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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shadow Play (Michele Spence)

One of the things horror does is touch on topics that make us uneasy and show us things that could possibly happen.  The best ones work when there is a history of such things happening in real life...

The small town of Powellton is a quite town where everyone knows pretty much everyone.  The sort of place where a couple like Steve and Felicia McKenzie could settle down and raise a family in relative safety and comfort.  At least until the animals start acting funny, adults start getting headaches, and the children come down with a flu.  Soon, the idealic town of Powellton will be thrust into a hurricane... a hurricane of rain and wind... and unspeakable rage...

"Shadow Play" is one of those books that carries you along as its characters try to deal with the growing chaos around them.  The writing style is smooth, and fluid- while being plain speaking at the same time.  It  doesn't waste your time with useless details or red herrings.  Everything has a point and a place in the story.  The characters are well crafted, likable, and varied enough that you get a larger portrayal of things than you do in most stories that deal with up to four characters as the central ones at one time.  Here, you get the adults, and the children.  All of the character storylines are interesting, and fit together nicely to create a complete and entertaining book.  There are hints as to what's happening throughout the book, but they're subtle enough that they may pass you by until the climax.

The story is very plausible- and actually has some basis in reality- but I don't want to spoil the book by telling you what events in the real world help to bolster the books realism.  I'll just say that the United States Government has, in the past, admitted to doing what is revealed in the climatic scene.

I really enjoyed the slowly building tension and suspense this book conveyed.  Even though I had an idea about what was going to happen, I wanted to  keep reading and find out.  I actually read this book in one sitting- and it's hard for a book to get me to do that in most cases.  I cared about the characters, and felt the confusion and anguish at the situation they found themselves in.  I even felt sorry for the "villians" of the story.

This is one book, I would definately recommend to my friends, and I'll be seeing if I can find more books by Michele Spence.  I'm placing, "Shadow Play" in "The Good".

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Woman Next Door (T.M. Wright)

We all have neighbours that are a little peculiar, right?  Well... some are a little more "peculiar" than others...

Marilyn had what she thought was the ideal life:  loving husband and child, and a house decorated with only the finest antiques you could find.  The day that parapalegic Christine and her husband moved in next door, things started to go wrong with her orderly, perfect world.  Soon, Marilyn would find herself confronted by a hate so powerful that it reached from her past to close in on her and her "perfect" life...

The back of "The Woman Next Door" sounded interesting- and I'm always looking for interesting books in the horror genre, so I bought this one hoping to enjoy a quiet night of eerie, creeping horror.

While there are moments that I liked in this book, I was ultimately disappointed in it.  The writing style isn't bad- it flows nicely and was capable of creating a decent sense of mood and atmosphere.  The premise and general storyline was good, and full of potential.  I enjoyed the way that the four sub-plots were weaved together- almost seperate stories in themselves, but still part of the main storyline.  I would've liked it more though, if there were more hints as to how these subplots were connected to the main story.  I really liked how the story moved back and forth between the "present," and the flashbacks featuring an unnamed, malicious babysitter- they went a long way to setting up the climax and "twist" to the story.  The only problem with the flashbacks involved the fact that the book opens up with one that pretty much acts as a spoiler later.

The main (and the serious) flaw with this otherwise interesting book involves the characters:  I didn't care about any of them.  You're supposed to care about Christine and Marilyn's husband and child... but they aren't really developed enough to get me to connect with them.  They're kinda dull and lifeless.  Christine's husband is even less developed... to point where it's almost like the character is doing a cameo appearance in Christine's life.  Sonny Norton- a mentally challenged man who can sense the paranormal, is interesting- and even likable, but lacks depth and purpose in the book.  The only characters that are actually developed are Marilyn, and the unnamed babysitter from the flashbacks.  She is developed quite nicely and evoked the feelings that we're meant to feel for her.

Unfortunately, this doesn't make the climax of the book any more enjoyable.  It's a little jumbled, disjointed, and you can see it coming early on if you caught the spoiler early on in the book.  I'm going to have to place, "The Woman Next Door" into "The Ugly".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Haunting of Rebecca Verlaine (2003)

I love horrror films that have a strong story, character development, a dark sense of humour... and gore.

