Nick Durham

MOVIE REVIEW: Mine Games (2012)

MOVIE REVIEW: Mine Games (2012)

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By Nick Durham

We’ll get to the badness of this movie in a bit, but there’s one thing I feel I need to address right off the bat, and it’s the confusion over the actual title of this piece of shit. First and foremost, I discovered Mine Games on Netflix, and noticed that it stars Briana Evigan (Sorority Row, The Devil’s Carnival, Paranormal Island).  Anyone who knows me well enough knows that one of the things I love more than horror is ogling Briana Evigan, so I was sold right away into pressing play. As soon as I did, the film’s title card appears, but doesn’t say Mine Games, and is instead titled The Evil Within. Imagine my confused state, for not only am I now watching something I didn’t select, but I may also not get to ogle Briana like I had intended.

As I feared that my penis would soon begin to weep along with my eyes for fear of seeing no Briana, I soon realized that I would be weeping internally as well, because no matter what this movie is called, it’s a piece of dogshit either way. Upon further examination, it turns out that this film was titled and re-titled a couple different times throughout a turbulent production period, and an even more turbulent post-production period as well. The story of all that itself is infinitely more entertaining than the actual film itself, but that’s a whole other story.

Anyway, the plot of Mine Games revolves around a group of friends that consist of stock type toolbags and airheads going on a nice, relaxing trip outdoors, and all eventually getting slaughtered. This involves a claustrophobic mine and looping timelines and multiple versions of the characters that doesn’t amount to a lick of fucking sense. This is made all the funnier because the film actually believes that it is being clever, and it isn’t at all; it’s just confusing and boring.  The characters are all stock types: jocks, annoying partyhounds (but one here has a British accent, so that makes him charming!), a hippie, a maybe psychic chick (with no explanation how), and the previously mentioned Briana Evigan plus Julianna Guill (who had a legendary sex scene in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake) absolutely both refuse to show much skin, which in turn helps make my penis sad in addition to the horror nut inside me.

So yeah, in case you can’t tell by now, Mine Games is a total stinker. Like I said before, it’s on Netflix right now, and if you’re a masochist, I’d say give it a look and hate yourself later. For the rest of us though, this piece of crud is better left not being seen…by anyone.

Rating: 1/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BOOK REVIEW: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

BOOK REVIEW: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits

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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
MOVIE REVIEW: Djinn (2013)

MOVIE REVIEW: Djinn (2013)

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By Nick Durham

What the fuck happened to Tobe Hooper? That was my first thought when watching Djinn; the long delayed Arab/English horror film that has been sitting on the shelf since being originally filmed in 2011. But then throughout the course of watching the film, I remembered something: Tobe Hooper hasn’t been the same director that he was in decades.  Here’s the thing: Hooper will forever be a horror icon for crafting the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, along with Poltergeist and Salem’s Lot. He’s helmed some super enjoyable films as well, including The Funhouse, Lifeforce, and Spontaneous Combustion; but over the past couple decades, he’s been a shell of his former self with his work. Djinn is not excluded from that sad, sad fact.

Djinn revolves around an Emirati couple who return home from America after the death of their infant child. Their glorious new high-rise apartment building though appears to be built upon a part of land that also houses some very, very malevolent spirits that have ties to the local culture. Soon enough our couple realizes that things aren’t all what they seem with their home, or with their new neighbors either. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that some very bad things are going to happen, and no one is coming out of this one hundred percent intact either.

Djinn actually features a ton of promise from its first shot onward. There are some genuinely creepy images and moments peppered throughout the film, but sweet fucking Christ does it ever plod along. Seriously, the pacing of this film is all over the fucking place. One minute things are moving at a brisk pace, the next minute they slow to a crawl. It feels like a decent amount of footage was left on the cutting room floor, which would explain the erratic pacing. Considering this film sat on the shelf for a few years (released in some parts of the world in 2013, and the rest over the following two years), this wouldn’t be much of a surprise.

The acting isn’t too bad (mostly), but despite the creepy moments that Djinn does offer, it doesn’t pack nearly enough scares, tension, or suspense. Back in the day, no one could do scares, tension, and suspense like Tobe fucking Hooper. Until you’d see his name in the credits, you would never know that he helmed this, that’s why it’s so hard to believe that this is the same guy that graced us with a handful of classic films decades prior.

So yeah, Djinn is a stinker, but in all honesty, I didn’t really expect it to be much else given Hooper’s previous few works. It’s available on Netflix right now, though I can’t say I really recommend it, no matter how bored you may be. What happened Tobe? Seriously, what the hell happened?

Rating: 2/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Pod (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Pod (2015)

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By Nick Durham

Well, this is…something.

What happens when your crazy, war-vet brother claims he’s found something in the woods that is some sort of blood-hungry, otherworldly beast? Well, you go stage an intervention of course! That’s pretty much the basis of Pod; a super brisk (about 78 minutes long) dirge of a thriller that has a quite a surprising amount of positive things going for it for about half of its running time.  After that though…well, read on and find out.

From writer/director Mickey Keating, Pod tells the story of bickering brother Ed (Dean Cates) and sister Lyla (Jug Face‘s Lauren Ashley Carter) who unite to take a road trip up north in an effort to stage a possible intervention for their seemingly mentally ill brother Martin (Brian Morvant). When they arrive at Martin’s cabin, they learn his dog has been slaughtered, the windows and doors are secured and boarded and taped up, and there’s something in the basement that Martin keeps referring to as a pod that he claims is responsible for his behavior and the death of his dog…along with much, much more.

Fairly minimalistic in its presentation, Pod has a lot going for it. From the initial trip and tour of the dilapidated cabin to the first encounter between the siblings, this film manages build a shitload of wonderful tense moments. The camerawork, editing, and acting are all wonderfully impressive given the film’s almost barebones nature. That’s all pretty much the first half of the film though, as all the good things that are built up initially are betrayed as Pod stumbles towards its conclusion.

The major flaw of this film is that from the beginning sequence onward, we pretty much know that this monster exists and that Martin isn’t totally crazy. Pod could have benefited as being more of a psychological-based thriller if this wasn’t known right away. If instead the film kept playing with the viewer, making you wonder if this thing is real or if Martin is as much off his fucking rocker as it seems. Instead it degenerates into a creature feature, with a predictable hoot of an ending.  Oh, Larry fucking Fessenden is here too in a small, yet pivotal, role as someone whose presence never gets explained. I swear, I can’t fucking escape him.

That’s the other thing about Pod: nothing is ever really explained. We don’t know if the creature is some kind of mutant or a fucking alien or what. The film’s promotional material kind of makes the film look like an alien abduction-style affair (which is what I thought this was at first glance) but in reality it’s little more than a monster-in-the-woods affair. The little to no explanation of things about the film is something I actually kind of dig. There’s no cell phones present and the cars are old models, so we know this film takes place in the past, but we’re never sure exactly what decade. Little things like this kind of elevate the whole thing, at least to me that is.

All things considered, if you’re looking for a brisk and somewhat enjoyable thriller that actually does tension (mostly) right, Pod may be for you. It doesn’t wind up being as promising as its first half makes you think it might be, but it isn’t horrible either. It was just added on Netflix, so give it a look.

Rating: 3/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 4: The Last Winter (2006)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 4: The Last Winter (2006)

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By Nick Durham

The fourth and final film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is 2006's The Last Winter. So far we've had science gone wrong with No Telling, love gone wrong (and a vampire) with Habit, and a family getaway gone wrong with Wendigo. With The Last Winter, everything you could possibly think of goes totally fucking wrong, for everyone and everything. To me personally, this is probably Fessenden's most well-put together film in his filmography. From a technical standpoint especially: this movie looks and sounds fantastic and is creepy as hell.

The Last Winter focuses on a crew of oil drillers in the Arctic where some strange occurrences are happening. After one of the crew is found naked and dead in the snow, an environmentalist (James LeGros) believes that some kind of gas that causes hallucinations and insanity is being unearthed by the drilling. Soon enough the group becomes trapped at their base, there's massive ghostly apparitions wrecking havoc, and the body count steadily increases as it looks like nature is telling humanity to fuck on off.

Ron Perlman is here, pretty much being Ron Perlman as the group's leader, while American Horror Story MILF Connie Britton is on board as well. There's a subplot of a love triangle between her, Perlman, and LeGros, but it feels really tacked on and out of place compared to the rest of the film. Other than that, the rest of The Last Winter is bloody wonderful. The atmosphere is brilliant and the performances are solid. In the hands of another writer/director, this whole affair would come off as fucking silly, but in Fessenden's hands, it's creepy and surprisingly poignant.

Then again, there are times when the whole thing comes off as a little too heavy handed as well. We get it: humans are assholes and we're slowly killing ourselves because of our dependence on fossil fuels. At least Fessenden manages to spin an interesting horror story around the whole thing. I had said before how deterioration always manages to play some kind of role in the films featured in this set. No Telling featured the deterioration of a marriage and science itself, Habit featured the deterioration of a self-destructive man and a relationship, while Wendigo revolved around the deterioration of the family dynamic and sanity itself. The Last Winter goes balls out with the deterioration of the whole planet and all of humanity as well.

The Last Winter is definitely the largest scale of the four films, and just might be the best as well. There isn't much else I can say about it other than check it out, it just may be Fessenden's crowning achievement.

Rating: 4/5

Larry Fessenden is truly a unique auteur in the world of independent horror, and it's wonderful that he's getting the recognition he deserves. Check out these films, this set, and everything else from Fessenden that you can get your little mitts on, you'll be glad that you did.

Blu-ray box set rating: 4/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 3: Wendigo (2001)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 3: Wendigo (2001)

 

 

 

 

 

By Nick Durham

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The third film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is 2001's Wendigo. Now this film actually managed to achieve a degree of mainstream success (I remember seeing this in heavy rotation on the Sci-Fi Channel...that's right, I refuse to this very day to call it the SyFy Channel. Fuck that shit.) and features some pretty well-known actors as well. This remains probably Fessenden's most well-known film almost a decade and a half later.

Wendigo revolves around a New York photographer named George (Jake Weber from the Dawn of the Dead remake) who is seriously stressed the fuck out. Seeking a getaway, George, his wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and their young son Miles (Malcolm in the Middle's Erik Per Sullivan) take a trek towards upstate New York, and slowly things start to go a little bit haywire. George manages to piss off some locals, and it becomes apparent that the family's cabin is inhabited by something otherworldly.

While its title and basic premise may make you think this is a creature feature at first glance, the horror of Wendigo is much more psychological than visceral. That's another thing about Fessenden's films: they always manage to intertwine psychological horror with more traditional horror elements...and just like No Telling and Habit before it, deterioration plays a big role here as well, this time with the deterioration of the family dynamic. George and Kim aren't quite a loving couple, nor are they even really loving parents. They're actually kind of assholes, and we really don't feel all that bad for them as the situations in the film become more dire either.

The acting from everyone is really good, actually it's damn good. This is probably the most well-acted film Fessenden has ever committed to celluloid in his whole filmography. The atmosphere is good and creepy as well, and there's a really nice sense of dread permeating throughout the film during its whole running time. If there's any drawbacks to Wendigo, it's that I feel the film's ending kind of betrays a lot of the mythology the film has already set up. I don't want to give too much away, but watch it and you'll see what I mean.

So yeah, Wendigo would end up becoming one of Fessenden's most well known films, so much so that he even continues to go back to the mythology of the wendigo legend for other projects like his Fear Itself episode Skin & Bones and the PS4 game he co-wrote Until Dawn. Watching Wendigo again for the first time in a long time makes me realize my memories of the film are better than the film itself, but I digress. You should definitely check this out regardless if you never have before.

Rating: 3.5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Mockingbird (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Mockingbird (2014)

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By Nick Durham

What? Another micro-budgeted found footage movie from Blumhouse Productions that features actors you've actually seen once or twice before? Well, here we are. Mockingbird comes from writer/director Bryan Bertino, whom we haven't gotten anything from since his solid 2008 debut The Strangers. That film was a home invasion thriller that didn't offer much up in terms of the motivations of our assailants, where as Mockingbird...is more or less a quasi-home invasion thriller that offers no explanations of the motivations of our little-seen assailants. 

Bryan Bertino is a weird fucking guy.

Anyway, Mockingbird takes place in the magical year of 1995, where things like cell phones weren't widespread, people still had landline phones with easily cut wires, and finding a mysterious camcorder at your front door is the gift that keeps on giving (fun fact: 1995 was the year I discovered my infantile schlong was made for more than just peeing, which is why this year is so special to me). A handful of seemingly unconnected people all find mysterious camcorders at their doorsteps. This includes a husband and wife, a college student, and a mama's boy loser that ends up donning clown makeup. It doesn't take long to realize that there is some bad shit afoot, and it's more than likely that no one is coming out of this intact.

One thing I can definitely praise Mockingbird for is its opening scene. If that doesn't grab you by the throat, nothing will. Sadly though, the rest of the film is pretty much downhill from there, which is massively disappointing because that opening scene will kick you straight in the gut. The creepy moments that unfold drag on and kill a lot of the film's momentum. The suspense never really ramps back up except towards the film's climax, but by that point things become a tad predictable...except for the end reveal of the masterminds behind this whole thing. It is pretty well-acted though, but the setting of the film seems to only make sense so Bertino wouldn't have to worry about today's technology getting in the way of the film's leaps in logic.

So yeah, Mockingbird is a fairly predictable found footage dirge that has a lot of wasted potential. It's disappointing considering this film actually has a lot going for it, but it doesn't deliver on it at all. Still though, that opening scene man...holy shit. It's currently on Netflix, so check it out for that alone.

Rating: 2.5/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 2: Habit (1995)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 2: Habit (1995)

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By Nick Durham

The second film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is the Independent Spirit Award winning Habit, which was filmed in 1995 and released in 1997. This was the film that really started getting the ball rolling on Fessenden making a name for himself within the realm of independent horror. While No Telling and his short films were interesting and original to say the least, it was this film that really announced his presence to the genre. It should also be noted that this is a remake of Fessenden's own 1982 short film of the same name, which expands on everything presented there in terms of character and atmosphere.

Habit is a vampire film in which our lead character Sam (Fessenden) finds himself at a crossroads in his life. His father has just passed away, and he's broken up with his long-time girlfriend as well. Finding solace in booze and his bohemian lifestyle in 90s New York City, Sam meets the sexy Anna (Meredith Snaider) at a Halloween party. They eventually engage in a kinky sex-charged relationship and soon things begin to turn a little strange. Sam finds himself getting sicker and weaker, while Anna continuously enjoys sinking her teeth into him. Eventually he realizes what she is, and then things start to get nasty.

As I said above, Habit received a shitload of acclaim upon its original release from the indie circuit, and it's easy to see why. This is a decently original take on vampirism, and it manages to overcome any of the clichés that come with it too. For being super low budget, the film is well-shot and features some great shots of New York City as well. The acting is great all around, particularly from Fessenden as our lead who finds himself deteriorating more and more with each passing day.

Special features wise, Scream Factory's Blu-ray contains a commentary from Fessenden as well as a making of documentary. The Habit short film is included as well, and so is Fessenden's N is for Nexus short from ABCs of Death 2 and a making of for that to boot. There's a weird music video thrown on here as well that Larry was behind too. So yeah, there's some good stuff here for sure.

So yeah, Habit is definitely one of Fessenden's best films to be sure. If you've never seen it before, I strongly recommend giving it a look. It's not likely you'll find a more unique vampire film from the mid-90s era.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 1: No Telling (1991)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 1: No Telling (1991)

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By Nick Durham

Larry Fessenden is a weird fucking dude man. He's a one man sow of writing, directing, producing, acting, and more besides. Go to iMDB and look at this fucking guy's filmography: he's produced and acted in so much stuff it's hard to comprehend. He's had his hands in almost everything in terms of independent horror (or close to independent horror) ranging from Stake Land, We Are Still Here, I Sell the Dead, House of the Devil, and tons more besides. In terms of writing and directing, Fessenden has made a hell of an impact in the world of independent horror. Scream Factory and IFC have decided to bestow upon us a wonderful collection of four of Fessenden's films in one handsome Blu-ray set. The Larry Fessenden Collection features No Telling, Habit, Wendigo, and The Last Winter; four films that are definitely different from the rest of the independent horror pack.

The set begins with 1991's No Telling; Fessenden's feature length horror debut after directing a string of well-received short films in the 80s. This film revolves around scientist Geoffrey (Stephen Ramsey) and his wife Lillian (Miriam Healy-Louie) moving to the rural countryside. What should be a nice and relaxing environment becomes nightmarish for everyone as Geoffrey sink deeper into his experiments and projects involving pharmaceuticals, animals, and some very, very bad things.

I'm going to tell you all right now: No Telling is hard to watch because of the graphic animal carnage. It's never super exploitative though, as Fessenden knows when enough is enough and when to make the camera pan away. The heart of the story is a mix between showing the degradation of the marriage between Geoffrey and Lillian as he becomes more obsessed and unhinged with his work. That, and the social commentary on animal testing/experimentation, makes for one shocking and intelligent flick. If there's any drawbacks to this, it's that like I said: this is really hard to watch. When the experiments take a Frankenstein-esque turn...holy shit. Fucking hell, this definitely isn't for everyone. The film's conclusion is also pretty abrupt and anticlimactic, and we never get the satisfaction of seeing those that deserve it get theirs in the end. Then again, maybe that's the point Fessenden was trying to make: this kind of shit continues to happen in the real world, even to this very day.

Like just about all of Fessenden's future work to come, No Telling is a startlingly original and thought provoking horror story. If it weren't for the depictions of animal mutilations, I would recommend this to everyone I possibly could, but that in itself stops me from doing so. It's not that the depictions are that extreme and over the top; it's just that shit like that gets to me. I can watch a guy get his cock chopped off and eaten by cannibals, but I can't watch bloody experiments on mice and dogs. Color me weird I guess.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
WHY THE WALKING DEAD NEEDS TO DIE

WHY THE WALKING DEAD NEEDS TO DIE

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By Nick Durham

Where do I begin?

I remember over a decade ago when I first heard about The Walking Dead. It was a new comic from Image that was in black and white and promised a never-ending zombie apocalypse survival story...and it delivered. It provided many memorable characters, genuine shocks, and a legitimate feeling of surprise because you never knew what the fuck was going to happen next. Fan favorite characters would get whacked out of nowhere, and it introduced one of the best villains in the history of modern comic books.

In the process of becoming a smash hit comic book (and this was right before the zombie craze really took off mind you), The Walking Dead also spawned a smash hit TV show (and an upcoming spin off of said TV show), hordes of merchandise, action figures, and all kinds of other shit too. Needless to say, Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead has become a global phenomenon and sale juggernaut in just a little over a decade.

So why don't I give a shit about the property as a whole anymore?

Well, to put it bluntly, I got bored. Sad as it is to say, I just got bored. I don't mean just with the TV show either (THAT is a whole other story), but the whole damn property just bores the shit out of me. The same goes for the comics. We're well over a hundred issues (I think it's close to, or at this point more than, 125ish if I'm not mistaken?), and I tuned out long before that. I mean the idea of a never-ending zombie epic sounds good on paper, but after a while, what else can you really do with it? I mean we've had some sick fuck villains, but everything after The Governor just didn't feel as scary honestly (including Negan, that's right I said it). Same formula: we have to move, it's not safe...okay we moved we're safe...fuck, we're not safe, these people aren't who we thought they were...rinse, repeat. Not to mention the fact that we all know anyone can die at any moment...but we all know that Rick and Carl (to a lesser extent) are pretty much untouchable. The only time one (or both) of them bite the dust is when the series comes to an end...and that's probably not happening anytime soon.

Creator Robert Kirkman recently said in an interview that he (paraphrasing here) has a vision for where the series (meaning the TV show, not necessarily the comic) will conclude. Now it's easier to have a comic book run for hundreds of issues than for a TV show to run for ten seasons mind you, but it's just the point that this dead horse is going to keep getting beaten into oblivion. Like I said, after a while, how much more shit can you really pump out in this kind of thing that doesn't feel stale?

Now I know that this whole media juggernaut has a rabid fan base, and that's all well and good. The Walking Dead as a comic managed to help Image Comics really challenge Marvel and DC as a big time comic book company, the comic itself managed to re-invigorate the horror comic genre, and the TV show was the beginning of seeing more horror shows hit the TV airwaves. So yeah, it has its place in history without a doubt...

...but everything has to come to an end sooner or later. And maybe The Walking Dead should be laid to rest...finally.

Posted by Alan Smithee in EDITORIALS, 1 comment
MOVIE REVIEW: The Hand (1981)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hand (1981)

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By Nick Durham

Did you know that Oliver Stone has a background in horror films? That's right, the same guy behind critical darlings like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Natural Born Killers, and W once wrote and directed a horror film starring Michael Caine about a murderous severed hand. While that brief description that I've just given about The Hand sounds quite visceral, the film is actually much more of a psychological thriller than a typical slasher flick. Not to mention the fact that it is very well made, well acted, and generally not bad one bit either.

Caine plays a comic book artist named Jon (whose work is actually drawn by legendary Marvel and Conan penciler Barry Windsor-Smith) with a wife and child, who ends up losing his drawing hand in a freakish car accident. Eventually things go from bad to worse as Jon begins a descent into darkness as strange things start happening, and even some bodies start to pile up. Is Jon crazy? Or is his severed hand wrecking havoc on all those that come upon it? While I'm sure you can figure that out on your own, the film actually does a decent job asking the viewer if Jon's become a crazed killer, or if his severed appendage has taken on a murderous life of its own.

If there's any drawbacks or flaws with The Hand, it's that the film is fairly predictable. It follows a lot of clichés and you can pretty much guess what's going to unfold next. That being said though, this film is shockingly well made. Say whatever you want about Oliver Stone's filmography, but from a technical standpoint, his work is usually pretty damn top notch. The Hand is no different. It is well-filmed, well-shot, and very well-acted. Michael Caine is damn good...probably because he's Michael fucking Caine. There's solid performances all around (well, mostly that is), and when the film has its graphic moments, they are surprisingly nasty.

So yeah, Oliver Stone wrote and directed a horror movie once upon a time. If you've never seen, let alone heard of, The Hand before, I suggest tracking it down and checking it out. It's a shame that Stone didn't do more in the horror realm; I for one would have really liked to see what else he could do in the genre.

Rating: 3.5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
GAME REVIEW: Zombeer

GAME REVIEW: Zombeer

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By Nick Durham

Zombie games are all over the place these days, and have been for a while...and they aren't going anywhere any time soon either. We get the occasional good one coming our way now and then, and on the flip side of that, we get some really bad ones...

Really...really...bad ones.

Case in point is Zombeer: a zombie-themed first person shooter that tries to inject bits of humor into otherwise run of the mill shooter elements...and it does them terribly. Very...fucking...terribly. Seriously, this game is a fucking chore. Now I should mention right now that this review is based on the Playstation 3 version of the game. I know it's on Steam for PC, and I've seen a fair amount of positive reviews for that version, so maybe the PS3 has a shitty port? I can't really say for certain, so I'll just continue onward with what I experienced on the PS3.

Anyway, Zombeer tells the tale of a beer-swigging tool bag that you play as, who awakens from a night of binge-drinking to discover that the zombie apocalypse has happened. Eventually you discover that you've been bitten, and the only thing keeping you from turning is to keep on drinking...and slaughtering the undead in the process. In the middle of all this is unfunny toilet humor (which is saying something, considering I love that shit...no pun intended) and broken mechanics on top of that, making the whole thing a fucking chore.

On top of its shitty (again, no pun intended) humor and fractured mechanics, everything in Zombeer is just so damn dull. The graphics are muddy and look like a PS2 game from 2002, the enemy AI is almost non-existent, the level layouts are head-scratching, and the whole thing is just plain fucking boring. There really isn't much of anything here I can recommend...like at all.

So yeah, Zombeer is a big bucket of fuck this shit. I downloaded it on Playstation Network on a whim because it was dirt cheap. After putting an hour into it, I can safely say I want my money back...and I only gave it an hour because I'm a fucking masochist.

Rating: 1/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in GAME REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
GAME REVIEW: Final Exam

GAME REVIEW: Final Exam

finalexam

By Nick Durham

Want to beat up a monster with a baseball bat? Or shoot one down with a gun? Or say fuck it and chop one up with a chainsaw? Well now you can with Final Exam. A side-scrolling beat 'em up that can support up to four players at once (and trust me, it helps to have teammates for this game), Final Exam is a somewhat worthwhile dirge for action/horror enthusiasts. Also, apparently this game is somehow part of the Obscure survival horror video game franchise, but considering the Obscure games are 3D traditional survival horror games, and Final Exam totally isn't, you'd never know that upon first glance.

The gameplay of Final Exam is a pretty standard side-scrolling beat 'em up; kind of like the original Splatterhouse, but with backtracking and even more annoyances than it should justifiably have. Playing with others is recommended though, because the enemies are surprisingly tough and take a lot of punishment, and can dish it right back out. Luckily there is an assortment of weapons you can eventually get your hands on, and there's  a decent amount of upgrades for your abilities, etc. No matter what though, multiplayer is the way to go.

Now Final Exam can be some worthwhile fun while it lasts, but it can be severely annoying too. The backtracking isn't fun or rewarding (this ain't fucking Metroid), the enemy types aren't varied enough, and the controls are curiously delayed in their timing. The game does look and sound good though for what it is, which is a cheap, downloadable title for PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. The game's stages are lengthy, but the game itself is short. I know reading that makes absolutely no sense, but it's true.

