Sunday, October 12, 2014

OH NO

Hey, no new review tonight! I thought I'd have it all set, but today is my 1 year of engagement anniversary, and to top it all off, I've been at NYCC (the New York Comic Con) for the past four days. I kind of had an idea something like this might happen, and there's no way I can crap out a review in about fifteen-twenty minutes. It's not a big deal really, just no review today. I'll try to have two out some day soon.

Sorry, everybody!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Television Series Examination: The First Season of The Strain (2014)


I haven't reviewed a television series in a good long while. It's a difficult prospect simply because of the hours of content to a series of television shows. Characters are much more complex than they are in movies. Things move much slower as the episodes tend to be EPISODIC in nature, relying more on episode long plots rather than just focusing on the main narrative. It makes the television format incredibly different than movies, and incredibly different to review.

So, I guess my review should be on the merit of the program, how well it works at what it does, and if the characters and plots are compelling enough to make me keep watching over and over again. I think it succeeds in many arenas. I've obviously watched the entire first season, and I've enjoyed it enough to continue watching the second season as well. While I've never read Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan's books about the same story, I find the story compelling nonetheless. I can't compare the written work to what's on the screen, but I do like what's on the screen.

Kind of.

I find the plot compelling in its simplicity. It reminds me of 'Salem's Lot in a big city. And coming from me that's certainly not a bad thing. It uses a plot of a vampire using vampire rules (kind of) to invade and corrupt New York from the inside out. The vampire, The Master, wants to invade the world of men and probably remake them all as this vampire worm-virus thing. He uses a former Nazi as his main lieutenant as well as a sick and dying businessman as his main force to control the information getting into and out of New York City. It's pretty well plotted for the most part, although some episodes are much better than others for that.

The characters are both the biggest issue of the show and the best part of it. For one, most of the actors here are relatively unknown or, at the very least, niche actors. I like that. I like that I don't recognize anybody but Argus Filch from the Harry Potter movies, and what a different character he plays here. The rest are all various forms of interesting, with my personal favorite being  Vasily Fet, who has the oddest human accent I have ever heard. And that's one of the major boons and issues here. The acting varies from fantastic to absolutely atrocious. It has to be something to do with the directors of the episodes or something, because the variance is bad enough to be incredibly noticeable. Vasily (Kevin Durand) is a great example of this. Sometimes he is absolutely questionable in his delivery. There are times that I wonder if he actually comes from this human Earth world. And then there are times when he is incredibly well put together. I don't blame the actor so much for this, although that could be an issue as well, but rather something about the WAY he delivers his lines. And he's not the only one. Every single actor at one point or another (with the exceptions of the Nazi and the Master) has the exact same issue. I've never seen it before. Sometimes one actor will be bad while the rest are perfectly acceptable. Sometimes all of them but one will be incredibly bad. And sometimes they're all fine except for a single line that is delivered in an utterly alien way.

I'm stressing the point, but it is such an important thing to stress. It takes me right out of the show while simultaneously maybe making the characters more human? I have no idea. I mean, I haven't stopped watching, and I enjoy watching it. I think the episodes have gotten better rather than worse as the season has gone on. But there has been so many little issues from the actor, the characters, and the plot. The fights ending in draws without any lasting victories is a big issue. It feels like a maintaining of the status quo rather than moving on with the plot at all. The final episode, although very solid, is exceptionally guilty of this, with the only thing that has really happened with our main cast is that they learned a tiny piece of plot out that they wouldn't have known otherwise.

I can see the acting issues literally forcing people to stop watching the show. It may not be the case absolutely, but I can see people being turned off by it. And I don't blame them even slightly for that. Somehow, it only bothers me when it shows up. Maybe because I've seen such bad acting in movies that slightly off acting really only bothers me slightly. I don't know. I'm focusing on the point though because it is a sticking point, and the one REALLY GLARING issue I have with the show.

I mean everything else is solid. The story is good. The production values are excellent. The make-up is superb, excellent to the point of being one of the best things about the show. And some of the acting is really good as well. The action is also quite good, definitely an important piece of the compelling nature of the show.

I guess the last thing I should talk about is the horror. And let me say that the horror is also quite excellent here. One of my biggest gripes about vampire stories is that they tend to not be scary. Beside Dracula and 'Salem's Lot I would have a very hard time really finding horrific vampire stories. Possibly 30 Days of Night as well. Maybe I Am Legend and The Historian, although neither of those books scared me at all. My point is, while the vampire is my favorite creature, I find very few of their stories compelling or scary. I've listed all of five other works that contain well done vampires that I can think of right this second. While there may be several others, this does not bode well in an age when vampires are considered more for their sexual prowess and passion than for their actual monster status. To me that's incredibly disappointing. I want scary vampires. I want frightening vampires. I want the creatures of the night to make me afraid to go out after dark.

I always have a focus on vampire movies or books with my reviews. The reason is that I love vampires. I love scary vampires. I love Nosferatu and its ilk. I love 'Salem's Lot and what has come from that.  And I love the granddaddy of great vampire stories, Dracula. And I want more of them in the world. Vampires as monster creatures are just so interesting and compelling, and so few people want to do anything with it.

And maybe that's why The Strain means something to me. Maybe that's why, in spite of the so-so pieces of the show at times, it gives me what I want in terms of vampire horror. It makes them scary again, frightening again, and worth it again. I don't think I'll ever forget in the first episode when the Master just slams a man's face into pulp. That's a scary vampire that is absolutely stunning to see on television. And that's really all I have to say. I love this show because it brings fear back to the vampires. And that should be enough of a recommendation from me.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999)

"I don't have a soul."

Well, I guess I have to say that not all dread can be realized. Sometimes a really pretty decent horror movie can come along and impress me. This movie was the reason I did this stupid Children of the Corn review series. I've always heard about it, heard about one of the worst titles a sequel movie can have, and I wanted to review it. I thought it would be bad. I thought it would be a travesty of film, something so utterly abhorrent that it could be likened to the Necronomicon in what it can do to people who watch it. This was supposed to be that movie. I was looking for so bad that my head would explode from watching it. Instead-

Instead I watched a really decent horror film, on par with the third movie of the franchise, and certainly better than the four other movies by quite a stretch. I actually really enjoyed the movie. Its nuances mixed with its storytelling really worked for me. The horror elements along with the mindscrew moments and the dream-visions made me really get into the plot. Then again I have a thing for dream-visions and mindscrew plots.

I think the cinematography alone puts this above the other Children of the Corn movies. It is extremely stylized at times. And it works on almost every conceivable level. Kari Skogland did a really good job with this movie, having the focus on a young woman, like the fourth movie, but without that movie's meandering plot. While I barely recognize any of the actors of this film besides Nancy Allen, Stacy Keach, and, of course, John Franklin as the titular Isaac, everybody is putting on their game faces in terms of acting. I was actually brought into this movie. I kind of cared. I haven't given a damn for a single character in the course of these films. But I actually kind of found a modicum of actual concern in this film. Bravo, Isaac's Return. Bravo!

The horror here, the gore effects, and the atmosphere are all well done. While never really scary or terrifying, the movie does have its moments of being unsettling. It's also much creepier than the other five films, which in a horror franchise is actually phenomenal. I've never really found any fear in these movies, but this one at least tries really hard to be something more than the others.

One thing that does kind of bother me is that this movie is nearly devoid of children. In a franchise whose title has "Children" in it, there are remarkably few children in this movie. Throughout the last two movies, children had been focused on less and less as well, with much more focus on "teenagers" or adults in some fashion. This movie moves away from the pretense of the actual title of the movie series, and just becomes about "old people of the corn." I kind of wish I were jesting more than I actually am. The "child" possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows (or He Who Walks Behind the Rows himself, we never really get an answer on that) is basically a full grown man in his mid-twenties. And the main character of Hannah is also in her mid-twenties trying her damnedest to pass as a teenager. So, the premise of the "children of the corn" basically dies with this movie. And I don't mind that. The children of the first few movies are now adults. And it seems like there's a restructuring for the future happening. Not enough scary kids, it seems.

I really thought that whole thing of no children (or very, very few) was a good idea. I wasn't expecting "Mid-Twenties People of the Corn." I guess it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Anyway, so, Hannah is looking for her mother. She meets some weird folks in town. Isaac, who I could have sworn died in the first film, is in a coma and has been for nineteen years. He awakens with Hannah's touch and really wants her to bone his kid. And that's the plot of this movie. Hannah has limited crippling psychic visions as well that give her some plot information. But mostly the plot is about the older people of the corn trying to get Hannah and Matt to bone. Some interesting things happen on that front, like Hannah being led away form the ceremony by Matt's girlfriend, and her getting away because these creepy leather wearing twenty-five year old named Gabriel has decided to save and then bone her. Matt's girlfriend (I think her name is Morgan, although I never really heard it mentioned in the movie) gets killed with an awesome line.

