Monday, February 25, 2013

Paranormal Entity

Genre - Horror/Mystery/Thriller
Year Released - 2009
Running Time - 88 minutes
Directed by Shane Van Dyke
Written by Shane Van Dyke
Cast Includes: Erin Marie Hogan, Shane Van Dyke, Fia Perera, and Norman Saleet

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Not to be confused with 'Paranormal Activity', this take-off documents a family's descent into madness as they are besieged by a demonic force.


This review comes to you, in thanks to a regular blog commenter, who commented on my prior review 'Hold Your Breath' (which coincidentally also stars this film's lead actress Erin Marie Hogan)

Yet another 'Asylum' "mock-buster" film, Paranormal Entity is obviously a blatant rip-off of 'Paranormal Activity' (which, for the record, bored me to tears!)
However, (as pointed out to me by Jimmie, the commenter) Paranormal Entity's budget actually exceeded that of Paranormal Activity's - shocking, I know - not sure why/how exactly, perhaps the (obvious) model-home used in the film cost a bundle, or perhaps the camera equipment was more expensive... for whatever reason, you would not actually know that you are watching an Asylum film.

Showing alleged "actual footage", Paranormal Entity details the supernatural events leading up to the 2008 murder of Samantha Finley, for whom her brother Thomas was arrested. . .

Dare I say that this film was actually good?
Understand, I hated Paranormal Activity!
I feel that this film pulled off what the other failed to do - a (slightly) better story with more interesting characters.

Is this film truly worthy of 3 skulls? Perhaps not, but if you are in the mood to watch a (at-times) boring paranormal flick, I would choose Paranormal Entity over Activity!

By the way, it is currently available to watch on Netflix Instant


Friday, February 22, 2013

Hold Your Breath

Genre - Horror
Year Released - 2012
Running Time - 86 minutes
Directed by Jared Cohn
Written by Geoff Meed & Kenny Zinn
Cast Includes: Katrina Bowden, Randy Wayne, Steve Hanks, and Keith Allen

Rating: 3 Skulls

Plot Summary:
A group of friends, on a weekend camping trip, find themselves being picked off one by one when one member of the group refuses to abide by the urban myth that you can breathe in evil spirits when passing cemeteries.


As a fan of "Asylum Pictures" - famous for their low-budget/direct-to-dvd/"mock-buster" films, such as 'MegaPiranha' & 'Two-Headed Shark Attack' (among my favorites) or 'Almighty Thor' or 'Battle of Los Angeles' (among their worst) - I was excited to hear about their 1st theatrical release: 'Hold Your Breath' starring Katrina Bowden (from 'Tucker & Dale vs Evil' - my favorite horror film of 2011)

Based (very loosely) on the urban legend that you need to hold your breath whenever passing by a cemetery, so wandering spirits can't get inside of you and possess you... (the funny thing is my kids do this - not out of fear of possession - simply for fun, as it can be quite difficult sometimes, when passing very large cemeteries!)

The film actually starts off rather well (better than I was expecting at least) beginning in 1956, in a Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane, at the on-set of an execution (did insane asylums perform executions?!?) 
While the criminal is being escorted to the electric chair, a list of his (ridiculous) kills is being read, while a lightning storm is brewing outside (if ever there was a perfect moment to have Metallica score a scene, it would have been this one, with Ride the Lightning!)

The film then jumps to present day, where you now realize that you are, in-fact, watching an 'Asylum' Picture - full of bad lines, gaping plot-holes, etc, etc.

Still, it's not all that bad - nothing that needs to be seen in a theater, mind you, but worth the watch if you are a fan of Asylum Pictures - keep an eye out for it, as I'm sure that it will eventually hit SyFy...


Monday, February 18, 2013

Merciless [Book Review]

Genre - Horror
Year Published - *2012 (*Published by Black Bed Sheet Books)
Length - 126 [digital] pages *Read on my Nook
Written by Brandon Ford

Rating: 5 Skulls

Plot Summary:
Kyra and Claire have never met, never spoken, but by the time this crisp autumn evening comes to a close, they'll have formed an unbreakable bond and an indestructible unity as they face an evil nothing in this world could have ever prepared them for.

Kidnapped at gunpoint, they are bound, beaten, and savaged by a madman whose sole purpose is to enforce pain and impose suffering. Driving them far from their peaceful suburban community, he becomes more monstrous with each mile that separates them from any and all familiarity.

Kyra and Claire are mere innocents, taken against their will and brutalized by a man who, as they soon realize, is not a man at all. He is ruthless. He is relentless. He is MERCILESS.

