Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: Cows (2015) by Matthew Stokoe

BOOK REVIEW: Cows (2015) by Matthew Stokoe

I burnt through the pages of Matthew Stokoe’s Cows in a fever fueled by my own disgust, half needing it to end and half wishing it never would. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel filthy just for reading and then demented once you realize you’re enjoying it.

There is nothing else out there like Cows. It’s the most extreme piece of literature I’ve ever read. When I was reading it, at times I needed to cover my eyes or look away, but unlike a movie, it doesn’t just keep playing and when I was inevitably forced to look back, the words were right where I left them, waiting to assault my eyes with more alphabet poison.

The short of it is, a young man named Steven lives in a small flat with his mother aptly called the Hagbeast. Poor Steven has endured nothing but hardship and abuse at the hands of the Hagbeast who has slowly been trying to kill him with bad food his whole life. Now a young man of 25 years, he’s gotten a job at the slaughterhouse and hopes to break free of the torture and squalor and imitate something that resembles a life he’s only ever seen on TV. Upstairs lives a young woman named Lucy, Steven hopes to incorporate her into his new Brady Bunch life. Unfortunately, Lucy is obsessed with the idea that she has a black spot in her body a “poison” that must be found and cut out. This obsession eventually comes to a head and is the final straw that thwarts Steven’s plans of any kind of happiness in the human world.

At the slaughterhouse, he meets a man called Cripps who teaches him the art of killing and how he can be free and strong once he has killed. He begins to believe Cripps and decides his only course of action is to kill his mother. Also, at the plant, he meets a talking cow simply called “the Guernsey” that needs Steven’s help. The Guernsey and other cows that managed to escape slaughter live in tunnels under the city and want to kill Cripps, to get revenge for all the wrongs he’s committed against cows. Revenge and hatred are a common theme throughout the story.

This book has all manner of vile atrocities that Stokoe just keeps hammering you with, but instead of using a hammer he uses a 2×4 and smashes you in the senses with it. Don’t read the book if you can’t handle shit, and I mean a lot of feces. They eat it, get covered in it, walk in it, and there is even a death by shitting down someone’s throat. If you can’t handle animal cruelty, or all types of cruelty for that matter skip this book. If you’re pro-life and can’t stomach a graphic home abortion, then give this one a pass. If however, you’re down with bestiality, rape of just about every kind, child abuse, and lots of bodily fluids, then definitely check out Cows.

Although I’ll never read this one again, I still highly recommend it to extreme cinema and literature lovers. It’s well written, but I honestly could have done without the talking cows and silly ending. It would have had far more impact without them. I still give it a 4/5 for originality and raw brutality.

Posted by Candace Stone in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, BRUTAL REALITY, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: The Ruins (2006)

BOOK REVIEW: The Ruins (2006)

The Ruins

Ruins_Smith_Cover

By the author of A Simple Plan

 

Author: Scott Smith; Cover Artist: Peter Mendelsund; Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; ISBN: 1-4000-4387-5; Media: Hardcover; Length: 319 pages; Genre: Horror; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 2006

In 2006 Scott Smith quietly published The Ruins, an inconspicuous little horror novel that Stephen King called “The Book of the Summer”. King recommended it in his column for Entertainment Weekly with these words:

“...last heard from in 1993 (A Simple Plan, later filmed by Sam Raimi from Smith’s script). No quietly building, Ruth Rendell-style suspense here; Smith intends to scare the bejabbers out of you, and succeeds. There are no chapters and no cutaways — The Ruins is your basic long scream of horror. It does for Mexican vacations what Jaws did for New England beaches in 1975. It doesn’t succeed completely — it felt 30 pages too long — but it works well enough, I think, to be the book most people will be talking about this summer.”

And he's right. The Ruins is a compelling read, leading the reader breathlessly onward to find out what happens to the protagonists. And those protagonists are real. Smith paints them as people should be – in all their glory and faults – and this makes the reader feel for them and hunger to know their fates. The story, about vacationing Americans who run into trouble in a foreign country, has been done time and time again, but this Mexican vacation pits them against a different kind of antagonist. It's a refreshing change from the same old “vacationers from another country are tortured and killed by sadists” and a far cry from the usual “trouble in the woods” fare. Scott's villain is a breath of fresh air and takes the reader by surprise.

The Ruins begins with two couples on a final vacation before moving on after college. Jeff and Amy will be attending medical school in the fall, and Eric will be teaching school while Stacy will be studying to become a social worker. While scuba diving, they meet Matthias, a German tourist whose brother, Heinrich, has been missing a few days, and his three Greek friends who, for laughs, call themselves Pablo, Juan, and Don Quixote and swap the names around on a whim. As the end of his vacation approaches, Matthias decides to go searching for his brother at the ruins where he went with a pretty young archaeologist he'd met on her first day there. Jeff assures Matthias they will accompany him for a chance to see some of the authentic Mexico, and the following morning, they meet in the lobby where the couples are surprised to see Pablo has decided to come, too. After a long trip that goes first by bus, then by taxi, and finally on foot, the six friends arrive at the ruins, which are both breathtaking and eerily quiet.

As they mill about, Amy snaps some pictures of the group, and a Mayan from the village they passed through arrives on horseback. Unable to control his horse after he dismounts, the Mayan releases the reins and the horse bolts back the way they came. He seems neither surprised nor disturbed by this and concentrates on trying to convince the group to leave but they are unable to understand him. Frustrated, he pulls a gun and more emphatically yells at them as two more men, these armed with bows and arrows, arrive on horseback. As the Mayans talk and further try to persuade the tourists to leave, Amy steps backward to the base of the ruins to snap a picture of the encounter. Suddenly and seemingly without reason, the Mayans change their minds and order the group to climb the ruins. It is here that the group learns the reason for the Mayans' behavior.

Smith's strong characterizations and innovative antagonist make the story work. Smith takes us inside their minds for glimpses into their pasts as well as insight into how they are coping with with the situation as they slowly realize they are being stalked by a sentient, carnivorous vine. The idea of a sentient, carnivorous plant is not quite as far fetched as one might think – a quick look at David Attenborough's The Private Life of Plants will illustrate this – and Smith makes it work Better: he makes the reader believe it by not revealing all right away, instead the plant as antagonist unfolds like a flower unfurling its blossoms. And Smith holds no punches.

Watch for my upcoming review of The Ruins movie.

7.5/10 claws – Don't read this in the garden!

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, NATURE STRIKES BACK, REVIEWS, 0 comments
COMIC REVIEW: The Other Dead

COMIC REVIEW: The Other Dead

otherdead1

By Nick Durham

Zombies are fucking everywhere. Movies, books, comics, video games, TV...they are literally everyfuckingwhere that you can think of. Saying that the zombie genre is super oversaturated is saying it lightly, but every now and then, we get a little something special within the genre that breathes just a little bit of life back into it. The Other Dead does just that. Published by IDW Publishing (responsible for numerous comic adaptations of Clive Barker works among others), The Other Dead is a unique and interesting take on the zombie apocalypse.

Based on an unused film treatment by Digger T. Mesch and scripted by Joshua Ortega (along with crediting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman as a consultant for some reason); The Other Dead revolves around a zombie outbreak...except these zombies are of the animal variety. That's right, dead animals are returning from the dead and wrecking havoc on the human race. In the midst of all this, a Katrina-sized hurricane is about to hit (the story takes place in Louisiana), just as President Obama is getting ready to make a visit (yes, you read that right).

It should be noted that among the many characters featured in The Other Dead, Barack Obama plays a prominent role alongside a dickhead redneck and some annoying teenagers. Hell, even Dick Cheney makes in appearance in the book's hilarious opening pages. Make of all that whatever you will.

Anyway, there's a lot going on within the pages of The Other Dead. Interesting premise aside, it's really easy to lose track of what's going on in terms of plot points, etc. In fact, most of the characters are so blankly-written that we care little about them. Add to that some inane dialogue, and we get what should be a relative snoozefest...yet somehow it isn't necessarily. This is mainly due to the fact that the artwork from Qing Ping Mui is simply amazing. The linework and detail are beautiful and wonderfully flowing and worth the price of admission here alone. No seriously, check this out just for the artwork if nothing else.

So yeah, while The Other Dead has an intriguing premise, it isn't anything too special in the least. That aside, the artwork provided by Qing Ping Mui is so damn good that it's worth tracking this down for alone. As for the rest of what this book has to offer...well, it isn't much, but for die hard zombie fans looking for something a little different, this might be worth a look.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

NIGHT THINGS: Dracula VS. Frankenstein

By Tracy Crockett NIGHT THINGS

Let me get straight to the point I can't even begin to tell you how many tales I've read from author Terry M. West. I can say that I have yet to read something that I didn't enjoy. Sure some better than others and some stand out in such an over saturated field that is known as the horror authors world.

West is no stranger to the expectations laid upon himself as he's dabbled behind and in front of a camera. So it's safe to say he does his research. NIGHT THINGS is no exception.

Local independent horror smut film director Gary Hack has a unique job in a unique world. In a time where worlds and times collide you have 2 sides to choose from. But make sure you decide the right one.

On one hand you have, what are known as the Night Things led by the ultimate night thing, the one and only Dracula himself and the other by the mysterious New York crime boss, Johnny Stücke (the creation of Frankenstein) wants to keep the peace between the Night. Once as close as brothers but now sworn enemies the ultimate showdown below the streets of New York is at play.
 

Based off the famous stories of the two monsters you're also introduced to every creature of legend we've grown up reading about. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are now the new inhabitants of these odd times. They have become part of the system.

Based off his Magic Now story West offers up one of the most fun reads I've had in years. While reading West helps paint a visual in your eyes. One as if you were watching Nightbreed or Monster Squad. Intertwining all these different stand alone characters is a precise exercise and he nailed it. His nods to the genre, most noted the additional of Dr. Herbert West. I found myself giggling like a school girl when i was introduced to that character.

As I've said this is such a perfect read. Terry's diversity shows he's a force to remember. I cannot recommend enough to go pre order NIGHT THINGS and prepare for something you'll fall in love with and revisit several times....I'm anxious to see where this leads.

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

BOOK REVIEW: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

futuristic

By Nick Durham

David Wong is a fucking loon. Don't believe me? Go read John Dies at the End. Don Coscarelli directed a pretty good adaptation that captured most of the insanity contained in that book, but the novel itself should be read by one and all to get the full effect of Wong's lunacy. After John Dies at the End became a sleeper hit, Wong (real name Jason Pargin, AKA the editor of the wonderful humor site CRACKED) released This Book is Full of Spiders, which further cemented his demented talents. Now, here we are with his eagerly anticipated Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits; a novel which grabs you firmly by the balls and rarely relents.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits revolves around a young girl named Zoey Ashe, reserved to living her life in a trailer park with her mom, as well as he beloved cat Stench Machine. Zoey's estranged father, an insanely wealthy crime lord/business man named Arthur, has recently met a mysterious death, and left everything to Zoey. Before she knows it, Zoey is hunted down by psychopaths with freaky-ass enhancements (including a guy with a metal jaw and another one that shoots lightning from his fingertips). Her only place of refuge? A Vegas-esque city called Tabula Ra$a, where she is to hook up with her father's cohorts, who have plans of their own and surprises up their sleeves.

While definitely more in the realm of science fiction than horror, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is equal parts farce, action romp, dark (very dark) comedy, and surprising commentary on the effects of social media and the absurdity of the YouTube generation and those that always feel the need to broadcast themselves to satiate their own narcissism. This is illustrated by Wong presenting us a world in the very not too distant future where nearly everyone in the world is broadcasting dumb ass bullshit for various audiences that eat it up, including all the viewers that tune in to what becomes a potential genocide thanks to a literal super villain.  Yes, this book is absolutely fucking insane.

The characters are well developed for the most part. Zoey is a likeable protagonist and our guide through the insanity of Tabula Ra$a. Out of her father's cohorts, the stoic Will somehow manages to be the most interesting of the bunch with the least information given about him compared to his partners, while our super villain Molech is equal parts douche bag frat boy and horrifying psycho. Oh, and little Stench Machine is a pisser. I'm all for more cat sidekicks in literature. I demand it, make this shit happen...it may be one of the only ways to get people to get off their phones and actually fucking read more.

So yeah, you should definitely go pick up Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits as soon as you can. If you read John Dies at the End and/or This Book is Full of Spiders, then you should know more or less what to expect here, except this is a much more coherent and better-structured story that is a legitimate page turner. I seriously can't recommend it enough. Check it out.

Rating: 5/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: The Making of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (2014)

BOOK REVIEW: The Making of George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead (2014)

By Nick Durham

The Making of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead
We all know who George Romero is, and we all know about his Dead movies. While Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead are the films that everyone rightfully recognizes as the benchmarks of the genre, Day of the Dead has often been relegated as that red-headed stepchild of his initial Dead trilogy (that's right, I said trilogy...I don't count Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, or Survival of the Dead much). Despite its initial lack of success with critics and audiences during its original 1985 release, the film has underwent a bit of reclassification in recent years, and is now recognized as practically being a classic of the zombie genre.

With all that in mind, here comes this super enjoyable book from Romero super-fan Lee Karr, The Making of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead. This book begins with a foreword from effects icon Greg Nicotero (who got his start in the business with this film working under Tom Savini) and continues with plenty of behind the scenes stories, anecdotes, rarely-seen photos, and material from the film's cast and crew. We learn of the trials and tribulations that Romero went through making this film, having been forced to slash his original script when discovering just how low-budgeted the film would end up being. Not to mention the fact that filming in an actual mine and the rotting guts used for Savini's landmark effects work making Joe Pilato (Captain Rhodes) require some quick hits of oxygen during his infamous death scene, just goes to illustrate how making these kind of films is no picnic (no pun intended). Hell, the book is a good reflection on the trials and tribulations of filmmaking in general, regardless of the genre.

If there's any drawbacks to The Making of George A. Romero's Day of the Dead, it's that I wish the book was hardcover. This is mostly a personal thing with me I guess, because I just like the way hardcover books sit on my shelf more than paperback ones do. Then again, after reading this thing cover to cover and paging through it again afterwards, it becomes really apparent that the book's binding kind of sucks. That doesn't speak to the quality of what's in these pages, but when the spine starts cracking that fast, that's not really a good thing is it?

Anyway, I've always tended to enjoy Day of the Dead a little more than I probably should, so seeing all these candid photos and reading about all this is a true treat for me personally. If you enjoy Day of the Dead and/or any of Romero's films at all, you need to check this book out as soon as you can. If you can get past the cruddy book binding, you'll enjoy what all you get here. That being said, check this out as soon as you can.

Rating: 4.5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: VHS Video Cover Art

BOOK REVIEW: VHS Video Cover Art

By Nick Durham

vhs
Do you remember when you were young, and you'd make those trips to the local video store? Remember that wonderful little feeling of magic that popped up inside you whenever you walked down the various store aisles and saw those beautiful VHS tape boxes displayed? Remember how you'd pick up those boxes, look at the glorious covers, and read through what was on the back to determine if it was worth your time or not? Remember the first time you found the porn section?

Wait, forget about that last sentence (for now).

Anyway, I have fond memories of my treks through my local video store, which was a mom & pop establishment that often had a lot of stuff (particularly horror) that the chain stores like Blockbuster didn't carry. What attracted me to the horror section in particular were the beautiful box covers that grabbed my attention...and the rest is history. Sadly though, with the end of VHS as a form of physical media, and the rise of DVD, Blu-ray, and digital downloading/VOD, cover art has become something of a sadly forgotten form of art.

Thomas Hodge (aka The Dude Designs, who is responsible for some VHS-artwork style representations of modern films) knows this, and we should all be thankful to him for compiling everything contained in this beautiful hardcover book that is a true labor of love and passion. I haven't seen a compilation of VHS art in print form like this...ever. No seriously, this is truly something unique and just plain awesome...and in all honesty, more awesome than my words here can really do it justice. In other words, you need to stop what you're doing, and pick up VHS Video Cover Art right the fuck right now.

Now granted, this book doesn't exclusively cover horror VHS box art. Every genre is represented here: from science fiction, to action, to comedy, to even kids fare. (Like seriously, did you know there was a fucking Rambo cartoon? The 80s were a weird time.) Horror, however, takes precedent here, with quite a large portion of the book devoted to our beloved genre of film. The 1980s to about the early 90s are covered here. Some of the films featured within this book you'll recognize, and some are quite obscure of course, but that's part of the fun right? That's the whole idea after all: discovery. That was that wonderful feeling I mentioned earlier when strolling down the aisle at the video store and you gazed upon those VHS boxes with little to no idea what you were getting into...but you wanted to check it out regardless. In the immortal words of Freddie fucking Mercury, it' just a kind of magic.

To close things out, VHS Video Cover Art is an absolute must own. You will more than likely not find a better book detailing this kind of thing (nor as handsome as this wonderful hardcover collection ends up being), which makes it all the more of an essential addition to your bookshelf. Now seriously, stop reading this fucking thing and go pick it up.

Rating: 5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three (1987)

The Dark Tower II:
The Drawing of the Three

By Woofer McWooferson

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three

The Dark Tower II: The Drawing Of The Three

Author: Stephen King; Publisher: Grant; ISBN: 978-0-937986-90-5; Media: Print (Hardcover); Length: 400 pages; Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Science fiction, Western; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1987

The Drawing of the Three, book 2 in Stephen King's magnum opus, the Dark Tower series, finds Roland sitting on a beach where book one ended. Roland's pursuit of the man in black has placed him in a position of vulnerability, and when this threatens his guns, he snaps out of a dream and back into reality. His guns, he has been taught, are everything to a gunslinger. Well, of course! How could one be a gunslinger with no guns? you might ask, but know that question will be answered in good time.

So worried about his guns (and rightfully so), he fails to comprehend the danger to himself from creatures that come out of the waves. After a brief encounter with the creatures, lobstrosities he calls them, he recovers himself and tends to his guns before beginning his journey up the beach. As he continues, he finds doors to New York City in various decades. Each door has a label (The Prisoner, The Lady of Shadows, and The Pusher), and it is through two of these doors that he meets those who will become part of his ka-tet. The other reveals a new foe in a new world. On the surface, the chosen two are unlikely candidates for companionship with Roland, but Roland can see what we cannot. Roland can see the steel in them.

The Drawing of the Three gives us more insight into Roland and his quest, through his actions alone as well as his interactions with his new companions. Where The Gunslinger was sparse like the desert Roland crossed, The Drawing of the Three is as relentless as his trek up the beach and as full and rich and varied as the city which he visits in our world. He leaves his mark on everything he touches, intentionally and unintentionally, and he eventually brings out the best in his companions. Filled with the rich descriptive narrative that Constant Readers have come to expect from Sai King, The Drawing of the Three is worthy follow up to The Gunslinger and segue into book 3, The Waste Lands.

10/10 claws – Make sure you have snacks, a drink, and a comfy seat because you will not want to put this down.

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments