Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

The “Good Old Days” Were Filled with Terror in “SEVERED.”   Leave a comment

The graphic novel Severed was written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuff, illustrated by Attila Futaki.

The graphic novel Severed was written by Scott Snyder and Scott Tuff, illustrated by Attila Futaki.

Severed is a viscerally scary graphic novel. Set in 1916, it is the tale of 12-year-old Jack Garron, who runs away from the home of his adopted mother with one dream: to find his father, a wandering guitar player. Instead he finds a nightmare: A serial killer with razor-sharp teeth who preys on children.

It’s hard to make comic books genuinely frightening. They lack the immediacy and realism of movies. They also can’t get into your head the way prose novels can, turning your own imagination into a fear factory.

What makes Severed so chilling is its realism; its unnerving depiction of a harsh early 20th century America where poor children were rarely truly safe. In that way, it’s reminiscent of the eerie movie classic, Night of the Hunter. No child protective services. No “safety net.” No food stamps. No Amber alerts. Even before Jack faces the monstrous maniac, he is exposed to dangers such as railroad hobos who try to molest him. A roving predator who feeds on the dreams – and flesh – of the innocent is made entirely believable. The grisly saga unfolds with inexorable logic.

A cannibal madman with teeth filed to points roams America preying on the innocent.

A cannibal madman with teeth filed to points roams America preying on the innocent.

While 30 Days of Night employed an expressionistic style to convey a sense of the supernatural, the artwork here is naturalistic, in keeping with the text. The layout
is highly cinematic, the framing so akin to movie camera angles that the pages look a lot like storyboards. In fact Severed would make a terrific film, though an extraordinarily dark and nasty one.

In the "good old days" there was no shortage of predators of all types.

In the “good old days” there was no shortage of predators of all types.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth.

This review was written by the author of the new thriller The Identity Thief.

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Now on DVD: “THE DESCENT: PART 2.” PERFECT FOR HALLOWEEN — OR ABYSMAL?   1 comment

BACK FOR MORE: Spunky Sarah battles a woman-eating subterranean freak.

By C. Michael Forsyth

I’m not ashamed to admit that the 2005 British movie “The Descent” scared the living daylights out of me. In fact, I’d have to count it among the most frightening flicks I’ve ever seen. The predicament of the six female spelunkers trapped in the bowels of an Appalachian cave and stalked by cannibalistic mutants is plenty harrowing even BEFORE the monsters show up. The heroines must combat claustrophobia, cave-ins, narrow tunnels that trap victims like rats, perilous drops and more. Of course, when the naked, drooling “crawlers” begin to pick them off, the situation gets worse in a hurry.

Now, the premise was not especially original. ‘The Cave,” which was released the same year, introduced a more novel concept: a germ that causes every living thing it infects to become vampire-like. In contrast, creepy underground races have been haunting our imagination at least as far back as “Superman and the Mole Men.” (And let’s not forget the old Weekly World News mascot Batboy, who looks like a benign version of the crawlers.) But the realism of the cave sequences (although filmed on a set) gave the movie a powerful impact. And while the crawlers are not all that tough as movie monsters go (a fit woman can beat one in a fair fight and their heads cave in easily), the slimy, maggot-colored critters really do make your skin crawl. Plus, forgive me if this sounds sexist, but the fact that the unlucky cave explorers were all women – with no male “protectors” — heightened the terror level.

Still, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to a sequel. We all know the vast majority are gratuitous, a naked ploy by money-grubbing producers to squeeze every last dime out of an idea. And since in most cases, the creators have gone onto bigger and better things and the follow-ups are turned over to young hacks with no loyalty to the original, the result is almost always disappointing. In this instance, although the original’s writer/director Neil Marshall stepped aside for director Jon Harris and writer J. Blakeson, he remained on board as producer. The creative team stays true to the themes of the original and manages to recapture the tension and claustrophobic horror.

Instead of doing the obvious and mimicking the original’s successful formula – say, by sending down a fresh crop of all-girl adventurers — the filmmakers pick up the story where the last one left off. Sole survivor Sarah (Shauna McDonald) has somehow made it to the surface and stumbles out of the woods. Traumatized and bloodied, she is unable to recall anything about her ordeal. Accompanying a mixed-gender rescue party, Sarah reluctantly returns to the cave in search of her companions.

