Slick Dungeon’s 2021 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, hoping February was an amazing month for you and that March will be even better.

(Note that there are affiliate links in this post. If you purchase anything through these links I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you)

In January I put out three challenges for this year, one for books, one for movies and one that combined books, movies and role playing games. I wanted to take today to see if anyone has done any of the challenges and update everyone on my own progress.

As a reminder, if you complete any of the three challenges and talk about it on your blog, I will review anything in that category that you want me to and post that review on my blog with a link to your blog.

Don’t worry if you haven’t started, each of my challenges is only 12 items long and there is still plenty of the year to go.

In case you want to participate and still need the challenges, just take a look at this post and download yourself a neat little PDF or three.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how did I, Slick Dungeon do on my own challenges in February? Let’s find out.

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

Ack, this one is the one I failed at this month. I did get a book recommended to me and I have started reading it. It’s by one of my favorite authors Isaac Asimov and is called The Gods Themselves. I’m about half way done so there should be a review for it in the next week or two here. In case you want to get it for yourself, check it out below.

The Gods Themselves by Isaac Assimov

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

My challenge this month was to watch three films by the same director. I went with 3 early Alfred Hitchcock films. Challenge completed on this one woohoo! If you want to know what I thought about the movies check out the posts for them below.

  1. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
  2. Rich and Strange
  3. The Secret Agent

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

This month for the Read-Watch-Play challenge, I did one of the watch challenges. I chose to watch (well re-watch) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While I love the book and I enjoy the film well enough, I think there is considerable room for improvement in the film. Check out my review for it here.

Well, that’s two out of three for February. Let’s hope I will be able to complete all the challenges in March. Here’s what I am going to be attempting.

  1. A book recommended by a friend (left over from February)
  2. A book you swore you would never read
  3. A movie that scares you
  4. Play a Dungeons & Dragons one shot adventure

Good luck to the rest of you out there and if you have decided to participate, feel free to let me know how it is going in the comments.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – #MovieReview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey all you dungeon dwellers out there, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another movie for one of my 2021 challenges. This time I watched a movie with a dragon in it for my read-watch-play challenge. If you don’t know what that challenge is or you want to play along you can find all the details here. I decided to go with one of the most famous dragons of all time, Smaug who appears in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

If you have read this blog much at all you will know that it is no secret I enjoy fantasy. My favorite fantasy author of all time is J.R.R. Tolkien. I love the writing and the world he builds. Every time I read something of his I feel immersed in it and I am wrapped up in the story whether it is humorous, adventurous, whimsical or dramatic. To me it’s the kind of work that I would always want to see on film, after I have read the story.

I have to preface my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by saying I don’t hate this movie. My review might sound that way but it’s more accurate to say I hate parts of this movie. There are some wonderful things here that are hard not to like. Matin Freeman makes the perfect Bilbo with just enough attitude to make the character work. In my mind no actor will ever replace Ian McKellen as Gandalf and it brings my heart joy to see him reprise his role for this series. And the look of the film is gorgeous and it’s easy to believe the characters are standing in Middle Earth.

I like the opening although I have mixed feelings about having Frodo appear at all in this but the way that Peter Jackson connects the films is more or less fine.

I love the “Good morning” conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo and it plays out almost exactly like the book. I like the way the dwarves come to Bilbo’s door that plays out almost just like the book. I like the riddle game between Bilbo and Gollum that plays out almost just like the book.

However, there is a lot in this movie to dislike. There are random character threads that were thrown in for no reason, there is a goblin antagonist that just feels tacked on, there are times when the film takes itself far too seriously and no one who made the film seemed to realize that since The Hobbit is 1. a single book and 2. much shorter than the Lord of the Rings books we did not need to stretch this out into three films.

I think I can sum up my main objection to this movie in a single word. Whimsy. If you read the book, it is chock full of whimsy. There’s a bit of adventure in there and a good dose of humor but whimsical is what the book is. That’s something that is nearly impossible to film. It’s hard enough to capture comedy at all but whimsy is elusive anywhere other than in a book. And in a book it’s still pretty hard to find. There simply is not enough whimsy in this film. There are moments of it, like when the dwarves are tossing dishes around in Bilbo’s house, although to be honest, even that feels a bit forced. The best example is Gandalf asking Bilbo, “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?” The exchange establishes that Gandalf does not play by the common set of societal rules. The fact that Bilbo sort of goes along with it shows he has the potential to change but hasn’t done so yet. Then in the book he goes on this magical journey with colorful characters and it’s simply a great time all around. We didn’t need a tragic backstory overemphasized with dramatic music and helicopter shots to convey the feeling of the book. In fact that fights against the feeling of the book.

The film is still watchable, I just have to set aside the fact that it strays from the book so much. I understand that some people think that might be biased because movies can be better than books. In this case, I am not of the opinion the film is superior to the source material. I just don’t understand some of the choices that were made in the filming and it feels kind of like a manipulative money grab for anyone who was a fan of the Lord of the Rings films. I would have much preferred a shorter, more whimsical film that wasn’t trying to pull in an already established audience. I hope that at some point the perfect film adaptation of thee book is made but until then this is the closest we can get. You do have to slog through two more movies to get the whole story but again, it’s the best adaptation available.

If you decide to watch this movie or re-watch it if you have already seen it let me make one small suggestion. After you do so, go read the book and get swept up in the beloved children’s classic that will have a place in my heart forever.

Whimsically yours,

Slick Dungeon

If you loved this review consider making a donation to this Blog.

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Donate

The Secret Agent – #MovieReview

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Hello out there internet people, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the third film from my film challenge for this month. This is the third movie in a row I have watched from director Alfred Hitchcock. If you want to play along with the film challenge you can find it here.

There are going to be a few spoilers below so be forewarned.

Secret Agent is a film from 1936 that stars Madeleine Carrol, Peter Lorre and John Gielgud. It’s about a soldier who has returned home only find out that his obituary is all over the newspapers. The reason? England needs him to spy on and kill a German spy so that the war effort can succeed. He agrees to the task and sets off to complete his mission. He is surprised when he gets to his destination to find out the war office has assigned a female spy to pose as his wife. The soldier, his wife and a Mexican general played by Peter Lorre all have to find the spy and finish him off. The catch? The female spy falls for the soldier for real and doesn’t want him to murder anyone.

The premise sets up a complicated moral dilemma that is interesting to watch play out. Does the soldier save thousands of lives for his country or does he lose the woman he loves? As always, Peter Lorre, is fascinating on screen and makes the film much more enjoyable to watch.

This is one of Hitchock’s earlier works but it’s the kind of film he would go on to make over and over again. It’s great fun and I would recommend watching it if you have not. It’s not the best Hitchcock movie ever made but it is still very good.

If you haven’t seen this one put it on your to watch list, you’ll thank me.

Praisingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS REVIEW CONSIDER RENTING ME A MOVIE. ANY AMOUNT IS APPRECIATED!

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Donate

Rich and Strange – #MovieReview

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Hey everyone, it’s me Slick Dungeon back to review another movie for my film challenge. Don’t know about my film challenge? Get the details here. This month I am watching three films by the same director. Today, I am reviewing Rich and Strange directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is also known as East of Shanghai.

The film is from 1931 so some of the techniques and themes are a bit old fashioned. There is still ample use of text cards despite the fact that this is a film with sound and dialogue. I wouldn’t consider this by any means one of the best of Hitchcock’s films and apparently audiences of the day were not too keen on it either as it was somewhat of a flop.

I would be derelict in my duty if I did not warn you that there will be spoilers ahead but this has been around since 1931 so you have probably had time to watch it since it was released.

The movie centers around a couple named Fred and Emily Hill. The two have been married to one another for the past eight years. Fred is bored with his life and wishes he had more money. Emily is relatively happy but would, of course, like to see more of the world.

Their wishes are granted when they receive a letter from a relative who wants to give Fred an advance on his inheritance so he can enjoy himself now, rather than wait until sometime in the future. Suddenly the couple have some money and they decide they want to go on a cruise to “the Orient”. That’s the film’s term, not mine, just fyi.

As soon as they set out Fred becomes seasick. He is stuck in bed for days on end and Emily makes a friend in a Commander Gordon, who anyone can see would be a better romantic fit for her than her husband. They flirt a bit and get to know one another but don’t go too far with it.

As soon as Fred is up and about again, he falls head over heels for a “princess” who happens to be on board. It’s pretty obvious she is just after some cash but Fred doesn’t see it that way.

The film chugs along with our opposing romantic partners, all the while forgiving Fred for his indiscretions, but essentially punishing Emily for hers despite the fact that a. she actually loves the man she is getting to know and b. she doesn’t take it anywhere near as far as Fred does. If you think I am exaggerating, here is a quote from the movie,”If a woman can’t hold her man, there is no reason why he should take the blame.” This is said to Fred by the “princess” who is just after his money but it’s hard not to get the impression that the whole film believes this.

The princess makes off with Fred’s money and he and Emily become stranded. They have to rent a much cheaper boat to return home. That boat has some sort of off screen accident and Fred and Emily are locked in their cabin to work out their differences.

Another boat passes by after Fred and Emily are able to escape their cabin and they get on that one. They make some really cringy racist remarks towards the people on that boat who happen to be Chinese and then make it home where I assume Emily is stuck to suffer through Fred’s inevitable future affairs and never be allowed to love for herself again.

There are a few sort of funny moments in the film but most of what makes this interesting at all is that it is a Hitchcock film that is not a suspense or thriller film. It’s kind of a film oddity but unless you are a Hitchcock completist or really love romance films from the early era of film making, I would say this is skippable.

For my third Hitchcock film I will be reviewing Secret Agent so be sure to come back to check that out.

Historically yours,

Slick Dungeon

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS REVIEW CONSIDER RENTING ME A MOVIE. ANY AMOUNT IS APPRECIATED!

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Donate

Arcadia Issue #2 From MCDM – Review

Arcadia Banner from MCDM

Hello dungeon creatures and crawlers, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Guess what? The second issue of the super awesome Dungeons & Dragons magazine Arcadia by MCDM is out! I took a look at all the articles and want to give you my hot takes so far. If you don’t know what Arcadia is and you want to learn more about it before reading about issue #2 check out my post here.

Even more exciting is that this magazine seems like it has the green light to go through issue #6 so there is going to be a lot of 5th edition goodness you can get your hands on. Matt Coleville summarizes what is in the issue in the video below. The release schedule does still seem to be tentative so I can’t say when issue #3 will be available but if they stick to the schedule it should be sometime in March.

I also want to reiterate that I have no association with MCDM in any way whatsoever, I just think that their products are top notch and worth every penny if you love playing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. That being said, if you want to pick up the first or second issue of Arcadia you can do it here. If you buy them both you can get them discounted as a bundle.

Arcadia #2 Announcement

Alright, enough about me telling you how to buy the awesome stuff, let me review the awesome stuff. Once again, there will be some spoilers as to what is in the issue but I won’t give too much away. To get the full story you definitely need to buy the magazine. Also like last time I will give each article a grade.

The artwork

I can’t review this magazine without mentioning the artwork. For the second time in a row, the artists have blown me away with their handiwork. The creatures depicted are cool and weird and all of the artwork is evocative and interesting. As if that were not enough, the adventure that is included in the magazine has useable maps for Dungeon Masters to use in their game. This month I am giving the artwork an A+ again.

Article #1 Subclasses of the Season

Have you ever wanted to play a character who had a subclass based on a season? Well, now you can. There are four subclasses for four different spellcasting classes. There is a winter themed subclass for wizards, a spring themed subclass for bards, a summer themed subclass for sorcerers and an autumn themed subclass for warlocks.

You’ll have to excuse me a little bit on judging these because I tend to be the DM more than the player and I tend to play a barbarian or druid so I can’t say with certainty how awesome these would be for players.

I found the winter subclass to be the least interesting because it seems to mostly rely on using rest time or downtime for the bonuses to work. That’s going to be somewhat dependent on how your Dungeon Master deals with short and long rests. It’s still a really cool idea, it just excited me the least of the four.

On the other hand, the autumn subclass for warlocks seemed amazing to me. I have never really wanted to be a warlock but I might reconsider that with this.

Now, because there are four different subclasses for four different spell casting classes this could be a little hit and miss. Some people are going to love one subclass more than another and if you love the subclass but you really don’t want to play a bard, that makes it a little difficult to give this an A.

Still, the variety here is fun and I am sure a lot of people are going to find something they do love here so I give this article a B+.

Article #2 – The Periodic Table of Elementals

Let me start objectively and without bias here. I freaking love this! As a dungeon master, I have had the experience of running a campaign with lots of elementals in it and they tend to get repetitive. While you can come up with creative ways to use them, at a certain point, the players know what’s coming and tend to be able to strategize well enough that elementals, which should be challenging, are a bit of a walk in the park. Not anymore.

Author Mackenzie De Armas has come up with what are called Nova elementals. These are elementals based on things other than just fire, earth, air and water. Things like lithium and potassium combine to make an elemental called a Comburo, precious metals like gold and copper make up what is called a Conducere elemental, and there are two others that I will just let you buy the magazine to know more about.

As cool as those are on their own, and they are cool, that’s not even my favorite part of this article! This article has alternate rules that allow the elementals to work together, powering one another in varying ways, that is just amazing. If your players have confronted elementals over and over again, they are not going to see this coming at all. I think it will make for a more interesting scenario for both the dungeon master and the players if you use this.

The price tag for this magazine is worth this article alone so I give this one an A+.

Article #2 – The Well of the Lost Gods

The Well of the Lost Gods is an adventure scenario for 4-5 players at 8th level. Much like the adventure scenario in the first issue of Arcadia this scenario is a combination of magic and a bit of technology. I think it would be best suited for a setting like Ravnica or maybe Eberron but since there is a dimensional portal in it, you could literally drop this anywhere in your game. It’s got two full maps with an interesting set up and both would make for a good dungeon crawl. There is also a bit of a hook to get started although, depending on your campaign, you might need to make adjustments so it doesn’t seem too forced for the characters to investigate.

The scenario includes two NPC’s you can play and has six new monster stat blocks. While I wish there were illustrations for all the new monsters, you can only pack so much amazing art into one issue. They do have one illustration for a CR 10 monster that is sure to leave players gasping when the Dungeon Master reveals it.

The adventure itself is more complex than the one in the last issue but since both have to do with technology and magic, I could easily see the two being tied together to make more of a campaign. I will say that the adventure seems potentially deadly but then again, what’s the fun in having no chance of death in Dungeons & Dragons? Do take caution before you use it n your game though to make sure your players could be a match for it.

For this article I am giving it an A. I would have bumped it to an A+ if there were more images to go with the stat blocks but it’s easily worth a read and I definitely want to build a campaign around this.

Overall

Once again this issue has impressed me. The quality did not degrade from the last issue in any way. And while I can’t say that this issue is better than the first, that’s because the first issue was so incredibly good. To have matched the quality is quite the feat here and if this continues, this is going on my must purchase list, with the hope that someday MCDM would put out a full hardcover anthology book that I would gladly pass my money over for.

For now at $7 an issue, it’s a steal. And if you bundle the two for $12 that’s an even better deal. If you love D&D, I am here to tell you, you gotta get this, it’s great.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog – #MovieReview

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey out there all you people hidden by the fog, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I have a film challenge for the year going and this month I am trying to watch and review three films by the same director. After debating about what director I should watch, I realized there is only one absolute master director and his name was Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve seen all of his most famous films but I must admit I haven’t seen a lot of his very early work. Well, his early work that survived anyway. The man was prolific. The first one I could get my hands on was The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog. It’s also just known as The Lodger depending on what continent you live on but either way it is a Hitchcock film and you can see his fingerprints all over it.

I’m not sure if this is needed considering the film is from the 1920’s but there will be some mild spoilers ahead. If you can’t stand someone talking about the most basic plot elements of a silent film that is nearly a hundred years old turn back now. You can always read this after you catch up on pre-depression era films.

The Lodger is a silent film from 1927 directed by the master of suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. In the streets of London in the late night fog every Tuesday a murderer has struck. The killer has gone on a streak of murders, specifically targeting young women with blonde, curly hair. The film centers on a small inn where there are rooms to let. The family has a daughter named Daisy who happens to have blonde, curly hair. They also have a good friend who is a policeman interested in Daisy in a romantic sense. Joe, the police man, is determined to catch the killer and then sweep Daisy off her feet.

Everything is fine until a mysterious stranger shows up to rent the room. He’s got more cash than most, seems a bit odd about the pictures in the room he is renting and locks a bag up in a dresser. The remainder of the film is a guessing game. Is the lodger the killer who is doing suspicious things to hide his guilt or is he an innocent man who just looks guilty? To get the answer you’ll have to watch the film.

