Saturday, March 30, 2013

Book Review: Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

Silence of the Lambs
SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris - Book cover
By Thomas Harris

Published seven years after Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs brings us a new protagonist in the form of Clarice Starling, a cadet in the FBI Academy. She is dispatched by lead profiler Jack Crawford (returning from the previous novel) to ask Hannibal Lecter to fill out a questionnaire that will aid in future profiling--though there may be deeper motivations.

During the interview process, Lecter lets loose a few clues about Buffalo Bill, the serial killer currently kidnapping, killing and imprisoning women. Clarice, though not a full fledged agent, is placed on the case and put in charge of following up on the tips that Lecter gives...though he offers nothing without a price.

The investigation steps up when the daughter of a United States Senator is kidnapped, and the FBI have to find her alive or else catch all kinds of holy hell.

Clarice Starling is something of the antithesis of Will Graham, our hero from Red Dragon. Whereas Graham was experienced and jaded, his whole life shattered by the evil he has seen, Starling is young and naive in many ways, still in training, looking to make a name for herself in the Bureau. Graham already had that name, and he was trying desperately to run from it.

Graham does not appear in this book at all, though he is mentioned on more than one occasion. You get the feeling that things were not all roses and rainbows after the finale of Red Dragon.

Buffalo Bill is a truly sick and disturbing individual, certainly inspired in part by Ed Gein (who also inspired Leatherface and Norman Bates, among others). His portrayal as a sexually confused crossdresser making a lady suit out of human skins is probably, especially these days, offensive to certain organizations and orientations. It's easy to understand at first glance, but at the same time Harris isn't trying to make Buffalo Bill a spokesman for any cause, or saying that he represents the normalcy of any community or lifestyle. He is an aberration, and those exist in all walks of life. The Red Dragon was a straight male, but a horrible and murderous example of one. Buffalo Bill is the same.

Hannibal Lecter is a much more prevalent character this time around, which is a definite plus.

Harris's writing style has evolved a bit at this point, occasionally wandering toward the more poetic. He also seems to rely on coincidence a bit too often here, which although surely happens in real life, used too much it can strain believability a bit. There were a few discrepancies between Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs, too, such as the name of the hospital Lecter is kept in, and the fact that he suddenly has six fingers on one hand (something never mentioned in Red Dragon, if I'm not mistaken).

I did find that I enjoyed Red Dragon significantly more than Silence of the Lambs (probably not the popular opinion), although I was still thoroughly entertained throughout the book. There are elements present here that were not seen in the film version, so don't let familiarity with the story keep you from reading the source material.

Definitely recommended, hipsters!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Movie Review: Sketch Artist (1992)

The Sketch Artist

Written by Michael Angeli
Directed by Phedon Papamichael

Jack Whitfield...Jeff Fahey
Rayann Whitfield...Sean Young
Daisy...Drew Barrymore


Police artist Jack Whitfield sketches an image of a murder suspect based on the eye witness account of messenger girl Daisy. When the composite is complete, Jack discovers that it is the spitting image of his wife. Doctoring the image a bit to protect her, and using his position to hamper the investigation, Jack seeks out the truth, finding himself in much deeper trouble than he ever anticipated.


It is a rather slow-paced, and not terribly interesting movie. Thrillers like these were pretty standard on cable back in the day, and nearly all of them threw in a couple of moderately-famous faces and a couple of moderately-steamy sex scenes for good measure. They all followed the rules of the genre and made no attempt to defy convention. They were, essentially, a dime-a-dozen. The Sketch Artist is certainly no exception.

THE SKETCH ARTIST - the artist and the witness

I have to admit, the main reason I sat down to watch this was because it featured Drew Barrymore during her sultry, kinda slutty younger years (this premiered only a month after the release of Poison Ivy) it was kind of a disappointment that her role was as small as it was. There were a few scenes of frankly uncomfortable-looking sex, but she was a part of none of them. Jeff Fahey, though, who was in his bad attitude, mullet-headed years does get in on the action, though, exposing his sweater-like torso and bare bottom for anyone whose proclivities run in that direction.

THE SKETCH ARTIST - ring-a-ding-ding

Rated R
88 Minutes
United States

"Give me some fucking change!"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Kindle Alert: 'The Howling Trilogy' On The Cheap

Heya hipsters!

Just a quick heads up for the Kindle Kollectors that the omnibus edition of The Howling trilogy by Gary Brandner--the basis for the the film series of the same name--is on sale for a limited time at Amazon's Kindle store.  You get all three books for only 99 cents.  That's only 33 cents a book, versus the $30 it would cost you to get all three in physical form!  I purchased mine already, and will get to it in time, so be on the lookout for my reviews, coming...eventually.

Click HERE to purchase or for more information.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Review: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

Red Dragon
RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris - Introduction of Hannibal Lecter - Cover Image
By Thomas Harris

It has been 31 years since Thomas Harris introduced us to the character of Hannibal Lecter in the novel Red Dragon. 31 years. I am only a few short years older than this book.

It's amazing how well it holds up. Time has been kinder to Red Dragon than it has been to me.

For the uninitiated: Will Graham is a retired FBI profiler called back into the fold to assist in capturing the Tooth Fairy, a brutal serial killer with an oral fixation who targets families. The Tooth Fairy operates with the phases of the moon, so Graham and the FBI have a limited amount of time to find him before he kills again.

Hoping to gather some insight into such a deranged mind, Graham stoops to interviewing Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter, the brilliant and elegant serial killer that he had captured--and nearly been killed by--years before. The Tooth Fairy has a similar idea and strikes up a correspondence with Lecter, one that the FBI believes they can exploit to aid in their investigation.

Funny thing about depraved psychopaths: they don't like to be exploited.

I was, of course, familiar with the story from exposure to the 1986 film Manhunter and 2002's Red Dragon, so when I finally sat down to read the book, I was afraid that I would be too familiar with it. That knowing the story would prevent me from being as interested in it as I would have been otherwise.

