Book Review: MORE LORE FROM THE MYTHOS

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more lore from the mythos
Fractured Mind Publishing
2019

  • Fourteen fresh tales of madness and monsters from Fractured Mind Publishing that will leave you wanting more while you thank the Old Gods for the Mythos that inspired these stories.

A friend of mine recently just had a short story published in an anthology collection of stories inspired by the great nightmarish mashup of horror and science fiction that H. P. Lovecraft foisted upon the literary world in the early 20th Century: More Lore from the Mythos. With a title like that, it sounds like this may have been a sequel to an earlier anthology book, but no–it looks like this is a stand-alone collection, not tied in to any anthology series. Yet.

Anyway, the fact that my friend got published here means two things to me: 1) I really need to get my middle-aged butt in gear and get something published that isn’t a review of something, and 2) I have an excuse to buy another book to read. As much of a Lovecraft enthusiast as I am, I also enjoy reading other authors play around in ol’ Howard Philips’ sandbox. Let’s see what we have, here…

  • “Everything That Was Before” (Edward Morris)

A disturbed man recounts how his former girlfriend transformed from human to…something else entirely… As the lead-off story, I have to admit at least it wasn’t your standard cut-n-paste writing style going on. Took me a bit to find the rhythm reading this, but overall was an interesting take on the Deep Ones.

  • “Little One” (Valerie Lioudis)

A demon offers a girl her most fondest wish in exchange for her soul…well, that was the idea, until he realized–far too late–who (or what) he was dealing with…and what her fondest wish really is… Oh, I rather adored this story. It has vibes of Clive Barker’s story “The Yattering and Jack” from the Books Of Blood collection, only here the twist is that the “human” is something far older than the Devil himself.

  • “The Call” (Aaron White)

Detective David Carter–great-grandson of one Randolph Carter–investigates a strange case of several dozen people–men, women and children alike–all just up and drowned themselves in the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean for no apparent reason, and it seems to be affecting everyone investigating the situation… Well, it was good to see a shout-out to Lovecraft’s recurring protagonist Randolph Carter, and in a story that’s genuinely eerie and heavy with the oppressive atmosphere and imagery. I could almost smell the ocean in this one, really.

  • “The Damned of Eldritch Creek” (Jon Tobey)

A young heir to a mysterious land that is not on any modern-day map decides to go and destroy the dam that his grandfather built, in the name of bringing back the natural ecology…only, it seems the dam is there for a purpose beyond electricity… Here we have a story that emulates Lovecraft’s more formal reportage style of writing, almost coming off as reading a 19th Century diary, only the story is clearly set in the modern times. It works, especially when the horrific beasties rear their unnatural heads.

  • “The Flood” (Oliver Lodge)

A brief yet rather bleak Southern Gothic style tale of a prostitute that’s haunted by the memories of her dead brother/lover, as she goes to spend her final moments of life with his remains during a torrential late summer flood. This story doesn’t necessarily reference the Lovecraft mythos directly; as a matter of fact, even after chewing over the story, I still haven’t figured out the connection. Other that it being set in New Orleans, a city that, in an of itself, can be considered a living entity within the mythos, I guess.

  • “Sweet Oblivion” (Michael Clark)

An immortal man sworn to fight the infestation of the Old Ones has a bit of a chat over coffee with one member of his enemies… Nifty how this story ties in key tragedies in history (the Salem witch trials, Jack the Ripper) with being influenced by the elder horrors the protagonist is fighting against. Also, I couldn’t help but picture actor Navid Negahban (Legion) as the possessed antagonist holding a conversation with the protagonist of the story. Such is how my mind works.

  • “The Mines of Innswich” (Ryan Colley)

In the small, obscure New England town of Innswich, in the late 1920s, a research assistant from Miskatonic University stumbles upon a secret chamber deep in the abandoned mines, and goes mad from what he sees… Halfway through the collection, and we finally get a proper tie-in to Miskatonic University, as well as a jolly-good old fashioned style Unspeakable Horror tale with a bit of a twist at the end.

  • “The Time Guardian” (L. E. Harrison)

See, there’s this Time Guardian named Julian, whose mantra is “Rescuing Rainey Sullivan is going to be the death of me.” The Rainey in question being the 14-year-old daughter of the chief of the Time Guardians, who likes to send Julian in to rescue her from whatever misadventure she gets herself in… This story kinda feels like it’s not whole, like there’s more to this story than what we got. Entertaining for what it is, but it’s almost like craving a steak, but only being given a slice of summer sausage.

