Monday, May 27, 2013

Snowbound by Blake Crouch

I loved this book.  So much so that I read it twice in fairly short order. Although I really love Blake Crouch's extreme horror in the Andrew Z. Thomas series, this reads more like Run which is probably my favorite Blake Crouch novel.  Snowbound pulls in one character from the Crouch/Konrath universe, Javier Estrada, who interacted with Luther Kite in a previous work.  But everything else is fresh meat, and what a great story.

In Snowbound, a lawyer/husband/dad, Will, is working late at home, preparing for a case the following day.  His daughter, Devlin, suffers from cystic fibrosis, and he tucks her into bed, as he waits for the return of his wife, Rachael, who is working late as well.  However, Rachael is about to run into some trouble on the way home, and be kidnapped by Javier.  Of course, the husband becomes the prime suspect in the case, and Will and Devlin flee the area quickly, to live their lives outside of the scrutiny of the local police force.

For five years, they are successful in hiding themselves away, until Kalyn Sharp appears on their doorstep.  A disgraced FBI agent, she lost her sister in a case similar to Rachael's and feels that she's getting close to finding who is responsible.  Will, Kalyn, and Devlin thwart the law and begin their own investigation to find their missing loved ones.  What starts a drive to Javier's home to ask some questions, turns into a flight to the wilds of Alaska in search of "The Lodge That Doesn't Exist."  Will they find the missing women?  Or will it be another dead end.

I found this book to be thrilling, and I was excited to read through it again to catch anything I may have missed the first time around.  Sure, some parts are a little extreme (a girl is trapped naked in the snow, but survives, wolves are somehow trained to attack only certain people) but with a slight suspension of reality, this book was a real trip.  I look forward to more of these types of stories from Crouch.

Leprechaun 2 (1994)

The Leprechaun movies were never meant to be serious, right?  Leprechaun 2 actually had a couple alternate titles including One Wedding and a Lot of Funerals, but they just went with the simple sequel title.  This time, we go back in the life of the Leprechaun, when he was denied his chance for a bride about 1000 years ago.  Now it's present day, and he's on the search for a new bride, this time in Los Angeles.

In this movie, the Leprechaun is interfering in the life of two teenagers, Cody and Bridget.  Cody lives with his legal guardian, an alcoholic tour guide named Morty.  Bridget is his girlfriend, but they get into a fight when he has to give a tour when they have a date scheduled.  The Leprechaun uses this opportunity to try and claim Bridget for his wife, but things get a bit complicated when Cody steals one of his gold coins.

Cody and Morty try various types of trickery on the Leprechaun, including a drinking contest, to try and find out where he is hiding Bridget.  But he sees right through their games and sends them on a wild goose chase so that he can both regain his coin and keep his bride.  A battle ensues and the result is fairly predictable, considering that the Leprechaun is typically thwarted in his destruction attempts.

Although this certainly isn't as entertaining as Leprechaun, I was surprised to see that it got a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It's not that bad, geez!  This is hidden somewhere in the realms of Netflix instant, since it hasn't been suggested to me previously, but check it out if you're in the mood for some laughs and mid-90s corniness.   

Child's Play 2 (1990)

Poor little Andy.  After his doll Chucky commits a bunch of murders that he and his mother miraculously survive, he is on his own.  Since his mother has vehemently stuck to the "killer doll" story, she is committed to a mental institution and Andy is off to foster care.  Meanwhile, the Good Guys company is struggling with the backlash of one of their dolls being seemingly responsible for death and destruction, as well as claiming to be the Lakeshore Strangler.  They think it's as simple as the voice track being tampered with, so they rebuild the Chucky doll to try and find out what's wrong.  This, of course, reanimates Chucky, and he's off to find Andy at his new foster home.

Andy is trying to assimilate to his new home with his foster parents, and "sister" Kyle.  But that's going to be hard to do since Chucky is racing against time to escape the doll body and enter Andy's.  Andy tries to warn everyone about the dangerous Chucky, but as usual, no one listens and murder ensues. Of course, now the soul of Charles Lee Ray has resided in the doll body for quite some time, and it may be too late to transfer.  Is Chucky stuck as a doll forevvverrr?!?