My fears were unjustified. I was reeled in immediately, and plowed through this novel in two marathon sessions. I probably would have done it in one, but real jobs have a terrible way of messing everything up. From page one, I was hooked. Harris writes clearly and succinctly, giving equal measure to the interior world of his characters and the outside world that they walk through.

Graham is a damaged character, scarred both physically and emotionally by his constant exposure to evil. The trope of Retired Agent With An Almost Supernatural Ability To Connect With The Killer is seen often these days (most recently Kevin Bacon's character in TV's The Following), but rarely is it done with as much intimate characterization or sensitivity as it is done here.

Hannibal Lecter is such an iconic character that very little needs to be said of him. He's got the mind of a super-villain, and the cool and calm demeanor of an old spiritualist. He's powerful and unflappable, even when behind bars. His role here is pretty small, but it was enough to make a lasting impression, and he would return for three more entries in the franchise.

The Tooth Fairy (or The Great Red Dragon, take your pick) is a conflicted soul who has grown tired of the abuse and disrespect heaped upon him and is looking to become something more, trying to reinvent himself as a mythical beast connected to the arcane mind of William Blake. He is intimidating and frightening in a way completely opposite of Hannibal Lecter. Lecter will outwit you, outlast you, and then eat you. The Dragon will hunt you, overpower you, chew you up and then spit you out. But both end results are the same.

Despite the fact that this takes place in 1980, it is almost timeless. If not for a few noticeable details, it very well could take place today. Nobody has a cellphone, of course--a detail you don't even think about until later--and the home movies of the victims (which play such a large part in the story) are shot on film, requiring they be sent off for development and viewed on a projector. But beyond those instances, there is nothing here that shouts THE 'EIGHTIES, which is refreshing. Being explicitly dated can sometimes hamper the enjoyment.

I'm greatly looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and I'm already planning a day of event viewing where I watch the films in chronological order: Hannibal Rising, Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal.

And for those wondering which adaptation of this book that I enjoyed more, let's just put it this way: From start to finish of this book, I pictured Edward Norton as Graham.

Read it!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: Dresden Files #1 - Storm Front by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files #1: Storm Front
DRESDEN FILES #1 - Storm Front by Jim Butcher - Cover Image
By Jim Butcher

If there's somethin' strange in your neighborhood, if it's somethin' weird and it don't look good, if you're seein' things runnin' through your head, an invisible man sleepin' in your bed, who ya gonna call?

Not the Ghostbusters, silly. Look in the Yellow Pages under "Wizards", and call the only man listed.

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is the only "openly practicing professional wizard in the country", and what that amounts to is him essentially being a hardboiled private eye who relies more on totems and spells than he does on a Saturday Night Special (though he does know when a gun is more efficient weapon to wield).

From the outset of this story, Dresden is called on to investigate two different cases: distraught wife Monica Sells hires him to investigate the disappearance of her husband; and Lieutenant Karrin Murphy, Director of Special Investigations with the Chicago PD, brings him in as a consultant on a grizzly murder case that appears to have used Black Magic.

It quickly becomes evident, though, that there are even more plotlines: there's Harry's budding romance with tabloid journalist Susan Rodriguez; a rising gang war on the streets revolving around a new drug called ThreeEye; and the White Council, a sort of magical judicial system, that wants Harry put to death. Of course, in the manner of all great coincidences found in fiction, all of these roads converge into one somewhere along the way.

Butcher here has crafted a kitchen sink kind of universe (as in, everything but the...), in that it's not just a world populated by magicians. There are also vampires, fairies (yes, fairies), demons, and talking skulls--and those are just some of the examples of characters that had actual roles in the story. There are tons of other examples merely hinted at or mentioned in passing. I'm all for extensive worlds and mythologies, but this seemed a bit extensive for a single book, and maybe would have been better spread out over a few volumes. And there are plenty of volumes to come, so I know that I haven't seen anything yet!

There was a lot of action and excitement here, but the real draw of the story is the characters and their relationships. Dresden himself is something of a grump, but a grump with a heart of gold despite the air of perpetual bad luck and gloomy doom that follows him around wherever he goes. He's a solid character and our narrator, consistently referencing events from his past and details of his world that we can only hope will be explored more in the future. Karrin Murphy is grade-A American badass, Bob the Skull (really an air spirit who inhabits said skull) is classic quirky sidekick, Mac the bartender is the prerequisite taciturn grouch, and Toot-Toot is...well, Toot-Toot is a bratty little fairy. You gotta take the good with the bad.

It was a quick and fun read, rather light in the grand scheme of things, but so what? If you can't enjoy a little escape now and again, then you're wound a little too tight for your own good. I had a good time reading it, and am looking forward to diving into the next book in the series.
"Paranoid? Probably. But just because you're paranoid doesn't mean that there isn't an invisible demon about to eat your face."
Have truer words ever been spoken?


Regarding the Bates Motel

I just caught the pilot episode of Bates Motel, and I was suitably impressed.  The show is playing the plotline slowly, while simultaneously showing us precisely what we're in for.  It seems that we're in for a bloody, soapy good time with this series, and I imagine that the shit will really start to hit the fan before the season is up--God willing it lasts that long.  My only qualm is a minor one: it seems odd to me that they brought the characters of Norma and Norman Bates into the modern age, as this is the prequel to a film that took place decades ago.  By modernizing the characters and the setting, it is, in essence, writing the source material out of canon, making it a prequel to nothing.

The only way I can see around this particular conundrum is probably blasphemous...but also a little intriguing.  Perhaps the final arc of the series could retell the entire storyline from the Psycho film.  It could be an exercise in futility (Gus Van Sant, I'm looking at you), but it could also be a genius move that opens the story up to a whole new generation.  I doubt it will happen, but you never know...

