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Reviews in the Machine: The Traveling Vampire Show, by Richard Laymon

vampire showOne of my favorite books growing up was Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. And it was a book that I didn’t immediately engage with. I had been a fan of several of McCammon’s books already but Boy’s Life was quite a departure from what I was expecting. There was seemingly none of the horrific elements that his books seemed to deliver. I bailed out, shortly after beginning my first attempt but before long, I was able to buckle down and force myself through. It wasn’t long after that before I realized how much I had missed out by not sticking with the book the first time through.

The book isn’t horror. I wasn’t wrong in that initial assessment. Sure, there are some moments where the narrative seems to brush up against the supernatural but in no way was this horror. Still, I loved it. The characters were compelling and I quickly bought into them as a reader. I couldn’t put the book down and the thing that really threw me was how, for most of the book, it wasn’t really clear what the story was driving towards. I’m normally not a huge fan of books that are so plot-driven but in this case, the plot was so great, it was all I wanted.

It was this feeling that I returned to when I came across The Travelling Vampire Show. I have not had the pleasure of reading anything by Richard Laymon before and I suspect that this will not be the last. The setup for the book is pretty straightforward. A group of three friends come across a flier for a travelling act that is coming to town. The poster claims that the town can come out to see one of the last surviving vampires, alive. An intense show is promised, one that won’t be soon forgotten.

The friends, after much debate, decide that they need to figure out how to sneak out that night in order to get in and see this vampire, real or not.

From this point on, the book mostly goes into a detailed sequence of events, what transpires for these three friends. It’s a notion that in the hands of another author probably could have ended up being a complete disaster. And for me, this is where the comparison to Boy’s Life really comes into play. As with Boy’s Life, I frequently found myself looking up from this book and realizing that I really couldn’t say what the book was about, or what kind of arc these characters were on. And while many would bemoan the absence of these things, for me, the story was so compelling, I was finding that I just didn’t care. This was a rich universe that was an absolute pleasure to dip in to. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty and about growing up and how our relationships can change as that process moves forward. The plot has an almost episodic feel to it as our characters move from one emotional challenge to the next and I loved it.

The characters were what really rocketed this book into the stratosphere. Everyone felt like they had an immense history and texture to them and it was a big part of what made me overlook my feelings about the story seeming like one endless stream of point A to point B to point C and so forth. The importance of where the book was going took a comfortable back seat to my desire to simply see what the characters were going to do next.

There were a few points where I thought the book could have been better. There are a number of flashbacks throughout and for some reason, one of the characters always seems to have a different nickname during each one. It’s never really explained why she changes her nickname all the time and the first time it happened there were several minutes of confusion on my part, wondering who this new character was.

My other issue was with the ending. While it was dramatic and satisfying, there were certain aspects that I found a bit overdone. There were several moments that I thought were getting a little masturbatory, with multiple female characters fighting and of course losing their clothes in the process.

These were both minor issues however, and my enjoyment of the book remained strong. The  romance between two of the characters is certainly to be expected by most readers so it isn’t exactly a stunning twist but the way that aspect of the story develops is actually quite sweet and I felt like I was seeing something genuine developing, not just an author arbitrarily pushing two characters together. And I’ll give Laymon credit for resisting the urge at a key moment to launch into an obligatory sex scene and instead throwing in a head-fake that made me actually laugh as I was reading, something that doesn’t happen very often.

This isn’t a horror story. It does however build up to some closing moments that are grim and intense in their violence and in how disturbing they are. Overall, this was a fantastic book and the genius of it is in how it takes moments that should drag the book down and uses them as the essential building blocks to construct a book that I didn’t want to put down.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

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Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Hell House LLC (2015)

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[PRAAAAWBABLY SOME SPOILERS IN THIS ONE]

I actually just had to go through my now-double-digits past write-ups for Machine Mean to see if I was right on this…but HHLLC will be the first found footage film I’ve actually reviewed. And by found footage, I mean the shot-on-video incarnation, and not earlier films with an in-progress-documentary-film conceit like Cannibal Holocaust, Man Bites Dog, etc..

Coincidentally, I think I was supposed to review The Houses October Built but maybe didn’t for scheduling reasons or something. I say ‘coincidentally’ because that was another found footage film about the “Haunt” industry—commercial haunted house attractions run by professionals during the fall season, especially around Halloween. HHLLC goes a very different way with its scares, mostly due to revealing itself as a different subgenre of horror to THOB, which was something more like The Blair Witch Project meets The Strangers. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Grudge (2004)

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The Grudge (2004) seems to be one of those films it’s cool to hate. The only thing cooler is preferring the Japanese original. I’m going to be uncool (not a stretch) and play a little devil’s advocate (assuming my proposed generality is accurate). I’m going to try to focus on what I think is the film’s greatest virtue. It may even be the case that The Grudge (2004), Takashi Shimizu’s English language reworking of Ju-on, has a great deal to teach us about how to make an effective horror film, even if it ultimately fell flat for you.

What is the virtue in question? The Grudge is played straight. Its premise is held up to the light to live or die by its own merit. The film doesn’t lean on homage the way many horror films have done. Recent successful horror installments like Hereditary and A Quiet Place share this quality with The Grudge. All of these films owe something to the catalog of horror films that preceded them, but they are the clear result of careful digestion and organic integration of classic tropes, not so much ham-fisted nods to their predecessors. There’s a sense that the creators were excited about the stories they were telling. They felt they had something unique in hand, and the general consensus seems to be that they were right. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: Salvage, by Duncan Ralston

Salvage1Salvage is a story built on a solid and creepy premise. It’s a book that somehow manages to feel claustrophobic within mostly open spaces and isolated it’s characters in ways that I don’t think I have seen done similarly in anything else I have read.

I love stories that deal with the sea and especially underwater. One of my favorite movies growing up was The Abyss, along with the fantastic novelization, written by Orson Scott Card. I loved the sense of terror that is exuded from being underwater, even at shallow depths. It’s the one place where, despite our often feeling like masters of our domain, once we are plunged into the depths we begin to realize how weak and unwanted we can be on an alien landscape. The sound and temperature is distorted. You have no sense of touch or smell. What you see can only be illuminated by what natural light filters down or by your dive lights. Diving underwater is something that begs to have a horror story written about it.

The concept for this book is of a lost town, flooded intentionally as a part of rerouting a river. It’s something I was surprised to see has happened before. Google it if you want to see some interesting material. Essentially the population must abandon the town and ever since, it has been lost at the bottom of a man-made lake, save for the top peak of the local chapel. The book is centered around the disappearance of the local Reverend as well as some of the parishioners.

All this makes for some outstanding atmosphere and tension. It’s spooky enough to explore an abandoned town but add to that the aspect of doing it underwater makes for a beautiful sense of claustrophobia and anxiety.

It’s a fine line to strike but technical detail is something I like, so long as it is being used to augment the story, not replace it. I call this the Dan Brown syndrome from his tendency to bring an entire narrative to a shrieking halt while some concept is explained. Maybe we even get a flashback of Robert Langdon beating some concept into the ground for one of his classes. This phenomenon happens when you have a writer who puts a ton of time at the library or online, researching some aspects of the story and when it comes time to write, you can tell they are somewhat shoehorning to make room for all the knowledge they discovered. Wouldn’t want that time to get wasted, would we?

And I get it. I’ve been in a similar position. And often we find ourselves really interestedSalvage2 in a subject and want to write about it. The problem is that it bogs down the narrative. So I was happy to discover that in this, Ralston deftly incorporates the necessary technical aspects of diving while at the same time making it feel natural and logical. He also has enough respect for us to keep from overexplaining, making his descriptions clear, while expecting us to keep up with him as well. I felt like I actually learned a lot about diving and of the common dangers that I don’t think I was ever really aware of. It created a beautiful balance of danger for the characters, presented by the real world sources as well as possibly other-worldly as well.

