Saturday, April 30, 2011
It's been over 15 years since the Big G has been in comics form, and thanks to IDW Publishing, he's back--and if the 2nd issue is any indication--better than ever.
The first issue (penned by THE GOON's Eric Powell and Tracy Marsh) is a decent introduction: Godzilla emerges from the ocean and wipes out a small Japanese island before heading to Tokyo. The Japanese military even use a nuke on him, which (they claim) only gives him the ability to spit fire (whether or not this is part of the new Godzilla re-telling has yet to be confirmed). Not a great issue, but a decent kick off into this long-awaited new series.
Issue 2: Now THIS is what I'm talking about; as Godzilla's Tokyo assault rages on, Anguirus appears out of the ground in Mexico, and a young teenager steals something during an earthquake in Russia during a trip to a museum: it turns out to be a large egg, which hatches and gives birth to Rodan, who grows to full size in a few hours. IDW is taking no prisoners here: The first issue saw the death of thousands, including two young children, and this issue features Rodan eating the young teen who freed him (spitting out his hockey stick in the process). Hence, although both issues feature some campy material, (so far) this IDW series is way more intense tha the classic 1977-79 Marvel Comics saga, and there's already much more of a story than the Dark Horse versions. There's a hint of an attack on America as a president (resembling Obama) beins to address America's involvement with the monster attacks in Japan, Mexico, and now Russia, and a radical right-wing Texas governor attempts to build a steel wall to keep Anguirus out.
Phil Hester's artwork is quite good, and the first issue's cover (see top of this blog) comes in 4 designs, the one pictured here on a heavy card stock 3-page fold out (yes, I have my full geek on for this!). Issue 2 also has 3 variant covers.
The Big G is back and all's right with the (monster) world...
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I was in the 7th grade the first time I saw THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (which quickly went to VHS under both this title as well as PRANKS). Now, thanks to the loonies at Synapse Films, the film has been released in a DVD/blu-ray combo pack in an uncut version titled DEATH DORM (why this title isn't used on the DVD packaging is anyone's guess).
While I recall enjoying this back then, today the film is quite tedious to get through. It features a cast that's as unattractive as the acting (even future SPACEBALLS / MELROSE PLACE star Daphne Zuniga hands in a terrible performance).
DORM/BLOOD is a standard slasher flick, about four students who help a lone handyman close down a college dormitory. An unseen killer hides in the shadows and slowly offs the cast, the most memorable being a drill-to-the-head whacking of the aforementioned handyman (FINALLY uncut here in all it's brain-splashing glory). But aside from this kill scene, most of the murders here are hard to see and lame, including a nail-laced bat to the head that's about as convincing as a SyFy channel dinogator, a rubber-looking hand cut in half, a machete to the shoulder that'll have you laughing out loud, and some really, really poorly-done fight sequences. I DID like the dark ending, which (thankfully) made a sequel nearly impossible to do.
The 88 minute running time feels more like 2 and a half hours, and it's not too difficult to figure out who the killer is halfway into this poorly-executed mess.
Despite the less than stellar film, Synapse Films once again releases a gore-geous product, another DVD/blu-ray combo. There's also some fantastic extras, including trailers under both titles, commentary by directors Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow (it's scary to think they needed two men to direct this), and two informative interviews with music composer Chris Young and FX-man Matt Mungle. There's also an isolated music track and a reversible cover-insert.
THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is for old-school slasher completists only!
Laura Lipinski heads a cast of over-aged college students---she's harder to look at than the gore scenes!
"In a couple of years I'll be working for Mel Brooks and these losers will be forgotten." -Daphne Zuniga
Fast forward to the infamous drill-to-the-head scene (the killer even takes the time to use an extension cord to power the sucker up!)
An actress known only as "Chandre" plays one of the suspects' girlfriends. She has the ugliest rack ever to appear in a horror film, which I have mercifully censored for your sanity.
NO! It's NOT Richard Simmons' new work out video. It's Woody Roll (who later starred in a couple of turkey TV shows) as John Hemmit, another suspect who lurks around campus.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A LIFE ON FIRE by Chris Bowsman (2011 Grindhouse Press / 110 pp / tp)
Patent Clerk Gerald McManner is tired of dealing with moronic inventors and is bored with his life in general. Saddened over the death of his wife Tracy, he begins to drink excessively and eventually finds himself popping in and out of an alternate reality where strange creatures dwell, his late wife speaks to him, and a man whose death he's partially responsible for gives him hints on how to deal with his new surroundings.
Bowsman's short novella is a decent man-loosing-his-marbles tale, although I found myself hoping there'd be more interludes told from Tracy's viewpoint during her bathtub suicide (the final one is quite heartbreaking). A LIFE ON FIRE is an entertaining (although depressing) piece of dark fiction.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
PRAY TO STAY DEAD by Mason James Cole (2011 Print is Dead / 327 pp. / tp and ebook)
It's end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse time once again...but before you let out a frustrated yawn , listen up: while it's true you've probably read this a hundred times before, PRAY is one of those novels that despite its familiar story, manages to work. And it works in a big way.