  • “The Wyrd Voyage” (Kari Leigh Sanders)

Three Norwegian witches from about the middle of the first Millennium AD head out to sea to confront a new Old God about his shenanigans…and then Loki shows up… This is a nifty mash-up of Lovecraftian lore and Norse mythology, which is always fun. However, thanks to recent pop culture, I can’t help but picture Tom Hiddleston appearing as Loki while reading this…which probably means I owe Disney royalties or something…

  • “Last Orders” (Dale Drake)

Two would-be grave robbers are in search of the fabled Necronomicon, supposedly hidden within the crypt of an eccentric rich man; what they find is a bit more than they bargained for… Lovecraft loved his dank, hidden underground passages and rooms, and here the imagery is used to good effect. The ending made me want to take a long, hot shower, muttering “unclean, unclean, UNCLEEEAAAN…”

  • “The Maze” (Charles Reis)

A college student uses a public restroom, only to discover that it’s a portal to an alternate realm, where he and a handful of others are stuck traversing a labyrinthine maze, filled with unspeakable horrors and controlled by an unseen Puppet Master… This story reminded me of Brian Lumley’s novel The House of Doors, and its sequel The Maze of Worlds…only, this story was written better and got to the point far more efficiently.

  • “Growing Just Beneath” (Steve Van Samson)

A homeowner takes on some yard work removing a parasitic vine that has infested his dogwood tree and lawn; it’s not as simple as it sounds… I have to say, this one reminds me of one of the more classic Stephen King short stories from the early days, one from maybe Skeleton Crew, or even Night Shift; something that takes a seemingly innocuous everyday grunt task and turning it into a nightmare.

  • “The Shed” (Patrick Rahall)

An old farmer has been feeding and caring for some…thing in his shed, and one night he discovers–a bit too late–that it’s about to reproduce… Another story that made me want to take a long, hot shower after reading, despite a key scene involving a shower. Unfortunately, I was at work when I read this, so I couldn’t. Probably for the best.

  • “The Gate Keeper” (EV Knight)

A collector of skeleton keys suddenly finds themselves in possession of a key to the gates of Hell, and as such saddled with a Hell-ish responsibility…that was an attempt at a pun… Anyway, this final story was a good way to end the collection, as I was rather amused at the image of someone being followed around by a bunch of dead souls like lost puppies.

Overall, I found More Lore from the Mythos to be, for the most part, an entertaining collection worthy of the mythos. I say, “mostly”, because I really don’t think the story “The Flood” ties in with anything Lovecraft had established. If anything, it seemed more on-par with a Poppy Z. Brite short story than inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. Also, there’s that incest aspect there that may be problematic for some people. One could argue that “Growing Just Beneath” also has nothing to do with the Lovecraft mythos; however, the mind-bending insanity that results is key to the aesthetic of a good Lovecraft tale, so I can see why it was included.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering which of these authors is the friend I was talking about at the start of this article: I’m not telling. You’re going to have to guess. Otherwise, yeah, I would recommend checking out More Lore from the Mythos. My Kindle edition was only $4, so you get some good chills for your buck.

Movie Review: HORROR HOTEL The Movie

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horror hotel the movieIndie Rights
2016
NR

“Dairy farms in Oregon aren’t cheep.”

The anthology series continues dishing out short slices of sci-fi/horror/mystery tales with plenty of quirky characters and twisted endings. Aliens, psychos, brain robbers, clones and more are caught up in extraordinary situations at this mysterious hotel located in rural Georgia.

I came across the Horror Hotel movies (there are two of them…don’t worry, tender reader, I’ll get to the other one in due time) by way of Amazon Prime streaming. They’re both available on the site to watch for free for Prime members. And of course I would put them in my watchlist. If it turned out to be incredibly bad, at least I didn’t pay anything extra for it.

Spoilers: I still wanted money back after watching this. So you can imagine how the review for the “sequel” is going to go. But, I digress.

So, from what I could glean from the interwebs, Horror Hotel began life as a web series anthology show, obviously inspired by the likes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and Tales From The Crypt. There are three-ish seasons available, and after going through the episode titles, it looks like the first movie was essentially consisting of the second season of the show. This may sound a bit lazy, but for those of us where we were unaware of the series, this is as good as any an introduction to what’s out there. If one was morbidly curious. So help me, I was morbidly curious.

