GUEST MOVIE REVIEWS by Mike Duke

Something Creepy This Way Comes:
Halloween Movie Reviews by Mike Duke

Candy Corn (2019)
Director: Josh Hasty

Synopsis: “It’s the eve of Halloween in Grove Hill, Ohio. A traveling carnival is in town for the weekend and local outcast, Jacob Atkins, has been hired as one of the freaks in the event’s main attraction, ‘Dr. Death’s Side Show Spook House Spectacular.’ When a group of bullies target Jacob for their annual hazing, things go too far, and he winds up dead. Now, Dr. Death has resurrected Jacob as an unstoppable killer to seek revenge on those who wronged him.”

This movie definitely has the Halloween/Autumn vibe and looks like its set back in the 70’s. It’s a slow burn atmospheric film that definitely pays homage to 80’s slasher movies in ways. It has a straightforward story and there’s some decent gore in places, but it just seemed to be missing that spark of life. Not sure what exactly about the story didn’t do it for me. Maybe because most of the characters just aren’t likable people so I didn’t really feel invested in them. Maybe because, unlike other similar revenge movies (for example Pumpkinhead), there’s no real penalty for meddling with dark forces. Tony Todd’s character warns Dr. Death against it but nothing comes of it. By the end, I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, “I guess Dr. Death is good buddies with the supernatural dark forces of the Underworld he used to resurrect Jacob to take vengeance against his attackers and anyone else remotely associated with them.” Ultimately, it’s a decent film. It’s enjoyable. If you’re not looking for great but will settle for good, then give it a go for sure. Or if you just want to see a bunch of folks get what’s coming to them, then you’ll certainly like this one too. Just depends. Mileage may vary.

You find Candy Corn on Amazon Streaming. Rent $3.99 / Purchase $6.99. Free with Showtime.

They Live Inside Us (2020)
Director: Michael Ballif

Synopsis: “Seeking inspiration for a new writing project, a man spends Halloween night in a notoriously haunted house. He soon realizes he is living in his own horror story.”

Can’t say a lot about this one without revealing too much. There are some definite twists. Whether you guess what’s coming by the end or not may vary on the viewer, but you won’t know for sure until nearly the end. There are some good clues hidden in the background in places. Look away and you might miss something at certain points. In some ways, this feels a little like an anthology for a while into it, but it’s not and everything works its way back into the story by the end, which I liked. I did wonder in the beginning, “What the hell kind of dad takes his daughter to stay in a haunted house on Halloween night?” It seemed odd but became more acceptable afterwards. I guess. That part was strange to me. Anyway, I did like the main character’s acting for the most part and the writing was pretty good. It may warrant a second viewing at some point to see if there were other clues I missed from the beginning. Give it a shot and see what you think.

You can find it on Amazon Streaming. Rent $4.99 / Purchase $12.99.

Hell House LLC
Director: Stephen Cognetti

Synopsis: “Five years after 15 people were killed during a haunted house tour, a documentary crew visits the scene to investigate what really happened.”

This movie has kind of turned into a cult classic it seems. Now, I know some people are turned off by Found Footage films in general, but I can see why this film has attained a very popular following from both critics and fans alike. It has 1,993 reviews on Amazon with a 4.1/5 average rating. That includes 1,112 Five Star ratings / reviews. That’s pretty impressive. And I was impressed with this movie as well. It sets a dark tone while providing just enough information to hook your interest and start reeling you in. There are some genuinely CREEPY moments in this movie and the atmosphere becomes taut and pervaded with a creeping dread by the last part of the movie when all is finally revealed and then some. The acting is pretty good overall and some of the characters reactions are spot on. No stoic bullshit from some of these people. They wig out and blame each other, wanting to think it’s a prank and not something supernatural but it gets kind of hard to deny what’s really going on the longer they are there. I really enjoyed this movie. The mixture of interview documentary with watching the tapes they are given from Hell House leading up to the night of the murders and the night itself really worked for me. Will probably watch again and definitely want to check out the other two.

You can watch it free with Prime Video or if you hop on VUDU (no membership needed) you can watch it free with ads.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Director: Tommy Lee Wallace

Synopsis: “Hospital emergency room Dr. Daniel “Dan” Challis and Ellie Grimbridge, the daughter of a murder victim, uncover a terrible plot by small-town mask maker Conal Cochran, a madman who’s planning a Halloween mass murder utilizing an ancient Celtic ritual. The ritual involves a boulder stolen from Stonehenge, the use of Silver Shamrock masks and a triggering device contained in a television commercial — all designed to kill millions of children.”

I just watched this again the night before writing this. Personally, I’ve never been a Michael Meyers fan (the blasphemy, I know) and while for years many people have slammed this movie because it had nothing to do with the other Halloween movies (amongst other things), for me, it’s the only one of them I’ve really liked, and watching it again just reinforces that feeling.

This story is creepy, strange, wild and over the top at times, and all while delivering some ideas and moments that are truly horrifying. When Mr. Cochran explains to Dan why he’s doing this and why it’s happening, and he talks about older Celtic times, that whole section is one of the best parts of this movie. Just fantastic writing. This movie won’t be for everyone, but I love their Go Big or Go Home approach to the story and the over-the-top Halloween Doomsday plot. It’s solid fun with a truly creepy evil villain in Cochran and the wicked plans for humanity he has in store for the world.

It’s on sale right now on VUDU (no membership needed) for only $4.99


Boo-graphy:
Mike was a cop for almost 12 years, but for the last 14 years, he’s been teaching Military, Law Enforcement, and Bodyguards high speed, tactical, and off-road driving as well as hand-to-hand Combatives and Blade tactics. He enjoys martial arts and has been a practitioner since 1989 of various styles. Filipino blade arts are his favorite. Since he was a teenager, he’s loved reading, writing, and watching movies, particularly in the horror and sci-fi genre. He’s also been a prolific reader of theology and has dabbled in philosophy as well. He has a beautiful, smart wife who is amazingly supportive and a son and daughter who are both graduated. His babies now are a German Shepherd named Ziva, a Daddy’s girl who loves to play… even when he’s writing, and a Border Collie mix named Joey “The Bandit” who will steal anything and everything he can, even the toys right out of Ziva’s mouth. Mike is a lover of music, as well, and it is an integral part of his writing ritual.

Ashley’s Tale
Ashley, a young college student with a horrific past, is immediately thrust into a living hell when she is kidnapped. In the lair of her captor, she will be forced to choose between submission and defiance, between folding under his punishment or finding the strength to endure and escape.

But Ashley will also have to face the horrors of her past in this twisted game. Can she prevail against the demons that made her weak, as well as the tortures the sadist set before her? If so, what could she become in the process?

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Jamie Lee: Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)

Director: Brian Clemens

Starring:
Horst Janson
John Carson
Shane Briant

A master swordsman and former soldier and his hunchbacked assistant hunt vampires.


Watching Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter around Halloween is a tradition I’ve maintained, since I first saw the film on TNT’s Monster Vision.

It was one of the last movies produced by Hammer Studios and from what I understand, it was supposed to be the first of a series, but the studio unfortunately closed, not long after.

However, what we are left with is a remarkable fusion of vampire story and swashbuckling action.

The film left such an indelible mark that I went into fencing, during college; for me Captain Kronos was THE fencing movie. Beyond the overall spirited aspect, the movie is far more than a “simple” vampire film.