And of course added to all of this is the well-layered tension and mystery around the protagonist’s history as well as that of the town. There is a certain amount of intrigue to the story as he works through the locals, trying to obtain more information. It’s a dynamic between characters that isn’t necessarily new but Ralston delivers the classic narrative in fine form.

The novel is paced well and the characters are carefully crafted. But for me the atmosphere was what really made this story take off. Supernatural horror has always been one of my favorites and the addition of the diving aspect really made it work well. If, by chance you aren’t as familiar with the works of Duncan Ralston, Salvage would be a great starting point.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Omen (1976)

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The Omen: 1976

Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick  and David Warner.

Directed by Richard Donner

Review By: D.S. Ullery
For a great many people, the peace and love movement launched in earnest in 1967 with the Summer of Love – and, in a larger, ideological sense, the innocence of the 1960’s – came to an ugly end on an eerily silent August night in 1969, when Charles Manson sent his followers into the Hollywood hills on a mission of murder. Even the success of the Woodstock festival several weeks later couldn’t quell the tide of rising tensions.

This may seem an odd note on which to launch a review of what’s essentially a mainstream occult horror flick about the Antichrist, but bear with me.

Between 1967 and 1974, the mood in the United States had undergone a dramatic shift away from the sensibilities distinguishing the early days of the Hippie movement. There was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the aforementioned Manson cult crimes, the Kent State shootings, Watergate and the eventual resignation of Richard Nixon. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

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Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Conner, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney, and Franka Potente

Written By: Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, James Wan, and David Leslie Johnson

Directed By: James Wan

Review By: Joshua Macmillan

Synopsis: A single mother and her four children are being attacked by a malicious force that is determined to possess one of her young daughters. After attempting to get help from local authorities, the Catholic church appoints Ed and Lorraine Warren to visit the family and try to figure out exactly what is going on.

If you read my previous review for James Wan’s The Conjuring (2013), you would know that I was grasped by that film. It engaged me on levels that I didn’t think it would at all. After I watched it, I immediately wanted to pop in the disk to The Conjuring 2 (2016) but I held off until after I had written my review for the original. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: Day of the Dead (1985)

Day of the Dead 2In light of the recent passing of actor Joseph Pilato, I thought it would be a good time to share some of my thoughts on one of my favorite all-time zombie films. The original trilogy of films which George Romero presented has stood the test of time as great representations of the zombie genre. While zombies have taken off in modern popular culture, all things must have their origins. And while I love all three of the films, Day of the Dead has always been my favorite. Dawn of the Dead is a great film but at times it does tend to drag a bit for me. And while Night of the Living Dead is an undeniable classic, at times it comes off as a bit on the quaint side for me, more of a rough sketch of the greatness that zombie films could become, further down the road. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural In Review: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Jacob's Ladder 1I say without exaggeration that Jacob’s Ladder was one of the most visually disturbing movies I’ve ever seen. The surreal landscape of the story is terrifying and in my opinion has never been equaled by anything after.

And before I get into this, let me say that there will be spoilers. Sorry, but I want this to he a complete discussion of the film so if you haven’t seen it, stop reading, right now, and correct that oversight.

This is the kind of movie you really need to watch at least twice before you can really appreciate it. This isn’t a film that you coast through. This is a movie that you white-knuckle it for two hours before saying, wait what? What the hell just happened? Re-watching the movie, after already fully immersing yourself in it helps you fully appreciate the journey taken by this character. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

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Released 2005

Directed by Scott Derrickson

Written by Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

Starring: Jennifer Carpenter, Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson

This review contains spoilers.

Review by: Kayleigh Marie Edwards

I love horror films but as an atheist, possession movies don’t normally tickle the terror nerve for me. I don’t believe in Satan or spirits or the possibility of being possessed, so as much as I am entertained by the idea of it, it doesn’t scare me as much as, say, Mikey standing in the corner facing into the wall (you know, because forest witches are definitely real). However, The Exorcism of Emily Rose is not just another run-of-the-mill possession movie about a teenage girl in a dirty white nightdress spouting Latin in dual voices. Well… I mean… it is actually, but it’s also so much more. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Village of the Damned (1995)

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Village of the Damned (1995)

A Review by: Feind Gottes

Directed by: John Carpenter

Written by: David Himmelstein (adapted from the book by John Wyndham and the 1960 screenplay by Sterling Silliphant, Wolf Rilla and Ronald “George Barclay” Kinnoch)

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré and Mark Hamill

The Gist: All the women in a small town become pregnant at the same time (YIKES!) giving birth to children who turn out to be as weird as the pregnancies themselves.

Feind’s Review (ish): Spoilers Ahead, DUH! This review is going to be difficult to get through without making too many Christopher Reeve jokes but I’ll try to let it stand on its own two feet… shit… so it begins! Thankfully there isn’t a horse riding scene or I’d never be able to get through it! So this review is on the 1995 remake by living legend John Carpenter but I would highly recommend you check out the 1960 original film since, while dated, is an excellent film. I would say check out the book by John Wyndham also but that would be advice to myself since I haven’t read it either. Speaking of ‘50s & ‘60s sci-fi horror I also highly recommend the 1953 film Invaders From Mars (there was a remake in 1986 but I like the original better) which is in a similar vein as Village of the Damned but I suppose I should get on with it.  Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Conjuring (2013)

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Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, and Lili Taylor

Written By: Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes

Directed By: James Wan

Synopsis: Shortly after moving into a new house, a family becomes terrorized by demonic forces. After learning of the world renowned paranormal investigating team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the family asks for their help. Upon visiting the family in their home, the Warrens find themselves confronting a powerful demonic entity determined to continue its reign of horror.

Review By: Joshua Macmillan

When I think of modern horror, James Wan is one of the first directors that come to mind. I would say it is a fair assumption that Wan comes to mind for a lot of us genre fans. From his initial dive into horror with the Saw franchise, his Insidious films, to what I am writing about now with The Conjuring, James Wan has become a horror icon in the realm of creatives.  Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Stir of Echoes (1999)

