Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Best of 2008

Well 2008 has come to an end. Looking back, here are my picks for best movie, book and T.V. show of the year. I'm going to cheat and count everything I've seen/read this year, not necessarily just stuff that was released this year. Instead of doing a best and worst list of 2008, I'm just mentioning the best. I don't want to remember 2008 that way. :)

MOVIE: The Strangers

I never saw this in the theatre and actually didn't get to see it until it came out on DVD a few months ago. I jumped every time one of the masked killers' faces popped up in the window. The atmosphere is just so creepy. I haven't been this creeped out by a movie since The Descent, which came out in 2005, so it's been awhile.

Honourable Mention: Cloverfield

I did get to see this movie in the theatre. My boyfriend (who hates horror movies) actually went with me. Even though I felt sick after this movie because of the shakiness of the camera, I still enjoyed it. Or it may have been all the candy and popcorn I ate, I'm not really sure...

BOOK (Fiction): The Jigsaw Man by Gord Rollo

If you just scroll down a bit, you'll see my review for Gord Rollo's first novel, which I loved. Anyone who hasn't read it yet should go pick it up. I promise you won't be disappointed. It's a modern Frankenstein story that is fast-paced and has intriguing characters.

BOOK (Non-Fiction): The Book of Lists: Horror by Amy Wallace, Del Howison and Scott Bradley

Again, you can read my full review by scrolling down and see how much I enjoyed this book. Whenever I'm bored, I just pick it up and read a few lists from it. Hopefully I'm going to get around to seeing/reading some movies/books mentioned in this book.

Honourable Mention: The Godsend by Bernard Taylor

Although this book was published in 1976, I wanted to include it because everyone needs to know what a great writer Bernard Taylor is and check out his works. This was one of the best books I've read this year. It's a creepy killer kid story.

T.V. SHOW: Scream Queens

I was so addicted to this reality show this year, and usually I don't even like reality shows. But when horror and reality shows combine it equals one interesting show. And there's more horror-reality on the way. 13: Fear Is Real starts Wednesday, January 7 at 8 p.m. on the CW. It's produced by Sam Raimi and is supposed to be like a slasher movie, with a contestant "killed" each week. I can't wait to see it! Anyway, for anyone who missed out on Scream Queens here's the premise: actresses compete in horror film-related challenges to win a major role in Saw VI. I'm not a big fan of the Saw movies, but I think I'll check it out just to see how well the winner does in it. Especially since my favourite won, for once.

Honourable Mention: Fear Itself

I really enjoyed this anthology series and thought it had some creepy episodes. Unfortunately, NBC won't be airing it anymore. It was picked up by FEARnet, but I live in Canada and don't get that channel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Critters 2: The Main Course

When I was a kid I saw a movie that terrified me. All I could remember for years was that a young girl puts her Easter eggs under her bed when she goes to sleep and monsters hatch from the eggs. I've been trying to find out what it is for a long time and I finally found it.

Last week I bought Critters 2 at the Thrift Store for $1.00. As soon as I got home I watched it, and to my surprise it was the movie I've been searching for all these years!

I can understand why it scared me so much when I was a kid. In one scene the Sheriff, dressed up as the Easter Bunny, has Krites (the critters) crawl inside his costume and eat him. And the scene I previously mentioned with Easter eggs hatching into monsters.

For anyone who hasn't seen any of the Critters films, they're about the Krites, who are aliens with a taste for meat. The Krites escape from an intergalactic jail, steal a spaceship and head to Earth in the first film. Then bounty hunters, who hunt aliens that escape to Earth, head to our planet to capture the Krites. But as we find out in the second film, they missed a few.

It wasn't as good as I remembered (nothing ever is) and it wasn't scary at all, but I still enjoyed it. The scenes I've already mentioned are pretty much all the gore in the film. Which is surprising for a movie about monsters who eat humans. They'll eat any kind of meat, so for most of the film they're eating meat other than the human variety.

The Krites have some of the best lines, spouting hilarious quips. Of course we can't understand what the aliens are saying, so there are subtitles for when the Krites are speaking gibberish.