The story begins with Captain Kronos answering the call of his old military brother, Dr. Marcus. Kronos and his companion, Professor Hieronymus Grost, answer Dr. Marcus’s call for aid and begin their investigation into the nature of the attacks and possibility of a vampire. One unique aspect of the vampire they’re hunting is that its feeding drains its victims of their youth and vitality. In addition to trying to figure out who the vampire actually is, Kronos and Grost must try and discern the nature of the vampire, as the pair must first determine the weakness of the vampire in question. In fact, at one pivotal moment of the film, they must experiment with various methods of dispatchment, after a newly born vampire is captured and restrained by the duo. (I’ll avoid spoilers.)

The movie is fun, while maintaining the feel of a Gothic horror investigation. I recommend that anyone give it a watch at least once. In checking a few notes, such as the release date for the film, I discovered that Dan Abnett released a limited comic book series that I will be tracking down, as there is never enough Captain Kronos.

Grab your favorite snack or the Halloween candy you and I both know you will not be giving to trick-or-treaters, and prepare to enjoy, “The only man feared by the walking dead!”

As for me, I too, will be heading towards, “Anywhere, everywhere, wherever there is evil to be fought.”


Boo-graphy:
Jamie Lee has been writing fiction for 30 years. His debut release, Harmony, has been 25 years in the making. While he holds a degree in Microbiology and welcomes comparisons to a mad scientist, writing has always been his first love and interest.

After a successful private release in 2019 of short stories, Harmony was finally ready to debut in March of 2020.

However, life had other plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the release, rollout, and convention travel in support of Harmony to come to a screeching halt.

With an unexpected year-long hiatus, Jamie chose to work on final edits and begin to focus on the second book in the Harmony series, Cacophony.

When not writing, Jamie is a fervent, life-long gamer. He can be found every Friday night with long time friends playing any number of online RPGs and, during the week and weekend, building and painting his countless Warhammer armies, playing any chance he gets. He also enjoys health and fitness, reading, music, traveling, searching or the best bar-b-que and being fueled by endless coffee and kombucha. He is forever searching for the perfect haunted home to live in since his condo is simply not large enough for a proper library or laboratory.

GUEST POST: Jamie Lee

If there’s one thing that’s resonated with me and my writing, it’s the idea that the Celts thought that the veil between worlds became thin during Halloween (or Samhain, as they called it).

During the Halloween season, I immerse myself in films that resonate with the idea of the spirit world having a stronger influence in the day-to-day. 

With that thought in mind, I’ve created a list of my top five films for October and most certainly, Halloween!

When the spirit worlds growing stronger, the following movies either use auspicious times or the ritual actions of their primary actors to initiate events.

1) Dust Devil (1992) —
A killer working his way across South Africa, who may be a spirit, clothed in flesh using the ritual of murder to regain his former place of power. The titular Dust Devil, or nomad, is played by Robert Burke, who also played the lead in Stephen King’s Thinner, and is a character displayed in time – so much so that the character appears in the director, Richard Stanley’s, previous film, Hardware, which is set in the distant future where the nomad character is played by Carl McCoy of the band Fields of the Nephilim.

The nomad character is an interesting concept of a spirit trying to return home through the violence and sacrifice of its ritual actions. And while the setting may not scream Halloween, the cinematography is haunting yet, at the same time, beautiful.

2) Trick ‘r Treat (2007) —
A shared anthology tale, linked by the character of Sam. The stories weave into one another to tell a cohesive whole, but are excellent on their own with everything from werewolves, revenants, and the perils of not checking your Halloween candy. I recommend watching it at least twice and paying closer attention to Anna Paquin’s and her sisters’ comments the second time through. What ties it into the theme is the thought, would any of the film’s events (stories) have happened if something or a series of events hadn’t served as the catalyst for them, in the first place? Still, a great film with supernatural elements occurring on literal Halloween.