And then Randall Flagg happens.

Okay, if you're not a Stephen King fan, let me explain. It seems a theory on the internet, of all places, is that He Who Walks Behind the Rows and Randall Flagg are the same person. I guess there was a mention of them being POSSIBLY synonymous in The Stand, but it's this movie that cements that somebody certainly thought they were synonymous. Gabriel is Randall Flagg. The writing and character are dead on. There is nothing else even slightly like this in any of the other movies or in any of the other depictions of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Hell, in the third movie, the character was an eldritch corn abomination. This movie goes a very long way to showing the Randall Flagg i've always known and loved. Gabriel joking around, killing Isaac, planning meticulously for what he wants to come to pass, well, it all makes sense. Even impregnating Hannah. If you've ever read (or watched the miniseries of) The Stand, he was a bit obsessed with an offspring of his own.

So, I have no idea what the writing intention was here, but it seemed like a very clear cut Flagg reference from where I was watching. And I loved it. I think every movie should have a Randall Flagg in it.

Anyway, that's the movie for the most part. It's very short and goes pretty quickly. It was a good ride of a flick with some decent horror besides. The scenes felt very authentic and well put together. The sprinklers were a clever device to have the girls fleeing in the rain. I thought it rode up the tension more than a little bit. Mostly this felt like a film of a great deal of good decisions. I mean, the title was a very bad decision, but Nancy Allen and bringing John Franklin back were both good decision. Gabriel's character association with Flagg and the actor of Paul Popowich behind him was also incredibly well done.

This is another movie of this franchise that I recommend. And you really don't need any prerequisites to watch it besides the first film, which wasn't bad either. I actually find it quite interesting how very few of these films line up in continuity with each other. They all feel like completely separate entities with completely separate continuities from each other. I know they are supposed to line up, but the differences in quality and story are very apparent. And with very little bleeding between films, it feels less like a franchise and much more like a bunch of films that share elements and He Who Walks Behind the Rows. This is the only movie that really feels directly connected to any other movie in the franchise, and it works here really well.

I'm kind of heaping praise on this movie, and I wasn't expecting that. I thoroughly and completely enjoyed this film. While there are some boring and stupid moments in the film, specifically the wandering around bits in the beginning of the movie, I really found the pace well done when looking at the film as a whole. Check it out if you have any interest. It's a really decent movie that has a good deal to offer. And it reinvigorated me to get through the rest of these movies. Four and five almost broke me. If six had been badly mediocre, I might have stopped there. Instead I'm going to hope the quality will continue.






(I know it won't.)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998)


At least I know that these movies are getting worse and worse with each installment. That's a small comfort. I realize it and understand that I am in the hellish domain of this franchise of movies, and there is no escape for me. Save yourselves, I say. Do not venture on this path as I have. There is no quality here, only pain and misery and very mediocre movies as far as the eye can see.

And that's the problem. The movies aren't BAD per se. They're not horrible and painful to watch. There's nothing about them that make me angry or make me want to punch my hand through the DVD case. These movies are just boring. They make no attempt to be interesting, exciting, or engaging, instead dwelling in this realm of utter mediocrity. I barely remember this movie even though I just sat through it all of ten minutes ago. I barely remember the characters, the plot, or the situation because the movie had no passion to it (and a plot that made very little sense besides).

Should I tear this movie down? I guess a little, but how much can I really say? This isn't a scary movie. There's nothing here to be frightened about. There's about one decent gore shot in the entire film, and it just so happened to be the most engaging moment in the entire film, when the two most interesting people in the movie, David Carradine and Fred Williamson die together. Spoiler alert, I guess.

The movie involves a group of "teenagers" who I thought were college kids or even older than that until I read the synopsis. These teenagers go to do something with their dead friend who has been cremated. I think they're putting him to rest, but why in the town they get to? I have no idea. Well, two of the friends die immediately. And this bears mentioning: why the heck does this first "teenager" who dies have a thing about putting blow-up dolls everywhere? I frankly do not understand at all, but I found it utterly fascinating and more than a little bizarre. I wouldn't have minded an entire movie of him plastering blow-up dolls around town for reasons only his addled mind can comprehend. Even more than that, I seriously believe that this guy has a bottomless bag full of these blow-up dolls. When those kids killed him, they actually killed the creepiest magician in the world: the one who can only conjure up blow-up dolls.

Is that it? That's basically all I took away from this movie.

I don't know. Some people die. The children of the corn come back again and this time He Who Walks Behind the Rows doesn't walk behind the rows, but is instead a fire monster captured in a silo. If the silo were a pokeball, He Who Walks Behind the Rows would be a pokemon. He never leaves. He doesn't really do anything at all but burn a bit throughout the movie. Ezekial, the prophet kid of this movie, is one of the worst prophets yet. I think the fourth movie is still worse about that simply because most of the movie is without the major prophet, but Ezekial is quite ridiculous and more than a little annoying.

What else? What else?

I laughed out loud when Eva Mendes implied she was under eighteen. She totally looks about twenty-five, all of the "teenagers" do. And mentioning Eva Mendes, why does this movie seem like it's shot like a softcore porn movie? Something about the way Eva Mendes in particular is shot makes it seem like at any moment she's going to remove all her clothes. I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but it really feels like it's shot like a porno rather than a horror movie. Nothing about the movie is even slightly scary. Even the moments in the dark just seem like a softcore flick.

I think I've said everything I'm going to say about this movie. It's pretty awful and completely forgettable. It's worse than the last Children of the Corn movie just because most of the characters here are also extremely unlikable on top of being bland and uninteresting. At least Naomi Watts and father of the year in the last movie had something going on. This movie has about two minutes of David Carradine, one good scene, and Fred Williamson being cool for about a minute. And that's all I have to say.

Avoid this movie.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Movie Appraisal: American Mary (2012)


So, this is a Canadian film, right? With Canadian money clearly shown in and throughout the movie? We're on that page with each other right now, correct? I wasn't imagining things while I was dreading going through the entirety of the Children of the Corn movies this month again, was I? Because if I decided to be both coherent watching this film and in my own right mind completely, then something is just a tiny little bit amiss, wouldn't you say?

Okay. If it's true that this movie takes place VERY CLEARLY in Canada, then why is the movie called American Mary? It clearly should be called Canadian Mary. That has a bit less of a ring to it though. I mean, it certainly doesn't sound like a horror film. Maybe they simply meant that she was from the Americas. North America more specifically. North American Mary? Well, now it just seems like it's a movie about finding a person who's been frozen in a glacier in northern Canada for the last thirty thousand years.

I'm focusing on this point too much. I mean, it's a dumb title that doesn't work in the context of the movie. But, I'll leave it alone for now. Instead I'll focus on the movie itself.

This film is mostly pretty decent. While it does have some issues (like how it isn't scary at all, but does have some very good gore effects), it actually does a pretty good job as a story, although I have to admit that it could have used another ten-fifteen minutes of extra exposition or character development.

The bare minimum plot of this movie is that a woman, named HINT HINT Mary is studying to become a surgeon. She's good at surgery but is struggling to pay bills. She applies to a strip club because she's Katherine Isabelle and doesn't look half bad. Instead of getting the stripping job, she helps keep a tortured man alive. This starts her relationship with the medical and surgery underground. She is approached by a woman who has surgical modified her body to resemble Betty Boop. this woman proposes a business arrangement involving taking another woman and removing some of the erogenous zones of her body, including her nipples and labia so she can more resemble a doll. This leads her to making more and more money with the body modification surgeries. This would all be good and fine, but she is drugged and raped at a party that she was invited to by a group of surgeons at the hospital she is now working at. The man who rapes her is the host of the party, her former teacher who had given her a hard time previously. He had thought she was prostituting herself to make money and decided that she was asking for it or somesuch disgusting stretch of human thought. Afterward, Mary is upset for a little while, and rapidly reaches a plot of revenge.
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She hires some people from the strip club to kidnap him. And then the movie jumps in time a bit. Mary is now a successful body modification surgeon who keeps the mutilated body of her former teacher and rapist in an underground vault so she can practice the modifications on him before she does them to other people. It is sick in every conceivable way. It definitely begs the question of whether he deserves it or not. Rape seems to be one of the worst crimes in our society besides murder, and because of that, this penalty- while cruel and unusual- does get a rapist and a very awful man off the streets. I mean, there is no way he's raping again.

The second half of the movie, after the time jump, meanders about a bit before eventually focusing on Mary's little bouts of insanity and sadism, her murder of a security guard, and her eventual death at the hands of the husband of the woman she modified at the beginning of the movie (the one she removed labia and nipples from). Throughout this, the strip club owner, Billy, is shown to have a thing for Mary that literally comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere in the end. The movie disappointingly trickles to an end, leaving a movie that had begun as a roaring waterfall to a very mediocre (but memorable) fate.