One thing I will say is that even in a silent, black and white film, Hitchcock knows exactly how to build suspense. He’s probably one of the few early directors who can make a game of chess look utterly menacing. He knows how long to hold the camera on a subject’s face so that we think we know but aren’t quite sure what they are thinking.

In the era this was made I would think this would be considered masterful filmmaking. For modern audiences it is going to be easier to catch on to what is happening but that doesn’t make this any less important to film history.

If you are a fan of suspense, or Hitchcock himself, and don’t mind silent films this is worth watching. It does run a bit on the long side for these types of films and it still has the sort of strange shots where people are talking but we have no idea what is said that was common in silent film. There are plenty of text cards to tell us what is being said, more or less. You’ll be able to glean the plot just fine assuming you are able to sit through a silent film.

If you want to watch The Lodger it’s streaming on HBO Max at the moment.

The next one I will be watching for my challenge is Rich and Strange from 1931. It’s billed as a romance so that should be interesting.

If you want to participate in my film challenge you can get all the details in this post.

Silently yours,

Slick Dungeon

If you Enjoyed this review consider renting me a movie. Any amount is appreciated!

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is majorly appreciated. Like, seriously, I mean it.

Donate

Saw II – #MovieReview

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Hey everyone, it’s me Slick Dungeon back to review another film in the Saw franchise. The sequel is back with some surprises and plenty of gore once again.

That’s right, the world’s most deadly escape room host, Jigsaw, is back and he wants to play a game. If you find yourself waking up in one of his cleverly engineered scenarios, it’s a good bet you are in trouble and you darn well better play by the rules if you want to win. And survive.

The huge reveal and surprise at the end of the first film is nearly impossible to beat. I didn’t expect a surprise as large as that one in the sequel and I saw one of the twists coming from a mile away. But, the movie still contained enough surprises and interesting death traps to be worth a watch. And there was at least one twist I simply did not see coming although in retrospect, it probably should have been obvious. I think the original is superior in most aspects although, I thought that the performance of Donnie Wahlberg was really solid in this. I liked how the series expanded out a bit too, having a full police force trying to catch the guy before more innocent people die.

The majority of the film has Jigsaw face to face with a police officer who is trying to save his son. I don’t want to give away much more than that because these films are all about the plot twists and I would hate to ruin that for anyone. It did make me wonder for most of the film how in the world the killer might escape to continue the series and by the end the film delivers a satisfying answer to it.

Some of the film felt a bit formulaic already because we had seen it the first time around. There were layers to it though and we get a little more background on who Jigsaw is and what he is all about.

It’s also still full of gorey and bloody imagery and there is one scene that I think will stay in my head for months. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you say the words syringe pit to me, I am going to shudder with horror.

While I am giving this film the same star rating as I did Saw if I had to choose one over the other, I prefer the original. I think both films are clever and if you are a horror fan, I do think this is a series you should explore. They both surprise and horrify enough to keep the viewer’s interest if you have a strong stomach. The original just feels a touch more… original. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take it from here but I have my doubts they will be able to outdo the original. However, they sure have surprised me more than once in this series so who knows?

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS REVIEW CONSIDER MAKING A ONE TIME DONATION SO I CAN RENT THE SEQUEL

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Donate

REM- #BookReview

REM by J.D. Valentine

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Former LAPD officer and recovering alcoholic, Danny Etter, has been working hard to redeem himself. His marriage is barely hanging on by a string, and he knows if he slips up again, it could mean saying goodbye to his wife and the kids.

When Maria and the kids take off to Lake Tahoe for a vacation, Danny expects life to be pretty uneventful as he stays back in Orange County to work. As Danny continues therapy and AA meetings, he is on the road to redemption. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth as a pandemic begins to unhinge the world around him. Danny is left fighting for his life to get back to his family.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Danny Etter wants to be a good man, husband, and father. He is having trouble in his marriage and his wife has taken their kids away for a vacation. Danny is a recovering alcoholic and realizes he is one mistake away from losing everything he cares most about. He figures that he can work on his situation while his family is away and can become the man that they need him to be. Unfortunately for Danny, the world is descending into chaos all around him. There is a sickness that is spreading which causes people to become violent and do unspeakable things that are far out of their typical character. As an ex-police officer, Danny sees the signs of trouble early on. Now it is going to take all his skill, resources, and teamwork with his friends to make it out of Orange County and to Lake Tahoe where his family went. He can only hope that he can make it there in one piece and that his family will stay safe until he gets there.

REM isfull of action and the creatures in the story are an interesting take on vicious zombie-like creatures. The reader cheers for Danny to find his family and for him to overcome his addictions. While not a completely original take on a post-apocalyptic story, there are moments that surprise. There are also times at which the story feels somewhat repetitive but overall holds interest, especially for fans of horror who don’t mind a bit of blood and gore.

Fans of stories like The Stand, The Walking Dead, or Cell will most likely enjoy the book. While REM is a single, contained story, the author does have plans to expand it into a series and it will be interesting to see where it goes after the first volume. If you are looking for a book about the end of the world and can handle some pretty strong violence and blood, REM is worth a read.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS REVIEW CONSIDER BUYING ME A KINDLE BOOK BY MAKING A ONE TIME DONATION

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is appreciated.

Donate

Slick Dungeons 10 Golden Rules of Dungeon Mastering for Kids

Howdy folks! Slick Dungeon here and I play a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. I have had conversations that have lasted for hours just on the topic. One thing I don’t see a lot of are guides or suggestions for how to play this game with kids. I’ve run into parents who have children who want to play but the parents are too intimidated to give it a try. To help solve that problem, I came up with a few rules and I want to give those rules to you for… absolutely free!

If this sounds like something you might be interested in just download the free 18 page PDF below. If you like it, consider signing up for my mailing list. If you hate my tips, you can always unsubscribe. You don’t have to sign up to the mailing list to get the PDF but if you do, it will put a swing in my step and a shine on my top hat!

Happy gaming everyone!

Here’s the PDF:

Get the 10 Golden Rules by clicking the image above

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Saw – #MovieReview

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Hey out there all you dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the start of a horror franchise that I never watched before. This time I am reviewing Saw.

Saw is one of those horror movies that is legendary for being talked about as being highly disturbing. It’s got a bunch of sequels and has made a boat load of money so it clearly caught on with a particular audience. It’s also known for having a ton of gore in it and creative death traps that ensnare victims who have to make terrible choices in order to survive.

This is one of those series that I meant to get around to as a horror fan but just haven’t found the time. I watched the first installment and there is plenty to like but there are also some flaws here. I am going to give mild spoilers for the movie so be forewarned.

The movie starts with a pair of men in a grungy bathroom chained to pipes on the wall. They’re obviously in a dire situation and their lives are threatened. The film develops mostly through these two characters talking to each other about who they are and how they think they go there. They also try to work together on occasion to try to escape. The whole time this is going on, they find little clues that might give them an idea of who kidnapped them but it’s vague enough to keep them off balance. And the audience is welcome to speculate the whole time on who might really be behind the action, including the men chained in the room.

The whole movie plays out like an escape room scenario where if the characters can “win” the game, they may get to live. It’s a pretty sick and twisted idea and it works well as far as horror goes.

I think the thing that surprised me the most, however, was the casting. I had no idea that Cary Elwes, Danny Glover and Michael Emerson were in this. I thought it was so low budget that it didn’t have any star power at all.

Everyone here puts in a decent enough performance but there are some plot holes. The one that really gets me is that one of the characters starts underwater in a bathtub. It’s a cool and horrifying start to the film but on a practical level, how did the kidnapper know that character wouldn’t just drown and then there would be no movie?

There are a few other plot holes that I spotted but I don’t want to go into them because I will say that the end surprised me. I did not expect it and although it was surprising, I’m not sure that it made for a better movie. I respect what the filmmakers were going for but there are some logic problems with it.

While the premise is inventive, and there is plenty of gore in it, I feel like some of this could be executed (pun intended) better as far as filmmaking goes. I liked it enough that I will continue watching the series because I am curious what they come up with for the franchise but this series is not going to replace any of my top five horror franchises unless they really step up the game in the sequels.

One thing I will commend the filmmaker with though–that puppet is really creepy and they used it well!

If you have watched this, what did you think? Was it clever or contrived? Let me know in the comments.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

If you enjoyed this review consider making a one time donation so I can rent the sequel

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Donate

Through a Forest of Stars – #BookReview

Through a Forest of Stars by David C. Jeffrey

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Year 2217. Earth’s biosphere is dying, Mars’s terraforming projects are in ruin, resource wars are brewing, and even the voidoids—eerie portals into nearby star systems—have failed to yield new Earth-like worlds. But that’s about to change with the miraculous discovery in the Chara system. United Earth Domain and the Allied Republics of Mars, rival powers within Bound Space, each want it for themselves, and a cataclysmic war is about to erupt.

Aiden Macallan, Terra Corp’s planetary geologist aboard the survey ship Argo, a man with a troubled past, finds himself pulled into the center of the conflict and into the heart of a profound mystery where the key to humanity’s future lies hidden. To find it, he must trek alone across a living landscape, guided only by a recurring dream that grows more real—and more deeply personal—with each step. It’s the only way to save an extraordinary world from certain destruction and to give the human race its last chance for survival.

REVIEW

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

It’s the year 2217 and humanity is almost out of chances. Earth is dying and while there are colonies on other planets, humans have yet to find a planet as habitable as their own home. However, the discovery of what may be a suitable, Earth-like planet may change everything. As governments, scientists, and private companies all vying for the first stakes in the planet collide, Aidan Macallan finds himself wrapped up in the center of things, perhaps the only person in a position to understand the new planet and with the ability to avoid a war that would lead to the utter destruction of all of humankind.

Reminiscent of the likes of Arthur C. Clarke, Through a Forest of Stars, takes the reader on a journey into the future based on sound scientific principles. There are several competing interests who all want to be the first to understand, and in some cases possess, the resources on a newly discovered planet. What this planet is and just how similar to Earth it is, remains in question. Aidan works on a survey team and is used to the isolation of space but this new planet is something else entirely. When he becomes the first human with the chance to experience and understand it, he is going to need all the help he can get. Unfortunately, he is cut off from most contact, other than with the Artificial Intelligence that helps him to run his ship.

The book is fascinating and holds the reader’s interest, although there are times when the science can be a bit overwhelming. If you are a fan of hard science fiction though, this will not bother you. The cosmic politics involved in the competing interests for the planet are well developed and complex and add urgency to the story. The fantastical is here as well, as Aidan is guided by recurring dreams and nightmares that seem to be urging him to act before it is too late.

If you love space fiction, especially with a good dose of science in it, this book is well worth reading. If you love Arthur C. Clarke or To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers, you should add Through a Forest of Stars to your read list.

If you Enjoyed this Review consider Buying me a Kindle Book by making a one time Donation

Choose an amount

$1.00
$3.00
$5.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

Donate

Kids Kill Monsters – How to Prepare to play Dungeons & Dragons with Kids Part 14

D&D Campaign Adventures for Storm King's Thunder - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Hi Everyone! It’s your friendly Dungeon Master, Slick Dungeon here. Today I want to talk more about how to role play with kids. In my last posts I talked about whether you should play D&D with kidswhy playing D&D was healthy for kids, I showed you who does what at the table, gave you a tour of the dice and told you to read through the simple ruleswent through the Introduction of the simple rules with youwalked you through the first section of the simple rules and talked about choosing a race and role playing a dwarfrole playing an elfrole playing a halflingrole playing a humanrole playing a dragon bornrole playing a gnomerole playing a half-elfrole playing a half-orcrole playing a Tiefling. and talked about Class. Today we are going to talk about playing as a Barbarian.

Oil your muscles up, do a few stretches and get ready to let the fury of your rage loose upon the world. You are a barbarian. You might not have those fancy spells that go flying around the battlefield all the time but that’s fine, you don’t need them. You just need a handy melee weapon, the strength of your rage and something to hit!

I love playing a barbarian and there are tons of examples from literature and popular entertainment you can base this character upon. Barbarians also get some pretty neat class skills which can be quite fun to play.

When I think of barbarians one that I think most kids could understand and relate to would the The Incredible Hulk. While a Dungeons & Dragons character is not likely to go from academic scientist to raging gamma monster (although that would be possible in certain settings) the way that Hulk rages is very much like what a barbarian does. When Hulk gets angry, he hits harder than anyone else. Yet, even in his state of rage, he is usually aware enough to protect his friends and only go after bad guys. Sure, he does a lot of structural damage but he isn’t known to be a killer (at least not in my favorite interpretations of him).

His anger is often misunderstood and it can be a frightening sight to see even for his friends but ultimately, they are glad he is on their side. Also, when Hulk is angry its harder to hurt him. The blows glance off him for the most part unless you happen to be a god of thunder.

However, this rage can only last so long and after a while Hulk will wear himself out, especially if he runs out of stuff to hit.

Another model of barbarianism I think of is Conan the Barbarian because, well, it’s in the name. If you read some Conan stories though, it’s pretty obvious he may not be the best role model for children. There are some good qualities a kid playing a barbarian can adapt from Conan though. He never gives up on a fight and he will not abandon his friends no matter what the odds are. He’s a bit self centered and will take as much treasure as he can get his hands on but he’s not so greedy that he won’t share fairly in the spoils. And Conan, unlike the Hulk, is able to keep his head (literally and figuratively) not only in a fight but usually in a social situation. He respects magic while not using it and really only cares what someone else believes when it becomes a problem for him or anyone innocent around him.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the female version of Conan, Red Sonja. She’s a little less hot tempered than Conan and she had a very rough childhood where she had to learn to fend for herself, a child whose teacher was nature itself. She learned her lessons well and is one of the few people who can easily keep up with Conan. I actually think she might be a better role model for kids than Conan but she still went through some things that you might want to wait until your kids are older to explain. She has boundless courage and is always ready to lend a helping hand to those in need. She is somehow stealthy despite her shock of red hair that you would think could be seen by just about anyone. Her choice of battle gear is a bit… exposed, let’s say. It does leave her flexible though and as a barbarian you don’t want to be clunking around although, it would be wise to get yourself a shield from your closest merchant.

Barbarians tend to live for danger and are willing to take risks for themselves, especially if their actions might protect those they care about. There are all kinds of barbarians though and they often come in surprising packages. Being a barbarian isn’t about how big you are but about how bold you are. Halflings and dwarves make barbarians just as well as elves and goliaths do.

It can also be fun to play a barbarian a little against type. There’s no reason a barbarian can’t be smart or kind or even reluctant to get into battle. the one thing that should be consistent with barbarians is that once they are in battle, they revel in it, almost to the point where they are blind with rage but very effective up close.

So, now that I have given you some barbarian examples, how does one make a barbarian? Let’s take a look at what the basic rules have to tell us shall we?

Creating a Barbarian

When you first play Dungeons & Dragons with kids and the basic rules tell you what to use for a quick build I would say it’s probably best to start there. It’s the least amount of poring over and trying to figure out stats you can do and since this part was written by the game designers you tend to get a fairly balanced class out of it. The one place you might change is in the suggested backgrounds. I feel like the backgrounds are more a role playing choice than a mechanic (although they have that too) and thus should be left up to the kid playing. Also, for those who don’t know, when I talk about “mechanics” I just mean how the rules operate, usually with some number crunching involved.

What do the basic rules suggest we do with our barbarian?

For this class the rules recommend putting your highest ability score in Strength, followed by Constitution. This makes sense because as a barbarian your weapon attacks are going to use strength, your rage gives you some bonuses to your strength. You also want high constitution because this is how healthy you are and since you are likely to get bashed around plenty, you want to have enough hit points that you aren’t getting knocked out ever other round in combat.

Second they recommend the Outlander background. In a later series of posts I will go more into each background but I will say that Outlander can be a great choice for a barbarian but it is not the only choice. I have played a barbarian with the folklore background and that worked out very well for me. I also think that if you made a few adjustments a barbarian could be a noble. Sure, she might not come from a fancy castle and want to pay for the most luxurious accommodations every night but there’s no reason they can’t be the leader of their tribe or a proud noble of a people who shun the niceties of civilization.

There are different features you get for being a barbarian and while you are unlikely to get to the top ranks of levels with a group of kids, I’ll give you a rundown of these things anyway.

Class Features

Hit dice: Barbarians get to use a d12 when figuring out their hit points and hit dice which is pretty great since a lot of other classes use smaller dice meaning barbarians are sturdier. For your hit dice you get 1d12 per barbarian level.

Hit points: At first level it’s 1d12 + your constitution modifier. (This is where having con as one of your higher stats really helps) For every level after that you get 1d12 (or 7 if you are using averages) + your Constitution modifier per barbarian level after 1st.

