Movie Review – Gingerclown (2014)

Gingerclown
Directed by Balazs Hatvani
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: November 11, 2014

gingerclown

If a horror flick has a clown in it, you can guarantee it will be on my Must Watch List. Many people are afraid of or creeped out by clowns, which is part of what makes these painted mysteries so delicious when they are served up in horror films. But the other half is simply what we do not know about them: who are they behind the mask? The same could be said for slasher fiends like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. GINGERCLOWN is a fun and horrific romp into clown-horror territory, but it’s not what you think. This isn’t Stephen King’s IT redone or anything like that. Oh, no…this is so much better!

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

To impress the football team and the girl of his dreams, Sam dares to enter an old amusement park. But when Jenny follows him in, they quickly realize they’ll be lucky if they can get out alive.

This movie is not excellent, but it is certainly entertaining and definitely a lot of fun. It boasts an all-star cast (or rather the voices of these all-stars) and some zany special effects. At times, it feels like an old Peter Jackson horror film…but it also reminds me of a Joe Bob Briggs Drive-in trash title.

GINGERCLOWN is shot well, and I wish I could have watched it in 3D, which is how it was originally released overseas. The cinematic style seems to rely heavily on the 3D aspect, and I think many of the frights would have been more effective that way.

The acting quality is a mix. The voice actors are excellent, with headliners Tim Curry, Sean Young, Lance Henriksen, and Brad Dourif doling out quips and one-liners as their monstrous characters terrorize the youngsters. The physical actors, however, are only slightly above par. This could be due in part to a stiff script. Or, it could be a result of these foreign actors trying to speak without an accent. I’m not sure of the reason, but their performances come across as lacking.

The special effects in GINGERCLOWN are great, with some exotic monstrosities that will make you cringe and yet smile. Several of the creatures have a sort of Full Moon Features feel, while others are just downright terrifying. But they are all effective and, well, fun.

My sole complaint about the film is the lack of explanation for most of what is happening. Sure, we get to see why the kids go into the amusement park…but we never learn who the monsters are (technically) or why they are there. The average viewer might overlook this (I did), but some folks will want to know more info.

GINGERCLOWN will not win any awards, but it’s a quirky horror flick that fans of the genre will enjoy. Chocked full of bizarre monsters and surrealistic settings, this is one film you certainly have to see to appreciate. It hits store shelves tomorrow (Tuesday), so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – Autumn Moon by Slade Grayson

Autumn Moon
by Slade Grayson
Release Date: October 6, 2014
Publisher: Permuted Press

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Ok, folks…I have your next Must Read Book of 2014! AUTUMN MOON by Slade Grayson is an amazing read, and it’s probably the best werewolf novel I’ve ever read. Yes, that is a bold statement to make, especially when you consider I’ve been reading horror for 30 years. But this book has it all: the story is unique and very original, the prose is solid, the characters are flawed and believable, the werewolves are primal and bloodthirsty…you just can’t ask for much more from a horror novel.

If you are not familiar with AUTUMN MOON, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Permuted Press:

Tanneheuk, Montana appears to be an idyllic small town. There’s no crime, no poverty, and no racism. The town is overseen by a small group known as “the elders,” a tribe of people who have watched over Tanneheuk for hundreds of years. The elders are shapeshifters – werewolves – and they protect the townspeople from the corrupting influence of outsiders. In return for their protection, they only require one thing: Every year, on the first day of Autumn, they want to hunt a human… Drake Burroughs is a young minister with a checkered past. Newly assigned to the Tanneheuk Church, he knows there’s something dark going on beneath the surface of the seemingly perfect little town. When he discovers the truth about the elders, he convinces the townspeople that the hunt is a sin against God, and they should break their pact with the werewolves. Roman is the Alpha Wolf, the leader of the elders, struggling to keep his pack together and his leadership unquestioned. Roman knows the annual hunt is archaic, but also understands the importance of tradition for a race of beings who live on the cusp of extinction. But the growing dissension between the townspeople and his pack is not the only reason to cause Roman to hate Drake Burroughs: Diana, Roman’s sister, is sexually drawn to the new minister, and is willing to do anything to act on it. Even kill, if necessary. Added to this volatile mix is a family of con artists hiding out in Tanneheuk; a female pot-smoking deputy, torn between her unrequited love for one man and her burgeoning desire for another; a young girl training for the annual hunt, determined to be the next chosen; a restored 1970 Dodge Charger; Karaoke night; lots and lots of guns… It might Judgment Day for Tanneheuk.

