Cravenous: Chiller

chiller

I know I’m calling this one early, but I’m going to have to say that Chiller is probably going to be my least favorite film from Craven’s directorial oeuvre.

It’s not that Craven did a terrible job on directing. It was a nice, solid, middle-of-the-road effort for a movie that was…meh. Not the worst made-for-television movie. Not the best. Just meh.

The story, written by J.D. Feigelson (who apparently had a very brief career as a screenwriter of other equally unmemorable-sounding horror scripts), contemplates what might happen if someone was revived from cryogenic suspension without their soul. He doesn’t have a very positive outlook for such a person.

Very existential-sounding plot, right? Of course, it requires that one believes that behavior is dictated by a “soul” rather than something less ethereal like personality, genetics, upbringing, etc. I’m not really all that keen on believing that who I am is contingent upon what my soul is like, or that missing my soul would turn me into a cold, calculating jerk with serpent eyes.

Really, really cheesy serpent eyes, mind you.

I don’t really have a whole lot else to say about this movie. It was rather dull, with no real standout directing or acting. Paul Sorvino is probably the most recognizable name. Beatrice Straight played the mother; horror fans will recognize her as Dr. Lesh from Poltergeist. Dick O’Neill was in it for a hot minute, for all you Cagney and Lacey fans.

I kind of feel as though this was an immense step backward for Craven after he dropped the magnificence that is Nightmare on Elm Street on us all. Then again, people might not have yet twigged to how amazing that movie was and how wondrous Craven could be when given control of his films. He was probably still just that guy who made horror movies to them. A shame, really, that he had to waste time on something like this when he clearly could do far better.

Cravenous: Invitation to Hell

invitationtohell

The next directorial project that Wes Craven took on after mucking through the swamps of South Carolina was 1984’s Invitation to Hell, a television movie-of-the-week made for ABC for the financial equivalent of a pack of playing cards and a pouch of Big League Chew.

Okay, it wasn’t that cheap, but the production values were definitely much smaller than Craven’s previous two films. However, since Craven began his career in a low-rent fashion, this was somewhat of a homecoming in ways, I suppose. Plus, he had solid backing from a legitimate production source as well as some relatively high-rent names when it came to television. We get Robert Urich as protagonist Matt Winslow and Susan Lucci as Jessica Jones, AKA “You’re the Devil!” (trust me, I’m not spoiling anything with that statement), plus post-Blade Runner Joanna Cassidy, Joe Regalbuto (soon to be known as Frank Fontana on Murphy Brown), kiddie actors Barret “Neverending Story” Oliver and Soleil “Punky Brewster” Moon Frye, instantly recognizable genre character actor Kevin McCarthy, the Bad Seed herself Patty McCormack, and a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-him appearance by Michael Berryman (see, I told you Craven was faithful to his actors).

Seriously, not a bad collection of talent there. Plus, any time you get to watch Susan Lucci chew scenery like a pit bull who hasn’t been fed for a week? Who the hell doesn’t want to watch that? In fact, you can watch it on YouTube right now rather than reading any further, if you’d like. I won’t be mad. Promise.

The story itself isn’t terribly complex. Jessica Jones runs a spa and club in the lustrous (and deliciously named) town of Steaming Springs. It’s really a front for her cult of worshipers, to whom she grants unlimited wealth and power, so long as they join her club. Literally. Matt Winslow and his family play the happy but unknowing new residents who move to town so Matt can take a job finishing the programming on his latest and greatest invention: a space suit that can withstand extremely hot conditions.

Wow. Do you think that might come in handy at some point in a movie that takes place in the town of Steaming Springs?

This was such a slice of nostalgia to watch. I feel as though the era of the prime-time MOTW is well behind us. However, there was a time when movies like this were a cheesy joy to behold. And this particular offering actually is solid little gem. The script, written by Richard Rothstein, is somewhat pedestrian. Rothstein’s greatest contribution as of this writing, beyond this script of course, was coming up with the story for Universal Soldier. So there you go.

However, Craven kept a tight directorial rein on the story, moving the action along at a satisfying pace. Don’t expect a whole lot of gore. This was regular television, after all. Craven always battled with censors throughout his career, but you can bet that they were in full attack mode whenever they knew he was dabbling in television work. Also, this was the Reagan-era 80s. Milquetoast was considered offensive before the watershed hour.

