Movie Review – 6 Souls (2010)

6 Souls
(a.k.a. Shelter)
Directed by Mans Marlind & Bjorn Stein
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 2010
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 2, 2013

6 Souls

The concept of multiple personality disorders is an interesting but frightening one. I’m not sure why, but the idea that someone might have multiple ‘people’ living inside of them is terrifying to me. I guess it freaks me out because you never know who you would really be speaking to if that was the case. So, when 6 SOULS came around, I knew it was going to be a film I had to check out. I’m glad I did, too…not only is this movie a heck of a thrill-ride, but it’s also smartly written and very entertaining.

If you are not familiar with 6 SOULS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay:

After the death of her husband, Dr. Cara Harding’s (Julianne Moore) faith in God has been shaken, but not her belief in science. In an attempt to open her up to accepting unexplainable psychiatric theories, her father introduces her to Adam, (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) a patient with multiple personalities who takes on some of the physical characteristics of his other personalities. But, Cara quickly discovers that Adam’s other personalities are murder victims and the more she finds out about him and his past, the closer she and her loved ones are to becoming murder victims themselves.

The whole air of this movie just screams ‘creepy’. Of course, mental health is almost a completely different world in itself, so the sense of foreboding is probably pretty justified. That backdrop combined with the premise of the film set the stage for a staggering horror jaunt that will haunt you long after the credits roll.

One major aspect of the terror contained within 6 SOULS is the acting. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the role of a lifetime. Each time a new persona takes over his body, Rhys Meyers goes into a fit of sorts, contorting his body into impossible positions as the ‘person’ struggles to the top of the body. Then, once the persona is in place, Rhys Meyers does an impeccable job of portraying him or her. From a crippled, back-woods mountain boy to an elderly doctor and more, this role offers the actor the chance to shine and show his immense diversity of talent. Julianne Moore is also noteworthy as the doctor; I’ve enjoyed seeing her on-screen for many years, and I hope she continues to make films for many more.

The film is shot well and pacing is nice, but the story itself is where it shines. The audience is given just enough information as the film progresses to stay in-touch with what is going on, and this helps to create an intense and thrilling atmosphere. Then, as the puzzle comes together towards the end, the film grabs the audience in a choke-hold and doesn’t let go. The result is a fine horror flick that any genre fan should be happy to own.

6 SOULS is a definite win for me and I recommend giving it a look. There’s not really any gore, but there’s plenty of intensity; I might even say this is a perfect date movie if you are looking to scare your significant other without grossing them out. Regardless of who you’re with when you watch it, check this film out for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Unbroken (2013)

The Unbroken
Directed by Jason Murphy
Courtesy of Inception Media Group
Release Date: June 11, 2013

The Unbroken

I’ve mentioned this before in some of my previous book reviews, but I am an absolute sucker for a good ghost story; as such, the same can be said for ghost movies as well. The problem is that they seem to be few and far between. With modern-day films about ghosts, we many times get rehashed genre staples that don’t break any new ground. Fortunately, THE UNBROKEN does not adhere to that description. Although not perfect, this film does entertain, if you can make your way through it.

If you are not familiar with THE UNBROKEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Inception Media Group press release:

Sarah Campbell has to start her life over again after a messy divorce leaves her broken, lost, and alone for the first time. After moving into a neglected apartment, strange things begin to happen including visions of a little boy in the mirrors. Passing them off as her “crazy imagination”, things intensify when she starts to have nightmares of torture by a “shadowy figure”. As her dreams become more vivid, so do her encounters with the ghostly child who begins to terrorize her and cause “accidents” wherever she goes.  Through an encounter with her charming neighbor, Sarah realizes that he may be the “shadowy figure” that she has been dreaming about…and that the little boy may be a messenger from the other side with a horrifying secret…

I have to tell you up front that it was sorta difficult for me to get through the first 3/4 of this film. Overall, the movie is pretty well done…but the acting started bugging me pretty quickly into it. This is particularly true for the character of Tommy, portrayed by Patrick Flanagan. Whether it is his acting style or the scriptwriting, the dialogue he presents just seems forced and unrealistic.

