Saturday, January 21, 2017
First Published: 1993
The Blurb: Loyally accompanying a mysterious knife-wielding gentleman named Jack on his midnight rounds through the murky streets of London, good dog Snuff is busy helping his master collect the grisly ingredients needed for an unearthly rite that will take place not long after the death of the moon. But Snuff and his master are not alone. All manner of participants, both human and not, are gathering with their ancient tools and their animal familiars in preparation for the dread night.
It is brave, devoted Snuff who must calculate the patterns of the Game and keep track of the Players—the witch, the mad monk, the vengeful vicar, the Count who sleeps by day, the Good Doctor and the hulking Experiment Man he fashioned from human body parts, and a wild-card American named Larry Talbot—all the while keeping Things at bay and staying a leap ahead of the Great Detective, who knows quite a bit more than he lets on.
Boldly original and wildly entertaining, A Night in the Lonesome October is a darkly sparkling gem, an amalgam of horror, humor, mystery, and fantasy. First published in 1993, it was Zelazny’s last book prior to his untimely death. Many consider it the best of the fantasy master’s novels. It has inspired many fans to read it every year in October, a chapter a day, and served as inspiration for Neil Gaiman’s brilliant story “Only the End of the World Again.”
The review: Spread over 32 chapters (an opening and one per day of October), A Night in the Lonesome October is both a revelation and a joy to read. The blurb quoted above gives a good idea of the characters involved (none, bar Larry Talbot, are directly named but the reader knows exactly who the Count, the Great Detective, the Good Doctor etc are) as they prowl an October in Victorian London.
The story is told from the point of view of Snuff – the familial creature, in dog form, of Jack one of the players of the Game. The Game occurs in an October where the full moon falls on the 31st and players are drawn in. Some are Openers, others Closers, some may switch sides. What the blurb doesn’t overly highlight is the Lovecraftian mythos that all this is based on (indeed there is a sojourn within Lovecraft’s Dream Worlds at one point).
The writing is crisp and the characterisation excellent – especially the voice of our narrator. From a TMtV point of view we, of course, have the Count (Dracula) and his familiar Needles, a bat. The Count’s gypsy servants also pay a visit. This is a must read for fans of the classic monsters and Lovecraft alike. 9 out of 10.
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Release date: 1991
Holy Virgin vs Evil Dead is one of those films that makes it onto vampire filmographies but, for a moment, I wondered whether this should be a ‘Vamp or Not?’ rather than a review. Ultimately I thought that it does enough to warrant the vampire label and is probably vampire enough to dispense with questioning the film and thus I should get on with reviewing it.
It is a strange one, clearly aping – at least in title – the cult Sam Raimi film from ten years before. In reality there is only some POV moving camera work and some wind machines that truly ape the classic film. It is, however, a film in which we play the game "spot the virgin". In fact this is a bit of an exploitation flick. There were two releases, a domestic one and an international one and the latter covered up nudity whereas the former revelled in it. I used the domestic version for review.
|Donnie Yen Ji-Dan as Shiang|
|Ben Lam Kwok-Bun as Chen|
|Chui Fat as Ma Tian|
|Pauline Yeung Bo-Ling as Princess White|
|kick ass evil dead killer|
The imdb page is here.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
First published: 2016
The Blurb: What happens when SPARTACUS meets VAMPIRES? In a divided paranormal London, Light is the rebel bad boy vampire of the Blood Lifer world, with a talent for remembering things. And a Triton motorbike. Since Victorian times he’s hidden in the shadows. But not now. Not since someone hunted him down. When he’s bought by his alluring Mistress, Light fights to escape. Even if he can’t escape their love. But if he doesn’t, he’ll never solve the conspiracy behind the Blood Club...
WELCOME TO THE BLOOD CLUB
Who are these ruthless humans? Who’s their brutal leader? And who betrayed the secret of the Blood Lifer world?
WHERE THE PREDATORS
London, Primrose Hill. Grayse is the commanding slaver’s daughter. The enemy. She buys Light, like he’s a pair of designer shoes. So why does Light feel so drawn to her? Can a slave truly love his Mistress? Especially when his family is still in chains. Will he risk everything – even his new love – to save them?
BECOME THE PREY
Does a chilling conspiracy lie behind it all? A stunning revelation leads Light to an inconceivable truth. To the dark heart of the Blood Club. If he can face his worst terrors, he can save his family and his whole species from slavery.
Maybe he can even save himself.
Blood Shackles is the shocking second instalment in the compelling new fantasy series Rebel Vampires from the critically acclaimed author Rosemary A Johns. Experience a thrilling new twist on urban fantasy with vampires, Rockers and dark romance.
The review: Is hosted at Vamped.
