Sunday, 27 March 2016

THE ORIGINAL 'CARNIVAL OF SOULS'




I was introduced to CARNIVAL OF SOULS (1962) some twenty-five years ago by a buddy of mine. I had never heard of the film before, and since it has always been my friend’s favorite film he was more than happy to lend me his VHS copy. All I can say after sitting through this tale of afterlife and the ghouls that chase us is that I totally get why he loved it so. Fast forward to 2016 where I get the chance to see it all over again. And is it as worthy? Two words to that: Like Duh.

 

Candace Hilligross is an organ player who, after cheating death, starts seeing dead people. They’re everywhere she goes: in the reflection of her car window, at her rooming house; at the carnival… Moreover, as if in a trance, she suddenly becomes invisible to her entourage, but only for a short period of time. Enough to become even more scared and confused. All of this is told from her point of view, with some organ music and shadowy corners to spare, and it works aplenty. Yes, the script and the performance may not always be up to par but the overall effect is quite chilling.
 
 
Director Herk Harvey works well with a meager budget and even manages to gloss everything up. Of course, the film has some flaws, like becoming monotonous once in awhile. But those are few and far between. And, to tell you the truth, all is saved by the big revelation near the end. A big cliffhanger that makes you go over the film again either in your head or at the click of a DVD button.



Yes, CARNIVAL OF SOULS deserves proudly his B-grade status. It is cult horror at its best. Probably, because most viewers will find it fun and exciting. Now, I’ve heard little about the colorized version. Is it worth it? I probably guess so, since it’s presented in all its glory. But to tell you the truth, I much rather remember this film as it is. Clearly one of the best low-budget quickie to ever grace our screens.

 
 
 

 
Until next post—Martin


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 10 March 2016

'SHADOWSHOW' BY BRAD STRICKLAND

 


With all the cool novels I've been feasting on lately it was only natural that I would  hit a wall, and that wall is none other than Brad Strickland  1988 SHADOWSHOW. If you're into sci-fi or fantasy you probably know this man already.   As for I, he doesn't ring a bell. But I know that during the late ‘80s, the Onyx line, a direct competition to the much better-received Dell Abyss line, published two of his horror novels, SHADOWSHOW being the first one. I was so ecstatic to finally give it a go, since I had heard so many good things about it on the Internet. And besides, keeping me away from that fetching cover was just impossible. Well, as it turned out, maybe I should have tried a little harder to steer clear, for the time spent reading this thing was less rewarding than I thought it would be.

 
Why is that? Well, for starters, I failed to connect with the book’s many characters. Yes, some were better developed than others but as a whole no one tickled my fancy enough to root for him or for her. Secondly, the narrative was indeed impressive enough with some moments of near fright, but the scares were few and far between and when they finally came together near the end I was too much over the book to really care. And thirdly, all of this pre-fabricated printed articles and quotations before each section of the novel was fun at first but got tiresome after a while. I’m sure if I did dig the novel I would have found them rather cool and exciting. But it definitely was not the case.
 
 
I know, I may be too harsh on this book since it is still rather fetching behind all of its mishaps, but I just hate it when I invest time and energy on something I end up disliking. There’s so many good books out there that I rather read those then waste my effort on something not up to par in my opinion. Suffice to say, I don’t think I will pick up his second attempt at horror called CHILDREN OF THE KNIFE, but if I ever do, I’m sure I’ll get it out of my system on this blog.
 
 
 
You can still catch SHADOWSHOW wherever digital books are sold.
 
 

 

Until next post—Martin
 
US/UK ebook edtion
 

'SWEET SAVAGE LOVE' BY ROSEMARY ROGERS


 
I have read two books by prolific author Rosemary Rogers so far: one was a Jackie Susann—ish tale of the problems of the rich called THE INSIDERS.  Though it has been ages ago I remember it being very very naughty; the other one is her first historical romance aptly named SWEET SAVAGE LOVE which, as you all know, is a far departure from my usual contemporary reads. And if based solely on my past blog posts, you’d assume that I would review THE INSIDERS instead.  But this time I’ve decided to take a different route and focus on SWEET SAVAGE LOVE.   So here it goes. 
 

Nonstop action and graphic sex win over substance in the infamous 1974 SWEET SAVAGE LOVE.  And when it is done right, as I can attest it is in this case, more power to it I say.  To claim that protagonist Ginny Brandon is a curious individual is literally an understatement since she's constantly putting her nose where it doesn't belong, most noticeably in the pants of sturdy hero Steve Morgan whom she just loves to hate. Her so-out of control infatuation with him brings her to undiscovered territories that will eventually leave huge marks on her psyche... and body.
 
Regardless of the many used-up ploys the author applies to tame her unidimensional duo characters, she still succeeds in making their union a celebrated affair with a crisp narrative and hot descriptive sex. Moreover, her prodigiously researched of history during the time of the Civil War keeps the pace racing. What could irk, however, is the politically incorrect way she physically uses and abuses her heroine.  As much true to life a situation is depicted, reality can also make things look a little too cringed-worthy at times.   Yet despite its flaws, SWEET SAVAGE LOVE is definitely a fun and compelling read which, in the long run, could even be hailed as the triple X version of GONE WITH THE WIND. 
 
 
 
You can still catch SWEET SAVAGE LOVE wherever digital books are sold.
 
  
 

Until next post—Martin

US/UK ebook edition
 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

'GHOST HOUSE' BY CLARE MCNALLY


 

The first time I ever laid eyes on Clare McNally’s GHOST HOUSE I was heading out to night school, working on my high-school diploma before entering college. I needed a break from my hectic schedule and there was this paperback novel staring me right in the face at some five and dime near the subway.  I couldn’t pass up the chance of owning it since I was on the lookout for anything horror at that time.  And besides, I’ve always had a thing for cheesy covers and this one took the cake.  Anyway, to make a long story short, it didn’t take me too much time to get through the novel, not because it was as fantastic as I thought it would but because it was such a light read and, more importantly, so over-the-top I couldn’t get my eyes off of it.  And you know what?  30-some years later I still find it wack.
 
 Indeed, high camp saves this otherwise trite of a story of a family coming face to face with their newly acquired home's specter, who has eyes only for the lady of the house. What could have been just a fun little grade-B horror novel à la Amityville goes one step further by being so far-fetched that this reader can't help but being highly entertained by it. No chills, no thrills, but plenty of silly vignettes make GHOST HOUSE a hoot. The author may be clueless in making a scene work but, boy, what an ace she is in creating unintentional laughter.

Take Gary, for example, the heroine's husband but also the main focus of the ghost's wrath. From being pushed down the stairs to falling down a window, McNally makes sure nothing is spared for him. So much repeatedly so you'll wish she'd put him out of his misery for good. What's even worse is the heroine's uncharacteristic nature. She's described as an overly sensitive artist (she paints), yet she can't even sense that she's making passionate love to a British-speaking ghost instead to her husband. The only character saved (well, almost) from all this nonsense is the librarian. She comes across as being a judicious career gal with a heart—up until McNally puts her in a unlikely situation: who in their right mind would nonchalantly go disco dancing after witnessing a supernatural near-death experience?
 
Thank heavens this form of hilarity goes on and on, up until the ultimate braindead but perfect ending which I won't reveal but will say that the story continues on in part deux called GHOST HOUSE REVENGE.  Don't feel the urge to get into this one yet,  But when I do, you'll be the first to know.
 
 
You can still catch GHOST HOUSE wherever digital books are sold.
 
 
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 
US/UK ebook