My Favorite Newer Horror Discoveries Of 2017

I watch a lot of horror movies, as you probably know. I stumble upon some of them on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, while others I’m given by friends or hear about on the fantastic Shock Waves podcast. In 2017, I also had the pleasure of writing for Blumhouse.com which lead to plenty of great viewings for fun and profit.

Continue reading My Favorite Newer Horror Discoveries Of 2017

The First Ambitious Halloween Reading List

ambitious halloween reading list 2013I knew I hadn’t been doing very well on the most recent Ambitious Reading List, but then I checked the blog and realized I started it back in November of last year and have only since read three and a half of the books. So, with Halloween in the offing, I figured it was about time to toss that one aside and start a brand new one, this time with more of a focus.

So, I now have nine books that I’m trying to read this month. It probably won’t happen because I’m a damn slow reader, but why not give it a shot, right? Here’s the basic rundown.

The Listeners by Christopher Pike. I was a huge fan of Pike’s young adult books as a kid and figured I’d give one of his adult titles a read. I actually stumbled upon this used book store purchase while looking for the next book in the pile, but it felt appropriate to check out this month.

Interview With A Vampire by Anne Rice. This is one of two re-reads on the pile this time around. I can’t remember the first time I read this book, probably late grade school or high school, but I’m curious to get back to it and then give the adaptation another watch.

The Shining by Stephen King. You might not be able to see my Kindle on the pile, but I assure you it’s there. I read this book in high school then lent it to a guy I worked with at the bagel shop when I was 16. He got fired and I never saw him again. So, it’s been quite a while since I’ve given it a read. I will follow this one up by watching all of Kubrick’s film version FOR THE FIRST TIME! By the way, it’s only $4 for Kindle right now!

Vicious Circle by Mike Carey. This is the second Felix Castor novel from Carey. I used to interview him all the time for Wizard and really enjoyed the first installment The Devil You Know. The book explores a world where everyone knows ghosts exist and have to deal with them on a regular basis.

The Fall by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Since reading The Strain, I’ve actually been able to get my hands on the other two books in the series at Barnes & Noble for less than cover price of one book! I’m really curious to see where this story goes and hope to read all three installments before the TV show premieres.

The Dead Boy Detectives by Ed Brubaker and Bryan Talbot. I read this Sandman spinoff series once before and am a big fan of Brubaker’s. While looking at my trade shelf, it seemed like a good fit for the theme.

Eerie Crime & Horror by Wally Wood. I fell in love with Wally Wood’s artwork after reading Weird Science Volume 2 and have been on the hunt for more of his work since then. I picked this book up earlier this year and figured now’s as good a time as any to finally read it (or possibly just scan it for the pretty pictures depending on how good the writing is).

Creepy Archives Volume 1. Featuring stories by some of the greatest artists in the comics business, I’ve been sitting on this book for years. It’s about darn time I finally sit down and have some fun with it.

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History Of Friday The 13th by Peter M. Bracke. No kidding, I have a whole shelf filled with coffee table books I’ve never read. This oral history of one of the all-time greatest slasher franchises is one of them and seemed like a good non-fiction entry in the list.

Alright gang, so here goes. Hopefully this stack o’ books will get read more efficiently than the other. I’m already working on two of them right now, so I’m thinking it won’t be too long before the first review goes up.

BULLET POINTS: HOT ROUNDS OF INFORMATION GOODNESS

JPValderramaTerminator_FirstEdition-copy-600x400There’s a robot themed art show at Hero Complex Gallery kicking off this weekend called Bleeding Metallics. Check out Collider‘s preview for the show. I’m a big fan of this Terminator art by JP Valderrama.

Deadline‘s saying that the solid opening Pacific Rim had in China recently greatly increases the chances of a sequel. Seeing as how the movie was awesome, that’s great news. If that is the case, it raises a few questions. Will incredibly busy director Guillermo del Toro direct? If so, when? If not, who will take his place and make a movie that can top this one?

Harry Potter director David Yates might make a Scarface remake. The two versions that came before it are solidly in the classics section of moviedom, so what chance does Yates have of adding something great to the franchise? [via Deadline]

Ed Harris is in talks to co-star with Liam Neeson in his latest old-guy-kicking-ass film called Run All Night, TheWrap reports. The pair will be joined by RoboCop remake and The Killing star Joel Kinnaman.

“Why do I always end up in camo?” Dolph Lundgren asked on Instagram. Answer? “Because you’re awesome.”

Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Pacific-Rim-Poster Before jumping into my review of Pacific Rim, I want to talk about two things running through my mind as I was heading into the theater Saturday evening. First off, I’d been reading a lot that week about how this movie was going to tank. That’s one of the downsides to having a gig in the entertainment industry, you’re constantly inundated with the business-y side of Hollywood, the kind of stuff most people don’t really care about. The problem, though, is that sometimes the projections about how well a movie is going to do leading up to its release wind up poisoning the well a bit for the people who do pay attention to these things. “It’s not going to do well? I’m not gonna go.” I don’t have a solution for those aside, but the news bummed me out. Did it have something to do with Despicable Me 2 and Grown Ups 2 doing better over the weekend at the box office? Maybe. Then again, those more family friendly movies were going to be big no matter what.

The other thing rolling through my head was, “THIS is going to be what I always wanted from a Godzilla movie.” As a kid, I loved the bits and pieces of giant moster flicks I’d catch on TV, but when I finally turned 16 and started getting tapes by the backpack-full from Family Video I discovered something rather unsettling: a lot of those movies (like Gamer vs. Viras) are super boring. All you really want is guys in rubber suits fighting over a cardboard city with toy tanks shooting at them, but what you get is a little bit of that with a lot of scientists talking about how to stop the monster. Yawn.

I figured that a director like Guillermo del Toro would be able to figure out a way to balance the giant action with the smaller character moments and that’s what Pacific Rim delivered as far as I’m concerned. The story takes place on an Earth in which an inter-dimensional portal has opened up in the ocean. Said portal spits out giant monsters — dubbed kaiju — that humanity has to fight. The human race took on the first one with conventional weapons, but eventually built gigantic robots called jaegers to handle the menace. The jaegers are so big, though, that you’ve got to meld two minds to run them. Two pilots — usually relatives — literally link minds to drive these things and fight the baddies. Charlie Hunnam’s Raleigh Becket is a one-time jaeger pilot who winds up working for his old boss Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) to try and put a stop to this nearly decade-long menace once and for all. There’s a whole heckuva lot more going on, of course, but I don’t want to get too spoilery (yet).

Guys, I loved this movie. It delivered exactly what I wanted and even a little more. The robots versus monsters scenes were fantastic with everything from spinning blades and swords to battleships coming into play. But there’s also a real sense of menace to the film. They got pretty good at taking on the kaiju for a while as Becket tells us in the opening monologue, but then things got crazier with bigger, more dangerous monsters attacking. A pair of scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman are doing their best to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime you get the sense that the world is hanging in the balance. Some politicians have decided to bury their heads in the sand and try a fairly foolish means of defense (which might seem a little insane, but I bought it enough), but luckily for earth there are some very brave men and women from all over the globe working together to put a stop to it.

As a kid I always wanted to cut out all the boring stuff with people and just watch the fights, but in this one, I thought there was a good deal of humanity interspersed throughout. Sure, a lot of it’s the kind of stuff you’d expect. A leader who considers his image more important than his well-being, a cocky fighter unsure of why the hasbeen and rookie have been brought in, a person who hates the kaiju for destroying their family (that flashback scene kicked me in the gut, I’m such a wuss when it comes to kids in films these days). But when those characters are played well — and I thought they were for the most part — a bit of new life is breathed in. Plus, even if you don’t dig the, you wait a little bit and a robot rips a monster’s tongue out, so it’s cool.

pacific rim gipsy danger poster

There were a few elements of the film that didn’t sit particularly well with me. Minor SPOILERS follow. I enjoyed Hunnam’s performance, but the way he spoke was kind of distracting. The actor is from England, but he sports one of those accents that doesn’t sound like it truly belongs on either side of the pond. I had a similar complaint regarding Freddie Highmore’s performance in the first episode of Bates Motel. I’m not sure if this is just how he talks or how he was directed to speak, but it was distracting. I also wondered why the manner of defense against the kaiju was so segregated. You’ve basically got the jaegers and a giant wall, but the two are almost completely unrelated. Wouldn’t it make sense to have cannons that can do the same thing that Gipsy Danger’s fists can? They’ve been fighting these monsters for 6 or 7 years and no one thought of building up the borders in a different way?

But those are fairly minor quibbles. On the whole, I thought the story had a lot of fun, new elements that made sense and also had fun with sci-fi elements. The mental handshake stuff was cool and how can you not love ridiculously gigantic robots being built in even bigger bunkers driven by two people? The basic concepts get thrown at you pretty early in the movie, so if you’re not on board with the movie science, then you might want to skip the whole thing altogether. As it is, I enjoyed seeing a big budget spectacle that wasn’t based on anything but writer Travis Beachum and del Toro’s imaginations. I was far from disappointed by this film and would recommend anyone who though the trailers looked cool to go check it out.

