Posts Tagged ‘review’

One thing I can always count on with a Junji Ito collection. The artwork is always fantastic. And this latest collection of short stories, Venus in the Blind Spot, is full of some of his best work.

Now if you’re unfamiliar with Junji Ito, he’s a manga artist who specializes in horror, and is well known for illustrations that terrify and creep the hell out of readers. Hell, sometimes I don’t feel comfortable leaving his books on the night stand beside my bed without something to cover them, the illustrations are that terrifying. I’ve read quite a bit of his work, and I’ve reviewed some of those stories and collections here on the blog, such as his adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and his masterpiece Uzumaki (click here and here for those reviews).

His latest publication in North America is Venus in the Blind Spot, and I loved just about every story within. The majority of the stories revolve around obsession, especially romantic or sexual obsession. The titular story follows the members of a UFO society as their obsession with the founder’s daughter becomes skewed after they lose the ability to see her. There’s also the fan-favorite The Enigma at Amigara Fault,  which I’ve read before but was excited to find again. It revolves around finding something strange that’s just right for you, and the insanity of not claiming it, of not finding out its secret. Even if by doing so, you potentially doom yourself.

My favorite stories were Billions Alone, a creepy body horror story about people being found sewn together that’s perfect for the current pandemic, and The Licking Woman, a weird story about a wild woman whose monstrous tongue contains a poison that kills all whom it licks.

And like I said, the artwork is fantastic. Ito-sensei’s work is never concerned with looking visually appealing like other visual artists. Rather, he wants to provoke a reaction. Fear, disgust, horror, unease. He wants to disturb your inner Zen. You can see this especially with three of the stories which are adaptations of works by other authors. Yes, they’re not his stories, but he puts his all into making sure his art brings out all the terror contained within the words.

Famous image from “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” which is some of Ito’s work at its best.

That being said, the collection isn’t perfect. While there are colored pages and colored panels, they show up inconsistently, and it’s a little annoying. Sometimes I can’t even tell they’re colored, as I’m red-green colorblind and the panels use colors I can’t always see. One of the stories, The Principal Post, is one I’ve never really liked nor understood why it was published. And there’s a story about Ito-sensei himself and the influence of another artist, Kazuo Umezu,* on his work that I liked, but which might annoy fans seeking another scary story.

But all in all, Venus in the Blind Spot is an awesome, freaky and unsettling collection. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give it a 4.5. If you want to see a Junji Ito collection at its best, you can’t go wrong here. Open it up and get ready to experience the madness.

Are you a fan of Ito-sensei’s work? Did you read this collection? Are you excited for all the adaptations of his work in production? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on my own stories and see if I can’t disturb someone else’s inner Zen. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares and why is there a woman with a giant tongue outside my building?

*Highly recommend his series The Drifting Classroom. It’s like a sci-fi version of Lord of the Flies, and just as brutal.

It’s been a rough week, so I was looking forward to ending it with a horror movie that’s been on quite a few people’s radars since the first trailer dropped. I mean, it has the producers of Get Out and Us on board! Even if Jordan Peele wasn’t part of the project (yeah, I know, I thought that meant he was too, but he’s not), it looked like it was going to be uber-scary and tackle difficult issues that have been plaguing America for centuries. How could I not watch?

Antebellum begins in what appears to be a Civil War-era plantation, and follows a slave called Eden. Suffering from the worst brutalities from her captors, she must find some way out of the nightmare she’s in. But not all is as it seems. What does what’s happening have to do with a woman in the modern era and an almost identical face named Veronica Henley? In the answer lies an evil dating back to America’s bygone days, one built on power, race and cruelty.

I think the film’s biggest issue is that, because of the creative decisions of the filmmakers, its plot is confusing. We start out on the plantation, then it changes to the modern day without any warning, then back again. It’s like two different movies have been edited together, one a historical horror film, the other a slightly supernatural horror film involving contemporary racism. It’s confusing.

