Breakfast: Short Movie Review

You all remember Dinner, right? It’s a short film made by the talented Aleksandra Svetlichnaya. I wrote about it here. Breakfast is the follow-up. I wrote about the trailer here. And, while Breakfast is not yet available for public viewing, the Aleksandra gave me advanced access to see it. Can you believe it? Little ol’ me. She’s the best, you guys.

Dinner clocked in around 12 minutes. Breakfast decided that wasn’t long enough, so it clocks in at a shade over 26 minutes. Once again, we spend the bulk of our time with Dylan (Svetlichnaya), Oscar (Josh Kachnycz) and Hamilton (Ricardo Segarra). Dylan fills the role of Buffy, while Oscar and Hamilton are basically sub-replacement level Scoobies. I guess they’re Scrappies? I need to consult Joss Whedon on this important matter.

Oscar and Hamilton go to a comic shop and find an unfinished comic. Too dumb to heed the warnings of the shop owner – and apparently desperate to start the apocalypse – they steal the comic, run out of the shop and head into the woods.

Meanwhile, Dylan finds herself caught in a time loop. She wakes up, checks her phone, brushes her teeth, puts her hair in a ponytail and declares, “Okay. Breakfast time,” only to exit the bathroom and find a masked attacker. She defeats him, only to find herself waking up in her bed for the same routine over and over again.

What exactly is going on with the unfinished comic? Why is Dylan caught in a time loop? How will she escape? Will Oscar and Hamilton ever actually get a chance to eat breakfast?

These events set up the rest of the film, and it’s an absolute blast. Svetlichnaya’s love for Buffy is on full display here. It’s not totally in-your-face, but there are enough nods to get you thinking in that direction. And, of course, it’s impossible to see a blonde woman kicking faces and not think of Buffy, so my mind would have gone there even without the subtle nods.

Like Dinner, this is a really fun watch. Also like Dinner, this was made on next to no budget, so certain limitations come up. Still, it’s pretty easy to get past that. While I like how Oscar and Hamilton play off each other, I spend most of my time waiting for Dylan to come back and destroy people/monsters/demons.

Breakfast is a fun short with a tremendous ending. Make sure you stay for the scene in the credits. It had me rolling.

I’m a huge fan of what Svetlichnaya is doing. Can’t wait to see what she’s got in store next.


As it turns out, I’m not the only one excited about what Svetlichnaya is doing, as Breakfast is going to San Diego Comic Con 2017!

The Thing At The Piano

Up the moss covered rocky hills where trees don’t grow but the ground rarely sees light. The top of the hill always seems to be enclosed in thick fog with a great house veiled in the midst of it. The house stood decaying due to years of neglect in the mist but still stands firmly no matter how hard the wind blows. The inside, I’ve been told, contradicts the outward appearance with everything in its place as if frozen in time, but signs of the original owners are absent as they themselves have been missing for years. This dilapidated residence belonged to the Conklin family. Nebuchadnezzar Conklin, a researcher and teacher of archaic occult practices, his wife Henrietta and their twins Janelle and Jules all vanished after reports that Nebuchadnezzar locked himself away in his library reading over aged manuscripts, translating them from unknown words to Akkadian and retranslating them to, of all things, music notes.

The last time she was seen in town below the fog covered hills; Henrietta Conklin said her husband would either be frantically flipping pages of books or scratching on paper while mumbling to himself or playing “malevolent” notes on the grand piano that was locked with him in the library. The musical notes made her body cold and made her doubt her sanity because whenever the notes were played she swore the color of the world fades. When asked why she left the twins in the house with such an evil composition, she would look on as if concerned for the ones asking questions and reply, “I don’t have children, I’m not even married.” The response haunts those who’ve heard it and those still investigating the family’s disappearance to this day. Were her nerves coming apart or has something touched her sanity?

Days later a frantic call came to the only friend the family had in town, it was Henrietta or they thought it was. They said Henrietta spoke in a “metronome” pattern, her words mixed with either gibberish or an unknown language. The friend said they could hear frantic slams on piano keys accompanied by an unfamiliar chorus of either brass or woodwind instruments. At one moment, Henrietta would stop in mid sentence and start laughing hysterically before her voice was replaced by that of a child who continued the conversation where she left off. It was possibly one of the twins who according to the friend sounded more disturbing than her Mother. The friend could not describe what the child was like over the phone without sobbing uncontrollably but said it was nothing they’ve ever heard of and would rather die horribly than to hear it ever again.