Sunday, January 15, 2017
First published: 2016
The Blurb: Dracula has long been considered the most popular horror story ever written, though the origins of the character have never been investigated further than the point of disproving a definite link with Vlad III The Impaler (The Historical Dracula). What if we were to find positive proof that Stoker's story was in fact based on real events which have been hidden within an unholy grail of code embedded in his research papers for over a century. What if we were to find absolute proof that Stoker was indeed acquainted with the infamous shadowy figure they called The "Ripper" and had wrote his novel Dracula as a direct response to this shocking fact? In short, the true identity of Count Dracula has been discovered, and he was not lying alone in his grave!
The review: It pains me to be negative about someone’s book – especially when it is clear that they have poured heart and soul into it. However I can’t help but be negative around this volume – partly through the construct of the book, which I hope that the author will take constructively and also take into account for a further edition, and partly because of the theory.
That said the author has corrected some aspects of Dracula studies in a way I'd agree with. For instance, he identifies the houses in Whitby that Stoker placed some of his characters in and which are often taken to be elsewhere in the town. The only criticism here would be that a map – for those who don’t actually know Whitby – might have been useful. Indeed there are aspects of worth in the opening sections of the book but the book itself has prose and content failings as a reference book.
Prose wise the book is written in a very chatty way – which might make the book more accessible to some, others will find it overly familiar – but often it feels that we are less reading prose and more reading bullet points, unfortunately. The author's overwhelming use of exclamation marks makes the book feel unprofessional, I’m afraid.
The book has no index but, worse, it has no referencing (to be fair some entries regarding Stoker’s notes are at least signposted, but these are few and far between). This lack of referencing is a real issue within the book and frustrating. At one point the author refers us to Leatherdale, suggesting we read his thoughts on a point, but fails to reference which Leatherdale volume he is referring to.
The main area of my concern around the book is the supposition that Stoker knew the identity of Jack the Ripper and encoded his identity within the book. We know that Stoker drew a parallel with the Ripper case due to the introduction he wrote to the Icelandic edition of Dracula. That introduction was not for a straight translation but for the (soon to be released at time of this review) edition entitled Powers of Darkness – where a third party, Valdimar Ásmundsson, considerably rewrote the novel including new characters and plot. Note that Stoker clearly approved the edition but it was Ásmundsson who rewrote it.
However Struthers believes that Stoker encoded things about the Ripper case in his notes and then made four characters in the novel different aspects of the murderer. The latter is problematic if only for the fact that two of these so-called aspects are part of the Crew of Light – Van Helsing’s helpers and co-conspirators.
More problematic, for me as a reader, was the use of Stoker’s notes. The notes are available, however they were not made available by Stoker and one wonders why he would have put encoded secrets for future generations in working notes? Worst still is the shoehorning of anagrams to prove a point.
Let us take a couple of examples from the text and note that the author believes the identity of the Ripper to be Francis Tumblety. The author takes the phrase “Undertakers Man” and rearranges it to ARDENT UNMASKER, suggesting that Tumbelty could be the undertakers man and he is, therefore, being unmasked. However run the phrase through an anagram app and we also gets “Eastman drunker” and “errant unmasked”. Indeed there are hundreds of possible outcomes (the free software I used only gave you the first 400 outcomes). Nowhere is it suggested that there was a key in the notes to allow decoding and so it appears that the author ran phrases from the notes through an anagram programme and then picked the outcomes that would lend credence to his theorem.
Indeed the "meanings" are often cryptic and have to be explained by the author. So “Bells at Sea” becomes SELL A BEAST and this is interpreted as advertising a murder. The author ties the Ripper murders with another serial killer in the US – “The Servant Girl Annihilator”, who allegedly killed seven women (and allegedly injured a further 6) and a man (and allegedly injured a further 2). He then draws attention to part of a line in the notes that says “Rage twice Xmas and midsummer”. The US murderer is thought to have killed two women on Christmas eve 1885 (and seriously injure the husband of one) however the author fails to mention that none of the Ripper victims or those unfortunates in the US were killed in June (midsummer falling between the 19th and 25th of June).
The interpretation of the line would seem to be selective and it isn’t mentioned that the line comes from Stoker making several notes (on that specific page) from Baring-Gould’s Book of the Werewolf and relates to Polish werewolves. The full line from the notes is "White Russian wawkalak is fatherless ww. sent among relations—must keep moving. Polish ww. rage twice Xmas & midsummer p. 114–6". Stoker actually referencing the pages in Baring-Gould that the note came from. As a further point we should mention that Tumblety was not a Pole. In fact, we know why Stoker researched werewolves – it was because he saw no difference between vampires and werewolves and says as much in the Lady of the Shroud.