For those of you who missed it, or who don't have cable (like me), you can watch it absolutely FREE on Hulu.  You don't even need a Hulu+ account!  Hopefully they will continue to stream the new episodes, and this isn't one of those frustrating "pilot-only" deals.

It's only available until April 11th, so don't dilly-dally.  Mother says so.

Click HERE to watch.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: The Vaults by Toby Ball

The Vaults
The Vaults by Toby Ball - neo-noir fiction - Cover Image
By Toby Ball
"The Vaults took up nearly half a city block. Files arranged in shelves arranged in rows; files from every case handled in the City for nearly the past century; files arranged, cross-referenced, and indexed. So complicated and arcane was the system that at any given time only one living person understood it. At this time, that person was Arthur Puskis, Archivist."
I went into this book completely blind. I must have read the synopsis at some point and purchased it from the Kindle store, but I'll be damned if I remember it. Whenever a book that looks half-decent crops up on the bargain pages, I start adding to my cart pretty willynilly.

From the title and the cover image, I figured that the story was going to take place, at least in part, within some sort of library. I pictured it as an endless sort of library, a metaphysical sort of place. Lord only knows why. But that certainly was not the case.

The Vault is a large (but not endless) warehouse (not library, metaphysical or otherwise) that houses the files of every police investigation, court case and crime that has taken place in The City during the past century or so. Arthur Puskis, the Archivist, is responsible for the organization and retrieval of these files, and through his exposure to them has become something of an expert on local crime. You have a question about a bank robbery that occurred six years ago? He'll get you the answer.

Essentially, the Vaults are a specialized analogue version of the Internet, and Puskis is Google.

Puskis is so familiar with these files that he is quick to notice a discrepancy, one that makes little sense to him. Being a bit of an anal-retentive sort (one would assume he would have to be to excel at such a job) he strikes out on an investigation to correct the discrepancy and right his files. But along the way, he falls ass-over-tea-kettle into a conspiracy involving murder, money, and government corruption.

Puskis isn't alone in this. Performing their own investigations are Ethan Poole, the hardboiled private eye; and Frings, the intrepid news reporter. Although their individual investigations rarely cross paths, they are all working toward the same goal.

This is a neo-noir type of novel that takes place in an alternate 1930s timeline within the confines of a city known only as...The City. It reminded me of a less self-aware (and less interesting) Manual of Detection.

Had Puskis been the primary protagonist here, I might have enjoyed it more. He's the best kind of hero--an unlikely one--and his mind and method were as unusual as they were strong. But too often the narrative followed Poole and Frings, two stock characters with very little to differentiate them from one another. Many, many times I grew confused regarding whose storyline I was following. Even now, thinking back, I have difficulty telling them apart.

The nature of the corruption, conspiracy and cover-up was only mildly interesting, and didn't get more exciting as the story went on. I was hoping for some grand twist that would make it all worth it, but it never really came. It's a shame, too. There was promise here. But promises are hard to keep.

It should have been a much more thrilling read, but it was written in such a way that thrills and excitement were kept to a minimum. I was bored on more than one occasion, and that's never a good way to feel while trying to be entertained.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Don't Forget: Bates Motel Premieres TONIGHT!

Bates Motel Sign - A&E TV

Just a reminder, hipsters: The new and highly anticipated TV series Bates Motel premieres TONIGHT on A&E at 10/9 Central (just check your local's much easier than trying to math it out).  I, for one, am looking forward to it.  Too bad I don't have cable anymore.  Fingers crossed that it shows up on HULU, or that I can find a friend kind enough to DVR it for me.

Click HERE to check out the official homepage for the show.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Movie Review: Sometimes They Come Back...Again (1996)

Sometimes They Come Back...Again
SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK...AGAIN - Stephen King Sequel - Poster Image

Written by Guy Riedel
Directed by Adam Grossman
Based on a story by Stephen King (Sorta)

John Porter...Michael Gross
Michelle Porter...Hilary Swank
Tony Reno...Alexis Arquette

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK...AGAIN - Stephen King Sequel - Meet the Porters

Psychiatrist John Porter takes his daughter Michelle back to the town he grew up in after his mother passes away. Almost immediately, he is haunted by memories of what he has been trying to run away from: the murder of his beautiful older sister at the hands of some seriously second-rate greasers when he was a youngster.

If the memories had stayed memories, maybe John would've fared okay, but those murderous greasers (actually satanist murderous greasers) come back...again...and their leader Tony Reno has set his eyes on Michelle.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK...AGAIN - Stephen King Sequel - Tony Reno

Satanists, psychics, demon hunting priests, pigs...this movie throws a lot at the wall, but very little sticks. It's a disappointing flick at every turn, really, with a fair share of bloodshed (none very convincing), and a couple of "name" actors, but nothing in the way of scares and some horrible special effects.

The original Sometimes They Come Back was no great shakes, but I still enjoyed in thanks to nostalgia and the notion of undead juvenile delinquents. Although that some notion is applied here, it's done so much less effectively. Tony Reno struts around like a drama student pretending to be a juvenile delinquent, spouting horrible one-liners that would be more at home in the stanky mouth of Freddy Kruger. Giving him and his cronies supernatural powers (other than, you know, being able to return from the dead) lessened any possible fright factor as well, or at least in the manner in which they were used. I'm more afraid of being attacked by a leather-clad hoodlum in a dark alley than I am of being attacked by Bermuda grass in mid-day, while said hoodlum merely looks on and snickers like a helium-huffing prop comic.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK...AGAIN - Stephen King Sequel - Death by grass

Call me crazy.

Not worth the time or effort that it takes to watch, in my opinion. Stick with the original--though most other people don't think that was worth the time or effort either.

Pshaw. Other people. What do they know?

Rated R
98 Minutes
United States

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Comic Review: Ehmm Theory #1 (Action Lab: Danger Zone Comics)

Ehmm Theory #1 - Cover Image - From Action Lab: Danger Zone Comics
Written by Brockton McKinney
Illustrated by Larkin Ford

Indie comic book company Action Lab Comics has recently announced the launch of their Danger Zone imprint, featuring mature titles intended for adults. The first title to be released will be Ehhm Theory, whose first issue drops sometime in May.

