Tag Archives: horror

The Walking Dead: A New Beginning

81muWBd8JoLI have been saying for years (that is, maybe four or five books ago?) that Kirkman is running out of scenarios and needs to go ahead and let this series find its ending. That whole period, though, has been devoted to the same extended storyline, which ended in pretty fine form last time. So this book, ironically named A New Beginning, is exactly what I’ve been waiting for: the chance to find out if I’ve been right or not.

And you know… I was prepared to be wrong. I really was. Months have passed, possibly short years, and the promised community is well on its way to being everything that was promised. This story could have been a coda. It could have, better, contained exactly the kind of bombshell change of status quo I no longer believed Kirkman capable of, via a plot twist I never saw coming. Instead… nope, it’s a new turn on the hamster wheel. I’ll keep reading the series, and I’ll keep being glad that the TV show has surpassed it, but I cannot really contain my disappointment, either.

He came so close to proving me wrong.

Pontypool

MV5BMTYyNzUxMzc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDE3MDM3Mg@@._V1__SX1859_SY893_How to write a review of something that you’d prefer to say literally nothing about, and in fact regret having put genre tags down for? It’s a tricky conundrum, is what. Well, that’s not fair. It’d be very, very easy if I didn’t care whether you watched it, but the truth is that you should, because it’s a very intriguing premise and execution.

Pontypool is, aside from being a movie, a very small town in Ontario. I know this because about twenty minutes into the movie, I looked it up out of curiousity. From my ability to extrapolate Google Maps into the real world, it should have maybe one stop light that goes to flashing after sundown. Four square blocks? Big enough to have a radio station, which is relevant in that the entire course of action occurs in the local AM station, where smooth-voiced news host Grant Mazzy, um, reads and hosts the news on the morning after he has an inexplicable encounter on a foggy road during his commute. For the rest… I want to say nothing, but I can’t justify saying nothing, so I’m going to quote the opening paragraph of the movie, which is Grant broadcasting on a day recently prior to the day the movie takes place. If you can dig the quote, I reckon you will dig the movie.

Mrs. French’s cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. “Have you seen Honey?” We’ve all seen the posters, but nobody has seen Honey the cat. Nobody. Until last Thursday morning, when Miss Colette Piscine swerved her car to miss Honey the cat as she drove across a bridge. Well this bridge, now slightly damaged, is a bit of a local treasure and even has its own fancy name; Pont de Flaque. Now Collette, that sounds like Culotte. That’s Panty in French. And Piscine means Pool. Panty pool. Flaque also means pool in French, so Colete Piscine, in French Panty Pool, drives over the Pont de Flaque, the Pont de Pool if you will, to avoid hitting Mrs. French’s cat that has been missing in Pontypool. Pontypool. Pontypool. Panty pool. Pont de Flaque. What does it mean? Well, Norman Mailer, he had an interesting theory that he used to explain the strange coincidences in the aftermath of the JFK assasination. In the wake of huge events, after them and before them, physical details they spasm for a moment; they sort of unlock and when they come back into focus they suddenly coincide in a weird way. Street names and birthdates and middle names, all kind of superfluous things appear related to each other. It’s a ripple effect. So, what does it mean? Well… it means something’s going to happen. Something big. But then, something’s always about to happen.

Rubber (2010)

MV5BMTU2Nzg2NDQ2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDk5MjMzNA@@._V1__SX1859_SY847_I find myself with more time to look at Netflix lately, he lied glibly. No, but seriously, what I mean is what I’ve always claimed: I’ll watch movies at home if there’s someone to watch them with, and lately there has been. In fact, I’ve probably missed a couple of reviews, but my commitment is returned; from here on out, new-to-me movies will happen on Netflix viewings too. (I’m streaming these days, though; I gave up on my ability to return DVDs like a year ago.)

Therefore, I watched Rubber last night. Rubber is a horror movie about a tire that rolls around the desert, killing people. No, seriously. It’s somehow a great deal more than that, though. See, there’s a monologuing sheriff, a Greek chorus of sorts, a sometimes naked French lady, and metareferentiality that goes so deep it actually turns inside out on itself. If you liked carrying around no tea for the duration of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Infocom game, or if you like absurdity for its own sake, or if you like watching things explode, this movie is for you.

If you would spend the entire movie asking why there’s a tire with motivations and psychokinetic powers in the first place, this movie will try very hard to be for you anyway. If you let it. It’s an 80 minute flick that felt like it lasted less than an hour, though, and I mean that as a compliment. So maybe give it a try?

The Walking Dead: All Out War Part Two

81hYcJq6KNLSo, I finally reached the point I’ve been anticipating for like four books? Five? Years, anyway. All Out War (part 2) does not have a part three. Storyline resolved. For all that it matters, it was resolved satisfactorily, with clever turns, expected, unexpected, and subverted. I am quite satisfied with this book.