Even without the excessive gore of Craven’s previous horror fare, he still does give us a lovely trippy end sequence when Matt Winslow goes into the depths of the underworld to save his family. I feel as though this whole sequence would be AMAZEBALLS with some narcotic assistance. Not that I’m condoning that kind of behavior in any way. Still, it’s solid visual craziness that drops on you in a most unexpected but delightful way.

I definitely wouldn’t consider this as one of Craven’s top offerings, but it’s still an enticing offering from him to the horror genre.

Cravenous: Swamp Thing

swampthing

I’d never seen Wes Craven’s 1982 film Swamp Thing prior to taking on this project. I honestly don’t know how I never saw it, since it seems like it would be my bailiwick. I wasn’t as into comics when I was little, however. I went straight for the jugular when it came to genre fiction and immersed myself from an early age in horror. I didn’t start seriously taking note of the comics world until my teens. Also, by the time I did start showing an interest in comics, Swamp Thing wasn’t necessarily the comic hero I was looking for.

Interestingly, Craven knew nothing of the character when he agreed to take on the movie. He stated in a commentary on the movie that this was because the church in which he grew up didn’t permit comics. Perhaps he meant that, because he grew up not reading comics as a child, he never saw the value of doing so as an adult, since Swamp Thing didn’t debut until 1972—around the time that Craven was baptizing himself in the horror genre with his first film. However, when you get offered the chance to direct another (mostly) well-funded film? You at least show an interest.

And so it was that Craven dove into the Swamp Thing mythos, emerging not only with a keen desire to direct the film but also to write the script. Perhaps he learned his lesson with the co-writing duties on Deadly Blessing. Or perhaps he simply could not resist the inspiration he found submerged in the depths of the creature’s swampy abode. Whatever the reason, the end result was campy and fun and exuding that charmed naturalistic interaction among characters that easily was one of Craven’s greatest writing skills. Plus, as Roger Ebert wrote of this film, Craven “betrays a certain gentleness and poetry” within his script.

It was, in fact, no secret that Craven wanted to be more than a director of horror movies. In truth, he’d never intended on choosing this genre as his ultimate path. However, there was a clear vein of fascination within him when it came to exploring the darker elements of humanity. As someone who experienced a slice of Baptist living through my schooling, I would attribute this to being constantly surrounded by the discussion of sin, the damning of souls, images of crucifixion and torture in the afterlife. I don’t think that people truly understand the torment that is religion upon a young mind. It can be brutal and warping, especially when force-fed upon a child with no counterbalance.

With this film, Craven got to remove himself from that darkness and explore a (slightly) less traumatic world, and to do so with the consideration and erudition of a mind that never seemed to cease exploring, questioning, examining, or creating. Craven’s creature is gentle and patient, and even capable of finding laughter and joy in his unexpected and rather dismal situation. That’s not to say he isn’t capable of causing pain or even killing, but it’s as a last resort rather than as an only solution.

Again, there is a delicious element of camp all through this film—that sense of “mad scientist” storytelling, wrapped in an adventure caper, and tied together with a gory little bow for good measure. Just a little gore. Because Craven. There’s also a bit of what even Craven described as gratuitous nudity. There was a prevailing and persistent notion throughout the 80s that genre movies needed to shoe-horn in as many gratuitous shots of naked breasts as possible, to entertain the young male demographic they knew was their target audience. Because, clearly, boys lack the ability to be entertained unless there’s the promise of BEWBS.

[Loba Tangent: Interestingly, there were even more BEWBS in the European release of this film, and when Warner Home Video released the film on video here in the States, they “accidentally” released the European version. I’m sure there were lots of happy boys getting way more than their parents assumed would be in a PG-rated movie.]

In addition to the persistence of pointless female nudity in this film (and genre fiction in general), we also get something that has always irritated me: the “Tripping Heroine” trope. Yes, the lead female character, Alice Cable, trips and falls a few times in this film—enough times that Craven’s daughter Jessica called him on using such a tired trick. Her disappointment would later lead Craven to sit down and consider merits for a new heroine he was already working on…but that’s for another discussion.

