With Intruder, Scott Spiegel, co-writer of Evil Dead 2, made a taut, humorous, reasonably thrilling offer to the slasher genre just as the 80’s came to a close. Boasting a decent cast of horror regulars such as Elizabeth Cox (The Wraith, Night of the Creeps), Dan Hicks (Darkman, Evil Dead 2), and of course Sam Raimi, Ted Raimi, and Bruce Campbell, this film is sure to entertain most fans of 80s horror.
DISCLAIMER: If you are drawn to the film because Bruce Campbell’s name is on the cover, you should know up front that he only appears for a short cameo at the very end. However, there’s quite a bit of Elizabeth, Sam, and Ted to hold you over. Continue Reading
Scouse Gothic is one of the more unique books I have read this year, just in terms of the makeup and layout of the narrative. I think it’s a book where your mindset and expectations are going to largely dictate how you enjoy the experience.
Mainly, I think it’s best to approach this like a collection of short stories rather than a novel. There were a number of points throughout the book where I felt that, while I was enjoying the read, I didn’t necessarily feel a strong overall narrative drive to everything.
I scanned through some of the reviews for this because I was curious how other people were reacting to this. I suspect that this is the kind of book that will either be a solid hit or a complete miss. One reader compared this book to Pulp Fiction and I found that to be pretty close to the mark.
In Scouse Gothic, what we have is a series of vignettes that take place within a shared narrative universe. And like the threads that make up a piece of fabric, these vignettes have a tendency to bump up against each other and become twisted together. Different characters rise to the forefront to get the spotlight trained on them and before too long, the story is wrapping up and bringing everything back to some extent to where things started.
It should also be noted that this the first of what appears to be a trilogy of books. I have no idea if the followup books will take on a more traditional structure, with this newly formed cast of characters or if it will stick with the same format again. It’s entirely possible that the structure of the first book was mostly intended as an introduction to the key players.
For me, what makes this book shine is the characters. Books are made up of human (or otherwise) characters and their ability to reach the reader on an emotional level are going to be essential to making things work.
As I suggested already, most of the time when I feel like I don’t understand where the story is going, I tend to tune out. With this, I found the individual stories so compelling and entertaining that I wasn’t caring so much about the global perspective.
Just out of my own misgivings anymore, I tend to shut out stories involving vampires, just because the cultural landscape has become so littered and oversaturated. But even considering this, it’s still completely possible to write a good vampire story. What I think makes this work is that the character’s vampirism isn’t necessarily what the story hangs on. In fact, it almost seems incidental to the actual track of these vampires as characters. These aren’t bland, cookie-cutter people. They live and breathe and provide great texture to a world that is masterfully crafted.
Another way I feel like this book is a success is from the fact that, as each vignette drew to a close, I felt a little disappointed that we would have to move on and that most of the individual characters could likely support an entire separate book on their own. The book grabs your interest, holds on to it and when it gives it back, you find yourself saying, “Wait, you can hold on to it longer, if you want!”
Scouse Gothic is an interesting book that I hope you will consider checking out. Whatever you may feel is lacking from the overall narrative is more than made up for by the individual parts. Read this for the characters and for the quality of the writing, like a really nice wine that you have to let wash through you and take time to properly consider.
CHECK OUT MORE FROM IAN McKINNEY AT HIS OFFICIAL AMAZON PAGE, INCLUDING LINKS TO THE SECOND AND THIRD BOOKS OF THIS SERIES.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder: a quote that always reign true when it comes to issues of the heart and mind. We miss what makes us comfortable.
In 1984, Paramount killed off Jason Voorhees—they wanted to take Friday the 13th in a new direction; after four films, the studio decided to take a chance and introduce a new killer, it didn’t sit right with fans. What did they want? What did they need? Jason, of course.
Jason made his mighty screen come back on August, 1st 1986. Continue Reading
I finally took the plunge on my Kindle this past week and cracked open a book I had actually purchased some time ago, an experience I’m sure many of us are well familiar with. The Devil’s Guests was a book I was intrigued with, long before it was released but for whatever reason, it took me this long to get around to it.
And I was definitely not disappointed. I’m always a little hesitant, going into a Matt Shaw book because, while I don’t necessarily have an issue with extreme horror, I have to admit that it isn’t my favorite medium for the genre. While I have never found any of Shaw’s books to be lacking in depth or complexity, I have come across other names which I shall not mention that seem to use extreme horror as license to put as much vile, disgusting content onto the page as they can manage, with even the plot taking a back seat.
