Book Review – The Family Tree by John Everson

The Family Tree
by John Everson
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

The Family Tree

Last year, I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing author John Everson’s book VIOLET EYES (click here to read the review). I said in my review, “I absolutely loved this book and am proud to boast that it has moved into my Top 5 Horror Novels of 2013”. Well, here we are, a year later, and I’m proud to say Everson has published yet another horror masterpiece that is in my top five for this year. A haunting and original book, THE FAMILY TREE is a creepy tale of family heritage and devotion that you won’t soon forget.

If you are not familiar with THE FAMILY TREE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

The blood of the tree is its sap. It has sustained Scott Belvedere’s family for generations. It’s the secret ingredient behind the family’s intoxicating ale and bourbon, among other elixirs. But only when Scott inherits The Family Tree Inn, deep in the hills of Virginia, does he learn anything about his family, its symbiotic history, or the mammoth, ancient tree around which the inn is literally built. And after he stumbles upon the bony secrets hidden in its roots, while in the welcoming arms of the innkeeper’s daughter, he realizes that not only is blood thicker than water—it’s the only thing that might save him from the hideous fate of his ancestors…

As I’ve said about Brian Moreland and Hunter Shea, I would love to also dig around in Everson’s mind to see where he gets his ideas. The concept behind this book is very unique, and I am very interested to find out where it came from.

THE FAMILY TREE is written well and moves with a smooth, fluid fashion. The story is intriguing and keeps you curious about what happens next as the plot unfolds. Once I started reading this book, I found it very hard to put down. As such, I finished it in only two days.

The characters are vivid and real. Everson does a great job of fleshing them out in detail, even going so far as to write in dialogue with the down-home dialect of true Virginians. I always enjoy when a writer can inject a nice dose of realism with true-to-region accents; Everson nails this backwoodsy, almost Southern local speech right on the head.

But the story itself is the big winner for me with THE FAMILY TREE. I greatly enjoyed its originality, along with the mythology that is created for it. The mystery of the plot unfolds with masterful precision, and the horror it presents will make you question the dedication you have to your own family.

THE FAMILY TREE is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to see what Everson does next, but chances are he will continue to impress. Samhain has a true talent on their hands with this author. Give him and this book a look at all costs. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – The Devil Incarnate (2014)

The Devil Incarnate
Directed by L. Gustavo Cooper
Courtesy of Image Entertainment & RLJ Entertainment
Release Date: October 7, 2014

The-Devil-Incarnate

Hollywood and indie filmmakers seem to be following a recent trend of possessed pregnancy films. This might have come about when the remake of ROSEMARY’S BABY was announced. Regardless of where it came from, I’m onboard for the most part. I like many of these films, those that are well done and provide some nice scares. But unfortunately, for every good one, there are several bad ones as well. THE DEVIL INCARNATE, however, puts me in a weird position. The film is not great, but it’s not really terrible, either. It’s a middle-ground demon-flick that some viewers will like, but many will hate. As a result, I am on the fence myself about it.

If you are not familiar with THE DEVIL INCARNATE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Image Entertainment:

The future looks bright for newlyweds Trevor and Holly, but their dreams are about to devolve into a nightmare of unspeakable terror. On a random visit to a tarot reader, they encounter a mysterious old woman who tells them that Holly is pregnant. As the child grows within her, Holly begins to exhibit increasingly bizarre and violent behavior. Soon, their joy is overshadowed by a mounting sense of dread that something sinister lurks within her womb. Desperate to save his wife and unborn child, Trevor searches for answers and discovers Holly may have fallen prey to an ancient curse spawned by an evil demon with an insatiable lust for blood.

Despite the movie’s shortcomings, I definitely think this film should win the award for Best DVD Cover of 2014. There’s something about the image that disturbs me greatly, and I’m not sure why. This unease is an excellent way to promote a film in my opinion, as it almost forces you to watch it.

THE DEVIL INCARNATE is shot well, switching between first-person POV and standard, third-person film shots. I like the difference in perspectives for this film because the first-person angles allow for a deeper, more intense immersion into what’s playing out onscreen. I haven’t seen many films do this before, primarily because it is a difficult concept to pull off, but it works here.

The acting is pretty good overall. I like Graci Carli’s performance as Holly, and Emily Rogers shines as Marissa…however, there are no exceptional displays of acting. The cast as a whole simply seemed to mesh well.

I was disappointed to discover there were no big special effects shots in THE DEVIL INCARNATE, other than a few spots of blood. Given the nature of the film, I was hoping for some decent demonic scenes or even a few spatterings of gore. Unfortunately, we get zilch.