After that call, the police arrived at the Conklin house and found it to be silent. The officers searched all over the property with no success before going into the house itself expecting to see a scene of gore and malice, the officers found none. In fact they found absolutely nothing wrong in the house. The furniture were sitting properly in their places, the hardwood floors reflective like mirrors, doors open with no signs of recent violent use of force. It was not till the officers got to the library and were about to open the door, they heard a single deep note struck on the piano. There would be a two second delay before the same note was hit again. As the officers opened the door they saw sitting at the piano a large humped thing in a tattered cloak, the only thing they saw was its large claw jabbing the piano key. The officers who saw it where later relived from their duties after it became apparent that their nerves were broken beyond repair. There’ve been others since then who dared enter the Conklin house to see the thing in the library and all have said they saw the same thing sitting at the piano. I’ve seen it too now, the Thing that resides in the Conklin house.

Book Review: Whisper Lake

Title: Whisper Lake (The Turning, Book 2)
Author: Micky Neilson
Publisher: Self-Published on Amazon
Genre: Horror
Format: eBook (410 pages)

Whisper Lake Micky Neilson Werewolf Novel
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary (from Amazon): “In this prequel to The Turning, the year is 1991. Jason Emblock, a U.S. soldier in Iraq, is sent back home to the small town of Whisper Lake after a vicious animal attack. But the beast that bit him was no ordinary animal. Now Jason is becoming aware of the changes–enhanced hearing and sense of smell–even as he reconnects with his lover, Celine Armistead, and seeks to confront his childhood friend, CJ, who tried to force himself on Celine while Jason was away. CJ’s life has its own complications: drug addiction and a strained affiliation with the violent drug trafficker Boil, whose schemes threaten to destroy Whisper Lake. But the deadliest threat may not come from Boil; because the beast within Jason… is about to slip its leash.”

Whisper Lake opens with an author’s note: I know you’re thinking, ‘If Whisper Lake is a prequel, shouldn’t I read it before The Turning?’ Actually, I started this series in the middle, but I intended it that way. The twists and turns will be more meaningful if you read The Turning first, then Whisper Lake. And yes, there is already a sequel in the works.”

When I devoured Micky Neilson’s previous book, The Turning, I couldn’t put it down. It was a solid throwback to old-school wolf lore with a few fresh twists, and Whisper Lake is no different. Jason Emblock begins his story like most protagonists in this subgenre: as the victim of a vicious attack that nearly kills him. From there he returns to his hometown to recover and deals with the burdens that he now has to bear. In fact, the characters’ struggle to accept the fallout from their decisions is a consistent running theme throughout the story, and it serves the narrative well.

The overall tone of Whisper Lake differs from that of The Turning, in that the latter was a more suspenseful cat-and-mouse game, centered on the POVs of no more than three major characters (and quick vignettes of minor ones). Whisper Lake puts the spotlight on a wider array of actors on the stage. With that being said, no one player is lost in the game. From tragic hero Jason to stubborn survivor Celine to the troubled CJ, every character is fully realized and given ample attention. While the narrative changes POV from chapter to chapter, it’s never confusing, and always compelling. Neilson treats everyone as an essential portion of the story. There’s no gristle here; everything serves the narrative.

The main antagonist, greasy druglord Boil, is a far different villain than the calculating Alexander (the assassin) of The Turning. Boil is a physically repulsive sleazeball who has, through his legitimate transportation front and illegal drug-running business, secured a financial grip upon the small town. He has the gift of gab and knows how to whip a crowd up into a frenzy. He bypasses traditional channels of PR and presents himself directly as a man of the people. Despite his facade, Boil is not a gentleman, and accepts zero responsibility for his actions. The current political relevance of this antagonist, whether intentional on the author’s part or not, made me loathe him with a passion. Nielson has a gift for crafting great villains, and Boil is right on the money. He succeeds in doubling the tension in the story and driving the external conflicts that the protagonists are going through, in addition to their internal struggles.

