Archive for April, 2015

Okay, so I should probably start a new blog altogether for this, but I’m not going to given that this one’s already up and running and there’s a slight possibility somebody will read — or at least skim — this material if it’s presented here, and that saves me the hassle of  having to start from scratch with some new wordpress domain name and slowly building up another (surely miniscule) readership and all that.

Anyway, what’s this all this preamble in service of, you rightly ask? I’ve had a hankering to do some purportedly “creative” writing for some time now, and while it won’t be anything like a frequent fixture on this site, “Trash Fiction” will be an occasional series of posts where I indulge myself on that front. Will it be any good? Shit, who knows, but hopefully — as has equally hopefully been the case with my movie and comics reviews — it’ll get better with time. I’ll try to keep these posts reasonably short and self-contained, but if I develop an itch to do some longer-form stuff, this’ll be the place for that, as well.

With that aside, then, “enjoy” these tentative first steps into previously-uncharted-around-these-parts territory to the extent that you’re able to do so. My first endeavor is called “That’s One Way To Do It,” and it’s about — well, shit, that would be telling.


The grin gives it away. Cyanide rictus, the guys in the lab coats call it, a sardonic smirk of death that would make the fucking Joker blush. So how she ended it is no real mystery — what happened the night or two before kinda is, though, given the bruises, mottled skin, and bite marks. Not to mention where the hell she got the shit. Not exactly readily available from your streetcorner dealer.

Sometimes the less you know, the better, but still — finding out goes with the territory,

Busted paperweight snowglobes, crumpled origami flowers, and pop cans and beer bottles full of cigarette butts litter the floor. The detritus of a life. Stack of old paystubs on the kitchen table shows the last one’s from a year ago — dealt blackjack at the Western, “Your Dollar Casino.” A dollar doesn’t go too far anymore ; the Western’s padlocked and shuttered.

After that — guess life went the way it would go for any of us who are only a paycheck or two away from doing whatever we need to do to survive for one more day. Probably a miracle she held out this long.

Western Union receipts show she was shelling out to pay for some retard brother’s care at a home back in Ohio. Those stop a month after the paystubs do.

Bitching about the smell is old hat, so why even go there? Smelled better, sure — worse, too. Won’t even go there, either.

Four mewling cats will have to be dealt with — noisy little fuckers.  The boxes got full and they settled for the floor; kept it all in the other room, though. Almost like they knew it stunk enough back here as it is , even if two of ’em were licking her chin when we got here.

Christ. Days like this are why they invented drinking.

Days like yesterday, too . And tomorrow.

You know you’ve been on the job too damn long when you go from being shocked at this kinda shit, to saddened, to nonchalant — to, finally, admiring it. Not sure when each line got crossed, but they did, ‘cuz looking down at her now, yeah — you did it your way, honey.

Are there a million little details still waiting to get filled in? Of course — but that’s a trail of breadcrumbs that ends here. Now. With this.

When every single part of your life falls spirals out of your control, this is the one option circumstance can’t steal from you. No job? No money? No food? No hope? You’re not gonna volunteer for any of that. It’s the shitty hand you’re dealt. But there’s one thing nobody can ever take away — your right to hop off the ride in the manner of your choosing. Provided you’re bold, desperate, or both enough to go through with it.

Any of us could find our number coming up tomorrow. Drunk driver sideswipes you on the way home from the bar. Incurable cancer that’s been rotting you from the inside out for the last couple years that you never knew about until you woke up spitting bloody phlegm. Gas leak in the basement apartment sends the whole building out with a bang. The guy three cubicles over turns out to be a survivalist gun nut who doesn’t take too kindly to being told by the boss to cut back on the two hour lunches and decides to take it out on the whole office. You could meet your maker in a million different ways.

But not her. Not anymore. When she lost control over life, she took it back in the only way she had left. Even if it was just for a few painful as all fucking hell hours.  When she made up her mind that she was gonna do what she did, she wasn’t giving up or giving or giving in. She was laying claim to the last thing that was well and truly hers. The bastards could take everything else they wanted — her livelihood, her dignity, her health, her choices. All her choices — except this one.

“Live free or die,” the tough guys say. And the New Hampshire license plates. After who trudging through who knows how many days of dwindling, evaporating freedom, she did both — back to back. Got a theory that all any of us want, in the end, is to be the author of our own destiny. Guess this is one way to do it.


