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    I don’t discuss fantasy very often here at FEARnet, and the reason is twofold: one, I find the genre as a whole be rather trite and repetitive (says the guy whose meal ticket is written with scads of zombie games) and two, very little of the genre is dark enough to discuss here.  We’ve had the occasional opportunity for coverage (Atlus’ Dark Souls being a prime example), but usually the swords-and-sorcery shtick is left off the table.  Soul Sacrifice on the Playstation Vita, however, manages to tweak the fantasy genre in such a way that is tickles my dark heart.

    The first title from Comcept, the studio founded by Dead Rising’s Keiji Inafune, Soul Sacrifice is a fascinating exercise in dual identity, a theme which runs through its veins from its storytelling to its gameplay.  The game starts off in a unique fashion with your enslaved character finding Librom, a flesh-bound tome that comes off like the Necronomicon’s smart-ass cousin.  Within the pages of Librom you find the journal entries of those who have faced the Magusar, the game’s main villain, and you are tasked with reliving these sorcerers’ campaigns against the monsters that plague the land.  These monsters have more mundane roots, be they simple cats or shamed knights, who have become twisted versions of their former selves.  “Reading” each of these tales drops you into a small arena where, for a brief period, you use your arsenal of spells and rites to combat your foes.  Your ultimate goal is to learn from your predecessor so that you can defeat the Magusar yourself.

    The unique aspect of the game’s spells and rites comes from their more sacrificial aspect.  Some sap your health, others can be fused to create more powerful varieties, but at the cost of your finite stockpile.  There are also Black Rites, mega-spells that devastate all around you, but at the cost of your own character’s stats.  One summons a giant, fiery demon to scorch everything in sight, including your own skin, which reduces your defense.  Despite the dark fantasy trappings of the game, this shocking sense of mortality is a very grounding experience.

    The other sense of sacrifice comes from your foes.  The monsters, with some awesomely creepy designs, are returned to their more basic forms upon defeat, which you can then choose to “save” or “sacrifice,” which gives you more health or offensive ability, respectively.  While the initial enemies can be sacrificed pretty easily (except I felt bad taking out the poor kitty cats because I’m a sap), it becomes much darker by the end of the game’s first chapter.

    The writing of Soul Sacrifice is deliciously dark and deep, a strong counterpoint to the fairly shallow gameplay.  The first chapter hits it home when you become accustomed to your companion, a woman named Sortiara.  While initially aloof, there are hints of tenderness in the writing between levels, as your character comforts her through her physical and emotional suffering.  When you are forced to make a sacrifice—her—the gravity of your life as a sorcerer hits home like a brick.  While your initial goal is simple, there’s a lot more under the surface that shows that your life is truly bleak.  I really can’t state enough just how good this writing is, and it never feels heavy-handed even when the concepts in play could easily be played off in a melodramatic fashion.

    For Playstation Vita owners, the game is an absolute must-buy (not that there’s much more out there for the system, but I digress), with its gorgeous graphics and fantastic writing wrapping around a very simple game with easily digestible levels that suit the portable format.  It may not sell you on Sony’s fantastic, but poorly supported portable, but it makes one hell of a case.

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    Back in February, Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor revealed that his legendary band was reuniting for a tour this summer... but what he didn't tell us was that the band was already in the studio working on their next album at the time. Trent has finally confessed that the new record is not only a done deal, but it's actually slated for release this year.
    “I’ve been less than honest about what I’ve really been up to lately,” Reznor posted at the band's official site. “For the last year I’ve been secretly working non-stop with Atticus Ross [Trent's long-time collaborator and fellow Golden Globe-winning composer] and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly fucking great.” 
    We've known that new NIN material was in the works – the first since the band completed their “Wave Goodbye” tour in 2009 – and that the band would hit the stage again. But apparently they've been secretly recording new music all this time. Even more surprising is the news they've also signed to a major label, Columbia Records, and invited their veteran guitarist Robin Finck (shown below right) back to the official lineup, which also includes Alessandro Cortini, Josh Eustis and Ilan Rubin.
    “My forays into film, HTDA [side project How to Destroy Angels] and other projects really stimulated me creatively and I decided to focus that energy on taking Nine Inch Nails to a new place,” Reznor explained in the post, concluding with the words “Here we go!”
    The new Nine Inch Nails lineup will make their live debut on July 26th at the Fuji Rock Festival in Naeba, Japan. More news to come, so stay tuned!

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    Just when you thought the makers of the Human Centipede films couldn't shock us any worse, now comes the announcement that Oscar nominee Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight) has been signed to the cast of the new installment, Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence).
    According to a report from Entertainment Weekly, Roberts now joins Tommy “Tiny” Lister, Robert LaSardo and Bree Olson for the confirmed cast, alongside returning Centipede psychos Dieter Laser and Laurence R. Harvey.
    As we reported last week, the third film is rumored to be set in a prison, and will feature a 500-person centipede.