While Whisper Lake is a werewolf tale at it’s core, it avoids treading the same worn moonlit path done in werewolf stories past by interweaving its lycanthropy with high drama and elements of crime thriller. While the same struggle exists between humanity and primal desires that we’ve seen since The Wolfman, the protagonists (and an antagonist) mirror the same conflict in non-wolf-related decisions. Whisper Lake takes a fresh turn in wolf lore, making connections with an ancient Babylonian goddess and a second deity who harnesses the power of the moon. Neilson has, again, made a slight but fitting contribution to the werewolf mythos.

There is a point early in the story in which it’s revealed that a female character had terminated her pregnancy some time in her past. I want to take a moment to sing praises about the delicacy with which abortion was discussed in Whisper Lake. The character who had terminated her pregnancy was neither a hero nor a villain as a result of it, and when a friend came to her asking for advice for a similar situation, she gave the best advice she could, which was to relate her own experience and say that it was the right decision for her, at the time. She offered the most important thing she could in such a situation: her support. Kudos to the author for treating the issue with finesse and not exploiting it for sensation. Considering the themes of the book (bearing the burden of consequences and accepting responsibility for the things that happen in one’s life), this bit of backstory makes sense and gives a fair bit of insight into the character’s decisions later on.

Whisper Lake delivers the goods and expands upon elements hinted at in its predecessor. I heartily recommend this book to readers who enjoyed The Turning, and anyone who fancies a taut bit of wolf lore by extension. 5/5 stars. Grab it on Amazon.

Underworld: A Love Letter

This post contains a ton of spoilers about the Underworld series. You’ve been warned.

You know what I love about the Underworld series? Pretty much everything.

It starts off as a solid vampire/werewolf (or lycan, in the parlance of the movie) action-horror series, taking story cues from Romeo and Juliet and visual cues from The Matrix. The first movie is a fun action movie with monsters that takes itself entirely too seriously. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

They get into some of the mythology and history behind the centuries-old vampire/lycan war in the first movie, but they really delve into the insanity in Evolution. From the first movie, we learn that Michael – Selene’s arm candy and direct descendent of Alexander Corvinus, the king of the monsters – is the first ever vampire/lycan hybrid and we are straight up told that no one really knows what his powers are. They could be limitless. Or they could not be. Who knows? *vampire shrug*

Selene also gets some of Alexander Corvinus’ sweet, sweet monster-king blood. That blood also has undefined powers.

These two things together really form the crux of the insanity the series embraces. Having two sets of undefined powers gives the writers carte blanche to make them up on the spot. Can Selene’s blood give her a lot of sweet fighting moves? Sure! Does it allow her to stand in the sunlight? You bet! Can it bring vampires back from the dead? I guess. Does it make her a really good baseball player? Never fully explored, but, if I were a betting man, I’d say she and Michael would kill Mike Dexter and his stupid Twilight vampire team.
What about Michael? Can he survive a punch that leaves a manhole cover sized hole in his chest? You bet your sweet bippy he can. Does it make him an accomplished chef? Maybe.

Throughout all of this we get a lot of history of how vampires and lycans came into existence and how they’ve changed, and why the war started and all that fun stuff. Apparently I’m a sucker for a convoluted history of monsters in my action-horror.

They double-down on that history in the third movie, Rise of the Lycans. We actually get to see why the war was ignited. Of course, it was over a love torn apart by a father who hated love and thought that cross-species breeding was an abomination. And also sunlight. And he also probably hated the insanely-dangerous cliff-sex that his daughter was having with a filthy (but also kind of handsome) lycan, but we never got his specific views on that.
I feel like they could have added a few minutes into the movie for him to talk about that, but that’s probably just me. “Before I open this roof hatch through a series of levers and let the sunlight in to kill you, my daughter, I want to bring up the cliff-loving you engaged in with this animal who is currently in human form and has a nice set of abs.”
On second thought, maybe it was good they left that part out.

Then we jump forward to Awakening. It takes place 6 months after the events of Evolution and humans have discovered the existence of vampires and lycans. So, in true human form, they decide to hunt them down and kill them. Selene and Michael decide to run away together in a boat, but are hit with a cryo-bomb which freezes them in time. Apparently the magic blood doesn’t defend against being frozen in time. So there are limits to their powers, I guess.

In a fun little twist, Scott Speedman declined to reprise his role at Michael, so they cast an actor who kinda/sorta/maybe looks like Speedman if it’s dark and you squint and his face is always moving.