So, to put it mildly, this movie is extremely graphic with gore and body modifications. There are times when the screen is hard to look at because of this. The Soska sisters outdid themselves with the visuals and the directing style. It is a beautiful if somewhat sterile movie. The first half of the movie is near-brilliant, emotionally charged and full of both character and moments. The second half feels almost gratuitous in its gore and deaths. It just doesn't feel right or seemingly end right. Something about it left me feeling both cold and distant, thinking the movie worse overall than the beginning of the film would have had me think.

This is a good movie, but not a great one. It also happens to be one of the only body mod movies I know about, so there's that. It works well as a horror movie even if it doesn't quite deliver the scares. The gore is most definitely there as well as the moments when I really wanted to look away from the screen. I probably like this movie more than I ought to because of the heavy feminist themes. It's like an MRA (Men's Rights Activists) nightmare, full of a strong woman, revenge from said strong woman, and a real lack of fetishism for men. The mods are all about fulfilling one's own physical wants, The men seem to want a perfect woman in their minds, but the women of the movie seem to want another way, one that involves them being able to love their own bodies and themselves. It's not about men being attracted to the women. It's all about the women changing themselves to be happy with themselves all on their own.

I don't know. I guess I find that theme really touching and very important. Coupled with the disgusting and dehumanizing rape and how most men in this movie are portrayed as sleazebags who only think about one thing, I see this as a very strong feminist film, one that has a ton of value as what it is.

The acting is always good. The filming is great. And while the second half of the movie is much weaker than the first half, it still works. I recommend this film, but not to the weak of heart or stomach. This is a violent, gory, and sometimes absolutely degrading film. It's the kind of movie I could see someone sickened by. While never scary, it instead delivers a message and a lot of thought- also a ton of blood, gore, a body mods.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering (1996)


No.

I don't want to review this movie. It's terrible. I feel bad and angry even looking at the poster. After the highlight of the third movie in the series, Children of the Corn IV feels awful in almost every way. It's the exact opposite of the last movie to its own detriment. While this movie has some decent actors in it- hell even a few KNOWN actors with Naomi Watts and Karen Black- the acting of the movie cannot save this pile of garbage.

It's the writing and plot that let's this movie down. The focus is all wrong throughout the movie. The children should be the focus, not the adults, not Naomi Watts and Donald the father of a random boy. Give me more about the children. Are they now possessed by dead children for reasons instead of by the corn (CotC III) or a charismatic leader possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows (CotC and CotC II)? Why is this a thing now? Why did it all have to be ghosts? Ghosts aren't scary in this context, and they're also very certainly not interesting either. And retconning the events of the previous movies to simply have He Who Walks Behind the Rows be a vengeful boy preacher spirit is disrespectful to that previous material at best. I can't even deal with the fact I actually watch this thing.

The movie is about Naomi Watts coming home from school to see to her sick mother who might be going senile. Her sister (who is revealed to be her abandoned(!?) daughter later) is there being annoyed and worried all at once. Eventually the little girl gets kind of possessed by the boy preacher ghost because she was lied to and abandoned, never mind the girl is all of four, seems to have a decent life, and maybe not being raised by a young woman trying to make something of herself is a little warranted? I don't know. Mistakes are made, and in this case, a solution was found that seemed right. Calling it a lie when the girl is barely old enough to understand what a lie is seems ridiculous.

I don't even know what else to say here. Children are possessed. They kill some adults. The plot probably happens. A ton of characters complain. The children have dead ghost blood and were diseased for some reason that remains unexplained to me and the rest of humanity. Mercury is somehow bad because the ghost preacher boy was poisoned by mercury. Well, that's all good and find. His silver bullet is a mercury bullet? Ugh...

Worst of all are the sprinklers being laced with mercury. There's so many things wrong with that. one, Mercury is a metal, heavier than water. Two, Naomi Watts probably has heavy metal poisoning now. So much for your goddamn happy ending. This is what happens when you're very stupid.

I want to purge this movie from my head. Please let this movie leave. I don't want to think about it anymore.

It's not scary. It wrecks large amounts of the franchise which is already treading the mediocre line. It's a terrible and nonsensical plot. And it actually made me angry. So, I refuse to recommend this THING. Go wash your eyes out with bleach before trying to get through this trash.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995)

"I'm not in here with you. You're in here with me."
Honestly movie, you can't steal from 
Watchmen. Although I did laugh when I heard that line actually uttered in a film about evil children and corn.

I really thought I would hate this movie. After watching both the first movie of this franchise, then the second, and thinking that both of them were fairly mediocre, I came into this film with an undeniable feeling of dread that did not abate as the movie started. I saw Urban Harvest and was afraid. They are only three movies in, I thought, and they're already resorting to going into an inner city environment with Children of the Corn, a franchise supposedly about rural Nebraska. Oh dear, I thought, this cannot be a good thing. But-

But I was wrong. This is the best movie of the franchise so far, full of excitement, actually scares, and an amazingly well put together ending. The actors don't really matter here. None of them sell the film and none of them blew me away. They were there as set dressing for an interesting and shocking story. For once this franchise wasn't afraid of killing off protagonists. In fact this movie is the first of them that actually has a bit of a Stephen King feel to it despite having a very, very, silly premise.

The plot involves these two brothers (not blood brothers, but adopted ones) being yet again adopted after Eli, the younger brother, kills their father in Nebraska. Joshua seems a little slow compared to Eli, but that character trait is dropped fairly quickly, which I'm glad for. These two brothers get adopted by a husband and wife in Chicago and subsequently go to school, a Catholic private school, in Chicago. And it works quite well, I think. The urban environment contrasts well with Eli and Joshua's sensibilities. As a result Joshua is taken in by the culture and makes friends (and a special ladyfriend) in the process. This is the only romance subplot I've liked in these movies so far. It's decently explained without being completely ridiculous in scope.

Anyway, Joshua, the older brother, gets taken in by the culture and acclimatizes, while Eli grows corn and remains a creepy little boy. His own adopted mother seems wary of him as does the head priest at the school. Eventually Eli does make friends almost to spite Joshua. But his friends are simply followers to his message, the message of He Who Walks behind the Rows. Eli grows the corn in a backlot, and anybody who goes back there seems to die fairly horrifically. And this is where the movies shines. It can sometimes be slow, but it's always moving along. The horror is interspersed with the rest of the plot, actually making every moment exciting and interesting.

The deaths are extremely noteworthy for both being very gruesome and very well put together. When the adopted mother dies, I was shocked. And such a horrific "accident" it is. The bum is another gory death, with his head seemingly still animate even long after his supposed death. Even later on with the death of Joshua's best friend Malcolm, who gets his head and spine taken off his body, I think. Whatever happens, it's fairly awesome to watch. The gore is so gratuitous that it never feels scary, but it also doesn't look very pleasant either. I liked it as far as gore goes.

The movie sets up a good amount of things as it goes on as well as showing some things that happened in the past movies with some dream flashbacks. These worked well even if they were a little awkward. The setting up of the corn being sold off is a good stinger. mostly though, the thing that sold me on this movie was the ending. I think I fall in love with any movie that lets an eldritch abomination Corn Cthulhu start killing people nonchalantly while eating some action figure people. I could seriously watch the last ten minutes of this movie on repeat for the rest of my life. It's absolutely amazing.

I guess I don't know what else to say. This movie wasn't good in the classic definition, but it was a fun ride with some good gore effects, no bad CGI, and a really amazing (no sarcasm here) ending. The dialogue is hit or miss. The acting is passing. The direction is better than the last two movies. And mostly, the plot held my attention. While I can't wholeheartedly recommend this movie, I would recommend watching the glorious ending, which I seriously absolutely loved. Some of the death scenes are also quite good as well. Don't feel obligated to give this one a try, but it's actually a very solid movie. I recommend it, I suppose, although I doubt anyone should watch this one without watching the other Children of the Corn movies.

As a horror movie, I especially wasn't disappointed. And that's all I ever wanted.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice (1993)

This poster definitely says that this is the "conclusion" of the series.
The seven other movies I have to watch say otherwise.
The second Children of the Corn movie is incredibly baffling before anything else. Why the first movie needed a sequel is beyond me. I assume there was money in the project, but the sequel, this movie right here, adds nothing to the story or the franchise besides a Native American and everything that comes with that, and Hemingford, the town next door to Gatlin.

The movie stars a father, John, and his son, Danny, who hate each other, and the women they start liking for reasons while inexplicably in Nebraska, again for reasons. I actually like the beginning of the plot of the movie, which does explain some of my complaints about the first film. For example we get an explanation about what people did about the disappearances from other towns and avenues of life. While I don't think the three years alone for the children was necessarily retconned, it certainly was downplayed, seemingly being a much shorter time that the children were alone.