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    As you already know, gourmet serial killer Hannibal Lecter is known to enjoy a nice Chianti with his dinner... so it was only a matter of time before the fine folks at the Alamo Drafthouse would create a signature wine in his honor. After the success of the Princess Bride-themed wine “The Bottle of Wits” last year, the Alamo followed up with two new offerings for 2013: "The Cannibal Chianti," in tribute to Lecter; and the "Suit Yourself Pinot Grigio," dedicated to fellow Silence of the Lambs killer Jamie “Buffalo Bill” Gumb (known not for his eating habits, but for his unique fashion sense). 
    The labels and packaging, designed by Helms Workshop in Austin, contain many detailed references to The Silence of the Lambs, which makes this a must-have for fans of the film. Limited-run gift sets feature a bag of fava beans (emblazoned with a red dragon) and a recipe by Alamo chef Trish Eichelberger on how to prepare them; and a burlap bag containing a bottle of “Buffalo Bill Lotion” (which, we assume, also fits nicely in a basket). The wines will be on the market for one year, and both are available now at all Alamo Drafthouse locations, and online at
    But wait, there's more! To support this release, the esteemed artists at Mondo will be selling two limited-edition Silence of the Lambs screen prints (shown below). The sale will take place tomorrow, May 30th, and as usual, Mondo will announce the launch time via their Twitter feed.

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    Synapse Films has announced new special edition prints of Demons and Demons 2, each in a special steelbook case with new cover art from Wes Benscoter. Limited to a strict run of 3000 copies, once they are gone, they are gone. They aren't cheap: $39.95 each, but the list of extras is pretty impressive.




    - Limited Edition Steelbook Featuring All-New Artwork from Wes Benscoter
    - Each Steelbook is Blu-ray packaging sized, and will be a “Combo Pack” containing both a Blu-ray (BD-50) and a DVD (DVD-9) of the feature and extras.
    - Unlike previous releases, we have the original Italian Language Stereo mix, the “International” stereo alternate dub mix and the original U.S. mono soundtrack!
    - Audio Commentary Track with Cast & Crew Featuring Recollections from Director Lamberto Bava, Make-up Effects Artist Sergio Stivaletti, Musician Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta.
    - Removable English Subtitles for both the U.S. Language Dub Version, as well as the Original Italian Version.
    - Collectible Reproduction of the Original Metropol Theatre Ticket seen in the Film.
    - The transfer is from a new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio [not the same muted colors and weak black levels as previous released versions].
    - All audio tracks will be encoded in DTS-HD MA.

    Featurettes (from Calum Waddell’s HIGH RISING PRODUCTIONS Company) include:
    CARNAGE AT THE CINEMA – LAMBERTO BAVA AND HIS SPLATTER MASTERPIECE – 30 Minute Interview with Director Lamberto Bava
    SPLATTER STUNT ROCK – Interview with Stunt Man Ottaviano Dell’Acqua
    DARIO AND HIS DEMONS – PRODUCING MONSTER MAYHEM – All-New Exclusive Interview with Producer Dario Argento.

    Demons 2

    Demons 2:


    [Extras/Transfer are still in the early stages of completion.  What we list below is what we currently have.  Other extras may still be added.]

    - Limited Edition Steelbook Featuring All-New Artwork from Wes Benscoter
    - Each Steelbook is Blu-ray packaging sized, and will be a “Combo Pack” containing both a Blu-ray (BD-50) and a DVD (DVD-9) of the feature and extras.
    - Contains the Original Italian Language Mix and the Original English Soundtrack.
    - Removable English Subtitles for both the English and Italian Versions.
    - The transfer is from a new HD scan of the original 35mm negative, in 1080p/23.98fps 1.66:1 aspect ratio [not the same muted colors and weak black levels as previous released versions].
    - All audio tracks will be encoded in DTS-HD MA.

    -Featurettes (from Calum Waddell’s HIGH RISING PRODUCTIONS Company) include:
    THE DEMONS GENERATION – ROY BAVA DISCUSSES A LEGACY IN LACERATIONS – Assistant Director Roy Bava Speaks About His Experiences on DEMONS and DEMONS 2
    A SOUNDTRACK FOR SPLATTER – Composer Simon Boswell Discusses His Genre Music Making Career.

    Pre-orders will be accepted through Synapse Films in the next week or so, with product shipping as soon as it arrives (despite the November street date).