I take a look at the much-hyped “It Follows” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Through the Shattered Lens


A funny thing happened on the way to writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s 2014-lensed indie horror It Follows finding its way into the VOD dump-off land most contemporary scare flicks have reluctantly learned to call home : it got noticed. In fact, it got noticed a lot, and evidently by at least some of the right people, because on the basis on positive “buzz” alone, the aforementioned relegation to so-called “home viewing platforms” was quickly scuttled in favor of a limited theatrical release — which just as quickly became a wide theatrical release — which finally ended with this being one of the most-talked- about “supernatural thrillers” in years.

What I can’t figure out is, I’m sorry to say, is why.


Don’t get me wrong — It Follows certainly isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m naturally disposed towards rooting for any sort of original horror…

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What happens when you put five aging hipsters in an RV and send them on a road trip across the country, camcorder in hand, to document their “experiences” at America’s most purportedly scary Halloween-themed attractions?

If your answer to that question is “probably nothing good,” then you can skip seeing 2014 “hand-held horror” The Houses October Built — and truth be told you can  skip reading the rest of this review, as well, unless you just want to spend a few minutes hearing about how right-on-the-money your initial supposition was.


Actually, to say that would-be documentarians Brandy (played by Brandy Schaefer), Mikey (played by Mikey Roe —by the way,  what sort of grown man still goes by the name “Mikey,” anyway?), Jeff (played by Jeff Larson), Bobby (played by Bobby Roe, who also directed and co-wrote this snoozer) and Zack (played by Zack Andrews, the other co-writer) take their leased-out motor home “across the country” is something of a reach, as they only seem to go from their home state of Texas up to Pennsylvania and Ohio before doubling back to the Lone Star State to meet their demise, but whatever — I’m actually grateful they didn’t wander any further afield because then this flick would only have been longer, and it’s already interminably dull at just over 90 minutes. Besides,  they only had five days until Halloween to get the whole trip in, anyway.

Admittedly, along the way they encounter some semi-creepy shit at some of these scare shacks, like the doll-faced girl pictured above and the psychotic clown pictured below, but I’d be lying if I said that much else of import happened on their gas-guzzling trek along a few of our country’s highways and byways apart from us learning just enough about each of these characters so that we can’t fucking wait for all of them to get killed.


The central premise in play with this flick actually isn’t so bad given that a haunted house n’ hay ride tour is a natural enough fit for the “shaky-cam horror” subgenre, but interesting actions will always trump an interesting idea, and the sad fact is that it seems  our cadre of (I’m guessing here, but I’m pretty sure I’m right) Wilco and Arcade Fire fans just haven’t got that simple truism figured out, so all they manage to do is end up boring us to tears with their bullshit. It doesn’t help matters much that the lot of them are far from fantastic actors, either.

And speaking of actors — when did it become de riguer to refer to the paid-in-cash-at-the-end-of-the-night temps who work as zombies and vampires and shit at these terror traps as “scare actors”? Or to refer to the attractions themselves simply as “haunts”? I have no idea, but it’s annoying as hell.


The gist of the “plot” here is that, after hitting a few “haunts” out in the sticks and standing out like a sore thumb among the country bumpkins who staff and patronize them, our flannel-wearing crew gets wind of a “top secret” scare attraction that’s so realistic and so terrifying that it’s completely “underground” — it moves from place to place every year, you’ve gotta say a secret password to gain admittance, etc. They duly find the place and discover it’s actually a set-up for real psychopathic killers to lure gullible assholes like this them to their deaths — and hey, whaddya know, they do, in fact, get killed. The end.

That’s more or less all you need to know and, if you’re smart, all you’ll want to know about The Houses October Built.  If you feel the desperate urge to blow off my advice and watch it anyway, though, it’s available on Blu-ray and DVD from Image Entertainment, or you can find it streaming on Netflix (which is how I stumbled across it — thanks for another great recommendation!).  Still, it’s just a lot of hassle and runaround for nothing — everybody knows that if you want to kill a bunch of hipsters (never a bad idea), all you need to do is wire a bomb underneath a table full of craft beer, bacon, and coffee.


Let’s be brutally honest — company-wide crossover events from the “Big Two” always suck. The last good one was probably Crisis On Infinite Earths and that was, what? Thirty years ago? Since then, what have we gotten from Marvel and DC? War Of The GodsZero HourEclipsoInfinityAxisOriginal SinForever Evil?

Of course, all of these “events” were promised to be “game changers” that “forever altered the Marvel/DC Universe,” but whatever “changes” they ushered in were always both purely cosmetic and quickly “retconned” back out of existence. In the end, we  invariably find ourselves right back where we started — just 40 of 50 bucks poorer.