StirOfEchoes5Stir of Echoes is a film which didn’t get as much attention when it was released, which I think is kind of a shame. I have always enjoyed it, one of my favorite horror offerings from that time period. Unfortunately, as is often the case in situations like this where timing works against you, I think that this movie was unlucky enough to be lost somewhat in the long shadow cast by a little film known as The Sixth Sense. Being a supernaturally driven film with a child as one of the predominant characters, you knew pretty much right away that there wasn’t much chance of both these films being really successful. And as history has obviously shown, the public was much more drawn to M. Night Shyamalan’s film than this.
And this is not going to be descending into a discussion of which movie is better. I enjoyed both films and honestly I don’t think they even really belong in the same category together. Granted, they both deal with ghosts to some extent but I would argue that in the case of The Sixth Sense, the existence of ghosts is almost irrelevant to the heart of what the story is about. Stir of Echoes is a pure, cool ghost story.
And to me, what really set this film up for success was in packing it full of talented, hard-working actors who were at the top of their game.
I think Kevin Bacon is one that is easy to dismiss because he has done so many movies. And I’ll be the first to admit that not all the films he does are great. There are definitely some stinkers in there. But he’s always struck me as someone who just loves to work and he’s one of those actors who is going to throw everything into a role. He also seems to have an aptitude for portraying blue collar type characters. All of this comes together for him to do a really good turn on a great character in this movie.
And for any Law & Order fans out there, the role of Bacon’s wife (Maggie) is excellently done by Kathryn Erbe. I thought she brilliantly portrayed the domestic partner who is pulled in any number of directions as she tries to support her husband (who is clearly going around the bend) as well as protect her son. She must function as a beacon of rationality in a situation that is anything but and she nailed the emotional roller coaster of that StirOfEchoes2character’s existence.
And for as much as kids in movies often aren’t that great, Zachary David Cope actually did a pretty good job. I think getting good performances out of young actors is often about properly framing the context of what they are doing. You don’t have to lay out the excruciating details of the plot to a seven year old and whatever the director did here worked great.
All around, it’s a phenomenal cast. Then newcomer, Jennifer Morrison, was great as the spectral presence in the film. Illeana Douglas did a nice job as the eccentric sister as well as the neighbor, played by Kevin Dunn. I didn’t grow up in Chicago but I have had a ton of family there so the setting and these characters felt very familiar to me.
I loved how the Witzkys in this became a kind of take on the Torrance family from Stephen StirOfEchoes3King’s, The Shining, minus the abuse and alcoholism. You have a father and son who share a bond over an ability that they don’t fully understand, an ability that is driving the father to insanity. And Mom is doing all she can to just hold it all together. We even get a Dick Halloran type character from Eddie Bo Smith Jr. – another great performance.
I appreciated that this film had both a dose of gritty intensity while at the same time bucking the notion that you can’t also have some positive moments in a story like this. Ultimately this is a family with intensely close bonds to each other which is possibly where the comparison to the Torrances comes to an end.
The mystery inherent in the plot is nearly perfect with the pacing keeping you on the edge while trying to figure out what is happening to these people. One major stumbling block for paranormal type stories like this are the moments when you have to communicate information to the characters. I have taken to calling this the “Google scene” because anymore often we see our characters fleeing to the Internet, performing a simple web search and getting all the information they need. I appreciate the pressure to keep the movie simple but often these scenes don’t work for me. With this movie, the moments in which Tom is able to make headway on this mystery comes off as legit to me Everything in the film that I see comes off as having a logical reason for being there. I never felt like the writers were simply inserting some convenient information for our hero to “find”. And this isn’t all Tom, either. As the essential third part of the equation, the other being their son, Maggie also manages to do some crucial deductions at the eleventh hour, making her much more than just set dressing.
In all, this is a beautifully constructed and crafted film. Is it a bit on the glossy side, maybe a touch superficial feeling for the horror genre? Perhaps. But I’m willing to let that go when held against all the other positives the movie has to offer.
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D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: We Are Still Here (2015)

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I had no idea what to expect going into this one, other than hearing some vague things about it being pretty good. I’m glad I came in fresh this time. I usually at least have a vague idea of what I’m getting into but it’s nice to have no preconceived notions of any kind once in a while. I had also heard Barbara Crampton was in it, which was a plus as I’ve been a fan since growing up with Re-Animator and From Beyond, and seeing her more recently in Beyond the Gates.

SUMMARY:

So, I’m gonna admit right out of the gate that I didn’t pick up on this being a period piece at all when I watched it the first time. Once I found that out, it made sense when I was scanning back over some scenes. I either missed a year tag or just how period specific all the cars and clothes were. Although, in my defense, a lot of what was popular in the late 1970s in those realms is still popular or popular again. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Ghost Story (1981)

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Directed by John Irvin

Written by Lawrence D Cohen adapted from the novel by Peter Straub

Starring: Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, John Houseman, Craig Wasson and Alice Krige

Review by: Feind Gottes

The Gist: Four elderly men are haunted by a terrible deed in their youth. The ghost of their past returns to take vengeance on the next generation who stumbles upon the deep dark secret they’ve kept hidden for decades.

The Review (ish): Before I begin I have a couple of confessions to make much like the elderly gentleman who starred in this film. First, I have read many Peter Straub books but I have never read Ghost Story (which released in 1979) which this film is based on. Based on the books of Straub’s I have read I can tell you there are few writers who do horror mystery better than him, I highly recommend his novel simply titled Mystery. Second, this movie is difficult to find without running out to buy the recently released Blu-ray edition which I did not. I saw this film initially sometime in the early to mid-80s and most of this review will be based on that recollection with a little help from videos I’ve used to jog my memory though I will likely pick up the Blu-ray when I have the opportunity. Also, I personally do not believe in ghosts and rarely find movies involving ghosts scary with Poltergeist (1982) being the main exception. That’s my confession so now you’re all priests – STOP TOUCHING LITTLE BOYS!!!  Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Burnt Offerings (1976)

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There is something about horror movies of the 1970s that I love. Maybe it’s the pre-social media age. There’re no cell phones, no cable TV, no internet, not even compact discs or home computers. The time is one of simplicity. Or so it would seem. I imagine without all our modern distractions, there is more focus on what lies beneath.  It was also a time of mystery. Putting a man on the moon was only something, at the time, that we’d just been able to accomplish. We simply knew less. Religion was much more accepted and widespread. Science was growing but it was still looked at as part fantasy. Less knowledge about how the world and the universe worked meant there was more room for our imaginations to wander in the dark void.

Burnt Offerings is based off a novel with the same name published in 1973 by Robert Marasco.  Director/producer Dan Curtis co-wrote the screenplay with author William F. Nolan.  Curtis was mostly a TV movie guy but does a wonderful job taking up the big chair for Burnt Offerings. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Marsh (2006)

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“You can bury the past… but sometimes the past won’t stay buried.”

“The Marsh” (2006) opens with the main character, Claire Holloway (Gabrielle Anwar), who is a stressed children’s book writer, reading to children in a book store, but quickly follows with a more ominous and action-oriented beginning. Images and sounds from an eerie marsh, followed by screaming, are taken in by our senses as the front credits roll. Soon, we realize we are in Claire’s nightmare from which she awakes in a doctor’s office. It seems she isn’t taking her medication and the doctor tells her “something” is evolving. This makes us wonder if she has anxiety, mental health disorder, trouble sleeping, or what? She seems stressed so in the beginning I was going with anxiety.  Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Supernatural (1933)

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One of my buddies on Facebook had been pestering me for years to give Supernatural (1933) a watch. Seeing how we’re in the thralls of March Madness, I thought what better time than now. I am after all a fan of classic cinema, especially classic horror. While produced by Paramount Productions, Universal Studios had been sold the rights in 1958. Directed by Victor Halperin, who just one year prior directed White Zombie (1932), a mildly successful release with audiences of the Great Depression, Supernatural was not as revered and today has become a somewhat obscure and hard to find film. In fact, if you Google Supernatural you’ll only find images of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padaleski in the hit CW show of the same title. Needless to say, Supernatural, the 1933 movie, was hard to track down for screening. But by some miracle of modern streaming devices, I was able to procure a copy. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Blair Witch (2016)

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Starring: Callie Hernandez, James Allen McCune, Valorie Curry, Wes Robinson, Corbin Reid, and Brandon Scott

Written By: Simon Barrett

Directed By: Adam Wingard

Synopsis: After what appears to be leaked footage dating back to when his sister went missing, James and a few of his friends enter the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the truth surrounding her disappearance.

