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Horror

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

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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


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: 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