BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine


I am still reading, denizens. I don’t have nearly the same amount of time I used to have for one of my favorite pastimes, but I scrape together what time I can and make the most of it. I’ve also been working my way through a large series of novels, which I decided to review all together rather than separately. Sneak preview on that? It’s going to be a highly positive review.


In the interim, however, I recently found myself spending a significant amount of time stationary. I love flying for many reasons, one of which is the fact that I literally have nothing more pressing to do with my time than read and cat nap. In between copious open-mouthed snoring sessions (yeah, I’m that passenger) I made my way through Tim Hanley’s Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine.

I learned of Hanley’s book through an Amazon recommendation a few weeks after I purchased another recently released book on Wonder Woman’s history (a book sitting patiently next to my night stand). Amazon wanted to offer me the Kindle version of Hanley’s book for something like five bucks at the time. Who can pass up such an offer? Clearly not me.

I’m delighted that I couldn’t refuse this offer. Curious history, indeed! I already knew a great deal about how Wonder Woman came into existence. Even a passing knowledge makes for fascinating conversation. However, Hanley goes much deeper than cursory facts and provides a compelling examination of Wonder Woman’s debut and her evolution through the Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age (the book released in 2014, so it’s a relatively holistic history, to be sure).

I honestly wish I had read the other Wonder Woman book first, to be able to answer the question of is this book worth reading if you’ve already read the larger recent publication. I can’t, unfortunately, answer that question. However, regardless of which provides the most information, I can state emphatically that this book is a marvelous resource for all things pertaining to Princess Diana of Paradise Island (she didn’t come from Themyscira until the late 1980s). Wonder Woman is quite the curious creation, her impact resonating with generations of women who grew to embrace the character as one of the penultimate feminist icons (even as her male writers tried to rein her back “under control” during the 70s when real women had the audacity to expect things like equal rights), while mainstream comic fandom never really latched on to her with the same tenacity that those “other” DC Comics legends enjoy. Whereas Superman and Batman are stalwarts within the superhero pantheon, their stories replayed again and again with mind-numbing frequency, Wonder Woman skirts the perimeter (perhaps she should step out of the invisible jet so more people notice her?), never really rooting herself into fandom mythology. We know of her, but we don’t know her.

Maybe this upcoming movie will change all that. Maybe it will finally bring Wonder Woman the populist acclaim that she more than deserves after 75 years of mainly merely being Wonder Woman, the first major superheroine. Maybe. Whatever it brings, be it pleasure or pain, at least it won’t have Batman or Superman in it. That’s always a bonus.

Final Verdict: Definitely saving this on my Kindle. It was a pleasure to read and definitely made me want to read that other book. Guess it’s time to move it closer to the top of my pile. Maybe it can even be next…after the series I’m reading at the moment.

BookBin2016: The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music


One of my favorite playlists on my iPod is one that I named “Old Skool Happy.” It contains music from Eric B. and Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Flash, Doug E. Fresh, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, Biz Markie…all the songs that I once had committed to a memory that slips and sloughs away with time. However, whenever I fire up this playlist, those beats and lyrics bring me right back to hours spent pressing these songs into my mental journal so that I could spit lyrics on the playground like I was something other than a chubby white tomboy looking awkward in a dress. Those were my happy moments. Those were the moments when I lost myself in the beats and words of songs that remain just as powerful and precious to me today as they were back then. I love all the songs I used to listen to and all the artists who made them.

It wasn’t surprising, then, that I immediately scooped up Paul Edwards’s Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music: A Fresh Look at the Art of Hip-Hop, from Old-School Beats to Freestyle Rap when I discovered it at the local library. I loved the music but realized that I didn’t know a whole lot about its birth and transformation.

For the most part, I believe that Edwards provides a solid and certainly concise history of the birth of hip-hop. Furthermore, he does so through the words of the artists who helped craft the genre from its inception. He interviews numerous artists who even appear on my Old Skool Happy playlist, which of course made me quite the happy camper.

I suppose my only complaint would be that he’s a little too precise–or rather a little too narrowly focused. I noted a distinct lack of female representation in particular in his timeline and discourse. True, early hip-hop belonged mainly to the men, but there were several strong ladies representing both early and throughout the golden age of hip-hop. It would have been nice to have heard more from and about them.

