Shattered Ravings presents The Best Books and Movies of 2015

Over the past couple of weeks, several readers have asked me for input on my favorite books and movies of 2015. The questions made me start thinking hard; what did I really, really like? Obviously, I’ve never really thought about ‘Tops of the Year’ lists before, but this year I decided to give it a try. So, without further ado…

For 2015, I reviewed 45 books. I consider this an impressive feat, as it equals almost a book a week. Since I’m a stay-at-home dad, AND a writer, AND I wear a multitude of other hats, I look at 45 as a monumental accomplishment; however, I am going to try and top that next year. Here are the tops of 2015 for me in literature:

Top Five Books of 2015

5. Wolf Land by Jonathan Janz (Horror)

4. Grunt Life by Weston Ochse (Science Fiction)

3. Tales of the Bastard Drunk by D. M. Woon (Horror)

2. Kronos Rising by Max Hawthorne (Horror)

1. Beyond the Nightlight by various authors (Horror Anthology)

As for movies, I only reviewed 143 titles (if my record-keeping is correct). I admit I am disappointed by this number, as it only equals out to a couple of movies a week. I am going to try to raise this number for 2016 as well.

Picking five films to mark as the best of the year was VERY difficult. I saw many good flicks, but in the end I had to look at overall entertainment. Here are the tops of 2015 for me in movies:

Top Five Movies of 2015

5. The Green Inferno (Horror)

4. Time Lapse (Science Fiction)

3. Society (Horror)

2. Cooties (Horror/Comedy)

1. Blood Punch (Horror)

That’s it for me. Love it or hate it, these lists encapsulate some of my greatest entertainment from 2015. See you next year.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

What Have You Done to Solange?
Directed by Massimo Dallamano
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Year of Production: 1972
Blu-ray Release Date: December 15, 2015

what have you done

When it comes to 70s horror, the more I watch, the more I like. Aside from the fact that was the decade in which I was born, the 70s played an instrumental part in defining what horror is today. And thanks to excellent companies like Arrow Video and MVD Distribution, who are working to preserve many of these classics in HD, fans will have many more opportunities to enjoy these titles over the years.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? is considered by many to be an iconic film for the giallo genre, and thus a foundation for slashers to come. And although the title might sound peculiar, the film itself is a solid entry into the horror canon of cinema.

If you are not familiar with WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Distribution:

From director Massimo Dallamano, cinematographer on both A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, comes giallo classic What Have You Done to Solange?, the debut feature of actress Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave). A sexually sadistic killer is preying on the girls of St. Mary’s school. Student Elizabeth witnessed one of the murders, but her hazy recollections of a knife-wielding figure in black do nothing to further the police’s investigations. Why is the killer choosing these young women? And what does it have to do with a girl named Solange? Also starring Cristina Galbo (Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue) and Fabio Testi (I Spit On Your Grave), What Have You Done with Solange? features all the hallmarks of classic gialli – the amateur detective, the black-gloved killer – as well as a lush score from Ennio Morricone.

I confess this film starts off a bit slow, but about halfway through it really picks up steam. And because it only clocks in at 1 hour 42 minutes, the slow parts don’t eat up too much of the viewer’s time. For this reason, I am classifying this movie as “slow-burn horror”.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? is shot well and looks fine onscreen. The film is obviously dated, but the new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative looks great nonetheless.

The acting is very good, with a talented cast headlined by Fabio Testi. This film is also the debut of actress Camille Keaton, who would later go on to star in one of the most controversial films of all time, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (aka DAY OF THE WOMAN). Testi and Keaton are supported by some great talent that includes Cristina Galbo, Joachim Fuchsberger, Marco Mariani, and Karin Baal.

The special effects in WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? are minimal but effective. There are a few scenes that show a knife embedded in the vaginas of the victims, and this is well done for the most part (again, taking the film’s age into consideration).

The story is a bit slow, as mentioned above, but when it finally takes off, it vamps up nicely. I particularly like the big reveal because the identity of the killer threw me off. I was not expecting this person, so it is a nice twist.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? is another great win for Arrow Video and MVD Distribution, and I highly recommend it. In addition to the film, this 2-disc collection contains a bunch of nice features that include:

* Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* Newly translated subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
* Brand new audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
* Newly filmed cast interviews
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by MALLEUS www.malleusdelic.com (to be revealed)
* Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film, illustrated with original stills
* More!

The film is available now.