Gabriel Verlaine and his commune are brutally murdered in a single night- leaving no clue as to who butchered eleven people.  A few years later, the only survivor, Rebecca Verlaine comes out of a coma with no memory of that horrific night.  Soon however, she starts to have disturbing visitations from her father... and finds herself a tool of his revenge...

"The Haunting of Rebecca Verlaine" (aka- "The Garden of Love") starts off the horror during the opening sequence with lots of gore.  Director Olaf Ittenbach is known for his splatter gore... and he definately splatters the red stuff in the first scene.  It is an incredibly well shot sequence, with any editing done seamlessly.  It flowed smoothly and quickly.  The lighting was just amazing as were the camera angles used.  Just a stunning display of horror film making.  The gore was excellent too.  The amount of graphic detail in the mutilations (one woman's face is impaled with through the cheek, while another face is smashed with a cleaver) would seem to be gratuitious, but aren't as the brutality of it all sets up the motivation of the ghosts later in the movie.

After that, the story is relatively subdued, centering on building suspense and tension.  This is helped by the skill of Natacza Boon, who plays Rebecca Verlaine.  While she's not "Hollywood Hot" in looks, she fit the role perfectly as a woman that is scared in the beginning, but becomes strong enough to deal with the situation surrounding her.  She reminds me a lot of Shelly Duvall- but without the huge teeth I found distracting while watching "The Shining".  Alexandra Thom-Heinrich was pretty good as Barbara Creedon- Rebecca's adoptive mother too.

I really liked the way James Matthew looked in the role of the cop, Thomas Munster, though I found his character to be a little stereotypical and obvious in his portrayal.  His appearance at the end of the movie, while interesting, was a little over the top unfortunately.  I really didn't like David Riven, Rebecca's boyfriend who was played by Daryl Jackson.  From the start, I found him to be offputting and bland.  Don Creedon, portrayed by Donald Stewart (no relation) was also dull and lifeless as well.  The best of the male actors was Bela B. Fesenheimer- who plays the murdered Gabriel Verlaine.  His acting was just great.  He brought both a zombie like blankness of tone, and a demonic insistance on revenge to the character.  This was only enhanced by the gory and beautiful make-up he had on during his scenes.  The contact lenses especially were a great touch.  Fesenheimer was also great during the darkly comedic moment when his ghost is hosting an infomercial on TV selling knives.

This movie will probably be commented on in regards to the gore in it.  There are only three moments when there is any real gore.  The opening sequence, a nice bit in the middle, and the climax.  All are done well.  I especially enjoyed the first and second doses of the red stuff.  The kills are well choreographed, creative and have enough bodies to satisfy most horror fans.  My only complaint with the final set of kills is the speed in which it happens.  I would've liked to have had a slightly longer sequence.  As it was, I was a little disatisfied with the climax in that regard.  Overall though, I enjoyed the carnage splashed across walls, floors and ceilings.

Even though, I feel that the final set of kills could've been longer, I was quite satisfied with "The Haunting of Rebecca Verlaine".  Enough so that, not only would I watch it again (and possibly even a few more times), I'm willing to place it in "The Good".

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Barrow Hill (2006)

When it comes to games, I enjoy the creepy ones that focus on the mood, and feeling of tension, mystery, and approaching dread.  Combine that with a decent storyline, and I tend to really enjoy them.

You've stopped into Barrow Hill, near Cornwall, England and find unrest amongst the community due to something that an archeological dig has discovered.  Soon, the community seems to have disappeared, and you're forced to investigate and confront a ancient force that threatens to destroy you and the town completely...

Shadow Tor Studios brings us a good game in "Barrow Hill".  The graphics are great in the mood and atmosphere created.  While playing this in a darkened room, and going from game area to game area, I felt utterly alone and isolated in the environment on the screen.  The sound just added to this sense of being by yourself and evading some shadowy shape in the corners of the room.  While many point and click adventures use 2-D paintings, this game uses 3D renderings, giving the game world more depth and width.  I was quite impressed with the look, sound, and emotional feel of the game.

