Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Clusterfuck by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2013: loosely linked sequel to Apeshit)

From the back cover:

"A bunch of douchebag frat boys get trapped in a cave with subterranean cannibal mutants and try to survive not by using their wits but by following the bro code . . . From master of bizarro fiction Carlton Mellick III, author of the international cult hits Satan Burger and Adolf in Wonderland, comes a violent and hilarious B movie in book form. Set in the same woods as Mellick's splatterpunk satire Apeshit, Clusterfuck follows Trent Chesterton, alpha bro, who has come up with what he thinks is a flawless plan to get laid. He invites three hot chicks and his three best bros on a weekend of extreme cave diving in a remote area known as Turtle Mountain, hoping to impress the ladies with his expert caving skills.

"But things don't quite go as Trent planned. For starters, only one of the three chicks turns out to be remotely hot and she has no interest in him for some inexplicable reason. Then he ends up looking like a total dumbass when everyone learns he's never actually gone caving in his entire life. And to top it all off, he's the one to get blamed once they find themselves lost and trapped deep underground with no way to turn back and no possible chance of rescue. What's a bro to do? Sure he could win some points if he actually tried to save the ladies from the family of unkillable subterranean cannibal mutants hunting them for their flesh, but fuck that. No slam piece is worth that amount of effort. He'd much rather just use them as bait so that he can save himself.

"It's Tucker Max versus The Descent in this gore-filled comedy for the camp horror fan."



Review:

Clusterfuck is a worthwhile sequel to Apeshit, as gory, bizarro, entertaining and full-of-dislikable-characters as its predecessor story. (I do not include the trip-reluctant and mostly-smart Lance in Clusterfuck as one of those characters.)

More slapstick comedic and longer than Apeshit, Clusterfuck answers many of the questions set up by the first book. Apeshit is more intense than it sequel, but that is not a criticism of Clusterfuck. (Given how wild and great that first "Turtle Mountain" story is, it would be near-impossible for Mellick -- or any author -- to top that, within the "Turtle Mountain" storyline.) Chance are, if you like Apeshit you will also enjoy Clusterfuck.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

(hb; 2015: nonfiction)

From the inside flap:

"On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been thirty years since the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

"Lafayette's arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans, it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing singular past.

"Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with some of the instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more."



Review:

Witty, informative and intriguing, Vowell's in-depth recounting of Marquis de Lafayette and his involvement in America's Revolutionary War (as well as its other personalities and consequences) is an excellent read, one that I found difficult to set down. This is one of Vowell's best books -- her wry and fleet-footed observations are consistently amusing and the full force of the personalities involved (George Washington, Ben Franklin, etc.) are concisely shown: worth owning, this.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Death-Doctor by J.N. Williamson

(pb; 1982: fourth book in the Lamia Zacharius quadrilogy)

From the back cover:

"In a huge old house in the small quiet town of Thessaly, another baby is born. It is the size and shape of a newborn infant, pink-skinned and plump -- but it is the essence of all that is evil: a deadly, horrifying demon who hungers for fresh human blood.

"And as the lovely 'doctor' Lamia Zacharius, Queen of the Vampires, cradles the scarlet-eyed creature in her arms she croons with hideous delight. For now she has all the innocent young mothers of Thessaly under her spell, never thinking that their sweet, trusted doctor is really the death-doctor."


Review:

This fourth entry in the Lamia Zacharius series makes up for the filler-not-thriller previous book, Death-School. As I noted in my review of that book, Williamson could have abbreviated Death-School 's storyline, merged it with Death-Doctor (as its first two chapters) and created a better over-all tale.

Death-Doctor, like its prequels, sports brief philosophical musings (which could have been cut out), as well as an underlying quirkiness (and toying with iconic horror images), lots of sex, blood and violence, and Greek and Chinese mythology: this is an off-beat, fun offering, with occasional plot veers expanding the storyline beyond its vampire-familiar set-up.

This quadrilogy is not ground-breaking, nor is it a must-own collection. However, for dedicated horror fans, there are bits of semi-experimental and effective but low-key ideas that I have not seen thusly expressed in other books in this genre. This book, this series is worth owning, if you have a deep love of B-movie horror trappings; if you do not, do not waste your time with these novels.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Alt.Film Journal! How I Made a Low-Budget Indie Film For $32K by by Eric Bickernicks

(e-book; 2015: nonfiction)

From the back cover:

"Based on a blog kept at the time filming, Alt.Film Journal!, by Eric Bickernicks, is the story of his foray into the world of independent filmmaking. In it he gives candid, no-holds-barred account of his experience, sprinkled with advice to a new generation of would-be filmmakers."


Review:

Alt.Film is a good companion read to Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew. It is considerably more chatty than Rodriguez's work -- more chatty than it needs to be -- but Alt.Film, if you can get past its lengthy introduction and loquaciousness, has plenty of practical and technical advice about how to deal with budget shortfalls, unforeseen delays and other production-related mini-disasters. This is a worthwhile purchase for would-be filmmakers or those curious about the process of creating smaller budget films.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Death-School by J.N. Williamson

(pb; 1982: third book in the Lamia Zacharius quadrilogy)

From the back cover:

"Tonight, under the full moon, her shadow emerges from the black pits of hell. . . her icy breath cuts the night like a deadly blade. . . her fiery eyes pierce the darkness hunting for prey and fresh human blood.

