Review: “Chain Saw Confidential” by Gunnar Hansen

A review by Brit.

In the eyes of many horror fans, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of the greatest movies within the genre. It was released in 1974 and was quickly renowned for its craftsmanship and surprisingly bloodless violence. It was hated as much as it was loved. And in the form of Chain Saw Confidential, the one taking on the telling of the film’s origin story (and the reckoning of its legacy) is Gunnar Hansen. Who better than Leatherface himself to take on this muddy tale of dead chickens, melted film prints and runaway eight hour makeup chair sessions?

This book is largely an oral history of the making of Massacre, from the origins in the head of cigar-chomping director Tobe Hooper to the placement of the film in the Museum of Modern Art (and the scathing reviews that choice inspired). Helpfully, the story is also organized in the order of the actual movie’s plot. Hansen’s perspective is somewhat limited due to his starring role in the film. But he interviews cast and crew members extensively, openly admitting when details are inconsistent or if something has been completely forgotten. Add in thoughts about the movie from figures like John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) and it’s a very fun ride.

There are two reasons why I did not give this book five stars. The first is that readers who are inherently interested in horror and/or the filmmaking process itself will have a much better experience reading this book than those who are not. It’s undeniable. I’m a huge fan of Massacre, so naturally I enjoyed hearing about the nitty-gritty details about chicken bones and poor set insulation.The average reader may not care to hear about the post-production money distribution web of confusion that happened after the movie took off.

The second reason is that some readers may find Hansen’s treatise on horror at the end of the book tiring. It’s understandable that he has strong feelings on horror being connected to violence in American culture. But it’s 2017, and this debate now largely takes place only in academic and highly political circles. Even if you have no plans to watch Massacre for yourself, this book is still a good testament to the power of research and desire to tell the “real story” of how a legendary phenomenon came to be. Hansen writes in a wry voice that often reminded me of my grandfather. He’s exactly the kind of storyteller to take on this twisted, fun story.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Advertisements

Review: “Final Girls” by Mira Grant

Review- Final Girls by Mira Grant

A review by Amanda.

I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Doctor Jennifer Webb has invented a new therapeutic treatment, which utilizes proprietary virtual reality technology to help people heal psychological injuries. Clients are placed in special pods, induced to deep sleep, and given carefully monitored injections. Technicians run a dream-like scenario through the VR program, which the client experiences as reality. Each scenario is tailored to the client, to help resolve their specific issues.

Esther Hoffman is a journalist who has made her career by debunking pseudo-science. Due to tragic circumstances in her own past, involving fraudulent regression therapy, Esther is out to prove that Doctor Webb’s work is phony at best; at worst it could be dangerous. Jennifer is determined to prove the safety and viability of her therapy and Esther reluctantly agrees to go through the process, to experience it firsthand. Things do not exactly go as planned, in either reality.

This is a novella written by Mira Grant, which is the pseudonym of best-selling author Seanan Maguire. It’s length does not diminish the horror aspects, thankfully. Readers get just enough insight into the main characters to care about their fates. Industrial espionage, murder, and supernatural elements mingle to make a perfectly horrifying tale. The science behind the therapy is explained in a way that feels natural and easy to understand, which is not always the case in science fiction. There are several delightful twists, and the ending is unexpected perfection. Seanan Maguire has also written the Newsflesh trilogy, a horror series, under the Mira Grant pseudonym.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones”

Review of Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones

A review by Amanda.

This book is the eleventh in the Charley Davidson series, and contains spoilers from previous books. I received this ebook for free from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

New and shocking information about both Charley’s and Reyes’ origins came to light in book ten, The Curse of the Tenth Grave. But our snarky, caffeine-addicted heroine is still as plucky as ever. She is quick with the quips and sarcastic remarks, immensely loyal to her closest friends and family, and determined to save the world in her own, stubborn way. One of Reyes’ godly brothers has been trapped in the god glass, but that leaves one on the loose to hunt them down. With her infant daughter safely hidden away, Charley is free to focus on defeating her enemies, investigate for her PI clients, and sidestep the limitations her husband tries to place on her, for her safety. Oh, and dodge the angels sent to watch her after she threatened Jehovah.

With every new discovery regarding Charley’s distant past, I half expect that her personality will do an about-face. It is always a pleasant surprise when she retains everything that makes her Charley – her sassy, hilarious remarks, unwavering commitment to her loved ones, passion for Reyes, and her willingness to risk her own life to do what has to be done. That she manages to stay true to herself while also continuing to grow is a testament to the author’s talent in developing her characters in a realistic manner. The series is very much character driven, meaning readers will read book after book because of Charley herself, no matter what cases she is working on, or what is happening in the supernatural parts of her life. The supporting characters are just as integral, and exhibit just almost as much growth.