At least once per decade, a film comes out that redefines the genre, sending it in a new direction. In the 90’s, we had a renaissance with meta horror found in the late Wes Craven’s 1996 classic- Scream. A mere three years later the genre would change yet again with 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Co-Directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick helped the genre shift and their little indie film became one of the pioneers of the found-footage sub-genre. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Legend of Hell House (1973)

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Released in June, 1973, The Legend of Hell House hit unsuspecting theatergoers with a blast. Based on the Richard Matheson novel, Hell House, (and adapted to the screen by Matheson himself) Legend of Hell House was helmed by John Hough. Hough’s credits after Hell House include a slew of notable horror films (The Incubus, Watcher in the Woods, American Gothic) as well as the Disney Witch Mountain franchise.

The story: Physicist Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill) and his wife, Gayle (An Barrett) lead two mediums into the Belasco House, which is supposedly haunted by the victims of its late owner, Emeric Belasco, a 6’ 5”serial killer dubbed the “Roaring Giant”. This is done at the direction of eccentric millionaire, Mr. Deutch (Roland Culver). Deutch is terminally-ill and obsessed with discovering survival after death. The Belasco House, the “Mountain Everest of haunted houses”, has yet to be refuted. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: The Island, by Michael Bray (2015)

The IslandIn The Island, by Michael Bray, we see a society in which reality television has become a performance platform for violence and death. The island itself is a man-made land mass on which a competition has been resurrected to air for the first time as a television series. Contestants are set loose on the island and only one can survive to the end. Their prize? Whatever it is they desire. All they have to do is make it from one side of the island to the other.

Oh, and they have to make it through an island packed full of dinosaurs.

The main character of the story, Chase Riley, decides to take part in the newly revamped show in order to save his daughter who is suffering from terminal cancer. Against the wishes of his wife, he enters into the show, hoping that a victory will bring in the money they lacked, in order to get their daughter the treatment she needs.

Putting all my honesty down on the table, I have to admit that I was a little dubious of the concept of this book going into it. My concern was that this was going to just end up feeling like a modern reimagining of The Running Man, but with dinosaurs as an artificial attempt to add an extra element to an already successful story. Still, I was also intrigued by the idea and was willing to give it a go.

I’m glad to say that my reservations were unfounded. I think this book is a good reminder that, regardless of the specific concept, effective writing and characters that can be related to will carry a lot of weight, even if the story has some familiar ring to it.

To start off, I think that the strongest element to this book is that of the characters. It’s really easy when you have multiple characters to have trouble keeping track of everyone and they all start to blend together. Despite that challenge, I thought Bray did a really good job making sure everyone was distinct and easy to tell apart from each other. Despite the fact that some of the characters were fairly archetype-ish, I found myself interested in them and engaged in their part of the story.

I also really liked how he explored the dynamic between the characters within the context of the game itself. More specifically, the notion of people who are on one hand contestants but also still feel the urge to help each other. How do you work with and against each other at the same time? How do you deal with the fact that you might care for someone’s well-being while at the same time realizing that you may be put in a position where you might have to take that person’s life?

I found the pacing of the book to be great. I thought the story moved along at a nice clip and once things really got going, they don’t stop until the book ends. Bray did a great job creating a story that is engaging and that held my interest throughout.

As it is probably to be expected in a story of this type, things are not necessarily as they seem. The twists in the story are well done and are used effectively in order to move things along. There were a few points towards the end of the book where I felt like the twists were starting to stretch the limits of credibility, slightly. However, this did not prevent my ability to enjoy them and I was able to shut that part of my brain up and just watch the book unfold.

If I had one critical comment about the book, it would be that at times I thought the writing style got in the way of the flow of the narrative, somewhat. There seem to be quite a few moments where the writing is a bit dense in terms of the paragraphs being very long. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this practice, but I think it can make scenes less effective when there is a lot of action going on. I think it has a tendency to slow down the reader and bring down the immediacy of the narrative. In my opinion, some of the scenes could have been more powerful and effective if some of the longer paragraphs had been broken up. This is just a personal issue of my own and it’s a minor one. It didn’t interfere with my enjoyment, nor did it necessarily make the book any less engaging.

In all, I thought that in a culture that has become rife with dystopian literature, The Island does a pretty good job keeping its head above the water and not feeling like ground that is being re-treaded one too many times. It is a book I enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Click HERE for directions to your nearest Amazon storefront listing of this fantastic book.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: FeardotCom (2002)

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In 2002, horror was figuring out the next step in its evolution. The ’90s had ended on a high note, with The Sixth Sense re-establishing slow-burn ghost stories as financially viable, and The Blair Witch Project bringing found footage to the masses in a way the then-cult stomach-churner Cannibal Holocaust never could. At that point, Dark Castle had brought a few inventive re-imaginings of William Castle films to a new generation of horror viewer, while the remake floodgates wouldn’t be kicked open proper until 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was also two years before Saw (allegedly) captured the zeitgeist of the George W. Bush era, turning notions of torture into a financially lucrative extension of the genre.

2002 did show inklings, however, of where mainstream horror might go. In a nod to the relative subtlety and simplicity of The Sixth Sense, and the “something’s out there” (but not necessarily seen) notion of The Blair Witch Project, Dreamworks mined a hit from Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (itself a remake of Japan’s Ringu).  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : The Shades, by Amy Cross (2012)

The ShadesI’m a tad late to the party for this 2012 release but I did manage to get here and I’m glad I did. I’m no stranger to the works of Amy Cross but one thing I like about her catalog is her willingness to go to new places and try new concepts, while also keeping to her same sensibilities and strengths.
With The Shades, Cross does what she often seems to be a fan of, thrusting us directly into the heart of the action, leaving us to grab for a handhold and hope that at some point, she will clear up for us exactly what is going on. The entire population of the United States has disappeared with no explanation as to the cause. A private organization has dispatched a team of experts to investigate what happened. Quickly however, it is apparent that the situation is even more complicated than has been assumed, as well as the motivations for sending this team in the first place.
One thing that Cross really excels at is in weaving a complex tapestry for a narrative and this is no exception. The story takes place on two levels. First, we have the team in the present, exploring an abandoned wasteland that was once New York City. In the other, we are several weeks in the past, following along with another group at the outset of whatever it is that has happened. The book jumps back and forth and while normally this would be a recipe for confusion and disaster, Cross manages to keep everything in the air and uses the device to keep the story compelling and exciting. I have seen her do this in other books and she does a great job creating moments where the narratives collide and present explanations for previous events in the book. She’s great at giving payoffs down the road for ambiguous events early on. While many authors have a tendency to be too vague in the actual explanations in the book, I have generally felt that Cross does a good job grounding the story for the reader.
The vibe of the story quickly transitions from mystery to horror as members of the research team are gradually stricken by some kind of ailment. We see this same condition taking place in the past with our group of heroes, there. Bizarre events make the direction of the plot a complete mystery and for much of the book, I was perfectly happy to sit back and see how things were going to play out. The situations and fates these characters come to were frightening to behold and through it all, Cross also manages to weave in some philosophical wanderings in terms of the ethics of big companies like this and the research they may be spearheading. Shades of Jurassic Park here, I thought.
Overall, this was a book that was fast-paced, exciting and disturbing. And as she is adept at doing, Cross manages to insert just the right level of graphic content to punch up the impact of the story without taking it too far.
Now all of that aside I will admit that the book isn’t perfect. There are a bit more typos in this than I’m used to seeing in an Amy Cross book, possibly a sign of the fact that it came so much earlier in her career. Still, they were a bit distracting and I think the book would have benefited from another editorial pass.
Also, the ending. Any story that starts off like this one is going to create the expectation in the reader for a big payoff and I don’t know if this one delivered necessarily. While Cross does manage to bring the threads of the story together, things end just a bit too neatly for me. And while her explanation for everything that has happened is pretty clever and not one I would have guessed, from a technical perspective I think it needed to be thought out a little more, or eplained . I’m not looking for exhaustive details – this isn’t a techno thriller. But I would have liked the mechanics of what happened in the book to be a little better explained and at moments, there was a bit too much of an air of, “things are just this way because I say they are.”
Those are personal issues though, and different readers are going to come down differently. And in no way does any of that diminish the overall greatness of the book. It’s a spectacular, terrifying and immensely creative narrative, one that I was happy to come across after taking somewhat of a break from the work of Amy Cross.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Sleepy Hollow (1999)

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As I look out my window, the view is an obstruction of what looks like a white sandstorm in the trees. Barren forest, ominous setting, and a perfect time to write a horror film review of the gothic, supernatural variety. Warm, indoors writing of it, I mean! Pull up a chair by the fireplace and join me.