I was lucky enough to be given an electronic review copy for my perusal.

This first issue (Cat, Quantum & Contrition Part One) is basically just setting up the series--it seems more like a zero issue (remember those?) than anything else. Our hero Gabriel Ehmm wakes up dead, finds that his equally-dead kitten Mr. Whispers has developed the ability to speak, and is dispatched by Saint Peter on some mysterious mission that will earn him a place in Heaven.

Ehmm Theory #1 - Gabriel & Whispers - From Action Lab: Danger Zone Comics

Gabriel's first stop is a small town where he is to determine the cause of a recent zombie outbreak, and also find his biological father, who will act as his guide.

A few dead zombies later, the issue ends with Gabriel finding a possible lead on his father. And that's pretty much it. It's an interesting beginning, but nothing more. It's like sitting down to watch a movie but stopping after the opening credits.

Ehmm Theory #1 - Little Zombie Clown - From Action Lab: Danger Zone Comics

Which isn't in itself a bad thing for something designed for a serialized format, but there's just too little story here for my tastes. The series definitely has promise--any thing with zombie clowns (little ones at that) is aces in my book--but I require a little more substance on an issue-by-issue basis. If things pick up in issue 2, this could really be something good, but had I paid money for this, I would've been disappointed.

The artwork is a little rough, halfway between cartoony and realistic, but it suits the story just fine.  A little more polish would be appreciated, but that's the least of this series' concerns.

It's a weak start to what will hopefully be a good series. Only time will tell.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard

The Crystal World
THE CRYSTAL WORLD by J.G. Ballard - Cover Image
By J.G. Ballard

A doctor whose specialty is the treatment of leprosy ventures into the African jungle in search of his lover, who he fears may be in the midst of some political upheaval. When he arrives, he learns that the jungle (and, indeed, other areas across the world) have succumbed to some bizarre (un)natural event where the entire area and everything inside it are transformed into jewels, frozen in time for all eternity, like Han Solo encased in carbonite...only prettier.

The plotline sounds like the synopsis to some forgotten men's adventure novel from the 'seventies, but Ballard attempts to elevate it to a higher level. Did he succeed? That depends on your idea of success. It's much more intelligent and highbrow than an adventure novel, but an adventure novel would have at least kept me entertained.

I'm not very familiar with Ballard's work, so I can't say how this fits into and compares to the rest of his writings. All I can say is that the characters here felt flat and one-dimensional, like they weren't real people at all, but rather paper dolls that Ballard just dragged through the plot.

The crystalline jungle and the affected life forms within were certainly well depicted, but occasionally over done and repetitious. At a certain point, I knew what a bejeweled tree looked like. I didn't require it to be spelled out for me yet again.

There was some small amount of philosophizing about time and space and the quantum mechanics of life or what-have-you, but it all went well over my head. Perhaps that was the problem with the entire book--I know I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to certain areas of thought. Your mileage may vary.

By the end of the book, I was glad that it was over. I was bored to the point that if it was a longer work, I would have given up and moved onto something else. I'm intrigued enough to try more of Ballard's writing in the future, but he won't be topping my queue at the moment.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

SUBJECT: Jack the Ripper (From the FBI Files)

FBI Jack the Ripper file - Cover Letter

In 1988, Cosgrove-Meurer Productions were working on a special episode of Unsolved Mysteries dedicated entirely to the Jack The Ripper murders from a hundred years prior.  Ostensibly to gather new evidence and establish credibility--but more likely to be used as a marketing gimmick--they contracted the FBI to analyze the case.

It's not terribly fascinating, nor does it offer much of anything new to anybody who has read any books or seen any films about the Ripper, but it is a curious historical document which is now available to the public (along with a host of other interesting files) thanks to the Freedom of Information Act.

If you're interested, click HERE to view or download the file.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spooky Patents: Ouija Board

The Ouija Board as we know it dates all the way back to 1891, when Elijah Bond had the bright idea to mass produce it as a family novelty.  Below are the original images from the patent, filed on February 10, 1891, courtesy of the absurdly entertaining Google Patents.  I thought I'd throw it out there in case anyone was interested.

Spooky Patents - Ouija Board


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Two Free E-Books From William Malmborg

Heya, Hipsters!

Just a heads up that fellow blogger, horror fantatic and author William Malmborg is offering up his badass little Kindle book JIMMY for free.  FREE!  That's a price you can't beat.  The offer is only good until tomorrow, so you better act fast if you want to get in on the savings.  Click HERE to read my review of the novel, or peep the synopsis below.

Jimmy by William Malmborg - Cover Image
High school can be a difficult time in a young person’s life, especially toward the end where one has to start making the sudden transition into adulthood. For Jimmy Hawthorn it is even worse. Not only does he need to successfully make that transition, he has to do it while hiding the fact that he is the one responsible for the disappearances of two fellow high school girls, both of whom are prisoners in a secret underground fallout shelter he discovered behind an abandoned house on the outskirts of town.
Ready to start reading?  Click HERE to download for free!

But wait...that's not all!

He is also offering up his Kindle book TEXT MESSAGE free of charge, starting today and running through the 16th.  Click HERE to read my review of that book, or check out the goods below.

TEXT MESSAGE by William Malmborg - Cover Image
Mr. Campbell enjoys working at the Park Place Mall. In fact, he likes the mall so much that sometimes he stays there overnight just so he can wander the open hallways and browse through the stores all by himself. The only thing more enjoyable than being within the mall alone is having a female companion there with him, one clothed in a sexy undergarment from the risky lingerie store who must flee his predatory desires. Of course getting a girl to go along with such a fun game isn’t easy. Thankfully he knows a way around this. It seems women become incredibly compliant when the flesh of a love one is threatened, especially when evidence of that threat is sent to them from the loved one’s own phone.

