Video Game Review: Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)

Who doesn’t love Castlevania games?

I’ve played almost all of them up until the late ’00s. Yet, I never got around to playing Bloodlines, which is actually kind of strange, as I owned a Sega Genesis and rented games for it all the damn time.

This was cool to check out now, though.

This plays just like all the other Castlevania games before it, well… excluding Simon’s Quest, as that one was a breed all its own.

Anyway, this plays a lot like the first and third games for the original Nintendo. You work your way through levels, you fight all sorts of monstrosities and you usually get the shit kicked out of you because Castlevania games tend to be hard as shit, even for those of us who have played them pretty steadily over the course of our lives.

For the most part, this Castlevania game is a lot of fun. I like that you have two characters to choose from but if I’m being honest, just pick the dude with the whip because playing a Castlevania game without a whip is like playing a different game entirely. Unless, you’re Alucard and you can transform into cool shit and have a lightning fast rapier. But this game doesn’t have Alucard as a playable character, so just take the whip dude.

This game is also set further into the future and the characters have a lineage to characters of the past. Hence, the name Bloodlines.

Still, the world looks about the same and it doesn’t really matter which century this take place in.

Now I didn’t beat this game. I think I got pretty far but man, this game will crush your ass. I especially had a lot of frustration on the level with the rising water and then having to kill that level’s boss without drowning. That’s the one spot where I really got hung up, lost a lot of lives and blew through too many continues.

Despite my difficulty, this is still a solid game and it was more fun than frustrating.

It has fluid gameplay, looks superb and boasts a great soundtrack.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the original PlayStation.

Comic Review: Moon Knight – Epic Collection, Vol. 1: Bad Moon Rising

Published: October 1st, 2014
Written by: Doug Moench, Steven Grant, David Anthony Kraft, Bill Mantlo
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz, Mike Zeck, Keith Pollard, Don Perlin, Jim Mooney, Keith Giffen, Jim Craig, Gene Colan

Marvel Comics, 482 Pages

Review:

I’ve always liked Moon Knight but I’ve never read his earliest stories. Being that a Moon Knight television show was just announced, I figured I’d go back and give his first few appearances a read.

He first appeared in a small arc in Werewolf by Night. This collection starts with that story and while its enjoyable in a ’70s Marvel horror pulp kind of way, the Moon Knight character still feels undeveloped.

The rest of this collection does a better job of expanding on him, as well as his trusty sidekick Frenchie.

As this rolls on, it gets more interesting but it doesn’t really find it’s groove until you get to the few issues collected here that were the start of the first ongoing Moon Knight series.

A lot of this is really great to look at and admire, especially the portions where the art was done by Bill Sienkiewicz. Plus, you really see his style evolve just in this short sample size.

This collection is also full of a lot of Moon Knight’s earliest appearances in other titles. There are stories with the old Defenders team, Spider-Man and The Thing.

I’d say that this was a pretty fun comic and it’s neat seeing Moon Knight in his earliest stages but I wouldn’t say that this is a must read. Moon Knight really didn’t hit its stride until his own series was rolling for about a year. But I think I’ll jump into those stories next, as they’re collected in a volume that follows this one.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the Moon Knight – Epic Collection volumes that follow, as well as other late ’70s Marvel comics focused on street level crime.

Film Review: Salem’s Lot (1979)

Also known as: Salem’s Lot: The Movie (cable TV title), Blood Thirst (video title), Phantasma 2 (Spain), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (Netherlands), Salem’s Lot: The Miniseries (Germany)
Release Dates: November 17th, 1979, November 24th, 1979
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Paul Monash
Based on: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Music by: Harry Sukman
Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Ed Flanders, Fred Willard, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor

Warner Bros. Television, CBS, 184 Minutes (uncut), 183 Minutes (DVD), 200 Minutes (TV), 112 Minutes (theatrical version)

Review:

“You’ll enjoy Mr. Barlow. And he’ll enjoy you.” – Straker

The last time I watched this wonderful film/TV miniseries was just before the 2004 remake came out. So it’s been a really long time and because of that, I guess I forgot how incredibly fantastic this was.

While I’ve never read the book, I know about what changes they made in this adaptation and frankly, I’m fine with all the major tweaks.

For one, the vampire is not some Eastern European dandy of the Bela Lugosi variety. Instead, Tobe Hooper gave us a vampire that is more reminiscent of Count Orlok from the 1922 film Nosferatu. And the late ’70s were a great time for vampire movies, especially lovers of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu between this picture and the Nosferatu remake by Werner Herzog.

