Monday, April 3, 2017

Where am I?

Find me now at

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Midnite Media is DEAD...

Heya, Hipsters.

This is it.  After five long years of blogging, MIDNITE MEDIA is officially dead.  It has, unofficially, been dead for the last nine months or so, as you can tell if you have been monitoring my output since the start of 2014.  I suppose I have just grown tired of the way things are around here, and it was too much hassle to repaint.

However, the good news is that I am taking up residence elsewhere, with a whole new game plan.  If there are any readers left out there in blogger land, I urge you to please join me at FLAG ON THE MOON.

Midnite Media will remain online for archival purposes, but will no longer be updated.  Please come on over to the new clubhouse, and let's have some fun.

Thank you all.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Movie Review: Stage Fright (2014)

Stage Fright
STAGE FRIGHT - Poster Image

Written & Directed by Jerome Sable

Kylie Swanson...Minnie Driver
Camilla Swanson...Allie MacDonald
Buddy Swanson...Douglas Smith
Roger McCall...Meat Loaf

"The following is based on true events. While the names have been changed to respect the victims and their families, the musical numbers will be performed exactly as they occurred."

Ten years after would-be Broadway sensation Kylie Swanson is brutally murdered following the opening of the musical The Haunting Of The Opera, the disgraced producer is resurrecting the show. It's off-Broadway, this time. Way, way off. In fact, it's taking place at a summer camp for theater kids known as Center Stage.

STAGE FRIGHT - Camilla and Buddy

But is the show cursed? Just before the revival show's opening night, the director is murdered. The camp is in a panic, but the producer dubs the obvious crime scene an unfortunate accident, and, as you've heard a thousand times before, the show must go on. And for P.R. purposes, it is Kylie's talented but unsure teenage daughter Camilla headlining the marquee.

Like with all good things, this show has a few detractors. One of them, however, just so happens to be wearing a kabuki mask and wielding any number of deadly weapons.

I'm not much of one for standard musicals or Broadway-type shows. Slasher flicks, though, I can get behind with a vengeance, and I'll even support the odd rock opera. This, thankfully, is a fantastic blend of all that kept me rooted in my seat the entire time.

STAGE FRIGHT - Kabuki Killer

The saccharine show tunes actually have a bit of subversive bile beneath the surface, and they are tempered by the shrieking rock numbers that the killer delivers when he's on scene. He is imposing, and yet amusing, and the violence is fast and vicious.

The performances are strong all around, though there is such a large cast that we scarcely get to know many of them. As this is a theater camp, the musical numbers seem at least slightly more organic than they otherwise would. For the genre fan, there are clever nods to other films (including Carrie and Texas Chainsaw Massacre), and enough violent turns to keep you interested through to the end.

Equal parts Glee, Avenue Q, and Sleepaway Camp, I had a hell of a good time with this movie and fully expect it to become a cult favorite within a few years time.

Rated R
89 Minutes

"Isn't it wrong to sing and dance when someone just died?"

Friday, April 11, 2014

Movie Review: HazMat (2013)


Written & Directed by Lou Simon

Jacob...Norbert Velez
Scary Dave...Todd Bruno
Brenda...Aniela McGuinness

Scary Antics is a cable television show along the lines of Scare Tactics, where malicious practical jokes are played on unsuspecting people in an attempt to terrify them and drum up ratings. The latest episode is all set up to take place in an abandoned chemical factory that is rumored to be haunted, and the mark is a disturbed young man whose friends are setting him up in an effort to bitchslap him back to normalcy.

Solid plan, guys.

This being a horror movie, things obviously do not go according to plan. It addresses the question that has always plagued me when watching shows like Scare Tactics: when it comes to the fight or flight response, what happens if the subject chooses fight?

It's not a long way to fall for an already disturbed man to completely lose his grip, and so this little prank quickly devolves into a manic slasher film that should please many fans of the genre.

I wasn't sold on the premise when the film began, and some of the acting at the onset was a bit shaky, but it quickly found its legs. The kills may not be the most original, but they are shocking and surprising enough to keep you guessing. Most slasher flicks are a little light on plot, and this one is no exception, but it's still a fun and memorable entry in the indie killer canon.  Definitely worth a watch.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Movie Review: Bloodlust! (1961)

BLOODLUST! - Movie Poster

Written & Directed by Ralph Brooke

Johnny Randall...Robert Reed
Pete Garwood...Eugene Persson
Dr. Albert Balleau...Wilton Graff

BLOODLUST! - Title Screen

Four young people on a pleasure cruise find themselves stranded on a desert island when their boat captain passes out drunk.  They are taken in by Albert Balleau, a wealthy recluse, whose intensity is somewhat intimidating, and given a room to stay the night.  They find out in short order that Balleau is a madman who hunts humans for sport, and they are the next targets in his most dangerous game.