Halloween (1978) —
Michael Myers as one of the original, invincible, serial killers. They’ve played with the idea, for good or ill, in subsequent sequels with Michael being the way he is due to ritual actions on the part of some shadowy group. Some of the trailers for the new Halloween film suggest that Michael is ascending through murder, which has parallels to Dust Devil above. Regardless of your interpretation, the movie is set on Halloween with the predations of an invincible killing machine. The creepy theme song deserves an honorable mention and should be played, loudly, as part of any proper Halloween soundtrack.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) —
A movie dripping with gorgeous visuals. While I’ve always been a big fan of Hammer Films and Christopher Lee in the role of Dracula, this movie adheres fairly closely to the source material, with Gary Oldman doing a fantastic job in the title role. The original novel, by Bram Stoker, is also a recommended read for a lone, Hallows night. 

Nightbreed (1990) —
Clive Barker’s “Nightbreed” has little to do with Halloween, other than monsters. Okay, a lot of monsters, all of whom are trying to live their life in the city of Midian that they’ve built beneath an old cemetery. It also turns out the actual “monsters” in the movie may be the human prejudices haunting the denizens of Midian. Into this is thrust Boone, who is convinced by his psychiatrist, Doctor Decker, that he is serial killer who then goes to Midian to live amongst the other monsters…only to become both savior and destroyer. A tale as old as time, everyone! I strongly recommend watching the Director’s Cut, which was lost for decades, found, and reassembled by Scream Factory. It was originally conceived to be the “Star Wars” of monster movies, with subsequent titles which sadly, never materialized. The film resonates with what a monster actually is. I can only refer you to my own writing. 

Regardless, of if you  are interested in digging into my central theme concept, you can’t go wrong making these movies a part of your ? days of Halloween. My ? days tend towards 365, but individual interest may vary. Stay spooky!


Boo-graphy:
Jamie Lee has been writing fiction for 30 years. His debut release, Harmony, has been 25 years in the making. While he holds a degree in Microbiology and welcomes comparisons to a mad scientist, writing has always been his first love and interest.

After a successful private release in 2019 of short stories, Harmony was finally ready to debut in March of 2020.

However, life had other plans.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the release, rollout, and convention travel in support of Harmony to come to a screeching halt.

With an unexpected year-long hiatus, Jamie chose to work on final edits and begin to focus on the second book in the Harmony series, Cacophony.

When not writing, Jamie is a fervent, life-long gamer. He can be found every Friday night with long time friends playing any number of online RPGs and, during the week and weekend, building and painting his countless Warhammer armies, playing any chance he gets. He also enjoys health and fitness, reading, music, traveling, searching or the best bar-b-que and being fueled by endless coffee and kombucha. He is forever searching for the perfect haunted home to live in since his condo is simply not large enough for a proper library or laboratory.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Chris Miller: Snake Eyes (1998)

Snake Eyes (1998)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay: David Koepp

Story: Brian De Palma & David Koepp

Starring:
Nicolas Cage
Gary Sinise
John Heard
Carla Gugino

A shady police detective finds himself in the middle of a murder conspiracy at an important boxing match in an Atlantic City casino.


I bet no one expected to see this movie come up for review in 2021, did they? While it’s often been derided by critics and filmgoers alike (at least it was at the time it was released), I have always been a fan of this suspense-thriller from De Palma, a man who knows a thing or two about horror and suspense. It’s a movie that’s overlooked and mostly forgotten now, but I would encourage folks to give it another chance. It isn’t a perfect movie by any stretch, but it gets so many things right that I look for in a movie that its faults are easily overlooked, at least for me.

Before I dive right into the review, let me say a few words about Nic Cage. I’m personally a huge fan, especially the more batshit he gets (think of his performances in MANDY, the 1993 remake, KISS OF DEATH, BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS, VAMPIRE’S KISS, and there are plenty more). He goes completely off the rails and over the top in some of his performances, but unlike most actors, he does it brilliantly. I know this is just my opinion, so fuck you. The man makes you really believe he’s out of his mind, and it may well be that he is, who knows? But he’s not only good at nuts. He’s good at smarmy, at humor, can play a complete slimeball or a loving family man, all with equal vigor and commitment. He pumps movies out constantly nowadays, to varying success, but one thing about Cage that sets him apart from most: he doesn’t need a good script or director to still be good in a movie. The movie can totally blow, but he still kills it. His latest movie as of this writing is PIG, which has a terrific script and direction, and an understated performance for Cage. It’s utterly brilliant and highly recommended. But I digress…

