Book Reviews: Vicious & Slayer

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Hello again!  It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, and my plan was to pick up again with my Back to Fear Street series.  However, I was starting to get a bit burned out, and I had some not so enjoyable experiences revisiting the series and checking out the new books.  So, I decided that I would go back to reading whatever I want. I’m off to a pretty good start – I’ve read seven books so far this year which is pretty good for me, and there’s a couple I’d like to recommend.

The first is Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  This book came out in 2013, so I was tardy to the party but better late than never.  Vicious is the story of two college roommates who discover a way to develop super powers.  But then something goes horribly wrong, as things tend to do when super powers are involved, and the two friends become enemies.  Think Professor X vs. Magneto. I loved Vicious and gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads.  If you enjoy reading comics, I think you’ll find this book to be right up your alley.  But even if you don’t, it will still be a great read! Schwab does a fantastic job at world-building without being overly complicated, and her characters are complex and well-developed.  A sequel to Vicious entitled Vengeful was released in 2018.  I haven’t read it yet but definitely planning to.  I also read that the rights to a film adaptation were purchased, so maybe we’ll be seeing this story on the big screen.  But if not, it’s definitely worth a read!

My second recommendation is Buffy-related, which if you listen to our podcast will come as no surprise. Slayer by Kiersten White is a 2019 release about…a slayer.  But not the one we all know and love. There’s a new slayer in town, and her name is Nina.  There’s just one tiny complication – she’s also part of the Watchers, an organization that works to protect the slayers.  Before Nina even gets a chance to adjust to her new calling, a host of demons and monsters show up, and her powers as a slayer and her duties to the Watchers are put to the test.  I LOVED this book and gave it 5/5 stars on Goodreads. I think a newcomer to the world of Buffy would enjoy Slayer because it’s just a lot of fun if you’re into supernatural fiction.  However, as an OG fan of Buffy, this book was truly rewarding. Talk about Easter eggs!  If you loved the movie, TV show, AND the comics, you’ll definitely get a lot out of Slayer.  There’s so many references that aren’t necessarily key to the plot but that just add so much to the story because this book very much so takes place within the Buffyverse.  But in addition to the references, we also get some visits from some much beloved characters who do factor into the plot. I won’t reveal any surprises because if you’re as big a Buffy fan as me, the payoff is worth the wait.  I read on Goodreads that this will be a duology, but I would love for it to go on and on. It’s obvious from both the story (and from the acknowledgements at the back of the book), that the author is an OG Buffy fan herself. She wrote Slayer with a lot of respect to the original material and gave us a host of new complex characters and adventures to enjoy.  I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of supernatural fiction, and it’s a must-read if you’re a fan of Buffy!

Hopefully I’ll have more recommendations soon!  There’s a lot to read out there, and a lot of it’s on my many bookshelves.  So on to my next adventure!

Kia is a co-host of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

 

Short Film Review: “Stalk”

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“Stalk”

Written by Brantley J. Brown

Directed by Michael Coulombe

Starring Kara Schaaf and Tyler Gallant

Do you ever find yourself traipsing along a deserted street in the bleak, inky night?  Are you ever frozen at an impasse, your concreted kicks leaving your legs soft and wobbly, the fine hairs on the back of your neck dancing in frantic unison informing you of the distinct possibility that something nefarious lurks in the immediate vicinity?  Now Sophies Choicing it, you can waltz ahead blissfully ignorant to the approaching danger or turn painfully slow blooming the tension until your eyes lock with the unnameable horror towering behind you. This is the fate that awaits our protagonist in the horror short, from YouTube channel Horror House Media, Stalk.

The plot of Stalk is admittedly a simple one:  a woman, known by the name Vanessa, is trekking to an undisclosed location when a less than desirable masked assailant begins stalking (hence the title!) her.  Now, I know it’s a touch frowned upon to go perusing book covers and then to judge said books based on their aforementioned covers, but one gander at this scenario and it’s pretty crystal that unpleasant intentions are the goals for tonight’s proceedings.  Can Vanessa make it through the night unscathed or at the very least with only minor superficial wounds? Well, that all depends on whether or not Vanessa has the cunning ability to evade her admirer to safety.

Indie short flicks, usually of the no budget variety, tend to be hit or miss.  I’d set Stalk somewhere in between with it leaning a bit more towards the former.  I can’t say that Stalk hooked me by the throat not allowing me to come up for air until the credits, but it had enough going for it that it wasn’t a chore to sit through.  A strong start helps pique your fancy with a title card that has you staring through the villains mask at broken up letters not quite revealing the word stalk.  This “engrossing you in the stalkers perspective” is further driven with the opening shot that gets a bit Halloween-esque as we walk down a dimly lit street from the killer or would be killer’s point of view.  I was admittedly disappointed when the story switches to a more cinematic style. From that opening shot I thought we might have a Hardcore Henry on our hands but in a slasher film world.