Also, the book ends in an utterly abrupt way. It honestly took me by such surprise that my first thought was “Damn, this book is missing its ending.” A little work on a soft descent would have been nice, is all I’m saying.

Final Verdict: I think I’d like to add this to my collection. It would make a nice reference guide and a happy reminder of the days when I used to spit mad lyrics.

Yeah, I’m laughing right now, too, denizens.

BookBin2016: The Dark Knight Returns


I’ve had a copy of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns on my shelf since, I think, Christmas 2009. While I knew that this was one of those “must reads” for anyone who even dabbles in comic fandom, as I do, my feelings toward Batman have dropped precipitously in recent years. I loathed Christian Bale as the Dark Knight and I loathed the influence that those movies had over other superhero reboots. Dark and dismal affairs, the whole lot of them.

See, I grew up with the 1960s Adam West television show. My Batman was benevolent and odd. A quirky rich man who liked to dress in a onesie and fight cartoonish villains with his young ward. Plus, there was Eartha Kitt. And Julie Newmar. And Yvonne Craig.

My Batman was fun.

Then Tim Burton came along, and while his Dark Knight was decidedly darker than those campy capers of the Caped Crusaders, there was still a level of hilarity and silliness, mingling with the darkness. Because Burton.

Apparently, though, Gotham needed to lose all that because modern audiences are far more sophisticated and serious. We need the Dark Knight to be DARK. Even in the New 52, he’s moody and volatile, almost to the point of some kind of mental instability. I suppose that this take on Batman wouldn’t be that far off if you really considered the origin of the character. Seeing your parents murdered is bound to leave you with some serious issues. Why Alfred didn’t just get the boy into therapy is beyond me. Instead, he let him faff about with bats, feeding some kind of hero delusion until, older and reveling in the kind of privilege that stinking rich provides, he begins to build the ultimate cosplay fantasy world for himself.

Yeah, if you think about it, Batman should be bat-shit crazy. But that doesn’t mean he needs to be moody and boring, too.

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, Frank Miller’s graphic novel. It’s not bad. It’s dark, but I kind of like his take on what would happen if Batman retired and tried to live a normal life. It was kind of prescient. It’s like when Michael Phelps retired but then was all like, “Hey, I kinda miss all those medals.” So he came back with a vengeance.

So did Batman. But not for medals. Just criminals. Which I guess are kind of like superhero medals.

I have no idea what I’m writing anymore. Clearly, I have forgotten how to blog.

Final Verdict: I liked the graphic novel. I’m keeping it. I’m also going to try to get back in the blogging game.

Cravenous: Scream 4

I’m having a really difficult time with this final post, denizens. Watching Scream 4 really brought home the fact that this truly is it. This was the final film of Wes Craven’s career. It’s a painful truth to assimilate on many levels, least of which is the reopening of the sorrow that I have felt ever since learning of his untimely death. I’m not going to lie: When I saw “Directed by Wes Craven” pop up in the credits, I teared up as it hit yet again that we will never see that for another new movie. It feels like we have lost so many incredibly talented people recently. To mourn each and every one of them as thoroughly as I have with Craven would pretty much become a full-time career. However, let it be known that the creative space within this existence has a lot of vacancy signs in the windows at the moment. We desperately need to see these vacancies filled. The world can be an ugly, cruel reality. Those who provide us with the safety of escapism, no matter how brief, are invaluable.

So, let’s get this final show on the road, shall we?


Let’s just address the elephant in the room right away: I severely panned Scream 4 when it hit theaters. I won’t rewrite that history for this review. I did not enjoy this movie at all on first viewing.

[Loba Tangent: I also haven’t been back to a movie theater since going to see this in 2011. And I am perfectly okay with this fact.]

I also didn’t really like the movie on my second viewing either. Even after reading a book that convinced me to give the fourth movie another try, I ended up writing elsewhere that I still found this to be a “shockingly bad movie, particularly for this franchise.”

Like I said, I won’t rewrite history. However, I also wrote of my second viewing that “the movie puts forward some truly salient points regarding what happened to us as a society, not just in horror but in general culture, within the more than 10 years between the third and fourth movie. And the author of the book I read even gives a convincing defense of what I felt on original viewing was a tacked-on cop-out ending. I still feel as though it’s a bit of a cop-out…but viewing it with the author’s defense in mind helped me to see it as the castigation against remakes and reboots that he proposes it to be.”