MSB

TV Show Review – Ray Donovan, season 3

Ray Donovan, season 3
Courtesy of Showtime Entertainment & CBS Home Entertainment
Release Date: December 29, 2015

ray donovan_s3_brd_3d1-jpg

I am still continually impressed with the number of great shows on television these days. I’ve stated many times my love for shows like THE WALKING DEAD and GAME OF THRONES, but there are many new(er) ones I have recently fallen for. RAY DONOVAN is one of these recent additions for me. Granted, it is in its third season, but I only started watching it a couple of months ago. I am glad I gave it a shot, too, because this is one of those TV shows you’ll be talking about long after its over. Chocked full of drama and intensity, RAY DONOVAN is a series you must watch to appreciate.

If you are not familiar with RAY DONOVAN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Showtime Entertainment:

Liev Schreiber portrays the titular character Ray Donovan, a Boston native who makes the problems of Tinseltown’s celebrities, superstar athletes, and business moguls disappear. In the latest season, Ray discovers that even his own actions have consequences and that clean slates are a dirty business. Ray takes some hits that would leave lesser men down for the count, but what doesn’t kill a Donovan only makes him stronger. Season three finds Ray adrift from his family and those closest to him, while he focuses on his business and desires to be his own boss. Meanwhile, his father Mickey (Jon Voight), who had narrowly escaped last season’s heist debacle, finds himself charting a similar course to build his own empire.

In an environment full of remakes and do-overs, I find it refreshing to still discover fresh concepts and interesting premises. I’m sure there are or have been similar shows out there, but I am not familiar with them if so. Thus, I will continue this review under the premise RAY DONOVAN is a unique idea.

Each episode of RAY DONOVAN is shot well and looks great onscreen. The production budget appears to be high, and the results are evident in the detailed scenes onscreen.

The acting is very high caliber. I’ve enjoyed Liev Schreiber’s work for many years now, and I am excited to see him in such a versatile role. With RAY DONOVAN, Schreiber gets to flex his acting chops and gives a top notch performance. He is supported by a superb cast that includes Jon Voight, Elliot Gould, Paula Malcomson, and Eddie Marsan.

The writing in the show is what makes it such a win for me. The plot lines are taut and filled with twists and turns. The dialogue is crisp and witty. And the characterizations are well fleshed out and believable. You can’t ask for much more out of a TV series.

RAY DONOVAN is a big win for me, and I hope the show can continue with the powerful momentum it currently has. Be sure and pick it up on Blu-ray, so you can enjoy the HD picture and sound. Season 3 is available today.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Axe / Kidnapped Coed Double Feature (1974/1976)

Axe / Kidnapped Coed Double Feature
Directed by Frederick R. Friedel
Courtesy of Severin Films
Year(s) of Production: 1974 / 1976
Release Date: December 15, 2015

AXE-Blu-2D

In all my years of film-watching (which total about thirty-five now), I had heard the name Frederick R. Friedel only a couple of times, usually in passing conversation. Friends of friends had heard of his works or had seen them onscreen, but had no idea how to obtain them. I’ve always been curious about what the man had to offer; he was supposed to be a legendary auteur, of sorts. Now, thanks to the fine folks at Severin Films and CAV Distribution, my curiosity has been satisfied, and the rest of the world can see the genius that is Frederick R. Friedel as well.

AXE and KIDNAPPED COED are presented in HD on a double feature Blu-ray that comes with a slew of Special Features and a CD of the original motion picture soundtracks. If you are any kind of Grindhouse nostalgia lover or horror fan, this two-movie collection is a ‘must have’ for your collection.

If you are not familiar with AXE or KIDNAPPED COED, here are the plot synopses courtesy of Severin Films:

In the mid-1970s, writer/producer/director/actor Frederick R. Friedel went to North Carolina to film a pair of enigmatic yet startling low-budget thrillers – AXE and KIDNAPPED CO-ED – only to see them both presumed lost to shady dealings, sudden tragedies, moral outrage and drive-in oblivion. In AXE, depraved killers on the run hold a young woman and her invalid grandfather hostage in an isolated farmhouse. In KIDNAPPED CO-ED, the teenage daughter of a wealthy family forms a perverse relationship with her abductor. Once thought doomed to drive-in obscurity, fans and grindhouse historians have begun to compare Freidel’s films to those of David Lynch and Terrence Malick, and now the complete story behind this strange journey can finally be told. Severin Films is proud to present both features restored from their original negatives, plus BLOODY BROTHERS, Friedel’s recut of the two features as one twisted crime epic called BLOODY BROTHERS, and loaded with exclusive Bonus Features that reveal the startling saga behind the casts, crews, disastrous fate and surprising rediscovery of these nearly forgotten grindhouse/arthouse classics – the ultimate look at one of the most fascinating sagas in indie exploitation history!