"Tonight, she returns to the small, quiet town of Thessaly, which has been rebuilt from the bones and burning ashes of the dead. The new inhabitants have no idea of the horrifying evil that lurks in their midst, that their beautiful, young neighbor, the new schoolteacher, is Lamia Zacharius, Queen of the Vampires.

"Tonight, the children of Thessaly are snug in their beds. Tomorrow they enter the death-school."


Review:

Caveat: possible (minor) spoilers in this review if you have not read the first Lamia Zacharius novel, Death-Coach.

Nicole Michaels, cousin of  Mary Graham, moves into the house that Mary and her children left behind at the end of Death-Coach -- Nicole and her daughter (Lisa) are trying to escape from Nicole's abusive husband (Darrell), and Mary, thinking Thessaly deserted after the events of the first book, gives her cousin and niece a place to hide.

Thing is, Thessaly is not deserted. Lamia, now going by the name Miss Z, has been bringing  people to the town with offers of low-cost living and accessibility to nearby Indianapolis. And Lamia, dark and vampiric anti-heroine of the human race, has ambitious plans for these clueless people -- plans to educate and reform them in the old, timeless ways only she is familiar with.

Death-School is an almost-solid, drawn-out entry in the Lamia Zacharius series. As always, there is plenty of sex, blood and Greek-based philosophical horror, with constant underpinnings of B-movie quirkiness and humor, so it is not a boring read: it is an uneven offering that would benefit from either being trimmed to novella length, or combining key elements of its storyline with those of the next novel, Death-Doctor.

Death-School
 is worth owning* for Lamia Zacharius completists or those readers -- like myself -- who are curious to finish the quadrilogy, and cannot borrow these sometimes hard-to-find books from their local library.


[*If purchased at a cheap price]

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Apeshit by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2008, 2012: prequel to Clusterfuck)

From the back cover:

"Friday the 13th meets Visitor Q.

"Apeshit is Mellick's love letter to the great and terrible B-horror movie genre. Six trendy teenagers (three cheerleaders and three football players) go to an isolated cabin in the mountains for a weekend of drinking, partying and crazy sex, only to find themselves in the middle of a life and death struggle against a horribly mutated psychotic freak that just won't stay dead. Mellick parodies this horror cliché and twists it into something deeper and stranger. . .  If you are a fan of Takashi Miike, Evil Dead, early Peter Jackson, or Eurotrash horror, then you must read this book."


Review:

More than a shock-for-shock's-sake splatter novel, Apeshit is one of the most wryly hilarious and boundaries-crossing work I have read in a long time. Nothing is sacred in this nihilistic story, with its abortion-themed kink, ultra-gory cinematic scenes and sly twists. Apeshit is not for those who find Stephen King and Dean Koontz disturbing, or those who need to like the characters they are reading about -- it is, however, for those readers who like their splatter and terror works fresh and fearless, unafraid to offend with its waste-no-words (and otherwise well-written) prose.

This is worth owning, if you are a fan of the films and directors mentioned on the above back-cover description. If you are not, and still insist on trying to read it, buy a cheap used copy or try to get it from your local library.

Followed by Clusterfuck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1 by Chris Claremont, John Byrne and others

(pb; 1974 -1978, 2004: graphic novel, collecting issues of  Marvel Premiere #15 - 25, Iron Fist #1 - 15, Marvel Team-Up #63 - 64, Power Man #48 - 49, and Power Man & Iron Fist #48 - 50)

From the back cover:

"Thirty years ago, Marvel's top talents created one of herodom's ultimate martial artists and set him against foes ranging from crazed cultists to alien automata! Now, look back on the days when kung fu was king, and witness Iron Fist's progression from naïve newcomer to hero for hire! Featuring Sabretooth, Luke Cage, the X-men and more!"


Review:

Storyline: When Danny Rand's parents are killed by his father's treacherous business partner (Harold Meachum), the nine year-old boy is taken into K'unlun, the nearby, mystical Himalyan city he and his parents had. been ascending to.

Years later, Danny -- an adult, who has become a martial arts master -- decides to leave K'unlun. The reason: he wants to avenge his parents' deaths by killing Meachum, whose business has flourished in the decade or two since the Rands' murder. Danny should have little problem doing so, having learned how to direct his energy -- his chi -- directly into his right, hard-as-steel fist, thus earning his titular hero name.


Iron Fist is a fun, 1970s kung fu-focused comic book series, with Blaxploitation thrown into the mix with the arrival of Fist's action partner, Power Man (a.k.a. Lucas Cage, who calls women "sweet mama," etc.). The artwork is excellent, the fight scenes well-choreographed, the storylines formulaic; that last trait could be a criticism, depending on the reader, but for this reader it was fine because the talent involved (Claremont, Byrne, others) kept it entertaining despite its cheese-flirtatious limitations. Not only that, but Danny's character matures during his two-year (post-K'unlun) journey, from a vengeance-minded loner to a less naïve man who now is part of an extended family, which includes the aforementioned Lucas Cage.

This is worth owning, if you are fan of the above-acknowledged Seventies elements and characterizations. For everyone else, it might be best to borrow it from the library before committing cash to it.

Below is the back cover of Essential Iron Fist Vol. 1, which was also used as the front cover for Power Man & Iron Fist Vol. 1.