See? Value.

Re-watching this film twice for this series (yes, Craven gifted us one final director’s commentary) made me realize further that this movie shouldn’t stand with the original trilogy at all. That trilogy is a complete telling of the nightmare that Sidney, Gale, and Dewey endured and survived. That book is closed. This fourth film truly kicked off a new book completely—one that relies on the first book for frame of reference only. Only a handful of characters within this new film could possibly remember the events of the original films. For the younger characters, they were removed enough from the brutality of those events that, as Sheriff Riley points out, “One generation’s tragedy is the next one’s joke.”

[Loba Tangent: Although I don’t think this movie depends on the original trilogy for much in regard to actual storytelling, I think it does rely heavily on it for self-referential purposes, which I have already pointed out multiple times.]

As for my evolving thoughts on this fourth film, let me finally give kudos to Craven and Williamson for something that I rather backhandedly praised them for in my first review (spoilers ahoy-hoy): Their successful obfuscation of the main killer was utterly on-point. Even all my follow-up viewings of this film after the fact leave me continually surprised at how little Craven or Williamson offers the viewers in regard to this truth. While the secondary killer wasn’t a surprise (IMHO), guessing the main killer eluded me completely. I’m pretty sure I was irritated by this fact when I first saw the reveal, but now? I concede to the brilliance of both writer and filmmaker that they were able to surprise even an old horror hound like myself.

Secondly, and this is a concession that only could come now (although it makes me a bit uncomfortable to call it a concession, because it only can come at the hands of some truly disturbing and vile shifts in the reality in which we now live): I can sadly attest that Williamson and Craven possessed an upsetting prescience regarding the “new rules” of streaming murders online and craving fame without effort so badly that you would kill to attain it. We’ve seen both within the years between the debut of this film and now through some deeply disturbing crimes. What I once admittedly rolled my eyes at now threaten to become cultural banalities as we devolve deeper and deeper into our conscienceless mire of contempt and indifference toward each other. Could Craven and Williamson have seen this all coming? Was this their attempt at warning us? Our Woodsboro Cassandras, showing us what might happen if we didn’t check ourselves?

I don’t know. All I know is that, sadly, this movie has become possibly the truest of all the Scream films, and therein lies its most unsettling strength.

I mentioned that once again, Craven did a commentary for this film. Rather than being joined by technical contributors, this time he brought along actors Emma Roberts and Hayden Panettiere, with Neve Campbell joining the conversation briefly via telephone. I was fascinated by his interaction with the actors. Mostly, I was fascinated and utterly delighted by their appreciation of and respect for Craven as their director. Listening to Campbell in particular, I was struck by how clearly connected she felt to Craven. This man helped solidify her fame throughout the 90s. His faith in her ability to bring to life one of the most iconic heroines from his body of work was so wonderfully obvious in her appreciation of him, not just as her director but as her friend. It made me wish that they had done a commentary with the original three actors and Craven. I’m sure that would have been quite the reminiscent foray.

As for what I just stated about Sidney Prescott? I think it’s true. I think Sidney might actually be Craven’s most iconic heroine. True, Nancy Thompson gets pride of place for being Craven’s own masterpiece and for being his first iconic horror heroine. However, there are two significant differences between Nancy and Sidney. The first, of course, is longevity. Sidney is, hands-down, the winner there, which connects directly to the second way in which these two iconic warrior women differ: Whereas Freddy Krueger was the linchpin of the NOES series, always the same while his defeaters almost constantly rotated, for the Scream world? It was always a rotating cavalcade of killers beneath the Ghostface mask, all trying to dispatch the linchpin of this series: Sidney.

As far as I know, Sidney Prescott is the first protagonist of any gender to anchor a horror franchise (do not come back with Ash as preceding her because I would qualify only the first Evil Dead film as a horror movie; the second was an unnecessary remake of the first and the third was just asinine). Laurie Strode technically could qualify before Sidney since she was in the first and second Halloween movies, and then returned for Halloween: H20. However, Michael Myers was always the same as well, so those two are forever linked as sharing the spotlight.