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    In this final part of the Karl Alexander interview, we talk about the web - good and bad. But just before going to press with this, I received an email from Karl alerting me to the fact that his latest novel, Time-Crossed Lovers, was selected as a finalist for the 2013 International Book Awards. Congrats, Karl! May it kick off another phase in your writing history.
    So, do you think that with both sides of the double-edged sword that is the Web, has it helped or hindered in the best interests of an author?
    I think writing in all different genres will hinder a young writer. I do know a couple of people who have just recently joined creative writing programs, MFA's and such. I see exactly the same behavior that I recall when I was starting out. I think that's a mistake. Granted, you have to learn somewhere. But they're worried about character. They're worried about: is their fiction any good? They're worried about structure and all those things that we kind of take for granted. I think they should realize and think about (A) marketing and (B) who their audience is going to be. Without those two things their writing is onanism. They're writing for themselves and that's it. 
    The best part of the writing process, in my opinion, is actually sitting down and writing. Somehow, if you consider it your profession, you have to make a living doing it or you have to try. So as far as the Web goes I don't know what's going to happen because I don't think the publishers know what's going to happen. I think things are changing so quickly that nobody can predict it. I know I would much rather read a book, a physical book, than I would pick up my Kindle and read it electronically. 
    Do you think that’s because you’re “Old School?”
    Probably. That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. Bookstores keep going out of business. Hopefully that will change. The one good thing that I think Amazon did when it came along was increase the number of people who are actually reading books. But then I talk to someone who told me they just bought a Kindle and had 5,000 titles on it. Isn't that great? I'm thinking "When are you going to read 5,000 titles... or one title?" The problem with electronic books and the problem with the internet is that it cheapens what a writer does. The fact is that the person who puts their own book up on the internet to get 70% of the $2.99 sales price, once his friends buy the book, is invisible. 
    It seems like some of the best-selling authors online are the people who have already established themselves as a best-selling print author.
    That's exactly right. The other ones might as well go to Vegas play the Mega-Bucks jackpot. Which isn't a bad idea.
    What about the lack of vetting or absence of a gatekeeper online to help strain out the crap that would never have made it into print? There was a reason that most of that stuff never made it into print.
    I agree with you. I'm sure we'll have an answer soon but then again maybe... no. The self-publishing industry is just going to get more prolific because it is so easy to do. 
    One of my great pleasures as an individual book buyer is browsing. It's not browsing online.
    That's true. We may be old school, but the process of browsing... I don't think a teenager is going to be able to browse through Amazon any better than you or I because they are invisible. Whereas you can go into a book store and walk down an aisle and look at titles and read jackets. Maybe the color of one jumps out at you and you pull it out and read the flap. That's what I do. Doesn't mean that there aren't going to be great books written. It doesn't mean that there aren't going to be bestsellers. But it means that for the vast majority of writers that they'd better have that trust fund or a day job or they are going to be scrambling. 
    Unfortunately, the gatekeepers disappeared first. Now where does that leave the major publishers? I don't know. I guess they think about that every day. Unless they can find a way to keep print books going, they're not going to be around much longer. People will say "Why should I buy a book for $15 when I can get it for 99 cents?" Or for nothing. 70% of 99 cents is not a whole lot.
    Instead of being entitled to having your book printed, you should hear the word “No” occasionally, which this current generation isn't used to. As a writer, it will make your next book better if the one you have just written isn't good enough to publish. Because you're not going to make those first mistakes the second or third or fifth time around.
    I was thinking of a student in a MFA program who writes a book and submits it to his class or workshop or his professor and they say "This is awful," or words to that effect. If he's really got the desire to be a writer then he's got to go back and either jettison the first manuscript and sit down and try and write another one that is worth reading. I think what we are talking about are people who don't want to go through that process and yet they have the same access to us (the reading public) that the good writers have.
    As a writer that's a scary thought.
    That's true and it is our reality. What do we do? Roll with the punches and keep writing, I guess. We need a generation of Medicis.
    So how about one line of advice to somebody just dipping their toes in the writing pond?
    Think long and hard. Have a day job that is interesting or a trust fund. Don't think too hard about a family, because if you're writing on the weekends the wife and the kids aren't going to be too happy about it. Other than that? Hey man, go for it.
    Karl Alexander can be found on Facebook.
    Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies, “The Home of Horror,” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at

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  • 05/29/13--15:00: The Unseen – 'Baby Blood'

    This week’s installment comes from France circa 1990. This title is not excessively hard to track down, but yet is another that many horror fans may have missed or overlooked. I present to you... Baby Blood.


    I must confess even I missed this title. I did not discover it until last year when I was pregnant. Though many women may, rightfully so, chose not to watch pregnancy-themed horror films while they have a bun in the oven, my sick brain was drawn to them. After viewing Rosemary’s Baby, The Devil Within, and It’s Alive, I found myself searching for something rare, something I had never seen before. Thus, I found Baby Blood.
    Written and directed by Alan Robak, Baby Blood focuses on a circus performer named Yanka. After being abused by her lover she flees the circus and sets out on her own. Yanka thinks she is pregnant but soon realizes she is not harboring a baby but instead a snake-like parasite that crawled into her uterus. Yanka must consume large amounts of fresh human blood to keep the parasite alive. But here is the best part: the parasite talks to her. Think Aylmer from Brain Damage, but this parasite is a lot smarter and set on world domination. 
    Baby Blood is ridiculously gory. Filled with Yanka’s murders and then subsequent blood-lettings, this film fits right in with what we now know as French Extreme. It was even gorier in its original French format. When first released in the USA, the distributors cut some of the more disturbing and bloody sequences, including scenes of naked and pregnant Yanka rolling around in blood, and also a scene of where she has sex with a gent and the parasite takes a bite of his “member”. 
    But the cut VHS release is by no means the only thing that has kept Baby Blood underground. I would also point a blood-covered finger at the very mature and unpleasant subject matter, which includes (but is not limited to) spousal abuse, a strange discussion on incest and anal sex (cut from early VHS release), a parasite that crawls inside vaginas and discussion on how that is done, and to add to the weirdness, the parasite/baby thing gives the mother orgasms when it moves around. This movie is not going to be everyone’s cup of blood, nor can it be marketed to the horror masses.
    Plus, this movie has a lot more larger topics at work here than just the carnage. First, the movie is pumped full of gender issues. While Yanka is taking control of her of life and womanhood, all the men in the film are abusive and rape-y. Then there is the snarky parasite. Unlike Brain Damage’s Alymer, the Baby Blood parasite is not happy simply singing Bing Crosby-esque tunes. This witty parasite spends his time discussing social theory with Yanka, including really heady philosophical discussions on what guides human nature, the implementation and exacerbation of chaos in the world, and the role of God in an inhuman society. Still somehow the parasite’s abstract metaphysical musings always end in a gory and organ/brain covered mess. 
    Since the VHS release from the early 1990’s is a hatchet job of cuts, I would recommend the DVD. Anchor Bay did a rather limited release of Baby Blood in 2006. Film purists everywhere hated this release because Anchor Bay chose to dub over the original French language. But there is a bright side to this dubbing debauchery: the peevish parasite is voiced by Gary Oldman, who provides a nice dry wit to the blood-sucker. Though many online critics still bitch endlessly about the dubbing, I say if it must be dubbed, at least have Gary Oldman! Baby Blood can be picked up on both Netflix for rental and on Amazon for a reasonable price. 
    Director Alain Robak followed Baby Blood with a 2008 sequel entitled Lady Blood. This one is actually a hard-to-find film, as I have been trying to locate a copy for months. Blockbuster offers it for rent online, however Netflix does not. So if anyone still sports a Blockbuster membership, check out the sequel and let me know if it is worth my hunt.
    Got an “unseen” title I should check out or a recommendation for a future installment? Email me at

