TV Review – Ash vs Evil Dead (Episode 1)

Bruce Campbell in Ash vs Evil Dead

Hey internet it’s me Slick Dungeon. I wasn’t sure if I was going to review this series because I didn’t know much about it but I got through all of the Evil Dead films so thought I would give this one a chance. There are spoilers below for the first episode so fair warning. Groovy? Groovy.

The show begins with Bruce Campbell tightening a man-girdle while the song Space Truckin’ plays in the background and… I. Am. On. Board. For. This! I can’t think of a better way to start an Evil Dead series. This gets right into the comedy by showing Ash picking up a woman at a bar and telling an obvious lie about his severed hand. He has a moment while he is uhh… having an intimate moment in the restroom… where he sees the face of a Deadite. He hasn’t seen this in the last thirty years and can’t figure out why it happened.

He goes back to his trailer and realizes he read the passage from the Necronomicon while he was high and, you know, unleashed Hell on earth yet again.

We see a pair of police officers investigate a house where there is a demon and one of the officers ends up shooting her partner. She’s not sure if she is crazy or really saw what she thought she saw. This part of the show gives us the best chance for horror since it’s pretty unlikely Ash will die and we are not yet attached to these characters. There’s a decent amount of gore and scares here but it still seems to have a sense of fun.

We switch back to Ash who is still working in a big box store but now has lackeys who basically cover up his poor work ethic for him.

To keep from giving too much away, I will just say Ash has gotten himself and some of his coworkers into trouble and he’s going to need to get them all out of it.

So far, the show has kept the same mix of fear and fun you find overall in the Evil Dead film series and I feel like this is a much more natural follow up than the remake of the original film was. I’m excited to see how the rest of the series plays out.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Top 5 Horror One Shots for Dungeons & Dragons

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Hey all, Slick Dungeon here. I hate long intros to top 5 lists so we’ll get right into it. These are my five favorite horror one shots for Dungeons & Dragons.

(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)

5. The House of Lament from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Spirit Board from House of Lament

The House of Lament is a highly customizable haunted house adventure made for a party of 4-6 1st level characters who will advance to 3rd level by the end. The idea is pretty simple here, there is a house that is not at rest. The party will be lead there by whatever adventure hook you want to come up with (if you decide to do a longer campaign in Ravenloft you’ll definitely want to incorporate the mists somehow). Once the part is there they will meet some friendly NPC’s who are trying to figure out why the house is haunted and want to shut it down. I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers but the players get to conduct a few seances with the help of a spirit board that leads them to clues about why the house is haunted. For the DM there are several scenarios this can take so you may want to pick which spirits are haunting the house ahead of time. The goal is for the players to go through the house and help or in some cases defeat the spirits and put the house back at rest. Whether or not you turn this into a longer campaign is up to you. Right now you can only find this adventure in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. I have a full review of that book here and I highly recommend picking it up. Also handy are these handouts you can find on the Dungeon Master’s Guild Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: The House of Lament DM Resources Pack and Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft: House of Lament Props & Handouts. Because it’s so customizable it can be a bit difficult to run for a newer Dungeon Master so be sure to read through before playing.

4. The Haunt

The Haunt

The Haunt is another haunted manor style campaign. It can definitely be run in about 3-4 hours or less, depending on how many obstacles you put in your players way. It’s made for a party of 4th-5th level characters. There are several good scares in here and some unique monsters to fight. The first one you can adapt to play with kids if your kids are okay with somewhat scary happenings but be forewarned that the sequels get pretty dark pretty fast. If you are into that sort of thing there is a great special hardcover edition you can get for $54.95 but I would still recommend starting with the first one and seeing how you like it. The original The Haunt is on the DM’s Guild for just $6.95. There’s a very well thought out back story and reason for the strange events in the adventure and when I played this with my gaming group they were all in on the frights.

