Author Archives: wedbriefsfic

Saturday is Horror Day #26 – Krampus: The Reckoning, The Brotherhood of the Wolf

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Krampus: The Reckoning

 

Zoe (Amelia Haberman) is a troubled child caught in the foster care system. She is difficult at best, and some might even say she’s downright creepy. She wears a perpetual glower. So cynical for one of her tender years. When a fire claims the lives of her current foster parents, back into group care she goes.

 

 

Dr. Rachel Stewart (Monica Engesser) is a child psychologist who is assigned to Zoe’s case. She finds her rather disturbing and uncommunicative but gives her some leeway, under the circumstances. Rachel works for the police department, in the Homicide division, along with her friend, Detective Miles O’Connor (James Ray) who has a propensity for drowning his sorrows and turning up drunk on her doorstep. Although there is nothing between them, you can cut the sexual tension with a knife. Rachel has an adopted son, Lamaar, whom she loves dearly, and he’s a rather precocious young man.

 

In an effort to learn more about Zoe, Rachel plays detective to hunt down Zoe’s previous foster family. And what she learns… well, it’s not only shocking but it’s impossible. Zoe doesn’t have a lot of things, but she has a small box in which she carries her most prized possessions, including a small Krampus doll. She believes wholeheartedly in Krampus, and has no problem with summoning him, should the necessity arise. She doesn’t seem to care for other people, especially those who, in her opinion, are evil.

More people are turning up dead through fire. They’ve never seen so many crisped corpses. Something 

suspicious is going on here. What can it be?

 

This entry in the Krampus series is weak, at best, and just about as bad as the first one (which was pretty bad). The actors just aren’t very good at what they do, and they sound like just what they are – actors who learned a script (but not very well). The story is rather weak, and doesn’t even bother to explain the strange supernatural element (other than Krampus).Or how Krampus and Zoe even got together originally.

 

There are much better Krampus films out there. I recommend you find one of them and don’t bother with this one. I give this film a rather shaky 1.5 Stars.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf

At the time of the French Revolution, a nobleman who knows the peasants are coming for him,  remembers a time many years before, when he was very young, and a mysterious beast roamed the French countryside, killing hundreds of people. The Chevalier de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his native American friend Mani (Mark Dacascos) are sent to investigate, at the behest of the king, Louis XV.

On their arrival in the province of Gevaudan, they are met by some highwaymen, who think they will be easy marks. But Mani is greatly skilled, and easily puts them in their place. He catches the eye of a young woman of high spirits. But when he runs into her later, during a wolf hunt, she taunts him cruelly.

 

 

The Chevalier and Mani are introduced to the family of the Comte de Morangias.  Gregoire is instantly smitten with the daughter, Marianne (Emilie Dequenne). She has a mind of her own and great beauty. Her brother Jean-Francois (Vincent Cassel) was sorely wounded on a trip to Africa, and as a result has lost one arm. Even so, he manages rather well, and keeps a close eye on his sister, with the assistance of the family priest.

Gregoire is convinced that the beast is not a wolf, despite what the others say, and Mani agrees with him. During a visit to a local brothel, Gregoire becomes intrigued by an Italian whore, Sylvia (Monica Belucci) who he suspects isn’t all she appears to be. The Chevalier has a talent for drawing, which he utilizes on his journeys, besides his skills as a taxidermist. He sketches the courtesan, but someone with an axe to grind steals the pictures and shows them to Marianne, which of course does not sit well with her.

 

When a wolf is caught, Gregoire is ordered to make it into the beast, so the people will be satisfied and the matter will be over, and the king will be happy. He has no choice, but he knows the beast is not dead, far from it. And he will do everything in his power to get to the truth.

This was a very well executed film, beautifully filmed, and very imaginative. From the title, I assumed this was a werewolf movie, but that is pretty far from the truth. I don’t often watch French films, and listening to it in its original language was a treat. For the most part, the cast was unknown to me, but I have seen Monica Bellucci before. You may remember her from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The big surprise was with Mani, who turned out to be Mark Dacascos, who you might remember if you ever watched Iron Chef America as The Chairman. He also played Wo Fat in the recent Hawaii 5-0 tv series.