As most people know by now, my sense of humor often carries over into my writing and reviews, so fair warning since I’m reviewing the 1999 horror film, “Sleepy Hollow.” And really, what can one expect with a movie like this starring the king of dramatic over-emphasis, Johnny Depp? However, I will try to be humorous as well as critical, so let’s start over.

“Sleepy Hollow” is a film directed by Tim Burton and I am a huge fan of this director. Consider he’s using the source material of one of my favorite classic horror authors Washington Irving, and one of my favorite short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” what’s not to like? I really enjoyed the show that was on television a few years back as well, but in 1999, just having my first baby, I wasn’t really getting out to the theaters. Somehow, though I always wanted to watch it, I just never did. Now, almost twenty years later, the movie didn’t feel old at all, due to the cinematography, decent special effects, and cast of stellar supporting actors (not to mention how young Depp looks). I’m sure the time period the movie is set in (the 1800s) also helps with that. At any rate, I mean I didn’t feel I was watching a cheesy ‘80s or ‘90s movie of my youth.  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : The Goblin Glass, by Mark West

Cover2Great storytelling has very little to do with the specifics of the story itself. And what I mean by that is that when you break down a story to its core elements, they is a fairly small variety of plot types. If there’s a story out there to be told, chances are that countless others have gotten there first.

Writing is about the prose, not the gimmicks. And this is the main reason why my skepticism alarm rages at full volume whenever I see books who claim to take convention and turn it on its head. When I hear about an author who is unlike anyone who has come before them. When writing, one shouldn’t obsess over whether or not they are providing a fresh perspective on a genre or concept. Instead, one should focus on whether or not the story is being crafted at the highest level possible.

And this brings us to the story of the hour, the Goblin Glass, by Mark West.

A story about a burglar who has returned to a life of crime might not be that jaw-dropping as just a concept. And given the context of the story, the reader would likely anticipate that the protagonist of the story will encounter something horrific.

But what Mark West does here and what he has done so brilliantly in the books I have read is to create atmosphere and tension, so fraught that you can’t help but read on. And on.

And on.

For being such a short story, West does an excellent job establishing character. Despite knowing very little about the protagonist, save for the fact that he has clearly done wrong things in his life, I felt like he quickly became sympathetic and relatable on the page. In a thousand or so words, West manages to craft a character who we care about and is thrust into a situation of extreme stress and pressure, all leading him down the path to where he is in the bulk of the story’s narrative.

According to West, this came about as part of a themed anthology around the subject of the Ten Commandments, this story obviously inspired by thou shalt not steal. I thought he ran with this concept and really made it sing, all set against the backdrop of a universe that was beautifully bleak in its construction.

One of my favorite movies is Dark City. I love the image of that grimy industrial setting, perpetually drowned out in shadows and despair. You feel the emotional weight of the setting, not just a physical place through which the characters walk. And for me, the house in Goblin Glass functions as a perfect set piece. For me, it almost makes the entire story. It just so happens that a burglary is in process here but I would take any excuse to read more about this house.

The descriptions are vivid, making me feel like I’m the one tromping through this darkened, vile structure. The look of the place as it is put down on the page makes me feel revolted to picture and yet I couldn’t turn away – something that isn’t easy to accomplish. I could smell the dirty dishes, hear the protests of the floorboards and I was disturbed by the mirrors throughout the house, reflecting light and amplifying your fears as our hero continues going up and up, into the upper reaches of this mysterious house. The origins of all this isn’t necessarily clear. But it’s sure is scary.

Horror doesn’t necessarily require extensive explanation. For me, it’s about the creation of the moment and seeing where it goes. It’s about evoking what you can on the visual canvas of the mind. I’ve always been impressed with the writing of Mark West and this story is the perfect example.

Click here and get your copy for the Kindle, today!

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Haunting (1963)

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When folks talk about the original haunted house story, most people are referring to Shirley Jackson’s 1959 classic The Haunting of Hill House. This book has been adapted more times than any other haunted house story. From Salem’s Lot (yes, King alludes to Hill House as a comparison to the Marsten House) to even Hell House (though Richard Matheson took his 1973 book deeper into the paranormal investigative niche and spawned his own adaptions) to the most recent Netflix mini series, simply titled The Haunting of Hill House, which has spurred a resurgent interest into the old gothic tale. There are two other adaptations, of course. One we will not discuss because it is a horrible heap of garbage. The other is as close to the perfection that Miss Jackson composed within her 246 page as a movie can get. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine: Halloween, by John Passarella (2018)

Halloween1Just so you are aware.

I have not seen the most recent Halloween movie. There have been more than enough reactions to the film for you to seek out. This review represents my thoughts on the novelization.

 And while I may pretend that the book exists in a vacuum, I also have to acknowledge that this isn’t really the case. So I want to make sure it’s clear that whatever criticisms I may be putting down here, I can’t really hang it on John Passarella. While I’m sure he was given some room to roam, because this is a novelization, it means he was handed this story, fully formed for the most part. The writing is actually entertaining and engaging. The issues I have with the story would be decisions that were made before Passarella even came into the picture.

To start on a positive note, one thing that set Halloween (the original Carpenter film) aside from the other two massive franchises of the decade was in its use of atmosphere and foreshadowing. Michael seems to be constantly on the fringe of the story, floating in and out as a vague presence in many scenes, lending a beautifully bleak feeling of what is coming. This all is aided of course by a fantastic score.

With that fact as a kind of marinade to my point here, in general I would say that I preferred the first half of the book and I felt like the use of similar tension and foreboding was done well. As the reader with extra insight I liked the feeling of hopelessness for these characters as they go about their lives, not knowing what’s coming for them. Michael is appropriately frightening in his silent implacability. And naturally, most of those in charge don’t seem to take him seriously as a threat. And as would be expected from this franchise, we all know he’s going to escape. Still, when that scene finally arrived I thought it was done well.

One big promotional aspect for the film has been the return of Jaime Lee Curtis to her iconic role although, to be fair I’m not really sure why. Not that she isn’t an outstanding actor (she is) but of the nine movies set in the original film’s continuity, she’s appeared in five. I can’t think of any other franchise where an actor, save for the monster has appeared in so many installments. And this isn’t even the first “return” she’s made to the franchise. Maybe they should have called this H40.

I digress.

More relevant I think than just JLC’s presence is that this is essentially the establishment of a new iteration of the John Carpenter universe, seeing another possibility for how things could have ended up for Laurie Strode following the fateful events of that night.

And as such, I think some great potential is present at the start of this book in the relationship Laurie has with her family. On one hand you have her daughter who grows up traumatized herself, having to live with a mother who is constantly paranoid and emotionally unstable, sure that there are monsters poised to strike out at them. And in the middle of this estranged pair is the granddaughter, now of a similar age to Laurie in the first movie.