Dee Wallace and M. Emmet Walsh don't return in this sequel, but Scott Grimes does.

Critters 2 is more than just a horror film. It's also an enjoyable sci-fi and a comedy. It entertained me and made me laugh, and also terrified me as a youngster, so I give it 4/5.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, December 8, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Lists: Horror

Everyone loves a list. The internet is littered with them. Amazon has their Listmania lists, where you can make your own lists of books, movies, etc. And pretty much every other shopping website has ripped this off. Most of your favourite websites feature top 10 lists. And blogs are filled with lists (I even made one myself). So why not a book comprised of just lists?

I had read other editions of The Book of Lists, and enjoyed them. Some of the lists are really fascinating. And when I found out there was a Book of Lists dedicated to my favourite genre, I knew I had to check it out.

The Book of Lists: Horror is broken up into five sections: movies, books, music, miscellaneous (which includes T.V, video games, etc.), and lists submitted by horror fans. Most of the lists are by celebrities in the horror community such as Stephen King, James Gunn and Eli Roth.

Some of my favourite lists from the book:

Charles Black's Five Favourite Nightmare on Elm Street Tie-In Products - I had no idea there was a 1-900 number where you could call Freddy. Or a Freddy's Greatest Hits album.

Anthony Timpone's Ten Movies I Wish I Never Put on the Cover of Fangoria - Who knew putting Species II on the cover of Fangoria would be a mistake?

T.E.D. Klein's Twenty-Five Most Familiar Horror Plots - I can't even count all the times I've read a story ending with it being all a dream.

I was surprised how varied the lists were. I thought there would be a lot of repeats of the classics, but there were only a few.

What I liked most about The Book of Lists: Horror, is that it gave me tons of movies and books I had never heard of before. Now I have a huge list of books and movies that I want to check out thanks to this book.

This book is a must-read for all horror lovers. Even if you're not into horror you would probably enjoy it. Lots of the lists are funny and all of them are interesting. It's definitely fun reading.

Rating: 5/5

Sunday, December 7, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007)

I don't need to say much about this one. If you're a horror fan, you know it's going to suck. First of all, it's both a sequel AND a remake. That pretty much says it all right there. But for some reason, I felt compelled to buy it for $2 from Rogers Video. Despite that fact that:

a) The reason it was only $2 was probably because it's awful and no one else is dumb enough to buy it.
b) I didn't even enjoy the first remake.
c) I had already read reviews on Amazon and saw that it got 2 1/2 stars.

That's why I'm only getting around to seeing it now, over a year after it was released. And even though I knew it would be terrible I thought I should at least give it a chance. I'm a horror movie optimist. I always hope that a movie will exceed my expectations, even though I now deep down that it won't. And The Hills Have Eyes 2 definitely did not.

Unfortunately, this film follows the trend of other recent horror movies, replacing plot with gore. The description on the back of the DVD sounds interesting, stating that the mutants want to breed with women to keep their family going. But that doesn't really happen in the movie.

The film begins with that idea in mind. In the first gory scene, a woman gives birth to a mutant baby. And that's the only scene which has something to do with the supposed plot line. The rest of the movie is just a mutant killing spree.

It doesn't have any of the elements that make a movie good. The plot was non-existent. There was barely any dialogue, and when there was some, it was boring. The pacing was slow. The characters were stupid and dull. You end up wanting the mutants to get them all so the movie will end.

All this film has to offer is gore, and even that sucked. The "gore" scenes were pretty tame compared to other movies.

There is nothing to like about The Hills Have Eyes 2, so I give it a 1/5.

Rating: 1/5

Saturday, December 6, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW: Diary of the Dead

George Romero's newest addition to his zombie series follows the video diary trend (like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield), telling the story of a crew of young adults filming a low-budget horror movie when the dead begin coming back to life. With the world in turmoil, the director of the film decides it is his duty to document the horror.

Diary of the Dead is nowhere near as effective as The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. This film doesn't look as if it was shot with a camcorder like the other two. It looks like a regular movie, except he zooms in and out a lot and sets the camera down a couple of times.

The film is narrated by one of the main characters. She explains that she edited the film, adding music for effect and her narration. This ruins everything that made other 'documentary' films successful. They actually feel as if you're watching the horrors unfolding and seeing the characters' real emotions.

The characters in Diary of the Dead are like robots, rarely showing emotion. Especially the guy filming the movie. At first I felt sorry for him and how the rest of the crew kept giving him a hard time about documenting everything (which happens during the whole movie). Until one of his friends was being chased by a zombie and he just kept filming instead of helping her. What kind of a person would do that?

The characters are also stupid. Obviously they've never seen any zombie movies. They insist on keeping dead loved ones around, just in case they come back to life and are normal. Yeah, obviously if someone who was dead came back to life, they wouldn't be back to their usual self.

And the dialogue is stupid, especially the narration. Here's a quote:

"Are we worth saving? You tell me."

The narrator says this after mentioning how cruel people were for shooting a zombie in the head. Are you kidding me? Yes, the whole human race deserves to die because they're nothing but horrible zombie-killers. Give me a break...

Diary of the Dead was dull, there was no suspense at all, and the gore was pretty tame for a zombie flick. This movie really has nothing going for it, so I give it 1/5.

Rating: 1/5

Friday, December 5, 2008

Leisure Horror 2009

Someone on LibraryThing posted part of Leisure Horror's 2009 publishing schedule. Here it is:

JAKE'S WAKE by John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow
BLACK CATHEDRAL by L. H. Maynard and M. P. N. Sims

CASTAWAYS by Brian Keene
SOULTAKER by Bryan Smith

MARCH 2009
DARK MOUNTAIN by Richard Laymon
CRIMSON by Gord Rollo

APRIL 2009
GOLEM by Edward Lee
BESTIAL by Ray Garton

MAY 2009
DEATH MASK by Graham Masterton
SACRIFICE by John Everson

JUNE 2009
COVER by Jack Ketchum
PRESSURE by Jeff Strand

JULY 2009
THE SHORE by Robert Dunbar

URBAN GOTHIC by Brian Keene
FAR DARK FIELDS by Gary A. Braunbeck

FLESH by Richard Laymon
WOLF’S GAMBIT by W. D. Gagliani

FEEDING GROUND by Sarah Pinborough
DEPRAVED by Bryan Smith

(Currently Untitled) by Edward Lee
THE 13TH by John Everson

I think I'm going to join the Leisure Horror Book Club since I'll probably be buying most of these anyway.

BOOK NEWS: Castaways

I know this is old news, but I wanted to post something about it anyway because I'm so excited about it! Brian Keene's next novel, Castaways, will be released from Leisure January 27, 2009. Here's the blurb:

They came to the deserted island to compete on a popular reality television show. Each one of them hoped to be the last to leave. Now, they’re just hoping to stay alive, because one of them isn’t who he seems, and the island isn’t as deserted as it appears. The men will be slaughtered. The women will be kept alive as captives. And before it is over, the survivors will turn on each other. Night is falling, the creatures are coming, and rescue is so very far away…


I can't wait! With all these great new horror books being released from Leisure, I think I might as well join the book club. There's an early review on The Horror Fiction Review which you can read here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trash or Treasure Thursday

Kaw (2007)

I hate birds. They swoop at your head, have long, pointy beaks and poop everywhere. Yep, I'm afraid of birds. So, last week when I was flipping through the channels and came across a movie called Kaw, I figured it might scare me. It was kind of creepy.

It stars Sean Patrick Flanery as the town sheriff...and that chick from The Secret Life of the American Teenager...and that chick from Privileged.

Kaw is about intelligent meat-eating ravens with a taste for human flesh terrorizing a small town. Hm, that one sentence pretty much sums up the whole plot. I don't want to give the ending away, so you'll just have to watch to see what made the ravens go nuts and start eating people.

It was sort of creepy how intelligent the ravens were, but not that creepy when you think of how impossible it is. I mean, they used a child as bait so that when a bunch of adults came to save him, the ravens could kill and eat them instead (more meat I guess). Having crazy meat-eating ravens is one thing, claiming that they're super-intelligent and can plan ways to kill people is another. Having the killer ravens be smart made the movie stupid.

But there was lots of gore. Like a bunch of ravens killing a dog and watching them pull it to pieces with their beaks, and such. The deaths by ravens were all pretty good and gory.

There were a lot of characters in the movie. A bus driver who first discovered the ravens but no one believed him. The strange Mennonite family and their secret, which was another spooky part of Kaw. The annoying, bitchy teenage girls who I was hoping the ravens would get, but never happened. Kaw definitely loses points for that.

Overall, I would say Kaw was entertaining, and pretty good for a Sci Fi Channel movie. It would make an okay rental.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BOOK NEWS: Jake's Wake

A new John Skipp book, co-authored with Cody Goodfellow, will be released January 9, 2009 from Leisure. Here's the blurb:

A crooked TV evangelist who preached eternal life proves himself right, on one score at least, when he returns from the dead at his own wake and sets out to slaughter everyone who he thinks has wronged him.

I can't wait for it to come out. I'm a huge John Skipp fan. I haven't read anything by Cody Goodfellow, but I think I'll check him out.

Fangoria has already reviewed the book and gave it a 3.5/4 rating. In the review they gave away some exciting news: "
JAKE'S WAKE is currently in production to be made into a low-budget film and THE LONG LAST CALL will soon follow. Skipp intends to direct both features." Wow two films based on John Skipp's books AND directed by him? Sounds awesome!

Here's the creepy book trailer from YouTube.

BOOK NEWS: Crimson

At the end of Gord Rollo's first novel, The Jigsaw Man, there was an excerpt of his next book, Crimson, which will be released by Leisure February 24, 2009. I thought the excerpt was creepy and I can't wait to read the rest of it.

Here's the blurb for it:

The citizens of the Canadian town of Davinsport, Ontario, are no strangers to fear. Evil has walked their streets before, leaving in its wake a legacy of murder, and madness. No one likes to talk about it anymore, and most people have managed to convince themselves it never really happened, but secrecy and denial can only hide the truth for so long. Evil can wait forever. By 1967, what had happened was nothing more than a legend, a scary story told around roaring campfires. Four boyhood friends are about to discover the truth, but no one will believe them.

It sounds awesome and I love the creepy cover.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Jigsaw Man by Gord Rollo

What would you do if someone offered you a million dollars for your right arm?

Of course you would instinctively say no and think they're nuts. But if you stopped and considered the proposal and what you could do with all that money, it might not seem like such a bad idea. Especially if you're homeless, have no family (except a daughter who hates your guts), and are about to jump in front of a train.

This is the dilemma facing Michael Fox in Gord Rollo's engrossing first novel, The Jigsaw Man.

Since his wife and son were killed in a car accident, Fox has had nothing to live for, becoming a homeless drunk/drug addict. His daughter, who survived the car accident, wants nothing to do with him. So, one bleak day Fox decides he's worth more dead than alive, mails his insurance policy to his daughter and heads to the railway tracks.

While Fox is waiting for the next train to end his life, a man pulls up in a limo and offers him two million dollars for his right arm. Thinking of how much that money could do for his daughter, he accepts. Of course there's more to the offer than Fox is told.

Poor Michael Fox. I don't think I've ever felt as much empathy for a character as I did for him. During the course of the novel things keep getting progressively worse for him. I don't want to give anything away, but his life definitely would have been better living on the streets. And don't even get me started on Lucas and Red Beard. I'll admit I teared up a couple of times while reading.

The characters were very well-developed. As I already mentioned, I felt empathy for the hero and truly cared about him. And I hated the antagonists with a passion. I found myself grinding my teeth when I read about some of Drake and Dr. Marshall's atrocities.

The Jigsaw Man grabbed my interest immediately and held it for the length of book with its quick pace. Whenever I thought I knew what was coming next there would be another twist.

Although parts of the book require a huge suspension of disbelief, and you know nothing like that would ever happen, it's not a problem. Rollo's writing is so convincing that you'll believe even the craziest scenarios in the novel.

I loved this book and if you're a horror fan I'm sure you will too. It looks like I may have a new favourite author.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm back!

After my computer being broken for a month, it's finally fixed. Now I can review everything I've seen in the past month...