Click HERE to download Text Message, absolutely free! 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: Death Mask by Graham Masterton

Death Mask
DEATH MASK by Graham Masterton - Cover Image
By Graham Masterton

Molly Sawyer is a tremendously talented artist who sometimes lends her talents to the police department, sketching likenesses of suspects based on eye witness accounts. When she is called on to sketch a man who attacked a pair of people in an elevator, the end result is a red faced man with slits for facial features that the media takes to calling Red Mask.

Red Mask kills again...and again...and again. He is seemingly unstoppable, and can appear and disappear at will. More than that, it seems that he can be in two places at once, slaughtering people simultaneously on opposite sides of the city.

Aided by her gypsy-like mother-in-law Sissy, Molly discovers the truth about Red Mask, and the real power that she wields with her craft.

I had never read anything by Graham Masterton (whom I ceaselessly call Graham MasterSON) before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I chose this book because I've always enjoyed stories that involve artists (or authors) whose work either drives them mad, or who stay completely same while interacting with their work in insane ways. This book is an example of the latter.

I'm not typically a fan of new agey psychic phenomenon, so it really speaks volumes of Masterton's skills that it worked perfectly here. Sissy is psychic, she communicates with the dead, and almost constantly consults her deck of fortune cards to decipher the future. I think why it worked here is that it almost made sense. The cards didn't spell everything out, they merely offered hints via symbols and suggestions, and the same card, illustrated as they are with so many minor details, could conceivably mean different things depending on the situation. It was up to Sissy to read the cards correctly and determine what they were trying to tell her. Sometimes she succeeded, and sometimes she failed.

The book also makes great use of location. The story takes place in Cincinnati during cicada season, and the ever-present little critters make for a creepy backdrop to all the bloodshed.

It was a fast and fun read, full of bloody violence and colorful characters. I sped through it in record time, and I'll definitely be reading more from the author in the future. My only qualm is that the finale seemed a bit quick and easy when measured against everything that had already happened. Still, it's a minor complaint in the end.

I found out after the fact that this is the second book to feature the character of Sissy, but it stands so well on its own that I had no idea while I was reading.

Give it a go, hipsters!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Dark Ditties: A Mood by T.B. Aldrich

Heya, Hipsters!

Every once in a while, I stumble across a morose little poem that really tickles my fancy, and being the generous (and desperate for content) soul that I am, I like to pass those Dark Ditties onto you.

This short poem is entitled A Mood by Thomas Bailey (T.B.) Aldrich, and I plucked it from The Golden Treasury of American Songs and Lyrics which can be downloaded for free by clicking HERE.


A Mood
A blight, a gloom, I know not what, has crept upon my gladness--
Some vague, remote ancestral touch of sorrow, or of madness;
A fear that is not fear, a pain that has not pain's insistence;
A tense of longing, or of loss, in some foregone existence;
A subtle hurt that never pen has writ nor tongue has spoken--
Such hurt perchance as Nature feels when a blossomed bough is broken.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movie Review: Ooga Booga (2013)

Ooga Booga
OOGA BOOGA - poster image - from Full Moon

Directed by Charles Band

Donna...Ciarra Carter
Devin...Wade Forrest Wilson
Judge Marks...Stacy Keach

OOGA BOOGA - title screen - from Full Moon

Continuing on their quest to become the Universal Pictures of killer doll movies, Full Moon releases their newest film Ooga Booga on March 12, streaming exclusively on their GrindhouseFlix service.

Drunken and lecherous children's TV host Hambo (a clown-pig-farmer character) is finally fired from his show after one-too-many inappropriate happenings. With his future looking bleak, Hambo turns to his Plan B career path: Toy maker.

OOGA BOOGA - Hambo - from Full Moon

His line of Badass Dolls are truly offensive depictions of various stereotypes: a white trash character, a crack whore, an Asian, a gay male, and and the titular Ooga Booga, a black male with natty hair, big lips, a marijuana cigarette, and a bone in his nose.

When Hambo's only friend, soon-to-be MD Devin, is gunned down by a racist police officer, his spirit enters the Ooga Booga prototype Charles Lee Ray-style--although he uses a defective Slurpee machine instead of voodoo.

No. Seriously.

OOGA BOOGA - Badass Doll - from Full Moon

From there, it's basically the doll-driven revenge scheme that you would expect--only Ooga's human girlfriend does most of the leg work.  I expect this is because she was cheaper to animate.

Full Moon has been cranking out far too much garbage lately, which breaks my heart, as I consider myself a fan. The Puppet Master and Subspecies series from the past, and the last few entries in the Killjoy series from the present are thoroughly entertaining, but for every one of them we end up with a dozen Ooga Booga's or Haunted Casino's.

The acting is stiff, the pacing is slow, and the scenes have more padding than a training bra at a slumber party. The plot is standard and very tired at this point, but what's most disappointing to me is how mean spirited the movie is. Full Moon has always seemed, to me at least, a cheap but fun-loving studio. Ooga Booga seems like the work of a cheap and purposefully offensive studio, though--like a Troma that takes itself too seriously.

Every person of the pale persuasion in the movie is a horrible racist, spouting racial slurs at every opportunity. I'm sure that someone in the studio thought they were showing the ugliness of racism, but that only works if you show the flipside as well. They never did.

The most distasteful scene? Devin, in his Ooga Booga body, furiously masturbating as he watches his girlfriend shower away the stink and slime of the men who raped her only moments before. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Karen Black has a small part that acts as an homage to her famous appearance in Trilogy of Terror, which was probably about the only decent part about this whole mess of a movie.  Well, that and the too-brief character of Peggy Suey.

OOGA BOOGA - Yummy 1 - from Full Moon
OOGA BOOGA - Yummy 2 - from Full Moon

If Bozo had characters like this, I might have tuned in more often when I was a kid. Or an adult, even.