Alas, the slasher flick from a first killer perspective that I had prophesied did not come to fruition.  A much more traditional take was…well…taken. We follow Vanessa as she puts foot to pavement unbeknownst to her that danger lurks behind her.  Honestly, it becomes a bit paint by numbers at this point. The story doesn’t exactly lull but it’s all the same-o same-o that we’ve seen before.  Protagonist walks along as the antagonist follows. Protagonist senses potential danger, turns to find protagonist is being paranoid as the street behind the protagonist is empty of any encroaching evil.  Rinse and then if need be repeat… that is until the ending. I don’t know if it was deliberate but this easing of the audience to let their guard down allows for a surprise ending that I didn’t see coming.

Stalk won’t necessarily blow your mind, it is a solid effort.  The acting is better than most indie efforts and the crew display that they have a firm grasp on putting together a story.  The cinematography looks good and I found myself impressed with the editing. Smooth transitions followed by tight execution shows a talent to be had here.  If Stalk is any indication, give Horror House Media some time to hone their craft and I think we’ll be seeing some quality work coming from under this banner.

So the question remains:  Would I recommend Stalk?  Well, do you have five minutes to kill?  With a strong beginning and end plus a quick run time that makes it easy to breeze through I’d say it’s worth taking a peek.

Adam Troutt is an obsessive horror cinephile. He aspires to one day be a filmmaker, but in the meantime he devours more horror films than is healthy for human consumption. Find him on Twitter: @PsychoCinephile

 

 

Back to Fear Street – Ski Weekend (Fear Street, #10)

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Back to Fear Street – Ski Weekend (Fear Street, #10)

Happy November!  I hope your Halloween was sufficiently frightening and enjoyable!  But now it’s time for winter, snow, Christmas, and everyone’s favorite pastime – skiing!  That’s right – let’s go on a Ski Weekend, or at least let’s discuss the tenth book in the original Fear Street series.  My last two write-ups were on R.L. Stine’s new series, Return to Fear Street.  If you read those, you know I was less than enthusiastic about them so I was looking forward to returning to the original series, and I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint.  Ski Weekend was nothing special, and the twists were not very twisty, but it was a solid read so I gave it 3/5 stars on Goodreads.  The story follows a group of friends – Ariel, Doug, and Shannon and a stranger they befriend at the ski lodge named Red – who get stranded in a snowstorm while driving back to Shadyside from a ski trip.  They get stranded when Doug’s car breaks down after he attempts to drive like a maniac through a blinding snowstorm. Doug then seals their fate when, after surviving a near-collision, he says, “All right!  We’re gonna be okay from now on!” I know he was trying to be positive, but that was just too much temptation for fate. The group seek shelter at the home of Lou and Eva Hitchcock who end up being more than just good Samaritans.  Basic but promising premise. I don’t think that Stine was making the reader question the intentions of Lou and Eva – to me it seemed obvious that they were up to no good. Eva’s very evasive, and Lou is extremely creepy and inappropriate with the teenage girls.  There are also some interesting clues that not only point to Lou and Eva being of questionable repute but also suggest that the house might not even be theirs! For example, when Ariel asks Eva for a cup of tea, Eva has trouble finding the tea in the kitchen. When Lou puts on a coat before going outside, Ariel notices that the sleeves are too short.  Ariel also notices that Lou’s jacket has ski lift tickets attached to the zipper, but Lou mentions that he hasn’t been skiing in years. So it becomes very clear that all is not as it seems.

To me, it was also clear that Red, the stranger the group befriends at the ski lodge, was also up to no good.  Stine didn’t make this as obvious, but I think there were some signs. One, he’s a stranger. I’m immediately suspicious of those in literature and the world.  Two, he’s the one that spots Lou and Eva’s house when the group gets stranded driving back. Third, the first night they’re in the house Red goes outside because he can’t sleep, and the next day the group finds that the car has fallen into a ravine.  Fourth, it’s Red who finally reveals Lou and Eva’s plan to the group after he claims that he overhead them. Coincidence? Definitely not! I’m sure there were more clues that I’m not remembering, but these were enough to put me on alert. Honestly, knowing how these Fear Street books tend to go, the fact that Red’s a stranger was enough.

