Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stoker Awards for 2010

Here are the 2010 Stoker Awards:

Novel: Audrey’s Door by Sarah Langan
First Novel: Damnable by Hank Schwaeble
Long Fiction: The Lucid Dreaming by Lisa Morton
Short Fiction: “In the Porches of My Ears” by Norman Prentiss
Collection: A Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O’Neill
Anthology: He is Legend edited by Christopher Conlon
Non-Fiction: Writers Workshop of Horror edited by Michael Knost
Poetry: Chimeric Machines by Lucy Snyder

My feelings about the Stokers are mixed as best, since any award that people campaign for seems tainted, and I'll have to admit I haven't read most of that list, but I did want to offer congratulations to Norman Prentiss for his excellent short story. More information can be found at the HWA website.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Forever & Father and Son

One of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made is the Dark Voices series from Borderlands Press. It’s a very nice concept, in which you get an attractive chapbook containing one or more of an author’s stories, and included in the package is an audio disc of the author reading the material from the chapbook, with background music and some sound effects. Not every author is a good reader, but those who are seem better equipped than anyone to bring out the emotional resonance in their work. Earlier, I reviewed the classic story The Night They Missed the Horror Show by Joe R. Lansdale, and this time, a double feature of Jack Ketchum’s stories, Forever and Father and Son.

If you are familiar with classic Ketchum work such as The Girl Next Door, you know he is known for his ability to look without flinching at the everyday horrors that threaten us. At times, he does such a good job, it’s difficult to read the story. Few authors can get under your skin like Jack Ketchum, and he demonstrates this in the first story, Forever.

Forever is the story of a good marriage coming to a tragic close. The protagonists have been married for a long and happy time, and now, in their mid-forties, must cope with the wife’s steadily worsening bone cancer. The story follows the steady deterioration of her condition and the death of her husband’s hope. It is all too real, and struck uncomfortably home. After all, I’m probably not going to be menaced in real life by a vampire or a werewolf, but cancer can strike my family or yours. It made me face what I would go through if this happened to my wife, and how lost I’d be. The ending is also a genuine “Oh My God” moment at the end which caught me by complete surprise.

The second story was Father and Son, which was much shorter, and much lighter in tone, despite more grisly subject matter. It is the story of, not surprisingly, a father and son living together after the death of their wives. The elderly, frail father is trapped when his 300-pound son collapses and dies, blocking the door of the bathroom with the father behind it. Although it is definitely horror, there is a somewhat lighter tone to it.

Forever & Father and Son, along with the rest of the Dark Voices series, is highly recommended. You can buy it directly from Borderlands.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


A monstrous throwback to the past emerges in Alaska to menace all mankind…I’m sorry, sometimes the Sarah Palin jokes just write themselves.

A ancient creature called the Wyvern has been imprisoned in the Arctic ice for thousands of years, but melting ice (global warming, I suppose) has now freed it, and it woke up hungry and apparently pregnant, not that the two don’t go hand-in-hand. Good news for fans of giant reptile movies, not such good news for the residents of a small Alaskan town. The creature basically looks like a flying dragon, and its diet consists of homo sapiens Alaskanus, which would seem to be a high-alcohol diet.

The town seems to be one of those small villes that exist only in fiction where everyone is nice to everyone else, to the extent that no one seems to be able to bring themselves to charge anyone for goods or services. Thank heavens for that oil subsidy. The male lead is Jake Suttner (genre vet Nick Chinlund, in a much-deserved lead role), an ice road trucker whose rig was lost along with his brother in an accident. He’s just hanging around waiting for the replacement for his rig to arrive from the insurance company, moping a little over his lost sibling, and mooning over Claire (Erin Karpluk), who owns the diner. There is a fair amount of Northern Exposure-style eccentricity, such as the Mayor holding town meetings with the treasurer, who has been dead for a year. No ghost, more of an imaginary friend. The Northern Exposure connection is further hammered home by the presence in the cast of Barry Corbin, one of the series’ leads. The only slightly smarmy character is the town doctor (Rob Morrow must have been busy) who is Jake’s competition for Claire, so we know who is going to be eaten first.

Fairly quickly, the Wyvern is binging at the all-you-can-eat human buffet, and the cast is dwindling, rapidly being converted into Wyvern manure. One nice thing is there is very little time spent in convincing everyone what the menace is. I guess when your mayor talks to invisible dead people, you get used to using your imagination. Anyway, shut off from the outside world by the Wyvern using the local power grid to make a nest, it’s up to the townfolk to stop the creature from breeding. Will Jake’s ability to drive a big rig help defeat the monster? Will Jake get the girl? What do you think?

Wyvern is a cut above the usual monster-of-the-week SyFy channel fare. The CGI, while not feature film quality, is more than adequate, there is some refreshing humor in the script, and the cast is pretty good by any standards. One sad note: the local military guy/gun nut is played by Don S. Davis, better known as General Hammond from the Stargate franchise, and it was his last film. He died of a heart attack shortly after filming, and the movie is dedicated to him.

If you are the creature feature type, you will probably enjoy Wyvern. It doesn’t set the world on fire, but does a decent job of delivering what you would expect.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


So, I’d heard a lot of good things about Splinter, an independent creature feature with an ugly, spiny monster originally released in 2008, so I ordered it from Amazon, and as soon as it arrived, I was in front of the TV set, watching it. It was a crime drama staring Tom Sizemore. All I could think was, gee, people suck. I know Sizemore has had his problems, but the comments I had read now seemed downright mean.

