Book Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

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If you haven’t read Justin Cronin’s The Passage, which is the first installment of this book series, then you should skip this review and go read it immediately! You’ll thank me later.

This novel continues where The Passage left off and further follows the characters Amy, Peter, and Alicia as they continue in their quest to find and eliminate the Twelve and their viral horde. Sara, Michael, Hollis are also back in the second part of the story and play a more significant role in this installment.

We are also introduced to several new characters both bad and good, who not only play a major part in this story, but some of them will be a major factor in the next novel.  I loved this novel as much, if not more, than the first and I for one cannot wait to read the next chapter in this story. The Twelve is a post-vampire apocolyptic tale that follows a group of survivors as they try to find and destroy the Twelve, who are made up of twelve death row inmates who traded their lives to become part of a Government experiment which tested the effects of a vampiric blood strain found in a small South American jungle. The results of this testing and the ensuing escape of the Twelve brought about the end of humanity as we know it, and any human who is turned by one of the Twelve become instantly linked with the one who turned them. 

This book, for me, is like taking Stephen King’s The Stand, and mixing it with Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain, to create a completely new and captivating story. Once you get into the story you don’t want to put it down. I highly recommend this novel as well as his first novel, The Passage to anyone who loves great fiction. Read and enjoy! 

Wilson King                                                  

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Book Review: The Hand That Feeds by Michael W. Garza

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  I should start by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of the zombie genre unless it is done in a unique and different way from the zombie stories of the past. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! I enjoyed the fact that the story centered around two parents, and the lengths they are willing to go in order to keep their son alive after he falls victim to a mysterious virus. The majority of the story revolves around John (the boy’s father) and his inner struggle between doing what he knows to be completely wrong and against his nature in order to keep his son alive, and trying to keep his wife happy, as well as preventing her from slipping into the poor mental health that affected her in the past, a task he finds increasingly difficult as his moral compass takes a beating, and his wife Angela’s manipulative ways make him constantly go to lengths he’d never thought possible. 

  Things get even more difficult for John as his son’s condition seems to have spread to the townspeople and is rapidly getting worse. I liked this fresh perspective on the genre and I also liked the graphic detail that the author used to tell this story. The only thing I would have liked to have seen done differently is that I would have liked to have had more of the backstory to the novel.  I would have liked to have known how the virus came about, or more importantly how the boy contracted it. Aside from that, I really enjoyed it and would recommend this book to any fans of the zombie genre, of which there are many, or fans of horror fiction in general.

– Reviewed by Wilson King
                                                     

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Carrie (2013)

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Well, it’s been a while! I hope everybody is having a great new year so far.

I got to watch the remake of Carrie last night. It has been many, many years since I last watched the original, and my memories of Stephen King’s novel are faint at best.

In this modern take, Carrie is bullied probably even harder than from what I remember in the original tale. Added on to this is the fact that these horrible things are happening to Carrie in an age of smartphones, social media and youtube.

This film was very well cast. Julianne Moore as Carrie’s crazy mother really stood above and beyond everyone else in this. What a creepy, sad role.

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What I liked best, and I’m sure what many fans of the original didn’t like, was the extra chaos and special effects used in the climax when Carrie (righfully) loses her shit. All the stuff happening on screen had me entertained, and even some of the deaths were decently executed.

Carrie was a likeable character in this, and for a split second, I thought she might have known better and really cared for her. The people you’re supposed to revile and cheer for their demise, were in fact very unlikeable, so good job there on that front.

The biggest disappointment here is the very last shot in the film. I understand not wanting to do exactly the same end – shot of the original, but this was just really unimaginative.

All in all, I wasn’t disappointed.

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Evil Dead – The Musical

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This amazing, over-the-top production is back. I first saw this show several years ago, multiple times in Toronto and I’m not surprised at all that it has returned.

If you are someone reading this in one of the cities it’s playing in – go see it. If you’re an Evil Dead fan with a sense of humour, you will love it. And if you can sit in the “Splatter Zone”, you won’t regret it. Plenty of blood, laughs and fun. Highly recommended.

http://evildeadthemusical.com/toronto/

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Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

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This review is for the Scream Factory Blu-ray/DVD combo. The video and audio is top notch and the menu screen is well made. Unfortunately there isn’t much here in the way of bonus features. You get a commentary track with the director and stunt coordinator. Owning this thing is a real treat and well worth it. More on that later.

I have some fond memories of watching old ninja flicks back in the day, but was too young at the time, and only remember bits and pieces. Ninja III is the one I remembered best of the trilogy.

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The story is about a Ninja who takes out some people on a golf course and assassinates half of a police force, in a dominant, devastating manner.Eventually the entire police force show up and shoot the crap out of this Ninja, but the stubborn bastard still manages to get away; hundreds of bullet wounds and all.

A female telephone line repair worker, Christie, stumbles upon the fatally wounded Ninja, and is persuaded by him to take his sword, leading to her becoming supernaturally possessed. He uses her body to take revenge on all the officers that gunned him down.

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Ninja 3 has a good mix of action/martial arts, and horror elements. This movie fits in very well along with most of Scream Factory’s collection of cult films.

There is so much to like about this film – from the practical, real stunts, to the cheesy storyline filled with plot holes and exploitation elements. Ninja 3 captures perfectly in a lot of ways the essence of what an 80s action or horror flick is all about. Nostalgia heads of that decade will feel an immediate sense of familiarity and comfort with it.

Some of the atrociously, but fun bad parts, such as the (in)famous attempted gang rape outside a gym, and the inexplicable actions of certain characters, don’t take away from the entertaining fight choreography, and unapologetic ripping of elements off horror films like The Exorcist and Poltergeist.

This particular release is a must for any fan despite the lack of any substantial extras. The photo gallery is a nice touch and the commentary track is honest and enlightening,  but I was hoping for more. Most importantly, the video transfer and audio are fantastic and this will be the best version of the film you will be able to watch today.

-JP

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The Vampire Lovers (1970)

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Directed by Roy Ward Baker, The Vampire Lovers is an erotic vampire tale made in the lush, eerie, and beautiful Hammer Studios style. It stars Ingrid Pitt as the evil, predatory seductress, as well as a solid cast with the likes of Peter Cushing.

The story involves Marcilla, a beautiful woman that guests at several wealthy families’ homes, while seducing young women in order to satisfy her lusts, both for sex and blood.

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I was surprised at the level of eroticism a film from Hammer in 1970 could have, and pleased with the level of genuine horror, sex, violence and gore. The opening moment of the film is highlighted by an effective decapitation scene of a young sexy female vampire. Needless to say right from the start the film made its statement loudly about what to expect for the remaining duration of its run time. The ending of the film is also notably brutal in its violent conclusion.

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Everything I enjoy about classic Hammer films is there; from the terrific sets, to the music and rich atmosphere. Scream Factory’s Bluray presentation of this film is absolutely stunning and satisfying. The image and sound is as good as one can expect, and the special features on the disc offer legitimate value for what is already a reasonably priced offering.

The Vampire Lovers is easy for me to recommend, especially this particular version from the always reliable Scream Factory.

-JP

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Goblin with Secret Chiefs 3 at the Opera House in Toronto.

Absolutely terrific concert last night. It was a treat to be able to finally see the legendary Goblin play a live show in Toronto for the first time. They have played in Canada before at the Shock Stock Festival in London, Ontario. Admittedly I’m mostly a fan of their soundtrack work for Italian horror films, and they did not disappoint. My personal favorite from last night was definitely their performance of “Phenomena”. Goblin had the crowd absolutely eating out of their hand, and the band seemed energized by the love and admiration in the air. The Opera House is possibly my favorite concert venue, and I couldn’t imagine a better place for a band like Goblin to play.

One thing that took me completely by surprise was just how good the opening band was. I had read here and there that Secret Chiefs 3 are a band worth checking out but never bothered. Last night they made a new fan, and many more I would imagine based on the crowd’s reaction to them. Their stage presence may seem tacky or hokey to some, but I thought it was great. The band members wear some hooded robe-like costume which might raise a few eye brows, I’m sure. But it all seemed to fit together perfectly in what was an engaging, and enthralling performance.

It was also kind of cool to see a lot of the horror community come out to support Goblin in Toronto. Members of Rue Morgue Magazine and Fangoria’s Chris Alexander were in attendance, among a throng of many other passionate fans.

All in all it was a memorable concert experience. Goblin didn’t disappoint. Not sure I’ll ever get to see them again, but if the opportunity arises I’ll do my best to be there again.

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