3. Death House

Death House One Shot Adventure

Death House is a one shot adventure that was printed in Curse of Strahd but also was released online for free. You can download it right from the image above at the cost of nothing. While there are some issues with it, this does work great as an introduction to Curse of Strahd but I think it’s more fun to run as a stand alone adventure as a horror one shot on a dark Halloween night. This is yet another haunted house adventure. It’s for first level characters who could go up to level three by the end. It’s got a great moody introduction with a couple of very memorable kids involved. The back story is pretty twisted but you could definitely make a few adjustments and run this with kids. My party really liked the exploration aspects of this one because there is a lot to find in the house. When I ran it this only took 2-3 hours but your results will vary.

2. Tomb of Horrors

Tomb of Horrors

Full of deadly traps and vicious monsters, Tomb of Horrors has long been considered one of the most difficult adventures for players, even skilled and experienced ones. Gary Gygax wrote the original module because he felt players were feeling too sure of themselves surviving an adventure and pulled this out to warp their perceptions. The most current version (the one you can use for 5e) can be found as a standalone adventure on D&D Beyond or you can purchase the book of collected adventures Tales From the Yawning Portal and find it there. Personally, I like getting the book because there are several other fun adventures adapted from older editions included but you do you. This is a pretty complex dungeon with lots of tricks to figure out so it can be a challenge to players. But if you love survival horror, this is an excellent adventure to play. There are a variety of monsters here and there are tons of traps so starting around 14th level is probably a good idea for your party but if you want to make it really nasty you could start at lower levels.

1. Curse of Strahd

That’s right, you can play this entire campaign as a one-shot adventure. It takes a fair amount of tweaks and adjustments ahead of time but it’s doable. It’s definitely a longer game sessions but Curse of Strahd is a blast to play in a single evening. It’s also easier to keep the mood going for just one night rather than multiple nights. There is great article on D&D Beyond that tells you exactly how to do this. You do have to have the campaign book obviously and you’ll need the Tarokka deck, whether you print that yourself or just buy a deck. A one hour timer is also very helpful. This adventure still remains the best example of gothic horror you can find in Dungeons & Dragons and that makes it extremely well suited to an evening of horrific fun on a dark Halloween night.

Do you have any favorite horror one shots you’ve run? Let me know it the comments and Happy Halloween month!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – Evil Dead (2013)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey dungeon crawlers, it’s me, Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review another Evil Dead movie. This time it’s the 2013 remake (or reimagining as the cool kids like to say) of the original film The Evil Dead.

There will be spoilers ahead so put your chainsaws away and go watch the movie first. You’ve been warned.

The original movie definitely had its problems but still managed to rouse a bit of a scare. In the remake some of the plot issues are fixed but we trade any of the fun for all of the terror. There is not much humor here which is a little weird for this franchise.

The movie kicks off with a father lighting his daughter on fire because she was possessed by something. If you’ve seen the original movies you know by what and we can tell this is going to be a difficult world to survive in.

From there we see a group of friends who go to a cabin in the woods. In this version the main focus is on David and Mia who are brother and sister. There is a much more reasonable explanation for them being at this cabin than in the original. Mia is set to go cold turkey kicking a drug habit with her brother and their friends as support. The cabin actually belongs to David and Mia and this is a remote enough setting that the drug recovery is a reasonable idea.

There are still some plot holes and I have some questions about this movie but I’ll get into that in a bit.

There are a lot of elements from the first movie that reappear here. There is an evil book, there is lots of bloody gore, there is a shotgun and chainsaw, people have to cut their own hands off, you know, the usual for an Evil Dead movie.

One by one the friends do things that don’t make tons of sense, are possessed by demons from Hell and go on to kill one another. There are even several lines in this one that first showed up in the original.

The makeup and special effects here are far superior to the first film so the gore feels pretty real and the terror level is fairly high. Things go as you might expect, it’s the worst night ever for basically everyone in the movie. I don’t want to give away a lot more than that as far as the conclusion but I sure had some questions about the setup here.