Unfortunately, this dynamic never really seems to go anywhere. The focus jumps from one to the next, so much that the book ends up not really being about any of them. You get some broad brush strokes every now and then but for the most part, everyone just felt flat for me.

And as for Laurie as a character, I was kind of let down. I’m normally a fan of sequels in which we see how damaged our main character really is and how just because the monster might be beaten, her torture still carries on. I’m appreciative when a writer is willing to show their heroes as being broken. Unfortunately, I thought that Laurie in this became a little bit too much Sarah Conners from T2. We start from quiet, unassuming Laurie in the first movie and now she’s somehow managed the resources and funds to amass a massive arsenal in her home, which is also outfitted with so many security features that it almost becomes cartoonish. And I’m not saying that’s it’s unbelievable that she could end up a fully loaded bad-ass. I’m more than willing to take that journey. It’s just that the transition felt wrong and unexplained to me.

Frankly, I think I would have been more intrigued by a story exploring the effect violence can have on a family. Laurie’s daughter has no memory of the first encounter with Michael. That’s always been theoretical for her. But it’s the reason why she’s raised with guns and knives and self-defense training, rather than birthday parties and toys. Instead of standard slasher-flick fare, this could have been a great aspect to the story but I think by adding both a daughter and a granddaughter, it became too complicated for any of them to get a good amount of focus.

And in my biggest complaint, because I guess they just had to have a Loomis type character, the doctor who is shoehorned into this role is a fail for me. Michael’s doctor has an arc in this story that has no narrative momentum to hold it up. And he ends up taking actions at the end that makes no sense to me. You can’t have a character whose only role is to act as a twist.

The book has some great, brutal scenes involving peripheral characters but once we get everyone to Laurie’s Bat Cave, much of the sense of peril kind of dwindled away for me.

After as many installments as this franchise has seen, I suppose it’s inevitable for the plot to feel a little on the bland side. Still, for me, this book mostly goes down as a case of lost potential.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Beetlejuice (1988)

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Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Michael McDowell (story), Larry Wilson (story)

Stars: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton, & Winona Ryder, et. al.

Release Date: 30 March 1988 (USA)

Review “Living Through the Black Death and Having a Good time Through It” by: J.G. Clay

Every now and again, a film slithers its way from the screen into the Geek Cloud, that weird consciousness shared by folks of a certain demeanor, character and temperament. From Star Wars to the umpteen Offerings from the Universe of Stan Lee (RIP), the tired and huddled masses absorb a dearth of quotable lines and drunken discussion worthy scenes. With this wealth of filmic foolery to play with, its little wonder that a few noteworthy works fall through the cracks to lay undiscovered for years or even centuries. I should know. Many a time I’ve mentioned the shotgun spinning skeletal bat from ‘House’ or the neon lit ‘one fingered salute rising from the rear of car in ‘My Science Project’ only to be met with stony glances and the occasional ‘shut the fuck up. That never happened. I know it did, I know these films exist and I recommend you check them out. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine: Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu : A Tale of Atomic Love by Mercedes M. Yardley

montessaSeeing as we are getting into the Stoker award spirit of things, I thought I would share this oldie, my review of Stoker award winning author, Mercedes Yardley, a book with a title so massive, you won’t want to have to say it more than once. Reading it however, was a joy.

Apocalyptic Montessa and Nuclear Lulu: A Tale of Atomic Love by Mercedes M. Yardley is a fun take on several different genres and manages to take brush strokes from each in a brilliant effort to create a new, uniquely molded book.

The has two main characters. As the story opens, Montessa is on her way home from work when she is fallen upon and abducted by serial killer, Lu. He quickly figures out that Montessa isn’t like any other women he has killed before. She is captivating to him and surprisingly, as the story shifts over to Montessa’s point of view, we find that she is becoming just as taken with Lu. In each other, Montessa and Lu discover the holes in their lives they had never realized were there in the first place.

Soon, Montessa no longer travels along with Lu as his victim, but rather as his partner and his lover.

To start, there have been plenty of stories that deal with the situation where a seemingly innocent victim is lured in by the guile of their would-be killer or kidnapper and ends up becoming a part of that world, fundamentally changing themselves into the monster they had thought they were fleeing from. It isn’t what I would call un-trodden ground but in Yardley’s capable hands, the book doesn’t have even the most remote feelings of seeming stale or overdone. I think that fundamentally, there are two different types of stories. In the first, you settle down into the book, saying to yourself, “okay, I’m reading a western”. These are the books that fit into a certain convention of expectations and tradition.

The second type are the stories that feel like genres unto themselves. It doesn’t happen as often and it doesn’t always work. But in this case, I thought that it worked very well. There were moments where I might have been reminded of other stories or films or shows I had seen before but for the most part, this felt like a fully organic, original endeavor.

I think that one of my favorite aspects of this book was how Yardley chronicles Montessa’s journey in terms of how she feels about Lu from the start and how that progresses. Any author can tell you that a character feels or thinks a certain way but it’s another thing entirely to take the reader to the point of actually understanding what they are seeing. It is to the point where I found myself saying, well of course this is what Montessa is doing, that makes total sense. What else would she do?

Both of the characters in this book are woven extremely well and there is a strong sense of them being individually defined while at the same time pieces of the same puzzle. And built into their characters is the existence of a magic of sorts, something that makes the both of them unique. I loved that Yardley resisted the urge to rush in and over-explain everything in the story. Sometimes one of the most difficult things as a writer is to sit back and just let things be what they are, without giving narrative justification. Why does magic exist in the universe of this story?

Because it does.

How is it that Montessa and Lu have their unique abilities? I’m not really sure, they just have them. I don’t think the story suffers from a lack of explanation and I also don’t think it would be enhanced by adding more backstory. It’s the perfect situation as a writer that we all strive for.

If I had one minor issue, I think it would be in how quickly Montessa and Lu’s language towards each other becomes a sort of lovers’ shorthand. The flowery nicknames for each other you would expect to hear from the characters deeply in love with each other. As the book moved on and their bond intensified, it felt more natural but as early as it started, it felt a little forced to me. But as I said, this is just one extremely minor point, in no way did it take anything away from the story.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: The Possession (2012)

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Starring:  Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick, Natasha Calis, Grant Show, Madison Davenport, and Matisyahu.

Written By: Juliet Snowden and Stiles White

Directed By: Ole Bornedal

Synopsis: A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the antique box lives a malicious and ancient spirit. The girls father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

Review By: Joshua Macmillan

Jeffrey Dean Morgan stars in The Possession, a horror film that focuses more on drama than on straight-up scares. The film is labeled as a horror film but at the end of the day, this feels more like a dramatic character study about a father trying to be the best dad that he can be during the limited time he gets to spend with his two daughters. Continue Reading

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Paranormal Activity (2007)

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It’s a normal phenomenon in our culture. I see it all the time so it was no surprise to me that in the wake of the massive success of The Blair Witch Project, the time would come that after many repeated iterations and knock-offs that the genre and narrative device would become a target for mocking and satire. So much so that I think even Blair Witch isn’t taken that seriously anymore.

Still, I’ve got to be honest and admit my love for found footage films. I know they’re silly and stretch all reasonable bounds of logic. I can’t help myself. I’m old enough to have seen Blair Witch in the theaters and I still love it.

In the modern era there have been two found footage films that I have particularly loved. The first would be Cloverfield, a fantastic monster movie told from the perspective of the panicked crowd.

