Archive for the Pop Culture Category

Dead Vengeance

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2016 by bluefall8

Dead Vengeance is a four-part series published by Dark Horse Comics. The first issue was released October 2015 with subsequent issues released monthly from November 2015 to January 2016. The series was written and illustrated by Bill Morrison, a native son of Lincoln Park, Michigan.

Steve Colwell, who has served as co-host on several episodes of Horrorlust Radio, turned me onto Dead Vengeance. Steve also hails from Lincoln Park; he and Bill have been friends since childhood. Lincoln Park also happens to be my boyhood home! It’s not every day that you get the chance to read a horror story created by somebody from your hometown, so it only seemed natural to highlight Dead Vengeance here on Horrorlust.

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The tale of Dead Vengeance begins in May 1940 at a carnival on the outskirts of Detroit. The very first panel reveals a carnival barker in front of a sideshow tent affixed with a sign that reads, “Cavalcade of Oddities.” Once inside the tent, readers will discover a mummified Fiji Mermaid but more importantly will be introduced to the central protagonist — a pickled man who unconsciously floats inside of a large tank. As the above cover art suggests, our new friend won’t be unconscious for long. And like that, I was sold.

Readers soon learn that Pickled Man is actually Johnny Dover, a one-time popular radio host out of Detroit. So how did this guy end up preserved inside of a tank full of chemicals at a carnival?! In order to find out you’ll just have to snag a copy and read for yourselves, my friends. The story also features a voluptuous fortune teller, a legless freak named Cesar and even Detroit’s infamous Purple Gang! Dead Vengeance is a fun, fast-paced read stuffed with action, intrigue and capped-off with a classic twist in the tradition of EC Comics!

It was neat too that creater, Bill Morrison, gave a nod to his hometown roots with a mention of area cities like Lincoln Park, Wyandotte and Flat Rock. Readers will also recognize familiar Detroit landmarks like the Ambassador Bridge. Dead Vengeance can be found at your local comic shop for $3.99 and should be enjoyed by any lover of horror but especially those who call Southeast Michigan home.

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Fear the Walking Dead: Season One Review

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2015 by bluefall8

Fear-The-Walking-DeadSeason One of Fear the Walking Dead concluded Sunday with a gripping finale worthy of the series from which it sprung. The six episode arc imported all of the production values and continuity of the main series while it introduced viewers to an entirely different location and set of characters. Fear the Walking Dead averaged more than 11 million viewers per episode over the course of the season; AMC clearly has faith in the product as the network approved a 15 episode second season some two months ago.

I enjoyed the slow burn that this narrative had to offer — too often in post-apocalyptic television shows or films little to no time is given onscreen to witness the breakdown in the social order. Generally, this is presented as something that happened overnight or in a matter of hours. Personally, I found the approach in Fear the Walking Dead much more satisfying and quite frankly a more realistic representation as to just how exactly events would unfold under such conditions and how regular people who react.

The problem isn’t even recognized for the threat that it is at first but as the story unfolded that ignorance turned to speculation and confusion and then to panic and fear. And then there was that beautiful period of limbo in which the characters attempted to move forward with their lives as best could be expected under such conditions. After all, we inhabit a very large and complicated society — it isn’t likely that all of our systems of social order would simply crumble in a day or two. In reality the decay of our daily routine would be a persistent, steady creep.

I most identified with the characters of Travis and Nick and felt that Cliff Curtis and Frank Dillane were exceptional in their respective roles. Curtis was authentic as the father turned community leader whose aim it was to maintain the peace until order had been restored and Dillane managed to portray a troublesome heroin addict as one of the most likable characters on the entire show. I also enjoyed Ruben Blades’ portrayal of Daniel Salazar as a conflicted man who was prepared to accept the reality of the situation even if it meant he had to revisit the horrors he had committed as a younger man. His performance in Cobalt while he tortured a captive member of the National Guard had substance and provided excellent character development.

