Writer of Horror Fiction

Archive for April, 2016

Review of the short film “Scythe”

Every once in a while I like to break out of my normal routine and do something a bit different.  I watch horror films-quite a few, in fact, but I have only posted a review of a couple of them on my blog.  I stick to reviewing horror novels, and primarily independent stuff from independent authors and smaller presses.  After all, the “big” stuff gets along just fine whether I review it or not, while the smaller, lesser known works get a boost from every review they receive-good, bad, or indifferent.  Recognition and awareness is key to gaining a wider audience.  Especially if you are trying to turn your ‘little’ project into something bigger.  So I thought I would do my part and check out a short film by a guy named Jim Rothman (twitter handle: @ScytheJim), who is working hard on getting the crowdfunding to turn a fifteen minute short into a full length horror feature.  Jim shared his film with me for the promise of a fair and honest review.  And unlike so many other reviews I do, where I can only give you the link to go purchase your own copy, I am sharing the link so you can watch the film, in all its glory, for free, right now, without spending another dime!  Ain’t that somethin’?

Naturally, Jim is looking for donors to help fund this project, so while you don’t have to pay to watch the short, you might consider a contribution if you like what you see and would like to see more.  And Jim tossed in a bit of an extra for anyone who decides to donate $50 at supportscythe.com if they do so on Monday.  Whoever pledges $50 for the Baseball Cap and Blu-Ray package (again, ON Monday) will also get an autographed copy of the script.  Not too shabby a deal.   So, what’s all the hubbub about?  Well, you can watch the movie here: Scythe Short Film.

Okay, so we’ve gotten all the promotional stuff out of the way!  On to the review:

The setup with Scythe is fairly traditional slasher fare.  Two college aged girls are sitting in an apartment, one, Amy, lamenting what kind of impact she’ll manage to have on the world at large while she studies for exams.  She fears no one will remember her-that she will leave no impression on anyone else including future generations.  The other girl, offering up another hit off the joint they’ve been smoking, gives Amy a pep talk about how she will end up doing great things, just before our main character decides it’s time to walk home.  Next, we see the second girl turn on the television to watch a news report that a imprisoned killer has escaped and is on the loose in the local area.

Pretty routine set up, and in some ways, what follows is also pretty routine.  Where this film ended up resonating for me, in its brief time on my computer screen, was in the build up of tension that takes place after Amy begins her walk home and is warned, via cellphone by her friend, of the escaped maniac on the loose.  The filmmakers allow the energy to build, through the music, the surrounding environment, and through the main character’s expressions and body language.   Amy’s fear ebbs and flows based on what is going on around her, and that was what yanked me along with her through her harrowing journey.

In a film like this, even in short form, its as much what you know as you don’t know, and playing the guessing game about what will happen next.  We all do it-when will the slasher appear, and when will they administer the coup de grace?  If it’s predictable, it’s usually forgettable.  But when you guess wrong and you get that adrenaline rush because you’re startled, taken off guard, or even pee yourself a bit…that’s the payoff.  And for a short film that was produced in an effort to show the capabilities of these filmmakers and the promise of something greater, the payoff was there for me.  Much of it was in the promise of something greater rather than just what happens on the screen.  In other words, I took the bait right off the hook (or off the Scythe, in this case, har har).

The production values (I have a friend who always looooved to use that term when describing a film-it made him feel all refined and movie savvy, I suppose) were solid.  The acting was decent and the music, as I already mentioned, blends well with what is happening on screen.  Whatever the budget they had to make this promotional piece, it didn’t feel cheap, shabby, or hastily constructed.

The bottom line for me is not that this little film was mind altering or in and of itself a great standalone film.  It’s fun and entertaining, certainly, but more importantly, serves its purpose.  That purpose is to draw you in enough to want to see what the creators could do with the budget necessary to make a full length version of Scythe.

But don’t take my word for it.  Check it out yourself.  If you like it, promote it.  If you really like it, consider tossing a few coppers in the direction of the filmmakers so you can see even more of Scythe.  And if you don’t like it…well, it was just 15 minutes out of your life, now wasn’t it?

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Review of Tonia Brown’s “Badass Zombie Road Trip”

From the title of this book, Badass Zombie Road Trip, I had a vision of an apocalyptic ride across undead highways in a classic car (maybe a convertible Caddy or a hot rod like an old Road Runner).  Even the picture used on the cover reinforced that vision.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  What I got instead was a tale of Jonah and Dale, best buddies, on the run to chase down a lost soul before the devil does them in.  Not a bad trade off, especially when Candy, a beautiful hitchhiker, is added to the mix.  She adds a bit of spice to the testosterone mix, especially since Dale, the Lothario of the duo, has his sights set on her as his next conquest, while Jonah, the meek and mild member of the pair, is falling hard for her in his own modest way.

The threesome has to make it cross country after a poorly thought out (and devilishly influenced) detour into California, where Dale soul is taken from him by Lucifer himself, collecting on a debt incurred during his childhood.  To save his friend, Jonah ups the stakes and tosses his soul into the mix if Satan will give them a chance to reclaim Dale’s soul.  Unfortunately for both of them, the Devil doesn’t play fair, so Dale is not only soulless, he’s lifeless too-though he can move around and talk…and he’s hungry for a bit more than junk food.

Jonah and Dale’s relationship is an interesting dynamic.  Dale is overwhelming, loud, obnoxious, and a letch, while Jonah is quiet, intelligent, sincere, and innocent.  They seem to fit together well, though Dale’s bullying tended to rub me the wrong way and I wanted Jonah to stand up for himself a bit more.  And that is where Candy, the intriguing hitchhiker who gets the boys into even more trouble, comes in.  She is beautiful, somewhat mysterious, and triggers strong interest from both of them.  Plus, she adds her own brand of trouble to the story that keeps things hopping.

Overall, the journey is an entertaining one, though it grinds through a few scenes.  Dragging a zombie across country that needs to feed on something…substantial…every now and then is definitely a cause for concern and plenty of misfortune.  The Devil is cunning and likes to cause as much woe for our road warriors as possible, which keeps things popping.  The dark humor here works and so does the relationship between the three main characters, who seem to mesh well, even when they’re causing each other major grief.  This is a quick read, and a fun one.

Badass Zombie Road Trip can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Badass-Zombie-Road-Tonia-Brown-ebook/dp/B006ZAJ4M4/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8