What Red reveals to the group is that Lou is planning to rob them and leave them at the lodge with no means of escape and that he’s forcing Eva to go along with his plan.  However, while trying to escape the group discover a body in the barn. It soon comes out that Red and Eva are actually siblings; that Red, Eva, and Lou killed Eva’s brother Jake (the real owner of the house) because he stole their inheritance; and that they were going to pin the murder on the teens  The plan obviously gets foiled and our group saves the day. End of story. So yeah – nothing special and no big twists that I didn’t see coming but a good read.

It wasn’t flawless, so I do have some complaints. This story has absolutely nothing to do with Fear Street.  It doesn’t even take place in Shadyside. The only mention is when Ariel says, “Being home on Fear Street will be a pleasure after this!”  By now I know that Fear Street isn’t as central to these stories as I had once thought they were, so the fact that Ski Weekend takes place in another town is fine.  But nobody would actually say what Ariel said.  Like, as a kid I would never say “Man, can’t wait to get back home on Mary Lou Lane!”  You’d just say, “I can’t wait to get home!” So I think Stine could’ve snuck in a Fear Street mention in a less silly way.

Another complaint is that there was no good description of the layout Lou and Eva’s (or actually Jake’s) house.  This might just be one of my things, but I need layouts explained well-enough so that I can actually picture in my mind where characters are going.  I’ve even gone as far as to draw out layouts based on their descriptions so that I can have it in my mind when reading. So I just couldn’t follow some of the characters’ movements and where they were in the house because the layout wasn’t well-explained.  This sounds silly as I’m typing it, but this is me. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.

I also didn’t understand some of the characters’ actions during the big face off at the end.  While the teens are being held at gunpoint by Lou, Ariel hits him with a snowball which causes him to drop his gun.  Red and Doug both go for the gun and when Doug gets his hand on the gun…he throws it across the yard. Why would he do this?  Nobody else had a gun so this would’ve given our group a one-up. Instead, Ariel, Doug, and Shannon run to the barn where there’s a Jeep.  But…they realize that they don’t have the keys. Ariel realizes they’re trapped and thinks to herself, “I was stunned by how stupid we had been.”  Ariel and I are definitely on the same page. Ariel then uses a snowmobile from the barn to lure Red and Lou away and she tells Doug and Shannon to run for help.  Her plan works, and Red and Lou start chasing her on foot while Doug and Shannon find help. At first, I didn’t understand why Red and Lou would attempt to run down a snowmobile instead of going after the two who were on foot.  On re-reading, I noticed that it says that Doug and Shannon snuck out of the barn, so I’m guessing Red and Lou didn’t see them. But shouldn’t the fact that they know that there are three teens and only one person on a snowmobile make them suspicious that this is a plan to distract them?  Maybe not. I’ve never been in a life-or-death situation like this, so I’m sure clear thinking might go out the window. So maybe I’ll give Red and Lou a pass.

While not really a complaint, I wonder how this whole plan to set our group up was to be put in motion.  I’m guessing Red was supposed to find a group of unsuspecting people at the lodge and catch a ride back home with them.  But Doug’s car breaking down seems to have been the result of Doug driving like a moron in the snowstorm, so it seems awfully convenient that the breakdown occurs right in front of Lou and Eva’s house.  Had Doug not been driving like an idiot, they could’ve potentially made it back safely. Maybe Jake had already been killed, and when the car broke down in that particular spot Red decided they could frame the kids.  However, he tells the group, “You might say I recruited you guys. At the ski lodge.” So, it sounds like this was the plan all along. Which again makes it a little too convenient that Doug’s car broke down where it did.

Finally, I think this is the first book in the Fear Street series without any recurring characters.  It’s possible that Ariel is related to a secondary character from Haunted based on their last names.  Ariel’s last name is Munroe, and there’s a character in Haunted named Krissie Munroe.  Krissie didn’t get mentioned in my Haunted post by name, but if you remember I discussed how Stine didn’t portray poor people very well in that book.  One of my examples was a girl trashing another girl’s clothes to which our main character responds, “She’s just poor, that’s all.”  Well, the girl doing the trash-talking is Krissie. If she’s Ariel’s sister, I’m guessing a couple apples fell off the family tree and blew away in completely different directions.  But this is just speculation. Maybe future books will clear up this mystery once and for all.

