Book Review – Forever Man by Brian W. Matthews (2013)

Forever Man
by Brian W. Matthews
Release Date: February 15, 2013
Publisher: JournalStone

Brian Matthews

Every once in a while, I run across a book that blows me away. These books usually contain vivid characters, high intensity writing, and a bone-crunching story; as expected, these books are also few and far between. But despite it’s enigmatic name, FOREVER MAN is one of these excellent novels. Rife with originality and solid prose, this tale enthralled me from start to finish.

If you are not familiar with FOREVER MAN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the JournalStone website:

Police Chief Elizabeth “Izzy” Morris enjoys keeping the peace in the small town of Kinsey in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But when her seventeen-year-old daughter goes missing after a school dance and the mutilated corpse of the girl’s date is discovered in the nearby woods, Izzy’s police skills are stretched to their limits. Her only suspect is a stranger, a mysterious black man with no known past. When a second stranger appears, the investigation stalls. People she once trusted turn against her. The local banker’s autistic son begins to know things no one else does. Joined by three friends and the man she once considered her enemy, Izzy races to find her daughter–and ends up trapped in the middle of a war between an ancient evil and the man who has stood in its way for nearly two thousand years.

Author Brian W. Matthews is certainly to be commended for this stellar debut. I have never heard of him prior to reading this book, but I am now a huge fan and will continue to read whatever he writes.

Matthews writes with a precise and flowing style that conveys a lot of information in few words. He does not over-emphasize descriptions, as some authors do, but instead lets the action and dialogue describe the scenarios for him. Talent like this is not found very often, but Matthews seems to pull it off with ease.

FOREVER MAN is a taut and gripping story chocked full of suspense and intrigue. It is fast-paced, yet it moves evenly enough to provide a massive dose of pleasant anxiety to the reader as the plot unfolds. I actually lost sleep while reading this book because I kept wanting to read just one more chapter before I went to bed.

I do have a complaint about the book, however it is very minor and should no way dissuade anyone from reading it: I think the back cover art should be on the front. The current cover is very vague and doesn’t jump out like the artwork on the back cover does. I would wager more people would be interested in the book if the cover “popped”.

But this is just a minor observation. FOREVER MAN is a powerhouse of a novel that any fan of horror and/or fantasy must read. I highly recommend this one and suggest you check it out soon.

MSB

Movie Review – The Asylum Tapes [a.k.a. Greystone Park] (2012)

The Asylum Tapes
(a.k.a. Greystone Park)
Directed by Sean Stone
Courtesy of Revolver
Release Date: March 12, 2013

REVA1049_AsylumTapes_US_DVD_Inlay.indd

When I first read the plot synopsis for THE ASYLUM TAPES, I have to admit that I was not too interested. After all, the found-footage sub-genre is flooded with similar concepts. But I’m very glad I took a chance on this film because it is actually a unique and well-made jaunt into terror.

If you are not familiar with THE ASYLUM TAPES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Revolver press release:

When a group of young filmmakers visited an abandoned psychiatric hospital to investigate the rumors surrounding an institution infamous for its inhumane treatment of its patients and its use of invasive surgical procedures, they had no idea of the horror they would uncover. As their exploration took them deeper into the bowels of the building, they found themselves trapped by supernatural forces that had no intention of letting them escape. This is their footage. These are their final hours.

I did not realize this film was made by Oliver Stone’s son until I pulled it up on IMDB.com while writing my review. This explains where director Sean Stone gets some of his talent; I would wager that the filmmaking gene is almost hereditary in their family.

THE ASYLUM TAPES is shot well, or as well as can be expected when it comes to supposed found-footage. This means that the camera is shaky, but never to the point to where you can’t see what’s going on in the scene. This is a good thing, too, since the filming location has low light-levels in most of the shots.

The acting is also good, which makes this film even more enjoyable. As we all know, acting in these kinds of movies can be sketchy…but no so here. Sean Stone and his fellow cast mates deliver believable and, in some cases, chilling performances that enhance the already existing tension in this film.

My sole complaint about this film is the background music that accompanies some of the scarier scenes. Since this is supposed to footage that was found at the scene of a crime, a background score doesn’t make any sense. When it arose, I was immediately yanked out of my immersion in the film and irritated. Still, this is by no means a reason to ignore this film.

THE ASYLUM TAPES is a taut thriller that contains spine-chilling terror and visible tension. There are many images in here that will leave you white-knuckled with fear. I actually jumped at a couple of places, which is a true testament to the talent of the filmmakers. If you’re a horror fan, I recommend checking this one out soon. The film is out in stores now. Give it a look.

MSB

Graphic Novel Review – Robyn Hood, volume 1 (2013)

Grimm Fairy Tales presents Robyn Hood, volume 1
by Shand, Watts, & Metcalfe
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Zenescope

robyn hood

The Robin Hood legend is probably my favorite of all time. The concept of a noble who forsakes his title and money in order to help the needy is a classic literary trope, but it is one that still stands the test of time; it hits on a primal nerve in most people and therefore resonates in the hearts and minds of the majority of society. This is one of the main reasons I am betting Zenescope’s ROBYN HOOD will be a major success in the comic book world.

If you are not familiar with ROBYN HOOD, here is the series’ plot synopsis courtesy of the Zenescope website:

In the lands of Myst a tryant rules the city of Bree with an iron fist leaving its citizens living in fear and terror. But all hope is not lost when one man takes the first steps to finding the one person who might save them all. Meanwhile on earth Robyn has had a troubled life for many years since her mother’s death. In and out of foster homes Robyn now finds herself transferred to a high class high school filled with the rich and over privileged. But when Robyn crosses one of the popular kids she will learn first hand the extent of torture they are willing to go to against those who transgressed against them.

This is a comic series that I’ve waited a long time to see: an imaginative, unique retelling of this classic myth. And it comes complete with a few unexpected twists; for example, in this version Robyn is a female. Also, the realm in which it is set exists in a parallel dimension. These might sound like drastic differences, but they actually work to enhance the story.

ROBYN HOOD is written well, with sharp dialogue and a crisp storyline. I mentioned the twists above, and I absolutely love how they fit into the story. I can honestly say I’ve never read an alternative Robin Hood mythos before, but I’m hooked.

The artwork is superb, and it’s a major reason to check this series out if you are not interested in the plot. The attention to detail is painstakingly precise and it shows in each frame; a lot of care is put into the images, which helps to enhance the story as it plays out.

ROBYIN HOOD is a definite win for me and I highly recommend it. The first compilation in graphic novel form is available now, and I understand a secondary sub-series is in the works as well, so be on the lookout. The legend of Robin Hood might be ancient, but this retelling breathes new life into it. Give it a look for sure.

MSB

Book Review – Dark Corners by Michael Bray (2012)

Dark Corners
by Michael Bray
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Publisher: Dark Hall Press

dark-corners

WOW…I just finished DARK CORNERS by Michael Bray, and I have to tell you: this guy is going to be a superstar in the horror fiction world. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t be ashamed; his first book just debuted last year. But I would wager you will soon hear his name more and more as buzz builds up about his work. DARK CORNERS showcases 12 of his short stories, and they do not disappoint!

If you are not familiar with DARK CORNERS, here is the collection’s plot synopsis courtesy of the author’s official website:

What lurks in the dark? What crawls outside of our perception? Dark Corners explores these places with Twelve Tales which are subtly interlinked. Welcome to a world where the rules of the world no longer apply, where insanity is just a heartbeat away, and the things that crawl in the darkness are unafraid to come into the light. Come closer and turn down the lights. The dark things are waiting.

When I finished this collection, I sat in my recliner for a moment with a huge smile on my face. These stories entertain on many levels, but they also leave a nice tinge of terror imbedded in the reader’s brain. There are a couple of stories that I’m still dwelling on, thanks to their intense nature and/or horrific imagery.

The tales in DARK CORNERS are all written very well. They have a smooth, flowing style that never distracts from the story and thus allows for full sensory immersion into the scenes as they play out. Bray is a powerful storyteller and has a keen ability to focus equally on characterization and detail in his settings while he sets the stage for the terrifying outcomes that ultimately await in each story.

I tore through this book in about two days and loved every minute of it. I was particularly surprised yet very pleased to note that all of the stories are intertwined in some way. This is sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant, but the realization when it occurs prompts an “Aha!” moment from within the reader.

