Posts Tagged ‘review’

I heard a movie based on this book was coming out later this year, so I thought I would check it out. And since I had to drive up to Cleveland yesterday (it’s a Passover thing, don’t ask) and the audio book was long enough for the drive to and back, I thought I would listen to it. I started as I pulled out of my parking space and finished about a mile from my complex on the way home. And I have to say, it certainly added to the drive.

Set in an unnamed village on Halloween night 1963, Dark Harvest follows Pete McCormick, a teenage boy who is participating in the Run, an annual harvest ritual where he and the other teen boys in town chase a living pumpkin-headed scarecrow known as “Sawtooth Jack” and “The October Boy.” The kid who manages to catch and kill Sawtooth Jack before he reaches the church in the center of town by midnight wins great prizes for him and his family, including the right to leave the village. Pete is gearing to win this year, even if it means breaking some rules, but he soon finds out there’s a darker truth to the Run. And losing might not be the worse thing in the world.

I have to say, while I was able to predict certain things, I enjoyed the story. I was sucked in by the immediate weirdness of the tale and by the haunting atmosphere. There’s this explosive potential in the narration and the reveling in violence and death that comes from the story. It really fits the Halloween vibe, as well as the cruelty and nihilism that comes with it. And while some things were predictable, as I said, it’s such a joy watching them unfold.

That being said, the style of narration was kind of annoying at times. There’s a lot of addressing the reader and rambling on the thoughts of individual or multiple characters. Great, it’s lots of psychological flowery language, but I would like to reach the next exciting bit of the story, and what does this all add to the overall book?

That, and it wasn’t really explicit about why the Run exists. It’s hinted it’s some sort of pagan ritual to help with next year’s corn harvest and keep people in town, but it’s never really spelled out or how this sort of thing began in the first place. Mostly, you hear stuff about how the Run is part of a way of life, but that only explains so much.

Still, I had a great time with this novel and was glad I finally got around to reading it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge a 4.3 out of 5. It’s a fun little Halloween romp that you can gobble up in a day or so. Whether or not you plan to see the movie version, if you haven’t read this one and love your Halloween stories, I recommend checking it out.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have some exciting news out very soon. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of manga author Junji Ito. While sometimes his stories can be hit-or-miss with me, there’s no denying the man has a distinctive style that aims to bring out the full horror of whatever story he’s drawing. And his latest release in North America is Deserter, a collection of some of his early works dating back all the way to the late 80’s. You can bet I was curious. What was Junji Ito, the author and illustrator behind such terrifying stories as Uzumaki and Remina like during his early days? I was determined to find out.

Now, as I said, this is a collection of the author’s early works, and with just one exception, the stories are presented in the order they were chronologically published in. And that really gives you a clue on Ito’s evolution as an artist and storyteller. For example, the artwork is a lot rougher and feels more rushed in the earlier stories in the collection. You can see more of a reliance on thicker brushes and the characters are a bit more sketch-like. Ito’s famous for purportedly spending up to ten hours a day on a page with pen and paper, making his artwork as dark as possible. If I had to guess, this would be from the days he couldn’t afford to do that, or wasn’t yet at that stage, and that explains the roughness we see.

The stories in the earlier sections are also pretty rough around the edges. The first, “Bio House,” feels shocking for shock’s sake and has a rather slap-dash kind of plot, while “Where the Sandman Lives” makes little sense. Others, such as “Face Thief” and “The Devil’s Logic” have good concepts behind them but the payoff is either a rushed conclusion or a story that feels like its potential wasn’t fully reached.

It’s not that they’re bad, they were good enough to be published. They just remind me of some of my earliest horror writings, when I was realizing you needed more than a monster to tell a horror story but I didn’t yet have the tools to write a truly scary story. That’s how those stories feel to me.