Booby traps, hidden rooms and jungle action fill in the empty spaces of this less-than-classic drive-in flick.  It starts off with an almost admirable innocence, but that innocence is shattered when the low budget gore effects kick in.  The story is very familiar to pretty much anyone who has ever watched movies, but there are enough wacky elements to keep your interest for the abbreviated running time.  The cast is pretty good, though, with Wilton Graff chewing up the scenery like a Bond villain crossed with a Hungry Hungry Hippo, and the rest of the principal cast taking a slightly more grounded approach.

BLOODLUST! - She Ain't Swimmin'

This is by no means a must-see film, but if you have an hour to spare, a few beers, and a bag of popcorn, you could do much worse.  Enjoyable enough for what it is--a down-and-dirty cheapie for the exploitation fan.  You've surely seen this movie before, but I'll bet that you've never seen it with Mr. Brady.

Special thanks to Film Chest Media for the screener, who will be releasing the HD restoration of this film on March 4, 2014.

68 Minutes
United States

"The Foulest Passion Of Them All!"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Short Film: Chatter (2010)

After an argument with her boyfriend, Liz (Karoline Stemme) uses a little alcohol to make herself feel better and a Chat Roulette-type website to take her mind off her problems.  She discovers a brand new set of problems, though, when she watches the girl that she is chatting with being attacked by some unseen force.  Almost as if on cue, Liz's power goes out...and when it comes back on, she is not alone.

I stumbled across this short film completely by accident, but I sure am glad that I did.  This was a fantastic 8-minute ride, chock full of creeps.  Were it expanded a bit, and the format altered, this would be right at home in the next entry of the V/H/S franchise--and it would probably be one of the better segments, too.

Take ten minutes out of your busy life, turn down the lights, and give this puppy your full attention.

Chatter from Espen Gjelsten on Vimeo.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Movie Review: Devil's Due (2014)

Devil's Due
DEVIL'S DUE - Poster Image

Written by Lindsay Devlin
Directed by Matt Bettinello-Olpin & Tyler Gillett

Samantha McCall...Allison Miller
Zach McCall...Zach Gilford
Father Thomas...Sam Anderson

After a lost night on their Mexican honeymoon, newlyweds Samantha and Zach McCall discover that they're going to have a baby. This isn't Knocked Up, though, and that ain't no normal baby. She's carrying the antichrist in her once-taut tummy.

I traditionally avoid spoilers in my reviews, but I feel that I can get away with this one because although they don't tell you it in the trailers, they basically tell you within the first 10 seconds of the movie.

DEVIL'S DUE -"I didn't kill her"

Samantha dies.

We know this because the movie opens up with a blood-covered Zach in an interrogation room. "I didn't kill her," he says. And even if he didn't, someone or something did.

This pointless opening which gives away the fate of our main character is my primary qualm with this movie. We know she dies, and because it's a movie about giving birth to the antichrist, we're pretty sure we know when, too. All we don't know about her final fate is the how, and you'll probably figure that out well before the movie ends, too.

Found footage films have a lot of detractors. They have ever since The Blair Witch Project burst on the scene. I, for one, am a proud supporter. I would say that I am a found footage apologist, but I feel no need to apologize. When done correctly, they draw me into the story and keep me there, offering up a semblance of "reality" that a more cinematic approach would have difficulty achieving on what is typically a lower budget. The wife and I both thoroughly enjoyed this film, and it will probably join the Paranormal Activity films on our shelf once the DVD drops.

DEVIL'S DUE - Redecorating for the baby

All that being said, Devil's Due does not bring much of anything new to the table. It hits all of the notes that I expected it to hit, but it did so well enough that I didn't mind too much. There were enough scares and creepy imagery scattered about to keep me interested, and I was never pulled too far out of the movie (though in hindsight, I do have to wonder just how all of this footage from multiple cameras was supposedly assembled).

All in all, any horror flick that I can enjoy with the wife is all right by me. It didn't rewrite the rules or redefine the genre, but not everything has to. Sometimes one can find comfort in the familiar.

Rated R
89 Minutes
United States


Monday, January 13, 2014

Movie Review: Big Bad Wolves (2012)

Big Bad Wolves
BIG BAD WOLVES - Poster Image

Written & Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado

BIG BAD WOLVES - Police Brutality

When a police detective's brutal methods allow a murderous pedophile to go free, said detective is suspended from the force. Without the badge holding him back, he's able to travel right over the edge to get his man...but he's not the only one. The father of the latest victim is on the case, too, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to find out where the pervert hid his daughter's head.