The story is where I found the biggest problems, though. Most of the film is good, specifically the first and second acts. There’s an interesting story about ‘the curse’ at the front of the film, and then a lot of buildup as eerie things begin to happen with Holly. But when things reach a head towards the end, the plot fizzles before it falls apart completely. The viewer is left with a head-scratching ending that arrives abruptly and makes no sense. Up until that point, I was actually going to recommend this film. However, after seeing the way the film ends, I’m not sure I’m going to do that.

I suppose I will just conclude this review by saying THE DEVIL INCARNATE has a lot of potential, but it might leave you angry with the way it falls short. This is one of those ‘watch-it-because-YOU-might-like-it’ sorta titles. It is available now in a variety of formats if you want to give it a chance.

MSB

Movie Review – The Dead and the Damned 2 (2014)

The Dead and the Damned 2
Directed by Rene Perez
Courtesy of Inception Media Group
Release Date: October 7, 2014

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When I first heard a sequel was in the works for THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED, I got excited. I reviewed the first film here a couple of years ago (prior to The Big Blog Crash), and I really enjoyed it. The concept of zombies in the Old West is not a new one, but director Rene Perez offered an entertaining jaunt nonetheless. So obviously, when the sequel came out, I was expecting another foray into the past. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got. Instead, this film fast-forwards to the modern age, where a zombie apocalypse has overtaken the planet. And although this movie is pretty decent overall, I don’t think I would have called it a sequel.

If you are not familiar with THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED 2, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Inception Media Group:

From the director of THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED comes a high octane sequel. In a savage land where zombies roam freely, Lieutenant Colonel Sawyer is armed with machine-guns, body armor, and courage. He is on a mission to give his family a burial at sea. To reach the coast, he much enter a quarantined infected zone and fight through hordes of bloodthirsty zombies. There he encounters a group of survivors, including a young woman who is a target of both the male survivors and the ravenous zombies. To protect the last non-infected human and complete his mission, Colonel Sawyer must face the dead, the damned, and the darkness.

First off, I have to state that I did enjoy this film. It is fun, well made for a low-budget flick, and it has a lot of heart. But I have to follow up my statement with a big “However…”. I liked it, however I was disappointed with it as a sequel. If it had been a stand-alone film, I would have enjoyed it much more. Aside from a brief ‘explanation’ towards the end of the film, it has nothing to do with the first. Even more confusing is the DVD artwork on the front, which shows a zombie cowboy on the front with a zombie horse and six-shooter! Still, the film is entertaining, so I will conduct the rest of this review as if it were a singular film.

THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED 2 is shot well and looks good onscreen. Just like the previous film, a lot of effort was put forth to make it look like a high-budget production. This is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the production team.

Likewise, the acting is pretty good. Usually, lower-budget features cannot boast a talented cast. The opposite is true here. THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED 2 has several talented actors, including Robert Tweten, who portrays the main character Sawyer, and Iren Levy, who does a great job as the mute, Stephanie.

I’m a little mixed on the special effects. Most of the zombies wear masks, which look good for the most part…but in some scenes, you can definitely tell they are masks. This is especially evident when, in one shot, you can see the normal flesh around the eyes of a burnt-faced zombie. Thankfully, the masks are grotesque enough that it’s not very distracting overall.

All in all, I have to give THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED 2 a thumbs up. It’s low-budget, living dead fun that zombie fans will enjoy. But don’t expect THE WALKING DEAD when you watch this. Just go into it with the right mindset, and you should have a good time.

MSB

Movie Review – Creepers: Horror Anthology Movie Volume Two (2014)

Creepers: Horror Anthology Movie Volume 2
Directed by various directors
Courtesy of Reel Progress LLC
Release Date: October 7, 2014

creepers

Back in February, I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing volume one of Mike T. Lyddon’s HORROR ANTHOLOGY MOVIE series (click here to read that review). And a pleasure it truly was; the heart and soul of indie filmmaking shines in each short. Now, I’m happy to report I can say the same about CREEPERS, the second addition to this excellent series. Based on existing literary works, CREEPERS is another collection from Lyddon that will haunt you long after the credits roll.

If you are not familiar with CREEPERS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Reel Progress LLC:

Featuring two stories from contemporary horror writers Joe R. Lansdale and Jeff Strand and two classic tales of terror from Lafcadio Hearn and Edgar Allan Poe, Creepers celebrates the weird written word adapted from scribe to screen. The directors include author and filmmaker Gregory Lamberson, Jeremiah Kipp, Christian Walker and Mike T. Lyddon.

