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Ghosts of Albion: Accursed (Book)



Written by Amber Benson & Christopher Golden

Published by Ballantine Books

Chris Golden has been a favorite author of mine for quite a while. Ever since my wife first told me I had to read his Shadow Saga series, I’ve been pretty much hooked on his work. When he teamed up with “Buffy” star Amber Benson a few years back to create Ghosts of Albion, a Flash-animated series for the BBC online, however, I somehow completely missed the entire thing.

No worries there as it’s still online (click here to see it), and now that I’ve read the duo’s first novel based in that world, I’m definitely going to be checking it out.

Ghosts of Albion: Accursed starts after the events of the BBC series “Embers” and finds brother and sister William and Tamara Swift dealing with the new-found power that has recently been handed down to them by their grandfather; they are now the Protectors of Albion, a position of great secrecy among British citizens but of the utmost importance to the future of Great Britain.

But what is Albion? To put it simply, it is the very soul of England. Copious amounts of history and magic come with the Protectorship, and though Will and Tamara were somewhat aware of their grandfather’s importance, they never had any idea of just how vital his role was until the duties were handed down to them. When the novel opens, they’re more or less comfortable with both their powers and position and have learned to harness them to the point of causality. This comes after long bouts of practice and intense study with the help of the ghosts of the title, spirits tethered to this world to serve as support for the Protectorship.

Throughout England women are being assaulted and raped by men who have suddenly turned bestial in both action and appearance. The women become pregnant, and within a few weeks their bellies are swollen, but they’re not giving birth to human children. What comes out of them, usually by bursting through the stomach as opposed to the traditional route, are hideous toad creatures that soon fill the streets of London’s slums. At the same time statues of an Indian goddess start showing up in the homes of some of Britain’s high society, who transform into hideous lizard creatures and then set out to assault and rape women. As if all that weren’t bad enough, fully-grown monstrosities are following a beautiful young woman around and eating British citizens.

Who can get to the bottom of this madness? Only the Protectors of Albion of course, but unfortunately it takes quite a while for the information to get to them. By the time it does, the plague has almost reached Buckingham Palace.

Ghosts of Albion: Accursed is a nasty piece of work set in the 19th Century, and both Golden and Benson showcase a strong sense of place and time in their writing style. The Swifts are part of the British elite because of their heritage, so a lot of their actions and day-to-day activities had to be researched by the authors to make sure it all made sense, and they did an admirable job with that aspect. There’s also a lot of political subtext going on with the Indian population of Great Britain taking great offense to the country’s imperialization of their homeland, a topic I’ve never read much about but the team obviously researched thoroughly.

And then there’s the horror. The opening chapter alone is enough to make your stomach turn, though it never gets quite that nasty again. There’s a lot of bloodshed, heads being torn off, and bodies split open; and the simple fact is what the Swifts and their ghostly companions are dealing with are monsters. There’s something very pure and raw about that to me; these creatures were summoned from the depths of hell to kill and eat the citizens of England. Ultimately there’s an intelligence behind the summoning that has to be dealt with, but when the characters’ knowledge of the beasts’ origins is limited, it seems as though a plague of reptilian monsters has taken over London. And it’s a bloody one.

Unfortunately, one of things lacking from Ghosts of Albion: Accursed is a sense of pacing. Right before heading in to see all the dead and dying of London’s slums, the siblings, their vampire friend Nigel, and the ghosts all have a long conversation about personal matters that doesn’t have anything to do with protecting England or dealing with the monsters. Often there were great action set pieces being led up to that were suddenly interrupted by the characters doing things you really wouldn’t have time for if you were out to save your home. Overall it was distracting and served to take me out of the story a little too often, but I suppose that can be a pitfall of having two writers working rather than one.

There were other inconsistencies that cropped up as well. I was never able to figure out what the toad creatures that were coming out of the women turned into other than hideous toad creatures since the full-grown men were the ones changing into lizard people. I supposed the toads served as the eyes and ears of the more important demons, but the way they came into the world indicated a larger evil than what they were ultimately responsible for.

Those minor gripes aside, Ghosts of Albion: Accursed was a great read and helped to expand on (for those that have seen the BBC series) or create (for those that haven’t) an interesting new world filled with its own rules and characters, all against a backdrop that is utilized far too little in the literary world for action-focused stories: 19th Century London. It was a dirty time, a time when there were just the super rich and devastatingly poor, which lends itself to all sorts of potential nastiness that could have been going on at the time. Throw the supernatural in the mix and two characters who are just trying to have a life while at the same time prevent the destruction of England by malevolent forces, and you’ve got the recipe for a series that could go on for a very long time.

3 ½ out of 5

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It



Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow

It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

  • Film


Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan



Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

Distributed by Arrow Video

As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

Special Features:

  • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
  • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
  • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Wolf Guy
  • Special Features


While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

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Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?



Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas

While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

  • Inside (Remake)


Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

User Rating 1.75 (4 votes)
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