"Hambo's a butthole!"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hulu+ Top Five TV Shows

Having given up on cable some time back, most of my television entertainment comes from Netflix or Hulu+, streamed directly to my TV via my ROKU box.  Numerous times I have offered up Top Five lists of content streaming on Netflix, but I've never done the same for Hulu+, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Here are the top 5 TV shows on my radar that are currently streaming on Hulu+, whose entire run is available, and that are not available on Netflix.

21 Jump Street:  This teen-themed cop show is probably horribly dated today, but it was the cat's pajamas when it first aired on television.  Richard Grieco and Johnny Depp were hipper than hip back in 1987.  One of them still is.  The other is Richard Grieco.  If your only exposure to the franchise was the 2012 film of the same name, go back in time and see where it all started.

American Gothic:  This soapy supernatural series takes place in Trinity, South Carolina and features an evil sheriff who uses his dark powers to control and influence all of the townsfolk.  Think Picket Fences with a more evident horror movie vibe.  Executive produced by Sam Raimi.

New Amsterdam: This show (like too many other good ones) got yanked from the air far too early.  I watched all eight episodes of this series when they first aired, and the concept of an immortal homicide detective in New York had plenty of mythology that it never had an opportunity to explore.  True, it wasn't the most original idea, but a Homicide Highlander could have evolved into something great.

The Shield:  Vic.  Freakin'.  Mackey.

The Yard:  Not a lot of people have heard about this short-run series which debuted in Canada, but it's somewhat brilliant and often hilarious.  It's like a prison movie starring kids, with the school being prison, the playground being the yard, and the bullies being a rival gang to our heroes--a group of foul-mouthed, cunning and conniving little bastards.  You simply have to give it a go.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kindle Deal: Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Heya hipsters!

For those of you who own a Kindle, I just wanted to give you a heads up that the Kindle edition of the hard rock horror story Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King) is currently available on the cheap--only $1.99!  Snatch it up before the deal ends.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill - Cover Image
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman's noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can't help but reach for his wallet.
I will "sell" my stepfather's ghost to the highest bidder. . . .
For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man's suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn't afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What's one more?
But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It's the real thing.
And suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand. . . .
Click HERE to purchase!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Movie Review: The Mooring (2012)

The Mooring
THE MOORING - 2012 thriller - poster image

Written by Halie Todd, Glenn Withrow, & Ivy Withrow
Directed by Glenn Withrow

Nancy...Halie Todd
Richard...Thomas Wilson Brown
Ashley...Karli Blalock

A group of tech-addicted teeniebopper girls are enlisted into a special program to help them overcome their dependencies. They are taken on a wilderness getaway down the river to learn how to manage day-to-day life without their gizmos and gadgets--how to write instead of text; how to look at the scenery instead of record it; how to play board games instead of those new-fangled vidya games. That sort of thing.

They set up camp along the shore the first night, earning the ire of a couple of rough hewn river rats. Cut off from society and with no means to call for help, the girls spend the next couple of days being hunted and terrorized.

It's not an especially original plotline, though the setup is a novel way to explain away the horror movie conundrum of "why don't the call the cops!?". This is about the one millionth variation on The Most Dangerous Game, and while each one offers its share of thrills, nothing new is rarely (if ever) brought to the table. Had a little Lord of the Flies been tossed in as well, I may have been slightly more impressed.

THE MOORING - 2012 thriller - the girls

The cast does a surprisingly good job at playing a bunch of spoiled teenage girls, though maybe it's not that surprising since they actually ARE teenage girls...not a bunch of 25-year-olds pretending to be teenagers as would be seen in a Hollywood production. Much of the dialogue was improvised, it seemed, but mostly came off as natural--either the result of good acting or good editing. However, there were so many of them that it was difficult to pick out any individual characters as they all just seemed to blend together.

Although slow moving at first, it picks up significantly after 40 minutes or so, but the violence that unfolds is rather tame, a lot of it obscured by darkness or occurring off-camera. Whether this is a case of less-is-more, or just less-is-cheaper is up to the viewer, but I was kind of disappointed.

It's a competently made indie and worth a watch, but don't expect your socks to be rocked.

Rated R
90 Minutes
United States


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Short Story Review: The Shady Life of Annibal by Gerald Kersh

The Shady Life of Annibal
By Gerald Kersh
Originally Published April 18, 1959, Saturday Evening Post

This is the second story in Men Without Bones, the short story collection by Gerald Kersh. It's an interesting follow-up to the titular tale in that, although it has "fantastical" elements, it's not a horror story...not in the least. It's not even really a genre tale of any vein. Be warned, hipsters: THAR BE SPOILERS HERE. 

Our narrator is a reporter for some slick gossip rag, settling down for an interview with actress Bella Barlay. She's an odd duck to be sure, not quite attractive, but certainly talented. She relates to the intrepid reporter a strange tale about her family, which also describes how she got started in acting.

Before Bella was born, her parents were so baby crazy that they invented a child, a son named Annibal. For years--decades, really--they pretend that Annibal is real, and tell their friends and acquaintances stories about his life. It was a great masquerade, and at some point they seemed to come to believe their own lies.

When Bella came along, she was neglected, nearly forgotten as she lived in the shadow of her mythical older brother. When she has finally had enough, she infiltrates the fantasy and (symbolically) shakes the shit out of her parents, bringing them to their senses.

Kersh, through Bella, through our nameless narrator, likens this all to The Emperor Has No Clothes in reverse (The Clothes Have No Emperor), but there are also other echoes to be found. Seen through modern eyes, this is reminiscent of the 2000 film Little Otik (which was itself based on some bit of folklore).

It's a meditation on truth vs. fantasy, reality vs. unreality, fact vs. fiction. It is worthy of deeper analysis than I can offer, but consider this.