I enjoyed both films, however I have to admit AXE is my favorite between the two. KIDNAPPED COED had a different sort of feel, more like a crime drama rather than horror. AXE kept a foreboding tone throughout the whole film, and it constantly kept me on edge.

Both films are shot well, particularly when you consider Friedel was a new filmmaker around this time. He manages to capture some interesting camera shots that help enhance the mood he’s trying to create. Likewise, he does a great job of capturing the cast’s emotional states onscreen as well.

And speaking of the casts, Friedel puts together a winning team for each film. In AXE, viewers are treated to Leslie Lee, who portrays the enigmatic Lisa, and Jack Canon as the bastard Steele. In KIDNAPPED COED, we get to see Jack Canon again, this time alongside the talented Leslie Rivers, who plays Sandra Morely. Although these are lower budget pictures, Friedel does a great job of utilizing the talents of everybody onset.

The special effects are laughable, but only in that it is very obvious the production team uses red paint as blood. The liquid is bright red and very fake…but I suppose it made a statement for its time. Still, I think chocolate syrup might have achieved a more realistic feel.

Nevertheless, this AXE / KIDNAPPED COED double-feature is a real treat, and fans of grindhouse horror and exploitation films will want to snatch this up immediately. In addition to the digital restorations, the Blu-ray contains a nice batch of Special Features, including:

* AXE feature, new 2k transfer from Original Negative
—Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Philip Smoot, Makeup Artist Worth Keeter & PA Richard W. Helms

* KIDNAPPED COED feature, new 2k transfer from Original Negative
—Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frederick R. Friedel, Production Manager Philip Smoot & Makeup Artist Worth Keeter

* BLOODY BROTHERS feature, conformed from new transfers
—Audio Commentary with “Nightmare USA” Author Stephen Thrower
—At Last… Total Terror! – The Incredible True Story of AXE & KIDNAPPED COED (61 mins.)
—Moose Magic – The George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm Story (38 mins)
—Stephen Thrower on AXE & KIDNAPPED COED (10 mins)
—Trailers, TV Spots & Radio Spots
—Special Limited 2 Disc Edition comes with Audio CD of the first ever release of AXE & KIDNAPPED COED Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Plus Bonus Tracks By Soundtrack Composers George Newman Shaw & John Willhelm

This is available now, so make a note!

MSB

Book Review – Twelfth Krampus Night by Matt Manochio

Twelfth Krampus Night
by Matt Manochio
Courtesy of Samhain Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2015

twelfth-krampus-night

I’m glad to see a rise in popularity of non-traditional myths like Krampus. Granted, the tried-and-true legends we all grew up with are still potent to an extent…but we as a society need more diversity when it comes to older generation tales. Therefore, I find author Matt Manochio’s take on Krampus a refreshing delight; I had the pleasure of reviewing THE DARK SERVANT earlier this year, and now I have the pleasure of discussing the follow-up novella, TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT.

If you are not familiar with TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

Dark servants clash!

Medieval maiden Beate, who’s grieving over the mysterious evisceration of her best friend, Gisela, must escape a Bavarian castle under siege by sadistic creatures. Standing in her way—beyond towering walls and crossbow-toting guards—are Saint Nicholas’s demonic helper, Krampus, and Frau Perchta, a belly-slitting hag who prowls the countryside during First Night festivities to punish naughty teens.

Beate wants out. Krampus and Frau Perchta want in, determined to breach the castle to snag their prey. Beate has no idea why these monsters want her, but she must use her wits to save herself from horrors both human and inhuman—lest she wind up like Gisela.

Unlike THE DARK SERVANT, which is set in modern times, TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT is set back in medieval days. And while some readers might frown at this, I personally enjoyed it. I like the idea of how a supposed myth can span centuries and still be terrifying.

Like its predecessor, TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT is written well and flows at a nice clip. Because it is a novella, the character development is not quite as in-depth as THE DARK SERVANT, however this does not detract from the story at all. If anything, the lack thereof allows the reader to jump into the story (and horror) at a much faster pace.