There are simply so many things to like about this book. One major aspect that immediately jumps to mind is the cover artwork. As you can see from the image above, it is definitely an attention-grabber. If a reader had any doubts at all about purchasing the book before seeing it, those doubts would immediately be washed away after eyeing this imaginative picture.

As for the story itself, Grayson writes with a fluid manner that broadcasts each scene into your mind as if it was coming straight from a movie. As such, the story unfolds in vivid detail, however the reader is not constantly bogged down with exaggerated detail. This allows the reader full immersion into the story, and it presents are more viable, realistic reading experience.

The characters in AUTUMN MOON are all damaged in one way or another, which makes them believable and (for the most part) likable. Obviously, there are a few who you immediately want to die off, but that’s common in many books. I particularly like the preacher, Drake. Although he is a man of God, he shows the reader that Godly men are also human, who fall and fail just like the rest of us. I will not give anything way, but I like how happens to him at the end. It is very fitting, and it made me smile.

The werewolves, er, ‘shapeshifters’ as they preferred to be called, are very much like what I always pictured them to be: tribal in nature, living on the outskirts of society, and keeping to themselves for the most part…but very territorial and aggressive. Roman, their leader, is the perfect Alpha male: a semi-egotistical fascist with a God complex. As things unravel, he certainly puts the ‘bad’ in bad guy!

AUTUMN MOON is a big win for me, and I highly recommend giving it a look. It is a very entertaining read, rife with originality and high-octane action. Make a note to put this on your To Read list soon. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Horror Planet (1981)

Horror Planet
(a.k.a. Inseminoid)
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Courtesy of Cheezy Flicks
Original Release Date: 1981
DVD Release Date: October 25, 2005

horror planet

When it comes to genre films from the 80s, I have a special place in my heart for sci-fi and horror. This decade produced some of my all time favorite films, including ALIENS, THE THING, and several others. Along with these classics, a slew of lower budget titles were also released; some were good, but most were not. HORROR PLANET actually falls into the ‘good’ category, although I have to confess I am surprised. I’ve heard many bad things about it over the years, but I didn’t get to check it out for myself until the fine folks at Cheezy Flicks were kind enough to send me a copy. I’m very happy to report there’s not much cheesiness in this film, and fans of lower budget sci-fi horror flicks should be happy here.

If you are not familiar with HORROR PLANET, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cheezy Flicks:

A six man, six woman planetary exploration team is investigating possible origins of a remote, desolate planet’s apparently long-vanished civilization – so far, however, nothing has been found but a silent, lifeless world. Or so it seems. Unbeknownst to the explorers, a strange alien creature has been waiting patiently in stasis for millions of years, biding its time until conditions are suitable to breed… and its time has finally come. When the creature is accidentally awakened, it viciously assaults one of the crew members, and the horror that follows is more terrifying than anyone’s worst nightmare. Especially for one unfortunate crew member with more than her own life to fear…

I need to clarify a few things before I move on with the review. First off, keep in mind HORROR PLANET is a lower budget film. The estimated budget is only $2 million, which is peanuts when compared to the ALIEN budget, which is estimated at $11 million. Obviously, you can only do so much with a small budget. Secondly, there is a popular misconception that this film is a ripoff of ALIEN. Not so once again. This film was greenlit for production around the time that ALIEN started filming. It was released later, which is why many people think it’s a ripoff.