BIG BAD WOLVES - Hammer Time

It seems everybody wants a pound of flesh, but the question is: is there enough to go around? This dark, violent, and gory revenge flick shows just how far family will go for blood--to protect their own, and to spill somebody else's. There are enough atrocities onscreen to make you look away, and enough flip-flopping of allegiances to keep you guessing right up to the end.


And who is the Big Bad Wolf here? It's not just the suspected pedophile, and it's not just those who are seeking bloody vengeance. It's all of them together, three very different men on a roadway straight to hell.

This stylish and very-darkly comic thriller is the Israeli equivalent of Eli Roth directing Reservoir Dogs.  It is more of a crime piece than it is a horror flick, but there are bucket loads of Hostel-type horror scenes here, which more than qualifies it for inclusion in any genre fan's watchlist.  This was one of my favorite discoveries this past year, and I'm hoping that it will find its audience when it hits V.O.D. and select theaters on January 17th.

Special thanks to Magnolia Pictures for the screener!


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Movie Review: Besties (2012)

BESTIES - Poster Image

Written & Directed  by Rebecca Cutter

Sandy...Olivia Crocicchia
Ashley...Madison Riley
Justin...Christopher Backus
Danny...Corin Nemic

When 14-year-old Sandy's father goes out of town for the weekend, high school senior Ashley is asked to babysit. Sandy has always idolized Ashley, so when the older girl decides to throw a party, she goes along with it.

Justin, a dangerous one-time fling of Ashley's, shows up and begins making inappropriate advances on Sandy. Things spiral out of control, and soon the girls are left with a corpse to dispose of.

Secrets like this pull people together and push them apart. The secret--and Ashley--become the center of Sandy's world, digging herself deeper and deeper into a world of darkness and obsession.

BESTIES - Friends 4-Ever

Sandy's fascination with Ashley is the real backbone of this story, as it is what allowed everything to unfold in the first place. This could very well be the pre-history of a Single White Female situation.

It's a decent little thriller, sort of horror-lite, almost ready for broadcast TV. It's likely not to please the hardened genre fan, but drama lovers who enjoy a side of darkness should be pleased.

As far as the characters go, the usual teen tropes apply. They don't talk like real teenagers, they talk the way that movies believe teenagers talk. That being said, they're not quite as obnoxious as teenagers are usually depicted, and Olivia Crocicchia turns in a great performance as the bumbling, awkward Ashley. She carried the film admirably.

BESTIES - Olivia Crocicchia

The finale is a little open-ended, but it works with this film. I can't say that I'm necessarily a fan of the movie, but I'm sure there are a large number of tween girls who would be pleased to munch popcorn on the couch while this is playing on the television.

Besties will be available for VOD on January 21.
Special thanks to Phase 4 Films for the screener!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: The Year of Fear

Well, horror hipsters, 2013 has come and gone, and 2014 is just beginning. I'm not the type to make New Year's resolutions, primarily just because I'm too damned lazy to try to improve myself. However there are a few things that I'm hoping (not resolving) to accomplish this year.

I'm going to keep on plugging away with the fine folks over at The Crypt as an official contributor, plus behind the scenes as a somewhat less official beta tester. There's already some great stuff there, and even better things will be coming our way in 2014, so if you don't have the Crypt app on your iPhone yet, get on it. (Android and web platforms coming soon).

I'm going to try to post more often around here, even if not a full-fledged review, at least a few inane ramblings and updates.

I am also currently attempting to nail down some concrete concepts for a NEW project that I'm tossing around, which will (I hope) give my reviews and writings a more viable voice, focus, and direction, and will reignite my passion for the horror genre.

So stay tuned, everyone. And let's make 2014 the Year of Fear!


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Movie Review: Dust Up (2012)

Dust Up
DUST UP - Poster Image

Written & Directed by Ward Roberts

Jack...Aaron Gaffey
Mo...Devin Barry
Ella...Amber Benson
Buzz...Jeremiah Birkett

DUST UP - the Three Amigos

Former soldier Jack has given up his life of violence in favor of a life of tranquility, meditating in the High Desert, working as an occasional handyman, and chatting idly with his Native American comrade Mo. Jack is a one-eyed Zen master, calm, cool and collected, but the violence he keeps locked beneath the surface is about to bubble to the top.