The movie begins with an aid response to the children who brutally murdered their parents. They stay, for a time with some people from Hemingford while waiting to see what the world will do with them. Things are okay for a while until Micah, a seemingly nice boy, is possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows. Well, I think he is at least. And then he starts the cult up again. Micah is the Isaac of this movie, although a bit less creepy. Micah also has some wonderful facial expressions. Beyond that, the movie involves the children killing some old ladies after harassing them for a bit and planning on killing all of the adults as well.

At the same time the sheriff and some of the other townsfolk are planning to sell nasty corn that would make people hallucinate and be sick. And not only is this corn bad, it has mold all over it. I have no idea about all of you reading this, but I know that I would not buy moldy corn to eat. So, I have no idea what their plan is. John, the main character, finds this out with the Native American character, Frank Red Bear. It seems like everybody is racist against him even though I wouldn't have been able to tell his ethnicity by simply looking at him. Anyway, the sheriff feels some need to kill them both, and they get out of the trap easily.
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While all of this is going on there is a romantic sideplot involving Danny and a blonde orphan girl from town. They start going out, and I started losing all interest. Danny also becomes friendly with Micah and joins the cult for some reason.

The children burn down the house with all of the rest of the adults in town, like the sheriff, the priest, and a woman or two, and they plan on sacrificing the two remaining love interest girls to the corn. I think this movie stopped making any sense before this, but this is the point where any indication of a plot was out the window. The heroes get away and are captured again multiple times, the main antagonists are killed, our heroes get away and burn the Native American man- again for reasons I don't understand, and then the movie ends.

I don't even know what to say. It's a mediocre and forgettable movie. The acting isn't terrible. The special effects definitely are bad and overused. The scenery and setpieces are fine if a little bare. And nothing is incredibly offensive besides the racism against Native Americans and the way Frank Red Bear is treated, even at the end of the movie. It was inexplicable and very, very odd.

As a sequel to a movie that didn't need one, it's fine. There is one decent gore scene in the church, Micah is enjoyable to watch, and that's about it/ It's not scary, not creepy, and certainly not a movie that's anything more than a curiosity. It has only the barest minimum relevance, and I seriously think that watching it was a waste of my time. I don't recommend it. While not a bad movie, it does nothing that other movies don't do better. It just feels like a waste all around. I can't even muster enough energy to badmouth it because WHY? I'm just going to forget about it in an hour anyway.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Detention (2011)


Detention, directed by Joseph Kahn, whose only other directing credit is Torque, is an absolutely enjoyable movie. While quick-paced, it's also memorable and really fun. I probably didn't catch half of what happened in this movie just because of the breakneck speed of the film, the dialogue, and the characters. It almost seems to be made for the ADD generation while having references to the nineties literally throughout the movie. It's odd, and my awkwardness at describing it is probably already showing.

I have no idea how to talk about it, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to spoil it. It's a horror comedy, although it's also fairly light on most of the horror and pretty heavy on most of the comedy. Strangely, although I do not tend to like comedies, I really found this one guffaw kinds of funny. The witty banter along with references, and the characters giving a joke every thirty seconds made this movie really enjoyable to just watch. I had heard about the synopsis and a bit about the movie in general, and I knew I needed to watch it. It's definitely an oddball movie, but it so happens to fall right under what I love in movies. I guess I could call it the horror-comedy version of Donnie Darko mixed with The Breakfast Club (to a point). And it certainly feels as good as either of those movies.

I don't really want to spoil the plot. Let's just say it's odd, almost nonsensical, and really fun. The actors look like they're having a blast. They certainly make the characters into something memorable at the very least. The weirdness of the film mixed with everything else about it makes this a much watch movie if you've ever agreed with me on some of my more outlandish movie likes. I can't really even think of another movie like this one.

I recommend this almost more than any other movie. It's really odd, and I think it will be a love it or hate it kind of film for almost everybody. I loved it, but I can totally understand someone disliking it. I do have a hard time really calling it a "horror" movie, but it does have gore and horror elements in it, and all of them work really well although most of them are also disregarded. The movie- it almost feels like one of those teenage parody movies being put out a few years ago, something like Not Another Teen Movie or whatever. Not that I've really seen movies like that, but just watching the previews, that's what this movie almost acts like. And that might seem like a turn-off, but it does that in a way that actually works.

I'm so scattered about this film. I have no idea what to talk about. If I were having a conversation with you, I'd be trying to say three different things about this movie at once. It has so much density and so many elements in it that I find it very difficult to adequately talk about everything. I love the background moments, things that happen completely in the background that have plot relevance, but are not focused on. On love the adherence to foreshadowing, which seems to be a near-constant thing in this film. The continuity seems like it was a major consideration throughout the movie.

When I watch this film again, I may write a bit more about it. I think this might be a movie that needs multiple viewings to really get everything going on. I may not be giving you much, but this is a really fun movie and really worth watching. Yeah. I think that's all I have to say about it now.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Movie Appraisal: Children of the Corn (1984)

Beware He Who Walks Behind the Rows!
Children of the Corn is an interesting movie. Released in the height of the Stephen King movie madness, the same year as Firestarter, and a year after Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Christine, this film is certainly a staple of the Stephen King adaptations in general. When I was young, The Shining, Cujo, Pet Sematary, Christine, Carrie, and Children of the Corn defined Stephen King's career for me like I'm sure they had for most people in the same time period. This was before I had read his books or had become the Stephen King fan that I certainly am today. I knew the stories because the movies had entered pop culture, and they were never going to leave.

Even today if you mention any of those movies, people, even those unfamiliar with horror or with Stephen King, will be able to tell you exactly what they're about. I do not tend to define Stephen King by these books and movies, but looking at what he's known for, it certainly seems as if the general public defines him by these films. I don't tend to review the better known Stephen King movies, but eventually I'm sure I'll do them all. Children of the Corn is a special case for me for two reasons. The first is that I do believe this is the first Stephen King film I ever saw, and the second is that I'm not just reviewing this movie this October, but the entire franchise! (Provided I can get through all of them without hating myself too much.)

To be honest, I have no idea why this movie kickstarted a franchise. While it is a solid and decent horror flick, there's nothing there that gives it a killer personality or the amazing good looks that franchises seem to need. And like most of these eighties franchises, the first movie ends in a way that leaves it as a very standalone thing. I have no idea where the franchise will go from here, and I'm certain that I won't like it.

I had the idea for reviewing the franchise in my last October Nights when I reviewed Disciples of the Crow, a short adaptation of the same Stephen King short story. It is a very close adaptation and worked very well for what it was. This movie, on the other hand, is not so close to the short story, and it suffers for it. I don't think it's bad, but it is way too long, and the ending was an extreme disappointment. Despite being the first Stephen King movie I saw, I don't believe I've seen it more than once or twice in all my years. While I remember certain scenes, the ending was something that didn't stick in my memory, and now I know that was for good reason.

The story here is simple: kids in a small town in Nebraska (Gatlin) go on a rampage and kill all of their parents at the urging and leadership of two boys, Isaac and Malachai. Three years later Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton hit a boy who is already standing dead in the road(!?) as they drive through some back roads for reasons that are never clearly explained. How this boy is dead and just standing there is never explained or shown, and it confuses me greatly. Obviously he has not entered rigor mortis yet, so the only thing that I can think of as an explanation is that Malachai propped him up with either magic or a stick. In either case, why would he even do that? They put the rest of the people into the corn for He Who Walks Behind the Rows. So, why just prop a kid up in the middle of the road after his throat is sliced? Was he hoping a car would hit him? Or was it just random happenstance?

Another thing that bothers me is that this town has been dead, except for children, for three years. Wouldn't somebody notice? What about the trucks that restock the stores or the gas pumps? What about the postal vehicles that need to pick up and drop off mail? What about the state and federal governments that collect taxes and might wonder where their citizens went off to inexplicably? My point is that even in the dark ages of the eighties, there would be questioned asked and inquiries made. Signs would be put up saying something like "A whole town disappeared one day here. Maybe it's not safe to come gallivanting around here." It would be as famous as Roanoake. People all over the world would know about it. It wouldn't just be a secret. When a couple thousand people disappear, it's something that's going to get out. Somebody's going to say something. Even if that town only supported a hundred people (and that's ridiculous, look at the size of it) people would talk and pilgrimage there to look upon the mystery. It's less a problem with the movie and more a problem with the short story in general. It has always bothered me, and while watching the movie it was the only thing I could think of. It took my mind off of the film and made it unrealistic and very silly.

So, I guess I find the premise ridiculous in the first place. I'll get that out of my fingers right now before I go further. While the movie is fine, it will never be something I love or really enjoy. And ti will always be known to me more for its atmosphere than for its amazing plot or premise.

