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May. 16th, 2011

Nice doggy!


Comic: Out For Blood (Dark Horse Comics)

Out For Blood is a four-issue comic book mini-series published by Dark Horse Comics in 1999. Written by Michael Part and Steven Grant with art by Gary Erskine, the story featured a turf war between vampires and werewolves in Hollywood, California. The plot zeroes in on Detective Sanger, who specializes in gangs, and Theresa, the fiance of a man who recently died from mysterious (and bloody) circumstances. They meet when Theresa comes to identify the body of her boyfriend, but both are surprised to discover that the body is gone, leaving a trail of victims behind. Soon Sanger discovers that there's much more going on than a few unsolved murders as both vampires and werewolves make themselves known and Theresa, as well as Sanger himself, become targets.

I was drawn to Out For Blood by the cover art, and was surprised to find out the interior art was in black and white. However, the high contrast style that uses lots of shadows and inky blackness works very well here and actually enhances the story. The plot is a little more complicated than your usual vampire vs. werewolf tale and I loved the fact that they moved it to a very modern, urban location and set it as a turf war. The vampires are creepy and violent, blood-craving monsters who lead double lives as rich and prominent people. They're contrasted sharply with the werewolves, who seem much more like your typical gang. Of course, they're just as violent. Neither side is the "good side" and so you can only root for the humans caught in the middle. Sanger and Theresa are great characters. I was especially pleased that Theresa wasn't just a victim and, when the chips are down, will fight to survive. All in all, Out For Blood is a well-written and visually striking series.

Out For Blood is available in single issue format. It hasn't been collected into a trade paperback but the issues are easy to find on ebay.

May. 15th, 2011

Wednes Logo


Neither can life while the other survives…

A recent post here got me thinking about the subject of horror—and more specifically, the things those things that lurk in its periphery. I'm speaking here of Harry Potter, the protagonist of a series of books published over a ten year period. I am a fan. You probably already know that they were written by Brit author J.K. Rowling, and that they are credited with creating a resurgence of kids reading books. Aimed at children roughly the age of Harry, the books and subsequent films are popular with readers of all ages. If you buy the books in the UK, you have a choice of obscenely happy book jackets designed for kids, or subdued (and compelling, IMO) book jackets for grown-up readers. Maybe parents needed a way to tell their tattered copies from their kid's worn copies. LOL

If you're not familiar with the series, it begins in the tradition of typical UK fairy tales. A nice kid, orphaned and plunged into awful circumstances (not unlike Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach). Eventually, something wonderful happens and he is ushered into a whole new world of magic, wonder, fame, and terrifying danger.

In the very first book there are tragic murders afoot. People are possessed by evil beings, and children are put in life-threatening peril. By third book, souls are being sucked right out of people, and gangs of bigoted wizards seek to enslave anyone who doesn't pass their purity test. By the fifth book, beloved characters are dropping like flies. If you do decide to get into this series, don't get seriously attached to anyone. I promise that some of your favorites will NOT survive until the bitter end.
Harry Potter is chock full of horror. Klan-like cults, Vampires, Splinching, Venomous Snakes, Torture, Werewolves that prefer to eat children, Poltergeists, Walking Dead, Murders Galore, Enslavement, Kid-napping, Giant Spiders, Headless Ghosts, Man-Rats who lie their way into little boy's beds, hideous acts of betrayal, and some really serious ass-haberdashery. mild spoiler in re: Petunia DursleyCollapse )YMMV.

Like anything worth reading, the books generate a lot of backlash and controversy. Certain religious types decry the magical elements as being against their teachings. Other groups were inflamed by Rowling's clarification that Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is homosexual. Still other groups find it deplorable propaganda in favor of race mixing. Despite all these objections, the series remains wildly popular all over the world.

It is with heavy heart that I relay that this is my last DHD post. Sadly, I don't really have time to donate articles these days, even if they're really fun to write. I'm behind on my new book and I don't want Mr. Publisherman to have to get mouthy with me. ;-] Plus, I don't pay for LJ anymore (I'm at DreamWidth now) so I have to host pics at my regular site, which is a hassle. Anyway, you guys rock! See ya's.

