Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Twilight" Dad goes bad - in a biiig way !

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Cage, Heard, and Fichtner in a panel for "Drive Angry"."]Drive Angry 3D Panel. Actors Nicolas Cage, Amb...[/caption]

The other day my boyfriend and I went to see the new Nicholas Cage movie, "Drive Angry 3D".  I had purposely not seen the trailer for it prior to going, because I have found that lately the trailers show the entire movie.  What a disappointment it is to then go and see the movie, realizing you've seen the whole thing before - just not in the correct sequence.

There's not a really deep plot to "Drive Angry".  Nicholas Cage is going after the man who killed his daughter (masterfully played by Billy Burke - who has now officially broken out of the stigma of being "the dad from Twilight". Not that I have anything against the "Twilight Saga", lord knows I've seen the movies and read the books, but still - he's a great actor and needs to be in more movies.)  In any event, the cool part about the movie is that Nicholas Cage is a very special kind of escapee, and his nemesis (possibly frenemy?) is a man with supernatural powers called The Accountant (played masterfully by William Fichtner).  He is helped along the way by the too-pretty-to-be-human Amber Heard, and his enemy is a cult fanatic (Billy Burke).

The movie was pretty good overall.  It reminded me almost of a "Constantine" remake.  Most likely that stems from the common subject matter of escaping Hell and having only a certain amount of time before having to go back.  The movie was lightened several times by Fichtner, whose character The Accountant was given a few moments of genuine humor.  The movie also boasts the funniest sex scene that I've ever seen.  (I'm not going into detail - go see the movie.  But it really is funny.)    Fun fact - Amber Heard plays the blond neighbor who first teaches wimpy Columbus the lifesaving "double-tap" technique in "Zombieland".  (I come from a family of movie buffs - we like trivia like that.)  Billy Burke is very refreshing as a cult leader.  At first, he's unrecognizable, and I think that attests to his acting ability.  I usually don't like going to see movies where the actor is the same, no matter what part they are playing.  Burke can do bad very very well.  If for no other reason, this movie should be on your list to see, though I'm not sure if its worth purchasing.  It's more of a rental or Netflix movie.  The movie is also rather gory, and I had to hide my eyes for the first few moments.  While the movie didn't overdo the 3D aspect, it was still rough seeing a hand blown off someone's wrist and watching the hand appear to fly out over the crowd at my face.

"Drive Angry" wasn't anything over-the-top special, but it definitely wasn't a terrible movie.  It was gory, funny, and stressful at times.  The actors and actresses all carried their parts well and the story was interesting.  Go see it before it leaves theaters - and make sure you see it in 3D !

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A So-So Zombie Game, Revisited.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="245" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]The typical zombie.[/caption]

I have no idea why, but I can't get that stupid game, "Blood Drive" out of my head.  I didn't wind up trading it like I thought I would.  I thought that I would be able to get rid of it because it's so awful, but I have a strange, inexplicable wish to go back and try my hand at it again.  There is a horrifying possibility that I will spend more time on it, getting to know it better and ::gasp:: unlocking some of the features that shouldn't have to be unlocked.  Is it possible that this terrible game has some voodoo charm on me !?  Quite possible !  I will keep you posted.

A So-So Zombie Game.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Xbox 360 Core System with their peripherals.[/caption]

I purchased "Blood Drive" for the XBOX 360 pretty much as soon as it came out.  (I might add that I spent $49 or so on this game.)  It was a fairly obvious choice for me - it was a zombie game.  When I went home and told my friends about it, they were horrified.  One particular friend even admitted to having it on his to-do list to tell me not to purchase the game.  I couldn't figure out why, and I looked up some reviews of my own.  Without going into detail, the results were disappointing.

I've been playing it for a little while now (about an hour) and there are some obvious disadvantages with the game, as well as a few pluses.

