Friday, August 26, 2011

Horror Films...And the Women Who Love Them!

Chicks dig scary movies -- A surprising look at why women buy more tickets to slasher pics than men — and how that's changing what we see on screen

The trailer for Jennifer's Body has everything a teenage boy could reasonably expect, as well as some things he probably wouldn't dare to dream of. Megan Fox playing a cheerleader, for instance. Megan Fox having a sleep-over with Amanda Seyfried. Megan Fox swimming nude, lighting her tongue on fire for kicks, and — talk about a transformer — turning into a snarling beast with fangs. But the strangest twist to the movie may be that it's a supernatural bloodbath made bywomen (Girlfight director Karyn Kusama and Juno scribe/EW columnist Diablo Cody) and, in large part, for women. ''My primary reasons for writing Jennifer's Body were that I knew about the female horror audience and am a fan myself,'' Cody says of the movie, which slashes into theaters Sept. 18. ''Growing up, I was absolutely mesmerized by the horror section at the local video store. It wasn't a particularly feminine compulsion, and my parents didn't want me watching that crap.'' 

Cody's parents — and the parents of young women everywhere — have lost the battle big-time. For decades, it seemed the sole purpose of movies in which masked and/or disfigured men hunted down lusty young damsels was to give guys a 90-minute outlet for their own aggression and hormones. Today, however, the genre's biggest constituency of die-hard fans is women. Name any recent horror hit and odds are that female moviegoers bought more tickets than men. And we're not just talking about psychological spookfests like 2002's The Ring (60 percent female), 2004's The Grudge (65 percent female), and 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose (51 percent female). We're also talking about all the slice-and-dice remakes and sequels that Hollywood churns out. 

Click Below for the full article.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stake Land

Stake Land directed by Jim Mickle is a post apocalyptic vampire film that combines western and road trip conventions.  While this seems like an overburdened concept it is executed superbly by the director and co writer Nick Damici, who also stars as Mister.  The focus of the narrative is the paternal relationship between Martin and his surrogate father Mister.

In the first scene when we learn how Martin met up with Mister and two things are very clear.  The character of Mister is total bad ass and this is a gritty and violent film, with an emotional core.  After Mister rescues Martin the two proceed north to the fabled New Eden, somewhere in Canada.  During their travels Mister trains Martin to survive in the world he inhabits.  Over the course of the film the size of the group fluctuates as travelers come and go.  

Scares in the film come from the vampires, who share many characteristics with zombies, and religious cults dedicated to worshiping the creatures.  While the writers’ political views are very clear, it never overwhelms the story and characters.  At its core Stake Land is a movie about its character’s journey, both physical and mental.    

Despite the limitations of its budget, Stake Land manages some very impressive set pieces.  The film harkens back to the early days of John Carpenter, combining western and horror elements flawlessly while never sacrificing its characters’ development.  Throughout the running time there is a constant sense of dread.  Each night mister set the traps in case the group’s campsite is attacked, yet it is not always.    During the day the characters are still not safe, needing to avoid the cultists roaming, searching for sacrifices for the night stalkers.
More than phenomenally executed horror scenes, there are some incredibly poignantly emotional scenes in the film, moving Stake Land beyond mere horror conventions.  Nick Damici deserves credit for turning a clichéd character into a fully developed person.   One highlight is a brief and incredibly poignant scene in the film with Danielle Harris’ character Belle.  Other notables in the strong supporting cast include Kelly McGillis and Michael Cerveris.

Small reflective moments move Stake Land beyond a good gritty horror film.  The haunting score with recognizable themes by Jeff Grace helps move the feel of the film beyond low budget tropes.  While this review may seem over shadowed by the strong cast performances, this is still a horror film.  Genre fans will not be let down.  At no time does the movie go soft, or pander.  I highly recommend you discover this little gem for yourself.  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What Spooks the Masters of Horror?

A Great Article from The New York Times

What Spooks the Masters of Horror?
Published: August 19, 2011
ONE of the great things about childhood is how easy it is to access the distinct delight of being scared out of your mind. Adults just have more trouble getting goosebumps. That’s because experience is the enemy of true terror. You may shriek the first time you see “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” but the second or third time you might only shudder. That’s why dedicated horror fans sometimes have a hard time finding a really nerve-rattling movie. They’ve already seen it all. (click below for the full article)

Thursday, August 18, 2011


John Skipp & Craig Spector’s Animals centers around the physical and emotional relationship between Syd, an emotionally battered local construction worker and Nora, a beautiful and enigmatic stranger passing through town.    Nora brings Syd into a dark unknown world, but for what purpose?
“She howled tissue shredding, the meat peeling back, muscles slicing like cheese as fangs raked over bone, sending hot grinding sparks of anguish to brightly ignite the horrified brain.”

