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.

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.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book Two

Published: 1996-1997
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 369 Pages

Review:

A big chunk of this book in the Preacher series is the Crusaders story arc, which I already reviewed here. It takes up six issues of the fourteen collected in this volume but I wanted to also review this book as a whole body of work, as I am reading through Preacher in its entirety and in order.

Man, I fucking loved this book in the series and it would actually have been perfect, except for three of the issues that served as flashback/origin stories for Jesse’s dad and Cassidy. Now those stories are important but they kind of slowed things down a bit.

I guess reading this from month to month, the backstory issues were fine but it kind of gets in the way of the larger, more energetic story for the main characters. And I think that the main plot threads in this were just so damn good that even though the origin tales added context and depth, they just had a negative effect on the overall momentum.

This book is pretty important to the larger Preacher mythos, as this is where we meet supervillain Herr Starr, as well as learn all about The Grail and what their purpose is. For those that watch the television show, the events here sort of line up with the end of season three and the start of season four.

But the comic book and the TV show are very different. While they follow similar threads and have similar themes, the comic is way more over the top and intense than the show. In fact, until really reading this from the beginning, I guess I didn’t understand the depths that the comic would go, even for ’90s edgy boi shit.

While the first installment to the series was damn good, this one is close to perfect for what this story is and for Ennis’ style as a writer. I hope that momentum continues going forward as I don’t want to waste too much time before jumping into the third book.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 2: The House of Hammer

I’ve been a Hammer Films aficionado since I was a wee little lad. Growing up, my granmum always had AMC and other old movie stations on. As the sun went down, often times there’d be some solid old school horror, whether it was the Universal Monsters stuff, Vincent Price movies or the Hammer films, which almost always starred Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing and usually the two of them together.

I used to videotape every Hammer film that came on television and I had a solid collection. As I got older, I ended up getting just about everything I could on DVD, completing the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy film series. Not to mention everything in-between.

So I had to pick this up when I saw it in my local comic book shop.

This reads like a book but is in a magazine format. But it’s pretty thick and has a slew of good articles about the history of Hammer studios and all the great movies they put out.

It delves into their big franchises, which were the UK’s darker and more serious takes on the franchises originally created by Universal, most of which came from famous works of literature like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Hammer didn’t just stop there, though. They did other vampire movies, mummy movies, zombie movies, werewolf movies and just about everything else under the sun that could be tailored into a good horror story.

Famous Monsters did a fine job of painting the picture of who the creators behind Hammer were and why their work was so essential to the evolution of horror.

This is definitely worth checking out and it is plastered with lots of great photos from the film themselves, as well as behind the scenes stuff.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book One

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 351 Pages

Review:

Over the years, I’ve read several different story arcs from the Preacher comic book series. But never have I started from the beginning and tried to read the series in its entirety.

I’ve only read the second story arc that makes up this first book. So getting into the earliest Preacher issues was a real treat.

This kicks things off with a bang and for fans of the television show, the beginning of the comic is vastly different, even if there are some similarities.

As dark as the show is, this is bleaker, meaner and has a harder edge than anything that they can put on television, especially in 2019 where everything is deemed “too offensive”.

In fact, this is ’90s comics at its peak. But this was also from an era were Vertigo wasn’t complete shit. Say what you will about ’90s comics, good or bad, but this is one of the titles that defines the best parts of that decade. Everything in the ’90s was “extreme” and this encapsulates that like no other comic except for maybe some bootleg and outlaw comics of the time.

But this doesn’t feel like it’s a gimmick that didn’t age well, it feels genuine and authentic. That’s probably why it has stood the test of time.

Garth Ennis was on his A game right out of the gate and his fantastic writing is greatly enhanced by Steve Dillon’s art on every page, as well as Glenn Fabry’s stupendous covers.

Preacher is a perfect storm of hardcore, extreme, edgy boi shit and I mean that complimentary. It’s a product of its time and the culture around it. While I’m sure that is off putting to some, like easily offended snowflakes in 2019, this is still a comic series with merit and a lot of emotional turmoil that the reader can relate to despite how dark this world is.

It also examines a lot of religious taboos and criticism in a creative and exploratory way. As someone that grew up in a really religious environment, some of this was uncomfortable for me to read the first time but in retrospect, it’s good that it challenges these ideals and asks what the point to it all is.

Preacher is not a comic series for everyone. I can see where it would push away certain sects on the right side and left side of the political spectrum. For those of us in the middle, who want some of the answers to life’s mysteries, it’s a cool exploration into that backed up by badass characters doing badass things and killing off scumbags that deserve it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Comic Review: Vampirella Master Series – Omnibus

Published: September 20th, 2017
Written by: Kurt Busiek, Mike Carey, Warren Ellis, Jeph Loeb, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, James Robinson
Art by: Amanda Conner, Gary Frank, Joe Jusko, Louis LaChance, Mike Lilly, Mike Mayhew, Tim Sale, Mark Texeira

Dynamite Entertainment, Harris Comics, 545 Pages

Review:

I’ve kind of dug Vampirella my entire life, even if I hadn’t read many of her stories until more recently. She always looked like a cool, badass character and I’ve always enjoyed horror, especially vampire fiction.

Being that this is the 50th anniversary of the character and because I’m stoked for the new series that Christopher Priest is writing, I wanted to dive deep into Vampirella lore.

This gigantic omnibus was put out recently by Dynamite but it collects stories from the ’90s when Vampirella was being published by the now defunct Harris Comics.

What makes this collection special, is that it is a compilation of Vampirella stories from a ton of A-list creators in a time when comics were allowed to be harder, sexier, edgier and darker: all things that make Vampirella who she is.

Overall, most of this was entertaining. The only low point was the Kurt Busiek story because it was a bit slow when compared to the pacing of the others. I did like Busiek’s tale overall but it was also the largest and kind of took the wind out of the sails for me.

I wish that some of the other stories were larger or expanded on more, though. There were a lot of cool ideas tossed around and a lot of what was considered Vampirella canon was experimented on and retconned. Typically, I’m not big on retcons but with Vampirella having a rocky history, as far as being published regularly and with any sort of long lasting narrative, it doesn’t bother me. Plus, by the ’90s, a little reinvention wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In the end, I was glad to have finally read these stories and they’re certainly better than what was the standard in the early to mid-’90s.

I also loved most of the art.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Vampirella stories, as well as comics featuring Red Sonja and Dejah Thoris.

Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.