Movie Review – No Vacancy (2014)

No Vacancy
Directed by Chris Stokes
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: July 1, 2014

no vacancy

Don’t confuse this title with the Kate Beckinsale/Luke Wilson thriller VACANCY from 2007…the covers look slightly similar, but there is no relation between the two movies. NO VACANCY, an upcoming horror film from Lionsgate, is a film about seven friends who are captured by a group of sadistic killers at a roadside motel and tortured. And despite that simplistic description, there’s more to the story than what is mentioned. But does this movie succeed in entertaining? I guess the answer to that question depends on what you’re looking for.

If you are not familiar with NO VACANCY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

Seven friends on a road trip to Las Vegas are forced to stop at a roadside motel for help when their car breaks down. With no other option, the friends are convinced to spend the night but soon realize that they are trapped and being tortured and killed off one at a time. Now, the friends will need to work together and fight to survive the seemingly helpful group of people who turned their overnight stay into a dreadful, gory nightmare.

The premise of this movie is sound, which is one of the reasons I wanted to like it so much. I mean, who has not had car trouble in the middle of nowhere? That in itself is a scary notion, but throw in some overly friendly ‘helpers’, and you’ve got the potential for a lot of scary situations.

Unfortunately, NO VACANCY never really seems to get off the ground. It looks great and is shot very well…but there’s something big missing. Instead of entertaining and thrilling, I found the film flat and, well, uninteresting for the most part.

I think a big point of dissatisfaction for me is the main characters. They are a snotty and uppity sort, not really likable in any form. So when bad things start to happen to them, I really didn’t feel anything for them. But they’re not so bad that you want them to die. As a result, I didn’t really care one way or the other; my emotion was like “Eh, whatever”.

Also, the story in NO VACANCY is lacking a bit. I liked the opening sequence, with the news report about the fire in the orphanage…but it pretty much broadcasts the big ‘twist’ from the start. From that point on, there’s not a lot of tension that is built up. Obviously, you need a bit of suspense if you want a successful horror flick. Once again, I found myself shrugging my shoulders.

I am going to summarize my review with this: I am simply going to recommend giving this a look for yourself to see how and if you like it. Maybe it just caught me on an off day or something…I don’t know. If you decide to give it a look, hop back over here and leave us a message with your thoughts. Maybe I need to give this one a second chance; but for now, my answer is no.

MSB

Movie Review – Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust
Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Courtesy of Grindhouse Releasing and CAV Distribution
Original Release Date: 1980
3-Disc Special Edition Blu-ray Release Date: July 1, 2014

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I think it’s a well-known fact that I’m a huge horror fan. But even so, there are many ‘classic’ horror flicks out there that I have yet to see. I have to hang my head in shame when I admit CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST was one of those films. I had heard many things about it over the years, and I even came close to renting it on VHS way back in the day…but something always kept me from seeing it. Well, thanks to the fine folks at CAV and Grindhouse Releasing, I finally sat down and watched this film on the special edition 3-disc Blu-ray version…and I am happy to report that all of the hype is true: this is truly a masterpiece of horror cinema!

If you are not familiar with CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the CAV Distribution press release:

THE ONE THAT GOES ALL THE WAY! Banned and heavily censored the world over, here is a film that surpasses its reputation as a shot-gun blast to the senses. CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST presents the “found footage” of a group of four documentary filmmakers who experience brutal death at the hands of a savage South American tribe of flesh-eaters. This footage is so intense, so graphic and so unflinching in its realism that the director and producer of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST were arrested upon its original release and the film seized. Nothing you have seen before will prepare you for this uncompromising masterpiece of cinematic nihilism. Grindhouse Releasing proudly presents the definitive release of the most controversial movie ever made!

You might think this movie would be quite dated since it is 30+ years old. Quite the contrary. Aside from a couple of old hairstyles and the clothing, this film stands the test of time on many levels. And from a horror standpoint, it certainly does! This film is described as ‘the most controversial movie ever made’, and for good reason.

The acting in CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is excellent, especially when you consider director Ruggero Deodato actually used real indigenous tribes in the Amazon as some of his actors. Likewise, the story is enthralling and sucks you in right away. On a side note, this is the first ‘found footage’ film ever made, which gives it even more notoriety in the horror world.

But the brutal depictions of graphic violence and cannibalism are what truly make this film amazing. I appreciate good gore and special effects, but WOW…these are truly astonishing! There is a castration scene that left me gaping in shock, and there are many other visceral aspects that left me speechless. The film’s iconic image of the girl impaled on a large spear is what really makes me shudder; it is truly a testament to a talented production crew.