In many ways, "Blood Drive" is a rip-off of the "Left 4 Dead" franchise.  This game features zombies that look and act uncannily like the Boomer, Hunter, Charger, and Tank.  The gameplay became monotonous rather quickly - instead of trying to find ways of effectively driving, I found it easier to hole up in an alleyway and drive back and forth until the timer ran out, crushing whatever happened to be under my bumper at the time.  When "Blood Drive" begins, there is absolutely no tutorial, and I died a few times until I looked up and tried to memorize the controls.  Even with the controls memorized, there is so much going on in the beginning that its hard to focus.  Zombies are attacking the car, the car is running over barrels and rolling, hordes are charging, and somehow I'm supposed to not only navigate successfully, but learn to fire a random harpoon weapon?  I think not.  Also, in order to get to the single player sections with different scenery and goals, I have to survive some kind of 5 minute challenge that I could't find.  I can't imagine the hours it would take me to get to the 5 minute mark.  The longest I lasted in the environment was 1:10:?? and it was difficult lasting that long.  Another big issue I have with the game is the sensitivity of the controls.  It would be wonderful to be able to hit more zombies, but often the game feels more like a driver ed simulation, with me passing by hordes of zombies just begging to be run down.  They're even running after me with blood dribbling down their clothes, growling and snarling.

"Blood Drive" should have had a 2 player mode.  This game is perfect for multi-player, however you need someone else to drop the money on the game, hop on when you are playing, and agree to play with you.  If the designers had gone with a split-screen mode, it could have been a salvageable game.

After effectively tearing the game apart, I'd like to mention some of the pluses.  The addition of a pimp zombie was pretty funny and interesting, and the overall look of the zombies themselves were pretty interesting.  Each driver was laid out with a different car and personality.  There were 8 initial to choose from, and before you began the game you got to add extras to your car.  Think of them as care packages, that ranged from increased speed to increased durability.  They were meant to help with your chosen car's weakness.  (It should be added that steering was a noted weakness for most cars in this DRIVING game.  Why is that?)  The ambulance was very difficult to drive, due to its center of gravity.  Cars that drove lower to the ground seemed marginally easier to drive.  The music style changed for each character, mirroring the personality of the driver as well.

I am relatively sure I will be trading the game in this afternoon for a measly $20.  I want to trade it in before it depreciates further.  Its an alright game, but I am not sure if I'm interested in spending the hours it will take to unlock content that should be available from the start.  The lack of information in the game booklet was also a severe letdown.  If I've learned anything from "Blood Drive", it's that a) there are some games you should rent rather than buying flat out b) don't buy video games full price - or close to it and c) not everything zombie-based is exciting.  The idea for a zombie racing game was a great one, but major and unforgivable faults keep this game from being what it really could (and should) have been.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Hero, Vincent Price.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Dashingly handsome !"]Cropped screenshot of Vincent Price from the t...[/caption]

When I was a child, I had a terrible crush on actor Vincent Price.  I don't remember exactly how it began, but I think it had to do with my viewing of an AMC showing of "House of Wax".  Which ever movie it was, I remember Vincent Price starring, and a skeleton with obvious wires being lowered into a vat of acid.  [If anyone remembers which movie that is, please let me know.  I want to get it on DVD if possible!]  Anyhow, I saw "Tower of London" tonight for what I thought was the first time, but apparently I had seen it before because I remembered the ending.  I thought it would be in keeping with my recent leitmotif to write a blog post about it, being that it is a retro horror film.

In the 1962 movie "Tower of London", Vincent Price gives a virtuoso performance as the mad King Richard III of England.  Why is this movie in a horror blog, you ask?  Simple.  What is more horrible than fratricide, multiple homicide, torture chambers, unrelenting ghosts, and a quick descent into madness?  Oh, and it is loosely based on history too.

Vincent Price was a gifted actor.  He was able to show the King's change from somewhat sane murderer to doddering madman.  Price was never out of character during this movie.  He was positively revolting as the cruel hunchbacked man who rose to power on a wave of the blood of innocents.  While demanding that the rack be tightened on one of the servant girls, the look on Price's face is terrifying.  If I didn't know it was a movie, I'd be seriously worried!  [The actress being broken on the rack was pretty convincing too.]  Price was so ruthless, in fact, that I didn't feel pity for his character during the movie, but rather fear for those who had to come into contact with him.

What I found to be the most intriguing about the movie was the duality of Price's performance.  Was the King really seeing the ghosts of those he murdered?  Or was his guilt driving him mad?  Perhaps it was a combination?  So far as I could tell, Price never gave the answer.  The audience was left to make their own conclusions.