Much like their literary counterparts, I’m a big fan of short films. Don’t get me wrong: I love feature-length films. But there’s something nice and simple about a minimal investment of time and emotion to get a big return with frights and scares.

As with the previous anthology, the shorts in CREEPERS are all shot well and look great onscreen. A lot of attention to detail was put into each film, as well evidenced with the look and feel of the short “Of a Promise Broken”, which is set well in the past. This meticulousness pays off, as it allows for full immersion into each story.

Likewise, the acting is very good as well. I cannot pinpoint a specific performance to highlight, but all of the actors involved do a great job.

My favorite film in this collection is “By the Hair of the Head”, which is based on a short story written by Joe R. Lansdale. In this short, a man’s affection for an old doll is more complicated than his houseguest might have suspected…and it eventually leads to dire consequences. This film has a haunting yet engaging tone, and the doll will scare the hell out of you.

My least favorite short in CREEPERS is “Gave Up the Ghost”. While the premise of this story is interesting, I found it too comedic for my tastes. The light tone and comical characters pulled me out of the dark vibe I was in while watching the previous films. And although “Gave Up the Ghost” is made well and entertaining, I don’t think it fits with the other titles in this collection.

But don’t let that one short dissuade you from seeing this awesome compilation. Lyddon is definitely on to something with this series, and I’ll bet other filmmakers will soon emulate his idea. CREEPERS is a huge win for me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Pick up your copy when it comes out tomorrow. It will be available on the official website (click the Reel Progress link above) and Amazon.

MSB

Movie Review – Delivery: The Beast Within (2014)

Delivery: The Beast Within
Directed by Brian Netto
Courtesy of Cinedigm
Release Date: September 30, 2014

Delivery - Beast Within

My list of The Best Horror Movies of 2014 just keeps growing! DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN might have a so-so title, but do not let that dissuade you from seeing this film. Chocked full of scares and intensity, with one of the most shocking and surprising endings in recent memory, this is a film that every horror fan should check out as soon as possible.

If you are not familiar with DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cinedigm:

DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN tells the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy, a young couple who agree to document their first pregnancy for a popular reality show. During the production, following a series of disturbing paranormal events, Rachel begins to believe that a powerful force of evil has possessed their unborn child. Set against the backdrop of never-before-seen footage deemed too shocking for the air, Rachel and Kyle’s family and friends recount the terrifying ordeal that’s remained a carefully guard secret—until now.

To be honest, I was skeptical of this film because of its title. I think the producers should have just left it at DELIVERY and not included the ‘beast within’. But, I’m certainly glad I looked past that. This film is high on my favorites list, and I can’t recommend it enough!

DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN is made very well and looks great onscreen. I particularly like how much time and detail was put into ‘Delivery’, the reality show that we see within the movie. This aspect is very impressive to me, as I can definitely see that show on a channel like History or A&E.

The acting is top notch, with Laurel Vail and Danny Barclay portraying the main couple. Both do a superb job with their roles. They are new to me, however I will be watching their careers with great interest. Also of note is Rob Cobuzio, who plays Rick. We get to see quite a bit of him in interview-form, and I have to say: he nails it. I will certainly be watching out for his work in the future as well.

The special effects in DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN are good, although there are not many of them. (MINOR SPOILER ALERT HERE…but not a very big one) I really like the cold-breath effects seen onscreen when Rachel is standing in the baby’s room and she senses another presence. This was REALLY creepy, and I had to back the film up to watch it again.

But the story, specifically the ending, is what won me over the most. I will not divulge the horrifying final scenes (because you simply must watch them to appreciate them), but I will say that when they happened, I clapped my hand to my mouth in shock. I am a very vetern horror fan, but even this scene surprised me.

Obviously, DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN is a huge win for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good, scary time. This would be a great film to watch soon, as Halloween arrives at the end of the month. If you can stand the suspense, give this one a look for sure. It is available now on DVD and streaming.

MSB

Book Review – Plague World by Dana Fredsti

Plague World
by Dana Fredsti
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Titan Books

plague

It’s always nice when an author knows what fans want and has no qualms about giving it to them, especially when it comes to the conclusion of a series. Author Dana Fredsti just keeps delivering the goods with Ashley Parker and her zombie-stomping crew in PLAGUE WORLD, the third and final book in the Plague trilogy. A bit darker in tone but still full of wit and action, this book is the pinnacle of the collection, and I’m very pleased with out things turn out.

