Sunday, April 16, 2017

Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

Movie Review: Kong: Skull Island

Well, that was fun. How was your Easter?

So, After getting Godzilla back on the big screen, we had to follow up with a new, universe-centric Kong movie. This one does not disappoint. Fair warning, even though the movie has been out for a while, there may be spoilers in this review.

This version of Kong not only has a giant monkey, but it's got some pretty heavy hitters in the acting department, starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

Side note: I now subscribe to the theory that every role Samuel L. Jackson has ever, and will ever play, is either Nick Fury, or Nick Fury undercover. It just makes absolutely everything even more badass.

Now, there's probably not any Oscars for acting in this movie, but these guys don't sign their names and faces onto just anything, and the movie is every bit as good as you would expect for those three A-listers to put their touch to it.

The story itself is pretty standard King Kong fair, an island that's usually surrounded by mists and storms suddenly has a break in the weather, allowing an intrepid group of explorers and military to land an expedition. Well, not quite land, almost as soon as they arrive, they manage to piss Kong off, and we're treated to a great Kong vs. Helicopters action scene. (Guess who wins.) The survivors now have to trek across the island to their extraction point before the break in the storms surrounding the island ends.

Of course, Kong isn't the only threat on the island. There is a tribe of people that live on the island that worships Kong, In addition, we're treated to glimpses of a giant octopus, a giant water buffalo, a giant spider with legs like bamboo stalks, Not everything is big though, there's also flocks of small pterosaurs to rip people apart.

The biggest threat, and the antagonist monsters in this movie though are the Skull Crawlers. Giant two-legged lizards with tongues like frogs that snap out and grab things before dragging them down its throat.

We see several small ones during the movie, before a much bigger one shows up to challenge Kong. Of course, though, once the human element is introduced, it's shown that he couldn't have defeated the creature without the bitty little humans helping out.

Unlike previous Kong movies though, this one doesn't end with the death of the big monkey after a romp through a major American city. The people manage to make their escape, now aware that the world is much, much bigger than they thought.

If you wait until after the credits, you're also treated to a final sequence, which solidifies the connection between this Kong movie and last year's Godzilla. It also offers a tantalizing hint, for those in the know, of what is hopefully to come.

You probably have one more week to see this in the theaters, so if giant monsters are your thing, it's definitely worth the price of a ride. 

~ Shaun

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Revisiting Old Works

This one should be pretty short, more of an update than a blog post, just to keep fans and people in the loop on what I'm up to.

Trying to work harder on my writing, which isn't exactly easy with a full-time+ job. I am managing though. I have three short stories out on submission right now, which is a new personal record, and I have a list of open calls to write for.

Got a few ideas for new novels and novellas too, with a few false starts in place. (Hey, it's better than nothing! Words on the page is always a win!)

In addition, I'm currently commissioning some new art for my book Class 5. While I was satisfied with the current one, it doesn't exactly scream Horror, and the font needs some work. I will admit that when I first commissioned the current cover, I didn't really have a good idea to start with for what I wanted. That led to the first version (which I rejected) which had an Arizona desert that looked like a cracked wasteland, and the crashed spaceship being the Serenity from Firefly.

Changing cover art really isn't THAT big of a deal though.  It happens all the time. Look up Stephen King's Cujo on, and you can see at least a dozen cover variants. 

But that's not what I really want to talk about here. I self-published Class 5 in 2013. Now that may not seem like that long ago, but in terms of skill and personal growth, it's ages. Looking through it now, as I make sure all the details I want to give the new artist are right, I can see a lot of the things that need work. It's not that a lot of these issues are technically wrong, but as much as I've grown as a writer since then, I know I can do better. 

Which brings me to my dilemma. Do I sweep through a book that's been out there for years, making changes and edits and things, or do I just leave it, as a reminder of the level I was at, at that point? 

Now, I have talked about this a little before, specifically regarding my very first book, The Unknown Neighbor. The Unknown Neighbor has tons of issues, cover, formatting, plot, tension, and even the writing itself. To get that book up to any kind of snuff would pretty much mean a complete re-write. I would be better off just taking the idea and starting with a brand new story. That said, I did consider it at one point, as well as leaving it up for sale. In the end, I pulled it without any revisions and I don't anticipate ever making it available again. 

So what's the difference now, with Class 5? Well, there really just aren't as many issues. The story and plot are good, the action too. It could use a few more details in places, but it's not that big a deal. I'm not talking about re-working anything. The main thing is taking some of the parts of iffy writing and making them better. Basically, another editing pass or two. Not that I'm completely sold on the idea just yet, but it's something I'm considering to go along with the new cover art, and I'll probably fix some formatting issues with the physical copy. We'll see.

Is that good? Is it bad? Well, as long as the story itself isn't changing, there shouldn't be a big problem. I'm not changing any details, I'm not adding or taking things out so that new readers get a different experience than the ones that read it in the past. I don't want to invalidate the reviews Class 5 already has. I just want to clean up the language so people can enjoy the story easier.

Like I said though, we'll see. In the meantime, I apologize, this turned out to be a lot longer than I planned. Still, if you want to know more, feel free to hop over to Amazon and check out Class 5 for yourself! Just click on the cover on the right side of my blog here!

~ Shaun

Monday, March 27, 2017

Horror and Sex?

So, what is the deal with Horror and sex? Seems like most Horror movies include at the very least a quick flash of bouncing boobs, and the implication of a couple that just can't keep it in their pants. Usually right before they die.

Even in books it happens. In The Dark by Richard Laymon is a good example of this, though I'm also told it's a staple of books in the pulp-fiction realm. Honestly, I got so tired of hearing about the protagonist getting poked in the boobs, or her panties getting soaked with sweat. Gratuitous, that's all it was.

Still, why is this?

Well, that I know of, there's two main reasons for this.

1. Religion.

Huh? I know, but it's a fact, especially of most of the Horror that came out in the 80's and early 90's, as well as a lot of the newer Horror that now pays homage to those days.

See, here's the thing. The couples that have sex, and the girls that are bouncing all over the place. They die. It's the conservatively-dressed, virgin heroine that lives and finds a way to escape or stop the killer. The moral of the story is that sex is bad. It's a risky behavior that, if you engage in, will get you killed.

The Friday the 13th movies are the perfect example of this. It even starts on that note. Little boy Jason Voorhees drowns because the camp counselors that are supposed to be on lifeguard duty, are off getting it on and not paying attention.

Now, to be fair, society has become more accepting of sex (Seriously! Don't laugh!). And this has become less and less of an issue. It does still pop up though, and the moral of the story is that sex is a sin, and being a sinner gets you killed.

2. Sex sells.

Yeah, we know. Slap a pair of boobs on the screen and suddenly all eyes are glued to the TV. (Unless you're not interested in boobs.) Trying to sell a soft drink? Have a beautiful pair of lips on a straw.

Pictured: Selma Hayek's boobs. Also, George Clooney.
Now, if trying to inject a random moral into a movie about wholesale slaughter is kind of pointless, these scenes are completely gratuitous. At least in the religious killings, you do kind of need to know those characters are dead, so those scenes are still part of the movie. The "sex sells" scenes though, could almost always be completely cut and nobody would know it.

This is actually the kind of sex you get in a lot of the classic pulp fiction novels like the aforementioned In The Dark. It's filler, designed to titillate, hoping you'll keep reading just to get a little bit deeper (ah-hem.) into the story.

Now, there are movies that use sex sparingly, and appropriately for the story they want to tell. The Last House on the Left, starts with a horrific rape scene, which leads into the rest of the movie. The rest of the movie would never happen if that one event hadn't occurred.

The other movie that springs to mind is, rather obviously, the Horror-comedy Teeth. I'll just leave you with the poster of that one, and that should tell you all you need to know.

~ Shaun

Monday, March 20, 2017

State of Horror: 2017

A little late to the show, I know, considering we're already moving up to the end of March, but there's still sooo much more to come this year.

Without getting political, Horror has always been one of the great genres of escapism. It reminds you that things could always be worse, helps you experience that, and then brings you back safely home again. Thus we continue on with the days and weeks of our lives a little more grateful, no matter how difficult things may sometimes seem in the real world. And with the roller coaster that things are shaping up to be the next few years, we're going to need a steady stream of exactly that.