A quick internet consultation revealed there is more than one movie with the name Splinter, and I had been sent the wrong one. Feeling a little better about human nature, I contacted the vendor, who sent me the Splinter I wanted.

Seth and Polly are a young couple on a romantic camping trip, looking to make love under the stairs. Neither one of them knows the slightest thing about camping, however, including how to pitch a tent, and they soon decide, screw it, let’s get a motel. On the way, they pick up another couple, Dennis and Lacey, and their luck turns bad. Dennis is an escaped criminal, and Lacey is a completely non-functioning drug addict. Even, worse, deep in the woods, a strange spiny creature (not played by Tom Sizemore) is getting closer. The four non-friends stop at a deserted gas station, where Polly has a chance to run over the gun-wielding Dennis, but can’t bring herself to do it. The creature arrives, and the survivors of the group are soon barricaded inside the station. The creature is fairly cool, as it works as a parasite, transforming the bodies of the dead into spiky creatures, sometimes combining two bodies into one. Little explanation of the origin or motivations of the creature are given, and that’s probably a good thing. Pretty soon it turns into one of those “How do we get out of here/who will live and who will die?” things.

The movie is pretty well done. The script and direction does a good job in building suspense, and the creature is nasty enough to unnerve you. The cast was unrecognizable to me, with the exception of Jill Wagner as Polly (She was on the short-lived TV series Blade). Seth is portrayed as a complete wimp, and misses out on several chances to rid themselves of Dennis, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Some of the science is also a little wonky, but if you’re the type that obsesses over such things you probably shouldn’t watch movies like this anyway.

All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable little horror film. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Halloween II

Rob Zombie has become something of a whipping boy in the horror film fan community. Although I recognize how his over-the-top attitude towards violence on film would turn some people off, I’ve had a more positive view of his work. I liked House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (the former more than the latter, which seems to be the reverse of most opinions), and while I wasn’t thrilled with the Halloween remake (I could have sworn I reviewed that, but I can’t find it. Oh well, I’ll get to it sooner or later.) I didn’t react with the cries of “Sacrilege!” hurled by those who believe he defiled John Carpenter’s legacy. Now comes Halloween II and…whoa. It is a mess.

The movie kinda sorta takes up right where the last one left off. I qualify this because Halloween II is one of those movies which shows things happening that later turn out to be a dream. I hate that technique, by the way. All the survivors return from the first film, which isn’t saying a lot, since that’s Laurie, Annie, Sheriff Brackett and Professor Loomis. Laurie has been more or less adopted by the Bracketts, for which she is not grateful in the least, and the three live together in a house with the ambience of a poorly maintained public restroom, haunted by their past tragedies. Professor Loomis, meanwhile, has written a book on the Haddonfield murders and joyfully cashed in on Michael Meyers. He’s a complete douchebag, and there are several scenes of him abusing his personal assistant, which may have been intended to be funny. In the absence of any actual humor, it is difficult to tell.

Also returning is Michael Myers’ mother, played by Sheri Moon Zombie, the director’s wife. What’s that? You say she died in the first film? Well, right, but one thing this movie loves more than dream sequences is flashbacks. If you cut the flashbacks and the dreams from the movie, it would go from slightly over two hours to eighty minutes, and be better for it. Ms. Zombie also haunts Michael Meyers, along with the younger Michael Meyers (?) and a white horse. I hope you didn’t come here to get an explanation for what the white horse meant, because I haven’t a clue. All I know is, we get endless shots of Mom leading the damn thing to and fro. Maybe they are trying to say if young Michael had gotten the pony he always wanted, he wouldn’t have gutted 500 people.

The rest of the plot is Michael Meyers isn’t really dead (he’s just become a Jeremiah Johnson looking dude) and he kills everybody he meets. Poor Annie, apparently she survived the first massacre just so she could die in the second one. There is some goobledygook about Laurie being Michael’s sister, therefore Ghost Mom wants her to be killed so that…something. Who the hell knows.

My main criticism of the first movie is intensified here, namely there isn’t a remotely likeable character in the bunch. Laurie Strode in particular is a fantastically annoying, whining ingrate. By the time you get to the end of the movie, you’re ready to knife her yourself. Forget about Zombie besmirching the legacy of John Carpenter, he sure doesn’t do Rick Rosenthal (the director of the first Halloween sequel) any favors here.

This is worth seeing only if you are interested in how someone could screw up as simple a concept as a slasher film.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pod of Horror # 59

The latest episode of the best podcast in the horror biz can be accessed at the Pod of Horror portion of the Horror World website. Just click on the link, if you're too lazy to look at the sidebar. This episode features Greg Gifune, Ron Malfi, and as always the adorable Nanci Kalanta and the well, not that adorable, but still excellent Jason L. Keene. I'd also like to point out as a child I rode bus # 56, and the current episode is that same number. If you turn the 6 upside down to make a 9. This is too weird to be a coincidence.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Curse of the Demon Remake

Continuing with my frenetic posting pace...Actually, I've been tied up with work/life, and have been feeling generally disgusted with issues surrounding the horror genre, so, I haven't updated for awhile. Let's see if I can get back on track.

Interesting news item on (I wonder if they catch as much grief over their website name as I do? Hmmm.), Kenneth Branagh is planning a remake of the classic fifties horror film Curse of the Demon (also known as Night of the Demon) based on M.R. James classic story Casting the Runes. It should be a good choice for a remake, since the original, directed by legendary auteur Jacques Torneur, is not only a very good film but fairly obscure nowadays. It is also referenced in the lyrics of the theme song of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Here's hoping for the best.