If I were forced to pick a favorite story from DARK CORNERS, I don’t think I could; they’re all too good. But one of my favorites is titled “That Gnawing Feeling”. In this story, a man’s ex-girlfriend and best friend attempt to get rid of him in order to take his inheritance. But they don’t expect him to survive their attempt at murder…and in turn, take his own revenge.

My sole complaint about this collection is the way one of the stories, “The Box”, ended. There was too much vagueness for me, and I found myself mildly disappointed. This in NO WAY is a deterrent from reading the book and you should definitely check the story out for yourself to make your own decision.

DARK CORNERS is an excellent collection of horror and I highly recommend it. Give this a look for sure. And while you’re at it, hop over to the Dark Hall Press website and give the rest of their titles a glance as well.

MSB

Movie Review – Shadow People (2013)

Shadow People
Directed by Matthew Arnold
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Films
Release Date: March 19, 2013

Shadow People

SHADOW PEOPLE is one of those films that claims to be based on true events. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I can definitely see how it could be in this case. The subject matter is steeped in realism and I would wager we have all experienced something like this at one time or another. Heck, I had trouble going to sleep last night after watching this one…and that’s saying something for a guy that watches horror movies regularly! Needless to say, this is one film that any horror fan needs to check out soon!

If you are not familiar with SHADOW PEOPLE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Anchor Bay press release:

Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome is a real phenomenon where seemingly young, healthy people can die mysteriously in their sleep. Survivors of the syndrome report a feeling of terror while being paralyzed in their bed as a shadowy figure attempts to grab or strangle them. When a rash of sleep fatalities is reported on air by a struggling late night radio host, a skeptical CDC investigator is called in to verify his claims. What they discover is a deadly, psychological condition where fear causes the shadow beings to appear. This supernatural thriller, based on true events, interweaves never-before-seen archival footage, interviews and news reports about this horrifyingly real phenomenon.

I am stunned that 162 reviewers on IMDB.com have given this film only 4.4 stars out of 10 as of the writing of this review. I figured this would have garnered at least 6 or 7 stars out of 10. That’s what I would have ranked it as, anyway. It’s that good.

SHADOW PEOPLE is shot very well and combines supposed archival footage with movie-style reenactments of the same events. Some folks might not like this, but I find it works very well when done correctly. This film pulls it off with ease.

The acting is also great, with Dallas Roberts headlining the cast as radio host Charlie Crowe. Horror fans will recognize Roberts from his role on THE WALKING DEAD. Roberts does a stellar job in this role, and I look forward to seeing him on-screen in the future.

The best aspect of SHADOW PEOPLE is how it scares you: the shadowy beings that are seen on camera strike a primal chord deep within the viewer’s mind. As a result, a simple movement of shadow (where there should be nothing moving) can send terror surging through your veins. I love how many times I jumped while watching this one.

SHADOW PEOPLE is a great and fun-filled jaunt into simplistic horror. This might be a great date movie because it will scare you both. I recommend giving this one a look for sure.

MSB

Book Review – Witch Bane by Tim Marquitz (2013)

Witch Bane
by Tim Marquitz
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Publisher: Self-published

witchbane-marquitz

Ok, I have to confess: half the reason I wanted to read this book is because of its kick-ass cover. I know you’re not supposed to judge by that and what not, but just look at it! There’s no way a sane person could not want to check this out. And I’m happy to report the story lives up to the cover and then some; WITCH BANE is a thrilling fantasy tale that will grab you by the throat and force you into submission

If you are not familiar with WITCH BANE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com:

Sebastian is whisked away at birth, just moments after his mother’s death. He returns nineteen years later, a warlock trained in the arts of war. Raised in secret and fed on tales of revenge, he seeks redemption against the witches who betrayed and murdered his mother.

I am stunned and pleasantly surprised by the caliber of self-published works I have been running across lately. With this book, author Tim Marquitz proves you do not necessarily need a publishing house in order to produce a visually appealing, well-edited work.

WITCH BANE is written very well and flows easily off of the page. The dialogue is crisp and the action scenes are intense. The characterizations are well thought-out and believable. And as mentioned above, the cover artwork is eye-catching and evokes immediate interest.