Anyway, Selene wakes up 12 years later and finds out she’s being kept in a lab run by lycans and one of them kind of looks like a knockoff Chris Martin (fun fact: that guy is in a show called Lost Girl and it’s awful. He’s fine in it, I guess).

Michael is still frozen, but they have a hybrid child together (Eve) somehow, and the lycans are after her blood because it’s SUPER magic and protects them against silver and probably other stuff. You wouldn’t even believe how magic her blood is, you guys. She’s the first pure-born hybrid which means that her powers are really limitless. Like, for real this time. She probably can’t be frozen in time like her dumb parents.

The science-loving lycans are all wiped out (NERRRRRRRRRRDS!) and Michael escaped from his frozen container thing but now he’s on the run. Or he escaped in a helicopter. Or he was kidnapped by a lycan who looks like Tommy Wiseau and drained of his blood, and now Wiseau is shooting up the blood like it’s heroin and is getting all kinds of powers from it.

It’s the last one. Michael is dead now. His powers are limitless, but apparently you can just hang him upside down and slit his throat and he’s done.

That brings up an odd thing in these movies. Vampires and lycans are immortal creatures. They go to great lengths throughout the course of the series to highlight the ways they can be killed. The lycans developed special UV rounds that burn up vampires from the inside out. The vampires countered with bullets filled with liquid silver so the lycans can’t just dig out the bullets. The lycans do everything they can to harvest the blood of Michael and Eve to make themselves impervious to silver. Yet, despite all that, vampires and lycans alike are killed by something as simple as a broken neck or strangulation by way of metal wire. Human food is toxic and will totally kill them. Regular bullets don’t kill them, but it can cause enough blood loss to kill them. So, basically like humans, except a nice steak would explode their stomach or something. Even Alexander Corvinus – the father of all vampires and lycans – is killed by blood loss. I mean, technically he’s killed by a massive explosion, but he was dying when he exploded the ship he was on.

As near as I can tell, the sole benefit you get from being a vampire or lycan – besides super cool titles like “Death Dealer” – is that you can live a long time if you’re super careful. It seems that most things that would kill a normal person would also kill a vampire or lycan. What’s the point of silver bullets? Just cut their brakes and they’ll die in a car crash.

Now, for the latest entry in the series: Blood Wars. It’s the weakest in the series and also the dumbest but also still awesome. It still takes itself entirely too seriously and it pretty much forces everyone to have an intimate knowledge of the rest of the series to understand everything that is happening. I had no trouble following along, but I can guarantee you that very few people have seen this series as many times as my wife and I have.

As I talked about above, the lycans have killed Michael and now they’re looking for Eve’s blood for reasons. Selene does not know where Eve is, so she is off on her own, engaging in some sweet lycan-killing, but also being hunted by both vampires and lycans. Eventually we discover that there is a hippie vampire coven on the top of a snowy mountain and they know how to transport themselves over short distances and also maybe know where Eve is or something. It’s confusing. There’s also a sexy evil vampire who answered a casting call that asked for, “Just kind of be like Eva Green, ya know?” Anyway, she nailed it.

The Nordic vampires have white hair and hate violence and swear that lycans will never breach their walls because it’s too cold, but then lycans totally breach their walls and kill a lot of vampires. So many vampires.

There’s another showdown and the vampires prevail. Selene accidentally gets some of Wiseau’s blood on her lip and she sees that Michael was killed and then she drinks her own blood to bring back her memories of Michael and Eve and then she pulls out Wiseau’s spine and I was so excited I screamed in the theater.

Now Selene is a vampire elder even though they all hated her 30 minutes ago. The end.


I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know why you read this far. I have no idea what this post is supposed to accomplish. These movies have gotten steadily more ridiculous with each installment, yet they take themselves so seriously I can’t help but smile when I watch them. The black leather, industrial soundtrack and stony faces feel a little out of place in 2017, but I can’t imagine watching an Underworld movie with jokes and bright colors. Just keep it rolling, man.

If there ends up being another installment in this series, here are four things I can guarantee you:
1. I will rewatch all the previous movies again before it comes out.
2. It will be terrible.
3. I will be in the theater opening night.
4. I will love it.

Anyway, if you ever have any highly specific Underworld questions, you know who to ask.