First off, let me just tell you that this book is an Anthology, with the actual story of Merciless being more of a Novella (roughly 75 pgs, including an excellent Introduction)

The book also includes 3 additional short stories:

'The Neighbor' - an "extreme horror" tale
'Last Call' - an homage to author Jack Ketchum
'All I Ever Wanted' - another "extreme horror" tale

If you have read any of my past reviews on Ford's work ('Crystal Bay' and 'Splattered Beauty') then you will recall that he is one of my all-time-favorite independent authors - who deserves to be a household name!
I have called him our "modern-day" Richard Laymon and I still stick to that!

I do not want to get into any of the details of the above stories (better that you don't know anything) other than to tell you that each one is horrifying in its own right. Ford pulls absolutely no punches in these tales, in fact, he pushes the boundaries quite far! 
(let me just say that 'All I Ever Wanted' was not something that I would have ever chosen to read, yet I could not stop turning the pages!) 
Ford does that to you - he sucks you in, from the get-go, with superb character development, and then takes you on a riveting (brutal & graphic) journey that leads to a climactic finale!

If you have never read Brandon Ford, then start with this one - he's at his best here!
(I guarantee that you will then be checking out his other books!)
Each story has my 5 Skull rating!

On a side-note, in my travels, I somehow missed his novel 'Pay Phone' (which I have since purchased) so stay tuned for a review of that one, in the future, as well...


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Satan Carol [Book Review]

Genre - Horror/"Speculative Fiction"
Year Published - 2011
Length - 228 [digital] pages *Read on my Nook
Written by Alan S. Kessler

Rating: 2 Skulls

Plot Summary:
What does the devil really want?
Nostalgic for the Inquisition and plague, Satan feels neglected by the modern world that no longer blames him for disease and death. He plans to create a new genesis, a place where people will love him. 
For that, his son needs just the right soul, and there is one - unique, powerful, able to heal.
To get it, Satan has a plan that begins in Ireland in the famine year, 1848, and 180 years later he traps a young girl and her family in demonic forces pushing them to kill.

Generally, I would not normally read a book about Satan attempting to establish himself a kingdom/world where it's people love/worship him, however I completely misunderstood the author's own description, in which he stated, "A Satan Carol is a horror story, with a message for those who want to understand God's apparent absence at the intersection of free will & choice. It is a story, with religious themes written for a secular reader. It is, in the end, a tale about family values - even if they originate in hell."

I completely missed everything in that description! 
I do not want to say that I was misled, I just think that upon reading that, I got excited to read a really good Christian-Fiction tale (along the lines of Frank Peretti) however that is not what I got at all. :(

Aside from the disappointment of not meeting my expectation, I've come to understand that I am just not a fan of "speculative fiction" (is this the same as "bizarro fiction"?!?)
If you are a fan, then by all means, check this book out, you may enjoy it far more than I did.

To me, the book just seemed to go all over the place - jumping back & forth in time, between realities/worlds, etc. - difficult to read, in my opinion.

This is not a knock on Kessler's writing, which is actually quite good. He created some interesting characters and storylines, it just seemed extremely disorganized, which, at times, made reading the book seem a chore (hence my rating)
I enjoy reading books that are hard to put down - this one is not one of those...


Friday, February 1, 2013

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Genre - Action-Adventure/Martial-Arts/Foreign
Chinese Title: 'Long men fai jia'
Year Released - 2011
Running Time - 122 minutes
Directed by Tsui Hark
Written by Tsui Hark
Cast Includes: Jet Li, Kun Chen, Xun Zhou, and Siu-Wong Fan

Rating: 4 Skulls

Plot Summary:
As the Ming Dynasty ends, ruthless warlord Yu tightens his grip on China, and Zhao Huai'an and his men meet at the Dragon Gate Inn to plan a rebellion...


I know that this isn't a low-budget/independent film, however I have no idea how I missed this one (in IMAX 3D no less!) so I figured I would bring it to your attention, in case you missed it as well...

Pretty much a re-make/"re-imagining" of the original 1966 Dragon Gate Inn and its subsequent 1992 re-make 'New' Dragon Gate Inn (starring Donnie Yen) 'Flying Swords' is an above-average Wuxia/Wushu Kung-Fu flick.

Tsui Hark ('Once Upon a Time in China') who also directed Jet Li in 'The Master' (and Jackie Chan in 'Twin Dragons') does not disappoint with this film. There is more than enough high-flying, acrobatic martial arts action to appease even die-hard fans of this genre!

And the best part is, it's currently available on Netflix Instant 
(I know that is nowhere near the same as seeing it in IMAX 3D, but it is still sufficient)