Category: Horror


Hell's Door Opens

The first novel in Jon Creffield’s ‘Hell’s Door’ series.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Jon Creffield’s Hell’s Door Opens for review. Check it out on Flames Rising DOT com.

Falling Scales Chapter One

“All at once something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,” Acts 8:19

Flames Rising DOT com has published my  review of Falling Scales Chapter One for White Wolf’s World of Darkness. This product is the first of a two part chronicle involving the Unmasked which is a cult in Denver that believes uncovering the supernatural and revealing it is more important than anything else. Even more important than the welfare of its own members. Check out the review.

Falling Scales Chapter One RPG Review

Dead Silence

You scream. You die.

Last night I watched Dead Silence which was co-written and directed by James Wan (Saw, Insidious) and starring Ryan Kwanten (True Blood) and Donnie Wahlberg (Sixth Sense, Saw II, Saw III).

A widower returns to his hometown to search for answers to his wife’s murder, which may be linked to the ghost of a murdered ventriloquist.

That pretty much sums up the premise of the film and it does not go too much deeper than that. Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Ella receive a package late one night in which they find a creepy vaudeville doll (a ventriloquist dummy). Where Jamie comes from (a small town called Raven’s Fair) vaudeville dolls are considered bad omens but his wife dismisses his concerns and sends him out for dinner. When he returns he finds his wife murdered and her tongue torn out. Grief stricken, under investigation by the cops (Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Lipton) and looking for answers he returns to his home.

Jamie Ashen and Billy

Personally I would have burned Billy as soon as he arrived in the mail but that is just me.

Jamie’s father is not very helpful and no one wants to discuss Mary Shaw but eventually he learns that she was a popular ventriloquist who died in 1941 while Raven’s Fair was a booming town. He also learns that she was killed after a young boy went missing after ruining one of her performances. The people of Raven’s Fair cut out her tongue and killed her even though evidence that she took the young boy was never found. Since then people began dying off in the most horrible way with their tongues cut out. First the men who committed the crime against Mary and then their wives, their children and so on. While unraveling this story Jamie is hunted by Detective Lipton who continues to disbelieve the “ghost story” and puts more stock in the theory that Jamie is responsible for killing his own wife. Jamie tries to bury Billy to make things right but that creepy dummy just refuses to stay buried. Meanwhile Mary keeps killing.

Needless to say Mary Shaw was crazy and she did in fact kidnap the young boy and kill him. Not only that but she was working on turning the boy into her next vaudeville doll when she was killed which means she really got what she deserved. Too bad for the people of Raven’s Fair that she somehow managed to come back after death to haunt them. The final confrontation between Jamie, Detective Lipton and Mary Shaw is quite thrilling.

Dead Silence

Mary Shaw and Billy at their last performance.

Dead Silence has its up and downs. The story itself is not all that original but James Wan makes the most of it using the creepy nursery rhyme Jamie recites at the beginning of the movie. We find that the movie is less about learning the truth of Mary Shaw’s demise and more about Jamie accepting what he already knows as myth to be reality. Stopping Mary Shaw is the real challenge once Jamie has accepted the truth.

James Wan has a unique style when it comes to cinematography and he makes the most of it in this film. He mixes elements of Lovecraft and Poe with modern horror quite well. At times he is a bit heavy handed with light filters and the blue and red contrasts distract from the film. He also has a talent for capturing great “scares” in his films without being corny which helps this movie to move along.

Ryan Kwanten, most well known as the sex-crazed, not so bright ex-jock turned deputy Jason Stackhouse from True Blood, displays his talent for playing deeper characters in this film. This movie would not have worked if not for Ryan’s work as Jamie which makes the movie just believable enough to be entertaining.

All in all, I give Dead Silence 3 out of 5 stars.

Tips for Gamers

Vaudeville Dolls are Creepy!
This movie taps into the creep factor of vaudeville dolls and it uses it to great effect. Vaudeville Dolls became popular during the late 19th century although comedy was not part of the typical ventriloquist act until much, much later. Performances centered on making the dolls appear as if they were actually alive while also demonstrating the ventriloquists ability to throw and manipulate their voices. However, the practice of ventriloquism is much older and dates all the way back to ancient Greece. Ancient Greeks believe the noises made by people’s stomachs were the voices of the deceased and ventriloquists could communicate with the dead and foretell the future. The word ventriloquism comes from Latin; venter (belly) and loqui (speak). Giving any stock to this belief means that ventriloquists working with vaudeville dolls are actually imbuing them with the spirits of the dead. There is enough story material there for numerous game sessions.