The story is relatively simple, but is still a good jumping off point for the game.  The story gets depth from the little things you find and read along the way.  The puzzles involved don't seem to be simply placed in the game to give you a challenge, they fit in fairly well with the story and help to progress it.  They simple enough that you won't get frustrated trying to solve them- but will keep you busy for a minute or two at least.  While the game is non-linear, the story still manages to flow smoothly to the climax.

Other than one other person you meet, you're the only character in the game.  You don't get much character development- which isn't really a negative if you're actually pretending that the game is happening to you as yourself.

While, it's a good game, it's not one that I would play more than once in a row.  I might play it- then maybe play it again a year or two later.  Because of that, I'm going to place, "Barrow Hill" in "The Bad".

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus (1818)

I don't think a true fan of the horror genre would neglect to appreciate the historical development of horror in literature as it grew from simple folklore in the form of fairy tales (let's face it- Grimms' Fairy Tales are downright scary in their original forms) to a stories specifically created to entertain in the form of books.  One of these such tales is, "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus".

Victor Frankenstein has been obsessed since childhood with the desire to discover the secret of Life.  After having used parts disected from human corpses... and possibly animal as well, he is finally ready to test his theories and attempt to bring his creation to life.  As he looks upon his creature, the reality of what he's done horrifies him- causing him to abandon his creation and flee.  Racked with anger, Frankenstein's creation begins a campaign of terror against his creator... and dogs his every step to the ends of the earth.

Those that are fans of "Frankenstein" will already know that in 1816, while Mary Shelly and her husband, Percy were staying with Lord Byron on Lake Geneva, it was suggested that those attending should write a supernatural story each.  John Polidori's classic, "The Vampyre" (1819), and Shelly's "Frankenstein" were the results.

This book would be enjoyed more for fans of the genre that have an interest in gothic horror, and older, more historic pieces of literature.  Those that are used to the classic Universal Studios movie may not enjoy it as much.

Personally, I enjoyed it- even if the style of writing can be a bit much to wade through.  The tone is moody and atmospheric.  The tension is good, and the flow well crafted.  The story is quite different than the classic Boris Karloff movie, and is actually quite in depth when it comes to character, and themes.

The characters are well thought out, and realistic.  None of them are so much villians as sympathetic characters.  You sympathise with Victor as he tries to flee what he sees as a mistake and attempts to create a new life.  At the same time, you feel empathy and sympathy for his creation as well as he tries to get Victor to accept responsibility for bringing him to life.  There is depth to both of the characters- especially the creation since, unlike the movie portrayal, is actually quite intellegent and articulate.

The novel's sub-title, "The Modern Prometheus" supplies part of the theme as the story is similar to that of Prometheus- the Greek Titan that created man, then stole fire from Olympus to give to man.  For this theft, Prometheus was punished.  In the same way, Frankenstein steals from God, the secret of Life and creates a man... only to be ultimately punished.

Another theme is about accepting responsibility for the lives we bring into this world.  Too often, people bring a child into the world, and then abandon, or neglect them- much the same way Frankenstein did with his creation.  By refusing to accept responsibility for his actions and the life he created, he set up a slippery slope of destruction that ultimately leads to his own.

As a fan of the horror genre, and of classical horror literature, I would definatly recommend reading, "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus".  I'm giving this book a spot in, "The Good".

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evil Bong (2006)

Cult classics are great films- and the horror genre is filled with them.  They usually use their humour and off-beat storyline to attract a following... sometimes with good cause.

Room mates, Alister, Larnell, Bachman, and Brett order a bong advertised as being "possessed," thinking it'd be cool.  Soon after its arrival, the four discover that this bong is more than it seems... and party time may go up in smoke...

I got this as part of an 8-pack horror movie set, and wasn't really expecting a whole lot from it.  I mainly wanted to see it because I curious about how they'd go about it... and because Tommy Chong- of Cheech & Chong fame was in it.  I can see, though why it's got the cult status it does.

The movie itself is fairly immature, as are the jokes.  The acting, and the camerawork remind me of some of the sort of stuff you'd find in a porno movie (ditto for the sets).  The whole movie kinda seems to be an excuse for pot jokes, and boobies... and bra gimmicks.  I'll admit that the kills are interesting, but not overly so.  There is only so long you can watch people acting stoned before your own mind starts to wander.