May. 14th, 2011

Whispering Corridors - Voice


Movie: The Machine Girl (2008)

The Machine Girl is a gross, funny, over-the-top little Japanese movie that was released in 2008. The story follows a young girl named Ami who's brother is killed by the son of a dangerous Yakuza family. When she vows to get revenge, she must contend with a whole slew of powerful enemies. Luckily, Ami is badass to the extreme and apparently has a very high threshold for pain. After her arm is cut off by the Yakuza leader, she replaces it with a machine gun, making her even more badass. She is joined in her battle by Miki, the mother of her brother's friend (also killed by the Yakuza son), who is, you guessed it, also totally badass. Oh, and she uses a chainsaw. Together, Ami and Miki are made of awesome.

What results is a bloodbath of epic proportions as Ami and Miki wade through various enemies in their quest for vengeance. It's very easy to root for these women, especially since the villains are so incredibly evil that you'll want to jump into the movie just so you can kick their asses. It's rather interesting to note that Ami and Miki have no special training or skills. They are fueled only by their rage and their loss, which prove to be very powerful motivators.

Even though the story is somewhat tragic (especially toward the end), all of it is done in a sort of slapstick, tongue-in-cheek manner that makes it somehow funny. The sheer insanity of the whole thing will have you gaping at the screen, first in horror, then in incredulous shock that will give way to laughter. Even just the weapons used are hilariously crazy. Ever seen a flying guilotine? Or a drill bra? You will.

The Machine Girl is available on DVD.

May. 13th, 2011

Slumber Party Massacre - Driller Killer


Movies: Friday the Thirteenth (1980)

How could I let Friday the 13th pass without mentioning this series? The Friday the Thirteenth film series reminds me quite a bit of the Nightmare on Elm Street series in that a lot of people have seen bits and pieces of many of the sequels but have never sat down to watch the films from beginning to end. Several years ago, I did just that after someone I know bought the DVD set of the whole series. It was in January, and I still clearly remember watching the movies while snow fell outside my window.

Anywho, nostalgia aside, the first few movies in the series are quite good. The original started a lot of trends that still pop up in slasher flicks today, and if you haven't already heard who the real killer was by now, it may be a surprise to you (hint: it's not Jason). It also had quite the horrifying shock ending that left audiences reeling. Other than those juicy bits, it does feature some memorable kills (particularly the scene involving a poker through a mattress) and some now classic lines. The summer camp setting was a great idea at the time, as the characters were isolated and yet clueless as to the danger they were in.

However, the Friday the Thirteenth series doesn't really take off until the first sequel, which finally introduces Jason Voorhees as the killer. As far as horror villains go, he's right up there with Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers in terms of being widely recognized and known, even to non horror fans. Unlike Freddy, Jason is a silent hulking killer who never speaks. Unlike Michael, Jason is much more physical with his attacks. He walks rather briskly, or even jogs, while Michael simply walks slowly. There is a blankness to Michael that doesn't apply at all to Jason.

Speaking of those sequels, they are numerous and varried. Parts two and three are quite good in my opinion, both offering up likable heroines and some genuinely tense moments. Part four was alright, though I found the ending a little ridiculous. Part five was interesting simply for switching things up a little and for one of the most crazy random acts of violence I've ever seen in the first few minutes of the film. Parts six, seven, and eight are rather weak. Aside from part seven having an interesting heroine, the three films have little to offer as they veer into sillier territory. Part nine (called Jason Goes to Hell rather than numbered) is largely forgettable. Jason X (part ten) is fun simply because it is so bizarre in the context of the series (Jason in the far future, in outer space!) and because it has an awesome female adroid who can go toe to toe with Jason. Then there's Freddy Versus Jason, which was largely forgettable up until the actual fight (which was surprisingly good). A "remake" was released a while back but it wasn't so much a remake as a new entry in the series that was called a remake so that the writers could ignore series continuity. Avoid.

The Friday the Thirteenth series is available on DVD. It's been given many different releases, from box sets to higher quality releases of individual entries. They're all rather easy to find.