However, once you get to the last five stories, you can see Ito really gaining experience and the stories improving in quality. “A Father’s Love” still is a little rough in the art department at times, but it has a compelling stories and characters you really feel for (ooh, I shipped those two young kids!). “Village of the Siren” is a bit long-winded, but it has a really cool idea and the artwork to match. “Bullied,” which is a famous story of Ito’s that I’ve been waiting to get to America, is a terrifying story of karma and psychological trauma built around childhood guilt. And the titular story, “Deserter,” is a meditation that asks, “Who is really doing the haunting? Who is really trapped in a haunted house?” I was in awe of that one.

Overall, I’m conflicted on what score to give the collection. On quality alone, I’d give it a 3.3 out of 5. However, the value of the book and how it shows Ito’s evolution is a 4 out of 5. I’ll meet it halfway and award Deserter by Junji Ito a 3.6. If you’re new to Junji Ito, I wouldn’t advise checking this one out till you’ve read some more of his work, particularly Uzumaki or Remina. However, if you’re already familiar and want to consume more of his work, I would totally recommend it just to see how the author evolved and to read those last five stories.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Life is crazier than the Joker right now, but I’m hoping have some good news in the near future. Either that or you’ll hear about my attempts to open the gates of Hell just so I can get some peace and relaxation.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear, good night and pleasant nightmares.

Well, I found my least favorite novel of 2021. Given how much hype it’s been getting since 2020, I’m disappointed.

Drawing on Japanese folklore and mythology (gee, who do I know who’s done that before?), the story follows five college grads who go to an old Japanese mansion for a wedding ceremony (sounds like my dream wedding). The mansion is supposedly haunted by a bride whose fiancĂ© died on the way to the wedding, and then had herself buried alive underneath the house. As night falls, strange things occur in the mansion, putting everyone at risk.

I hate to be negative about a novel. I know how hard it is to get your work published. But that being said, I’m still not sure how this novel got published in the first place. There’s so much to hate!

While the location and the concept are cool and the climax did make things more interesting, the rest is a hot mess. For one thing, I barely know these characters, because very little time is spent actually developing them. I know even less about our narrator, Cat, because what we learn about her is mainly just hints. We understand that she has depression and it messed with her pretty bad, but the specifics aren’t given and it just leaves the reader so confused.

As for the other characters, there’s nothing to like about them. One’s a “perfect” billionaire who’s sorry about something he did to the narrator (what, I don’t know); another is supposed to be the narrator’s best friend, but I don’t know anything about him to really get me to like him; one is supposed to come off as funny and instead just comes off as annoying; and the ironically most developed character is the best friend’s fiancĂ©e, who just hates the narrator because she’s insecure and think the narrator wants her man. They all seem to hate each other, yet insist that they’re all friends and should get along. Why they hang out with one another, I have no idea.

At least looking up hitobashira put that one Junji Ito story into context. Didn’t make it any scarier, but it did make it easier to understand.

As for the rest of the novel, there’s a scary story hidden in there that wants to come out, but it’s buried under a lot of problems. The language is trying to be flowery, but there are words in here that I’ve never read before. In the English language, no less! It feels like the author was trying to out-Lovecraft Lovecraft with the wordplay, and succeeded in all the wrong ways! Not to mention the Japanese stuff is never explained. I had to look up most of it myself, which is not a good sign if the book doesn’t spell it out for the unfamiliar reader.*

And finally, the psychological stuff is trying and failing to be psychological. It’s just wacky. Like watching a bunch of people on drugs trying to be profound and get into your mind. And the characters are drunk, but that’s no excuse. If you’re going to go for psychological, at least make sure it’s effective!

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m going to award Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw a 1.3. One reviewer on the book’s back cover called it “The Haunting of Hill House for this century,” and I agree, in the sense that it takes the worst parts of that book and coalesces it into another haunted house. Avoid this one, and go read something else. Trust me, your time will be much better spent on other books.

*When I was editing Rose, I made sure that the Japanese concepts of kami and oni were spelled out because I knew plenty of my readers, including my parents, wouldn’t know anything about them. The novel has gotten a couple of negative reviews, but nobody’s criticized it for not understanding the Japanese mythology/folklore/religious stuff.