If you're looking for a good, old-school horror film with class then I suggest you rent or buy "Tower of London".  All the performances are top notch (though I'm inclined to say Vincent Price stole the show).  The sets are very effective in conveying the time period without being outlandish, and the music fits perfectly without being too outdated or too modern.  Overall this movie was very well-done.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A house to "Offer" a zombie besieged society...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Image by mstephens7 via Flickr - That's an image of the house - beautiful isn't it ?"]Burnt Offerings[/caption]

Yesterday I happened on "Burnt Offerings" on my Netflix and decided to watch it.  For some reason, lately I've been leaning towards watching older horror movies (ie Poltergeist, Legend of Hell House).  My dad came in while I was watching it and said he remembered it being a really good movie, and I found at the end that he was right.  Incidentally I went to and bought the book while I was watching the movie, so at some point you will see that review here, though just not yet.

I thought the movie was great.  Karen Black played the mother, Oliver Reed was the father, and Lee Montgomery played their 12 year old son.  A nice suprise was an aging Bette Davis as the aunt.  Together the three rent an old house for the summer for only $900, which appears as a steal at first.  The only catch is that they must take care of the reclusive Mrs. Allardyce.  (Karen Black agrees to do that exclusively).  Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart play the aging siblings the family rents from.  When they first move in, Black goes crazy cleaning while the rest of the family settles in.  She cleans the whole house from top to bottom while father and son clean out and fill the pool.  The family is very loving and close.

What really sets this movie apart from other haunted house movies I've seen is the visible build up of the haunting power.  Its very apparent from the beginning what kind of family they are when they move in, and its interesting to watch them degenerate.  Each person undergoes changes in personality that are very apparent.  The mother becomes obsessed with the care of Mrs. Allardyce (to the exclusion of her own family), the father almost drowns his son in the pool and later tries to rape his suddenly frigid wife, and their aunt becomes forgetful and weak.  She seems to suddenly age.  The young son is not necessarily changed so much as attacked.  It seems like the house isn't bent on changing him so much as killing him.  In a separate incident, he is almost killed by a gas leak.  The end result is a mixture of death and possession, and while it is in some respects predictable, it still fit the story very well.

The change that becomes apparent in the family members as a result of the haunting occurs at a reasonable pace, neither too quickly, nor too slowly.  In some regards it reminds me of Richard Matheson's style of haunting, although his was much more aggressive.

If you're looking for an interesting horror film and are tired of the Hollywood remakes currently in fashion, you should try "Burnt Offerings".  I guarantee you won't be disappointed !

Friday, February 18, 2011

When sushi strikes back...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Show some respect for your dinner !"]The American lobster was a staple of the colon...[/caption]

I recently finished reading an anthology titled "Dead Bait Anthology", published by Severed Press.  I think its a real blessing that I don't eat fish regularly, or at all, for that matter.  I lost my taste for it some years ago.  Having a hermit crab for a pet has caused me to not be adventurous where crab are concerned, though I did have lobster pizza once and liked it.  (Mostly because I couldn't see what animal it came from while it was on the pizza...when someone tried to cook lobster for me once, I cried for an hour.)

It seemed that with every page I turned, this anthology continued to outdo itself.  Before picking up this anthology, I had no idea that there could be so many fresh ideas centered around supernatural fish, or that the water really wasn't a safe getaway from zombies.  Every story was just as fresh and entertaining as the previous, with some even incorporating monsters I didn't know existed.  For example, "Dawes" by Steve Ruthenbeck, details the struggle one man wages against a monster known as a wereshark.  That's right - half shark, half human.  After it kills his new wife Melissa, Dawes vows revenge, with disasterous results.

Since all of the stories are amazing, I'm just going to give a little snippet of a few.  "Piraya" by Tim Curran details what happens in the Amazon when a chemical spill creates a school of dead(ly) piranha in the Amazon River.  When the water rises during the rainy season, several tourists are trapped by thousands of hungry mouths.

The first story, "Fox Goes Fission", written by Ron Lemming, is the story of a man who spends his time taking care of a haunted lake.  He is a native of the area, and returns after forestry school to take care of the haunted area, which claims the life of his family.  Aided by a ghost, he fishes for souls when the moon turns red.

Other stories involve a man trying to capture the mythical sea monster that killed his father, a slimy car salesman who becomes host to a horrible parasite, a ticked off oceanic giant hell-bent on avoiding the stew pot, and a mermaid who wants her eggs back.

This is definitely an anthology you want on your bookshelf!  The cover art is fantastic (a dead piranha, and all of the stories are top-notch.  Severed Press has created an amazing anthology, and you need "Dead Bait" right now!