Jack accidentally finds himself involved with Ella, a pretty young mother and her crank-addicted husband Herman, who is deep in debt to Buzz, the local crime lord. When Herman can't produce the money he owes, Buzz comes a-calling, and the dynamic duo of Jack and Mo are forced to intervene.

DUST UP - (Billy) Jack

To call Jack a modern day Billy Jack might be pushing things a bit, but there are definitely elements of that character to be found here. The Billy Jack franchise was a decidedly serious (albeit sometimes ridiculous) series, whereas Dust Up falls back on toilet humor a few too many times. I'm all for the few comedic elements in the film, but the dick and fart jokes seemed out of place and rather tiresome.

The poster and the premise may seem reminiscent of a sleazy 1970's picture (and indeed the hissing, slashing character of Mr. Lizard could have been written for Michael Berryman), but this is shot with a considerably modern flair with none of the throwback, retrosploitation trappings that you would expect.


It is fabulously scored, well acted and competently shot. The character of Mo is one of my favorite creations in recent memory, making a nice counterpoint to Jack's silent and brooding self. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie--much more than I was anticipating, actually. I just wished that it would have taken itself more seriously at times and not always have gone for the easy chuckle.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie Review: Here Comes the Devil (2012)

Here Comes the Devil

Written & Directed by Adrián García Bogliano

Sara...Michele Garcia
Adolfo...Alan Martinez
Felix...Francisco Barreiro
Sol...Laura Caro

While their children Sara and Adolfo go for a hike up a country hill, married couple Felix and Sol stay behind to exorcise their lust in the very romantic setting of a truck-stop parking lot. After the requisite post-orgasm nap, the children still have not returned. The police are brought in, and early the next morning, they are found safe and sound, having spent the night lost in a cave.

Felix and Sol try to return to their normal family life, but the kids are behaving somehow...differently. A visit to a medical doctor and a psychologist suggest that they may have suffered some untoward trauma in that cave, and the parents (if not the police) have one solid suspect. There is much to suggest that whatever happened to them was not the work of man, however, but something much, much worse.


This Spanish-language film is partly steamy, partly surreal, but all suspense. It's a dark journey full of unspeakable things--some blatant, some only suggested--and it will leave your nerves frayed and your teeth aching from being so tightly clenched. The performances are solid all around and the relationships completely believable. The musical cues perfectly suit each moment and serve to heighten the appropriate mood.

It may but be fast-paced enough for everyone, but the patient viewer will find plenty to enjoy here. It's a morbid and fantastic little treat.

Special thanks to Magnet Releasing for the screener!

Not Rated
97 Minutes
Spanish (English subtitles)

"We are the devil, and we've come for you."

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Crypt...IS HERE!

The much-anticipated Eli Roth-approved iPhone app THE CRYPT is finally available!  Want to get in on the action?  Just head on over to the ios app store and search for The Crypt.  Just look for the happy little fellow above--it should be the first result to pop up.  So what is The Crypt?

"The Crypt is your central mobile hub for horror news, video, images, articles and more - created by industry professionals and fans alike."

Meaning, that aside from the assemblage of staff writers (including yours truly, I am proud to say), all of the readers can become writers as well, submitting content at the click of a button.  So what are you waiting for?  Get up on it!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Movie Review: S#X Acts (2012)

S#x Acts
S#X ACTS - Cover Image

Written by Rona Segal
Directed by Jonathan Gurfinkel

Gili...Sivan Levy

When Larry Clark's Kids hit theaters in 1995, it was met with boundless controversy because of its graphic depictions of teenage sexuality, drug use and violence. That is to say, Kids was controversial because of its graphic depictions of reality. But that was (unbelievably) 18 years ago. This year, Larry Clark's movie is old enough to vote, old enough to buy cigarettes, old enough to star in pornography. Hell, Kids is finally old enough to go watch itself in the theater.

An awful lot can change in 18 years, everything from technology to social mores, so someone was bound to film the next generation of youth spiraling out of control. I suppose I just wasn't expecting it to come out of Israel. Not that it matters. With social media and mass communication, culture has been globalized to the extent that the kids are recognizable, the fashions are recognizable, and the music is recognizable--even if you can't understand the lyrics.

S#X ACTS - Pretty Gili

Beautiful high schooler Gili has recently transferred schools, hoping to improve her social standing in new surroundings. She befriends popular boys Tomar and Omri, and a little teenage lust quickly devolves into something darker. With every encounter becoming more and more sexual, it's not long before she's being passed around like a communal cigarette.