  1. When they first go into the cabin it smells bad. Only Mia really notices this but at a certain point David kicks away a rug and finds a cellar (it’s unclear if they knew that was there or not) and there is a huge smear of blood on floor under the rug. I think at that point it’s reasonable to decide to find a better recovery location for Mia. But I guess blood splatter is cool for a recovering addict? Come on people, make some good life choices here.
  2. I get that if you see this blood splatter you might go down to the basement. It’s pretty clear no one else is there and it’s been years since David and Mia were at this cabin so someone could have broken in years ago. But then they go below and there are just a bunch of dead cats hanging from the ceiling. They talk about how they should go out and bury the cats. Bury the cats? Dude, what? That’s a crime scene! Call the cops. Why don’t they call the cops? Even if Mia stays there for recovery, the cops might want to know who is picking off the local pets.
  3. Also in the cellar they find the classic items from the original movie. There’s a book wrapped in a plastic back tied up with barbed wire, a shotgun with a box of shells and I believe I saw a recorder of some kind there. They never play a recording in this one (unless you count end credit scenes) but Eric one of the friends there who is also a teacher immediately opens the book. I mean, here’s all these dead cats and some object wrapped in barbed wire that you literally have to cut through to open the book. Why would you do that? Why? This is also police evidence!
  4. When he opens the book it’s full of notes about how you shouldn’t read this book. So dude decides to, ummm… read the book? Again, why? It’s time go y’all.

The rest of the movie seems fairly reasonable to me and they do close some holes the original film had. While this one is not at all as fun as the original it’s still a decent horror film overall. But without Bruce Campbell as a main character a lot is lost here. The least they could have done was cast a young Ash but I guess they didn’t want to go that route.

I’m curious to see how the sequel to this one is and if they bring some of the humor back. I hope they do because it would have improved this one.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Learn to Play Call of Cthulhu by Yourself for Free

Alone Against the Flame

Hey horror rpg fanatics, Slick Dungeon here and I want to tell you how you can learn to play Call of Cthulhu 7th edition for free, on your own time, with nothing to bother you except the terror of your own imagination.

(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)

Last week I named in my Top 5 Horror Tabletop Roleplaying Games post Call of Cthulhu as the number one horror RPG. I realize I haven’t talked much about this game on my blog but I have played and enjoyed it quite a lot.

However, one of my favorite ways to play this game is not with a gaming group at all but inside on a dark and dreary night with low lighting all by lonesome. I find this increases the scare factor considerably and luckily Chaosium has published several scenarios (what you would think of as an adventure or one-shot in D&D) where you don’t need a GM. You pretty much just need some dice, some paper, and something to write with.

While there are some options to purchase items in this post, if you just get the Alone Against the Flames and Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules PDF’s you don’t have to pay anything to learn to play this game. I recommend starting there before getting your wallet out for anything else. Of course, if you’re like me you may be hooked and want to buy some further scenarios and rulebooks.

The way I learned to play the 7th edition of this game was with a scenario called Alone Against the Flames. To play the scenario you will need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick Start Rules. You can get the PDF of both of these for $0. If you’re willing to spend just a bit of cash you can get a softcover edition of both of these books for $11 and $10 respectively. If you decide to pay the higher price, be sure to select the option that gives you both the PDF and the softcover. When you select the softcover you get the PDF for free so take advantage of that.

Personally, I recommend the softcover for Alone Against the Flames just because it’s easier to write in a book than on printed out pages that fly all over the place. I think it’s less essential for the rules but it can be nice to have a book to flip through.

Alright so what exactly is this scenario and why should you play it? That’s an excellent question I have asked myself. Here’s the answer. This scenario is set in the 1920’s in America, the classic setting for most of the CoC scenarios. This gives you a good feel for the tone of the game and the encroaching cosmic horror you will be facing off against.

In many ways it is like a choose your own adventure book but at the same time you will be building a character and learning how the rules of the game operate. Truth be told, as much as I love Dungeons & Dragons, I wish they had something like this. It can be hard to learn a new rule system in front of people so having an adventure (or scenario in this case) you can play to get a feel of both story and mechanics is extremely valuable.

I don’t want to give away spoilers for the scenario here but suffice it to say your character will end up somewhere that is not friendly and things are not at all what they seem.

I definitely recommend playing this alone because it just makes it more fun. It’s pretty easy to scare yourself but when you play with someone else there isn’t the same amount of terror you can feel. However, if you really want to play this with someone else, you definitely can. One of you would need to be the Keeper (Game Master) and the other the player. The scenario will still walk both of you through the rules and gives a great intro story.