The other is Paranormal Activity. Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : Island of the Flesh Eaters (2019)

flesh eatersI look back over the various times of my life as well as the things that marked those particular periods and I have to say that one thing I still really love are the cheesy VHS videotape covers you would come across on the sale rack at the store or at your video rental venue of choice. I think the eighties was a great time for fun, gruesome and gritty horror flicks. These weren’t films that were made on a huge budget with an A-list cast. These were meant to be fun diversions. The kind of film where you rented or bought two more like it, invited your friends over and ordered a ton of pizzas. And I think it was this spirit, more than anything that I felt captured by Thomas S. Flowers in his upcoming book, Island of the Flesh Eaters. If Flowers has proven anything to me over the last year or so, it would be his aptitude for spinning a good zombie yarn, already demonstrated in his equally great Planet of the Dead series. I think that as a fan of zombie films, he seems to have a similar path to the one I took, paved the entire way by the greatness that was George Romero. This isn’t intended as a dig against more contemporary offerings but the zombies I grew to love early on were like this. They didn’t run. They weren’t smart. They shambled. They stumbled. And while one or two of them didn’t necessarily present much of a threat, if you found yourself trapped in a mob of the things, you were pretty much experiencing your final moments.

Zombies were brutal and extreme. An implacable force that was disturbing and scary. The premise for this book is equally simple. Mark has just found out that his sister has gone missing while vacationing at the exclusive island resort owned by the rich parents of her boyfriend. Any attempts to contact the island have failed and Mark convinces the father to let him accompany a highly-trained private security force that he has dispatched to the island. Alongside this, Rachel Hawkins is a female reporter who is determined to prove to her mostly male coworkers that she is just as capable at landing the big story. Getting a whiff of a possible scandal in the works, she has also determined to sneak aboard the boat headed for the island, in hopes of digging up some dirt and material. And as would be suggested by the awesome cover art for this book, what is waiting for them on the island is terrifying. And Flowers definitely does not fail to deliver on that implied promise.

This is not a book that drags or takes too long to get to the point. He manages to craft just the right level of suspense and dread before plunging into the frantic desperation of the second half of the book. And when I say it gets brutal, I mean BRUTAL. Characters are taken down in a blur of chapters that is a pleasure to keep up with. And this is how it should be. For me, the biggest trait of those classic zombie films was the sense of inevitable tragedy from the outset, tragedy that is never really explained. We have entered into a period of somewhat zombie saturation by this point, as the Walking Dead has exploded into our culture. Even Disney has offered up their own tenderized version of the zombie. In the light of all this, it gets harder for me to get excited with various iterations of zombie lore. Books like Eaters of the Dead give me a spark of a reminder of what it was about the thing I loved in the first place. I don’t disparage those who write and film zombie books and movies now. Things change. That’s a part of life. But I love it when artists offer up a throwback to the days when the party started.

Check this book out. You’ll be glad you did.

D3mini

Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Paranormal & Supernatural in Review: Amityville II The Possession (1982)

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As you no doubt have noticed from the fancy title above, we’re kicking off 2019 with a brand new “In Review” series focusing on both the paranormal and supernatural within the horror genre. Obviously there are a lot of paranormal and supernatural themed movies out there, so to keep things as unison as possible, we’re going to walk that fine gray line of all things ghostly and demonicly. Believe it or not, Amityville II: The Possession is the perfect movie to start with as it too walks the line between paranormal hauntings and supernatural possessions. Plus its pretty twisted and stars Burt “Paulie” Young. So sit back and hang on as we explore one of the most insidiously fun movies 1982 ever spawned. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine: Event Horizon (1997)

There are a certain amount of concepts for stories that, you have to screw it up pretty hard-core for me to not end up enjoying it. Everyone has their sweet spot when it comes to the kinds of books and movies they like to read or watch and for me, Event Horizon is right smack in the middle of the biggest sweet spot I have available.

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The set up is perfect for me. An experimental, deep space exploration craft has returned, after disappearing under mysterious circumstances. The designer of the ship, played by the iconic Sam Neill is departing with a crew, captained by none other than legendary Lawrence Fishburne, for the purposes of finding out where the ship has been and what happened to the crew.

Seriously, you had me at hello. Continue Reading

Tommy Reads 2018

Thank goodness for Goodreads. Seriously. I don’t know how else i would keep track of my year long books read without it. Plus, there’s the progress goals that helps you keep on track with reading. There were more than a few times that I had gotten so bogged down in my own work that I needed that reminder to take a breath and read other peoples books. And I have found some good suggested reads on there too. This year, my goal was 12 books, one per month. Kinda wimpy when compared to others, I know. I saw one person with like a 500 book reading goal. Freaking crazy! I guess i’m just a slow reader. I am setting 2019 goals a little higher with plans to read more small press indie books. There year is, though, what it is. Can’t complain. I’ve read some really great titles. So, without further babbling on my part, here are my 2018 reads! Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

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We close out this years Slashers & Serial Killers in Review with not the best slasher serial killer movie. Not the corniest. Not the goriest either. Stay with me. What made Silent Night, Deadly Night one of the most memorable slashers of the 1980s and how it cemented in our final review of slasher and serial killer movies was the outrage from PTA type super-moms (think Kyle’s mom from South Park) that would shadow over the slasher horror sub-genre for the rest of its days. And yes, i do consider the slasher era to be over. We may get strays in every now and again, but its fundamentally over. Just like the Universal Monsters. Yeah, that 2010 remake of The Wolfman was alright but we need to face the hard truth, the newer Hollywood attempts to recreate the Golden Era feel like a drunk uncle trying to be cool in front of his nephews and nieces with a box of Pop-Its. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: I Saw the Devil (2010)

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Directed By: Jee-woon Kim (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good the Bad and the Weird)

Starring: Byung-hun Lee (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Three…Extremes) and Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance)

Released By: Softbank Ventures and Siz Entertainment

Release Year: 2010

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Review By: Andy Taylor

Every now and again you come across a movie that embodies everything a horror film should be, even if it doesn’t fit entirely into the mold of what someone considers a horror film. A movie that is extremely uncomfortable without having to resort to cheap shock tactics, brutal without becoming silly, and full of extremely realistic gore that doesn’t go so overboard as to become cartoonish. A movie that’s populated with fantastic actors, has a wonderful score, beautiful cinematography, and if it goes a step beyond, a message that doesn’t seem contrived or forced. A horror movie so amazing that both film snob and regular joe can agree is fantastic. Personally, I subsist on a steady diet of cheesy films from the 1970s and 80s, so cheesy is kind of my thing, but it’s nice to run into a horror film that’s as close to perfection as a film can get, and for me, that film is I Saw the Devil Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Wolf Creek (2005)

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All right, this is kind of funny (to me if no one else): I’d originally planned to review Halloween: Resurrection for this—the one with the fake Myers found footage house thing with Busta Rhymes—because I’d only seen a chunk of it and it was pleasantly terrible. I went to put the used disc I’d purchased for three dollars at a local record/tape/cd/dvd type of shop for the express purpose of doing this review into my PS4 to give it a full watch before reviewing…and it wouldn’t read it. Cleaned it off, dried it, tried it again. No go. Never had an issue with the many discs I’d purchased there and the disc looked good, so…oh well.

Instead, I looked at the others I’d purchased back when I was going to do like seven or eight reviews this year for Machine Mean—still would have, but some personal issues caused me to scale it back and also skip the Vampire-oriented MM Fright Fest October event, sadly—and I’d already watched PIECES (and loved it) and my former-Troma-employee wife had already seen Graduation Day because they distributed it at some point or just because she’s always been a horror fan. I had Wolf Creek too, and neither of us had ever seen it…so here we are.

I’d heard a lot about this over the years and it seemed to have a bit of a reputation. Was it earned? Let’s unpack it, shall we?