But, THE UNBROKEN does keep you intrigued enough along the way to look past that. The mystery that Sarah instantly becomes involved with is interesting and kept me guessing right up to the end. No matter what I thought was happening in the film, I was wrong, and it was a nice twist at the end that made me smile in appreciation.

The film is shot well and the special effects look pretty good, especially considering the lower-ended budget. The acting, as mentioned above, is where the film stalls for me, though. I would not consider it to be enough of a deterrent to keep you from watching the film, but I do have to warn you in advance not to expect Oscar-worthy performances.

Still, if you can find the will-power to muster through THE UNBROKEN, the ending should justify your time (for the most part). I’m going to give a neutral recommendation on this one, however, because some folks may not want to devote an hour and 40 minutes to this. But I enjoyed it and am glad I fought to the end. The film is available now on DVD and VOD.

MSB

Documentary Review – Skull World (2013)

Skull World
Directed by Justin McConnell
Courtesy of Indiecan Entertainment & Unstable Ground Inc.
Release Date: June 18, 2013

Skull-Blu-thumb-300xauto-39502

I will confess that when I first heard the title of this documentary, I thought it was about some horror convention or something. Boy, was I wrong…but that’s not a bad thing. This film opened my eyes to a new world, a subset of society that is filled with battle cries and cardboard, and details the concept of Box Wars, a sort of live-action role-playing experience. SKULL WORLD is a riveting look into one man’s life and his quest to bring unique entertainment into mainstream culture.

If you are not familiar with SKULL WORLD, here is the plot synopsis:

Follows several years in the life of Greg Sommer, aka Skull Man, as he builds the Canadian chapter of Box Wars, an international underground movement of cardboard-based combat. Metal, mayhem, comedy and creativity collide in this globe-spanning tale of a man, his mission, and the adventure that is his world.

I had never heard of Box Wars prior to watching this film, but I have to admit: I’m intrigued. The concept is brilliant and something I could see coming straight out of my 80s-era childhood: two groups of ‘warriors’ adorn themselves with armor and weapons made of cardboard, and then they commence to beating each other until the armor is torn off. This simplistic idea is appealing to people of all ages across the world. And why not? Box Wars is an adrenaline-fueled battle royale that doesn’t require much skill, only a strong will to have fun.

SKULL WORLD is the brainchild of director Justin McConnell, who also did THE COLLAPSED, a post-apocalyptic thriller that I reviewed here last summer. McConnell takes us on a different kind of journey this time, highlighting the exploits of Greg Sommer, a man in his 30s who lives a different kind of life. Instead of bowing to the corporate grind, Sommer spends his working hours as a cemetery caretaker; on his off-time, Sommer rocks out to heavy metal and promotes his entertainment venue, Box Wars.

But there’s much more to SKULL WORLD than what you see on the surface. This isn’t a film about a bunch of slackers with no ambition in life. On the contrary, this is a look into a growing subculture that encompasses both men and women who are looking to make life better by offering a legal ‘escape’. Box Wars offers a way for people to let off steam without actually (intentionally) hurting people. Not to mention, it promotes a sense of camaraderie among those who participate, whether your or old, male or female. In short, it’s like the metal version of a social mixer.

SKULL WORLD is an eye-opening glimpse into a world you probably never knew existed. The film is based in Canada, but its secondary subject matter, Box Wars, is growing and sweeping across the globe like a tidal wave. I wouldn’t be surprised to start hearing about it in mainstream conversation very soon. I suggest giving this documentary a look so you can learn more about Greg Sommer and Box Wars.

