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Grave Intent (Book)

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Written by Deborah LeBlanc

Published by Leisure Books


The second novel has got to be a lot of pressure for a new author, but luckily for Deborah LeBlanc, her writing skills were more than up to the task with Grave Intent, the follow up to Family Inheritance.

The story begins with a strange ritual 19 years ago. A young gypsy woman, Anna Stevenson, has given birth to a beautiful little girl. When the girl is only a few months old, however, her husband Ephraim, the domineering leader of their clan, demands she must be branded for a safe trip to the afterlife upon the occasion of her death. It’s a new tradition, but to him it’s one that assures his little girl will be safe in the on the other side, despite the dangers to his daughter. Quite a harrowing bit of storytelling here, as the tension slowly builds to the moment the tradition is enacted, and it’s a great way to kick off the story.

Present day, and the young girl from the beginning has died due to an accident while riding a horse. The wake is being handled by our main character, Michael Savoy, who has to deal with the large gypsy clan that is trashing his funeral home, as well as the return of his estranged father, begging for money to help him pay off a loan shark who’s threatening to kill him if he doesn’t get the money soon.

A ceremony takes place at the wake the sees the girls’ father produce a gold coin and has it placed in the hands of his dead daughter, which is said to ensure safe passage for her spirit. Later, Michael realizes the coin has been stolen from the corpse, and his father has yet again disappeared. Needless to say the gypsies aren’t thrilled, and Savoy is told that he has 48 hours to get the coin back or he and his entire family will die. Horribly. Mercilessly. Painfully.

The story flows very well after the first hundred pages or so, though it does seem to take a while to ramp up into the truly scary side of things, not getting any steam in that department until after the 200 page mark. A lot of the time is spent setting up some suspense, but it’s mainly to give us a closer look at the main characters; namely Michael and his wife.

Character-wise, the storytelling is solid and it’s obvious LeBlanc had a clear picture of these people in her head, even if they come off a bit generic at times, but that can be forgiven considering the situation they’re thrust into. Outside of that I did have some issues with it.

The introduction, and indeed many scenes at the funeral home, set up Ephraim, the dead girl’s father, as a fairly central character; you get the feeling will be a part of the horror when it all comes down. Instead shortly after the mother takes some desperate measures to help her daughter’s spirit, he and all the other members of the family, save for her grandfather, disappear all together. While this is important for the story of Michael attempting to reach his family in time, I found myself wishing a bit more were being done with the gypsy angle of the tale, which had been set up solidly at the beginning. Granted, the source of the Savoy’s family’s terror comes from the clan, but it seemed almost secondary in the overall plot.

There are other threads like this that are placed out there but seem to go nowhere, or at least are never explained to my satisfaction. On one side of the coin I found it frustrating, mainly because I want to know more about what’s going on, but on the other side I see it as a ballsy move to not feature moments of exposition that just wouldn’t take place in the real world in order to give a clearer idea of what’s going on. LeBlanc gives us just enough to make us care about her characters and realize the danger they’re in, and no more. That kind of move will always upset someone, and if that’s you I hope you can see it from the other side, as well.

All in all, Grave Intent is a solid sophomore effort from an emerging talent. I hope she’s able to stretch her skills out into more topics with her next story, and maybe give her characters a little more personality. She’s definitely got some great ideas, and I’m interested to see what she comes up with next.


3 out of 5

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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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.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

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.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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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!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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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

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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.

  • Film
2.0

Summary

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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