Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Thinner by Stephen King

***(out of four stars)

Billy Halleck has a problem. He's losing weight... and fast.

After accidentally running over a gypsy, Billy Halleck is cursed by the leader of the gypsies, Taduz Lemke. Billy was a lawyer and got off with a slap on the wrist, because he was good friends with the judge. Now, day by day and hour by hour, Billy is thinning down to almost nothing. He must find Taduz, and confront him, because if the curse isn't lifted he won't be around much longer.

I've gotta say that I read quite often and it's very hard to find a good book that keeps the pages turning. This one was one of those special novels that had me engrossed for the entire time. One on hand, you feel bad for Billy Halleck, who really didn't mean to hit that women. On the other, he almost deserves what's coming to him. It's a slow decent in horror as page by page Halleck is losing weight although he continues to eat heartily.

Halleck learns that others have been cursed. Namely the ones who helped him get off easy at the trial. One character literally turns into a lizard and the other one sort of melts away. Billy's weight problem tells me that he got off a bit easier than his pals. Soon after, his marriage begins to fail, friends turn their backs on him and the doctors all think he's a crazy lunatic. The only friend that stays by his side is Richard "The Hammer" Ginelli. Ginelli is a ruthless killer and vows to help assist Halleck in finding Taduz and the clan of gypsies.

I won't spoil the ending here. It is bleak. As it should be. Wrapping this story up in a nice bow would take away from the entire experience. If you're into King's work, this one should not go unnoticed.

Stephen King (as Richard Bachman)

Publisher: NAL


309 pages

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Dwarf by Ray Bradbury

***(out of 4 stars)

How do you see the person sitting next to you?  Do you judge by race, creed or even by a deformity?  Humanity can be very cruel to things it does not understand.  In Ray Bradbury's "The Dwarf" these questions are blatant.  Ray Bradbury understood humanity; with his prose and dialog within the stories.

Ralph Banghart and Aimee work at the local carnival.  Ralph runs the ticket booth at the mirror maze.  He and Amiee are friends.  Every night a dwarf, Mr. Bigelow (Mr. Big) pays his dime to walk through the maze.  In private, he stands and admires himself in one of the mirrors, which makes him look much taller and slender than his natural self.  One night, Ralph and Aimee spy on him.  At first it's just out of fun, but Aimee soon realizes why the dwarf enjoys seeing himself in a different way.

Aimee has compassion for Mr. Bigelow and soon finds out that he's a writer.  She reads Ralph one of his short stories but Ralph laughs it off.  Aimee wants to get Mr. Big his own mirror, so he won't have to continue to pay night after night to vision himself as somebody different.  Aimee might also be attracted to Mr. Big, which is hinted at as well.  Ralph refuses to help her get Mr. Big his mirror.  When Mr. Big eventually realizes that Ralph is spying on him, he runs out of the mirror maze, screaming and shrieking.  He steals a gun from another vendor.  We don't really know what he eventually does with that gun.  Maybe suicide, maybe rampage.  Does it really matter?  In one scene Ralph sees himself in one of the mirrors.  His image is much smaller, hinting to the man's character.

Aimee is what is good about humanity.  She sees the dwarf for what he really is, and when she offers to buy the mirror for him, you can tell that she just wants him to feel good about himself.  He's paying money every night to view himself as somebody he's really not.  Mr. Big is a good writer, because he doesn't need to fool anyone while in his little world.  There, he can be whatever he wants, without the fear of being judged.

Ralph Banghart is a dispicable human being.  He's like the fifth grader who gets his rocks off by laughing and tormenting smaller classmates.  Yet, deep down, he's smaller (in heart and soul) than the dwarf could ever be.  There's also a hint of jealousy towards Mr. Big due in part to Aimees sympathetic natural towards him.  Unlike Mr. Big, Ralph isn't deformed in any way.  Yet, the deformity doesn't really matter.  Mr. Big is a human, who was dealt a crappy hand in life.  On the outside Ralph is normal to the eye, but isn't quite as humane within his flesh.