MSB

Movie Review – The Rambler (2013)

The Rambler
Directed by Calvin Reeder
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: June 25, 2013

The Rambler

I’ve seen a flurry of films lately that defy classification. This is not a bad thing, either; this simply means they are so broad in scope and/or vision that they are hard to stick into a single genre. THE RAMBLER is definitely one of those films. Filled with vivid surrealism and near hallucinogenic themes, this film is one you must see to believe. Part thriller, part drama, part dark-comedy, and part horror, it is an epic trip into madness and beyond.

If you are not familiar with THE RAMBLER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

Dermot Mulroney of THE GREY and ZODIAC stars as an ex-con just released from prison, kicked out of his trailer home, and gone on a cross-country journey to his long-lost brother’s pony ranch. But along the way, he’ll encounter a depraved American underbelly of dusty towns, bizarre strangers, sudden violence, and a device that can record dreams onto VHS. Lindsay Pulsipher (“Justified”, “True Blood”) and Natasha Lyonne (AMERICAN PIE) co-star in this surreal Sundance sensation about shadowy pasts, questionable futures, and the deadpan traveling man known only as THE RAMBLER.

Watching this film caused memories of years past to bubble to the surface in my brain. Specifically, memories of watching films like David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET and Oliver Stone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS. I can see subtle influences of both directors in this one. But whether homage or mimicry, the result is a wild yet vastly entertaining powerhouse of a film.

THE RAMBLER is shot very well, although some of the camerawork looks as if the cinematographer was tripping on acid at the time it was done. Again, this is not a bad thing…if anything, it heightens the exotic mood of the film. It is noteworthy to mention for those who fancy such stylized material.

The acting is top notch as well, with Dermot Mulroney leading a bizarre but talented cast. I first saw Mulroney’s work way back in the late 80s with his portrayal of Dirty Steve Stephens in YOUNG GUNS, and I have enjoyed it ever since. Co-star Lindsay Pulsipher, who fans of TRUE BLOOD will recognize as were-panther Crystal Norris, does an excellent job as well; she portrays The Girl, a semi-real love interest The Rambler interacts with on his journeys. The rest of the cast is great, too, a wide and varied group of individuals that help to create the insane world The Rambler inhabits.

My sole complaint about THE RAMBLER is that it offers no explanation as to what in the hell is actually going on in the film. I really enjoyed the movie experience overall, because it is wonderfully bizarre and equally vivid…but the lack of exposition left me scratching my head at the end. Maybe I missed some symbolism, or maybe it’s meant to be open to interpretation without any cues; I’m not sure either way. This is not a huge detraction for me, but I do feel it is worth mentioning.

Still, THE RAMBLER is a fascinating film to watch. It’s almost a step-by-step guide into madness. It also has some amazing gore, an aspect which I was surprised to see. I recommend giving this one a look, if anything to see just how far down the rabbit hole it might take you. The film hits store shelves tomorrow, June 25, 2013.

MSB

Book Review – Ecko Rising by Danie Ware (2013)

Ecko Rising
by Danie Ware
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Titan Books

Ecko Rising_cvr

I love books that push genre boundaries, especially those that try to skirt the edges of both science-fiction and fantasy. I’ve only run across a handful of titles that attempt such a daring feat, but they are usually entertaining to say the least. ECKO RISING, the debut novel from Danie Ware, is by far one of the best sci-fi/fantasy hybrids that I’ve ever read.

If you are not familiar with ECKO RISING, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Titan Books:

In a futuristic London where technological body modification is the norm, Ecko stands alone as a testament to the extreme capabilities of his society. Driven half mad by the systems running his body, Ecko is a criminal for hire. No job is too dangerous or insane.

When a mission goes wrong and Ecko finds himself catapulted across dimensions into a peaceful and unadvanced society living in fear of ‘magic’, he must confront his own perceptions of reality and his place within it.

A thrilling debut, Ecko Rising explores the massive range of the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and the possible implications of pitting them against one another. Author Danie Ware creates an immersive and richly imagined world that readers will be eager to explore in the first book in this exciting new trilogy.

