Movie Review – Storage 24 (2013)

Storage 24
Directed by Johannes Roberts
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: March 12, 2013

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If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for a good creature-feature. If a movie has any kind of monster or alien in it, chances are that I’ll give it a look. I love to see just how original effects-artists can be these days (or, in some cases, just how much they can take from other artists’ ideas). Not to mention, creature-features usually come with a nice dose of suspense as well. With STORAGE 24, we get a nice combination of both and, while it’s not perfect, it is certainly entertaining to watch.

If you are not familiar with STORAGE 24, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

London is in chaos after a military cargo plane crashes, leaving its highly classified contents strewn across the city. Completely unaware that London is on lockdown, exes Charlie and Shelley,accompanied by best friends Mark and Nikki, are trapped in the Storage 24 facility – a dark maze of endless corridors – with a mysterious predator hunting them one by one.

When talking about this sub-genre of horror, I have to note that I LOVE alien flicks the most out of all creature-feature films. There’s just something about their unknown origins and how anything about them could potentially kill us that pulls me in. Call me weird, I know…but I will never get tired of them (I hope).

As for STORAGE 24, I have to give major credit to actor/writer Noel Clarke. I enjoyed him in Doctor Who, so when I saw that he was in this film, I knew I had to give it a look. And later, when I found out he wrote it, I was like “Wow…talk about talent!” As I mentioned, this film isn’t perfect, but it’s fun, and that’s what counts.

The film is shot well and looks good overall on-screen. There are a wide variety of interesting shots for being set in a storage facility, although I will have to admit that I’ve never seen a storage unit this large before. But the production team does a great job of inventing new angles in which to view its interior.

The acting is good and the special effects are pretty well done, although my major complaint is how the effects team made the creature’s mouth CG instead of using practical effects. Unless you are Neil Blomkamp or have enough of a budget to hire Industrial Light & Magic, using CG for a creature or part of a creature simply does not look good. It’s either too cartoonish or it’s sometimes out of place in the shot (thanks to the physical parts of the creature moving on film).

In STORAGE 24, the CG is good, but it certainly could have been better. What really wins this film for me, however, is the suspense. Even though there are a couple of eyebrow-raising getaways, the tension within the film is high and sometimes becomes downright nail-biting at times.

All in all, I give STORAGE 24 a thumbs up and suggest you check it out if you’re in the mood for something besides slasher-horror. I enjoyed this one and hope to see more of director Johannes Roberts’ work soon.

MSB

Book Review – The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu (2013)

The Lives of Tao
by Wesley Chu
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Publisher: Angry Robot Books

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It is now official: I have read the best book of 2013 thus far. It is THE LIVES OF TAO, and it will blow your socks off. Don’t be confused by the title; this is not an Oriental philosophy book, nor is it even a story about reincarnation. This is a wildly inventive tale that will have you in suspense one second and then rolling on the floor with laughter the next. Whatever book you’re reading now, put it down and go grab a copy of this one…you will thank me later.

If you are not familiar with THE LIVES OF TAO, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Angry Robot Books:

When out-of-shape IT technician Roen woke up and started hearing voices in his head, he naturally assumed he was losing it.

He wasn’t.

He now has a passenger in his brain – an ancient alien life-form called Tao, whose race crash-landed on Earth before the first fish crawled out of the oceans. Now split into two opposing factions – the peace-loving, but under-represented Prophus, and the savage, powerful Genjix – the aliens have been in a state of civil war for centuries. Both sides are searching for a way off-planet, and the Genjix will sacrifice the entire human race, if that’s what it takes.

Meanwhile, Roen is having to train to be the ultimate secret agent. Like that’s going to end up well…

Wesley Chu is a man of many talents. Aside from acting (check out his imdb page here), he is also a self-proclaimed Death Star Electrician. I would assume that position does not pay too well, as the previous two Death Stars were tragically destroyed. It seems that Chu has turned to writing as his next creative outlet.

THE LIVES OF TAO is brilliant in both concept and execution. I was completely immersed in the story from the very first page and never once lost interest. This is one of those tales that latches on to you and does not let go.