The author also points out a strange line “Cattle endowed with speech on Xmas night” from the notes – informing us that Tumblety called women cattle (without a specific reference to show that this supposition is true) and thus this is what Stoker referred to. He fails to inform the reader that all the notes on that particular page comes from Emily Gerard’s The Land Beyond the Forest (the speaking cattle can be found on page 195 of Gerard) and Stoker was listing various Transylvanian superstitions from Gerard, which makes the entry less strange to my mind.
There are many other issues I had with the theory, but the idea that Stoker would present a hidden truth to the world in papers not designed to be seen is an initial stumbling block I can’t get past. The book is further marred by lack of referencing, the prose needs work and the excessive exclamation marks need expunging. 4 out of 10.
Friday, January 13, 2017
Whilst there is some evidence that the pair were really not getting along by the time this was made they had carved a style by this point, which was their own but owed something to Laurel and Hardy – who they emulated quite strongly early in their career – and probably a little to Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as well. Viruta was the skinny clever part of the act and Capulina the big and dumb one.
I am possibly really pushing it to give this a mention here.
|Viruta and Capulina|
|into the haunted house|
And that, as they say, is that. The film is passably watchable with Gaspar Henaine’s Capulina stealing the show. The imdb page is here.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
First published: 2011 (4th Ed)
The Blurb: This newest edition will track the form's evolution from such 1970s reinventions as Count Yorga Vampire and Blacula, The Hunger and Vampire's Kiss in the Eighties, Interview with the Vampire, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and the Blade series in the Nineties, through 30 Days of Night, I Am Legend, and the Underworld series in the first decade of the 21st century. All these films plus celebrated international examples such as Thirst and Let the Right One In and the hit television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, New Amsterdam, Angel, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood are covered in this long-awaited, completely revised, expanded, and redesigned fourth edition that follows the vampire figures, both male and female, through the millennium and beyond.
The Review: Let us start with the blurb. To be fair the blurb I quoted was not from the rear sleeve but from Amazon. Imagine my shock when I saw a series, New Amsterdam, I had not heard of… even more shocking as I had just read the book. The book does not mention the series and, from what I have been able to ascertain, New Amsterdam is a police procedural with a main character who is immortal. He has a rare blood type but there is no vampiric aspect that I can discern. Why it is in the blurb I cannot tell.
I saw someone post on Facebook that this was the best vampire reference book out there. It is a revised 4th edition (the first edition being published in 1976). It is not the best vampire film reference book out there but it isn’t bad, at all.
There are a few glaring errors. When the book was first written, it was hot on the heels of In Search of Dracula and so I can understand the conflation of the character Dracula and Vlad Ţepeş. That has been fairly and squarely debunked down to 'Stoker borrowed the name and a tiny amount of biographical data' and I would have liked to have seen that reflected in this edition (even if it was to refute it). But glaring additions such as Stoker including native earth as a trope (here’s a clue, he didn’t) show that the source material was not well known by the authors. Indeed they also include original sources such as “Vampire of the Fens”, which is known to be a hoax.
Whilst I would like to point out that Homer in Near Dark was a child and not a dwarf as suggested and that the entry on the Nostradamus Series seemed oblivious to the fact that the four films started life, in Mexico, as a serial and therefore the entry lost some of its sense, I do have to say that the errors, whilst there, are not endless and there is much goodness to be drawn from the pages.
However the book has two flaws. Firstly the way it has ordered things is idiosyncratic, to say the least, though I think this is mostly bound to it being revised over the decades. It is indexed, however, and this does help. The other thing is that it is not particularly in depth in its analysis – and again, given its very broad remit and the fact that it isn’t necessarily aimed at academia, allows for that. I was a little taken aback by guest entries, sometimes inserted article like into chapters, rather than the authors adding certain entries into the main text – the entry for True Blood was done in such a way, written by Linda Brookover and tagged onto the end of a chapter (in this case). These sections are printed with red text, rather than black.
It is nicely illustrated, in colour, throughout and does actually pick up on some of the more obscure and indie titles. There is a nice filmography at the end of the book.
So a few errors, a strange layout, but nicely illustrated, covering some obscure titles and worth a look. 6.5 out of 10.
Monday, January 09, 2017
Directors: Elly Kenner & Norman Thaddeus Vane
Release date: 1982
I had spotted a (German) DVD of this but it was a tremendously expensive edition for an obscure 80s horror/thriller. As it was I then stumbled across a video rip with hardcoded Greek subtitles on YouTube and so used that for the review.
The film itself has a TV movie feel but with its sexual subject I assume it was actually a straight to VHS job. It perhaps feels more like it should have been spawned in the previous decade.
|Larry in the Black Room|
|Bridget and Jason|
|Sandy in coffin|
|Jason the dark seducer|
|Bridget rises despite her wound|
Not the greatest film but it wasn’t that bad and I enjoyed the way it played to the traditional vampire film, whilst ploughing its own furrow. 4 out of 10. The imdb page is here.