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

Having been ambushed in San Francisco, which is now fully engulfed in the zombie plague, Ashley and the wild cards must pursue the enemy to San Diego. There they will discover a splinter of their own organization, the Dolofónoi tou Zontanoús Nekroús, which seeks to weaponize the plague. But that isn’t the worst news. The plague has gone airborne, making it transferable without physical contract. It cannot be controlled by anyone, so reports of the zombie swarm are coming in from across the United States—and across the world.

Ashley Parker is touted as “Buffy meets The Walking Dead”, and that is an excellent way to describe these books. As a fan of both Buffy and Walking, I am thrilled to have a series that sort of throws them together.

As with the previous books, PLAGUE WORLD is written well and flows perfectly. Fredsti’s writing is swift and concise, which allows for a deeper immersion into the story. This gives a greater enjoyment factor when the action scenes come along.

And there’s plenty of action to go around. The fight scenes are intense, and the zombie-killing is plentiful. I particularly like how Fredsti puts the reader right in the thick of things as the terrifying events unfold. Her zombies are actually scary, and there’s a real sense of threat in the air as you tear through each page.

The characters in PLAGUE WORLD are once again crisp and real, another primary reason this series is so good. There are those you love and those you hate, but one thing is for sure: each one will leave a lasting imprint in your brain throughout the book.

PLAGUE WORLD is an epic conclusion to an excellent series, and I highly recommend giving it a read. If you’ve never read any of this series, I suggest starting today with book one (PLAGUE TOWN) and binge-reading the whole trilogy. If you’re a fan of horror and/or zombies, you won’t be disappointed.


MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Ghost in the Shell: 25th Anniversary Edition

Ghost in the Shell: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition
Directed by Mamoru Oshii
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 1995
Blu-ray Release Date: September 30, 2014

Ghost-In-The-Shell-25th-Anniversary-Edition-cover

When it comes to iconic films in science fiction, there are many titles that spring to mind: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, STAR WARS, THE MATRIX, etc. But when compiling these lists, many people leave out one of the most important titles of all: GHOST IN THE SHELL. This amazing and visionary anime burst onto the scene back in 1995, and it instantly became a fan favorite. But in addition to eye popping animation and an intense storyline, the film presented a deeper, almost philosophical introspective on technology. These attributes are the primary reasons the film is still a favorite today.

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

2029 – A female government cyber agent and the Internal Bureau of Investigations are hot on the trail of The Puppet Master – a computer virus capable of invading cybernetic brains and altering its victim’s memory. Created by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and codenamed Project 2501, this ‘hacker’ is actually a prototype virtual agent which has now defied its makers by seeking asylum within a new host body outside of the electronic net. Now the two agencies must maneuver against each another in a violent, high-tech race to capture the omnipresent entity. Ghost in the Shell took the world by storm exhibiting a new dimension of anime with unprecedented and mesmerizing cinematic expression. Seamlessly merging traditional cel animation with the latest computer graphic imagery, this stunning sci-fi spectacle broke through the boundaries of mainstream animation with detailed artistic expression and a uniquely intelligent story line. The film has gone on to inspire a generation of filmmakers and has become the most revered anime feature of all time. Veteran anime writer/director/producer Mamoru Oshii, working in conjunction with the animators at Production I.G. (Blood: The Last Vampire, Kaidohmaru, Kill Bill) brought to life Masamune Shirow’s vision. This excellent cyberpunk thriller was co-produced by Manga Entertainment and enjoyed both critical and popular success at the U.S. box office and was the first Japanese animated film to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Top Video Sales Chart.

In case you are confused by the release dates above, this 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray refers to the anniversary of the manga’s publication date, NOT the release of the anime version. This threw me off at first, but I quickly figured it out. Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the anime’s release, so I’m curious to see if yet another release of the film will be made.

This Blu-ray version of GHOST IN THE SHELL is excellent. The digital HD transfer and 5.1 surround sound really add to the film watching experience. The voiceover is pretty crisp, and I like the actors chosen to voice the characters. This is truly the version of the film that films have been waiting for.

My sole complaint about the 25th Anniversary Edition is there are no special features at all on the disc. There is a booklet inside the case that contains a few nifty extras, including an interview with director Mamoru Oshii and a couple of essays, however it’s not satisfying. I hope a future edition of the film is released that has special features; a film this epic certainly deserves them.

But even so, GHOST IN THE SHELL: 25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION on Blu-ray is a huge win for me, and I recommend getting a copy of it as soon as possible. Even if you’ve never seen the film before, this is your chance to watch it like it was intended to be seen: in all of its HD glory. It is available now.

MSB