The story is very interesting and kept me guessing up until the end, until we found out about the brotherhood. Mani’s action scenes are very impressive, as are Gregoire’s. Admittedly, there are some flaws, such as the mention of steel, which didn’t exist back then. And the reference to Mani as a Mohawk, another term not in use then. Maybe some minor continuity errors. But on the whole, this was an enjoyable film. I give it a solid 4 Stars.

Book Review: Demon Slayer, Vol 1 by Koyoharu Gotouge

Demon Slayer, Vol 1

Author: Koyoharu Gotouge

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: July 3, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy Manga//192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Tanjiro and his family have a hard life, being rather poor. But Tanjiro works hard and does what he can to help provide for his mother and many siblings after the death of his father. Hoping to provide for a happy New Year for his loved ones, the weary Tanjiro wants to go into town, despite the weather, to sell more charcoal. But he is prevented from getting back and ends up spending the night there, heading home at first light. Upon his return, he is met with the horrific sight of his family, dead and bloody from some sort of massacre. The stricken Tanjiro realizes his sister Nezuko is still breathing, and hurries to get her to town, where she can be helped. When he slips and accidentally drops her, he realizes that Nezuko has become a demon, turned by the same creature that killed his family!

Just after this realization hits him, as he attempts to keep his demon sister from biting him, a stranger unexpectedly swoops in and attempts to kill her. He is confused as to why Tanjiro, a human, should be protecting a demon. But Tanjiro tells him that she’s his sister and he will do everything he can to help her become human again. He tells the stranger that Nezuko hasn’t killed anyone and won’t harm anyone.  He finally persuades the man, whose name is Giyu, and Giyu tells him to go to see an old man named Sakonji Urokodaki at the foot of Mount Sagiri, and to tell him Giyu Tomioka sent him.

In order to travel that far, Tanjiro realizes he can’t avoid sunlight, much as Nezuko would like to, so he acquires an old basket and fixes it up for her so he can carry her on his back. On the journey, they are attacked by a demon, but luckily they are met by Urokodaki, in a tengu mask, who was apprised of their arrival by Giyu. Giyu told him Tanjiro seems promising, and has the same strong sense of smell that Urokodaki does.  The older man makes Tanjiro figure out how to kill the demon himself then leads both him and Nezuko back to his mountain, never cutting the boy any slack. He leaves Tanjiro at the top of the mountain and says he’ll train him if he can make it down by morning. Tanjiro thinks that’s easy, with his sense of smell, but of course it isn’t.

Tanjiro has taken his first step toward becoming a Demon Slayer and recovering his sister’s lost humanity.

I have been watching the anime, and just started reading the manga. I really like it, and I think they complement one another well. It’s a sad story about bravery in the face of tragedy, of a brother’s love for his sister and his determination to give her back the life she had before, as well as a supernatural story about demons and humans. Tanjiro is a sweet boy, and very kind. Sometimes too kind, to the point of being indecisive, which his mentor fears in his nature. But he also has a steely quality that I think will stand him in good stead in the future.

Urokodaki’s tengu mask is intriguing, and I’m sure there’s a story as to why he always wears it, one we will find out later.  A side note, the actor who voices Urokodaki in the anime is the same one who voices Jiraiya in Naruto (win-win for me because I love Jiraiya lol) The story of how Tanjiro splits the boulder is sadly sweet. Tanjiro’s trial as part of the final selection to become a demon slayer is filled with intrigue and potential death for all involved. Not all the candidates will come out alive.

I like the artwork very much, and I look forward to reading more volumes.

Book Review: Skip Beat! Vol 5 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! Vol 5

Author: Yoshiki Nakamura

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: March 6, 2007

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Shojo Manga//200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Playing the giant chicken Bo on television is exhausting for Kyoko, but she’s actually grateful the producer gave her a second chance, after the fiasco with Sho. But apparently the viewers loved her and thought the old Bo was boring, so now she is determined to make the most of this opportunity. To do her best, so she can succeed.

Kyoko runs into Ren at the agency, and his being nice to her and smiling at her has even more freaked out than before. She forgets to inform the agency that she has an audition for a commercial scheduled for the next day. Of course they are happy for her, and Ren tells her to do her best. At the audition, Kyoko unexpectedly runs into Moko, and an entitled blonde who is sure the world revolves around her and her money. Apparently, she and Moko go way back, and she is very condescending and mean to Moko. But instead of fighting fire with fire, as only Moko can, she is down and almost defeated! Kyoko can’t believe what she is seeing. What’s going on here? After the first round of auditions, Moko is ready to quit, but Kyoko slaps some sense into her!

