A Really Great Review of “Eyes in All Shadows & Other Stories – A Barbarians of the Storm Anthology” – A book that’s as terrifying as it is entertaining.” by Riverotter85

Sometimes, we have to look to darkness in order to see the light.

No better is this exemplified than within the Horror genre. At its best, a good Horror story can truly embody what it means to experience emotions such as pain and loss, along with the elation that comes from ultimately facing your fears. It should be no surprise, then, that Horror has often been intermingled with the Fantasy and Swords-and-Sorcery genres for as long as we can remember. Classic tales told by the likes of Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and more show that something exceptional can truly be made when your protagonist is likewise made vulnerable and tested by something they don’t quite understand.

It’s a tale as old as pulp storytelling itself; and in many ways, I would venture to say that Fantasy and Horror go together much like peanut butter and jelly. They are both an inseparable pair, and when done right, they can be the uncontested cream of the crop for the entire medium.

I am glad to say that Eyes In All Shadows, penned by author Rob Rimes, belongs right alongside this set of venerated classics. Now being the third canonical release in the Barbarians of the Storm anthology, it’s not only a brilliant collection of Horror-themed short-stories, that thrills as much as it entertains, but I also believe it’s his best work yet, and a testament to the revival of pulp as a renewed art form.

check out Riverotter85’s Substack Downstream Pulp for the full review and give a sub, as well.

Barbarians of the Storm books are available HERE.

A Really Great Review of “Dan the Destructor – Barbarians of the Storm, Book I” – “Dan the Destructor – Conan: Isekai Edition” by Katharine Frances

I would like to begin this review by posing a question to the reader; “Does the idea of watching a barbarian warrior operating a minigun mounted to the back of an SUV being driven by a man in chainmail and a Hawaiian T-Shirt pique your interest?” If the answer is yes, then Barbarians of the Storm’s first entry, Dan the Destructor, may be of interest to you. If the answer is no, I am sympathetic to the fact that life has beaten the joy out of you and distanced you from simpler times. If you can still recall the clattering of your action figures as He-Man and GI Joe joined forces to rescue Barbie from Skeletor and Megatron, Dan the Destructor is a time-capsule back to a purer form of action and adventure.

As I purchased this pulp novella as a physical product rather than an ebook, I’d like to first spend some time speaking on its presentation. With its dimensions being roughly 4 by 6 inches, it’s a compact little volume that can easily be slipped into a purse or coat pocket. Though unillustrated, the cover art is striking in its simplicity, and with other volumes in the series having aesthetically similar covers, I imagine the entire collection would be quite pleasing to look at once it’s completed. Of additional note is a morsel of hidden extra value; once the main narrative is concluded, the volume also includes a short story set in the same universe, one of fairly significant length as well. …

check out Katharine Frances’ Substack for a full review and give her a sub, as well.

Barbarians of the Storm books are available HERE.

TV Review: Chucky (2021- )

Original Run: October 12th, 2021 – current
Created by: Don Mancini
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Joseph LoDuca
Cast: Zackary Arthur, Björgvin Arnarson, Alyvia Alyn Lind, Teo Briones, Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Fiona Dourif, Alex Vincent, Christine Elise, Lexa Doig, Devon Sawa, Barbara Alyn Woods, Michael Therriault

Pheidippides, David Kirschner Productions, Eat the Cat, Universal, Syfy, USA Network, 8 Episodes (so far), 45 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’ve been a fan of every Child’s Play/Chucky film that’s ever come out and featured the Brad Dourif version of the character. All the stuff that Don Mancini has done with his franchise has been solid and entertaining. I’ve loved seeing this evolve over almost thirty-five years now.

So I was a lot more enthused about this than I was the Child’s Play remake from a few years ago, despite my love of Aubrey Plaza. But like I said in that review, the doll and the concept were different enough that they shouldn’t have made it a Chucky movie, it should’ve been its own thing. And had it been, they could’ve done a killer doll crossover at some point. Hollywood is out of ideas, though. But at least someone in that town greenlit this series, regardless of the remake and how it sort of came and went then fizzled out. Are they even doing a sequel to that one? I have no idea.

Anyway, this television series picks up after the events of Cult of Chucky. With that, we revisit the interesting concepts and developments that film introduced. Making this a television series, instead of another 90 minute movie, was the best thing they could’ve done, as it gives the story enough time to explore its new creative avenues.

Just about all the characters from the past come back, as well, as that was something that Mancini started two movies ago.

The main characters in this series, however, are a group of middle school aged kids. They have their middle school aged problems and Chucky capitalizes on that in an effort to coach a kid into killing. The reason being, is that this will allow Chucky to use a new sort of voodoo magic that I won’t reveal because I don’t want to spoil too much of the show.

Ultimately, this is really fucking entertaining in the way that you’d expect but it also exceeded my expectations and subverted some, as well.