The slow but sure erosion of trust between the military and the community was handled deftly as well. Although predictable, if not outright inevitable, the pace was well measured and the viewer was treated to several scenes in which characters on both sides of the fence peeled back the stereotypes and expressed genuine humanity through doubt, remorse, hope and regret. The main characters were treated with respect and those who perished did so in a fashion that served the narrative; no one was simply discarded as a meat puppet. If I have one complaint it is that both Madison and Alicia failed to connect with the audience in the same way that the rest of the cast did. Hopefully, season two will explore these individuals more and thus allow each character to grow.

What secrets will Abigail hold and for that matter what are the true motivations of the enigmatic Stand? What impact will Liza’s shocking death have on the group dynamic? Will Chris blame his father? Will he and Alicia pursue the taboo relationship that was hinted near the end of the season? Now that Griselda’s fate is known and with the group free of immediate danger will Daniel and daughter Ofelia split from the group? Will Nick indeed embrace the madness or will his demons get the better of him and in the process jeopardize the rest of the group?

All fun and interesting questions to ponder and there will be plenty of time to do just that as Fear the Walking Dead won’t return until an as of now unspecified date in 2016.

AHS: Season 4, Darksyde Acres Website Update

Posted in News, Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2014 by bluefall8

Details are scant on American Horror Story season four but most of the latest reports seem to agree that the setting in the next chapter of the FX hit is a carnival. The news was confirmed by series writer and co-executive producer Douglas Petrie during a recent Nerdist Writer’s Panel podcast.

American Horror Story has always provided fans with sleek visuals, a fun mixture of gore and sexuality, and great ensemble casts. If I have one hope, it is that the writing staff can tighten up the plot because a carnival theme has the potential to lend itself brilliantly to this brand of storytelling.

Thus far series stars Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson have reportedly signed on for the project although some publications have suggested that this will be the last go around for the talented Lange.

The new season is set to return to FX in October.

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DARKSYDE REDESIGNED

The indomitable Darksyde Acres has revamped its’ website. The design has been simplified and the end result is a much more user friendly experience. Various social media sites are well integrated and visible on each page. Hell, they’ve even updated their calendar of events for 2014! Far too many attractions neglect to do this basic maintenance until as late as August or September. Kudos to the staff at Darksyde for being ahead of the pack.

Check out the site right here: Darksyde Acres Haunted House

If you’d like to read my past reviews of Darksyde Acres click the link in the right sidebar that reads “Darksyde Acres” located  beneath the Categories section.

American Horror Story: Coven

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2014 by bluefall8

American-Horror-Story-Coven-1I held a couple of marathon sessions over the last few of days and have thus completed American Horror Story: Coven. In doing so, I’ve come away feeling much as I did when Murder House and Asylum had concluded: entertained yet mildly disappointed. Season three succeeded and failed in much the same way that its predecessors did — highlighted by an excellent ensemble cast, high production standards, and a deluge of gore but also plagued by extraneous subplots, needless twists, and a certain disregard for continuity.

GIRL POWERS

I very much enjoyed the early interaction of the four young witches. The girls resembled a bizarro group of super heroins each equipped with a unique power.  I wish the writers would’ve explored this idea a bit more, there were certainly opportunities to do so, instead the audience was treated to a carousel of emotions and alliances that left a lot to be desired.

Emma Robert’s character, Madison Montgomery, was at her best when acting as frenemy but too often the spoiled socialite dominated her peers. Beauty and skill positioned her from the outset as the heir apparent to Fiona’s throne — there was little to be gained from beating the audience over the head with it.

The constant in-fighting also took the sting out of what should’ve been one of the show’s major pivots — Queenie’s betrayal. Her defection to the camp of Voodoo Priestess Marie Laveau  should’ve sent shockwaves through Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, instead it was widely meet with a shrug of the shoulders. Such a setup only made her eventual return to the coven that much less significant.

