Your source for retro horror movie and book reviews

Posts tagged “Holidays

The Nightmare Before Christmas w/ Jennifer Allis Provost

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The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Tim Burton musical that debuted back in 1993. The movie begins with Jack Skellington and the rest of Halloweentown performing their yearly masterpiece, This is Halloween (“This is Halloween! Everybody, make them scream!”)—but Jack has gotten bored with performing the same old shtick year after year. One thing that could definitely shake Jack out of the doldrums is Sally, a rag doll kept locked up by a mad scientist (that’s not creepy) who’s crushing on him, but he’s so self-absorbed he doesn’t notice her.

Jack and his ghost dog, Zero, go for a walk and end up in a remote part of the woods, where different trees correspond to different holidays. Jack goes to Christmastown and is amazed at the inherent magic of the holiday. So what does he do? He hatches a plot to take over Christmas. He recruits some creepy kids to kidnap Santa (Sandy Claws), enlists the townsfolk to whip up decorations…and proceeds to ruin Christmas as best he can. What else would you expect from an animated semi-demonic skeleton?

All in all, The Nightmare Before Christmas is ninety minutes of fun and very singable songs. It does get a bit hairy when the kids turn Santa over to the Boogeyman, but it’s all in good fun. Or gore. Either way, you’ll be singing about feet all rotten and covered in gook for weeks, and who doesn’t want that around the holidays?

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Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library). An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Connect with her online at http://authorjenniferallisprovost.com

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Krampus (2015) w/ Kurt Thingvold

 

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Nothing makes Christmas better than a warm cup of cocoa or the warmth of your loved one sitting next to you, as you snuggle close to watch your favorite Christmas shows. Except, when the cable goes out and nothing seems to be on, you find yourself heading down to the nearest Redbox—you can’t break tradition ( my wife loves tradition, god help me, if I break our holiday ritual). You see that all the movies are sold out—the only one remaining is “Krampus”. You select it and move back to the house, and you and the misses continue the night. I can’t stand the holidays. My father passed away five days after Christmas and to this day: December is my month of hell, so, when it comes down to it: I fake it for my wife’s sake. Now, Holiday movies are a different kind of beast for me.  I love them—they make you feel good and warm, (I can’t explain it and neither can my therapist) and you see people be happy and together—which, is always a good thing. Now, I love horror movies and holiday movies, More so, I was excited to get the opportunity to write this review. So, let’s make sure our stockings are hung tight on the fireplace with care, add a little bailey’s to our cocoa, and let’s look at “Krampus.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with European traditions, Krampus works for Santa Claus, abducts naughty children and stuffs them into a sack, and whips them with a switch, repeatedly. Now, that you know that I feel a little safer continuing with the review.

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Krampus is a holiday horror film directed by Michael Dougherty, who also directed, “Trick’r’Treat”, another great holiday movie, and will be directing the upcoming “Godzilla” Sequel. Which, if you’ve seen “Trick’r’Treat”, you can imagine what type of movie “Krampus” will be.  A bit of humor, and a bit of terror.

The story takes place on Dec.22.  A suburbanite family is preparing for their annual Christmas get together.  Tom and Sarah and their two children: Max and Beth. Sarah’s sister Linda and her husband, and their three children. Along with their German-speaking grandmother, Omni.  The family has a bit of a falling out, and max rips up his letter to Santa—which summons the Krampus, who appears when people have lost their Christmas spirit have lost their Christmas spirit (unlike, the Germanic folklore of Krampus beating naughty children with sticks).  The power is cut and all hell breaks loose, family member begins to disappear and toys start attacking the family.  Omni reveals that the family is being tormented by the Krampus, and tells of a time when she had lost her Christmas spirit and her hometown was dragged to hell.  Max finds Krampus loading his sleigh with his family members and begs and pleads with the demon to return his family, and that he will appreciate Christmas and never lose sight of it again.  Contemplating the plea—Krampus opens up a portal to hell, and max apologizes, considering his apology, drops the child into the pit.

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Max screams and wakes up, back into his bed—on Christmas Eve, with everything back to normal.  The camera pans out and you see the house in a snow globe, as Krampus watches the house to make sure, the Christmas spirit is never broken again.