Haunted Nursery Rhymes
One… Two… Freddy’s coming for you… We all remember that one. Nursery rhymes are often used mnemonic references to relay information or instructions in such a way that can easily be recalled. Horror films have used them to great effect to foreshadow impending doom because they are very catchy and if spoken in just the right way. In Dead Silence, the Mary Shaw nursery rhyme details how to know when Mary Shaw is close and what to do to protect yourself so she won’t killed you. The point is to watch for her in your dreams and don’t scream if you see her. When you scream she rips out your tongue and kills you. This is important to the movie because it helps to explain how so many have survived since Mary Shaw’s death in 1941 and why they are still scared of her. She still hunts them but they live in terror as long as they keep their mouths shut. This is a type of ban on the ghost which limits her power and allows protagonists to interact with her with some hope of coming out alive.

At the game table a nursery rhyme can serve a similar purpose. While being catchy and easily memorable they can help to frame the story and give the PCs clues about what they are facing and what they need to do to survive.

Fright Night

Fright Night

Beware vampires named Jerry...

“That is a terrible vampire name. Jerry?” – Charley Brewster

The original Fright Night (1985) is one of the greatest vampire movies of all time. A teenager named Charlie suspects his next door neighbor Jerry is a vampire but no one believes him. While trying to prove his claim he finds himself in over his head and seeks the aid of Peter Vincent, host of Fright Night. Somehow the pair manages to destroy Jerry the evil vampire and save the neighborhood. The concept is pretty simple but the execution is what made this such a great vampire movie. The film draws as much inspiration from old horror movies as it does from the modern cinema of the 1980s. The movie is smart and terrifying while also being equally humorous in healthy doses. Tom Holland made a masterpiece. Anyone daring to produce a remake was taking a very big gamble because the original set a very high bar.

So when I learned about the remake to be released in August of 2011 I was both excited and scared at the same time. I got a little worried when I learned Craig Gillespie was going to direct, a man I knew nothing about and early investigation he had spent most of sixteen years directing commercials with a few other films I had never heard of. I am not against giving mostly unknown directors a shot at big movies but I was nervous about Hollywood giving him a chance on a movie like this one.

Marti Noxon was the saving grace who encouraged me to keep an eye on this film and really give it a chance. Her resume as a producer and writer is a long and distinguished one including such popular shows as Glee, Madmen, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Those last two are what gave me the most hope.

As the cast became known to me I knew the movie was heading in the right direction. Anton Yelchin (Charley Brewster) has been acting for quite some time but I was most familiar with his work in Star Trek (2009) as Chekov and Terminator Salvation (2009) as Kyle Reese. Collin Farrell (Jerry) is well known to most movie goers and Toni Collette (Jane Brewster) was a great addition to the cast. Imogen Poots (Amy) was excellent in 28 Weeks Later (2007) and she is the kind of actress that I think should do more work in the horror genre. I was even happy to learn that Chris Sarandon was going to make an appearance in the movie which makes him the only actor to appear in all three Fright Night movies (he appears in flashback scenes in the second one). And last but not least I believe David Tennant was a brilliant choice to play Peter Vincent.

They had all the right pieces to make a great movie but did they accomplish their goal? I think they did.

Fight Night (2011) does an incredible job of capturing the feel of the original movie while updating it to the 21st century. The vampires in this movie are sexy and terrifying at the same time. Unlike the original Peter Vincent (his name is a play on famous actors Peter Cushing and Vincent Price for those who don’t know) who would fit perfectly well in any Hammer film the new Peter Vincent looks more like Criss Angel, the pop icon of modern magic and illusion (or “bullshit” as Peter puts it in the movie). The movie did an excellent job of capturing the essence of “teens” today without falling into the trap of too much angst or melodrama. The writing did not disappoint and the special effects were quite excellent.

The movie also does an excellent job of establishing itself as a different kind of vampire movie when compared to the current status quo for vampires in movies and television (Twilight, The Vampire Diaries). While Fright Night‘s vampires are more than capable of seducing their victims they are more likely to fang out and start ripping their victims to shreds. The movie takes an early shot at Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series as Edd and Charley search for their lost friend Adam when Edd gets mad that Charley would even imply that he had read those books. I also could not help but notice the vampire Jerry had a love for apples but only the green kind, not the bright red ones which appear on the covers of Meyer’s books.

