Monday, April 29, 2024

The Beast of Meteorite Acres: Splatter-Saurus (2023 Novella)

Author: Judith Sonnet
Publication Year: 2023
Chapters: 14
Rating: ***

A dinosaur-centered Youtube channel once covered this book and described it as 'dinosaur splatterpunk'. Seeing this is written by Judith Sonnet, whose stories often dip into Extreme horror, I'm not too surprised. What did tickle my curiosity, however, was upon further looking into it, some people also consider this a 'backwoods slasher'. And that, ladies and gents, is how I ended up owning this rather gruesome, exploitative novella about a random dinosaur on a feeding frenzy deep in some woods. 

The story does resemble a typical backwoods slasher plot of young adults visiting a cabin at Meteorite Acres for some rest and relaxation; drinks were drank, drugs were suggested, some hanky-panky time was considered despite some characters wondering how their partners would react if they finally decided to come out of the closet, but what these lads and ladies didn't come to account for is the orange-scaled dinosaur that's rampaging all over the nearby forest and pond! Devouring already the small family who owned the cabins and a few very horrible rednecks, this bipedal monster is now dead set on gorily sinking its teeth down on some nubile college kids...

In the afterword of the book, Sonnet wrote that Splatter-Saurus is a homage to cheesy dinosaur flicks one would typically catch on channels like SyFy or streaming sites like Tubi and, frankly, she is mostly on point; the book reads like the most hardcore creature feature exploitation piece involving a prehistoric theropod, one that the likes of the Carnosaur movies would have been if they delivered a bit more bad taste into their plots, such as overly-detailed traumatic deaths and a pinch of hicksploitation grindcore with a pair of redneck brothers who are into very disturbing and upsetting ideas of fun, examples of which apparently involve torturing lady hitchhikers and swiping babies away from mothers. 

This being a short horror piece, the story is straight-to-the-point and a quick read, barely diving away from the shallow plotting of a dinosaur brutally hunting and eating side dish cannon fodders before moving in to the main course chilling inside a cabin. Wordplay is descriptive enough to really really paint the gross gruesomeness of these attacks, as well as attempt a bit of layer and humor during the story's few lulling moments, making this a promisingly intense and intriguing B-grade horror read. The only qualm for me here is that the last twist and the resulting ending feels like it pushed the silliness a tad too far, making the conclusion overly random for the sake of cheese and shock, maybe a bit rushed as well. In all sincerity, it could work as the author did say she wanted this book to be stupid yet fun, but I personally think it could have been articulated and written better so it wouldn't be so janky.

Still, Splatter-Saurus done enough tooth-and-nail bodycounting to make it a good read, given that is you got the iron stomach for some extreme horror literature because it can get real nasty! This novelette is ridiculously wrong and splattery, but if you love a bad dinosaur creature feature, even more so a slasher with a generous offering of blood and body parts, then give this backwoods slaughter-fest with a prehistoric twist a go!

Bodycount: 13
Notable Kills: "...The bulky brute's body lifted Angus up and sent him spinning like an organic frisbee. Angus's scream warbled comedically before his body struck a nearby tree.

Paul watched in shock as his brother wrapped around the sturdy shaft of the tree."

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Mountaintop Cryptid Massacre: The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot (2021 Novel)

The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot
Author: David Irons
Publication Year: 2021
Chapters: 56
Rating: ****

Frequent visitors of this here little personal corner of the web would probably know how much I love my Bigfoot slashers! I love the splattery hamminess of Night of The Demon (1980). I love the Southern fried creepiness of The Wildman of The Navidad (2008). I love the found footage stylings of Exist (2014). I love the backwoods bachelor bash gone Bigfoot of Cherokee Creek (2018). I love this slasher/monster hybrid niche that much, I have now expanded my need to consume media where the big hairy fella slaughters teenagers one by one from movies to novels!

And here's where David Iron's The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot comes in! 

Taking place mostly in April 2nd, 1981, the novel follows the small cast and crew of an independent movie production as they drive to a rented construction site somewhere at the Oregonian mountains to finish filming the last few key scenes of their slasher flick, Mountaintop Madman Massacre. For the first half of the book, the story does a good job building itself around the filming as we get to know more about the bunch working in it; heading this production is director and writer Rob Lieberman, who technically conned his own father into funding this circus in hopes of making a quick and easy buck by cashing in to the cult success of slasher movies at that time; cinematographer Danny McLaughlin shares with his bestfriend and soundman Billy Zito his desires to do more than just commercials and low budget horror movies, thus accumulating a bit of jealousy towards the team's special effects wiz Tommy Bottin, who has doors of opportunities opening up for him after being featured in magazines like Fangoria and Cinemafantasque; Tommy, in turn, is considered a creep by some of the crew for crushing hard on the movie's leading actress, Adrianne Heather Curtis, who went from being household name famous to infamous after more than one unsavory articles written about her private life, resulting to a lack of work. 

The rest of the gang are Larry Lerner, Ben Tramer, Connie Conners and Laura Sommers, actors and actresses who all just wanted to get this last day of filming done so they can chill out, make the beast with two backs, or move on to the next acting gig. All the while Arnold Lebowitz, who's playing the titular Mountaintop Madman, is there to bring jokey vibes and be committed to his work as a lardy cannibal killer. And then there's Tony Reynolds. Stunt coordinator. In charge of the explosives to be used for the movie's explosive finale. Running a tad behind schedule and acting really sketchy and ominous by the time he finally shows up. Adrianne's lover.

In the midst of this movie-making misadventure, at a cave nearby the site, lives a family of three mythological beasts, the last of their kind; the adults know of the danger humans pose over them so they do their best to be left unseen and alone, but the youngest of them all have grown curious of the bells and whistles these interlopers brought along, luring it close to their set. Unbeknownst to the little one, as well as most of the crew, something wasn't right. Something was done to an FX shot that not only ends up with a charred body, but also the death of the male beast's loved ones.

And then, as the book said: 'All hell broke loose'.

From that point on, The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot goes full gear on the creature feature-cum-slasher flick thrills and spills as the now vengeful Bigfoot unleashes a torrent of pain and suffering towards the film crew, brawling with some, massacring the others. Intriguingly, this gruesome fiasco also brings out the worst from our doomed gang as Rob and Danny loses their marbles at the fact that Bigfoot exists and decided together that raw footage of a cryptid attack is better than no footage at all, thus paying it all in blood, while a few of the actors start to fight and betray one another reasons both sinister and petty. So the tension is written astonishingly high around this act, both from the brutality of the monster's attacks and, too, the uncertainty of who among the thespians are trustworthy or not; A LOT of the murders here have so much vivid gory details on them, my inner gorehound was more than just satisfied. It was quenched! Like, for real, it's like reading kills from any one of Adam Greene's Hatchet movies! And devolution of a once chummy film production down to a horrifying battle for survival simply spells a captivating read as the it does beg you to question where all of this is going now that almost every man and woman are out for themselves, with each chapter paced for a speedy read and ending on good hooks before jumping to the next one.  

My only qualms here is that a few twist reveals feel a tad unnecessary, especially one example which does fall into spoiler territories but I will at least say that it added nothing to the overall direction, just more excuse to pen down a gory demise. The cynical mean-spiritedness of it all may not sit too kindly for some readers as well, but, for me, there is something quite astonishing from fact that almost all of the characters were made into unlikeable douches at the end and the only one you get to feel for in some way is the killer Bigfoot as you do get to understand why he's this pissed off towards these humans. This stunt does cheapen a lot of the formerly fleshed out characters into meat bags deserving of being torn in half, yes, but when the payoff is a great read of mayhem and disturbing fates, I does help not to take this book too seriously and just enjoy The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot as the hammy, bloody horror novel that it is.

The story ends on an admittedly disturbing note, one that punches the right cards for shock and shlock, fitting right well with the absurd craziness of this Bigfoot attack /backwoods slasher story. That being said, The Bloody Tracks of Bigfoot is a fun neat read if you love a bad creature feature and the bloodiest of bodycounter flicks, one that's packed with feisty fromage and a bitter streak on the side. Should you ever find yourself with some time to kill and read B-grade cryptid horror, why not give this page-turner a try? 

Bodycount: 15
Notable Kill: Honestly, it's hard to pick just one. But if I do have to pick one, it has to be that one guy who fought Bigfoot, only to be humbled by the creature not once, but TWICE! I wouldn't say much what happened, but all I could say is that after bearing so much of that guy's cockiness, I am just glad we got the hairy fella recreating a kill from Madman (1981), only with a few more muscles and organs strewn around~

Into The Woods, Down The Hill: Mercy Falls (2023)

Mercy Falls (United Kingdom, 2023)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Lauren Lyle, Nicolette McKeown, James Watterson

As a child, Rhona caught a glimpse of an incident involving her father and an injured horse, a moment in her life that troubled her so much that her relationship with him strained to the point she barely visited him as an adult. Now that her father passed away, Rhona learns that she inherited their old family cabin up in the Scottish Highlands, so she plans a hiking trip through the moors with her boyfriend and a couple of friends to visit the place and see what became of it. Along the way, they tagged along a lone traveler named Carla, who may or may not have a bit of screws loose after the horrors she faced back when she was deployed to fight a war at Afghanistan. 

As the day goes by, the would-be jovial hike begins to devolve into an intense stay when romantic and sexual tensions between the group have them arguing and quarreling with one another. When push comes to a literal shove, the gang soon find themselves in a situation they weren't prepared for as one of them ends up dying and someone's sudden spring of bloodlust have them hunting and hacking the rest of the group.

Looking past the gorgeously scenic camera work and the good enough acting talent presented here, Mercy Falls (2023) feels like it was robbed of an opportunity to do a better story seeing, prior to anyone from the group biting the big one, the narrative seems to be heading more on a direction focusing on the psychological horrors of trauma and distrust. It dances around the rising tension within the gang as they question the credibility of their friendship and love life, as well as the mental health of the few joining them after catching one too many suspicious activities the longer they stay outdoors, but that's eventually tossed away for a more traditional survivalist-type backwoods slasher run once one of them decided to give an unfortunate fella the knife-across-the-throat treatment after concluding he didn't have long to live with a big stick impaling his thigh. The mercy killer is then found out to have stayed at a mental ward and, just because they couldn't trust the group anymore, opted to hack and slash their way through them.

This unfortunately cheapens the rest of the movie since the killer's motive could have been explored further for better thrills but, rather, Mercy Falls (2023) went ahead with the usual simplification of PTSD equaling to homicidal tendencies, thus making the mad maniac here genuinely unremarkable. Pairing this misfire with a predictable and overlong stalk-and-stab situation, as well as murders that are barely captivatingly splashy or gory, and you would, in due course, get to climactic showdown that's disappointingly isn't anywhere as satisfying or impactful as it could have been due to its lack of tension and personality. Really underwhelming stuff here bearing in mind how well the movie starts.

If you're not in a very demanding mood, then Mercy Falls (2023) makes a suitable timewaster, I guess. It has enough production quality to look good and, honestly, I have seen worse backwoods killing sprees out there, but you can also do better than this downhill tumble from high ground to flat dirt. Good plot, terrible execution.  

1 male had his throat cut with a combat knife (flashback)
1 male stabbed to death with a combat knife (flashback)
1 male had his throat cut with a hunting knife 
1 female shot on the neck (flashback)
1 male hacked to death with a hiking pick
1 female hanged
1 male stabbed in the gut with a hunting knife
1 female set ablaze by a gasoline-doused flaming torch
Total: 8

Friday, April 5, 2024

Broken and Vengeful: Bedevilled (2010)

Bedevilled (Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal) (South Korea, 2010)
Rating: ****1/2
Starring: Seo Yeong-hie, Ji Seong-won, Min-ho Hwang

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.

Hoping to escape the busy bustle of Seoul's big city life, as well as the troubles that come with it like a stressful office environment and being a witness of an assault, Hae-won decided to take a week long vacation at her home island, Moo-do, and spend some time with her childhood friend, Bok-nam, who have been writing letters to her. Little does she know, however, are the daily horrors Bok-nam suffer at the hands of the few remaining islanders living there as not only is she berated and shunned by the island women for not meeting their outdated norms of a dutiful and loyal wife, but she also physically and sexually abused by her brutish spouse and sleazy brother-in-law. Her only respite to all of her suffering is her daughter Yeon-hee and the fleeting chance of escaping her hellish island life to Seoul. A chance that might finally be at reach with Hae-won's arrival and help.

Unfortunately, despite Bok-nam's pleas and horrifying suspicions that Yeon-hee is being groomed by her own father, Hae-won turns a blind eye to the request, leading to Bok-nam taking matters at her own hands and attempt to leave the island with her daughter on her own. This only leads to a harrowing loss that finally breaks Bok-nam and, with Hae-won further refusing to help with the matter and the islanders' continuing maltreatment, a sickle is wielded and everyone will feel the wrath of a woman forever scorned...

Bedevilled (2010) is, without a doubt, one of the hardest movies for me to watch and I say that as a compliment to just how well it works not only a revenge-driven psychological slasher, but as a movie in general; for the first hour, it explores the extent of cruelty upon an undeserving party and the consequences of being a bystander, having us uncomfortably witness the full brunt of the abuse Bok-nam endures day by day, a matter that's actually encouraged by the aging island women whose mindsets are still stuck in the old gender norms of men being respected despite the stones they throw upon their spouses, and that a woman's job is only to be loyal to their husbands and do nothing but provide and serve. The film reaches to an extent that it brews a boiling sense of outrage from its audience, even more so when the film presented more than one chances for Bok-nam to be free of her horrible mistreatment, only for it to be swept away by hushed tongues, blind eyes and lies. It's a different kind of horror, one that hits a brand of realism all too well thanks Seo Yeong-hie's outstandingly heart-rending role and performance as the victim of all of these horrible deeds, and too the fact that despite Hae-won being presented as the main character of the plot, the direction and focus are mostly centered around Bok-nam's grueling hardships, making it quite easy to develop our sympathies for her plight.

Eventually, it all has to reach a breaking point and, after one irreversible act of violence, Bedevilled (2010) dives into a cathartic revenge-fueled murder spree as the islanders meet the bladed point of a sickle one by one. Necks hacked, heads decapitated, guts knifed, it's all as satisfying as it can get, a deserving pay-off filled with good gore, savage bloodletting and harrowing intensity after watching these villains haughtily justify their assault and persecutions for the longest time, reducing them to victims begging for their lives once the tables finally turn against them. And yet, in the midst of this eye-for-and-eye retribution play, there's an underlying feeling of misery and heartache as the film subtly reminds us that it didn't have to come to this bloodshed. There's no smile in Bok-nam's face as she murders these people. No quips. No fanfare. Just a stoic face, a broken spirit and pure methodic deaths that could have been prevented when the right people stepped in, a graze of complexity that has this bodycount achieving more in depth than just your regular horror film kill streak.

The final act is where Bedevilled (2010) works its emotionally-scarring character study into your typical slasher flick showdown as Hae-won sees herself trapped in a police station, the only officer there seemingly murdered, with a very maddened Bok-nam waiting there to finish what she started. It's the usual trappings of chase sequences, blows traded and a crazily gory last kill, but it's still punctuated with an emotional dour mood that's in line with the movie's cathartic development, ending on a bittersweet yet still devastating note that touches on the melancholic.

Admittedly, Bedevilled (2010) is not a movie for everyone. The brutality of the abuse shown can come to a point where it feels uncalled for, or at least have one welding a strong constitution to sit and bear it. At the end of it all, though, the promised conclusion is one to deliver and remember. One that rewards your patience and rage with a rush of psychological release through bloody sickle kills upon those who deserves it. If you think you're up to it, then see this unsung revenge masterpiece!

1 female murdered offscreen
1 girl lands head-first on a rock
1 female hacked on the neck with a sickle
1 female hacked on the back of the head with a sickle
1 female hacked with a sickle
1 elderly female jumped off a cliff and landed on rocks
1 male decapitated with a sickle
1 male gutted with a knife, hacked to death with a sickle
1 male shredded through a boat propeller 
1 male bashed to death with a sledgehammer
1 female repeatedly shot, stabbed in the throat with a recorder flute
Total: 11