The commercial’s director, who missed the first audition, overhears the discussion between Kyoko and Moko, and is curious to see what they can do. So he changes the casting call from one to two girls, and all the girls have to team up to audition.  Kyoko ends up with Moko. When the others girls, including the rich one, find out that Moko and Kyoko work together at LME, they claim their pairing is unfair. So to even the playing field, they demand that they can’t rehearse together beforehand. Moko is appalled, but Kyoko agrees. But can they play upon one another and bring out the emotions the director and his team need for the product without even being able to discuss it first?

This is a big deal for Kyoko, auditioning for this commercial. No chicken suit to hide inside, only her. Plus she is auditioning against Moko, whom she strongly wants to be friends with. Moko is resistant to her overtures of friendship, but Kyoko isn’t the type to give up easily. I enjoyed watching the director of the commercial as he watched them carefully, sensing something special there. And of course he was right.

Poor Kyoko has no idea that Ren has finally realized how and when he knows her from because she has changed so much, and she has no idea who he was to her. All she knows is that she is afraid of his gentlemanly side as much as his colder side. I love watching the two of them together, but I know they have a long way to go. Lots of fun in this volume, can’t wait for more!

Book Review: The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book #1) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book #1)   

Author: Suzanne Collins

Publisher: Scholastic Press

American release date:  September 14, 2008

Format/Genre/Length: Hardback/YA SciFi Action/384 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

In the aftermath of a devastating war, what was once North America is now a nation known as Panem, comprised of the Capitol and twelve outlying districts. Once there had been thirteen districts, but the thirteenth had rebelled against the Capitol, only to be destroyed. As a reminder of what happens to those who don’t obey, the Capitol conceived the Hunger Games. Every year, each remaining district provides two contestants—one male, one female—who are chosen by lottery to represent their district. The contestants are sent to the Capitol to participate in the games, pitted against one another to fight until only one person remains. The last person standing is then crowned the winner, their district receiving benefits from their win. All of which is televised to the entire nation.

Times are hard for everyone. Catniss Everdeen lives with her mother and younger sister Prim. Catniss supplements their meager diet by hunting, which is illegal as it takes place outside the area where they are allowed to go. But survival calls for desperate measures, so Catniss continues to hunt, along with her hunting partner, Gale. She also forages for various herbs and vegetables, which she has learned from her mother, who is a healer.

Time for the Hunger Games again, and everyone attends the drawing of the two participants. Catniss only wants her family to be safe, so is unprepared to hear the first name drawn is Prim’s. Without hesitation, she volunteers to take Prim’s place, and her offer is accepted. The male volunteer turns out to be Peeta Mellark, the baker’s son. Catniss and Peeta are escorted to the Capitol by Haymitch Abernathy and Effie Trinket, the former a drunken fool and the latter an excitable fool.

Catniss hopes that she isn’t killed too quickly, not holding out hope of winning the games. But she is tougher than she realizes, and maybe, just maybe, she can survive this thing if she tries.

This is a really creative story about a dystopian future society filled with barbarism and inequality. The poor have a rough life, while the idiots in the Capitol go blithely about their merry way, watching the annual slaughter that is the Hunger Games. Catniss is a very good, well-written heroine, and Peeta is easily her counterpart. Watching them grow and develop throughout the book, and watching them work together to defeat the others, is priceless. Catniss is a typical teenage girl in that her emotions are all over the place, especially under the circumstances. But she comes through it all with great grace and aplomb.

I really hope this sort of society never comes to be, but I can also see it happening, too, especially in an oligarchy, such as we in the US live in now.  The first book in the trilogy is riveting. Looking forward to the next one.

Wednesday Briefs: September 1, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

Ancalagon: Chapter Fifty-four by Cia Nordwell
 

“This is in English.” I glanced at Mereval. “You can read it.”  

“Yes,” she said. “But we don’t understand it.” She pointed at the screen. “Why would you cut off your nose to spite your face?” She grimaced. “We weren’t aware that humans took part in body mutilation.”  

“We don’t,” I said automatically. Then I backtracked, thinking of all the genetic modifications made in the womb that produced what seemed like, to me, some pretty freaky looking people. Not to mention what modern cosmetic surgery could do in a single afternoon. “Not in that fashion at least or for no

 
 

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Book Review: Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 16: Beyond the Looking Glass by Naoki Urasawa

Twentieth Century Boys, Vol 16: Beyond the Looking Glass     

Author: Naoki Urasawa

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: August 16, 2011

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/manga/paranormal/216 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Fukube has always wanted to be a part of Kenji and his group, but has always been passed over and overlooked. In an attempt to get an in with them, he collects a great deal of manga. When Kenji’s new issue of Shonen Sunday turns up ruined, Fukube invites the guys over to his house to read his collection. Things seem to go well, but even so, he is devastated when they leave him to work on their secret clubhouse, and never invite him. Waiting for a time when the guys aren’t there, Fukube breaks into their clubhouse, where he is discovered by Sadakiyo, the creepy kid in the mask who has nothing to say. Finding Kenji’s Book of Prophecy, Fukube boasts that he can make better prophecies, and his are all going to come true. Fukube offers to be Sadakiyo’s friend, but on one condition. The other boy is not to call him by his given name at all… just call him his Friend.

The boys are all excited about the Expo in Osaka, Fukube boasting that he would be there all summer and would go to the Expo every day. But things don’t work out, and he not only can’t go, he doesn’t dare show himself around town, since that would mark him as being a liar. It’s a long hot summer for him, until he borrows Sadakiyo’s mask so he can get out of the house for a little bit. When Sadakiyo suggests they play at the haunted house on the hill, where no one will see them, Fukube gets an idea of how to frighten Kenji and the other boys.

Yamane approaches Fukube, trying to get back in his good graces, wondering if he is still rejected. The two boys run across a street vendor, who really has nothing to offer them that they are interested in. But they discuss Fukube’s idea of a man with a briefcase who travels around spreading a virus, to the shock of the salesman. It’s not until the strange kid bends one of his spoons, using just his mind, that the man becomes interested and gives the kid his card, telling him to look him up. And this man turns out to be none other than Manjome.

Meanwhile, in year 3 of the Friendship Era, Otcho is being hidden and taken care of by a young boy, whose sister quickly learns his secret. Funny thing, but everyone who owns a TV is ordered, by law, to turn the TV set off at the end of the broadcast day. When Otcho and the kids don’t do that, they hear a lady’s voice with an important message.

This volume differs from the others in that now, finally, we are inside the mind of Fukube, otherwise known as Friend, watching the development of the Friend persona. While it’s very easy to say that Kenji and the boys are at fault for being mean and not befriending him, I think it’s not that simple. There is something seriously not right about that boy, and when he lets his guard down, you can see glimpses of something evil. After all, how normal is it for someone to wish to destroy an entire world, and how egotistical to even think he can do so?

What I was excited about in the last volume hasn’t come to pass yet, but that’s because we shifted gears in this volume. I still believe it’s going to happen, so I’ll be patient. I can’t tell if we’re getting closer to the truth or not, but it seems that way. I’m waiting to see Kanna’s mother make her anticipated entrance. At least we know now she is one of the good guys, rather than the flake we assumed she was after dumping baby Kanna on Kenji’s doorstep. Another great volume, can’t wait for more.

Saturday is Horror Day #25 – Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave, The Lighthouse

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

The Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave

Just when you thought the zombies were a thing of the past…. Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote) is determined to make money from the cannisters of Trioxin he looted from the Army. He sells one to foreign agents, but they insist on a demonstration. To prove that this is the real deal, he injects a couple of dead bodies. Is anyone surprised when this goes horribly wrong? Little does anyone know that he has two more cannisters hidden away in his brother’s attic.

 

Charles has been raising his nephew Julian (John Keefe) since the death of their parents. Naturally Julian is devastated to be handed at note, while at school, telling him of the death of his uncle. Alone in his late parents’ house, he begins to tidy things up and comes across something weird in the attic. Looks like something was dragged, but to where? He enters a secret door only to discover two strange metal cannisters.

Julian calls his girlfriend Jenny (Jenny Mollen) and then they decide to consult with their nerd friend 

Cody (Cody Hardrict). Cody runs some tests and determines that the liquid inside the cannister has some properties very similar to ecstasy. Against Julian’s wishes, he produces large quantities of the stuff in order to make some money. Luckily for him, raves are popular, and Halloween is only a week away. Jenny’s brother, Jeremy (Cain Manoli) is throwing a huge rave. What better way to turn people on and make money? Unbeknownst to all of them, though, two Russian Interpol agents are on the case, Aldo (Claudiu Bleont) and Gino (Sorin Cocis). 