There’s no wrap-around story with this anthology. The movie wastes no time with leaping into the stories, beginning with “Aliens Stole My Boyfriend”, where we’re introduced to the titular boyfriend being tossed out one of the rooms of the Horror Hotel (technically, this is more of a motel, but I’m guessing the creators wanted to go with alliteration or whatever) by his girlfriend because of not being satisfied with their quality of life, when a couple of blonde female aliens crash into the girlfriend’s car and immediately begin flirting with the boyfriend. It doesn’t waste time getting to how bad the quality of these selections are, and it doesn’t help that the two aliens’ whole thing is that they learned about Earth culture by watching old television broadcasts from the 1960s, what with their means of dress, talking, and dancing to the radio. Seriously. The next short, “Coma Girl”, is slightly less painful, and involves a groundskeeper of a nursing home who has fallen in love with the titular lady in a coma, and tries to steal her away from her loving husband as they celebrate their wedding anniversary at the hotel. The following short, “The Problem With Clones”, follows a bounty hunter skip tracer wearing an outfit that will make your eyeballs bleed as he tries to find a particular woman who has skipped out on her trial for murder of her clone “sister” over a lottery ticket. In “Brain Robbers In Love”, the CEO of a book publishing firm is looking to do some espionage into a rival company, by swapping brains with a younger lady who works for said firm. “Four Eyes” finds a man who is trying to hire a paraplegic hit-man to kill his ex-wife, brainstorming the best way to do so. Finally, “Life After Men” takes place in a non-descript future dystopia, where almost all of the men have been hunted to extinction in the female-dominated society in which life is controlled by The Server. Two women are staying the night at the “hotel”, while a couple of agents of The Server show up due to rumors of a man being in the area.

While watching Horror Hotel The Movie, I couldn’t help but think–more than once–that there was very little by way of actual horror in this anthology, making the title a bit of a misnomer, issues with this being set at a motel notwithstanding. I mean, the whole thing starts off with an attempt at science fiction comedy, the second story implies that the janitor may have done some unspeakable acts with a comatose woman, and the third story is once again an attempt at science fiction comedy, with a bit of noir thrown in for…reasons. The two positives I could glean from this were “Life After Men” and “Brain Robbers In Love”, both of which had some interesting concepts going, and one wonders if there was some script doctoring and a decent enough budget behind them, fleshing things out, we could have had a good one-two punch. “Four Eyes” is just…dull. Predictable. Forgettable.

The acting is, as you may have guessed by now, rather bad, but at least it falls under the Unintentionally Hilarious kind of bad. The stories suffer from a combination of an ultra-low budget and some half-baked scripts with incredible leaps of logic that takes you completely out of the movie. Honestly, had the filmmaker been able to procure an actual budget and get to redux maybe three of the stories for the big screen, like with the Twilight Zone movie, fleshing things out and maybe, I don’t know, inject some horror into them, Horror Hotel: The Movie would have been at least a worthwhile watch. Instead, we get a repurposed bundle of crud in a shiny new wrapper. I understand there is a remnant of those who are fans of the Horror Hotel series, but I cannot for the life of me understand why. Watch only if you have the cast iron stomach for things like this. Otherwise, pass.

Movie Review: TERROR TALES

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terror talesHigh Octane Pictures
2016
TV-14

“Time to gas up.”

When abducted by a psychopath, a husband is taken on a ride from hell where he is subjected to three horrific tales of terror while his family is held captive in an attached cargo trailer.

I don’t know if it’s the Halloween season (while I write this; IDK, it could be the middle of summer when you stumble upon this review…or when I get around to publishing it), but I do tend to lean towards watching anthology type horror movies around that tie of year. And there’s no shortage of dime-a-dozen horror anthologies on the primary streaming site I utilize for the horror watchin’ goodness. And of course, Terror Tales is one of those flicks I stuck in my To Watch cue.

First off, you may have noticed that the rating is listed as TV-14. Which means that this is a horror flick that was made specifically for television broadcast. Which, in and of itself isn’t necessarily a red flag about the quality. No, it’s the fact that this is TV-14, and not TV-MA, that had me questioning the wisdom in watching this. TV-14 means it might very well be worse than a PG-13 horror flick. But, I’m nothing if not masochistic, so I clicked on this and braced myself for the worst.

