Saturday, May 27, 2017

Splatterpunk zine (issue 8) edited by Jack Bantry

(2017; horror/speculative fiction zine)


Overall review

If you are looking for a zine that lives up to its title, this might be a worthwhile purchase for you. The writing is raw and engaging, in a viscous, splatterific and dark-hearted way. Not only that, there are interviews with authors Ray Garton, David Agranoff and Sean Leonard.


Stories

1.)  "Reprising Her Role" -- Bracken MacLeod: A porno shoot goes awry, leading to revenge and death. Solid story, well-written.


2.)  "NSFW" -- Nathan Robinson: Vivid and gory scene showing office sex taken to new, ultraviolent levels. Visually, it recalls the spirit of David Cronenberg's 1975 film Shivers. Readers who want to know the cause and backstory of events being shown may be disappointed, since "NSFW" does not provide that satisfaction -- it reads like a good first-draft writing exercise.


3.) "Two Blocks Down, One Block Left" -- Ryan C. Thomas: Excellent, intriguing work about a skinless man who hangs out near school yards. This is my favorite story in this issue.


4.)  "Dermatobia Hominis" -- Gabino Inglesias: A young man's sins inspire a slow, terrible punishment. Good tale, entertaining.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Feverish Fiction issue #4 (March 2017) edited by Michael Faun

(2017; dark/horror/speculative fiction magazine. Published by Sleazy Viking Press.)


Overall review

Any magazine whose "Editor's Note" is made up of the lyrics to The Kinks' "Welcome to Sleazy Town" is bound to be interesting (in a good way).


Of course, it comes as not surprise that the fourth, limited-run issue of Feverish Fiction is just as entertaining as its previous issues. A few of the B-flick horror/science fiction stories did not grab me, but it was a matter of personal preference, not faulty writing.  

In addition, there is the usual (semi-)nude female pin-ups, whose themes run between Seventies schtick and Hammer Film Gothicity. One of the high points of this issue is Terry Bizarro's colorful, gory painting ("Unigore Forest"), a memorable piece of art.

This is worth purchasing, if you are an adult fan of small press magazines and horror, science fiction and sex microfiction.


Stories, other works

1.) "Amidst the Mangrove" (poem) -- Lee Clark Zumpe: Solid, chatty "island of strange horror"-themed versework.


2.)  "The Occult Gate of the Comic Book Writer" (story) - Jerry Williams: A comic book writer's work inspires Lovecraftian consequences. Fun, entertaining work that made me think of the 1994 John Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness.


3.)  "Automaton Word Wounds" (story) -- S.C. Burke:Stream-of-consciousness prose poem about typing, gore and other cerebral matters.


4.)  "The Penis Goblins" (poem) -- Justin A. Mank: Okay limerick about dangerous creatures with lusty, bloody hobbies.


5.)  "Planet of the Volcano Spiders" (story) -- Alex S. Johnson: Quirky, funny and sexy tale about a woman whose possible gig as a literal sacrifice impels her to practical action. This is an excellent read, with a heroine worth rooting for.


6.)  "Statue Playmate" (story) -- Donald Armfield: A freaky brutal rape by a dwarf is not the worst thing that could happen, as one woman finds out.

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The sixth and final issue of Feverish Fiction is on sale now. If you are interested in buying a copy, best jump to it, because -- as noted above -- each issue is a limited-run work, and they sell out fast.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

(hb; 2016)

From the back cover

"Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

"At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction."



Review

 Lovecraft is an entertaining, mainstream and cinematic collection of event- and character-linked stories that seamlessly weaves Lovecraftian horror, leavening humor and racial violence into a word-efficient tale with a climax that brings together all the characters and plot strings that came before it. This is an excellent fractured novel, one of my favorite reads of 2017.

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In May 2017, it was announced that Lovecraft will soon be the basis for a forthcoming HBO horror anthology series, produced by Jordan Peele, J.J.Abrams and Misha Green.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chapterhouse: Dune by Frank Herbert

(pb; 1985: sixth book in the Dune Chronicles)

From the back cover

"The desert planet Arrakis, called Dune, has been destroyed. Now, the Bene Gesserit, heirs to Dune's power, have colonized a green world--and are turning it into a desert, mile by scorched mile."


Review

Chapterhouse is an okay book. Herbert maintains the word sly, character-based pacing of the previous Dune novels -- this time out, though, the slow-build storyline runs a few chapters longer than it should. The power struggles (altered by the events and characters of the previous book, Heretics of Dune) are still intriguing in parts and the finale is thrilling on all levels, but the middle section of Chapterhouse feels like a slog-through read, one that could have been as good as most of the other Dune entries.

This is worth reading if you are a Dune completist. (I would suggest borrowing it from your local library before committing cash to it.) If you are a casual fan, save your time and money for something better.


Followed by the first Prelude to Dune novel, House Atreides, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Marvel Essential: Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan & others


(pb; 2004: Collects Tomb of Dracula #50-70, The Tomb of Dracula magazine #1-4. These issues were originally published between 1976 and 1979.)

From the back cover

"Delve deeper into Marvel's Golden Age of horror with the Lord of the Vampires and his host of hated pursuers, including filmdom's superstar Blade! Follow Dracula through centuries of adventures, each darker than the last! From a cosmic clash with the Silver Surfer, to a fight in the streets as a mere mortal, to literal family struggles with his daughter, the Demoness, and his son, the Angel! Includes rare black-and-white tales unrated by the Comics Code Authority!"