Another change that was made is that the final confrontation with the heroes and the vampire took place in the creepy basement of the vampire’s house, as opposed to one of the heroes’ homes. The vampire house was truly a character all its own in this film and it made this movie a mixture of classic vampire fiction and a traditional haunted house story.

What’s really great about the finale, is that the house that was created for the film is absolutely terrifying and enchanting all at the same time. The set designers created an incredibly creepy mansion for the final showdown and it truly brought the dread onscreen to a whole other level. A level that this film couldn’t have reached had they kept the story true to Stephen King’s novel.

The vampire mansion is just one part of this movie’s mesmerizing atmosphere, though.

All the scenes that feature some sort of supernatural element take on a strange life of their own. The scenes where the vampire children come to the windows and float into the rooms at night with fog billowing in are f’n incredible!

Honestly, for its time and maybe all-time, Salem’s Lot takes the cake for creating a perfect ambiance for a horror picture on the small screen. Honestly, I’d love to see this on the big screen, if it is ever showing somewhere near me.

The vampire kids at the window was so well done that it became a bit of a trope following this film. It was used in other movies like The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Plus, this film has a moment where a character is impaled by deer antlers mounted on the wall. This would go on to be seen in other movies as well.

Additionally, this would inspire vampire movies in other regards. Fright Night borrows from Salem’s Lot in different ways. That film even has a big finale in the vampire’s home and while it isn’t as incredible as the finale of Salem’s Lot, it is still a great sequence that is a nice homage to it. Fright Night is a classic in its own right, which also spawned a sequel, a remake and sequel to the remake. I even heard a rumor that it may be turned into a television show in the future.

But while this film would go on to inspire countless others, Tobe Hooper, the director, also had his own homages to other films in this, primarily the work of Alfred Hitchcock and his masterpiece Psycho. The vampire mansion has a very similar appearance to the house on the hill above Bates Motel. Hooper also employed similar shots.

For a TV movie, this also has some pretty good acting but no one else quite kills it like James Mason. He absolutely owns every frame of celluloid in which he appears. I’ve always loved Mason but seeing him truly get to ham it up while being terrifying was so damn cool. And honestly, Mason looked like he was loving this film, as he was so committed to the role that he breathed life into it that no other actor probably could have.

Salem’s Lot is a bonafide classic and pretty close to perfect. My only complaint about it is the running time. The film does feel a bit slow in parts but it was a two-part miniseries and had a lot of characters and subplots. In fact, those were all greatly trimmed down from the original novel and some characters were combined to simplify the story. But honestly, I’m still okay with the final result and I wouldn’t trim much, as almost every scene featuring the main characters feels necessary.

In the end, I love this movie; more so than I remembered. I’m glad that I revisited it after all these years and I feel like it’s a film that I will go back to fairly often now that I’ve been reminded as to just how damn good it is.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu remake, as well as other vampire films of the ’70s and 2000s Shadow of the Vampire.

Book Review: ‘What Would Skeletor Do?: Diabolical Ways to Master the Universe’ by Robb Pearlman

What Would Skeletor Do? is a a self-help and life advice book by none other than Skeletor himself. Well, at least it is Robb Pearlman writing as Skeletor because sadly, Skeletor isn’t real.

It’s a pretty funny book, overall.

Although, it’s more or less a picture book with some captions. Each page or spread is an image from the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or She-Ra Princess of Power cartoons from the ’80s. Accompanying each page is a blurb where Skeletor gives you some sort of wise advice on how to better yourself and on how to master your own universe.

That’s pretty much it. It’s nothing fantastic but it’s still a very quick and entertaining read, especially for He-Man fans.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other books from the Masters of the Universe franchise.

Film Review: Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Also known as: Makaitoshi Shinjuku (original title), Monster City (UK), Hell City Shinjuku (alternative title)
Release Date: October 25th, 1988 (Japan)
Directed by: Yoshiaki Kawajiri
Written by: Kaori Okamura
Based on: Makaitoshi Shinjuku by Hideyuki Kikuchi

Japan Home Video (JHV), Video Art Co., Madhouse, 82 Minutes

Review:

“Men anger the gods with their pride, and in order to punish them, the gods looked on as Pandora opened her box letting chaos loose. And now here in Monster City, mythology will become reality. ” – Mephisto

I never knew that this was done by the same director that did Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. I guess I should have figured that out due to a similar visual style, especially in regards to the visual effects and flair.

The first time that I saw this was on the Sci-Fi Channel, late at night, in the late ’90s. Seeing it for the first time, I was immediately sucked in by the opening scene, which still, all these years later, looks so absolutely fucking pristine and perfect that it still gives me chills.