The book is written very well and flows with an easy pace. This smooth prose is what lets the reader completely fall into the book, and thus the enjoyment factor is way high. It is also where many of the quirky and humorous parts of the story come into play.

Chu does an excellent job of injecting both hard-fueled action and light-hearted comedy into the story. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Peter Parker-esque main character mature from a pitiful, soulless dork into a competent (and lethal) human being. This journey is what drives the book and ultimately leads us to like him.

THE LIVES OF TAO is an absolute win for me and I *highly* recommend giving this one a look. It is very clever with fun/deadly characters and a high-paced plot. Be ready to drop your social life for a few days, though…you will definitely want to use your free time finishing this one up!

MSB

Movie Review – Halo: Forward Unto Dawn (2012)

Halo: Forward Unto Dawn
Directed by Stewart Hendler
Courtesy of 343 Industries
Release Date: December 4, 2012

Halo FUD

I’ve been craving a Halo movie ever since I first played the game many years ago. The premise and setting are prime stock for an on-screen adaptation, however Hollywood’s go at video game movies has a horrible track record (yes, I’m looking at you, Uwe Boll). So, needless to say, I was a bit apprehensive about HALO: FORWARD UNTO DAWN when I first heard about it. I mean, it had minimal promotion to begin with, and then I found out it was a web series…ouch! But then I sat down and watched the DVD version…and WOW…I was blown away! This is one video game adaptation that truly does its source material justice!

If you are not familiar with HALO: FORWARD UNTO DAWN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of 343 Industries:

For generations, humans traveled the stars and worked together to settle worlds under the banner of the United Nations Space Command. Now that peace is shattered by insurrectionists, causing a galaxy-spanning civil war. Cadet Thomas Lasky and his fellow students at Corbulo military academy now train to make this war their future. But Lasky is conflicted about his path, and his resolve is tested when the academy comes under attack from a terrifying alien assault. Lasky and his fellow cadets fight for survival, only to find assistance from a mysterious ally — a mythic, armored supersoldier known as the Master Chief.

HALO: FORWARD UNTO DAWN is a serious adaptation that should make even the stoutest of Halo fans happy. It looks great, but it also bears the dark and gritty feel that military movies should have. The acting is superb and the action is intense; add to this a nice selection of practical and visual effects, and the result is a stellar film that will entertain and impress.

There are so many things to like here. As mentioned, the acting is top notch with Tom Green and Anna Popplewell leading a great cast. Although I am not very familiar with their previous work (Popplewell’s most notable appearance prior to this was in the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA series), Green and Popplewell display massive talent in this film and play off of each other very well.

Also, as I previously mentioned, the special effects in HALO: FORWARD UNTO DAWN look great. The production team spent a lot of time to get the details from the game correct, and the effort definitely pays off. I found myself grinning a couple of times when I recognized a weapon or piece of equipment from the game. Even Master Chief’s armor, which could be difficult to actually construct, looks realistic. This was a major point for impressing me overall.

But the storyline is what truly made me breathe a content sigh of relief. The studio actually got it right! They didn’t deviate and try to make a nonsensical movie that only borrowed slightly from the game itself (like the travesty that is DOOM), nor did they try to recreate a new mythology that was not already there. The production team stays true-to-form and delivers an outstanding film that every director considering a game-to-movie project should watch.

HALO: FORWARD UNTO DAWN is an absolute blast and I highly recommend giving it a look. Even if you’re not a fan of the game, you will still enjoy this military science-fiction masterpiece. The film is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming, so check it out for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – Texas Chainsaw (2013)

Texas Chainsaw 3D
Directed by John Luessenhop
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: May 14, 2013

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TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D is one of those films that stirs up a lot of controversy among genre fans. Not because it’s particularly brutal or gory, but because of how it changes the original mythology of its preceding film(s). True, it does add to the existing mythology…but this film also changes the perception of how we should view the Sawyer family. This is both a good and bad thing. But regardless of whether you agree with that or not, this film is a lot of fun.