The new Fright Night not only managed to live up to the original but I feel it improved on the franchise because it updated the story for new generations of movie goers. If Hollywood stops now I am a happy horror movie fan but if they announce a Fright Night Part 2 remake I will be the first in line to see it as well.

Eclipse PhaseEclipse Phase, the Roleplaying Game of Transhuman Conspiracy and Horror, has been hitting all the right notes since its release in August of 2009. In 2010 it won three Ennies medals for Best Writing (Gold), Best Cover Art (Silver) and Product of the Year (Silver) while also winning the Origins award for Best Roleplaying Game of the Year. Posthuman Studios, LLC has a lot to be proud of.

The artistic elements of the game are impressive. The concepts of the game are expansive and tap into areas of science fiction which are quickly becoming more and more popular. The mechanics of the game are solid. The sheer volume of the narrative gamers can immersive themselves in is mind boggling. Eclipse Phase is awesome. Eclipse Phase is… intimidating.

For everything this game can boast about the one thing it lacks is the ability to allow players to give a quick once over of the core book and jump straight into their first game. The scope of the game and sheer volume of unique terminology makes much of the book difficult to access without spending some serious time with it.

Posthuman Studios LLC addressed those issues with the release of the Eclipse Phase Quick-Start Rules (QSR) in PDF format and with the release of the same product for Kindle users. The QSR parsed down the setting and the rules making them much more easily for new gamers to absorb.  This was exactly what the game needed to introduce new gamers to Eclipse Phase and it is offered free of charge.

To further expand on availability Posthuman Studios LLC has made the QSR available for Print on Demand through DriveThruRPG. Costing only $7 plus shipping and handling it is now easier for gamers to bring the QSR to the game table while also providing access to game stores who want to provide the product to their customers as well.

Gamers and game store owners interested in purchasing printed copies of the QSR should visit DriveThruRPG or go directly to the Eclipse Phase Quick-Start Rules listing for purchase options.

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Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

Guilty Pleasures (1993) was written by Laurell K. Hamilton and is the first novel in the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. Anita Blake is a tough as nails Animator (necromancer) who moonlights with the St. Louis police department dealing with the cases they are not equipped to handle, namely the kind involving blood sucking vampires. In Anita Blake’s world vampires and other supernatural creatures not only exist but they have come out of hiding as well. In the United States of America the vampire community has fought for and won rights under government law which makes life for a vampire hunter like Anita difficult at times.

In Guilty Pleasures the vampires of St. Louis have been targeted by a murderer who has a taste for only the most powerful vampires in the city. Anita hunts vampires because she fears them and the last thing she would ever want to do is help them find the killer but she quickly finds she has little choice in the matter.  Nikolaos, the most powerful vampire in St. Louis, sadistically manipulates Anita into taking the case. When Anita is mortally wounded by a vampire which cannot control itself she is saved by Jean-Claude who “gives her part of his life force” (also known as Marking) making her more resilient than your average human. Nikolaus wants Anita to find the murderer but there is something else the thousand year old vampire wants as well. She wants Anita.

Anita narrates her own story in the first person which adds a great deal of depth to what would normally be considered your typical supernaturally charged action thriller. Through Anita’s eyes we are immersed in the terrifying world of vampires, undead and were-creatures which Hamilton eloquently constructs even while we are swept along at neck break speeds. Hamilton surrounds Anita with colorful characters which works well with the fast pace of the narrative. Willie McCoy, the polyester wearing vampire middle man, only appears for five pages at the beginning of the novel but when he shows up later on he feels like an old friend come back for a visit. Hamilton is a master of constructing memorable characters with very few words.

Anita is a great character because she is such a strong woman who fits naturally into her own skin. She does not struggle with her identity, she is who she is and that is a refreshing change of pace in literature featuring female protagonists. Where Anita runs into conflict is where and how she chooses to express her sexuality and who she wants to develop relationships with. She attracts men of all kinds but she is very particular about who she lets into her private life. She is attracted to Jean-Claude but he holds power over her and Anita will not allow herself to be subjected to a life as a vampire’s servant. She and Phillip share a common, traumatic background and in a strange way she is attracted to that but she cannot allow herself to succumb to the trauma of their experiences like Phillip has.

Ultimately Anita needs to be strong because Hamilton is not going to show her any mercy in this book. The horrors which Anita confronts would drive most mortals insane but she finds a way to overcome and fights her way towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Pity the vampire that gets in her way and be ready to clean up the mess when she is done.