May. 11th, 2011

Khaleesi Smile


Twilight (Book) (Stephenie Meyer-2005)

Twilight is a young-adult vampire-romance novel by author Stephenie Meyer. Twilight was initially rejected by 14 agents, but became an instant bestseller when published originally in hardback in 2005, debuting at #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list within a month of its release and later peaking at #1. That same year, Twilight was named one of Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2005. The novel was also the biggest selling book of 2008 and, to date, has sold 17 million copies worldwide, spent over 91 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and been translated into 37 different languages.

It is the first book of the Twilight series, and introduces seventeen-year-old Isabella "Bella" Swan, who moves from Phoenix, Arizona to Forks, Washington and finds her life in danger when she falls in love with a vampire, Edward Cullen. The novel is followed by New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn. A film adaptation of Twilight was released in 2008. It was a commercial
success, grossing more than $392 million worldwide and an additional $157 million from North American DVD sales, as of July 2009.

To me, Twilight is a very awesome love story. One of my online friends mentioned (back in 2005 when the book first came out) that she had picked it up and fallen in love with it. I'd never heard of it, but when she mentioned it was about a vampire, I couldn't resist. The next time I went out of town, I tracked down a bookstore and found it. After I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I'd never read anything like Twilight before. It was amazing to me; the characters were interesting and I could really relate to Bella. Edward was really easy to like because he was different from what I expected. Not to mention the descriptions of how beautiful he is.

The more I read of this book, the better I liked it. I couldn't stop. I'd think, "Just another chapter." I think I read the whole thing within 2-3 days. And after I finished it, I wanted to start re reading it immediately. And for those who are thinking, "I HATE Twilight." but have never even read a chapter of it, give it a chance! You might be surprised. :)

Not to mention that while I was reading it, I kept thinking, "This is how I feel about my husband." When Bella is describing how she feels not good enough for Edward. That's how I sometimes felt/feel. I think that's why I relate to her so well. ^_^ I think we all feel that way sometimes.

You can find the Twilight books online or at local bookstores.

(By the way, sorry for not posting yesterday. Power outages and massive storms.)

May. 9th, 2011



TV Series: True Blood (2008-Ongoing)

True Blood is a television series that most horror fans are aware of by now. But just in case you're not, here's a brief rundown: The show began airing in 2008 on the pay cable channel HBO (which means it can, and does, get away with showing nudity and gore in surprisingly large quantities) and is based on the series of books called The Southern Vampire Mysteries written by Charlaine Harris. The story is set in the fictional town of Bon Temps, Louisiana and has a rather large cast of characters, but predominantly focuses on Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic waitress who begins a romance with a vampire named Bill. Set in a world where vampires have recently revealed themselves to humans ("coming out of the coffin", as they put it), the relationship is naturally met with some criticism from the residents of Bon Temps. Each season (there are three so far, with the fourth beginning next month) has its own plot line, but there are some continuing threads that hold it all together, including Sookie's relationship troubles (let's just say that Bill isn't the only guy in her life), the origin of Sookie's mysterious abilities, her best friend Tara's attempts to break the cycle of her self-destructive tendencies, and the ongoing rivalry (which alternates between almost friendly and downright hostile) between Bill and the sexy, arrogant vampire sheriff Eric.

In a series as long and storied as True Blood, with it's complicated relationships and numerous subplots, it would be impossible for me to outline the story without taking up way too much time and space. It's also one of my favorite things, period. This means that explaining everything I love about it is also out of the question. I don't have all night, after all. What I can do is list and explain the Top Five Things I Love About True Blood:

1.) It's basically a modern, sexy version of Dark Shadows. Let's be honest here. It's a soap opera. But it's a soap opera with vampires, werewolves, lots of other crazy mythological creatures, blood, gore, violence, and a mean streak a mile long. While it does have its share of male fans, it is, predominantly, a show for women. The fact that there's a show for women that pulls no punches when it comes to horror just amazes me. The fact that it's a huge success is even better, and will hopefully put to rest the outdated idea that women don't like horror.