SNAKE EYES opens with one of the best long shots I’ve ever seen, with the camera focusing on some monitors as a storm rages outside of a boxing arena and casino in Atlantic City, showing us a frustrated news woman reporting on the big fight of the night as a government official is seen walking in with his entourage. Then the camera pans to another monitor where a reporter is getting ready to go onscreen inside the arena when Ricky Santoro (Nicolas Cage) shows up in loud clothes and a big, cocky grin as the camera then pans off the monitors and to the actors themselves. What follows for roughly fifteen minutes is us trailing Cage as he runs into a bookie, sees one of the fighters (turns out they went to the same school), catches a drug dealer whom he robs and then destroys all of his vials of drugs.

Did I mention Ricky Santoro is a cop?

In fact, he’s a homicide detective, and he immediately takes the money he steals from the dealer to the bookie to put money down on the match. We then follow him as he enters the arena and a hot blond that is going to carry the number 7 (his lucky number) sign around the ring and he gives her his number. Then his girlfriend calls him on his golden flip phone (he’s a flashy big fish in his small pond) and does some dirty talk, then his wife calls and there’s a hilarious moment where he argues with her as to what toppings are on a given pizza. The crowd is roaring and he quickly gets off and points to his best friend Kevin Dunn (Gary Sinise), a military man who is in charge of security for the government official for the night. Now, De Palma may have used some of Hitchcock’s tricks from the classic ROPE with some fast camera pans that were probably cuts, but you still have the illusion we’re still in that single, long opening shot. He sits down, has some banter with his pal. Ricky is king of his little world in his own mind, and he lets us know it.

Now, stay with me, there’s a reason I’m detailing this opening shot. The whole movie revolves around this shot going forward.

Sinise sees a stunning red haired woman who seems totally out of place in the front row. She’s not with anyone. Since he’s head of security, he goes to inspect. The fight has started, but we don’t see anything in the ring. We hear punches and see the crowd reactions, and when they all stand up at once, the woman takes off and Sinise follows. We pan back to Cage who tells a woman who sits next to him the seat’s taken, but when he notices how beautiful she is, he changes his tone. Then his phone rings again and it turns out to be his “Lucky Number 7”. He scans the crowd, finally seeing her across the way on the top row, waving her big Round 7 card. The woman next to him is leaning back, speaking to the government official. This is sort of in the background of the shot, and Cage starts to notice while on the phone. A man in the crowd stands up to scream, “Here comes the pain, baby! Here comes the pain!” and security is all over the guy.

Then Cage hears the woman (Carla Gugino) telling the government man, “It’s you who’s going to be sorry, Mr. Secretary.”

We finally cut away from the long opening shot as Lucky Number 7 screams and we see Cage’s confusion as he turns around to see the Secretary is shot in the throat, blood spraying out, and we enter one of De Palma’s beautiful slow motion sequences as absolute chaos ensues. The woman stands in shock and is shot in the arm, then Cage tackles her to the ground, pulling his gun and looking up across the way to see Sinise shooting an armed man who was hiding inside a advertising…closet…thing…just watch the movie.

And now, the movie takes off.

De Palma is a master of building suspense, and he’s set a taut stage. Cage takes over the investigation and has an hour and a half before the FBI will get involved. He starts interviewing suspects and we go back in time and see a lot of the same opening shot we just went through, but from other points of view and we start to get a clearer picture of what’s happening. Or, so we think, anyway.

With the entire stadium locked down with 14,000 eye witnesses, the hunt is on for the woman who was speaking with the Secretary, who vanished in the chaos. Cage and Sinise split up, and we follow Sinise now down to a basement where we see not only the red haired woman from before, but also the man from the crowd who had shouted, “Here comes the pain!”

“Someone made you both,” Sinise says, and things turn more sinister. There’s more going on than we thought, and we learn that there is a whole conspiracy surrounding the murder of the Secretary, having to do with a weapons system that was reporting perfect results, but were in fact doctored. Gugino had uncovered all of this and had been corresponding with the Secretary and was going to bring him the evidence at the fight, where they thought it would be safe being so public.

Wrong.

De Palma uses the camera and music in beautiful harmony as the movie goes on and Cage discovers his best friend is not only in on the conspiracy, but had deliberately used Cage as cover, thinking he would just take some money and be quiet. But something about this sits wrong even with a slimeball like Cage’s character, and we see that when he’s hidden the woman and is faced with giving her up and getting rich or getting the shit beaten out of him and then killed.

“I ain’t never killed nobody,” Cage says. Turns out, he does have a moral compass, even if it doesn’t point True North.

The storm outside has become a hurricane, and we watch the smarmy, big shot crooked cop with aspirations to become mayor become a hero, because killing people isn’t something he’s willing to get on board with. Sinise’s character, sinister as he is, doesn’t want to kill Cage. He has a moral compass, too, at least in as much that he doesn’t want to kill his friend…even though he’s still willing to do it.

The big finale comes with a boom and Sinise is exposed. He’s begging Cage to vouch for him, that the woman is a suspect. Cage, beaten and swollen and barely able to stand, tells him, “You got Snake Eyes.”

Sinise takes himself out and Ricky Santoro is a hero in the public eye. That lasts about five minutes, as the movie winds down and all of Santoro’s life is under scrutiny. It isn’t long before charges are brought against him and he’s set to go to jail. The movie ends with him and Gugino talking, and that he’ll give her a call in 12 to 18 months, which she looks forward to.

De Palma is a master of suspense, and no stranger to horror movies. No one would mistake this film for a horror flick, but some of the shots, the way he moves the camera to build tension, the flashes of lightning and the shadows of killers within them, all of this gives it a feel—at least in the final third of the film—of a horror movie. This works well with the suspense and Cage’s over the top performance after he’s been so badly beaten still works because, well, he’s fucking Nicolas Cage!

The movie has some plot holes, some things that don’t quite add up, but I didn’t care about any of that. The movie starts cranking up the tension from the first reel, ratcheting it tighter and tighter all the way to the end. Cage’s performance is delightfully over the top and a lot of fun to watch, and Sinise is as solid as ever. De Palma’s direction is the real winner here, though, because no one else does it quite like him. He can take a script with holes in it and deliver what I still think is a masterpiece of suspense.

A great cast, a unique setting and plot (holes and all), and a director who is often compared to Hitchcock all come together to deliver a chilling little film that is all but forgotten now. If you tried it out in ’98 or a long while back with a “meh” reaction, maybe it’s worth giving it a second look, especially if you take it for what it is: an exciting little suspense flick. It’s not quite a ‘turn your brain off popcorn movie’ (it isn’t an action film), but while you really want to pay attention to the details, especially in that amazing opening scene, the movie doesn’t require much from it’s viewers beyond that. If you’re anything like me, that’s perfectly fine so long as they manage to keep it taut and fun.

SNAKE EYES does both.


Boo-graphy:
Chris Miller is a native Texan who began writing from an early age. In 2017 he began publishing, and since then has published several novels – including the Amazon bestselling Splatter Western Dust (nominated for the Splatterpunk Award) – a collection, Shattered Skies, and has also been inducted into many anthologies. Chris is 1/3 of the writing collective Cereberus, and likes to play guitar. He is first and foremost a family man and is happily married to the love of his life (and best friend) Aliana. They have three beautiful children and live in Winnsboro, TX.

Shattered Skies
Taut as a guitar string. More relentless than time. Award-winning author Chris Miller offers up ten tales of terror and suspense to crank up your anxiety in the way only he can.

Desperation, panic, worlds on fire, and much more.

Featuring a foreword by Patrick C. Harrison III and a story co-authored with M. Ennenbach, SHATTERED SKIES will leave you breathless, white-knuckled, and wanting more.

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

Cereberus Rising
(co-authored with Patrick C. Harrison III and M. Ennenbach, together Cereberus)

A poet, a master of horror, and a master of suspense join forces as Cerberus. With three prompts–Cabin Fever, Letters, and Chaos–the three-headed beast dishes out nine novelettes. Cerberus Rises with their unique styles to take you on a journey through nine different levels of Hell.

GUEST MOVIE REVIEW by Chris Miller: Found (2012)

Found (2012)

Director: Scott Schirmer

Screenplay: Todd Rigney (based on his novel)

Starring:
Gavin Brown
Ethan Philbeck
Phyllis Munro
Shane Beasley

A horror-obsessed boy discovers his older brother is a serial killer.


FOUND (or if you prefer the pretentious titling “found.”) is an extremely low-budget (the movie was made for about $8,000) coming of age horror film, adapted for the screen by its novelist. And when I say ‘horror film’, I’m not fucking joking. Like at all. They may not have had much money to make this movie with, but they used every last dollar to its fullest potential and delivered something so utterly disturbing and profound, it has literally shaken me.

And I’ve seen it twice now. There was no less “shaken-ness” upon my second viewing, even knowing what was ultimately coming.

Marty is a young boy who loves horror movies. His older brother also has a love for horror movies, but it seems that maybe big bubba’s fascination with the genre has gone far past his little brother’s. From the opening scene we’re made aware that Marty’s older brother is a serial killer who likes to decapitate his victims and put their head in a bowling ball bag, which he keeps in his closet. Every so often, Marty goes in to have a look. It’s usually black women (there’re a couple of moments where we see that Marty’s dad and older brother are racists), but once in a while it’s a man, even a white man sometimes. Marty’s brother has no idea that his brother knows his secret, and is very defensive of anyone coming into his room for any reason without his explicit permission.

It goes without saying that the family dynamic is, well…fucked. Marty is bullied at school, his dad is a racist asshole, and his mom has her head in the sand. And to top it all off, as I started with, his older brother is a serial killer.

But there’s more to it than that. While a serial killer, there seems to be one person in the world Marty’s brother actually cares for: Marty. He’s rough with him when he finds him snooping in his room, but when he finds out about how his little brother has been bullied, there is a genuine brotherly bond shown, and it’s totally believable. Marty’s brother isn’t soulless, though the ending might make you think so (we’ll get there in a minute). Just mostly so. But he cares about Marty. We get the impression of neglect, perhaps even some abuse that has happened to the brother in the past, though it’s never shown or spoken outright. And it’s this implied aspect that makes the relationship between Marty and his brother seem so genuine. Marty is scared of his brother. Marty knows he’s evil. But Marty also knows that his brother is, ultimately, the only one who is willing to stick up for him in this world.

The movie’s production quality isn’t high, but you wouldn’t think you were watching a college project film at any point, either. Like I said, every dollar of its tiny budget is used to its full effect. The acting, especially by Marty, is actually pretty good, and there are some terrific moments of suspense that have you gripping the armrests of your chair and holding your breath.

It isn’t until the middle of the movie that it gets really nasty, when Marty has a friend over and they borrow one of his brother’s movies he’s stolen from the video store, called HEADLESS. The movie within the movie is mindless splatter trash, but it’s extraordinarily graphic: women’s clothes ripped off by a masked psycho who then chews off one of their breasts, decapitating victims only to fuck their head through their esophagus, all shown in very graphic detail, coming just shy of faux snuff.