I always find it fascinating to see an author’s take on world-blending; now granted, it’s not a concept that is seen very often, but the results are almost always entertaining. Combining science-fiction and fantasy and making it believable is not an easy task, and it is one that I would imagine many genre authors would find too daunting to undertake. But Ware seems to pull it off with ease.

ECKO RISING is written very well and flows like a roaring river. Ware has a subtle writing style that lulls the reader into a false sense of security but then whips them straight into the story without warning. This allows for complete immersion into Ecko’s world(s) and therefore an enjoyable reading experience.

The characters in the book are both likable (in some cases) and believable, while the world-building is detailed and authentic. I found myself wondering who or what Ware’s influences were when constructing some elaborate landscapes; they are unique, but also comfortably familiar. This is a nice aspect, as it does not require the reader to ‘learn’ a new atlas of lands.

ECKO RISING is a definite win for me and I highly recommend giving it a look. It is the first book in a trilogy, so you will want to watch for the next two for sure. ECKO RISING is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Come Out and Play (2013)

Come Out and Play
Directed by Makinov
Courtesy of FlatIron Film Company
Release Date: June 18, 2013

BLU_RAY_AMARAY_GL13267

Is there anything more terrifying than a child chasing after an adult with a machete? I don’t think so…the concept and the scene itself are both chilling in a way that makes me outwardly shudder. So imagine my delight when COME OUT AND PLAY arrived in my mailbox. The idea of kids killing off adults might sound simple, but it’s downright terrifying when you see it onscreen. This film, while not perfect, is entertaining and gut-wrenching, a perfect combination for an evening of frights.

If you are not familiar with COME OUT AND PLAY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of FlatIron Film Company:

In COME OUT AND PLAY, Beth and Francis, a happy young expecting couple have come to Mexico for a romantic getaway. Francis insists on venturing by boat to a more serene locale, Beth hesitantly agrees. As they dock on a sun-kissed beach where children are playing and giggling, everything seems perfect at first. But as they wander the strangely empty streets, an atmosphere of unease sets in: an abandoned hotel, a distress call that repeatedly echoes from a radio set, the sense of being watched with no adults in sight. When Francis witnesses the violent death of an old man at the hands of a smiling little girl, a day in paradise quickly turns into a struggle for survival. Francis must protect his very pregnant wife from a pack of murderous children and get the couple off the island alive.

Several of the reviews I have read of this film mentioned the vagueness of the opening scenes and how the reviewers felt they detracted from the film. I disagree whole-heartedly. The opening scenes might be devoid of a few details, but they were simply setting the stage for the actual film. I think you shouldn’t put too much focus on things like that, unless they have nothing to do with the rest of the film.

COME OUT AND PLAY has some downright horrifying scenes. When the children attack and kill people while laughing and singing, I cringed. When two girls make necklaces out of ears and fingers, just as they would flowers, I felt chills go down my spine; and when a group of kids are playing with a severed human head like it was a kickball, I almost had to look away. These images will haunt you long after the film is over.

And this is definitely a film you should check out. Even if you are not a parent, you can still appreciate the shock value of a plot such as this one. The idea of young kids going crazy for no apparent reason and killing adults is, well, almost unthinkable. How can the innocence of youth lead into the evil of murder? This question alone drives the movie almost throughout its entirety.

COME OUT AND PLAY is a fun film and looks good overall, but I have to confess the cinematography leaves a lot to be desired. I can handle a shaky camera in some aspects, but in this film it gets out of hand in certain places. This wasn’t enough for me to turn the movie off, but I do feel I should warn you in advance.

Still, COME OUT AND PLAY is a heck of a horror film and I highly recommend you give it a look. The film hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (2013)

The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome
Original Release Dates: 1969, 1971
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: January 8, 2013

The Lost Films

If you are any kind of fan of horror, then you know that Herschell Gordon Lewis is “The Godfather of Gore”. This is a well-deserved nickname, as he was one of the first directors to use excessive bloodshed and graphic depictions of death in his films. But what you might not realize is that Gordon Lewis had another side to his visionary genius: prior to making horror films, he made a series of exploitation films, filled with both nudity and humor. Some of these films were thought to be lost until recently. The fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome have released a collection of three of these films on one Blu-ray, and the result is an entertaining and nostalgic trio that film collectors like me are sure to want to snatch up.

