Friday, February 20, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

I watched a preview for this and then desperately wanted to see it. But it never came to a theatre near me. And it still hasn't come out on DVD, except on Region 2 and Blu-ray, which does me no good. So I ended up watching it online on the weekend as a last resort. It was worth it even though it lagged a lot.

After summer vacation, when Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) returns to school everyone notices that she "got hot." Suddenly she's popular; all the boys want to date her and all the girls want to be her friend. This alienates her best friend, Emmet (Michael Welch). And when he is involved in a popular jock's death, no one wants to have anything to do with him.

Nine months later Mandy is invited to party with her new popular friends at a ranch in the middle of nowhere. All the guys are fighting over her and all the girls are jealous, and then people start to die.

The plot and the tagline are what interested me even before I saw the trailer.
Everyone is dying to be with her. Someone is killing for it.
A slasher where the motive is winning a girl? Sounds original. Better than killing for revenge - or for no reason whatsoever.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is reminiscent of classic slashers. It has a soundtrack made up of oldies such as The Go-Gos instead of the usual metal. The kills are creative instead of torture-porn. The characters are interesting and compelling instead of the usual stereotypes (even though the over-privileged popular kids reminded me of The O.C.).

The dialogue is great, using a lot of humour, but it's still scary. Most of the movie takes place at night, and that paired with the fact that the ranch is in the middle of nowhere, makes it even creepier.

I figured out who the killer was way before it showed (it's pretty obvious). But there was another twist at the end that I didn't guess.

It's been a good week for me. I saw two movies recently that I loved enough to give a 5/5 rating. Hopefully it will come out on DVD so I can watch it again.

Rating: 5/5

Thursday, February 19, 2009

BOOK NEWS: In Laymon's Terms

Cemetery Dance is releasing a collection of short stories, essays, photos and other remembrances of the late Richard Laymon.

In Laymon's Terms will be released August 2009. It features Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Tom Piccirilli, Gary Brandner and many others.

Here's the description:

An oversized, huge tribute anthology for Richard Laymon -- featuring original and reprint short fiction, essays, interviews, personal remembrances, photos, etc. from dozens of the biggest names in horror! Personal, moving, and wildly entertaining -- this oversized hardcover is a collection that Richard Laymon would be very proud of!

The Trade Hardcover Edition is $40 and the Signed Hardcover Limited Edition is $100, both available from Cemetery Dance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Castaways by Brian Keene

I already mentioned how excited I was to read Brian Keene's new novel, Castaways. This is Keene's tribute to Richard Laymon, spawned from a short story featured in the anthology In Laymon's Terms and Keene's own anthology, Fear of Gravity.

Castaways is a reality show like Survivor. But the contestants don't know they're sharing an island with beasts. And since there are no other animals on the island, the monsters plan to have a great feast of human meat. But that's just for the men. They have something else in store for the women - they're planning to breed with them to save their dying, inbred species.

The plot isn't very original, but I was willing to overlook that because I love Brian Keene. You can definitely tell that it's an homage to Richard Laymon. There's tons of blood and gore. Lots of descriptions of ripping skin off and eating organs. And too many descriptions of the monsters' penises. I get that they were trying to breed, but how many times do you have to mention them? We get the picture, move on.

The pace is slow for the first few chapters, bogged down by explanations of how the reality show works. It's unnecessary for everyone who has seen Survivor and makes the beginning boring. But after that, the pace picks up.

The characters also slow down the story. There are too many to keep track of, and most of them have their own back story, even though they get killed off immediately. The book is too short (about 300 pages) for 10+ characters. I couldn't keep track of who was who, until the beasts narrowed down the contestants.

Also, all of the characters were stereotypes. I know that reality shows choose stereotypes, but I thought that Keene would make them deeper than they appear. Nope. There's the average guy, the girl next door, the bimbo, the token black guy and black girl, and more. But none of these characters are fleshed out more.

Except for the main character's apparent interest in cryptozoology. How convenient, he can identify what the creatures on the island are. I know sometimes books use things that make no sense to further the plot, but making cryptozoology his hobby is just ridiculous.

I don't want to give anything away, so all I will say about the ending is that it was disappointing. Everything was wrapped up too nicely. I had some ideas of how it could end, but unfortunately none of those happened.

But it did keep my interest and it was very gory. While it could've been much better, it wasn't that bad, and will keep you entertained if you can get over the slow beginning, the many stereotypical characters and the let-down ending.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine 3D

I finally got to see My Bloody Valentine 3D on the weekend. I dragged my boyfriend, who hates horror movies, to it on Valentine's Day. What a sweet love story to watch with your valentine.