That all being said, Sidney ranks as one of the more unique “final girls” of horror history by dint of reason that she’s the ultimate survivor, and while we have Kevin Williamson to thank for penning her into existence, we have Wes Craven to thank for bringing her from the page to the screen and for casting the perfect actress to portray her. Neve Campbell stated it simply and beautifully in her tribute to Craven after his death:

We lost a great deal of magic yesterday. I’m devastated to hear of Wes’s passing. My life wouldn’t be what it is without him. I will be forever grateful for his brilliant direction, his wicked sense of humor, and his consummate kindness and friendship. He has entertained us all for decades and inspired so many to follow in his path. I loved Wes dearly and will miss him always. Thank you, Wes!!!

Little did we know that our few months in the sleepy little town of Santa Rosa, California, would give birth to one of the highest-grossing films of that decade and bring about a resurgence in a genre that had been deemed dead for years. Little could we comprehend the great success each of us would be gifted from having the opportunity to make Scream with the great Wes Craven.

Rest in peace, Wes! We’ll continue to watch your films and not sleep peacefully at all.

Many of the things that Campbell wrote of Craven could be repeated by Heather Langenkamp and Emma Roberts. Both of these women saw incredible boosts to their careers thanks to their work with Craven. With Jill Roberts being her first foray into the horror genre, Emma Roberts has gone on to make quite the (blood red) splash in other horror offerings such as American Horror Story and Scream Queens. And Langenkamp has parlayed her turn as Nancy Thompson into a somewhat self-appointed role as the Historian of Elm Street. Her documentary Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy is one of the most thorough and entrancing records of a movie franchise to date. And, again, listening to her interaction with Craven during their commentaries for NOES and New Nightmare, you can hear the sincerity of her devotion to Craven as a creator and a friend.

You can read more tributes from others in the Scream family here. The primary things you will read from all of those who worked with Craven and honored him after learning about his death were tributes to his kindness, his intelligence, and his gentleness. Not things you would anticipate hearing about such a Master of Horror. However, it’s a testament to his power as a creator of such legendary horror that he could give himself permission to go to such dark depths and resurface each time with his gentle spirit still intact.

I continue to mourn Craven’s death. I am forever indebted to him for gifting me and my generation (and, sweet prophets, I hope many generations to come) with some of the most iconic, inspiring, game-changing horror movies ever. He was brilliant in so many ways and, as far as I’m concerned, there never would have been a “right” time for him to leave this realm. However, his departure was far too soon. Leave it to the Master of Horror to spring a twist on you right at the end.


BookBin2016: Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood


I’ve always felt guilty that I didn’t regularly read Wonder Woman. I love Wonder Woman. For some reason, however, I have never dedicated myself to following her comics run the way I did with characters like Batwoman or Batgirl. A little while ago, I decided I needed to rectify this, so I took the first step and purchased Blood, the first volume of her New 52 run. I already had misgivings about this choice, however, given the creative team assigned to restart her series. Writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang received the assignment to revamp Diana of Themyscira for the New 52 reboot. I’ve already voiced my disdain for Azzarello’s handling of Joker in his eponymous graphic novel, and I’m not really a fan of Chiang’s blocky art style that he too often uses for comics. I know he can do solid art. I’ve featured it here before at the den. However, for this run, he chose to go with this unimpressive, somewhat unfinished, rather juvenile art style, which is wholly unfitting for Greek royalty.

However, it’s the changes that Azzarello made to Wonder Woman’s origin story that ultimately twigged me off completely. There are certain things that are fundamental to Wonder Woman’s existence. Not physical things, like her invisible jet or lasso of truth or bullet-deflecting arm bracers. No, more elemental than that. More important. More significant.

One of the most significant points of Wonder Woman’s origin story was that she was never born of man. At all. Period. She was the purest form of woman to exist, formed by her mother’s hands from the clay of Themyscira and granted life and her powers by the gods themselves. No man played a role in her birth or upbringing. No man interfered in her existence until the unanticipated and jarring arrival of Steve Trevor to the island of the Amazons.

Clearly, this is not something that’s a big deal to Azzarello, but it’s a huge deal to the character. Yeah, the “man” in question is a god, but this change matters. You’ve taken away Wonder Woman’s uniqueness and basically made her the unanticipated end result of a one-night-stand. That’s a big deal. Just like changing her “weapons” are a big deal (for all her strength, Wonder Woman was always a pacifist; yeah, she could do damage to you if she really wanted to, but rarely did she ever want to harm). Just like changing her association with WWII is a big deal.

Okay, this is a total tangent, but humor me for a moment here. World War II was a huge turning point for women, both in the military and in the general workforce. It was finally women’s chance to move into professional roles traditionally reserved for men and show our viability as workers as well as (or, for some, instead of) wives and mothers. Women played an incredibly significant role during the second World War, across all the military branches. My grandmother served during this time, in the U.S. Navy WAVES. Just like Diana Prince, when she came to “man’s world” to help defeat the evil that was raining fire and horror down upon Europe.

Wonder Woman is so intrinsically linked with World War II that changing this part of her origin story would be as sacrilegious as saying that Superman’s world didn’t explode or Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t murdered when he was a boy. In fact, I would argue that it’s even worse, because the representation embedded in Wonder Woman’s WWII connection is based in reality (sorry, Krypton and Mr. and Mrs. Wayne, but you simply are not real). Her role in WWII was emblematic of the real roles of all the women who served, who similarly stepped out of the familiarity of their previous lives to serve a greater purpose, even while facing opposition from the very men they were trying to help…and in so doing, learned more about the depths of their own strength. This wasn’t the case with WWI. It makes no sense to now change Wonder Woman’s storyline for this new movie. The only reason that I can assume why they really made the change? Because Captain America is associated with WWII. Well, so what? Just because everyone dragged their feet on greenlighting a Wonder Woman movie until after Captain Übermensch hit the big screen, that doesn’t mean that you have to rewrite one of the most important aspects of Wonder Woman’s introduction to the human race.

Changing Wonder Woman’s association with the war that helped women open doors that previously showed no signs of budging and changing her birth origin are moves made by people who fail to see the importance these elements have to feminism itself. There was a reason she was on the cover of the inaugural issue of Ms. magazine, FFS.

Then again, I guess feminism doesn’t sell movie tickets. Or comic books.

I can see from the reviews I’ve read of Azzarello and Chiang’s first novel that most people loved it. Most were happy that Azzarello had finally brought some action to Wonder Woman’s world. I’m not most people. All this collection did was make me sad that Wonder Woman was altered so un-impressively. Same feeling I have about the screenwriters altering her history for the movie.

Final Verdict: I will hold on to this volume, but I don’t really see myself buying any further collections. I’m sorry, Wonder Woman, but I need someone else to take over your story before I can give you another go.

Cravenous BookBin Bonus: Fountain Society


I didn’t think that I was going to make it through this book in time. I’ve already finished watching both the final movie for my Cravenous series as well as its director’s commentary, and I’ve started working on that post. However, I also knew that I wanted to get his one novel into the mix, too, before we finally (and sadly, for me at least) bring Cravenous to a close.

Mind you, Craven also wrote a 5-issue comics series with Steve Niles back in 2014. Inspired by the sudden idea of “a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie walk into a bar…,” Craven created Coming of Rage around the notion of these three horror stalwarts suddenly thrown together and the hilarity that would thus ensue. He also wrote the introduction to the very recently released Never Sleep Again, touted as “the ultimate chronicle of one of the most important horror films of the 20th century.”

I’m toying with the idea of downloading the comics (let’s face it; I probably will…even though I wish they would release them in hardcopy as well), and I do have Never Sleep Again already in line for reading this year (I pre-ordered that shizz the first day I could), but that’s not why we’re here today. Instead, we’re here to discuss Craven’s one and only original novel, Fountain Society.

Right off the bat? It’s not horror. It’s far more science fiction-cum-military thriller. Think The Island meets Enemy of the State (kind of; I’m sure there’s a better more military thriller comparison I could make here if I were more familiar with military thrillers). The quick rundown is that the Fountain Society is a secret project, funded, protected, and supervised by the military, in which Dr. Frederick Wolfe has successfully cloned several high-level scientists who have contributed some of the military’s most successful (read: most horrifying) wartime weaponry. One of these is physicist Peter Jance, who is working on a weapon, code name “The Hammer,” that has the potential to obliterate all life within its focused range. However, Jance also is dying of pancreatic cancer. Fearing that he might die before he completes his work, Wolfe sends the snipers to collect Jance’s clone, a man named Hans Brinkman, who has been living his life as if it were his to live (the nerve!). The military fakes Brinkman’s death, brings him to Wolfe, who scoops his head clean and transfers Jance’s brain into Brinkman’s body, thanks to a super-duper glue created by, of all people, Jance’s wife Beatrice.