And when the big twist of the story is revealed, it took me two or three minutes to wrap my head around it. And I’m the kind of guy who can usually guess a major plot point in a horror movie or at the very least wrap my head around a difficult concept rather quickly. If I’m having trouble, imagine what the casual viewer is going to have.

That being said, the rest of the film is decent. The sections on the plantation during the first third were especially horrifying for their brutality, and the second third had an uncanny, creepy feeling that balanced psychological and supernatural horror. The climax is exciting enough, and the actors are great at portraying pain, terror, hatred, sadistic joy and grief when called upon. Props especially to star Janelle Monae as the lead. The costumes and sets are also amazing, with everything looking like it might on an actual plantation in the mid-19th century. Except for the outdoor furnace, which gave me Holocaust vibes and scared me down to the core of my Jewish soul.

And like Get Out, Antebellum explores its main theme of racism and slavery in an angle that wasn’t expected and made me think. Especially after seeing the documentary 13th and learning how the modern prison system is very much a form of slavery.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Antebellum a 3.5. How it tells its story does bring down the score, but there’s plenty there to keep you invested in the film. And if you need some new horror right now, this will scratch the itch for you. Just don’t expect Get Out or Us levels of terror or deep-thinking.

 

One more thing before I sign off, my Followers of Fear. Tonight begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish community prays for our past sins to be forgiven, seek to forgive and be forgiven by our peers, and hopefully have a sweet new year. I have no idea what made this past year such a horror, but I’m hoping the next one will be better, and that the news of Justice Ginsburg’s death is the last in a year’s worth of horrors.

Shabbat Shalom and L’Shana Tovah (that basically means Happy New Year) to you, my Followers of Fear. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life, and may the horrors of last year not follow us into the new one.

Today, I saw a full Halloween display in a supermarket. You know what that means. As of today, the Halloween season has officially begun! That’s right, it’s here! Break out the candy, dress up as something scary, carve up your pumpkins, and decorate your house like the Addams are coming to visit! Who cares if there’s a pandemic right now? We can still celebrate the season.

That being said, you’re probably wondering to yourself, what horror films should I watch this year? I’m sure plenty of you will be watching classics and beloved staples of horror/the season. Believe me, I will be too. But there are a bunch of films that don’t get as much love as they should. So I’ve come up with 11 films I feel would make great viewing for this year. Why 11? Because THERE’S SOMETHING WITH FANGS BEHIND YOU!

Anyway, on with the list. And in no particular order, might I add.

11. Overlord

A team of American soldiers parachute into Nazi-controlled France hours before D-Day to take down an operations center inside a church. However, the church is also being used to perform inhuman experiments in life after death. And if the soldiers don’t do something, the fate of the world might be at stake.

Whenever somebody talks about Nazi zombies, it’s usually in humorous terms. That, and the trailers for this film were all over the place, so nobody was really sure what audience this film was meant for. Horror? Action? War? Which is a shame, because Overlord is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen. Its sets are atmospheric, the zombies are only used enough to be scary, and there’s an emphasis on psychological and war horror rather than guts and gore (though there’s plenty of that).

Make sure to check Overlord out. You won’t regret adding it to your watchlist.

10. As Above, So Below

An archaeologist leads a team into the Paris catacombs to find an ancient artifact. However, they stumble upon a gateway to hell, where their worst fears and guilt are used against them.

Coming out at the tail end of the found footage craze, this film was lost among audiences who were tired of shaky cameras and home video-style films. However, it’s found new life on home media, and it’s not hard to see why. The film takes advantage of its setting to deliver a claustrophobic and unnerving atmosphere. Not only that, but there’s a philosophical bent to the film that I spent discussing with friends for about an hour after we saw the film. It’s not everyday you meet a horror film that makes you think.

9. Carrie (2013)

I know the original Carrie is beloved, but I’ve always preferred the remake with Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore. Not only are the special effects much better, but none of the strange editing (like that infamous fast forward) and odd creative choices are present. For example, in the original, when Carrie starts her revenge, the students start panicking because the doors won’t open. Yeah, nothing overtly psychic has happened yet, just the doors won’t open. And yet everyone is screaming in terror. Whereas in the remake, the progression from students laughing at Carrie to screaming in fear is much more natural and believable. And Julianne Moore’s interpretation of Margaret White gets her crazy factor across way more than any actress before her. Those factors are why I prefer this version of Carrie, and why I’m recommending it for this Halloween.