HORROR PLANET is obviously dated, and it does not have the dark, gritty feel that ALIEN does. But what it lacks visually, it makes up for with intensity. Once things start happening, the film takes off like a missile and never slows down. This is a major aspect of what makes the film so good for me.

The acting is very good as well. I am particularly impressed with Judy Geeson’s performance as the main character, Sandy. Geeson is a great Scream-Queen, and she puts her lungs to good use here, especially during the ‘birthing’ scene. Wow…this woman can wail!!

The special effects are pretty good for the time period as well. While I found the alien a bit underwhelming, it still looks good nonetheless. And the gore is not bad, either; there’s a particularly nice and gruesome scene of a woman trying to saw her own leg off. We get to see a bit of it, and I like how the effects team put it together.

Even though it’s touted as a ‘cheezy flick’, I didn’t find this one very cheesy at all (and that’s a good thing!). It’s a fairly well-made science fiction horror hybrid that has a lot of heart and showcases some up-and-coming talent of that time (this was Robert Pugh’s film debut, for example, and he went on to portray Craster in GAME OF THRONES). I recommend giving this one a look. It is available now.

MSB

Book Review – Irredeemable by Jason Sizemore

Irredeemable
by Jason Sizemore
Release Date: April 3, 2014
Publisher: Seventh Star Press

irredeemable

I never get tired of saying this: I absolutely love anthologies! The short story is an art form that can convey so much in so few words. As such, you get a lot of bang for your literary buck with these collections. Author Jason Sizemore offers up a heaping helping of dark speculative fiction in his recent release, IRREDEEMABLE. Chocked full of variety and entertainment, this is one collection you will definitely want to add to your library.

If you are not familiar with IRREDEEMABLE, here is the synopsis courtesy of Apex Publications:

Flowing like mists and shadows through the Appalachian Mountains come 18 tales from the mind of Jason Sizemore. Weaving together elements of southern gothic, science fiction, fantasy, horror, the supernatural, and much more, this diverse collection of short stories brings you an array of characters who must face accountability, responsibility, and, more ominously, retribution. Whether it is Jack Taylor readying for a macabre, terrifying night in The Sleeping Quartet, the Wayne brothers and mischief gone badly awry in Pranks, the title character in The Dead and Metty Crawford , or the church congregation and their welcoming of a special visitor in Yellow Warblers, Irredeemable introduces you to a range of ordinary people who come face to face with extraordinary situations. Whether the undead, aliens, ghosts, or killers of the yakuza, dangers of all kinds lurk within the darkness for those who dare tread upon its ground. Hop aboard and settle in, Irredeemable will take you on an unforgettable ride along a dark speculative fiction road.

The talent in this book is stunning. Sizemore writes with the skill of an aged author, one who has spent decades honing his craft. The stories are inventive and imaginative, short treks into the surreal and the sublime. Anthologies just don’t get much better than this.

Every story in IRREDEEMABLE is written well and flows smoothly. Sizemore brings a unique perspective to existing tropes, while at the same time illuminating his readers with new concepts as well. From zombies to aliens to spirits, there is a little bit of everything in there, which makes the entertainment value of the book skyrocket.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is “Hope”. In this tale, a woman named Hope turns out to be the key to the future of humanity. Unfortunately, only she and one more person on the planet are aware of that fact. This is a very original story that left me smiling after I finished it.

Another of my favorites is “Little Digits”. This one-page story supremely highlights the massive talent of Sizemore, as it offers up a whole lot of drama in just a few sentences. Ms. Jean is having a bad day in class. Her students have shown her how the tables can turn, and as a result, Ms. Jean might very well learn that sometimes the punishment does NOT fit the crime.