Watch out for the ancient ones

If you do play this there are also some great follow up scenarios, although you are going to have to pay for those. To play them you would need the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Keeper’s Rulebook. You can also get this on drivethrurpg as a PDF but it’s going to cost you $27.95. If you’d rather have a hardcover you’ll need to go to the game publisher Chaosium’s website where you can get it for a heftier $54.95. While it’s costlier I do recommend the hardcover for this since it’s a book you’ll likely reuse.

The follow up scenarios are Alone Against the Dark another solo scenario which takes you to the year 1931 where you will travel from New York City to Greece, Egypt, Germany, and Antarctica. It’s guaranteed dangerous, meaning the scenario is going to be more challenging than Alone Against the Flames but if you have played that scenario, you’ll have a much better idea of how to survive this one. You can get this one for $6.95. Then there is Alone Against the Frost for $9.99 but this one can be used with the starter set if you have that. Here you go into the Canadian Northwest Territories in the 1920’s. this time they give you a character to play rather than one to create. Finally there is Alone Agains the Tide for $6.95 which can also be used with the starter set. In this one you take on the role of an investigator traveling to a remote lakeside town where strange things are happening. This one has a pre-generated character but you could also use one you have made yourself. All of these are pretty fun scenarios to play by yourself or with one friend. All of them are also good introductions to how to play the game. If you play all of these you’ll definitely understand how it works and maybe you’ll be inspired to play a live game with others or even become a Keeper.

My recommendation is to play at that time of night when you hear bumps and creaks at home and think, “what was that noise?” and answer, “It could be anything.” It makes it a lot more terrifying.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – Army of Darkness

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! I’m Slick Dungeon and this is my BOOM STICK! Otherwise known as my review of the third film in the Evil Dead film series. There may be spoilers ahead so fair warning before you read on.

While the first two films in this series could arguably be called horror or horror/comedy, this one turns into a comedic action film with some bits of horror. We pick up where the second film left off, sort of, with Ash having been dropped in the past by supernatural forces he has not yet defeated.

He is immediately surrounded by an army of knights who take him captive. They try to throw him into a pit with a demonic creature but thanks to Ash’s modern weaponry he defeats the evil there. Then he demonstrates how his shotgun works and says the immortal words, “This is my BOOM STICK!” which to this day is still one of the greatest lines in film.

The rest of the movie is this sort of odd mash up of Monty Python and body horror. There’s a scene where Ash is attacked by tiny versions of himself and a scene where a whole full sized Ash grows out of his shoulder.

This separated Ash soon becomes king of the army of deadites who will unleash Hell on earth if not stopped. Ash just wants to go home but in the end of course he helps to stop this army. Why is he able to do so? He works in the home wares section of a big box store and has several books in the trunk of his car (the car came with him through the time portal) so he’s able to construct elaborate explosive devices. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds but there is no denying the fun factor when watching this movie. That’s not to mention how his shotgun appears and disappears all through the movie and that we never really see him re-load it but he blows away tons of monsters with it.

The action plays out as you might expect with big battles, bits of romance, and Ash getting to return to his own time in the end. None of it’s particularly believable but it’s downright enjoyable.

With almost any other movie or movie franchise this silliness would bother me but Sam Raimi leans so hard into the ridiculous and Bruce Campbell is so good at hamming it up that I can’t really say there was anything here I didn’t like. It’s goofy and weird and still has parts that can gross you out but it’s 100% worth watching.

I’m really curious how the 2013 version of Evil Dead compares so I’ll be reviewing that next.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Book Review – Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft

Classic Dungeons & Dragons back in print! - Available now @ Dungeon Masters Guild

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hey everyone, Slick Dungeon here. I don’t usually review D&D books on this site although I do post a lot of D&D content. I wanted to review Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft because I have not been this excited about a Dungeons & Dragons book in a long time. I’m going to give a brief review of the sections in the book and give you my overall opinion of it, as well as a tip or two on how you can use this book to amp up your own horror campaigns. I’ll likely do further posts on content in this book as well because it has given me a lot to think about so watch out for those.

(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)

Also, I know this is not the most recent book Wizards of the Coast has put out but I am not reviewing the most recent one because I don’t have it yet and Van Richten’s Guide fits a lot better with the month of October because, uh… Halloween of course!

So let’s get into it.

chapter 1: Character Creation

This chapter gives several new character options. There are lineages, subclass options and backgrounds. Some of these are going to be familiar with those who follow unearthed arcana. You can create a Dhampir which is basically a vampire who can walk in daylight (think Blade from Marvel for reference), a Hexblood, basically a character who has made a bad deal with a Hag and now has some cool powers but is in debt to the Hag, and a Reborn which is pretty much Frankenstein’s monster although that’s not the only way to play it.

While those lineages are cool, the stuff I really like in this chapter is the dark gifts and the backgrounds. They give several options that can allow your players to really lean into horror if they want to. If there is a horror character or trope you want to play, you can probably find it in one of these backgrounds. Dark gifts are serious powers you gain but at a cost, be it physical, mental, or spiritual.

In addition to all of that, this chapter gives us a Horror Trinket table with lots of horror related objects players could find or have. If I was running a Ravenloft campaign I would probably drop a lot of these trinkets in odd or unsettling places for my players to find.

Chapter 2: Creating Domains of Dread

This chapter is really cool. If you’ve ever played Curse of Strahd you know that Strahd Von Zarovitch is a vampire cursed to live in his own domain, subtly tortured by his own past, destined to see horrors of his own making come to pass over and over again. Well guess what? You can make your own dark lord! This can be anything from the most twisted soul you can imagine, say a barber who is out for revenge and likes to cut throats while singing, to something much less frightening but still fun like an old man who is trying to keep those meddling kids out of his amusement park. I love this idea. They walk you through how to create this dark lord of your own realm and then they tell you how to create the domain they are trapped in. There is great advice on how to tie this dark lord’s actions into the domain so it’s sort of their own personal version of Hell but everyone there just sort of endures it because they don’t know any different.

Another fantastic feature of this chapter is the overview and breakdown of different types of horror. They go over body horror, cosmic horror, dark fantasy, Ghost stories and a host of others. They even give some recommendations of what monsters from the Monster Manual work well within each genre.

Chapter 3: Domains of Ravenloft

Here is where the meat of the book can be found. This chapter gives a deep dive into Ravenloft as a whole and then gives a deep dive into several of the domains of dread.

There are seventeen domains they fully flesh out and give several pages on. They start with Barovia and I will say if you are playing or have played Curse of Strahd this section is still worth a read because there are some great tips on ways to change it up and surprise your players. In addition to those seventeen domains they also give twenty-two domains the short treatment where it’s a paragraph or two but it leaves your imagination running wild.

My favorite one out of these shorter ones is the last train leaving from Eberron where a mysterious passenger shows up, holds the train up and demands to be let on and kicks a bunch of other passengers off so they can have their stuff loaded. No one on the train knows it but they did not make it away from the explosion and they’ve all been dead traveling with this person who caused their deaths. I really want to make a campaign out of that.

Out of all of these domains there was really only one or two where I didn’t quite get it and wasn’t that interested in running as a horror campaign. All the rest have huge potential for a great setting for part or all of a fantastic campaign.

The chapter also highlights some of the natives you can find wandering the mists of Ravenloft, including Van Richten himself, the Vistani, and some characters sure to be familiar with those who love older editions of the game.

chapter 4: Horror Adventures

This chapter is very helpful to Dungeon Masters because is gives some solid advice on making sure people can enjoy a horror campaign without suffering actual trauma. Safety is always a concern when running horror because while it’s fun to be scared in an imaginary way, it’s never good when someone’s actual trauma or phobias are triggered. They give some standard advice about safety tools such as having a session zero (which I think you should have no matter what kind of campaign you are running) and subtle ways players can signal the DM that a line they are not comfortable with is getting crossed. I think though, the main thing to take away, is you should always keep your lines of communication open and make sure people are having fun.

There is also some advice on ways to set the mood for horror. If you already watch a lot of horror or have played these types of campaigns you might not get as much use out of this advice as others would. Still, it’s got some good reminders about setting the mood but also making sure the game is accessible to all. There is also advice on how to talk to players after an intense session.

