Movie Review – Hammer of the Gods (2013)

Hammer of the Gods
Directed by Farren Blackburn
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing

Release Date: September 10, 2013

Hammer

If you enjoy historical fiction like I do, then you’ll definitely want to give HAMMER OF THE GODS a look. Granted, you will have to suspend a bit of realism to enjoy the film (for example, the Vikings have slightly British accents and drop F-bombs like the word actually existed back then), but if you can do so then you’re in for a treat. This film is visually striking and wonderfully brutal in its content, not to mention immensely entertaining.

If you are not familiar with HAMMER OF THE GODS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Magnet Releasing press release:

Britain, 871 AD – A young Viking warrior, Steinar (Charlie Bewley), is sent by his father the king on a quest to find his estranged brother, who was banished from the kingdom many years before. Steinar’s epic journey across terrifyingly hostile territory gradually sees him emerge as the man his father wants him to be – the ruthless and unforgiving successor to his throne.

I don’t mind suspending reality to enjoy a film if I know what to expect going into it. Thankfully, a friend had seen this first and mentioned the use of nonexistent profanity for the time-period, so I was already expecting it. After a bit of conversation, we decided to just accept the usage as a ‘loose’ translation of a vulgarity they would have used back then. We probably spent too much energy on this topic, but nobody has ever called us brilliant.

HAMMER OF THE GODS is shot well and looks great from a visual perspective. The locations are both beautiful and grim, much like I would expect them to have looked back then. The fight scenes are well choreographed and there’s plenty of carnage to go around. Overall, the production value looks high and the film simply looks great onscreen.

The acting is also top notch. I particularly enjoyed the performance given by Charlie Bewley as Steinar. There’s just something about him that screams ‘primal’, as if he’s a caged animal ready to spring. In addition, I enjoyed Elliot Cowan as well; he portrays Steinar’s psychotic brother, Hakan, and does a masterful job with the role.

If I had to voice a complaint about HAMMER OF THE GODS, it would have to be the length of the film. It clocks in at 99 minutes, but this one should have easily been over two hours. There is plenty of subject material, and some of the scenes and interactions could have been fleshed out more. This is strictly personal opinion, however, and should not dissuade you from checking out the film as it is.

HAMMER OF THE GODS is a definite win for me and I recommend giving it a shot. Just make sure you can overlook the casting of Brits as Vikings and you should enjoy yourself. The film is available now in a variety of formats, but give the Blu-ray a look for the superior HD picture quality and sound; you won’t be disappointed.

MSB

Only a couple of days left to enter the DVD giveaway over at Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror!

In case you missed it, Hayes is doing a DVD giveaway over at his site, and the prize is pretty awesome. Click on the link below to head over and check it out. BUT DON’T WAIT! The deadline to enter is October 1st!!

Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror DVD Giveaway

Oh, and if you tell Hayes that I sent you over there, I will enter you in a special-secret drawing that I’m doing here on MY site! GOOD LUCK!

MSB

Movie Review – Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition

John Carpenter’s Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition
Directed by John Carpenter
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: September 24, 2013

Halloween

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past three decades, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of the HALLOWEEN franchise. If you have not, then see below for the plot synopsis. This series of films is regarded as one of the most iconic of the horror genre. And for good reason: the first film, featured in this review, is what launched the entire slasher-flick genre. The fine folks over at Anchor Bay recognize the importance of this film and have therefore issued a special 35th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray in its honor.

If you are not familiar with HALLOWEEN: 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

Halloween stars Jamie Lee Curtis (A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies) in her debut role. Anyone who’s ever watched a horror film in the last 35 years knows the story of Michael Myers, who as a child, butchered his sister with a kitchen knife. Committed to a mental institution and watched over by Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance, Halloween II, IV & V, Fantastic Voyage), he engineers his escape 15 years later, returning to his hometown of Haddonfield, Illinois on Halloween night to terrorize anyone who gets in his way, including babysitter Laurie Strode (Curtis). Co-starring P.J. Soles (Carrie, Stripes, Rock ‘n Roll High School), Kyle Richards (The Watcher in the Woods, Eaten Alive), Nancy Loomis (Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13, The Fog), Charles Cyphers (Escape From New York, The Fog) and Brian Andrews (The Great Santini, Three O’Clock High), Halloween also cemented the careers of many behind the camera including Carpenter, Cundey, producer Debra Hill and film editor/production designer Tommy Lee Wallace (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, “It”).