I am really glad that this is the last of this series, cause it’s really abysmal. I suspect they were going for a combination of humor and horror, but what they came up with was just cringe and suck. Some people might consider it so stupid it’s funny, but I’m not one of them. First off, these are the same characters from the last film and yet none of the kids remember the zombies, seemingly, and seem shocked at what they discover in the cannister. Also, what happened to Julian’s little brother Jake? Nowhere to be seen. 

In each film the zombies get worse and worse. But in this one, they are using the drug known as Z and producing zombies out of live people, which makes no sense. If zombies are dead people brought back to “life” – and I use the term loosely – then how can you take living people and create zombies?

The Interpol agents are ridiculous and cartoonish, but I suspect they are meant to double as comic relief. But I did some digging and I discovered that Interpol works with government agencies, but does not have its own agents. It’s purpose is intelligence, not enforcement. So that whole subplot sucks from the start. Not to mention the ridiculous shooting that goes on.

Another thing I disliked was that the filmmaker took every opportunity he could find – even if he had to create them – to show naked boobs. Like a college frat boy gone wild, as though he’s never seen them before (who knows, maybe he hasn’t).

This film isn’t funny and it isn’t scary, and I would not recommend it. I’m giving it a very shaky 1 Star just because someone might appreciate the stupidity.

The Lighthouse

Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) arrived together on a remote island to serve a four week maintenance shift. Wake is a veteran lightkeeper, while Winslow is new at the task, having previously been a lumberjack. He is to replace a former partner of Wake, who went mad.

 

 

The cantankerous Wake is quick to let Winslow know how it’s going to be, and he will be the one in charge, no matter what the manual says. And that includes keeping watch in the lamp. Winslow grumbles but there isn’t anything he can do about it. The older man is a harsh taskmaster and bullies his young assistant, forcing him to work harder and harder. Winslow is stewing, both about his treatment, and because of lack of access to the lamp, which bothers him no end.

 

Winslow can’t help but wonder what is happening up in the lamp, but Wake keeps it locked and Winslow can’t get to the key. A teetotaler when he arrived, Wake has him drinking more and more until they become regular drinking buddies. Winslow found a small figuring of a mermaid, and in his quieter moments, he masturbates to its image. One time he caught a glimpse inside the lamp, and oh what he saw….

Bothered by a sea gull, Winslow kills it, despite having been told by Wake that that is the worst thing a sailor can do. And sure enough, a rough wind begins to blow, bringing a terrible storm, and they are unable to get off the island when they’re supposed to because no ship can get close enough. It’s only a matter of time until truths come out, and true ugliness is revealed.

 

This is one unusual film. Directed by Robert Eggers, and written by Robert and Max Eggers, it is a deep look into the psyche of two men whom circumstances bring together, and whose very isolation threatens them both. The film is shot in black and white, which only enhances the eerie quality of the story. There is some damn fine photography here, so let me give a shout out to the director of photography, Jarin Blaschke.  And the film editor, Louise Ford. These are two very fine performances by Dafoe and Pattinson, for which I understand they received no recognition at all from the Oscars. Not surprising if you consider that those awards are so politically based it’s not funny, and an Oscar is basically meaningless anymore.

If you watch the film and have to look up what the ending means, don’t feel bad, I did too. But wait until it’s over, let it sink in for a moment, then read to your heart’s content. This is a very fine film, and I’ll give it a string 4.5 Stars.

Wednesday Briefs: August 25, 2021

Here is a list of all the authors flashing this week, along with a brief snippet from their latest free work. Click the link after the snippet to be taken to the complete story on the author’s home page.

An Unholy Alliance #13 (4.1) by Julie Lynn Hayes

Stay calm, stay calm.

I forced myself to quell the rapid beating of my heart. Such wild fluctuations would do me no good and could, in fact, be quite detrimental to my well-being. I kept telling myself I had no real reason to panic. Just because Tyrone said it, didn’t make it so. This could be a mere coincidence. A coincidence of the highest order, I had to admit, but nonetheless a possibility. Still, I had to be prepared for the worst.

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Book Review: Bleach, Vol 40 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 40     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: June 5, 2012

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/192 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

As Ichigo and Ulquiorra battle, they assess one another to see in what way their opponent has become more skillful since their last encounter. Orihime stands on the sidelines, helpless to do anything but offer her support to Ichigo, ready to heal him if necessary. Behind her back, though, others are plotting against her. Namely the two girls who were previously the object of Lord Aizen’s wrath for what they tried to do to her. They know Orihime is  no longer under his protection, so she is fair game. And they intend to get even for their imagined slights.

At that moment, Yammy arrives, eager to be part of the fight against Ichigo, although Ulquiorra has certainly not called for him and doesn’t want his help. Too bad for the girls that one chooses to be mouthy, since he obviously doesn’t like them to begin with. But luck is with them, thanks to the arrival of Uryu, but for how long? It’s getting to be a regular three ring circus there! And Uryu knows how to handle the big dummy… with a little help from Mayuri Kurotsuchi.

Turning back to Ulquiorra, Ichigo apologizes for the interruptions, saying “This is what you’ve been waiting to see” just as he goes Hollow. Ulquiorra reveals that Espada above quatra are forbidden to release beneath Las Noches’ canopy. But never fear, he knows how to remedy that. And so the fight continues. As usual, Ichigo never backs down, never considers the possibility of defeat, even though Ulquiorra insists, “I’m telling you – it’s futile!” Ichigo replies,” You thought I’d give up just because you’re stronger than me?” Uryu carries Orihime up to where the fight is taking place. Why is Ulquiorra dismayed to see her there? Is it possible he has a heart and in this heart he cares for Orihime?

This volume of Bleach is all about Ichigo and Ulquiorra, as if to make up for the lack of Ichigo in previous volumes. Not that I’m complaining about that, mind you, but in the end, Ichigo is the star of the show. Still, doesn’t hurt to let the others shine too. They’re all part of the story. But as the hero, we also know in our heart of hearts that Ichigo can’t fail, not even against Ulquiorra. So how bad will the defeat be for the powerful Espada? Only time will tell. But it’s obvious one of them must fall, and logically it can’t be Ichigo.

A riveting volume of Bleach, look forward to the next one!

Saturday is Horror Day #24 – The Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, The Hole in the Ground, A Christmas Horror Story

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis

Julian Garrison (John Keefe) and his brother Jake (Alexandru Geoana) are orphans, their parents having died in a car accident. The boys are being raised by their Uncle Charles (Peter Coyote), who doesn’t seem to know or care anything about kids. Charles works at Hybra Tech, a huge  conglomerate that does everything from making food to making chemicals, boasting the latest in cutting edge technology.

 

Julian hangs out with a group of kids, including his “best” friend Zeke Borden (Elvin Dandel), who insists that Julian has the hots for Zeke’s girlfriend, Katie (Jana Kramer), who also works at Hybra Tech, earning money for college. Zeke is something of a bully, who makes fun of Julian when he doesn’t want to take his motorbike up a ramp and jump it. Not surprising since he took a nasty spill last time he attempted the jump. Showing off, Zeke does the jump and it doesn’t turn out well. He ends up knocked out, so the kids call an ambulance.

 

The trouble starts when Julian goes to the hospital to check on Zeke, they tell him his friend died in the ambulance. Strange thing, when he calls Katie at work to tell her the bad news, she tells Julian that she just saw Zeke being brought to Hybra in an ambulance. So what is going on here?

Julian asks his uncle, who denies that Zeke is there. But Cody (Cory Hardrict) hacks into Hybra’s 

computers and finds that Zeke is indeed there. The teens decide to go into action to rescue Zeke.

Oh, did I mention here be zombies? Courtesy of the Army, of course, with the help of Uncle Charles.

So let me just say that every entry in the Return of the Living Dead series is weaker than the one before. Hard to believe, I know. I loved the first two, not to much the next two.

The plot is contrived and ridiculous. And we still don’t know why the hell the army keeps these zombies around. Are they thinking of recruiting future soldiers from the dead? Save on pay and food? If that’s the case, they better find a manual on zombie control, because they don’t have it. The acting isn’t particularly good, not even Peter Coyote (who has done better films). There is one scene where a teen cries over a death, and his crying sounded incredibly fake/forced.