Not long ago, a teenage girl could sleep around and have only rumors to contend with. These days, everybody has a smartphone, and proof of these sexual encounters is only a sly slide of the finger away. The attention that one receives for indiscretions easily becomes negative attention, and although Gili seems like she wants to escape from this vicious circle, it doesn't appear as if she knows how. And because of this, she doesn't even try, relegating herself to being used and abused by a pack of would-be Frat Brats who have never been denied anything. It's infuriating and heartbreaking to watch innocence shattered in pursuit of a happiness that will never come.

S#X ACTS - The Threesome

Detractors of this film will say that it is rather plotless, and there is some truth to that. It floats along from day-to-day, offering up slice-of-life glimpses of Gili's exploitation, and then it ends rather abruptly.  You won't walk away from this movie feeling entertained...but you also won't walk away from it before the closing credits begin to roll.  You'll find yourself too entrenched in the despair to look away.  Don't think of S#X Acts as entertainment, don't even think of it as a movie.  Think of it as fictional reality, one that the majority of parents simply don't won't to acknowledge.

This movie should be just as controversial as Kids, however I'm willing to wager that it will come and go without nearly the amount of uproar.  This could be a sign of the changing societal mores previously mentioned, but more than likely there's another explanation.  It is a foreign film, and it is subtitled, and that brings with it a stigma that stings both ways: a large portion of the movie-going public will not sit down to watch a movie that requires reading; and those that do watch it will tend to think of it as an art film--never mind the fact that if all of the same actors spoke English, they would consider it exploitation.  In a case such as this, controversy works as publicity, and so I fear that not nearly as many people will see this movie as they should.

This isn't the type of film that I normally review here, but sometimes you have to expand your boundaries to see a bit more of the world around you.  Recommended.

S#X Acts is available on VOD, and is playing in select theaters.

Special thanks to Tribeca Film for the screener!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Movie Review: Snapped (2005)

SNAPPED - DVD Cover Image

Written by Steve Abbott
Directed by Jeff Prosserman & Julan Van Nil

Amy...Tiffany Amber Knight
Rose...Nataloe Van Rensberg
Trevor...Michael Bien

When does a crime scene photograph become art? According to Snapped, when it’s placed on a gallery wall instead of an evidence locker.

Amy McCanic is commissioned by a morbid museum curator to photograph the recently murdered. Sensing that this could be a turning point in her life, she leaves her junkie painter boyfriend Trevor and shacks up in a boarding house with her rather slutty best friend Rose. Reflecting on her relationship, she’s overcome with rage and inspiration. To earn her paycheck--and I mean really earn it--she takes it upon herself to supply the corpses she photographs. Sleazy landlords, paranoid winos, ape-like lady loansharks. Nobody’s safe from the slaughtering shutterbug. But when her boyfriend kicks the habit and concentrates on his painting again, a bitter rivalry springs up.

Or something like that.

The acting is mostly mediocre, except for the museum curator whose overblown grandiosity makes the others seem talented. The ladies are both delicious and jiggly, however it’s going to take a whole lot more than giggles and jiggles to save this film from itself. The concept is so ludicrous after a while that to try to sum it up could only make it appear more plausible, and the “twist” ending didn’t help matters along at all. In the end, it’s just another head-scratcher amateur outing that belongs in the throwaway bin.

Rated R
84 Minutes
United States


Sunday, November 17, 2013

DVD Review: Roger Corman's Horror Classics Vol.1 (2013)

Roger Corman's Horror Classics Vol.1

Film Chest Media recently released the 3-disc "collector's set" Roger Corman's Horror Classics, Vol. 1, each disc containing one of Corman's beloved horror cheapies--A Bucket of Blood, Dementia 13, and The Terror.  It's true enough that all three of these films have been released umpteen times on DVD, often crammed together in multi-disc sets from archive houses like Mill Creek.  It's also true that all three of these films have fallen into the public domain, and so they are easily found online to watch for free.  But this is, I can comfortably say, the best that any of these films have ever looked.

These are old films that were shot cheaply on film more than fifty years ago(!), so don't expect pristine, digital quality.  These are, however, HD restorations from the original 35mm prints, and much of the expected image blips and flaws have been eradicated.  The picture is much sharper and clearer than any of the other releases that I have seen, opening up a whole new world of detail to the viewer.

They are presented in widescreen format, which in itself is missing from many of the old bargain bin releases, and all except for A Bucket of Blood are offered in 5.1 stereo.

It's nice to see a house like Film Chest giving these PD films the respect they deserve, though I admit that I wish there were more in the way of bonus features.  Aside from film trailers and brief "Before & After Restoration Demos", there's nothing to keep you occupied once the films are complete.  A film historian's audio commentary track or a short documentary about Corman would have been an excellent addition.