All in all, Final Exam is okay for what it is. If you can find it cheap and have some friends willing to give it a shot with you, I'd say check it out. Just don't expect anything too special out of it.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in GAME REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Extreme Jukebox (2013)

MOVIE REVIEW: Extreme Jukebox (2013)

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By Nick Durham

Well here’s something you don’t see everyday. An Italian-imported, heavy metal-themed slasher movie that proudly bears the Troma logo? You know what I have to say to that?

Sign me right the fuck up right fucking now thank you very fucking much.

Well, I’m sad to report that Extreme Jukebox isn’t the wonderful amalgamation of all things Italian, bloody, and metal. In fact, it really isn’t much of anything other than quite a few laughs and some heavy metal in-jokes, which is fine by the way, but it never lives up to the promise that you think it will end up doing.

The story of Extreme Jukebox revolves around rising star metal frontman Jessie Cake, who finds himself in the middle of a metal massacre involving a masked serial killer and a vengeful spirit. That is pretty much the gist of the film, along with a bevy of jokes, pretty funny dialogue, and some surprisingly good music as well; of which are sung in English while the rest of the film’s dialogue is in its native Italian.

The one thing that I am severely disappointed by with Extreme Jukebox is its lack of blood and gore. I mean it has a little here and there, but nowhere near what one would expect from a movie like this, and a fucking Troma movie at that. It just feels too restrained, and far too much for its own good to boot. Despite that, the film does manage to pack a shitload of really funny moments and sometimes it can be downright fucking hysterical. Throw that in with some decent performances and some pretty good music, and you get a worthwhile diversion while it lasts.

All in all, Extreme Jukebox is a brisk, mildly entertaining, Italian metal-injected flick that doesn’t deliver in terms of the visceral thrills that Troma fans would expect from it. Still, it’s not awful, which in itself is something notable on its own. If you do end up checking it out, don’t go into it expecting anything too special, and chances are you’ll find something about it that you’ll dig.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Bound to Vengeance (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Bound to Vengeance (2015)

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By Nick Durham

Good old fashioned revenge flicks have made a bit of a comeback over the last couple years. One of which, 2013's Blue Ruin, probably being the best of the bunch (and by all means, you need to go check that out). In this little revenge flick renaissance, I've come upon Bound to Vengeance (thanks Netflix); a relatively brisk film about a captured young girl (Tina Ivlev) who turns the tables on her captor (Richard Tyson, aka the asshole villain from the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Kindergarten Cop).

Bound to Vengeance begins with Eve (Ivlev) waking to find herself in the captivity of Phil (Tyson). It doesn't take long for her to free herself and turn the tables on our villain though, and it takes even less time for Eve to embark on a journey to find and rescue all the other girls that Phil seems to have captured and scattered all over the place. Of course things don't seem to work out well for anyone involved, and naturally, things aren't quite what they seem either. What? You thought this would be by the numbers and easy to follow? You've come to the wrong place then motherfucker.

That's the main problem with Bound to Vengeance: it tries too damn hard. First it tries to be somewhat subdued in terms of the extremes this kind of thing could offer...then it tries to get all twisty and even a tad noir-ish. It doesn't work as either sadly, and comes off as a more bloody and less overacted episode of Law & Order: SVU instead. The film also has a severe lack of atmosphere and for being a 79-minute long movie, it often drags along. At least the cast is good though. Tina Ivlev has a bright future ahead of her, and Richard Tyson is a typically wonderful scumfuck.

So yeah, Bound to Vengeance isn't anything special or remotely good. Still though, you can certainly do far, far worse in terms of revenge flicks. It's short and new to Netflix, so if anything I've described sounds interesting to you, give it a look. Then again, you'd be much better off checking out Blue Ruin instead.

Rating: 2/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Bloody Knuckles (2014)

MOVIE REVIEW: Bloody Knuckles (2014)

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By Nick Durham

Do you want to be offended? I don't necessarily say that in a mean way or anything like that; I mean do you want to be offended in a way that will make you end up cracking a smile and just hating yourself a little bit after? Then you should watch Bloody Knuckles. This Canadian horror comedy is a surprisingly hilarious, and oh so juvenile, film that underneath all the dick and fart jokes offers up a surprising commentary on the nature of offensiveness in this politically correct world.

The story of the film revolves around underground comic book artist Travis (Adam Boys), whose comics are delightfully offensive and unflinching in honesty. His work manages to piss off a local crime lord, and before you know it, Travis has his drawing hand severed. Travis subsequently begins a downward spiral into depression...until his severed hand mysteriously comes back to life and begins a mission of bloody, and hilarious, revenge. Along for the ride is Travis' plucky newspaper reporter love interest (Gabrielle Giraud) and eventually a gay, S&M themed vigilante (seriously). There's more going on too, but seriously, you've got to see this shit for yourself instead of reading me describing it.

Written and directed by Matt O'Mahoney, Bloody Knuckles is a total fucking hoot. Though it offers up plenty of offensiveness and all, like I had said earlier, it's never mean spirited. When this movie is funny, it's funny and supremely enjoyable. The cast somehow manages to keep straight faces throughout the absurdity of it all, and all of them turn in some pretty good performances too. It should also be mentioned that for a low budget film, there's some surprisingly good effects work in terms of makeup, blood, and the severed hand moments as well.

Now Bloody Knuckles isn't going to win any awards or anything, but for what it is, it's pretty damn good. It offers up enough blood and laughs to keep you entertained, and it's briskly paced enough so you'll be glued to the screen for its whole running time. If any of what I've described sounds up your alley at all, give this a look.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
COMIC REVIEW: Clive Barker’s Next Testament

COMIC REVIEW: Clive Barker’s Next Testament

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By Nick Durham

As I had mentioned before in my review for IDW's Clive Barker Omnibus, Barker has dabbled in comic books for quite some time. While there were some original titles for Marvel in the 90s that didn't last long, a majority of Barker's previous works have been adapted into comic book form like Hellraiser, Nightbreed, The Thief of Always, etc. Next Testament is something different entirely. What happens when you find out that God is in fact real? And when I say God, I don't mean the nice and kind and forgiving God that Christians believe in, I mean the nasty, unforgiving, and vengeful God of the Old Testament.

Yes folks, the God in Clive Barker's Next Testament is a bit of a prick to say it lightly.

The story of Next Testament revolves around an entity called Wick, who claims himself to be the one, true God. After being found by a wealthy nutjob named Julian, Wick declares that he is not happy with how humanity has developed in his absence. In fact, he's kind of bored by everything and everyone, and comes to the conclusion that he wants to shake things up a bit...and that is saying it lightly.  What follows are events of cataclysmic proportions, with Julian's son Tristan and his girlfriend Elspeth are caught in the middle as the whole world around them literally plunges into pure hell. That's all I want to spill about the story, just trust me when I say that you really do have to see what unfolds here to really believe it and appreciate it.

In case you haven't realized it just yet, Next Testament is fucking crazy. Co-authored by Barker and Mark Alan Miller, there are events and scenarios depicted here that are unlike almost anything else you'll see in a comic book. The artwork by Haemi Jang is brilliant and vibrant and a sight to behold, especially as the series reaches its conclusion. If there's any drawbacks, it's that supporting characters come and go with little impact or reason, and the aftermath from the final showdown is a little underwhelming, but other than that, Next Testament is a treat.

So yeah, it goes without saying that you should give Clive Barker's Next Testament a look. Whether you're a fan of Barker or a fan of horror comics in general, you're bound to get plenty of enjoyment out of this. All twelve issues are collected across three trade paperbacks, so get out there and pick these up.

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
COMIC REVIEW: Hellblazer

COMIC REVIEW: Hellblazer

Why You Should Read Hellblazer

hellblazer

By Nick Durham

I love comic books, always have and always will. That being said, there was a time in my adolescence where I had grown tired of the typical superhero fare to come from Marvel and DC. In all honesty, I had just grown plain old bored. At that time in my youth, I had mistakenly figured that that was all there was in terms of comics: dudes in spandex punching each other out...because reasons.  Then something happened...I discovered Vertigo Comics.

Vertigo Comics is the mature-labeled imprint of DC Comics, specializing in much more graphic and nasty storytelling than their mainstream brethren would. Among my initial discoveries from Vertigo were classic titles like Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Garth Ennis' Preacher; both of which are legendary comics in their own right...but the very first Vertigo book I ever laid eyes on was something called Hellblazer. Hellblazer revolved around the chain-smoking, wise-cracking Brit, John Constantine. Constantine deals in black magic and bad luck by trade, often finding himself in the middle of plots involving demonic possession, serial killers, and other sorts of general nastiness. In his travels he has managed to cross (and literally flip off) Satan himself, gotten lung cancer, used his friends and loved ones as pawns in his various plots, and has managed to piss off nearly everyone that has come in his path...

...John Constantine is my fucking spirit animal.

Originally introduced in the pages of Alan Moore's legendary run on Swamp Thing in 1985, Constantine became an almost instantly loved character. He was given his own series with Hellblazer in the beginning of 1988, with writer Jamie Delano fleshing out the character's complicated backstory. Hellblazer would run for 300 issues before concluding in 2013 (and subsequently relaunched as just Constantine as part of DC Comics' company-wide relaunch of their shared universe). Throughout the decades, a variety of well-known and well-revered writers, including Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis, Paul Jenkins, Warren Ellis, Brian Azzarello, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan, and plenty more besides, have tackled the title and character, and have crafted some truly amazing and horrific stories.

If I could recommend any Hellblazer to check out, I'd recommend Original Sins first. This collects the first dozen or so issues of the series, and really crafts John's background and his nature of occasionally doing good deeds by doing bad things...and the fallout that follows. DC/Vertigo has started reprinting a number of the collected works and still releases them sporadically, so this is the easiest one to pick up first. After that, I recommend tracking down the Dangerous Habits (which was more or less the basis for that Keanu Reeves-starring abortion of an adaptation from 2005), Haunted, and Hard Time. These are all essential Hellblazer stories (at least to me) and deserve your time and attention.

So, whether you only know about the character of John Constantine from the aforementioned Keanu Reeves shitfest, or the dreadfully underrated TV show from last year, and you want more of him; please do yourself a favor and check out Hellblazer. It is without a doubt one of the greatest long-running series' ever put to paper, and remains one of the best horror comics of the modern era. Thank me later.