And it does have a great atmosphere, among the corn fields and an abandoned town. The movie is shot well (except for the ending), and there are times when it can be genuinely heart-pumping. While never scary, it does have a few unsettling moments, and works well with them. I would say the oddness of the children is probably the highlight of the film, with Malachai and Isaac being the breakout creepy kids. What I find interesting is that the actor who played Isaac, John Franklin, had a growth hormone deficiency and was actually 25 when he was in the movie, which may explain why he just doesn't look quite right. I like the unsettling nature of that decision, even if it does seem slightly exploitative.

The acting is quite good in the movie beyond that, but the dialogue and script are not so good. And the ending is frankly terrible. A happy ending to a short story that has one of the biggest downer endings in all of Stephen King's written works? It seems like some sort of betrayal. The couple of the movie was supposed to fight and they were supposed to die as well. Not having that dynamic took away from a great deal of the passion of the flick, making large swaths of the movie uninteresting a more than a little boring to watch. While the imagery was mostly pretty solid as well, shots of corn and long periods of time of walking or looking around just seemed like padding more than anything else.

Oh, and the special effects were anything but special. They're one of the big reasons the ending fails so spectacularly besides the script. I can't even believe they used those effects. It was embarrassing to watch. There could have been so many ways they could have gone around the special effects, but nope, let's put really bad effects in the movie and hope it keeps people scar- oh- it looks like that? Well, that made me laugh so hard I was crying a little out of my eye holes. And then I just felt disgusted for a while.

On the whole, it's a decent film with some bad decisions. It is a whole film though, one that tells an entire story, so I'm shocked there's a franchise made from this, and I have no idea where it's going to go besides having children and corn and probably recycled plots and a bunch of blood. So, I'm looking forward to it?







No.





No, I really don't think I am.





Thursday, October 2, 2014

Television Movie Appraisal: The Night Stalker (1972)

"Judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn't happen here."

The Night Stalker has been and probably will always be one of the best ideas to come out of the seventies. It essentially formed a genre out of its inception. Shows like The X-Files owe a direct lineage to The Night Stalker. This also means every conspiracy website that comes from that television show also owe Mr. Carl Kolchak, Richard Matheson, and  ABC a debt that can never be repaid. Carl Kolchak and his shenanigans and dry wit helped to define an entire genre, not only for me, but for the world at large. While this isn't the first time I've ever seen this made for television movie that introduces us to Darren McGavin's best and most lasting role to me, it is the first time I've tried to find the cracks in it as well, something that is very nearly impossible. Criticism is my game when I review and appraise and look at things. And when something horror based is so well-written and well put together, it makes my "job" here very easy and also incredibly enjoyable.

The movie is about Carl Kolchak, a reporter working is Las Vegas, going around the city and being very snarky, trying to report on a string of female murder victims all while trying to be the best damn reporter there ever was. It is also one of the most seventy things I've ever seen, from the hair, to the clothes, to Kolchak's hat, all the way to the way they talk and act towards other people. I love this movie for just being so much a product of its time and also being something that can last and be enjoyed by basically anybody. It works so well on every level, but that doesn't take its seventy's aesthetic away from it.

It's mostly a simple vampire story in the style of Dracula or 'Salem's Lot, but it offers so much more with the interesting and unique character of Kolchak, and the way the story plays out in regards (specifically) to him. The cinematography is quite good, even when police officers are just being thrown around by the vampire, Janos Skorzeny, it still looks good- even if you find yourself laughing at the police's inability to do much of anything against a supernatural threat besides being thrown aside like a seventies ragdoll.

In fact this movie has more than a little bit of humor in it to give it that personality it enjoys so much. The humor is both dry and well placed, giving it a reality that really becomes it. It is a fun movie as well as being incredibly well-paced for its size. Coming in at only about seventy-five minutes, it paces itself well and never wastes time even in the scenes that seem to have nothing directly to do with the investigation or the vampire. When Kolchak talks of or to his boss Vincenzo or his kind-of sort-of girlfriend, Gail, it gives the story a life that very few other horror movies seem to have. Carl Kolchak is a real person in a city and a world full of real people. This is just a slice of his life, and a weird slice at that.

Something about that idea places the movie in a realm of its own in terms of quality and world-building, a realm that few other horror movies can match, what with their adherence to being spooky without regard to the world that they're building. The Night Stalker also has its share of darker moments, but those are still underlined by humor or passion alike, with Kolchak always finding the thread of the vampire element and running with it as much as he can while using his wit to his advantage always.

When Skorzeny the vampire is shot multiple times and the police can't explain it and refuse to believe anything supernatural, Kolchak tries to explain (in the absolutely most sarcastic way possible), and only ends up getting hassled and harassed for his efforts to save the city of Las Vegas. And that's Kolchak's life in a nutshell. He's always using his wit, and it's always working against him and his efforts. It's almost as if he barely believe his own conclusions, and only acts them out because there is n other way. His trying to convince others of those beliefs seem almost cynical in light of that, which makes the whole movie a farce of effort and belief, which is something I can very much get behind.

It's a short movie, and the personality only gets better and better as it goes on. While never being exactly scary, something about the ending has always creeped me out and stuck with me. Not Kolchak killing the vampire, although that is suitably unsettling what with Skorzeny's howling and never speaking a word. But the thing that especially bothered me was the non-answer as to whether or not Skorzeny really was a vampire or if Kolchak just murdered a man with a stake through his heart because the man was acting the part of the vampire. It is left ambiguous, although we know, just like Kolchak knows, the real story. And that's not even the most unsettling moment of the film to me. I find the part where Kolchak is removed from Las Vegas, and his now fiancee Gail, is told to leave town as well, almost disturbing in its reality and ambiguity. Something about how everything ends up speaks of a very targeted conspiracy happening in regards to the case. And something about that conspiracy works better than the entirety of the vampire plot. And it's not that the vampire plot works poorly either. Like I said before, the ending keeps ramping up the effort, making the movie better and better as it goes on.

The line that always sticks with me is when Kolchak says in his last monologue:

"...but I- I'll keep trying even though I don't think I'll ever find Gail Foster again. And maybe it's just as well."

I find this well put together and very sad. His whole final monologue is full of moments like this. The idea that everyone involved left town, disappeared, aren't talking, or are dead creates a cover-up about the official story that works so well with the tone of the entire movie. This leads me to praising the writing, Richard Matheson's writing, which delivers on every inch. The dialogue is solid, the acting excellent, and the story superb. I have no real complaints. Even if the vampire story isn't terrifying me to my very core, the unsettling conspiracy at the end certainly leaves a lasting impression. And maybe that's all I ever really want from something in the horror genre: a lasting impression.

Anyway, I love this television movie. It is a real part of history in its own right and deserves to be watched by just about everybody. It is a high recommendation from me, maybe one of my highest. Check it out!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Television Miniseries Examination: Salem's Lot (1979) (Unedited version!)

The ultimate in terror might actually be true this time!
Well, I'm back again for another punishing October Nights review series. And this October I get to start with a movie I've already (kind of) reviewed! Salem's Lot was a movie I reviewed about four years ago now. And I remember saying in that review how I thought I had seen the movie before. Well, I had, but it was the full version of the film, not the edited down confusing jumble that I saw for that review. I say that in retrospect after I saw this full version finally. I have definitely seen all of the content in it before, but probably years before I knew what reviewing for the internet even was.

While this movie is substantially longer than the edited theatrical version, it has weirdly dissimilar content. It feels like the two versions are never equal. With this version explaining and introducing much more of the story of 'Salem's Lot and its townsfolk, but also not having scenes that are in the theatrical version. I wish I could find a list of the differences between the version. While I have the unedited version now, the edited version I reviewed before has been misplaced somewhere. So, in going off memory alone, I know there are substantial differences, and I also know that I prefer the unedited version so much more, even if there are extra scenes for some reason in the theatrical version. I wish all the scenes could be added together to make one full and complete Salem's Lot (1979), but that's nothing more than a hope and a dream.

At least I finally learn the fate of Larry Crockett, four years after I asked the question of his fate. He was turned into a vampire or something when he was somehow left in a (his?) car after another car drove him and the car he was found in to the lake where Susan and Ben were canoodling. And then he was a vampire after that. So, I asked and this version told me what happened, so I guess I received what I needed in the form of some sort of conclusion.

This movie in general shows a great deal more about the town. Ben and Mark are concentrated on much less as a whole. The town really seems to be the focus here, and I will admit that makes the entire story and movie in general much stronger. The concentration on Ben and Mark only heightens their inability to completely carry the story on their own. They are mostly bland characters thrust into prominent roles by fate rather than by winning personalities. Putting them at the forefront just made the edited version unlikable. Putting them as just another character in town really adds to the tension and atmosphere of the story, and makes it seem like the town's death story rather than the Ben Mears and Mark Petrie mediocre character hour.