Zoe was an interesting and likable character but the writers ultimately hedged their bets on her as the main protagonist and in the end I think this strategy diminished the overall story. She was a natural foil for Madison and the ideal character through which to guide the crux of the narrative. She displayed leadership at crucial times — first on Halloween when she single-handedly rescued the coven from a horde of the undead, displaying power that even gave the immortal Marie Laveau reason to pause and consider. It was also Zoe who persisted in finding answers when Madison had gone missing and was ultimately responsible for her resurrection.

Nan was also an interesting character but instead of making a real impact on the story, she was sent on an ill-conceived sidewinder and then unceremoniously killed by the combined efforts of Fiona and Marie Laveau in what was one of the show’s more egregious examples of lazy writing.

Much of this served only to undermine one of the central plot points — the question of the next Supreme.

MOTHER-DAUGHTER DYNAMIC

By and large, I thought the love-hate relationship exhibited by Fiona and Cordelia was believable and followed a logical arc. Fiona was vain, superficial, and often ruthless while Cordelia was practical, thoughtful, and ruled by a sound moral compass. The animosity between the two was palatable with any moments of tenderness accordingly bittersweet. It was fitting that, in the end, Cordelia should succeed Fiona as the next Supreme. However, the road to such an end was filled with frivolous backpedaling. Cordelia’s blinding and subsequent Second Sight should’ve been a crucial turning point, instead it was subjugated with a bit of silliness only to have the whole sequence reset later when Cordelia purposely mutilated herself.

The backstory chronicling the rift between Fiona Goode and Myrtle Snow fit well within the context of the current story. It provided meaningful substance to the butler, Spalding and helped reveal their motivations particularly where the coven and Cordelia were concerned.

COLLATERAL DAMAGE

The story of Misty Day began with intrigue and mystery but by the end of the season, she too, proved to be little more than a pretty distraction. Her initial role as loner Swamp Witch with a green thumb was enjoyable and thought provoking. I think this character would’ve better served the story had this limited, subtle approach been minded. Instead she was pulled in and out of the main thread and ultimately suffered a wholly unsatisfying and undeserved death.

Other than serving as a wedge between Madison and Zoe, Kyle was a fairly pointless and depressing character. His arc was slow and plodding and I was never truly sold on the girls motivation to resurrect him in the first place. The episodes that chronicled his return home and his incestuous relationship with his mother were an excellent example of the writers penchant to shoehorn shock and taboo into the show for what felt like nothing more than kicks and giggles.

I also felt like the entire angle with Hank and the Delphi Trust was poorly constructed and served only to detract from both the drama surrounding the next Supreme and the long held feud between the coven and Maire Laveau’s lot. The notion that Cordelia, as the Headmistress of a clandestine school for witches, would in such a cavalier fashion allow any man to learn her most intimate secrets is absurd.

It is made clear on several occasions that Fiona, Laveau, and all of witchdom are aware of the presence of witch hunters and indeed the audience is led to believe that this enemy possess a serious threat to the survival of such. And yet all it took was a half-cocked plan by Fiona, Leveau, and the Axeman to eliminate the threat completely. Thirteen episodes simply wasn’t enough to properly explore this particular tangent and the end result left much to be desired.

Another element that AHS: Coven should’ve omitted entirely was the weird, jarring guest appearances by singer, Stevie Nicks. Her presence in the story was a little too unbelievable and the music video-esque sequence during the season finale some how managed to be surreal and hokey simultaneously, a rare and unwelcome mixture. That being said, I did find the use of various Fleetwood Mac songs throughout the season to be an appropriate and enjoyable theme.

GOVERNING THE DEAD

The producers and writers of American Horror Story should make more of an effort to define the rules governing the dead. It seems they simply play fast and loose with any such rules whenever it should suit their needs. The Axeman, for instance, was brought to his demise by the coven in 1919 and then lingered as a spirit in the house until he was released in the present.

And in this narrative a spirit being released apparently has the power to render them flesh and blood once more. His involvement with Fiona over the second half of the season opened up a lot of vague speculation. Supernatural elements aside, it’s just too much of a stretch for me to believe that his apartment would’ve been left untouched after all of these years.

Spalding’s supernatural interaction was another example in which a character who is dead could seemingly become flesh and blood when the moment was convenient. His ridiculous plot to rid the house of Leveau with the help of Delphine was a great illustration of this. Why go through the rigamarole that he did if in the end, as a ghost, he was simply able to bash Laveau over the head with a physical object.

It was stupid, sloppy writing and difficult to overlook the fact that dead people can, when needed,  interact with other characters as if they were alive and indeed had never died at all.

A BLOODY, DISCOMBOBULATED END

Despite the numerous flaws,  American Horror Story: Coven was, if nothing else, grossly entertaining. The New Orleans flavor provided a distinct and appropriate backdrop for the events of this story to play out on. The musical selections, including Lauren O’Connell’s cover of House of the Rising Sun  and this season’s haunting refrain, supported and scored the New Orleans ambience quite well.

I hope that going forward the writers and producers can direct more of their creative energy into constructing a cohesive plot from beginning to end, and focus less on the myriad ways in which to cram shock value into the show. It seems to me that the final third of each installment of American Horror Story divulged into rampant butchery that ultimately resulted in an unspooling yarn.

Outlast, Bad Moon Rising

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by bluefall8

While seeking out videos promoting the return of The Walking Dead last weekend, I stumbled across one trailer that featured a haunting rendition of Bad Moon Rising. Written by John Fogerty and performed by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bad Moon Rising was originally released in April 1969 as a single off of the Green River album.

Bad Moon Rising has been recorded by no less than twenty artists in the forty-five years since it was first released, but it’s the original that has stood the test of time. Widely considered the best, and certainly most popular version of the song, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising is among my all-time favorite songs. In fact, long before I christened this blog Horrorlust, I wrote on the topic of horror and haunted houses under a different name, Hallowblog. It’s worth noting that before I settled on Hallowblog I very strongly considered titling the blog, Bad Moon Rising, as an homage to the song.

So it was with more than a small thrill, that when I happened across a particular trailer for the aforementioned The Walking Dead, I was treated to a foreboding arrangement of the old favorite. Performed by a group called Mourning Ritual, this latest cover is punctuated by the raspy voice of the lead singer and a slower tempo than the original. The overall effect creates a much darker, ominous tune reminiscent at times of Lauren O’Connell’s cover of The Animals’ House of the Rising Sun. Appropriately, that cover was also used in the promos for another popular television horror series this season — American Horror Story: Coven.

If you haven’t heard either cover I would strongly recommend giving each a listen. I wouldn’t suggest that either topped the original — that would be blasphemous — but each has put a fresh spin on a powerful classic and are capable of standing on their own. As for those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the originals, smack yourself.

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RUN OR HIDE

My love of all things horror extends also to the video game medium and, oh boy, has a new entry come to the world of survival horror! My brother called me last week to tell me about a game he had downloaded on PS4 called Outlast. Released to PC last September, the independent title developed by Red Barrels was made available on the PS4 earlier this month.

The plot of the game is centered on Miles Upshur, a freelance journalist. An anonymous tip has brought him to the formidable Mount Massive Asylum, a psychiatric hospital where Miles will soon discover that things have gone horrifyingly wrong.

Exhibited on a 64-inch screen, complete with surround sound system the startling effect of the game was rendered in full force. The player progresses through the darkened halls from a first person perspective armed with nothing more than a video camera equipped with night vision. Use of the video camera is not optional — this mode ratcheted up the tension and created a claustrophobic sensation close to panic.

