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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

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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

Farewell To A Legend

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I had every intention of posting a book review today. But then the news dropped and I felt like it was incumbent upon me to take note of the loss of one of the biggest and most important names of our modern popular culture.

I can’t bring myself to call the loss of Stan Lee “tragic”. To be sure, the news makes me sad and the weight of his departure is going to be felt for a long time to come.  Still, to say that he led a long and successful life would be the understatement of the year. Ninety-Five years is a long time and we were definitely the benefactors from a long career that almost ended before it really began. For a man who was at the end of his rope, ready to leave the industry far behind in the rear view mirror of his life, Stan Lee ended up defining the landscape of a generation, setting off an industry that has generated more quantities in money than we probably have names for. Continue Reading

Slashers & Serial Killers in Review: Friday the 13th part 8 (1989)

 

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Directed By: Rob Hedden (The Colony, Alien Fury: Countdown to Invasion)

Starring: Jensen Dagget (Asteroid, Major Leagues: Back to the Minors), Peter Mark Richman (The Naked Gun 2 ½ The Smell of Fear, 4 Faces), Scott Reeves (Edge of Honor and for those Soap Opera fans out there he was Steve Webber in General Hospital), and Kane Hodder once again playing Jason.

Released By: Paramount Pictures and Horror Inc.

Release Year: 1989

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Rated R

Review by: Andy Taylor

I have a very strange habit, one that sets me apart from my fellow humans, and that habit is, I try to let people enjoy the movie, television show, or musical act they love without chiming in about how much I might hate it. There are so many different varieties of entertainment, and within each of those varieties, a plethora of genres to pick from, so I fail to see the point in ruining someone else’s time by letting them know how wrong their opinions are to me. Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : An American Werewolf In London (1981) by Roger Keen

werewolf1An American Werewolf in London

Watching An American Werewolf in London now, one of the first things that strikes you is how long ago 1981 was, and how much the world – specifically England – has changed since then. This is partly due to the observational eye of American director John Landis, achieving a detached touristy perspective on the closed community of East Proctor in rural Yorkshire, with its shifty paranoid locals who talk in broad accents and fear strangers; and also taking in the sights and sounds of swinging London – Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and not forgetting the seedy crepuscular interior of a Soho porn cinema. Notable too is the appearance of Jenny Agutter as love interest Nurse Alex Price, then still at the height of her nubility and fantasy material for legions of young men after a string of scantily clad roles in movies such as Walkabout, Equus and Logan’s Run. Seeing Ms Agutter in contemporary roles is another indicator of that gulf of time that has elapsed since the early 1980s.  Continue Reading

Reviews In The Machine : The Last Plague, by Rich Hawkins

lastplague1I was introduced to The Last Plague in its original incarnation, several years ago. It was the first work I had read of Rich Hawkins and as can be expected I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had been interacting with him for some time on Facebook, leading up to the release of his first book, but you never really know what narrative sludge is lurking under the surface.

The book was phenomenal. I loved it. It was original and bleak, grim and brutal in its execution. And underneath all the guts and the gore there was still the heartbeat of an original story, of characters that had soul that I connected with.

This book as well as the other two volumes in the trilogy was originally published by Crowded Quarantine Publications. And despite putting out a number of fantastic books, within the last year, Crowded Quarantine was forced to close its doors, leaving the Last Plague trilogy without a home.

I felt bad for Rich but I also knew that it wouldn’t take long for him to find a new home for these books. And as such it was no surprise to me when the announcement came that the books had been picked up and slotted for re-release.

And while all of this is interesting, I realize it begs the question as to what, if anything has changed? I wouldn’t likely be reviewing it again if it hadn’t, right?

Yes, the heart and soul of the book remains the same. Rich hasn’t pulled a George Lucas here necessarily, or is trying to sucker us all into buying the book again with some new frills. What he did do was another pass with the editors pen, smoothing out areas which he felt was a bit on the rough side. As a writer myself, I can certainly sympathize with the pull to go back into those first few books and update it to your contemporary style and quality. I would say that Rich’s work here was most evident in the start of the book. While I never felt like it didn’t work, the opening chapters of the original book did go by rather fast. Rich has extended much of this out, giving more time to the characters and allowing the narrative to develop a more complex and dynamic root structure.

But more importantly than the prose of the original story, Rich has also surprised all of us with a brand new novella, snuck amidst the pages of this re-issue. The story is titled AWOL, and is set within the Last Plague universe. This story picks up a secondary character from The Last Plague and extends out his story as he strives to get back to his ex-wife and son. The story is gripping and heart-wrenching, all that I have come to expect from Rich. And it serves as the perfect companion piece to the main novel.

What I like the most about The Last Plague is in how it borrows from multiple sources that I have loved throughout my life. First, he brilliantly captures the magnificently bleak landscape of Stephen King’s legendary book, The Stand. Despite being so bleak and unforgiving a landscape, you can’t help but read onward, it’s so compelling. But besides this great tapestry, Rich also tapped into one of my all-time favorite horror/sci-fi mash-ups, namely James Cameron’s Aliens. The Last Plague has the same level of intense fear that you feel for these characters situations in that, for as much as you want things to work out for them you also know it probably isn’t going to happen.

Being an original fan of the book, I will say that I have a fondness for the cover art that lasstplague2graced the books put out by Crowded Quarantine. The art for all three books was magnificently done and I thought captured perfectly the vibe of the series. It adds value for me to the paperback editions I have sitting on the shelf in my closet. Not to suggest that a cover makes the book, just that in this case, I really liked these covers.

The Last Plague is an amazing book, one that I feel lucky to have come across as they have hit the market. And they have only served to function as a springboard into the rest of Rich’s bibliography. I eagerly await the completion and publication of the other two books in this (hopefully) expanded format.

And before I go, I would just like to point out the inherent challenges of living as an indie or small press author. This endeavor is a constant attack on our self-esteem and while it is a battle we can generally win, a little help goes a long way. Rich is a great part of this genre and I’m glad to call him a friend. Please consider supporting him by picking up this book, reading it and leaving a review. Think of it as necessary fuel for your favorite authors to keep putting out the work you enjoy.

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