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  • 05/29/13--16:00: R.I.P. Director Eddie Romero

    We're sad to report that celebrated Filipino filmmaker Eddie Romero, best known among horror & exploitation fans for the “Blood Island” horror film series and his work with Roger Corman on several Philippines-based movies, passed away yesterday at 88. According to his son, Romero had been hospitalized for much of this month and lapsed into a coma shortly before his death.
    Romero was a highly honored filmmaker in the Philippines, and was awarded the title of National Artist for Cinema and Broadcast Arts in 2003. Over a sixty-year career, he has directed many acclaimed films in his native country, but fans of vintage horror and exploitation cinema remember him most fondly for the gory “Blood Island” series, which began with the surprise hit Mad Doctor of Blood Island in 1968, and included the sequels Beast of Blood and Brides of Blood; he's also noted for his '70s film collaborations with B-movie icon Roger Corman, such as Black Mama, White Mama and The Twilight People (both featuring the legendary Pam Grier).
    Much of Romero's genre output is readily available on DVD, including the insanely entertaining Blood Island films, so be sure to check them out; they're sleazy, cheesy fun.

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    bates motelCongratulations A&E. You did something that no one else has been able to do: make a successful spinoff in the Psycho mythology. There were a lot of naysayers out there for Bates Motel (from people saying that the show was pointless to people saying that the show would trample on Hitchcock’s legacy) but you bitch-slapped them all down.

    And why was it successful? Because it is good. And much of that praise goes to stars Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. Highmore, as Norman, walks a brilliant tightrope between sweet - if emotionally stunted - teenager and a boiling cauldron of rage and psychosis. His portrayal is so subtle that if you didn’t know the story of Psycho, you may miss little twitches and shifts in demeanor that convey more than mere words can. Farmiga’s portrayal of Norma is insane and over-the-top - but completely believable. Norma never feels like a caricature, just an emotionally stunted mother who is trying to do the best she can.

    Executive producer Carlton Cuse has already given us a hint about season two, that we will discover more of Norma’s twisted family tree. Will the brother who raped her for years show up? In the season finale, Norma says that she never told her dad about the incest because she was convinced he would kill him, so no matter what horrible things her brother did to her, Norma has some sort of love for him. Will she let him stay at the motel? And, more importantly, will Norman let him live? I can only imagine that if Norma’s brother shows his face, Norman’s first instinct will be to kill him, but I am thinking he is not successful... at least, not the first time. It will create a fantastic, tense dynamic.

    Norma also mentioned her parents. Dad was a violent alcoholic, but she didn’t have much to say about her mom - just that she was “no longer there.” To me, that sounds more like she wasn’t there mentally. Norma has to have a family history of mental instability. Maybe her mom was bi-polar, or even schizophrenic. On top of all that, just who is Dylan’s father? Nothing much is said about him, other than that he and Dylan don’t get along even more than he and Norma don’t get along.

    I truly hope they keep the focus on the Bates family. That is where the strength of the show lies. Off and on throughout season one, it seemed like they were trying to make Bates Motel like a darker Twin Peaks. And I think that is a mistake. The entire Psycho legacy has always had its root in family, and that is the most interesting material in Bates Motel. You can’t recapture the magic of Twin Peaks, so everyone just stop trying.

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    I saw the trailer for Machete Kills in the theater last weekend (During Fast & Furious 6) , and I literally cheered. Of course, I was the only one applauding. Well the trailer has finally hit the web, so hopefully that will get the word out to people.

    Ex-Federale agent Machete is recruited by the President of the United States for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man - he must take down a madman revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and anarchy across the planet.

    Starring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara, Demian Bichir, Mel Gibson, and Carlos Estevez (you may know him as Charleen Sheen). Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez.

    Machete Kills slashes its way into theaters on September 13th

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    The back cover of Deadly Premonition Director’s Cut for the Playstation 3 declares that the original Xbox version was “the most critically polarizing game of recent times.”  They aren’t kidding: reviews on Metacritic range from a perfect 100 score to a barrel-scraping 20, with a slew of scores in between.  I’ll be frank and tell you that Deadly Premonition is in no way a game for everyone.  Its graphics are uneven, the gameplay seems ripped from the Playstation 1 era, and the voice acting is so goddamn hammy and cheesy that if you threw in a couple eggs you’d have one hell of an omelet.  Despite these “issues,” and sometimes even because of them, Deadly Premonition is a game like no other.