I cannot find a single flaw with this film, however I will say it won’t be for everyone. I would even bet there are horror fans out there that won’t want to see it. I, on the other hand, loved every minute of it, and I wish I had not waited so long to see it.

This special edition Blu-ray set of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST is a must-own, as it contains a digitally restored original director’s cut of the film, not to mention a large list of extra features. These include:

– 3 Disc Deluxe Edition – 2 Blu-rays + CD
– New hi-definition digital restoration of the original director’s cut
– Spectacular digital stereo re-mix and original mono mix
– 2 feature-length commentary tracks – with director Ruggero Deodato and star Robert Kerman, and with stars Carl Yorke and Francesca Ciardi
– New in-depth interviews with Ruggero Deodato, Francesca Ciardi, assistant director/co-star Salvo Basile (shot in Columbia!) and cameraman Roberto Forges Davazati
– Classic interviews with Robert Kerman, Carl Yorke and Oscar-nominated composer Riz Ortolani
– Extensive still galleries and theatrical trailers from around the world
– BONUS CD- original soundtrack album by Riz Ortolani newly remastered in stunning 24bit/96khz sound from the original studio master tapes
– Glossy 24-page booklet containing liner notes by director Eli Roth, legendary horror journalist Chas. Balun, Euro-music expert Gergely Hubai and Italian exploitation film authority Martin Biene
– Shocking reversible cover with original art by notorious illustrator Rick Melton
– Beautiful embossed slip cover
– 9 Easter eggs! – including the Grindhouse Releasing theatrical re-release premiere and Necrophagia music video directed by Jim VanBebber
– AND OTHER SURPRISES!

If you can stomach the brutality, give this film a look for sure. But be warned: it’s been banned in several countries for a reason! This special edition set arrives on July 1st, so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – Desper Hollow by Elizabeth Massie

Desper Hollow
by Elizabeth Massie
Release Date: June 8, 2013
Publisher: Apex Books

desper hollow

I sometimes catch hell for being a Southerner, whether it be for my accent or my farmer’s tan or whatever. I don’t usually mind, however sometimes it gets annoying; for example, while attending Tulane University in New Orleans back in the fall of 1992, I can’t tell you how many times people looked at my feet to see if I was wearing shoes. Ha ha, right? Not so much. I have to wonder if author Elizabeth Massie ever encountered such jibes because she hails from Virginia. If so, I’ll bet she used it as inspiration for her 2013 book DESPER HOLLOW, a zombie tale set in the backwood mountains of the state. And while you might raise an eyebrow at the premise, I assure you: this is a book you won’t want to miss.

If you are not familiar with DESPER HOLLOW, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of

It begins when hardheaded mountain matriarch Granny Mustard decides she wants to live forever, but then is killed. Her slow-witted but equally hardheaded granddaughter Jenkie decides to pick up the ball and run with it, taking Granny’s unperfected immortality moonshine recipe, a socially-inept friend named Bink, and dreams of fame and fortune to an abandoned trailer up in Desper Hollow.

But slow-witted doesn’t stand against the terrible power Granny initiated. Jenkie’s experiments only worsen the troubles with Granny’s original recipe, bringing dead critters and a few stray folks back to a state of hungry, vicious, mindless animation. Now a stash of the living dead is locked up in the back of the trailer, a howling heard that has Jenkie terrified. And Armistead, one of the red-eyed living dead, seems way too alert for comfort.

Mountain resident Kathy Shaw and Hollywood pitchman Jack Carroll, who is looking for the next hit reality show, find themselves caught up in the growing horror surrounding Desper Hollow. They can’t avoid it and must face it head on. So must Armistead, who fights the fog of his ghastly condition to discover the truth of who he really is.

Zombies never get old for me, and if an author can put them in a unique setting or scenario, even better. So I was immediately intrigued when I read the synopsis for this book. After all, although I live in Arkansas, much of the terrain could pass for Virginia and therefore the book sounded like home.

Massie writes with an easygoing style that allows the reader full immersion into the story. She easily captures the down-home essence of hillbillies and rednecks (I am a redneck, technically, therefore I am qualified to judge) and has no problems conveying mannerisms and even dialect onto the page. Her prose is crisp and clean, but focuses more on telling the story than strict grammatical discipline.