Terror Tales is the type of anthology movie that has a wrap-around story to work as a presenter of the short tales within the movie. The wraparound deals with a psychotic vagabond that abducts a family on a road trip, tying up the mother and teenage daughter in a conjoined trailer, and telling the stories to the father riding shotgun with him. The first tale–“By Proxy”–is about a horror writer who dies, and is taken on a This Was Your Life! style journey with a low-rent Cenobite rip-off. The second tale–“Radical Video”–follows a detective that’s investigating a string of murders by the Sledgehammer Killer, who picks up his victims at the titular video store. And the third tale–“Epidemic”–is about a disgraced former preacher who goes up against Satan himself during a rash of demon possessions worldwide.

Quality-wise, to call Terror Tales a “bad movie” would be an insult to bad movies everywhere. It’s one of those movies that, mere minutes after pressing “play”, you’re already face-palming with the video and editing quality that’s overshadowed by acting that would make community theater actors blush in embarrassment. There are a couple of bright spots with that, though: Laurene Landon as the mother of the Sledgehammer Killer in the “Radical Video” segment and Sleepaway Camp alum Felissa Rose in the “Epidemic” segment both are delightful to watch, chewing up all the scenery in their sadly respective short appearances. Otherwise, “Epidemic” is the worst offender in the bunch, what with the extremely wooden “acting”, especially from the nun and pastor characters. Coming in a close second was “By Proxy”, and no, the cheep Cenobite rip-off wasn’t the worst thing about this. Which makes “Radical Video” the best one by default…and even that’s stretching things (though it was amusing to witness what was essentially the “80s” as written by someone who maybe read a book about the decade rather than having lived through it, like I have).

Overall, if you’re looking for a really badly made horror flick for you and all of your friends to have fun riffing on…well, there are actually better bad movies out there to do that. Really, Terror Tales isn’t even entertainingly bad. You’re not missing out much if you happen to pass this one up.

Book Review: BRIEF CASES (The Dresden Files)

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brief cases dresden filesJim Butcher
ACE
2018

It’s been three years since the last book in the Dresden Files series was released. Three long years without our favorite Chicago-based wizard detective to experience exciting supernatural wackiness vicariously through. Fortunately, there’s been a recent publication of another short story collection by Jim Butcher, something that will tide me over until the next book in the series comes out. Loves me some Dresden Files.

Anyway, yeah, Brief Cases was recently released through ACE Books, collecting several short stories that Butcher wrote for other publications, plus one that was only released on this collection, if I have my information correct. Let’s dive in and see what we got, shall we?

  • “A Fistful Of Warlocks”

We take a trip back to the Wild West of the 1800s, where the warden Anastasia Luccio rides into the town of Dodge City, hot on the heels of a warlock, and teams up with a deputy sherif named Wyatt Erp to take on the warlock’s posse and their zombie horde.

  • “B Is For Bigfoot”

Harry Dresden takes a case from a Bigfoot named Strength of a River in His Shoulders (River Shoulders for short) to check up on his son, who goes to school in Chicago. The kid might be being picked on by bullies; only, it turns out to be more than that.

  • “AAAA Wizardry”

Dresden regales a class of young wardens in training with a tale of when he took on a case involving a boogeyman to illustrate the five “A”s of wizardly investigation.

  • “I Was A Teenage Bigfoot”

Once again, Dresden takes a case from River Shoulders, this time to check up on his son — who is now a teenager and attending a private school — and find out why he’s sick. On account of, the son of Bigfoot shouldn’t be getting sick, let alone lain¬†out in the infirmary. It might be black magic afoot…but you’d never guess for what ends.

  • “Curses”

Dresden is hired to try and get a curse put on Wrigley Field in 1945 lifted so the Cubs can actually win for once, darn it. This takes him deep in the realm of the Tylwyth Teg, to speak to the caster of the curse. Who knew the creatures of folklore were big baseball fans?

  • “Even Hand”

A story told from the point of view of John Marcone, the Chicago crime lord that’s a perpetual thorn in Dresden’s side. Here, Marcone is best upon by a rather nasty member of the Fomor — Cantrev Lord Mag — who’s there to collect a baby that was stolen by the White Court’s human servant Justine. Things go boom.

