Slayground (Richard Stark)

This is the fourteenth entry in Richard Stark’s (the writer’s real name Was Donald E Westlake) excellent series about Parker, the amoral criminal whose carefully-laid plans almost always come undone because of some unforeseen accident or because of an act of carelessness by one of the other crooks involved in the plan. In this case, it’s the getaway driver who screws everything up. This is not the driver that Parker would have preferred, but it’s the driver that Parker had to settle for. And it’s Parker who will now have to pay the price. [Read more…]

Hell House (Richard Matheson)

Matheson really was a master of his craft. He took the conventional Gothic structure and threw it out of the window. Assaulting the reader with carnal, palpable terror, from its first page to the very end. Readers new to Hell House will be wondering how far are things going to go regarding the repulsive sexual shenanigans… What would have been shocking and new to audiences in 1971 has become a tad too familiar today, unfortunately. While this speaks volumes to the book’s cultural and literary impact – the fact that it has been copied and imitated by so many on film and on the page detracts from the book’s overall contemporary wow factor. I bet Stephen King used this as some inspiration for The Shining. [Read more…]

Happiness (1998 USA)

This sadistic 2 hour film has no plot, in the sense of a meaningful series of events. Things happen, but there is no “story.” The film functions only to document human ugliness and suffering in the most agonizing detail possible, depicting several people causing and experiencing suffering, and then eventually the credits roll. I’ve seen other films that had no story line, some of which were very good, so I don’t mean it as a criticism of Happiness. Its a fact. I’ve seen many films that depicted human suffering, the majority of my favourite films have done so to a greater or lesser degree. Art is largely about “the human condition”, and whatever else it might involve, that condition certainly has its share of suffering. [Read more…]

If You Could See Me Now (Peter Straub)

The blurb of my copy of the book manages to drop three spoilers in the space of two sentences, and then reiterates one of the spoilers just in case I was slow on the uptake. I shall endeavor to avoid doing something similar. Straub brings class to horror unlike anyone I’ve ever read. He has literary tricks up his sleeve that will keep sophisticated readers happy throughout. He is a master of tone. And not just with the mystery he puts forth in this novel, but with the way he sets up our narrator as this haughty know-it-all faced with a town of plebeians that plague him. This book is a wonderful ride to take for that reason. [Read more…]

From The Earth To The Moon (Jules Verne)

What makes From the Earth to the Moon so enjoyable is it’s sheer earnestness. Entire chapters are filled with debates about figures and equations. Verne loves to write about all the details of his little thought experiment. This is very clearly his fantasy, and had he the money, I could imagine him attempting something like this. There are some charming details. For example, they launch from southern Florida, which at the time was a large swamp with forts to guard against the indians. Also, when packing their capsule for provisions, they load up 50 gallons of brandy, because that’s how a gentleman spaceman travels.  [Read more…]

Stripes (1981 USA)

Psycho: “The name’s Francis Sawyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.” Leon: “Ooooooh.” Psycho: “You just made the list, buddy. Also, I don’t like no one touching my stuff. So just keep your meathooks off. If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I’ll kill you. And I don’t like nobody touching me. Any of you homos touch me, and I’ll kill you.” Sergeant Hulka: “Lighten up, Francis.” The movie is basically trying to make the Army the way Police Academy made the Police look. Dumb and unbelievable. The plot is shabby, the characters are thin and of course guys love this flick. A nude woman within the first few minutes of the film. Two scenes involving multiple nude women. Bikini mud wrestling. The DVD even throws in even more gratuitous nudity than the original contained. [Read more…]

The Gauntlet (1977 USA)

This motion picture gets a bad rap for it’s implausible story line and outrageous shoot outs, but if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing, it’s a hard one to top. For the sixth time Clint Eastwood does his civic duty as the film’s director and leading man, here sharing the screen with live-in companion Sondra Locke. (This was before a real life drama where he changed the locks on the house they shared when she was away–years after this) The pasty Locke always struck me as a good looking woman, but only if you caught her at just the right angle. [Read more…]

The Cellar (Richard Laymon)

Some say the best things in life are free while others say you have to pay an admission fee. Richard Laymon books are somewhere in between. Its nice to pick them up at the library but I don’t really mind paying either. Providing they are cheap and easy in some bargain bin…I love the fact that Laymon can make even the most overly used clichés seem new to the reader. I knew exactly what was coming, yet I didn’t. Stock characters are going to get themselves in over their heads in a creepy town with a history of people who ‘just go missing’. And yes, everyone’s gonna go into this demonic, evil house (at night) when they know they shouldn’t. [Read more…]

The Car (USA 1977)

If it weren’t for George Lucas, “The Car” would’ve been the surefire hit of 1977 and we’d all be reminiscing about the classic “Car Wars” trilogy and remembering how incredible James Brolin was as Wade Parent. There might even be merchandise like dolls and a black car for kids to buy. Gathering together some key horror movie elements (small desert town, scrappy desert folk, demonic Lincoln vehicle), the makers of “The Car” must’ve felt they were on top of a goldmine. What went wrong? That bastard George Lucas and his big budget Star Wars for one. And that other bastard Spielberg bad mouthed this as a Jaws-on-wheels rip off. [Read more…]

Walden (Henry David Thoreau)

walden-henry-david-thoreau-hardcover-cover-artAah, the passing of time in a natural environment. Usually I’m in too much of a hurry to really look, listen, smell and savour every word or sentence of a book. But when I am able to I’m aware of the little things around me and thinking about a certain pond…Mr Thoreau wasn’t just the original hippie, circa 1845. He was that most annoying beast: a practical hippie. A hippie with the skill to rustle up a meal from whatever he could find, forge or forage in the woods. Or build a glorious shack from a cow pat or the bark of an elm tree.
[Read more…]

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