Miles’ task is to covertly search the building for evidence of what has taken place here and throughout the early stages of his journey we were treated to some brilliantly timed jump scares that yielded shouts of terror and colorful expletives. Ah yes, I should mention that Miles is almost entirely incapable of defending himself if assailed. As the player you have but two options: run or hide. It brought us back to 1998 when we first experienced Resident Evil 2 — the first title that made us question playing a video game alone in the dark.

I won’t be surprised if Outlast is soon on the short list of most frightening video game titles ever released, nor should the expert sound design be lost on players or industry insiders. The game is scary and presents an interesting twist on the survival horror genre. I’m definitely looking forward to delving deeper inside Mount Massive Asylum.

Several trailers of the game can be found at the developers website: Red Barrel Games 

American Horror Story, Sleepy Hollow

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2013 by bluefall8

American Horror Story returned last night to FX for its third season. Seasons one and two were highlighted by strong casts, engrossing plots, and salacious imagery. However the hit show has not gone without some criticism — the writing staff has been guilty of spreading the story too thin, which I feel has laid the groundwork for less than stellar conclusions. Still — the gore, stylized composition and editing, and sexual tension will keep the show grossly entertaining. Hell, even the theme song is notable for its unsettling, perverse drone. American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays on FX at 10 pm.

Fox has also jumped into the fray with Sleepy Hollow, a modern twist on Washington Irving’s 1820 classic that told the story of Ichabod Crane and the mysterious Headless Horseman. The series stars Tom Mison as Ichabod and he is excellent in the role as the out-of-time protagonist.  His female counterpart is Nicole Beharie as Lieutenant Abbie Mills who is unwittingly drug into supernatural occurrences by her own sordid past. Underutilized and under appreciated character actor Clancy Brown, of Pet Cemetery II and Carnivale fame, is used in cameo appearances. The show has become a quick hit with my wife and I and that should come as no surprise as it’s produced in part by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; the same tandem who served in a similar fashion on FringeSleepy Hollow airs Mondays on Fox at 9 pm.

Incredulously, I just recently discovered that Amy Lee of Evanescence did a haunting, heart wrenching, and beautiful cover of “Sally’s Song” from A Nightmare Before Christmas. The song is part of Nightmare Revisited, a cover album released on September 30, 2008 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the 1993 animated classic. Most notably it contains a harsh rendition of “This is Halloween” by Marilyn Manson that has just as much spirit as Danny Elfman’s original score. 

TWD Webisodes & Vincent Price Film Festival Offer Taste of Horror to Come

Posted in Pop Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by bluefall8

The team behind AMC’s The Walking Dead has released another series of webisodes to promote the upcoming fourth season. The creators first launched this idea in 2011 as the show was headed into its second season. That year fans were treated to six webisodes that chronicled the outbreak of the zombie plague from the viewpoint of a mother — the infamous bicycle girl as we would later discover. Last year a four part series entitled Cold Storage was released; in that incarnation a lone survivor seeks refuge inside a storage facility only to discover that it’s no safer than the world at large.

This time around fans can enjoy a three part series called The Oath, which details the unlikely road to survival for one couple. It is, in my opinion, the bleakest of the webisodes to date. I’ve stated before that these brief forays into other areas of The Walking Dead timeline should be considered essential viewing. The webisodes are produced with all the blood, guts, and professionalism as the show itself; the webisodes are directed by Walking Dead special effects guru, Greg Nicotero. The apocalyptic thrill ride will return to AMC Sunday, October 13th at 9pm.

The Redford Theater, located at 17360 Lahser Road in Detroit, will hold a Vincent Price Film Festival this weekend. On Friday, October 4th at 8pm there will be a screening of Diary of a Mad Man and The Raven. On Saturday, October 5th at 2pm there will be a viewing of House of Wax and then at 8pm a screening of The Masque of the Red Death and The Tingler. Tickets are $5 per show or $13 for the entire weekend.

I just recently found out about this and likely won’t be able to attend. If any readers of Horrorlust happen to make it to the Redford Theater be sure to leave a comment and let the rest of us know how it was.