Early on, I thought I’d pegged the movie as a turkey. The sheriff (Gavan O’Herlihy) makes some absurdly stupid decisions that strain the audience’s ability to suspend disbelief. For starters, he drags Sarah from her hospital bed to return to the cave, supposedly to help the rescuers negotiate their way through the maze of tunnels – although she clearly has amnesia! And HANDCUFFING himself to another person while fleeing the carnivorous sub-humanoids isn’t exactly prudent either.

Sarah’s abrupt switch from shell-shocked victim to monster-killing superwoman – ala Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in “Aliens” – is also a bit hard to swallow. And, at first, it seems like the characters, who quickly get separated due to a cave-in, are going to be bumped off in fairly predictable order. But the encounters with the crawlers are truly terrifying and exciting, each one a well-executed set-piece. The outcome of these battles rarely seem predetermined; I defy you to guess correctly who will die and when. As in the original, the intensity of the relationships gives the movie some dramatic heft. And the themes of revenge and self-sacrifice are revisited here.

In one aspect, this movie is actually an improvement over the original. The characters look different and are distinctly drawn. In the original “Descent,” the women looked and sounded so much alike, other than the exotic, indomitable Juno (Hong Kong- born Natalie Mendoza), I had difficulty telling the women apart and was even unsure of how many of them there were! Here it’s easier to root for particular characters to survive.

Like the original, the movie has a downbeat and rather puzzling ending. Maybe some kind reader will explain it to me in a comment. Or perhaps all will be made clear in the inevitable “Descent 3.”

So, as sequels go, I have to give this one a solid B+. Maybe not as fresh and shocking as the original, but spooky enough to merit a place on your Netflix queue.

TERROR STALKS THE WOODS in this video promoting "Hour of the Beast." To watch it, click below.

To see the book trailer for C. Michael Forsyth’s critically acclaimed horror novel Hour of the Beast, and hear Chapter One read by the author, CLICK HERE.

WEREWOLVES & VAMPIRES ARE THE BEST OF FRIENDS, RESEARCHERS NOW SAY   10 comments

By C. Michael Forsyth

CHIGAGO – Forget what you’ve seen in Hollywood horror flicks like “Underworld.” Vampires and werewolves get on famously — and the friendly relationship dates back many centuries, according to top experts in the field.

“Many of my closest pals are werewolves,” reveals Charles Vinowinski, a self-proclaimed Chicago vampire who says he’s 128 years old, but looks a spry 60. “We go bowling together, hang out and visit each other’s homes to play board games on Saturday nights.”

The chummy relationship between the two species is a far cry from the hit movie “Underworld,” which depicts a war that’s been waged for eons.

“The vampire-werewolf alliance can be traced at least as far back as ancient Rome,” asserts folklorist Dr. Hans Reintenhauser of the Berlin Institute for the Study of Unusual Phenomenon.

“During the dark ages, vampires and werewolves were known to hunt together and operate in pairs. During the day, while in human form, the lycanthrope would protect the sleeping vampire from those who would do him or her harm.

“Because in those days both species were persecuted by ordinary people, they needed to work hand in hand for the sake of their own survival.”
Such “odd couples” still exist in modern times, according to the expert, author of the upcoming book, “Friends Forever: The Untold Story of the Vampire-Werewolf Kinship.”

“Yes there is sometimes rivalry between the two, which are so different in their temperaments; some good-natured ribbing and occasional bickering,” says Dr. Reintenhauser. “But it’s like something you’d see in a buddy movie like ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,’ or between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the ‘Rush Hour’ pictures. Deep down, there is an abundance of love and respect.”

Since both vampires and werewolves are believed to be immortal – barring a run-in with the business end of a sharpened stake or silver bullet – “buddy” pairs develop an incredibly strong bond over the centuries.

“Imagine a comedy duo like Abbot and Costello, who’ve worked together so long they can anticipate each other’s every thought, can finish each others’ sentences and have impeccable timing,” explains the researcher. “Now imagine that kind of link strengthening over the course of a thousand or more years.”

Wolfman Henry Yerbrough, 241, has such a close-knit bond with his longtime associate Jean-Claude Dujardane, whom he claims he met in a field hospital during the War of 1812.

“Jean-Claude and I are like brothers,” smiles Yerbrough, of Milwaukee. “He was the best man at my wedding and I’m the godfather of his three kids. When we travel, we share a hotel room and once a year we go fishing together in the mountains.

“A lot of people assume we’re gay, especially since I work in a hair salon,” he adds with a chuckle. “But trust me, I love women as much as the next guy.”

Brooklyn native Ed Neidorf Jr., who is comparatively young as vampires go, at age 78, says he can only remember a single violent encounter with werewolves.

“This was in the early 1950s and there was a ‘rumble’ between a couple of rival vampire and werewolf gangs,” recalls the plumbing contactor, who still sports jet-black hair. “No one was killed, but there were some minor injuries. I remember some pretty nasty epithets being hurled at me, like ‘bloodsucker’ and “leech.’

“We were all just young and stupid then.”

When vampires and lycanthropes see movies like “Underworld” and “Twilight Saga: New Moon,” which also portrays the two groups as age-old enemies, it makes their blood boil.

“Hollywood makes it look as if we fight like cats and dogs,” fumes Vinowinski, a house inspector. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Copyright C. Michael Forsyth. All rights reserved

If you enjoyed this mind-bending story by C. Michael Forsyth, check out his collection of bizarre news, available on Kindle and in other eBook formats.

Bizarre News Cover 5.

SPEAKING OF VAMPIRES

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women's prison.

PRISON life becomes even more hellish when a vampire epidemic erupts in a women’s prison.


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I’m excited to announce the launch of my first graphic novel, Night Cage! The premise of the horror story is simple: Vampires take over a women’s prison. Just imagine Orange is the New Black meets Salem’s Lot.

The project is being funded through Kickstarter. Folks who jump on the bandwagon will get a boatload of goodies and rewards, ranging from advance copies of the book and exclusive art, posters and T-shirts to a chance to be drawn into the graphic novel as a character!

Please check out the video out HERE, and share the news with all your social media friends!

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

PRISONERS fight for survival against a bloodthirsty army of the undead in the graphic novel Night Cage.

To check the shocking and controversial Hour of the Beast, CLICK HERE.

Now on DVD: THIS “WOLFMAN” HAS FLEAS!   Leave a comment

By C. Michael Forsyth

“The Wolfman” could not possibly find a more receptive audience than yours truly. As a child I was scared out of my wits by the 1941 original. (I was even terrified by Lon Chaney Jr.’s straight-faced reprise of the role in “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein”). The movie gave me werewolf nightmares for decades. I’ve always found the flesh-ripping, rampaging man-beasts more frightening than those urbane vampires, with whom one could conceivably reason. While I’m not a big believer in remakes, when I learned that a “Wolfman” update was in the works, I eagerly anticipated it. The prospect of what modern special effects could add to the story intrigued me. And when I saw the trailer, with its grade A set design and period costumes, along with gorgeous cinematography, I immediately put the film on the top of my must-see list.

      To boot, the picture stars two of my favorite actors. I’ve been a fan of Anthony Hopkins since his chilling performance as a crazed ventriloquist in 1978’s “Magic.” (Just watch his face contort as a psychiatrist makes him try to keep his evil dummy silent for one minute). I’ve been following Benicio del Toro’s career with interest since his riveting turn as a brooding, switchblade-wielding henchman in the 1989 James Bond movie “License to Kill.” He even made my list of the top five Bond henchman.

     Unfortunately, this man-wolf movie turns out to be a dog.

     PROBLEM NUMBER 1: THE FILM ISN’T SCARY. The monster shows up way too early and appears on screen way too long. As is usually the case with movie monsters, this diminishes its ability to menace. I must admit, though, that the werewolf makeup — an update of the classic Universal version of the ‘40s — is pretty good, and a nice change from the usual “Howling”-type lycanthrope.

      While the body count is impressive (I guarantee you’ll lose count) virtually all of the killings are of anonymous characters we’ve never seen before; monster fodder we couldn’t care less about.

     PROBLEM NUMBER 2: THE FILM’S MAJOR PLOT TWIST IS INTERESTING, BUT IT’S TELEGRAPHED EARLY ON. Actually, “telegraphed” is far too generous. After all, to understand a telegraph machine, you need to know Morse code. This twist is displayed in bright red letters so big that unless you have trouble seeing the “E” on an eye chart, you’ll spot it a mile away.

     PROBLEM NUMBER 3: THE PERFORMANCES ARE DREADFUL. Hopkins, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in “Silence of the Lambs,” phones in this performance as the title character’s dad. Perhaps Sir Anthony has become too high and mighty to give a “mere” horror movie his all. Or maybe the veteran actor’s experienced nose recognized the movie as a turkey and he decided to just take the money and run. Or perhaps he was just having a bad few weeks. Hopkins is one of those actors (like fellow Welshman Richard Burton) who is really good when he’s good, and REALLY bad when he’s bad).

     But it’s del Toro’s wooden performance as the doomed, werewolf-bitten protagonist Larry Talbot that really sinks the film. He wears only one expression throughout the 103-minute movie: brooding. Come to think if it, he was at his best as the BROODING cop in “Traffic.” Maybe as an actor the guy is just a one-trick pony.

     It’s interesting that in the remake, the screenwriters chose to make Talbot an actor. But it’s a stretch to believe del Toro’s character has the risibility to emote on stage (especially during the 19th century, an era of extreme theatrical flamboyance).

     In this story, the monster is also the hero, so if we can’t empathize with him, the drama falls flat. Lon Chaney Jr. was no Laurence Olivier (nor even a Lon Chaney Sr.). But he killed as Lenny in “Of Mice and Men” and he killed as Larry Talbot (no pun intended). We rooted for him to somehow escape his tragic predicament, just as we would later feel we were in the trenches with “that Doctor Pepper guy” in “An American Werewolf in London.” We don’t give two cents about del Toro’s lackluster Larry.

     PROBLEM NUMBER 4: THE MOVIE’S CLIMAX FEATURES  THE MOST ANNOYING  HORROR CLICHÉ: TWO MONSTERS FIGHTING. My apologies to those of you who salivated at the prospect of Jason taking on Freddy Krueger, or Alien going toe-to-toe with Predator, but I usually find such clashes more comical than gripping. And most of the time, I find myself asking, “Who are we supposed to root for?”

     SO TO RECAP, we’re talking about a horror movie that isn’t scary, a plot twist that doesn’t surprise us, a leading man who can’t act and a climax that’s laughable. Does at least the romantic SUBPLOT work? Nope.

     PROBLEM NUMBER 5: THE ROMANCE BETWEEN TALBOT AND HIS SISTER-IN-LAW GWEN (EMILY BLUNT) IS UNCONVINCING. The love angle is called for by the movie’s structure, but it comes out of nowhere and feels forced. Plus del Toro and Blunt have little onscreen chemistry.

     This hurts because the film’s denouement hinges on our belief that Gwen would risk her life for Larry. When Gwen vows to rescue Larry from the curse and seeks the counsel of the old Gypsy woman, the screenwriters had an opportunity to inject an interesting new element into the “Wolfman” mythology: a possible cure. Instead, the meeting is a bust. So Gwen rushes to the dangerous Talbot estate with no plan – except to run like hell. And, as we recall from the cult classic “Tremors,” “Running isn’t a plan. Running is what you do when a plan fails.”

     However, in this case, I would say that if you happen to come across “The Wolfman” on the shelf in your local Blockbuster, that SHOULD be your plan: run like hell!

     Speaking of werewolves, check out this story I wrote for Weekly World News, under one of my many pseudonyms: “Moon Rays Turned Apollo Astronauts into Werewolves!” http://books.google.com/books?id=0_MDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA51&ots=ltMYwUPq_S&dq=weekly%20world%20news%20astronauts%20werewolves&pg=PA51#v=onepage&q&f=false

Not all werewolf flick suck. Check out this video promoting the book Hour of the Beast.

To see the Hour of the Beast book trailer and hear Chapter One of the shocking, controversial horror, CLICK HERE.

Puppy Love at First Bite: LET ME IN IS A HORROR FILM YOU CAN SINK YOUR TEETH INTO.   Leave a comment

     Based on a 2008 Swedish film and the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, “Let Me In” easily makes my list of the 10 best vampire movies ever made. (Look for my picks in an upcoming post.)
     The protagonist is Owen, a shy, frail, 12-year-old boy who is picked on mercilessly by bullies. Owen’s life brightens when a (seemingly) young girl named Abby moves into the apartment next door with a man who appears to be her father. Owen falls in love with the pretty, fair-haired lass – unaware that she is a vampire.
     The movie owes a debt, obviously, to “Interview with the Vampire,” which also features a little girl vampire. But unlike that film’s Claudia, who resents being a woman trapped forever in a child’s body, Abby never ages in her own mind. She remains a pre-teen, prone to schoolgirl crushes. As she tells Owen after he discovers her secret and asks how old she is, “I’m 12. I’ve just been 12 for a long time.”
     Masterfully, the film’s writer-director Matt Reeves is able to make this at once a tender love story and a grisly tale of terror. With its theme of star-crossed young lovers, it has echoes of “Romeo and Juliet.” Indeed, Franco Zeffirelli’s sumptuous 1968 film of the play is referenced in a brief clip, as well as in the horror movie’s haunting score. The filmmaker makes Abby sweet, ethereal and tantalizing, while not pulling any punches when it comes to her monstrous nature. Her vicious, predatory and cunning side is put on full display in several gory, frightening scenes. (I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I tell you that those bullies buy the farm in spectacular fashion – you know they’re toast pretty much as soon as they appear on screen).
    Much of the credit goes to 13-year-old Chloe Moretz, who plays Abby. With her dreamy eyes and bee-stung lips, this nymphet has an allure not unlike that of Olivia Hussey, who was just two years older when she made prepubescent boys’  hearts flutter as Juliet in the Zeffirelli film.
     It’s enough to make you understand why Owen is willing to sacrifice everything for Abby, even his own innocence.

Speaking of little girl vampires, check out this strange news item I reported for Weekly World News, headlined, “COUNTESS DRACULA REINCARNATED AS  THREE-YEAR-OLD GIRL.” http://books.google.com/books?id=2_MDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA5&ots=2XY-5L7IbW&dq=Countess%20%20Dracula%20reincarnated%20as%20this%203-year-old%20girl%20weekly%20world%20news&pg=PA5#v=onepage&q&f=false

KNOCK, KNOCK! Vampires like Abby (Chloe Moretz) can only enter your home if you let them in.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! AUDIENCE GETS THE SHAFT IN M. NIGHT SHALYMAN’S ELEVATOR-TO-HELL FLICK.   2 comments

Fans of M. Night Shalyman are accustomed to being disappointed in the “Sixth Sense” director’s work. He has, sadly, emerged as a cinematic one-hit wonder. Nevertheless, up until now his sin has primarily been intriguing premises, squandered. Thus he makes the best trailers in the business, though not the best films. But with “Devil,” even the trailer forewarns us that the movie is a stinker.

The underlying premise – five strangers stuck in an elevator, one of whom is Satan, killing the others one by one – is, frankly, dumb. Still, as always, I rushed to the latest Shalyman offering, holding out hope that he will bring back the magic. Kind of like that perpetual sucker Charlie Brown believing that THIS time, Lucy will hold the football in place when he tries to kick it.

We know we’re in trouble right off the bat when Shalyman relies on voice over – the weapon of the weak narrative film maker – to explain the supernatural element. (Just as he did to even poorer effect in his worst movie, “Lady in the Water.”) The proposition that the Devil torments and then personally kills sinners before they go to Hell anyway really doesn’t make much sense. Annoyingly, the narration returns to serve up lame explanations for other, even more illogical aspects of the film’s mythology. For instance, that Lucifer ALSO bumps off completely innocent non-sinners along the way. This seems to be an excuse to beef up the movie’s body count, beyond the doomed passengers.
To make matters worse, these innocents are killed doing incredibly stupid things (Remember kids, water and high-voltage cables don’t mix).

The disparate-strangers-trapped-under-bizarre-circumstances theme has a stale feeling to it, perhaps because it was recycled in so many “Twilight Zone” episodes. (You know, are we all in Hell’s waiting room this week, or are we really toys in a child’s toy chest?) In this case, it’s not helpful that the passengers are all quite unlikable. They’re damned sinners, you’ll recall, so how sympathetic could they be? We don’t root for anyone in particular – we just sit there waiting to see who dies next. Even the mystery angle to this five-little-Indians melodrama fails miserably. Shalyman doesn’t give us a chance to figure out who the demonic culprit is. Instead, he solves the mystery for us with a steady process of elimination, with the choices quickly dwindling before our eyes.

Dramatically, the movie never gets above the ground floor, because the five trapped passengers do almost nothing to try to facilitate their own survival. That role is left to a police detective (ably played by Chris Messina) who follows every logical step as he valiantly tries to save the passengers from their rapidly deteriorating dilemma.

For a change, in this Shalyman movie, his trademark twist ending is actually satisfying, for the first time since “Signs.” But by then, it’s way too late. You wish you’d never stepped aboard this instantly forgettable elevator to mediocrity. My recommendation: when you hear that there’s “room for one more” audience member in this movie, wait for the next one to come along.

ROOM FOR ONE MORE? Just before all Hell breaks loose.

Posted October 8, 2010 by C. Michael Forsyth in horror

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