[THERE WILL BE SOME SPOILERS BUT WILL NOT BE NEEDLESS AUSTRALIA JOKES] Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : Monster (2018)

Monster1The names Matt Shaw and Michael Bray should come as no surprise to anyone. The both of them have certainly been putting fiction of a high quality into the world for some time now. But at some point, the desire to spread out into new mediums clearly took hold and the two authors grabbed the steering wheel to embark on a journey. To shoot a film based on their own work. And what we have before us is the result I was finally able to watch on this side of the Atlantic.

Monster.

I’ll be totally honest and admit that I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I watched in real time as Matt and Michael departed on this endeavor, watching the various fund drives and updates that were posted to the project. I had no doubt in either their passion or their creative drive but making the jump from one medium to the other isn’t just something you do. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to shoot a movie instead of writing a book. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Collection (2012)

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The Collection follows the normal path of horror sequels. There’s a lot more gore than there was in the original. New characters are introduced, usually to be killed off quickly. But there is something bizarre and exhilarating about The Collection; it feels like a last-ditch effort, but without the fetid air of desperation that normally surrounds such second slashers. It is as if writer/director Marcus Dunstan realized he wasn’t going to be able to create a franchise based on his masked killer. He was lucky to get the sequel made. What if he just crammed every blood-drenched set-piece he could think of into one movie?

Beginning not long after the conclusion of the first film in the duology, The Collection follows Arkin (Josh Stewart). He was the final boy in The Collector, and he’s healing from his physical wounds in the hospital. After he learns that a girl, Elena (Emma Fitzpatrick), has been kidnapped by the mysterious murderer known as The Collector, Arkin is pressed into service by Elena’s rich family. A group of paramilitary specialists, led by enforcer Lucello (Lee Tergeson), is out to rescue Elena from the black-gloved clutches of The Collector, and only Arkin can lead them to the killer’s lair.  Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Happy Birthday To Me (1981)

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Happy Birthday to Me

Release year: 1981

Starring: Melissa Sue Anderson; Tracey E. Bregman; Glenn Ford; Matt Craven; Lisa Langlois and Lawrence Dane.

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Review by: Kim McDonald 

Lee Thompson’s film, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, is one of many slasher flicks that came out of the 80’s. However, screenwriters John Saxton and Peter Jobin manage to create some interesting twists through misdirection. The film also has some of the most gruesome deaths of the slasher sub genre. It’s a fun movie that seems largely overlooked, despite 80’s horror nostalgia.  Continue Reading

Reviews in the Machine : Mad Dog, by JR Park (2017)

Mad DogMad Dog is the 2017 release from JR Park. I went into this unprepared and blind, save for the knowledge of the general quality of work put out by the Sinister Horror Company as being top shelf.

To start off with, I’ll be honest and admit that I was generally skeptical of the style of delivery of the narrative. Mad Dog details the events surrounding a prison riot. And the book is a direct recalling of events from the characters involved, in the form of snippets from interviews, intercut with each other. I often listen to books at work in the morning, using the text-to-speech feature on my phone. But I quickly realized this would not be a good idea with this book as the voices of the characters transition very quickly.

Despite my misgivings, the voice of the story ended up working quite well. Where I thought it was going to be messy it ended up being a perfect way to really build the tension in the pacing and made me want to read on to find out what had ultimately happened that these people are talking about retrospectively. It reminded me quite a bit of the foreshadowing that Stephen King layered into his novel, Carrie.

The physicality of the text moves quickly, jumping from person to person and it really augments the flow of the book, lending momentum to what could have been a dry recitation of historical events. Were I to have read all these interviews separately, I don’t think the book would have had the same impact.

It’s a tough decision to make and even harder to execute. When I see stories that are structurally designed in such a unique way, you can get something that’s really cool or a narrative that feels overly gimmicky. In this case I felt like this was a fantastic way to present the plot. It takes a lot of game to deliver a story of this length in expository fashion and Park pulls it off brilliantly.

This is an appropriately brutal story but there was no point where I felt it was crossing a line or was just going for shock value. This is a quality story, told with care. The plot and twists are such that aren’t completely new, but the way the story is told and the depth of the characters make it feel fresh and unique.

Mad Dog himself is enigmatic as a character. His presence is felt all over the story and the mystery of what he is or could be provides a ton of emotional drive to the plot. The viciousness of his crimes are disturbing and the air of possibility of something paranormal makes him highly effective as a character.

And in the end, we build up to a twist that is satisfying to the overall story. And again, as with the mechanics of the plot, Park takes an oft overused device and makes it work. It’s one thing to throw in a twist for the sake of it. Park does as it should be done. The turn taken by the narrative is a surprise but as it is laid out before you, and after looking back over the story, you can see how you could have come to this conclusion if you had properly put the pieces together.

Mostly what I can say is that I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to this one. I have also read Park’s book, Punch, and enjoyed that as well. And taking the two books together I can see what we have here is a fresh author who lends a unique voice to his projects. I’ll be curious to see what other offerings we get from him, either in his existing catalog or from titles yet to come.

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Chad A. Clark is an author of horror and science fiction. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: From Hell (2001)

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Released Date: Oct 2001

Director: The Hughes Brothers (Albert & Allen)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm & Robbie Coltrane

Brief Synopsis: Based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell. A clairvoyant detective investigates the Jack the Ripper murders in turn of the century England. The investigation leads him to an unspeakable conclusion.

Review by: Feind Gottes

I have to start out by telling you From Hell is one of my favorite movies. It’s right up there with Se7en when it comes to crime thrillers that dip a toe or two in the horror waters. If somehow you have not seen this movie you need to correct that mistake immediately! So to start, everyone should know about Jack the Ripper, at least, in a general sense – a serial killer who stalked the streets of London from August 1888 to November 1888 credited with killing five known prostitutes in the Whitechapel district of London. The case stands as the most famous unsolved murder case in history. That may change soon but I’ll touch on that at the end. The film From Hell explores a conspiracy theory that is interesting to explore though has about as much chance of being correct as I have of being Bigfoot in disguise but it is fun to think about. The film makes this theory seem far more plausible than it is but then it comes from a graphic novel written by one of the most brilliant writers of our time, Alan Moore (if you don’t know who Alan Moore is go look it up! NOW!) Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine: Chasing Ghosts by Glenn Rolfe

Chasing GhostsChasing Ghosts, by Glenn Rolfe is a serious book. It goes at you quickly and hits you hard. For as much as I have loved the works of the likes of Stephen King, I am becoming more aligned with the idea that the novella as an art form is the place where the horror genre really shines. It’s so great to be able to get there and experience the meat of the story in as few sittings as possible. I read this book in a day and I think the only reason why it wasn’t in one go was because I was at work and couldn’t rightfully justify taking an hour long break.

Chasing Ghosts takes place in Maine where a disparate group of strangers is drawn together, where they are confronted by a dark presence residing within the woods. A number of different abbreviated story threads weave in and out of each other in this book as it winds its way down to the exciting conclusion. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: The Prowler (1981)

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Nostalgia’s a funny old thing. Looking back over past events, with or without rose tinted glasses, distorts the memory, plays havoc with the senses, even drive people to despair. It can also make bad films seem like Oscar winning works of art. Back when I was a youth (complete with a full head of hair but still equipped with a cheeky endearing smile), there was this thing known as the ‘Video Nasties Bill’, a slice of legislation obviously designed to keep impressionable youngsters like myself free from the corrupting influence of films like The Beast in Heat, Driller Killer and of course The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The fine Whitehall mandarins who crafted the bill didn’t take into account the craftiness of adolescents, pirated videos and the long dead Betamax format.  Continue Reading

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