The movie wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t good.  It was well worth the Redbox price. One thing I will praise this film for are the special effects. Weta workshop nailed the look and feel of what I think are demonic toys.  Krampus looked amazing as well. While I can’t praise a movie for special effects alone (learned my lesson after the Beowulf movie).  Also, the dysfunctional family plays out well. It feels like Gremlins—I like that.

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One thing that I feel is: The story is too generic, the twist ending, the grandma who knows what’s going on and the overall trope of the family.  It felt like any other holiday movie when it could have been something, so, different and magical.  Yet, it stayed too much into the Holiday trope of killer presents, and everything working out again and starting something anew.  It had a lot of hits and misses with me.

Overall, I had fun with the movie, and my wife…well…she thought it was “Okay”, and that’s the best response I can manage to get out of her.  I would have loved to have added this movie to my holiday library, I just feel, now is not the time.

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Kurt Thingvold was born and raised in IL. He finds passion in writing, that helps calm his demons. He grew up in a tough household that encouraged reading and studying. He spends his time writing in multiple of genres. His published short story, Roulette, can be found on Amazon. When not writing he can be found playing games, reading, or attempting to slay the beast known as “Customer Service”, which, he fails at almost every day. Kurt is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean, you can also check out his review on Ridley Scott’s legacy movie Alien here.

And as always, if you enjoyed what you’ve read here on Machine Mean, please subscribe to our monthly mailing list by clicking on the box below. Our spam-free newsletter is packed with new release information and book sales. Just our way of saying thanks!

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Silent Night, Deadly Night w/ Chad Clark

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Not unlike me, while slasher movies weren’t invented in the eighties, the eighties was when slasher movies became great. See what I did there? In all seriousness, though, ask anyone to name a slasher movie and chances are, most people will name one of the big three, Friday The 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street or Halloween, all of which have been remade over the past ten years or so. And all of them really took root in the consciousness of our culture in the eighties. Still, there were a number of other examples that rose out of this period and jumped on the bandwagon. Many of them were standalone films, or simply lacked the power of the majors, but there are still some good ones in there. For me, coming across these movies at the time, at the age I was, it made a huge transition in my life. I had loved movies up until that point, but it was more for the fantasy of it, the spectacle and the majesty.

This was the first time that a movie scared the shit out of me.

I never considered that film could have such a powerful, emotional effect. For the first time, I didn’t really feel safe in the theater, or on the couch. And it was from there that my love for dark fiction was born. Not because I thought the carnage was cool (although often it was) but because I loved that experience and the impact that images and words could have.

One last thing I will say in general before we get to the heart of this is one important aspect of slasher movies in the eighties. And that would be the sex. I don’t mean this in a titillating way, although at a young age, this was some of my first exposures to sex and the female anatomy. What I’m talking about is the function that sex played in the story.

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In the eighties especially, sex was like the redshirt for horror movies (sorry if you don’t get the reference here but Google is only a click away). Characters who had sex on film were almost certain to meet their grisly demise shortly after. It wasn’t unusual for someone to actually meet their end mid-coitus. The message often seen in these films was pretty plain to see.

Sex equals death.

We’re going to come back to this point so hold on to it, okay? Put a pin in it.

That brings us to the movie of the hour. Silent Night, Deadly Night.

The movie starts out with the main character as a child. After visiting his grandfather in a nursing home, Billy is forced to witness his parents murdered in front of him by a man dressed in a Santa suit. His emotional damage is furthered while living in a foster home under the supervision of a tyrannical nun, Mother Superior.

As an adult, Billy is talked into dressing up as Santa Claus for the store he works at. At some point during the night, he witnesses an act of sexual violence between two coworkers and he is triggered into launching a killing spree in the town.

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This film was the embodiment of the idea of sex leading to death. As a child, Billy is battered with Mother Superior’s influence that immoral people have sex and should be punished. This clearly has an impact on Billy as he ends up killing several people either immediately after or in the act of having sex. He literally becomes a kind of uber-violent puritanical, acting out his hatred for those who choose to engage in the sins of the flesh.