However, my experience with the work of Matt Shaw is that he devotes the proper attention to all aspects of the story, not just the parts that make you cringe away from the page or the screen. And while his writing does make me uncomfortable at times, it has always been with the knowledge and faith that somewhere in there is a point to the extreme nature of the story.
The Devil’s Guests on face is a simple concept, centered around a particularly violent and sociopathic manager of a hotel. In and of itself, it isn’t the newest concept but for me, what makes the book stand out is the collaborative effort of all the authors involved. While the heart of the book has been constructed by Shaw, he has invited other writers to pen specific sections of the book, introducing various characters who Shaw is then responsible for dispatching in good time.
What I was most taken by was how smooth the narrative comes off. In the introduction, Shaw mentions that he had to go through the manuscript with some minor editing to keep the tone of the characters consistent. I can’t imagine the amount of work and headaches that go into keeping a project like this straight but he did a fantastic job layering and fitting everything together. In all truthfulness, I found the tone here to be as consistent as most single-author books I have read. This is not an anthology, as Shaw argues himself, this is a novel.
The story isn’t given much context in terms of a backstory but I also don’t think it’s needed. This is about plunging yourself into a frightening and visceral experience. The characters are all great, the movement of the narrative is top notch and the extreme portions work well within the context of the story. I thought Shaw did a great job at balancing out the more graphic parts with great narrative, foreshadowing and voice of characters.
There were moments when I did feel like the hotel itself was a bit over the top just in terms of how many secret doors and rooms could be found within, making it seem more like the set of a classic Bond film than gritty horror. Still, this is a small criticism and to be honest, I was more than happy to let that go in the course of a fun reading experience. Horror works best when there is no reason and very little warning. This is a well-written exploration of the dark horror that can take place for no more of an offense than checking in to a hotel.
And as a bonus, Shaw provides several additional short stories from other authors, one of which is an extended scene of what ended up in the book. Shaw wrote an introduction explaining his decision to pare it down and I have to say that I agree that putting this story into the book in its original form would likely have been too much. It’s a brutal story and I’m pretty sure I would have had trouble moving on into the rest of the book after getting to the other side of this scene.
All around, great writing by everyone involved.
As a general rule, I’m not a fan of sequels when it comes to horror movies, especially when we are talking about slasher films. Mostly because it rarely feels like the narrative from the original film is going anywhere as much as simply being restarted. Sequels are constantly criticized as being little more than cash grabs from studios, trying to continue to profit off a successful property. And I think that horror is one realm where this criticism is more valid. Horror is one genre where sequels often have the feel of rinse and repeat, as it isn’t at all unusual for horror franchises to make it to seven, eight or nine films. For me, proper horror is quick and brutal and once it’s done, the stage is cleared. Continue Reading
This is not a slasher film. And technically it’s less about the serial killer than the people trying to catch him. Zodiac (2007) is an obsessively created film about an obsessive hunt for the obsessive Zodiac Killer, by the director of one of the most successful serial killer films of all time. So how does David Fincher’s first “horror” movie since Se7en stack up?
Zodiac is a personal favorite of mine. I’d say it’s in my top ten films of all time. I’ve seen it at least five times and it’s almost three hours long. That’s a good chunk time for someone who won’t give mediocre movies more than ten minutes. Continue Reading
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain, William Vail, Teri McMinn, Edwin Neal, Jim Siedow, John Dugan, and Gunnar Hansen as Leatherface.
Written By: Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper
Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Synopsis: A brother and sister set out with their friends to check on the grave of their grandfather after hearing about instances of grave robbing and vandalism. After taking a detour to their family’s old farmhouse, they discover and soon become victims to a family of crazed, murderous cannibals. Continue Reading
I hope you will forgive me the indulgence of sharing some personal thoughts with you this week. Don’t worry, it won’t be long before we return to the blood and guts as normal.
This past week, an old friend of mine passed away after a long struggle with an illness. I don’t want to use his full name out of respect for his privacy so I’m just going to call him Tom, enough that family and friends of mine should know who I’m talking about.
I found out this past Friday that he had passed the night before and it was a pretty tough gut shot to hear. Obviously, when someone has been sick for some time, the end shouldn’t come as a shock on an intellectual level. Still, when the moment passes you are inevitably left with the feelings of depressive regret for all the things you wish you had done differently, as if fate grabs you by the head and wrenches it around backward, forcing you to devote all your attention to what is behind, now gone forever.
Essentially, the exact opposite of what I suspect Tom would have wanted from us.