The whole story is fiction, composed by Gerald Kersh, but told as fact by Bella Barlay to this journalist, who openly admits at the onset that he has never been against twisting words for a story ("We could take a word out of context as neatly as a sandpiper picks a worm out of a beach at low tide"). This implies that even the story we're reading, as told by the journalist, may not be the whole truth--only a version of the truth as he wants us to know it.

Annibal is not a real person. We know this from the get go. He is an imaginary friend, and nothing more. But the continuation of the lie for decades gives him a sense of reality.

Further, Bella is an actress. Her living is based on pretending to be other people...she is, in essence, paid to lie. And it is through her first lie, her first stab at acting, that puts an end to the lie that is Annibal. One lie destroys another, making way for the truth.

Within the story, Bella grows upset with her nurse Ilonka when she discovers that a fairy tale Ilonka told her wasn't true--that it was a "lie". Ilonka responds with "A worse than a thief; a liar will swear your life away. But a story-teller is as good as a holiday among new things--he opens the world". Which not only enforces the notion that there is more truth in fiction than in non-, but also changes Bella's life. If not for this statement, it is doubtful that she would ever have become an actress. In fact, the lie of Annibal probably would have continued unabated for the rest of her natural life.

It also sets the stage for this story's ending. Once her tale is told, the journalist asks her if it is true.

I imagine she is smirking when she answers him. "With development, it could be a good idea for a play."

When I first finished reading the story, I thought it wasn't bad. Even when sitting down to write this very review, I thought it would be a quick, breezy little thing. But Kersh has demonstrated his ability to craft a story that is much more complex than initially thought, and a story that is much better than initially thought, as well.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Movie Review: I Eat Your Skin (1964)

I Eat Your Skin
I EAT YOUR SKIN - Zombie exploitation flick - DVD Cover

Written, directed & produced by Del Tenney

Tom Harris...William Joyce
Duncan Fairchild...Dan Stapleton
Jeannie Biladeau...Heather Hewitt

Girl crazy adventure novelist Tom Harris is convinced by his best friend/agent Duncan Fairchild to travel to the appropriately named Voodoo Island to gather material for his next potboiler. Harris agrees, not for the rich local folklore that can assist him with his book, but for the promise of a bounty of young virginal native girls ripe for the plucking.

I EAT YOUR SKIN - Zombie exploitation flick - Tom Harris

Right off the bat, it seems as if Harris has stepped into one of his own stories. Their plane runs out of fuel, scarcely making it to the island. Almost as soon as they land, he rescues a bathing beauty from some bug-eyed batty bastard wielding a machete sharp enough to take off a man's head in a single swipe.

Turns out that bug-eyed bastard is a card-carrying member of the undead, and only a creative man like Harris who is just dripping machismo and sex appeal can put a stop to the madness.

I EAT YOUR SKIN - Zombie exploitation flick - Bug-Eyed Bastard Zombie

The character of Harris is a real man's man, strutting around shirtless and banging broads with wild abandon. He's not bookish or nebbish, he's not awkward or ineffectual. He's the type of author you don't see much of these days. Like a cross between Norman Mailer and James Bond, perhaps. There's a scene that sums him up perfectly, sitting sans shirt in the jungle, pounding away on his typewriter keys.

I EAT YOUR SKIN - Zombie exploitation flick - Blonde Bombshell Jeannie

The women here are, as to be expected, mostly gorgeous. Jeannie Biladeau, who Harris sets his sites on during his time on the island is a bombshell of a blonde, but she doesn't hold a candle to the nameless woman shaking her shit at the film's opening voodoo ritual. Sporting a bikini and jiggling like a Jello mold, she had goddess written all over her. Duncan's wife Coral (Betty Hyatt Linton) wasn't unattractive, but she was made so by her nasally squeal of a voice and whining personality, like I Love Lucy on helium.

There are choreographed voodoo dance numbers that are probably as historically accurate as a Bill & Ted movie, but they are beautifully shot and fun to watch. At least somebody on the set knew what the hell they were doing.

I EAT YOUR SKIN - Zombie exploitation flick - Nameless voodoo beauty

This B-grade cheeser can be fun if you go in with the right state of mind...but not as much fun as you're probably hoping for. It's corny, over-the-top, and very uneven. There are moments of broad physical comedy at the beginning of the film that don't fit in at all with the rest of the flick, but luckily once those elements are gone, they are not revisited. It manages to take itself just seriously enough.

Oh, and just so you know: there's nary a scene of skin eating in the entire film.

Double bill it with the previously reviewed I Drink Your Blood for two times the fun.

Rated PG
84 Minutes
United States

"I read some of your books, and I only hope you're more original in person."

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Movie Review: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I Drink Your Blood
I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - exploitation movie - DVD Cover

Written & Directed by David E. Durston

Horace Bones...Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury
Sylvia...Iris Brooks
Pete...Riley Mills

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - exploitation movie - title screen

Love, Peace and Devil Worship.

That's what Horace Bones and his hippie band of Satanists are all about. When their tripped-out evilmobile breaks down, they find themselves stuck in the nearly abandoned town of Valley Hills. In a town that size, you gotta make your own kicks, which Horace and his cohorts do by terrorizing a few of the locals.

Young Pete's family gets the worst of it. His older sister Sylvia is attacked, possibly raped, and beaten; and his grandfather is roughed up and dosed with LSD, turning him temporarily into a simpering and whimpering weirdo.

Pete is a clever and resourceful young buck, and seeks out justice the only way he knows how: by poisoning the hippies breakfast with the contaminated blood of a rabid dog.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - exploitation movie - Pete the Poisoner

Before you can say give peace a chance, these already lunatic long-hairs are foaming at the mouth, really losing their shit on each other and the remaining citizens of the town.

None of the characters are what you would call "fully fleshed-out". They're thin and sometimes unbelievable, but a few of them are worth mentioning.