Animals is a divisive work for fans of Skipp & Spector.  While some believe it to be the duo’s weakest collaboration, others such as author Brian Keene state that the book,  “…spoke to me…(I) finished it in a day and then immediately read it again.”  The reason for the book’s spilt among fans is very clear.  Beyond the horror elements, Animals is a very honest novel about human coupling.  The pros and cons of relationships are carefully examined with a refreshing honesty.  The character of Nora exemplifies this perfectly.  The reader recognizes her from moment one as the femme fatal arch-type, but she is shown to be more.  She is a person who ultimately has very encompassing hopes and fears.       
The werewolf mythology Skipp & Spector have created is unique and has not been duplicated since the book’s publication.  The werewolf concept is used to explore the line separating passion from self destruction.  A person can live a long healthy passionless life, but is this living?  Conversely a person may allow passion to dictate their actions, but can you live like this forever?  Skipp & Spector never answer this question for the reader.  They present varying arguments for each expertly using the small but well developed cast of characters at their disposal.   
In the end;
John Skipp & Craig Spector’s Animals is a supernatural romance novel, without any romanticized notions.  It is a shockingly honest portrayal of human emotions.  With a small but emotionally deep cast of characters Skipp & Spector have created a horror novel that asks for much self reflection from its readers.  The novel reads at a brisk pace with an amazing climax comprised of creative and unique set pieces.   The last seventy five pages read at a lighting pace.  Animals is unrestrained violent and sexy read.  Those looking for the extremes of human emotion and behavior would be hard pressed to find a better read. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Crow

A personal favorite of mine, The Crow is being released on Blu Ray on October 18th.   With the commig release it is a good time to look back at the film and its impact.  Over at Arrow in the Head a great article was written regarding the impending remake and the 11 minutes of deleted scenes Alex Proyas wants to use to create a director's cut.  Click the image below to read the article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Golem

Newly wealthy couple, Seth Kohn and Judy Parker buy the house of their dreams.  It is a refurbished classic of 1880 in the town of Lowensport in Maryland. The peace both recovering addicts seek is soon intruded upon by a corrupt police department, crack dealers and mysticism.
“Punch my ticket, you white piece of shit cop fuck,” Kapp provoked.  “Don’t care how or how slow, ya know why?  I want out.  Don’t wannna be in this world no more, not with that thing in it.”
Edward Lee’s The Golem contains many standard staples of the horror genre.  Violent rednecks, cults, corrupt police, an old eerie house, and an unstoppable creature.  The novel avoids cliché though based on two factors.  The use of a Golem brings an originality to the work.  It is not a creature that we have seen countless times.  This adds a fresh dimension to the novel.  The characters of Seth and Judy are also particularly strong.  Judy in particular is a well developed character that the reader can truly understand.  Judy’s background is utilized in very clever ways throughout the book adding depth to the events.  The golem in the novel is a secondary evil to that of man.  Edward Lee’s The Golem flows at a brisk pace as Seth and Judy begin to uncover the layered mysteries that surround them.  The flow is broken however by flashbacks to 1880 and the warring clans that created the golem.  These breaks are necessary to add greater depth to the story, but not to the extent that they are included.  The prologue also adds little and introduces three characters that are not mentioned at any other point.  A repeated plot device regarding Judy’s background readers will also find incredibly cute or annoying. 
In the end;
Edward Lee’s The Golem is solid quickly paced horror novel.    The Golem is a great creature to use and the story following Judy and Seth is great.  The chain of events is inventive with the classic horror staples utilized throughout.  The climax is strong and fitting, while leaving room for a sequel.  The novel however suffers from the overuse of flashbacks back to the 1880’s.  Edward Lee creates terrifically flawed human beings for his novels and Judy is one of his strongest characters.  The Golem is a strong but flawed offering to the horror genre.       

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Overview;  Brian Keene’s Ghoul focuses on three twelve year old friends, Timmy, Barry and Doug. During the summer of 1984 the boys discover a number of monsters where they live.
Review;   “The screaming stopped, but the sounds of slaughter continued.”
Brian Keen took a simple premise and layered great characters though out to create a novel about the loss of childhood to the world around you.  The intricate and dependent relationship between the three boys is one of the novel’s strongest points.    Barry and Doug are each victims of separate types of child abuse that are prevalent within our society today.  This adds an additional depth to the interactions between the boys and the ghoul.  The ghoul is not the first monster they encounter, merely the most easily defined.  The ghoul in the novel, while horrendous and frightening is the only monster the boys are able to confront. The novel begins with a note from the author, giving the reader insight into how personal this story is to Keene.  This sense of presumably his own childhood seeps through each scene with the boys.  He frequently name drops books and authors who clearly influenced him.  What could seem tacky and cheap works here, has an authenticity in its presentation.  The only real weakness in the novel is a few characters are presented slowly with great backs story, but are clearly meant to be Ghoul fodder.  While it is necessary in horror fiction to set up these elements Keene takes a little longer than necessary.
In the end;
Brian Keene’s Ghoul is a phenomenal coming of age story told with horror conventions.  The story of Timmy, Doug and Barry in the summer of 1984 is a worthwhile read.  The heart breaking epilogue to the story shows not only Keene’s talents as a writer and story teller, but his respect for reality.  It is his understanding and presentation of the realties of human interaction that allows him to create plausibility in a story of a Ghoul beneath a graveyard.  In May of 2011 a film version of Ghoul directed by Gregory M. Wilson is to begin shooting.  Wilson’s previous film was the harrowing The Girl Next Door based on the novel of the same by Jack Ketchum.  
In closing I leave you with another excerpt from Ghoul,  “ Timmy thought  to himself.  And you didn’t live next door to a monster, or down the road from one either.  The bad people aren’t just in my comics.  They’re in the real world too.” 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Hellbound Heart