What happens then? Well, there’s someone from Brinkman’s life who doesn’t believe he’s actually dead, and there’s someone else who decides to give her enough clues to keep her investigating. And then there are Beatrice’s growing moral concerns over what Wolfe is doing and Peter’s confusion over retaining some form of cellular memory from Hans that causes quite a bit of concern for him and those watching him. I’m not surprised at all by this element of the novel, since Craven always toyed with these concepts in several of his movies. He apparently loved to ponder ideas about us as more than just our thoughts but as something far deeper and far less understood.

There are other things going on with this story, but what would be the fun of me telling you everything? Instead, what about this: Is it a good story? Is it well-written? For the latter question, absolutely. Craven was a trained writer and a well-read intellectual soul. He wouldn’t have given anything less than his best for this novel, and that’s precisely what we get as readers. As for the former question…yes. To a point. The overarching themes aren’t necessarily original. Craven’s spin on the tropes bring a welcome freshness and intrigue into the mix, keeping the story rolling along at a captivating enough pace. I also have to say that, for some concepts that still feel intrinsically implausible (even with all the medical advances we’ve seen since Craven wrote this book in 1999), Craven sells it with strong yet subtle ways. His linguistic acumen was totally on-point throughout this tale, making it read less like fiction and more like an account of actual events. Would we expect anything less from the man who convinced us that our nightmares could actually kill us?

Final Verdict: I don’t really think this section is necessary, do you? Of course I’m keeping this book.

BookBin2016: DC Bombshells Volume 1: Enlisted


Not only am I on a bit of a graphic novel kick at the moment, but I’m also still focused on my own books rather than ones from the library. This one is the latest graphic novel I procured from Amazon: the first volume of collected comics for the DC Bombshells story line.

I love the “organic” way that this series came about (I use organic in quotes because I’m pretty sure that this was ultimately DC’s plan right from the start. Because jaded.). What began as a series of one-off variant comic covers depicting DC heroines and villainesses as WWII-era “bombshell” pinups has spun into this special edition series of stories detailing how these characters played a role in the global fight against the Nazis.

I suppose that one could state that this feels a little flippant. It trivializes the bravery of real people. However, when you keep in mind that several comic heroes rose from the turmoil of this particular piece of history, including Wonder Woman (who should remain linked with World War II…but I’ll have more to say about that later), it brings things into better context. Horrific events sometimes require a different lens through which to process truths that we oftentimes do not wish to contemplate. An even better example of a graphic novel that deals with this devastating stain upon humanity would be Art Spiegelman’s Maus. If you haven’t read that one yet, then I highly recommend it.

Does this series deal with WWII with the same level of success as something like Maus? Oh, no. But that’s why Maus is a Pulitzer prize-winning effort and this is…not. It’s just different. It’s sometimes serious but mostly with this first volume, it’s more about introducing us to the various Bombshell variants chosen for this series. I love the characters chosen so far. Of course, my favorite is Kate Kane. I’m still mourning the demise of her solo run at the hands of DC Comics ineptitude (and possible homophobia). Seeing her in this series made that disappointment a little less tender. Also, I love how writer Marguerite Bennett pretty much erased Batman from this particular timeline thanks to Batwoman. Given my increasing apathy toward the Dark Knight (more on that to come as well), I really enjoyed this particular timeline shift. Also, I’m not really giving away any spoilers since this happens on the first page of the graphic novel.

Interestingly, my last encounter with Bennett’s writing style left me feeling a strong sense of meh-laise (yes, I have created a new word; you’re welcome). She wrote some of the final Gail Simone run for Batgirl. This time around, Bennett was much stronger in storytelling. Her words also garnered accompaniment from some beautiful time period-inspired artwork. Heavy line work, appropriate palette, and gorgeous renderings of our lovely ladies of DC in the styles of the times made a great visual impact upon a solid opener to this series.

Final Verdict: Keeping this volume and patiently awaiting the release of the next one this June.