Still, for Roger Corman fans who are looking to upgrade their collection, this is a pretty nice place to start.

Special thanks to Film Chest for the screener!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Movie Review: Reel Evil (2012)

Reel Evil
REEL EVIL - DVD Cover Image

Written by Shane Bitterling
Directed by Danny Draven

Kennedy...Jessica Morris
Cory...Kaiwi Lyman
James...Jeff Adler
Dirk Bailey...Michael Cline

A trio of documentary film makers accept a less-than-ideal job in order to pay the bills: shooting a behind-the-scenes making-of-documentary on the set of the latest horror picture from producer Dirk Bailey. In order to give the movie a little added production value, it's being filmed in an old mental asylum--one that is supposedly really haunted. If nothing else, it gives the documentarians something to explore when the rest of the cast and crew prove to be a bunch of uncooperative bastards.

REEL EVIL - the documentary crew

Kennedy, Cory and James wander into the darkened corridors with cameras running, hoping to capture a little haunting on film. They get a lot more than a little.

It's hard to believe that this was Full Moon's first stab at a found footage film. Full Moon being a lower-budgeted production house, and found footage being such an effective technique for disguising a low budget, it seems like a natural fit. But how well did they do with it?

I'm an unashamed fan of found footage and mockumentary films, as any readers of my blog surely know. I've seen a metric ton of them, and still haven't burned out...though there are more bad ones than there are good ones on the market. With Reel Evil, Full Moon has found a comfortable middle ground. It's not good, it's not is just okay, which is still a damn sight better than some.

REEL EVIL - Spooky ghost

Found footage fans may find the usual things to like here (POV shots making it easier to feel a part of the action) and the usual things to dislike (shaky-cam may upset the stomachs of those with delicate constitutions). Full Moon fans, though, may be disappointed by the fact that this doesn't feel in the least like a Full Moon movie--meaning there are no killer dolls or low-brow humor (the latter having become something of a fascination with them lately). I for one was glad for the change of pace, and although this won't make my theoretical list of Top Ten Best Found Footage Films, it certainly won't make my list of Top Ten Worst, either.

Not the best that the Full Moon catalog has to offer, but better than a lot of the slop they've been dishing out in recent years.

Not Rated
United States


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Crypt is coming...

Oh, yes it is.
And I have a front row seat...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Comic Review: Hellraiser #20 (Epic Comics)

Hellraiser #20

Wordsworth: The title character is a lonely librarian whose only friends are the limitless books that he has at his disposal. Enamored with words and wordplay, he is adept at crossword puzzles. They rarely offer much of a challenge, until an unusual one is passed onto him which not only knows his past, but his future as well. So obsessed is he with the solution that he will plumb the darkest pits of his soul to find the answers. To sum up: Fan-freaking-tastic. I have always said that this series has the potential to rival DC's Sandman series, so it's no surprise that having Neil Gaiman scripting (with inherently creepy artwork by Dave McKean, who supplied covers for Gaiman's Sandman) should produce such a slam dunk. It's two mad geniuses working together. This story could've consumed the entire issue, and I would've been a happy camper.

The Girl In The Peephole: Arthur Smack somehow gets a job at a mental institution, despite his less-than-savory past. He sees it as an opportunity to help others while simultaneously helping himself; a way to atone for past sins. But when he is transferred from the main floor to Ward S, where all the most dangerous patients are housed, there is something hidden behind one special door that makes him forget about atonement, desiring only fulfillment. The unique combination lock that prevents him from getting through that door presents a challenge. One could almost say...a puzzle.  This is a good story that makes you think about forgiveness and redemption, and what it takes to receive it.  It also brings to mind the unusual benefit of the Hellraiser franchise: you can safely root for the Cenobites, because more often than not, they are monsters punishing monsters.  Nobody likes the devil, but you still applaud when an evil man gets sent to Hell.

The Last Laugh: Have you ever wondered what Cenobites do in Hell on their days off?  Apparently they spend it in a little hot spot that is one part Evening at the Improv and one part The Gong Show.  Stand up comedian siblings the Fabulous Funoli's are caught in an endless cycle of comedy routines that always fail to impress the audience, resulting in a good long torturing between sets.  Luckily for them, one of the Cenobites staffing the club isn't really a Cenobite.  It is, instead, Ron Ringwood of the Harrowers in quite a clever disguise, and he is there to rescue them.  As with the other Harrower solo story from the previous issue, it hardly qualifies as a story.  It's just something that happened.  Still, it offered a unique (and frankly unlikely) glimpse into the social life of the Cenobite, and as much as I wanted to dislike the really made me smile.  So I guess that's something.