I won’t say Rose is better because of that, though. I’ll leave that up to the readers to decide. I’m just explaining what I did differently.


Just a note, Followers of Fear: today marks one week till the crowdfunding campaign for That Which Cannot Be Undone goes live. If you’re not aware, some of my fellow Ohio horror writers and I came together to create a small publisher, Cracked Skull Press, with the goal of putting a spotlight on Ohio horror writers. We’re gearing up for our first anthology, That Which Cannot Be Undone, the stories of which will be set around the theme “that which cannot be undone,” set in Ohio, and written entirely by Ohio horror authors.

Of course, we’re going to need your help to make it happen. We’re doing a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter starting November 29th and hoping to raise ten thousand dollars for paying the authors and editor, as well as other costs. And if you support the anthology, not only will you help us shine a light on Ohio horror, but there are perks to be gained for pledging your support.

And if we don’t make our goal, you won’t be charged for it. So your pledge won’t be taken unless we make our goal. That being said, we hope and think we’ll make our goal, so we hope you’ll join us. You can check out the project and sign up for notifications using the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crackedskullproject1/that-which-cannot-be-undone-an-ohio-horror-anthology

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to work so I can work on my stories later. Until next time, good night, pleasant nightmares, and, if I don’t check in before Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving!

From now on, this blog will be an art criticism blog. Expect me to go to a lot of art galleries, praise or criticize local artists, and talk about the history of Impressionist art.

Kidding. I know very little about art, except for my own preferences, that is.

Okay, real talk. The thing is, life is getting busier. The amount of time I spend sleeping and the amount of time I work at my day job aren’t changing, and for all the obvious reasons, I can’t exactly decrease either. Add in the usual obligations of adulthood and finding time to eat, and it leaves only a little time to write.

And unfortunately, the time I spend writing is increasingly being taken up with administrative and marketing work. Plus I’ve got projects to edit and whatnot. It takes up time and means very little actual writing happens. This past week, I maybe found time to write for two nights out of six or seven.

Not good for a guy who considers writing his raison d’etre. Especially one who’s doing particularly well these days and trying to keep that going for as long as possible.

So, I’m trying to manage my time better. Can’t be a writer unless you can find time to write, and I’m a big believer in carving out the time to write. With that, some things will be sacrificed. And one of those sacrifices will likely be less time spent blogging here.

Look, I love this blog. I love sharing my thoughts here, and I love interacting with all the cool Followers of Fear I’ve met through this blog. But I get full of stress when I can’t create (or attempt to create) terrifying stories and I haven’t been able to do that. So, one way I’m finding time to write is to spend less time on this blog.

That being said, I’ll keep posting regularly. Probably once a week rather than once every four or five days. And I’ll likely be cutting back on reviews. Again, I like reviews, but they take up time. I’ll probably instead do just book reviews and only put those out when I finish a book worth reviewing.* You know, instead of like how I review every new horror movie.

Oh, but I promise I won’t turn this blog into just a constant stream of updates on what events I’m going to or what stories are releasing when. I’ll still be putting out posts with musings on writing and horror, as well as any big news or anything I feel like sharing. Maybe the occasional rant or ghost-hunting expedition. You know, more of what you love with this blog and why you probably followed me for.

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say. I’m not sure what other changes I’ll be making in my life to maximize writing time. All I know is, I will be doing most of them after my vacation. And hopefully, out of those changes, comes some great stories worth reading.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m hitting the hay so I can get my full eight hours and be productive tomorrow. Maybe after I run an errand, I’ll finish this story I’m working on. We’ll see what happens.

Good night, pleasant nightmares, and the latest Halloween movie was okay. Yeah, that’s the review. It’s okay. The bloody kills are good, but the filmmakers spend so much time on building the myth and fear of Michael Myers in Haddonfield that they neglect actually showing Michael Myers and why we should be afraid of him. And the final scene just did not sit right with me. 3 out of 5. It’s not awful, but it could have better.