Obviously, you have to suspend disbelief quite a bit but if you’re able to, this is just a fun, ridiculous show with a beloved psycho.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Berserk – The Golden Age Arc Trilogy (2012-2013)

Release Date: Part I: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part II: ….ber ..th, 2012; Part III: ….ber ..th, 2013
Directed by: Toshiyuki Kubooka
Written by: Ichiro Okouchi
Based on: Berserk by Kentaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu, Susumu Hirasawa
Cast: Hiroaki Iwanaga, Takahiro Sakurai, Toa Yukinari, Marc Diraison, Kevin T. Collins, Carrie Keranen

Studio 4°C, Madman Entertainment, Viz Media, Kazé UK, Lucent Pictures, 76 Minutes (Part I), 91 Minutes (Part II), 107 Minutes (Part III)

Review:

“Heed my words, Struggler. Soon a rain of blood, the likes of which you cannot imagine, shall fall down upon you. It will be a storm of death. But take heed, Struggler. Struggle, endure, contend. For that alone is the sword of one who defies death. Do not forget these words.” – Skull Knight

Since I watched the anime television series that served as a sequel to this first, I had a very different perspective going into this trilogy of anime films.

Being that I knew where these characters would end up, actually made me a lot more interested in how they got there, which is a place very far from where they start at the beginning of the first movie in this trilogy.

I also now have all the context regarding the three main characters in these films and it’s made me want to go back and watch the anime series again, as I think it’ll have even more of an impact.

I guess whatever order you watch these in is up to you and you probably should watch the animated Berserk material in order. If you’d prefer to do it that way, you should start with the original animated series from the late ’90s, which I actually haven’t seen yet. But I’m going to watch it in the next week or two, coming off of the high of this.

As far as these three films go, they’re pretty fucking exceptional.

The story and the relationships of the three main characters is what made this so great. A lot happens in these three films and by the end of them, you’re left exhausted and emotionally overloaded. And to be honest, I didn’t expect this to end with such an emotional punch to the gut.

It’s fucked up, tragic and you find yourself pretty fucking angry over what a particular character ends up doing to those you assumed he loved. Especially, after everything they went through together over a pretty long passage of time.

The animation is also pretty damn stellar. Overall, this looks better than the show that followed it.

As these three films rolled on, I wasn’t sure how all of this would pan out and whether or not there’d be a grand, worthwhile payoff. This exceeded any expectations I could have had for it and from my perspective, I’d call the entire body of work a masterpiece.

Rating: 10/10

Film Review: Kamen Rider: The Next (2007)

Also known as: Masked Rider: The Next (alternative English title)
Release Date: October 27th, 2007
Directed by: Ryuta Tasaki
Written by: Toshiki Inoue
Based on: Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider V3 by Shotaro Ishinomori
Music by: Goro Yasukawa
Cast: Masaya Kikawada, Hassei Takano, Kazuki Kato, Miku Ishida, Erika Mori, Tomorowo Taguchi, Goro Naya

Toei, 93 Minutes

Review:

As I stated in my review of the previous Kamen Rider film, I remembered liking this one a bit better. Well, seeing it for the first time in a long while, that’s still true.

Really, this is kind of more of the same but it picks up the story where Kamen Rider: The First left off.

That film was a reboot (or retelling) of the original Kamen Rider TV series. This film was a sequel to that but also a reboot of the second TV series, Kamen Rider V3.

Like V3, this introduces the third Kamen Rider hero and also has him work alongside the previous two. However, there are some very stark creative differences between the original story and this version of it.

The main thing that these films do is that they increase the violence exponentially to appeal to a more adult audience. This one goes even further than its predecessor, which seemed like it was more a test run to see what they could get away with in what’s predominantly been a kid friendly franchise.

I loved the villains in this, specifically Scissors Jaguar. Man, what a sadistic asshole that guy was but for fans of this type of stuff, he was fun as hell to watch.

The special effects and fight choreography in this are pretty much the same as the previous movie but I found myself enjoying the action more.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Kamen Rider: The First (2005)

Also known as: Masked Rider: The First (alternative English title)
Release Date: October 26th, 2005 (Tokyo Film Festival)
Directed by: Takao Nagaishi
Written by: Toshiki Inoue
Based on: Kamen Rider by Shotaro Ishinomori
Music by: Gorou Yasukawa
Cast: Masaya Kikawada, Hassei Takano, Komine Rena, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Eiji Wentz, Ryoko Kobayashi, Sada Mayumi, Issa Hentona, Hideyo Amamoto, Itsuji Itao, Kanji Tsuda

Toei, 91 Minutes

Review:

I haven’t seen this since around the time that it first came out on DVD in the US, which probably wasn’t too long after its 2005 theatrical release in Japan.

This also had a sequel, which I remembered liking better, as it leaned even heavier into the violence and edginess that this strange retelling of the original two Kamen Riders origin introduced.

