Classic Horror Movie Reviews from an Almost 13 Year-Old Part 2

Carnival of Souls poster
Carnival of Souls poster

[Editor’s Note: Arianna, an almost 13 year-old horror fan, was asked to give her opinion on classic horror films. Her first review, Night of the Living Dead, can be found here. For this installment, Arianna reviews the 1962 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Before you grab your torches and pitchforks, please remember that there is a vast difference in the horror of today as opposed to the films we more mature fans consider “classics”. The Walking Dead has gore comparable to Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (which was Rated X when it was first released). We are all products of our time. Nightmare Castle was in theaters when I was born. The hot horror movie when Arianna was born? Jeepers Creepers.-TMW]

Carnival of Souls was suggested to me as a classic, though I’d never heard of it. Personally, this was creepy of all things, not the kind of horror where I feel the need to cover myself in a blanket because something is bound to grab my foot. I was confused a lot; about the whole duration of the film.

Candace Hilligoss gives a haunting performance
Candace Hilligoss gives a haunting performance

I’ve noticed interaction with sound in horror movies, and usually in most the sound adds to the  story-line right off the bat. But in this, it did not. They have you try and figure it out I suppose. I found myself restless and pretty bored ,waiting for to just snap into it and understand what was happening, but I never did. When the guy just stares at you through the screen , or there were multiple people , dark circles surrounding the eyes; that was the scariest it really got. This lady is running around, I literally have no idea what her objective is;what she’s trying to do, where shes going. Trying to escape? Most likely, yes. But then why was she there in the first place?

Welcome to the carnival!
Welcome to the carnival!

 

My dad suggested that perhaps this indicates that the film is too advanced for me. NO, that is not why I could not contemplate much less fathom what was happening. This could be someone’s favorite movie, and that’s respectable; everyone views things differently. I, on the other hand, was not impressed. Maybe adults will understand the story better, but I would not recommend this for the younger audience or my age group simply because of the confusion.

 

Check out this trailer for CARNIVAL OF SOULS:

TV Series: SLEEPY HOLLOW Overview & Season 2 Premiere

Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow

The first season of Sleepy Hollow aired in September, 2013 and presented a decidedly polished Ichabod Crane (portrayed  with charm and deadpan humor by Tom Mison) about 250 years into a future where he falls under the protection of an insightful Officer Abby Mills (Nicole Beharie) who breaks police protocol to protect her town. The plot reveals a peculiar link between Ichabod and the Headless Horseman who reclaimed his  murderous post, searching for his head.

The creepy horseman is not the only menace to invade, however.

The sleepy town is populated with demons, witches, and secret societies stretching back to the American Revolution. Much of what they believed is couched within untruth, and the pair must scramble to solve the mysteries before more death visits the populous and ultimately the world.

People they trusted prove unworthy. Others find vindication within what is revealed. History itself is redefined. Time continuums are explored. Folk and religious beliefs are investigated. All while Ichabod navigates the perplexities of modern living.

Other than the names of some of the characters, there is little resemblance to the classic Washington Irving book found within his early 1800’s “The Sketch Book.” For example, Ichabod in the show served in the Revolution, a Brit who turned coat and became a spy for the Americans under General Washington.

His polish and demeanor in no way resemble the awkward, half-starved school teacher mooning after his plump and lovely student. In the television show, his wife is Katrina, whose secrets propel much of the convoluted plot. The captain is named “Irving.”

 However, using Mr. Washington Irving’s familiar creepy vibe and expanding it to cross genres and touch on adventure, the supernatural, and mystery with intriguing visuals and excellent camera work add to the marketability of the show.

 The second season of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” premiers in the USA on Monday, 22 September, 2014 at 9PM/8c. The entire first season is available on such sources as VUDU or DVD.

Book Review: A Respite for the Dead by Lucy Taylor

A Respite for the Dead cover
A Respite for the Dead cover

A Respite for the Dead by Lucy Taylor

Published by Omnium Gatherum

Guardians

‘…I sniffed the air and caught a faint but sharp scent of burnt weeds. Not the clean, crisp aroma of the autumn leaf burnings I recalled from my childhood back east, but something malodorous, pungent – There were no dates and nothing except the photographs to identify the dead. The only evidence that anyone had been here were a few bunches of flowers, the blooms withered and brown like a pharaoh’s mummified fingers – Guzman gazed into his empty wine glass like a sorcerer looking at entrails, but when he spoke again, I knew he’d had no revelations, divine or otherwise – I turned down the volume, called out “I’m home”, and was greeted by thunderous silence – “Oh.” I nodded like this was normal and fine, but I could smell my own rage, and the earth underfoot looked like baked blood – The distress in her eyes felt as gratifying as a standing ovation on the part of wronged husbands everywhere. I drank it in like a shot of hard whiskey.’

 

Lucy Taylor has once again made it quite evident that her brilliance as a writer is due, to some extent, to something far beyond her exquisite agility with prose. Her courageous exploration into cutting-edge perspectives regarding esteemed subject matter continues to captivate. Being a resident of New Mexico, I personally relate to this dark story. I know the descansos – those unique, roadside relics of remembrance spotlighting the point in space and time where the now deceased drew their last breath – that final moment before meeting with death. These are indicators – signposts directing our next thoughts into images of cemeteries and crypts – into the residual grief that always lives on after death – and into consideration of the various possible causes of these sudden and frequently violent deaths.

In A Respite for the Dead, Lucy Taylor explores outside-of-the-box potential differences between one dying peacefully in your sleep with a standard follow-up burial in the family plot versus being abruptly taken, very often brutally, and that act being immortalized in glory within a roadside memorial that time and again seizes the attention of unwary travelers. She explores our attitudes toward the dead – unseen thoughts we share with the deceased – and things the dead could possibly be sharing with us. We’re reminded of separate realities – realities that some of us more sensitive types, those occasionally in touch with altered states, as well as those of us who flirt with insanity, often chose to push back into the darkness from whence it comes. The frayed edges of these unseen separate realities, sometimes, cross over and manifest before us. We may discover that because we choose to reject what may seem to be so unbelievable, unrealistic and even absurd – by sending away these apparently incomprehensible messages bleeding over from the other side – we may be missing something very important, indeed. You may experience a facsimile of success in avoiding acknowledgment or acceptance of these messages, but inevitably, they return, because often, the message is for you.

In this tight work of fiction, Lucy Taylor lures you into the darkness to consider one additional possibility for what a respite for the dead could entail. It may be something that forms just at the edge of your peripheral vision…

5 STARS

Article: Tattoo Boo: HALLOWEEN INK

A very festive sleeve
A very festive sleeve

The machine hums and whines as it draws blood; a rivulet trickling from the wicked grin of a smiling Jack o lantern. He presses until she winces. He pauses to wipe. She stretches, adjusts. “Do you need a break?” he asks. “No, please, I can’t wait to see it!” she gushes, closing her eyes to accept the temporary discomfort for a permanent change.

Tattoo artist Chris “Blick” Blickenderfer, owner of American Tattoo in Verona, Pennsylvania, helps fans of the season transform their bodies into art. Using skin as canvas, he projects visions onto bodies.

Halloween is a major theme for ink.

Tattoos featuring skulls are a staple in the industry, including vibrant Mexican-inspired designs reminiscent of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. As a fan of H.R. Giger, Blick has incorporated bio-techno aspects into his designs as well as allowing earthly remains to peek through organics and other foliage.

Haunting scenes enacted across a back or along an arm, nods to favorite horror movies, and genre books get creative juices flowing. It is hard to get him to choose a favorite. “I’m very critical of my work,” Blick admits. “Some of my favorites include a quintessential Halloween scene, a portrait of Reagan from The Exorcist, and a flamboyant Headless Horseman.

A demon on the calf
A demon on the calf

Instead of remaining in the cemetery, the dearly departed have left visible fingerprints on their loved ones. Many customers use their bodies to convey loving remembrances of their departed, their ink memorializing transformed lives. From initials and names to miniature footprints and portraits, people carry their grief in this personal way.

 

A haunted manor tattoo
A haunted manor tattoo

 

 

 

 

According to Pew Research (March, 2014), 23% of Americans in all legal age groups sport ink. For some, it is an expression of self. For others, it sets apart their beliefs. And for others, it is a celebration of their favorite things, including the Halloween season.

Article: The Historical Vampire

From 1897, a copy of Philip Burne-Jones' painting, THE VAMPIRE
From 1897, a copy of Philip Burne-Jones’ painting, THE VAMPIRE

We may think of vampires as hypnotic, blood-thirsty villains (or heroes) of the modern horror genre, yet vampires have been part of western culture for 1000 years.

 

English historian William of Newburgh (1136 – 1198 A.D.) wrote of revenants – the word ‘vampire’ only appeared in the English language in 1734 – in his History of English Affairs. One account related how a man of ‘evil conduct’ died and was buried, only to rise and wander from house to house at night, killing townspeople. A group of men removed the corpse from its grave, cut out its heart and burnt it on a funeral pyre.

 

Five decades later, vampire hysteria began in Moravia (today’s Czech Republic), to spread over the next 500 years westward to France and Germany, and eastward to Russia.

 

Although not your stereotypical vampire, Count Dracula was just as blood-thirsty. Born in 1431 in Schassburg, Transylvania, young Vlad became known as Vlad Dracula (son of Dracul) after his father joined the Order of the Dragon (Dracul), a Christian organization dedicated to fighting the Muslim Turks. When Vlad took the throne in the Romanian province of Wallachia, he became one of the most brutal rulers in history, responsible for the torture and death of over 40,000 people. His penchant for impaling his enemies on stakes, beneath which he dined on bread dipped in their blood, earned him the nickname ‘Vlad the Impaler’. Vlad was assassinated by the Turks in 1476, his head allegedly taken as a trophy.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory
Countess Elizabeth Bathory

The Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory played an equally horrible role in furthering the belief in vampires. Born in 1560, the ‘Blood Countess’ believed she could retain her youth and beauty by bathing in the blood of young girls. She tortured and ex-sanguinated hundreds of girls, the discovery of whose bloodless bodies around the countryside led to rumors of vampires among the peasants. Countess Bathory was arrested in 1610 and imprisoned for life in her castle.

 

Greek theologian Leo Allatius (1586 – 1669) undertook the first methodical treatment of vampires in his work, On Certain Modern Opinions Among the Greeks. Other writers followed, recording the folk beliefs that circulated about vampires: You could become a vampire by being bit by one; drinking the blood of a vampire; inheriting the condition from your parents; committing suicide or suffering a violent death. You could protect yourself from vampires by wearing a string of garlic, a rosary or a crucifix around your neck, or by draping garlic around the windows and doors of your home. If bitten, you could break the spell by burning the vampire’s heart and consuming it.A suspected vampire could be stopped from rising by stuffing its mouth with garlic and spreading garlic, thorns and poppy seeds in and around the coffin. To destroy a vampire, you had to drive a stake of aspen, maple, hawthorn or whitethorn wood into its heart, behead it, remove its heart and burn it, or simply burn the entire creature in fire or sunlight.

 

Vlad Dracula, the most famous vampire of all who was actually just a man.
Vlad Dracula, the most famous vampire of all who was actually just a man.

As time passed, the vampire wound its way into mainstream culture, where it now enjoys fortune, fame and infamy on screen and in literature.

TV Review: Z NATION

Z Nation is a Syfy series produced by The Asylum
Z Nation is a Syfy series produced by The Asylum

The saying “One cannot serve two masters” is as true for storytelling as it is for anything else.

The Asylum, the production company that brought viewers Sharknado, is back with an attempt to take on the zombie apocalypse horror sub genre with Z Nation. I saw a screener before it premiered, but wanted to hold off judgment on the show until I saw the final broadcast version just in case there were any last minute changes.

Having checked it twice now, I feel I can safely state objectively what I think of Z Nation. While it may seem unfair to compare it to The Walking Dead, I am going to. Both are primetime basic cable TV series. Both are inspired by other works that came before it and both are trying to get rabid zombie fan as viewers. The differences are obvious; The Walking Dead, from the start, was a superior drama with genuine characters that made us care. Of course the talent involved with The Walking Dead is truthfully better than what the Asylum is offering.

Harold Perrineaulooks LOST in Z NATION
Harold Perrineau looks LOST in Z NATION

Yet I do not fault The Asylum for not having the same caliber of talent in front of and behind the camera because they are up against KNB Effects, one of the best makeup effects providers in the business. Plus the zombies look okay for the most part. The dialogue and acting on the other hand is serviceable at best even with Harold Perrineau in a guest-starring role. Outside of that the only other cast members of note are Tom Everett Scott and DJ Qualls. The rest of the cast appears to be largely unknown, which is fine.

What doesn’t work in Z Nation: the show does not know whether it is to be taken seriously as drama or simply enjoyed as schlock. That is where the two major problems comes into play. You can have a comedy with moments of great drama like MASH and you can have a drama with moments of light comedy as with Ally McBeal. However, you have to define exactly what one is and as far as I can tell, The Asylum wants Z Nation to be both a drama and schlock at the same time. As a result it fails as both.

The actors of Z Nation have a hard time connecting to each other.
The actors of Z Nation have a hard time connecting to each other.

There is nothing new to see here. Cast members look out of place at times as though they don’t know how to play off the material. Right from the first episode, the series seems to ignore the basic rules it sets up for cheap nonsense. As a result I neither liked or disliked Z Nation because the show doesn’t even inspire enough interest to make me care. It is neither fun or gripping. It just feels limp and aimless. You can’t be Zombieland and World War Z at the same time. You have to choose an approach and stick with it or else you risk alienating audiences for both.

Z Nation is unfocused and if it doesn’t decide what it is fast then I think viewers should show “mercy” to quote a term used on the show and skip watching it.

Who Could Say No to a Skeleton-in-a-Casket Cake?

Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake
Halloween Skeleton in Casket Cake surrounded by creepy cake balls.
I opted to surround the cake with creepy cake balls.

Each Halloween I make yummy treats for family and friends. Cakes, cookies, cake pops… whatever tickles my fancy. When I ran across a casket pan by Wilton last year, I was in spooky heaven. Turns out it was the easiest cake I’d ever made. I use Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” cake recipe. This has been my go-to recipe for years, and the result is a moist, not-too-sweet, treat. But you could use any recipe or box mix, so long as it’s designed for baking in a standard pan. If you plan to buy this pan, I recommend spraying the pan with a cooking spray like Pam original, and dusting it with sifted, all-purpose flour. They also make cooking sprays with the flour included, but I’ve not tried those. You’ll want to bake the cake until it’s just slightly underdone. They heavy pan will hold enough heat to complete the process after it’s removed from the oven. This will also prevent sticking in case you missed some preparation spots in the pan. So far I’ve made three of these cakes. One was completely frosted, one (shown here) I piped accents with royal icing (see recipe below), and the third I over-floured the bottom and left naked. The result was faint accents of the skeleton – perfect for sprinkling chocolate crumbs on for “dirt”.

Zombie cake decorated - from the casket cake
Wilton-decorated example of a zombie cake from the same pan.

Wilton provides a “zombified” decorating example. It’s cool, but requires working with fondant, as well as more artistic skills than I possess. To display the cake, I left it on a cooling rack and placed cake balls all around. (See how I made the eyeball cake balls.) Of course, those with more patience and know-how could build a cemetery scene using edible grass and tombstones made from painted Styrofoam. For dirt, I’ve found that crushed graham crackers or chocolate graham crackers work well. Oreos are too black for daylight, but if you plan to display your cake in a dimmer setting, they’ll work, too! A few more tips:

  • Don’t use glaze icing, or icing that dries to a shimmering look.
  • If you’ve prepared the pan properly and it won’t release easily, use a rubber spatula to gently draw around the inside of the pan.
  • Want to make it ahead of time? Freeze the naked cake. It will keep well for a month or more and will not lose its shape. Allow it to defrost at room temperature or in the fridge. Don’t microwave it!
  • If you make a decorating mistake, cover it up with “dirt”. That’s the beauty of an unearthed cake – it doesn’t have to look perfect.
  • Do not scrub the pan. Use a faucet sprayer to gently blast out any crumbs from the crevices.
Wilton's Skeleton Cake Pan
Wilton’s Halloween Dimension 3D cake pan is made of heavy duty cast aluminum.

 Making Royal Icing One of the easiest icings to make, royal icing requires all utensils and bowl be free of any grease or oils. Here’s my tried-and-true method. You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons warm water

Directions:

  • In a large metal bowl, mix the meringue powder and confectioner’s sugar on low speed for 30 seconds.
  • Add 4 tablespoons of water and mix on low speed for several minutes until peaks start to form. If the mixture appears too dry, slowly add more water, a teaspoon at a time.
  • Continue mixing until peaks are stiff. When you can turn a spoon upside down and the icing does not fall, it’s done.

Store icing in a clean plastic container with a tight lid.

You can freeze any unused icing for a few months. Just let it thaw at room temperature, and if necessary add a teaspoon of water.

  Plan on making this creepy cake? I want to see pictures of the finished product. Post them below!

Book Review: Vintage Young Adult Halloween Scares

The Halloween lifestyle stems from what we all experienced as wee goblins. Remember searching for the best decorated house in the neighborhood? This house had full size chocolate bars last year! Who put this apple in my bag? I find myself constantly trying to recreate these memories with my own kids. Sometimes, to no avail.

I lecture my kids with the whole, “I watched this when I was only seven!” routine. Try as I might my 15 year-old says I am too obsessed with the holiday. “Who goes to Halloween events in February, Mom?” My 11 year-old says he is still not ready for Knott’s Scary Farm. My 8 year-old wants to be Sharknado this year. The only hope I have for a protégé is my five year-old daughter. She loves Nightmare Before Christmas, says her face hurts in the sun because she’s a vampire, and she wanted to be Nightmare Moon for Halloween. I can work with this! To keep her looking forward to Halloween all year, I find myself reading my favorite childhood Halloween stories to her.

Vintage is the whats in for the genre now. I cannot say I am complaining. Pop on your Monster Hop LP, grab a lantern, turn off the lights and check out whats on my children’s Halloween book list!

 

Dennison's Bogie Book cover
Dennison’s Bogie Book cover

Dennison’s Bogie Book by Dennison’s manufacturing company, 1920.
Pinterest in the 20’s! I found that this “guide” was written for us future Halloween lovers,  who think about the season all year long. Perfect for little ones to create their own Halloween Party. Your littles do that right?!

 

Georgie's Halloween
Georgie’s Halloween

Georgie’s Halloween by Robert Bright, 1958.

Perfect story for grade school children! A shy ghost returns home from his village’s Halloween party to be awarded a “Best Costume Prize” by the mice in the attic of his home. See boys and girls, ghost have passive personalities too! Theres a series of these vintage treasures published as early as 1944.

 

A Woggle of Witches
A Woggle of Witches

A Woggle of Witches by Adrienne Adams, 1971.

Witches are essential to Halloween Night, but even they get frightened! This story will be followed up with its sequel, “A Halloween Happening”. Being published in 1981, the witches realize there’s nothing to fear and commence the Halloween celebration.!

 

Scary Stories series book covers
Scary Stories series book covers

Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark, More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark,  More Tales To Chill Your Bones  by Alvin Schwartz, 1980, 1984, 1991.
The ultimate must read for every child in the universe. The songs and sillier stories, like “The Big Toe”, are funny bone ticklers for little monsters. Alvin Schwartz’s version of “The Hearse Song” is tons of fun for the little ones to sing. Most of these books can be found at your local library or Etsy, Ebay and Amazon. I recommend that you grab them when you can as they are treasures that can be passed on to countless generations of Halloween lovers.

Movie Review: V/H/S/2 (2013)

V/H/S/2 Poster
V/H/S/2 Poster

[Editor’s note: The third installment of the popular found footage anthology series, V/H/S VIRAL, will be premiering on 11-21-14. Contributor Samuel Glass, Jr. continues his review coverage of the series with his thoughts on V/H/S/2!]

V/H/S/2 (2013)

Directed by: Simon Barrett (“Tape 49”); Adam Wingard (“Phase One: Clinical Trials”); Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale (“A Ride In The Park”); Gareth “HUW” Evans and Timo Tjahjanto (“Safe Haven”) and Jason Eisener (“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”).

The primary rule of any sequel is to attempt to surpass and improve upon the film that preceded it, even if only in some small way.  Happy to report to lovers of the first V/H/S, that the producers apparently took the praise and criticisms they received from both fans and columnists alike regarding their freshman effort, and used it to affect some profound changes in the creation of its successor.

First of all, there are less stories in this one, and the wraparound tale,(“Tape 49”), though duplicated in some aspects to keep the ongoing theme intact, is more well-developed this time around.  Where V/H/S presented us with a bunch of skeevy slackers who had nothing better to do than ‘break shit up’, and make a lackadaisical effort to locate what they thought was a ‘valuable’ video tape in the prerequisite ‘old dark house,’ here we have two private investigators looking into the disappearance of a college student, at the behest of his mother. Needless to say, the search of any home harboring that signature, creepy, altar-like stack of buzzing blank monitors, flashing VTR machines and haphazard piles of aging video tapes, will never wind up being that simple.  Once again, the tales unfold as one of the P.I.’s begins to review the tapes, searching for clues to help them locate the missing student.

Phase One: Clinical Trials
Phase One: Clinical Trials

Story One (“Phase One: Clinical Trials”), gives us a short that was most definitely influenced by the Asian cult thriller, THE EYE. A car accident victim is given an experimental ocular implant as part of the initial human clinical trials for an unnamed lab.  The new ‘eye’ works…a bit too well, since it enables its owner to “see dead people” SIXTH SENSE-style, who in turn know that he can see them…and they aren’t at all happy about it. A mysterious young woman who appears on the scene seems to have some answers, but those in turn pose some even more harrowing questions – like, how will they manage to survive the night? (And if you saw the first film, you can probably guess the answer to THAT one.)

“Trials” features some solid acting, and provides evidence of how the visual and special effects have been amped up from what came before.  The main weak point here is that you’re constantly reminded that you’ve seen this story done before, via the Asian version – and better.

A Ride in the Park
A Ride in the Park

Which brings us to the Second Tale, “A Ride In The Park”.  An off-road biking enthusiast trying out his new ‘helmet-cam’ for the first time, happens upon a female attack victim….attacked by WHAT, he has no idea.  But by the time he does, it’s already too late, as he discovers the devastating price for playing “the good Samaritan”…becoming a walking flesh-eater.  If you’re a big fan or Romero, Fulci or THE WALKING DEAD series, and you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to get a close-up, “dead-eye” view of the world as a zombie, this sequence was made just for you.  And by no less than Eduardo Sanchez and Gregg Hale, two of the masterminds behind the film that mutated the ‘found-footage” sub-genre into a hot commodity, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.

Sanchez and Hale have created a clever, funny, appropriately disgusting – and at its climax, even poignant – ode to walking corpses and the people who love them…or would love to get away from them as far and as fast as possible!  The short’s ending, however, will provide zombie film lovers some fodder for a pretty spirited debate, as the filmmakers choose to break a fundamental rule of “zombie mythology”.  Whether or not “Park’s” fade-out succeeds, depends on how liberal (or not) you are with your consideration of said rule.

Safe Haven
Safe Haven

The third tale, “Safe Haven” is the strongest and most nightmare-inducing, and rightfully so.  It is the singular tale in this anthology that picks up much of the squandered potential from the first film, and uses it as ‘jet fuel’ to propel the audience into a horrific waking dream of the Apocalypse, in a way that hasn’t been effectively realized since the Lovecraftian adaptations of director Stuart Gordon, (especially DAGON, which in some ways this mirrors in tone and atmosphere.)

Co-directed by Gareth Evans, (the man behind the taut, Carpenter-esque cop-thriller THE RAID: REDEMPTION) and Timo Tjahjanto, “Haven” starts out in fairly mundane fashion.  A Malaysian news crew arrives in a remote rural location, to produce a “SIXTY MINUTES”-styled expose about a guarded, religious “doomsday” cult.  Naturally, tensions abound as the three-man/one-woman group is admitted into the cult’s compound, shown around the children’s school, adjacent rooms and then introduced to “Father”, the group’s charismatic, allegedly benevolent leader.

But through the various lenses and microphones of the crew’s equipment – as well as different security cameras placed throughout the compound – the audience becomes privy to a sense of constantly increasing dread; the aforementioned tensions of something not quite right with “Father” and his disciples dove-tailing with rapidly surfacing conflicts that divide loyalties and friendships within the news team.

It all culminates in a literal explosion of truths and lies unearthed, and the real purpose ot the cult, which ultimately realizes its goal of unleashing “hell on Earth” in a way that will haunt many viewers dreams (this one in particular) for a very long time to come.

With a mix of Malay with English subtitles and English dialogue, one would surmise that it would be difficult for most American audiences to follow along.  But “Safe Haven” is one of those great examples that proves beyond doubt, that a good story needs very little to no translation.  Considering its micro-budget, the practical and visual effects here are nothing less than impressive.  And if nothing else about this segment makes a lasting impression on you, the last frame most definitely will color your darkest dreams – if not become their foundation – for a good little while.

Slumber Party Alien Abduction
Slumber Party Alien Abduction

With “Haven” being such a tough act to follow, even the best and brightest upcoming talents in the indie horror world might find it a pretty daunting task.  So, writer/director Jason Eisener (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN), doesn’t even try – presenting his piece, the last ‘tape’ viewed by the P.I.’s in the house – in a manner that allows it to stand out on its own merits.  A throwback to the Eighties films of Spielberg and Hooper (in particular, their collaboration on POLTERGEIST), even the title: “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”, is unapologetically retro.

Two brothers and a couple of their closest buddies, making bad home movies via a camera mounted on the head of the family dog, use the remainder of their ‘parent-free’ weekend doing what they do best: spend the time antagonizing their older sister and her boyfriend in as many ways as possible, while the offended parties in turn plot an appropriate payback. That’s the “Slumber Party” part of the story. The juvenile hijinks are brutally interrupted by – what else? – the “Alien Abduction”, which is when this final short truly kicks into high gear.

The same complaints regarding the ’shaky-cam’ nausea and disorientation that plagued THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, will most likely be leveled at “Abduction” as well, but take a moment of consideration.  All of the action is being doubly reflected through the POV’s of the “family dog cam” and that of the terrified, traumatized kids. One would have to assume that when experiencing a kidnapping by E.T.’s not-so-friendly relatives,  you’d be feeling plenty of both…and that would be the least of your worries.  In this respect, for once, Eisener enlists said “shaky-cam” to advance and set the pace and tone of the story to great effect.

Animal lovers and sensitive, squeamish souls should be forewarned: unlike the teen-centric 80’s films it imitates and salutes, where ‘dweebs’, nerds and other assorted outcasts ultimately prevailed, conquered all enemies and saved the day, this has far from one of those triumphantly happy endings…and I will leave it at that.

Tape 49
Tape 49

Which brings us full-circle to the “wrap-up” of the wraparound story.  Though as I mentioned before, it’s tighter and greatly improved from the original, you are still provided with infuriatingly little information about what the hell is going on with VTR/monitor altars, allegedly dead people walking around the house, some kind of demonic possession having to do with watching the tapes, (shades of THE RING?) and how it all relates to the overall mythos the series is trying to establish.  One can only hope and assume that, like the outstanding [REC] franchise, (to which this bears quite a few similarities), more answers will be forthcoming with the third installment coming 11-21-14.

And as long as the quality of the stories that comprise the anthologies continue to improve and surprise in both content and quality, they can count on this reviewer to be there.

Check out the V/H/S/2 trailer:

Omnium Gatherum’s HALLOWEEN TALES Now Available!

Halloween Tales book cover
Halloween Tales book cover

HALLOWEEN TALES is a new Halloween/horror anthology from Omnium Gatherum and editor, Kate Jonez. It collects several seasonal tales of horror from many members of the Horror Writer’s Association Los Angeles Chapter.

Contributors include: Nancy Holder (Buffy: The Making of a Slayer), Lisa Morton (Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween), Michael Gonzalez, Hal Bodner (Bite Club), Janet J Holden, John Palisano, David Winnick, Kate Jonez (Ceremony of Flies), R.B. Payne, Steven Booth, Maria Alexander, Eric Miller, E.S. Magill, Tim Chizmar, Robin Wyatt Dunn, PS Gifford , Xach Fromson and Halloween Forevermore’s own Terry M. West (Heroin in the Magic Now).

This collection is a perfect Halloween night reading experience!

HALLOWEEN TALES is available in both paperback and Kindle editions and you can order it here.