The movie as a whole looks much better than the edited version I saw. It has a great deal better pacing and atmosphere, and those are things that shouldn't be compromised in a horror story. This version actually made me turn around my feelings on this movie. I actually think I like it. More than that I think it's the absolutely superior movie of the adaptations of 'Salem's Lot. I don't have much else to say except that I enjoyed this movie quite a bit despite the length (almost three hours long!) and some of the acting issues that I mentioned in the first review. Those issues are still there, but with better pacing and more characters those issues are better hidden.

And that's about it. If you want a slow-paced creepy seventies vampire horror movie, this is probably a decent one to check out. I still think it has some of the best vampires and one of the creepiest scenes of vampire horror movies ever. The scene with Burke and the vampire still gets to me, as does the child vampire scratching at the window. both are completely unsettling and incredibly well done. They haven't been matched in any other movie I've seen to date. So, yes, this is the superior version of this movie, and the best adaptation of the source material. I recommend it as a very fun and creepy watch.

This is a wonderful start to October.


Let's hope it lasts.



[Oh, and if you want my exact thoughts on pieces of the movie, just read my other review. I'm not going to reiterate the story, characters, or plot here. I've said it all already. I mostly wanted to talk about the differences of quality in versions.]

OCTOBER NIGHTS 5!

I have returned! And now I shall do reviews for OCTOBER! So, wait, my fellows, and see what might come out of my fingertips in terms of reviews I probably will talk about a bit.

Seriously, i can't wait for my annual thirty-one horror reviews in the thirty-one days of October. These October nights are incredibly enjoyable for me. It just so happens that I still have no time and haven't for nearly nine months. I will endeavor to make sure these reviews are finished though. These things are really important, and while the quality may suffer minorly because I might only be getting three hours of sleep a night and working thirteen hours a day, I will do my best to put out the best quality reviews and rants that I am able to put out.

What should you look forward to this year? Well, Salem's Lot (AGAIN), a very large horror movie franchise! Some very odd horror movies! Foreign horror! And maybe some books as well! I even have some video games to talk about! We're doing everything! You can't stop the reviews!

Anyway, look for the first one coming out tomorrow night. I can't wait! And I hope you can't either!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Evaluation: The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson (Author's Definitive Edition) (1984) (Re-released in 2004)


I previously reviewed the original version of F. Paul Wilson's start of the Repairman Jack series back in 2011. I have been into these books, reading them and enjoying them for a good long while, but about two years ago, I started having less time and had a good amount of trouble getting through the last four or so books of the series. I had forgotten some details and generally felt frustrated that I couldn't easily get back into the mindset I needed to read these books. So, back in November or so I started reading this book. But again I ran into time troubles which have only recently begun to resolve themselves. And thus, I started reading through the series again, almost as if it were new to me.

I really enjoy the series, and must again express my surprise that very few other people I know (most of whom are into this type of fiction) have ever even heard of the author before much less the series. But I've certainly expressed my love of the series to them in the interim. Anyway, since I've already reviewed this particular book in an earlier form, I'm basically just going to go over some of the changes I noticed and give a bit more critical look at the book itself. Reading through it a third time has left me much more enthused to read the rest of the series, but a little less high on this particular book. It seems like a strange this to me, so maybe I should explain.

The story and the players in the story: Jack, Gia, Vicky, Kusum, Kolobati, Abe, and the rest, they all work really well here. They work well as rounded character in well-rounded situations. There was never a moment when I was wondering if a character were evil or good. Honestly, evil and good don't seem to exist in this universe. There seems to be something else at work, in my opinion something more realistic. The villains are never cackling and twisting mustaches. They are conflicted antivillains most of the time, ready to do horrible things, but only because they feel they need to for the greater good. Kusum, the main antagonist of the novel, sums up that thought perfectly. A religious zealot who polluted his own karma, Kusum is trying to "save" both himself and his beloved India, but the means he uses is both extreme and terrifying. It's also very much an extreme we as people living in the world today can both understand and abhor for it goes on all the time. We see it in the news and maybe even in our daily lives.

I don't remember reading the book last time and feeling such sadness for Kusum and such loathing for his sister, Kolobati. In the book it's pointed out many times that there is a sincerity and will in Kusum that makes him almost a hero, just on the wrong side of the protagonist. Kolobati though seems both spoiled and sickening, a twisted soul whose long life has etched a selfish and self-centered attitude within her. The rakoshi are removed from these judgments, being both animalistic and following orders. Less evil and more Other. But I guess this isn't the book to go into that yet.

Again, the plot is a simple mystery. Jack and his ex-girlfriend, Gia, are on the outs. She found out that he was stockpiling weapons in his apartment, confronted him, and lost it when she learned the truth. Most of Jack's motivation throughout the book is trying to win her back through trying to help her with finding her daughter, Vicky's, missing great-aunt. Jack does eventually discover what happened to the great-aunt, Grace, and then later to her sister, Nellie, but he cannot save them. He arrives too late and they are already dead, eaten by the rakoshi, demons from a different era.

The complaints I have are few, but the amount of sex in the book is kind of ridiculous. It worked well in the original novel, written and feeling very much like a product of the 1980s. But for a more modern retelling, it just doesn't feel right. Maybe that explanation is flimsy, coming down to the years between when I read the original and when I've read this revised edition. Maybe I've changed or my tastes have, but I doubt that. I think there is much less motivation there for Jack to be having sex with another woman when he claims to still love the one who won't take him back. Then again, perhaps I've been in a committed relationship too long and have forgotten what it feels like to be alone and longing for a connection. My point is that it felt a bit gratuitous, and F. Paul Wilson always seems to fall into the same trap or telling us how long the sex happened for. I don't need to know that, and it really doesn't matter to me. But there's always, when sex is mentioned, a time period attached. And those moments when the time is all night long or something- well, that just seems mildly ridiculous. It's an issue in the back of my head at least, and something that would repeatedly take me out of the book itself. This seems to fix itself, mostly, in subsequent novels, but feels wholly insane here, with no less than five or six circumstances of sex being described, timed, and spoken about in detail, in a novel where I mostly wanted to read about Jack killing monsters and fighting a one-armed Indian.

Beyond that, the revised edition doesn't have all that many changes that I noticed. There are DVDs mentioned instead of Betamax, and I believe a few more updates besides, but cell phones don't come into the plot, neither do computers, or really any technology used past the 1980s. I understand why this book was revised: so that it could fit into the mythology of the overarching series and fit in a modern world for ease of writing, but glaring omissions of use (but not mention) of technology seems to place this novel absolutely in the 1980s even if it were updated for a more modern consumption. It reads like a 1980s novel, being comparable to Stephen King's second Dark Tower novel which is heavily '80s: The Drawing of the Three. Both are set so fully in that decade that removing either of them from it would only make the change that much more obvious.

Maybe if I had never read the original before the change wouldn't feel so jarring, but it did. I still love the novel, but I think if I read it again, I'll stick with the original and just get over the continuity errors between this book and Legacies, the second Repairman Jack novel.

As for everything else, the book starts off as a slow-burning mystery, turning both historical and a bit mythical as the story goes on, and then turning into a full action-adventure story with an action hero as the lead for the end. I've called this story a modern male fantasy story before, and now I'll do it officially here. I think this is a perfect story for a man to read and put himself into the underdeveloped and closed off Jack. Much like Indiana Jones and that franchise, this one is also all about both magic and what a typical man might look for if he were wanting a more exciting and heroic life. Maybe that's just me though, but with all the sex and Jack always winning and coming out ahead, even just a little, it seems very plausible.

Anyway, that's about it. I recommend it a ton as well as the series as a whole. The climax on the ship is incredibly well played out, and I certainly enjoyed the ride.


As for upcoming reviews, I have a bunch planned. I have more of this series to talk about as I read through it for example, and some movies I've put aside to watch as well. It's only a matter of time and with the summer in full swing, I should have more time to write and review, even if that's less time of me working my official job. Anyway, I'll be back in not too long!


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Video Game Assessment: Demon's Souls (2009)


Demon's Souls, developed by From Software with some assistance from SCE Japan Studio, is an interesting action-adventure-RPG-hack-and-slash-very-hard-game that looks like it helped kick off the "hard games" genre that seems to be pushing itself into video game culture today. Some people (mostly jerks) say that this game is easy. Other people (the jerks would call them "noobs" which is literally the dumbest thing a human being can possibly say with a straight face) think that this is a difficult and punishing game, designed to be both psychotically frustrating when you get angry enough to throw your PlayStation 3 controller through the game disc and incredibly rewarding once you defeat anything that has given you problems (for me it was Flamelurker, that wobbling flaming monkey moron).