If you are not familiar with THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome:

‘The Lost Films of H.G. Lewis’ features three previously thought lost sexploitation features from the acclaimed master of exploitation cinema. All three films have been restored in 2K from their original camera negatives and are being released on home video for the first time anywhere in the world!


LINDA AND ABILENE combines the savagery of a classic Hollywood western with sequences of intense eroticism.
1969 / Color / 92 minutes / 1.37:1

ECSTASIES OF WOMEN is a torrid comedy/drama set in the swinging world of late 60′s Los Angeles.

1969 / Color / 74 minutes / 1.37:1

BLACK LOVE exposes the lovemaking habits of the contemporary black couple through a series of amusing and creative vignettes.

1971 / Color / 74 minutes / 1.37:1

I haven’t watched many exploitation films in my time, but I have sure enjoyed those that I’ve seen. Not only are they humorous for the most part, but they give a unique glimpse into a different time. By today’s standards, THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS boasts horrendous hairstyles, tacky clothing, and some hideous grooming habits…but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining. If anything, those aspects only broaden the appeal!

These three films are a real treat, and I enjoyed them all. I do have to say that my favorite of the trio is probably LINDA AND ABILENE. I like how the classic Hollywood western theme was thrown in and how Gordon Lewis was able to mesh it with stark eroticism. You definitely don’t see many films like this one nowadays.

THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS is a definite winner if you’re a fan of exploitation films. I recommend giving this one a look if you want a vintage view of late-60s/early-70s sub-culture. The film is available now, so check it out.

MSB

Book Review – Rough Magic (Book 1 of the GnomeSaga) by Kenny Soward

Rough Magic (Book 1 of the GnomeSaga)
by Kenny Soward
Release Date: March 16, 2013
Publisher: Broken Dog Press

Rough Magic Cover alt - Outlines

I was introduced to the world of Dungeons & Dragons when I was in 8th grade, and I have been a HUGE fan of fantasy ever since. I’m not sure what it is that draws me, but I can tell you that the diversity of races and creatures is a large part of it. However, even back then, there were a few species of creatures within the D&D world that made me wonder why they were even there. Gnomes are a perfect example of this: to me, they are basically dwarves with a penchant for inventing. Author Kenny Soward turns this stereotype on its ear with ROUGH MAGIC, the first book of the GnomeSaga. Soward gives us a vastly entertaining tale and shows us that gnomes are much more than we perceive them to be.

If you are not familiar with ROUGH MAGIC, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Amazon:

Niksabella the gnome has tinkered in the shadows for years, developing an invention that might change the world, even if she doesn’t know it yet. She has few friends and even fewer allies in the city of Hightower, where social and academic status is quite important. Her brother, Nikselpik, is a cantankerous wizard who drinks too much, sings dirty songs, and makes rude passes at gnomestresses. A dark addiction consumes him, a habit called bugging, which gives him increased power and feelings of euphoria while pushing him closer to death. Dark creatures from the ultraworlds have come calling. Niksabella must fight to protect her life and her invention, while Nikselpik engages the enemy as an unlikely guest of Hightower’s military elite. Niksabella and Nikselpik must find their true powers together, or perish apart. Will they heal the wounds of their childhood before it’s too late?

The quality of self-published work that I’ve been running across lately continues to impress me. The writing, the editing, the cover art…it all screams ‘professional grade’. This is a huge testament to the authors for the amount of time and effort they are putting into their work. ROUGH MAGIC is a prime example of this.