In short, WITCH BANE is a great book. The main character, Sebastian, is a dark protagonist, with undertones reminiscent of Jorg Ancrath in Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire series. A tortured soul, Sebastian is consumed by the need to avenge his mother’s death. The depths of his insecurities are ultimately revealed throughout the story, giving the reader many reasons to sympathize and eventually like the dark hero.

I particularly enjoy how fast-paced the book is. There are no slow, drawn-out scenes that drag on for eternity in between the action. Instead, the reader gets small breaks, which continue to set the stage for the next scene. This allows the reader full immersion into Marquitz’s world and thus gives a more fulfilling reading experience.

WITCH BANE is an excellent read and I highly recommend it. This book is a glimpse into what epic fantasy foundations are made of; I would not be surprised if Marquitz continued to write within this world (I hope he does, anyway). Give this one a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Collection (2012)

The Collection
Directed by Marcus Dunstan
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: March 26, 2013

The Collection

I recently saw the predecessor to this film, titled THE COLLECTOR, and I have to say that it is one of The Best horror films I’ve seen in the past couple of years. Because I enjoyed it so much, I knew without a doubt that I had to see this follow-up. I’m glad I did because THE COLLECTION is just as entertaining as the first.

If you are not familiar with THE COLLECTION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Lionsgate press release:

When Elena is talked into attending an underground warehouse party with her friends, she finds herself caught in nightmarish trap where the revelers are mowed, sliced and crushed to death by a macabre series of contraptions operated by a masked psychopath. When the grisly massacre is over, Elena is the only survivor. But before she can escape, she is locked in a trunk and transported to an unknown location.

Fortunately for Elena, one man–Arkin–knows exactly where she’s headed, having just escaped from there with his life and sanity barely intact. Elena’s wealthy father hires a crack team of mercenaries to force Arkin to lead them to the killer’s lair. But even these hardened warriors are not prepared for what they encounter.

THE COLLECTION picks up just a very short while after THE COLLECTOR leaves off and even has the same actor for the main character as well. These two attributes are major reasons why the film works so well as a follow-up. Many sequels fail at following in the footsteps of the original film, but this is one that actually meets the high standards set by its predecessor.

The movie is shot well and the production value looks high. The acting is top notch with several screen veterans gracing the credits, including Christopher McDonald and Lee Tergesen. For me, Josh Stewart, who portrays the main character, steals the show. Stewart is an excellent actor and one that I hope to see more of on-screen.

The special effects in THE COLLECTION are the true winner of the film, however. The gore in this film is truly amazing, and there’s plenty of it as well. Skulls are crushed, bodies are hacked up, and The Collector even manages to butcher an entire warehouse full of party-goers at the beginning (this is a particularly brutal yet fun sequence) in one “swipe”. Gore-hounds will definitely need to put this high on their To Watch list.

THE COLLECTION is an excellent follow-up film and I highly recommend giving it a shot. Even with the gore aside, the movie is a taut thriller full of intensity and chilling realism. Check this one out for sure.

MSB

Book Review – Her Blood’s Warning by Kymberley Cook (2012)

Her Blood’s Warning
by Kymberley Cook
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Tate Publishing

Her Blood's

I’ve been looking forward to writing this review for quite a while. This anticipation stems from two reasons: 1) HER BLOOD’S WARNING is an excellent vampire tale that introduces a new origin story for where blood-suckers come from, and 2) author Kymberley Cook lives right here in my little Arkansas town, Prairie Grove. Now, to be clear: I’m not giving her book praise because we reside in close proximity. I do not ever want to lead you guys astray with my reviews, so I always try to tell it like it is. But this is definitely a book you will want to pick up if you’re any kind of vampire fan.

If you are not familiar with HER BLOOD’S WARNING, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Tate Publishing website:

On a secluded farm in northern Arkansas’s Boston Mountains, Thadacus, a vampire, happens to be passing through. Someone else magical steps out into the night air to gaze at the bright moon, a girl, Rhymee Stewart. Their encounter is no coincidence. Thad is drawn to Rhymee, and he soon discovers that several ancient forces are conspiring to kill her because of her family legacy. Thad devotes himself to protecting Rhymee, but the forces attacking her are beyond his power to control.