    Simply summing up the game in a sentence speaks volumes of its lunacy.  Imagine Twin Peaks if it was directed by Takashi Miike after he’d gobbled a handful of random pills…and that just barely scrapes the surface.  The opening cinematic of the game doesn’t even try to hide its intentions: a grandfather leads his twin grandsons through a field where they stumble upon a mutilated woman crucified to a tree (shades of Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic).  The death sends ripples throughout the town of Greenvale, where we see its citizens reacting to the loss to the wailing strains of an acid-jazz soundtrack.

    The lunacy continues from there, with the introduction of FBI Agent Francis York Morgan, who frequently talks to his alternate personality Zach (again, shades of Twin Peaks’ Dale Cooper and his tape recorder) as he drives towards Greenvale.  He swerves to miss a mysterious figure and rolls his car—almost into a pair of squirrels who inexplicably shriek like monkeys—on the outskirts of town.  Then he faces the zombies.  These are not typical zombies.  They creep at you while bending over backwards, their eyes black hollows and their mouths slit open into Chelsea grins.  It’s complete and utter madness, but it fits the nuttiness of the game perfectly.  Does it make sense?  No.  Does it work within the complete lack of logic that Deadly Premonition operates under?  Absolutely.  There’s an overarching storyline involving the Red Seed Murders and a mysterious serial killer, but it’s only the thinnest of threads in the overall tapestry of madness.

    The main reason the game succeeds so well is because of its lack of logic and proper structure.  There are no concessions made to what should or shouldn’t be done in a game.  The game can’t go off the rails because it was never on them, or even within miles of them.  This is a game that has you fighting inverted ghouls, staving off an indestructible serial killer in a raincoat, and interacting with characters so strange that you find yourself completely shocked with what you’re being presented with.  What other game has a gas-masked paraplegic having his assistant (who speaks in rhyming couplets, no less) order a “sinner’s sandwich” of turkey, strawberry jam, and cereal, all set to a soundtrack that changes from lilting muzak to squealing saxophones to upbeat guitar rock in a matter of seconds?  What other game parades its low-resolution textures and stiff models for all to see without a care in the world?  What other game completely throws all logic and sense to the wind and all but rubs your nose in it?  Designer Swery simply made the game that he wanted to make, and it simply seems like he doesn’t give a shit if you like or understand it, but he does so without pretentiousness or arrogance.

    The Playstation 3 release of the game is also worth a look, even for those who have already played the original version on the Xbox 360.  Graphics have been slightly enhanced (not so much as to lose their slipshod charm, however), and there are now options for Move controls (meh) and 3D for those with the right hardware (again, meh).  The main appeal is that the storyline has been beefed up, adding in additional scenes that only add to the madness on display.

    Again, I can’t stress enough that Deadly Premonition is not a game for everyone.  The sloppy controls and odd, open-world gameplay will turn people off as surely as the behind-the-curve graphics and awful voice acting.  However, this is a game that is completely dedicated to its vision, and stays the path no matter how crazy it may get.  That has to count for something, and gamers with open minds—and possibly a supply of psychedelics—will get nothing but immense, insane joy from it.  Details on the game have been left intentionally vague, as this game cannot be described properly through words…it truly needs to be experienced to be appreciated, no matter how fucking nuts it seems.

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    Last weekend at Spooky Empire's“May-Hem” convention in Orlando, Florida – a massive gathering of pros, fans and vendors from the world of horror entertainment –   veteran voice actress Pat Carroll, the original voice of the diabolical tentacled sorceress Ursula in Disney's The Little Mermaid, read an excerpt from the script for the “Ghost Host” introduction to Disneyland's beloved Haunted Mansion ride.
    Originally voiced by another voice-acting legend, Paul Frees, the ghost's narration was read by Carroll in full character as Ursula, complete with her terrifying evil laugh. We have a clip of that reading, courtesy of the Disney news site Inside the Magic. Watch and listen!

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    IDW Limited has just unveiled their upcoming limited edition hardcover Mars Attacks: Attack from Space, which compiles the first five issues of the IDW comic book based on Topps' outrageous collectible card series Mars Attacks! The compilation is accompanied by hand-drawn sketch cards from a huge roster of artists in many different fields.
    IDW worked directly with Topps and the contributors, which include series artist John McCrea, alternative gallery painter Apricot Mantle, and trading card artist Nar!, to provide original, hand-illustrated and hand-painted card art. The cards are foil-stamped exclusively for this release.
    “When we started designs for the limited edition, we wanted to make sure we celebrated not just the IDW comic, but the roots of the series as well,” said IDW Limited director Jerry Bennington. “To us, that meant we had to do sketch cards, and we had to do them right.”
    The 124-page hardcover will be released in both Red and Blue Label versions, each signed by the creative team of John Layman and John McCrea, housed in a custom-built tray case and paired with the hand-drawn cards. Red Label books (250 total at $125 each) will include one sketch card; Blue Label editions (50 total at $400) will be packaged with a four-card puzzle set. IDW is taking preorders now at their official site.

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    We just can't keep up with all these reports of bizarre real-life monsters crawling, swimming and just oozing all over the planet. Whether it's a carnivorous catfish that can walk on land, or an eel the size of a Prius, these real world discoveries are getting way freakier than anything we can make up. So what the hell, how abut ginormous fluorescent pink slugs?
    Yes, they exist, and were found on the peak of Mount Kaputar, in New South Wales, Australia, where it seem bizarre new species are being discovered quite frequently. As reported by, Australian park ranger Michael Murphy is one of a select few people to find and photograph the slug, which is around 20 cm (7.8 in) long. "On a good morning, you can walk around and see hundreds of them,” Murphy told Australian TV, “but only in that one area.”
    Murphy described another bizarre find living on the same mountain: the cannibal snail. "They're voracious little fellas," he reported. "They hunt around on the forest floor to pick up the slime trail of another snail, then hunt it down and gobble it up."