Comic Review: Hellraiser #19 (Epic Comics)

Hellraiser #19

Roulette LeMarchand: Following the events of the Devil's Brigade storyline in Philadelphia, gang member Carlos flees from his rival Vito's gang into the tunnels beneath the city, where he spies an old man tinkering with a puzzle box.  The old man opens it just as Vito's boys show up, and they are painfully attacked by the chains of Hell.  Scooping up the box, Carlos mistakenly thinks that it is a weapon which can be used to defeat Vito's gang once and for all--and beyond that, to become the supreme leader of all the gangs in the city.  Carlos and Vito set up a meeting and they play a game of Russian Roulette, using the box as the handgun.  But no matter who wins, everybody is going to lose, because as one of the Cenobites says, "When you pray to darkness, it is darkness that answers."  A decent story, but still a far cry from the artistry and subtle strokes of genius that made me fall in love with this series a number of issues back.

In These Blue Depths Lie Hell: This story bounces between the year 1528 and the "modern day" of 1992.  In the former, a group of explorers are seeking a spiritual treasure, and in the latter another group is seeking material treasure.  Shared blood and shared sins lead the two to coalesce in some sort of nexus point where they are forced to do battle with the Cenobite Hunger.  Another okay story, but nothing to write home about; although there are a few pretty cool scenes, like where Hunger stretches a woman's mouth out to epic proportions, and he looks especially devious crouching over the body of another unconscious female.

Death, Where Is Thy Sting?: Another sea faring period piece here, opening up with the diary entry of Phillip Johnson, whose son Robert accidentally opened up a puzzle box and unleashed the Cenobite Fulgar.  In order to spare his children from Fulgar's grasp, Phillip strikes a bargain for he and his wife to be taken in their stead.  Fulgar was to return for them shortly, but they did not wait as they promised.  Instead the Johnsons jumped ass on a ship and hightailed it across the ocean.  Flash forward to the modern day, where Vera Wyshack of the Harrowers stumbles across the wife of Daniel Johnson, an ancestor of Phillip who has just recently disappeared after solving the puzzle box.  Using her goddess-given boomerang, Vera slices through reality and takes the two of them into a cozy little corner of Hell where Daniel and all of his ancestors are waiting to be rescued and reborn.  Despite my high hopes for the Harrowers, this was actually a pretty bad story.  Cenobite bees, and a demon beekeeper with a neck like a giraffe?  Come on, now.


Comic Review: Hellraiser #18 (Epic Comics)

Hellraiser #18

Love Is A Many Splendored Thing: In an unlikely turn of an events, a Cenobite by name of Draleba refuses to take the beautiful Esioleh to Hell when she solves the requisite puzzle.  Why?  Because he has defied his demonic nature and fallen in love with her.  In some ways, this story echoes the tale in the previous issue, although the circumstances behind a Cenobite not returning to Hell with the soul he was sent to retrieve are different.  It was a much more interesting story last time, though this one is not without its merits.  The artwork is almost photo-realistic, which is fine, however it makes the sound effects and word balloons seem very out of place.

The Harrowers Part 2 - Insurrection: With Bunny Benedict a prisoner in Hell, the goddess Morte dispatches her Harrowers to rescue her.  The Cenobites won't give her up too easily, though, and the General constructs a Frankenstein Monster of demonic parts called The Furiae to defeat them.  The battle is brief, but the Harrowers are victorious.  Morte is fully freed from her tomb and the Furiae takes her place, one of the Harrowers lost to battle it for eternity, and a Cenobite--against all odds--dies a true death, and on its home turf, no less.  And Pinhead, for one, is not happy.

The artwork is well done but laid out with such manic intensity that it is often difficult to ascertain what is actually happening on the page and in what order.  It does produce a few killer full-page spreads, though, including Pinhead in all his raging glory.  With this second entry in the new storyline, a few of the sillier notions become more clear--Vera's saliva is like acid to the Cenobites, so much of her time in battle is spent hawking loogies on demons; Lucinda and Lavinia have a spiritual guide of sorts named Ovid, who appears in the form of a cherub and is "miasmic"--meaning that he farts a lot, and the stench disorients their opponents; Winston Gage has a pet kitten with whom he can swap spots with at will; and Ron Ringwood, well...Ron has hair like Vanilla Ice.  'Nuff said.  Can the horror overcome the absurdities?

Only time will tell.


