Edited by Jeani Rector and Dean H. Wild
Foreword by Ramsey Campbell
Published by The Horror Zine
Jeani Rector’s The Horror Zine returns with another collection of stories, articles, poetry, and artwork in A Feast of Frights. Their previous compilation, What Fears Become (review here), was a very solid collection with some flaws. I’m glad to say that this collection is better, even if some of the flaws do remain.
The biggest improvement is in the stories. It’s very hard to find a short story collection that doesn’t have some clunkers, but this one is solid throughout. There’s not a bad or misplaced tale in the book. As before, Rector has chosen well-know writers such as Graham Masterton and Joe R. Lansdale and mixed in new or lesser-known authors, focusing on the quality of the work rather than the strength of the name. It’s a wise choice because some of the best stories are from the lesser-known authors.
“Filmland” by Stewart Horn is one of my favorites. An odd tale about reality and fantasy colliding, it made me want more tales in its universe. “The Dead Wall” by Michael Wolf packs a big punch in a very few pages with a tale that would fit well in the pages of EC comics back in the days of the Cryptkeeper.
The bigger names don’t fail us, however. “The Story of My First Kiss” by three-time Stoker nominee Jeff Strand is my absolute favorite tale in the book. It’s delightfully twisted, wickedly funny, and completely warped. Genre vet Ed Gorman contributes a sweet, sad tale of fandom and fame colliding in “Scream Queen”. The only horror it offers is the real kind, the kind that comes when you watch lives and relationships come apart.
One of my main gripes with What Fears Become was the art section. The art on the Horror Zine site is amazing. It just doesn’t translate given the way these books are published. Downsized, black and white, with a shabby dot-matrix-like printing method, the pieces just aren’t done any justice at all. Thankfully, the art section here has been reduced to just a couple of pages and mostly replaced with a new section, a collection of articles.
Unfortunately, this new section contains the only real missteps of the collection. While some of the articles are interesting and themed appropriately, especially John Gilmore’s discussion of his relationship with Elizabeth “The Black Dahlia” Short, others are just completely out of place. Kasey Lansdale, as I understand it, is quite an excellent country singer. However, other than being Joe R. Lansdale’s daughter, I have no idea why an article discussing her life and history in music would interest prospective readers of this collection. There are a couple other similar examples, but suffice it to say that while it’s better than the botched art gallery in the first collection, it still needs some refinement to justify its inclusion here.
A poetry section is included as well, and as before it’s hit and miss. I find poetry incredibly hard to critique to any value, as all I can really say is if it’s incredible or terrible. It’s so subjective. Best I can say is that this collection has nothing I found incredible and nothing I found terrible.
Closing out the collection is the Editor’s Corner, a section of pieces by Rector and her co-editor, Dean H. Wild. Both of Rector’s tales are solid, and Wild’s contribution, “The Bond”, is extremely creepy. All three are a good way to close out this collection.
With A Feast of Frights we have another strong collection of material from The Horror Zine. While the sections that don’t feature short fiction are the weak points, even removing them entirely, there’s still enough value here to recommend a purchase. It’s a good short story collection with some extras that are so/so. Buy it for the stories; read the extras if you like.
3 1/2 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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