Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bubba Ho-Tep -- Trailer

A few years ago I mistakenly stumbled across a film that changed everything I ever thought about cinema—that is an exaggeration, but Bubba Ho-Tep is an outrageously entertaining film. It is everything horror should be; a little scary, suspenseful in places, and extremely humorous. It doesn’t hurt that Bruce Campbell is at his best, and I have to admit that I like Campbell even when he isn’t in top form. He is perfectly matched by Ossie Davis’ terrific performance as a black JFK—“I’m thinkin’ through sand here.”

If you haven’t seen Bubba Ho-Tep, you should. It is based on a story by Joe R. Lansdale, and directed by Don Coscarelli.

The Yahoo!Movies synopsis of the film:

Elvis Presley is still alive, now in his late sixties, but confined to a rest home in Texas. Here, he recounts how he escaped fame with the help of an impersonator--now left to wonder what could have been, all while trying to battle the "soul-sucking" mummy, Bubba Ho-tep, who enters the rest home at night and consumes souls.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Five Writers for Halloween

The end of October is in sight, and that means one thing: Halloween. Halloween is a favorite holiday of mine, and as it approaches I find myself filled with an unexplainable sense of excitement—it is the twelve year-old boy in me craving a past that no longer exists, but somehow it is also more than that. It is the excitement of autumn—the days are shrinking, the shadows are lengthening, and nights are deepening. I love the cool crisp air, the idea of coming winter, but mostly the spooky chill that is Halloween.

So in honor of Halloween I’m going to list a few of my favorite horror writers—five to be exact. The only rule in this selection of authors is: there are no rules.

1. Jack Ketchum. The work of Jack Ketchum is truly frightening. He generally doesn’t employ the horror norms of demons, goblins, and poltergeists, but instead he creates truly frightening evil in the form of humanity. He shows us the worst elements that can exist in us all, and then unleashes it on the characters of his stories. If you haven’t tried Ketchum, do it soon.

My favorite Jack Ketchum novels are: The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Red, and his short story collection Peaceable Kingdom.

2. Richard Laymon. I discovered Richard Laymon in the autumn of 2000, and I quickly found and read every novel that was available in the United States for less than the price of a small automobile, which at the time was about sixteen of them. His work can be gross, violent, and very nearly pornographic in places, but somehow—especially in his better novels—he lightens it with humor, and adolescent innocence.

My favorite Laymon novels are: In the Dark, The Traveling Vampire Show, One Rainy Night, Night Show, Into the Fire, and Among the Missing.

3. Stephen King. This is a writer who truly needs no introduction, but I’m going to give him one anyway. Mr. King writes with a power that few modern writers have—he creates working class characters so real and vibrant that when he eases mysticism and fantasy into the stories it doesn’t feel forced or unreal. It is simply part of the story, and very believable.

My favorite King novels—specifically aimed at Halloween are: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, The Stand, ‘Salem’s Lot, and his short story collection Skeleton Crew. I have never read a Stephen King novel I didn’t like, but the aforementioned titles are spooky enough for any Halloween.

4. Douglas Clegg. Mr. Clegg probably has more raw talent than any other horror writer currently producing mainstream horror. His voice is strong, clear, and very frightening. His work runs from chilling ghost stories to vampires, to the more cinematic and gory. I have yet to find a Clegg novel I didn’t like.

My favorite Douglas Clegg novels are: The Infinite, The Attraction, The Hour Before Dark, and Nightmare House.

5. Dean Koontz. Mr. Koontz is another writer who needs no introduction. His work is difficult to categorize because he is able to mix and match genre elements with ease. His early work was mainly in the science fiction genre, but he also wrote in the suspense, horror, romance, and mystery genres—now all of these genres can be found in his work. I especially enjoy his work from the 1980s, but I really haven’t found a Koontz book I didn’t enjoy.

My favorite Dean Koontz novels—with a Halloween twist—are: Lightning, Midnight, The Bad Place, and Face of Fear.

A few honorable mentions: The Night Class by Tom Piccirilli, The Manitou by Graham Masterton, Cage of Night by Ed Gorman, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Curtains of Blood by Robert J. Randisi, and…so many more that I’m forgetting.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween—I know I will.

Friday, October 26, 2007

EYES EVERYWHERE by Matthew Warner

Okay, here is another review that originally went live on SFReader, but since we're quickly approaching Halloween I thought it would be a great review to dust off and give new life.

I'm currently working on a couple reviews that should be up and running in the next week or two, but until then read this one. And maybe find a copy of the book, and read it to.

Charlie Fields is average. He has a wife, two children and a job he doesn’t like, but is terrified of losing. He and his family live in a tiny studio apartment in Washington, D.C., and are looking forward to purchasing a small home. Charlie’s world is a little uneasy, but acceptable. He loves his family and they love him. His job isn’t great, but at least he has one. Then he begins to suspect things.

Charlie believes his wife is cheating on him. He has the feeling a few of the bosses at the Law Firm where he works are plotting to get him laid-off. Then his feelings of unease escalate and Charlie suspects sinister plots to not only destroy him, but also destroy everything he loves. He loses his job, and then slowly everything he cares about is striped away. His family, his sanity, and in the end even his humanity.