They go over the use of props and handouts as well but for that, it really depends on what your gaming groups like. A lot of groups love handouts but not every group does and it sort of depends on what kind of handout you are talking about in the first place. I know if I get a handout that’s supposed to be a handwritten note and it’s illegible, I would much rather someone had read me the text to begin with.

The end of the chapter has an adventure that can be used as a way to get a party entered into the mists of Ravenloft, after which you can have them land wherever you want. It’s a solid adventure that is balanced for four to six characters starting at level one who advance to level three by the end. I don’t want to give spoilers away here but you could definitely use some of the NPC’s found in here as a springboard to a larger adventure.

Technically there already is an adventure like this called Death House that pairs with Curse of Strahd so if you plan to go into Barovia, you may want to use that one instead.

Chapter 5: Monsters of Ravenloft

This chapter is exactly what it sounds like. There is a bestiary here with stat blocks and all that good crunchy rules stuff you need for a game. There are some new takes on old monsters which are interesting and sound fun. But there are some absolutely fantastic new monsters in here as well. Let me just say that the Bagman is going to haunt my players dreams without a doubt.

There are monsters that are terrifying and ones that are silly which is great. You could absolutely run an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style campaign but it could also just as easily be a Little Shop of Horrors campaign based around the plant creatures they give here.

There is also the ridiculous like Brain in a Jar perfect for lovers of old weird movies and definitely surprising to those who don’t watch them.

In Summary

Dungeons & Dragons has a long history of horror campaigns. Some of the oldest modules out there have less to do with finding treasure and more to do with facing your character’s fears. In all those years there has never been a book as good at getting down into how to think about, create, and run horror campaigns as Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. While it’s not perfect and there are some sections which could have been a little more robust this book is absolutely worth the money. Even if you actually love running other RPG’s like Call of Cthulhu there is still some great advice in this book you could pluck out and use.

I’ve always loved playing horror campaigns, or at least campaigns with a few horrific elements here and there, but with this book I feel like I have been given a whole new arsenal and way to think about these campaigns. If you are a horror fan and a Dungeons & Dragons fan you should pick this book up.

Also, if you want to run campaigns more on the spooky but not scary side, you can definitely do that with this book. You may have to make adjustments based on how intense you want things to be but there is enough flexibility in the domains of dread that you can definitely do it.

In future posts I plan to break down and dive much deeper into the sections of this book and not only talk about them in general but also about how you could use this book with kids if you are running a game with younger players. I’ve got a few other ideas in mind as well but I’ll get into those in future posts.

For now I hope you liked my review and I’ll see you next time.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – The Evil Dead II

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hello out there internet people, it’s me Slick Dungeon. I’m back to review the next in the Evil Dead series, The Evil Dead II.

Just a warning before we get too deep into this review, if you have not seen the movie yet, I may lay some spoilers out below. You’ve been warned.

In some ways this is not a sequel. A lot of the beginning of the film is very similar to the first but Sam Raimi actually fixes a lot of what I saw as problems with the first movie. We still have a couple driving to a remote cabin in the woods. This time though, it’s just a couple, not five people together and they are sneaking into the cabin rather than going there because one of their friends knows about the place. A car crosses a bridge to get there, just like in the first movie but this time the bridge seems sturdy. The cabin itself doesn’t seem all that menacing from the outside. In general the actions of the characters seem a bit more logical here, although logic only extends so far in any horror film.

As Ash, the main character (played by Bruce Campbell) is poking around he discovers the cellar. It’s really only at that point things get creepy. He finds an ancient book and a recording of a professor who is trying to decode the language in the book. You can probably guess a lot of what happens from here. Evil spirits are summoned, Ash tries to escape to the bridge but only after he has had to murder his girlfriend, and finds out the bridge is now mangled and bent and there is no way across.

At the same time, the daughter of the professor who owns the cabin is on her way there to give more pages of the ancient book, the “Book of the Dead” to him. In those pages are the means to defeat the evil that is pursuing Ash and everyone in the forest.

