MOVIE REVIEW: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

389637-extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

Year: 2019

Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 50 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 4, 2019

Recognized Actors: Zac Efron plays the infamous Ted Bundy. Efron’s performance in this movie is fantastic and I was very impressed. I have only ever seen Efron play the dumb jock, or other unserious roles. In this movie Efron breaks from his former characters and really shows that he has true potential as a versatile actor.

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdTHE STORY BEHIND AMERICA’S MOST NOTORIOUS SERIAL KILLER. A chronicle of the crimes of Ted Bundy, from the perspective of his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth Kloepfer, who refused to believe the truth about him for years. A courtroom frenzy ensues and sweeps 1970s America when a young single mother reluctantly tips the attention of a widespread manhunt toward her longtime boyfriend, Ted Bundy.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: All around really good start to the movie! The scenes where Kloepfer meets and falls in love with Bundy were so well done that I forgot for just a moment that Bundy was one of the most prolific serial killers in recent times. The interplay of the scenes where Bundy is acting as a family man and the news reports of his heinous crimes is artfully done and spine chilling. At the end of the 15 minutes, the story begins to dive into the beginning of Bundy’s downfall; arrested for the kidnapping of a woman in Utah, Bundy arrives back in Seattle spinning a tall tale that he is being set up; and Kloepfer buys it…for the moment.

I am giving this movie 5 stars because it was just so well done. I watch a lot of true crime shows / movies, and this one is on par with Monster, the movie about America’s first female serial killer, Aileen Wuornos  (played by Charlize Theron). The thing that I like about this movie, is that it really portrayed Bundy in the way most people thought of him at the time. I could feel myself feeling sorry for him at some points…and then I remembered what he did. I really have to congratulate Zac Efron on a really good job. I have seen Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix, and I think Efron portrayed Bundy down to the letter.

If you like true crime, and want to never trust a stranger again, you must watch this movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Slender Man

371792-slender-man-0-230-0-345-cropTitle: Slender Man

Year: 2018

Genre: Thriller, Horror, Mystery

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Watch Time: 1 hours 33 minutes

Platform: Netflix

Date Watched: May 1, 2019

Recognized Actors: The only actor I recognized was Jaz Sinclair. I recognized her from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (which is a really good show that I would recommend).

Brief Summary of Plot from LetterboxdCAN YOU SEE HIM? In a small town in Massachusetts, four high school girls perform a ritual in an attempt to debunk the lore of Slender Man. When one of the girls goes mysteriously missing, they begin to suspect that she is, in fact, his latest victim.

My Review: My impression after the first 15 minutes of the movie: So far the movie seems to be very similar to the plot of The Ring, i.e., watch a video and within seven days something terrible happens to you. All that is missing is the phone call with Samara’s creepy voice whispering “Seven days”. I have failed to jump or be scared in anyway so far, although there is some tension beginning to build.

As the movie progressed, the “attempted” scares were obvious, and you knew that they were coming. Music would build up and then there was a music explosion at the point where you are supposed to be scared, etc. This style of scare tactic plagues most modern horror movies, and in my opinion detracts from the scare affect. Most of the time it was hard to see the Slender Man himself or the scenes of the movie that took place in the dark, but this might have had something to do with watching it on the ipad during the daytime.

Will this movie win any awards? Of course not, but it’s not supposed to. The goal of this movie is to entertain, and it certainly entertained me.

Despite the fact that the ending was totally lame “ya know?”, I still give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

36381091Title: The Cabin at the End of the World

Author: Paul Tremblay

Book Length (Audiobook): 9 hours 31 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Read Start Date: March 23, 2019

Read Finish Date: March 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.

Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

Reviewer’s note: I really loved that the family in this book was a modern style family with two dads and an adoptive daughter. I think that this is not done enough in mainstream literature.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”.

Reviewer’s note: If it wasn’t obvious enough that something weird was happening (like why would this guy be talking to this young girl?) when Leonard said that line I was thinking “uh oh”. My first thought was some weird paranormal stuff was about to go down like in that movie Sinister.

Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Reviewer’s note: unexpected twist there. Maybe less Sinister, and more The Cabin in the Woods?

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

Reviewer’s note: That last paragraph is a bit hyped. I didn’t feel the tension at all. I was a little disappointed actually.

My Review: Where to start with this book? Okay, so first I should say that I don’t know whether I liked or disliked this book, which is why I gave it 3 stars, as it came somewhere in between. It was an interesting premise, but I think that the author could have done more with it. Having less than 10 hours of listening time (272 pages), there really wasn’t much room for character building. I can’t say that I really felt anything for any of the characters, even little Wen. This was ultimately disappointing. In a horror story, who doesn’t want to feel at least some empathy toward the characters?

However, I didn’t dislike any of the characters either. As I mentioned above, I liked how the family had two dads and an adoptive daughter.

Since the book was so short, and since the author tried to give time to the back story of each character, it felt more like a summary of their lives than character development. For an example, it turned out (maybe — it was never really proven or not) that one of the strangers was possibly a guy that one of Wen’s dads had beaten up in a bar years earlier. I didn’t really think that this added anything to the story, other than a side comment that maybe these people were “gay bashers” and were therefore just lying about the whole apocalypse thing.

On the other hand, was character development really so important to the story? Could it have been rather that the story itself was more the focus?

I am also currently reading a book by Stephen King and Owen King called Sleeping Beauties. Similarly, it is about the end of the world, so to speak — but it is more than 700 pages long. I am not saying that you need 700 pages to truly develop a character or story, but it might have been nice if Tremblay had allotted a few more pages to the task.

I finished The Cabin at the End of the World in two days because I listened to it over the weekend, and I tend to listen to audiobooks a lot on the weekends. Had this been a paperback book, or had I started the audiobook on a Monday, I am not sure whether I would have been able to finish it in so short of a time, so I cannot say that the pace at which I read the book is any indication of the likeability of the book.

That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book. I typically like books that fall within the horror genre, and I don’t ever expect to be scared, but I do expect some sort of feeling that what I am reading is disturbing or creepy. Even if the story was more the intended focus than the characters for me, I would have liked to have liked the characters more, especially in light of what happened to them in the book.

This book reminded me a bit of The Road by Cormac McCarthy, except that I liked The Road a lot more. Let’s face it, cannibals (especially as vivid as McCarthy’s descriptions were of them) are always super disturbing, and are always going to beat out weird kidnappers / slashers in that department.

I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so it is really hard to give further examples of how the story fell a little short of expectations.

Have you read The Cabin at the End of the World? What did you think?

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Parasite by Mira Grant

13641105Title: Parasite

Author: Mira Grant

Book Length (Audiobook): 16 hours 6 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror, Science Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system – even secretes designer drugs. It’s been successful beyond the scientists’ wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives…and will do anything to get them.”

My Review: The main character, Sally Mitchell “Sal” awoke from a coma without any memories of her life before the accident. Her life was saved by the tapeworm living in her intestines. The book starts six years after she woke up. Her relationships are complicated, due to the fact that she was not a very nice person before the accident. Everyone in her life of course remembers this person, but she herself does not. Although Sal is an adult, she is often treated like a child by her parents (Sal’s Dad is the head of USAMRID), and her doctors at SymboGen see her as an anomaly and therefore study her and monitor her every move. In fact, the only person in Sal’s life who treats her with any normalcy is her boyfriend, Nathan (a parasitologist at the hospital).

Despite the coma and memory loss, Sal seems to be living a pretty average life, that is, until things start to get strange. People start developing a “sleeping sickness” and the infection is spreading. It is not known until the end how Sal fits into this sickness, and I won’t spoil it for you.

When I first started to read this book, I had been expecting something a bit more “apocalyptic”– so I was a little bit disappointed when it wasn’t; but, maybe this comes in the next 2 books?