Quite a few recognizable names appear in Swamp Thing, including Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise, Louis Jourdan, David Hess (Krug from Craven’s The Last House on the Left,) and Craven’s future second wife, Mimi Meyer. Interestingly, Dick Durock pretty much stumbled into the role of the Swamp Thing in a fluke that would serve him quite well throughout a good portion of the rest of his career. Craven hired the stunt man to don the Swamp Thing costume to perform a lot of the more rigorous action scenes that Ray Wise’s character would need to do. However, he looked so different in the costume from Wise that Craven couldn’t get the scenes to blend convincingly enough. In the end, Wise appeared only as the human version of Dr. Alec Holland and Durok became the eponymous character. When the inevitable sequel came along in 1989, Durok reprised his role and then proceeded to play the character for all three seasons of the television show. Not bad for unplanned.

Cravenous: Deadly Blessing

The next film in the Cravenous line-up is Wes Craven’s 1981 offering, Deadly Blessing.

deadlyblessing_poster

Could your poster be any more sexualized?

[Loba Tangent: Here’s a treat that might not be around for a while. I couldn’t find this Wes Craven movie on DVD, but the whole thing is currently on YouTube. Go now. Watch it while it’s still available, denizens.]

Right off the bat, you’ll notice several differences between Craven’s first two mainstream films and this one. First, it looks far more stylish and professional. Pays to have a far larger budget. Whereas The Last House on the Left came in around $90,000 and The Hills Have Eyes edged closer to $230,000, this one clocked in at an impressive $2.5 million. Switch up from 16MM to 35MM film, get yourself a big-name star with Ernest Borgnine, get yourself a big-name composer with James Horner (this was actually one of his first composing gigs), and, hell, while you’re at it, treat yourself with a couple of newly minted actresses: Sharon Stone and Lisa Hartman.

Craven actually got this movie after impressing one of the producers from his previous directing gig, a 1978 made-for-television movie called Summer of Fear (or Stranger in Our House, depending on where you look). Unfortunately, the only way I could find to watch this one is to buy the DVD, which is currently ridiculously priced because clearly people want to make money off the fact that Craven is now dead. Because people suck. It’s a shame, though, because this sounds like a movie I would totally dig, if only for that movie-of-the-week nostalgia. Based on a Lois Duncan novel, it stars Linda Blair as a young woman coming to terms with the fact that her recently orphaned cousin who moved in with the family might possibly be a witch. I’ve seen a couple of clips from it. Totally groovy late 70s style. Also? A beautiful classic Dodge Charger. Clearly, someone had reason to have some spare Chargers setting around, waiting for some screen time. Luckily, this one hadn’t been painted safety orange just yet.

Anyway, Max Keller decided he wanted Craven to direct the next picture he produced, which ended up being this somewhat sleek yet somewhat clunky “religious horror” tale set among a fictional fundamentalist religious sect known as the Hittites. This time, Craven was only a co-writer, working on revising a rather messily composed screenplay by Matthew Barr and Glenn Benest, the latter of whom was responsible for adapting Duncan’s novel for the Linda Blair MOTW. Even though Craven was only a co-writer, there’s little room for doubt that he took this script as an opportunity to this time explore some of those fundamentalist demons that haunted his own past. You also can recognize Craven’s aptitude for naturalistic dialogue. That was always one of the beautiful things I loved about Craven’s writing: He had this enviably innate sense of rhythm when it came to character dialogue. Even when dealing with the stilted delivery of green actors, that rhythm still made it through.

Ultimately, I would consider this movie the first major disappointment from Craven’s directorial oeuvre, thanks to several factors that were completely out of Craven’s control. First, of course, was the script, which he fixed but clearly did not write. Second was the too-late realization on Craven’s part, which he discussed in later interviews, that basically this film’s larger budget came at a much larger cost to his creative freedom. The linchpin evidence of this truth? The ending of this movie. It’s appalling. Seriously, it makes absolutely no sense at all. Slight spoilers ahoy: The movie, which as I have already mentioned, was a religious horror akin to movies like Rosemary’s Baby or The Sentinel, and moves along at a fairly logical pace, playing out more like a mystery thriller but with some solid scares and some appeasing horror gore. The ending, though? It’s like it came from a completely different film. It suddenly veers off onto some bizarre supernatural horror tangent, complete with cheesy demon rising from the pits of hell to capture our heroine in the final scene. It’s such a ludicrous moment that swings in so far from left field, you’d think Pluto was closer in orbit than this ending. It was shockingly ill-conceived and jars you completely out of the movie, which might not have been spectacular but was at least tolerable up to that point.