The soundtrack wasn’t particularly memorable, being part of the school of let’s slap some sort of heavy metal onto this and call it done. Real teenagers would not be this stupid, either. I don’t recommend watching this. I even lost track of the action a couple times because I was bored. I’ll give this a very shaky 1.5 Stars.

The Hole in the Ground

Single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) moves her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) and herself to the Irish countryside, presumably to start over. Chris is something of an introvert, and frightened of spiders, but very close to his mother. On the way to their home, they have an unsettling encounter with their neighbor, Noreen (Kati Outinen). The older woman, who appears to be demented in some way, besides appearing out of nowhere and almost causing an accident insists that Chris is not Sarah’s son!

Exploring the land around their home, Sarah comes across an enormous sinkhole, and finds herself concerned for her son’s well-being. The old woman’s words continue to haunt her, which isn’t helped by the woman’s unexpected death. Suddenly, Sarah seems to see Chris differently, and she doesn’t like what she sees. Soon, she is doubting whether he is her son or not.

 

This is a very well-made psychological thriller, one which can make you look at your children differently and wonder. This is a real woman in a terrifying situation. You have to feel for her. What would you do if you began to think your child wasn’t really your child? Who could you confide in, when most people would think you were crazy for even suggesting such a thing. Director Lee Cronin has done a splendid job. Direction and cinematography are great, and so is the acting. 

Granted, by the end of the film, I still had some questions which went unanswered, such as why has no

one reported this sinkhole or warned her about it? Surely such a thing would need to be filled in or something, right? Still, those matters aside, it’s a riveting watch and well worth the view. I give this film a solid 4 Stars.

A Christmas Horror Story

This is an anthology film with four intertwined stories that all take plus on Christmas Eve… or Krampusnacht, if you will. Santa Claus faces down a group of zombie elves, a desperate family makes a last ditch appeal to a rich relative, teenagers film a documentary of the gruesome murders that occurred at their school a year ago, and a family in crisis tries to have a normal Christmas.

 

The common thread within these stories, other than the particular night, is the ongoing narrative by a disc jockey who is stuck working on Christmas Eve, played by William Shatner. His co-worker has left the building, after giving the dj a disparaging message, and hopefully leaves to cover the food drive at the mall. Dan (William Shatner) just keeps on going.

 

Taylor (Jeff Clarke) takes his wife and two children to visit his elderly Aunt Edda (Corinne Conley), in the hopes of being able to get some money from her. What his family doesn’t know is that she has no idea they’re coming… he’s basically waylaying her. Is it surprising that she is less than enthusiastic and can see right through him from the moment of his arrival?

Molly (Zoe De Grand Maison), Dylan (Shannon Kook), and Ben (Alex Ozerov) are filming a student documentary on the disturbing events that happened at their school. But when they find themselves locked into the school at night, things take a sinister turn. Is it possible that what killed the two students still lurks inside the building?

Scott (Adrian Holmes) was the first officer on the scene of the horrific killing, and the discovery has

taken a toll, not just on him, but on his family. In an effort to put a sense of normalcy back in their lives, he proposes they go together to chop down a Chrismtas tree. However, the land he intends to do that on is marked do not tresspass. His wife Kim (Oluniká Adeliyi) doesn’t like the idea, but puts up with it for the sake of their son Will (Orion John). The parents begin to panic when Will disappears into the forest. They find him unharmed inside of a huge hollow tree. But something isn’t quite right…

You don’t usually see Christmas and horror in the same film, but you see plenty of it here, and well done at that. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was very happily surprised by what I saw. Each story is well told and well acted. We move from one to another, back and forth, as the tales unfold before our eyes. Each one is riveting and original, not your standard horror fare or Christmas either, an interesting and unique hybrid. There are plenty of scares here, lots of blood, and yet some laughter as well, albeit a mite unsettling. I bet you’ve never heard elves use the language some of these do!

William Shatner is the icing on the cake, the lone DJ who is just trying to get through the night and keep his audience entertained, while wondering where the hell his co-anchor has gotten to and why isn’t he doing what he’s supposed to. He’s very funny, and it’s always good to see him in anything.

The ending… well, I won’t give it away, I’ll just say I never saw that coming in a million years. This was a thoroughly enjoyable film, and I hope these guys make more like this. I’ll give this a strong 4.5 Stars.