What a beautiful surprise to wake up to on a dreary and cold Thursday morning. Let’s get this review started.
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland
Since childhood I’ve had an irrational fear of being stranded and/or trapped places. Kiefer Sutherland plays a surgeon who crash lands on a deserted island and has to do drastic things to stay alive.
What a solid way to start the animated special off. Kiefer Sutherland gives a great performance as a man constantly pushing his mental and physical limits as his body starts to fail him. There were a few genuinely shocking scenes that were easier to buy in an animated format than in live-action. The only downside to this was I kept thinking that Graham Rowat would have been phenomenal in this role
Twittering From the Circus of the Dead Starring: Joey King
A bored teenager live-tweets from a zombie circus.
I tend not to enjoy anything zombie related since most of the stories are lazy rehashes of the exact same tropes and plot points almost beat for beat. This was a welcomed exception to that.
It started off a little slow but Joey King does a great job of selling everything and the story comes together really nicely as it plays out.
At only 45 minutes in length it zooms by really quickly and leaves you wanting more. 2021 can’t get here soon enough (for many, many, many reasons) so that we can all enjoy season 2 of Creepshow.
This summer, a nostalgia-laden sci-fi series premiered on Netflix and took America by storm. Stranger Things quickly became a darling of the pop culture world with its copious references to 80s films and sci-fi/horror icons, as it told the tale of a gaggle of kids in a small town hit by the disappearance of their friend, Will Byers. If you’re anything like me, you’re jonesin’ for more creepy, supernatural, totally radical stories to hold you over until Season 2. According to the Duffer Brothers, Season 2 drops in 2017, so we’ll have to wait a bit. Here’s a list of 10 books sure to tickle your fancy as you wait for the Demagorgons to come calling again.
1. It, by Stephen King. I’d be remiss if I didn’t lead with this book. In 1958, a group of outcast kids, dubbed The Losers Club, rid the town of Derry of a child killer in the form of a killer clown. Twenty-something years later, the clown comes back and the now-grown Losers Club has to finish what they started. The Duffer Brothers are loud and proud about the book’s heavy influence on their show, and with a new adaptation coming down the pike, you’re gonna want to check out (or re-visit) this epic, terrifying novel by one of the best horror authors ever.
2. Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang. Are comic books your preferred medium? Dive into this saga about a crew of paper delivery girls in 1988 who encounter some (forgive me for what I am about to do)…strange things. Odd lights in the sky, townsfolk vanishing, men in masks, and badass female protagonists on an adventure…what’s not to love?
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. Still packing a punch today, Bradbury’s follow-up to Dandelion Wine contains many of the same characters and is based on Bradbury’s own childhood. Teenagers Jim and Will, next-door neighbors and besties, check out the local carnival when it comes to town. This traveling carnival is sinster, though, and the boys will soon live to regret their curiosity – if they can make it out alive. Dealing with themes of age, time, and the power of youth,this atmospheric and chilling read has withstood the test of time.
4. Firestarter, by Stephen King. Did Eleven’s storyline give you life? Give this 1980 sci-fi thriller a look-see. Like Eleven, the protagonist is a kid who was the subject of some bad government experimentation, and gained superhuman abilities as a result. Unlike El, however, Charlie McGee has pyrokinetic talents that make her quite the weapon. After she and her father (also a victim of the experiments) escape from The Shop, they become fugitives.
5. Disappearance At Devil’s Rock, by Paul Tremblay. Were you blown away by Winona Ryder’s performance as Joyce Byers? Try this genre-straddling book that blends dark fiction, supernatural horror, and psychological thriller as we follow the mother of a missing boy in her search to find both her son….and answers. The web Tremblay weaves becomes more and more tangled as the mother grapples with local authorities and learns of the local lore among the townsfolk. See a more in-depth review of the book here.
6. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. When it comes to storytelling, The Duffer Brothers are more subtle with their nods to icons of the 1980s; author Ernest Cline submerses you into pop culture references, as he knows you’ll love every minute of it. This isn’t a dark tale at all; it’s a sci-fi nostalgia trip through the framework of a video game. If you reveled in the Dungeons and Dragons scenes from Stranger Things and swooned over the amazing soundtrack and LOTR love, you’ll have a good time with this book, which is also being adapted into a film, directed by the man himself – Steven Spielberg.
7. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. All aboard the feels train! During the season finale of the show, our hearts collectively broke when we caught a glimpse of the loss Sheriff Hopper has suffered. Themes of loss and forgiveness are heavy in this dark tale about a boy visited by a monster in the night. The boy’s mother has cancer, but that’s not what the monster represents. If you want something dark that will recreate the swelling tempest you felt in your chest during that CPR scene in Stranger Things, I recommend picking up a paper copy of this book, not only for the story, but for the surreal, beautiful illustrations.
8. The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen. If you’re a Constant Reader like me, you read the foreword and afterword as if they were part of the story. Stephen King often talks about his inspiration for certain stories of his, and this is one of the stories that had an impact on him (particularly present in his novella, N). Were you totally okay with not having all of the answers by the end of Season 1 of Stranger Things? Did the fact that the Upside Down was minimally explained only deepen the mystery and appeal for you? If you like to let your imagination fill in the blanks, try this horror classic. It involves a scientist obsessed with “lifting the veil” between our world and the spiritual world. He seems to succeed, and the reader is left to fill in the blanks as we learn of a mysterious woman, the deaths of several high society bachelors, and the ancient myth that brings all of these things together.
9. Harrow County, by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Crook. Did you find the Upside Down both unsettling and beautiful? How about the Monster itself? You may like this creepy work of art that draws heavily on the Southern Gothic and witch lore. Back in the day, some townspeople in Harrow County decided that one of their own was a witch and, as such, they lynched and burned her alive. Before her gruesome death, she informed them in so many words that this was a poor choice, and that she would return. And return she did, much later, in the form of a teenage girl on a farm. Accompanied by the gorgeous artwork of Tyler Crook, this comic is tragic, creepy, and atmospheric. Support your local comic book store and pick this up.
10. December Park, by Ronald Malfi. Harting Farms, MD. October of 1993. The first body is found. A slew of children then go missing, and their fates are considered to be in the hands of an enigma called The Piper. The cops are no help, and so a group of teenage boys decide to investigate the matter themselves. December Park is the ensuing coming-of-age story. There are boys on bikes making fart jokes, sure enough, but don’t let that fool you — this story gets tense.
So, what did you think of the list? What would you recommend to friends to read while they wait for Season 2 of Stranger Things to premiere? Add suggestions below!
Mercy (Blumhouse Productions 2014) just might have the set up of the perfect storm to be the next big horror film. If it is not enough for you that Mercy is based on the short story “Gramma” from Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew, the cast of Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead), and Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story) plus the timeless Shirley Knight, might be just enough alone to convince you to watch the movie. However, remember that even the strongest of storms can fizzle out at the last minute.
The story follows two brothers who, with their mother, move in to their grandmother’s house to care for her as she enters her final days. The youngest brother, who has always had a special bond with her, starts to pick up clues that his loving grandma has woven a relationship with the dark arts. The problem is…grandma is not the only one dark spirits have an interest in.
The viewer’s mood immediately gets put into isolation and despair. Set in a small country town (rather than the usual location of King’s Maine) the director, Peter Cornwell, alternates between silhouettes of dead oak trees (think the cabin in Evil Dead) to and wide angle shots of the remote country side. Furthermore, I have to give kudos to Cornwell for using close up shots of the extras in the nursing home scene as a form of backdrop. Nothing says disturbing as watching an catatonic elderly person drool on themselves.
There are a few pop up scares that the movie relies on. Being that they placed in the right moment, they become memorable and work for their scene. (Anyone have a fear of something under their bed?)
I only have two problems with Mercy. First is the use of CGI to show the “dark spirit”. I still believe that what you don’t or can’t see is much more frightening than staring an obviously computer generated shadow’s glowing eyes. This totally kills the eerie vibe that the movie had created up until this point. I could think of a handful of alternative things Cornwell could have done with this scene to avoid this.
Secondly I have an issue with the ending. We all know that King likes to send his readers into a tailspin and leave them with an unforeseeable ending. However screenwriter Matt Greenberg (1408, Halloween H20, and the Prophecy II) changed the ending just enough so that it leaves the viewer screaming at the screen “…AND!?!” with an unsettled feeling of incompleteness. All that build up and then I was only to be left with a pair of blue balls.
Like I said before, even the strongest of storms can fizzle out at the last minute.
A horror purist will appreciate the nod to H.P. Lovecraft that King uses for the book of spells. Also, see if you can pick out the reference to Stephen King’s own, The Stand.
Overall this was not a complete waste of my 90 minutes, just the last 5. The atmosphere is cool and the acting is appropriate for the script they had to work with. For a straight to video release, it is worth the watch and possibly even the discount bin buy. Not a total loss, Mercy does rather well when compared to some of the talent that is floating in the Netflix toilet bowl.
Renfield Rasputin writes horror and still thinks putting plastic wrap on toilet seats is funny.