Thadacus and Rhymee seem destined to be together, though it is painful for them to touch while Rhymee is still human. Their lives have long been connected, and it seems there is no way to live apart. Still, they are each the other’s toxin; being with Thadacus will pull Rhymee away from her family, and Rhymee’s very blood, which Thadacus must drink, could kill Thadacus. While she is human, she has deep magic coursing through her veins, which could react disastrously with vampire blood. As Rhymee is hunted by evil beings, time closes in on Thadacus’s decision to take her life into his own hands. Rhymee longs to join Thadacus as a vampire, but she fears the separation from her family.

In this new twist on the classic vampire tale, author Kymberly Cook fluidly weaves an original vampire mythology into the traditional lore. Western civilization comes together with ancient history and mythology, including Thor’s hammer, druid priests, and the code of chivalry. Will Rhymee and Thad go against nature and live together as vampires, or will Thad heed Her Blood’s Warning?

I am impressed with many aspects of this book. It is well written, the story is tight and intriguing, and the book is so ‘clean’ that my kids could read it. In a genre crammed full of eroticism and sensuality, it’s refreshing to run across a vampire story that focuses more on the tale itself rather than how horny being undead makes you. This is a true testament to Cook’s abilities as an author.

HER BLOOD’S WARNING is written well, although I will admit that the flow of the wording takes some getting used to; the sentence structure might appear awkward to some readers at first, but it’s easy to get acclimated with and then the story moves at a good clip afterwards. I particularly like how Cook writes with a simple style that conveys the intent of the scene and does not overly exaggerate unnecessary things.

The plot is interesting and, as mentioned, the backstory for vampirism and its creation in this world is truly fascinating. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard of anything similar, and this new take immediately drew me in. The characters are believable and I also like the fact that vampires are not treated as the social elite here. I think that cliche is way too overdone.

HER BLOOD’S WARNING is a great read and I highly recommend it. I am eagerly awaiting the next book because this one ends in a cliffhanger of sorts (not to give anything away). Kymberley Cook is a powerhouse to look out for, and I would wager her name will soon become synonymous with vampires much like Stephanie Meyer and Anne Rice. Check her work out for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Sky Has Fallen [Limited Edition] (2009)

The Sky Has Fallen [Limited Edition]
Directed by Doug Roos
Courtesy of Lost Forever Productions
Release Date: 2009

TheSkyHasFallen

The title of this film might sound familiar. If so, it’s because I reviewed this film once already a couple of years ago (back in 2010, to be precise). So why am I reviewing it again? Well, back then, it was just a short film. Director Doug Roos pitched his vision on Kickstarter and raised enough money to create a full length feature. I’m glad he did because THE SKY HAS FALLEN is a tight indie production that will please even the heartiest of zombie-flick fans.

If you are not familiar with THE SKY HAS FALLEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the film’s official website:

Within a couple of hours, a new disease wipes out almost all of mankind. Trying to avoid infection, people flee to remote locations, but they start seeing mysterious black figures, carrying away the dead and experimenting on them. Now, Lance and Rachel, two survivors determined to fight back, must kill the leader of these creatures before the rest of humanity disappears.

The simplicity of this film is part of its allure. The plot is up front and basic. There are only two characters in the film, which streamlines things a bit and emphasizes the dialogue more, but it also allows for more zombie-killing action scenes. The result is a fun, entertaining jaunt into zombie horror.

THE SKY HAS FALLEN is shot very well and looks great on-screen. I’m especially impressed with some of the camera angles the production team was able to achieve. In many low budget features, there’s no creativity when it comes to cinematography. That’s just the opposite here; there are plenty of unique shots that add to the intensity of the story and heighten the look of the film.

The acting is mediocre, but that is to be expected in low budget flicks. The dialogue, however, is where I have a problem. My sole complaint about the film is how the actors deliver most of their lines in breathy, over-dramatic bursts. This can be overlooked thanks to the special effects and the story, but I do feel its worth mentioning.

And speaking of special effects, THE SKY HAS FALLEN has some of the best practical effects of any low budget film I’ve ever seen. In an age dominated with CG, it is so refreshing to see practical effects still in play. There’s plenty of gore but the zombie effects look great as well.

THE SKY HAS FALLEN is an absolute win for me and I highly recommend it. This film is a true testament to what can be achieved when you put your heart and soul into a project. The results are fun and entertaining. Check this one out for sure.

MSB