And I suppose for being naughty?

He is Santa Claus, after all.

This film was pretty controversial when it first came out, even though it was hardly the first of its kind. I think that a large issue with the public was the fact that the film was actually released during the holiday season. Also, the promotional material for the film placed a heavy emphasis on the fact that the killer was dressed as Santa Claus.

The moral outrage evidently became so outspoken that Gene Siskel actually took time out of their program to call out members of the crew by name, just so he could point his finger and say, “Shame on you.” As a result of public pressures, TriStar Pictures did end up pulling the film from theaters. It would be re-released early the next year by a smaller studio, exploiting the controversy around the film in order to promote it.

Say what you will about the movie, there was enough of a following to justify four sequels and a loose remake that came out in 2012. Interesting trivia note – the Silent Night remake featured one Malcolm McDowell, who starred in another classic horror reboot, Rob Zombie’s Halloween in 2007.

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I honestly can’t say if Silent Night, Deadly Night is that great of a film. It certainly is exploitative, loaded full of nudity and sex and graphic violence. The story is a bit on the cheesy, trope-heavy side, the innocent child drove into becoming an insane murderer by the cold, overbearing nun in the foster home. The killer who sees himself as a kind of moral avenging angel. At moments, it has the feel of an over-the-top after-school special in that it tries a little too hard to be earnest and isn’t particularly subtle.

But being honest, I don’t think that you should reasonably expect anything else from a movie like this. It would be like complaining that you got heartburn from the taquito you got at the twenty-four hours greasy taco truck. It’s a fun movie and I think that should be taken into consideration when evaluating it. If you enjoy the gore of horror movies and watch it for the kills, you’ll probably like this one.

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For me, this film is more important in relation to the point in my life in which I crossed paths with it. It was one of many films lying around in the stack of VHS tapes at home and it was when I was in grade school that I first saw it. It was scary, but there was also that thrill of watching something you weren’t supposed to see, the taboo of the thing that made it exciting. I have made a point to not rewatch this over the years, choosing to preserve my fading memories of the film as opposed to reconfiguring my viewpoint by watching it now.

Silent Night, Deadly Night will always be locked away in a memory box for me. It was a time when I was first introduced to the irreverent potential of storytelling, the emotional impact that movies could have as well as the realization that there was a whole new world out there, just waiting to be discovered on the back of a good video store membership.

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Chad Clark is a frequent flyer here on Machine Mean. He has reviewed for us before with commentary on House of Dracula (1945) and House of 1000 Corpses. Mr. Clark is a midwestern author of horror and science fiction. His artistic roots can be traced back to the golden era of horror literature, Stephen King, and Robert McCammon being large influences. His love for horror began as well in the classic horror franchises of the eighties. He resides in Iowa with his wife and two sons. Clark’s debut novel, Borrowed Time, was published in 2014. His second novel, A Shade for Every Season was released in 2015, and in 2016 Clark published Behind Our Walls, a dark look at the human condition set in a post-apocalyptic world. His latest book, Down the Beaten Path, released in September 2016. You can keep up with all of Mr. Clark’s works by following him on Amazon here.

And you do not want to miss this box set from dark fiction author Thomas S. Flowers. Still on SALE for $0.99!!!

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Book Featurette: Nurse Blood (The Organ Harvester Series)

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Sonya Garret roams the bar scene hoping to steal the heart of an unsuspecting victim—literally… Sonya, better known as Nurse Blood, is part of a team of lethal organ harvesters who seek out the weak to seduce, kill, and part out for profit on the black market. When Sonya meets Daniel McCoy, a young man recovering from a broken engagement, he’s just another kill to line her pockets with quick cash. Agent David McCoy vows to find out how and why his twin brother Daniel disappeared… Daniel’s body hasn’t been found, and the leads are slim to none, but it won’t stop David from dedicating his life to solving his brother’s case. When the evidence finally uncovers the shocking truth that Daniel’s disappearance is linked to organ harvesters, David knows his brother is most likely dead. But he’s determined to stop the villains’ killing spree before they strike again. One last harvest is all Sonya and her team need to put their murderous past behind them… A family with the rarest blood type in the world is the only thing standing between Sonya and retirement. David McCoy and the FBI are hot on their trail, though, and multiple targets make this the most complicated harvest yet. Will David unravel Sonya’s wicked plans in time to avenge his brother and save an innocent family? Or will Sonya cash in her final kill and escape for good? Murder for profit stops for no man when you’re Nurse Blood.