I am far less satisfied with the fact that another book will follow it. (In fact, already has. This is the kind of behind I fall when I’m not allowed to read for two plus months.) I hope I’ll find out I’m wrong, since I know I will find out, but I really doubt that Kirkman has new stories to tell. And I can’t even comfort myself by saying of course he had to write more, this one ended so terribly. Because, nope, wind or not, this was an ending. …could have been, anyway.

Prometheus

prometheus_810Then I got to pick up a movie that I’ve long regretted missing out on, by virtue of it apparently being a recommended reference piece for the latest in quality surround sound.[1] I would never have been so obsessed with seeing Prometheus if I had not known about its connection into the Alien mythos, a series with which I am quite obsessed indeed. I find it ironic, therefore, that the huge failing of the movie is that Ridley Scott thought he could make a science fiction movie by drawing so strongly on the same elements that made Alien one of the best horror movies of all time.

See, there are these archaeologists, and they have found evidence in the records of a dozen ancient cultures that aliens were once among us. Better yet, they found a map. Off they go (courtesy of the Weyland Corporation, its Yutani partnership still in the murky future) to meet said aliens and see what can be learned from them or their remains. (After all, it’s been a while since anyone has heard from them.) And then… well, the problem I have here is that the only thing that compelled me to eschew my usual lack of non-theatrical reviews is how much I want to talk about What Went Wrong. And though I don’t plan to lay out the plot detail by detail, the broad strokes of conflict necessary to explain myself are major spoilers for the last third of the movie. Probably nobody is worried about being spoiled for a generally panned film that is also two years old? But just in case, you have been warned.

So, after various trials and tribulations that there’s no need to detail, half of the main characters are standing face to face with one of their Progenitors. They have woken him from presumed millennia of cryogenic slumber, they have a robot with enough linguistic knowledge and recent research to speak with him. This is a high level “Are you There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” moment in progress here. And then…

Let me come at it from another direction. Science fiction, at its core, is about the betterment of humanity. Depending upon the flavor, it may not always be successful, but we are always striving, seeking answers, reaching beyond ourselves in some way, whether technologically, physically, philosophically, morally, or some combination. And you cannot get more science fictional, I would posit, than going into deep space to learn the fundamental answers of our own genesis.

Horror, at its core, is about the inexplicable. Sometimes we try to impose a cause where no cause exists[2]. Sometimes we just shy away in existential or literal terror at the knowledge that there is no reason to be had. Ridley Scott’s Alien was exactly that movie. Some miners on their way home stumble across an old space beacon, accidentally wake up an egg filled with death, and the lone survivor walks away with no answers at all, just bloody destruction.

As you can see, these two genres are fundamentally at odds with each other, in their purest forms. The reason Prometheus is a failure, then, is because Scott pulled a bait-and-switch. Two-thirds of the way through a science fiction movie, the audience is suddenly faced with inexplicable horror and an ending that promises only the lack of answers, even as the film’s heroine launches into the uncertain future to continue her off-screen search for them.

Which forces me to wonder if the sequel (2016, IMDB says) will retroactively redeem some portion of this movie?

[1] I suspect this is entirely due to the waterfall scene the flick opens with.
[2] Pamela Voorhees launched a decade of schlock by pretending her murder spree was about teenage drug use and premarital sex instead of blind, flailing denial of her own senseless loss.

Hack/Slash: Dead Celebrities

hackslash_vol10I must have picked the wrong order of books or something, no way I’ve read enough graphic novels lately to get two about Cassie Hack as close together as this. Oops I guess? Weird crossover successfully dealt with, Cassie is back to her old tricks. Which are still mostly episodically dealing with jungle goddesses and revenge-seeking parapalegics and incursions from other, more rapey dimensions. Luckily, this is exactly the kind of thing I want out of my Rebellious Teenage Girl and Her Giant Deformed Sidekick literature.

The main plot, as you may have partially gleaned from the title, revolves around a recent rash of murdered celebrities. Which is only so interesting, even when tangled up with Cassie’s own fascination with, and experience of being (albeit only in limited circles), celebrity. Except for the parody portion, which was fantastic. Even if the rest of the book had been horrid, I would have been satisfied because of Lady-Gaga-by-proxy Art Projekt, whose entire career is to support her master’s thesis in sociology. And since the rest of the book was, instead of horrid, lots of cheesecake-laden fights with rampaging murderers and/or murderous rampagers, yeah: still a fun series!

The Walking Dead: All Out War Part One

Wd-cover-Vol20-dressedsmThe problem with reviewing All Out War isn’t the usual one where, oh no, the series has gone on for twenty volumes, how am I supposed to talk about what’s going on now without massive spoilers? Either I care less about spoilers than I should, or else something about these books doesn’t cause the typical problem. No, the problem with the review is the same thing that’s a strength of the book. It doesn’t really feel like a new book at all, more like just a new comic. That makes it sound like the storyline hasn’t progressed, and it definitely has. It’s just that the last few books, pretty much ever since Rick was asked to remove protectionist warlord Negan from the world, have felt a lot more like a single coherent storyline than the Walking Dead used to.

