Sunday, August 29, 2010
First time novelist Hixon takes several standard horror elements (vampires, werewolves, haunted houses, devils, an ancient evil) and combines them into an interesting yarn.
In the isolated town of Lynchville, Rachel is kidnapped from her bedroom one night and is told she has been chosen to be a human sacrifice. Her friend Jacob is suffering from vivid nightmares, and eventually becomes the target of the town's mythical Devils. The both of them soon become involved with a couple of vampires who are attempting to become the incarnation of an ancient Devil God, who Himself dwells within the basement of The Sad House, a place of legend that's not always visible.
While VAMPIRES IN DEVIL TOWN follows a classic horror-novel pattern, it's written at a break-neck pace and has that "thing" that's missing from the majority of vampire/werewolf tales out there today (the wolves are only used when necessary and the vampires aren't sappy chick-lit bores). The inclusion of unusual ghosts and devils does add a bit of flavor to the proceedings, and what becomes of Jacob will have even seasoned horror fans squinting.
I'm looking forward to more from this new author.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
If you're looking for gallons upon gallons of blood, inventive kill scenes, and more boobs than there were at the 9/11 commission hearings, you'll be in your glory here.
-It was GREAT to see Eli Roth (in a cameo as a wet -t-shirt contest host) get his head crushed like a grape.
-JAWS alumni Richard Dreyfus provides a priceless opening sequence in nearly the same character as Spielberg's classic.
-Arguably the BEST use of a severed penis since 1987's STREET TRASH.
-The lead teenage star looks EERILY like the lead teenage star from JAWS 2.
-Christopher Lloyd appears as some kind of marine biologist who sounds DRUNKER than his character Jim on TAXI.
-Everyone raved over an underwater lesbian ballet scene, but I found it kind-of goofy, even for a partial comedy like this.
-Ever wonder what it's like to get puked on in 3-D? Your wait is over.
-Ever wonder what it looks like when a prehistoric piranha pukes up a severed penis? Your wait is over.
-Ever wish Jerry O'Connell would die a gruesome death? Your wait is over.
-KUDOS to Ving Rhames for the BEST use of an outboard motor since DR. BUTCHER, M.D.
-A beautiful blonde cheerleader meets a truly gruesome fate, and it's done in the most effective 3-D in the film.
Lots of brain dead fun, and some of the 3-D worked quite well, but in the end I still prefer the 1978 original. OH---if you're thinking about bringing your young kids, forget it!
(Below: the REAL reason everyone's seeing this...)
Saturday, August 21, 2010
THE WHISPERERS by John Connolly (2010 Atria Books / 407 pp. / hc)
This is the first novel by Connolly I've read, and while I went in expecting a standard thriller, I was pleasantly surprised by how much of a horror element the story contained.
A group of Iraq war veterans are being killed, and each one seems to be a suicide. Each one of these soldiers had also stolen antiques from a museum in Baghdad, and smuggled the pieces out of the country. Charlie Parker (this being his ninth appearance in a Connolly novel) is soon brought in to investigate, and to my surprise, he deals with this supernatural case in a way that's all his own, i.e. you won't be thinking of Kolchak or Mulder and Scully anytime soon.
As interesting as Parker is, it's Connolly's villains who make THE WHISPERERS such a memorable read: Herod--a brutal, conscienceless treasure hunter, along with his supernatural partner (of sorts), "The Captain," make an eerie duo whenever they come into play; The Collector is back (some of his past tangles with Parker are hinted at, which was good for this newcomer to the series) and provides more trouble for our hero than is needed (but that's a good thing); and the main antique-smuggling soldier, Joel Tobias, has some genuinely scary moments, especially as the main artifact of the novel (a box that "whispers" to those who come into contact with it) begins to get into his psyche.
By combining the trauma war vets go through with a supernatural smuggling backstory, Connolly has created a truly different tale here, and his prose (in particular his near-perfect use of dialogue) makes these 400+ pages fly by. THE WHISPERERS is a great summer thrill-ride that I hope more people find out about; it's nearly impossible to put down.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
In 2001, Simon Clark's novel BLOOD CRAZY had one of the best ideas ever given for a zombie apocalypse: evolution. Now, nearly 10 years later, Clark's latest novella takes another look at evolution, this time with even more horrifying results.
Sickened that most of his students have gone on to join the Hitler Youth, teacher Karl Widderman begins to take walks in the woods in an attempt to clear his mind. He comes upon a man named Fredrick, who spends his days sketching an abandoned car, waiting to be called into action as one of the Nazi's most lethal pilots.
In this short novella, Clark has created two mysterious and fascinating characters, opposites yet both who eventually share a similar fate. While this story can easily be filed under "Dark Fantasy," the horrorific overtones take it to a level that's darker than most tales of said genre. BUTTERFLY can be read in one sitting, but there's much more for the reader here than its short page count might suggest.
While the cover price of this one is a bit steep, Cemetery Dance has done a primo-job here, complete with plenty of haunting artwork from Steven C. Gilberts. This is a must for Simon Clark fans, and those who'd like to see the novella/novelette format done in an epic way.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Stross' third Laundry novel takes a little bit to get going, but once it does it begins to deliver on a grand scale.
For newbies: The Laundry is a top secret British paranormal secret service unit. Bob Howard is under its employ as a computational demonologist . . . sort-of like a nerdy occult-savy James Bond. Along with his supernatural-violin-playing wife, Mo, Howard returns this time to what seems like an easy task: getting his files in order at the Laundry's massive underground archives. But when it's discovered that a top-secret document titled The Fuller Memorandum is missing (quite possibly stolen by his boss, Angleton) Howard is off on yet another cross-genre / earth-rescuing adventure.