I get what the producers wanted. They wanted a purely shocking surprise ending that none of the viewers would expect. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as it’s done with some modicum of logic. Even the most fantastical stories need to have some kind of logical structure or you’re going to lose your audience. Supernatural horror, when done well, can be incredibly frightening and satisfying. Craven would prove this point more than adequately when he finally decided to venture on his own terms into the realm of the supernatural with his greatest solo contribution to horror mythology. This, however, misses the mark in a surprisingly ludicrous fashion.

Besides, this film already contains a twist that works in context with the story laid out before its reveal. This is the tricky part though. This particular reveal is pretty significant and one that is telegraphed ahead of the reveal to the audience but in a way that some might miss. There’s another horror movie that came out a few years after Deadly Blessing with a similar, though more tantalizing, version of this film’s surprise reveal. I don’t really want to say more. Suffice it to say, this could have passed as the one mostly satisfying surprise of the movie.

As I mentioned previously, this time we get more familiar faces, with Ernest Borgnine pulling a quick “Dr. Loomis” guest role for Craven and Lisa Hartman and Sharon Stone in one of their earliest movie roles. Stone would never physically appear in another Craven movie, but we’d encounter her in mention many years later in another iconic Craven-directed movie—made all the more humorous thanks to those titillating rumors about Stone’s role in Craven’s divorce from his second wife, Mimi; Craven even confirmed part of the rumor but denied that it was entirely true…and that’s all that I’m going to say about that piffle. Best Sharon Stone moment from this film? Craven having a live spider dropped into her mouth during a pivotal dream sequence. Stone insisted the spider be de-fanged first, but still…mayhaps this is what drove her to such later animosity toward Craven?

Additionally, we see the return of Michael Berryman to the Craven fold, this time playing a rather lackluster character who doesn’t really contribute much to the story before being quickly snuffed out (spoilers). Oh, and Jeff East, who was most recognizable to me as the young Clark Kent from the 1978 Superman film. Finally, Craven cast as his lead actress Maren Jensen, who will be recognizable to sci-fi fans as Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica. Random, pointless trivia moment: This role was Jensen’s last before she retired from acting.

There’s not really a whole lot of substance to this film the way there was for the previous two movies. It’s a shame, because I would have loved to have seen Craven delve more into his own religious upbringing for this story. I also would have loved to have seen his solo take on the schism between the patriarchal religious clan and the secular, independent women depicted in this movie. We get a bit of this examination through the Borgnine character’s rejection of his son for marrying outside the sect and the subsequent shunning of his widow and her friends. Plus, there are some interesting conversation starters about how the religious sect views female sexuality versus female acquiescence.

Clearly, however, Craven was not really driving this train even though he still brought a great deal of technical acumen to the actual filming. Once more, he delivers a nicely paced film with excellently timed scares. I’d also like to point out one scene in particular that will be instantly recognizable to fans of Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s a bathtub scene, this time involving a serpent rather than a knife-gloved hand. The setup and execution of the introductory moments of the scene are almost identical between these two movies. My vote is for the latter version being more compelling, but it was a joy to see the spark of the idea catching fire in Craven’s mind.

Cravenous: The Hills Have Eyes

First, some full disclosure: I’ve skipped a Craven-directed movie, but some of you might not realize it. Remember what I wrote in my first Cravenous entry about the relationship between horror and porn during the late 70s and 80s? Well, Craven’s next documented movie after 1972’s The Last House on the Left was a 1975 Swedish-cocreated “arthouse porn” called The Fireworks Woman. You might have never heard of it as a Craven film because he wrote and directed it under the name “Abe Snake.” Gee, wonder why. He appears in the film as well. See?

The Fireworks Woman

Doesn’t he look groovy?