Sadly, the movie itself is far from perfect as a total body of work but the strengths far outweigh the negatives and its those strengths that bring me back to this movie every couple of years.

The story isn’t great and the character development is weak but this is such a cool looking anime that it’s hard to turn away.

love the art, the tone, the style and how it all creates a dreary and mystical atmosphere.

I guess my biggest gripe about the film is that the English voice acting isn’t good. While it’s not terrible, it lacks emotion and the characters’ accents are strange. I guess the girl is British aristocracy and the little roller skate dude is Mexican? I would assume that all the characters are Japanese but the voice acting really throws you off.

The real highpoint outside of style, is the action sequences. They are all well done, fluid and exciting. But with that, everything else that happens is sort of boring. There’s a lot of walking and talking and most of it seems like a waste of time, as you’re just waiting for more action or some other creepy demonic encounter.

Demon City Shinjuku has a lot going right for it though. It certainly needed to be fine tuned more and I guess I can blame the poor voice acting on the fact that English audiences hadn’t fully embraced anime when this came out. But, as I said, the positives keep this above water and it’s just a cool flick.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Wicked City, Vampire Hunter D and Ninja Scroll.

Comic Review: Stranger Things: Six

Published: May 29th, 2019 – August 28th, 2019
Written by: Jody Houser
Art by: Edgar Salazar, Keith Champagne, Marissa Louise, Aleksi Briclot (covers)
Based on: Stranger Things by The Duffer Brothers

Dark Horse Books, 98 Pages

Review:

I was pretty happy with the first Stranger Things comic miniseries. With this second attempt at making a comic book tie-in, I still left pretty satisfied. However, this one lacks slightly in that I didn’t feel as connected to the characters or their personal peril.

In the first miniseries, we got to follow Will Byers, as he was trapped in the Upsidedown during the events in season one. It gave us Will’s perspective and the horror he lived through, which we weren’t able to really see on the television show.

This comic follows a new character named Six. She is like Eleven in that she has grown up in the same lab and mostly just has Dr. Martin Brenner as her only parental type of figure.

The story is a prequel, as it shows some of what happened in the lab before Eleven’s story really started for the television audience. Although, you do get to see glimpses of a very young Eleven even though her story isn’t central to the main plot of this arc.

My only real issue with this miniseries, is that it is less engaging overall because it doesn’t directly tie to the larger story. Sure, it happens within the show’s universe but it’s basically just Six’s story and she isn’t someone that we will meet on the show. And I’ve kind of mentally put the Brenner character to bed, unless there is going to be more of him in the future. Although, I’m not sure how that would work.

I prefer the approach of the first comic series. I think that these should be tied more directly to the show and give us other perspectives or events that happen parallel to what we already know. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t have wholly original stories with new characters. It all just depends on how well the comic book part of the mythos develops.

So far, I’m pretty happy with what Dark Horse, specifically Jody Houser, have been doing with the IP.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the previous Stranger Things comic book miniseries, as well as the show and mobile RPG game.

Comic Review: Avengers: Emperor Doom

Published: 1987
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Bob Hall, Bill Oakley, Ken Lopez

Marvel Comics, 64 Pages

Review:

I used to own this and I need to round up another copy. It was one of my favorite “big” stories of its time. But all of the Marvel graphic novels of the ’80s that I owned, all have a special place in my heart.

Reading it now, it was still a really engaging story that featured my favorite Avengers of the ’80s, the West Coast Avengers. It also throws in Captain America and Namor. However, Namor is initially one of the villains of the story due to his allegiance to Atlantis and his willingness to do anything to secure his homeland’s safety.

The main villain is Doctor Doom, if the title wasn’t enough of a hint. This is also one of his grandest schemes and he actually pulls it off and succeeds at becoming the Emperor of Earth. However, the Avengers do end up coming to their senses and stop Doom.

This story also features the usually underutilized Purple Man. It’s his power that Doom steals and then harnesses on a global scale, giving him control of humanity’s minds.

Under Doom, the Earth finds peace and some of its major problems are solved. However, those pesky Avengers have to muck it all up because humans should be free to make their own decisions and not be mentally enslaved by some global puppet master. I don’t think that modern Marvel writers would agree with that but hey, they’re also killing their own company.

Emperor Doom is a solid story. However, it may have benefited from more space than a 64 page graphic novel could allow. This could have been a major crossover event and maybe have been better than it was.

Still, it is a good use of its 64 pages and it was a hell of a lot of fun to revisit.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel graphic novels from the era.