TOURIST TRAP: Right before the slasher craze of the eighties, a double fistful of more surreal entries found their way to cinemas, including this gem. Chuck Connors of all people, shows up to make your skin crawl, in a story that does a good job of capturing that elusive “dream logic” feel that can make a film seem like a nightmare.
THE RAID: REDEMPTION: The action spectacle I’d read raves about found its way to my DVD player, and delivered as promised. Simple enough siege story with Iko Uwais from MERANTAU kicking asses from one and of a criminal-infested apartment building to the other. The intricate fight scenes will fill the bill for action junkies.
CREATURE OF DARKNESS: Few films have actually ever filled me with rage because of nothing more than the incompetence and utter lack of care that went into making them. This POS is on that short list. I will award kudos to the designers of the titular creature–but other than that, I hereby forbid anyone in my family or circle of friends from ever again mentioning this egregious mess.
DRAGON (WU-XIA): It’s a shame this recent Chinese release has such a generic title; it’s sure to get lost in the shuffle of martial arts films–and it deserves much better. The always excellent Donnie Yen in another dynamic role (also working as fight choreographer, though there are only a handful of fights) opposite Takeshi Kaneshiro in a what can only be described as a historical action mystery akin to a Chinese period version of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Excellent on all levels.
A FORCE OF ONE: One of Chuck Norris’ earlier vehicles. So hopelessly dated there’s no way to recommend it, especially if you’re a martial arts fan. The fight scenes here are Norris’ worst without exception (yes, that includes “Yellow Faced Tiger”) but that’s mostly owing to utterly clueless and careless camerawork. Interestingly, the “helicopter kick” that Jean Claude Van Damme claimed to have invented is performed here by Eric Laneuville, years before JCVD’s advent.
2 DAYS: Paul Rudd plays an actor who drafts a film crew to document the twenty four hours leading up to his planned suicide. Less depressing and edgy than it sounds, this low budget comedy, lensed on 16mm, is worth a look.
THE ABC’s OF DEATH: An anthology film with each entry based on a letter from the alphabet is a mediocre idea at best. After about C or D, the law of diminishing returns kicked in, with each entry becoming worse. Part of the problem is that most of the stories are more comedy than horror, and not very funny at that. A shame, because there are some true talents credited here. Full disclosure: I stopped watching after about H or I, when a torture scenario that involved child rape, among other things, suddenly drained away the last scrap of enjoyment. I get being edgy, but don’t go cheap, boys and girls.
UNDERTAKER: THE STREAK. I’ve long since given up on professional wrestling, but it’s nice to relive some of the highlights of my old favorites. Mark Callas, a.k.a. The Undertaker, is one of the most imposing and talented performers in the business, and his morbid gimmick strikes a chord with a horror fanatic like me. Really only of interest to like-minded folks.
SPLICED: After a long string of disappointing horror viewings, I somehow managed upon this enjoyable 2002 ode to teen slashers. Drew Lachey, who I believe was in a boy band or perhaps an MTV “program,” leads a cast of good-looking high schoolers in the tale of a horror movie icon seemingly come to life. It’s like a tribute to Wes Craven with elements of both SCREAM and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET coming into play, and handled fairly well at that. (Editor’s Note: Drew Lachey is brother to Nick Lachey, who was indeed in a boy band.)
11-11-11: Dripping with creepy atmosphere and a sense of dread, as well as some fine performances and nice direction by SAW vet Darren Lynn Bousman. So why did it seem to lie so flat to me? Maybe it’s the now-cliched twist ending.
Stay tuned for future installments from PCG’s Quirky Queue!
Not to be confused with Jesus’ parable…Cover art for Prodigal Son recalls the film “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer,” and while the narrative bears that same intensity, Christine Sutton does not give us the luxury of cutaways or R-rated edits to soften its bloody edges. This is an extreme horror story, on the same level as the most brutal grindcore metal you’ve ever (or more likely, never) heard. But it’s important to note that Sutton is not going for the lurid puerile appeal of a true crime story, she is instead using that same approach to tell a story that is essentially a tragedy.
Timothy Shively is young man who might have been a productive, even valued member of society, but for an upbringing that leaves him emotionally stunted, an alien in his own skin. Looking for answers, some scrap of purpose to give his miserable life meaning, Tim sets out to find his father, who happens to be a horrific rapist/murderer–yet seems to harbor a deep love for his estranged son, as indicated in a letter Tim’s mother has kept hidden from him.
What happens next is not pretty–Shively’s demons are firmly in control for the bulk of his adventure, and they are some ugly bastards.
Sutton writes a direct and detailed kind of prose that flows well, keeping the reader coming back for more. Yet she possesses the instinct to keep it short; this is not a tale that rambles on, nor should it be. Her style and themes are reminiscent of Tina Wainscott, and there are times when reading either author that I cannot imagine myself going as far in my own writing. Be warned: it is graphic and harsh. The atrocities of Timothy Shively and company are far beyond the pale.
A Review by Bryan W. Alaspa ~
There is something about short stories. They lend themselves particularly well to the horror genre, but there is something about them that makes them not quite as popular as novels. I think it has to do with the thing that makes them work so well for me – their shortness. That may seem obvious, but bear with me.
When you have a much longer work, well, you have time to identify with the characters. You slowly immerse yourself into their world. You get to know them. Some of the best novels make you feel like they are part of your life, as if they were real people. Then you go through the ups and downs with them and, at the end, there is usually some kind of resolution. Granted, not always, and some of them leave you hanging, but even those can make you feel like you have left these people that you came to love someplace, maybe having learned something.
The short story, meanwhile, does not have that luxury. You are often flung into the worlds of the characters. You have to catch up quick, and then shocked by the horrific things that happen to them, and just when you are starting to get the rhythm and vibe of the characters, the story ends! Often short stories, more than any other type of writing, leaves you hanging, without that blissful resolution. Their literary teases.
However, that does lend itself to horror. I think it lends itself to horror better than any other genre. And the horror genre has embraced it. Most of Poe and just about all of Lovecraft came in short story form. Some of the best stories you might know from Stephen King, originated in short story form (Children of the Corn, Trucks, The Lawnmower Man).
For some, it is also an opportunity to break themselves in to a writer that they might want to try out in nugget-sized bites first. And it is in that vein that I tell you about Patrick C. Greene’s horrifying and excellent collection of short stories called Dark Destinies.