Nothing to Skype Home About: A Review of “Unfriended”

Unfriended
http://bit.ly/1Eo6td7

Hollywood producers are constantly trying to seek out horror movies that will cost close to nothing to make, but absolutely make insane amounts of money. We’ve seen this most egregiously with one of the most popular horror genres to ever — the concept of the “found footage” movie. 1999’s The Blair Witch Project was the first real commercial success story to come out of a found footage style horror flick (and is one of my all-time favorite horror movies). But it wasn’t until 2009’s Paranormal Activity that many production companies decided to follow suit and start production on their own found footage horror movies. These movies are typically quite easy to make (at least in comparison to movies shot with regular film cameras), require small budgets, and are easily marketed to the teenage markets. Though they’re usually of disconcerting quality, they typically become successful.

Unfriended is the latest venture into the already stale genre of found footage horror movies. It’s set apart from the rest, though, as it actually boasts an interesting concept; the entirety of the movie is seen from the main character’s Macbook screen in real time as she surfs Facebook, plays music on Spotify, and Skypes her friends (product placement galore!). Unfortunately, however, this concept is executed without craft and ends up becoming little more than just a gimmick.

Continue reading

An Analysis of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” Series – Part 1

Freddy-O's
http://bit.ly/1BryUWA

In 1984, a young director named Wes Craven unleashed the monster known as Freddy Krueger upon the world, and we loved it. After A Nightmare on Elm Street was released, the newest horror icon, Freddy Krueger (played magnificently by the horror cult icon, Robert Englund), became a household name throughout the 80s and 90s.

With A Nightmare on Elm Street came an abundance of toys, a television show, Halloween costumes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a “Freddy O’s” breakfast cereal was in talks at some point. Freddy Krueger was arguably the biggest movie icon of the 80s. Forget Johnny Depp (whose first role was in the original NoES); forget Patrick Swayze; forget Tom Cruise. We wanted more Freddy, and we got it in the form of six sequels.

Nearly everyone has seen the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (or it’s 2010 remake), but not nearly as many people have ever given the many sequels a chance. Because of this, for my first-ever post here on Jet Fuel Review Blog, I will be looking at the first three of six sequels (Nightmare parts 2, 3, and 4) and determining if the hype for Freddy Krueger was deserved or not.

Continue reading

Mike’s Horror Blog: “Rain Falls”

http://knoxnews.com

Michael Marshall Smith’s “Rain Falls” is, at first appearance, a look into the mundane life of a nameless protagonist who likes to frequent a pub he calls “The Porcupine,” but it’s more that that – it’s an examination of how violence can sweep up anyone, even innocent bystanders.

The title comes from the protagonist’s comparison of a fight breaking out to “rain from clear April skies.” It’s sudden, intense and vanishes quickly, but there’s always someone who ends up bearing the brunt of it. As is the case here: what appears to be a slice-of-life story is actually a werewolf tale – werewolves being the embodiment of primal violence and the raging id.

When the main character stumbles upon the aftermath of the werewolf’s latest feeding, he finds himself in a whole new world, which, as the ending implies, may lead to his death. Again, that’s the nature of violence. It doesn’t discriminate who its victims are. Smith does an excellent job of taking normal situations and injecting them with terror, and I’ll have to be on the lookout for his other work.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: Son of Celluloid

http://www.cinemagebooks.com

“Son of Celluloid” from Clive Barker is a favorite of mine. The story tells of an escaped convict that dies behind a movie screen, where his cancerous tumor grows sapient from the emotions and thoughts of the viewing audience. Eight months later, the cancer begins to kill the workers and visitors to the theater to sustain itself.

The main reason I like this story is because it gets to the heart of why watching movies can be such a powerful experience. A really good film can make its audience laugh, cry, scream, or any other variety of emotions. We live vicariously through film, and it’s that “life” that the cancer wants. Just as our imaginations make movies real, the cancer uses images of old movie stars to seduce and kill its victims.

Most of the horror comes from the concept of “body horror,” where the body is ruined in some way – the concept of a piece of you becoming sentient and consuming others certainly qualifies. Barker has written other stories that deal with the twisting of flesh: “Jacqueline Ess” and “The Hellbound Heart” are some examples. He has this weird talent for intertwining the sexual with the grotesque – he’s not for everybody, but I’ve reviewed some of his other pieces and I recommend him.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: H.P. Lovecraft

http://goodreads.com

The Doom That Came to Sarnath and Other Tales is a collection of stories and poems by H. P. Lovecraft, one which is fascinating to read as it shows off some of his lesser known works. While many people think Lovecraft only wrote tales dealing with the Cthulhu Mythos, he actually dealt with fantasy, science-fiction, and more traditional forms of horror.

For example, the titular story takes place in an ancient land that has elements of magic and fantasy as its pillars, rather than the 1920s setting Lovecraft aimed for. From there, we segue into the Poe-inspired stories (an excerpt from one of Lovecraft’s letters says that he considered Poe his “God of Fiction”), then into traditional and prose poetry. There are a few collaborations and ghostwritten pieces, including one for Harry Houdini. All in all, it’s a good resource.

Of course, Lovecraft’s earlier works show some weaknesses (including ones that he never overcame): he liked to describe the setting, to the point where it bogged down the plot, and his prose was beyond purple. While there is some tightening in his later pieces, it can still be exhausting to read. Still, it’s an interesting to still how prolific Lovecraft was.

– Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: The Reach

http://totalfilm.tumblr.com

Stephen King’s “The Reach” is something of an anomaly out of the hundreds of short stories he’s written – while it contains elements of gothic horror, there’s nothing overtly horrifying about it. The protagonist, Stella Flanders, is the oldest resident of Goat Island and has never crossed the titular Reach, the body of water that surrounds the island. That changes when she begins to see the ghost of her dead husband and other deceased residents, begging her to cross the Reach to the mainland. It’s revealed that Stella is dying from cancer, and that the ghosts are trying to get her to accept the inevitable, to accept death by crossing the Reach.

The atmosphere of the story is based on King’s experience living in Maine, with its harsh winters and close-knit communities – the residents of Goat Island are all part of an extended family and depend on one another, so it’s easy to see why the death of one person affects everyone. Stella is affected by the death of her husband, her best friend, and many other people she outlived, so when she realizes that her time is up, naturally, she denies it, ignoring the appearance of her dead husband – only when she accepts that she’s dying does she respond.

The Reach itself is both literal and metaphorical: Stella’s crossing the frozen waters over to the mainland mirrors her crossing over to death. The scene takes place during a blizzard, where the blowing snow and gusting winds create an otherworldly atmosphere, almost unreal. I don’t know what dying would feel like, but it would probably be similar to the “gauzy and grey” sights Stella sees.

I’d recommend checking this out, as it’s a departure from the terrifying stories King normally writes.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: Penumbra

http://monstervine.com

From the makers of Amnesia comes the Penumbra series, another horror series that lets the player’s imagination do most of the work. The story follows Philip, a thirty-year-old physician that received a letter from his supposedly dead father, prompting him to follow a series of clues that leads him to northern Greenland. The harsh cold forces him into an abandoned mine, where he discovers that something unusual has occurred, which includes the fauna growing to dangerously large proportions.

Like Amnesia, the game relies on the atmosphere and the player’s mind to create the scares – it’s a fine game, although a big drawback is the combat system: it’s not needed. Besides being clunky, being able to fight your enemies immediately takes away the feeling of powerlessness. Granted, you can’t defeat the majority of the monsters, but the fact that it’s there means a lot of players are going to try, which is going to lead to frustration.

Still, if you’re a horror game aficionado like me, this is a worthy addition to your collection.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: Amnesia

http://wikipedia.org

I love horror games, but the problem with many of them is that they aren’t scary – they may have some shocking moments, but few can conjure up the feelings of fear and dread. Most seem content to throw a bunch of gore at the screen and call it a day. This is not so with Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Taking place in 1839, the plot centers around Daniel, a young man from London, awakening in the Prussian Brennenburg Castle, with no memory of his past or why he’s there – the only clue is a note he wrote to himself, which states he deliberately erased memory and he must kill the Baron of the castle, Alexander. Complicating matters is that Alex is being hunted by a shadowy mass that threatens to devour the entire castle.

Where Amnesia gets it right is by having the player’s mind create the illusion of danger – most of the time the player is safe, but unless you’ve played the game, you don’t know that, so you’re going to jump at every noise and movement, whether imagined or not. The atmosphere is crushing – the darkness and ambient soundtrack will have you inching forward all the time. There were many moments where I thought, “Do I really want to open this door?” or “Do I really want to see what’s around this corner?” Of course, if you want to see the end of the game you have to do these things, but it’s that doubt that makes the experience seem real.

There’s going to be a sequel called A Machine for Pigs coming out next year, and I’ll be playing it right away.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.