(As an aside - Severed Press has announced that there will be a "Dead Bait 2", though I haven't heard any release dates yet, just that its in the works for 2011.  They recently closed author submissions - so lets hope it comes out soon!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

NEVER let Liam Neeson be your undertaker.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - actor Liam Neeson"]Liam Neeson at the closing of the Lyric Theatr...[/caption]

Tonight I watched a really odd movie (surprise, surprise) starring Christina Ricci, Justin Long, and Liam Neeson.  The movie, called "After.Life", was released in 2009.  The premise is pretty straight forward: Ricci is a young woman who is killed in a car accident and taken to the mortuary where her body is prepared by Liam Neeson, who has a penchant for talking with the dead.  Ricci is convinced she's not dead, but Neeson says otherwise.  Her funeral is in three days and the race is on to figure out exactly what's happening.  Will her almost fiance Long be able to save her?

This movie was billed as a thriller, but to be honest it didn't get really unsettling until the very ending, as things started to come together.  Up until then, I spent the movie trying to figure out what was happening - was she dead or alive? Was Neeson a good person or bad?

I enjoyed "After.Life" despite it seeming too long in the beginning.  When the movie began to pick up, it did so in a way that caused me to slowly get more tense.  At first I didn't even realize I was nervous!  The conclusion is pretty good, and answered all the questions I had about the movie (which is always a good thing.  I hate having unanswered questions that movies - sometimes the lack of answers ruins the movie).

Liam Neeson is always a joy to watch onscreen.  He can play a variety of characters without being the same person twice.  I hate watching movies where the actor is always the same, or always plays the same character.  (That's what I loved about "Road to Perdition" with Tom Hanks - for once he was the sinister element, not the comedic or romantic element.)  Its good to have Christina Ricci back in the spotlight, although my one complaint is the gratuitous nudity.  They kept showing her topless after the first half of the movie.  I suppose it could be argued that she was being born into a new existence, and therefore needed to lose the trappings of her previous life, but it still felt a little forced to me.  She's a good enough actress that she doesn't have to disrobe to be noticed.  Justin Long was a good choice as the fiance.  He plays panicked characters very well.  His development as an actor is visible in this movie.  He carries himself with much more ease and confidence than he did in movies such as "Die Hard: Live Free or Die Hard".

If you're looking for an interesting movie that will keep you guessing, then I highly recommend "After.Life".  The build-up and pacing were good, with a supremely creepy ending that you most likely won't see coming.

Matheson 101

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - Meet Richard Matheson, the father of horror."]American science fiction author Richard Matheson.[/caption]

Being a somewhat rabid Stephen King fan, I was immediately interested when I found out that Richard Matheson was his horror hero.  I vowed then and there to find out what had caused the hype.  When I found out that the film "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith was based on a Matheson tale, I decided to make that my starting point.

I went to the bookstore and picked up a copy of "I Am Legend" which also contained other stories.  It took me forever to find a copy of the book that didn't have the movie cover.  (I like books in their purest form - not with an actor or movie cover on them.)  I went straight home and read the first story, "I Am Legend", and realized that its nothing like the movie with Will Smith.  The movie was alright, but the story was better.  I realize that other versions have been made of this story, but I haven't seen them yet, so I cannot comment.

The other stories in this book are not really related, so far as I can tell, to the main novella.  Each and every story promises something new.  One of my favorites is "The Funeral", which is a look at what happens when a vampire invites a rowdy crowd to his funeral - with horribly funny results.  Another crazy one is the "The Near Departed" with has a jaw-dropping ending that is so good it makes you go back to the beginning to re-read it.  (I had to make sure that I didn't miss an obvious clue - the ending caught me totally by surprise!)

My absolute favorite story in the book is "Prey" because it gave rise to my favorite wooden villain, He Who Kills.  This story was adapted into the vignette "Amelia" for "Trilogy of Terror".  I guess you could say I'm highly biased, but even so, this is a story you DO NOT MISS.

A side note on Richard Matheson:  Matheson is one of those rare and timeless authors.  He doesn't use popular culture as a crutch, but rather allows his stories to carry themselves.  When reading his stories, you could fit them into almost any time period you wish, with only slight changes (electricity for candles, cars for carriages or horses) and still have a viable story with nothing lost.  His stories have sound plots, interesting characters, and beautiful language.  Its hard not to get carried away on the tide of his writing and forget where you are.  I think that he is the kind of author H.P. Lovecraft would have enjoyed.  Lovecraft praised writers who took ordinary situations and added a touch of the extraordinary or odd.  Matheson's strength is that he takes situations that are commonplace and warps them just enough to throw the reader off balance.