Eyes Everywhere by Matthew Warner is not an easy novel to read. It is written well, the plotting is top-notch, but the subject matter is disturbing and dark. It follows the tribulations of one Charlie Fields as his sanity succumbs to the cold embrace of schizophrenia. The overriding theme of Eyes Everywhere is identity, and how fragile and delicate is its relationship with the outside world. Identity is built on perception, and once that perception is skewed we are nothing more than empty vessels waiting to be delivered from our own darkness.

Eyes Everywhere is a genuine tale of horror. It is different in that the protagonist is also the antagonist. There is no evil here, no deception other than Charlie’s unbalanced mind, and as the story unfolds the conclusion becomes obvious, but the author persuades us to keep reading as Charlie stumbles into his own destruction. He makes us care about Charlie and his family. He shows the story without preaching, he tells the tale without preamble or sentimentality, and in the process uncovers something about the human condition. In the end, that is where the horror lives, in the broken dreams, the destroyed lives, and the flawed humanity we see every day.

Eyes Everywhere is not a novel to be taken lightly. It is ghastly, unnerving, and has the feel of something that not only can happen, but does happen. If you want something different, literate, powerful, and horrifying give Eyes Everywhere a try. If you are squeamish and afraid of things that go bump in the ego, let this one slide by.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Outer Limits -- Main Theme

I’m probably going to get grief from this, but I’m a fan of The Outer Limits television series from the mid-1990s—I would probably be a fan of the original series, but I haven’t seen more than an episode or two.

The new series ran for seven seasons—from 1995 to 2002, according to IMDB. It, like Twilight Zone, was an anthology-type science fiction television series that had a good share of terrific episodes, and a smattering of forgettable episodes. It ranged from its science fiction roots to horror, and maybe what could be called urban fantasy. It featured recognizable actors like Robert Patrick, Amanda Plummer, Frank Whaley, Ryan Reynolds, William B. Davis—from the X-Files—and so many more that I could fill a book with them.

The point? I found the opening credits on YouTube today and thought it was cool all over again. Enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2007

THE GENESIS CODE by Christopher Forrest

The Genesis Code is a thriller in the mode of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code--it is swift, not terribly well-written, completely unbelievable, but somehow entertaining. It is a light thriller that is far from complicated, and perfect if you're in the mood. Which I was--it caught me at the right time, because I devoured this simple little novel in two sittings. It reminded me of a summer movie--heavy on action, light on reality, characterization, and complication.

I recently reviewed The Genesis Code for SFReader, and it is live and online. If you want to read the entire review click Here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Catching Up

I thought it might be nice to do a little catching up today. I haven’t had much time to spend writing reviews, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I always read. I wouldn’t know what to do if I didn’t have a novel or two on my nightstand. I’d probably go crazy. So here are three quick and dirty reviews of novels I’ve finished in the last several weeks.

Now You See Her by Chris Shea McCarrick. This is an older novel—published in 1993 by Jove Books—that was actually written by Ed Gorman. I wish I had a scanner, because the cover is kind of cool. It looks like an older Dean Koontz title. There is an abandoned station wagon in front of a rising moon; the driver-side door is open with a purse and eyeglasses on the pavement below.

A young girl is kidnapped from the side of a deserted highway in Illinois, and there are no suspects. The small town Sheriff calls in the State boys, and anybody else he can think of because the girl is the daughter of a very wealthy and important man. Nothing is quite as it appears in this entertaining novel, and while it is not Gorman’s best, it does showcase many of his usual themes—working class versus upper class, a brooding protagonist and bad guys who surprisingly are just as bad as they should be. Not to mention a few surprises and plotting that keeps the story interesting.

The Money Gun by Robert J. Randisi. The Money Gun is a quick western novel by the master of the quick and entertaining western. It chronicles the careers of a bounty hunter and a money gun—they are both aging, and the story develops along two distinct threads. The first tells how the two met, and the second shows us where they have come over the years.

The Money Gun is fun and very entertaining. It isn’t Randisi’s best work, but it is told with his usual competence. The characters are fun, and the action is developed well. In other words, it is exactly what it’s supposed to be: fun, fast, and very escapist.

Sightings by Charles D. Taylor. Charles Taylor is a writer who I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1990s—he wrote military thrillers that were filled with exotic locations, tough men, and beautiful women. In December 1993 his novel Sightings was published by Pocket Books, and I can still remember purchasing a copy at Kmart. Unfortunately I didn’t get around to reading it until a few weeks ago.

Sightings begins when a man who is listed as Missing in Action is seen at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial taking a rubbing of his own name off the wall. This one sighting sets in motion a bevy of action that uncovers an international criminal enterprise that is very nearly beyond belief. It really is beyond belief! The action moves nicely between Washington, D.C. to Hong Kong to Bangkok, and while Sightings does have substantial bloat—seventy-plus pages could have been removed—it is a fluid, interesting, and readable novel. Although if you're looking to read Charles Taylor for the first time I would recommend finding Boomer instead.