Just a quick note here because I know this was confusing to me when I learned to play. What is the difference between hit dice and hit points? Hit dice you get to roll when you take a short rest. These will be however many d12s you roll per level. You get to add the number you roll to your hit points if you have taken any damage. Your hit points are how many points of health you have. The easiest analogy is probably a health bar in a video game. If that number gets down to zero or below, you are likely in trouble. When you roll your hit dice you get to refill that bar. And just like in a video game, you can’t exceed the maximum of your health even if you roll higher than that number.

Proficiencies: These are basically things you are good at. A barbarian has several proficiencies to begin with.

Armor: Barbarians are good with Light armor, medium armor, and shields. While I highly recommend you pick up a shield, you may not want to wear armor because if you do, you won’t be able to use Unarmored Defense which I will talk about more below.

Weapons: Barbarians are good with simple weapons and martial weapons. Spears, daggers, axes these are a few of the types of weapons barbarians are good with. They’re not great with a bow or anything that takes great practice and skill to perfect but that’s fine because a barbarian is going to want to get up close and be right in the middle of melee as much as possible.

Tools: None. Alright, barbarians just don’t have the patience for tools. That’s what rogues are for.

Saving Throws: Strength, Constitution. Saving throws are when you might befall an attack or damage of some kind. If the check for that attack or damage calls for strength or constitution you are going to be glad you are a barbarian

Skills: Choose two from Animal Handling, Athletics, Intimidation, Nature, Perception, and Survival. We’ll talk more about skills more in future posts but for now, these do basically what they sound like although I will point out Survival doesn’t mean just how long yo live. It’s more like, how long can you live in nature on your own instincts.

Equipment

You start with the following equipment, in addition to the equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a greataxe or (b) any martial melee weapon
  • (a) two handaxes or (b) any simple weapon
  • An explorer’s pack and four javelins

These are all good weapons for a barbarian and it’s basically down to your preference of how you want to hit stuff.

Features

Alright, now for the fun stuff! On top of all the things listed above, barbarians get several features. Like I said before, kids are not likely to go all the way to level 20 but I will talk about all of these anyway. The descriptions with the bullets and stuff are taken right from the basic rules but I will give you my spin on each one. The first few are the ones to focus on at the beginning.

Rage

This is the key to being a barbarian. Whenever you get into combat you are going to want to Rage. It gives you bonuses that make you much tougher but there are some drawbacks to it so make sure you know how it works.

So what is it exactly?

On your turn, you can enter a rage as a bonus action.

While raging, you gain the following benefits if you aren’t wearing heavy armor:

  • You have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When you make a melee weapon attack using Strength, you gain a bonus to the damage roll that increases as you gain levels as a barbarian, as shown in the Rage Damage column of the Barbarian table.
  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

To sum this up, you are stronger when raging and as you level up you get to do even more damage per level. On top of that if an enemy is hitting you with any weapon that does bludgeoning, piercing or slashing damage, you get to reduce the amount of damage you would take.

There are some limits though. They are listed below.

If you are able to cast spells, you can’t cast them or concentrate on them while raging.

Your rage lasts for 1 minute. It ends early if you are knocked unconscious or if your turn ends and you haven’t attacked a hostile creature since your last turn or taken damage since then. You can also end your rage on your turn as a bonus action.

Once you have raged the number of times shown for your barbarian level in the Rages column of the Barbarian table, you must finish a long rest before you can rage again.

Those are the limits, let’s talk a little bit more about them.

Some barbarians do a little bit of magic so if you have an awesome spell, make sure you cast it before you rage. If it’s a concentration spell wait until the effect ends before you rage. It’s all about timing.

You can also lose your rage in a number of ways. First of all it only lasts for one full minute. Now, that’s actually quite a few rounds in most combat situations but if it’s a really long battle you’re going to want to make sure you go into the rage at the most opportune time.

Also, if you get knocked unconscious your rage is gone, so try not to get clobbered to the point where you have zero hit points.

On the other hand, you also lose your rage if you don’t either tried to hit an enemy or gotten hit by an enemy so if you are raging, be sure you are in the thick of the fight.

You can also choose to just stop raging, unlike the Hulk, so if you rage and then realize you should cast a spell you can drop that rage.

The final limitation is that you can only rage twice per day so if you are pretty sure you are going to be in ten combats, save your rage for the hardest two. You get your rages back after a long rest.

Unarmored Defense

While you are not wearing any armor, your Armor Class equals 10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Constitution modifier. You can use a shield and still gain this benefit.

Ok, here’s the deal with unarmored defense. You don’t want to wear armor. Why? Because adding all those numbers above is probably going to be more defensive for you than wearing armor in the first place. Plus, if you have a shield you get a +2 to your AC while you use it so you can boost that number even higher. Also, you and your Monk buddy (we’ll talk about Monks in a later post) are going to be the quickest to get out of the inn to see what all the ruckus is in the middle of the night. Why? It takes 10 minutes to put all that armor on but you don’t have to. Your armor is your flesh.

Reckless Attack

Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.

This is an awesome feature but I will give you caution that using it on an adult dragon might be unwise. Basically at the start of your attack you can do so recklessly which means you get to roll two d20s and take the higher number for your attack roll. The drawback? That same creature has advantage against you on its next attack. If it’s a squishy little goblin with no armor that’s probably fine but if it’s something bigger than you just remember it gets to hit back.

Danger Sense

At 2nd level, you gain an uncanny sense of when things nearby aren’t as they should be, giving you an edge when you dodge away from danger.

You have advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects that you can see, such as traps and spells. To gain this benefit, you can’t be blinded , deafened , or incapacitated.

For this one you get a bit more of a chance of escaping damage caused by your environment or your enemies, so long as you can see it. It doesn’t work if you have the blinded , deafened , or incapacitated conditions going against you. We’ll talk more about conditions in a later post but they do basically what they sound like.

Primal Path

At 3rd level, you choose a path that shapes the nature of your rage. Choose the Path of the Berserker or the Path of the Totem Warrior, both detailed at the end of the class description. Your choice grants you features at 3rd level and again at 6th, 10th, and 14th levels.

Look, this one sounds confusing but basically you get to pick one of two cool ways to manifest your rage. Since they both get entries in the end of the barbarian section I will go into more detail about both the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem Warrior later in this post.

Ability Score Improvement

When you reach 4th level, and again at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level, you can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or you can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Meh. You get to increase some numbers on your stats here which is cool and all but not that nifty as far as role playing goes. We’ll go way more in depth on Ability Scores in a later post.

Extra Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you can attack twice, instead of once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.

Yeah! You get to hit stuff more. Hitting more stuff is good for a barbarian!

Fast Movement

Starting at 5th level, your speed increases by 10 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor.

We’ve been over this, barbarians don’t want to wear armor and this is another reason. You can move faster. Faster is good because then you get to hit stuff sooner!

Feral Instinct

By 7th level, your instincts are so honed that you have advantage on initiative rolls.

Additionally, if you are surprised at the beginning of combat and aren’t incapacitated, you can act normally on your first turn, but only if you enter your rage before doing anything else on that turn.

If you are sort of new to D&D this just sounds confusing. This is mostly wrapped up in some mechanics. Basically the idea is that you notice when things are about to get hairy before others do so you are more likely to get into combat first. And if you are new to D&D the whole surprised thing can be tough to figure out. It’s a sort of weirdly complicated mechanic of figuring out who goes first in combat. I’ll do a post later that talks about this so for now, don’t worry too much about it. Having the Feral Instinct is very helpful, just know that much.

Brutal Critical

Beginning at 9th level, you can roll one additional weapon damage die when determining the extra damage for a critical hit with a melee attack.

This increases to two additional dice at 13th level and three additional dice at 17th level.

I know this one sounds kind of jargony but it boils down to this. You get to roll more damage dice when you roll a 20 on your attack roll. In other words, you hit really hard.

Relentless Rage

Starting at 11th level, your rage can keep you fighting despite grievous wounds. If you drop to 0 hit points while you’re raging and don’t die outright, you can make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw. If you succeed, you drop to 1 hit point instead.

Each time you use this feature after the first, the DC increases by 5. When you finish a short or long rest, the DC resets to 10.

This one is fun because just when it looks like you are down and out, you get back up again. That bugbear that thought it just struck a killing blow against you? Guess what? It’s your turn now!

Persistent Rage

Beginning at 15th level, your rage is so fierce that it ends early only if you fall unconscious or if you choose to end it.

Yes! You can be in a near perpetual state of rage unless you decide to calm down or you get knocked out.

Indomitable Might

Beginning at 18th level, if your total for a Strength check is less than your Strength score, you can use that score in place of the total.

By this time you are probably pretty strong so getting to use your strength score is usually going to be way better than a low roll on a d20.

Primal Champion

At 20th level, you embody the power of the wilds. Your Strength and Constitution scores increase by 4. Your maximum for those scores is now 24.

Again, this doesn’t seem that neat from a role playing perspective but it does make you stronger and sturdier. I can’t say I have played a level 20 barbarian (yet) so I am not sure how helpful this is but most of the score caps are 20 so an extra four ain’t bad.

Primal Paths

So what exactly are Primal Paths and how do they work? This is the part of the class that lets you add a little style to your barbarian. There are two paths you can choose from in the basic rules, the Path of the Berserker and the Path of the Totem.

For some reason the basic rules on D&D Beyond don’t actually give the details for the Path of the Totem but I have you covered.

Here is how the basic rules describes Primal Paths:

Rage burns in every barbarian’s heart, a furnace that drives him or her toward greatness. Different barbarians attribute their rage to different sources, however. For some, it is an internal reservoir where pain, grief, and anger are forged into a fury hard as steel. Others see it as a spiritual blessing, a gift of a totem animal.

Pretty cool right? Let’s take a look at each option.

Path of the Berserker

If your kid wants to basically be the Hulk when she plays, have her take the Path of the Berserker. You get some cool features to use and you get to be the scariest thing in the room.

Here is what you get.

Frenzy

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can go into a frenzy when you rage. If you do so, for the duration of your rage you can make a single melee weapon attack as a bonus action on each of your turns after this one. When your rage ends, you suffer one level of exhaustion.

Basically you get to hit more frequently in battle but there is a cost. Once you are done, you really need to take a rest otherwise you suffer a level of exhaustion. exhaustion is a condition and again. we will talk about those in a later post but suffice to say it can lead to death eventually if you are not careful.

Mindless Rage

Beginning at 6th level, you can’t be charmed or frightened while raging. If you are charmed or frightened when you enter your rage, the effect is suspended for the duration of the rage.

None of that mind control spell funny business for you. You are way too focused on your rage to listen to anyone else. When the rage ends that wizard can get back to charming you… if he hasn’t fallen to your greataxe by then.

Intimidating Presence

Beginning at 10th level, you can use your action to frighten someone with your menacing presence. When you do so, choose one creature that you can see within 30 feet of you. If the creature can see or hear you, it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier) or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn. On subsequent turns, you can use your action to extend the duration of this effect on the frightened creature until the end of your next turn. This effect ends if the creature ends its turn out of line of sight or more than 60 feet away from you.

If the creature succeeds on its saving throw, you can’t use this feature on that creature again for 24 hours.

The Hulk is big and scary and he makes people afraid. Barbarians get to use that to their advantage. The caveat is that the creature has to be close enough and if they succeed on their saving throw, they don’t think you’re such a big deal anymore. Be sure to have a weapon ready to remind them that they are wrong about that.

Retaliation

Starting at 14th level, when you take damage from a creature that is within 5 feet of you, you can use your reaction to make a melee weapon attack against that creature.

If you hit me I hit you back is pretty much what this is. It’s pretty effective for barbarians.

Path of the Totem Warrior

The Totem Warrior is very in tune with nature and all the animals and spirits of animals around them. This is a much more mystical take on the barbarian and it can be a lot of fun to play.

The Player’s Handbook describes it like this:

The Path of the Totem Warrior is a spiritual journey, as the barbarian accepts a spirit animal as guide, protector, and inspiration. In battle, your totem spirit fills you with supernatural might, adding magical fuel to your barbarian rage.

It’s sort of like Brother Bear but if instead of only learning life lessons about acceptance, you also learned how to be really good in a fight.

Here is what you get with this path.

Spirit Seeker

Yours is a path that seeks attunement with the natural world, giving you a kinship with beasts. At 3rd level when you adopt this path, you gain the ability to cast the beast sense and speak with animals spells, but only as rituals.

Basically what this means is that you can use a beast’s eyes and listen through it’s ears which can be great when scouting an area. You can also talk with animals to find out about what’s going on in the area. However, it takes time for you to do that because you have to do it as a ritual. We’ll get more into that when we talk about magic in a later post but for now just know, ritual spell means you need a bit of time to cast it.

Totem Spirit

At 3rd level, when you adopt this path, you choose a totem spirit and gain its feature. You must make or acquire a physical totem object — an amulet or similar adornment — that incorporates fur or feathers, claws, teeth, or bones of the totem animal. At your option, you also gain minor physical attributes that are reminiscent of your totem spirit. For example, if you have a bear totem spirit, you might be unusually hairy and thick-skinned, or if your totem is the eagle, your eyes turn bright yellow.

Your totem animal might be an animal related to those listed here but more appropriate to your homeland. For example, you could choose a hawk or vulture in place of an eagle.

Bear. While raging, you have resistance to all damage except psychic damage. The spirit of the bear makes you tough enough to stand up to any punishment.

Eagle. While you’re raging, other creatures have disadvantage on opportunity attack rolls against you, and you can use the Dash action as a bonus action on your turn. The spirit of the eagle makes you into a predator who can weave through the fray with ease.

Wolf. While you’re raging, your friends have advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5 feet of you that is hostile to you. The spirit of the wolf makes you a leader of hunters.

I think these are pretty straightforward but the gist of it is that you get to choose an animal and gain some of the benefits that animal naturally possesses.

Aspect of the Beast

At 6th level, you gain a magical benefit based on the totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected at 3rd level or a different one.

Bear. You gain the might of a bear. Your carrying capacity (including maximum load and maximum lift) is doubled, and you have advantage on Strength checks made to push, pull, lift, or break objects.

Eagle. You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You can see up to 1 mile away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 100 feet away from you. Additionally, dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Wisdom (Perception) checks.

Wolf. You gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace.

Again I think this is pretty straightforward but this time the effect is magical. You do only get to choose each animal once so make sure you choose wisely.

Totemic Attunement

At 14th level, you gain a magical benefit based on a totem animal of your choice. You can choose the same animal you selected previously or a different one.

Bear. While you’re raging, any creature within 5 feet of you that’s hostile to you has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you or another character with this feature. An enemy is immune to this effect if it can’t see or hear you or if it can’t be frightened.

Eagle. While raging, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.

Wolf. While you’re raging, you can use a bonus action on your turn to knock a Large or smaller creature prone when you hit it with melee weapon attack.

Ditto for this one, you get the benefits of the creatures you choose and they are magical. They are all pretty useful so have fun with it.

Slick Dungeon’s Tips on Playing Barbarians

When you tell a kid that they can play a barbarian you might think you would regret that decision. I mean, a character who is all about rage and anger? Is that something we want our kids to do? Well, I think yes because anger is a huge emotion for kids. It’s something they understand and if they have ever had a tantrum they know there are times it is scary and they might feel like there is no way of controlling it. Guess what? That’s just like a barbarian but there is one major difference. They get to experience this in a safe environment without real world consequences. They might be able to see that their character is able to reign in that rage when needed and they can use that emotion towards something positive, namely protecting their friends. Also, kids are kind of egomaniacs. That’s not an insult, it’s just who kids are and how they develop. That being the case, sometimes they want to get to feel super powerful and playing as a barbarian is a great outlet for that.

The main caution with playing a barbarian is not to take things too far. You don’t want the role play of the rage to turn into actual anger so make sure that the rules of what is allowed at the table while playing are well set ahead of time.

Other than that, let your kid have fun, let them be powerful. Let them feel like the strongest in the room. It will be a ton of fun, I promise you.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Thanks so much for reading to the end if you are still here with me. Next time we are going to talk about the ultimate in entertainment and support when we talk about bards.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Slick Dungeon’s 2021 Challenge Check-in!

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, hoping January was a fantastic month for you and that February will be even better.

Last month I put out three challenges for this year, one for books, one for movies and one that combined books, movies and role playing games. I wanted to take today to see if anyone has done any of the challenges and update everyone on my own progress.

As a reminder, if you complete any of the three challenges and talk about it on your blog, I will review anything in that category that you want me to and post that review on my blog with a link to your blog.

Don’t worry if you haven’t started, each of my challenges is only 12 items long and there is still plenty of the year to go.

In case you want to participate and still need the challenges, just take a look at this post and download yourself a neat little PDF or three.

Now, the moment you have all been waiting for, how did I, Slick Dungeon do on my own challenges in January? Let’s find out.

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

This one took me the longest to complete but it was well worth the time. The first box on this one was the book at the very bottom of your TBR list. For me that was a book called The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hajdu. You can read my review of it here.

The Ten-Cent Plague

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

This challenge item led me down a long strange trip to watch a movie called Butter on the Latch which involved absolutely no butter or latches anywhere. It was an experimental film and while I didn’t exactly understand the experiment, I think it’s always good to branch out of your own boundaries now and again and I absolutely support independent film. You can see my review of it here.

Butter on the Latch

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

I’ll be honest, I got lucky here. The challenge item was to read a book with a dungeon in it. It just so happened that a book I was enjoying and going to review anyway happened to have a dungeon in it. The book is called Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga, book 1. It was a pretty cool read that was reminiscent of Ready Player One and you can read my review of it here.

The Dragon Mage Book 1: Overworld

Well, that’s three out of three for January. I have no idea how February will go but here is what I will be attempting.

  1. A book recommended by a friend
  2. Three movies by the same director
  3. Watch a movie with a dragon in it

Good luck to the rest of you out there and if you have decided to participate, feel free to let me know how it is going in the comments.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Ten-Cent Plague – #BookReview

The Ten-Cent Plague

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to review another book. This time I am reviewing the book that was on the very bottom of my TBR list. I always meant to read this book but hadn’t gotten around to it. Reading the book at the very bottom of my to be read list was also the first item in my book challenge for the year which you can find here.

The book I read was The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How it Changed America. That’s quite a mouthful but it was a great read. It’s a non-fiction account of the period in the 1950’s in America when there was rising concern that comic books were contributing to the juvenile delinquency of the country. The idea was that books that depicted horrific acts and showed criminals committing crimes were causing kids to imitate those actions in real life. This was mostly spurned on by a book called Seduction of the Innocent written by a psychiatrist named Frederick Wertham.

There’s a lot more to the story than that but essentially, there was a crusade that was enacted and culminated in not only hundreds of thousands of comic books being burned but also led to legislation that banned the distribution of certain types of comic books (pretty much most of them) and caused the comic book industry to adopt its own censorship organization that nearly destroyed comic books as an art form entirely.

While Wertham had some real credentials and was a leader in many ways in his field, when it came to his book about the link between comics and juvenile delinquency, he only used cases he had come across, and his methods were anything but purely scientific. He excoriated comic books, called nearly all of them crime comics, no matter what the subject actually was and made bold proclamations about how these books were ruining children’s minds.

Interestingly, Wertham also was friends with and highly respected Richard Wright, the author of the fabulous book, Native Son. Somehow, it never seemed to occur to Wertham that if Wright’s book were drawn in comic book form, he would not want children to read that either. In fact, there are plenty of instances of classic literature, right down to nursery rhymes that depicted as much violence as some of the comics that were complained about. The difference? One was drawn and sold for ten cents and the rest was considered classic literature.

If, like me, you are an avid comic book reader, you probably know much of the history found in Ten Cent Plague already, however, it is still worth a read. The author David Hadju gives a brief but somewhat oversimplified history of the early start of comics from the first strips in newspapers, to the popularity of Superman right through the explosion of crime and horror comics that were mostly printed by EC comics.

What’s interesting in this book is just how heroic EC actually comes out in the story. They were blamed for causing the antipathy and hatred of comics by concerned parents but they were also about the only company really fighting back, saying that no one was talking to the actual readers of comic books. Particularly, Bill Gaines who was the head of EC at the time went to testify in front of a senate committee and stated that a comic book that had an ax murderer holding up a severed head was in good taste, “for a horror comic”.

That more or less sealed the deal for censors and then the Comics Code Authority was born. It restricted what could be put in comics and made the whole industry a lot less free. The Ten-Cent Plague only touches on it briefly but the whole industry would have gone under if it had not been for Stan Lee and his cohorts at Marvel for reviving the industry with new and interesting superheroes.

EC basically lost everything, except for Mad Magazine which they kept and used to poke fun at everything and everyone. It’s a magazine, not a comic book because it would not have passed through the Comics Code Authority’s restrictive standards. It has the goofy face of Alfred E. Neuman on it so that censors would think it is just a goofy kids magazine, never realizing that inside the pages of Mad was biting satire that was often more politically relevant than some of the major newspapers of the time.

The most difficult section of The Ten-Cent Plague to get through is the part where Hajdu talks about book burnings. Often times, kids were not told that the comic books would be burned. Most of the adults who were on the crusade of destroying these hadn’t read them and couldn’t articulate why they were bad but obviously seeing these covers with the words CRIME, HORROR and WEIRD in capital block letters must have been doing something to their children. It wasn’t all adults though, there were plenty of kids who thought that these books were no good and organized drives to do so themselves in several towns across the country. These were typically good kids trying to do the right thing because what they were seeing in the news was that comics were bad.

The fact that less than a decade earlier books had been burned in Germany prior to and during the second world war didn’t seem to matter to those who wanted to censor comics. They didn’t see it as the same thing but there are distinct parallels. The same parents that would encourage children to read Hamlet would be horrified by a child reading a comic book titled Crime Does Not Pay. Yet, there is plenty of violence and crime in Hamlet. I guess it’s worse if there are pictures to accompany it?

Anyway, The Ten-Cent Plague is a good read even if you are not that interested in comic books, it’s a strange and unique look at a part of American history that we should probably take the time to learn from.

After reading this book, I want to go out and read some pre-code EC comics. They’re pretty interesting, the horror ones are quite gruesome in fact, and over the top. They did not deserve to be burned though and Bill Gaines didn’t deserve to be chased more or less out of comics but it’s what happened.

If you don’t want to go read The Ten-Cent Plague, then do yourself a favor, go out and find a comic book. Read it and enjoy it and think for a moment about the fact that it very nearly did not exist due to the hysteria of a minority of people who never even read the books in the first place.

Comic-ally yours,

Slick Dungeon

Vampires vs. the Bronx – Movie Review

Vampires vs. the Bronx

Hey everyone out there in internet land, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I watched a movie on Netflix called Vampires vs. the Bronx and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Most vampire movies are pretty standard fare, you have blood sucking immortal enemies, some group of heroes and the two groups face off in a bloody battle for the world. That’s basically the plot of Vampires vs. the Bronx so I can’t say it is touching much new ground here. However, this film has something in spades that I have missed in vampire movies lately. What is it? A sense of fun.

The film follows a group of boys who live in the Bronx and are concerned with the fact that their neighborhood is being sold off bit by bit to a wealthy real estate development company. In addition to that, there are people that have gone missing lately. Some of those people seem to have sold off their property or business and it would make sense that they left but others are simply missing persons cases.

One boy, Miguel is particularly concerned that one of the businesses he basically grew up in is in danger of being sold. He goes around the neighborhood trying to raise funds to save Tony’s Bodega. He has a pair of friends who help out, although they are a bit more interested in just hanging out than saving the neighborhood.

Since this is a film about vampires, I think you can guess the real reason these people have gone missing and businesses have been closing. Miguel is the first in the neighborhood to clue into what is going on. And like any good horror film, they main character is not believed by anyone else until they see definite proof of the vampires themselves.

I don’t want to get too much more into the plot here but this is basically The Lost Boys set in the Bronx. The location is a refreshing change for a vampire movie and although there are plot holes you could drive a semi-truck through, it doesn’t really matter because it’s just an enjoyable watch. It’s not scary and it’s not particularly original but it still works.

If you have been looking for a vampire film that can be a fun and enjoyable watch, have a look at Vampires vs. the Bronx.

Vampirically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Arcadia Issue #1 from MCDM – Review

Cover art by: Gustavo Pelissari

Hey out there all you dungeon creatures, it’s me, Slick Dungeon, here to review a super cool Dungeons & Dragons supplement you can get your hands on. I went through the first issue of Arcadia put out by MCDM and am here to give a thorough review of all the articles in it.

For those who don’t know, Matt Colville is a major name in the online Dungeons & Dragons community. He makes YouTube videos talking about his philosophy on the game, gives advice on running the game and he publishes some awesome products you can use in your own game, including a supplement I really enjoyed called Strongholds & Followers. He is currently busy with a follow up to that book with one called Kingdoms & Warfare that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on.

I might sound like I am gushing a bit here but to be clear, I have no affiliation of any kind with MCDM, I just think the stuff they put out is extremely high quality and worth the money and I am guessing you will think so too if you love Dungeons & Dragons.

While we have all been waiting for Kingdoms & Warfare, Matt has assembled a team that just laid down a surprise product on us and, I’ll be honest, it’s chock full of awesome. It’s a magazine inspired by some of the stuff you would see in the 1980’s like Dragon magazine that not only provides cool art and talks about the game but also gives things like mini adventures you can run or stat blocks for cool creatures. This first issue has four articles and I am going to review each one of them. But first, you might want to check out what this is from Matt’s own words. The video is a little on the long side at 16 minutes or so (although that’s actually short for one of Matt’s videos) but even if you just watch the first couple of minutes you’ll get the idea of why they came up with Arcadia.

Basically, Matt felt bad his patrons were not getting anything while he is hard at work on his next book and decided to have some other people launch a magazine. And lucky for those of us who are not Matt’s patrons on Patreon, you can still purchase Arcadia at the MCDM store. You’ll have to pay around $8 if you are not a patron and if you are a patron you get it at the $5 per month level. In case I have already talked this up enough before I get into the review (which will contain spoilers) here is the link where you can get Arcadia #1.

As I mentioned, there will be spoilers to follow so if you are a player who has a Dungeon Master who might use this magazine stop reading here. Or, if you are the type of person who hates spoilers entirely, stop reading here. You have all been warned!

The artwork

You can see a bit of the artwork at the top of this post but I would be remiss if I did not mention the art in general for this magazine. When I saw the cover it took me right back to the 80’s when you could find amazing fantasy art in two places, any magazine dealing with Dungeons & Dragons and heavy metal album covers. In Matt’s intro video he talks about this and low and behold, what they were going for is exactly what it reminded me of. All of the art here is spectacular.

There are weird and interesting creatures, and even some cool maps that you can use in your game. As far as the art goes, I give this an A+.

Article #1 – The Workshop Watches

The Workshop Watches is an adventure for fifth level characters. The premise is a group of magic users was tasked to come up with a magical workshop that could attend to their needs, assist in spells and generally make life a bit easier for those who are into learning magic. They have a wealthy sponsor who has not heard from this team in a while and he is starting to get worried something may have gone wrong.

It wouldn’t be fun if something doesn’t go wrong in Dungeons & Dragons so of course something is wrong! What the party will find is a sentient magical laboratory doing its best to help magic users but is not real clear on what might or might not kill mortal beings. It’s reminiscent of Hal from the movie and book 2001: A Space Odyssey. More modern audiences might think of this as Jarvis from Iron Man gone wrong, or if Ultron from Avengers: Age of Ultron had essentially become Jarvis but didn’t turn evil, he just didn’t understand humanity.

My favorite part of this adventure is how the magical laboratory interprets things. It knows humans are mostly made up of water, so there is a chance the lab will fill the place up with three feet of water to make sure the party stays hydrated. There are several things like that in the adventure and if you want to read all about it, you’ll need to buy the issue.

I found this article to be a ton of fun and I really want to play the scenario. Of all the articles in this issue, I think this one is the best suited to play with kids and I would encourage parents to get this issue for this article alone. (Also, for more about playing Dungeons & Dragons with kids check out this post).

This article is full of fun and I could see it as a good entry point to start a whole campaign on. I am giving this article an A.

Article #2 – Titan Heart

This article is not an adventure but rather a subclass for sorcerers. It takes the idea that titans, you know those huge monstrous creatures such as krakens, demi-gods and the like, can infuse certain people with some of their magic. Thus is born the Titan Heart Sorcerer.

This is a well thought out subclass with some majorly cool stuff players can do. They get to do things like increase their size, have magic that titans know, albeit to a lesser extent than the titans themselves, and increase their armor class.

This has been play tested by MCDM but it is definitely not an official subclass at this point. Dungeon Masters will need to thoroughly review and decide if this is something they will allow in their game. There are lots of possibilities with the subclass and ways it could be used but it’s not going to be appropriate for every table.

There are two things that gave me a little pause about the concept. The first is on the player’s side. The subclass allows certain spells to be used while in titan form but only while in titan form. To me it’s a little unusual to have spells not accessible most of the time to players so depending on your game, you may need to adjust that a bit. The second is on the Dungeon Master side. While in Titan form the player gets a +2 bonus to their Armor Class for a full minute which is a pretty major bonus, especially at lower levels. However, I will say that after seeing how the creatures in Strongholds & Followers were scaled with their armor, in a MCDM campaign +2 might actually be necessary.

While I really like the concept here, I feel like it might be necessary to play around with to get right for your table. I am giving this article a B+.

Article #3 – Jumping on Mounted Combat

This expands on and adds to the mounted combat rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide. If this were only a rules update, I would probably not think much of this article but there is a lot more to it. This not only gives some rules of how to train a mount and makes mounts capable of living longer and becoming more useful in a campaign, it also has a mini adventure (including some cool audio narration in the PDF!) and provides several examples of mounts that can be used in a campaign.

The adventure in this one is something you could drop into the middle of almost any campaign, assuming that there are creatures capable of being mounted in the campaign. It’s got a bit of a western feel to it and lays on some Dungeons & Dragons undead creature style right into it. It’s nowhere near as robust an adventure as The Workshop Watches but it would make for a great encounter if you have a party that really wants an unusual mount.

You might be surprised how often this kind of thing comes up. When I was playing Storm King’s Thunder with my son and his friends, they found and tamed an otyugh and they all wanted to ride it. I let them because I thought it was fun but I wish I had these rules at the time! It would have opened up more role play possibilities and given some rules around how the party rode.

This also has stat blocks for six new mounts, including my favorite, the owlbear. Because this article provides so much at once I am giving it an A.

Article #4 – Uqaviel the Recreant

This article is about two celestials who could become major villains (or allies) in your campaign. This article by far deals with the most unusual creatures of the whole magazine. Uqaviel is a disgraced archangel who was framed for a sin he did not commit.

I found the backstory here a little difficult to follow but perhaps I just don’t know enough about how celestials operate to get the proper appreciation for it. This article gives stat blocks for both Uqaviel and the creature that betrayed him Anahita. Just glancing at the stat blocks, these are major powerhouses. These are definitely end of campaign level creatures and they do some really cool stuff.

I am not sure I would personally incorporate all the backstory suggested in this article but both creatures are well worth using, just make sure that they are something your party has a hope of handling before they encounter them. The artwork in this article is phenomenal and even if you don’t use Uqaviel or Anahita’s stats, you might want to put their art somewhere in your campaign, especially if you have a campaign dealing with celestials at all.

While I really like the creatures themselves, the backstory felt a little less clear than I would have preferred. I am giving this article a B.

Overall

Alright, there you have my thoughts on the individual articles but what about the product as a whole? In some ways I have to reserve my judgement here. I am not saying it is easy to put out a great product the first time but if you do, that will make the next product you make have to live up to a high bar. MCDM has set an incredibly high standard here. There are two more issue slated to come out for sure and Matt has said he needs to see what the reaction is before guaranteeing issues beyond that. I will absolutely be picking up the next two issues. We’ll see if the quality and variety can be maintained. If so, I will be a loyal reader of this magazine. I will be back next month to review the next issue and let you know what I think.

For now, as a Dungeons & Dragons product I give this a solid A. And once again if you want to buy this you can do so here.

At $5-$8 depending on how you purchase this, I’m honestly not sure I can think of a better value in a Dungeons & Dragons supplement, so help out some independent creators and get a copy for yourself!

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Overworld, The Dragon Mage Saga – Book Review

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

A magic apocalypse. Refugees from Earth. A new world. Elves, orcs, and dragons!

Portals from Overworld have appeared on Earth, and beings intent on conscripting humanity into the mysterious Trials have invaded.

Earth is doomed. Humanity has been exiled. Can Jamie save mankind?

Jamie Sinclair, a young man with unique gifts, must find a way for his family and friends to survive Earth’s destruction and build a new home in Overworld.

The Trials is not a game. Will Jamie survive its challenges?

Join Jamie as he struggles through the brutal Trials while wrestling with his new magics and Overworld’s game-like dynamics.

A fantasy post-apocalyptic survival story of one man’s journey to save humanity.