I worked closely with Tom, starting in the mid-nineties. He came into my life in that informative phase, when you are just starting to get some legs under you and figuring out what the hell the world is (as an adult). I think for most of us, if you cast back, you can come across certain key people in your life who, maybe without their knowing it, had a profound effect on your development. Not in the same way children grow but in the sense that you float about in the world, striving for examples of what you think you would want to be seen as, in the prime of your adulthood.
I wanted to have Tom’s mind. He had one of the sharpest, most intuitive intellects I think I have ever had the luck to come across. He could carry on an informed discussion on just about everything. His knowledge of wine and food was unmatched in my experience as well as his passion for culture. He could talk about philosophy or he could talk about sports. What I remember learning the most from Tom is that it can be cool to be smart. And he carried his intellect with an equal weight of humility. I don’t think I ever felt a sense from him that he thought he was special or above anyone else.
I wanted to have Tom’s books. He was an avid reader and I always saw him with a book in his hands, whether it be at work or when he was out and about, walking from point A to point B (in all the time I knew him, Tom never owned a car. Or if he did, he never used it). Tom was well read and well spoken. I saw in tribute that compared him to Bukowski and I think it’s actually a pretty astute comparison. This was a man who struck out into the world and made it his, in turn introducing all of us to the person that could only ever be him. I never had the guts to show Tom any of my writing, mostly because I was sure he would call it out for the unparalleled, putrid shit that it really was. Because if there was one thing that described Tom to the letter, it’s that he was honest. If he thought something, he would tell you.
I wanted to have Tom’s music collection. Before I met him, Tom worked at one of the respected indie music stores in town and I can only imagine how extensive and eclectic his collection might have been. I have always held the belief that flipping through Tom’s records would be like taking a walking tour of rock and blues, probably some country and jazz, most of which I would not have ever heard of. I always thirsted for Tom’s knowledge and awareness of music and on more than one occasion, I tried to pick his brain to get some tips on the cool bands to check out.
I wanted to have Tom’s wine collection. This is the big one because I’m willing to bet those that knew him would agree that there would be some pretty phenomenal bottles in there. He practically built the wine department at our store single-handed, building a network of loyal customers, many of which are still with us to this day. He blazed out with a refined palate and built things of greatness.
Nothing in our life is permanent. We all know this, and we get reminders of it all the time. I can still remember the last conversation I had with Tom, mostly for the triviality of our encounter, more than anything else. How much I would like to drop down into myself in that moment and really tell him how I felt, how important of a friend I had always considered him to be.
I never had that chance, obviously. So, I do the best I can with what has been left behind, to earn the life I have and to enjoy the things which Tom no longer can. I always held Tom in the highest regard and respect. I consider myself privileged to have been able to spend time with him and to take away some of that vast bank vault of wisdom and knowledge contained in that head of his. He was an individual who dared to be himself in a world that often seems to worship normality, a reminder that sometimes it’s important to question things and think about things.
Thank you, Tom. May whatever waters you now sail across be forever a source of peace and comfort to you. Thank you for being a part of our lives. Yours is a mark that will stay with me for a long time to come.
As today is Friday, the Thirteenth, we had a moral and ethical obligation to pay homage to one of the biggest slasher films of all time. So of course we had more than one angle on the issue.
What scares me?
That’s a big question, one that I would have a hard time capturing in one essay. So in the context of this review, what originally scared me when I was introduced to this horror genre in which I now reside?
Horror has had a long and storied history in the cinema, dating back over a hundred years of style, mood and atmosphere. And I was lucky enough to board the ship right in the middle of one of the renaissances of the genre.
What scared the hell out of me was the realism of movies in the late seventies and eighties. Check out the work of George Romero and Wes Craven and you can see what I’m talking about. These films weren’t about the beautiful fantasy and magic of Hollywood. This was about making you feel like you stumbled across a crime in progress and you don’t dare move, lest you be spotted yourself. This is about being placed in front of something that you can’t bring yourself to turn away from. Continue Reading
Tonight we take a look at one of the big four. I mean, really, when one hears the word SLASHER, four characters jump to mind, right? Freddy Krueger, Michael Meyers, Leatherface and of course, Jason Voorhees.
There are countless other stalker killers out there, but for some reason, these four are synonymous with the word slasher. It doesn’t seem to matter that there were slashers before and after these classics were made, these are the Grandaddies of the slasher family. Take it or leave it. One might make a case for Chucky, The Firefly Clan and others, and while terrifying and time-tested, in my opinion, Chucky has become a lampoon of himself and The Fireflys were only in two(?) movies. That’s not to say that Jason and Freddy haven’t become parodies either, but that’s a topic for another day. Today we talk about the birth of all things Camp Crystal Lake and why teenagers of the 80’s didn’t want to go to camp. Continue Reading