  • “Bigfoot On Campus”

One last case from River Shoulders, and this time he wants Dresden to check in on his now college-age son due to a premonition of danger. Which may hold some water, as Dresden discovers that the kid is dating the daughter of a White Court vampire.

  • “Bombshells

Told from Molly Carpenter’s point of view, from her post-wizard apprentice days, due to Dresden still being considered dead at this point; she takes a mission to infiltrate a Swartves stronghold to rescue Dresden’s half-brother Thomas Raith; only, she discovers things aren’t as cut and dried as they seem. To be fair, they never are.

  • “Cold Case”

Another one from Molly Carpenter’s point of view, this time as the newly-minted Lady of the Winter Court. She is charged with collecting a long-overdue tribute from the Miksani. After arriving at the small Alaskan seaport, she discovers the reason why they’ve been so tardy, and teams up with the young Warden Ramirez to get things back in order.

  • “Jury Duty”

Harry Dresden is summoned to jury duty in the case of a former bodyguard for a crime boss accused of the murder of a man one year prior. It seems fairly cut and dried only Dresden has that inkling that something’s not quite right. So he goes investigating, along with one of his werewolf friends. Wackiness ensues.

  • “Day One”

A story told from the perspective of everyone’s favorite polka-loving, Sword of Faith-wielding mortician, Waldo Butters; this one concerns Butters’ first case as a newly-minted Knight of the Cross, which involves a rogue baku that’s feeding off the fear of the children in a hospital ward.

  • “Zoo Day”

The final story in this collection has Dresden taking his ten-year-old daughter Maggie and his dog (and current guardian of Maggie) Mouse on a daddy/daughter/doggie day at the zoo to look at some animals. This one takes turns with the point of views, starting with Dresden, who encounters a young warlock; Maggie, where she faces off with some nasty haunts that are possessing other kids at the zoo; and finally Mouse, where he meets a dark figure from his past. Also, there’s french fries.

Of the stories in this collection, I believe I enjoyed “A Fistful Of Warlocks”, the three involving Bigfoot and his half-human, half-bigfoot son (especially the “Bigfoot On Campus”, as things really go boom there), and “Zoo Day”, as we not only get a good story involving Dresden trying to be something he’s not accustomed to — being a father — but also the three points of view, one being the ironically named Mouse. That was great, there.

Mind you, all the rest of the stories contained are all top-notch, containing the quality type of action, mystery and humor that comes with this series, only contained in easily digestible bite-sized pieces. I’m afraid I went through my Kindle edition of this a bit too fast, as per usual. It was that kind of engrossing. Recommended.

Book Review: STRANGE WEATHER

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joe hill strange weatherJoe Hill
William Morrow
2017

Joe Hill’s follow-up to his fantastic novel The Fireman is a collection of four novellas, titled Strange Weather. Of course, being a fan of Joe Hill, I purchased my copy of Strange Weather the same week it was released. But, in kind of a first, I got my copy as an e-book through Google Play. Not that this will become the future standard for my literary indulgences, mind you. Just went with this format for kicks and giggles.

So, four short novels collected in one binding. Let’s dive in and see what came out of Joe Hill’s brain droppings, shall we?

  • “Snapshot”

A successful middle-aged man reminisces back to the summer of 1988, where he runs into a creepy guy with a camera you really don’t want to have your picture taken with.

This was a pretty taught thriller with an object that seems to call back to the Stephen King novella “The Sun Dog” from the Four Past Midnight collection. But, “Snapshot” is far from a rip of that story. The two feature instant cameras that do weird stuff, and that’s where the similarities end. The camera in “Snapshot” is far more sinister. The story also manages to be emotionally wrenching, with the theme of losing your identity and saying goodbye to your past. I also found myself empathizing with the main protagonist, as I too was the fat young teenager back in ’88. What a year. No creepy gangly old men with cameras, though. That I know of.

  • “Loaded”

A disgraced mall security guard shoots and kills the jilted mistress of another mall store manager, a Muslim woman and her infant son shee was carrying, and a young man who witnessed the incident, thinking it was all a terrorist attack. He’s hailed as a hero of the community, everyone praising him, including his estranged wife and young son. Until a reporter from the local paper starts digging for the truth, and the “hero” finally snaps under all the pressure.