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Jamie Sinclair is an avid gamer who loves the challenge of playing online games. When Earth is threatened with extinction and forced onto a new planet called Overworld Jamie will have to put all his skills to use, only this time it is no game. On Overworld there are life and death consequences to your actions and one mistake can mean the end for someone in the Trials. Jamie has a bit of a disadvantage in the Trials because he has a hobbled foot but he doesn’t let that stop him from being as much of a hero as he can. He does have one thing going for him though–he can cast magic and that makes him valuable to his friends and potentially deadly to his foes.

At times there is a bit of overexplaining of how the Trials game system works but if you love playing video games or are really into hard magic systems in fantasy this won’t be an issue. The enemies are deadly and dangerous and make for interesting foes. Jamie’s character develops well in most parts of the book and keeps the reader engaged. The action is fun and frenetic with what feels like real stakes involved. There are some standard fantasy bad guys but there are at least a few enemies that were surprising and fun to read about.

The world is quite well thought out and it’s easy to get an understanding of how it works even if the reader is not a gamer. The author does a good job of setting up the first book while laying the groundwork for a sequel.

For readers who love books like Ready Player One, Warcross, or fantasy books full of orcs, elves, and the like, Overworld, the Dragon Mage Saga is a book that will be thoroughly enjoyable.

Also, as a bonus this book met one of the requirements of my Read, Watch Play challenge, read a book with a dungeon in it! If you want to see the challenge and perhaps participate yourself, check it out here!

How You Can Support Short Independent Horror Films

If you’re like me, you think it is vital to support independent films. If you’re like me, you’re a fan of the horror genre. Yet, there are so many films out there it can be hard to find a good one. Also, who has time to watch a whole bunch of feature-length horror when there are other responsibilities we have to live up to?  I’ve got good news for anyone who fits into these categories. 

I read about a horror film channel on YouTube called Alter that hosts short horror films you can watch each week for free. I first read about this on the blog Everlasting Hauntings, a great horror blog that you should check out. 

Alter features three different short horror films each week so it’s likely you will find something worth watching, no matter what type of horror you prefer. The production values tend to be high quality and the acting is generally good as well. To give you a good example of two short films I think are worth watching, check out the videos below. If you like them, you should subscribe to the YouTube channel asap.

Backstroke is about a runaway who ends up in a precarious position after stealing a car.

Backstroke

The Guest House is about a bored couple who get more than they bargained for while playing a game.

The Guest House

I hope you enjoyed those. Thanks again to Everlasting Hauntings for the blog post that alerted me to Alter.

If you want to support short, independent, horror films subscribe to the channel.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Butter on the Latch – #MovieReview

Slick Dungeon here, back to review a movie I watched for my movie challenge. This one was for the first category: a movie made by an independent movie studio. To check out the full challenge click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

Butter on the Latch is an experimental film classified as a psychological thriller/drama. It’s independent and it is experimental. As far as the rest of it goes, um, I’m not sure how to explain this film to you.

We start with Sarah getting out of some kind of dance performance. She receives a call from her good friend Isolde who has woken up in a house with people she has never met and in a panic. Sarah tells her to leave immediately which seems like a good call to me.

Then we are in the woods of Mendocino, California. Sarah and Isolde are both there and from that point the film dares to ask the question; what if someone filmed their musical band camp experience? There’s a lot of wandering around in the woods, some music rehearsal, some flirtation, some going off in the woods where flirtation goes a bit further, then some things that are unclear happen and the movie sort of ends with Sarah, crying and laughing while this huge musical performance is going on. One thing I can tell you is that when you are in the woods camping, even if you go off with someone to, you know, do that, tell people where you will be. It will save you from getting lost and possibly from experimental film making as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I think experimentation in film is a good thing. I think there should be more of it. The problem with experiments is that sometimes they fail. While I can mostly fashion together what seemed to have happened in the movie, it’s kind of a jumble. There is some interesting camera work and I think on a technical level it was well made. The dialogue was all improvised and feels very real because of that. Unless you are into experimental film, however, I don’t recommend giving it a watch. If you are into experimental film, you may enjoy it but I doubt you will make complete sense of it. If that’s fine with you, definitely give it a watch because we do need more independent films to be made.

One final thing to note. I might just be missing something here but as far as I can recall there was no mention of butter or latches in Butter on the Latch. I mean, come on, I was kind of looking forward to seeing someone butter up some kind of latch.

Independently yours,

Slick Dungeon

3 Reasons Why Parents Should Play Dungeons & Dragons

Huge Discounts on your Favorite RPGs @ DriveThruRPG.com

Parenting is hard. One minute you have to drop kids off for a soccer game and the next minute you have to explain why eating chocolate for breakfast is not a good idea. Next, you have to encourage a kid to face the world with bravery as she peers suspiciously down at the pool when she is getting her first diving lesson. It’s overwhelming. Parents need structure to their day, they need to improvise constantly, and they have to do it all with a sense of adventure that keeps their kids engaged. It’s no easy task. Parents need help.

There are all kinds of parenting books and advice out there. Some work well and others are a waste of time. I’ve got a tool you probably haven’t considered using in your parenting arsenal. It’s fun, it’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s something you can do with kids present or in those precious few hours you have to yourself. You’ll get the benefits either way. Obviously, I am talking about playing Dungeons & Dragons, one of the best parenting tools available.

You probably think I have a couple of screws loose in my toolbox but hear me out. Playing Dungeons & Dragons can help parents to improvise, learn to provide structure, and foster a sense of adventure. 

Improvisation

Most Role-Playing Games call for improvisation. You have to think on your feet and if you want to survive, or be a good game master, you have to do it well. You can play the game where all you care about is the math. Sometimes you just want to know if you kill the monster or not. But, In Dungeons & Dragons whether you are a Dungeon Master or player, there will come a point when you have to make something up. As a player, you will imagine what your character looks like and is doing. As a DM you have to decide what is on the other side of the wall you described but never expected your players to try to climb over. It’s time to think on your feet. If you do that while playing Dungeons & Dragons, you’ll get better at doing it as a parent. 

After you’ve improvised a thousand times for the fun of it when playing Dungeons & Dragons, it’ll be much easier to improvise a reason why Dad can stay up as late as he wants but kids have to go to bed at a reasonable time.

Structure

Improvisation is great. It can be useful in a ton of parenting situations. Do you know what’s even better? Having structure. Kids need it, parents need it, everything runs better when there are rules. Guess what Dungeons & Dragons has? Rules. Lots of them. You don’t have to know even close to all of them to play the game but knowing that they exist is important. And the more you play, the more you learn the rules. Being able to clearly state a rule and know the structure of what should happen is hugely important as a parent too.

It’s one thing to be able to tell a kid that they need to do their schoolwork so they can get good grades. It’s something else to be able to provide them with the structure needed so they can get the work done and not become stressed out about it.

Adventure

Parenting is an adventure, hands down. There is no telling what’s around the next corner, what the next monster to slay might be. Why not experience a little adventure in a safe environment at a table with some friends? That way when you see the challenges in front of you as a parent, you know you have the courage to confront them. If not, you can think about what your character would do in the situation and do that instead. Either way, having a sense of adventure is going to help you as a parent. Your character is probably one filled with bravery and sometimes reckless abandon who will stop at nothing to achieve a goal. That’s something most of us can use more of in our lives (well, not the reckless abandon part maybe) and it might just come in handy. If a kid is struggling with a problem, make it a challenge. Tell them about the time your Half-Orc Monk went into a deadly situation thinking it was going to end for her but through careful and unexpected tactics she succeeded instead.

Most of the time we can all use a little more adventure in our lives. Or at least, a sense of adventure that is fun and exciting. You get that while playing Dungeons & Dragons. Remember that feeling the next time parenting feels overwhelming and think of it as your next big adventure instead.

Plus playing Dungeons & Dragons is downright fun! So, take some time today (or whenever you get a second to yourself since I know you are busy if you are a parent) and have some fun. Play some Dungeons & Dragons with your friends or your kids. If anyone asks you why you’re doing it, tell them the obvious. You’re doing it so you can become a better parent.

If you want to know why I think kids should play Dungeons & Dragons, take a look at this post: Kids Kill Monsters – Why Kids Should Role Play.

Adventurously yours,

Slick Dungeon 

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through these links I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Challenge Yourself! Books, Movies and RPGs for 2021

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon here. 2020 was a challenge to say the least and not in a fun way. This year I thought that I would face the challenge of the new year in a way that improves upon last year. Instead of the challenge of just muddling through life, let’s have a book, movie, and tabletop RPG challenge!

(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through them I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)

I haven’t done a post like this before so please let me know what you think and also, feel free to play along all year. Each list has 12 challenges so one per month should be doable but if you are an overachiever, feel free to knock these out in 12 days or less. If you do take up the challenge let me know how it went. And if you happen to post it onto your blog, let me know, so that I can link to your challenge on my blog.

Below are the rules as far as I am going to follow them. You don’t have to follow the same way I do but these are the rules I set for myself.

How Does This Work? The Rules

  1. There are three separate challenges, one for books, one for movies and one for books, movies and RPGs lumped together. I will tell you a little more about each one and give some potential suggestions for what I think I will do to complete the checkboxes.
  2. Once I finish a challenge I plan to check it off and then post about it on my blog. If you just want to do this for fun and not post on your blog, that is totally cool. If you do post on your blog, let’s compare notes!
  3. These can be done in any order. Feel free to skip to the bottom, go to the middle or meticulously hit each one as they are listed.
  4. I am not in the camp of double dipping so I will not be doing that. If you want to, you won’t get any judgement from me.
  5. If you complete any one of my challenges and post about it on your blog, I will let you choose any one thing in that list’s category for me to review (within reason). For example if you complete my movie challenge and you want me to review The Emoji Movie, I will do it. If you complete my book challenge and want me to read and review a book that you published, I will do it. If you complete my Read-Watch-Play challenge and you want me to play an RPG that you think is really cool, I will play and then review it. Side note: I won’t review anything that I think is too extreme and I have ultimate veto power over what I post on my blog but otherwise, you can tell me what to review.
  6. This is not a rule but these are all downloadable PDF’s so feel free to download and print them or pass them on to friends, relatives, neighbors or office mates looking for something to do!

Challenge 1: Book Challenge

The book challenge should be pretty straightforward. Pick one of the challenges and find a book that matches. Or if you are reading a book and realize that it fits in one of these categories, check it off once you have finished the book!

Some examples of what I plan to do are as follows. The book at the very bottom of my TBR list right now is The Ten Cent Plague, a non-fiction book about the comic book industry that I have been meaning to read forever. Maybe this challenge will finally get me through that one. For a graphic novel that is not about superheroes I plan to read Berlin which I have been told is an excellent book about the fall of the Weimar Republic.

Challenge 2: Movie Challenge

This one should also be pretty straightforward. Watch a movie that matches the category and check off the box once you have finished watching. I watch a lot of movies so for this one I might just watch first and then see if it fits the category after, although I do have some ideas for some of these. For three movies by the same director I am thinking I might take a look at Quentin Tarantino’s movies since it has been a while since I watched some of those. For a movie with an ambiguous ending I am thinking of Inception although I think there are definitely a lot more movies besides that one that have that kind of end. It’s just the first one that popped into my head.

Challenge 3: Read-Watch-Play Challenge

Out of all my challenges, this is the one that I will most likely do in order. It’s pretty easy to find books and movies to fit these categories but I realize that not everyone is familiar with good Tabletop RPG choices so I am going to tell you the ones I plan on doing and even provide you with helpful links if you need a suggestion. (These are affiliate links and if you do buy anything there it helps this blog out immensely at no extra cost to you. No pressure though, never buy anything from a website that you don’t want)

For my D&D 1 shot adventure, I plan to play Second Glance. It’s the follow-up adventure to First Blush, a one-shot that I enjoyed and reviewed on this blog. They are both duet campaigns, meaning you only need two people to play, so great for learning how to play the game. Also, they only cost $2, so it’s a great bargain to get you started.

For a Tabletop RPG I have never played before I have three that I am thinking about. I may end up playing them all but we’ll see. If you have played any of these, let me know what you think. The first one I am considering is Cyberpunk Red. While the video game release was a mess, I’ve always thought Cyberpunk made more sense as a tabletop game anyway. The second I am considering is Wicked Ones. This is sort of a reverse D&D where you play the monsters and try to keep those pesky adventurers from taking all your stuff and wrecking your dungeon. The third one I am considering is Altered Carbon, the TTRPG based on the popular book and Netflix series.

For a Tabletop RPG that takes place in space I plan to play Stars Without Number: Revised Edition. It’s a game about humans returning to the skies after their empire has fallen. I feel like it has a lot of sandbox potential and I’m really looking forward to it. The game has gotten great reviews and it should be interesting.

For a Tabletop RPG starring animals I plan to play Pugmire. It’s like D&D but with all pugs! The world of man is over but Pugs have evolved to take over. How great is that? If you like cats better try playing Adventures for Curious Cats set in the same setting.

I hope you enjoy the challenges I have come up with. Don’t forget to let me know if you plan to play along and how it goes if you do.

Challengingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Laeta King – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

(Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through this post I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you)

SUMMARY

Avem is a boy with nothing in the world. He steals for his own survival in the town of North Refuge. His striking yellow eyes are the cause of many whispers and fear. General Topea terrorizes him because of his strange nature, and it’s all Avem can do to stay out of his way.

When he is whisked away from North Refuge by mysterious wizards, he meets the Council of Stesti, and learns of his true nature as a Laeta. He is told of their pursuit in finding the Laeta King, a legendary hero that could help them defeat General Topea, who had been killing Laetas to allow a sinister plan to come to fruition without interruption.

Now Avem must fight to defend the only friends he’s ever known. The Council is quickly running out of time as Avem must push aside his doubts and fears to save a lost Councilman and help put an end to Topea’s plans.

Though, Avem will soon learn, destiny will not define him.

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Avem is a young boy without a real home or family. He has to steal to survive in the town of North Refuge where he makes his way the best he can. To make matters worse, he does not fit in because he has the yellow eyes of a Laeta, and as a result, many people fear or hate him. General Topea has made it his mission to stamp out all the Laeta and he is after Avem. the Laeta are able to perform magic and could be the downfall of General Topea so he is determined to find and destroy Avem.

Just as Avem is about to face deadly dangers, a group of mysterious wizards takes him under their protection. From then on, Avem’s life will become one of adventure, mystery, empathy, and danger. He finds himself swept up in world events and tries to prove to the wizards that he is as capable as they are. Yet he is young and new to magic, making his journey all the more difficult. Will Avem be able to prove himself, save the world, and maintain compassion for others, or will he let down the only family he has ever known?

Avem’s character is well developed and his journey is an interesting one to the reader. The companions he has in the adventure have moments where they feel a little less than fully fleshed out but the story maintains itself well enough that the book is enjoyable throughout. The magic system is robust but not always well defined. This does provide for some interesting sequences and if you love high magic fantasy this is a book well worth reading.

If you love worlds full of magic, with epic battles and the struggle of good versus evil, and the question of whether someone deserves a second chance at its core, you will enjoy this book to the fullest.

Anoroc – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there, click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

From the author of Millennial Millionaire, comes Bryan M. Kuderna’s fiction debut, a coming-of-age fantasy novel you won’t be able to put down! Beeker is trying to find his way in life, no longer a kid, but not yet an adult, when his single mother decides it is time for a change. He and his little brother, Dak, leave the comfort of their home in the Plains to go and live in the Mountains with their beloved Uncle Dobo, a founder of the Militia and renowned war hero. The rapidly growing population of Anoroc leaves their species, Chigidies, scrambling for sparse resources, particularly the most valuable commodity of all– Painite. Beeker, Dak, and their generation can no longer plead ignorance to the tumult overtaking Anoroc. But, at what cost will it come?

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Anoroc is home to mythical creatures known as Chigidies. These are small furry creatures who live in plains, wetlands or mountains and have advanced technology like vehicles and weapons of war. Their society revolves around a finite resource known as Painite. Beeker and his little brother live in the plains with their mother. Life is good for them in the innocent days of their early childhood.

When events outside of Beeker’s control sweep him and his family up in a potential war between Chgidies who wear white robes and those who wear red robes, his world quickly changes. He has to live and train with his uncle Dobo who has much to teach him about life.

While the story is mostly well constructed there is a bit of frequent head hopping that happens. The politics of Anoroc can also be a bit fuzzy and difficult to follow but not so much that the reader will not enjoy the story. Beeker is the standout character as we are able to understand where he is coming from and are with him through his moments of triumph and struggle. He has to go through intense training with his uncle and learn wisdom there as well as be a key figure in the impending war.

The story comes to a satisfying conclusion even if it is a bit abrupt. There is plenty of action once things get going in the story to keep the reader engaged. Anthropomorphic tales can be difficult to tell well but author Bryan Kuderna does a fine job of making the characters interesting without making them oversimplified.

If you are a fan of coming of age stories, specifically set in a time of strife or conflict, with world events happening around the characters, this is a good book to add to your shelf.

A Castle Awakened – Castle in the Wilde – Novel 1 – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

A foreign usurper. A lady who longs for freedom. Vicious beasts who want to rip them all to shreds. Who wins?

Never one to shy from a challenge, Lord Tristan Petram took possession of a forsaken castle. Only hints remain of the treachery that forced its abandonment. But if he and his followers can forge a life here—and hold out against ravenous vixicats—the castle and this land will be theirs. As for the nearest kingdom, they never venture beyond their border or the mysterious forest of tower trees. Except…

Beth dons a disguise and takes a forbidden ride in Tower Woods. Her fun adventure turns into a nightmare of kidnap and rescue—of sorts. Now she’s trapped in a nameless castle held by a foreign usurper. What will he do with her if he finds out who she really is?

Thus, Lord Petram finds himself the unwilling guardian of an injured lady who won’t give her full name. A crime he didn’t commit may bring retribution from an unknown kingdom. Do they have a claim to this castle that he now calls home? If he survives the vixicats, will an army slaughter him and his followers?

REVIEW

4/5 STARS

Lord Tristan Petram has found the unthinkable. A castle that has been forsaken, in the middle of nowhere that is unguarded. He establishes himself in the castle with a few of his men, not knowing the full extent of the dangers that surround him. They must hole the castle until he can get word back home that the place is safe for the rest of his men and their families to join him.

While out patrolling the nearby woods, Lord Petram’s men come across a woman in need of rescue from some scoundrels. They do the job and bring the injured woman back to the castle where Lord Petram resides. She will not answer his questions and she seems more than eager to leave, despite clearly not being familiar with the dangers of the woods and areas around her. She will only tell Tristan that her name is Beth. Tristan suspects that there is much more to her story than she lets on.

The book is a faced paced read and manages to provide twists and turns without falling into tropes. The setting is well-realized as are the politics surrounding the situation. Tristan and Beth are able to get close to one another without it seeming forced or unrealistic. Beth has good reason for keeping her identity from Tristan just as Tristan is justified in most of the actions he takes making for well-developed characters that are easy to empathize with.

In some ways this book is reminiscent of Outlander although, without time travel components and a little more grounded in reality. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction with a little bit of romance, fights with deadly beasts, and intriguing kingdom politics this book is for you. I look forward to seeing where the series takes us next.

A Single Round – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

A SINGLE ROUND, is a collection of short stories from a HARD PLACE. Stories of moonshine and shotguns, obsession and transcendence, love and darkness, and the blindness of human desire. Each tale follows a painful path to one ultimate realization: the devil’s deal always ends badly, often with a single round.

The head that was found on the blacktop tells a tale in Johnny Fucking Carson.
Tommy watches his dream love become a nightmare in Together Forever.
Fame has a dark side, Becoming Famous echoes the age old warning, ‘Be Careful what you wish for’.
A story of realization, loss, and transformation takes flight in Redwing.
Never judge a book by its cover, even one with fangs, as a surprise awaits in Doc’s Choice.
The Grounded, sometimes the dream of escape should remain a dream.
A tale of a man who fell in love with a woman who forgot him in The Dog Walker.
The Ride will make you second guess what you thought you were sure of.

REVIEW 4/5 STARS

A Single Round is a series of short stories that are tied together with the theme of making a deal with the devil. Every deal is different and they all turn out in interesting ways. Never do they turn out as the characters expect.

At a crossroads, if you go there at midnight, you will meet a man who drives a big black car and calls himself the Judge. You’d be wise to stay away from him except… he can offer you your heart’s desire. He can give you the one thing you want most in the world and all it will cost is your soul. For some people, maybe even a lot of people, that’s a price they are willing to pay.

All of the stories in A Single Round play out with this setup. Some deliver better than others but for the most part the stories are interesting and engaging. While this could get overly repetitive, the book avoids this by making the stories somewhat interrelated and some characters tend to show up more often than others. There is some depth in most, but not all of the stories. On the surface of it, some of the things people sell their souls for might be considered trivial but later in the story the reader is shown that there is more to the story.

R A Jacobson does a fine job of setting the mood and making the reader quickly get to know the characters and feel for their plight. Although, some characters are much easier to sympathize with than others due to some of the choices they make.

Reminiscent of Needful Things by Stephen King or short stories where the buyer should beware such as The Monkey’s Paw by W.W Jacobs, this is a great collection of bite sized terror and tragedy to read through right before bed at night.

Summer of 84 – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here and I was feeling nostalgic for summers gone by so I watched a movie with strong ’80s vibes called Summer of ’84.

If you have watched Stranger Things so many times that you are actively looking for the upside down and just wish with all your heart that there was a bit more of that eighties friendship drama to go around, you’ve got yourself a little treat in Summer of ’84.

The film is about a fifteen year old boy named Davey who is interested in mysteries and strange happenings of all kinds. In the area of his town, Cape May a number of teenage boys have gone missing. When the local authorities receive a letter from the killer of these missing boys it is confirmed that there is a serial killer on the loose. Davey is sure that he knows not only who the killer is but where he lives. Right next door to him. Davey has to get his friends together to see if they can gather evidence to prove the case.

A lot of this movie will remind you of Stranger Things although the monsters really do only come in human form here. And while this might seem repetitive, it still works for the same reason that E.T., The Goonies and a host of other films does. We like stories about friends who work together to stop bad things from happening.

There are a few twists and turns here but nothing too surprising. There are also a few moments of genuinely frightening horror although nothing that really hits brand new territory.

If you are looking for a fairly intense horror film with friendship at its core and don’t mind a bit of gore and horror you could do worse than Summer of ’84.

Horrifically Yours,

Slick Dungeon

Damage Report – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SUMMARY

This is a book about mistakes and possibilities- some that change the lives of a few, and some that change the lives of many. In The Old Man, Bob is two hundred fifty years old, a survivor of the global warming that nearly destroyed humanity. Things have gotten boring lately and his best friend is thinking about ending it all. Their extended lifespans also have a small liability that makes them both wonder if it’s worth it to stick around. In Long Shot, most of the Northern Hemisphere has been destroyed in a global nuclear war. A team of American aviators is assigned to assassinate the Russian marshal who gave the order for a nuclear attack. Only the U.S. Navy has resources remaining that can reach across the globe to complete the mission. In the title story Damage Report, a colony ship of a starfaring people goes into orbit around a planet bearing the remains of an extinct civilization. The ruins are only a thousand years old and are the best chance of the star people to understand why only their species has survived out of hundreds of predecessors within hundreds of light years of their home world.

REVIEW 3/5 STARS

Damage Report is a collection of short stories that involve life and death in some way. The first story, The Old Man, deals with a man who appears old in a civilization that has defeated disease and aging. There are a few others like him but when almost everyone alive is young and beautiful and you have lived far beyond what your expected life span, is there still any purpose to life itself? The second story Long Shot deals with the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war on earth. The Navy has found the man responsible for starting the war and they decide to do something about it even with the limited resources they have. The third and final story, Damage Report is about a colony of space travelers who come upon a planet that has recently destroyed itself through nuclear war. The colony must decide if they should live on the planet but their findings also leave them questioning why their species seems to be the only one who has thrived long enough to conquer other worlds.

While all three stories have their strong points, the best of them is The Old Man. Bob is faced with a quiet existential dilemma. He has few friends left and barring an unexpected violent accident he might live nearly forever. Should he continue on or do as some of his friends have and choose to end his own life. The story confronts the reader with the question of how much life is necessary.

Long Shot is interesting due to the use of drone warfare and the realistic aspect of what would be likely military actions post nuclear war. At times it may give a bit too much information about the weapons and hardware used but if the reader loves to know about those things there is plenty here to stay satisfied.

Damage Report does a fine job of telling what it would be like to be a civilization that has not only survived but thrived because instead of repeating mistakes they learn from them.

All three stories make the reader think about the possibilities for this world and what might or might not bring about the end for us all. It’s a solid meditation on life under the threat of global disasters.

If you enjoy short fiction and like hard science fiction, realistic military fiction and stories that make you think about life, Damage Report is certainly worth a read.

His House – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, how’s it going out there? It’s me, Slick Dungeon back to give you a review of a genuinely creepy movie on Netflix called His House.

The film stars the phenomenal Wunmi Mosaku who showed off her horror skills recently in Lovecraft Country. Alongside her is Sope Dirisu. The pair play a couple of refugees who are trying to make a new home in London. Helping them is a social worker played by Matt Smith, best known as the 11th doctor from Doctor Who.

Star power aside, His House has something going for it that almost no other haunted house movie has. What is it? A legitimate reason to stay. Most haunted house movies seem to be about a family that buys a new house to find it is haunted. Or to be about people who just have to stay one night to win an inheritance at a haunted house. Or about people who drive out to some remote location for fun and end up in a haunted house. What do all of those types of movies have in common? If people really wanted to, they could just leave. The characters in His House are refugees and if they move for any reason, they lose their refugee status and will be sent back to war torn home they fled. Ghosts and ghouls can hardly be bad enough to make anyone want to do that.

The movie starts out with a few glimpses of the tragedy and loss that the couple experience. Soon they find themselves in a house in London that is much more spacious than they expected, albeit, the home is not in a nice neighborhood by any stretch of the imagination.

Soon strange things start happening in the house and many of the things you would expect in haunted house movies happen. There are weird noises, unexpected visions, and nightmares. What’s really interesting though, is that sometimes it’s hard to tell what is caused by the house or whatever is haunting them and what might just be traumatic memories playing out as they would for anyone who had experienced such real life horrors.

There are major surprises in the film that I won’t give away here but I will just suffice to say that even the reason for the haunting makes sense. This gives the whole film more legitimacy in its scares and if this film doesn’t leave you at least a little bit unsettled, I don’t think anything will.

If you haven’t checked out His House yet, make sure you take some time to take it in. It’s gripping and horrific in the best way possible.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Child’s Play (1988) – #MovieReview

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s Slick Dungeon and I am your friend to the end! I’m back to review another horror film. In between watching Universal Monster movies, I have been revisiting some of my favorite horror flicks from one of the greatest decades of horror, the 1980’s.

There have been plenty of movies, television shows, and books made about killers. Same goes for stories about evil dolls of one kind or another. But for my money, the king of the killer dolls will always be Chucky from the Child’s Play film franchise. This is an older movie at this point but I will still mention that there will be spoilers below. Don’t let your doll face melt over it. If you want to watch the movie first and then come back for the review, go for it.

Chucky is pretty well known for making silly one liners and then, you know, killing someone in an inventive way. But before all of that, he was a bad guy who had learned how to transfer his soul into another body. The start of the film has a serial killer and all around bad guy end up in a toy store surrounded by “Good Guy” dolls that looked a lot like the My Buddy dolls that were popular at the time. This killer has been shot by a policeman and is about to die and he does what anyone would do, transfers his essence to a doll, because, well, I guess he can?

Anyway, the main story revolves around a six year old boy named Andy. He wants a Good Guy doll more than anything else in the world for his birthday. Guess which one he ends up with? Yep, the one with the evil serial killer’s soul trapped inside of it. Pretty soon the doll is slashing people to death left and right and only Andy realizes the horrifying truth.

For my money, I always think Chucky is at his creepiest before he starts killing people. That doll just has a weird vibe and is way to big for a normal doll. Scary dolls never have freaked me out like they do some people but I can see why people who don’t like creepy dolls get freaked out by this movie.

This is a better movie than most people who have never seen it think it is. If you ignore the magical circumstances of how Chucky comes to life, it’s a pretty decent slasher film. And Chucky has the distinct advantage that no one will suspect a child’s toy of doing murder. The movie goes along with people not believing in Chucky as a killer until they seem him do it up close. I think this first entry is probably the best in the series and if you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. Most of it still holds up and the end is ambiguous enough that sequels make sense. If you need something to watch this Halloween, Chucky’s got you covered.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Sweet Taste of Souls – #MovieReview

Happy Halloween everyone! Slick Dungeon here and today I am going to review a couple of horror films (what else?) for you today. First up, an independent film that is not afraid to embrace an independent plot, Sweet Taste of Souls.

There will be spoilers for this film but I will keep them on the mild side. Still, if you don’t want to know what happens before you watch the movie, you have been warned.

Sweet Taste of Souls is about a group of friends who are on the way to perform a gig in their band when they come across a pie shop that is much stranger than it seems. On the way to the gig, one of the band members gets hungry and wants to stop in a small secluded town in the woods. Probably not the best idea but who would know that right?

Anyway, this pie shop is quaint and has a series of photographs on the walls. They depict people in blank backgrounds and don’t seem to be especially creative. In one of them, a group of people have won a surf contest but they are wearing street clothes. This is obviously odd and the group of friends is a bit confused by it.

They go on their merry way thinking that everything is more or less fine when all of a sudden… they find themselves in one of the pictures. The rest of the film is them trying to figure out a way out of their predicament while the father of a missing girl is independently suspicious about things happening around the area.

I won’t say that everything entirely holds up here. There are moments that are not well explained and the whole idea of how the power of the photographs work is flexible at best. But I will say it’s a new and inventive twist overall on a group of friends goes missing story. The mood is generally menacing and creepy whenever they are in the pie shop and that keeps it fairly interesting.

There is also enough character back story here that it seems the filmmakers actually thought about who the characters were and how they might grow. I don’t think they hit the mark with all of them and I would also say that the end leaves a bit to be desired as far as explaining things but all in all it’s an enjoyable watch.

If you are looking for an independent horror film that is different than most of what you have seen, give this one a try. It won’t be the best movie you have ever seen but there is enough there to be entertaining to a horror fan.

Sweet Taste of Souls will be available on 11/1 on Amazon, InDemand, DirecTV, AT&T, FlixFling, Vudu & Fandango.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Camp Twilight – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here on this night before Halloween and I thought I would review an independent slasher film for you all. I watched Camp Twilight from DarkCoast pictures.

There have been tons of homages to the greatest of the great slasher films. You’ll notice that most of them take place at somewhere like a summer camp, just like Friday the 13th movies do. Why? Low budget locations!

Some of these films hold up as sort of fun romps that can be an enjoyable couple of hours. Others are just terrible films not worth the time of day. While Camp Twilight is certainly not the worst slasher film I have seen, It is nowhere near a good movie. I am going to give spoilers below so if you want to watch this first, feel free to do that and come back to read the review.

The premise is fine for this one. It’s a group of high school students who are essentially forced to go to a camp for a tech free weekend if they want to graduate. A couple of teachers will be there and there are going to be all of the expected summer activities, hiking, kayaking, etc. You can probably guess what happens as soon as it gets dark. Yep, these teenagers go missing as they are picked off one by one. There is some mystery to who is doing the killing and there is, for my taste, just far too much comic relief in the form of the local park rangers.

I will say that when you are trying to make a slasher film, it’s hard to be surprising because it has been done so many times. But by the end of this one, I felt like the supposed plot twists and surprises that were in the film were just there to fill time. A lot of it didn’t make much sense and was honestly a little frustrating.

I love independent movies and I love slasher films that are creative and surprising. Unfortunately this one misses the mark by a pretty wide margin.

The kills are nothing you haven’t seen before if you are a horror fan and although I don’t really have a problem with the acting, the whole thing didn’t seem like it was thought out well enough.

I’m hoping that DarkCoast still keeps making movies because they are bound to come up with a gem in the horror genre eventually but unless you have nothing else to watch and need a new slasher to see, I would stay away from Camp Twilight.

If you do want to watch the movie it will be available for VOD on InDemand, DirecTV, FlixFling, Vudu & Fandango on 11/1

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Son of Frankenstein (1939) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, and I am back to review another Universal creature feature. What do you get when you take three well known actors, all famous for their icon roles based on literature and put them in a movie together? You get Son of Frankenstein.

This film is a direct sequel to the first two Frankenstein films. Of course, Boris Karloff is back but we have two new additions here. First, the man we all know as Dracula is nearly unrecognizable as Igor the hated assistant of the original Dr. Frankenstein. Also joining the film is Basil Rathbone. If that name sounds familiar, it should. He spent years famously portraying the one and only Sherlock Holmes.

This film was made in 1939 so it is pretty old but I will still put a spoiler warning here. If you feel your neck bolts tingling because you don’t want to know what happens in a movie that is 81 years old, feel free to stop reading now and come back after you have watched it.