As much as I enjoyed this story, there was one aspect that disappointed. The main men in Charley’s life, namely Reyes and Ubie, continue to issue orders, even resorting to manipulation on occasion. They both hide their reasons for their demands, ostensibly for her safety, and get frustrated when she doesn’t listen. Aside from the fact that neither of these men seem to trust Charley with relevant information, it seems unlikely that two people who have known Charley for her entire life would actually expect her to comply without question. Reyes and Ubie should both know better, especially so late in the series. Reyes has fallen under the “protective male protagonist” stereotype several times before, as has Ubie, and it never works in their favor. This might be a more upsetting trend, were it not for Charley’s habit of calling them out on their behavior and her tendency to do what she wants anyway. This could be an intentional character flaw, especially for Reyes, since he is otherwise pretty close to perfect. Their banter and head-butting disagreements are still entertaining. Hopefully he will eventually grow past the need to protect Charley in this particular way.

I enjoyed this book just as much as the rest of the series and look forward to continuing with book twelve!

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

“The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch #5)” by R.L. Stine

The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Relaunch #5) by R.L. Stine

A review by Amanda.

When high school senior Caitlyn meets new boy Blade, it’s love at first sight. Things seem to be going exceptionally well, if developing faster than her friends think is appropriate. Caitlyn decides to ignore their warnings, choosing instead to focus on how amazing they are together. One night, Blade sends a text and cancels a date with Caitlyn. She is concerned but not suspicious until she accidentally happens upon Blade’s car and witnesses his affection towards another girl. Rage hits Caitlyn like an anvil, one thing leads to another, and Blade ends up dead by Caitlyn’s hand. Caitlyn quickly covers up her part in the grisly murder and does her best to hide her guilt from everyone around her.

Devestated at the loss of her perfect relationship and at the knowledge that she’s capable of murder, Caitlyn is consumed by grief and confusion. The horror she feels at her actions is nothing compared to how she feels when Blade mysteriously comes back from the dead. Questions race through her mind – how is this possible? Will he reveal her murderess status to everyone? And how does Deena Fear, of the infamous Fear family, tie in to everything?

To someone who read anything by R.L. Stine as a young adult, aspects of this book will feel quite nostalgic. Stine’s classic twists and turns are in abundance, and while they were a bit more predictable reading from an adult perspective, young teens may enjoy being surprised and delightfully terrified. There are some minor graphic descriptions of violence, typical of the author’s other works in this genre. Sexually, the characters do not progress past kissing, although more could be very lightly implied. As a character, Caitlyn is shallow and a stereotypical teenaged girl. None of the characters have much depth, but that isn’t necessarily a major drawback in this case. The story moves very quickly and is intended to be a light read for those looking to be intrigued and vaguely creeped out.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

BOOK TOUR Review: “Carnival Keepers” by Amber Gulley

A review by Domoni.

I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

It’s All Hallows Eve and the Carnival has returned as it does each year, though this carnival is unlike any other in 1879 London. Strange things abound and spread throughout the town. James, on a mission to win a bet made with his friend Alex that has multiple quests to complete in one day, is refusing to stop his task due to the bizarre happenings in his town. Forces seem to be conspiring to keep James away from the carnival, while others work to bring him to it.  While the carnival keepers enjoy their yearly visit to London, and the feast so easily found on its streets and walking into their mists, some work to just get through the day before the carnival leaves again.

This is a strange horror story placed in Victorian England. James seems to be the main character and his portion of the story is in first person, though there are many characters we watch weave through the story. The carnival keepers are not human and many delight in the destruction of the mortals around them. For some reason James is a main goal. Many seek him, for good or for bad, it is hard to follow why. Being the indulged child of a wealthy family, he is more concerned with drinking, winning the bet and thoughts of his girl Laura, who he plucked from the streets and turned from a tart into a lady in waiting.

This story has great bones to be an amazing horror tale, but it lacks the threads to draw the whole thing together. There are characters placed into the story with no motivation which only seem to be there to end up dead. From the detective that starts following James, for no defined reason, to the cousin Emily, who never serves a purpose, I searched for a reason behind their appearance and never found it. I was more confused reading this story than captivated.

The author has an incredible talent for bringing her world to life. The fog-lined streets of London in their filth and clutter are easily pictured in one’s mind.  The hiss of gas lights and the smell of the stagnant air in the refuse-choked cobblestone alleys are the scene of supernatural creatures enjoying a gore filled meal of urchins and nobles alike. I just wish that there was more reason given for why the carnival keepers behaved the way they did. Why did none of the mortal characters react by seeking help, or fleeing the terrifying events in the plagued city?