Comic Review: Hellraiser #17 (Epic Comics)

Hellraiser #17

Taste the Darkness: When a young woman solves the puzzle box, the Cenobite that comes to take her away discovers that she doesn't meet the standard criteria--she isn't looking for something; she didn't obsessively seek out the box; she didn't struggle to open it; and she didn't willingly call forth the gates of Hell. But still, he can not return empty handed. It's a nice, quiet little story that I quite enjoyed. There's no element of horror here, but it fits nicely into the franchise, even making a casual mention of Kirsty from the first few films. Whirl-Jack, the Cenobite, actually seems like a pretty decent fellow when it comes down to it. He's got a little rockabilly vibe to him, too. I kinda like him.

The Harrowing Part One - Resurrection: The imprisoned goddess Mamme Morte (see last issue) proceeds to fulfill her prophecy by sending out six flies, which have fed upon her flesh, to collect six specially chosen people to become the Harrowers: motorcycle-riding tattoo artist Ron Ringwood; death row inmate Vera Wyshak; animal lover Winston Gage; beautiful English twins Lavinia and Lucinda (who count as one, of course); brilliant former-professor Dublin Morse; and public works employee Marty Sevenbirds.  One-by-one, they are touched upon by Morte's flies in varying ways, and they all make haste to what will become their headquarters: Legs Benedicts' Egg Museuem in Joplin, Missouri (run by the aging Bunny Benedict)--situated directly above the goddess's grave.  An earthquake opens up the Earth, exposing a staircase that leads to the puzzle room where her previous tribe of Harrowers met their fate.  Upon solving the puzzle and releasing the goddess, each are given a purpose in life, a special ability, and a weapon made up of her power.  Hell has six warriors of its own, though, and they are ready and waiting for the war to begin.  This storyline looks as if it will have drastic implications for the Hellraiser world, and although it is definitely something new (never before have the Cenobites had anything close to real opposition), it might just be what is needed to breathe some new life into the franchise.  Think of them as the Hellraiser equivalent of Nightmare on Elm Street's Dream Warriors.  Already I am enjoying it much more than I did the convoluted and anti-climactic Devil's Brigade story.  Unfortunately, this series is winding down, and the Harrowers have only a few more appearances here before branching out into their own series.


Comic Review: Hellraiser #16 (Epic Comics)

Hellraiser #16

Devil's Brigade Part 17 - Fury: With her AIDS research banned by the World Health Organization due to the controversy that it created in a previous entry, Dr. Gioeli is at a crossroads.  Does she continue working on her vaccine that can save millions of lives, or does she follow the rules and simply give up?  Visiting Dr. Fisher, a former coworker who has AIDS, Gioeli illegally offers him the vaccine for a human trial.  The results are quite positive, so Gioeli pulls a little slight-of-hand maneuver to sneak her vaccine into mass production.  It's just too bad that she didn't wait long enough to find out about the side effects...  Another mediocre entry in this tedious, overlong storyline.  This issue promises to bring the whole thing to a close, though, and then hopefully the series can get back on track.

This, I Saw: This is something of a prelude chapter to a new ongoing storyline called The Harrowers.  Here, a young native boy is sent into the wilderness as part of a coming-of-age ritual, and he consumes a hallucinatory medicine that brings him visions of an ancient entry in the Hellraiser franchise.  Goddess Morte Mamme is buried in a pit by Hell's minions, in order to inhibit her powers.  This pit is the only direct route to Earth from Hell, and by doing this, they are sacrificing their ability to freely travel between the two.  Mamme's tribe of followers, the Harrowers, are locked in a stone room with a particularly Saw-like puzzle to solve.  Mamme is still a prisoner beneath the Earth, but the story is to be continued, ending with the prophecy: "One day another six shall come to wage war on the God of Many Points.  For even the strong can be taken, and even mortals may play a part in the battle against the Dark One."

Devil's Brigade Part 18 - Reckoning: The Devil's Brigade stand trial in the infernal courtroom--all except for Pinhead, who has mysteriously gone AWOL.  Many believe that Pinhead, once the favored-son of Hell, has become a traitor to the cause, but he arrives in typical dramatic fashion to declare that although it may appear that he has failed in his mission, the failure is an illusion that will only serve to strengthen Hell's power.  There are some interesting things on display here, like the courtroom weighing the hearts of the Cenobites against the weight of a pile of eyeballs (a bastardized version of the ancient Egyptian myth of weighing the heart against a feather to decide a soul's final resting place).  The morbidly obese Cenobite Griot was a cool addition to the line-up, tattooing his endless flesh with Hell's History as it is being written, like a living grimoire.  It's too bad that it doesn't appear he will be making a return appearance...



Related Posts with Thumbnails