This game was my first real foray into this genre. Sure, I like difficult games at times, hard to grow up on the NES and the SNES and not get used to difficult games. But this one, it's very different. And it's difficult in a different way. It's fair, sure, and can be easy through repetition and memorization. Mostly though, it punishes through lack of knowledge, lack of skill, and pulling out surprise after surprise. You need amazing control for this game. You have to have a knowledge base of what's coming, and you have to get used to the controls, which are, at the very least, difficult to figure out at first. There are also a great deal of hidden mechanics in the game, like leveling up (which I didn't find when I should have found it), what the stats mean, and what the symbols that are required to use a weapon actually mean. To be bluntly honest, this game confused me for a good long time, and I left it alone much of the time I owned it. But that changed early this year. Because that was when I decided I had enough of the namby-pamby games. I was a real gamer-boy, and I was going to game.






(And then hate myself for a long time afterward...)

Prepare to Cry
(in anger)
I had gotten this game not long after it had come out, played a little bit, and found it too frustrating to continue. I hadn't even beaten or even gotten to the first real boss in the game, but I found it too tiresome to proceed, and put it off for another two years or more. I came back to it, tried to show off just how hard the game was, proceeded to get frustrated and then put it off again.

Finally though, I'd had enough. With work a mounting priority and no time for anything else, I decided to dip my toes into the fires of self-hatred and punish myself directly. I started by playing about an hour each night, more or less, just seeing what I could do. The controls (which I barely knew trying it before) seemed to feel a bit better in my fingers this time around. I somehow beat the first level, 1-1, and I never died to the first boss Phalanx, something I didn't know I had in me. And from that moment, I was hooked. Sure, there were frustrations, times when I knew I wouldn't be able to continue and times that I simply told myself I was done. But I did continue; I wasn't done. The Tower Knight gave me problems. Because the character I had created four or five years previous had already beaten the tutorial, I didn't have the tutorial to fall back on. I forgot that I could run and therefore never ran once in the entirety of Demon's Souls. How I got past the red dragon in the second level of the first world, I have no idea. I dodge rolled a lot. I like dodge rolling. Maybe that saved me. Or maybe some incredibly dumb luck (with an emphasis on the dumb) was on my side. I was still struggling even throughout the first part of the game. The first four bosses (with the exception of Phalanx) gave me trouble. But I beat them all one by one, remembering their names in turn: Tower Knight, Fool's Idol, Armored Spider... and Flamelurker. How I loathe thee, Flamelurker.

Flamelurker was the boss that got me in this game. It was the hardest and most frustrating one. I was playing a melee character with extremely limited magic and no range. I subsequently had to change my build because of this boss, become nearly a pure bows and magic character. It was frustrating. I keep using that word, but it describes the experience so well. It captures the experience perfectly. Frustration. Rewarding frustration. I won, and after that nothing stood in my way. I was on a roll. The Maneater(s) gave me some issues, but I beat them too. I beat everything. After Flamelurker, everything clicked. The combat clicked. The game mechanics clicked. The ambushes and the difficulty and everything else. I simply understood it all. I got it. Is it a good game? Yes, absolutely. But there is a lot that needs to be slogged through before it really shows its true colors.

I don't have much to say about the other bosses. Most of them fell easily to my magic/bow combination. While some were designed exquisitely, very few actually stuck out to me. The Old Hero was a cool, albeit easy, concept. The Storm King was a cool boss fight once you get that awesome sword that's only really awesome in his arena. And the Old Monk was an interesting conceptual design that never worked for me.

The setting and level design in probably the high point of the game as well as the most memorable piece of it. The Tower of Latria's design in particular sticks out to me, being a prison and a collection of towers in this backdrop of a broken world. The settings almost feel like entirely different games put inside of one. None of them really look alike (besides the all-encompassing darkness present in one form or another in each every level. Other than that they do feel and play incredibly differently. The castle was neat with incredibly well-designed shortcuts and corridors. The tunnel felt far beneath the world and incredibly claustrophobic at times. The tower was both creepy and otherworldly, like something out of Lovecraft. The shrine was neat, a cliffside area that made me think of pictures of cool rocky coastlines. And the valley/swamp area was just terrible in every single way. The stories behind the areas were also interesting, although on a first playthrough I would be shocked if you even knew there was a story. I certainly didn't. I was just killing bosses and leveling up. Only after the endgame played out and I started new game+ did I finally stop and look some of the story and characters up, realizing that the game was much deeper than I had given it credit for.0

I talk about this game mostly as a game of visuals and fights because when I played it, that's exactly what I got out of it. While the lore is pretty solid, it's also fairly hidden unless you're willing to read literally everything, every description, every introduction, and, of course, reading into a lot of things too. I didn't do that when I played, opting to focus on the environments and getting better with the gameplay. Maybe it was my loss, although I enjoyed it as a game, and now I enjoy the lore as well.

As for everything else, let's see. I liked the Maiden in Black. Her design and character are incredibly interesting, verging on seriously awesome. I wish more characters would look and act like her. She's such an incredibly well-designed and thought-out central NPC. I can't really complain about her or the major merchants in the Nexus, (the central hub of the game). Oh, and I didn't even talk about how awesome the Nexus is, with its strange clockwork floor, changing music once you get late enough into the game and vertical levels.

The complaints I have are pretty small in general. The Valley of Defilement sucks to play. Some of the bosses are very easy. The early game really feels like it discourages new players. The lack of telling the player anything can be both incredibly rewarding and incredibly confusing. The world and character tendency things are literally incomprehensible for me. I have no idea what to do with any of that stuff and basically avoided it through lack of knowledge or understanding.

I will say that the dodge roll is my favorite feature in games though, and I wish it were in every game, because mastering a dodge roll is the only true way to play Demon's Souls.


Now, I do know that this game is not as played or as beloved as Dark Souls or other more well-known "hard games" out there, but it's also very good if it's given a chance. This game got me to try (and eventually fall in love with) the Dark Souls games, and its horrific atmosphere, gameplay that has to be mastered, and designs are something I will remember for many years to come. Compared to Dark Souls, I find Demon's Souls nearly its equal, with the only issues coming from lack of a "real/coherent" story and the ease of some of the boss fights if your character is built a certain way. But that's about it. When I get to reviewing Dark Souls, I'll talk more about comparisons and probably change my mind over which one I like more ten times over in the course of that review.

So, in summary, if you have a PS3 and like hard games, you should try this one out. I liked it a lot after the initial four years of annoyance and frustration. So... I think that's a recommendation? I give it a 'Salem's Lot out of Dracula.



Yeah.

Anyway, as some housekeeping for the blog, I'm back writing, as I mentioned last week. I'm probably going to be very inconsistent, really basing my writing and posting of reviews around when work and the fiancee aren't desperately seeking my time or attention. I'd love to say one review a week, but I doubt that pretty seriously. So, I won't say anything at all, and hopefully we'll all be surprised and shocked by whatever happens. I think I'm going to review a bunch of video games for a while, then some movies, and finally some books leading up to October, but anything could happen. And the October Nights 31 reviews will happen even if I have to never sleep. So no worries there.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

I'M BACK!!! (A Saquarry Update)

Hey, anybody checking out this blog and wondering where the heck I've even been for the last three months or however long it's been! I have been on a hiatus for a variety of reasons, mostly because of real life paying work that I do for a living rather than this for-fun writing that I do when I get bored or excited about things. I've been itching to review things and rant and rave and have a good time in general. But when work and exhaustion get in the way, it becomes a very difficult prospect to focus on. But with my time opening up a bit, maybe some enjoyment can be had yet again.

Yeah.

It might take some time for me to stretch the old writing finger bones and such, but soon enough I will have some content to post. I have maybe three or four movies I'd like to talk about, American Mary being chief among them. So, I think a review of that film might be coming relatively shortly. I have a few video games I'd like to speak about, mostly the Souls series of games (Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls games) and Drakengard 3. I kind of powered through the Fringe television show as well. So, I might talk about that in a very deliberately casual way because that's 100 episodes of content, and there's no way I'm focusing on every single episode in depth. I've also been reading some books, mostly some oddball ones that nobody has probably ever heard of before. But they might also be on the schedule for review. Book titles: The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall, S. by Doug Dorst (and created by J. J. Abrams), and The Resurrectionist by E. B. Hudspeth. So, I definitely have THINGS and STUFF to talk about, I simply need the time and energy to write about them in depth to an actual reading audience.

The shocking thing is that so many people are still reading this blog even though I've been gone from it for months. If you've been checking periodically, waiting for the update to finally come, then you are a very cool person. I'm going to get content out. I think I hated not writing more than anybody. Being back in the review chair feels excellent. I'm glad to have so much to talk about.

I do apologize for taking so long to update or respond to messages, but the seventy hour work weeks have been slightly unpleasant. Only last week did my schedule finally abate, and I took those moments to calm down (relatively) and spend some time with my fiancee (who lives in another state right now sadly). But now I have calmed (again relatively) and am ready and willing to write. I can't wait to finally be back! Soon. Really soon now.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Musings of 2013 Part 2!

So, here we are continuing a series that probably should have been written about aroundabouts a month ago! We're sadly still on movies here. Hopefully I'll get to video games sometime soon!