IRREDEEMABLE is a major win for me, and I’m proud to have a copy of it in my library. Do yourself a favor and pick up your copy today. You won’t regret it. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Life After Beth (2014)

Life After Beth
Directed by Jeff Baena
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: October 21, 2014

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Although I don’t judge books or movies by their covers, a quirky title on one will always pique my interest and force me to take a look. Such is the case with LIFE AFTER BETH. I love the play on words here, so I was immediately intrigued. And when I discovered the film was a zombie-comedy, of course I was hooked. Interestingly, the movie is not as funny as I expected, however it is still a heck of a film. If you’re looking for dark tones in your comedy with a nice dash of surrealism, this film is definitely for you.

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

Zach is devastated after his girlfriend Beth dies unexpectedly. After Beth suddenly and mysteriously returns to life, Zach is overjoyed to have the second chance to prove his love for her. But when Beth starts developing some bizarre tendencies – including a rather disturbing taste for flesh – Zach has to confront the facts. Can love survive among the living dead?

LIFE AFTER BETH is shot well and has a high production value. The acting is excellent, with Aubrey Plaza portraying the titular Beth and Dane DeHaan starring alongside her as Zach, her boyfriend. Also of note are Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly, who play Beth’s parents, and Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines, who portray Zach’s folks. The whole cast does a stellar job, and it shows with the onscreen chemistry that is evident.

The concept for this film is superb, and the production team does a good job putting it onscreen. What is lacking, however, is an abundance of laughs. Granted, there are a few humorous scenes that made me giggle (I love the part where Zach is trying to sneak Beth out of the house and then accidentally drops her off the roof), but there are many situations within the film that are ripe for humor and could have been harvested for such.

Still, even with that aside, you can’t help but like LIFE AFTER BETH. There are just so many things to like about it. Whether its Zach’s paranoid, authoritative brother Kyle or Beth’s delusional, hippy-like parents, the bizarre nature of the characters and their dilemmas make you want to like them. And the plot itself is interesting, for sure. Why are the dead coming back to life? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it gives those around them a second chance to rectify a few things.

Regardless of its classification (humor, horror, or both), LIFE AFTER BETH is a win for me, and I think you should check it out. It’s a nice hybrid of humor and despair, a tragic comedy that would make Greek playwrights envious. But it’s also a lot of fun. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Orbs 2: Stranded by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Orbs 2: Stranded
by Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the first book in an alien-invasion series called ORBS, written by author Nicholas Sansbury Smith (click here to read the review). At the end of my review, I mentioned how I couldn’t wait for the next book because of the cliffhanger ending. Well, thankfully I didn’t have to wait long; ORBS 2: STRANDED was released a couple of weeks ago, and it is an excellent follow-up to the first book.

If you are not familiar with ORBS 2: STRANDED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Simon & Schuster:

Dr. Sophie Winston and her team of survivors fend off the alien invasion in Orbs II: Stranded, the second book in Nicholas Sansbury Smith’s bestselling Orbs series.

At the end of the world, who can you trust?

The aliens have invaded, wiping out almost all life on earth. Their goal: water. Huge spaceships are draining the oceans, and the few remaining humans have been herded into farms, where their bodies are harvested to support the growing alien army.

Humanity’s last chance lies in the biospheres that have been planted secretly across the globe. But all is not peaceful in the biosphere led by Dr. Sophie Winston. With resources dwindling and tensions high, her small group of survivors is divided. Some want to fight, some want to stay hidden, and Sophie just wants to keep everyone alive.

When one of their own, eleven-year-old Jeff, is kidnapped by the Organics, Sophie is forced to pick sides. With the help of a promising new magnetic weapon, the biosphere team just might have a fighting chance to save Jeff and the world—if they live long enough to use it.

Just like the previous book, ORBS 2: STRANDED is chocked full of intensity and will keep you tearing through pages. But Smith has upped the stakes in this book and, as a result, amped up the action. The story is so intense, I read this one faster than it’s predecessor!