If you are not familiar with TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D continues the legendary story of the homicidal Sawyer family, picking up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. Decades later and hundreds of miles away from the original massacre, a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. After embarking on a road trip with friends to uncover her roots, she finds she is the sole owner of a lavish, isolated Victorian mansion. But her newfound wealth comes with a price as she stumbles upon a horror that awaits her in the mansion’s cellars…

I saw the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE when I was about 14. Interestingly enough, I was living in the Texas panhandle at the time, so the film struck a chord with me. I’ve been a big-time fan ever since and have even dressed up as Leatherface on a couple of occasions (holiday-wise, of course…not just for my own entertainment).

When I first watched TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, I was a little unsure of how I felt. I enjoyed the film as a whole…but it really changes the perspective on how we should look at the Sawyer family. The original movie makes them out to be vicious, psychotic cannibals…but this film changes that view and gives a more, well, human side to them.

It is this humanism that causes all the debate. Gore-hounds and die-hard fans scream that this film should have nothing to do with the original and that it should not be added to the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE canon. Others feel that it is a perfect addition to the mythology and gives a new and unique take on the homicidal family.

In the end, I decided that I enjoyed TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D, and I actually like how they shifted our perceptions of the Sawyers. It’s nice to see a good, gory flick like this one that has a bit of heart. Speaking of gore, though, I have to admit that some of it is my sole reason of complaint: they used CG for a bit of it that could have been monumentally awesome if it had been done with practical effects.

But don’t let that dissuade you from checking out this film. I recommend giving it a look, if for any reason to see if you agree or disagree with the abstract changes they made. If you decide to do so, stop back here and let us know what you think. This could make a great discussion.

MSB

Book Review – Don’t Let Them In by Elizabeth Fields (2012)

Don’t Let Them In: Six Tales of Terror
by Elizabeth Fields
Release Date: March 12, 2012
Publisher: Elizabeth Fields

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I’ve probably read thousands of short stories in my time, but hopefully I’ll have the chance to read thousands more before I die. I’ve mentioned before that I love shorts and that statement still holds true today. Writing short stories is an art and is not easy to do; therefore, when I run across authors that do well in the craft, I cling to them like glue. The lovely and talented Elizabeth Fields seems to have a fine grasp on the short story, and this collection of six horror shorts showcases that ability.

If you are not familiar with DON’T LET THEM IN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Elizabeth Fields’ website:

This collection of six horrifying tales includes:

The Debt Collector:
When a down on his luck actor meets a beautiful woman in a bar, things finally seem to be looking up for him. But is she really the woman of his dreams, or his worst nightmare?

Plenty of Flesh in the Sea:
Siblings, Emily and Sam, have an unusually close bond. Growing up, they only had each other to rely on. Now, as young adults, they’ve done their best to take on the regular responsibilities that come with maturity, but something is still holding them back from leading normal, healthy lives, a hunger they just can’t seem to satisfy. Not to worry; if they can’t find what they’re looking for just yet, there’s still plenty of flesh in the sea.

The Joys of Motherhood:
A young married couple is about to welcome their first baby, but the new baby may not be the bundle of joy they’ve been expecting.

Lucy:
Simon and his dog, Lucy, are inseparable, that is until Lucy goes through some changes.

Campfire Tales:
Since high school, a group of six friends have been coming to this one campsite for an annual get away. They reconnect with each other and with nature this time every year, and at night, in the grand tradition of camping, they sit around the fire and try to scare each other with ghost stories they’ve already heard many times before. This night, however, will be a little different. A story will be told that they haven’t heard before, and they may just wish they hadn’t heard it to begin with.

All Sales Are Final:
Kathy and Mike have come into town to take care of some last minute things before their dear Aunt Mille moves in with them, or so they say. They’ve set up a yard sale to help Millie get rid of some her possessions to help ease the move. Will Mike and Kathy make the yard sale killing they so desire?

This book is short in length, only 90 pages long, but it certainly doesn’t lack in talent or entertainment value. There are plenty of chills and frights to go around in this compilation. From terrifying newborns to bizarre yard sales, this book has a little bit of everything.