The movie is available online if you’d like to watch it. It’s about a brother and sister’s sexual obsession with each other. I decided to skip it, but you feel free to tackle that one, denizens. I’m holding out for the other Craven movie that features a canoodling brother and sister team.

/foreshadowing

[Loba Tangent: Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about the interconnections between these two genres? It’s because a lot of horror movies received X ratings from the MPAA, and the only theaters that would go anywhere near such a rating were…you guessed it: adult movie theaters. See? Travis Bickle could have taken Betsy to see a nice Wes Craven movie on their first date…]

So next in the horror line is Craven’s 1977 film The Hills Have Eyes.

We get some recognizable faces this go, with Horror Queen Supreme Dee Wallace in one of her first film roles. Also making one of his earliest appearances in movies is Michael Berryman, the gentleman whose unique visage graces this movie’s poster. Berryman, whose Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia causes his odd appearance and leaves him with no sweat glands, hair, fingernails, or teeth, has bankrolled a full career from horror and science fiction movies, thanks in part to appearing as Pluto in this movie. We’ll even see him a few more times in future Craven films, as the director was often quite loyal to his actors.

As with his first film, Craven clearly still was fascinated by the exploration of humanity’s depravity and breaking points. He also was still fascinated by exploring the superficiality of our “civility.” No matter how refined we imagine ourselves to be, we still are animals—just scrape the surface a little bit and you’ll see. With this film, Craven wanted to explore exactly how much (or little) we’d need to scratch to find that ferocity. His test subjects?

A nice American family. They didn’t want to kill. But they didn’t want to die.

Fairly straightforward setup summed up perfectly in the movie’s tagline. We’ve got the all-American family extreme, traveling together across the country, camper in tow: Father, Mother, Three Siblings, One Son-in-Law, One Baby, and Two Dogs. What could be more white-bread, middle-class idyllic? The patriarch of the family, a recently retired Chicago cop who barely tolerates the simpering simplicity of his wife and two daughters, establishes himself as the cock of the walk right from the start.

Talk about foreshadowing.

He’s also on a mission, to locate a long-abandoned silver mine that he and his wife have jointly purchased for each other to celebrate their “silver anniversary” the next day. Even after being warned by the local gas station owner (who’s caught by the family in the middle of packing his own truck in preparation to leave the area) not to travel the dusty, dangerous dirt roads that strike off from the main highway, Mr. Retired Cop treats the warning as he must treat anything that doesn’t gel with what he wants: He ignores it.

Hilarity. It’s watching and waiting to ensue.

Also watching the camper is a band of hill people with questionable hygiene, even more questionable breeding, and supremely disturbing culinary tastes. All that tasty meat traveling along their roads? Too tempting to resist.

Just as Craven drew inspiration for his first horror movie from Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (which, in turn, drew inspiration from a 13th century Swedish ballad), this time he drew inspiration from the Scottish folklore of Sawney Bean. Mr. Bean and his clan lived in a sea cave, subsisting off the belongings and flesh of travelers who ventured too near Sawney’s domain. Who says studying folklore is a waste of time? Craven’s impressive knowledge of mythology and folklore served him quite well throughout his career, indeed.

Once this movie kicks off, Craven again offers us no reprieve from the action unfolding on-screen—or from the violence. This is a fight for survival, and as such, there are no time-outs or moments to catch our breath. Once our protagonists realize the dire nature of their predicament, it’s almost too late. Well, definitely too late for several members of the family (spoilers). However, when that survivalist mentality that Craven very obviously loved to explore so much finally kicks in for the remaining protagonists, it’s go time. We get a couple of great traps, including one that uses…disturbingly interesting bait.

We also get a, pardon the phrasing, bleak-as-fuck ending. Serious spoilers from this point forward: Some of the crimes that the cannibalistic clan perpetrate upon our wholesome American family are the sexual assault of one sister (though far less disturbing than anything from The Last House on the Left, it’s still troublesome that Craven felt the need to include it and the resulting tipple into the rape revenge trope), the murder of the other sister, and the kidnapping of that sister’s baby for the purpose of holding a baby barbecue. Because I heard they taste like chicken. When the baby’s father realizes that his wife is dead and his daughter is missing, nothing could stop him from going out into the hills to bring her back.