Well,  with their latest supposed “event,” DC are being even more brazen and shameless than usual, since Convergence is basically just filler material to crank out onto comic shop shelves while their main titles take a two-month “hiatus” as their editorial and publication offices move from New York to Burbank, California. No one in their right mind expected DC to just stop publishing altogether during the move, of course, but to essentially package the “inventory” stories that more or less existed solely to keep their printing presses warm as a “must-have event” by tying them all into some hastily-assembled framework is as naked a hustle as you’re ever likely to find.

At first, I swore I wasn’t going to play along — but, easy “mark” that I am, I eventually caved and decided I’d at least give it at least a  little bit of a go. A small handful of the two-issue tie-in series, all of which feature pre- “New 52” iterations of popular DC characters, sounded interesting, and I figured that I’d better try to follow along with the main weekly Convergence title just for the sake of giving the proceedings in the other books some sort of context. Three issues (consisting of two properly-numbered books and one “zero” issue) in, it’s safe to say that I would have been better off sitting things out.


Don’t get me wrong — the two tie-in books that I’ve bought so far, Convergence : The Question #1 and Convergence : Suicide Squad #1 — have both been great fun, and it’s especially terrific to see the Rene Montoya version of The Question back in action, albeit only briefly, but all these comics have managed to do is to cement a fact that we already knew : namely, that the pre-“reboot” DC Universe was a lot better than the one we’re stuck with now. As for the main Convergence title itself, it’s been a fucking disaster.


The main premise here is that portions of every single since-scrubbed version of DC’s corporate “reality” have been given the Bottle City of Kandor treatment, albeit without the bottle, and preserved on a living planet called Telos (Doctor Who fans will immediately know where they swiped that name from, while the sentient planet premise itself is a direct swipe from Jack Kirby, whose character of Ego, The Living Planet from his legendary 1960s run on Fantastic Four was a pre-Funky Flashman jab at his then-boss, Stan Lee) that was formerly enslaved to Brainiac but is now operating on his/its own and has decided, for whatever goddamn reason, that the thing to do is to have each of his plucked-from-existence-just-before-the-moment-of-their-destruction cities fight to the death to determine which “reality” will survive.

Now, you and I might be thinking that whichever version of reality this Telos guy/thing is operating on and/or in has already won by default, and those other no-longer-realities should probably just up and disappear or something, but then you wouldn’t have nine issues (eight plus the “zero”) to fill up with utterly pointless running around and lead-ups that ultimately go nowhere. So far, that’s exactly what we’re getting.



Far from being the “multiversal mash-up” (which, perhaps interestingly or perhaps not, also appears to be the central conceit behind Marvel’s forthcoming Secret Wars remake) we were promised, to date Convergence has been a decidedly Earth-2-centric piece of business, with a handful of survivors of that doomed world being spirited away right before Darkseid finished their planet off in the pages of the just-concluded Earth 2 : World’s End weekly to act, conveniently enough, as our “eyes and ears” on the ground of Telos. And they’re really not doing jack shit. Jeff King, apparently a buddy of DC “suit” Dan DiDio from their days in television together, is the primary writer on this project, but even with the help of a couple of established veterans right out of the gate (fan favorite Dan Jurgens on the waste-of-time issue #0, which sees Superman end up on Telos after a confrontation with Brainiac and then have his memory of ever having been there at all completely erased, and never-much-of-a-fan-favorite Scott Lobdell on issue #1), the basics of comics plotting seem to elude him — first and foremost among them being the simple fact that a plot and a premise are not the same thing, and that you can’t get much of a story going if all you have is the latter.

As far as the art goes, Ethan Van Sciver handled the chores on #0 in his usual overly-stylized, this-looks-like-a-WildStorm-book-from-10-years-ago fashion, and then the job was handed over to penciller Carlo Pagulayan and inker Jason Paz, who essentially are producing work with no real defining characteristics whatsoever. If you ordered up 20-or-so pages a week of “standard super-hero illustrations” from a factory, this is probably what you’d get. Some of the variant covers (there are way too many to show anything other than a somewhat representative sample of them) have been nice, but the interior pages are the dictionary definition of “unmemorable.”