Set in 1974, PRAY follows five friends on their trip to a Lake Tahoe getaway. They stop in an isolated town to get food and gas at a small store owned by a senior couple (Misty and her crackpot husband, Crate) and before long they're abducted by an insane backwoods family who waste no time slaughtering the men and taking the women captive. Much of the story is seen through the eyes of Colleen; she's forced into an Amish-like religious cult whose Manson-like leader, Huffington Neibolt, has been kidnapping and impregnating women for years as part of a Noah-like survival strategy for the coming apocalypse. When the dead start to rise around the world, it only encourages Huffington all the more that his stable of wives (and stockpile of weapons) were truly the Lord's work.
Meanwhile, a black Vietnam vet named Reggie is trying to travel from California to New Mexico in an attempt to locate and rescue his daughter (cue Brian Keene's THE RISING) when he comes across a cop named Cardo. Reggie rescues him from a rooftop that's surrounded by zombies, and the two travel on, eventually coming to the aforementioned gas station where they help the elderly couple survive in a classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD finale.
Cole manages to craft believable, likeable characters whose pain we feel on mental, physical, and even spiritual levels. His antagonists are basically right out of 70s redneck slasher films, and cause more terror among our survivors than the undead (although there's no shortage of zombie carnage here). While PRAY does have the action and feel of a trashy grindhouse film, Cole's way of spinning his tale puts this one leaps and bounds above the abundance of modern zombie novels; it may be mainly by-the-numbers, but it goes down so smooth you won't know what hit you.
I'm as sick of zombies as anyone else...but when something as entertaining and well-written as PRAY TO STAY DEAD comes along, it re-kindles my love for the undead just a little bit longer. 'Tis a bloody good show.
Friday, April 15, 2011
CONFESSIONS OF A ZOMBIE LOVER by Zoe E. Whitten (2011 / 56 pp / ebook)
Microbiologist Eugene O'Donnell is on a mission to help heal victims of a world-wide plague that has caused the dead to rise and become killers. By combining electro-shock therapy and a diet of brain-enhancing vitamins and herbs, Eugene ("G" to his friends) begins to see progress in Reggie, one of his zombie subjects housed at a military base. As the zombies under G's care grow in intelligence, Whitten cleverly compares them to children, giving the reader a more personal feel toward the undead, and hence giving this novella a somewhat fresh spin on a rapidly tiring subgenre.
Alongside the medical story is a romance between G and Reggie, arguably making this the first gay zombie romance story (although with all the zombie tales out there today, I could be wrong). When the two finally hit the sack for a night of drunken sex, things go horribly wrong and G's life changes in a way he never expected.
CONFESSIONS is the second book in a zombie series by Whitten, and while I haven't read the first, this is a decent stand alone story, featuring some interesting ideas on the undead and human/zombie relationships. I found it a little slow at the beginning, but the second half picks up nicely.
If you're a zombie fan I say give 'er a shot...
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Piers Anthony's OF MAN AND MANTRA series (comprised of OMNIVORE (1968), ORN (1971) and OX (1976) was the first series of novels to captivate me as a reader, and was my earliest influence as a writer. The series deals with three scientists who travel to a planet called Nacre, where strange fauna and spore-clouds threaten their every move. Anthony hits on some heady themes (especially in the 3rd book) but is never boring.
By the second novel, ORN, the scientists learn Nacre has the same ecosystem as earth did during the Paleocene period, and being a huge dinosaur fan (I was in the 6th grade when I read these novels, circa 1980), I was enthralled.
The third novel, OX, takes a bit of a strange turn as our hero scientists are attacked by vicious robots, seemingly destroying all their theories of Nacre. And when they encounter Ox--a telepathic Being who holds the keys to the universe--Anthony's series goes completely epic in scale.
Despite my busy reading schedule, I'm looking forward to revisiting this series sometime this coming summer. Perhaps it'll once again deliver some inspiration--and scifi goodness...
Monday, April 4, 2011
2 Winners from DARK HORSE COMICS...
Dark Horse strikes with the 2nd issue of KING CONAN, which will be of interest to monster and barbarian fans alike. Issue 1 left off with Tsotha's gigantic yellow-eyed snake, Satha, about to take a bite out of our favorite Cimmerian. This issue begins with an older King Conan continuing to tell us the story of THE SCARLET CITADEL, and thanks to writer Timothy Truman, Conan gets out of things in an unlikely way...but he still spends the entire issue trying to escape Tsotha's dungeon, encountering a few strange creatures before coming face to face with Pelias the Sorcerer (who looks like a cross between a zombie and Godzilla's one-time plant-hybrid foe, Biollante!). I can't get enough of this stuff...