If you are new to Richard Matheson, I highly recommend this book.  It's a good introduction to his stories, and it also contains one of his most well-known works.  (And then go pick up "Trilogy of Terror"!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Candy-munching zombie hordes...of women.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Sweethearts Box[/caption]

Lisa Cach is the final author in the book "My Zombie Valentine", and her story "Every Part of You" was certainly worth waiting for.  I think, without stretching too far, that this is one of the oddest zombie tales I have ever read.  The zombies in this tale hunger for anything sugary, going so far as to mob the nearest stores.  Putting an unusual spin on the zombie mythos is the idea that they groan for whatever they are craving.  The main character's best friend Karen, for instance, insists on procuring "Junior Mintssss" the entire time.  Pretty funny stuff !

Our story begins with Angelica, a girl living in L.A. working on special effects corrections on movies.  While waiting in the office of a plastic surgeon (her friend Karen is the receptionist) she meets a surfer bum named Tom.  After a few accidental insults, she is led in to see the dashing plastic surgeon.  While she is under anesthetic she is injected with a serum that's supposed to improve her features.

I'm not ruining the best of the story for you, but I will say this, when the serum goes goes REAL bad.  And leaves droves of women candy-craving zombies.  Junior Mints, Conversation Hearts, and all other forms of sugar beware !  The women of L.A. are coming for you !

This story was really funny - and a great commentary on the way women view their bodies and the rush to be perfect.  It was really refreshing to make fun of the stick-thin-body trend that is omnipresent.  The characters are interesting, and very deep.  Surfer bum Tom turns out to be wildly intelligent, very sensitive, and an overall creampuff.  Angelica herself turns out to be very complex and complicated.  As for Karen, well, she loves her sweets.

Rule #597 - NEVER film a low budget film on an island.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia - This is George Romero in 2007 at Comic Con."]George A. Romero signing at Comic Con, 2007.[/caption]

The third tale in "My Zombie Valentine" is from Marianne Mancusi.  Titled, "Zombiewood Confidential", it tells the story of a production crew for Romeo George's next big zombie film.  (Yes - that's right.  Not George Romero, but Romeo George - very nice nod to the zombie fans.)

Scarlet is a makeup artist working on Romeo George's next movie, along with her teen idol Mason Marks.  Standing between their romance is Cissy, the whiny diva that Mason has to date (it's in their contract).  What starts out as a low-budget zombie flick turns into total chaos and mayhem as the production crew, extras, and other unfortunates begin to turn into zombies.

Overall, the story was pretty entertaining.  However, its a little more tedious to read than the other stories in "My Zombie Valentine".  The problem, for me, was the lack of interesting side characters.  Mason's dog, Chico, was alright but by no means the star of the show.  The other makeup artist, Derek, could have been developed further.  His character was witty, interesting, and insightful.  I would have liked to have read more about him.

Overall the story was good.  It wasn't my favorite in the paranormal romance genre, but it wasn't bad.  The characters could have been developed a little further, but the setting and the nod to zombie movie great George Romero was appreciated.

Zombies, romance, and a dragon...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Marie Laveau[/caption]

"Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo" (written by Angie Fox) is the second novella in the paranormal romance book "My Zombie Valentine", which I promised to read before Valentine's Day.  (I just finished today and now I'm getting around to posting...)  In any event, the story is by Angie Fox, and it's pretty good.  The characters are interesting, and the story is pretty funny, all things considered.

The story's principal character is Amie, a love-lorn voodoo shop owner who doesn't even realize she's looking for a man in her life.  After being harassed by her ancient dragon-pet Isoke (a Kongamoto), she decides to try a love spell that will summon her perfect mate.  There's only a few problems, not the least of which is the dashing Dante is dead, and has been for about 200 years.  He only has three days before the spell wears off and he dies for real (again? permanently...), and in that time he has to convince Amie that he's worthy and her true love (as well as a flesh and blood man.)

My favorite part of the novella is the dragon-pet Isoke.  His accent is hysterical, and I think he adds the right amount of humor to offset the subject matter.  His presence keeps the story fresh, with unexpected turns (gifts of undead rats bearing breath mints meant to make the couple fall in love.)  Being that the story is set in the city of New Orleans, there are references to voodoo queen Marie Laveau, and landmark areas such as the French Quarter.