What the hell — I know I said earlier that I’d follow along with Convergence so that I’d have some inkling as to the general lay of the land as far as the tie-in books were concerned, but I think I’ve seen (and spent — issues 0 and 1 were five bucks apiece, with issue 2 “settling down” to the standard $3.99 price) enough at this point to know that I don’t need to see any more. I’m still sufficently intrigued by the Convergence : Swamp Thing and Convergence : Detective Comics two-parters, and probably a couple of others, to pick them up, but I know all I need to about Convergence “proper” at this point. Nothing much is gonna happen for the next five weeks, then we’ll get an “extra-sized” final issue (also at $4.99) where the cities will finally take up arms against each other and the “New 52” reality will win out. It’ll be done then — but I’m done right now.


Megachurches. I absolutely hate ’em. Stadium-sized suburban shrines to decadence that rake in millions every month tax-free which their pastors squander on lavish McMansions, plastic surgery, teeth whitening, hookers, and blow. A completely legal swindle that is so transparently phony that some of them now even embrace something called the “prosperity gospel, ” a rather forced interpretation (or deliberate misinterpretation, take your pick) which posits that a) the more money you give to the church, the more you’ll magically get in return from God in surprising and unexpected ways; and b) the richer you are the more God obviously loves you because he’s showering you with favors. So much for that “blessed are the poor” stuff, I guess — according to this latest twist on the supposedly “good” book, the wealthy are, quite literally, God’s chosen people.

Well, fuck all that. Fuck every single TV evangelist. Fuck every single megachurch. And fuck you if you’re dumb enough to have been suckered into their scam.

Granted, I’m a somewhat militant atheist who thinks that all religions are tantamount to a form of highly virulent societal pathology, but you know what? I think if I were a believer, I’d be even more pissed off about the megachurch “phenomenon.” After all, don’t true believers feel that God is more likely to speak to you in quiet, solitary, sincere prayer than in a noisy auditorium full of glitzy and gaudy spectacle? Megachurches cheapen religion while making their pastors rich. They’re a total affront to both the honestly religious and the non-religious alike.

All of which means that I’m openly rooting for the “villains”/anti-heroes in The Tithe, a new four-part series from (count ’em) the Minotaur Press/Top Cow Productions/Image Comics triumvirate, and specifically creators Matt Hawkins (who’s writing it) and Rahsan Ekedal (who’s drawing it). I wasn’t a huge Hawkins fan until recently, but his monthly ongoing, Postal, and his recently-concluded (with a sequel apparently on the way) eco-disaster thriller,  Wildfire,  have one me over, and with this, he’s continuing the trend begun by the latter of addressing timely and topical fare in a way that clearly expresses the author’s own viewpoint while giving nearly-equal time to the other side. It’s a fine line, to be sure, but he’s doing a damn good job of it.


Case in point : while Hawkins makes his own stance as a non-believer plain as day in the “backmatter” text pages of issue one (released today), one of the two FBI agents investigating the megachurch mega-robberies performed by an Anoynymous-style outfit known only as Samaritan (who, when our story opens, have just graduated from cybercrime to pulling off a “real world” heist) is very much a theist — in fact, a Southern Baptist — and he’s treated as a thoughtful, rational, three-dimensional character rather than some superstitious buffoon. His partner, a twenty-something former hacker, is a bit more of a caricature at this point, but we’ve got three issues to go, and I expect he’ll be fleshed out more fully as events take their course.

As for Samaritan, they’re regular modern-day Robin Hoods who steal only from “men of God” who are under investigation for corruption and turn around and donate the cash to actual charities. Under our hyper-capitalist economic system this is technically a “crime,” but for anyone with a conscience, it’s just plain common sense. These folks win our loyalty more or less from jump as they liberate two million dollars from a crooked church’s cavernous vault and expose their charismatic preacher as a partying, womanizing con artist right in front of his entire flock within the first few pages of the book — and as they head for the casino employee bedroom community of Henderson, Nevada at the end, you’ll be wishing them good fortune against their next target, as well.

Oh, and the Jesus masks they wear as they go about their business? Very nice touch indeed.



Ekedal is not an artist whose prior work I’m at all familiar with, but I like what I see here so far. His panel layouts are dynamic and engaging, his faces are reasonably expressive, and his action sequences have a pleasing flow to them. A good number of pages are spent with characters talking at their desks or over coffee shop tables, so there are long stretches where there’s not a lot for an artist to sink their teeth into, but he never half-asses it by getting lazy with the backgrounds and details, etc. His involvement with the script, even at its most “talky” points, keeps the reader involved, so kudos for that.