I was also surprised to find out that this wasn’t a Young Adult book, because it certainly read like one. Other than the occasional swear word, the language of this book was super easy. The romantic relationships were PG all the way, and despite the family drama, other relationships in the book were rather uncomplicated and one-dimensional. The characters were interesting, when they were not totally unrealistic.

SPOILER ALERT: One of the characters that I did not like at all was Tansy. Tansy was a human who had been taken over by the tapeworm — so basically, Tansy was a tapeworm wearing a human shell. The only problem with Tansy was that her character was supposed to be crazy, and I guess the only way to illustrate this was to have her act like an unhinged Rambo who sometimes had cringe worthy one-liners? I think that the author could have developed the characters better. I also did not understand why the description of the characters was necessary — did the fact that Tansy have pink streaks in her hair make her seem more “crazy”? Otherwise, it just seems like these descriptions were just fillers without any real motivation.

This book was entertaining; I listened to the audiobook while running / walking. If you are looking to be entertained, you should give it a go. I would just caution to manage expectations.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Outsider by Stephen King

36124936

Title: The Outsider

Author: Stephen King

Book Length (Audiobook): 18 hours 49 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Horror, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Link: Goodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: “An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.”

My Review: I have very mixed feelings about this book, and I have really struggled with this review. On the one hand I liked it, but on the other hand I was not that impressed. I have some spoilers in this review, but i cannot give my full opinion without giving away some of the story. The beginning of the book starts out like any other murder mystery / crime novel. As with all of his books, King’s writing is impeccable, and the characters are well-developed.

The issue I have is with the supernatural monster, who turned out to be the real killer. In a nutshell, this monster was a shape shifter that was capable of becoming other people, even down to the DNA level. This is how he would perpetrate the crimes, and the humans from whom the monster had stolen the DNA (like Terry Maitland) would get the blame. The monster fed on children and thrived on the grief the killings caused the family members. It had white blood filled with worms, and it would use the worms to infect humans so that it could control them to do its bidding.

After Detective Anderson (and his team) figure out that the real killer is some sort of monster, they track it down to a cave system and ultimately destroy it.

Elements of this story heavily reminded me of It (also by Stephen King) and the Strain series by Guillermo Del Toro — which is why, for me, the story did not really feel all that original. It reminded me of It because the monster went after children, hibernated after feedings, and lived underground in an abandoned mine. It reminded me of The Strain series because of the worms and the white blood (in The Strain, the vampires made new vampires by infecting humans with worms, and said vampires had white blood).

I was on a business trip in Japan while reading this book, and was severely jet lagged for most of the week. Since this book received very high reviews in general, maybe the jet lag prevented me from really appreciating the story, as every time I read the book, I was very tired. In any event, since Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, I would still recommend to read this book.

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Walk Through Hell, Volume 1 by Garth Ennis

42199506

Title: A Walk Through Hell, Volume 1

Author: by Garth Ennis and Goran Sudzuka (Artist)

Book Length: 129 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Graphic Novel, Comic, Horror, Mystery

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: When two federal agents go missing inside a warehouse, FBI Agents McGregor and Shaw go in to find them. They soon realize that what they walked into is not just an ordinary warehouse, but a fun house…for insane people. If it wasn’t creepy enough to fall unconscious and wake up without a pulse, the two FBI agents find one of the missing agents blowing his own head off again and again like some gruesome version of ground-hogs day. Will they ever make it out alive?

My Review: The artwork was really good, and the overall story was creepy as hell. The story alternates from a past case that the partners were working on, which is somehow related to them being stuck in the warehouse. The back and forth between the past case and the scenes in the warehouse got a little confusing at times, but it all pulled together in the end. As this is only Volume 1, I would be curious to see what Volume 2 holds in store for the two agents.