So far, 2017 has not let us down.

Movies started us off with the dark thriller Split by M. Night Shyamalan. That led us into Get Out, and The Belko Experiment.

Video games have kept up as well, with the incredible Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.

And we're just getting warmed up. 

Movies continue throughout the year with a slew of high-profile Horror movies. Including Alien: Covenant, A new version of The Mummy, It Comes at Night, and returns to Amityville and Annabelle. We also finally get to see the remake of Stephen King's IT

Video games are a bit harder to pin down, as many of them don't set release dates in stone like movies do. (Trust me, that's for the best. Games shouldn't be released if they're not ready.) But we still have a lot of games to keep us busy in the meantime that have Horror elements, even if they aren't specifically Horror games themselves. 

The big thing here though, is VR. Many, many Horror games seem to be planning to take full advantage of the ability to truly immerse a player in situations you would be insane to enjoy. Which is exactly why we enjoy them.

Of course, one of the games most being looked forward to is Outlast 2. There are a lot of others though, including a game based on the Friday the 13th movies. Other games to watch for are Perception, where you play as a blind person, tapping your cane and using a kind of echolocation to "see", and Visage, a game trying to pick up where the sadly dead P.T. left off.

Last, but certainly not least, (And I fully expect this one to be absolutely terrifying in VR), we have The Hum: Abduction. The title should give it away, but check out the trailer.

So never fear, Horror fans. There's going to be a lot of (fake) Horror to keep you up at night this year. 

~ Shaun

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Video Game Review: DOOM (2016)

So, first person shooters (FPS) really aren't my thing without a damn good reason. (Destiny has a pretty good story, Turok had dinosaurs!) The 2016 reboot of DOOM, though, just begged to be picked up as a Horror game and something that I always wanted to play when I was younger but never had the opportunity.

So, the basic story is pretty simple. You play as "DoomGuy", you're immortal, super-human, and are perpetually super-angry. When Hell invades Mars, you're awoken and you pretty much take it upon yourself to fist all the demons you find to death, smashing your way through the complex and stopping the attack of Hell.

Seriously. I mean that when I say "fist". One of the most entertaining things about this game is weakening enemies with firepower before running up to them to finish them in a gory "glory-kill", where you punch through their chests, rip out their spines, tear off limbs, and other cinematic ways to defile your enemies. That's pretty much the main appeal of the game; killing monsters in bloody ways, either through your fists or any of the multitude of weapons you pick up throughout the game. Which does include a chainsaw.

The controls are pretty standard for FPS games, and are pretty clean and bug-free. I haven't had any problems with the graphics as far as bugs go. Granted, this is really a pretty simple game, so there's not much to screw up.

The graphics are great. About as one would expect with the current technology level of systems. Levels are detailed, backgrounds are cinematic, and enemies are complete. Even the glory kills are thought out and detail oriented, most of them having just the right about of splatter and viscera depending on what angle you hit the enemies from. For all the blood and violence, it really is a visually appealing game.

As far as gameplay though, be prepared. Despite not being my preference, I'm not a FPS noob. I've played my fair share, so when I started up DOOM, I figured I didn't have to go the baby route of the easiest difficulty. I was wrong. This isn't just a FPS. It's very fast paced. You have to keep track of your health, your ammo, your enemies, and your environment, all while constantly moving to avoid being shot, burned, slashed at, and managing to return fire so you don't get overwhelmed by numbers.

The game also includes a multi-player mode, but it's honestly a bit lackluster compared to the rest of the game, likely added in to give the game a little more longevity and for the players who live for player-on-player action (PVP). There is talk of some downloadable content coming for it, but I'm not sure if that'll be more levels or PVP stuff.

Overall, this game appeals to fans of the originals, Horror fans, and will serve as a good, quick distraction for PVP players who burn out on the latest COD or Battlefield. If it sounds like fun to you, don't hesitate to grab it if you can get it used or on sale. Definitely a fun shock to the system, especially for a game you're really only likely to play through once.

~ Shaun