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    The leader of the puppets, and the only puppet to appear in all Puppet Master films, Blade was easily the scariest of all the puppets. Full Moon has taken the scare-factor down a couple notches and made a plush doll out of Blade. Don't worry - he still has his hook hand and knife hand - they are just unlikely to kill you.

    $24.95 at

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    One of the main attractions at this year’s Comicpalooza in Houston—in addition to appearances by the likes of Patrick Stewart, Michelle Rodriguez and Danny Trejo—was the three-day Dollar Baby Film Festival organized by Shawn S. Lealos.

    What’s a “Dollar Baby?” It’s a short film based on a Stephen King story or novella. For decades, King has allowed people to acquire limited film rights to an available story for one dollar. The resulting movies cannot be released on the internet or shown at for-profit venues, which limits their availability to festivals like this one. The filmmakers can include their movies on clip reels as calling cards. King also gets a copy of the finished product. The quality of these adaptations is all over the map, but the increased availability of affordable digital cameras and video editing software means that the community is growing by leaps and bounds.
    During the Q&A session at the end of the third day, someone asked directors Rodney Altman, James B. Cox and Lealos how this benefitted filmmakers. Getting films accepted into film festivals can be difficult, they said, so having King’s name attached makes a particular submission stand out. If one of these films gains notice, it’s easier for the director to get work accepted at future events. Also, there have been Dollar Baby film festivals in places like Argentina and the Netherlands, affording these filmmakers the chance to have their films seen more widely than would normally be possible. The directors added that the comparative rarity of these productions binds them together as a community. Lealos, who is working on a book called Dollar Deal: The Stories of Dollar Baby Filmmakers, due out later this year, says that he knows of only seventy to eighty of these projects worldwide.
    Some Dollar Baby filmmakers have found success as directors or showrunners. Frank Darabont’s 1983 adaptation of “The Woman in the Room” so touched King that he allowed him to option “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.” 
    The first day of the Comicpalooza Dollar Baby Film Festival was plagued by technical problems. It took the convention organizers over 90 minutes to get the situation rectified, by which time most of the audience had moved on to other sessions. There was no screen that day, so the films were projected against a wall that added vertical black bars to the images. The computer refused to recognize certain DVDs so the program had to be juggled. 
    James Cole’s 1987 adaptation of “The Last Rung on the Ladder” opened the session. Shot on Super 8, its age shows, primarily in the poor sound quality. However, that doesn’t detract from the superb performances Cole elicited from his young actors—in particular Melisa Whelden as Kitty. “Lawnmower Man,” from the same year, stars an actor who resembles Tony Soprano crossed with Ralph Kramden. Andy Clark, who stands out as the title character, spends much of the film naked and seems delighted and not the least bit abashed by this. “Flowers for Norma,” adapted from “The Man Who Loved Flowers,” features cameos by William B. Davis, the cigarette-smoking man from The X-Files, and Tony Plana, who has appeared in numerous TV shows. It has terrific special effects in addition to excellent cinematography. Also shown on the first day were “Luckey Quarter,” “In the Deathroom,” and the creepy 8-minute “Paranoid: A Chant,” which holds the dual honor of being the only Dollar Baby based on a poem and the only one King allowed to be shown online in its entirety for a six-month period after it was finished.
    By Saturday afternoon, the audio/visual problems were rectified and there was a screen. Attendance was also much higher. Cox’s “Grey Matter” started things off. While many Dollar Babies hew fairly closely to the source material, Cox used King’s story as inspiration, building an elaborate story that casts the son in the role of “the boy who cried wolf,” while his father becomes a disabled war veteran who is drinking himself to death—or worse. Tyler Patterson’s performance as the son is strong and the movie relies on suggestion rather than graphic visuals to create a sense of horror that pays off at the end. James Renner’s “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” uses a compelling and inspired performance by Joe Bob Briggs to turn a highly internalized short story into a tragic drama. An adaptation of “A Very Tight Place” downplays the grosser elements of the novella. Lealos’s “I Know What You Need” expands upon the King story by introducing new characters and situations. Altman’s “Umney’s Last Case” has a scene-stealing cameo by Breaking Bad’s Mark Margolis as the elevator operator. This metafictional noir film predates the TNT adaptation starring William H. Macy and stands shoulder to shoulder with the television production.
    NightshiftThe final day led off with the earliest known Dollar Baby, “The Boogeyman” from 1982, which has long been available on video paired with “The Woman in the Room.” Director Jeff Schiro has spent time in the editing room since then, cleaning up and enhancing the movie. The film does an excellent job of calling into question the protagonist’s reliability as a narrator. “My Pretty Pony” is an 8-minute film featuring an elderly narrator talking to the camera. “Willa,” from the same director, uses cartoonish crayon drawings and a voiceover to relate this purgatory tale. “Cain Rose Up” is a difficult film to watch, given recent events, but the story—inspired by the Charles Whitman shooting spree in Austin—only goes to show how little things have changed since King published it.
    The final movie, “Maxwell Edison,” is another adaptation of “The Man Who Loved Flowers.” It is interesting to see how two filmmakers approached the same story. One scene—the purchasing of the flowers—plays out almost identically in the two shorts. Warren Ray’s 2012 movie looks like it was filmed in the 1970s, with gaudy colors, split screens, and jaunty music from Andy Williams and The Carpenters. There is also apparently a 3D version. However, it is marred by a final scene of gratuitous—albeit stylized—violence that goes on far too long. 
    These filmmakers are all King fans, and it is fun to discover all the Easter eggs they’ve dropped into their movies. “Umney’s Last Case” begins with a familiar quote from another King story. Renner’s film includes a bottle of Nozz-a-la, Blaine the mono’s map and a road sign announcing Exit 19 to Castle Rock and Gilead. The flower seller in “Maxwell Edison” is reading the issue of Gallery in which “The Man Who Loved Flowers” first appeared, and a character in “I Know What You Need” is always shown reading a King book. 
    The Dutch website Stephen King Short Movies (which will re-launch at the end of June) is an excellent resource to learn more about Dollar Babies.
    Bev Vincent is the author of The Stephen King Illustrated Companion and The Road to the Dark Tower. He has been writing “News from the Dead Zone” for Cemetery Dance for over a decade. He can be found online at Friend him on Facebook or follow his Twitter feed.