For fans of the series: With as much action and low-key giggles as the first two novels, THE FULLER MEMORANDUM is a fine entry into Stross' series. Horror fans can take note that the horror element is stronger here than in Howard's previous stories (a wicked demonic cult and an interesting take on zombies are a highlight, not to mention the ending takes place in the largest graveyard in England), and Howard's relationship with his wife Mo is explored a bit more deeply, proving you can still be a cool British secret agent without being a womanizer . . . or a martini addict.
With its (once again) fantastic take on the spy genre and clever use of "self-possession" during the edge-of-your seat finale, fans of Stross' Laundry series should leave this case quite satisfied. Hopefully the next installment will get here a bit quicker than this one.
(*-This blog's title taken from page 171 of The Fuller Memorandum)
Thursday, August 12, 2010
THE NURSING HOME by James J. Murphy III (to be released September, 2010 by L & J Publishing / 360 pp. / tp)
I receive countless self-published novels to review, and I always give each one a fair shot. 98% of the time I don't review them due to the typical downfalls of a self published book: poor editing, bad writing, no plot, no pace, a badly needed additional proof read/re-write, etc. Then there's that 2% that surprises me and I have no problem giving them the praise they deserve.
While a slight step above the 98% of novels I'd usually decline to publicly review, first time novelist James J. Murphy III's THE NURSING HOME came with a self-praising package that I don't think most top novelists in the genre would want released; after decrying all the unoriginality in the recent horror scene, this forthcoming book promises to be different...to be original. And being a glutton for punishment, I read the novel in a couple of sittings. The verdict? You've read this a hundred times before.
An old man named Morris is dumped at a nursing home by his family. He befriends some of the other residents. A couple of members of the staff treat them like garbage. People (both residents and staff members) start dying one-by-one. (SPOILER ALERT:) It's explained (after a couple hundred pages of suspense-free storyline) that the ghost of the first person abused at this nursing home has been possessing people to take out her revenge.
I don't need to get into the details of why THE NURSING HOME didn't work for me (see the first paragraph of this review), but suffice it to say, if you're thinking of self- publishing a novel, be careful how you promote it and of course, splurge a little for a professional editing job. The novel is a quick enough read, and has a few decent characters, but it's basically a routine murder mystery with a slight supernatural slant.
If you have the itch to read a truly original haunted nursing home tale, check out Joe R. Lansdale's BUBBA HO-TEP.
Monday, August 2, 2010
It’s been six long years since the first installment of Lamberson’s "Jake Helman Files," and I’m happy to report the wait for his return was well worth it. If you haven’t read PERSONAL DEMONS (which was re-released as an affordable trade paperback in 2009, also from Medallion) you might want to before digging into DESPERATE SOULS (while not entirely necessary, there are a few "spoilers" in Jake’s second adventure that may ruin the first should one read the series out of order).
In DESPERATE SOULS, Jake’s still mourning over the death of his wife at the hands of the Cipher and trying to get his life back together after narrowly saving the world itself. He still owns a copy of a disc that could bring mankind to its knees…and it comes in handy as a bargaining chip toward the end of this File.
New York City has been infested by a drug called Black Magic; it’s stronger than crack, heroin, and LSD combined, and turns those who take it into zombies; not the flesh-eating type, but the voodoo/slave-types who also become unwilling dealers of the stuff. One day a grandmother comes to Jake’s office seeking his help in solving the mystery of her grandson, Louis; after he left home, she found him a few days later selling drugs—but when she confronted him, she became convinced he was dead. Or undead. No stranger to unusual occurrences, Jake accepts her case and in no time we’re involved in a dark horror/cop/action tale that would please (even) the late, great voodoo horror master Hugh B. Cave himself.
Lamberson throws his characters into some drastic life-changing situations (especially Jake’s ex-partner Edgar) and Jake himself becomes permanently disfigured in a scene that had me squinting for several pages. We learn that the drug-dealer slaves are called zonbies, the product of Katrina, a wicked voodoo priestess who is working with the city’s leading drug lord (and also playing every man she comes into contact with). There’s also some standard "zombies" thrown in for good measure.
While some may think a private investigator taking on supernatural cases may be a bit X-FILES or NIGHT STALKER-ish, The Jake Helman Files is more ground in reality than fantasy, giving each book (so far) a feel that’s all their own.
With as much action-packed fighting scenes as PERSONAL DEMONS, plenty of twists, some genuine scares, and a world where just about no one can be trusted, DESPERATE SOULS is a sure-fire hit for anyone who loves cross-genre horror stories. I just hope we don’t have to wait six years for the third book; this Helman guy may be full of personal demons, but he’s one private eye who’s hard not to like.
NEON GUTTER MEAT- Jordan Krall
Consumer's Paradise- Patrick D'Orazio
The Claws That Catch- P.D. Hansen
Fowlness- Stephanie Kincad
Another Double Helix Day in Taillertown-Ben McElroy
New Age-Rick Coonrod
Peni- Mari Mitchell
Real Love Burns-Jonathan Moon
Hit and Fun- Garrett Cook
Guy WHo Got a Headache- Matt Nord
All Due Stories in Good Time- Timothy W. Long
The Aircrash Bureau (or, How Johnny Carson and General Patton Hi-Jacked a Space Shuttle to Get Back on the Air)-Nick Cato
You'll Be Grated When Your Dead- Ruth Imeson
PING!- Christopher Fox
Drain Angel- Cameron Peirce
You can keep dibs on its progress here: http://libraryofthelivingdead.lefora.com/2010/07/29/bizarro-horror-toc/#post11