Reviews

Halloween: Our favorite horror books

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Halloween: Our favorite horror books

Horror novels are good any time of the year, but the best time for them is right around Halloween. With the weather getting cooler and the nights getting longer, there’s nothing like curling up in a dark room with a cup of hot chocolate and a great horror story and scaring the hell out of yourself.

It’s also interesting how much of horror has a sci-fi or fantasy element to it. The exceptions are true-crime books or novels about gritty, urban violence, and those are great, but Kathryn and Elizabeth really prefer the ones with some kind of otherworldly element. So they’ve whittled down their list of favorites and each picked three books they think you’d like, if you’re looking to sleep with the lights on tonight.

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Review: Afterlife with Archie

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Review: Afterlife with Archie

The elements of the story are all familiar: a tragic accident, a grieving loved one, a forbidden magic spell to bring the dead back to life. What starts out with the best intentions ends with an entire town under attack by a hoard of zombies. The difference here is that this isn’t Stephen King or another Night of the Living Dead clone, it’s Archie and the gang, with Sabrina the Teenage Witch breaking the rules to raise Jughead’s beloved pup Hot Dog from the grave. Afterlife with Archie has been running for a few months now, but a reprint run started on October 22 and I stumbled across the graphic novel for the first time a week before Halloween. How could I not pick this up?

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Review: The Shadow Over Innsmouth

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Review: The Shadow Over Innsmouth

It was the end, for whatever remains to me of life on the surface of this earth, of every vestige of mental peace and confidence in the integrity of nature and of the human mind.

There are quite a few different flavors of horror. Some horror stories focus on one particular monster, or a haunting, or some kind of disaster. I’ve never been much for the hack-and-slash type (although strangely enough that one scene from Cabin in the Woods made me happy), and most psychological thrillers only work for me if there’s a supernatural element as well. By far my favorite type of horror is the one that’s hardest to pull off: it has to be clever and creepy. For the most part you never see the monster, since the one you imagine is scarier than the one you see. There’ll be this looming terror of the unknown, of waiting in the darkness hoping you won’t be found by something that you’ll probably never understand. Characters in these stories don’t know if they’ve gone completely out of their minds and made up everything that happened, or if whatever happened has made them go completely out of their minds. Basically I’ll accept any horror recommendation if you use the magic words: Inspired By Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft is famous for creating the Cthulhu Mythos; the concept of a race of godlike beings who are imprisoned/asleep somewhere in the depths of the sea, or in outer space, or just there, in a dimension separated from ours by a thin wall that’s getting thinner all the time. Just seeing The Elder Gods causes people to go insane, and any worship ceremonies for them are filled with odd phrases that try to capture how unknowable they are. (If you watch any  Doctor Who, the phrases that the Ood chant in the episode The Impossible Planet are pure Lovecraft: “He is the heart that beats in the darkness. He is the blood that will never cease. And now he will rise.”)

But Lovecraft wrote stories about other races too, ones a little younger than the Elder Gods, but a whole lot closer.  Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow over Innsmouth tells the story of an entire town taken over, and rotting from within, by a race that’s close enough to be family. 

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Review: Peacemaker

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Review: Peacemaker

Peacemaker is the latest book in C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner universe. Calling it an epic series doesn’t seem to do it justice: it’s now a full five trilogies long. And Cherryh’s still not done: she’s working on the first book in the sixth Foreigner Sequence.

I don’t exactly have a short attention span, but even I would’ve thought after fifteen books in a series I’d be tired of it. But with every book she gives us a little more of the atevi and their world and their interactions with one human, and it keeps getting better.

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Review: Dracula

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Review: Dracula

Hollywood has released yet another vampire movie, this one named after Bram Stoker’s book from 1897. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the only thing the movie has in common with the source material is a) the main character is a vampire and b) the movie’s title is Dracula. What is a surprise to me is how a book can spawn so many movie adaptations and books and TV shows, while at same time has never been made into a movie that’s completely faithful to the original (the film from 1992 comes closer than any of them, but it still messed with the story in some pretty important ways). Whether you’re a fan of Dracula or Lestat or Damon Salvatore or even Edward Cullen, it’s worth it to read Stoker’s novel to see for yourself the book which had so much of an impact that it’s still inspiring people more than a hundred years later.

Fair warning though, this one was tough to get through in places. Even on the second re-read I found myself getting bogged down by the flowery prose. The characters are all just so earnest; going on and on for a page and a half at a time about how desperately grateful they are to have such stalwart friends to stand by them through these trials, and the whole time I’m wishing they would just shut up and move on. In order to really appreciate what Stoker created here, it’s helpful to keep in mind that this is not a collection of old black-and-white movie cliches and overly-dramatic stereotypes; this is where all the cliches and stereotypes come from. The vampire myth was around before Bram Stoker, but he was the one who defined it for modern audiences. Dracula is what started it all.

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Movie Issues: Dracula Untold

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Movie Issues: Dracula Untold

Vampire films have been a part of cinema since the beginning, and much focus has always been and will be on the famous literary character created by Irish novelist Bram Stoker, Count Dracula. In his new movie, Dracula Untold, first time director Gary Shore and filmmakers have decided, instead of focusing on the story we all know, to take us back to the beginning and see how Dracula becomes the Prince of Darkness.

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Review: Hyrule Warriors

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Review: Hyrule Warriors

Have you ever had a day where you wished you could play a mash-up of games that you particularly enjoy? Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have the game for you! Hyrule Warriors is a mixture of the ever-popular Legend of Zelda series and the beat ‘em up version of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dynasty Warriors. And it plays exactly as you might imagine it, Dynasty Warriors with a Legend of Zelda skin on it.

Considering the repetitive nature of the Warriors series, can a dose of Zelda make this game worth a purchase? Hit the jump to learn more!

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Review: “Dragon Quest” for iOS

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Dragon Quest box

In 1975, Japanese businessman Yasuhiro Fukushima founded a company called Eidansha Boshu Service Center. It published tabloid magazines that advertised real estate. However, after failing to establish its own chain of stores, Fukushima refashioned the company to focus on gaming software and renamed it Enix. This was in 1982. To find talent for his company, Fukushima created a competition called the “Enix Game Hobby Program Contest.” The contest, modeled after manga competitions, was advertised in computer and manga magazines and offered a prize of one million Yen to the winner. The top winner was an editor for the manga magazine Shonen Jump, Yuji Horii, whose tennis game Love Match Tennis became Enix’s first release.

During the development of another game called The Portopia Serial Murder Case, Horii and his colleague Koichi Nakamura came across a RPG called Wizardry at a Macworld Conference & Expo. Horii became a fan of the game. After finishing Portopia, he decided that he wanted to create a similar game to Wizardry, with the goal of bringing the Western RPG to Japan. A second major inspiration was another RPG called Ultima. While Horii and Nakamura enjoyed the dungeon crawling and statistical nature of RPGs, they realized most gamers would not. He wanted a game that didn’t require being a hardcore gamer; specifically, he wanted to a make a game that the player could play without knowledge of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, which had been used for years in Japan as a template for homegrown games. He decided the NES was the ideal platform for the game, so that, unlike arcade games, players wouldn’t have to worry about spending money if they died. He simplified the mechanics so the game could be played with a simple NES controller, with a greater emphasis on storytelling and emotional involvement. Manga artist Akira Toriyama, famed for his series Dragon Ball, produced the game’s artwork and well-known television composer Koichi Sugiyama composed the music. The result was Dragon Quest, released in 1986.

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Review: Let The Right One In

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Review: Let The Right One In

Oskar hurriedly said: “Maybe you already have a guy at your school.”

“No, I don’t…but Oskar, I can’t. I’m not a girl.”

Oskar snorted. “What do you mean? You’re a guy?”

“No, no.”

“Then what are you?”

“Nothing.”

Oskar doesn’t have much going for him: lonely, unsure of himself, incontinent – especially when he’s under stress, which is all the time now that he’s in middle school and being bullied on a daily basis. He collects newspaper clippings about famous murders, fantasizes about killing his tormentors and being able to do something instead of giving up again and again. So he’s oddly pleased when a ritual murder happens in his small town of Blackeburg.  A young boy is strung up and drained of blood, right around the time a beautiful girl his own age moves into the apartment next door. Eli, who’s never seen a Rubik’s cube but solves it after one day. Eli, who looks emaciated and grey-haired one day, healthy the next, who sits outside in the snow-covered playground with no coat and never feels cold. Eli, who only comes out after dark.

I’d seen the movie (the Swedish-language version) based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel years before I read the book. And while I enjoyed the movie very much, I was a little wary about how much the story might have been changed in the transition from book to movie. What I got was something rare: an excellent book, with an adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the original story (in some places the dialog is almost word-for-word), but at the same time there are enough changes to make reading the book and watching the movie two completely different experiences.

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Movie Issues: Annabelle

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Movie Issues: Annabelle

Now that October is here, it’s time for horror films to be unleashed upon the masses just in time for the Halloween holiday. And this year is no exception. From the producers of last year’s hit The Conjuring comes a prequel from one of the more popular characters from that movie. Just like the tagline says, “Before The Conjuring there was Annabelle.” And they were right. This Halloween, go meet Annabelle.

still-of-ward-horton-and-annabelle-wallis-in-annabelle-(2014)-large-picture Read On