The Lemarchand box promises untold physical ecstasy to those that can solve it.  When Frank unlocks the box however the sensations he finds are too much for any person to endure.  The cenobites emerge and take Frank.  Later his brother Rory and his wife Julia move into the house from which he was taken.  When Rory’s blood splashes to the floor Frank can return, at a cost. 
“Its voice, unlike that of its companion, was light and breathy – the voice of an excited girl. Every inch of its head had been tattooed with an intricate grid, and at every intersection of horizontal and vertical axes a jeweled pin driven through to the bone. Its tongue was similarly decorated.”
Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart is a personal favorite of mine.  The novella is less about the specifics of the plot, and instead investigates concepts of humanity through its brief 164 pages.  Despite this Barker begins an incredible mythology around the Lemarchand box.  Barker’s book is an exploration of desire and the consequences that it can result in.  The prose is dark and sets the mood of the novella almost without flaw.  Frank and Julia the novella’s main antagonists are portrayed in a way that shows their humanity, while never condoning their actions.  This is an extremely satisfying read and a great introduction to Clive Barker. 
In the End;
There were enough ideas contained in The Hellbound Heart’ s 164 pages to create two great horror classics and seven other films.  Despite its short length there is more in The Hellbound Heart than in some much longer novels.  The story never slows and leaves you wanting more.  For those familiar with the movies “Pinhead,” is barely a bit player within the novel and if you are expecting a substantial showing from him look elsewhere.    Clive Barker has stated he is working on a novel tentatively called The Scarlet Gospels, in which Pinhead will face Harry D’Amour.  Harry D’Amour is a recurring character in Barker’s works featured in Everville, The Great and Secret Show and the short story The Last Illusion.  Scott Bakula in the film The Lord of Illusions written and directed by Clive Barker.  A clearly flawed movie that I enjoy regularly. 

"No tears, please. It's a waste of good suffering."

The Beloved

Elizabeth Weaver is a contentedly married woman.  Her younger brother Ronnie, a recovering cocaine addict has brought a new woman into their family.  Recently divorced Diana Marshfield is initially welcomed into the family over cautious concern.  What soon becomes clear is that Diana is more than she seems. 
J.F. Gonzalez uses a monster that is very difficult to implement effectively.  The Succubus.  The choice of antagonist is used well by focusing on Elizabeth Weaver as the main character.  This avoids the novel from becoming nothing but a series of ever escalating sexual encounters.  The greatest strength of the novel is the well layered and realized family dynamic of the Weavers entire extended family.  Especially well created are Elizabeth and Gregg Weaver as well as their son Eric.  Gonzalez has created a relatable believable family unit that deals with what occurs as all rational people would.  The reader uncovers the truths about Diana through Elizabeth and Gregg.  While Ronnie is never a truly sympathetic character the rest of the supporting cast is well developed, including Ronnie’s daughter’s mother, Cindy. 
The book is broken into three very distinct sections.  The transitions between these make perfect logical sense in the story, however they feel abrupt as the narrative changes style.  The Beloved begins with a perfectly used prologue.  The reader is teased into believing they understand what is occurring, but do not fully until the end.  The climax is totally satisfying and nearly perfect. 

In the End;
J.F. Gonzalez’s The Beloved is a low key, slow boil supernatural thriller.  Using the dynamics of a typically well meaning American family Gonzalez poses a number of difficult questions regarding the self destructive nature of people. While better known for the all out assault on the senses in his novel, Survivor Gonzalez proves with The Beloved he can create a slow moody atmosphere of dread.


Martyrs is one of the most challenging horror films I have ever seen.  It cannot be dismissed as simple violent garbage, and makes strong accusations about a society that could relate to any of the material.  The DVD even begins with an apology from the writer/director Pascal Laugier.  The film spirals brilliantly and without restraint into darker and darker territory.  It is a superbly crafted film, and the emotional reaction it draws from the audience is a testament to this.  The film begins with a beaten and bloody child escaping her torturer and this image of the crying beaten child is the most easy to stomach.  This is a film that will stick with you for days and you will almost assuredly not return to at any point once you experience it.  I am purposefully leaving the plot from this critique as it unfolds in a perfect sequence of events.

Scott Tobias wrote a terrific assessment of the film for the AV club. I encourage anyone who has seen or is interested in seeing Martyrs to read.  It can be found here.,48752/