The characters in DESPER HOLLOW are both believable and well thought-out. I particularly like Jenkie, who’s dim-witted idea to follow in Granny Mustard’s footsteps ultimately leads to bad results. Readers can’t help but like her simple objectivity, while at the same time hating her for her bad attitude and gruff exterior. She is not so much an antihero as she is just a plain bitch, but it is fun to read what happens to her nonetheless.

My sole complaint about the book is that it is written in present tense. For some reason, stories written this way are difficult for me to follow. Perhaps my mind is simply overly-trained to read in past tense; I’m not sure. But this was a slight barrier for me and therefore lengthened the time it took to read the book.

That is the only issue I have with DESPER HOLLOW, and it is one that probably won’t affect many other readers at all. Regardless, I highly recommend this horror gem, and I suggest picking a copy of this book ASAP. It is available now in a variety of formats. Give it a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – Blood of the Virgins (1967)

Blood of the Virgins
Directed by Emilio Vieyra
Courtesy of Cheezy Flicks
Original Release Date: 1967
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 17, 2014

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If you like cheesy B movies like me, then you’ll love BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS. This vintage import is Argentina’s very first vampire film, and it shows! The fine folks at Cheezy Flicks have procured a true winner with this film, as it contains all of the aspects that define B movies: bad acting, a mess of a plot, and terrible special effects. But this is one of those films that is so bad, it’s good. Thus, it’s a perfect way to spend an hour of your time!

If you are not familiar with BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cheezy Flicks:

Sometime in 19th century Argentina, the mysterious Gustavo spoils Ofelia’s wedding night by turning her into his vampire bride. Fast forward to the swinging sixties, where a group of hip teenagers foolishly spend the night at an old lodge that is reputed to be haunted. While their leader, Raul, is seduced by Ofelia, Gustavo spirits the groups female contingent away. When one of the girls, Laura, later re-appears on Raul’s hotel room balcony in a state of shock, and displaying clear signs of vampire malaise, Raul sends for her brother, Tito. Tito decides that a return visit to the old lodge is the only way they will discover what is really wrong with Laura.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a truly cheesy flick, so I was definitely due. And this is the perfect film to get back in the swing of things! Chocked full of schlocky goodness, this is one of those films you will love to pick apart.

BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS is not made very well and doesn’t really look that good onscreen. The cinematography is so-so, and the locations used for the film don’t make a lot of sense. For example, the 19th century house looks more like a modern day suburban beach house. I understand budget constraints, but the crew could have put a bit more effort into their location search. That’s part of what makes the film fun, though…there’s plenty to roll your eyes at here.

The title might be a bit off, too. The girls in the film are NOT virgins, which is pretty evident with the way they act early on; at one point, the girls are dancing with their guys in a bar…and then proceed to strip as they boogie. Yup, they take their clothes off, even with other patrons there. Would a virginal person do something like that? I don’t think so.

The vampire effects are painful to endure. The ‘fangs’ look like they are made out of paper, and the eye makeup is ridiculous. Add these attributes to the fact that they wear typical old-school Count Dracula style clothes, and you can definitely see TRUE BLOOD is a far cry from these folks.

But for all of its faults, BLOOD OF THE VIRGINS is so much fun. It’s just too bad not to like! If you take the film for what it is, then you’ll love it. But don’t expect too much or you will be disappointed. I recommend this one to anyone looking for vintage, schlocky fun. It is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Blood Widow (2014)

Blood Widow
Directed by Jeremiah Buckhalt
Courtesy of Midnight Releasing
Release Date: June 3, 2014

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the woods…a new slasher-flick shows up to set you straight! And what an arrival this film makes! BLOOD WIDOW is a new entry into this favored horror sub-genre, and it is definitely a title to remember. Director Jeremiah Buckhalt takes some cues from class slashers of the past, and the result is a horrifying ride into a blood-soaked nightmare!

If you are not familiar with BLOOD WIDOW, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Midnight Releasing:

After buying a nice house in the country, Laurie and Hugh, a successful young couple, throw a party for their friends. During the wild night a few friends decide to explore the abandoned and decaying boarding school next door, only to wake an emotionally broken killer: The Blood Widow.

I wanted to watch this movie the instant I saw the poster; the cold, masked visage of the killer stands out like a lighthouse in the fog, and the image grabs hold of you with a vice-like grip. A picture like this is definitely a nice draw for a horror flick.

BLOOD WIDOW might be a lower-budget film, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. It is shot well and looks good onscreen. I particularly like how the production crew makes the killer’s basement so foreboding. This is not an easy task to accomplish, but they pull it off with ease.