This book is written very well and has a nice flow to it. The author’s writing style is simple and no-nonsense. He does a great job of describing without overwhelming the reader. There are many fantasy authors out there that put painstaking detail into their books and, while this is commendable, it sometimes bogs down the story. That’s definitely not the case here.

The characters in ROUGH MAGIC are fleshed out well and the world-building is top notch, although I hope the future volumes give us a glimpse of the world outside of Hightower. The action is intense and the magic is unique. There’s really not much more you could ask for in a fantasy novel.

The way the gnomes are portrayed in this book, however, is what wins the gold medal for me. Whereas many fantasy novels portray these beings as aloof and goofy, Soward takes a different approach and makes them, well, bad-ass. I commend him for his different perspective and can’t wait to see where the story goes in future books.

ROUGH MAGIC is an excellent addition to the genre, and I highly recommend it. The book is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look for sure.

MSB

Documentary Review – After People (2013)

After People
As seen on The History Channel
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: June 11, 2013

After People

If you’re a fan of Shattered Ravings, then I’m sure you’ve seen me mention the zombie apocalypse every now and then. I do this in half-humor and good fun…however, a part of me thinks something like that might be a possibility one day. If a catastrophe does happen, how would humanity react? And how long would it take until we die off? Continuing with that thought, what would the world be like after we’re gone? The fine folks at The History Channel and Lionsgate offer us up a chilling and vivid glimpse of what the future without humankind might be like.

If you are not familiar with AFTER PEOPLE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

This collection presents three of HISTORY’s finest programs on the fate of humans and our planet, offering an intelligent and provocative look at some of the grim realities we face. Combining visual effects and insights from experts, LIFE AFTER PEOPLE imagines what would happen to man-made structures, plants, animals and insects if the entire human population went extinct. This thought- provoking adventure visits the ghostly villages surrounding Chernobyl, abandoned after the 1986 nuclear meltdown; abandoned towns on remote islands off Maine’s coast; deep into New York City’s subway tunnels; and even into the Montana wilderness to find clues about the world we may leave behind. AFTER ARMAGEDDON takes a look at what past acts of destruction like Hiroshima and Hurricane Katrina have taught us about what could befall humankind in the wake of an apocalypse. In MEGA DROUGHT, we’ll explore one of the key consequences of global warming – intense and prolonged droughts that could ravage the western United States and lead to catastrophic water shortages. And MEGA FREEZE shows us how abrupt climate change could create devastating winters in some northern regions, with freezing temperatures and incessant storms potentially bringing starvation, disease and death to many. Watch as HISTORYr opens your eyes to a world that, perhaps luckily, we won’t be around to see.

I’ve been a big fan of LIFE AFTER PEOPLE for a long time. It’s fascinating to me to see what Earth might be like after we are gone. There are so many aspects to such a phenomenon, were it to happen, that it is staggering when you consider them. So seeing LIFE AFTER PEOPLE in this three-disc collection was a huge treat for me.

But the others in this anthology are just as poignant. MEGA DROUGHT shows us how the world could spiral out of control if global warming brought on massive water shortages. Many of us in the U.S. take clean water for granted…but seeing what could happen if it were no longer in abundance is a terrifying concept.

MEGA FREEZE gives us a glimpse into how our world could quickly deteriorate if abrupt climate changes forced the planet into Ice Age-like freezing conditions. Putting up with the occasional snow storm in the U.S. is one thing…but conditions like those portrayed in this piece go way beyond extreme. The result is a horrifying scenario that will make your blood run cold.

But what happens if we as a species don’t die off quickly? AFTER ARMAGEDDON takes an interesting look into what might result after a catastrophic event.

This collection is an intense and well-made glimpse into how our future might just play out, and what the world will be like without us. There is no preaching or underlying message in AFTER PEOPLE, just speculation and, where possible, fact. This documentary is fun and entertaining, and I highly recommend giving it a look. Be prepared to lose a few hours, though…this engrossing collection will suck you in and keep you riveted until the end.

MSB