Cravenous: My Soul to Take


I’m going to make really quick work of this review, denizens, simply because I don’t want to think about this movie more than I have to.

I’ve spent so much time with this particular series, trying to give each of the films that Wes Craven wrote and/or directed as much credence as possible. I have tried to find worth or enjoyment in each movie. Sometimes, this has been a struggle. My Soul to Take has made the struggle insurmountable.

This film felt almost as if Craven printed up a collage of posters from his previous movies, posted it to a dart board, and then just started throwing darts to see which films he would pilfer for recycled ideas. My guess is that the darts hit Shocker, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Scream. Then he decided that such a combination would only work if he made mental illness a key plot element. And then? Then he decided this would all look best if in 3-D. Seriously? Maybe focus on giving it even one layer of dimension before trying to focus on the third.

Sorry. Sorry. I just need to vent, and if it saves any of you from making the mistake of watching this film, all the better.

I struggled to get through even my one obligatory viewing of this film (which is okay, since the rental version of the movie blocked me from being able to listen to Craven’s commentary; as if I’m going to go buy a copy just to hear that). I’m not terribly surprised that I didn’t like this movie. I remember seeing the previews and feeling absolutely bereft of desire to see it. Watching it for this series confirms that I was on-point with that reaction. I am, however, terribly disappointed that Craven thought this movie was worth his time and effort. Did he feel like he needed to give horror fans something (anything?) to appease us since he hadn’t made a genre film in 5 years? Was he pressured into making this? Or was he just bored and decided that this would be a good way to pass some time and get paid? Whatever the reasons, I wish he’d ignored them all and continued to enjoy a well-earned break from film-making.

In fact, I found this movie so distasteful that I officially recant what I wrote about Chiller. This is my least favorite Craven film. At least Chiller contains some enjoyable camp. This movie tried so hard to take itself seriously, which is quite difficult when it’s so dogmatic to horror cliches. It’s such a shame, too. This was the first movie that Craven had written and directed since his 1994 New Nightmare and his first full-length directing gig since 2005’s Red Eye. Both those movies are examples of Craven at peak performance, which makes this entry all the more preposterous and derisory.

Don’t look to this post for a review. The story is banal, the cast mostly unmemorable (of course, this might be the ultimate sign that I’m getting old; I recognized absolutely no one from this film). Craven clearly hit the auto pilot button on this one and ended up flying us all into a mountainside. Now we’re stranded and I’m not above volunteering this DOA cinematic sludge for hors d’oeuvres.

Cravenous: Paris, je t’aime


When you invite one of the Masters of Modern Horror to participate in your vignette-composed cinematic love letter to Paris, where do you think he’s going to choose to set his 5-minute story? And what do you think his story will include? If you guessed famous final resting place Père-Lachaise (both the setting and the name of the segment) and a ghost, then you are correct with both answers. You also get the most succinct summary of Wes Craven’s vignette for the 2006 film Paris, je t’aime.

I don’t have anything to add to this review that Wes Craven didn’t already say in this great interview. All I can say is that this was a fun cinematic diversion, particularly since we had just returned from Paris a few months prior to watching this film. It’s a stunning city—my favorite foreign city so far (and this is coming from the Anglophile-for-life whose love affair with London is legendary). The architecture and the ambiance and the people (yes, the people; every Parisian I met was incomparably charming) all make Paris a resplendent destination. Rent this film, watch the city unfold before you, smile when you see Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell traipsing through a cemetery and chatting with the ghost of Oscar Wilde.

Cravenous: Pulse


I debated a long time whether or not I would include this movie in my Cravenous series. First, it’s clearly taking me a while to get through all of Wes Craven’s films. It’s a matter of timing, really. My work life hasn’t pulled punches in a very long time, so my time to do things I enjoy, like write long-winded blog posts, is very, very, very limited.

Then there is the fact that Craven didn’t direct this film, as originally planned. If you remember from my Craven quote in my review of Cursed, he mentioned that he was supposed to direct the film but the undying nature of that terrible werewolf movie made it impossible. Because of that and other “cursed” kerfuffling, Dimension ended up pulling the plug on Pulse. I have a feeling that the Craven/Dimension relationship really soured with the behind-the-scenes fiasco that was that horrible werewolf movie. In the end, (still) virtual unknown Jim Sonzero ended up directing Craven’s script while Craven went on to make several non-Dimension films.