Lots of gore and action happen and we even get to see Ash with his famous chainsaw hand and shotgun holstered on his back.

I know it probably shouldn’t have but the ending surprised me a bit and I think that, in addition to some of the fixes of the problems in the first film, is what makes me like this one a lot more.

Sam Raimi definitely put Bruce Campbell through the wringer on this one. He gets dumped in mud, soaked in blood, lashed at with tree branches and just generally has the worst night ever. I can’t imagine all of the filming was fun for him but it worked out to be a pretty solid film.

I’m looking forward to the next movie to see where exactly they take it from here. I know some people have more love for the first film than the second but my vote is for the second in this franchise.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Dungeon Master Tool Review – Scary Stories to Play in the Dark

Spooky Stories to Play in the Dark

Hi all, Slick Dungeon here. I was messing around in the DM’s Guild recently because I was thinking about writing something with advice about running horror campaigns for kids. It can be both super fun and a difficult challenge all at once.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon some creators who already did this for adapting games from famous horror books suitable for kids 8-12 years old.

I’ll still be giving my take on this sort of thing later this month but Thomas and Rachel Kolar have basically knocked it out of the park in a nutshell with this little supplement.

The authors give general advice on running games involving horror with kids, give some solid examples of horror kids are reading (both old and newer), and give general advice on how to increase or decrease the horror level on your campaigns.

They take films or books you are likely familiar with, give a bit of advice on how to adapt so the players are the stars of the show but shouldn’t be overly traumatized by the scary things that can happen, and give an excellent list of recommended reading.

The best part? It’s 100% free on the DM’s guild. I will say though, that the Kolar’s obviously put some time and effort into this so if you can please support them by giving them a few cents for it.

Also, they have a more in-depth guide that I plan to check out myself called Ravenloft Gives Me Goosebumps: Genres of Horror for only $0.99! In this one they go through how to run games with kids 8-12 using the Genres of Horror section in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft. That makes two ideas I was going to post about they thought of before I did!

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Movie Review – The Evil Dead

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Hey horror fanatics, it’s me Slick Dungeon. Happy October and I hope you are having lots of fun frights this month. Today I decided to give a watch to a movie I have never seen but had heard a lot about.

The Evil Dead is an independent horror film that kicked off the careers of both Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi. There are a few reasons I had never watched this before. First, a lot of people have told me how great it was and I was afraid it might be a bit overhyped. Second, because it has an NC-17 rating it used to be harder to find. With streaming services abounding, the second issue is not such a problem but I do think the movie gets a bit more credit than it deserves. It’s still a good watch, it’s just not as legendarily frightening as some people may lead you to believe.

If you haven’t seen this and want to give it a try before any spoilers, stop reading here and watch first, then come back and read away. In other words, there will be spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.

A group of five friends head out to a cabin in the woods for a little rest and relaxation. When they get there they discover the place is rundown, there are chains everywhere, and they promptly discover an old book and some recordings that claim demons can be summoned from Hell and the only way to stop them is, “bodily dismemberment.”

As you might imagine, they have a terrible night and are definitely not going to recommend this Air BnB to anyone else. People get possessed, friends have to kill friends, ancient books are tossed into the fire to stop the whole thing and the end leaves you guessing as to whether or not there will be a sequel. Spoiler: there will be.

For the time, I think the makeup and special effects might have been pretty good. When compared to what we can do today, a lot of it seems a little silly. Even so, I can’t hold that against the film. I think it’s a solid first film to set up a franchise on, however there are some things that didn’t make sense and I have a few questions here.