Horace Bones is the creepy cult leader, the self-professed "First Son of Satan". The power he wields over his followers is striking, and obviously (duh!) inspired in part on Charles Manson and his own nutjob collective. He must've been teased a lot as a child, too, almost as much as Calvin Spleen, Farnsworth Organ, and Louis Endocrinesystem. No wonder he went off the deep end.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - exploitation movie - Horace Bones & the Evilmobile

Grandpa seemed like an old school badass, the way he went charging after the hippies to defend his granddaughter's honor, full of piss and vinegar, waving his shotgun around. He was no Clint Eastwood, though, and this wasn't Gran Torino, so old gramps got a little roughed up. But he had heart, and that has to count for something.

That strength of character got passed on to Pete, obviously. He also went in with both guns blazing, so to speak, and even if his scheme sort of backfired in the end, you have to admit, it was some kind of genius.

Grimy, gritty, down and dirty...this violent revenge flick is a true grindhouse classic. It has plenty of flaws--mediocre acting, occasionally bizarre musical cues, poor special effects, etc. but it's got just the right balance of sleaze and cheese to make it a hell of a lot of fun. Against all odds, the cinematography is pretty damn good, too.

It should be noted, though, that there are a few scenes of (presumably real) animal cruelty here--a chicken gets its throat cut, rats are strung up and thrown on a fire. I'm never in favor of harming animals for a movie (there are countless ways to fake it, so why do it?), but they are at least brief scenes that pale in comparison to the zoological snuff scenes depicted in a lot of Italian cannibal cinema from the same decade.

My advice is to crack open a few drinks and watch with some likeminded pals. If you're feeling adventurous, pair it with I Eat Your Skin, just like they did back in the day.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD - exploitation movie - Oh those crazy hippies!

Rated R
83 Minutes
United States

"Drink from this cup, pledge yourselves, and together we'll all flip out."

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Day Off Double Feature

Every now and then, I like to spend my days off in lazy repose.  Rather than just sit on the couch and watch a few movies, I would rather sit on the couch and watch a few movies that qualify as some sort of...event.  The Paranormal Activity films in order of chronology as opposed to order of release, for instance; or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre followed by the remake.

A minor event, to be sure.  But still...

Today I will be partaking in one of the most infamous double features of all time.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD/I EAT YOUR SKIN - double feature - newspaper advertisement

Were I thinking ahead, I would have purchased some fruit punch and beef jerky for refreshments.

...Reviews coming soon...


Friday, March 1, 2013

TV Review: Alfred Hitchcock Presents S1Ep11: Guilty Witness (1955)

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Episode #111: Guilty Witness
Original air date: December 11, 1955

Written by Robert C. Dennis
Directed by Robert Stevens
Based on a story by Morris Hersham

Stanley Crane...Joe Mantel
Dorothy Crane...Kathleen Maguire
Amelia Verber...Judith Evelyn
Sgt. Halloran...Robert F. Simon

Sociable grocer Stanley Crane and his loving wife Dorothy seem to have a strong and healthy marriage, but their upstairs neighbors the Verbers aren't so lucky. They're always fighting, and not just verbal arguments, either. We're talking full-on fists-a-flying knockabouts.

But when the fighting comes to a sudden, screeching halt, the common theory is that Amelia Verber bumped off her husband to escape the abuse. And who can blame her?

Well, Sgt. Halloran of Homicide, for one, who recruits Stanley to help search the building for any evidence of foul play.

It's a good outing, though perhaps a bit formulaic. You never once doubt the truth of the crime, and basically the episode is dedicated to the proof of the crime. The twist at the end was solid, though, and one I honestly didn't see coming. It cast new light on certain earlier aspects of the episode, and made me appreciate it as a whole much more than I would have otherwise.

Joe Mantel played Stanley the Sociable Grocer, a friendly fellow who was perhaps a bit too cowardly in the end. Despite the chronic abuse and obvious crimes afoot upstairs, he wanted to stay out of it and preached the virtues of minding his own business...until he was under the protection of a policeman, and then he was all too happy to play Junior Detective.

Mantel was no stranger to the genre anthology format. He had parts of various sizes in Suspense, Lights Out, Inner Sanctum, One Step Beyond, Kraft Suspense Theatre, and the Twilight Zone. He also played Lawrence Walsh in Roman Polanski's Chinatown and its Jack Nicholson-directed sequel The Two Jakes, and had a bit part in Hitch's The Birds. This was his first of two appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Kathleen Maguire portrayed the lovely, somewhat nosy, wife Dorothy Crane. She was most well known for her roles in a few short-lived soap operas, but on the stage she had won an Obie award for her part in the off-Broadway play Time of the Cuckoo. This was her first of three appearances on the series.

Judith Evelyn played the pushed-to-the-limits Amelia Verber. In 1939, she and her fiancé Andrew Allan survived the sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia, a casualty of a German submarine attack during WWII. A decade later, she began her screen career with the film Angel Street, and would appear in numerous films and television series throughout her career, including five episodes of Suspense. Much of her success was found on Broadway, where three of the plays she appeared in (The Shrike, Harriet Craig, and Angel Street) were turned into films...though none of those films featured Evelyn. This was the first of two episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that she would appear in.

Robert F. Simon played the (frankly ineffective) homicide detective Halloran, who couldn't solve a crime without the help of a man he seemingly chose at random. He was a character actor whose face was much more well-known than his name, and had roles on Inner Sanctum, Science Fiction Theatre, Twilight Zone, and the Outer Limits. He also appeared twice on Route 66, and played J. Jonah Jameson on the short-lived Amazing Spider-Man live action series that ran from 1978-1979, earning him the mythical trifecta of freakey, geekery, and beatnikery cred. This was his only appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

This was the third of 44 episodes of the series that Robert Stevens would direct. He began with the episode "Premonition", so please see that entry for more information.

This was the third episode of the series to be scripted by Robert C. Dennis, who began with "Don't Come Back Alive". Please see that entry for more info on him.

Morris Hersham was given story credits for this episode, but I could find virtually no information about him or the source material which I assume this episode was based on. If anybody has anything to offer, please let me know.



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