8. Underwater

This came out earlier this year and didn’t receive that much fanfare. That being said, it’s become something of a hidden gem within horror. It’s a pretty compelling disaster flick set in an underwater base, with a Lovecraftian twist about halfway through. While it’s not as effective as scaring people as Hereditary or as memorable as 2017’s IT, it’s still a film I recommend you see.

7. Annihilation

Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation follows a team of scientists into the Shimmer, a strange zone on the West Coast where nature mutates and changes, and perhaps our own selves are at risk of changing. It’s a creepy film with a great group of female leads, as well as a Lovecraftian angle in its approach to body horror and the final twists. In the end, you may have more questions than when you started, but you’ll enjoy the thrill ride along the way. As well as the dark truth hidden in the conclusion.

6. The House of the Devil

A film made to look like it came right out of the 1980s, House of the Devil follows a college student taking on a babysitting job, only to find something very dark at the heart of her assignment. You’d never guess it was filmed in 2009. Also, it’s damn hard to look away. A supernatural slow burn that lures you in and ends up surprising you with how terrifying it can be. I’m sad that it’s flown under the radar so much, but that’s why I’m happy to post about it and recommend it this Halloween season.

5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Based on the graphic novel by Allen Moore, several of the greatest figures from 19th century literature come together to stop a terrorist from causing WWI fifteen years early. It didn’t do as well in theaters, but it’s become rather beloved since it came out on video. Action and horror, intrigue and steampunk/Victorian aesthetics. I swear, if this came out today rather than in the early 2000s, it might be something of a hit (though I do admit, its slow moments do bring down the film a bit).

Hell, my siblings and I nearly had a fist fight over our mom’s DVD copy when she was downsizing, we loved it that much. And half my sisters don’t even like horror! Given that, shouldn’t you check it out?

4. Van Helsing

Bram Stoker’s vampire hunter is reimagined as a badass monster hunter played by Hugh Jackman, going up against Dracula as the latter tries to bring a terrible plan to fruition.

A lot of people give this film flack, but I love it. It’s a great action-horror flick along the lines of the previous entry, and was one of my favorites as a teenager. It may be over the top, but if you’re looking for popcorn horror at its best, you could do a lot worse than Van Helsing.

3. Devil

Five people get on an elevator, only for them to get stuck and picked off by a supernatural entity. The devil has come for sinners, and it’s not going to stop till it has all of them.

This was originally supposed to be part of a trilogy, but M. Night Shamaylan, who directed the first film, was unable to follow it up. That being said, I find this film to be creepy and a lot of fun to watch. It takes an interesting concept and adds a time-is-running-out element to it. I loved it when I first saw it, and I still kind of like it. Maybe you will too.

2. The Reaping

A professional debunker of miracles is called to a small town in Louisiana when a little girl is accused of killing her brother and bringing the ten plagues upon the town. There, she finds a Satanic cult devoted to bringing about the end of the world, and this girl may be the vehicle to do so.

The mystery of the film isn’t that hard to figure out, but the film has its moments and its got some great performances from Hillary Swank, AnnaSophia Robb, and Idris Elba before he was famous. Plus, when you reach the end of the film and realize the final twist, 2020 as a whole makes a lot more sense (you’ll have to watch the film to get what I mean).

1. Clown

Released three years before 2017’s IT, Clown follows a man who puts on a clown suit he finds for his child’s birthday. However, what he doesn’t know is that the suit is cursed, and is slowly transforming him into a child-eating monster. This is a bloody and terrifying monster movie with lots of effective body horror, and I’m honestly surprised more people haven’t heard of it. Hence why I’m recommending it here.