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    The chair creaks as you settle onto it. The candlelight flickers. All around you the ravenous faces of your so-called friends twist in delight as you slowly open the box laid out on the table. Welcome to Dangerous Games! Each week, we'll feature a horror/thriller/monster tabletop game you should be playing. Don't be scared… roll the dice… what's the worst that could happen?
    Munchkin Zombies
    Munchkin Zombies is the 2011 expansion to the wildly popular Munchkin franchise of board/card games. In the original game of Munchkin players took on the role of an adventuring, D&D-style hero whose goal was to (to quote the box) "Kill the monsters! Steal the treasure! Stab your buddy!" In Munchkin Zombies, players all start out as regular, non-special zombies, and as they play they can upgrade and enhance themselves to survive.
    The "monsters" of this game are the normal humans trying to stop the zombie apocalypse! You'll face off against everything from an action hero (who looks suspiciously like Bruce Campbell) to a soccer mom. And, as this game's box states, your goal in Munchkin Zombies is to "Kill the living! Eat their brains! Braaiiinns!"
    Game Mechanics
    The basic structure of this game is nearly identical to other Munchkin games. You start out with a level one zombie and a hand of cards. The goal is to kick open the door (represented by the "door" cards) and fight whatever monster is lurking behind it. If your powers, items, and level beat the level of the monster you're fighting you get treasure and go up a level. The first player to reach level ten wins!
    The original Munchkin game featured different races (like Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) and different classes (like Fighter, Thief). In Munchkin Zombies the game features a stand-in for races called mojo. These mojos are clever, and can turn you into an Atomic Zombie, a Plague Zombie, or a Voodoo Zombie. Each Mojo gives a character a different set of bonuses. As for classes, well… to quote the instructions, "This is a zombie movie, so no one has any class."
    There are also equipment cards that can boost your zombie and power cards that augment your zombie. You could be a Fast Zombie, a Smart Zombie, or a Rotting Zombie among others. This all helps you beat those nasty "monsters" like the dreaded Mailman, the horrifying Cute Little Kid, or the deadly Barista. Obviously, this game like the others in the Munchkin series, is extremely tongue-in-cheek.   
    Replay Value
    If you've got a fervent group of Munchkin fans… it doesn't matter how much replay value this game has. Your friends are going to want to play this game over and over again. But because of the large amount of cards (with some expansions even adding hundreds more cards) there's a high level of variance… and that makes for a fun game every time.
    Also, this is fully compatible with any other Munchkin expansion. So you could end up having an Atomic Zombie Elf Wizard, or a Plague Zombie Dwarf Cowboy, or a Voodoo Zombie Mystic Halfling Pirate, or a… oh, you get the picture.
    Overall Impressions
    This game, like all other Munchkin games, is reserved solely for people with a great sense of humor. It's a hilarious game with a core mechanic that has been tested, perfected, and plays perfectly. I couldn't give a higher recommendation for a game. If you like zombie comedies like Shaun of the Dead, you will love Munchkin Zombies.

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    insidious 2

    Another day, another visit to Linda Vista Hospital. The infamous Los Angeles hospital - claimed by many to be haunted - was once a working hospital and mental institution, but since being shut down in 1991, has become the go-to place to film creepy interiors. Dexter, True Blood, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have all filmed here. So has Insidious Chapter 2.

    The hotly-anticipated follow-up to James Wan’s 2010 sleeper hit has made good use out of the cavernous hospital. For starters, we are teased with the idea that Insidious 2 will feature lots of flashbacks to the 1980s, when Barbara Hershey’s character, Lorraine Lambert, worked as a nurse. The scene we watched them film was light on action - but heavy on disturbing dialogue, with Hershey discussing a child who was admitted because he tried to castrate himself. 

    Several portions of the hospital are used as-is, or almost as-is. One of the basement file rooms - stuffed full of real patient files that were abandoned there over the years - was used as a file room, with virtually no set dressing. Two other hospital rooms were only changed slightly: one modernized, and one decorated to fit into one of the 1980s flashbacks - but both representing the same room.

    We will spend more time in The Further with Chapter 2. We even got to journey into The Further. Up dark, narrow stairs (that require a flashlight, even in broad daylight) we go into a large room, the largest at Linda Vista. The entire room has been draped in black Duvetyne, making the room a solid, pitch black. Ironically, this room was once the day room when the hospital was in use. 