As for the quality of said script, while it admittedly has its rough moments and some of Hawkins’ work can be overly expository or weighed down by questionably-constructed dialogue, on the whole his characters speak with natural and authentic voices and the plot is well-structured and follows a clearly escalating scale. A bit more “hands-on” approach to the editing might have been welcome, but it’s hard to mess things up too badly when you’ve got a premise this solid and are unafraid to pose morally probing questions that take aim at institutions that aren’t criticized or even critiqued nearly often enough.



My one semi-major gripe about this book is purely economic — Top Cow is the only Image-affiliated studio that charges $3.99 for their books, and this one’s sadly no exception. Yeah, sure, Marvel charges that for all their crap now, and DC is sneaking more and more of their titles up to $3.99 as well, but for a comic that takes a hard line against rip-offs and cons to charge a buck more than you pay for most other publications from the same company is a bit, well — ironic, to put it kindly. I still felt like I got my money’s worth from this first issue, though, and am confident that the entire series will be worth the sixteen bucks it ends up costing, so I’m more than happy to give The Tithe a strong recommendation — unless you spend your Sunday mornings worshiping at the Crystal Cathedral or something.


If you’re even a casual horror fan, chances are that by now you’ve found it impossible to ignore the buzz surrounding 2014’s Starry Eyes, a modestly-budgeted independent offering from co-directors/co-screenwriters Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer. Most folks will tell you that it has “a real old school vibe,” or that it plays out like “a cross between Rosemary’s Baby and Mulholland Drive,” — some have opined that it’s “a slow-burn psychological horror” or that it “reminds them of the best Satanic cult flicks of the ’70s.” The one thing nearly everybody seems to agree on is that it’s flat-out awesome.

Now that it’s available via Netflix instant streaming (you can also find it on Blu-ray and DVD from Dark Sky Films, but not having watched it in either of its physical-storage iterations I can’t fairly comment on their technical specs, extras, etc.) I finally decided to see what all the hype was about for myself and, whaddya know? For once the knee-jerk contrarian in me will just have to sit the fuck down, shut the fuck up, and admit that everybody is right. This movie is the shit.


The people making the comparisons to Mulholland Drive and Rosemary’s Baby are right on the money, as are the folks saying it reminds them of the better ’70s Satanic cult films (although it’s probably worth pointing out that most of those are watered-down approximations of Polanski’s just-mentioned earlier effort — which is by no means me taking a pot-shot at ’em, I love Satanic cult movies almost as much as I love actual Satanic cults), but I don’t think audiences should necessarily go into Starry Eyes expecting anything that comes close to the depth and complexity of David Lynch’s masterpiece (or one of his masterpieces, at any rate — for my money Fire Walk With Me is right up there, as well). That’s not exactly the point here. Kolsch and Widmeyer are telling a much more straightforward story, with no explorations of the subconscious, fugue-like dream-states, or grand symbolic overtures. This is, in the end, a fairly simple tale of the old “be careful what you wish for” variety that is extremely well-realized in all facets across the board.

So let’s dish out some kudos, shall we? First and foremost to the aforementioned auteurs behind this little slice of horror heaven for crafting a piece of haunting beauty, rich-yet-subtle atmospherics, nearly-unbearable tension, and all-too-human heartbreak. Whether alone or in tandem, the names Kolsch and Widmeyer are ones to be watching from here on out.

Running an incredibly close second in importance, though, is lead performer Alexandra Essoe, whose turn as wannabe-starlet Sarah is a tour de force of physical, psychological, and emotional transformation. Sure, the make-up and SFX technicians do a great job, as well, but she sells you on every step of her journey from waitress at a Hooter-ish hot dog stand with big dreams to instantly-egotistical-bitch who thinks she’s better than all her friends the minute she gets a call-back after an audition to — human gateway for supernatural powers beyond her understanding and comprehension once her new “friends” at Astraeus Pictures get their hooks in her. Yeah, okay, most of her social circle are self-obsessed asshole twenty-somethings, but her drawn-out betrayal of best friend/roommate Tracy (Amanda Fuller) is actually kinda painful to see play out and adds an easily-relatable dimension to the otherwise-otherwordly proceedings. Impressive work from a talent to be reckoned with.