Anyway, here's some more thoughts on things that happened last year.


47 Ronin has multiple pros and cons to it. While pieces of it are incredibly enjoyable, other parts are absolutely silly. Keanu Reaves puts in a decent, albeit pointless, performance, and the Japanese actors are all pretty good as a whole. The biggest problem with this movie is that it is really two movies. One of them is an almost Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type of movie involving some very good Japanese actors and a classic story. The other is a morose (love) tale involving Keanu Reaves that adds nothing to the movie beyond a love story and Keanu Reaves. It's almost as if somebody said, "Dang it, we need some star power to this movie. The English speaking masses need a white person to relate to." And some shadowy producers sounding like Emperor Palpatine said, "Of course. Call Keanu Reaves. It's about time we related to him yet again."

Now, I like Keanu Reaves sometimes. And he doesn't do poorly in this movie. Rather the movie itself does poorly, with poor editing, poor story integration, and a bunch of stories all told at once that never really touch one another. It's telling when Keanu's story or arc never really has anything to do with the rest of the story or characters.

I liked this movie more than I probably should have. It was a fun ride with some decent and awful CGI. The first half of the movie was rough as well. But the second half worked really well for me. I hope some kind of director's cut comes with this DVD of this movie, but I might be the only person in the world hoping for that. Being universally panned by critics and watchers alike doesn't tend to make people more opened to awesome features on a DVD. I still liked it though.

Also, why is skull tattoo man on the poster when he appears in a single scene and basically does nothing? Ah, and Rinko Kikuchi is certainly the highlight of the movie. Awesome. She's certainly proving she can act with the best of them with this movie and another later in this list.


The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is a pretty solid movie, taking us back again to Middle Earth and the peoples of that universe. I pretty much like this movie from the start. But I also liked the first as well, so I might just like The Hobbit movies. With more action the movie was certainly more exciting, but I think the extended version will add in a lot of what I felt was missing, some of the downtime and explanations that I kind of craved. Tauriel's addition felt natural, and Legolas was pretty interesting to see, although Orlando Bloom's age has certainly started to show. He no longer looks like a timeless elf.

Then again, Thranduil was creepy and awesome. Mirkwood and Laketown were both incredibly different and solid entries into the places the movies have visited. Gandalf's journey to Dol Goldur was awesome. And Smaug paid off royally. While the ending left me with some complaints, this movie as a whole really worked for me, even if it doesn't feel as coherent as the other movies of the franchise. This is the first one that doesn't really feel as if it has its own identity, although that could just be me right now. Perhaps watching it more will give it that identity I feel it's lacking. I'm not sure what else I can say. I liked it about as much as the last film and am really looking forward to the last part.


The World's End is a movie I'm glad I had no idea about when I went into it. The sudden change of tone that this movie took about halfway through is up there with From Dusk till Dawn. I love this trilogy of movies, and this one was one of the most pleasant viewing experiences I had this year. I don't want to say much more for fear of spoiling anything, but it was raucously entertaining and a solid comedy film all around. And I usually hate comedies, so that's saying a lot for me.


Go read my review of Pacific Rim. Add only that I've seen this movie about twenty times and now think it is one of the classics of action and adventure films up there with Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. I hope this film starts off a brilliant franchise.


And this post and my last post basically and simply sum up my thoughts about the 2013 movies I saw. I didn't see a crazy amount of movies last year, and I have no interest in seeing most of them that I didn't get to see. That being said, one movie I would really like to see is Frozen. The fiancee really liked it, but I guess I'll have to wait until it's on video to check that one out. I also bet I missed a crapton of horror movies and cool indie films that I'll catch up on in years to come, but that's something I've come to expect at this point in my life.

As for everything else? I'm trying to write when I have the chance, I've just been full up on working since the holidays. And while I had this last week off, I've been both sick and getting other stuff I need to get done... uh... done. It's difficult to have a more than full time job, a fiancee a few states away, and a passion for talking about things like fiction in a believable and trustworthy manner. While I have plans, they kind of rely on my work not being a constant flux of near 60 hour weeks. So, hopefully that ends soonish so I can concentrate on the more enjoyable side of life.

Anyway, I'm planning to have a video game post up sometime within the next week. Then maybe another post at the end of February. I'm not forgetting about reviewing things. It'll happen, just more slowly than it used to.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Musings of 2013 Part 1

So, I was going to do a top list of my favorite movies and video games of the year. I was also going to do this about a month ago. But with work (mostly work to be honest) I haven't had any free moments to talk about my favorite things of the year in a big long-winded write-up that would probably take me a few hours to do properly. Sure, I could slap-dash everything together, but that's not what I do here in nit-pick city.

Anyway,  so because of that I'm going to talk about some video games and movies that I've seen or played over the last year but have not talked about in depth in any reviews. This doesn't mean they'll never get proper reviews. It simply means that I ran out of time and want to talk about them a bit now.

As you can see by the title of this post, I plan on making this a bit of a series. I'm going to talk about five movies this time and then see what happens in the next post (whenever that comes). My job is actively getting in the way of me having fun or posting now, and I'm sorry about that. Anyway, without further ado, here are some movies for me to talk about a bit:


Monsters University. Bleh, I say. Sorry, Pixar, but your movie was really bleh.

While funny in parts and having a genuinely very solid final third of the movie, it was simply not my kind of flick. I have never seen Monsters Inc. and this movie is probably much more of an homage to that movie than anything else. I am at a clear disadvantage, and while I enjoyed the film I feel like a good deal of what was going on went right over my head. I felt that the "college" part of the story was incredibly derivative though. Not really my style in general, even though I think it is a solidly decent movie, especially for the younger crowd.

Although the message of "if you try real hard you still might fail just because of what you look like" is a cynical one. Apt, but very cynical. I never expected a cartoon's message to be so true to life. Also, the sequence at the end in the cabin is really a brilliant sequence. And that's that.


Much Ado About Nothing was a well-acted, well shot, little Shakespearean film directed by Joss Whedon. While technically released for the indie circuit in 2012, it didn't get a theatrical release or distribution until this year. The play Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite Shakespearean comedy and one of my favorite comedies (in terms of comedy plays) of all time. I really like the story quite a bit, and this is a solid movie besides despite the kind of cheap sets and filming. I enjoyed it although it mostly seemed like the entire film was just Whedon taking a camera around his house, shooting his actor friends speaking Shakespearean dialogue and calling it a day. I don't mind that, but it does seem a little loose around the edges. Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof are really the standouts here in terms of acting. They both do a fantastic job. The rest mostly just kind of show up and say words at a camera. Fran Kranz is another standout. With Cabin and the Woods and this movie, he's looking like a breakout star.

Also- and I know this is heresy- I like this better than Kenneth Branagh's 1993 film. It has a bit more personality. But that's probably just me being weird and liking most of these actors.




Europa Report, which I reviewed here, is a very good space horror found footage film. I really liked it as all of those things. It worked really well, had some very good acting, some great storytelling, and is a movie I can recommend a ton to horror fans. This also happens to be my only actual horror film on this list. Why? I have no idea. Just kind of worked out that way. I guess seeing horror movies in theaters or when they are just coming out is seriously not my priority.


John Dies at the End. Although technically released in 2012 (and I reviewed it then here) it didn't get any real notice until this year. Now, despite what I said in that review, I've warmed on the movie quite a bit. I think it's a near-brilliant film that suffers from some issues, sure, but ultimately does something both unique and bizarre at times. I do wish the book was slightly better adapted- or that they had chosen to adapt only the first half or only the second half of the book rather than jumbling pieces all together, but that's a nitpick, and I know it.

The movie is a very fun ride if you allow yourself to be taken in. I've definitely come down on the side of being very positive about liking this movie though. There's too much of what I like in it to dislike it.


Riddick. I feel bad that I liked this movie. But I did like it. Quite a bit actually. I like all of this series. I have no idea why. I guess space mixed with any amount of horror makes me interested (that's why I love Pitch Black so much), and this movie definitely has those elements to it. This could be both the strongest and the weakest entry in the series so far. With the first half of the movie or so being almost completely silent with Riddick raising a dog and being on his own, it kind of shows the stellar nature of the franchise. It can be so good when it just is allowed to be that good. And that section of this film is easily my favorite part of the series.

The problems arise later on in the movie, mostly being that it's essentially a remake (and a worse remake) of Pitch Black. I don't mind that so much, but I do wish it took a different direction rather than rehashing (basically) what had already been done before and done better before. The gratuitous nudity bothered me, and my fiancee was extremely bothered that Riddick had sex or something with a lesbian. I'm going to leave it there. While this is a flawed movie, it's also a fun ride if you can get into it. I liked it a ton and would love more movies in the franchise. Vin Diesel is one of my favorite action movie guys right now (in addition to Karl Urban and the Rock).

And that's it for now! Stay tuned. I'll have a couple more movie musings soon-ish!