I also have a new review of Luke Cypher's The Outcast posted over at Saddlebums.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Brave One -- Trailer

I was lucky enough to see the new Jodie Foster film The Brave One this past Saturday, and it not only entertained me, but it took me back to my childhood--it reminded me of all those, mostly not so great, vigilante films of the 1980s. The plotline was similar, but the look, the feel, and the quality was much better.

Jodie Foster plays the vulnerable yet tough and competent heroine better than anyone in the business. Which makes sense because she has been doing it since she was a girl. The film is violent, but there was nothing that turned me off, or made me wince away from the screen. The Brave One is one of the better films I have seen in 2007, and it's one that I will most definitely see again.

Monday, October 08, 2007

TERMINAL by Brian Keene

This review originally appeared at SFReader in July 2005—it doesn’t seem like it has been that long since I read Terminal because the story has stayed with me so well. I think about it more than I would like to admit, and as I’m writing this short introduction I want to read it again. It really is that good.

If you've never read Brian Keene, skip his zombie stuff and go straight to this one because nothing else he has written comes close to the power and vibe that jolts through Terminal.

Tommy O'Brien is an out-of-luck working class kid with a wife, a son and terminal cancer. The doctor gave him one, maybe two months to live. His employer, one of the last still operating in the small town of Hanover, Pennsylvania, laid him off. The bill collectors are clamoring for their money and Tommy's dying.

He doesn't have the courage to tell his wife about the cancer, or that he lost his job. Tommy loves her too much to hurt her like that. He can't stand to think of his family living like dogs in their double wide with no money and no future. It hurts to think about his kid, T.J., growing up without a father, without a chance.

Then Tommy has an idea. He's going to rob a bank. He can't lose. The money will help bury him and give his small family a shot to get out of Hanover and poverty. It will give them a future. If he gets caught, he's slated to die in a month anyway. There's nothing to lose, or so he thinks. Terminal opens with the edge of a crime thriller. The premise is simple--three buddies take down the local bank--but it changes, and changes in a hurry. Tommy and his buddies, Sherm and John, don't know what they are getting themselves into. They think it will be easy, a walk in the park. Sherm plans the whole thing and he promises Tommy there will be no shooting. No death, but everything goes wrong. John ends up with a bullet in his belly and the boys find themselves in a standoff with police. That's when things get strange-in a paranormal way.

Brian Keene (The Rising) creates a world that is wholly believable. His characters are fleshed out, the dialogue is rich and the prose is electrifying in its simplicity. It is written in first person and has a powerful working class narrative. You can feel the pain of the characters who are trapped in the fading American dream-shrinking opportunities as large corporations uproot to find cheap labor. It has the heavy atmosphere of noir: A gritty, fatalistic portrait of working class rural America. The story also probes into the dark and very frightening subject of death-its answers are not for the weak or timid. They are scary and very real.

Reading Terminal is like watching a train approach a blocked track. You know it is going to crash and burn, but there is nothing you can do to stop it. You can only watch and hope for good fortune, but from the first few pages you know there will be nothing but sorrow and lose. You know this, but still you have to witness it. Follow it through to the end page by page. Terminal is a gem. It is high-octane horror with a crime novel mentality. Keene is the future of American horror, and if Terminal is any sign, the forecast looks good.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein Trilogy: DEAD AND ALIVE

I have a friend who loved the first two novels in Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein trilogy, and every once in a while she complains that the third book hasn’t been published. So I, finally, did a little research and thought I would share what I found.

The first two novels came out more than two years ago—the first was co-written with Kevin J. Anderson and titled Prodigal Son, and the second was titled City of Night and co-written with Ed Gorman. The third was scheduled for release—at least in the United Kingdom—this past May, but it never showed up. It’s title: Dead and Alive.

It turns out that Dean Koontz had some misgivings about subject matter and story location in our post-Katrina world. I found an interesting email quote—it is allegedly written by Dean Koontz—that gives me hope the third title will be released, and not too far in the future.

“After finishing the first two books, I decided not to try again with a collaborator but to plunge into the third novel myself. Hurricane Katrina presented an unprecedented narrative problem. After the tragedy and suffering endured by the citizens of New Orleans, I could not bring myself to set loose Victor and his creations to wreak more havoc on the city, so I had to figure out how to include the hurricane and work around it in a graceful way. This slowed things down. But I expect to finish Book Three soon, for publication in Spring 2008. No publishing date has been set.”

While I was doing the research I stumbled across a terrific website—the website I stole the Koontz quote from—that has a large (complete?) listing of the novels published by Dean Koontz over the years, including those hard to find science fiction novels he wrote in the 1970s. There is also a cover scan for every book listed, many of them I have never before seen. It is well worth checking out.

Click Here to go there now.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Veronica Mars -- Main Theme

Veronica Mars was one of the better P.I. shows on television over the past few years. It has been described as an updated and modern Nancy Drew, but the character and the show is so much more. It is admittedly a teenage show, but the storylines, direction, and writing holds up well enough so that anyone can and should enjoy it. Unfortunately Veronica Mars was canceled after its third season—the season that ended last spring, and so now all we have are the DVDs. Here is the introduction for season one. Enjoy.