Angie Fox's tale "Gentlemen Prefer Voodoo" is one more example of the undying ability of zombies to cross into another genre, almost seamlessly.  Apparently I may have to recant my theory that zombies will eventually die out due to lack of flexibility.

Friday, February 11, 2011

When good dead go bad...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Pet Sematary[/caption]

One of my favorite books by Stephen King is {and most likely always will be} "Pet Sematary".  I believe this was the first zombie-themed book I ever read, and I read it somewhere around my 7th or 8th grade year.

This book scared the life out of me !  The story begins with Doctor Louis Creed and his wife Rachel, who move to Ludlow, Maine with their two small children, Ellie and Gage.  They also move with Churchill, Ellie's cat.

The first day in their new house they make the acquaintance of Jud Crandall, who lives across the street from them.  During their first meeting, he explains the dangers of the road they live on, how trucks drive well above the speed limit and pass day and night.

Jud also shows his new friend a very interesting landmark.  Past the deadfall in the Pet Sematary and up a trail lies a Micmac burial ground with an unusual ability.  Any dead buried there will return, albeit changed.  They return to whomever buried them, so its best that each bury his own.

Throughout the course of the novel, Louis is guided by Victor Pascow, a student who died from injuries at the University where Louis works.  Pascow decides its his personal post-life mission to keep Louis and his family safe.  He warns Louis several times not to use the Micmac burying ground, but three times Louis doesn't listen.  The first is when Ellie's cat, Church, is run over in the road.  When Church comes back, he's very different.  A once loving cat is now surly and agressive, and its death wounds are still very much visible on its body.  For fear of spoiling the book, I'm not going to mention who the other two resurrections are.

You absolutely need this book if you're a zombie fan or a Stephen King fan !  I couldn't put the book down, every page seemed have some new horror or tragedy.  The story is well-written, the characters and dialog are engaging, and the ending is fantastic.  In my opinion, "Pet Sematary" is Stephen King's best and most direct addition to the zombie culture.

Friday, February 4, 2011

All the zombie fragging you can handle...and a little you can't.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="258" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Left 4 Dead 2[/caption]

"Left 4 Dead 2" follows four different survivors through a series of zombie infested maps.

The game was an overall improvement from Left 4 Dead (which in and of itself was still an awesome game!)  There are numerous notable changes for the better which include more staggered spacing of the infected.  Instead of running into a constant mob and then nothing, the mobs are well spaced enough so that there is no time to relax and wait for the next mob.

The special infected are bigger, better, and more badass as well.  Hunters, witches, boomers, and tanks all were re-done with more detail including (but not limited to) extra boils, more slime, and more detailed clothing.  New notable specials include the Jockey, who sits atop your character and rides them around while screeching, and my personal nemesis, the Spitter.  Spitters have disjointed jaws and are capable of covering several in-game feet of floor with an acidic puke that will quickly exacerbate the situation for yourself and the other survivors.  The best part ?  She spits it from afar.  Perhaps you can't see her, but she can still drop you with one or two well-aimed spits.  Eesh.  Not to mention the hordes of other special infected, some of which wear armor and are harder to kill.  Oh and one last thing - there are clown zombies.  A whole carnival section filled to the brim with slavering clown zombies whose eyes glow.  I won't spoil all the fun - but trust me - you'll like the new ones !

The story itself is more cohesive within the campaigns.  Rather than just running around blasting zombies to bits, you are following a coordinated escape pattern from area to area.  Don't fear - the story doesn't get in the way of mindless blasting, if that's something you prefer.  The locales are creepier with more special effects including fog, wind and driving rain as well as numerous hiding places for zombies and specials.  The effects add a touch of realism to the video game, as well as add to the unpredictability of the game.  It seems that every time you play, its a different game.

Whether or not you were a fan of the original "Left 4 Dead" you need this game.  I play it on my computer because I'm terrible at first person shooters on a console, but regardless of your choice of play you will have countless hours of enjoyment from "Left 4 Dead 2".  One more bit of advice - play it in the dark.  It'll scare you witless.

Raising more cuddly undead...