My favorite aspect of this novella is the sort of rivalry Krampus and Frau Perchta share. Both characters are larger than life, and both ooze personality (in a weird sort of horrific way), so seeing them clash is a real treat.

TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Manochio once again shows his imaginative prowess with this tale, and I cannot wait to see what he does next. TWELFTH KRAMPUS NIGHT is available now in eBook form.

MSB

Movie Review – The Vatican Tapes (2015)

The Vatican Tapes
Directed by Mark Neveldine
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: October 20, 2015

the vatican tapes

On the surface, THE VATICAN TAPES looks like every other exorcism movie on the market. It has a girl who may or may not be possessed, Catholic priests, and a bunch of jump-scare moments that sometimes play out into real horror. But in addition to these, the film also offers something that many of these other films do not: entertainment. Granted, THE VATICAN TAPES does not bring anything new to the table, but it’s still a fun film regardless and worthy of checking out.

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

Angela Holmes is ordinary 27-year- old until she begins to have a devastating effect on anyone close, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected, but when the Vatican is called upon to exorcise the demon, the possession proves to be an ancient satanic force more powerful than ever imagined. It’s all up to Father Lozano to wage war for more than just Angela’s soul, but for the world as we know it.

I was ready to like this film from the start, primarily because Dougray Scott and Djimon Hounsou are in the cast. I like both actors, therefore I was hoping the film would be good. Thankfully, I was not disappointed.

THE VATICAN TAPES is shot well and looks good onscreen. I was expecting this to be a found-footage or documentary style film, but turns out it’s shot like an actual movie. This was a nice surprise, as I think too many exorcism films are leaning that way.

The acting is very good, with the afore mentioned stars headlining a great cast. Olivia Taylor Dudley does a great job as Angela, and Michael Pena rounds out the cast as Father Lozano.

The story and how it plays out is what really got me with THE VATICAN TAPES. Director Mark Neveldine keeps the audience guessing until the end, and when things really start happening, they take off with a bang. I like how the possession turns out, although I won’t give away any spoilers.

My primary complaint about the film is that it is full of overused possession concepts and again offers nothing new in regard to exorcism films. The ending is a bit unique, however everything prior is the same stuff we’ve seen in scads of horror flicks.

Still, THE VATICAN TAPES is fun and worth giving a look. The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – The Weight of Chains by Lesley Conner

The Weight of Chains
by Lesley Conner
Courtesy of Sinister Grin Press
Release Date: September 20, 2015

The Weight of Chains final cover

I can sum up author Lesley Conner’s debut book THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS in two words: viscerally excellent. There are many other words that come to mind as well: brutal, clever, and engaging, just to name a few. But the first two are a good overall description for this tale. THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is a story that is difficult to read in some parts, due to the subject matter, but even harder to put down. If you like horrifying historical fiction, this is a book you’ll want to check out immediately.

If you are not familiar with THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Sinister Grin Press:

Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul. When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles’s tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family –move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.

I can say without a doubt that Lesley Conner is an author to watch out for. I enjoyed this debut greatly, and I will definitely be checking out her future works.

THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is written well and, although it is lengthy (measuring in at 430 pages), the story moves at a decent clip. Conner spends quite a bit of time putting down a solid framework on which to build the story, however this is not a negative at all. In fact, the in depth tapestry she weaves makes the story even more so immersive.

The characters are interesting and likable (everybody, that is, except for de Rais and his lackey, Poitou). They are fleshed out well enough so the reader is invested in each, therefore when the horrific events start to happen, the reader actually feels something for them.

The story and the events that occur within it are enthralling. I had never heard of Gilles de Rais prior to reading this book, however I am now doing a bit of back-study on him. The book paints a vivid (and terrifying) picture of who he probably was, and the combines that with an inventive storyline. The result is an excellent read that both horror fans and followers of historical fiction will want to delve into.

THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Sinister Grin Press has a winner here, and I cannot wait to see what Conner does next. Check this one out today; it is available in a variety of formats.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Forbidden Zone [Ultimate Edition] (1980)

Forbidden Zone [Ultimate Edition]
Directed by Richard Elfman
Courtesy of MVD Distribution
Year of Production: 1980
Blu-ray Release Date: November 10, 2015

forbidden

I’ve been a fan of Danny Elfman for a long, LONG time. As the lead singer for Oingo Boingo back in the late 70s and early 80s, Elfman quickly made a name for himself as a composer and songwriter. But when he turned to movie scores in the mid 80s, my fandom skyrocketed. I’ve loved many of his movie soundtracks, particularly BEETLEJUICE, BATMAN, NIGHTBREED, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, and THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. So when I heard he had performed and acted in a quirky, low-budget film made by his brother, I knew I had to give it a look. And I’m so glad I did! FORBIDDEN ZONE is a crazy trip into the bizarre, chocked full of surreal imagery and moody but fantastic music.

