Published by Razorbill
During the 2006 edition of Camp Necon (read about it here), I was handed this book by one of the editors at Razorbill and told it was a very cool YA novel that I would probably dig. The cover certainly impressed me, but I really wish they hadn’t mentioned it was YA. No matter what, I always go into a YA (sorry, Young Adult) novel with higher expectations when it’s trying to exist in our genre, and usually I’m just more judgmental about a YA horror yarn. Thankfully, all my worrying was for naught; The Black Tattoo is a damn fine that will appeal to bookworms of all ages.
Our two main characters, Jack and Charlie, have been best friends their entire lives. Now in their early teens, the complications of growing up and learning more and more of what the world can do to them is becoming difficult to deal with, as it is with all teenagers. For Charlie, though, things have gotten especially bad as his father just told him and his mom that he was leaving. He’d been seeing someone on the side for a long, long time and finally decided that he had to do whatever it took to make himself happy, and staying with his family was just not doing it.
Charlie has a lot of rage, then, and is ripe for the picking when a demon, trapped on Earth for thousands of years, is looking for a new host that will allow it to regain entrance into Hell. Its current host, a member of a group who have been keeping watch over the demon for as long as it’s been on Earth called The Brotherhood, sees the potential in Charlie and brings him and Jack to their headquarters under the pretense of choosing a new leader for the group. It’s all a bit fast and surprising for both boys, what with learning that both demons and Hell actually exist, but Charlie is so discontent with life that he’s willing to go along with anything.
Up until this point Enthoven’s tale has gone by at a good pace, with characters being introduced and set into the background for use later, but Charlie and Jack are at the center of things. Once Charlie is in the grasp of the demon, called Khentimentu the Scourge or simply The Scourge, the book takes a radically different turn as we are thrust out of the quiet streets of suburban London and into Hell itself.
Don’t worry, this isn’t like Ed Lee’s Hell from the Infernal series, though it does have similar properties. It’s a structure, with residents and societies and even a ruling class, though it’s a bit barbaric thanks to the fact that the current ruler of Hell gets bored very easily. Jack and Charlie show up in Hell (through a rift in space and time that exists only in a West End pub; one of many Neil Gaiman/Doug Adams-esque touches that make the book so enjoyable), with Charlie going wherever his demon tells him and Jack being forced to fight in gladiator tournaments and eat the vomit of a bat-like creature. Both of these sequences are some of the best of the book, as the mood in them is decidedly lighter than in the rest of the story, which deals with death and pain in equal measure. Enthoven has skillfully interwoven both plots together, the death and destruction that surrounds Charlie and the bizarre situations Jack finds himself in, without either one seeming out of place. Jack is not the comedy relief of the book; he’s more like the regular guy (you or me, presumably) thrust into the most dangerous of places because of his unquestioning loyalty for his friend.
The ultimate goal of The Scourge is to awaken The Dragon, a massive beast on which Hell is only a small mole or pimple, which will bring about the end of all things and return existence to The Void. Why The Scourge wants this to happen is a bit complicated, but needless to say the stakes are quite high for Charlie, Jack, and Esme, the highly-trained fighter who follows the boys to Hell in order to rescue them and finally defeat The Scourge, for which she’s been training her whole life. She has the worst time of it with the many revelations shoved upon her throughout the book and makes for the most tragic of characters.
All the characters in the book are strong and fully realized, but the best thing about The Black Tattoo is its ideas. The concept of Hell has been covered many times in many kinds of stories, but never has it come across quite the same as it does here. It’s not an evil place; in fact the concept of bad people going there when they die is laughed at a few times by its residents; it’s just a place like any other, with its own rules and structures in place. Hell, even God exists in Hell, deciding to go there when he got bored of watching the humans he created, which he really only did because there wasn’t much else to do. The way the characters deal with it all is believable, which is always the most important aspect of creating a whole new world; if your characters don’t believe it, why will you? Luckily it’s not a question you’ll have to ask when you read The Black Tattoo.
Razorbill will release The Black Tattoo this October, so if you’re in the mood for a fun adventure with lots of cool monsters, tons of fighting, a trip to Hell, and the saving of the universe thanks to a lowly human, use the link below to make sure you don’t miss it!
4 out of 5
Discuss The Black Tattoo in our forums!
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!
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 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
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?
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
Funko Giving Jurassic Park the Pop! Treatment as Only They Can
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
Must-See: Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees Fan Short Film
PG-13 or R? The Strangers: Prey at Night Gets Official MPAA Rating
Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Gender Bashing: The Exorcist Series and the Male Body in Possession Horror
Zak Bagans’ Paranormal-Themed Documentary Demon House Acquired: Aiming For March Release
Julie, Sweet Julie: Why Return of the Living Dead 3 Is One of the Most Inventive Sequels Ever
Decade of Horror (2010-2017): What Have We Learned in the Past 7 Years?
Top 10 Lists6 days ago
13 Lesser Known Found Footage Films That Just Might Restore Your Faith in the Genre.
News4 days ago
An Early Draft of Halloween 6 Has Been Released And It’s… Interesting
Editorials5 days ago
Why Brad Anderson’s Session 9 Scared the Hell Out of Me
News6 days ago
Exclusive Delirium Clip Goes Running Through the ‘Net!
News4 days ago
Universal’s Bride of Frankenstein Reboot Back on Track With Gal Gadot?
News3 days ago
The Evil Dead Trilogy Cuts a 72-Minute Super Cut in Black and White
News4 days ago
Zac Efron Looks Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile as Ted Bundy
Dread Central Presents6 days ago
Dread Central Presents’ Villmark Asylum Now on Amazon Prime!