 

That wraps up my list. I hope it gave you some ideas of what to check out this year. But tell me, what are you planning on watching this Halloween season? Any other films I missed that should be on this list? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and no opening doors to Hell without me there. I make it a lot more fun.

I first read the source material by authors Richard and Billy Chizmar in the Dark Tides Charity Anthology (which I highly recommend and not just because proceeds go to charity) back in April. I found it terrifying, psychologically thrilling. I even expressed on Twitter that I thought it might make a good movie, though I doubted one would be made right after the release of The Lighthouse. Then about a month or two ago, I found out a movie had not only been made, but would be coming out on September 1st. I had some free time, so I rented it off YouTube and sat down to check it out.

Widow’s Point follows Thomas Livingston, an author and paranormal investigator who is doing an investigation of the infamous Widow’s Point lighthouse in Harper’s Cove, Maine. The lighthouse has witnessed numerous murders and suicides over the years, making many speculate it’s haunted. Livingston and his crew arrive to stay the weekend and hopefully make some quick cash. Too bad he’s going to get so much more.

I feel like I was watching a Stephen King miniseries or TV movie from the 1990s, with a bit of classic Doctor Who serials. Yeah, on the surface it does seem a bit hokey and amateurish, and the one or two special effects are laughable. But it’s a lot of fun to watch, and I keep smiling when I think of the film and my experience watching it. Also, since all of the actors were unknown to me and looked like people I might see on the street, it gave the film a weird sort of plausibility. Like, this could happen to average joes. Add in a little suspension of disbelief, and you can believe in the story.

On top of that, there were some scary moments. Particularly when Livingston, played by Craig Sheffer,* is undergoing psychological stress and his mind is really beginning to snap. Those moments gave me some chills, I’ll tell you. And a lot of attention is paid to historical detail with flashback scenes detailing the lighthouse’s history, which I loved as a fan of history.

But there are things I didn’t care for. Like I said, the special effects were laughable, and I disliked how the filmmakers tried to give an explanation to the lighthouse’s evil, rather than leaving it mysterious like in the original short story. Sometimes less is more, and it certainly would have been more here.

All in all though, Widow’s Point is a nice guilty pleasure horror movie to start the Halloween season with. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 3.5. It probably won’t make you shit your pants in terror, but it’s entertaining and will scratch that horror itch. It’s on DVD and streaming sites, so give it a go if you’re interested.

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work on one of my own stories. Until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

*By the way, I want this guy to narrate an audio book of one of my stories someday.

The New Mutants. The last film in the Fox X-Men movies and promising in the trailer to be a horror film set in a comic book universe. Originally supposed to be the second to last, but its release date was pushed back several times over the past two years. Released this weekend after the latest delay due to COVID-19. I went today to see it, the first movie I’ve seen in a theater in months.

Let me tell you how it ranked as an X-Men movie, a superhero film, and a horror film.

The New Mutants takes place at a facility for young mutants whose abilities have led to deaths: Dani Moonstar, whose abilities are as yet unclarified; Rahne Sinclair, who transforms into a wolf; Sam Guthrie, who can fly at jet speeds; Illyana Rasputin, who has sorcery powers (lucky girl); and Bobby de Costa, who can manifest solar energy. They are watched over by Dr. Reyes, a mutant with barrier abilities who says she’s helping the teens get their powers under control. However, as odd events occur around the facility, it becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. They’ll have to band together to find the truth and defeat the evil menacing them.

I’ll start my review by saying this: while this may be advertised as a horror film in a comic book universe, that’s not true. At some level during the creation of this film, someone (probably 20th Century Studios’ execs) didn’t want the film to lean too far into the horror elements. Despite proving time and time again that comic book/superhero movies have the ability to tell mature stories, they’re still considered films for children and families, and too much horror will alienate families from theaters. That’s why, in general, there are very few horror films in comic book/superhero universes (and not all of them good).

Which is why, as a horror film, The New Mutants sucks. While the trailer promised us plenty of horror, there’s very little attempt to actually scare us. No atmosphere, tension or jump scares, and what scary imagery we get is done mainly through CGI. And as you know, if you’re not careful about it or rely too much on the CGI, it actually makes the film less scary. It’d be more accurate to call The New Mutants a comic book film with a couple of horror elements.

And as far as X-Men and superhero films go, this is average at best. The character building needed for a superhero film is minimal at best (and is most lacking in Bobby de Costa’s character), the one action sequence is not as spectacular as it could be, and the final showdown ends anticlimactically. It’s not as bad as the worse of the X-Men films or of superhero films in general, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Was there anything I liked? Well, Rahne and Dani, played by Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt respectively, have a romantic relationship that’s pretty cute to watch. It’s nice to see two broken people fall genuinely in love without their own fears or toxic personality traits getting in the way. And I think this counts as the first superhero film with openly LGBT superheroes, let alone LGBT superheroes in a relationship. Props.

While the characters don’t have that much development, their actors do a great job bringing those characters to life. The setting, while cliche, is constructed very well. And the CGI for the superpowers is done very well.

All told though, The New Mutants is a film confused about what it wants to be, and it shows in how poor this film was. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this one a 2.5. All told, not worth the wait for it to come out, let alone the trip to the theater.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. If anyone needs me, I’ll be working on a list of horror films to watch this Halloween season and probably watching a good superhero film, namely Black Panther (rest in peace, Chadwick Boseman). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

NOS4A2‘s TV series has been a highlight to my week during the pandemic. And given how well season one adapted the first half of the source material (see my review here), I was eager to see how well they adapted the second half, when protagonist Vic McQueen is a mom trying to protect her son Wayne from Charlie Manx.

I’m happy to report that season two is better than season one. Not only that, it’s great stuff.

Eight years after her first clash with the vampiric wraith Charlie Manx, Vic is struggling to be a good mom to her son while also battling her own demons. She hopes that life will improve when it’s reported that Manx is dead, but things are never that simple. Not only is Manx still alive, but he’s out for revenge against Vic. And he’ll use her own son Wayne to achieve that revenge if Vic isn’t fast enough.

What I liked about this season was that, while adapting events from the book, they added in things that contributed to the story. This was a welcome change from the first season, where they added crap like a halfhearted love triangle and Vic partying with rich kids right before a showdown with Manx. Highlights include the episode around the original character the Hourglass, the deteriorating relationship between Manx and his assistant Bing Partridge, and scenes involving Manx’s previously-unrevealed backstory.

I also liked how they fleshed out some of the side characters. Vic’s partner Lou Carmody gets plenty of time to shine and show what sort of person he is, rather than the love interests from the first season, who can be summed up as “rich kid who likes a girl from the other side of the tracks” and “stoner with a heart of gold and a crush on his childhood friend.” Another character who gets fleshed out is Millie, Manx’s daughter and his first victim. In this season, she takes on a central role as she starts to question her world and her father. It’s fascinating to see her discover so much about her father and herself throughout the show.

Add in some scares and tension, as well as some great acting and storytelling, and you get an awesome second season.

I do have some criticisms though. For one thing, while it’s cool to see how Charlie Manx came to be the monster he is, there’s too much emphasis on making him somewhat sympathetic. And you know what? I don’t want to sympathize with Charlie Manx. He’s a monstrous character who uses the kids he “rescues” while at the same time believing his own propaganda. I really don’t want to sympathize with that.

Another issue is that Craig, Wayne’s biological father, makes a few appearances in the latter half of the season, but it feels unfulfilled. We see him a few times, and then he’s kind of forgotten. I would have liked to see him utilized a bit more at the end of the season.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving NOS4A2 season two a 4.8 out of 5. It’s a freaky, thrilling ride that improves on the first season and makes revisiting this world a pleasure. There’s a possibility that a third season might happen (whatever that might look like), so you might want to grab your seat belt and catch up on the series while there’s still time.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be posting another review soon, as I bought advanced tickets to see The New Mutants in theaters. That’s right, I’m going to a movie theater. And should I survive the experience, I’ll hopefully have a new review for you all.

Until then, stay safe and pleasant nightmares!

Cover of the first Hellraiser film.

If you’re not familiar with the Hellraiser series, let me start with a bit of background. Based on the novella The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker,* the films follow a magical puzzle box which, when solved, open a gateway to a hell dimension inhabited by creatures known as Cenobites. Anyone who comes into contact with the Cenobites is then pulled into their world, where the boundaries between pain and pleasure are explored until they all blend into suffering. All the films in the series follow people who come into contact with the puzzle box, with the fourth film exploring the puzzle box’s creation and history, though only the first four were released theatrically.

I saw the first three films years and years ago, but was recently spurred by a colleague rewatching some of the films to revisit them and finally watch the fourth one. And I have some thoughts on the series.

For one thing, I get the appeal of the series, which first released in the 1980s during the height of the slasher boom. However, unlike other slashers of the time, which focused either on silent killers like Jason or Michael Myers, or funny, over-the-top characters like Freddy Kreuger, the Hellraiser films were outliers. The monsters of those films weren’t silent stalkers or wise-cracking undead. They were more like scientists of sensuality and suffering rather than killers. Death was just sometimes part of their work (at least for the first couple of films). In fact, in the first few films, the lead Cenobite Pinhead, nearly always played by Doug Bradley, is articulate, intelligent, and dispassionate except when speaking of his work.

In addition, the first two films don’t follow a regular slasher structure. Instead, the focus shifts around to various characters and their motivations, making the films feel almost like novels in how their stories are told. And the first two films also have a surreal aspect to them, especially the second one, which adds to the feeling of horror and unreality that the films are going for.

And finally, the films weren’t focused on gory deaths. They focused instead on desire, on what made people do horrible things in exchange for their wants and needs, even if those wants and needs included horrific sadomasochistic experiments. If that sometimes led to death, then so be it.

Pinhead, leader of the Cenobites and the most prominent character in the series.

Given all that, I can see why the films were popular and have stuck around. That being said, I can see how the series fell in quality as early as the third film. While that one was good, it structured its story in the vein of a more traditional, good-vs-evil supernatural slasher. It also eschewed the more weird aspects and added in some campier aspects with some of the new Cenobites. And then the fourth film, while giving a history to the puzzle box and an “ending” for the series, sacrifices quality and scares in the process.

It’s really no wonder the series went to direct-to-video from there on out, or why the subsequent films have tried for a more psychological approach rather than an out-and-out gory supernatural style.**

Despite all that, the first two films, while they have their issues, are still masterpieces and the third film is worth a watch (though I would stop after that). And, like all good slashers, the very concept is powerful enough to make you want to see more. to explore more from the safety of your living room. It’s why the series has endured, and why a reboot and a TV series are both in development (though we may not see anything new for a long, long time).

And if I’m being honest, I wouldn’t mind a reboot. This series has gone through so many ups and downs, a fresh take done with love for the original concept might just be what the series needs. And if one does get made, I hope antagonist Julia would be given a bigger role. She was such a powerful character in the first two films that at one point, it was considered giving her the role of main antagonist over Pinhead, and I think the character’s exploration of her own darkness and sexual desires would go over well with modern audiences.

And if you’re interested in checking out the Hellraiser films after this post, here’s where I’d rate them on a scale of 1 to 5:

Any other Julia fans out there?

  • Hellraiser – 4.3
  • Hellbound: Hellraiser II – 4.5
  • Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth – 3.9
  • Hellraiser: Bloodline – 2.6

But tell me, what are your thoughts on the Hellraiser franchise and my observations? Do you support a remake? And is there anyone else here who thinks Julia is much more terrifying than Pinhead? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll likely have a new review out soon, so keep an eye out for that. And until next time, stay safe and pleasant nightmares.

*Which I really need to get around to reading one of these days.

**Or so I’ve read. I have not seen anything past #4 yet, and I’m not sure I want to.

About two years ago, I binge-watched the entire first season of an anthology series called Channel Zero, this one focused on adapting popular creepypastas. The first season, Candle Cove, was terrifying enough to earn a 5 out of 5 review from me (which you can read here).