Shit, I’m almost ready to say that this is a movie that has something for everyone, but I do need to add one very minor caveat — horror fans who appreciate a story that takes its time and actually goes to the effort of involving viewers in its characters, concepts, and settings will be instantly hooked and draw a deeper, gasping breath when things inevitably go way south for our protagonist, no question, but if you’re part of the short-attention-span crowd, you may find the early going a bit of a slog. Stick with it, though — the payoff is big, really big, and even hard-core gorehounds will eventually find enough here to sink their blood-red fangs into, once all the expertly-laid pieces are in place and we find ourselves at the point where the shit hits the fan. I can’t see anyone’s interest completely waning at any point, but if you’re the fidgety type, then glue yourself to your seat if you must, but do not turn away.

starry-eyes-blu-ray cover

Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, though, that you’re not a horror fan (which leads me to wonder what the hell you’re even doing reading this review, but whatever) — never fear, there’s still plenty in Starry Eyes for you to appreciate, as well, because this is a well-crafted, richly-deserved savaging of the Hollywood rat race from what feels like an authentic, “insider” point of view. From pretentious wannabe-stars to uncaring studio execs to “casting couch” sleaziness to the quiet full-time desperation of those who can’t let go of their dreams at any price, it’s all on display here. The critique ain’t subtle by any stretch, but then neither is the situation for the average kid who heads west with delusions of grandeur that can, in most cases, never come true.I’m pretty sure I said earlier that the heartbreak in this flick is “all too human” (or words to that effect) — trust me, that’s not hyperbole or exaggeration. It’s just fact.

So, yeah, this is one of those rare instances where you can absolutely believe all the hubbub and hoopla. Starry Eyes is at least as good as everyone’s been claiming,  and maybe even better. The over-used cliche “game-changer” comes to mind. Kolsch and Widmeyer have set the bar for indie horror very high indeed. I’d be damn surprised if anyone else surpasses it this year.


I know, I know — it’s a slow pitch right over the middle of the fucking plate. When a character like Dr. Herbert West, the Reanimator (or Re-Animator, as the film would have it) is brought back from cold storage, the headlines for a review are just too easy and too obvious — “Reanimating ‘Reanimator,'” “Back From The Dead,” “Dynamite Breathes New Life Into Cult Favorite ‘Reanimator,'””Herbert West — Reanimated!,” the list is endless. Honestly, I tried to come up with something a bit more original, but I’m not even sure it can be done.

Fortunately, the creative team for Dynamite’s new Reanimator ongoing monthly comic book series doesn’t seem to suffer from the same lack of creativity as yours truly. Writer Keith Davidsen and artist Randy Valiente jump right in head first, introducing us to new supporting player Susan Greene as she finds herself immediately out of her depth in a “drug deal gone bad” situation, only to be rescued, and then offered employment by, the not-so-good Dr. West himself, who quickly catches us up on what’s been happening  in his life — or maybe that should be lives, since our recap is an amalgamation of events  originally detailed by our guy Herb’s  creator, H.P. Lovecraft, then expounded upon cinematically by the trifecta of Jeffrey Combs, Stuart Gordon, and Brian Yuzna, and finally encompasses the works of various creators who have tried to get something going with the character in various and sundry licensed comics prior to this one — before our anti-heroes, along with a shambling undead sidekick known as The Valusian, find themselves smack dab in the middle of a war between rival New Orleans voodoo gangs. Throw in a bit of mystery surrounding the perhaps-not-so-accidental meeting of West and Greene in the first place, and what you have is breakneck-paced debut installment that never takes its foot off the gas and provides more smiles-per-page than any right-thinking person with even casual exposure to “spin-off” comics of days gone by would dare hope for.

Then again, Dynamite has been absolutely killing it with their Shaft series, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that they appear to have assembled a group of creators (although I guess it’s only a “group” if we count the cover artists — yes, there are no fewer than 13 variants for this issue; I went with Jae Lee’s, as pictured at the top here) ready to knock this one out of the park, too.


Valiente’s art style may be a bit more “cartoony” than hard-core horror fans would either hope for and/or expect, but seeing as how Davidsen is clearly taking his tonal cues for this book from Stuart Gordon’s film — which was at least as much a comedy as it was anything else — I think it fits perfectly, and everybody looks like real people, warts and all. It’s not super-stylistic and doesn’t dish up a tremendous amount of “eye candy,” but it certainly works, and has a kind of free-flowing dynamism to it that is actually quite engaging. For my part, I dug the look of this issue quite a bit.


Still, I gotta say that it’s the story that really grabbed me the most. Davidsen, whose prior work I confess to being unfamiliar with, really nails it here, and most of the lines he feeds West are the sort you can clearly hear Jeffrey Combs delivering with relish. Overall the impression of the Reanimator that we’re left with is of a guy who’s obviously nuts, completely lacking in morals and ethics, and single-mindedly obsessive in his pursuit of less-than-noble goals — but he’s just so awkwardly charismatic that you can’t help but follow him wherever he’s going, even though you know it’s nowhere good. Bravo to our intrepid freelancer for a job very well done indeed.