2.) It's dripping in southern charm. Being a southerner myself, I've always been drawn to stories set in small, southern towns. The setting of Bon Temps is beautifully displayed and is as much a character as Sookie or Bill. Okay, so a couple of the accents are off (I'm looking at you, Bill), but most of them are spot on. It's even more amazing when you find out that many of the actors aren't even from the U.S., much less the south.

3.) The show has no restrictions on race or gender when it comes to compelling characters. This is best represented by my favorite character, Tara. Strong, beautiful, razor-tongued, and yet possessing a tragic back story and engaged in an ongoing struggle to piece together her broken life in a storyline that is never too far from the main focus, it's very clear that Tara is not just the token "black friend". She can also be totally badass when she has to be, which is impressive considering that she's one of the few characters who is completely human and has no special abilities. There are a lot more awesome characters that are pointedly NOT white men.

4.) The music will blow you away. The opening song "Bad Things" is the kind of song that worms its way into your brain and never leaves. The rest of the music, from the background music to the various vocal tracks that usually close out the episodes, is perfectly suited to the series and perfectly appealing to the ears.

5.) The writing is top-notch. The plots are shocking. The pacing is pitch perfect. The dialogue is by turns clever, hilarious, poignant, and heartwarming. Though I felt the first season's dialogue was a little bogged down by excessive cursing (I realize it's on HBO, guys, you don't need to remind me with every single line from every single character), from season two on, that's no longer an issue. There's still cursing, of course, but now it's mostly from specific characters (from whom it is appropriate) or in intense arguments. Overall, most of the lines are insanely quotable and very memorable.

True Blood is available on DVD and Blu-ray. The episodes from all seasons (repeats) air on HBO from time to time. At the very least, HBO re-airs all the episodes prior to the season premier every year so that new fans can catch up (or old fans can refresh their memories).

May. 8th, 2011

Zombie Film


Series 7: The Contenders

In 2001, writer and director Daniel Minahan gave us Series 7: The Contenders, a film that some critics argue tries to be all things to all people. I do not concur.
The film does take reality TV and American bloodlust to task. The film is presented in the style of a full season of the nations most popular reality TV show.
Players are chosen at random from a National Lottery and pitted against each other to fight to the death. Yes, you heard me. Fight to the death.
What makes this film different than say, The Running Man, is that it's set right now. Present day. In regular, middle class America. Contenders engage in gun battles at the local mall, the corner store, the nearest expressway. This is not a vague, distant future, but the world just outside your door. This adds an immediacy that brings the message home.
The cast is comprised of moderately famous actors that you may not be able to name, but are sure you've seen around. You may remember the lead contender as having put a certain lotion into a certain fucking basket during a certain Oscar winning film.

In addition to the broader themes, Series 7: The Contenders shows us the many myriad ways that family can be a curse. Each contender has their own messed up family issues to deal with, each one unique, depressing, and somewhat familiar. There's a sarcastic tone to the film that makes it all feel very snide as the horror of Americans tuning in each week to literally watch their neighbors murder each other washes over the viewer.

This film gets my recommends. It's horrific, to be sure. It's also a drama, an action movie, and even a romance. No, not some cheesy chest-pounding smoochfest, but the kind of romance that ends like most real-life ones: badly. If you're going to check this out, def get the DVD as the alternate endings are must-see. It should be noted that this project was originally pitched to TV execs as a season-long, faux reality series. The network was intrigued, but asked that they sex it up a little.

May. 7th, 2011

Thelma - Living Dead Girl


Movie: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer should really need no introduction. Even if you're most familiar with the popular tv series, you've probably at least heard of the original film that started it all: a 1992 horror comedy written by Joss Whedon (who went on to do the series) starting Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry. The basic premise is well known at this point: a rather materialistic cheerleader who's biggest worry is what she's going to wear to the school dance discovers that she's the "chosen one", the current Slayer who is destined to battle vampires and save the world. Of course, she's not exactly keen on this idea and would much rather be shopping with her friends than staking vamps, but when the vampires bring the fight to her, well, she doesn't really have much choice but to fight. Luckily, she gets some help from Pike, a somewhat wild biker boy who is apparently a bit of a social misfit. Romance and crasy vampire-slaying hijinks ensue.

If you've watched the tv series but never tried the movie, you might find it a little jarring. After all, the movie is far more light-hearted and fun than the angst-ridden series. The vampires here are quite a bit less menacing (although they can and do attack/kill/turn major characters) and there's more emphasis on humor and the silly side of horror. Still, if you're a fan of Whedon's style of humor, you'll probably like it. Buffy fans will probably hate me for saying this, but I've always liked this version better. It might be because I saw it first (years before the series debuted, and was actually disappointed that it didn't pick up exactly where the movie left off). It might be because I liked the characters of movie!Buffy and Pike much better than tv!Buffy and Xander (and pretty much anyone else in the tv cast). Or it migh be that I always just adored the dress Buffy wears at the end (see pic above). Regardless, the movie is energetic, funny, and was poking fun at horror several years before Scream hit the scene.

May. 6th, 2011

with Cross, Dora- Top of Chapel


Movie: Near Dark (1987)

Near Dark is a 1987 western vampire flick directed by Kathryn Bigelow. While the film did poorly in theaters, it was critically praised and has since developed a strong cult following. The story follows a group of vampires, focusing mainly on their newest recruit Caleb, as they travel through the Oklahoma desert. The group itself is full of strong personalities, including the vicious Severen, the leader Jesse, the compassionate Mae, and the child-like Homer. If Caleb wants to survive amongst them, he must learn to kill humans for blood. He also finds himself developing feelings for the lovely Mae, who might be the only one in the group still holding on to a shred of humanity.

It's been several years since the last time I watched Near Dark, but it is without question my favorite vampire movie of all time. It's just so heartbreakingly beautiful. The scenery is gorgeous, from the nighttime desert backdrops to the interestingly-lit interiors. There's also the costumes, as well as the characters themselves. They're all broken in one way or another, adapting to the "disease" of vampirism the only way they know how. But nothing is sugar-coated. The vampires are painted in a sympathetic light, and yet they are still monsters, make no mistake. The relationship between Mae and Caleb is of particular note, being incredibly touching in the midst of a rather violent and bloody story. The movie has a certain dirty, grunge-rock feel to it, but there's a surprisingly sweet and lovely heart beating at the center.

Near Dark is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

May. 4th, 2011

Herve - Little Geek


Comic: Nightmare Theater (Chaos! Comics)

Nightmare Theater is a four-issue comic book mini-series published by Chaos! Comics in 1997. The writing and artwork were done by various authors and artists including Hart D. Fisher, David Quinn, Brian Pulido, Tom Sniegoski, Anya Martin, Rick Veitch, Fauve, Kirk Van Wormer, and Bernie Wrightson. It is basically a horror anthology series, with three to four stories in each issue. Like in most anthologies, the stories differ greatly in subject matter and style. While the cover boasts the tagline "Classic Monsters", (and indeed there are some classic monsters here, including vampires, werewolves, and zombies), there are also plenty of less conventional creatures/situations to be found. And even the classic monsters tend to be given a twist of some sort. The quality of the stories ranges from average to fantastic, with most falling somewhere in the middle. There's also a special bonus in the form of a lengthy and well-written essay on the growth of horror films from the 1930's up through the 1960's, stretched across all four issues (each issue deals with a decade), complete with plenty of photos. I dare say the essay was at times more interesting than the stories in the comics.

Something I thought was particularly fun about Nightmare Theater was that it seemed to be inspired by anthology horror tv shows like Tales From the Dark Side, which were in turn inspired by horror comics. It has a wraparound story, of course, and a couple of corny horror hosts who make bad puns (as is traditional of horror hosts), but it was rather uninteresting overall. The real meat was in the standalone stories. The ones that worked were pretty darned great and even the ones that didn't were at least strange enough to be worth a read and never boring. Since a lot of different artists worked on this comic, it's hard to comment on the art. I loved some of it and found some of it unappealing, but art is a very subjective thing anyway. In the end, Nightmare Theater will appeal to fans of anthology horror or those just looking for something a little weird and fun.

Nightmare Theater is available in single comic form. It has not been collected in a trade paperback. The issues are cheap and can easily be found on ebay.

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