And then it took me two years to actually get around to watching season two, No End House. But over the past week, I watched it. How did it stack up? Let’s find out.

Based on the story No End House by Brian Russell, this season follows Margot, a young woman still mourning the sudden passing of her father the year before. One weekend, when her friends are home from college, they invite her out to a traveling haunted attraction called No End House, a house so terrifying that it’s said to change lives! They go to check it out, and find out that the house is more than a haunted attraction: it’s another world and a living organism unto itself. And they are its meal.

Like the first season, No End House uses a slow-burn approach to tell its story. Combined with a surrealism rooted in normal suburbia, it makes for a compelling watch that’s hard to look away. The characters are mostly nice enough to root for. My favorite was probably Seth Marlowe, played by Jeff Ward of Agents of SHIELD fame (Deke Squad forever!), who constantly surprised me with the reveals of his character. And John Carroll Lynch, who has played Twisty the Clown and Mr. Jingles in various seasons of American Horror Story, plays his character with plenty of love and pathos.

And there’s quite a bit of horror played around memory, the loss of or perversion of it. It’s a little chilling when you think of how memory is almost a physical, tangible thing used against the characters in this season.

That being said, the season does have its issues. The emphasis on emotional and character-driven storytelling is emphasized at the expense of the horror. There were no moments where I felt like crapping my pants or curling into a ball out of fright. Furthermore, there’s a missed opportunity to lean into the horror of the surrealism, just keeping it weird rather than creepy. All this is at the expense of the horror. Whereas the first season had this constant dread of the strange and unexplained, of the mystery at the center of it and how it affected the characters and the world, there was none of it in this season.

ON the whole, I’m giving Channel Zero: No End House a 3.4 on a scale of 1 to 5. It has some great characters and ideas, as well as some freaky scenes, but it misses numerous opportunities to scare the pants off us. If you’re looking for more story and character driven horror, this might be for you, but it won’t give you the buzz a real scary show will.

Despite how the second season compares to the first, I’ll probably still check out season three at some point. Likely within two years, though.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a busy weekend ahead of me, but I’ll try to check in with something by Monday evening at the latest.

Until next time, stay safe, pleasant nightmares, and if you go to a haunted attraction but you can’t find anyone running the place, signing waivers, or paying/taking money…maybe reconsider stepping inside.

You would think that in the midst of a pandemic, nobody would be interested in pandemic fiction. Paul Tremblay’s new novel Survivor Song, released just last month, is about a pandemic (still trying to figure out if that’s coincidence or if Tremblay knew COVID-19 was on its way and wrote the story in response). And yet I, and many others, picked it up as soon as we could, and devoured it. I got it done in about a week, reading through the last half today. So yes, even in the midst of a pandemic, there’s an appetite for pandemic fiction. And Survivor Song is a welcome addition to the fold.

Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramola Sherman, a pediatrician experiencing a pandemic of her own in her state of Massachusetts. This one is a fast-moving form of rabies, one that affects its host within hours instead of days or weeks. As fear, anger, and conspiracy swirls around the state, Ramola gets a call from her best friend, Natalie, who is eight months pregnant and ready to burst. An infected man killed her husband and bit her. Thus begins a saga to find someplace to get Natalie treated, to save her and her baby. But with rabid humans and animals everywhere and time running out, can Ramola help anyone, let alone her friend and her friend’s baby?

A pandemic story with a slash of zombie thriller (though Dr. Sherman will remind you, none of the infected are zombies), Tremblay’s novel offers a stark, believable story of a disease running rampant through the state and the problems that come up in such a situation. That said, there are plenty of twists and unexpected turns, and they add to the tension of a clock running out of the story. Quite a few times I read something and was like, “Oh no!” or “Well, that’s a complication.” I also loved how Tremblay managed to hit on a lot of what we’re seeing in our current situation, including but not limited to: hospitals fighting an uphill battle; people not obeying health guidelines or employing easy “solutions” that are actually problematic; and crazy, convoluted conspiracy theories.

Also, that ending! Guy knows how to write a tense climax.

At the same time, there’s a deep-running love story here. Not a romance story or romantic love, but love between friends and a mother and child. Through Ramola and Natalie’s interactions, and the messages Natalie leaves to her child, you really come to care for these characters and hope for the best despite the threat of the worst.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for and would’ve liked to see changed, it’s the ending of the story for Josh and Luis, two teens whom Ramola and Natalie meet while trying to get to the hospital. They were in the story for only a short time, but I really grew to like those goofy nerds and would’ve liked to see more of them in the story, or maybe in a story of their own. And not just because they were Doctor Who fans (Whovians, unite!).

All in all, Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay is a thrilling and emotional read and perfect for these mad times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving the book a 4.5. Stay inside, grab a bite, and get ready for one roller-coaster of a story. Just hope the bite you grab isn’t something biting your arm off while you’re at it.

And while I still have your attention, guess what happened last night? Stephen King tweeted about this book, and I replied mentioning my progress in it and when I hoped to have it finished. He retweeted it. King retweeted it! And I’ve been fangirling ever since (while at the same time daring to hope this isn’t the last time I end up on his radar). What a world, right?

After the failure that was the Grudge reboot earlier this year (see my review here), I was hopeful after learning a television series based on the original Ju-On movies was going to be released in Japan. And it was being brought to America through Netflix. And as soon as I could, I sat down to watch all six episodes of JU-ON: Origins. After all, it was guaranteed to be better than the Grudge reboot, but would it be legitimately scary?

JU-ON: Origins begins with a paranormal researcher named Odajima appearing on a talk show with an idol who experienced supernatural happenings at her apartment after her boyfriend goes house-hunting for them. At the same time, a troubled high schooler named Kiyomi becomes involved with a mysterious house near her school. This and other events leads to many people’s lives becoming involved with the house, a house whose history is alive and kicking, and in the worst possible way.

While this series bears very little resemblance to the original story of the movies beyond a cursed house and several men questioning if they’re the father of the children they’re raising, it’s definitely a better horror story than the Grudge reboot. And even better, it’s freaking scary.

First off, the show does a great job of setting up a mystery. The characters spend their time running down multiple leads, each one leading to a new aspect of the haunting. And each new aspect seems to add more questions than it answers. But even better, there are a number of terrifying moments. There were quite a few moments, especially in the later episodes, where I was squirming in my seat. Anyone who gets to episode five will shiver every time they think of it.

I also liked how they incorporated famous tragedies from Japan’s recent history into the story. A lot of the major events of the story occur around the same time as the murder of Junko Furuta, the sarin gas attacks, and the Kobe child murders (which, by the way, are terrifying in their own rights). Almost as if to say the house’s evil has some sort of connection to those events.

And if you don’t like subtitles, there’s an English dub on Netflix, and it’s decent. The English dialogue matches very well with the Japanese lip movements, and there are some well-known anime voice actors in the series (I had a lot of fun making jokes about that in the calmer moments of the show). Though I am sad to say, that’s not Nicholas Cage voicing the main character Odajima, but a guy named Brock Powell doing a really good Nicholas Cage impression.

This scene! Oh God, I’m shivering again.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was that I would’ve liked to see more from the original films incorporated into the story. I’m not asking for a direct based-on-the-movie or Kayako and her son to fully appear on screen, but I would’ve enjoyed more references or incorporation of the original story that’s become so beloved by fans.

And just a trigger warning: this series delves into subjects such as domestic violence and sexual assault. So if that’s a turn-off, maybe don’t watch this one.

For everyone else, however, JU-ON: Origins is a terrifying TV show that will satisfy anyone else bored with more recent entries into the Ju-On and Grudge franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving this show a 4.5. Head on home and settle in to watch it. Just make sure to watch with the lights on.

Also, if you go house hunting and the house has a history, make sure that it hasn’t harmed anyone in at least a decade before deciding it’s your dream home!