This plays much darker and more like horror than the standard Kamen Rider television series. It’s a reboot but it was made for an older audience that had grown up with the shows but found them to be too kiddie for typical adults.

For what this set out to do, I think it achieved its goals fairly well. This isn’t in any way superior to the source material but it definitely respects it and still homages it in a good way that captures the aesthetic and vibe. It looks and feels like a modern tokusatsu production but with a bigger budget and without having its hands tied by the creative limitations of a children’s show.

I thought that the acting was decent. None of it as particularly great but also, none of it felt overly hokey or cheesy like typical tokusatsu shows often times deliver.

I thought that the special effects were good. The costumes were top notch and looked impressive. My only gripe in that regard is that I felt like the Shocker foot soldiers would’ve looked a lot cooler if they kept their classic costumes and lucha libre style masks.

Ultimately, this was a really interesting experiment. I think it paid off for what it was and it didn’t do anything to diminish the legacy of the intellectual property unlike just about every Hollywood reboot and remake over the last decade or more.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Doctor X (1932)

Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster

First National Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research

I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.

This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.

So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.

However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.

I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.

I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.

While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.

Rating: 7/10

TV Review: Berserk (2016-2017)

Original Run: July 1st, 2016 – June 23rd, 2017
Directed by: Shin Itagaki
Written by: Makoto Fukami
Based on: Berserk by Kintaro Miura
Music by: Shiro Sagisu

Liden Films, GEMBA, Millepensee, Universal, Sony, Wowow, MBS, TBS, CBC, 26 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

So I’ve heard people rave about the manga Berserk for years. I’ve wanted to read it for awhile now but there’s like 40 volumes and it’s going to be a real undertaking. However, I figured that I’d check out the anime, as it’s streaming on HBO Max.

I found out, after being a half dozen episodes deep, that this actually takes place after a trilogy of anime films and an earlier anime series from the ’90s. So I guess I started at the end but even then, I found this pretty easy to get into and never felt like there was a lot of context or knowledge missing.

For the most part, I dug the hell out of this, especially the first of the two seasons. I guess some people found the animation style to be off-putting but I actually liked it.

I’m also not a big fan of the mixture of CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation but for whatever reason, I liked how they blended together, here. I think that has to do with the style of shading in the art, which looks like thin-lined pencil shading.

I think most of all, I really liked the character designs. Everyone was distinct and pretty damn cool in their own unique way.

I also found the stories to be pretty solid and interesting. However, it really just left me wanting more, so I’ll probably try and check out the previous anime releases and then start reading the original manga, at some point.

All in all, this was dark, twisted, really fun and pretty damn entertaining.

Rating: 8.25/10

Film Review: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

Release Date: August 23rd, 1996
Directed by: John Frankenheimer, Richard Stanley (uncredited)
Written by: Richard Stanley, Ron Hutchinson
Based on: The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Music by: Gary Chang
Cast: Marlon Brando, Val Kilmer, David Thewlis, Fairuza Balk, Temuera Morrison, Mark Dacascos, Ron Perlman

New Line Cinema, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Well, things didn’t work out. Moreau wanted to turn animals into humans and humans into gods. But it’s instinct and reason, instinct and reason. What’s reason to a dog?” – Montgomery

Well, here we are. I’ve already reviewed the other Dr. Moreau film adaptations and so I figured I’d save the best worst for last. Well, it’s considered the worst by many and in fact, it’s considered one of the worst films ever made. Well, that’s definitely not true, as there are many, many, many movies that make this thing look like a masterpiece.

The thing is, I actually kind of like this movie in spite of its issues, most of which were due to this legitimately being one of the most poorly managed productions in motion picture history.

Frankly, this is a “bad” movie but there’s so much about it that’s kind of cool and intriguing that it actually overshadows the bad shit, in my opinion.

To start, Stan Winston’s special effects in this are really good. I like how he designed the creatures and applied it, giving different humanoid animal species distinct features and fur, allowing the mind to easily differentiate between them. But the makeup also works so well in the moments where the creatures lose their humanity and slide back into their wild, animalistic tendencies.

Also, the cast is as good as it can be, all things considered. But if you want the full story of the insanity that was this production, especially regarding the personal issues between Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer, as well as the two different directors, you should watch the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, which I reviewed here.

At times, the acting can be a mixed bag but it’s not any worse than similar mid-’90s sci-fi productions. This has a lot of characters, more than the previous adaptations, but it does a fair job of trying to balance them, even if the movie had to shoot around their temper tantrums and bullshit.

I like some of the narrative changes but this one is the bleakest of all the films, tonally and in how it ends. Although, it works for what this story deals with and the questions it raises.

In the end, this is certainly far from great but it’s not a total dumpster fire like people have claimed for decades now.

Rating: 5.5/10