This is a fun sequel, and even though they cut the cliffhanger ending that left it open for the next installment, we all know that several more got made after this.  Nothing too groundbreaking here, but I never can get enough of Chucky's one-liners and hilarious faces.  And Alex Vincent is just too damn cute.  This flick opened #1 at the box office back in 1990, and it's available on Netflix instant.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Is there really a reason for making Texas Chainsaw sequels anymore?  Apparently, Platinum Dunes abandoned the series after The Beginning but Twisted Pictures felt it was a great idea to pick it back up again.  I mean, there never really is a shortage of hot girls and their dumbass looking boyfriends willing to poke their noses where they shouldn't be, right?  Of course, Scream Queen is a sucker for both formulaic sequels, and Bill Moseley (who plays Drayton Sawyer in this version for like 5 minutes).  They also brought back a few other actors from the original TCM, including Marilyn Burns (Sally Hardesty), Gunnar Hansen (original Leatherface), and John Dugan (Grandpa).

So what's the shtick this time?  We get a bunch of archive footage from the original movie, and then a whole story of vigilante justice, where Leatherface's house is burned to the ground, along with everyone in it.  In a NOES-esque twist, this now becomes the town's dirty little secret.   In a Halloween-esque twist, we find out that someone was abducted as a baby from fire, and raised as if they weren't related to Leatherface.

Back to present times.  Some hot twenty-somethings, including Trey Songz (Ryan) are going to New Orleans to party it up.  However, Heather (Alexandra Daddario) randomly gets notified that her grandmother died, and since she is the only living relative, she gets a free house.  BOOM!  She didn't even know she had a grandma.  It's her lucky day.  Heather, Ryan, and their two friends pile into the car and swing on down to Texas to claim the house.  They also pick up a hitchhiker because people totally still do that.

The house is bananas and full of expensive stuff and vintage wine.  What could go wrong?  Oh yeah, just Leatherface all old and living in the basement.  Like an unruly pet, apparently he just needs to be contained and fed.   Who knew it was that easy?  Heather did, that's who.  She goes from being a fairly normal chick that makes strange art, to someone that is super-attached to their crazy, murderous family, even encouraging Leatherface to kill the townspeople who still resent him (I wonder why!) 

I actually enjoyed the gore and ridiculousness of most of this flick, but the ending and the Heather character was just so stupid and contrived.  Who just goes from living a totally typical life to egging on a demented murderer and then moving in with him?  I can suspend reality a little for horror movies, but this plot line was just too much.  I hope this is the last of the TCM sequels for a while.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Disturbing Behavior (1998)

Let's set the scene.  It's 1998.  Scream Queen is 15.  Dawson's Creek is the JAM. The Faculty was just released.  American Pie and Varsity Blues will be come out next year.  And all we want is to see is movies about other angsty teenagers because OMFG they understand what we're going through.  When the makeout scene in this movie opened up with The Fly's "Got You Where I Want You," I was just instantly transported back to my room, with the radio permanently on the alt-rock station, and 90s band posters on my wall.

I love how the cafeteria scene in this flick is so reminiscent of Heathers and Gavin (Nick Stahl) is so vaguely Christian Slater.  Steve (James Mardsen) is the "new kid" and he's noticing that something is a little strange about his new hometown.  It seems like there might be teenage cyborgs residing there, no big deal.

Can we just appreciate for one moment how smoking hot Katie Holmes was back in the day?  I've been told that she's my celebrity look-alike, and while that was embarrassing during her foray with Tom Cruise, you can't say she wasn't beautiful before all the crazy and super-skinniness.

So basically in Cradle Bay, there are different cliques and such, but most notably a "Blue Ribbon" group, who are very perfect and hang out at the yogurt shop and conduct bake sales.  Apparently these people used to be stoners and partiers, but have been molded into robot-like prepsters who do no wrong...well, except maybe killing another co-ed.  OOOOPPPSS.