The movie shakes Marty, makes him realize who his brother has modeled himself after. Marty loses all his friends along the way because of the bullying and no one wanting to be associated with him. He’s into drawing comics and making up cool heroes and villains, but when his best friend writes him off and his parents lose their cool with him, Marty’s brother loses his cool altogether, and in glorious, horrific form.

I’m not going to give away the ending, because it has to be experienced to really get you. Most of the violence is off screen, but what we know is happening is probably the most depraved thing I’ve ever seen committed to film (NOTE: I have not seen and will not see A SERBIAN FILM, I don’t need that level of filth in my head). It’s a powerful ending, if hard to watch, but I promise you it will leave you with your jaw hanging open and, perhaps, your stomach rolling. And it’s power comes not in showing you every gory detail, but by experiencing it all through Marty’s perspective, as his brother goes about as batshit as anyone on film ever has. He’s not over the top like Nic Cage can go—there’s nothing fun about this movie—but he’s at least as insane as I’ve ever seen Cage get, and if I’m being honest, far surpasses any of his roles in terms of being deranged.

There is some graphic, shocking nudity and implications in incestual rape towards the end. This movie sort of falls into that slasher flick style in the final fourth of the movie, but it does it with grace and respect for the audience’s intelligence, and without giving a single good goddamn how you feel about it.
In short, this is a powerful little horror film. It isn’t going to be for everyone, probably not even most people, but for those who can appreciate this sort of cinema, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more profound in low budget horror after the final frame cuts to black. It’s haunting, horrific, mesmerizing, and all too real.

It can be found on Shudder, Prime, or on DVD. I advise those with weak constitutions to avoid this film. It is not a film to watch with your kids. This movie takes itself deadly serious and doesn’t go for laughs. Because there’s nothing funny about it. It’s too real. The bullying, the neglect, the pain of growing up, the bond of brotherhood, and the ultimate, psychotic ending, all of it is played straight, and the movie is all the more horrifying for it because it never blinks, and there is never a winking moment of levity to any of the content.

I’m usually one who prefers the darker stories to have some humor in them, but there is none to be found here. And for this movie, it works. That’s where it gets its power. This isn’t a fucking joke and it’s all too possible that this could really happen. I don’t think a big budget movie could have ever pulled this off, never mind the fact no major studio would ever come near it, even with a twenty foot pole.

Take what I’m saying here seriously: DO NOT WATCH THIS IF YOU CAN’T TAKE EXTREMES. There aren’t many, but when they happen, they genuinely shock, but they don’t shock for the sake of shocking you.

It shocks you because, as you’ll see, it’s so real you can see yourself in it.


Boo-graphy:
Chris Miller is a native Texan who began writing from an early age. In 2017 he began publishing, and since then has published several novels – including the Amazon bestselling Splatter Western Dust (nominated for the Splatterpunk Award) – a collection, Shattered Skies, and has also been inducted into many anthologies. Chris is 1/3 of the writing collective Cereberus, and likes to play guitar. He is first and foremost a family man and is happily married to the love of his life (and best friend) Aliana. They have three beautiful children and live in Winnsboro, TX.

Shattered Skies
Taut as a guitar string. More relentless than time. Award-winning author Chris Miller offers up ten tales of terror and suspense to crank up your anxiety in the way only he can.

Desperation, panic, worlds on fire, and much more.

Featuring a foreword by Patrick C. Harrison III and a story co-authored with M. Ennenbach, SHATTERED SKIES will leave you breathless, white-knuckled, and wanting more.

The Master of Suspense is at your service.

Cereberus Rising
(co-authored with Patrick C. Harrison III and M. Ennenbach, together Cereberus)

A poet, a master of horror, and a master of suspense join forces as Cerberus. With three prompts–Cabin Fever, Letters, and Chaos–the three-headed beast dishes out nine novelettes. Cerberus Rises with their unique styles to take you on a journey through nine different levels of Hell.