtZThkYi00YTFmLWEzMjctNmJmNDliMzg0MTdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTQxNzMzNDI@._V1__SX1859_SY893_After I got off work on Valentine’s Day, we went out to the Alamo for a third time to see My Bloody Valentine, because I am nothing if not romantic. And to my surprise, although I saw the remake some years back, this is a movie I’d never seen before.

The plot is as follows: Twenty years ago, some miners were trapped in a collapse in the Canadian mining town of Valentine’s Bluffs, because everyone was busy at the annual big deal Valentine’s Day dance and forgot to check methane levels I think? One of the miners survived, went crazy, and killed a bunch of people the next year at the same party. So they’ve never held that party since, but hey, it’s been twenty years and there’s a new generation of horny post-teens who would rather drink and party than honor the dead of the past, and even the old people are thinking, hey, it might be nice to get back to what made our town great. Only, there’s a note from Harry Warden (the insane killer miner in the gas mask) saying, “Hey, bitches, you hold a party, I go back to killing everyone, just like old times!”

After the movies takes ten minutes or so to establish that summary, it commences to being an ’80s horror movie, so I think more or less you know what’s up from here. Important differences, though: the teens are actually grown-ass adults instead of being teens, with jobs (mostly down the mine) and actual relationships. I mean, they’re barely more than teens, but the difference shows, what with adult conversations that extend further than the “which of us will bang next?” you might get from, say, Friday the 13th. Then again, the prankster jerk is just as much of a teenager as ever, so maybe the differences aren’t as vast as all that after all. And there are certainly plot holes wide enough to drive a mine cart through.

Like I said, I think you know what’s up from here. Ultimately, I think I liked the remake better? But I appreciate that someone behind the camera wanted to make a serious movie that happened to include an insane murder miner instead of a horror movie. Not all dreams can come true, of course, but effort matters.

Welcome to Night Vale

61b0tVzWgaL._SL300_In a first for me, I listened to an audiobook that I had not previously consumed with my eyes. I don’t expect to repeat the experience, but Welcome to Night Vale is a special case. I’ve been listening to the podcast for about two years now, after hearing it evangelized during New Year’s 2014, and when they announced the book, they also announced the the audio version would be narrated by the same person who has performed as community radio host for Night Vale lo these many years.

So, anyway: obviously the performance was dandy. If Cecil were not good at his job, I never would have gotten far enough down the rabbit hole to be aware of this book. (I mention performance mainly because I might listen to reruns of books in the future, and it will be more relevant for books not based in part on someone’s voice.)

As for the story… I’m not sure how accessible it was (or was meant to be) to a new reader, but to be fair, the podcast is barely accessible, unless you just love it right away. It tells the story of a couple of previously named bit characters as they interact with each other, the town, and a mysterious, previously unnamed major character. Which I think was the best way to handle it. Give the fans something to chew on while giving the newcomers people who have never really mattered before, so they can come in fresh.

Overall: it’s a good book, about time, family, parenthood, and the different ways these things affect each other and also, of course, how they affect people. Plus, there are terrifying librarians and tarantulas and video stores to contend with. There’s no good reason why you wouldn’t like this book. But then, there’s no good reason for anything, really.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

81fc9NgRyuLThis is the first King short story collection I’ve really liked in quite a while. My first instinct is to claim it’s because the last couple, I had seen a lot of the stories in other publications, and so they were old hat to me. But then I think, no, I’ve read other, older collections lately and my familiarity with those stories bred no contempt. Plus, also, I’d already read a handful of these as well.

So, what makes The Bazaar of Bad Dreams a return to form? Man, I wish I knew. I’m so terrible at reviewing short story collections; it is pretty much my greatest weakness as a reviewer[1]. But here’s what I’ll do. Looking at the table of contents to refresh myself[2], I remember and actively like more than half the stories. Ur (originally published as a Kindle exclusive and which only briefly flirted with being a paid advertisement, right at the beginning) has possibly the coolest conceit a consumer of fiction could imagine, but even the stories whose ideas did not blow me away, I am nodding in fond memory of.