Review

Tomb of Dracula Vol. 3 is an uneven read. While Dracula is a larger than life character, his personality -- petty and foolish, even for an arrogant undead regent -- is too over-the-top: this made me wonder how someone this emotionally erratic survived for so long. It appears that part of the reason for his survival is that many of his enemies (even those sworn to destroy him at any cost) have the plot-convenient habit of letting him go when they have the chance to eradicate the storied bloodsucker. (Oh, they have their justifications, but they read like the dying gasps of a comic book series that should have been a miniseries or two, at best.)

It should be noted that the four issues of The Tomb of Dracula magazine that close out this graphic novel have better stories (for the most part) than the twenty-issue series that precedes the magazine.


That said, Tomb Vol. 3 is a fun, park-your-brain (if character-inconsistent and melodramatic) storyline with excellent, spooky, nostalgic and action-oriented artwork. It is worth reading, if the above caveats do not put you off.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dog Eat Dog by Edward Bunker

(hb; 1996)

From the back cover

"Dog Eat Dog, Bunker's fourth novel, follows Troy Cameron, a reformatory graduate like Bunker. A terrifying and brutal narrative, the novel tracks his lawless spree in the company of two other reform school alumni, Diesel Carson and Mad Dog Cain. . ."


Review

Caveat: Do not read this book if you are put off by racial epithets (which ring character-true), sexism, graphic brutality, ex-con honesty and noiresque endings.

Dog
is a compelling, nihlistic crime thriller with fated, larger-than-life characters, raw language and violence, and other human-born darkness that contribute to the lead characters' certain doom. Its pace is swift, its prison-harsh rules ironclad and its bloodshed repentless (in regards to the characters inflicting said punishments). This is an excellent, rings-true read, one worth owning if you like your genre thrills gritty, wild and black-as-tar. Dog is one of my favorite reads of 2017.


#

The film version was released stateside on November 11, 2016. Paul Schrader (who also played Alex Aris, a.k.a. "El Greco") directed the film. Matthew Wilder wrote the screenplay.

Nicolas Cage played Troy Cameron. Christopher Matthew Cook played Charles "Diesel" Carson. Willem Dafoe played Gerald "Mad Dog" McCain.

Robert Maples played Jimmy the Face. Louisa Krause played Zoe. Reynaldo Gallegos played Chepe. Louis Perez played Mike Brennan. Magi Avila played "Nanny" [to Brennan's infant].

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Halloween III: Season of Witch by Jack Martin

(pb; 1982: movie tie-in novel. Based on the screenplay and film directed by Tommy Lee Wallace.)

From the back cover

"Do you know where your kids are tonight?

"The streets are quiet. Dead quiet as the shadows lengthen and night falls. It's Halloween. Blood-chilling screams pierce the air. Grinning skulls and grotesque shapes lurk in the gathering darkness. It's Halloween. The streets are filling with small cloaked figures. They're just kids, right? The doorbell rings and your flesh creeps. But it's all in fun, isn't it?

"No. This Halloween is different.

"It's the last one."


Review

Halloween III sports a fun, fast-moving storyline (as it should, given its source film). Martin, who also penned Halloween IIagain lays thick the Samhain dread, occasional gore and B-flick cheesiness -- and, for the most part, it works. (In the beginning of the book, Martin makes Challis's thoughts a bit too melodramatic -- I write this, bearing in mind that Challis is an alcoholic whose life is in lonely, sad freefall. . . thankfully, Challis's over-the-top self-pity and loathing of corporatism make up less than a quarter of III.)

This is worth reading and owning, if you can overlook the above criticism and enjoy unrepentant, sometimes wondrous B-movie cheesiness (in whatever form it takes).

III is followed by the barely-connected-if-at-all Halloween IV, another movie tie-in novel -- this one penned by Nicholas Grabowsky. (Note that the film's alternate title is Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.)

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The film, upon which the novel is based, was released stateside on October 22, 1982. Tommy Lee Wallace scripted and directed the truly-a-B-movie flick.

Tom Atkins played Daniel Challis. Stacey Nelkin played Ellie Grimbridge. Dan O'Herlihy played Conal Cochran. Michael Currie played Rafferty. 

Note: Series creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill had envisioned the Halloween films, whose first film centered around Michael Myers, to go beyond that iconic serial killer. The Halloween movies -- however many there were -- would revolve around the holiday in a creepy, thematic way, with different stories and different characters.

When Halloween became an unexpected hit, a sequel was expected by the studio that released it, so Carpenter and Hill, with much reluctance, caved to the studio's wishes and scripted the Myers-centric Halloween II.

Halloween III did not do well at the box office. Fans were confused by the absence of Michael Myers in this second sequel, so they did not go to see it. Or, if they did, they often bad-mouthed it. This put the kibosh on Carpenter and Hill's original vision. (Years later, Halloween III would be regarded by many as a cult classic.)

The next sequel, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, was released stateside on October 21, 1988. As indicated by its title, the series had succumbed to the unimaginative pressure of its short-sighted fans and its producers and every Halloween film since then has featured Michael Myers.