Phantasm – #MovieReview

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hey horror film fanatics, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. Today I am going to review the first film in one of the weirdest and most unique horror franchises ever, Phantasm.

This is part of my film challenge for the year and it checks off the box, watch a movie that scares you. If you want to participate in the movie challenge you can download it right here. If you want to check out all my challenges for the year, check out this post.

Phantasm sits in an unusual place in horror. It’s a slasher film but it’s also a sci-fi film. When I was a kid, I remember watching this and being terrified. I wanted to revisit it to see if it held up and was as creepy as I remembered. I am going to give some spoilers below. This is a movie that a lot of people have not seen so I won’t give away anything too major but if you are interested in seeing it I would recommend doing that before you read the review. You’ve been warned.

In a small little town in the 1970’s a man is murdered by a woman in the middle of a cemetery. The victim is Tommy who is friends with Reggie and Jody. Jody and his little brother Mike are the stars of the film, although all of the characters shown have important roles to play. Tommy getting stabbed to death in the cemetery at the beginning of the film might be the most normal thing that happens in the whole movie.

Mike sees the tall man who runs the cemetery pick up Tommy’s coffin all by himself and load it into a hearse. The Tall Man is played brilliantly by Angus Scrimm who has a face and demeanor that is sure to be memorable. Unlike other slasher villains, The Tall Man doesn’t need a mask to be terrifying. It’s all in his face.

Soon Mike is telling his brother strange things are going on at the cemetery. There are odd sounds, creatures that may or may not be resurrected bodies and floating spheres of death that can come flying at anyone who is poking around the cemetery.

In one sense this plays out like a normal slasher film. People are at risk of death and have to escape the situation and try to kill the killer. The interesting thing about this film is the tone is utterly menacing and although the reveals at the end might seem to be odd to viewers, for the most part they work. The movie also views somewhat like an art film. There are parts that no matter how many times you watch them, they don’t quite make sense. In the end it doesn’t matter. The effects don’t hold up that well and as an adult it’s pretty easy to see how they made the scares happen. But there is no mistaking the menace in The Tall Man. And the silver death spheres are still frightening in my opinion.

If you are not a horror fan I don’t think it’s necessary to seek this one out. But if you like horror and you want something that is a little more surreal than normal and something that isn’t just your standard killer invades a home type of horror, consider checking this one out. Even if it doesn’t scare you at all, I guarantee there will be something here that you will remember long after viewing.

If you have watched this one, especially recently, let me know what you thought of it in the comments.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

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#31Days: A Collection of Horror Essays, Vol. 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.

(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

Imagine immersing yourself in a world of unimaginable horrors for a month. Now imagine doing it every year for 16 years. Horror critic Robert J Gannon does it ever year. The #31Days challenge is to watch and review a different horror property–film, TV series, book, game, play, etc.–every day for the month of October.

In this newly revised and expanded collection of essays, Robert J Gannon celebrates the horror genre with a focus on film and television. #31Days features 65 essays and reviews covering everything from Don Coscarelli’s “Phantasm” series to the anthology horror show “Masters of Horror.” This non-fiction collection follows the spirit of Sketching Details, Robert’s long-running entertainment media criticism website. Horror deserves the same level of respect and analysis as any other genre. Robert J Gannon has built a career out of analyzing and sharing a passion for genre fiction–horror, sci-fi, and fantasy–and he’s ready to show the world in his debut non-fiction collection.

REVIEW

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Every year Robert Ganon spends 31 days in October consuming and reviewing different types of horror media. His most recent critical reviews are collected in #31Days: A Collection of Horror Essays, Vol. 1. These reviews focus on film from a wide range of horror history with everything from the Phantasm series to Death Note and even has a healthy smattering of documentary and reality show material he has reviewed.

Horror fans will be glad to know that Ganon does a good job of avoiding major spoilers in any of his reviews. Another thing many fans of horror will appreciate is the content warning he gives for each review. This makes it much easier to know if a particular show or movie might not be right for you.

Most of the reviews are objective and Ganon clearly knows his history of horror and what does and does not work well in a visual horror story. He does tend to lean towards films and shows that can be a bit experimental. If you are a horror fan who has seen everything under the sun you will likely appreciate some of the more rare findings he speaks about. For fans of more popular films and shows, Ganon has several of those in there as well so anyone who does like horror is bound to find at minimum one thing worth watching.

If you don’t happen to be a fan of the Phantasm film series you may want to skip those reviews as he does go through every single film. However, in my opinion, and Mr. Ganon’s that series is majorly undervalued by media critics at large and is worth a viewing. He sums up its place in film history very well.

One other thing that is refreshing about these reviews is that they are at times intimate and personal. One of the stand out reviews is about a documentary that was made touching upon the homophobia surrounding A Nightmare on Elm Stree 2: Freddy’s Revenge. It’s not often that you find such thoughtful criticism of horror in general and it’s a great touch here in #31Days: A Collection of Horror Essays, Vol. 1.

Fans of horror would all do well to give this book a look. You’re not going to like everything in it but if you are a fan of horror at all there is something here for you. If Mr. Ganon decides to put out another book for next October I will be getting myself a copy to see what in the world of horror is worth my time.

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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

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

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