Not bad for my last film review for the immediate future, is it?

*That’s another thing. Finding time to read has become scarce. Audio books help, but getting through the ones that aren’t on audio book is taking longer than it should. It’s a drag.

Everyone probably knows Scooby Doo. That dog and his human friends have been solving mysteries and getting into hijinks since my parents were small. However, what most people don’t know is of the other dog dealing with ghosts and ghoulies, Courage the Cowardly Dog. This series aired during the late 90s and early 2000s, and followed a little dog named Courage living on a farm in Nowhere, Kansas with his kindhearted, elderly Scottish owner Muriel and her crotchety husband Eustace Bagg. There, Courage would be forced to fight supernatural, paranormal, and sometimes just weird threats to his home. It was dark, surreal and a ton of fun.

And someone at Warner Bros. had the genius idea that, since Scooby-Doo and Courage the Cowardly Dog have certain similarities, why not have them crossover? Thus came about Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog. And fans of both series have been wondering since: is this movie as genius as the idea?

As someone who has been looking forward to this film as much as Halloween Kills, I can confirm it is.

Straight Outta Nowhere starts with Scooby and the gang finishing off a mystery in Kansas when Scooby hears an odd sound and feels an overwhelming compulsion to find the source. This leads him to run off to Nowhere, home to the highest number of strange occurrences in the world, and meets Courage. The two dogs quickly become friends, which is good because giant cicadas have risen up and are attacking people! And surprisingly, this isn’t a normal Tuesday for Nowhere.

There’s a lot to like about this film. The animation styles for Scooby Doo and Courage are highly different, but the animators managed to synthesize them into something that works. Not only that, but the writing is really good and the characters play off each other very well (it’s cute how much Muriel and Velma become besties within five seconds). It also feels like the Courage TV show I remember as a kid, with random monsters unrelated to the main plot showing up at random to menace the cast. Having the Scooby gang trying to logic this stuff out when logic clearly has no place in this story adds a bit of hilarity to the story as well.

Add in all sorts of Easter eggs from the original TV series (haunted mattress for the win!), references to Monty Python and Young Frankenstein, a decent explanation for why Nowhere is so weird without overtaking the actual plot and characters, and some stellar writing, and you’ve got a great movie here.

That being said, it’s not perfect. I would have liked to see some more of the minor characters from Courage the Cowardly Dog, such as the psychic chihuahua and Dr. Vindaloo. And for some reason, Eustace is given a hip-hop number, to which I say, “Why?”

However, all in all, Straight Outta Nowhere is a great mashup of these two shows and will delight fans of both franchises. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 4.5. It’s hilarious, delightful, and might end up in my DVD collection someday.

It’s certainly better than Scooby Doo and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, anyway. That was a big middle finger to fans of the TV show it’s based on and misunderstands what made The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo good. It’s basically the Friday the 13th remake of Scooby-Doo. Yes, I trashed the Friday the 13th remake again! Bite me, MIchael Bay!

Read the book by Max Booth III last month. Finally got to see the movie, the screenplay of which was penned by Booth as well and which was directed by Sean King O’Grady, this evening. Let’s get reviewing.

As I said, We Need to Do Something is based on the novel by Max Booth III and follows Melissa and her family as they pile into the master bathroom during a violent storm (no basement). However, they soon find themselves trapped in that bathroom with no way to get out, and it’s unlikely anyone’s coming for them. Hunger, fear and their own dysfunction soon lead to tension, terror and their own personal ride to Hell.

Okay, first off, the bathroom in the movie is both bigger and tackier than the one I had in my head. Seriously, there’s plenty of space, but has that bathroom not been remodeled since the 1970s?

Enough silliness. Onto the actual review.

The film was made during the height of the pandemic and O’Grady said that the movie and current events sort of mirrored and mimicked each other. And you can see it in the film: all four of the main cast are trapped inside a small space due to events in the outside world and can’t leave. They grate on each other rather quickly and events make things worse and worse. Add in some crazy, ambiguous happenings to heighten the atmosphere and the situation further deteriorating, and it makes for a great analogue to the pandemic.