I feel that when we read any Ray Bradbury story we're being taught a lesson on life.  It's not just about getting a story across as much as a message.  When Ray passed away earlier this month, we truly lost someone special, someone who understood life.  One day I think we'll find that Ray Bradbury brought many mysteries of life and the universe to the forefront.  His style of writing was unmatched and can never, ever be duplicated.  With a simple title like, "The Dwarf" would you ever expect such messages and meaning?  This is why Ray will never truly die.  He's cemented his immortality and will live on forever.

Another great story from Ray Bradbury's immortal The October Country.   

Monday, June 25, 2012

The First Power (1990)

**1/2 (out of four stars)

I don't recall the first time I saw this film.  I can guess it was probably when it was first released, back when I was a very young kid, rummaging through the horror section at our local video store.  As a child, I remember being genuinely creeped out by this film.  I remember watching Geraldo Rivera and other shows featuring Satanic cults and things like that.  Back then our society was paranoid by
underground satanic groups. It seemed to be every where you looked while channel surfing. 

The streets of LA are being terrorized by a serial killer.  The killer is dubbed "The Pentagram Killer" because he murders his victims ritualistically, carving pentagrams in the skin of his victims.  Lou Diamond Phillips plays Detective Russ Logan.  He's on the case and hunts down the serial killer.  Once apprehended the killer is quickly tried and convicted - his sentence is the gas chamber.  Which is exactly what Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober) wants.

We're also introduced to a professional psychic, Tess Seaton (Tracy Griffith).  After Channing's death he has the power to jump from body to body.  That would be called, the second power.  Channing wishes to possess the first power - the power of immortality.  Tess helps Detective Logan along the way, as they try to defeat an unknown force that was once Patrick Channing.

Writer/Director Robert Resnikoff doesn't have much of a resume.  He's credited with another film called The Jogger which I've never seen nor have I heard of.  For only two films under his belt, I'd like to think that The First Power is his claim to fame.  He does a good job with the look of the film - a look that you can only relate to early 90's horror.  There are some pretty intense action sequences involving some car chases and a character jumping from a high rise only to land on his feet and run away.  Today filmmakers would take the easy approach and use the green screen, but back in the day, this must've been a great credit to the stunt team and an equally talented film crew.

The acting isn't something to write home about but Lou Diamond Phillips does a fine job as a cop struggling to battle with the forces of evil.  Jeff Kober chews up the scenery though.  The scenes where he's involved are some of the best throughout the film.  I've always found him quite effective in this film.  He resonates a creepiness that helps move the story along. When ever he's on screen, he commands my full attention. His face is distinct, and I'm quite sure that he was born for roles like this.

Richard Ramirez pops into my mind as I watch this film.  He was the Night Stalker of LA in the mid eighties.  His reign of terror had the entire state of California at bay for many years.  Families locked their windows and doors at night, because if you didn't, it could be a fatal mistake.  He was also heavily into Satanism and the occult.  Ramirez awaits execution by the state of California.  His wife, Doreen Lioy says she'll commit suicide when he dies.

The First Power has garnished much negative criticism since it's initial release.  Even today it stands at a meager 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.  I'm not sure all of the negative feedback is fair, because this film does a good job at setting you up, mowing through story, and giving you a suitable finish all while being enjoyable.

Starring:  Lou Diamond Phillips, Tracy Griffith, Jeff Kober

Written and directed by:  Robert Resnikoff

98 min


Death, And How He Relates

I wrote this around the time of my Grandmother's death.  It was two years ago, and some of the hardest days I've ever had to live through.  I wrote this while under my dark cloud of depression.  It's called "Death".  I know, it's a simple title, but it suits well.  Death relates to everything in life. 


Death is the end,
Death is the beginning.
Death is selfish
But death is kind.
Death has no favorites,
And death has patience.
Death is a friend.
Death is an enemy.
Death is dark.
Death is light.
Death is all,
and all is Death.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That Feeling I Get, Only On Sunday

The following is a poem that I wrote tonight.  It compliments my inner struggles as of late and I thought I would share it with the world. 

Dawn is approaching; my mind weighs heavily
Realization and dread begin to set in,
For it is back to the grind on Monday!
And the Slavery still reigns.
The legalized plantation with their snickering smiles and judgemental eyes.

The "Man" craves the robotic feast.
So he eats and eats and eats some more,
Until his belly is full and there is nothing left.
But his consumption is never ending,
we're on "life's" belt and moving toward his awaiting mouth.

The darkness surrounds us, one by one,
In the belly of the beast we boil and writhe.
One by one they (we) continue to fall,
The belly becomes quickly overpopulated.
Crowded in the abyss, flesh upon flesh,
We are joined, we are one!

But with many minds, and only one "man",
We strive and learn to fight,
Or burn in his acidic abode.
Yes, some give up.
Others become complacent.
Most will eventually perish.

The remaining few, with the idea in mind,
begin to fight.

We scratch.  We crawl.  We climb.

Some fall, others are trampled in the riot.
The few that make it up the throat, give up and die,
Only to be swallowed again.

At long last, one warrior stands alone,
Just at the top of the "Man's" tongue.

Freedom is his.
He can sense it.
He can see it.

With one swift, and powerful motion,
the tongue, like a serpent, coils.
He's like a pinball, bouncing off the fleshy walls.

Thrown into the air.
Free falling, descending back into darkness,
Back into the belly of the beast, back into the machine.
Back into the awaiting cesspool.
There's no end to nothingness.

Back to reality now.
And the impending doom,
That tomorrow is near.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Midnight (1981)

**1/2(out of four stars)

John Russo needs no introduction. He's only the co-writer for one of the greatest horror films of our times, Night of the Living Dead. Aside from that he's an author and has made a few horror flicks after Night. 1981's Midnight is a film written and directed by Russo.

Nancy played by Melanie Verlin, runs away from her home after her step-father (Lawrence Tierney) tries (and fails) to seduce her.  After fleeing from the house, and bound for California to be with her sister, she's picked up by two thieves, Tom and Hank.  The trio are on their marry little way, until they come across a sadistic, murdering family of the satanic type.  Along the way, others are murdered in the typical slasher format. 

All slashers really need (besides a story of course) is great kills, some nudity and decent FX.  Midnight does offer up the goods.  The nudity aspect does lack.  Now, in all fairness, this film seems to borrow heavily from other films, namely The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  The approach Russo takes with his formula is standard, but does a good job of entertaining the audience.  I'm not saying that this film is the next greatest thing since sliced bread, but I am saying that the film doesn't deserve all the negative feedback that it usually gets. 

The acting isn't great.  After doing a little research, most of the cast is only credited with this film.  Most of the cast has only done this film.  Film buffs will recognize two face though.  Two that come to mind are Lawrence Tierney, who plays the despicable, molesting, step-father and John Amplas of Day of the Dead fame.  John Amplas plays Abraham, one of the members of the homicidal family.  There's one scene (probably my favorite) where he and his brother, Luke (Greg Besnak) are impersonating cops.  They corner the trio and it ends in some bloodshed.  However, this scene displays the best acting in the film. 

The film comes from the novel with the same name.  I have not read the novel, but would be interested in reading it since I do think John Russo is a better writer than he is a director.  I've read the novel version of Night of the Living Dead and thought it was a well written version of the great film. 

You won't find anything incredibly fresh with this film, however, if you like the slasher genre, you should really give this film a go.  Midnight is a low budget independent film from the 80's, a long time before just anyone could walk into best buy, buy a camera and go shoot something.  I feel that the cast and filmmakers involved really had their hearts in the right place.

Starring:  Melanie Verlin, Lawrence Tierney, John Amplas

Written and directed by:  John A. Russo

91 mins