Die-hard Lovecraft fans should find plenty to like here, as well, seeing as how tantalizing hints are dropped that the larger Cthulhu mythos will be playing a significant role in the proceedings going forward, and while I don’t expect them to be dealt with in the same “high-brow” intellectual manner that we’ll no doubt be seeing in Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows’ forthcoming Providence series from Avatar Press, it’s a safe bet that Davidsen and Valiente won’t be playing it all strictly for laughs, either. There are some decidedly treacherous undercurrents in these waters, and we’re pretty much assured a bumpy, but ultimately pleasing, ride. I’ve seen enough already to convince me that it would be wise to stick around for the duration — and to hang on really tight.



If you follow this site with any sort of semi-regularity, you’re already well aware of the fact that, for whatever reason, I’m far less burned out on the “found footage” horror sub-genre than most of my “peers” in unpaid amateur critic-land (indeed, one could argue that I’m less burned out on it than I probably should be), and you’re also more than familiar with my occasional penchant for actually following those “we’ve got a new movie that you might like” email recommendations from Netflix, so — yeah, I guess if the two were combined, I’d be a pretty easy mark.

Which is exactly what I feel like having watched the new (as in brand new, 2015 release date and all) horror “mockumentary” Devil’s Backbone, Texas, a decidedly lackluster affair that landed in the Netflix instant streaming queue a week or two back before even making its way onto DVD, Blu-ray, or other “home viewing platforms.” The no-doubt-mechanized arbiters of taste decided for me in advance that I’d “probably” enjoy this one, and I gave in to their suggestion as easily as a South Carolina cop plants evidence on somebody he just shot in the back eight times for no fucking reason other than, ya know, he was running for his life from a psychotic racist uniformed killer. That’ll teach me, I guess — not because watching this movie is anywhere near as dangerous as the situation many black motorists pulled over by white cops find themselves in, but because there are parts of the flick that are so goddamn dull and uninspired that you wish you were dead, if only to relieve the tedium.


Still, like  a number of cops who claim they’re “just looking to help you” or are “concerned for your well-being,”  this movie lulls into a false sense of security at the outset. After all, its writer/director/star, one Jake Wade Wall, is fairly experienced in the horror game (having written the screenplays for the remakes of The Hitcher and When A Stranger Calls, among others), and is —at least to some degree — basing his material on purportedly “true” occurrences, to wit : his father, Bert Wall, really did live on a ranch in the reputedly haunted region of Devil’s Backbone, Texas (hence our title) and really was featured on a 1996 episode of the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries,” wherein he discussed some of  the things that went bump in the night in his neck of the woods.

From there on out, though, the proceedings are pure bullshit. The elder Wall may in fact be dead (which would mean this entire enterprise is tasteless in the extreme, especially given that his own son is behind it), but it’s rather doubtful (to put it kindly) that he met his end due to some concentrated supernatural attack, as the premise here asserts. Jake makes sure that he’s a guy that everybody not just likes, but loves, so it’s easy for him to rustle up a group of his L.A. friends to go back to his old man’s homestead in a rented RV in order for him to “say goodbye properly” and what have you, but geez — here’s a tip, Jake : next time you want to get some of your out-of-work acting buddies to “star” in one of your productions for peanuts, make sure they can actually act. Of the entire ensemble cobbled together here, only Haley Buckner, who plays Debbie, is even remotely competent. The others are perpetually unemployed for good reason.



So, anyway, once the city slickers arrive and undertake their customary-for-these-sorts-of-things interviews with the “local yokels,” they’re pretty quickly set upon by unseen poltergeists who excel at making a noise and making a mess, but not much else. Sooner or later everybody gets annoyed to the point where they want to get the eff outta Dodge, but Jake has turned into an obsessed asshole who won’t leave until — shit, I dunno. He just won’t leave. And of course that will probably spell everyone’s doom.

Hell, probably? Try “definitely” — but at least we’ve got their “lost footage” to serve as a warning to all of us hapless schmucks to stay out!


That’s definitely what I should have done — and you should, too. There isn’t a single original moment in Devil’s Backbone, Texas, nor is there even an interesting wrinkle added to stuff you’ve seen a million times before. The phrase “hopelessly derivative” comes to mind here, but even that’s giving it too much credit. This is a brain-dead movie that hopes you’re just as insipid and clueless as it is, otherwise it’s got no chance of maintaining your interest.

If the real-life residents of Devil’s Backbone want strangers to keep away, then Wall has done them a very big favor with his film — this looks like the most deliriously boring “supernatural hot spot” in the world.


By now, I’m sure you know the drill — bickering couple leaving their day-to-day lives behind for one reason or another is set upon by an unexpected threat, and ends up discovering, under duress, that maybe they still love each other, after all. The end.

But wait — there’s gotta be more to the story than that, right? Well, in the case of writer/director Eric England’s lensed-in-2013-but-slated-for-release-on-home-viewing-platforms-later-this-month indie horror “thriller” Roadside, the answer to that question is —yes and no.


“Yes” in the sense that, of course, there’s a bit more going on here in terms of the details of the story than that. Hubby Dan Summers (played by Ace Marrero) and his pregnant wife,  Mindy (Katie Stegeman) are both thoroughly unlikable yuppie assholes —he’s a selfish, two-timing prick while she’s a nagging, paranoid shrew — on their way to visit his sister and her family at some remote cabin in an undisclosed location (the film was shot in rural Virginia) for Christmas when they’re attacked-at-a-distance by a backwoods psycho who remains hidden in the shadows while he does less-than-dastardly stuff like obstructing the road with broken tree branches and decidedly more dastardly stuff like taking pot-shots at their SUV (of course — does any self-respecting yuppie couple not drive one of these fucking monstrosities?) with his rifle.

Why them? Why now? Apparently because they make for a convenient target and our disembodied-voice-of-a-villain has nothing better to do with his time. Of course, the city slickers ain’t all that bright when it comes to dealing with country bumpkin snipers — Dan in particular engages in behavior that wouldn’t even seem realistic in an Ed Wood flick, such as when he gets out of the car to move the aforementioned obstruction out of the way,  Mr. Mysterious Voice From Beyond The Trees shoots out a passenger-side window on his target’s suburban tank, and rather than making a break for the car and high-tailing it the fuck out of there, bright boy stand there and yells “Who’s there? Show yourself!” — but you know they’ll stay alive at least long enough to make a game of things, otherwise we wouldn’t have much of a movie here.


Not that we do anyway, mind you — which brings us to the “no” part of the equation, in that my slapdash synopsis at the outset of this review pretty much nails things in a thematic sense and provides you with all the details you really need to know when deciding for yourself whether or not you want to invest approximately 90 minutes of the one and only chance at life you’re given in watching  this thing. If yet another trek over this entirely familiar ground sounds okay to you, then hey, don’t let me stand in your way. On the whole the acting is mostly solid (if unspectacular), and some of the shots are framed and composed quite nicely. The ending might surprise you a little bit, as well — not for any revelatory or even satisfying qualities it possesses, but simply because it’s abrupt and unexpected enough to be genuinely startling (even if  I can’t promise that you’ll be startled for the “right” reasons) — although it’s a very open question as to whether or not you’ll still give enough of a fuck about the proceedings by that point to really care about how they finish up, or if you’ll just be glad that they’re over.


I won’t kid you — if I had ordered Roadside as, say, a cable on-demand movie, or even stumbled across it on free TV (which probably can’t happen for a couple of years, anyway), I’d probably have turned it off well before the halfway point, but seeing as how I got a free DVD “screener” copy (the disc looks and sounds good, but there are no extras to speak of) from Image Entertainment (which I always appreciate, even if I’m not crazy about the flick itself in this case), I stuck it out just because, ya know? Given that I did so,  I’d love to be able to report that there’s something — hell, anything — here that goes even a little bit above the usual “been there, done that,” but honestly, there just isn’t.

I take a look at issue one of “George Romero’s Empire Of The Dead : Act Three” for Through The Shattered Lens website.

Through the Shattered Lens


When last we left the denizens of a zombie-and-vampire-infested future New York at the end of issue five of George Romero’s four-color ongoing undead epic Empire Of The Dead, it was the dead (okay, yeah, bad pun intended) of winter (in the real world — specifically, in the hemisphere of the real world where I happen to live) and all of our principal characters were in a series of rather-to-highly precarious positions (in the fictional world). After a brief hiatus in publication to “gear up” for the next five-part run, it seems as though everyone is still in a precarious position of one sort or another in the fictional world, but spring has definitely arrived in the real world, and with it comes some changes in the creative personnel involved on this title.

Most noticeably, as was the case with the second act,  we’ve got a new artist for 

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