I have to preface this review by stating that John Carpenter is my favorite director of all-time. That’s a bold statement to make, but his films helped define who I am as an adult, and many of them are on my Favorite Movies of All-Time list. These include HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, and GHOSTS OF MARS. I left out THE THING because it is actually in my Top 5 Favorite Movies of All-Time.

HALLOWEEN is not only ground-breaking, it’s scary as hell. I am ashamed to admit that I just saw it for the first time about three years ago, but even then it scared me. This is the ‘patient zero’ of slasher flicks, and you can see how every one after it has copied it in some form or fashion.

The 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION Blu-ray presents an all-new HD transfer that was personally supervised by the film’s original cinematographer, Dean Cundey, and a new 7.1 audio mix. The difference between this version and the one I saw three years ago on DVD is enormous; the HD Blu-ray experience is so much more vivid and engrossing, which allows for a deeper immersion into the film itself.

This edition also includes new, never-before-seen Special Features that include a commentary track by John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis, a featurette called “The Night She Came Home” with Jamie Lee Curtis, original trailers for the film, and more.

If you’ve seen HALLOWEEN before, then you must see it again with this new HD transfer; if you’re watching it for the first time, you will absolutely lose yourself in this amazing Blu-ray. Regardless, this 35th ANNIVERSARY EDITION is a must own for any movie collector. It is available now, so pick your copy up today.

MSB

Book Review – Cain’s Blood by Geoffrey Girard (2013)

Cain’s Blood
by Geoffrey Girard
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Touchstone

CainsBlood_cover

I always wonder just how many breakthroughs science has experienced because of military need. Granted, most discoveries are always announced in public channels, but I would wager many of them came as a side-effect or result of military experimentation. Geoffrey Girard’s latest book, CAIN’S BLOOD, roots around in this very idealism. But unfortunately for the general population within the book, the breakthrough results of this military experiment are hazardous to the public’s health.

If you are not familiar with CAIN’S BLOOD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the press release:

The DNA of the world’s most notorious serial killers has been cloned by the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a new breed of bioweapon. Now in Phase Three, the program includes dozens of young men who have no clue as to their evil heritage. Playing a twisted game of nature vs. nurture, scientists raise some of the clones with loving families and others in abusive circumstances. But everything changes when the most dangerous boys are set free by their creator. A man with demons of his own, former black ops soldier Shawn Castillo is hot on their trail. But Castillo didn’t count on the quiet young man he finds hiding in an abandoned house—a boy who has just learned he is the clone of Jeffrey Dahmer. As Jeffrey and Castillo race across the country on the trail of the rampaging teens, Castillo must protect the boy who is the embodiment of his biggest fears—and who may also be his last hope. Melding all-too-plausible science and ripped from- the-headlines horror, Cain’s Blood is a stunning debut about the potential for good and evil in us all.

The concept of cloning is one that many authors and moviemakers have approached, although I daresay very few have come close to creating something like this. Just the thought of trying to harness the essence of what creates a killer makes me shudder. If science can strive for that, there’s no limit to what they might reach for.

CAIN’S BLOOD is an explosive combination of fact and fiction, a dangerous hybrid of science and imagination. The realism is stark and the landscape this book paints is a scary revelation of what might someday be. Girard is a masterful storyteller and his talent shines brightly with this novel.

The book is written well and has a strong voice. The story moves at a very nice pace and is never bogged down with too much exposition or flowery wording. This is particularly nice when reading a thriller, as it obviously lets you immerse yourself in the author’s world. It also allows you to tear through the book at a faster pace and thus reach the resolution faster.

If I were forced to find a flaw with CAIN’S BLOOD, I simply could not do so. It is the very definition of an enjoyable read, and I highly suggest you check it out. I wouldn’t classify it as horror, however there is quite a bit of carnage within, which should be no surprise since it deals with serial killers (or technically their clones). Still, if you can stomach that, give this one a look. It is well worth it.

MSB

Movie Review – The Haunting of Helena (2013)

The Haunting of Helena
Directed by Christian Bisceglia & Ascanio Malgarini
Courtesy of Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment
Release Date: September 17, 2013

HAUNTING HELENA-2D DVD

I love horror movies that take a traditional aspect of our lives and turn it into something terrifying. I particularly enjoy those flicks that can take an innocent childhood tale or myth and distort it into a horrific joyride of fun. And that is exactly what THE HAUNTING OF HELENA does; it turns a light and airy ritual of youth into a dark foray into horror.

If you are not familiar with THE HAUNTING OF HELENA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the film’s press release:

After a divorce, Sophia moves to the south of Italy with her daughter, Helena. The new house, located inside an austere building of the fascist age, hides a mysterious closet and dark secret. After the loss of Helena’s first baby tooth, a nightmare begins that could only come from darkness. This is the tale of a mysterious woman: an angel or a witch, a little girl, charmed by the arrival of the ‘Fairy of the teeth’, and her mother. Powerless before the transformation of an innocent children’s tale into a nightmare coming from afar, HAUNTING OF HELENA does not descend into a splatter film, but rather slides along the sharp blade of psychological fiction.

The Tooth Fairy has always frightened me, but I’m not sure why. It might be because she can slip into your house undetected, much like Santa Clause, but she comes to take things instead of leave them. Or it could simply be her obsession with teeth and her willingness to pay in order to get them. If such a being existed, how far might she go to get what she wanted?

THE HAUNTING OF HELENA is not a traditional Tooth Fairy story, but it sure packs one hell of a punch. It is shot very well, and I have to confess that some of the cinematography is what makes the film so creepy. The opening scene is particularly well done, and I was shocked to learn in the Behind the Scenes featurette that much of it was done with computer animation. The CG images are seamless and create an amazing opening sequence that sets the tone for the whole film.

The acting is pretty good overall, although I am almost ashamed to admit that I don’t care much for performance given by the actress who portrayed young Helena, Sabrina Jolie Perez. For me, she lacks the emotional range and depth needed for a role like this one. Instead of sadness or joy, all I see in her facial expressions is a bland gaze that reads like depression. This does not detract from the movie, as her portrayal of Helena is simply downright eerie, but I do feel it is worth mentioning. Hopefully, her future roles will come out differently.

But what really wins this film for me is the writing and the story itself. There is a huge revelation towards the end that I never saw coming, which almost made the movie for me in itself. The plot moves at a nice pace and I never once felt like it was going stale. There are also several chilling scenes that literally made my flesh crawl. You just can’t ask for much more in a horror film.

THE HAUNTING OF HELENA is a top notch film that deserves your attention. The film is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

MSB

TV Show Review – Spartacus: War of the Damned (2013)

Spartacus: War of the Damned
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment & Starz
Release Date: September 3, 2013

Spartacus-War-of-the-Damned-Blu-ray-Cover

How do you say farewell to an epic fan-favorite show? That is a question the producers of the SPARTACUS series have probably been dwelling upon for a while now. WAR OF THE DAMNED is the third and final season of this blood-soaked drama, and it does not disappoint. Chocked full of battles, blood, and brutality, this is one show that I am very sad to see end.

If you are not familiar with SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Starz:

Gaius Claudius Glaber is dead. Many months have passed since his defeat, and the rebel army, led by Spartacus and his generals Crixus, Gannicus and Agron, continue to amass victories over Rome. With the rebel numbers swelling to thousands of freed slaves, Spartacus is more determined than ever to bring down the entire Roman Republic. Following Ashur’s death, Naevia and Crixus fight as one. Together, the rebels engage in one bloody skirmish after another and prepare for the inevitable: a full out war with Rome. The Roman Senate turns to Marcus Crassus, a wealthy, strategic politician, for aid. He respects his opponent and refuses to make the same mistakes Glaber and his predecessors have. With a young and fiercely competitive Julius Caesar as an ally, Crassus is determined to crush Spartacus and his rebellion.

The epic conclusion of a legendary journey, Spartacus: War of the Damned will unleash a battle unlike anything ever seen before.

This series is truly impressive on many levels. It is visually amazing, the bloodshed and gore are superb, the drama is intense, and the acting is top notch. But the storyline never gets stale, either. It moves at rapid pace, but not so fast as to lose the audience. The result is an amazing show that is as engrossing as it is vicious.

As with its predecessors, SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED is shot well and looks stunning onscreen. The historical backdrops are vivid and set the stage for a realistic journey back in time. This allows for full immersion into Spartacus’ world, and thus grants a rich entertainment experience.

Liam McIntyre once again does a perfect job with the role of Spartacus, and he is surrounded by a stellar cast. I am happy to see McIntyre finish out the role that Andy Whitfield started; McIntyre does the deceased actor a great honor by flourishing in the Spartacus mantle. I would wager that Whitfield would be pleased.

SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED is a definite win for me, although I am sad to acknowledge it is the final season of this blockbuster show. If you are not watching the series already, do yourself a favor and pick them all up for a good week’s worth of binge-watching. And be sure to check them out on Blu-ray…the HD picture is stunning. All seasons are available now, so give them a look.