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Michael Jackson dancing with the living dead.[/caption]

Next up is "Zombie Felties: How to Raise 16 Gruesome Creatures from the Undead" by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate.  Whew !  What a title !  And yes, there is another story to go along with "Zombie Felties".  I was looking for the "Creepy Cute Crochet" book at a bookstore when I came across this book and I had to have it.  As a kid, I loved the "Thriller" music video, and still listen to it all the time today.  The picture of the Michael Jackson feltie was all it took to get me to buy the book.

So I bought the book thinking these little felties would be the easiest thing to make in the world.  A "feltie" is made from cut out felt pieces with buttons, beads, sequins, embroidery floss and other embelishments.  I regret to admit that there is, however, one little catch that nearly cost me my dignity at work.

I sat down a few days later after having collected the supplies and began making the zombie dog.  When I got to the point of gluing the pieces together with super glue, I came across one of life's little truths : it doesn't matter what you know (or think you know) about super glue, you will inevitably glue your appendages together at some time while using it.  Long story short, I went into work with glue on my face, my fingers, my hair, and a few splotches on my clothes.  (I am a part time lifeguard at an indoor pool when not obsessing over zombies or substitute teaching).  As I was leaving work that afternoon, a coworker told me that its possible to remove super glue with nail polish remover.  I haven't tried it, but the next time I make one of these felties, I will have a few bottles on hand.

The patterns in "Zombie Felties" range from super cute to mildly frightening.  I don't think I have a favorite pattern, although zombie dog and the undertaker are certainly at the top of the list.  I recommend this book for people who are highly crafty, or who enjoy challenging themselves not to glue their fingers together.  For the rest of us, its nice to have on the shelf for the day when we feel compelled to give it a try (or if we're lucky enough to make the acquaintance of someone who can actually make this kind of crafty stuff.)

If I had it to do again, I'd buy the book, but I'd sucker my boyfriend into trying to make me a feltie before attempting to do it myself.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Romantic zombies?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia   Valentine's Day - and zombies !?"]Jacques Torres chocolates...mmmm[/caption]

Now, I'm going to be very clear about something - I do not read paranormal romance novels.  Or any romance novels, for that matter.  However, a friend found this book for me at a library sale and bought it for 25 cents, based on the fact that its a zombie novel.  I'm currently reading it because it's almost Valentine's Day, and I figured that now would be a good time to post something about this quirky book.

"My Zombie Valentine" is divided into four mini-novels, each by a different woman.  I started (and finished) the first one today.  It's called "Bring Out Your Dead" and was written by Katie MacAlister.  Far from being an annoying story, I thought it was interesting and boasted a rich cast of characters.  The central character, Ysabelle (or Belle, for short) is a double-souled counselor of revenants (you and I know them as zombies).  She is aided by a crazy spirit guide named Sally, who seems to think a bad mix of French and English makes her cultured.  Sebastian is the Dark One (vampire) in need of salvation from our dual-souled heroine.  There winds up being a love triangle (trust me - you'll want to read this story - so I'm not going to spoil all the fun for you!) And let's not forget my favorite peanut gallery - led by Tim the revenant (zombie) and William (who lost all of his body but his head in a rather unfortunate accident involving a demon lord, some imps, a child, and a whole lot of hellfire.)

Rather than being bogged down by all the heady romance, "Bring Out Your Dead" is built solidly on plot twists and interesting facts.  The story doesn't stall an get boring, but rather gives tidbits of information as necessary while maintaining an interesting pace.  The characters are easy to like, and make the book a joy to read.  I think William may be my favorite, since he falls off the no-meat wagon and starts trying to eat his own body complaining that he's just a "little peckish" and that if anyone isn't using their toes or fingers could he please help himself.

If the rest of the stories in "My Zombie Valentine" are half as good as "Bring Out Your Dead", then I am certainly in for a good read !  You would do well to pick the book up yourself, although I might add that the book is geared heavily towards the female persuasion.  Men be warned !  While a good book, you may not like the romance side.  (Which is just fine with me - most zombie books are without a romantic side anyway...)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Recommended for a cheesy good time !

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="295" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Film poster for House on Haunted Hill (1999 fi...[/caption]

"House on Haunted Hill" is one of my favorite go-to movies when I'm not feeling well, or when I'm up for some cheesy good fun with decent acting.  Among the cast members are real screen gems - one of my favorites being the snarky Geoffrey Rush, who is to be able to take on almost any role seamlessly.  Taye Diggs and Ali Larter are also unexpected (and I believe at that point, relatively unknown).  Chris Kattan showcases his diversity - as the current owner of the haunted asylum and not as the usual funny man.