Well fellow Fear Street travelers, I’ve come to a close.  And I think to a bit of a hiatus in my journey back to Fear Street.  I’ll be taking a bit of a detour, specifically to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as I attempt to re-read the Harry Potter series before the new year.  So until then, I hope you enjoy this holiday season in whichever way works for you. Rather, that’s spending time with family, battling the crowds to do some shopping, traveling, staying warm and curling up with some good books (my personal choice), or all of the above, I wish you a great holiday season and hope that the end of 2018 closes out better than it started!  Rest well – our Fear Street journey resumes in the New Year!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl

We’re back with another special edition and a review of the latest book in R.L. Stine’s new series.  From the back of the book, The Wrong Girl is about a girl named Poppy who swears to get revenge after a guy named Jack plays a cruel prank on her in front of her friends.  But then her classmates start turning up dead. As the back of the book says, “Is Poppy being framed? Or did the kids of Shadyside High mess with the wrong girl?”  I was going to do my best to not spoil this book in case some of you readers wanted to check it out for yourselves. But that was before I read the book. And I have since taken an oath to spoil the hell out of this book so that no one else will have to wade through it and suffer as I did.  Where to begin?

The book bounces around between different characters’ perspectives but is mainly written from Poppy’s point of view.  Poppy and her group of friends – Ivy, Jeremy, Manny, and Jack – decide to start playing pranks on people and filming it for social media.  The group of friends also included Keith, Poppy’s boyfriend, but she breaks things off with him and starts dating bad boy Jack instead because Keith is too boring and not interested in pulling pranks on people.  The group decides to call their group the Shadyside Shade because, as Poppy says, they’re “throwing shade on everyone.” I might not be completely up on the slang of the youth, but my understanding of “throwing shade” is throwing insults, not playing pranks.  So I guess this is what happens when a 74-year-old writes books about teenagers. The group’s prank club stars off innocently – they unleash a bunch of dogs into a pet store. Then Poppy decides that they should play a prank on her arch nemesis, Rose. Poppy and Rose have apparently been in competition with each other since the fourth grade, and Rose has just beaten out Poppy to get the lead role in the school play.  Poppy first thinks that they should put a laxative in her water because Rose always drinks water right before she goes out on stage. But Jack tells her she’ll get arrested for assault. Poppy then decides that they should keep people from making it to the play by staging a car accident in the intersection and blocking people from the school. As ridiculous as this sounds, everyone’s totally fine with it because they figure they can just tell the police, “Punked you!” and say that they were just doing a high school prank.  Yeah, because that’s how the police work. Also, does anyone actually say “punked” anymore?

These kids go through with the prank, and to really sell it Poppy puts a smoke machine in the back of Ivy’s car.  Why she wouldn’t think people would clearly see smoke coming from the backseat is beyond me, but she’s clearly an idiot as evidenced by her coming up with this plan in the first place.  Somehow all of the cars catch on fire, but apparently the kids suffer no real consequences aside from making their parents a bit upset. Afterwards, Poppy and Rose get into a physical fight at a restaurant after Poppy smashes a hamburger bun in Rose’s face.  Why? Mainly because Poppy’s upset that her sister has started hanging out with Rose. Other than Poppy and Rose being a little competitive and bitchy towards each other, the book doesn’t really establish any big beef between them that would lead to a physical fight in the middle of a restaurant.  Plus, Poppy, Rose, and Heather all seem to have some anger management issues which served no purpose except to make them all possible suspects when the shit hits the fan.

After the car prank, Jack decides that the group should pretend to rob a store, with the owner in on the prank, and film it to share on social media.  However, they go and “case the joint” which made me think that the store owner actually wasn’t in on the prank. A weird aside – before they pull off the prank, Jack gives everyone a ski mask, and Jeremy asks about the material of the ski mask because he’s allergic to wool (and a bunch of other things).  Jack tells him not to worry because the ski mask is fake. I didn’t understand this. Maybe he meant it was fake as in a synthetic material, but that still doesn’t make sense to me. A ski mask is still a ski mask. It’s not like someone being robbed would be all, “Hey, wait a minute. This is a prank! That’s not a real ski mask!”  But I digress. The group goes through with the robbery, but as they’re entering the store Jack slips a gun in Poppy’s hand, and she ends up shooting and apparently killing the store owner when she sees him going for his gun. After the incident, Poppy feels extremely guilty and decides to turn herself in to the police, specifically Manny’s brother Benny.  Benny and Poppy go to the store… and the store owner is there! Alive and totally fine! Turns out he was in on the prank all along, as was the rest of the Shadyside Shade. And it was actually Jack and Rose’s idea because they’ve actually been dating this whole time behind Poppy’s back. You know who else was in on it – Office Benny! That’s right – a police officer was totally fine with a group of kids filming a fake robbery in which one of the kids thinks she kills someone.  I guess that makes sense – these are the same police that had no problems with the same kids staging a fake car accident in which multiple cars exploded. Also, let’s not just skip past the fact that the couple behind this prank are Jack and Rose. The star-crossed Titanic lovers are reunited, and they’re bigger and badder than ever!