Not only that, but the ambiguity in the novel is translated very well into the film. It’s more heavily implied that what’s happening outside the bathroom (which we never see) might actually be real rather than a side effect of cabin fever or anything. But it’s still quite mysterious and leaves you with just as many questions as the novel did.

Finally, the cast does a great job as their characters. As Melissa, Sierra McCormick is brimming with hurt and pathos, while Vinessa Shaw (Allison in Hocus Pocus, if you can believe it) does a great job as the mother tired of living a friction-filled marriage. And while Pat Healy’s take on dad Robert is written the tiniest bit more sympathetic than in the book, he still comes across as a mega asshole you love to hate.

Oh, and guess what? Ozzy Osbourne is apparently in the film. I’ll let you guess which character he is.

On the downside, the flashbacks with Melissa and her girlfriend Amy do feel kind of lacking without a lot of the context the novel gave them. While the score reminds me of the best of Colin Stetson’s work, it does have a few moments where it doesn’t work too well with what’s occurring in the movie. And in certain moments, the snake does look laughably fake.

But all in all, this is a great translation of the novel to the screen. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give We Need to Do Something a 4.5 out of 5. If you can’t make it to a theater playing it, you can find it on YouTube, Apple TV and Amazon, among other sites, so go give it a watch. You’ll be reminded that, as bad as your pandemic experience with your family has been these 19 months, at least you weren’t trapped like these guys!

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Tomorrow I get to work on new stories, but right now, I’m going to hit the proverbial hay. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

It’s a James Wan horror film. He’s the guy behind Saw, Insidious and the Conjuring films. Nuff said.

Malignant follows Madison Mitchell, a woman who becomes connected to several murders in the Seattle area, starting when her abusive husband is murdered by a mysterious intruder. Not only that, but Madison becomes witness to the murders in dreams, committed by a mysterious figure named Gabriel. As the police attempt to figure out the connection, Madison’s sister learns a secret from the former’s past. A rather disturbing and deadly secret.

This film started out rather slow and kinda typical for an average horror film, but it got better with time. And honestly, it was really interesting.

Malignant is rather atypical of a horror film. James Wan made it more of a giallo film, which is an Italian genre mixing mystery-thriller with suspense and horror (they were quite influential on slashers). The result is a mostly well-done balance between a crazy crime thriller and a strange horror film, especially in scenes like in the Seattle Underground. And the final reveal is rather ingenious, with some very nice body horror that made me shout in my own living room in shock.

Also, what a film score! It was kind of all over the place, but it was still interesting to listen to.

However, the film’s first twenty minutes or so did feel a little cliched and below-average for a horror film. And the ending was kind of a let down for me. Something much darker would’ve worked better for me. And they do bring down the film’s score for me.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give Malignant a 3.4. Yeah, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the film, and ooh, that twist! What an image! I’m going to dream of that for years. However, there’s a lot that could have been improved or done differently. If you want to watch it, go ahead. It’s in theaters and on HBO Max. Still, it’s not the best thing I’ve seen this year. Not by far.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m going to bed so I can hang with friends and maybe do some editing tomorrow. Good night, and pleasant nightmares!

Ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary classy humans, American Horror Story is back, and it is back with a vengeance.

As you can see from the title, the season is divided into two stories, with the first half of the season subtitled “Red Tide.” In this story, screenwriter Harry Gardner, his pregnant wife Doris and their young daughter Alma decide to winter in Provincetown, Massachusetts so Harry can work on a pilot script and Doris can do some interior designing. However, things in Provincetown aren’t as idyllic as things on the surface. There seems to be a number of strange individuals whom the locals identify as “tweakers,” a number of dead bodies showing up, and some of the local artists appear to know more than they let on.

I have to say, this is a good start to the season. We got the first two episodes last night and the first was full of scares and frights. In the first episode, there were a number of moments where I jumped or was seriously freaked out by what I was watching. Not to mention, there’s one hell of an atmosphere in the setting and story. It’s like The Shadow Over Innsmouth with a dollop of Salem’s Lot thrown in for good measure. That second influence shows quite a bit in the “tweakers,” with their odd movements and savage, animalistic hunger.

The second episode was much more story focused, and while AHS tends to suffer when it focuses too much on storytelling, it was still pretty good here. There’s a lot of focus on the price of artistic greatness and inspiration, and the way they explore that actually would make a better anti-drug PSA than anything the DARE program came up with. There’s also this really suspenseful scene that switches between events in a dentist’s office, one of those perpetual motion swinging ball things, and something going on with the daughter Alma. It’s the kind of scene where you know things can’t go back if certain things happen, and you don’t know what will happen, but it’s thrilling to see how it plays out.

Also, can I just say Finn Wittrock as Harry Gardner does a great impression of me at the tail end of writing a novel during a late-night writing session? I saw him going to town on his laptop, typing till his fingers fell off, and I’m like, “I get it, dude. I totally get it. I’ve been there before.”

I will say, though, there was a lot of exposition, especially in the second episode. And once you figure out some things, which the show doesn’t really take the time to hide, it does take out some of the mystery and allow for more seasoned viewers to get at what could be occurring later in the season.

Still, on the whole, this is a triumphant return for the AHS franchise. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the premiere of American Horror Story: Double Feature (or American Horror Story: Red Tide, if you want to be pedantic about it) a 4.4 out of 5. I was scared and I enjoyed seeing these characters react to these strange and terrifying circumstances and I look forward to seeing what else happens (as well as reporting my findings at the end of the season).


Just a couple of notes before I end the post.

–First, I want to let you know that the Indie Author Book Expo in Aurora, Illinois has been canceled due to COVID-19. Yeah, I’m not happy about it, either. But with numbers rising and so many people refusing to get vaccinated, what can you do? Thankfully, the Licking County Local Author Festival is still on, and another event is in the works, so they’ll still be plenty of opportunities to say hi and grab a signed book if you so desire.

–Second, thanks to the publication of The Pure World Comes on Tuesday, I’ve now been upgraded from a Supporting Member of the Horror Writers Association to an Affiliate Writer. I’m so excited to be able to share this latest milestone on this road of words and bloody bones with you and I hope you’ll continue to support me down the line.

–Third, I recently read Junji Ito’s new book, Sensors. I’m not going to give it a full review, but I will say that I was disappointed with it. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a 1.2. Definitely a waste of potential and not up to snuff with his previous work (speaking of which, has anyone hear been reading that lately?). I’d say skip it and find something else to read. Maybe The Pure World Comes?

–Finally, today I found out I won an advanced reader copy of The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward today from Tor Nightfire Books. Not the biggest deal, but it was a big deal for me. It’s a shame my TBR list keeps getting bigger and more unmanageable, but hey, sometimes that’s just how it is. Hopefully I get through all the reading sooner rather than later.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll see you soon for the review of the new Candyman movie and perhaps a short essay about something on my mind. Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

I saw a few trailers for this film, but wasn’t sure what to expect. Still, the premise sounded interesting, so I went to check it out. And that’s my intro.

Directed by David Bruckner and starring Rebecca Hall, The Night House follows Beth, a teacher whose husband committed suicide recently. As she tries to handle day-to-day activities, she finds out that her husband kept things from her. He may have had a secret life full of darkness. And as supernatural events happen around her, Beth begins to discover that something dark has come for her. And it can be found in a reversed replica of her and her husband’s lakehouse across the lake from them.

The first two thirds of The Night House were really good. Rebecca Hall does an excellent job playing a woman grappling with grief and the senselessness of her husband’s death. There’s a genuine atmosphere of unease that starts fairly quickly and keeps building throughout most of the film. A lot of this is done through what’s not seen as much as what is seen, and that proves to be really effective. Add in how skillfully they pull back the layers surrounding the husband, making him seem more and more complicated and twisted with every reveal, and some genuinely terrifying special effects, and you’ve got yourself a horror movie.