  1. The characters start out driving along a lonely highway and have to cross a rickety bridge to get where they are going. The car breaks through a part of the bridge but they are able to get over it in the end. At this point, I think it would be reasonable to say, hey how about we go back and spend the night in town instead? Why didn’t they do that?
  2. Scott, the guy who apparently rented the place, or knows about it or whatever, says he had never been there and that it might be run down. They arrive and everyone but Scott just stands there looking at the cabin as Scott unlocks it. Why didn’t anyone either help to unload bags at that point or go into the cabin with Scott? Also, they are staring at the place like they are afraid of it. Why didn’t they leave?
  3. Once they are inside the cabin it seems the motif is animal heads, animal skulls, and rusty chains. Umm… who decorates like that? This interior designer should really be fired.
  4. Fine, they cross the bridge, they make it to the cabin, they go inside the cabin and they plan on staying. Not long after that, one of the characters goes down into the cellar and they discover a shotgun, an old burnt up book that seems to have depictions of demons and a recording of a professor who basically says he summoned these demons into the woods. Hello? Time to leave! Anyone? Anyone?
  5. Next a woman goes out into the woods because she hears voices calling to her. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers but once she is in the woods, unspeakable things happen to her, and it’s by far the most uncomfortable part of the film. She arrives back to the cabin bloody and scratched up, clearly injured and understandably upset. She demands to go home but everyone seems to think she is the unreasonable one. What the heck people? Even if you don’t believe the trees came alive and attacked her, she’s clearly injured. Can these people really not take a hint? At the very least deliver some first aid!
  6. Of course when they do decide to try to leave they are unable to as we all expected would happen. I think this would have made sense a lot earlier in the movie. The whole thing would seem more sensible if once they first crossed the bridge they tried to go back and the way was blocked at that point. Why didn’t Sam Raimi have that happen instead of these ridiculous choices first??

As much as those things mentioned above bugged me, I still overall liked the movie and I’ll check out the sequels, especially since I believe they become more comedic as time goes by.

For now I will just leave you with this. If your friends ask you to go to a cabin in the woods for the weekend, ask to see pictures of the place before you go. If the pictures include rusty chains, skeletons of any kind, broken bridges or anything demon related, tell them to have a nice weekend on their own because you need to spend that time re-reading through the terms and conditions of every app you have on your phone.

Horrifically yours,

Slick Dungeon

Book Review – Calamity

Calamity by Sam Winter

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

When society collapses, who will you choose to save?

The United States, reeling from an infectious disease, has reached a tipping point. Society’s collapse is imminent. The rabies variant virus is decimating the southern states and the National Guard can no longer contain it. In response, the heavy hand of the government initiates extreme and violent measures to quarantine half the nation.

SWAT Officer Derrick Hart and his best friend, Army Ranger Brandon Armstrong, are at the tip of the spear trying to keep it all together as society loots, riots, and revolts against the government. Hundreds of miles lay between them and their family as another city falls to the vicious infected hordes. These two brothers in arms must choose between their duty and the ones they love.

When the country they once served becomes the oppressive force that now threatens their lives, Derrick and Brandon must fight together if their loved ones stand a chance at survival.

When the country collapses, who will you let die?

REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is a virus let loose in the southern part of the United States. Those who are infected become mindless, violent killing machines and spread the infection to others who come into contact with them. As the country tries to keep the contagion in check, extreme measures are taken to stem the tide of the so-called “rabid”. Borders are put in place along with military and police check points and only the privileged few are allowed to escape to the safer parts of the country in the north.

In the middle of all this are two friends, one an Army Ranger, the other a Police SWAT Officer. They’ve made a pact to always look out for one another and they know they can rely on each other to survive the worst catastrophe imaginable. But even Brandon Armstrong and Derrick Hart could not have predicted how bad things were about to get. In order to get those they care about to safety, they are going to have to risk everything.

The book is fast paced with plenty of action and leaves the reading wanting to turn the next page. There are shocking and surprising moments in the book. However, it does read like many zombie books that have come before it. That’s not necessarily a criticism, the parts of the book that make it good are the parts that make all zombie stories of this type good.

One thing the author does notably well is highlight what a likely government response on both a local and national level might actually look like in this type of scenario. In addition the author takes into account what some fringe elements of society might do in reaction to those actions and overall, this gives the book a well thought out and realistic dynamic.

On occasion it can feel like the author is slightly overreaching with the amount of characters juggled here but in the end it all balances out nicely. The end comes together in a natural fashion and has an excellent set up for the sequel in the series.

If you like zombie stories like World War Z, The Walking Dead or Slow Burn: Zero Day, you’ll be sure to find something you enjoy in Calamity. Better news is that this is a series so if you do enjoy Calamity there is more story to find. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.