MSB

Book Review – Violet Eyes by John Everson (2013)

Violet Eyes
by John Everson
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

VioletEyes72lg

I have a fondness for horror pertaining to insects that probably stems from my rural Southern upbringing. My childhood home sat on the edge of a large wooded area, so my little brother and I spent countless hours traipsing through the brush and trees. As a result, we found a wide variety of bugs and spiders, some of which looked absolutely terrifying. I’m sure you can see where, as a kid, a little imagination could take you to some wild places from here.

It is this childhood love of spiders and all-things-crawly that kindles a spark within me for John Everson’s latest book, VIOLET EYES. This tale is a bone-chilling venture into primal terror with a horrifying premise that touches every one of us at some basic level. Everson is a true master of horror literature, and this book will have your skin crawling as you read it. If you don’t squirm at some of the grisly scenes in this book, then you are more than likely not human!

If you are not familiar with VIOLET EYES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

Their bites are more than deadly…

The small town near the Everglades was supposed to offer Rachel and her son a fresh start. Instead it offered the start of a nightmare, when an unknown breed of flies migrated through the area, leaving painful bites in their wake. The media warned people to stay inside until the swarm passed. But the flies didn’t leave. And then the radios and TVs went silent.

That’s when the spiders came. Spiders that could spin a deadly web large enough to engulf an entire house overnight. Spiders that left stripped bones behind as they multiplied. Spiders that, like the flies, sought hungrily for tender flesh… through Violet Eyes.

I absolutely loved this book and am proud to boast that it has moved into my Top 5 Horror Novels of 2013. Everson has created something here that every horror novelists strive for but few achieve: a believable but literally horrific situation that will give you plenty of reasons to lose sleep at night.

VIOLET EYES is well written and flows nicely at a brisk pace. The characters are nicely developed and believable; all are damaged in some way but still give us plenty of reasons to connect with them. I particularly like how Everson subtly tackles the issue of domestic abuse. It is interesting to see a horror writer incorporate such a brutal topic into the story, but make it a minor aspect of it instead of the focal point.

Probably the most pivotal characteristic of this book for me is that it is intelligent horror. This is not just some half-speed ‘nature-gone-amok’ plotline; this is carefully thought-out and well-conceived science that works much better than its creators had intended. Too good, in fact…which is part of what makes this concept so scary.

VIOLET EYES is a huge win for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good scare or wanting a reason to stay awake at night. I can’t tell you how many times I jumped or slapped at the comforter because it felt like something was crawling on me. This book will scare the crap out of you and keep you begging for more! Give this one a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – Separation (2013)

Separation
Directed by Greg White
Courtesy of Birchmount Entertainment
Release Date: April 15, 2013

separation

When I was first approached by director Greg White to review SEPARATION, I was instantly intrigued. I only had a brief synopsis of what the movie was about, yet it was certainly enough to pique my interest. But WOW…I had no idea just how tense and insanely excellent this film would be! This movie blew me away, and it has an ending that I never saw coming. When it comes to psychological thrillers, they just don’t get much better than this!

If you are not familiar with SEPARATION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the film’s official Facebook page:

SEPARATION is a psychological thriller about Jack (Peter Stebbings) and Liz (Sarah Manninen), a couple in their 30’s struggling to keep their family together. They have recently moved to the small summering community of Hemlock Lake hoping it will make a difference, but when a mysterious neighbor (Dmitry Chepovetsky) enters their lives, it may no longer be just their marriage that could get ripped apart.

SEPARATION is shot well and looks great onscreen. The acting is top notch, with Sarah Manninen and Peter Stebbings headlining the cast. Manninen does an outstanding job as the depressed and distressed wife, while Stebbings seems to relish his role as the distant but still-caring husband. Both actors play off of each other very well, and the on-screen chemistry is very evident.

Although this is not technically a horror film, there are a few gory special effects in the film, and they look pretty good overall. One particularly disturbing scene involves an unborn fetus in a bathtub. While the fetus looks a bit on the fake side, it is certainly realistic enough to be effective and even cause a shudder or two.

The plot and its twist are the main winners here, though. SEPARATION does a stunning turnaround at the end of the film that will leave you gasping. And if you are confused when the twist occurs, do not worry: the minutes following it are used to confirm and solidify what you think is happening.

SEPARATION is a hell of a good film, and I highly recommend giving it a look. It is available now on VOD, so make a note to check it out.

MSB

Movie Review – Wither (2013)

Wither
Directed by Sonny Laguna & Tommy Wiklund
Courtesy of Artsploitation Films
Release Date: August 20, 2013

WITHER_front

If you are any kind of fan of horror, drop whatever it is you’re doing, and go buy WITHER, right now. Seriously. If you’re still reading this, then you must not like good horror. This film is an amazing and visceral genre piece that EVERY horror fan and gore-hound should own. If this flick is any indication of where Swedish horror is headed, then sign me up.