The acting is pretty good, about what I was expecting. No single character steals the show, with the exception of the Blood Widow herself, who is portrayed by Gabrielle Ann Henry. She does a phenomenal job of creating an icy persona behind which the killer resides. Her mannerisms are creepy and remind me of Jason in the early FRIDAY THE 13TH films.

The special effects in BLOOD WIDOW are a big winner as well. There’s a surprising amount of gore, and it is well done. There’s some nice limb-lopping scenes and even a hefty disembowelment which doesn’t leave much to the imagination! Gore is a definite must-have in a slasher, and this film delivers.

My sole complaint about the film is that some of the characters seem dumber than your average horror-flick cast. Meaning, they do things that a normal person probably wouldn’t do. I don’t want to give examples, because I don’t want to give anything in the film away, but if you watch the film you’re sure to see what I mean.

Even so, BLOOD WIDOW is a lot of fun and very entertaining. I would even love to see a sequel to this film; that is saying something because I don’t normally look forward to follow-ups. I highly recommend this film to horror fans. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – The Ninth Configuration by William Peter Blatty

The Ninth Configuration
by William Peter Blatty
Original Release Date: 1978
Re-release Date: April 29, 2014
Publisher: Tor

The Ninth

I am chagrinned to admit I have never read nor seen THE EXORCIST, which is the title most people know William Peter Blatty for. I consistently see it at the top of Best Horror lists, for both book and movie form, therefore I consider that reason enough to dub the man a horror icon. As such, when the fine folks at Tor reached out to see if I was interested in reviewing another of his books, THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, I jumped at the chance. After all, what horror fan wouldn’t? I’m so glad I did; this is an excellent read, and it is one you don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy.

If you are not familiar with THE NINTH CONFIGURATION, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Tor Books:

Hidden away in a brooding Gothic manor in the deep woods is Center Eighteen, a secret military “rest camp” currently housing twenty-seven inmates, all officers who have succumbed to a sudden outbreak of mental illness. Have the men truly lost their minds, are they only pretending to be insane to avoid combat, or is some more sinister conspiracy at work?

Desperate for answers, the Pentagon has placed a brilliant Marine psychiatrist in charge of the base and its deranged occupants. A man of deep faith and compassion, Colonel Kane hopes to uncover the root of the men’s bizarre obsessions. But as Center Eighteen descends into chaos, Kane finds the greatest challenge may be his own buried demons…

A stunning meditation on God’s existence that was the basis of an acclaimed Golden Globe award-winning 1980 film (also known as Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane), William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration is a thought-provoking, blackly comic journey into the heart of madness–and the outer limits of belief.

I was spellbound by this book from the onset. The way Peter Blatty writes is a bit different from traditional authors, but it drew me in and captivated me through the whole book. And while the story might sound dated (the book is almost 40 years old), its concepts stand the test of time.

THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is written very well, with a flow and rhythm that grants full immersion into the story. I am surprised at how much depth is injected into the story, given the fact that it is only 170 pages in length. This is a true testament to the talents of the author.

The characters are vibrant and, in some cases, larger than life, thanks to the mental illness that plagues them. Peter Blatty gives each a distinct voice that carries through the story. The reader likes them for who they used to be, but also enjoys them for who (and what) they are now. As such, this gives readers a reason to be invested in the plot.

I particularly enjoyed the twist that occurs towards the end. I won’t give anything away, but I will confess I certainly did not see it coming. And while the ending is a bit open-ended, there are many different conclusions that could be drawn from it. This is one of those books that prompts discussion for many years after it is read.

THE NINTH CONFIGURATION is a fantastic book, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for something different. You don’t have to be a horror fan to enjoy this one, so make a note to give it a look. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Bloody Moon (1981)

Bloody Moon
Directed by Jesus Franco
Courtesy of Severin Films
Original Release Date: 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: July 8, 2014

bloody-moon-blu-ray

If you’re any kind of film fan of the 1970s and/or 1980s, chances are you know the name ‘Jess Franco’. Dubbed by many as the ‘King of Euro-Sleaze’, Franco has made many movies, both good and terrible. BLOODY MOON is his foray into slasher flicks, and for its time, it certainly does not disappoint. There’s plenty of blood, some very nice gore, and a decent body count; the result is a classic slasher that every horror fan should own.