I will say, however, that the final reveal didn’t land very well with me and affected how I liked the final act. I think if they changed a few things, it would have kept up the terror of the film and made it a more effective reveal. As it was, however, it wasn’t as powerful or as terrifying. I respect what they were trying to do, especially as it ties into the film’s themes of grief and loss. I just wish they’d approached it in a way that kept the film as scary as it was for the first two-thirds.

All in all, I’m giving The Night House a 3.9 out of 5. As I said, if the final reveal was more to my taste, it would’ve been a better movie and gotten a higher score. Still, the first two-thirds are very scary, so I’d recommend it just to see that.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll be back before too long, believe me. For now though, it’s late and I need to sleep if I’m to do anything this weekend. So, until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

Remember Five Nights at Freddy’s? Well, if you don’t, Five Night’s at Freddy’s, or FNAF for short, is a video game franchise that was pretty popular in the mid-2010’s. The games revolve around surviving the night, usually at a haunted Chuck E. Cheese knockoff, while fending off killer animatronics. The unique and simple gameplay, combined with the dense lore revealed in the games, made it pretty popular for a while. There have even been in-universe novels (all of which I reviewed) and a movie has been in development hell since 2015.

And in the meantime, a couple of other films have been released that use the same concept but are just different enough to avoid IP problems. Thus, we get Willy’s Wonderland, which fills the gap for animatronic carnage horror films FNAF leaves quite well.

Starring (and produced by) Nicholas Cage, the film follows Cage as a mysterious drifter who gets stuck in the tiny town of Hayesville after a car accident. To pay for repairs, he accepts an overnight cleaning job at Willy’s Wonderland, an abandoned family entertainment center complete with giant, creepy electronics and a bloody history. What he’s not told is that the animatronics are alive and murderous. Thus begins a standoff between the eight deadly robots and the drifter. One that will be more explosive than anyone expects.

I’ll say this, these new slasher horror-comedies can be quite surprising. And if films like Happy Death Day, Freaky, and Willy’s Wonderland are the beginning of a new trend in horror, I hope it doesn’t get old too fast.

This film is a bonkers fun time! I think my favorite part is Cage’s unnamed character, who’s kind of a riff on Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s always got this sour look on his face, and his silence, addiction to energy soda, and routine make him nigh inscrutable. I also enjoyed the animatronics, which were visually interesting, moved well and were in the right area of the uncanny valley to be both funny and creepy. Add in some stellar action scenes and a good balance between the humor and horror elements and you have a really fun time.

I do have some complaints, however. For one thing, some of the slasher tropes felt kind of shoehorned in because they were expected. You would think this long after the slasher boom, even fictional teens would know not to do some of that dumb shit in a situation right out of a horror film. Speaking of which, several of the teen characters are not at all interesting or sympathetic. Honestly, one or two came off as detestable. Which might have been the point, given which tropes they engaged in, but I really could have done without that aspect of the film.

All in all, though, Willy’s Wonderland is a fun, bloody good time that will leave you amused and wanting more. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll give it an even 4. A sequel or prequel is supposedly in the works, and I would love that. You could have a whole trilogy around Cage’s character getting into horror movie shenanigans. It would be hilarious and you could come up with so many inventive ways for him to get into scrapes with monsters or bad guys.

And in the meantime, if you want some FNAF movie goodness and can’t wait for that film to be made,* go check out Willy’s Wonderland.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope the next post isn’t a review (though I guarantee nothing). Until next time, good night and pleasant nightmares!

*Assuming it gets made. Supposedly a script was approved and filming was supposed to begin this spring, but nothing happened and we haven’t had any updates in a while. Between that and the franchise having passed peak popularity, I feel like even if the film gets made, it’s going to face the same issues Slender Man’s film did. Namely that it was too late and there wasn’t enough interest, to say nothing of the quality (see my scathing review here).