Between Conan's resurgence and this new incarnation of CREEPY, I've been feeling like a kid in the 70s all over again. This 5th issue features a cover by classic CREEPY artist Sanjulian, and begins with a lengthy tale titled BLOOD OF THE SKY, about a female shaman who commits suicide in order to rescue her son from a demon (Timothy Truman--man is this guy busy around Dark Horse this month--provides the story AND the neat artwork). THE FIELD features retro-looking art (and storytelling) courtesy of David Lapham, and reads like a cross between THE DEVIL'S RAIN and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (are you salivating yet?). The final tale, MURDICIDE, is a revenge-type tale with a nifty little twist ending. What surprised me most was this issue's 'Loathsome Lore' piece, usually reserved for mythical beasts and the like; this time it's about religious cult leaders (!), and even makes an interesting comment on why they're not ragging on Scientology!*
Fans of old-school horror comics will love every black and white, terror-filled page...
(*-Scientology is notorious for suing those who oppose or even mock it. Apparently writer Dan Braun did his homework here...)
Saturday, April 2, 2011
In 2007, Dario Argento finally completed his "Three Mothers" trilogy with MOTHER OF TEARS, a film his fans waited over 25 years for. In like manner, Jose Mojica Marins has completed another beloved trilogy, his "Coffin Joe" series, which began with 1964's AT MIDNIGHT I'LL TAKE YOUR SOUL and continued with THIS NIGHT I'LL POSSESS YOUR CORPSE (1967). 41 years since Coffin Joe last spooked audiences with his demented undertaker, he's finally back with EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (released in South America in 2008, then played the festival circuit for a few years until this past week when Synapse Films released a dual blu-ray/DVD edition for American audiences).
In a nutshell, the first two films in the series are dark, moody, creepy horror outings centered around an evil undertaker who's bent on continuing his bloodline. He tortures and rapes women looking for the perfect one to bear his child. Both 60s classics featured (for their time) graphic violence and sacreligious imagery and overtones that caused Marins to be a true outsider in his Catholic-heavy native homeland (Brazil).
Like an AC/DC album or a James Bond film, EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is the same thing you've seen before; the plot's the same as the first 2 films, although the special effects are kicked up a few notches. Coffin Joe is released from prison 40 years after being arrested for the crimes he committed in the first 2 films (and many are surprised to discover he hadn't died in jail). His assistant Bruno (now as old [or older] than Coffin Joe) meets him outside the prison and takes him back to a new secret lair where a group of 4 young followers agree to do Joe's bidding (after proving themselves, of course). What follows is basically an updated version of the first 2 films, only with more torture, more weird characters, more nudity and another trip into hell (literally).
Pros: If you're a fan of Coffin Joe, you'll love watching him walk around modern-day Brazil in his classic cape and top hat (one scene has him kicking ass at a bar, letting everyone know THE MAN is back in town). Some of the violence is truly gut-wrenching (I don't think I'll be able to eat hot cheese or look at a rat anytime soon) and one sequence, where Joe makes some poor woman eat her own amputated ass cheek, is so over the top you won't know whether to laugh or gag. The acting is superior to the original films, even on Coffin Joe's part (and dare I say Joe's gratuitous eye-close ups and women-whippings were inspired by HG Lewis' BLOOD FEAST?). There's also a blood-raining sex scene between Joe and a potential son-bearer that makes ANGEL HEART's similar sequence look like an episode of Sesame Street. Two blind witches and a revenge-bent priest are among the kooky side characters, my favorite being an ancient mystic (played by José Celso Martinez Corrêa) who takes Joe on a guided tour of the underworld. The ending also leaves room for 7 sequels (!!!).
Cons: The plot. Again, it's identical to the first two films, so if you're looking for something different than them, you're not going to find it here. The early scenes of Joe walking around Brazil look a bit comical, but whether that was intentional or not on the part of Marins is anyone's guess. And as with any foreign film, the subtitles here (at times) probably could've been translated better, causing some of the dialogue (especially between the police) to come off too comical.
EMBODIMENT OF EVIL is a nice end-cap to a series I only became a fan of a few years ago (thanks to late-night showings on the IFC channel). It features a classic-looking horror figure set against a modern background; you can almost sense Marins had been watching HOSTEL and other recent torture-films, and said to himself, "Let me show zee kiddies how eets done!"
And man, does he ever...
Coffin Joe in his upgraded underground lair
Coffin Joe is taken back to his new crib by faithful hunchbacked servant, Bruno (Rui Resende)
Joe is given a guided tour of the underworld by a gleeful Mystic
Hell-bent on killing Coffin Joe for killling his father, Father Eugenio (Milhem Cortaz) is one slightly off-balanced priest! (His chest tattoo features Coffin Joe's hand with the word HERETIC written around it). The showdown between the two at an amusement park is quite good.
Unless your name is COFFIN JOE, it's not wise to mess with a blind, Santeria-practicing witch!
Some classic-looking horror scenery, a staple of all of Marin's films
Give 'em instruments and Coffin Joe's new cult would make a great goth band!