The plot is rather simple - the spoiled wife of an amusement park tycoon wants to host her birthday party at the most haunted place on earth - which just happens to be Vanacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane.  The spoiled wife, Evelyn (played by Famke Janssen), sends her guest list to her husband Stephen (Geoffrey Rush).  Just before Stephen sends the list, it is mysteriously changed (we assume by the asylum), which results in a group of strangers arriving for the party.  Stephen enjoys his wife's irritation and decides to continue the party - adding that anyone who survives the night will receive $1,000,000.  To sweeten an already good deal, Stephen casually mentions that the total money will be divided among whomever survives (in other words, if you die, someone else gets your money).  The aylum's owner Watson (Chris Kattan) warns everyone that they won't survive the evening if they decide to stay.  He won't explain why, but is very adamant.  Before Watson can escape the asylum for the night, the asylum's defense system kicks in and metal panels cover the windows and doors.  Its only then that Watson begins to tell the true history of the asylum, and the capabilities of the evil that lurks within.

There - that's enough of a teaser - go rent the movie !

The movie didn't do well as far as reviews go, but I rather enjoyed it.  I thought that the special effects were pretty good, and the plot was decent.  Where the movie really shined was the acting.  Geoffrey Rush is by far the best actor of the film, but Chris Kattan is a close second.  Rush was able to create and maintain a suspension of disbelief which allowed the viewer to begin to care about the characters.  Rush began as the character I loved to hate, and then towards the end transforms himself and shows that despite all of the bluster and the wife-hating, he was actually a good person.  The transformation was believable, interesting, and felt "right".  At first I was worried that Chris Kattan's humorous roles would impede on his ability to be the flighty owner of the asylum, but I was completely wrong.  Kattan carried his role admirably.  As a direct result of this movie I gained greater respect for his acting.

This movie is well worth giving a try.  The acting is great, the special effects are good, and overall its a good movie.  As I said before, its a cheesy good time.  Nothing Oscar-worthy - but definitely a fun movie to watch with friends or on a date !

Don't take that call !

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="180" caption="Image by Tojosan via Flickr"]If it says Stephen King...[/caption]

I would like to preface the following review saying that when I grew up I lived on a steady diet of Stephen King books and hot dogs, washed down with Kool-Aid.  From the time I entered middle school until I graduated from high school.  No lie.  So, it goes without saying that I would read "Cell", widely accepted as Stephen King's take on the zombie culture.

I just finished the book last night and I'm honestly not sure what to think of it.  I didn't get the distinct "zombie feel" from the book.  I think of it more in the vein of science fiction, rather than horror, but that could be because of a numbness I feel towards certain books.  For over a year now I've been almost exclusively reading zombie books filled with missing limbs, violent deaths, and reanimated eating machines.

The story begins with graphic artist Clayton Riddell trying to get his newest graphic novel published.  At approximately 3:03 pm he's standing on the sidewalk watching almost everyone in sight on their cell phone.  Suddenly everyone goes nuts.  They start jibbering, getting violent due to a signal that they received on their cell phone that wiped and reprogrammed their brains.  Then, all kinds of awful things start happening - car wrecks, explosions, murder - and out of nowhere he bumps into Tom McCourt - another person trying to escape the madness.  They run into a few more really interesting characters along the way (fiery Alice Maxwell, headmaster Charles Ardai, geeky Jordan, and the freaky Raggedy Man.)

Despite strong characters, I'm still not sure what to think of "Cell".  Honestly, I have been putting off the review because I'm not sure what to say.  It was an interesting book if you its approached from a sci-fi standpoint, but I'm not sure about it being a zombie story per se.  The "zombies" begin to exhibit flocking behavior (like birds), they develop telepathy and a group consciousness, and also begin to levitate.  However, if you look at zombie-ism as being like somnambulism (sleep-walking) then they are very much zombies, they just lack any homicidal tendencies towards the end of the book.  The slow build-up of the change in the zombie behavior is welcome, as it seems impossible that they could develop so many new changes in brain format so quickly.

My major issue with the book was that I wasn't scared.  Other Stephen King books I've read have had me absolutely terrified.  While "Cell" was in interesting read, it wasn't very scary.  The strength of the book is the characters.  The main group of survivors are interesting people with little quirks that make them very realistic.  As with most of the books I review, I urge you to go out and buy this book and make an opinion for yourself.