There are a couple of decent character cameos in this movie though, all refering to other films by Charles Band:

  • Ooga Booga ("Doll Graveyard");
  • Ivan Burroughs- played by Phil Fondacaro ("Decadent Evil");
  • The Gingerbread Man ("Gingerbread Man");
  • Jack Attack ("Demonic Toys"); and
  • Jack Deth- played by Tim Thomerson ("Trancers").
There are also two other notable cameos by actors as well.  One is Tommy Chong- who is famous for the  stoner films of Cheech and Chong, and Bill Moseley, who has appeared in many cult horror films such as "House of 1000 Corpses", "Repo!  The Genetic Opera", and "The Devil's Rejects".  These two actually made their roles enjoyable- as did Tim Thomerson's quick appearance.  The character cameos of Ooba Booga, and The Gingerbread Man are a little disturbing... funny... but disturbing none the less.

Michelle Mais, the voice of Eebee, the possessed bong was good too.  She sounded like a voodoo cursed bong from New Orleans should sound in my opinion.

While the humour is fairly immature, there are moments that made me snort, grin, and chuckle with laughter.

Unfortunately, that alone isn't enough to make this movie a repeat performer in my collection.  I might pull it out on rare occaisons where I'm getting drunk with friends... but beyond that, it's unlikely, I'll offer it up as a viewing choice in general.  I'm going to have to put "Evil Bong" in "The Ugly".

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Scared to Death (1947)

Over the course of the past year, I reviewed three movies starring Bela Lugosi, which caught the attention of one of the many Lugosi fans floating around the internet.  This fellow's name is @BelaLugosi, and on his recommendation, I decided to sit down last night, and watch "Scared to Death" from 1947.  This movie is especially notable since it's the ONLY movie Lugosi did that was in colour.

Laura Van Ee is convinced that her husband- who has asked for a divorce, and his father are trying to drive her insane.  The appearance of Professor Leonide, a hypnotist with a mysterious connection to Doctor Van Ee only compounds the sinister atmosphere surrounding Laura as death creeps closer and closer to her...

I always enjoy watching older films.  They tend to be rather imaginative and innovative in how they tell their stories due to lower budgets, tighter censorship, and more "primitive" technology.  Even in the bad ones, I try to find something positive about them because of these restraints.  Besides, it's nice to be able to examine the way the horror genre has grown and changed over the years.

"Scared to Death" is a pretty simply done film- nothing fancy with camera angles, etc.  The complexity comes from the story... even if the script doesn't fully reach the potential within it.  The first hint of the potential is the novel method of being entirely set in a flashback.  I liked the idea, and would've liked to have seen the "present" moments developed a bit more.  Another big part of the potential I saw in this movie was the characters, and how they fit into the story... and once again, I would've liked to have seen the secondary plot lines developed a bit more.  They could've added so much more tension and suspense to an already interesting idea.

The acting was a bit more campy in regards to a couple of the characters than I liked, but I did manage to enjoy some of the humour provided by Nat Pendleton, who plays Bill Raymond- the dim witted body guard waiting for a murder to occur so he could solve it and get his old job on the police force back.  I did like Gladys Black as Lilybeth the maid.  She was able to provide both humour and a more serious mood in her role.  I also enjoyed Bela Lugosi's turn as Professor Leonide.  He brought a nice mysterious and sinister air to his character that made me interesting in how he was connected to Doctor Van Ee.  He doesn't have a vital role, but it's still an enjoyable one.  Molly Lamont as Laura Van Ee was good too, though her hair kept distracting me for some reason.  The only character I didn't like was Terry Lee, played by Douglas Fowley.  He plays a reporter who arrives at the house looking for a story to print in the newspaper.  I found his character to be bullish, rude, arrogant, and filled with all kinds of douchiness.  I really wanted him to get killed.

Technically, this film is simply shot and edited.  There isn't much action, and rather dialogue heavy- which isn't a bad thing so long as things are kept visually interesting.  I have to admit, I found my eyes wandering around my room during the more talkative sequences due to the rather static nature of the scenes.