Or maybe he caught me on a good day. But I’m pretty sure this is a solid collection instead.

[1] Well, besides inability to get paid and sometimes falling days or weeks behind on reviews. Not this time, though. I finished the book in line for Star Wars, and I’m writing the review in line for Star Wars. (This should not be taken as a contractual obligation to provide a timely Star Wars review. ….but maybe?)
[2] The book took me most of a month to read, which is a reflection on how well I’ve been reading lately and not on the book. I mean, short stories have natural breakpoints between them, y’know?

Krampus

MV5BNDc0ODk4MjMzNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3NzkzNzE@._V1__SX1859_SY893_Bavarian Alps folklore speaks of a being who, rather than merely dumping coal into stockings, takes a more… biblical approach to the annual judgment of naughty children. Fast forward a few hundred years and cross an ocean to where the super-jerky versions of the Griswolds and their in-laws are preparing to deck the halls and/or each other in stereotypical horrible family style, and who wouldn’t expect Krampus to drop in for a visit? Well, besides most of these folks, and boy are they in for a shock!

The confusing thing about this movie is that by all rights it should be terrible. It felt like, and bear with me here, because this next statement defies legitimacy. It felt like Troll 2, except if that movie had a talented acting pool and a script that made sense. To which there are three possible responses, I think. Lack of reference knowledge, disbelief in the possibility of those words existing in that order, or realization of what very high praise that is, in the unlikely world where it’s possible to be said. Mostly, if you’re lucky, lack of reference knowledge.

Long story short: as Christmas horror goes, this rises well above the pack. I don’t even resent the PG-13 rating, except for how it would have allowed more realistic language if rated R.

The Walking Dead: Life and Death

81CYT1T10KLSo, uh, it’s been a while, right? I was in the middle of a move, and early in that process (so, like, late September / early October) I read two books. Since then, I’ve slowed way down on my reading, with no time for movies in ages, and I haven’t even unpacked a game system yet, which means I’m not as far behind as you’d think, even though I am massively out of date.

That said, I’m not sure you’d have gotten much a review of the latest Walking Dead out of me regardless. Because Life and Death proves what I’ve been saying for more than a year now: this series is over, it’s just continuing to shamble forward like an implausibly on-the-nose simile of some kind. Something something new high stakes enemy that is the same as all the previous high stakes enemies that I used to care about? Blah blah Carl is still cool, and I’ll keep reading, but man. This should have ended after All Out War, period.

A thing that’s more interesting to me is why I forgive this kind of behavior from superhero comics. There’s no reason why The Walking Dead can’t be an open-ended series in which new threats continue to emerge, challenge our heroes, and fade away. Contrariwise, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t bother me that superhero comics follow this exact same formula, only on a more repetitive track. I started to say that, well, tWD is more realistic, and that’s why it bothers me, because realistic stories are more obliged to have conclusions. But, um, worldwide zombie apocalypse does not actually fall under the realism category. It might seem like I’m that far gone, but I’m not. (Or maybe I am, and that’s the answer? Disappointing, if so.) I guess I could be trained by expectations for superhero stories to last forever, so they get a free pass because it’s always been that way. Or maybe I’ve been trained by other graphic novels I’ve read over the past ten years that do have endings, and would not have cared if this was yet another in a series of ongoing plots.

Whatever the case, Kirkman definitely missed his chance for a graceful exit, and while I’m not exactly hate reading these yet, it’s definitely hard to recommend them as any good. They’re, you know, fine? I’m just not sure I care that much anymore, and that’s sad when you consider how good it used to be.

Last minute new theory that I should test with future books: maybe I get bored with post-apocalypse once it doesn’t feel like an apocalypse anymore. There’s just a substantial difference between people on the run from undead and human menaces at every turn, and people who are plotting a war with a large-scale enemy while also holding a giant weekend trade days flea market.

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!