So why did I decide to review this one? Basically because Craven did write the screenplay. I made a decision at the beginning of this series that I wouldn’t include the movies that Craven produced, since he didn’t really have a whole lot to do with those beyond ponying up the money to make them. Ultimately, I considered Craven’s writing and directing contributions to the horror genre to be the two most important from his career. I even strongly debated the inclusion of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors, since Craven was listed as part of the writing team for that film. However, his original screenplay was so overwhelmingly rewritten, reworked, reshaped, and revised by numerous people that I didn’t really think it was fair to include it in this list. Pretty much the only thing that I think was left from Craven’s ideas for that film was the idea of Freddy having grown so strong by that point that a whole group of teenagers needed to defeat him rather than just one. Oh, and it was Craven’s idea to bring back Nancy.

For the American remake of Pulse, however, Craven was only one of two writers listed in the credits. The other credit (minus Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who wrote the original 2001 Japanese film, Kairo) is Ray Wright. He had one credit prior to this movie, and only has three more since, so I’m going to assume that he would have been the second-string writer on this script. Maybe Dimension brought him in to make changes to update it or make it more in line with what the Weinsteins wanted. Who knows. The bottom line, though, is that the script is definitely a mostly Craven product.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of his less well-made products. True, he might have been able to work some miracles with the script had he gotten to direct it as he had wished. He would have had say in casting, in locations, in filming choices, in rewrites as he went along—all things that could have made a world of difference in the final film. We’ll never get to see the version of this that Craven could have made. However, even in someone else’s hands, you can see remnants of Craven’s touch. First, the storyline definitely seems to be something Craven would find fascinating as a man who wrestled often with concepts about death and the afterlife. Plus, the added concept of how our increasing dependence on technology was affecting our daily lives and interactions would have piqued his interest as well, I think.

When watching the remake, you’ll also catch two scenes that definitely carry the Craven stamp on them: One is a scene in a public restroom, with one of our protagonists thinking she hears things coming from the stalls. Hi, Sidney Prescott would like her restroom shtick back, thank you. The second is one that Craven used in two of his previous films: Deadly Blessing and A Nightmare on Elm Street. Yes, we get another scene of a female protagonist prone in a bathtub. By this point, it’s tired, and strangely enough, in someone else’s hands, it became sad. Not scary at all. Just. Sad.

It’s a shame, really, that Craven didn’t get to direct this, but I think it was more of a shame that he was on board with remaking another Japanese horror movie in the first place. As much of a supporter I continue to be of the American remake to Ringu, I ultimately think that if you want to see a Japanese horror film? Go rent the Japanese horror film. True, many elements within them carry meaning more in-sync with Eastern sensibilities, but you know what? You learn something while getting scared. It’s a win-win.

The original version of this film is thematically similar, but still quite different because of those subtle Eastern touches. The original is more compelling, more complex, more provocative. Even when the remake tried to recreate scenes directly from the original, it still lost something in the translation that left the redone scenes feeling flat, pointless. Again, it’s difficult to gauge how this could have gone had Craven directed it, but in its final form, it really was a disappointment. Plus, the visual choices made for this film were so distracting. I hate horror filmmakers who feel compelled to make their movies so color- and shadow-saturated that you’re clueless about what’s going on in some of the more integral scenes. I swear, some of these scenes needed their characters to wear miner helmets.

Casting was inoffensive. Kristen Bell was one of the protagonists. Ian Somerhalder played the other protagonist. I personally have no idea who he is, but he looks like Rob Lowe had a son with Cillian Murphy. Octavia Spencer shows up in a quick but entertaining scene, and Brad Dourif rolls in for a quick quirky showing toward the end.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about this film. I think, though, that including it is a nice way of showing an example both of how Craven’s importance was not just to the writing or directing—he brought skill and precision to both elements—and also of how Craven’s input of any kind wasn’t always a solid guarantee of film success. Just as putting up money to produce a horror film didn’t make instant genre hits of any of the films he backed, having a script primarily written by him didn’t guarantee instant box office success either. And even though Dimension didn’t play up his participation in this film at all, critics and fans knew. In fact, many critics pointed out in their panning reviews of this film that not even the Master of Horror could save this film from its less-than-impressive (non-)impact on the horror genre.