“Loaded” is one of those super tense thrillers where the real life terror depicted in the story is only amplified by the real life horror that plays out on the news at home, with shootings seemingly on the rise. Hill did a rather good job with making the antagonist¬†nunced and sympathetic to a point; though in no way do you really side with him, as what they’re doing is despicable, but you can kinda see where he’s coming from. Overall, a very good story that rather pissed me off with the ending, there. Well done, sir. Well done.

  • “Aloft”

A young man’s first attempt at skydiving, to honor the wishes of a friend that died of cancer, results in him getting stuck on a cloud that’s not really a cloud (at least, it doesn’t act like actual clouds do…which is an understatement), and he’s stuck trying to figure out how to get down, and the cloud doesn’t seem to want to let him go.

The fun thing about speculative fantasy fiction is the taking of an otherwise absurd-sounding concept, and spinning it into a yarn that makes it work. “Aloft” does just that, with a concept that sounds more like a comic strip gag — a guy skydives and gets stuck on a cloud. Joe Hill takes this and makes it right engrossing, giving things a nice mystery surrounding his situation, as well as working out some relationship issues.

  • “Rain”

One afternoon in Boulder, Colorado, it begins raining razor-sharp crystalline shards that kills or seriously wounds anyone caught outside in it. This includes the girlfriend of our story’s protagonist, who, soon after the first freak storm, sets out on foot to Denver to try and find her girlfriend’s father to inform him of his wife and daughter’s tragic demise from the freak storm, and try to make heads or tails of what’s going on, and try to survive.

In a note in the afterwards portion of this book, Joe Hill admits to writing “Rain” as kind of a satire of his own post-apocalyptic novel The Fireman. Maybe I’m not smart enough to get the satire part; it’s probably too subtle for a meathead like myself to notice the first time reading. I do, however, recall reading a story in a collection of youth-oriented science fiction stories back in grade school, one that involved a kid playing outside on a planet his human family have settled on, and almost getting caught in a flash storm that rained sharp crystals from the clouds, much like in this one. Only, that story wasn’t as nuanced or, you know, set on Earth as “Rain” is. A lot more plot, a lot more character development, and…well, let’s just say this is probably the best kind of kooky cult types you want to be stuck next to. Give or take singing Genesis songs in the middle of the night.

Once again, Strange Weather manages to solidify Joe Hill as one of my top favorite genre writers in the past ten years. He has one of the most fertile imaginations I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing, and this collection is further proof of that. Highly engrossing, time seems to just fly by as I read this. Highly recommended, this.

Movie Review: CHARLOTTE

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charlotteRuthless Studios
2017
NR

Once again, Amazon Prime movie streaming service, you got me. You had me thinking Charlotte was going to be a horrible low-budget knockoff of the Annabelle movies. I mean, look at that video art up there. Decrepit-looking doll with a hand put up to her lips in the universal “ssshhh” gesture, with the subtitle of “The Doll Behind The Horror”. That image alone promises nightmare-inducing unintentional laughter-inducing scary doll horror goodness.

But no, that cover — just as concepts like “love” and “human decency” — is a lie. Instead of scary doll horror movie, we get an anthology collection of eight low-budget horror shorts plus the obligatory wrap-around gathered together in an 85-minute exercise in mediocrity, with maybe a couple of bright spots scattered in there.

So, the movie starts with the standard wrap-around short, titled “Ragged Damned”, where we’re introduced to the doll that I assume is the titular Charlotte, as it’s never really mentioned what the doll’s name is. Also, it looks nothing like the doll on the cover art of the movie. Anyway, said doll somehow takes the babysitter hostage, tying her up to the couch and forcing her to watch the series of short films while slowly…turning the babysitter into a doll, somehow. It just hurts trying to figure out the logic of this.

Anyway, the first proper short, “Counter Parts”, concerns a woman who had lost one of her legs and both of her eyes in a prior accident. She decides to get back her missing bits by way of VOODOO MAGIC! cursing her more famous twin sister. Of course, there’s a lame twist at the end, here…

The second short, “Dollface”, takes place on Halloween, where a woman’s husband goes missing whilst returning a lost purse, and stumbles upon a caged up girl. Turns out, the kid is caged for a purpose…

Short number three — “Tickle” — involves another babysitter, this one telling her charge the story of a troll that likes to sneak into the bedrooms of sleeping children to…TICKLE THEIR FEET! And of course, the troll is real…