The film takes place 25 years after the events of Bride of Frankenstein. The little town where a certain famous creature was created is altogether sick of Frankenstein’s. They tried to hang Frankenstein’s assistant Igor but botched the job and pronounced him dead even though he was not dead at all. He did come away with a broken neck resulting in him being horribly disfigured but still alive. Henry Frankenstein as he was called in the first two movies (not in the book mind you) had a son. This son has come back to collect his father’s property and take up residence. He is hoping to make a new life there. He has one of the coolest names in all of horror and Baron Wolf von Frankenstein is convinced that his father was a good man who was wronged by his assistant and the town as a whole.

Baron Frankenstein is pretty sure there never was such a creature or if there was, he was only evil due to the mistakes of Igor the assistant. When the Frankenstein arrives in town he gets a very cold reception and realizes pretty quickly that he is going to face some prejudice for who he is. Of course, the town has good reason to suspect this guy. There is a police inspector who actually lost an arm to the creature and tells Frankenstein that he is here to protect the family and also that the creature is definitely real.

Soon Frankenstein realizes he has inherited his father’s research. The thought immediately crosses his mind that he could prove his father was not mad by… yeah exactly, making a creature of his own. He goes to the lab only to find Igor who wants Frankenstein to heal the creature who is in fact, still alive. Frankenstein is more than curious and fixes the creature up at least physically. He wants to treat the creature’s mind as well but Igor does not let him. Why? Well, see Igor has been getting his revenge on those that had him hanged with the help of the creature.

This whole set up leads to a pretty intense film and that is without mentioning the fact that Frankenstein has a young son who soon starts talking about seeing a friendly giant. Karloff gets to go back to a wordless performance as the creature while Lugosi gets to mug it up as someone other than Dracula. Rathbone is dynamic in his performance and there may be an argument to be made that he could be worse than his father was, although he doesn’t fully get to act on those impulses.

As far as the Frankenstein films go, I think this is one of the best ones. It sets the tone very well and feels menacing with personal stakes. If you have never watched this one I would recommend you give it a try, it’s probably better than you think.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Full Circle) Episode 10 Spoiler-free Review

The Season Wraps up With It’s Final Episode

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the tenth and final episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

After nine intense and dramatic episodes, the only real question left was if this series could deliver a satisfying conclusion. A lot of threads had been developed and a lot of drama had intensified over the show so far. The conclusion was a high bar to climb.

I don’t want to get into spoilers here, obviously, since this is a spoiler free review but I can say that the conclusion does measure up. I will say that parts of the episode were a bit slower than I would have expected but in the long run I think that just led to intensifying the drama.

While the conclusion was satisfying, I don’t think every story thread was wrapped up perfectly and there was room for improvement here. But as a show overall, this still gets an A+ for its ability to deal with horrors both real and imagined.

If you have not watched any of this show, do yourself a favor and give it a go because it has been one of the brightest spots of television all year.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dracula’s Daughter (1936) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, and I am back to review another Universal creature feature. We’ve gotten to the point where we have met most of our main monsters and the only logical thing is to start seeing films about their children.

This film is from 1936 so it’s pretty old. Not as old as a vampire of course, but old enough. I hadn’t seen the movie before this viewing so I will go ahead and give a spoiler warning so put your fangs away, you have been warned.

Dracula’s Daughter is the direct sequel to Dracula the original film about a vampire threat. This film begins immediately after the events of the first film. The police are investigating the commotion that was made when Van Helsing killed Dracula. The scene is pretty suspicious considering the body with a stake through it’s heart and the man whose neck had been broken by the vampire.

Van Helsing is arrested and needs help so he reaches out to a psychiatrist friend. I guess because psychiatrists are good lawyers? Anyway, the professor turns to a man named Dr. Garth who, might not exactly believe Van Helsing but is willing to help him. It just so happens that Dr. Garth also encounters a strange woman by the name of Countess Marya Zeleska. You might be guessing because Dracula was a count, that Countess Zeleska is also a vampire. You would be right.

The rest of the movie unfolds in ways you would more or less expect. Strange things happen around Countess Zeleska and bodies start showing up all over town. Dr. Garth tries to help Van Helsing and after conversations with him, Dr. Garth figures out that these strange things might be connected and there really are vampires in the world.

There are a couple of surprising things in the movie though. One is that Dracula’s daughter doesn’t really want to be a vampire. Also, I don’t want to spoil the end here but the creepy guy in the picture above plays a pivotal role.

The most amazing part to me about this film though, was Gloria Holden’s performance in the role of the title character. I swear, in the whole thing she did not blink a single time. Not once!

The film does play pretty hard into some chauvinistic stereotypes and I found Dr. Garth to be rather sexist in the movie. I know attitudes were different then but that doesn’t make them right.

There was also more comedy injected into this one and it made it easy for me to see how someone thought horror and comedy would make a great team up in later films where Abbott & Costello meet the various creatures.

Overall, this was a much better sequel than I expected, despite the complete lack of Bela Lugosi. If you haven’t checked this one out, I think it’s a pretty interesting entry in horror film history and is worth a watch.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Gunmetal Gods – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

REVIEW 5/5 STARS

Kevah was once a hero who did the impossible. He killed a magus and his legend was born. Ten years later he is old and leads a life averse to warfare but his time will come again. Meanwhile, Micah the metal has been on a conquest for his faith. He has conquered much of the world and now he comes for Kostany, the city that Kevah lives in. He will stop at nothing to achieve his victory.

When an author is bold enough to name a book Gunmetal Gods, they better deliver the goods with a huge, epic story that is an absolute page turner full of amazing battles, intense political intrigue, and surprises at every turn. That is exactly what author Zamil Akhtar has done.

The parallel stories of Kevah and Micah intertwine and intersect in surprising ways as the world moves with them and around them. As the book progresses, the reader only becomes more engaged in the story as the cast of characters grows.

Battle scenes are fascinating in this book with the combination of swordplay, magic, and technological advancements in the early development of guns. They are vividly described and utterly thrilling to read.

The book is full of well realized characters, a deep culture that is well thought out, incredible creatures and amazing beings that turn the tide of the story and everything else you would want in a fantasy tale. This book easily stands with the best of epic fantasy fiction.

If you love sweeping epics like the Game of Thrones series or Throne of the Crescent Moon, drop whatever else you are reading and pick up this book. It’s as bold as the title and it delivers on all fronts. Remember Zamil Akhtar’s name because if he keeps writing like this, he will be the next well known epic fantasy author to have a global fanbase.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lovecraft Country (Rewind 1921) Episode 9 Spoiler-free Review

The Intensity is Turned All the Way Up In The Penultimate Episode of the Season

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the ninth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

The title of the episode probably gives you a good clue as to where and when the main events of this episode happen, especially if you know your American history well. With all that this show has delivered week in and week out I was not sure if it would be able get better.

It did. This episode is utterly nail biting, intense and superbly emotional. The family drama deepens and connections are made and resolved. Events that have been spoken of previously in the show come to light and are turned in stunningly surprising ways.

This show is absolutely a must see for any horror fan, especially if you have a strong stomach. There were a couple of episodes that I thought were not as strong as the others but overall this show is gripping television.

There is only one episode to go. If you have not watched Lovecraft Country yet, binge as fast as you can this week because the final episode is sure to deliver everything you would want in a horror show.

I can’t wait until next Sunday to watch.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Invisible Man (2020) vs. The Invisible Man (1933)

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I recently watched The Invisible Man (1933) and wanted to compare it to The Invisible Man (2020).

You will probably see right through this but if you keep reading, there will be spoilers for both movies below. You have been warned.

In this corner we have a scientist who injects himself with a solution that not only makes him turn invisible but also causes him to go insane and allows him to torture scientists he works with and terrorize an entire town. In the opposite corner is a horrifically abusive scientist who is an expert in optics and fakes his own death in order to torture a woman, frame her for unspeakable crimes, and terrorizes a police facility for the mentally ill.

The original film is a fun romp into what ifs about being invisible but still shows the dire consequences of what happens when science goes to far. The current film is more of a statement about the sad truth that far too many victims of domestic abuse are not believed when they should be. It’s a much more gripping psychological thriller than the first.

While in the original it is to be expected that there would be plot holes, silly camera gimmicks that were innovative at the time and a bit of overacting, the current film needs to be held to a higher standard. It’s hard to do film magic now since the audience understands that we have such things as green screens, CGI etc. The current film is able to create plenty of tension despite the fact we can all guess at how the camera tricks were pulled off. There are some things that I question in the current film however.

Here is where I will go a bit into deeper spoilers for the current film so if you have not seen it, you may not want to read further. In the new film, the main character, Cecilia (who is not the invisible man if you did not guess), is framed for murder. Moments later she is in police custody where she is interrogated by her friend whose house she was staying at. Now, while I give this movie a lot of credit and I think it was a good watch, I hardly found this part believable. It would be such an obvious conflict for that cop to be interrogating a murder suspect who he had such a close relationship with. Sorry, but I don’t buy that at all.

Later in the film, when things are wrapping up and Cecilia is trying to get the actual Invisible Man to confess, James is listening in as a cop. Again, that is way too much of a conflict to happen. I know complaining about those parts of the movie might be considered too picky, it threw off the experience for me.

Still, it is a terrifying movie but perhaps not for the reason you would think. On the surface, thinking that an invisible stalker is around is certainly terrifying. There is no doubt that would be a challenging adversary. But the terrifying part of this is the fact that in so many cases in real life women are not believed when they say they are abused. This whole movie plot would not work if that were not the case and to me that is utterly horrifying. It’s so easy for the characters around Cecilia to dismiss her concerns because that is what actually happens far too often and that is unacceptable. It does add weight to the movie though and raises the stakes.

So to sum up, the original movie is great if you want a fun silly scare and to see the golden age of movie monsters at the beginning. The new one is terrifying because it reflects much of our reality. Depending on what you are in the mood for, both are very good films. I recommend them both but if you decide to watch the current one, think about how easy it is for Cecilia’s situation to be translated to reality and how tragic that is.

I can’t really pick a “winner” between the two because both are very competent films. But if you are looking for escapist fantasy and fun monsters I definitely say to go with the original. And let’s try to keep the horrors on the screen instead of in reality.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Werewolf of London (1935) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here and you know what has been missing from my Universal Monster party? Werewolves. That’s right, the hairy, transforming creature has only just made its appearance on the Universal stage. Today I am going to review Werewolf of London (1935).

This movie is from 1935 so I am pretty sure I am okay to go ahead and say it’s your fault if anything below is a spoiler to you. Still, some people grow hair on their knuckles over that sort of thing so consider yourself warned.

Werewolf of London was one of the first movies to feature werewolves. This film should not be confused with the much more popular film The Wolf Man. I will get to that one but the Werewolf of London came first so I am reviewing it first.

The movie starts with a couple of Londoners in Tibet trying to get a hold of a rare flower that only blooms in moonlight. In their attempt to do so, one of them is bit by what looks like a man and a wolf combined. The film starts with good potential there and talks about superstitions and we all know where it is going.

The next, I don’t know, really long part of the movie, is a garden party. Yep, that’s right, there is a really long sequence at a botanical society and it is every bit as exciting as that sounds. There is a rival botanist who wants the moon flower that the Londoner stole because, well, it cures, “werewolfery”. The film tries to make the whole thing seem menacing but it comes off as pretty silly.

I’m sure you know where it goes from here. The botanist from London transforms into a werewolf. He does bad, bad things. We get to see a transformation and some makeup artistry at work and then, ultimately he is stopped.

The best part of this movie is the two innkeeper women who bicker with each other and occasionally knock one another out. For the rest of this movie I would put this in the Incredible Hulk category for MCU movies. That is to say, it is one you can skip and get along in life without just fine.

Still, there is one really good thing to come out of this film. And that’s not even a film, it’s a song. Warren Zevon watched this movie randomly on television one day and he was convinced that he should write a song about it and create a dance craze to go along with the movie. The song became a smash hit and is still played on the radio today. I bet you want to listen to it. No problem, I have you covered, just play the video below!

Horrifically and musically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) – #MovieReview

Hey all you monsters out there, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the next of the Universal creature features, this time its the romantic biopic known as The Bride of Frankenstein from 1935.

This movie was made a long time ago but I am told there are still living bodies today that have not seen it so I give you a spoiler warning. Don’t let your hair stick up in the air because of it.

Boris Karloff was getting quite the reputation as a leading monster. Frankenstein was a huge hit and audiences wanted more. The studio wanted money, thus, more Frankenstein pictures were guaranteed. This time, the creature wants a wife.

This movie is a rather interesting entry in monster movies. Like the first of the series, it starts with a little bit of a warning to the audience that what we would see would shock us. Only, this time we get a flashback to Mary Shelley reflecting on her novel instead of a man on a stage. Elsa Lancaster plays not only Mary Shelley but also plays the eponymous bride. The hairdo really makes a big difference here.

Interestingly, it could be argued that this movie is more accurate to the book than the first Frankenstein film is. Karloff gets some dialogue. He makes a friend and there is a bit of moral gray introduced here, as we see that the monster is a very isolated creature. Like in the book, Frankenstein’s monster wants a companion who is like him. One that won’t hate him and reject him because of his monstrous appearance.

Dr. Frankenstein is obsessed with learning the secret of life even after the events of the first film. The part that gets kind of out of hand here is the doctor that comes to entice Frankenstein into taking a second dip into reanimating the dead. Doctor Pretorius has a creepy demeanor, a face that is unforgettable, an evil agenda, and… a bunch of little people in jars. Yep. It’s a bit of film trickery which was innovative at the time but looks a bit silly. Luckily the rest of the film overshadows that flaw to make an extremely gripping film.

You can feel the anguish in Karloff’s voice as his creature realizes that the bride that was built for him is afraid of him. I think the most memorable line in this is three short words, “She hate me.”

It’s kind of soul crushing. If you haven’t seen this you should. There is a reason this is an all time classic.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Invisible Man (1933) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here again to review yet another Universal monster movie. This time I watched The Invisible Man. Or did I? Can you really watch someone who is not visible? Anyway, I watched the movie from 1933 starring Claude Rains. I do intend to do a review of the more current Invisible Man as a compare and contrast but I haven’t watched it yet.

For this movie, it’s from 1933 so I probably don’t need to tell you that there will be spoilers below. But still consider yourself warned. If you get the creepy feeling that someone is the room with you telling you not to read further it’s not me but it could be The Invisible Man.

If you look at the previous Universal films you’ll notice something interesting. Frankenstein, Dracula and The Mummy have relatively low body counts. Sure, Dracula did kill everyone on a boat and he had terrorized everyone in his home country to the point that everyone was afraid. Frankenstein (well his monster that is) killed a few people and again terrorized his home town relentlessly. Imhotep aka the mummy, brought himself back from the dead and murdered a few people to regain his lost love. But you know what? They were not just regular humans. At one point they may have been but Dracula is thousands of years old. Frankenstein’s monster is more a collection of people than a single man. Imhotep is the closest to being a regular human but he comes from an ancient society with a different set of rules and magic on his side. You know what The Invisible Man had? A bit of science, some bandages, a wig, and a desire to cause a ton of chaos. This guy has a huge body count compared to the other monsters. And he seems to do bad things because he enjoys them.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. So the basic plot is that a man discovers a solution that can make you invisible. This man is a scientist and he goes off to an inn to try and work in seclusion and cure his condition. The problem? This solution drives you insane. He decides it would be fun to, you know, murder a bunch of people and by golly he does it. He derails an entire train at one point. A whole town can’t catch him and he enlists partners to help him in his criminal enterprises.

To modern audiences there are a lot of things that seem silly in the movie. A bicycle riding by itself with a voice over, things moving where you can see string if you look close enough, and film tricks like superimposing images so it looks like there is no head on a body. In 1933 these things were fairly innovative and left audiences shocked. What I really found shocking was the gleefully deviant attitude of the main character. I mean, this guy really likes to cause trouble and no one is gonna stop him.

The film is very entertaining if you can get over the older effects and I can see why someone like this would still be scary today. If you have never watched this, do yourself a favor and give it a view.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country (Jig-a-Bobo) Episode 8 Spoiler-free Review

The Horror of Reality Collides with the Horror of the Cosmos as the Family Drama Intensifies

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the eighth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

After seven episodes one would think that you could not get much more intense than the previous episodes. Yet this episode delivers everything you could want from this show.

The episode is electric with drama and it has loads of horrors. It proves that our hero Atticus is far from perfect and that things could go critically wrong. None of the characters are safe, from the world, from nightmares, or from themselves.

A lot of the episode reminded me of some of the best of Stephen King stories. If you love horror, and have not started watching this series, you need to get on this one right now. It’s terrifying in both the way it portrays the impossible and in how it portrays reality. Added to that is deep character development with nuanced heroes and villains.

This episode does propel the story forward and feels like it is building toward an epic conclusion of the season. There are only a couple more episodes to go but I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Mummy (1932) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here, back to review another of the Universal creature features. This time I am reviewing The Mummy from 1932. This is the second Universal movie to star Boris Karloff as an undead creature.

This is a movie that is almost ninety years old but I will still give the warning that spoilers will follow below. Don’t let your bandages unwrap over it.

By this time, Universal was building a reputation as masters of early film horror. In fact, there is a lot of overlap in the actors in all the Universal monster movies because of how the studio and film contracts worked at the time.

As far as The Mummy goes, there are a lot of issues with this film. For starters, the film has a pretty cavalier attitude about plundering Egypt for ancient artifacts in the name of, “science”. That’s pretty much how the attitude was in those days so it is not surprising but that doesn’t make it right. Secondly, most of the Egyptians in this movie are played by British or American actors. Let’s just say that the 1930’s was not the best era for representation in films. Whether we like it or not, that is how things were back then. Since this is the case, I am going to review the movie based on it’s plot and not it’s shortcomings here but we would be foolish to think this was a perfect film.

Boris Karloff gets a second turn as an undead creature in this film. He plays the menacing, yet soft spoken, mummy raised from the dead, Imhotep. In 1922 an expedition digs him up along with a box containing a scroll that has a warning against opening it. Of course, the archeologists immediately open it and ignore the warning because… plot. Ten years later, another expedition goes to the same area and a man who looks suspiciously like Imhotep leads them to a new find.

Imhotep is just looking to raise his great love from the dead and, you know, live happily ever after. Unfortunately to do that, he has to hypnotize and kill a woman named Helen Grosvener who seems to be a reincarnation of Imhotep’s love. The heroes have to stop that from happening. I won’t go into too much more detail other than that but I will say that the mummy has some serious thought control powers and has magic on his side so he isn’t easy to defeat.

If you have not seen this movie you should, even if it is just to watch Karloff’s performance. As always he has the most watchable film presence in anything he appears in. Because of this The Mummy has endured for decades and is one of the most important film monsters of all time. His quiet demeanor combined with his imposing figure was enough to give plenty of audiences nightmares in the 1930’s and is still really fun to watch today.

While this is not my favorite of the Universal monsters, I have to give the mummy credit for being an important component of it. I haven’t really watched the sequels so I am interested to see where it goes from here.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Frankenstein (1931) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review the second of the Universal monster films, the ever popular Frankenstein starring the one and only Boris Karloff.

This is a film that is so iconic that if you say the word Frankenstein, the image of Karloff with his neck bolts is what immediately jumps to mind. And that’s despite the fact that the book of the same name is one of the most famous horror novels of all time. And that’s despite the fact that Karloff doesn’t play Frankenstein, he plays Frankenstein’s monster. If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie there will be some spoilers that follow. It’s a movie that is almost ninety years old though so try not to lose any body parts over it okay?

The book Frankenstein is a deeply philosophical novel that goes in depth with questions about how humanity should draw the line between science and nature. It asks if ambition can be destructive. It asks if a man can be a god and if he can, what does that make his creation. It asks us to decide who is the real monster in this story.

The movie has cool wheels and gears and a whole bunch of over the top insanity from its Dr. Frankenstein. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, it’s just very different from the book. Some of the story is the same, a portion of the events play out like they did in the book. The basic idea is there. A doctor who is consumed with discovering the secret of life does so by harvesting the dead for body parts then reanimating them. The new creation is more creature than man in the movie but it is more complicated in the book.

My favorite part of the film adaptation is the beginning. Before we get into the main action of the story a man comes on stage to warn the audience that what we are about to see may shock and terrify us. If you are a fan of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episodes, you probably know that this is where they got the idea for Marge to give the audience a warning. It sets the tone for the rest of the film and puts us in the mood to be shocked or horrified.

For modern audiences there is nothing truly frightening here but it is still really fun to watch. Karloff does not have a single line of dialogue in the whole film and he mostly just goes around grunting. We do get to see him in his costume, complete with makeup and heavy boots. Those boots would give poor Boris back problems for the rest of his life. It’s an iconic and mesmerizing performance and it’s easy to see why audiences of the day found it so fascinating.

I’ll never understand some of the choices the filmmakers made for this however. I have no idea why they chose to name the scientist Henry Frankenstein instead of Victor like it is in the book. Not only that, they give the name Victor to another character who vies for the affection of Elizabeth who is engaged to Henry. It’s definitely confusing if you read the book but of course you do not have to have read the book to enjoy the movie.

I also will never understand why Dr. Frankenstein’s assistant opens the jar with the “normal brain” instead of just leaving with it but I guess if he didn’t the rest of the movie couldn’t happen. After all, a creature with a normal brain would be pretty dull.

If you have never watched this film, do yourself a favor and give it a view. It’s great fun and well worth a watch.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dracula (1931) – #MovieReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. This October I thought I would go through a bunch of the classic Universal creature features and give them a review. And if we are doing Universal monster movies, we have to start with the granddaddy of them all, Dracula from 1931 starring the one and only Bela Lugosi as the title character.

This movie is almost ninety years old and the book it is based off is even older but I still will give you the warning that spoilers will follow. Because, you know, maybe you are an undead creature who loves to feast on human blood but also loves movies and has just not had enough time to get to reading or watching Dracula. You have been warned, now get those sharp teeth off of my neck.

Dracula is the most iconic vampire of all time and as far as I can tell, he always will be. The book took a bunch of separate ideas about what a vampire is and put them all together to create one of the most terrifying books in all of literature. The film from 1931 is not only a horror classic but a film classic. Any list of the greatest movies of all time that leaves this one off is missing the mark. Re-watching the film it’s obvious why this is a classic. The filmmakers were able to pack all the menace and mood of danger in that they could. Even with all of the subsequent versions of Dracula from different studios, remakes, etc., this will always hold as the most iconic. It’s nearly impossible not to imagine Bela Lugosi when you say the word Dracula.

Still, the film makes some very odd choices and leaves out plenty of the best parts of the book. The main thing that confuses me in this adaptation is that they put Renfield as the one who travels to Castle Dracula to make arrangements for the count. Anyone who has read the book knows without doubt that the character who does this is Jonathan Harker. The other major complaint is that the story of Lucy is almost completely ignored. That part of the book is what really raises the stakes (pun totally intended) for our heroes. They choose to leave this part out and focus more on Mina which makes some sense when you have to keep it at seventy-five minutes. It would have been nice to have it there though.

Even with those complaints, this is still a great movie. Most versions are a little grainy and the sound can be difficult to hear at times but that is just due to the age of the film. This is also, in my opinion, where you should start if you want to introduce your kids to horror. Honestly, there is a reason that all these years later when I tell you that I am going to review Universal monster movies, you know exactly the kinds of creature features I am talking about. This is the movie that kicked that off and proved beyond doubt that horror was a golden money maker in Hollywood. I wish that studios would make something this iconic today.

There are immortal lines in this one as well. “I never drink… wine,” probably being the most recognized. The mood and setting are iconic and set the tone for several films to come. If you have never watched this or if it has been a while since you have, do yourself a favor and give ol’ Dracula a little bit of attention. You won’t regret it.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

By Night’s End – #MovieReview

An Independent Thriller Film With the Right Formula

Happy October everyone! Slick Dungeon here and I thought I would kick off this month with a review of an independent film from DarkCoast.

This is a crime thriller about a married couple who have to defend themselves against a home invasion. The film was written by Walker Whited and Sean McCane, with Whited also performing directing duties. It stars Michelle Rose as an ex-Army Sergeant named Heather and Kurt Yue as an average husband with a troubled history named Mark. There is also a nice turn as bad guy Moody played by Michael Aaron Milligan.

There will be some mild spoilers below but you should still be able to enjoy the film if you read on because I will not give away too much. You have been warned.

A couple facing financial hardships and a tragic past are surprised when an intruder breaks into their home. Mark and Heather are not sure what to do when the intruder offers them a large sum of money if they let him go. Acting in self defense, Heather kills the intruder. The natural impulse would be to call the police but Mark realizes that there must be something valuable in their house. The couple agree to spend an hour looking for it before contacting the authorities. This kicks off a night full of intense surprises, an emotional roller coaster, and a ton of action.

The film is overall very satisfying and while it uses the basic formula of Die Hard it does so with enough twists and flourishes that it works. And let’s be honest, that formula works for a reason and is still entertaining to watch. Michelle Rose and Kurt Yue both put in phenomenal performances here and I found them both extremely engaging in their respective parts. Michael Aaron Milligan has a tendency to take his villain role a little too far at times but it’s still a great menacing performance.

The action is rather intense and for once, I mostly did not find myself wondering why in the world the characters would make those choices. Heather is smart and a woman of action. Mark is no soldier but he does things that would make sense given the situation. The bad guys do a few things that might be questionable but then again if the bad guys never made a mistake, the heroes would have no chance right?

The climax of the film is utterly intense and by the time we get there, it feels like Heather and Mark are in real danger and it’s definitely not certain that either will survive. They are a likeable couple with their own flaws and are easily relatable to the audience. These are three dimensional characters which is nice to see in an action film that essentially takes place in a single evening and at a single location.

For a low budget, independent film, this one hits all the right marks and makes for an exciting viewing experience. There are a lot of action films and thrillers you could watch but sometimes it’s nice to see something that was truly independent and this qualifies. Instead of re-watching Die Hard for the millionth time, give this one a try. It’s well worth your time and I definitely recommend it.

By Night’s End will be available on October 6th on the following digital platforms — Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, FlixFling, Google Play, Vudu and AT&T.

Do yourself a favor and make that a movie night and give this one a try.

Thrillingly yours,

Slick Dungeon

When Colour Became Grey – #BookReview

Note: this review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery, an awesome website that pairs independent authors and readers. To see the post there click here.

If you are a book reviewer and want to contribute reviews on Reedsy Discovery, click here.

SYNOPSIS

After her unexpected death, Ameerah is sentenced to several decades as a ghost in a parallel world. At the end of it she will be granted a second chance at her human life, returning to the moment she died and surviving her accident. Her duty is to hunt and kill demons, but this dangerous new world demands more than just years of service. Soon she realises the demons are not the only ones threatening her survival. Her new friends are scarce and as they struggle to make it, she can’t help but wonder if the promise of a second chance was not a ruse all along.

REVIEW

3/5 STARS

Ameerah had barely begun her life when it ended. An average woman suddenly finds herself in a parallel world, required to hunt demons and vampires for years before she will be allowed a chance to return to our own world. In Idolon, there are dangers everywhere and Ameerah will need to rely on her trainer, her master, and her wits in order to survive. Will she be able to make enough friends and allies to survive the world she is in or will she be doomed to give in to her own demons?

The book has a nice mix of different creatures of the night and there are plenty of good action scenes where Ameerah is fighting for her life. There are also elements of romance here and they play out nicely throughout the story. The world of Idolon is quite interesting although the reader is left with questions as to why Ameerah was chosen to end up there. It’s likely that some of that will be answered in coming volumes so it’s not too distracting to the reader to not have all the answers by the end.

The end of the book is able to surprise the reader while still concluding the story for the most part. The worldbuilding is done well and most of the rules of the supernatural creatures seem to stay consistent within the book. It would have been nice to see a little more background of Ameerah’s life before she dies but that is a minor complaint given the rest of the story. It will be interesting to see the continuing adventures of Ameerah in the next volume and I am looking forward to reading it.

If you like paranormal stories. stories that take place on different worlds similar to our own or shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer this is definitely worth a read.

Fantastically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support

Lovecraft Country (I Am) Episode 7 Spoiler-free Review

Cosmic Adventure Replaces Horror for This Episode

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the seventh episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

After the stellar sixth episode, this one seems jarringly different. It’s not that this episode is bad. We do get more of the family drama, especially between Atticus and his father but the rest of the episode lacks any horror and seems almost whimsical instead.

On the one hand, that’s a nice breather from the intensity of this show and the acting remains brilliant. This episode centers around Hippolyta and shows off a seriously impressive range on the part of Aunjanue Ellis. It asks difficult questions about identity, race and social injustice all while showing how vast the cosmos can be.

On the other hand, this episode feels a little bit out of place, especially after the horrors of the previous episodes. I am sure that the plot from this one will tie up in later episodes but this one definitely feels like it has more of an adventure story feel than a horror story.

There are only three episodes left for this season so I expect the horror will be cranked up to eleven on those and I am definitely looking forward to watching them. I’m sure Hippolyta’s story is going to intersect but I honestly have no idea how that is going to happen.

It should be fun to see and let’s just hope that Atticus and company can survive and stay sane along the way.

Adventuringly yours,

Slick Dungeon

Lovecraft Country – #BookReview

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I’m back to review another book from my September to be read list. This time I am reviewing the inspiration for the hit HBO show of the same name, Lovecraft Country.

SUMMARY

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.

REVIEW

5/5 STARS

In Chicago in 1954, Atticus Turner receives a letter from his father. The letter will take him to a place full of horrors, terrors, and the real nightmare of segregationist America. He has to travel deep into Lovecraft country where monsters roam and the cosmic terror of the world seems to be alive. It will take everything Atticus and his whole family have to brave the terrors that confront them and remain sane.

Usually when there is a book and a movie or television show and I have read and seen them both, I am able to tell you if one is better than the other. Most of the time I come down on the side of the book being better but occasionally there is a movie or series that outperforms its source material. I can’t make the distinction either way here. The book and the show are both amazing in their own unique way.

The book, unlike the show, feels a little smaller in scope even though it deals with the strange cosmic entities that populate Lovecraftian horror. The drama is still personal and much like the show, there can be true horror facing the characters in the guise of monsters who only seem insignificant in the face of the terrors of racial prejudice and violence. The true terror comes from reality in both the book and the show and I think that is what makes the story feel so visceral and real.

Matt Ruff has created an intriguing cast of characters here and the situations he places them in are imaginative and brilliant. And while certain details differ from the show, this book is just as engaging. It’s a satisfying conclusion but I hope that there will be sequels to the book.

If you love historical fiction, pulp fiction, science fiction or cosmic horror even a little bit, this book is well worth a read.

Cosmically yours,

Slick Dungeon

This page contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). I only ever endorse products I have personally used. Thank you for your support!

Lovecraft Country (Meet Me in Daegu) Episode 6 Spoiler-free Review

The Series is Bold Enough to Ask What Makes a Monster

Hey Everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to give a spoiler free review of the sixth episode of the HBO series Lovecraft Country.

What is a monster? Can a monster have human emotions? Can a human who has done monstrous things still be a human? These are the questions that the sixth episode of Lovecraft Country wrestles with. Not enough horror poses this question and those that do typically just ask it on the surface. This episode was masterful at asking this question and forcing the audience to truly think about it.

The episode itself is basically a flashback episode that relates to the larger story. It’s the only episode so far that does not take place in America but that’s all that I am going to tell you because I really don’t want to give this one away.

I think if this show is going to win Emmys in the future, it should be this episode that is considered. The acting here is fascinating and the drama is real.

I have thought a lot about why this show is so good and I think it is this; the show can let you see something horrific, a terrible monster that is objectively scary, and then moments later the show will let you see something from reality that is even scarier. Any show that can place reality as the real horror has done its job well because while we might have nightmares about the big scary monster, there is no escaping reality.

I have no idea where the drama will take us next but I know I am ready for the ride.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

The Devil All the Time – #MovieReview

The Devil All The Time: Robert Pattinson as Preston Teagardin. Photo Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix © 2020

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon, here back to review the number one movie on Netflix right now. That’s right, I am here to give you my hot take on Devil All the Time.

The film stars Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson as a couple of southerners who end up at odds with each other. To be honest, that’s a really poor description of the film but those two are the most billable, bankable stars in the movie. I won’t give away any major spoilers here so feel free to read this review even before you watch the film.

The movie is really several story lines that intersect, kind of like Pulp Fiction did but it’s much less disjointed than that movie was. There is a lot of suspense and violence in the film. It’s not for the faint of heart but it’s by no means even close to the bloodiest thing you could watch on Netflix.

The pacing of the film is intentionally slow and deliberate but it is not harmed for that. The acting is stellar and there is a scene with Holland and Pattinson that takes place in a church that is downright electric. The whole movie is worth watching just for that one scene.

While it maybe could have used a few less characters overall, the story is rather interesting and all of the loose ends are tied in a bow, with one notable exception.

If you really like suspense or thriller films, especially the kind that have a slow build up to a majorly interconnected story, this movie is for you. Or if you just like a good drama and need a break from Marvel films but still want to watch Tom Holland, this is worth a watch.

Suspensefully yours,

Slick Dungeon