Book Review: WORMWOOD

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1-29 - Book Review: WORMWOODPoppy Z. Brite
Dell
1994

In an old car rocking down a North Carolina highway with the radio on so loud you can’t hear the music… Behind a dusty Georgia carny show… In a mausoleum in Baton Rouge, or in an alley in Calcutta… Here wanderers come to rest, the lost and lonely press their bodies up against each other, the heat rises, flesh yields, bones are barred, blood spills. This is the landscape of today’s most brilliant young horror writer, Poppy Z. Brite. Now, in a collection that sings like cutting edge rock n’ roll and shows the deft touch of a master storyteller, Poppy Z. Brite weaves her unique spell of the erotic, the frightening, and the forbidden…

Early on, Poppy Z. Brite’s style of modern Southern Gothic horror rivaled that of fellow New Orleans dweller Anne Rice, but never seemed to find as big a reader base. Which is a shame, as during Brite’s horror period presented stories that didn’t shock you so much as it slithered over your skin and burrowed deep into your brain like a parasite that slowy made you go insane. Yeah, it was that kind of horror fiction.

This collection of short stories began life in the UK under the title Swamp Foetus. Although it’s the third publication for the author, it’s worth noting that the stories are early works, written between 1986 and 1992. With them, you can see the progression of the writing style that would eventually typify the full-length novels.

Of note, there are a couple of stories here–“Angels” and “How to Get Ahead in New York”, the later of which is quite the black comedy pun–that feature the appearance of Steve and Ghost, characters that are familiar to those who have read Lost Souls and Drawing Blood, and since I read Lost Souls before rescuing Wormwood from the Goodwill I spotted this in, it was a bit of a squee on my part. Yeah, I admit it. This is also the first place I read the now-classic zombie story “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” (if one is to judge “classic” standing by how many times it’s been included in other anthologies).

Overall, Wormwood (as is the version I got, in mass-market paperback) was a very engrossing collection of early short dark fantasy fiction by Poppy Z. Brite. It shows the flashes of brilliance the author would unleash on future novels; if you happen to come across this, pick it up and curl up for a few hours of creeping horror goodness.

Movie Review: BLACK WATER VAMPIRE

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1-29 - Movie Review: BLACK WATER VAMPIREImage Entertainment
2014
NR

What sick-minded killer brutalized four women and left their blood-drained corpses by Black Water Creek? Andrea Adams wants to know, and she’s taking her film crew to find out the truth. What they find there can only be told by the footage left behind. Blood-wrenching, soul-shattering terror waits for those who dare ends these woods.

I remember, back in the late summer, early fall of 1999, when the movie The Blair Witch Project was released. All of you kids out there who only know the Paranormal Activity movies as the “innovative found footage” type horror movies have this one to thank for that. While there wasn’t as many found footage horror movies that popped up as much as after Paranormal Activity, for a while any type of found footage movie was referred to as a “Blair Witch rip-off”. Mind you, that had more to do with aping the filming style, and not actually lifting the direct story with different tweeks to be “totally different.”

Black Water Vampire, on the other had, is a Blair Witch Project rip-off, not only as a found footage style horror movie, but it liberally uses the same premise and beats, only swapping out the location of Burkitsville, MD with Black Water, WA, and changing Witch to Vampire. There are some differences thrown in, which I will get to in a bit. But for the first two thirds or so, it’s hard to not shake off the feeling that you’ve seen this all before.

So, we got four amateur film makers driving out to the remote woods of Black Water Creek, to document the legend of the titular Black Water Vampire. While doing so, weird things start to happen to them, and then they get lost, and things get weirder, and then the point comes to where they find out if the whole vampire legend is real or not.

And this is where the film deviates from just being a Blair Witch rip-off. See, where The Blair Witch Project never bothered to show the actual witch (just some purported evidence of the supernatural effects of the witch herself, or whatever it was they made up on the spot while filming it), Black Water Vampire at least gives us the vampire. And boy howdy is the payoff a good’un. We also have a nifty angle where the townspeople are in on the conspiracy, and then the movie ends on a bit of a Rosemary’s Baby ripoff. Which, in this case, was actually rather good.

Now, the big difference between this and the movie(s) it borrows heavily from is that, for me, I went in expecting crap from beginning to end, and ended up actually enjoying the movie in the third act. Yes, the first couple of acts were kind of hard to sit through, as the acting was rather bad, and the characters themselves were of the type that you wouldn’t be able to stand riding along inside a vehicle for any length before wanting to quell your mental images of stabbing them repeatedly with a sport to MAKE THEM SHUT UP. Sorry. Once they start getting picked off by some mysterious…thing, and when they run into the vampire itself (which is a nasty-looking, actually scary Nosferatu-like creature, very well done), well, darned if my amusement level just went up.

Overall, if you can make it through the first parts, Black Water Vampire’s payoff is pretty decent. It probably won’t be the first choice for a horror movie fest, but it’s worth maybe a curious look-see. You could do worse.

Music Review: DROTTNAR – Anamorphosis EP

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1-29 - Music Review: DROTTNAR - Anamorphosis EP

DROTTNAR
Anamorphosis EP
Momentum Scandinavia
2003

Drottnar, just to recap things, began as a straight black metal band in the mid-90s, released a couple of demos that were both re-released together on an anthology CD in 2000, and then in 2003, after a bit of a personnel change, released this EP, Anamorphosis. There are three songs, plus an intro, which kind of works as an indication of what direction Drottnar was moving towards with their future release; which is to say, a more technical black metal style.

The EP opens with the intro “Morphosis”, which is a rather dark and twisted-sounding one, with some Gothic landscapes, a violin and OMINOUS DISEMBODIED VOICE, setting the tone nicely. This is followed by “The Individual Complex”, which is a nice dark black metal piece that starts off mid-paced, but then turns into a blistering cold blast. “Sin Complex” begins with violins, then launches into the black metal, while the ending track “Concord” is a straight-ahead blistering track with some nice touches added in.

Seeing as how Welterwerk was released three years after this one, I would wager that Anamorphosis was more of an experimental venture rather than a mere taste of things to come. As its own entity, it’s not too bad, has a nice dark underpinning, but with its 20 minute running time doesn’t really go too far with exploring the possibilities with the new Black Metal sound they were trying for. Still, decent little slice of black metal.

Book Review: The TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLAS

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1-28 - Book Review: The TAINT AND OTHER NOVELLASBrian Lumley
Solaris
2008

A collection of thrilling tales inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos from one of horror’s biggest legends. This volume contains the very best of Brian Lumley’s Mythos novellas spanning the entire breadth of his illustrious career. From “Rising With Surtsey” through to the eponymous “The Taint”, these tales plumb the very depths of horror and show Lumely at his twisted best.

Going through the history of the life of H. P. Lovecraft, it was pretty much not only known that he didn’t mind other authors playing around in the nightmarish Mythos Cycle playground he created, but at times actually admitted to certain other authors handling the creations better than he could, giving freely to others the right to tinker with these concepts.

In case you were wondering what all of that has to do with this review of an anthology book by Brian Lumley, then let me take the time to welcome you to the world of horror fiction, and one of the more prolific of the Extended Mythos writers.

Just a very brief bit on Brian Lumley: He first discovered H. P. Lovecraft’s stories while he was serving in the British military, happening upon a well-loved paperback copy of reprints of his stories from Arkham Press. Shortly thereafter, he began to write his own stories which borrowed heavily from the world that Lovecraft created (and which so many others happily play in), and over time amassed a rather prolific collection. It wasn’t until recently, though, when his work began to find an audience here in the United States, after his Necroscope series exploded, and his older works began to be reprinted here for our reading pleasure. Even now, though, it’s kind of a fun hunt-and-peck game to find anything by Lumley that isn’t somehow associated with the Necroscope series. Fortunately, some are easier to find than others.

The Taint and Other Novellas happens to be the first in a two-book collection of short stories and novellas of those stories that were specifically written in the Lovecraft Mythos Cycle. After an introduction, the stories contained are “The Horror at Oakdeene”, “Born of the Winds”, “The Fairground Horror”, “The Taint”, “Rising with Surtsey”, “Lord of the Worms” and “The House of the Temple”. These stories represent works that Lumley did while still a Military Policeman, and not yet writing full time, and date from between the 1960s and 1980s. I’ve always kind of found Lumley to have an unabashed pulp style to his writing, and it doesn’t get much pulpy than his earlier Mythos stories, as showcased in this collection.

Overall, I found the collection…interesting. As I mentioned, there’s a raw, pulpy style to the writing, and probably due to the fact that these were early outputs, seems a bit more purple in prose than his later established work. The standouts were “Born of the Winds” (which was set in Canada and dealt more with a Windigo type creature) and “The Taint” (which, was actually written in 2002, 2003 and is the most recent story in the collection), which took a deeper look at the curse of Innsmouth. Titus Crow makes an appearance again in the story “Lord of the Worms”. I must say, though, the stories didn’t really stick with me much, which is not a slam to the quality; there just wasn’t much as far as doing something fresh with the concepts that Lovecraft left for us to mess with. Again, they’re early stories, and he got better with age. I would say, The Taint and Other Novellas is a collection for completists who are trying to collect ALL of the Mythos stories. Which is why I have this still. Otherwise, novice curiosity types could stand to hold off for a bit.

Movie Review: V/H/S Viral

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1-28 - Movie Review: VHS ViralMagnet Releasing
2014
R

A police chase after a deranged ice cream truck has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angelese area. Dozens of fame obsessed teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and camera phones, hellbent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister occurring in the streets of L. A. than a simple police chase. A resounding effect is created onto all those obsessed with capturing salacious footage for no other purpose than to amuse or titillate. Soon the discovery becomes that they themselves are the stars of the next video, one where they face their own death.

The third entry in the V/H/S series, and I couldn’t wait to check this one out the moment I discovered it was available on VOD. As a horror anthology series that utilized the “found footage” style of format, these have been of better watchabilty than other full-length movies of the same variety. Maybe the found footage style is meant for bite sized bits of scariness, I don’t know. However, I found some time, and did the watchin’. And here’s the blow-by-blow of the shorts:

We start off with a wrap-around film that works as a buffer in-between the individual shorts, called Vicious Circles; a young man is wanting to make a video that will go viral (oh, I see what they did there), and manages to happen on something that would make his wish come true…at a great price, when we get to the payoff in the end. While he chases down his dream (and his abducted girlfriend), we’re treated to these short films…

“Dante the Great”
A two-bit illusionist discovers a cloak that grants him the power to perform real magic, which he uses to become the greatest illusionist alive. He just needs to regularly sacrifice his assistants to the cloak to maintain its power. What’s not required is videotaping the violent deaths of said previous assistants, which the current assistant finds. Wackiness ensues.

“Parallel Monsters”
An amateur inventor named Alfonso gets his dimensional portal in his garage to work, and opens up a parallel dimension where his alternate self has opened things up on his side as well. After shaking hands (and somehow not imploding both realities into antimatter), they both agree to briefly explore each others’ respective realities. Alfonso Prime notes that the reality of Alfonso Alternate is nearly identical…until he realizes that everyone there worships Satan and sport genitalia dreamed up by H. P. Lovecraft. Wackiness ensues.

“Bonestorm”
A handful of skateboarders and their video guy travel to Tijuana to videotape an amateur skating video, and inadvertently conjure up zombies for a Mexican death cult. Um, wackiness ensues.

As it stands, I understand that V/H/S Viral wasn’t as well enjoyed as the previous two entries in the anthology series, and I can understand why. This time out, there were only three shorts included, with a wrap-around that initially didn’t make much sense to me at first, which lead me to have to do a bit of research to find out what was going on with that. As far as the individual shorts go, I rather enjoyed them. Sure, they maybe didn’t have the same effect on me as, say, that Indonesian cult one on the second movie, or even that “I like you” girl from the first one (still have chills about her just thinking about it, now…which is why I bought her likeness on a shirt). But, they were still effectively chilling, and had nice EC Comics-level fun with the twists. If I had to choose, I would say Parallel Monsters was the best (you talk about a Freudian nightmare), followed by “Bonestorm” (which managed to make things creepy in broad daylight), with “Dante the Great” coming in at a distant third.

Overall, V/H/S Viral may be the weakest of the three collections, but not by much. Very much worth a look-see, and definitely watch this along with the others, back-to-back.

Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND – Apendectomy

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1-28 - Music Review: RESURRECTION BAND - Apendectomy

RESURRECTION BAND
Apendectomy
Grrr Records
1997

The Resurrection Band. Few Xian rock bands can be worthy of the word “legendary”, but though their humbleness may prevent them from saying so themselves, over the years so many have come forth to state how the band had inspired them through their music. They never compromised, either with the quality of the music, or the message of the Bible that they upheld. After going into semi-retirement in 1996, they decided to close up shop for good in 2000. But, before they did so, they recorded one more album as a send-off. That album was Apendectomy.

As the title (and rather amusing album artwork) suggests, rather than a final album of original material, the band deemed it necessary to give us a collection of re-recorded Rez songs done acoustically.

The album features acoustic renditions of songs from the majority of their extensive catalog: 1978’s Awaiting Your Reply (“Broken Promises”, “Irish Garden”), 1980’s Colours (“Colours”), 1982’s D. M. Z. (“I Need Your Love”, “So In Love With You”), 1984’s Hostage (“Souls For Hire”), 1985’s Between Heaven N’ Hell (“Shadows”, “2000”), 1988’s Silence Screams (“Rain Dance”), 1989’s Innocent Blood (“The House Is On Fire”, “Right On Time”), 1991’s Civil Rites (“Lovespeak”, “Lincoln’s Train”), and 1995’s Lament (“Across These Fields Reprise”). The albums that don’t get a representation on here are Rainbow’s End, Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore, and Reach Of Love. I don’t know why, really. It wouldn’t have been that big of a reach to do a double album of acoustic renditions, with something from everything they’ve put out. But, I’m just a pseudo-journalist with way too much music and an equal amount of time on my hands to do these reviews for an obscure blog. Point is, these are the songs they picked to do acoustic renditions of, and that’s what they stuck with. It’s been nearly two decades since this was released. I’m pretty sure they’re not coming out with an explanation any time soon.

As far as the album goes, it’s not too bad; really, acoustic music isn’t exactly my thing, and I usually view releases like this as kind of a halfhearted release. You know, instead of making new material, just do a re-recording of your previous stuff, and instead of a “greatest hits” thing, you got a “greatest hits recorded like they were playing to a bunch of coffee house hipsters” thing. But, the songs are played rather well; as I mentioned on the Petra album where they essentially did the same thing, it does take talent to play something that’s normally done electrically and heavier and translate it into an acoustic song. And the musicians that make up Resurrection Band have always been very talented as musicians, both electrically and acoustically. Here, the songs are rendered very well, and produced equally as good. Especially on the albums where the band flirted with New Wave rock. Kind of prefer these takes over the keyboard pop rock, there. Sorry.

Overall, Ampendectomy is a decent collection of acoustically played Resurrection Band staples. As a final album before calling it a career, though, I’m thinking this may have more of a whimper than a bang. Not that it’s a bad album; I just get the nagging feeling that they had one more good album in them before riding off into the Chi-town sunset.

Movie Review: V/H/S/2

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1-27 - Movie Review: VHS2Magnolia Home Entertainment
2013
R

Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static-white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil. From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes V/H/S/2, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes–a second generation with no loss of quality.

The second anthology film of found footage style horror shorts after the surprisingly good first one, continues on in the style of wrap-around story while watching original shorts that the first movie did. Why mess with a proven formula? Here, it works just as well, if not a bit better. Let me give you the run-down:

With a wrap-around story called “Tape 49”, involving a couple of private investigators checking out the disappearance of a college kid, who seems to have a rather odd videotape producing obsession; one goes to find the kid, while the other checks out the video tapes. It doesn’t end well by the end of things, as you may have surmised by now. In between the wackiness, we’re treated to four short films in the kid’s collection…

“Phase I Clinical Trials”
A young man receives an experimental cybernetic implant to replace his right eye that he damaged after a car accident. That night, he notices one of the “glitches” the doctor warned him about: he can now see dead people in his apartment. The next day, a red-haired lady shows up, claiming that she had the same kind of experimental implant for her ear to restore her hearing, and that she can hear dead people. And the dead don’t like the idea of being noticed by living people. Wackiness ensues.

“A Ride In The Park”
A cycling enthusiast is riding his bike one lovely day through a state park, when he’s attacked and bitten by a zombie. He reanimates and begins a delightful romp through the suburbs, all the while capturing everything on his Go Pro. Wackiness ensues.

“Safe Haven”
Four members of a news crew are filming a documentary with a mysterious Indonesian cult, when the “time of reckoning” arrives. Wackiness ensues.

“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
Um, a bunch of kids having a slumber party are abducted by aliens. It’s there in the title.

Overall, I think between the first one and this one, they run neck-and-neck to how much I enjoyed them, but I would have to concede that as far as stick-in-your-brain quality, V/H/S/2 has the slightly better collection. “Safe Haven” is hands-down the best one on the list, followed closely by “Phase I Clinical Trials” for a good effective supernatural ghost story. “A Ride In The Park” is a fun take on the somewhat-exhausted zombie genre. And “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”…well, it didn’t falsly advertise. It didn’t suck, it’s just kinda…eh, whatever. Regardless, I would definitely recommend checking this one out, along with the others in the series.

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