If you are not familiar with BLOODY MOON, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films:

As the body-count genre stabbed its way into audiences hearts in the early 80s, EuroTrash auteur Jess Franco (Sadomania, Mansion Of The Living Dead) was asked to create his own saga of slaughtered schoolgirls complete with gratuitous nudity, graphic violence, and gory set pieces. But just when you thought you’d seen it all, Franco shocked the world by delivering surprising style, genuine suspense and a cavalcade of depravity that includes incest, voyeurism and roller disco. The luscious Olivia Pascal of Vanessa fame stars in this twisted thriller that was banned in England yet is now presented uncut and uncensored including the complete ‘stone mill power saw’ sequence for the first time ever in America!

I had not seen this prior to getting it on Blu-ray, but I’m glad I was able to watch it in HD. I’ve read comments about previous versions in different formats that had grainy pictures, poor sound, and even skips. Not to mention others were edited so badly the story made no sense. But this is the complete, uncut version with a great picture and great sound. This is the way you want to watch movies.

BLOODY MOON is shot pretty well overall. There are a few camera angles that made me scratch my head, but I do like how the cinematographer lets the audience look through the killer’s eyes frequently. To me, this heightens the suspense and makes me even more curious as to who it is.

The story is a nice mystery thriller that adds family drama to the slasher aspect. I am not giving anything away here by describing it this way, because you probably won’t be able to tell who the killer is before the big reveal. I sure didn’t see it coming, although thinking back, I feel like maybe I should have. Still, it’s a nice surprise and made me grin.

The gore in BLOODY MOON is top notch. I have to give props to Franco for attempting to show what he does in this film. Granted, the special effects are a bit dated (you’ll see what I mean when you watch them), but they still look great onscreen. I particularly like the ‘stone mill power saw’ decapitation. Although you can tell from a point that it is fake, it still looks phenomenal. I backed up the scene a couple of times and rewatched it again.

BLOODY MOON won’t be for everyone, but if you like vintage horror, then this is a Must See. Be sure and check it out on Blu-ray so you can enjoy the enhanced picture and sound; it’s definitely the way to watch this one. The film hits store shelves in a couple of weeks, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – Kill Zombie! (2014)

Kill Zombie!
Directed by Martijn Smits & Erwin van den Eshof
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: June 10, 2014

Kill-Zombie-Bluray

I can honestly say I never expected to review a zombie movie that came from the Netherlands, especially a zombie-comedy. This is not a knock against the Dutch…it’s just that zombies and certain countries aren’t thought about together. But regardless of what I think about its origins, KILL ZOMBIE! is a hilarious horror-comedy that fans of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL will love.

If you are not familiar with KILL ZOMBIE!, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

A Russian Space station crashes in Amsterdam, releasing a deadly virus that turns everyday citizens into flesh-craving psychopaths. Aziz (Yahya Gaier), his brother Mo (Ouled Radi) and several strangers emerge from jail, oblivious to the mayhem until they team up with a local police officer (Gigi Ravelli). After receiving a desperate call for help, this unlikely band of heroes sets out on an insane rescue mission – and it’s going to take a seriously crazy plan if they want to get out alive…

If this movie is any indication of what the Dutch can do in terms of horror and/or comedy, then sign me up. I laughed so hard at parts of this film that I had to pause it so I could catch my breath. But it’s chocked full of gore, too, which is cause for a definite thumbs-up here.

KILL ZOMBIE! is an all around joy. The production value looks high, the acting is top notch, and the special effects are well done. Not to mention the laughs; there’s plenty of them to go around, and they can be found in the unlikeliest of places.

I like the entire cast of this film, and the best part is that there are several ‘main’ characters in it. As a result, there’s not a single person trying to dole out all of the funny; this makes the comedy more effective, as it gives several venues for laughs.

The special effects in KILL ZOMBIE! are really good as well. Many of the splatter-shots and zombie kills are CG, but the graphics look great and do not appear cheap. Likewise, there’s plenty of actual gore to go around as well.

KILL ZOMBIE! is a heck of a film, and I suggest you give it a look. Be warned, however: there is not an English dub-over, so you will have to read the subtitles. But I didn’t have a problem at all with doing so, and I enjoyed every bit of the movie. Check it out for sure when it hits store shelves next week.

MSB

Book Review – Ebon Moon by Dennis McDonald

Ebon Moon
by Dennis McDonald
Release Date: February 9, 2014
Publisher: Self-published

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I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I read a werewolf novel. I’ve done plenty of zombies and basic horror recently…but lycanthrope-themed book titles escape me at the moment. Regardless, I’m pretty sure it’s been quite a while. So when I met author Dennis McDonald at Texas Frightmare Weekend, he was kind enough to give me a review copy of his werewolf tale, EBON MOON. And thankfully, McDonald offers up a book of terror that will satiate even the most savage of bestial readers.

If you are not familiar with EBON MOON, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the author’s website:

Seeking to escape her psychopathic husband, Jessica Lobato flees Chicago with her five-year-old daughter Megan. They hide in the small town of Hope Springs, Oklahoma, and rent a trailer house out in the country. Little does she know that this small town has a dark secret. One that comes out when the moon is full. A pack of werewolves hides amongst the populace and is secretly killing selected people to satisfy their hunger. The pack has now targeted Jessica’s daughter, Megan, to be eaten during the upcoming full eclipse of the moon. A tense, bestial novel of lycanthrope horror the way a werewolf novel should be.

Do not be dissuaded by the fact this is a self-published book. It looks professional and has been extensively edited for grammar and spelling. I believe I only found one misspelling and one omitted word; from a self-publishing standpoint, that is truly awesome.

EBON MOON is written well and flows at a nice, even pace. The book measures in at almost 350 pages, but it is so immersive that they fly by; I was done reading it before I realized it. McDonald writes with a simple but effective style that shows more than it tells, and the result is a quick read that satisfies.

The characters are solid and believable, and I particularly like how the author chose a battered woman running from an abusive husband as the main character; we, as the reader, sympathize with her plight and therefore take a vested interest in what happens to her. Not to mention the fact that it’s always nice to see what happens to these abusers when they finally get their comeuppance.

The plot of EBON MOON is a big win as well. McDonald weaves together a detailed story that criss-crosses the lives of several people within the small town. These interactions and how the characters intersect in the wake of a series of gruesome murders help bring the story to life. Many times during the read, I felt like I was there with the characters, adding my own spark to an already intriguing story.

But the werewolves win the gold star for this book. I really like how McDonald makes them simple people who are not afraid of what they really are. Granted, they have to ‘hide’ in human form in order to survive, but they never apologize for their nature, nor do they lament about it. This gritty, realistic take on lycanthrope is a big part of what makes this book so good.

EBON MOON is a huge win for me, and I recommend giving it a look. This book is a nice, refreshing dose of horror that reminds us to beware when the moon is full. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons (2014)

Journey to the West
Directed by Stephen Chow
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: May 27, 2014

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If you’ve never experienced a Stephen Chow movie, then you are truly missing out. Chow has a knack for combining drama with zany comedy while throwing in some nifty martial-arts action alongside. This might sound like a common combination in today’s movie place, but I assure you: Chow’s movies take these genres to the next level. JOURNEY TO THE WEST is his latest release, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have his previous films, it’s still a heck of a good time and worth checking out.

If you are not familiar with JOURNEY TO THE WEST, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

In a world plagued by demons who cause great human suffering, young demon hunter Xuan Zang risks his all to conquer a water demon, a pig demon and the demon of all demons, Sun Wukong. Adhering to his firm belief in giving of one’s self for the greater cause, he embraces the demons as his disciples. However, in order to atone for their own sins and save the common people, the four of them must embark on a journey to the West that’s full of challenges.

Some reviewers have called Chow ‘visionary’, and I can see why. His directing technique is definitely unique, and the way he tells stories is visceral compared to many. But he is also an acquired taste; some viewers will not like his over-the-top style.

JOURNEY TO THE WEST is shot well and has the same flamboyant flare as Chow’s previous films. Visually, the movie is a feast for the eyes; Chow likes to use CG for backdrops and even showpieces, and as a result, the audience gets an aesthetic overload. This movie does not disappoint at all in this aspect.

The acting is a bit below par for what I would expect from a Chow-caliber movie. There were really no performances that stood out, and a couple of the characters were even a bit annoying (The Monkey King, in particular). This could be in part due to the horrible dub-over that was used for the English version. I’ve heard some bad ones in my time, but wow…this was one of the worst. I would recommend watching this film in its native language.

The special effects are good for the most part, however I feel I have to voice my displeasure of The Monkey King once again, but this time about his make-up. I’ve seen Halloween masks that look more realistic. I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it didn’t work for me.

Still, with those complaints aside, JOURNEY TO THE WEST is a fun film, and fans of Chow’s work should be pleased. I liked it for the most part, and I recommend giving it a look so as to decide for yourself. This is definitely one of those films that will prompt conversation afterwards, so make sure you come back here and let us know what you think after you watch it. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB