Archive for the Guest Post Category

Guest Post: Review of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , on November 2, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Director: Scott Glosserman

Writers: Scott Glosserman, David J. Stieve

Starring: Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Robert Englundbehind the mask poster

I’ll freely admit it. I’m a sucker for horror movies that poke fun at their own genre. I’ve always felt that movies that do this are sharing a little wink with the audience. From Jamie Kennedy’s character, Randy teaching us all how to survive a horror movie in Scream, to finally understanding how victims consistently fall into the same horror movie tropes in Cabin in the Woods, I enjoy being winked at.

Perhaps my favorite winking horror movie is Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon. (Spoilers ahead.)

The mockumentary opens to a world where Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger are real serial killers stalking real killing grounds.  Budding documentarian Taylor Gentry (Angela Goethals) comes to the town of Glen Echo, Maryland to interview and film the town’s very own aspiring slasher villain, Leslie Vernon (Nathan Baesel).

Leslie begins walking Taylor and her crew through his process. He establishes the importance of finding the proper place to serve as the anchor for his legend and for the final showdown. He details how he chooses his target group and, most importantly, his survivor girl. Leslie explains to Taylor and crew that a survival girl is the virginal sweetheart who will make it through the night alive before he executes his flyby: his first fleeting contact with Kelly (Kate Lang Johnson), the survivor girl. If you’re a fan of horror movies (especially from the 1980s), you will giggle, snort, and smile the whole way through the setup. It is chock full of Easter eggs and horror movie references that I won’t list here since catching them and having an in-the-know chuckle is half the fun of the film.

We are introduced to Leslie’s mentor, Eugene (Scott Wilson, a.k.a. Hershel Greene from The Walking Dead), and his wife Jamie. Call me creepy—lots of people do—but I think it’s kind of cute that Eugene is a retired slasher who married his survivor girl and refers to his peers as “Jay, Fred, and Mike.”

Now, if you’re a horror fan and have been paying attention to the film, you will start to get a feeling that perhaps things aren’t quite as Leslie is presenting them. You will smile as Leslie starts talking about planting his red herring. You might look around the room to wonder if anyone else is thinking what you’re thinking, but you won’t have much time to assess the looks on your friends’ faces before snapping your head back to the screen to watch Leslie murder his first victim, the librarian Mrs. Collinwood, as adorably played by Zelda Rubinstein (Poltergeist).

Kelly is saved in this scene by Doc Halloran, played by none other than Mr. Freddy Frikkin’ Krueger himself, Robert Englund. I jump up and down almost as excitedly in the real world as Leslie, Eugene, and Jamie do on screen as they declare that Leslie has found his “Ahab” in Doc Halloran. He is the good to Leslie’s evil, the man who will hunt Leslie till death because that is the right thing to do.

While going behind Leslie’s back to try and speak to Kelly, Taylor and crew speak to Doc Halloran who reinforces what some astute audience members already suspect; Leslie is not who he says he is. His last name is Mancuso, not Vernon, and he is not the boy from local legend.  Likewise, no one is playing the part they think they are.

However, Leslie continues to guide Taylor and crew through his plans for his night. He describes step by step how he will manipulate each character into the position he needs to make his plans go off without a hitch. He comments on imagery and psychology as he details how his murder spree needs to play out.

It isn’t until the shooting style changes from a documentary style to a more traditional one, the fourth wall mended and fortified, that intentions are made clear and audience suspicions about who is really who are confirmed.  The audience straps in for the cleverly done finale.

Is it a perfect movie? No. It has its problems. I take issue with Leslie being able to best people who absolutely know beyond question what’s coming. And perhaps I’m a sap, but I actually wanted to see a deeper relationship between Leslie and Survivor Girl. I don’t know why. Maybe I was hooked on an idea presented earlier in the film. Maybe I’m just trying to impose my own preference, which is a total jerk move to pull in a review. So, while I don’t believe Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon is a perfect film, it is one hell of a fun ride, one I’ll happily go on over and over again.

I give it 4 out of 5 scythes.

Devon L. Miller


Guest Post: Review of The Shining, by Stephen King

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2015 by Xander Woolf

Published in 1977 by Doubleday Publishing

Currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The 25 Best Horror Books Ever Written

Written by Bridget Cannon

Are you looking for a book to get you in the Halloween spirit? The Shining has always been one of my favorites. Perhaps because it was my first “grown up” horror experience. Since then, I have seen a lot of horror movies and read a lot of horror books. Stephen King has remained on the top of my list. I think it is because of the nature of his writing. He brilliantly weaves real life with the supernatural. This is a clever way to allow the reader to feel secure about reading things that normally might just hit a little too close to home. I happen to think that this layer of reality is what makes his books scary. It gives them some real teeth.

The Shining is no exception. In fact, I think it is one of the best books of his to start with because it showcases his early writing so well. We have an ordinary family, the Torrances, with very ordinary problems. They are then thrown into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; specifically, a haunted hotel called the Overlook. The extraordinary then pushes these people to the brink, forcing them to either battle their monsters or to become them.

These battles, in my humble opinion, are far scarier than whatever is in room 217 or the hedge monsters because these are the battles that people have to fight every day. It is a battle that can be lost at any time with very real consequences. The reader gets to see that early on with Jack Torrance. Yes, the ghosts are scary and, yes, we worry about Danny but it is the humanness of it all that is the scariest. That really makes us care about what is happening in the Overlook Hotel.

The Shining is one of my favorite books for these reasons. If you are looking to try the film, there are two versions. I like do the 1980 movie version despite it losing parts of the book, but Jack Nicholson is wonderful in it. The 1997 miniseries is a lot closer to the book and the version I prefer. I have found that to be true with a lot of King’s miniseries since they were able to keep more of the book without having to worry about a run time.

So, if you are looking for a good scare this Halloween, pick up a copy of The Shining! You won’t regret it. If you have read it, then perhaps you should give it a quick reread before picking up a copy of Doctor Sleep, which is the wonderful sequel.

Guest Post: Review of The Haunting of Hill House Novel

Posted in Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2015 by Xander Woolf

The Haunting of Hill House is currently on Amazon’s Books from Hell: The Top 25 Horror Books Ever Written

Written by: Bridget Cannon

There is a real pleasure in reading simple physiological horror. That is what The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson reminded me. It is like when you are being told your first ghost stories as a child. Those stories are not about gore. They are about anticipation. About the small sounds and all the little things that you don’t want to admit frighten you. So you sit there with your brave face on but later you hide as deep into your covers in the darkness, anticipating what will happen. That is what it is like to read The Haunting of Hill House.

What was really interesting for me was how the characters have been written. I didn’t particularly like any of them yet I still cared about them. I worried for their well-being. I related to them but, to be honest, I’m not sure I would like to be stuck in the house with any of them. I give Shirley Jackson a lot of credit for being able to write them so well. They are well rounded and incredibly human. The story begins after the Doctor has sent out letters to people, whom he has carefully screened, to spend a few months with him at Hill House to help with an experiment in the paranormal. The main character is Eleanor, who accepts the invitation as a step toward reclaiming her own life after spending many years caring for her dying mother. The other character who accepts is a vivacious woman named Theodora. They are joined by Luke, who is going to inherit Hill House one day, and by the couple who care for the house.

The suspense creeps up on you in the best way while you read. If you are a fan of ghost stories, I would highly recommend this book. If you scoff at ghost stories, I would recommend this book.  Also, if you are looking for a movie version I would find the 1963 version of The Haunting over the 1999 version. I found this style of horror refreshing to read. I have always liked ghost stories and this one reminded me why. Like Montaque tells us: “Fear,” the doctor said, “is the relinquishment of logic, the willing relinquishing of reasonable patterns. We yield to it or we fight it, but we cannot meet it halfway.” Sometimes it is just fun to give in and wonder about the shadows and the slight creaks in the night.