    The original house is back, too, but in a slightly different way than you might expect. The owners of the original house that the first Insidious shot in did not want production back, so they had to build their own. An exact replica of a portion of that house has been built inside Linda Vista. The room has been built on a platform of sorts, so it is several feet above the solid floor. Our tour guide promises that it is “raised for a reason” but will reveal nothing else. 

    Secrets are the order of the day around here. Though the dozen or so journalists gathered for the set visit enjoyed a press conference with the entire cast (Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey) as well as producer Jason Blum, writer Leigh Whannell, and director James Wan, no one was willing to give up any plot details. “What's different about [this film] is it's a continuation of the first film; it picks up from where the other one left off and it's the second half of the first film,” Whannell explained evasively. “One of the great things about a haunted house movie is watching unsuspecting people slowly uncover something is wrong. With Chapter 2, we're using the same family and we're missing the lack of knowledge you would normally get; we're not changing to a different family so we needed to come up with something really scary.  But I do think we came up with something that could scare the family anew; something that could turn it around. A different angle. It almost takes the film into a new genre. Almost.”

    Insidious Chapter 2 is due in theaters September 13th.

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    To all of our LA based readers, if you're struggling to make plans for your Saturday night, you are in luck! The fine folks over at The New Beverly Cinema along with Horror Movie A Day's Brian Collins are hosting a special midnight screening of Joe Dante's werewolf classic 'The Howling' this Saturday evening, June 1st. Here's your chance to see the original 'Howling' (a movie which spawned 7 sequels!) starring the lovely Dee Wallace on the big screen and with an audience before Scream Factory's stellar special edition Blu-Ray hits stores this Tuesday. In fact, Collins will be giving away a copy of the new 'Howling' Blu-Ray prior to the screening so get there early! The New Bev is located at 7165 Beverly Blvd in Los Angeles (90036), two blocks west of La Brea. Tickets are $8 bucks and available on-line via the Brown Paper Tickets site or at the door. And yes, the New Bev now accepts credit cards. Check out the teaser poster for the event below!

    The Howling - Horror Movie A Day New Beverly Screening


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    byzantiumSeasoned horror fans will no doubt recognize the irony in today's vampire cinema. The "romanticization" of the vampire has been evolving since (at least) John Badham's 1979 rendition of Dracula -- but we never saw our beloved cinematic bloodsuckers lose their teeth like they did in the feckless Twilight movies. What used to be sexy but scary became gothic romance, which led to pop-culture overkill: the vampire became neutered.
    But if there's a silver lining to the smash-hit success of the otherwise terrible Twilight movies, it's that producers all over the world are now (all of a sudden!) willing to bankroll a horror film... just because it has some vampires and a dash of romance. So in a way we can thank Twilight for recent indies and imports like We Are the Night, Kiss of the Damned, and Neil Jordan's Byzantium. It's nothing if not a little ironic: the franchise horror fans love to hate is the one that paved the way for some much smaller, sexier, and smarter vampire films.
    Sort of a slice of old-school Anne Rice with a lovely array of Irish ingredients, the smart and stylish Byzantium comes from director Neil Jordan, a filmmaker who has always treated horror like a first-class genre. (He's best known for directing the adaptation of Interview with the Vampire, but his 1984 feature The Company of Wolves is definitely worth tracking down, although his malformed 1988 supernatural farce High Spirits probably is not.) Based on the novel A Vampire Story by Moira Buffini, Byzantium is hardly the most unique or unpredictable piece of bloodsucker cinema you'll come across, but it's easy to assert that the earnest effort displayed here outweighs the borrowing of a few familiar tropes.
    And because Neil Jordan is such a crafty veteran, he's smart enough to fill a potentially conventional plot with a few unexpected twists and a handful of nifty little bells and wrinkles. The bulk of the story deals with teenaged Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her strangely youthful mother (Gemma Arterton) as they arrive at a lovely little Irish town -- but of course these women are not only bloodthirsty vampires; they're also fugitives on the run from some powerfully tenacious enemies. But then Byzantium dips back into the "origin stories" of Eleanor and Clara, which is when the movie starts to get a bit less conventional and a little more, well,touching. 
    Jordan and editor Tony Lawson do a fine job of cutting between the modern material and the "old-fashioned" stuff, and it's this delicate balance that elevates the story beyond that of two simple vampire girls. Clara is a particularly fascinating character; at one moment she's every bit the super-sexy killer vampiress we see in comic books, and in the next scene she's a deeply devoted mother who will shred anyone who threatens her daughter. Young Eleanor is sort of the opposite: somehow still sweet and decent after decades of undead misery, the eternally blossoming teenager seems forever poised between innocence and depravity. And since she's played so darn well by Ms. Ronan, there are actually some stakes here. Both actresses are great, plain and simple.
    Additional assets include excellent cinematography from Sean Bobbitt, whether he's focusing on gorgeous Irish hills or grungy city streets; a few colorful supporting performances from guys like Sam Riley, Jonny Lee Miller, and Tom Hollander; and a narrative structure that seems odd at first but gradually reveals some admirable cleverness. Byzantium is basically 2/3rds "vampire stuff" you've seen before, a few new ideas that actually work, two great performances, and a lot of skilled veterans behind the camera. 
    So while I (and most horror fans) are still annoyed and irritated at those goofy Twilight movies, there's a silver lining: some people still know how to make movies about young vampires, and now they're able to.

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