ORBS 2: STRANDED is written well and flows smoothly as the plot unfolds. Smith’s writing style once again shines, as he focuses more on the story and less on filling his sentences with exotic prose. I love this aspect of his writing, and I would wager it is part of what will make him a success in this genre.

As before, the characters are thoughtful and well written. I find it especially interesting to see how some of them are changing as the horrific events unfold, and not necessarily for the better. I will not divulge any names, but certain key characters are becoming less and less stable. This new development adds a whole new level of intrigue to the story, and I’m very curious as to who will survive because of this.

Just like the original, ORBS 2: STRANDED is a huge win for me. I’m extremely excited to get a hold of the third book, but for now I’ll just have to ponder where this one took me for a while. I highly recommend giving this series a chance. Both books are available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

It’s DVD Giveaway time again!

Up for grabs this time is a DVD copy of THE INSIDE, a horror flick I review earlier today (click here to read the review if you missed it).

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If you are any kind of horror fan, then this is a movie you must own! Use the entry form below to enter the giveaway. And, as always, please email me if you have questions or comments: msb@matthewscottbaker.com Otherwise, good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Movie Review – The Inside (2014)

The Inside
Directed by Eoin Macken
Courtesy of Revolver Entertainment
Release Date: October 21, 2014

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I have to start off this review by stating THE INSIDE is a nice surprise. Because of its premise, I wanted it to be good. I buy movies from pawn shops on a frequent basis, and therefore I’m familiar with what many of them sell. As I’ve perused the stores, I’ve sometimes wondered if the owners ever find forgotten video tapes inside of video cameras or forgotten DVDs inside of DVD players. Director Eoin Macken uses this premise and sends the viewer on a nightmarish ride into hell. The result is a wicked and intense movie experience that is both haunting and satisfying.

If you are not familiar with THE INSIDE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Revolver Entertainment:

While in a pawnshop, a young man comes into possession of a second-hand video camera; discovering a tape still inside, he plays back the footage and witnesses a horrific series of events involving a group of teens in an undisclosed location. Using the footage as a guide, he retraces the steps to where the events seemingly occurred. Deciding to investigate, he discovers, to his horror, not only the truth of the events on the tape, but comes face-to-face with a supernatural terror from which he may not escape.

I do have to give a warning about this film, however: most of it is shot in first-person POV from a handheld camera. Because of this, there are many shaky and dizzying shots. People who became motion-sick from movies like CLOVERFIELD and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT will probably want to stay away from this film.

THE INSIDE is well made overall, and looks great from a production standpoint. It is actually a hybrid movie, in that it combines found-footage with actual third-person POV shots. I like this aspect, as it allows you to immerse yourself in what is going on…but it also lets you take a breather every once in a while when the intensity gets too amped up.

And speaking of intense, this film does not let up. It takes a few minutes for the plot to unfold, but when it does, you’d better buckle your seatbelt. When things start to happen, they move at a shotgun blast pace. I particularly like how linear everything is; there are no flashbacks or pauses for reflection. When the proverbial crap hits the fan, the viewer is held spellbound until the credits start to roll.

The acting in THE INSIDE is very good as well. I hate to admit I do not recognize any names in the cast list, but I will wager they will definitely do well in future endeavors. Likewise, the special effects are pretty good, too, although there are not many of them.

If I were forced to find a flaw with THE INSIDE, I would have to say the lack of explanation for the supernatural aspects disappoints me a bit. It’s nothing at all that detracts from the film for the most part, however I, personally, would have liked a little more ‘meat’ in this area.

Still, THE INSIDE is hell of a thrill ride, and horror fans should give this one a look soon. I will be hosting a giveaway for a DVD copy of this film as well, so be sure and check that out after you finish reading this review. Otherwise, the film is available now in a variety of formats.

For THE INSIDE on iTunes, click here.
For THE INSIDE on Amazon, click here.

MSB