Nurse Blood, according to reviewers:

“Really great read! I enjoyed meeting the crazy cast of characters in this book. I am new to Rebecca and liked her writing style. I look forward to reading more by her. I already own a few more. Hope to see more Nurse Blood in the future” -Amazon Review.

“Nurse Blood, AKA Sonya, is part of a skilled team dealing in black market organ sales. This novel is not for the faint of heart, but there isn’t any gratuitous gore hell-bent on shock valve. The pace is fast, but not too quick. There’s an eerie blend of bloodlust, greed, and oddly, benevolence motivating Sonya. This makes her character interesting enough to find yourself ‘pulling for her,’ despite some of the most god-awful things she does. With this, she evens has a way of luring the reader with twisted sensuality (which actually may be more of a revelation of the reader’s character.) 🙂 If you’re looking for a spicy, thriller-mystery, you won’t go wrong with Nurse Blood” -Book Sandworm.

“I have read numerous of Ms. Bresser’s books. Most, if not all have been zombie books. I really enjoyed reading a book from her that was not in the same theme. Not that I mind her zombie books, they are awesome, but because it gave me an opportunity to see a different style. Ms. Besser does not hold back. Her books are not for the faint of heart. I say that as a compliment. As with all her books, I was left wanting more. I am thrilled that there will be more in the Harvester Series. In regards to the characters, I found them well developed. As the book progressed we kept learning what made each character tick. At times it was hard to hate Sonya. I had to remind myself that she was the villain. But leave it to Ms. Besser, just when I was forgetting how evil Sonya was, she quickly reminded me. If you have not read any of her books, I highly recommend, but as I stated, she does not coddle the reader. Again, that is a compliment! Oh, btw I read this 400+ page book in a day. Yeah, it was a fast read!” -Amazon Review.

You can purchase your copy of Blood Nurse for the mere price of $3.99.

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Rebecca Besser is the author of “Undead Drive-Thru, Undead Regeneration, Cursed Bounty, Twisted Pathways of Murder & Death, Hall of Twelve,” and “Nurse Blood (Limitless Publishing).” She is also a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her work has appeared in the Coshocton Tribune, Irish Story Playhouse, Spaceports & Spidersilk, joyful!, Soft Whispers, Illuminata, Common Threads, Golden Visions Magazine, Stories That Lift, Super Teacher Worksheets, Living Dead Press Presents Magazine (Iss. 1 & 2), FrightFest eMagazine, An Xmas Charity Ebook, The Stray Branch, and The Undead That Saved Christmas (Vol. 1 & 2) and the Signals From The Void charity anthologies. Rebecca has multiple stories in anthologies by Living Dead Press, Wicked East Press, Pill Hill Press, Hidden Thoughts Press, Knight Watch Press, Coscom Entertainment, Crowded Quarantine Publications, and Collaboration of the Dead (projects), and one (each) in an anthology by Post Mortem Press, NorGus Press, Evil Jester Press, Horrified Press, Atria Books (S&S Digital), and Nocturnal Press Publications. She also has a poem in an anthology by Naked Snake Press and a children’s poem in Oxford Ink Literature Reader 4 from Oxford University Press (India). Her nonfiction children’s article about skydiving, written for her writing course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, was published by McGraw-Hill for NY Assessments. She is also an editor for: Dark Dreams: Tales of Terror, Dead Worlds 7: Undead Stories, and Book of Cannibals 2: The Hunger from Living Dead Press; Earth’s End from Wicked East Press; End of Days: An Apocalyptic Anthology (Vol. 4 & 5/co-edited) from Living Dead Press; and she co-editing Feast or Famine (a zombie anthology). When she is not busy writing and/or editing, Rebecca is formatting book covers, building/maintaining websites, and writing book reviews. For more information, visit her website: http://www.rebeccabesser.com