I greatly appreciated having this film suggested to me by @BelaLugosi_ since it is a story filled with so much potential that unfortunately, I don't think could've been fully realized back in the 1940's.  Because it fell short of that potential, I have to give "Scared to Death," a place in "The Bad"... though since I love the story, and it is in the Public Domain, I think I'll begin writing a more fleshed out version myself...

Do you have a horror game, book, or movie you want to see me review?  Drop me a line at cornerofterror@hotmail.ca

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jack The Ripper (2003)

I've been wanting to add some game reviews to "The Corner of Terror" for awhile now, but didn't think I had enough horror/supernatural themed games in my collection.  Besides, I had my hands full over the past year with doing movies and books.  Well, I finally decided to add games to the list of things to talk about... and I don't think you can get any more horrifying or eerier than going against the serial killer that all others are measured against... Jack the Ripper...

"Jack the Ripper" was developed by Galilea Games, and released by The Adventure Company in 2003.  The game features you as a New York reporter who is on the trail of a killer whose modus operandi is the same as infamous killer who disappeared thirteen years previously.

This game is a simple point and click adventure, and is very easy to play.  The graphics are pretty good, and the cut scenes are well scripted and shot.  One reason I like point and click adventures is that they rely more on a good story, and character development to keep the player interested than a twitch reaction heavy first person shooter.  Also, you can take your time, and think the puzzles and problems through, with the story progression being your reward.

The puzzles you have to solve along the way are fairly straight forward and common ones found in this type of game, but do serve a purpose to move the story forward, unlike many where the puzzles are simply there to keep you from getting bored.  My only complaint with the puzzles where you have to find a certain item to add to your inventory is that a few of the items are in such an out of the way spot that you can't click on it properly the first ten times or so.  Seeing the item I need to click... and not being able to find the "sweet spot" to pick it up gave me some frustrating moments.

The story itself was interesting and moved along nicely.  There was tension at the parts where you know something's about to happen and you're waiting for it to happen.  One of the best parts is where you come back to your office to find a "present" on your desk.  You KNOW something bad is in there, but you have to open it up anyways.  The cut scene at that part is just great.  Another favorite scene for me is when you see Jack the Ripper about to slash a woman across the street from you... and all you can do is try to take a photo of the killer.  I was hooked on the story right up to the end.  I was a little disappointed in the ending though only because it felt a little cliched.

While I enjoyed the game as a whole, The frustration I felt in some spots due to hard to click items, and the ending drops "Jack the Ripper" into "The Bad"...

Do you have a horror game, book, or movie you want to see me review?  Drop me a line at cornerofterror@hotmail.ca

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012- Scarey New Year!

Today marks the beginning of a new year... in fact, it marks the beginning of the last year according to the Mayan Calendar.  I'll have to remember to stock up on beer for it.

Anyways, as those of you that actually keep track of this blog probably noticed, I stopped posting just after Halloween.  My life had just gone through a bit of a change around that time in that I had just gotten a job that had working alternating shifts that pretty much screwed up my sleep patterns.  If I wasn't working, I was pretty much sleeping.  I simply didn't have the time- or the energy to post my reviews here... nor was I able to do the Twitter commentary for my friends at "Film Reviews From the Basement" during their radio broadcasts.  Hell, I haven't watched a horror movie since Halloween.

It really sucked.

Well, 2012 has been marked by another change in my life- I got laid off.  On one hand, it bites since I no longer have a steady pay cheque, and some of the things I'd been planning have to be postponed now.  On the other hand, however, I am once again able to start posting again- AND doing the Twitter commentary for my friends.

That really rocks.

So, to mark the new year, I just want to let you all know what you can expect from me over the course of the year:
  1. I'm going to post twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays;
  2. I intend to add more book reviews- and even some horror/supernatural themed game reviews as well;
  3. Once a month, I plan on posting a review of a horror/supernatural themed website... most likely from my Twitter Followers;
  4. I want to post more "editorial" style articles about issues within the horror genre; and
  5. I hope to get suggestions from my readers on films and books to watch/read and review.
I am also looking into making some changes to the look of the site as well, and possibly by the end of the year, starting a podcast of some of my reviews.

So, here's to a scarey new year and lots of new reviews!