Admittedly, the ending could have been far worse than it actually was. Craven initially contemplated having the clan go through with killing the baby. His own crew threatened mutiny, however, if he chose to go that route. Instead, he went with having the baby’s father succeed in capturing the kidnapping cannibal and murdering him in one of the most high-octane first-person death scenes to appear in movies up to that point. Placing us in the position of the cannibal, we witness the utter loss of control…of civility…by the baby’s father, Doug, as he repeatedly plunges the dagger into his captive, well past the point of death. Logic, however, cannot penetrate the control of “fight-or-flight” evolutionary programming to which Doug has completely succumbed. Craven is almost purely focused on forcing us to watch Doug’s unraveling, cutting away only to show the knife plunging in every now and again or the emotional distress of the cannibal’s sister as she watches her brother’s murder. The camera and the audience, however, is captured by the pure descent of Doug into that most primal survivalist mode. We hear his guttural grunting, we see the way spittle flies from his mouth, hangs from his lips, spews downward onto the camera. And when Doug finally stops? The movie ends.

Literally, the last thing we see is Doug, the realization of his actions just beginning to register on his face before the scene freezes and fades to red. Even with The Last House on the Left, Craven gave us a moment of decompression before fading to black, perhaps to regroup alongside the protagonists as they begin to process their actions. Not so in this case. The original ending that Craven filmed was far less dystopic, with Doug returning with his daughter and the cannibal’s sister (who had helped him rescue his daughter) to meet up with the rest of the survivors and begin their journey back to civilization. Craven opted for the more shocking and bleak ending, forcing us to process Doug’s actions and contemplate on our own the ramifications of all that had just transpired.

Doug’s devolution isn’t the only one we witness within this film. Two of the siblings, Bobby and Brenda, when encountering the patriarch of the cannibal clan after their trap failed to kill him, both quickly embrace their more primal responses. Both siblings have been running on fear and adrenaline for many hours—Bobby being the first to know something was wrong with where they were stranded after finding one of the family dogs disemboweled in the hills (yeah, Craven took the low blow by killing one of the dogs; he also used an actual dead dog in the scene, having collected the body from the sheriff’s department), and Brenda being the sister who was raped a few hours earlier—and so their violent response is almost synchronous and definitely autonomic.

Even the surviving dog plays a role in Craven’s character study. Beast in many ways seems not only intent on protecting his human family but also in seeking revenge for the death of his mate, Beauty. Some of Beast’s actions seemed somewhat anthropomorphic, but Craven drew nice parallels between his primal predatory instinct toward the cannibals and the human protagonists’ similar instincts: Want to survive? Then kill.

Craven’s insatiable need to examine the primal undercurrent of human civility is a fascinating one that continues to be relevant today. What are the factors that contribute to our standings in society? Are we born with intrinsically good or bad intentions? Or are there external circumstances that contribute to our choices? Craven seems to argue a bit in favor of both points with this movie (kind of). We learn through secondhand exposition that the cannibal family’s patriarch was born with evil intent in his heart (as secondhand information, however, we must extrapolate our own opinions of this information). Craven also once more focuses on class and education standing as influencing certain aspects of the story (the well-heeled American family with their college-educated children versus the uneducated hill people who have turned their survival into a bloodsport), as well as an underlying current of misogyny. The retired cop character ignores the thoughts of the women around him. The sister from the cannibal family is chained because she wishes to leave the hills and find a better life. The mother of the cannibal family is almost incidental to the story beyond the fact that she was a prostitute in her earlier years. And, of course, there is the continued use of sexual assault as the ultimate attack against women in horror films. Combine all these elements together and they equal another offering from Craven in which he posits that, yet again, we are the ultimate horror monsters.

BookBin2014: Scream Deconstructed: An Unauthorized Analysis

screamdeconstructed

This is going to be a really short review because: A) this book isn’t going to be for everyone; and B) my feelings for the book are probably already very obvious to those who know me. Lucky you, denizens.

I bought the Kindle version of Scott Kessinger’s Scream Deconstructed: An Unauthorized Analysis completely on a whim (darn easy 1-click Amazon shopping option). Why? Because I love Scream.

You know, in case you haven’t noticed that before in all the myriad posts I’ve dedicated to banging on about this particular movie/franchise.

