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Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye (Book)

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Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My EyeWritten by Mark Justice

Published by Graveside Tales


Full disclosure: Mark Justice, the author of the short story collection I’m about to review, is a local radio personality in the town in which I work. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him once or twice, so I hope you’ll take me at my word when I say that this in no way has biased my review. I hope you’ll trust me further when I tell you that, if you’re a fan of written horror, this book is a must-own.

Looking at the World with Broken Glass in My Eye is one of the finer collections of short horror I’ve read in quite a while.

Consisting of eighteen tales, this set runs the gamut of the genre, ranging from quiet dread, to action-packed terror, to comical farce. That the set still feels cohesive with this wild mix of tones is entirely due to Justice’s voice, which comes through loud and clear with his writing style.

The collection kicks off with “Deadnecks”, a riff on the zombie sub-genre featuring a group of good ol’ boys as the undead protagonists. The story’s unique spin on the zombie mythos has the titular rednecks as a pack of intelligent gut-munchers, who are just as able to think, reason, swill beer and crack wise as they are to eat you. “Deadneck Reckoning”, the story which closes out the book, continues the tale (though, perhaps, doesn’t conclude it).

Fans of these stories will also enjoy the hilarious “Nursing Home of the Gods” and “The Losers vs. Beelphegor”. The latter tale concerns a group of stoner musicians on their way to one last gig, and Beelphegor the Destroyer, a demon fallen from the stars, come to reclaim the world he was banished from a hundred thousand years ago. The story is, essentially, a single joke told very well. And, fortunately, the punchline is so well written you’ll likely forgive Justice for taking a bit too long to get to it.

On the darker side, we have tales like “Black Wings”, “Father’s Day”, and “Auschlander’s Gem”, all frightening stories tinged with melancholy which will stick with you long after you’ve read them. “Song of the Bones” and “Das Hollenfeuer” are both solid and, at times, outright terrifying, while “Hell is a Lonely Street” is a brisk, punchy tale with, perhaps, the single most badass ending I’ll read in any story this year. If you’re a Bradbury fan, you’ll enjoy “The Autumn Man”, while “Closure” is one of the more affecting stories you’ll read in this collection, even if it doesn’t qualify as horror.

The standout of this collection is, in this reviewer’s eyes, the haunting “Deadtown”. Featuring a group of characters as they come to grips with their arrival in what appears to be the afterlife, the story is both scary and somber, and features an ending that manages to be both downbeat , and yet, oddly hopeful. It is the story which inspired the book’s cover art, and is one of the best stories of its type I’ve read.

Further tales include “Life’s Work” (which details the inner thoughts of a sentient electric chair), “Agent of Death” (a funny critique on Hollywood, featuring an agent whose latest client happens to be the Angel of Death), and “Hole in the Sky” (a post-9/11 tale with a truly chilling ending). Perhaps the only weak link in this entire collection is the title story, which starts off as a strong, scary character piece, but ultimately dead-ends with its unsatisfying conclusion.

That niggle aside, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re a fan of short horror, or written horror in general, you need to seek out this collection. Stories that chill, entertain, frighten and haunt this much are in rare supply, and should not be overlooked.

4 1/2 out of 5

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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life

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Starring Ellen Page, Sam Keeley, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Paula Malcomson

Written and directed by David Freyne


Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.

Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.

The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.

Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.

Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.

Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.

The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.

  • The Cured
3.5

Summary

The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.

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Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed

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Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim

Directed by Brian Coyne


Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.

Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.

So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.

  • Film
1.5

Summary

I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.

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Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone

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Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters

Directed by Jeff Houkal


Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?

Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).

  • Film
3.5

Summary

Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”

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