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