If you are not familiar with FORBIDDEN ZONE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Distribution:

Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone, starring Herve Villechaise (Fantasy Island) and Susan Tyrell (Fat City, Cry-Baby), will make it’s way to the home video market on September 29th in various forms including Digital, DVD, Blu-ray, and soundtrack packages. Each edition contains the black and white and color transfers of the film. In the film, Sexy Frenchy falls into an insane underworld ruled by a horny little king and his jealous queen. Chicken-boy comes to the rescue, only to have his head cut off by the soul-singing Devil himself–played by Danny Elfman and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. Frog butlers, topless princesses and rioting school kids sing and dance in unforgettable musical numbers by Danny Elfman, Cab Calloway, Josephine Baker and other greats. Forbidden Zone is truly a ground-breaking, fun-filled timeless classic! Elfman says: “Forbidden Zone, the Ultimate Edition is coming shortly to DVD and Blu-ray from my good friends at MVD Entertainment. For the first time ever we include both the original black & white plus the new color version–all in sterling hi-def and state-of-the-art sound mix. There’s a terrific booklet and loads of bonus features (including an utterly insane introduction by some idiot who looks a lot like me). I’m very proud of this best ever Forbidden Zone release! Officially Elfo-recommended!”

I guarantee you’ve never seen a film like this before. And if you think you have, you were probably on drugs. This movie is a fever-dream you won’t want to wake up from.

FORBIDDEN ZONE is shot well for being a low-budget picture, and looks pretty good onscreen. I understand the movie was originally shot in black-and-white, but recently colorized in 2008; the fine folks at MVD Distribution have included both on the Ultimate Edition Blu-ray, and watching both versions is a real treat. I found it interesting to see the differences the color can make. Both are entertaining, but the black-and-white version is somewhat more bizarre for some reason.

The acting is pretty good, although I don’t think anybody will win any awards. The cast does a good job as a whole, although I have to commend Danny Elfman on his portrayal of the Devil. In addition to foreboding zaniness, Elfman brings true musical talent to Old Scratch’s persona.

The special effects are cheesy, but the movie is still a visual feast to behold. The set pieces remind me of a Salvador Dali painting, and the atmosphere they help create is beyond astounding. If you’re in the mood for weird but entertaining, FORBIDDEN ZONE is the movie for you.

FORBIDDEN ZONE is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. The Ultimate Edition includes the movie’s soundtrack on CD, so be sure and snag this version so you can enjoy the music everywhere you go. I can almost guarantee you’ll find a song or two that’ll stick in your mind long after the film is over. But regardless of what version you buy, check this film out soon. You’ll take a heck of a trip, and it will be one you’ll want to take again and again. The film is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Mad Cow (2010)

Mad Cow
Directed by Michael Wright & Michael J. Rix
Courtesy of Troma Entertainment & CAV Distribution
Year of Production: 2010
DVD Release Date: September 8, 2015

mad cow

If you’ve ever wondered what a horror movie about a half-man/half-cow lunatic wielding a chainsaw would look like, then MAD COW is the film for you. Seriously, though, the fine (and demented) folks at Troma once again display their brilliance with this film. Oh, it won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure…but if you’re a fan of Troma (and you know who you are), then you’ll love this movie. I enjoyed it immensely, and I plan on watching it again soon.

If you are not familiar with MAD COW, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Troma Entertainment:

They slaughtered his family, cut off his head, attached it to a human body, wired electrodes to his testicles and pumped him full of 50,000 volts… and now he wants REVENGE! After a Frankenstein-like experiment goes horribly wrong, a chainsaw wielding Mad Cow goes on the rampage around the Boerewors Game lodge, leaving a trail of bad special effects in his wake. Enter undercover cop Vince Chopper, who together with vegetarian waitress-turned-weapon-expert Charlize, does battle with Mad Cow in a series of off-the-wall set pieces. But prepare yourselves for a series of increasingly bizarre twists as it’s never over when you think it’s over… Mad Cow is the fast-paced, totally crazy comedy/horror movie that dares to go where Naked Gun, Scary Movie and Shaun of the Dead feared to tread.