I reckon that the title reveals both a) that the plot is going as I’d anticipated and b) that they’re taking a little longer to get there than they could have. Which is fine. In a case of becoming more wishy-washy than ever, the strength of Negan’s character (which, yes, continues to compel) and the strength of the current plot are buying me enough goodwill to no longer hope it wraps up soon. Intellectually, I know that’s why Kirkman needs to wrap things up on this high note more than ever, but, screw it. If he doesn’t, I’ll cave and stick around for a while until the high points come back yet again.

The Troop

cover32021-mediumI’ve had an advanced reading copy of The Troop sitting on my reading devices since last fall. It’s probably fair to say that I’ve misused the entire purpose of Netgalley’s project by waiting until a couple of months after the book was released to actually read it. So, um, my apologies to the people who set that up and possibly to the author who, were this going to be a favorable review, might have lost out on literally ones of avid readers as a result?

I can’t decide if I’m being unfair. I know that my most negative impressions of the book were early on, when I hadn’t gotten used to the weird random capitalization errors and other iffy editing that I’ve never seen in physical ARCs I’ve gotten before, in used bookstores or whatnot. But I really don’t think that’s all it was. Which, to explain more, I should probably talk about the book. See, these Canadian boy scouts head off to a small island somewhere off the coast of, um, Canadia, where they can live out their various Breakfast Club stereotypes in nature. And that would have worked out the same way as it always does, I guess, with some fire building and some rock throwing and some hiking marching songs and whatnot, except for the extremely hungry gentleman in the speedboat who lands on the island a few hours later, and the apparently-Canada-has-a-navy quarantine blockade of the island that quickly follows.

You can see why I was into that premise, I’m sure. The execution, though… here’s what it looks like happened, although if you’d asked me, I would have said that the entire purpose of an editor is to prevent something like this. It seems like the author got better over the course of the book. The characters (well, the ones who were still alive) got incrementally more, you know, real, and the plot got tighter and more tense, and by the end it felt like a pretty interesting story had happened, but man, that rocky start. I’m really not convinced I’d have gotten past 10%[1] if I hadn’t felt guilty about running late. Which, in retrospect, is a pretty dumb way to look at it, since I would have felt obligated to put out an honest pre-release review if I’d read it on time, and should have taken the opportunity to not care since I waited too long anyway.

Plus maybe they fixed the first third of the story in post?

[1] Page numbers are weird in the future.

Hack/Slash/Eva: Monster’s Ball

HACK_SLASH_EVA_MONSTERS_BALL_TRADE_PAPERBACKMonster’s Ball was refreshing in that it was an episodic slasher hunt without any accumulated baggage, exactly the kind of thing I’ve been asking for. It was problematic in that… well, see that “Eva” up there? Apparently this was a crossover between Cassie’s comic and Eva’s, who is a brunette hunter of monsters in tight, occasionally accidentally-revealing clothing accompanied by a hulking, inhuman, green-skinned monster[1]. I’m not precisely sure who is ripping off whom here, but clearly the creators must not mind so much, or else I doubt there would have been a crossover in the first place?

Also, it was less of a crossover and more of a boost for the Eva character, as far as I can tell. That is, it’s much harder to find any information about this person, despite the authorial duties coming from that direction, and also Cassie and Vlad were entirely guest stars in Eva’s enemy’s evil plot. Sure, some of Cassie’s old enemies made an appearance, but you could skip this and never know you’d missed anything, whereas even without knowing anything about Eva that I didn’t glean in this book, it’s obvious that her life altered significantly between the first and last pages of the story. So, cool I guess?

Even if other Eva collections existed (and they appear not to), I wouldn’t be seeking them out after this taste. Which probably tells you what you need to know.

[1] I mean, not the Hulk.

Knights of Badassdom

MV5BMTQ3ODEwMzY3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTkwMTQ5MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_The only real problem with Knights of Badassdom is its lack of depth. What you see is exactly what you will get[1]. And even that’s not precisely a weakness, because at least it’s really, really easy to decide if it’s the kind of thing that you want to get.

Let me break it down for you, and then from there it’s your call whether you’d be interested. So, you know Peter Dinklage (Tyrion from TV’s Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (River Tam from TV’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles), and Anna Paquin’s brother from TV’s True Blood? They got together with a couple of other familiar faces and made a movie about LARPing[2]. No, that’s not right. They made the movie about LARPing that all LARPers have in their heads while they are LARPing. Yep, in the middle of a war event, one of the mages accidentally summons a real live demon from hell, who wreaks havoc amidst the goings on and gives someone a chance to convince Summer Glau that they might be worth boning.

If you are a LARPer and feel that I have misrepresented any particular of your own desired experience[3], I look forward to hearing about it!

[1] Caveat: the climax of the film is completely unpredictable. Not in a way that adds depth, alas, but it’s still nice to know they had an ace up their sleeve.
[2] If you don’t know what LARP is, you are not the movie’s target audience. Basically, it’s SCA crossed with D&D. If you don’t know what SCA and/or D&D are, you’re definitely not the movie’s target audience.
[3] …that you couldn’t correct by replacing Summer Glau with Nathan Fillion, that is.