If you are not familiar with WITHER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

This Swedish homage to Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead (1982) is a bloody, scary tale of demonic possession. A group of naive young people find their carefree weekend in an isolated country house unhinged when one of them accidentally unleashes a mysterious and murderous creature trapped in the basement. As the demon begins to attack the couples, the blood-dredged body count mounts and with it, more creatures out for a taste of human flesh, freshly killed. The dazed young men and women soon mount their own desperate counter-attack, an attack that includes decapitations, dismemberment, spurting blood, flailing axes and the kind of gore one does associate with Swedish cinema!

Man, this film blew me away. It is a gore-soaked fright-fest that kept me on the edge of my seat. It is definitely not what I was expecting, but that is such a good thing here. I can’t wait to see what the two directors do next.

WITHER is shot very well and the production value looks high. The acting is good, although the Swedish dialogue did throw me off a bit here and there. The story is intriguing, taken directly (if I understand correctly) from old Swedish folklore. I particularly like this aspect, as it lends a certain credibility to the film.

But what really wins me over with this one is the gore and the special effects. If you are squeamish in the least, do not watch this film. It is a grand-slam of good old fashioned carnage. There’s more gore in this gem of an import than many domestic titles have here at home. It is truly amazing.

I have to admit, too, that I am rather impressed with the homage that WITHER pays to Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD. This is not a remake, nor is it an attempt to outdo Raimi’s classic. This is simply a labor-of-love film that dedicates itself EVIL DEAD’s groundbreaking excellence.

I highly recommend WITHER to any and all horror fans out there. Gore-hounds will love the bloodbath and scare-freaks will love the thrills and chills. The film is available now, so be sure and check it out for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Lords of Salem (2013)

The Lords of Salem
Directed by Rob Zombie
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: September 3, 2013

the-lords-of-salem-blu-ray-cover-09

Rob Zombie has long been a name synonymous with horror, and for very good reason. Any horror fan worth their weight in blood knows that Zombie has given us some terrifying modern-day classics. His latest film, THE LORDS OF SALEM, takes us on a bit of a different ride, although the central horror elements are still present. And while this film is a change from what we are used to seeing from this master of horror, it is still vastly entertaining and worth checking out.

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

From the nightmare mind of writer/director Rob Zombie comes the terrifying story of Salem, Massachusetts radio DJ Heidi LaRoc (Sheri Moon Zombie of THE DEVIL’S REJECTS) who receives a mysterious record labeled “a gift from The Lords”. But when Heidi plays the disc, its bizarre sounds will trigger visions of the town’s depraved past, release the darkness within her own damaged soul, and unleash the long-awaited vengeance of Satan himself. Bruce Davison (WILLARD) and a coven of genre legends co-star in this stunning witchcraft shocker that Beyond Hollywood calls “a full-on piece of satanic madness… THE LORDS OF SALEM is light years away from 99% of modern commercial horror cinema!”

I can’t tell you just how much I was looking forward to this film. Rob Zombie has been one of my favorite horror directors for a decade now, ever since I caught HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES back in 2003. I knew then that Zombie was destined for horror greatness.

THE LORDS OF SALEM is not what I was expecting, but it is an excellent movie nonetheless. I’ve read some reviews that didn’t like it, saying it was way too artistic and not scary enough. I disagree; Rob Zombie brings horror to a new level with this film, blending a skillful concoction of art with horror, much like Argento’s SUSPIRIA or Kubrick’s THE SHINING.

This film is shot well and the acting is superb. I continue to be impressed with Sheri Moon Zombie and her acting ability; I hope to see more of her in the future. Meg Foster, Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, and Patricia Quinn give amazing performances as well, which greatly accents the terrifying situation Moon Zombie’s character finds herself in.

The storyline in THE LORDS OF SALEM is what truly wins me over. The plot is a thick combination of urban lore and history, which does nothing but lend credibility to the movie’s gothic overtones. I do not want to say anymore, because I do not want to ruin anything; this is simply a movie that you must see to appreciate.

THE LORDS OF SALEM is a definite win for me and I highly recommend giving it a look. Fans who already enjoy Rob Zombie’s work should be impressed, and newcomers will definitely want to check out more of his films after seeing this one. Be sure and watch it on Blu-ray, as the HD picture and sound quality are tough to beat. The film is available now.

MSB