In “Good Evening”, an old man summons something from his basement, and offers it finger food. And that’s it, really…

In the fifth short, “Get Off My Porch”, a suburban guy is terrorized by girl scouts he refuses to buy cookies from. And the girls are very persuasive…

In “The Judas Cradle”, a young woman comes to in a dark, dank basement with a mysterious guy tied up to a chair (just your standard Tuesday for your Uncle NecRo). Then another man — presumably the kidnapper — comes down to explain the situation for everyone…

In “My BFF”, a bratty kid receives a mysterious package containing a doll from the Uncanny Valley, and the mother doesn’t like it…for obvious reasons…

Finally, the last short, “Howl Of A Good Time”, a young girl sneaks into a horror movie festival, where she discovers the horror fans and movie theater employees aren’t what they seem. But, that’s okay, as the girl isn’t what she seems, either…

Where to begin on this. Let’s start with what I thought were the better parts, namely “Get Off My Porch”, and “Howl Of A Good Time”. Both were great fun, having something of a Robert Bloch feel to the style, especially with “Get Off My Porch”. I should point out that the FX company Scream In The Dark Productions worked on “Howl Of A Good Time”; I bring it up because they hail from my neck of the world in Nebraska, and it’s always good to be able to support some home-grown talent when I can. Mind you, this didn’t sway my opinion on the quality of the short, as I was unaware of this until the credits rolled and I could confirm this. I also want to say that “Good Evening” gets an honorable mention, due to it leaving things unexplained and in the shadows, as it were, making the mystery of what’s going on rather intriguing. Otherwise, all of the other shorts, and especially the wrap-around, are forgettable weak sauce. The only reason to really watch this is for the two shorts I mentioned, otherwise it’s not really worth the price of a rental.

Movie Review: The DARK TAPES

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dark tapes, theEpic Pictures Group
2016
NR

Oh, hey, look: a found footage anthology movie. On the Amazon Prime streaming. Who’da thunk it? Well, I chose to watch this due to the cover art itself, so let’s get this review over with.

If you’re new to this blog of mine, you may have noticed that I have kind of a low expectation upon found footage movies. I watch ’em because sometimes I’ve been surprised before, like with the V/H/S series, or with the first Cloverfield movie. But more often than not, they’ve turned out to be formulaic and stale, mostly involving invisible ghosts and such, always at some haunted location. Or family curse. I’m looking at you, Paranormal Activity series. I do very much enjoy the anthology style of horror movie, so at least there’s that going for The Dark Tapes. So, does this anthology flick stand up, or does it fall flat? Let’s see…

The first segment is kind of the wrap-around short, the one that is shown in segments between the segments, acting as a lose glue to hold the films together. It’s called “To Catch A Demon”, and starts kind of weak, but then gets a bit more interesting as the segments go on. It does have a Lovecraftian sci-fi feel to it, and works on a certain level, with the low point being when the trans-dimensional creature speaks. Kind of unintentionally funny, there. Anyway, the first proper short is “The Hunters And The Hunted”, which comes off as a cheap Ghost Hunters/Paranormal Activity knock-off, for the most part losing me in the “been there, done that” feeling, when suddenly there’s a twist at the end that made me nod and smile in approval. Good save, there. Up next was “Cam Girls”, and is pretty much the weakest short in this, more or less an excuse in girl-on-girl titillation and gore, all on web cams. The end “twist” is the biggest middle finger to those watching. I do give them props for not featuring any nudity in this one, just letting the story stand on its on unmitigated suckiness. And finally, “Amanda’s Revenge” centers on the titular young lady who finds herself constantly visited and tormented by otherworldly beings, frightened at first but then figuring out a way to turn the tables and chase away these ETs for good.

Overall, there’s a lot of really good ideas featured here in The Dark Tapes that suffer greatly from the execution. The strongest point here, I thought, was the wrap-around “To Catch A Demon”, which reminds me of the Lovecraft story “From Beyond”. Second best is “Amanda’s Revenge”, with “The Hunters And The Hunted” saved from a strong ending but still doesn’t justify the weak first part. “Cam Girls” is just pointless. The low-budget effects can be off-putting at times, as well as some of the acting.

In the end, The Dark Tapes doesn’t do anything to justify the continued production of found footage movies, other than they’re cheep to crank out and make money on. Check out the three V/H/S anthologies for a much better example of doing the style right.

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