I think Troma has topped themselves with this film. Over-the-top doesn’t even begin to describe the experience you get here…and that’s a good thing! Aside from the bizarre premise, the execution of this film is a slapstick lover’s dream, and I found myself laughing quite a bit throughout the whole thing.

MAD COW is not shot very well, but it doesn’t need to be. The production value looks low, but again, that’s ok. You’re not watching this film to see high-budget special effects or top-notch acting. And if you are, then you are obviously not familiar with how Troma operates.

The acting is atrociously good, and I love the performance given by Gregg Viljoen, who portrays Vince Chopper. Viljoen delivers one-liners like a pro, and his straight-face expression through everything is a huge part of what makes his character so much fun.

The special effects in MAD COW are decent enough to pass off as entertaining. The mad cow costume cracks me up every time I see it, and the gore is plentiful and fun as well.

MAD COW is a big win for me, and fans of Troma’s work will love it. This is the first Troma film to come from South Africa, so I guess you could say it’s “beefing” up Troma’s international library (sorry for the pun). Check this out if you like Troma…otherwise, you probably won’t care for it. The film is available now.

MSB

TV Show Review – Under the Dome, season 3

Under the Dome, season 3
Courtesy of CBS Television Studios
Release Date: December 8, 2015

under

Stephen King is an amazing author, and his work has influenced horror literature in monumental ways. I daresay he is the undisputed King of Horror, and his role in literature (both horror and non-horror) will be studied for centuries to come. Yet, the film adaptations of his work are hit-and-miss. We’ve been given some excellent examples over the years, including Stanley Kubrick’s vision of THE SHINING, CREEPSHOW, MISERY, and FIRESTARTER. But Hollywood has graced us with several bombs as well. IT was not nearly as good as it should have been, nor was NEEDFUL THINGS or MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE.

So when I heard UNDER THE DOME was being turned into a television series, my interest immediately piqued. Did the book offer enough source material for a weekly show? Granted, it’s certainly long enough (it measures in at over 1,000 pages). I’m happy to report it is, and the result is an engaging and compelling show that fans of King’s work should be happy with.

If you are not familiar with UNDER THE DOME, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of CBS Television Studios:

UNDER THE DOME, based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, tells the story of a small town that is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an enormous transparent dome. In the weeks following the Dome’s descent on the sleepy town of Chester’s Mill, the inhabitants have been forced to adapt. Combating Dome- and man-made threats daily, the community rises to new heights of ingenuity, courage and, for some, darkness, in order to survive their post-apocalyptic isolation. Just as the town’s quest for answers reveals a seemingly viable path to freedom, everything the residents think they know about the Dome and its motivations is turned upside down. Again facing an uncertain future, the citizens of Chester’s Mill begin to realize their true destiny as the Dome reveals more of its ultimate agenda for them. As new dangers emerge, battle lines are drawn that will alter relationships in ways none of them could imagine. For this town, the true threat to the human spirit’s resilience is no longer just the invisible dome that has cut them off from civilization – but it is the enemy within.

I’ll confess that I have not read the book, however my wife has, and she tells me the show differs quite a bit from its source material. But this is not a bad thing. According to her, the differences are pretty vast, but they are entertaining; I find it fascinating to see different storylines stem from something I thought I already knew.

UNDER THE DOME looks great onscreen and appears to have a high budget. The special effects (although few and far between) are tight, and the overall production value of the show again appears high.

The acting in UNDER THE DOME is very good. I don’t recognize a lot of the names in the cast, however I do recognize a few faces from other shows. The talent level here is comparable to any show on television, although I couldn’t pick a ‘best actor’ out of the list; there are too many names to choose from.

Although the plot deviates from the book, it is still wildly entertaining. I don’t know the details on the differences, but I understand certain characters that die in the book go on living for the show. This was also the case with TRUE BLOOD, where Lafayette died in the books but went on to become a fan-favorite in the TV show. Again, this works on many levels, giving the viewer/reader a different universe to enjoy.

UNDER THE DOME is a big win for me, and I’m crushed to learn they canceled it a couple of months ago. I really wanted to see where they could take the show, but I’m glad we got what we got. Season three hits store shelves tomorrow, so make a note to check it out.

MSB