Book Review – For the Night is Dark (2013)

For the Night is Dark
Edited by Ross Warren
Release Date: March 28, 2013
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing

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Hold on to your weapon of choice, and pull those covers up tight! The fine folks over at Crystal Lake Publishing have unleashed a dark anthology that is sure to scare you. Chocked full of talented authors and unique tales, FOR THE NIGHT IS DARK is a horror collection that any fan of frightful fiction must own.

If you are not familiar with FOR THE NIGHT IS DARK, here is the synopsis courtesy of Crystal Lake Publishing:

The Dark is coming! Call your friends over. You don’t want to go through this alone. You will be taken back into the past, down to the depths of the ocean and across the borderline between our world and the next. You will see snapshots from the lives of small children, old-time cockney gangsters and aimless stoners. You will journey into the darkest house on the darkest street, wander hospital basements and take a flight in the comfort of first class. You will meet Mr Stix. This tome includes stories by some of the best horror writers around: G. N. Braun, Carole Johnstone, Armand Rosamilia, Daniel I. Russell, Scott Nicholson, Gary McMahon, Joe Mynhardt, Kevin Lucia, Tracie McBride, Stephen Bacon, Benedict J. Jones, Blaze McRob, John Claude Smith, Tonia Brown, Mark West, Robert W. Walker, Jeremy C. Shipp, Jasper Bark, William Meikle and Ray Cluley. Are you scared of the dark? You will be.

I have to confess that I had never heard of Crystal Lake Publishing prior to getting their e-mail. But I’m sure glad they reached out to me. If this anthology is any indication of the talent levels they publish, I’m definitely going to keep my eyes out for the other titles they release.

FOR THE NIGHT IS DARK is a fantastic mix of horror in a variety of sub-genres. Ghosts, monsters, things of an unknown origin…there’s plenty of terrifying aspects here, and something for every horror fan.

Each story is written well, and each has its own, distinctive voice. Yet they all strive for the same goal: to scare the crap out of you. I admit freely that I enjoyed every story in this collection, which is not a common occurrence for me when it comes to anthologies. Sometimes, only a handful of stories stick out…but here, they all do.

One of my favorite tales in FOR THE NIGHT IS DARK is “Mr. Stix” by Mark West. In this story, a simple, crudely made puppet turns one family’s existence into a nightmare. But all is not what it seems…

Another favorite is “Eternal Darkness” by Blaze McRob. This vivid tale describes a man’s fight with his worst fear: the darkness. But the shadows in this pitch are not tricks of light…they are something far more sinister.

FOR THE NIGHT IS DARK is an excellent anthology, and I highly recommend giving it a look. Every fan of horror fiction must own a copy, so get yours today. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Red Clover (2013)

Red Clover
(a.k.a. Leprechaun’s Revenge)
Directed by Drew Daywalt
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: October 22, 2013

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Have you ever seen a company do something so out of character that you wondered what the true motives behind the action were? I am wondering that very thing in regard to why Lionsgate picked up RED CLOVER to distribute. I have seen some really bad movies in my time, but RED CLOVER ranks way up towards the top of the list.

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

Sixty-six years ago, the town of Irish Channel in Louisiana was the site of a horrible massacre on St. Patrick’s Day. While some blame a terrible storm that blew through the town, there are those that don’t talk about what really happened. Since the massacre, St. Patrick’s Day festivities in town were banned, but now the Mayor believes that it is finally time to celebrate. Those facing the ire of this little Irish Hellraiser terrorizing Cajun country include Billy Zane (TITANIC), Wiliam Devane (“24”), Kelly Washington, Courtney Halverston (“Death Valley”), Azure Parsons (“Death Valley”), Matty Ferraro (“The Liar”), and actor-stuntman Kevin Mangold.

The first glaring error to me about this film is that the plot synopsis pretty much has nothing to do with the movie. The town in which the film is set is not Irish Channel, nor is it in Louisiana. It’s actually a town called Kenning in Massachusetts. There’s never a mention of a massacre or a storm, nor is there any talk about St. Patrick’s Day festivities being banned. So, pretty much omit the synopsis above. The film is about an evil leprechaun that curses a girl and then kills all of her friends.

Yup, that’s pretty much it. Why is she cursed? I don’t know…the film never says. But she has a clover burned into her palm and the leprechaun hunts her for unknown reasons, although he doesn’t kill her when he catches her and instead decides to hunt down other townsfolk. Make sense? Nope, not to me, either.

RED CLOVER is shot well, although that is one of only two positive points about the film. The second is the gore; while not excellent, it is still well done and looks good onscreen. But those two positives certainly cannot save this masterpiece of a mess.

One aspect that bugged me the most is the dialogue. It is atrocious. At one point, one of the characters talks about “pimp-slapping that leprechaun” until it’s dead. I don’t know if it was a serious comment or an attempt to inject humor into the scene, but it did not work either way. It actually made me angry.

Another big negative for me is when the leprechaun actually gets into a guy’s car and runs him over with it to kill him. Keep in mind the creature looks like Pumpkinhead, so imagine it behind the wheel of a car. Driving. To run over someone. Then it puts the car in reverse and backs up.

REALLY?? Are you serious? A hideous creature with fangs and claws that has been disemboweling and dismembering people decides to drive a car to kill someone? I almost shut the movie off at this point but instead I drudged on.

For the past decade, Lionsgate has pumped out a massive list of hit titles, and they still continue to do so. But I seriously cannot believe they put their name on this one; RED CLOVER is not worth watching, even when it was on the Syfy Channel. As much as I wanted to like it, I cannot recommend it at all. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good.

The movie hits shelves next week if you want to give it a look.

MSB

Book Review – The Jack in the Green by Frazer Lee (2013)

The Jack in the Green
by Frazer Lee
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

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When I first read the title for THE JACK IN THE GREEN, I did a double-take; it didn’t roll off my tongue correctly and my mind interpreted it as ‘the jacked-in green’. Obviously, that threw me for a loop, but I recovered quickly and launched into the book with fervor. While this is not one of my favorite Samhain titles, it is a solid book with an intriguing storyline and vivid characters.

If you are not familiar with THE JACK IN THE GREEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

A nightmare made real.

On Christmas Eve, six year-old Tom McRae witnessed an unspeakable atrocity that left him orphaned, his childhood in tatters. Now in his mid-thirties, Tom still has terrifying nightmares of that night. When Tom is sent to the remote Scottish village of Douglass to negotiate a land grab for his employer it seems like a golden opportunity for him to start over. But Tom can’t help feeling he’s been to Douglass before, and the terrible dreams from his childhood have begun to spill over into his waking life. As murderous events unfold and Tom’s feverish nightmares escalate, he will discover the hideous truth behind the villagers’ strange pagan ritual of The Jack in the Green.

I really enjoy horror novels that are set in other countries. I suppose this is because I love to travel, and I’ve only had the opportunity to venture out-of-country once in my lifetime. When novelists write stories set in other lands, they usually do a good job of bringing the culture and heritage of these places to life on the page. As a result, this helps to slake my thirst for adventure.

THE JACK IN THE GREEN is written well and the prose stands out for its simplicity. Author Frazer Lee does a great job of letting the story tell itself, however I feel like some of the descriptions were overly-done and could have been toned down a bit. This is a minor complaint, but one I feel worth mentioning.

The characterizations in the book are excellent. Tom McRae is a damaged yet likable soul, which allows the reader to actually care about what happens to him. But although damaged, he is still a strong lead and therefore entertaining. I particularly like the villagers as well; they are a diverse but believable bunch and helped to set a nice small-town feel for the locale.

My primary issue with THE JACK IN THE GREEN is the ending. There is a twist that happens late in the book that is supposed to surprise and shock, however it doesn’t work for me for some reason. I think maybe it’s too outlandish for my tastes. I will not divulge any specifics so as not to ruin the surprise, but I have to admit that it feels like a twist put in just for the sake of having one.

Still, THE JACK IN THE GREEN is a great read and definitely worth checking out. And, who knows? Maybe I’m way off on the twist. You should read this one and get back to me to let me know what you think. Maybe, for once in my life, I’m actually wrong.

THE JACK IN THE GREEN is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Nothing Left to Fear (2013)

Nothing Left to Fear
Directed by Anthony Leonardi III
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: October 8, 2013

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I had no idea Slash from Guns ‘N Roses had started a production company until I received his first release in the mail last week. This film, NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR, intrigued me from the start, especially when it mentioned Stull, Kansas. The urban legends around Stull have fascinated me for a long time, and this newest addition to the canon is a welcome one. The film itself is a great debut, and any horror fan should be proud to have it in their collection.

If you are not familiar with NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay:

Wendy, her husband Dan, and their kids have just moved to the small town of Stull, Kansas, where Dan is the new pastor. But in this sleepy community of friendly neighbors, a horrific series of occurrences awaits them. Their teenage daughter is being tormented by grisly visions. Her younger sister has been marked for a depraved ritual. And deep within the heartland darkness, one of The Seven Gates Of Hell demands the blood of the innocent to unleash the creatures of the damned. Ethan Peck and Clancy Brown co-star in this demonic shocker featuring original music by producer Slash and inspired by the real-life paranormal legacy of Stull.

I love the simplicity of the story in this film. I think that’s part of what makes the movie so creepy to me; granted, it’s a somewhat familiar storyline, but there are enough unique elements here to garner your attention.

NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR is shot well and has a truly creepy feel to it. This feeling conveys well onscreen and transfers quickly to the audience. I particularly like the locale in which the film is shot; it is not Stull, but rather a small town in Louisiana. The any-town USA vibe that it gives off, however, cannot be ignored.

The acting is good and the special effects are nice, although there were way too many CG effects and not enough practical. Still, the CG looks good and is effective to an extent. My sole complaint is that the film could have been so much more gorier. In the Behind the Scenes feature, Slash admits that he went for more psychological terror over gore…but I think some more carnage would have been fun.

NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR is a hell of a debut movie and I recommend giving it a shot. The film hits store shelves today, so make a note to check it out.

MSB

Movie Review – Europa Report (2013)

Europa Report
Directed by Sebastian Cordero
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: October 8, 2013

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I’ve seen only a handful of movies over the years that have blown me away. Most of those are now labeled as ‘classics’ in the world of film, and rightfully so; the films in that category are just as visually brilliant as they are in dramatic appeal. I’m proud to announce EUROPA REPORT should be added to that canon of titles. This is an amazing film and is a Must See of 2013!

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

When unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean could exist underneath Europa’s icy surface and may contain single-celled life, Europa Ventures, a privately funded space exploration company, sends six of the best astronauts from around the world to confirm the data and explore the revolutionary discovery. After a near-catastrophic technical failure that leads to loss of communication with Earth and the tragic death of a crew member, the surviving astronauts must overcome the psychological and physical toll of deep space travel, and survive a discovery on Europa more profound than they had ever imagined.

One of the aspects that impresses me the most about this film is the attention to actual scientific detail. The premise of an ocean existing under the ice layer is one that NASA has recently speculated upon and, like one of the scientists in the film states, we (as a species) have always found life where we have found water. This makes for interesting speculative science and excellent science-fiction.

EUROPA REPORT is shot very well and looks visually stunning onscreen. The CG is integrated flawlessly into the film, giving it a huge boost of credibility and allowing the audience full immersion into the tension. With broad, vivid depictions of the ship and the planets themselves, the imagery of the film is half the reason to watch it.

The taut premise is the other half. There’s plenty of drama to go around in the film, and it starts pretty much from the opening scenes. Director Sebastian Cordero does a masterful job of blending current story with backstory, and the result is a well thought-out and tightly knit plot. It never once lags nor strays from where it should go.

I LOVED the ending of EUROPA REPORT, and I think it fits perfectly into the film. I’ve read other reviews from folks that said they didn’t like it, but maybe they didn’t understand it. For me, it sealed the deal on this epic picture.

EUROPA REPORT is an amazing spectacle, and I highly recommend it. Be sure and check it out on Blu-ray to take advantage of the beautiful planetscapes and in-depth details. There are also a couple of nice Special Features to go along with it, including a behind-the-scenes look at the visual effects.

The film hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note to give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Unsolved (2009)

Unsolved
Directed by Lance McDaniel
Courtesy of MVD Entertainment Group
Release Date: September 17, 2013

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There are many low-budget horror flicks out in the market today, but some of them simply do not have heart. Sure, these duds try to scare and make you jump, but most of them come across as flat and lifeless, as if the film crew got together and decided to make a movie on a weekend whim. I’m very happy to report MVD’s recent release UNSOLVED does not fit into that category. Although it is a low budget film, it has more heart than some big budget pictures, and it entertains more so as well.

If you are not familiar with UNSOLVED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Entertainment:

Fifteen years after an on campus murder, students re-open the case for a class and uncover a truth more horrifying and closer to home than they ever imagined.

It might interest you to know that this film was shot and produced by the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. This is significant for me because that’s only three hours away from where I live. Not to mention the fact that this film is fun and well made for a school film.

UNSOLVED is shot well for a low-budget picture and looks good overall. The acting is not too great, but you can’t expect too much in a production situation like this. The script is pretty well written, and the story is pretty good, although I pegged the killer about halfway through the film.

There are not many special effects in the film, but those we do see are pretty good. We basically get some nice blood splatters here and there when the killer strikes. Still, many low-budget films use cheap looking blood effects; not so here. The blood looks good and thick in this film, adding a depth of realism to it.

I recommend UNSOLVED to those of you who enjoy good, cheap horror. You can tell the production team put their hearts and souls into this film, and it shows onscreen. I can’t wait to see what these guys do next.

MSB

Graphic Novel Review – Monster Massacre volume 1

Monster Massacre Volume 1
Edited by Dave Elliott
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Titan Comics

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Are you a fan of graphic novels and/or comic books? If so, get ready to be blown away! Titan Comics has released the first volume in a series that will be a must-own for any fan or collector. MONSTER MASSACRE VOLUME 1 has a little something for everyone, whether you like horror, science-fiction or fantasy. And trust me when I say: you will definitely want to collect the rest in this series when they are published.

If you are not familiar with MONSTER MASSACRE VOLUME 1, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Titan Comics:

The greatest talents from around the world come together to show you how much fun creating comics can be! Monster Massacre is an exciting new graphic anthology series for fans of science fiction, fantasy, big monsters and all-out adventure! It’s also an introduction to a Who’s Who of comics talent: past, present and future! From all around the world, the greatest comic talents are given full and free rein to explore the universe, in all its monstrous beauty, horror and excitement! No matter your tastes in science fiction and fantasy, you’ll find something here to love.

If you’re looking for a variety of stories in a range of genres, then this collection is certainly for you. Granted, they all deal with monsters in some form or fashion, but I don’t think I would label them all as ‘horror’. Regardless of how you classify them, you will find showcased in these stories some of the best comic talent in the world.

Each comic is written well and inked with great care and detail. It’s very interesting to see the wide variety of artistic styles put forth here, and this collection gives a greater respect for everything that is available to readers nowadays.

My favorite piece in MONSTER MASSACRE VOLUME 1 is “Deep Six” by Jerry Paris and Arthur Suydam. This is a sea-based story that features a wicked and unique creature with a lot of underwater mayhem. The storytelling is crisp and the artwork looks great. Can’t ask for much more out of a comic.

MONSTER MASSACRE VOLUME 1 is a huge win for me, and I can’t wait to see the next volume. This one is available now, so grab your copy today.

MSB