Well it does have a love story in it - sort of. Tom (Jensen Ackles) is dating Sarah (Jaime King) and they're partying at the mine with their friend Axel (Kerr Smith). Awhile back Tom accidentally caused an explosion in the mine, which was owned by his family. Only one man survived, Harry Warden, who was in a coma. On this night, Harry Warden comes out of his coma, killing several people in the hospital and heads to the mine. Tom, Sarah and Axel narrowly escape death by pickaxe. And Tom leaves town without a word to his friends and family.

Ten years later Tom is back in town to sell the mine and see old flame Sarah, who is now married to Axel, the town sheriff. But Harry Warden has also returned...

I love how the plot is completely different from the original. Instead of being another slasher about teens partying and having sex, it's about Tom selling the mine and their love triangle (which was kind of like Dawson's Creek vs. Supernatural to a CW/WB fan). But the movie still kept the best parts from the first film. The plot is never boring and you're still entertained when there isn't anyone being pickaxed to death.

All the gags and funny dialogue will also keep you entertained. There's tons of jokes and I laughed a lot during the film.

This was the first 3D movie I've ever seen, and the effects were incredible. There was blood spraying at my face, pickaxes thrown at my head, flashlight beams shined in my eyes and Jensen Ackles two feet away from me. It makes me wonder why they don't make everything in 3D. I bet it would've made Bride Wars better. Have the bouquet fly at your face or something.

I had a lot of fun watching this movie, which I can't say about many movies I've seen recently. And no other movies I've seen lately feature pickaxes being thrown at my head. So I give My Bloody Valentine 3D a perfect rating of 5/5.

Rating: 5/5

Friday, February 6, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Jake's Wake by John Skipp & Cody Goodfellow

This is one of the first books I received after joining the Leisure Horror Book Club. I've been waiting to read this book for awhile now. I even shared my anticipation with everyone. John Skipp is one of the masters of splatterpunk, and anything written by him is usually gory fun. And Jake's Wake is no exception.

Jake's Wake is about Jake's wake. Jake is a television evangelist who doesn't practice what he preaches. He exploits people's beliefs to make money and to gain minor fame. He lives for sex, drugs and violence. When he dies, most people close to him count it as a blessing. But at his wake, there's an unexpected guest: Jake himself, resurrected from the dead, ready to wreak some more havoc. But was he resurrected by God or the Devil?

The action doesn't really start until about 50 pages in, but once it begins it doesn't stop. The body count is high and those bodies endure a lot of torture. Characters are brought into the book just so they can be brutally slaughtered. There's a lot of gore, but what else would you expect from John Skipp?

But there's more to the plot than just gore. Skipp's novels often tackle some sort of issue. The Bridge was about the effect of pollution on the environment. The Scream tackled censorship, Christianity and abortion. Jake's Wake is also about Christianity and what people believe in.

The characters are flawed, almost to the point where you dislike them. Jake's ladies, the three main characters, are weak, weaker, weakest. But it makes them more realistic. But thankfully they grow as the story goes on and become stronger.

I give Jake's Wake a 4/5. Even though I enjoyed it, the book started off too slow for me. But it's worth getting through the back story to get to the action. And the ending is definitely worth your time.

Rating: 4/5

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Trash or Treasure Thursday

The Clown at Midnight (1998)
"A clown may be amusing in a circus ring, but what would be your reaction to opening you door and finding that same clown on your front step at midnight?"

Creeped out to say the least. A character in the film says this to explain what makes clowns scary.

I saw the beginning of The Clown at Midnight a long time ago but then I fell asleep. And I never knew what it was called so I never got to see the ending. Until it was on T.V. last week.

In The Clown at Midnight, a group of teenagers is restoring an old opera house. One girl's mother was an opera singer who was killed years earlier by a clown. As the legend goes, the clown fled the country and was never caught. But when the teens are picked off one by one, they start to think maybe the clown is still around.

This is one of the better low-budget slasher movies featuring a killer clown that I've seen (never EVER watch Mr. Jingles).

It had an interesting plot, different from other evil clown films where a clown goes around killing teens for no reason. And even though it starts off slow, the story was compelling enough to keep me watching. The ending also surprised me. I thought I had it figured out for sure, but I wasn't even close. There were a few creepy scenes and some gory deaths.

The dialogue was pretty good, being funny at times and poking fun at horror films like in Scream. Here's an example:
"I felt like a bimbo in a slasher movie screaming like that."
But at times the film was so corny I couldn't stand it. Especially the cornball ending. I don't want to spoil anything, but that would never happen after all of your friends were brutally murdered. You would be calling the cops.

The acting wasn't bad. A couple of the teens were pretty awful, but they're not in the film for long. It stars Tatyana Ali (from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Margot Kidder and Christopher Plummer, but the latter two were barely in it.

Overall, I would say The Clown at Midnight was not bad for a low-budget slasher, but it's a bit too corny. And it would've been better if Margot Kidder had a bigger role and lasted more than a half hour.

Rating: 3/5