So basically there is a doctor who is doing brain surgery on teenagers that are basically just acting like teenagers.  But they need to be perfect, you know.  The surgery makes them "perfect" but sometimes they just go crazy, or maybe try to have sex with a hot guy but then just bash their heads into a mirror nonstop.  Brain surgery on teenagers is just never a good plan.

And let us not forget William Sadler as the crazy custodian, hell bent on saving the students from brainwashing.  We get a somewhat dramatic late-90s ending with a cliffhanger that opens the door to Disturbing Behavior 2, which was never actually made.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Haunted House by Jack Kilborn and J.A. Konrath

If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know that I'm a big Jack Kilborn/J.A. Konrath fan.  If you don't already know, J.A. Konrath is the author's real name, and he releases some extreme horror novels under the name Jack Kilborn.  I've read tons of both types of his books, and I do prefer the Kilborn fare, so I was really looking forward to Haunted House.

Haunted House brings together several characters from Kilborn/Konrath's past novels.  The author says you don't need to read the other books to make sense of this one, but it would definitely help if you did.  I was most excited to see Mal/Deb from Endurance and Sarah from Trapped.  

I loved the warm up to the arrival at the haunted house.  I appreciated the detail paid to each of the characters and felt that it really provided a great background for when they would join together later.  Basically, each of the characters has experienced some horrible type of situation in their lives, and are being recruited for a government project to learn about creating an antidote for fear.  This of course ties back to both Afraid and Trapped.  

Some people are reluctant to go, some are coerced, and some outright refuse.  They are summoned to the Butler House, a large plantation mansion which has had a bloody and violent history.  It is also known to be quite haunted.  But if the "subjects" spend one night there, they will receive $1 million, and in some cases, some additional help.

This is a Kilborn book, so of course the house is truly one of horrors.  There's torture, viciously broken bones, hands used as sandwiches, bloody masturbation, and a severed head giving oral sex to it's own body.  And that's just the beginning.  It was a gory thrill ride, with plenty of mayhem for the average Kilborn fan.

My review is not without a couple of criticisms however.  The involvement of Fran, Josh, and Duncan (from Afraid) just seemed like an afterthought.  The monkey has always been slightly ridiculous, but now it's got a GI Joe helmet and the world's smallest gun?   I feel that story arch may have been better left out.  And, the editing.  I spotted several errors, and while that doesn't turn me off a book totally, I'm an editor-of-sorts by day, and those things stand out like a sore thumb.  Mr. Kilborn, if you ever need someone to give your next story an early read, I work real cheap ;)

Overall, I really liked Haunted House, and am always looking forward to Kilborn/Konrath's next book!! 

Sinister (2012)

It is always a little awkward for me to admit that I liked a "mainstream" horror movie, but I really dug Sinister.  Sure, it had jump scares galore, and Ethan Hawke for chrissakes, but it wasn't a bad way to spend two hours of my Sunday afternoon.

Sinister is about a true crime writer, Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) who is moving his family to a new house so that he can focus on a crime that took place in the area.  He did fail to leave out one little tidbit...that the murdered family he is writing about was actually killed in the backyard of their new place.  Ooooops.

While gearing up for his new book and gathering evidence, he just happens to stumble across a bunch of 8mm film depicting grisly murders.  That apparently the police have never found.  Boy is he one lucky writer.  The films are super creepy, and Ellison decides to keep the information to himself so that he can link a bunch of crimes together in his book and become very rich and famous,

But while he thinks his plan is foolproof, a presence in their home does not agree.  The family begins to be tortured by a variety of supernatural occurrences, and Ellison begins to discover a deeper motivation behind the murders.  But is it too late to stop his family from being affected?

I found this flick to be suitably creepy, and the storyline was good.  I'm not always the biggest fan of supernatural stuff, but I think this had a lot of good background, and wrapped it all up well.  The cliched jump scares were there, but not too overused in my opinion.  I'd say this movie is worth checking out!