Film review: Red Sands

July 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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redsands2dRed Sands is Alex Turner’s follow-up to the undeniably eerie Dead Birds, an American civil war period piece, involving a squad of soldiers coming across a terrifying house situated in a field of corn, haunted by vaguely Lovecraftian horrors. In Red Sands Turner takes the same set-up and updates it to Afghanistan, placing a unit of American soldiers in an isolated location and spooking them out with a series of strange phenomena and bloody deaths; except, this time it doesn’t work.

Charged with seizing and then monitoring an important road the soldiers get lost due to some random artillery fire, come across some ruins and out of boredom (regardless of the fact they’ve just been attacked) set about shooting up the statues carved in the sides of the red sandstone hills. This act of ignorance unleashes a Djinn which then takes its revenge on the soldiers.  We know it’s a Djinn because there’s a plaque in the stone that says so.

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Film review: Dead Wood

July 11, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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dead_woodA small budget movie with relatively big aspirations, Dead Wood was given a highly-rated review in DVD World recently – the same magazine that recommended Dead Birds a couple of years ago. I picked up Dead Wood hoping to repeat the satisfying experience of discovering a little known horror gem. Alas, ‘twas not to be…

There’s a strong if fairly unoriginal plot forming the foundations of Dead Wood. A brief prologue shows us a man running through the woods, pursued by something unseen, the woods alive with movement. He comes to a small river and hesitates and that proves his undoing. His girlfriend is left shouting his name as the woods darken around her. We then jump to a couple playing matchmakers for a weekend, taking their shy but mutually attracted friends camping. On the way they run over a deer and as it lays there in convulsions, they make what they consider to be the correct and humane decision, and finish it off.

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Book review: The Lovers, by John Connolly

July 4, 2009 by · 2 Comments
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lovers_uk_150My world stops for a John Connolly book.

Everything else is put aside as the latest developments in the dark world of Charlie  Parker unfold in beautifully plotted suspense. The Lovers is the seventh Charlie Parker book in what can be called a series to date, and the ninth to feature him; so that’s about sixteen waking days of my life given over to this man, and he’s worth every damned minute of my time.

Charlie Parker is a Maine-based private investigator who seems to attract evil. That evil may be a curse that Parker is destined to combat throughout his life, possibly in retribution for things he has done in the past – for Parker is a man who thrives on his own guilt. His veiled background influences everything that occurs in this tight, sad story, and it’s almost impossible to review The Lovers without paying courtesy to preceeding events.

Parker’s a man haunted. Haunted by his wife and child who were brutally murdered by a serial killer known as The Travelling Man. (I am in awe of the serial killers Connolly consistently creates). Haunted by those he’s crossed and those he’s killed, deserving and undeserving. In The Lovers, he’s haunted by his father’s apparent suicide after killing two seemingly innocent teenagers, and the absence of his girlfriend, Rachel and her young daughter, Sam, who have relocated to Vermont, unable to put up with his unsavoury lifestyle and the characters it brings with it. Read more

Book review: The Forest of Hands & Teeth, by Carrie Ryan

July 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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fohandteethWhat makes the zombie apocalypse so alluring to both readers and writers is not necessarily the zombies themselves, but the freedom such a scenario allows for the portrayal of human relationships. Against a gruesome backdrop of flesh eating automatons nothing else matters but the fight for survival. The lengths to which those ‘unfortunate’ enough to survive the initial breakdown of society will go to to ensure that survival, firstly of themselves, and then of the human race, form the structure and events of most of the zombie genre’s novels to date. Sometimes there is a place for hope in these books. And sometimes, albeit very,very rarely, there is time for love. Such an emotion dominates Carrie Ryan‘s wonderful debut novel The Forest of Hands & Teeth.

By setting the events about 15 to 20 years after the outbreak, Ryan is able to introduce an established belief system, a quasi-religion, to the lore of the zombie. Mary lives in an isolated village, surrounded by fences that keep out the hungry undead that wander the landscape. The village is in the middle of a huge forest that seemingly goes on forever. Or at least that is what the children and teenagers are told, for this village is governed by the Sisterhood, a group of elder women who maintain the status-quo through strict tutelage of the Scripture, a regime of hard work and constant vigilance, and a societal set-up that ensures the best possible chance for the continuance of the family line. Read more