/ end sarcasm

In fact, I would even go so far as to say that, if I had to choose one horror movie I’ve seen…just one…that would be my default horror movie from now until forever? Scream would be in the elite list of five from which I would struggle to make my final selection. I’ll let you try to figure out what the other four are.

Do I love the rest of the franchise as much? Not by a long shot. That first film comprised some bit of magic that was so precious and rare that it simply could not be recaptured for the sequels. But I find things to appreciate about the other movies. Well, maybe not the fourth one. I do believe I have already made my feelings about Scream 4 very clear.

Although, to be honest, after reading Kessinger’s analyses of the fourth movie, I was intrigued and impressed enough by his thoughts that I rented the movie to give it a fair shake at perhaps showing me what it showed him. I admittedly still didn’t see what he saw (and still saw a depressingly disappointing addition to the trials and tribulations of Woodsboro’s sauciest survivors), but I still appreciate what he sees in this film and value his opinion.

All that being said, I can’t recommend this book to everyone…or to most people, for that matter. If you don’t like the movies, then this is not a book for you. It’s definitely only for the truly obsessed. Like yours truly. However, if you do love, or even just really really like, Scream and its sequels? Then I can’t recommend this book enough.

Final Verdict: Staying on my Kindle. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s got some great analyses, even if I don’t always agree 100 percent, and I imagine I will be going back to peruse this one every now and again. Whether or not that means I’ll ever give Scream 4 another go is a completely different story…

BookBin2012: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft

Okay, I’m just going to wait a moment while all you Cthulhu geeks wear yourselves out from your fannish squee frenzy.

All better? Good.

Yes, the subtitle of this first volume of what is currently a five-volume series (the fifth volume has yet to be released, however) is a sly bit of homage to that great proprietor of purple prose himself, H.P. Lovecraft. And, where else would the fair city of Lovecraft be located than in Massachusetts? I’m sure it’s quite close to Arkham and the prestigious Miskatonic University.

For the purposes of this graphic novel, Lovecraft is also the location of Keyhouse, the ancestral home of Rendell Locke, the family patriarch whose brutal murder during a home invasion sends his widow and three children on a cross-country journey from San Francisco back to the East Coast town he once called home.

Of course, any place located in a town named Lovecraft isn’t going to be level in any sense of the word. Keyhouse is vast, twisted, and full of secrets. Believe me when I say that you’ll be dying to learn them all.

Locke & Keye is a collaboration between celebrated genre author Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve raved about Rodriguez here at the lair already; he’s the artist behind the CSI graphic novels I’ve recently reviewed, the best being Secret Identity. I was so over-the-top happy to see more of Rodriguez’s exceptional art, which is even more impressive when he’s working with original characters rather than ones based on predetermined appearances. His visual translations of Hill’s bleak, unsettling tale spread through the pages of this novel in a rich, haunting diaspora.

I don’t want to go too far into the details of the story itself. Suffice it to say, the crux of the story is discovery…discovery of strength, of secrets, of keys to unlocking all the mysteries hidden within the confines of the Locke family’s new home and new life. Hill is a king among storytellers, and this is a shining example of his royally inherited prowess.

And if you think that last sentence was a little bit leading, you might have something to stand on there. I won’t say any more about it. I’ll just leave this photo of Joe Hill here, for you to ruminate on for yourselves…

Final Verdict: I completely enjoyed the first part of what I’m hoping to discover is a holistically creepy, captivating series. Bottom line is, if the subsequent volumes are even half as amazing as this first part, it’s going to be an awesome ride from here. I’ve already added this volume to my wish list (alas, this was yet another library loaner) and am contemplating whether or not to just dive in and collect them all. I do believe that my graphic novel collection is growing more rapidly than any other part of my library…and, with stories like this one lining up for consideration, I’m very much okay with that.

Don’t Bogart That Roach

She might not have come from the awesome Silver Snail, but Debbie Stevens is finally a part of my collection. Along with all the Freddy K. movies and the awesome Never Sleep Again documentary that Heather Langenkamp did on the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Can you tell that I’m getting ready for my most favorite holiday of them all? Winter may be coming for some, but Halloween is coming for Loba…