Fields writes with a smooth, simple style that does not overwhelm the reader and allows for a pleasant reading experience. Her prose is well developed and her stories flow well. The result is a fun and thrilling experience that will leave you wanting to read more.

DON’T LET THEM IN contains a couple of original stories however there are also a couple that we might have heard before (in concept only, that is); those that are familiar are written well and do have unique twists, so do not let that dissuade you in any way from giving this collection a look. Even though I found a couple of the plots familiar, I enjoyed them nonetheless.

My favorite story in this collection is “Plenty of Flesh in the Sea”. In this tale, a brother and sister have unnatural cravings that can only be satiated by heinous acts involving other people. But these siblings are not bad…they’re just trying to survive. This story made me smile and cringe at the same time.

DON’T LET THEM IN is a true win for me, and I highly recommend giving it a look. I can’t wait to see what Fields does next, but hopefully it’s just as good as this one.

MSB

Movie Review – Lovely Molly (2011)

Lovely Molly
Directed by Eduardo Sanchez
Courtesy of Image Entertainment
Release Date: May 18, 2012

Lovely Molly - Poster

LOVELY MOLLY may sound like a charming title for a movie, but that certainly doesn’t fit here. This LOVELY MOLLY is a gritty and grisly horror flick that is just as chilling as it is disturbing. Full of frightening scenes and suspense, this movie will give you an entertaining evening of horror.

If you are not familiar with LOVELY MOLLY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Image Entertainment website:

LOVELY MOLLY is a gripping horror thriller that begins as newlywed Molly Reynolds moves back into her long-abandoned childhood home. Soon, she experiences unnerving and impossible things. What starts as a simple story about things going bump in the night escalates into a battle for dominion over Molly’s spirit, as she is beset by a cunning, malevolent force bent on wreaking havoc and terror on Molly and her family. Richly exploring the parallels between psychosis, addiction, and demonic possession to chilling effect, LOVELY MOLLY shows us what really happens before the exorcist arrives.

I have to preface the rest of this review by stating this film is not perfect and does have a couple of flaws. But if you can overlook them, you’re in for a real treat. LOVELY MOLLY is a treat for fans of well made, low-budget horror.

The film is shot pretty well, although I couldn’t tell if the filmmakers were trying for a found-footage look, or if the camera was simply shaky at times. This doesn’t detract much from the film itself, though. In certain scenes, the shakiness even adds to the suspense.

LOVELY MOLLY has some truly gruesome scenes as well, which really work well to intensify the situations in the film. In one scene, Molly is kissing her husband when she suddenly clamps down on his lips with her teeth…and doesn’t let go. Her husband struggles to free himself, but Molly has a lock on him that he can’t break. As a result, both of his lips are almost torn off. This is just one of several grisly scenes that you can enjoy within the movie.

A couple of things in the film did not make sense to me. For example, the specific things that Molly’s father did to her as a child were never revealed…so we don’t really no exactly how big of a bastard the man was. Also, there’s no real sense of who or what is doing the haunting. We suspect it’s her dead, but we’re never really told for sure.

But those things aside, LOVELY MOLLY is a fun and terrifying ride that you should check out. The film is available now, so give it a look.

MSB

I’m back from the 2013 Texas Frightmare Weekend!

WOW! What a blast!

The weekend went way too fast, as it usually does, but I got to meet some amazing folks and see a couple of great films. There were celebreties galore, as well…I got to meet the infamous Danny Trejo, as well as other big names like Meg Foster, Veronica Cartwright, Tom Skerrit, Stuart Gordon, Jeffrey Combs, Heather Langenkamp, and more! The coolest thing about Frightmare is that you rub elbows with the stars just about everywhere; there’s nothing quite like hopping on an elevator and realizing a horror icon like Tom Savini is riding along with you.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my favorite horror authors, Brian Moreland. I have reviewed Brian’s work here at Shattered Ravings and I HIGHLY recommend his books if you are not familiar with them. Great stuff, for sure.

All in all, it was an awesome time but I’m glad to be home. I will have pictures for you soon. In the meantime, I’m going to launch into more reviews. Stay tuned!!

MSB