Okay, SUPER SPOILER TIME. This is so SPOILERY that I’m putting it after the jump if you happen to be reading this post on the main page. If not, you’ve been warned.  Continue reading Pacific Rim Is Awesome

Ambitious Reading List: The Strain By Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan (2009)

I’m not the biggest Guillermo del Toro fan in the world. I think he has a very distinct visual style and one hell of an imagination, but we just don’t jibe on what scares/fascinates/interests us. I also think he really missed the mark with the Hellboy films, but that’s more of a fanboy thing. Anyway, The Strain is one of those books that I only started hearing about when it finished up earlier this year. I hadn’t heard much about it, but that’s no real surprise because I don’t really read a lot of horror books or stay up on book news as much as I used to. However, when I heard the basics of the plot and saw it on sale at Barnes & Noble for $6 or $7, I snatched it right up.

If you, like me, weren’t familiar with the book, it’s about a vampire virus working its way through New York City. Our hero is Eph, a doctor with the CDC who leads a team of scientists whose main mission is to find and contain contagious diseases. He and his partner Nora get brought in when a plane lands at JFK and, after being on the runway a few minutes, winds up completely dead, both power and occupancy wise. From there, it’s very slowly revealed to Eph what’s going on and we meet Satrakian, a man whose known vampires since his days in a concentration camp, a just-out-of-jail Latino kid named Gus, Fet the exterminator as well as Eph’s ex wife Kelly, their son Zach and some other folks.

Overall, I liked this book. It was revelatory as far as horror goes, though it definitely had some interesting ideas and tried to keep things scientific for the most part, treating them like an actual virus and drawing apt comparisons to existing organisms, which I appreciate. I dug the characters and thought they were mostly handled well and especially liked how the action scenes were written. I found them clear and exhilarating without being too confusing, which can happen when there’s TOO much action detail.

But I also thought it was too long, focused on some random characters it didn’t need to and felt less like a book and more like a movie. The first two complaints can be easily combined, I think there’s a version of this book with 50 fewer pages that’s a lot tighter and doesn’t waste so much time getting into the plane (we get it, it’s creepy, get in there already!) or with characters who ultimately don’t matter (far too many people at the airport turn out to have no real agency in the book). Also, not for nothing, but it takes around 100 pages for anyone to really start talking about vampires IN A BOOK ABOUT VAMPIRES. We’re all on the train, you don’t have to keep laying down track.

The last complaint is a bit more difficult to explain. There’s a complaint by some when it comes to comic books that some miniseries’ or series’ are just reformatted screenplays that couldn’t sell in Hollywood. It’s the kind of thing I didn’t quite understand at first — a cool idea is a cool idea, it should work regardless of the medium — but it’s something I’ve developed an ability to spot in the Supreme Court definition of pornography kind of way (I know it when I see it). Very soon after starting this book I got the distinct feeling that it would either work better as a movie or that del Toro’s screenwriting style overwhelmed Hogan’s (I’ve never read one of his books, so I can’t really judge either way). There were so many scenes that felt like quick jump cuts to something else for the sole purpose of showing you a piece of information. It’s not a big deal a few times but when it’s an all-the-time thing it can get a little tiring. Also, showing a quick scene in a movie works because it lasts as long as you wind up making it last after editing, but it takes me as long to read a page as it does no matter what, so something that’s supposed to be a quick piece for you can take me longer and I start wondering what the point of all these vignettes really is. If you can explain something in a quick line in a later paragraph instead of giving it its own chapter, do that.

I will admit that some of the problems I had in the reading of this book stem from my personal experience. I haven’t really read a horror book since The Exorcist and that was not only a long time ago, but a very different type of horror. The only vampire books I’ve ever read were the first two Anne Rice ones and The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike. The majority of my horror experience being with films, I’ve developed a very quick, “let’s do this” attitude when it comes to horror. It’s basically a formula. Character A enters situation 2, it can end in one of four ways, let’s see how it goes. When I’m watching this, I can do other things or be as invested as I want to be, but when I’m reading them, I get a lot more impatient because I’m working through the formula and trying to figure it out at a slower pace than I can watching something. It’s also a case where something in one medium can be enjoyable with far less effort than in another, but that’s just the difference between movies and books.

Even with those complaints, however, I enjoyed the experience of reading this book. The editor in my was chopping out entire characters, chapters and paragraphs while reading which was annoying, but it was intense enough at the end and hit the right spots in the formula to get me interested enough in the other two books. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for them at B&N next time we go.

A quick Ambitious Reading List update: I’m not sure if I’m up for the challenge of reading Devil In The White City at the moment. I’m going to give it another shot soon, but will see. After that I’ve just got Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up, Aimee Bender’s book and Please Kill Me, which I will close things out with. I’ve had a great time with this little reading project and even though it’s taken me more than a season to get through all the books, I’ve already got my next stack mostly lined up.