Professional Reader

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands

34084Title: The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Audiobook Length: 17 hours and 54 minutes

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: If you are interested to see my reviews of the first two books, you can click the links below. In this third book, which takes place five weeks after the second book ends, Eddie, Susannah (formerly Odetta) are being trained by Roland to become gunslingers. All the while, the three are continuing their quest to the Dark Tower by following magical “beams” (which I guess are like ley lines?). They encounter strange (ancient) beings along the way who are becoming sick and dying, as Midworld is “moving on” (onto the next age?)

Meanwhile, due to the fact that he saved Jake from being killed in the 2nd book, Roland’s mind has become fractured into 2 pieces. The first piece remembers Jake (from the timeline where he died and came to Midworld), and the second piece where Jake lived, and therefore never met Roland. This juxtaposition is tearing Roland apart and slowly making him insane.

Back on “Earth” in NYC, Jake’s mind has also become fractured. He remembers both the life in Midworld, and the one where he never went there. Strange things are happening to him in NYC, and its like he is living a double life. Eventually he is able to find his way to a portal to Midworld. Once Roland and Jake are together again, the insanity ends for both of them.

The rest of the book is about the adventures they have while on their quest, which I won’t tell you about so as not to ruin it for you.

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower III: The Wastelands”

BLAST FROM THE PAST BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

5094

Title: The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When I read it: April, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: 7 hours after the end of the first book, Roland awakes on the beach, where he is attacked by lobster-like creatures called “lobstrosity”. The lobstrosity eats parts of a few of Roland’s fingers before Roland manages to kill it. The wounds become infected, and Roland realizes he is dying. Roland continues to walk down the beach, where he encounters three doors, which open into different time periods in New York. As Roland walks through the first two doors, he brings back a person who will help him on his quest (i.e., Eddie Dean and Odetta Holmes). The third door leads Roland to Jack Mort, who we find out was the guy who pushed Jake into oncoming traffic, killing him (which is how Jake ended up in Roland’s world). Roland goes into the mind of Jack Mort and is able to prevent him from pushing Jake.

Jake is not in the novel, because in The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger, Roland lets Jake die. Walter is also not in this book, and is presumed dead. Just as a recap, at the end of the first book, Roland and the man in black encounter each other, and the man in black reads Roland’s fortune using tarot cards. The man in black casts a spell over Roland, making him fall asleep. Roland awakes 10 years later holding a jaw bone, which is presumed to be that of the man in black.

The Writing: As with all of Stephen King’s books, the writing was great.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing to report.

Expectations/Recommendations: I more or less had the same ambivalent feelings about this book that I did with respect to The Gunslinger. It’s hard to get into the story because there are so many moving pieces. Basically, though this book was just about collecting the companions–Roland stayed on the beach the entire time. This book was more or less building the back story of the two new characters, and revealing the connection with Jack Mort. I guess, however, that it is an important story insofar as the entire series is concerned.

BLAST FROM THE PAST BOOK REVIEW: The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

 

43615

 

Title: The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When I read it: April, 2018

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction

LinkGoodreads

Brief Summary of the Plot: The story centers around Roland, the last gunslinger, and his quest to find and kill the man in black, who for all intents and purposes is a sorcerer. The place where Roland lives is not “earth” exactly, but seems to be a separate dimension, parallel universe, or on a different timeline, it is hard to say. As Roland is passing a way station, a boy Jake appears from “earth”. Jake doesn’t know how he got to Roland’s timeline. The two of them set out to find the man in black together.

The Writing: As with all of Stephen King’s books, the writing was great.

The Audiobook Recording: Nothing to report.

Expectations/Recommendations: The Dark Tower series so far has been one of my least favorite from Stephen King. I gave it 3 stars out of 5 because while it was an entertaining book, I just didn’t love it. It’s not that the book is weird, because lets face it, most of King’s books are a little weird, but rather that I found myself getting lost. I didn’t understand who the man in black was, and why Roland was so intent on killing him. How really did this Jake kid fit in? And what was up with the Dark Tower? Maybe these things will be revealed in the next book.