Monday, October 31, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Fourteen - Ash vs Evil Dead

Happy Halloween Everyone!

So a month later and I finally get to blog about Ash vs Evil Dead, or at least the first season.

The series picks up thirty years after the original trilogy (The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and Army of Darkness (1992), with Ash (Bruce Campbell), still working as a stock boy and using made up stories of how he lost his hand to pick up women.  Unfortunately for Ash, the Necronomicon (the book of the dead) is not yet done with him, and the series begins with him realizing evil is once again released on Earth.

As the series (produced by Campbell, original director Sam Raimi, and original producer Robert Tapert) is ten episodes long, it introduces two companions for Ash, Pablo and Kelly, two other employees at Valu-Mart who get swept up in his fight against the deadites (corpses that have been reanimated by the evil released from the book).

As with Evil Dead II, the series is a horror-comedy, putting the characters against all sorts of horrible "out of the frying pan into the fire" scenarios and allowing Ash to come across as just a terrible human being, who has (deep within) the potential to be a great hero.

Separate from the plot, each episode feature hard rock from the 1970s and 1990s (and largely from the Detroit music scene of the time), which is a great throwback to the music of Ash's younger days.

The series is a must for fans of the franchise, but also works as a great leaping on point, assuming you don't mind horror mixed with comedy.

I loved it, and will be waiting for the second season as soon as it's available.

So in the end, I spent the month going through a lot of things I had been meaning to get around to (in some cases for years) and although I didn't keep everything, I'm happier for have experienced it all, and may give this concept another try from the various Science Fiction or Fantasy titles I've got scattered around my house in the future.

Thanks for reading everyone!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Thirteen - Jericho

Sitting on my video game shelf for the last few year's has been Clive Barker's Jericho, a Playstation 3 title that was written and co-designed by Clive Barker.  It follows a team of military witches who are called upon by the military to stop supernatural threats.

Unfortunately for me, being a fan of the writer didn't help as the game mixes two of my least favourite types of video games; first-person shooters (I tend to get a little nauseous after playing for more than a few minutes), and progressive game style (wherein you follow a simple track and don't really have the chance to explore the world).

I did my best for the first half of the month to play about half an hour a day, and I did get through the first third of the game, but eventually the first-person play style just got me woozy (and not in a good way).

Oh well, not everything I checked out this month would end up as my cup of tea, and by finishing as much of the game as I could, I cleared the last little bit of the pile to reveal...

ASH VS EVIL DEAD (and yes,  I knew it was there all along, but I'm excited!)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Twelve - Army of Darkness vs Hack/Slash

Down to my last three items this month and I'm finally getting to the nitty gritty, edging closer to that TV series I've been looking forward to for over a year now.

Today it's Tim Seeley's Army of Darkness vs Hack/Slash, and it's pretty darn good.  The story picks up a few months after the end of Hack/Slash the story begins with Cassie living a relatively stable life, when in walks Ashly J. Williams, hero of the Evil Dead franchise and everything goes to hell.

As crossovers are a key part of the horror genre, going as far back as Frankenstein meets the Wolfman (and if you want to get all literate, Enkidu and Grendel), so mixing these two destroyers of evil is a lot of fun.  Both characters normally work as lone wolves, so to see them together is a kind of fun game of one-upmanship which is both charming and fun.

Yes the story can get quite graphic and gruesome, but it keeps the flavour of both series, and works well as a kind of capstone to Hack/Slash.

A lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Eleven - Mimic (Director's Cut)

Although it's not my favourite of his films, the first horror film by Guillermo del Toro I ever saw was the 1997 film Mimic. The film focuses on two scientists who introduce a genetically modified cockroach to New York City to cure an epidemic causing deaths among children. Three years later, the introduction of these cockroaches end up having a terrifying effect.

At the time my wife and I saw the original film, our complaints were "It was too dark", but the imagery really stuck with me, so year's later, when I heard a director's cut was coming out, I was pretty interested in seeing the differences.

For starters, the movie is much brighter than I recall it, with vivid blues and oranges visible throughout the film. Considering the film is largely a B-Movie monster movie, I would still consider it a worthwhile experience for horror movie fans. It's definitely flawed in a number of spots, but the commentary track and other assorted features give an excellent discussion on how mixing an independent director together with a studio can go wrong (especially early in the director's career).

The film does have a lot of neat visuals going for it, and as a big del Toro fan myself, I consider it a well worth addition to my collection, but if you're interested in monster movies, there are other pictures I'd recommend seeing instead.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Ten - Fatale

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillip's Fatale is pretty much a comic that fits very nicely in the space between Horror and Crime(specifically Cosmic Horror and Film Noir), and unlike the rest of the titles in The Hoard, this one I've actually read before.

But back when I read it (for a book club), the series hadn't finished yet, so although I knew how the story ended, I was unaware of how it finished.

The series focuses on a woman named Josephine, or "Jo" and as with the portrayal of the traditional femme fatale archetype, Jo has the ability to ensnare men with her charms.  Unlike the traditional character however, Jo's abilities are extreme, largely uncontrollable, and come from a very dark origin.

As with many film noire stories, Fatale is largely told from the point of view of the men in Jo's life, which allow the reader to slowly, but surely put together a picture of this woman for themselves.

The pairing of crime fiction with Lovecraftian horror is pretty ingenious, as it allows the reader to see a world running parallel to our own, and one that is frankly terrifying.

I first read Brubaker during his run on Gotham Central, a police procedural comic which takes place in Batman's Gotham City, but focusing on the day-to-day operations of a police department.

Fatale is a really great read, and one I've been happy to have in my collection for a few years now.  As I've now finished the series, I've got to say it's definitely earned it's place and won't be leaving anytime soon.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Nine – Year’s Best Horror Series One

All right, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a great short story, and when it comes to horror, short stories are often the best at delivering the scares, so when I first found a copy of DAW’s Year’s Best Horror volume eight at a used bookstore, I knew I would be adding the series to my ongoing collection.

Over the years I’ve collected eight of the twenty-two volumes published between 1972 and 1994, and although I don’t have the complete run yet, I did manage to find volume one last year and decided this month would be a good one to decide whether or not the series is worth collecting.

Short answer, absolutely.

Long answer, Year's Best Horror Stories: Series One (although missing some of my favourite parts of a good anthology – like an introduction, or bios on the author) collects a number of a pretty great horror fiction from 1972 (a year before Stephen King's first novel, Carrie, was published). The collection includes works by Robert Bloch (Psycho), Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), and Brian Lumley (Necroscope), along with a lot of others. The standouts for me were Matheson's "Prey" wherein a young woman purchases a gift for her boyfriend that moves from curious to terrifying in one night, "Warp" by Ralph Norton, which moves nicely into the Science Fiction/Horror crossover work I find so good in shows like Rick & Morty, and "After Nightfall" by David A. Riley, a Lovecraft-influenced story which looks into why you should always pay attention to local culture.

The book is short, a lot of fun, and definitely going to lead me to finding more of this series.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Eight - The Quiet Ones

I'm a little embarrassed to say that as a long term horror fan, it took me almost until I was twenty-five to see my first Hammer Horror film. Hammer Films, a production company out of the UK is most well-known for making a series of Gothic horror films from the '50s through the '70s featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, and other assorted monsters, in films like House of Dracula, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, and The Mummy. These reinterpretations of the Universal monster movies of the '30s and '40s are all well worth the watch, and if you happen to catch one of the many directed by Terence Fisher, you are in for a real treat.

Although Hammer continued to produce stories into the 90s, it wasn't until 2010 that they began working in feature films again, with movies like The Woman in Black, Let Me In, and today's pick The Quiet Ones, once again working to create a brand in horror.

The Quiet Ones takes place in Britain in 1974 and follows a university experiment led by Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) who, along with a team of three students, attempt to cause a psychic manifestation from a young woman named Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). In my opinion the two leads are the best part about the film, as the professor works as leader, father figure, and mad scientist, while the focus of the experiment, Jane, effectively straddles the line of victim or manipulator through the majority of the film. In addition the film has a fun use of the camera-as-viewer, as one of the main characters has been brought in to document the experiments, about 50% of the footage seen comes from his camera.

Where the film lost me was it's reliance on obvious tropes (pretty much the entire third act had little to no surprises for me), and an unfortunate use of CGI in the film looked fairly ridiculous - and was also fairly unnecessary - over the summer I've been watching the web series Marble Hornets which uses video film tracking errors and distortion to a much greater effect than the CGI in this film.

It was a pretty good horror movie, but no, I won't be keeping it.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Seven - Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Ok, so back in 2013 I started collecting my first Archie comic in about thirty years, Afterlife with Archie. The comic, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and with art done by Fansesco Francavilla, takes the familiar characters from the small town of Riverdale and throws them into a full-blown zombie apocalypse. The art was great, the story significantly more emotional than I was expecting, and the the throwaway lines and references to the horror genre ensured this comic would be immediately addd to my ongoing comic collection.

Then a year later a spinoff was announced, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which would follow the teenaged witch into her own horror-themed story. As Sabrina makes only one small (but crucial) appearance in the first collection of Afterlife with Archie comics, I wasn't sure at first if the new series would be a companion series or start something new all its own.

Then, as with virtually every title I've been enjoying this month, I dutifully collected each issue as it came out, stuck it in my "to be read" folder, and ignored the entire collection until last month when I began putting this theme month together for my blog.

The series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa with art by Robert Hack, follows Sabrina through her teen years during the 1960s. Other than being part of the Archie Horror imprint, it has no connection with Afterlife with Archie, and feel a lot like the devil-focused witch movies brought out by Hammer Horror in the 60s.

The stories largely focus on Sabrina's backstory, as well as that of her nemeis, and like Afterlife with Archie, includes cameos by original Sabrina characters but shown in a very different light. The overall story is really quite eerie, and does, at times, get fairly gruesome.

Definitely not for kids, but if you grew up reading Sabrina, or (like me) are even vaguely familiar with the character, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a title well worth a look.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Six - Book of Blood

Following my viewing of The Midnight Meat Train, I was looking forward to the other longest-held item in my "to be viewed" collection, the 2009 film Book of Blood, based, strangely enough on the framing narrative of Clive Barker's Books of Blood collection of short stories, "The Book of Blood" and "On Jerusalem Street (a postscript)". As these two stories offer an excellent way to view enter and exit the entire collection, they seemed a strange duo to turn into a film, but, as a long-time fan of Clive Barker's work, it certainly got me interested.

The film follows a young man named Simon McNeal (played by Jonas Armstrong) as a young medium hired by a paranormal researcher to investigate a haunted house. Unlike the original work, which, like The Midnight Meat Train,is quite short, the film expands the original story to include background on the researcher, Mary Florescu (Sophie Ward), and her own relationship with the events in a haunted house.

Overall the film does a good job with scares and like The Midnight Meat Train, is pretty gruesome, but it falls to the same problem as the previous adaptation, in that I feel it would have done better as a short film. This isn't to say every short story must be made into a short film, as stories from the same collection were made into the films Candyman and Lord of Illusions, both great films on their own, and adaptations which brought more to the original story. I just felt that these two stories in particular, would have been served better in a shorter (perhaps televised) format.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bookmonkey vs the Hoard: Post Five - Outcast

One of the titles I've been meaning to get around to the most in the hoard is Robert Kirkman's Outcast. This demonic possession story, written by the fellow who came up with both Incredible and The Walking Dead, has had me intrigued since I first heard about it back in 2014. The fact that a TV adaption began earlier this year just added to my interest, but as I've been on a Marvel kick as of late, I just couldn't seem to find the time.

Having now read the first two collections, A Darkness Surrounds Him, and A Vast and Unending Ruin, I've got to say I'm pretty impressed, and really creeped out. The series follows a young man named Kyle Barnes, who has twice had his life interrupted by demonic possession, first his mother during his childhood, and later his wife.

The series opens with a small family seeing the first occurrence of a possession, and then quickly moves into the troubled life of Kyle Barnes, a man desperately trying to make his way through the world day-by-day, and who seems almost completely disassociated with everyone and everything around him. The story follows Kyle as he joins a local Reverend to help in an exorcism, and then moves into an area of demoic possession fiction I don't think I've every come across before. What if the possession was real, but the exorcism only partly worked?

This series was incredibly immersive and had me pulling for Kyle and desperately trying to understand his new world. An excellent read, and one I hope to continue very soon.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Four - The Midnight Meat Train

One of the first horror authors I actively began to collect in life was Clive Barker.  As a younger teen I saw both Hellraiser and Nightbreed, and somewhere in my teens I happened across the first of his short stories series The Books of Blood, and as the price was right, I snapped it up.

The very first story (after the framing story), was "The Midnight Meat Train", a twenty-page journey into one of the most terrifying concepts I had every come across.  It follows a man named Leon who happens to see something while riding on a train, something horrifying, methodical, and something that sees him back.

The story began my interest in collecting the works of Clive Barker, and over the years I've built up a pretty decent collection of his writing, so when I found they had made a film adaptation of "The Midnight Meat Train" I knew I'd have to check it out.

Due to the short nature of the story, the movie fleshes out the narrative, changing the main character from an everyman into a photographer, he's given a girlfriend, a job, and a goal - to see the reality of New York City.

The film works fairly well, but honestly, I think the story works if told quickly - an introduction to the horror that is about to be read by the reader.  In the end it wasn't a keeper, but an interesting adaptation of one of the most startlingly horrifying stories I read in my youth.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bookmonkey vs The Hoard: Post Three - Revival

I've been a fan of Tim Seeley's work since i first checked out his horror movie-themed series Hack/Slash in 2011 and after spending a month in 2013 reading my way through that entire title, I began collecting his latest series, a Rural Noir called Revival, written by Seeley, and illustrated by Mike Norton. As often happens with collections, I ended up with five of these before I got around to reading any past the first volume, and that brings us up-to-date.

This week, I went through the first five collections and this series is pretty darn great. Having been a long-time fan of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead (whether in original comic, adapted television show, or even video game form), I wasn't exactly sure if I wanted to start another comic about the dead rising, but Revival is something entirely different.

Taking place in a fictionalized version of Seeley's hometown of Wausau Wisconsin, the story focuses on police officer Dana Cypress and the events set after "Revival Day", when the dead rose in the area surrounding the town, not as zombies, but apparently as themselves, and (mostly) wanting to get on with the business of living. The series works as a mystery, both on the large scale, as no one know why this specific geographical area has been effected, and on the small scale, involving murders, kidnappings and the types of crimes than can happen in a small town cut off from the rest of the world (Wausau is quickly put under quarantine by the United States Government).

Although the series does have a large number of truly gruesome scenes, much of the story is driven by family drama, Dana works with her father (the town's Sheriff), has a younger sister in college, and an eight-year-old son, each of which has their own secrets and story lines.

A really great series, and one I'm quite happy to have finally gotten around to reading!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard: Post 2 - Deathgasm

I begin my attack on the Hoard by grabbing my next-to-most recent catch, a 2015 New Zealand Coming of Age Demonic Horror Comedy.

Ok, I'll be the first to admit this movie was not a hard sell for me - I've been a long-time fan of the horror genre, I'm a big fan of New Zealand Cinema, and the Heavy Metal theme to the film directly connects me to my teen years (ok, it actually connects me to the cool kids I spent my teen years wishing I could hang out with while I spent all of my time reading).

The 2015 film Deathgasm follows Brodie, a young metalhead who has recently moved in with his aunt and uncle, as he starts over as a new kid in school, making friends and even starting a band. Then he maybe sort of summons a demon, and things start to go very bad...

The film works in many ways like last year's Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse, four young men (and a young woman) end up fighting their way through a town in some pretty gruesome ways, while trying to save the world. The film strongly connected with my inner teen, and actually did a pretty great job of describing the appeal of metal music to the uninitiated.

The film was produced after winning the 2013 Make My Horror Movie contest in New Zealand, and although it has some weaknesses to it, the film is so filled with high energy and obvious love of the genre, that it's well worth a watch for horror fans.

In the end, although it's not a film I'll end up keeping, it was a lot of fun, and definitely has me looking forward to rewatching it's Canadian equivalent, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard: Post 1

As with many journeys, my blog this October began with a simple step. For the last year I've been excited for the day Ash vs the Evil Dead became available on DVD, and about a month ago it finally did! Snapping it up as quickly as I found it, I brought it home and prepared to watch the latest in one of my very favourite horror franchises, but then my wife hit me with a pretty good piece of logic.

You know, there's a lot of horror-themed things you've had around the house for a while now and haven't watched/read/played yet. How about you try some of them first?

And you know what? She was totally right.

So I went though my house collecting every horror-themed product I had purchased (or received as a gift) and hadn't got around to enjoying yet and realized something.

This is my October blog theme.

So here we go, a month cleaning up a pretty significant backlog of stuff, including comics, games, short stories, and films.

Welcome to Bookmonkey vs. the Hoard.