 

As the carnival ends and the night is over, there is no conclusion to the events or explanation to the characters’ motivations. I pushed through the story hoping for clarity and was simply left puzzled.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “The Assassin Game” by Kirsty McKay

The Assassin Game by Jesse McKay

A review by Amanda.

At Umfraville Hall, an isolated Welsh school for gifted and genius teens, The Game is everything and sixteen year old Cate is ecstatic when she is invited to play. Cate isn’t particularly gifted, nor is she a genius. She attends Umfraville because her parents own the island that it was built on. Being initiated into The Assassins Guild is her dream come true because it means the she has been accepted by the in-crowd. It also means that she and her two closest friends, also members of the Guild, get to have some extra fun this school year. The Game is known by many names in other parts of the world – Assassin, Murder, etc. One player is secretly chosen to be the “Killer”; they have to “kill” their fellow players one by one without getting caught. There are rules, of course. The kills are actually harmless pranks meant to simulate gruesome deaths. No one should ever actually be injured while playing The Game. They must also be discreet enough to not disrupt school life and annoy the staff. The Killer must eliminate everyone in entertaining ways while the rest of the players have to do their best to figure out who the Killer is before being taken out and removed from play. Whoever is left standing at the end is the winner.

The Game begins as it always does, with a disgusting initiation for the newest members. Then, chaos happens. Rules are bent to allow a new student to play, a boy from Cate’s past whose appearance rattles her in more ways than one. Awkwardness abounds as Cate has to deal with the emotions of two boys that she kissed and then jilted, as well as some threatening notes that may or may not be part of The Game. Her focus is torn when people start getting hurt, for real. Is someone taking The Game a little too seriously, or is there a wannabe serial killer at Umfraville?

The Assassin Game had plenty of intrigue and thrills to keep my attention. Cate narrated as though she was confiding in a friend; she even addressed the reader directly once or twice. The mystery was a good one and the author did a great job of concealing the culprit until the very end. I definitely enjoyed the thriller aspects, as well as the descriptions of the setting. Emotionally, however, I felt like I was in the mind of a sociopath – Cate reacted to various situations appropriately but it felt as though she was simply going through the motions. I knew what emotions Cate was supposed to be feeling, according to the writing, but I could not connect those emotions to her character. It was a struggle to care about what she was experiencing. The other characters had even less depth, which made the story feel oddly lacking.

Ultimately, I liked this book but did not love it.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.

Review: “Fray” by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

Fray by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, and Andy Owens

A review by Courtney.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy was the first Joss Whedon show that had me falling down the rabbit hole that is the Joss Whedon fandom. So when I found out that he had written another comic book about a slayer that wasn’t Buffy, I was little hesitant. I had previously started Buffy Season 8, which is in comic book form and is fantastic, but I was still just a little worried that maybe this would be too much slayer or not different enough or just not something enough. But it was written by Joss and one of my missions in life is to consume everything he’s been apart of because it’s amazing; so I finally picked Fray up and gave it a chance.

Fray starts 200 years in the future after the last slayer has disappeared with the rest of the demons, after an epic battle upon which they also disappeared into another dimension never to be seen again. We meet Melaka Fray, known as “Mel” or “Fray” throughout most of the book. Mel believes that she is just very strong and that she knows how take falls and position her body to take the least amount of pain and that that is how she survives everything that happens to her. She works as a thief for a fish monster, who is as creepy as you would imagine. The thing that haunts Mel the most is losing her twin brother to a vampire while on job from her boss. The vampire threw Mel off of a roof and proceeded to kill her brother. Her sister holds her responsible for their brother’s death and that may be why Mel goes out of her way to protect and stand up for her tiny neighbor girl. A demon comes into Mel’s life and forces her to face the facts that she is a slayer and she needs to embrace her destiny in the coming war.

This comic book definitely has a Joss Whedon feel; there are surprising deaths and twists that I didn’t expect and had me gasping for breath at times. I appreciated that Joss went out of his way to make his leading female character look like an actual human girl. Fray’s curves are not exaggerated and neither are anyone else’s; it was refreshing to see actual people in a comic book. As a Whedon fan, I was not disappointed in this comic.

 I would recommend this comic book to people who like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and those who like strong female leads in their literature. I rate it five out of five stars, but I do add the following disclaimer that after you finish reading this, you will want more and at the moment Whedon has not written anything that follows this.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

This page contains affiliate links. Read our full disclosure here.