Posted by Alan Smithee in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, EDITORIALS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
GAME REVIEW: Escape Dead Island (PS3, XBOX 360)

GAME REVIEW: Escape Dead Island (PS3, XBOX 360)

By Nick Durham

Escape_Dead_Island

Fuck...this...fucking...game.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Dead Island franchise, like severely. I enjoy the idea of what the Dead Island games offer: survival horror on a zombie-infested island where you have to be resourceful and use whatever you can at your disposal to survive. What's always killed those games for me is that they all wind up being the same thing: go from point A to point B (and occasionally point C) to do some shitty fetch quests, stab a zombie now and then, rinse and repeat. Boom. That's Dead Island. Critics and gamers have always been split on the end result of the games, but the series has its fans, and that's all well and good.

And then we have this...fucking...game.

Escape Dead Island is a game that promises to be something different. It's a third person action game that starts out kind of interesting enough, as you play as a sword-wielding ninja taking down zombies in a lab. Plus the graphics are cell-shaded so it looks like you're playing a moving, breathing, comic book. Sounds pretty fucking cool right?

Yeah well, it's not. Like at all. Escape Dead Island is a tiring bore that makes me want to staple my balls to a ceiling fan and turn it on full fucking blast.

The ninja level I mentioned earlier only lasts for the game's prologue, as immediately after you are put in the shoes of the game's toolbag main character Cliff; who is investigating the zombie events taking place on the island from the original game...or an island close to that island...I don't fucking know, it doesn't matter, it's still a fucking island. There's no RPG-ish elements here like there are in the other games, and the action is pretty straight forward, and just plain fucking boring. Customization options are practically nonexistent for anything and everything here too, so yeah...boring.

Now believe it or not, I can get past a game being boring for the most part...if the thing's mechanics aren't broken that is. The mechanics of Escape Dead Island are so damn broken that it isn't even funny. Controlling your character is a chore as most of the time it feels like you're walking through fucking molasses, hit detection is all over the place, and the game's AI  is a joke. Not to mention the stage design doesn't help matters. So many times I lose track of where the fuck I'm supposed to go because everything either looks the same, or because there's no real clear distinction of where the fuck I'm supposed to go. Half of that is due to the blandness of the game's environments, while the other half is just due to shoddy game design. Oh well, at least the game has fluid graphics and the sound design isn't bad. Well, mostly that is.

So yeah, if you like the Dead Island franchise, Escape Dead Island may be worth your time just because it's a spinoff of the series. Other than that though, there's damn little here to recommend for anyone else. If you've ever wanted to play a shittier version of Ninja Gaiden with zombies, then I guess give this a look. For the rest of you, leave this game on the shelf. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown my sorrows away with bottom shelf liquor.

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in GAME REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Dressed to Kill (1980)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Dressed to Kill (1980)

By Nick Durham 

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After a seemingly super long wait (and a recall, more on that later), we finally get Criterion's release of Brian De Palma's Hitchcock wanna-be giallo thriller, Dressed to Kill. Somewhat critically reviled upon its original 1980 release, Dressed to Kill features all the typical De Palma film elements that we've come to expect: close-ups, inventive camerawork, and slow motion shots. Watching it again for the first time in a long time really makes me appreciate the film much more for what it is than I did when I had originally seen it in my youth, and the fine folks at Criterion have released the film in a Blu-ray set that...well, I'll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, Dressed to Kill revolves around a sexually frustrated married woman (Angie Dickinson) that ends up getting brutally murdered after having a random tryst with a stranger. Her murder is witnessed by a prostitute (Nancy Allen), who soon teams up with the son of our victim (Christine's Keith Gordon) to find the killer. Michael Caine is here too as the victim's shrink, and De Palma regular Dennis Franz is here too as...well, as Dennis Franz. The film is sexually charged and features some shocking violence for its time, and remains one of my favorite works from De Palma to this very day.

Now let's get to the Blu-ray release. Over the years, I've never had much in terms of issues with any DVDs or Blu-ray releases from Criterion. Their releases are usually top notch in terms of picture restoration/quality, special features, etc., which made me excited to see what they could get cooking for this release of Dressed to Kill...then something happened. It was announced that there was a mastering issue with the film's presentation, causing Criterion to delay the Blu-ray's release.  Well, a second pressing was ordered and the Blu was eventually released...and it the film looks terrible. Now it doesn't consistently look terrible, in fact sometimes it looks pretty damn good, but there are plenty of times where all of the sudden the film's picture stretches out of the blue, and the framing of the film is all over the fucking place. The old DVD release from MGM from years back is better quality than this for fuck's sake. While the film's color looks very vibrant in 4K, the framing inconsistencies are so damn jarring that it ruins the damn film, and that's a shame. Other special features, which include new interviews with Nancy Allen and others, as well as a documentary on the film from 2001 and a feature about the cuts needed to be made to film to avoid being rated X.

So yeah, the Criterion Collection edition of Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill is disappointing to say the least. The film deserves a better treatment than this, especially from Criterion. Damn shame that this release leaves so much to be desired. If you can find this cheap and are a fan of the film and don't already own any of its previous DVD or Blu-ray releases, then I guess pick this up. If you do already own the film in one form or another, this really isn't much of an upgrade.

Film rating: 4/5

Blu-ray release rating: 2/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments