Thursday, August 14, 2014

'Braineater Jones' (Book Review)

I'm always interested in authors putting a new slant on a familiar idea, and there's few horror themes more familiar these days than zombies. Braineater Jones provides an interesting take on the undead standard by mashing it up with a hard-boiled detective novel to create a "horror noir" mystery, with plenty of gross outs and obscure 1930's slang.

Our main character "wakes up dead", face down in swimming pool with no clue how he got there or who murdered him. All he knows is there's a hole in his chest, and he isn't breathing. He takes on the moniker of "Braineater Jones" and narrates the story via a series of journal entries as he unravels the mysteries of his murder in a strange city populated by the living dead.

Jones soon learns that he'll need to regularly imbibe booze if he wants to refrain from chowing down on human flesh, but it's a little tricky in a prohibition-era metropolis. With the help of his severed-head sidekick Alcibe, our hero provides his services as a Private Eye; encountering twists, turns, and thugs-a-plenty while making enough cash to buy some much needed hooch.

This definitely isn't your typical zombie novel. In fact, I dare say I've never read anything quite like it, and that's a bold statement considering the amount of time I spend on the internet. Kozeniewski injects a dark sense of humor into the entire story, and it was refreshing to see so many original spins on typical tropes. It was also an easy read (even considering the author's forward about the heavy use of time period lingo) and never lagged at any point.

Braineater Jones is appealing in many ways. As a dark comedy; as a fresh take on a well worn horror sub-genre; and as a strangely divisive take on the pulp detective rag. Featuring quality writing throughout, I can easily recommend it to anyone whose looking for something a little different, and isn't afraid to see some classic undead themes turned on their (decapitated) heads.

Grade: A
Reviewed (copy provided) on Kindle. 234 pages.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Terrortorial Expansion: 'Youtube Horror Gaming'

While scouring Youtube for horror movie trailers I came across the Standard Definition Gaming channel and it has plenty of classic horror game footage in ten minute segments.

One of my favorites is the timeless classic Castlevania. It fueled a love of horror gaming and a deep seeded childhood fear of digitized purple bats while perpetuating the myth that vampires hide roast beef in the walls.

Check out the link above for more videos like this including Super Ghouls n' Ghosts and the always entertaining Splatterhouse!

'Terrortorial Expansion' is a series of posts where Ben and Jeff highlight interesting content they enjoyed by others in the horror blogging community. It is also a play on words referencing historical government policies to make us sound smarter than we actually are.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mizfit Tha Menace (Interview)

We had the opportunity to interview NYC gothic horror hip-hop artist Mizfit Tha Menace "Horror Himself" and ask him some pressing questions about everything from his favorite horror film franchises to the state of the East Coast Horrorcore scene. Click the jump to read the full discussion!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Now Screaming: "Birth of the Living Dead" (Movie Review)

In 2005, one of the days that I and my three fellow senior friends were supposed to be in school, we decided we were going to make a movie.  We brainstormed a company name (Krazy Yolk Productions).  We all signed a contract making the company official.  We even commissioned our buddy in CAD class to create us a CG company logo intro.

That was a great night, but that's where the story ended.  I tried to work on the script but I'm not sure if it ever went anywhere.  We all graduated, moved away from each other, and I'm probably the only one who remembers Krazy Yolk or that Josh made us all egg sandwiches with perfect hockey-puck shaped huevos by tossing them in a Tupperware and microwaving them.

I imagine many other creative individuals have similar childhood stories.  Few of these movies are ever made.  Fewer of those made are any good.  Almost none become one of the most important movies in horror, and all of 20th (and especially 21st) century pop culture.  This is the story of Night of the Living Dead; and how a bunch of kids screwing around created a masterpiece.

Birth of the Living Dead is a great documentary, not only because it covers this young creative composition, but because it also dives into the sociocultural impact of decisions young George Romero made.  Things like casting a young black actor in the lead, not changing the script at all once said actor was cast (despite the roll calling for a white woman to be slapped), and the similarities between the roaming, zombie-killing posses and the white purification mobs of the south are all covered.  Even better, George himself is interviewed and able to give his own thoughts at the time as to what was and wasn't intentional in the film.

Honestly, George's interviews are worth the price of admission.  I'd put him alongside Stan Lee and Betty White in the pantheon of kick-ass, influential old people that can dazzle you with charming conversation. Despite being almost solely responsible for today's most popular monster (I realize, internet commentators, that such a statement is rife with debate fodder, but please allow me some hyperbole) he seems like a real down to earth human.

If anything, though, I'd have liked to see more about the production itself.  I loved the bits where Romero was talking about how a random person involved did explosion effects or how the actual local reporter ad-libbed a news report.  This content was all great, and although the snooty English major in me loved all the greater cultural narrative of this piece, it would have been great to get even deeper into the actual making of the film.

If you are a fan of movie making, horror cinema, zombies, or just have an hour and change to kill and have a Netflix account, I recommend Birth of the Living Dead.  It gave me great perspective on one of my favorite films and made me really miss the days of Krazy Yolk productions and the wonderful potential of youthful creativity.  They may be coming to get you Barbara, but you should watch this flick to know why and how.

Grade: A-
Available On: Netflix. 
Running Time 76 MIN.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

'Resident Evil Deck Building Game' (Game Review)

After playing Thunderstone recently, I've gotten way into deck building games.  There's something about coupling the high strategy play of a nerdy card game with the geek-brain aphrodisiacs of statistics and probability that gets my metaphorical rocks off.  If you are the sort of person whose favorite part about Magic the Gathering was building a new deck, these games are for you.  Resident Evil is no exception.

To summarize the gameplay: Everyone starts with the same basic set of cards and currency.  Each turn you can spend currency to buy better cards that then go into your deck and make it (hopefully) statistically more likely to succeed. On turns where your hand is good enough, you make a run at the mansion and hopefully kill some monsters.  On these monsters are the victory points that get totaled at the end of the game leading to victory.

Where these deck building games really take flight is in the functional cards that structure your strategy for your whole deck.  Should you spend your currency on the card that gives you a benefit for having a lot of cards in your deck or the one that gives you benefit for a lot of cards in your discard pile?  Also, these cards are finite, so should you stick with your strategy or buy up the cards that your opponent is trying to get to screw his strategy over?

I'm in love with this genre.  Discovering it feels like the first time I heard punk rock as an angst-rattled, teenage pastor's kid and suddenly life made sense and I had purpose. What does the horror aesthetic of Resident Evil bring to the table that can't be found in games like Thunderstone? Well, oddly enough, unlike the Resident Evil games of the PS1 era that required slow, calculated gameplay, this card game feels more quick and arcade style.  Honestly, going by pace alone, it's more akin to House of the Dead than Resident Evil.

That said, nerds of the franchise have plenty to sink their teeth into.  Each of the player characters from the series have character cards with appropriate strengths and weaknesses that alter play.  The mansion is populated with monsters any fan will recognize.  The functional items, such as healing herbs, are also identical.  I was just sad that the infamous typewriter ribbon wasn't somehow incorporated, although how a saving mechanic would translate to in a card game is anybody's guess.

If you are a fan of Resident Evil and table top gaming, you and your friends need to give this one a try.  It easily killed a Midwest evening for me and my buddy and we are planning on that happening again.  If nothing else, it's another way to take Jill Valentine, the master of unlocking, through the horrors of the Umbrella Mansion while you enjoy taking out T-Virus afflicted baddies.

Grade: A