So now to the core of the story – the big revenge!  Which doesn’t start until page 240 of a 328-page book.  And remember all of those classmates that start turning up dead?  Yeah, it was just two people. Ivy gets acid put in her shampoo but lives; Jeremy has his room filled with hornets who sting him to death ( remember he’s allergic to everything – a My Girl moment); and Rose gets strangled just before taking the stage for her lead role in the rescheduled school play.  But that’s the extent of the revenge. It’s almost as if Stine remembered “oh yeah, that’s what this book is supposed to be about.”  Another thing – I’m pretty sure that Fear Street isn’t even mentioned until page 262, and even then it’s just a throwaway mention about Keith, Poppy’s ex-boyfriend, thinking about death a lot ever since moving to Fear Street.  Maybe this was another “oh yeah” moment for Stine – I mean this new series is called Return to Fear Street after all.

Let’s skip to the big finale.  The remaining kids, Officer Benny, and another police officer are all together in a room shortly after Rose’s body is discovered.  Poppy (in all of her brilliance) and her sister Heather decide they know the perfect way to get the real killer to confess – Poppy confesses to the acid attack and murders, but then Heather steps in and says that she’s the real killer, and she stabs Poppy in the chest with a knife.  And then Keith confesses that he did everything because he wasn’t good enough for Poppy and because nobody wanted to get to know him. Can’t imagine why? When it comes out that the stabbing was staged, Poppy explains, “We figured if we confessed, the real culprit wouldn’t be able to just stand by.”  I’ve watched a lot of Investigation Discovery shows in my lifetime (there’s actually one on in the background as I’m writing this), and this has to be the dumbest plan to get someone to confess that I’ve ever heard of. First off, there’s two armed police officers in the room, so Heather basically risked her life by pretending to stab someone right in front of them.  Second, what if Keith had been all, “Hey, I’ll just let one of them take the fall. This worked about better than I could’ve imagined!” All the evidence pointed at either Heather or Poppy anyway – a bottle of jewelry cleaner containing acid is missing from their home; Jeremy was killed by hornets and Poppy and Heather’s mother just happens to be an entomologist who’s doing a study on hornets; and Rose gets strangled with a scarf and it’s mentioned a few times in the book how wearing scarves is Poppy’s “thing.”  So, Poppy and Heather’s idea to get the real culprit to confess was pretty stupid. But hey, in the world of Fear Street it worked perfectly. By the way, the whole stabbing-and-confession thing happens in the last seven pages. A whole lot of ridiculous buildup for an even more ridiculous conclusion.

In case you can’t tell, I really didn’t like The Wrong Girl.  And I actually left some things out of this post for the sake of time, space, and my sanity.  I gave this book a 1/4 rating on Goodreads. I would’ve given a lower rating if I could, but you can’t give a half-star rating and giving no rating at all is equivalent to not voting – your voice won’t be heard.  And I wanted my voice to be heard loud and clear! The next installment in the Return to Fear Street Series is called Drop Dead Gorgeous, and it’s set to be released in February 2019.  Here’s a look at the cover:

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They say the third time’s the charm, so maybe we’ll have better results with the next installment.  Thankfully, I don’t have to find out until next year. So next month I’ll be going Back to Fear Street to review Ski Weekend, the tenth entry in the original Fear Street series.  These last two books of the new series have left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I’m looking forward to going back to the original series.  I’ve had better luck with those and they’re less than 200 pages so any suffering is swift!

Before I go, I’d like to end on a good note and recommend some fun reads that are perfect for the Halloween season – The Ruins by Scott Smith; The Amulet by Michael McDowell; My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix; The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon; NOS4A2 by Joe Hill; Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror, an anthology with multiple contributors; Midnight Movie by Tobe Hooper; and Let the Right One In and Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist.  And some suggestions for you comic readers – Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips; I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young; Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook; Outcast by Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta; Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack; and American Vampire by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque.  I could recommend many more books and comics, but these are the ones that came to mind.  I can guarantee you’ll enjoy any of these more than The Wrong Girl!

Have a happy (and spooky) Halloween, and I’ll see you in November!

Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride

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Back to Fear Street Special – Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride

Hello fellow travelers!  I’m sure you all remember that in my very first Fear Street blog post, I mentioned a new series called Return to Fear Street, and in my August post I shared the beautiful cover art from the first book in the new series, You May Now Kill the Bride.  Well, I have since read this book and will share my thoughts on it and future books in this new series in these special edition posts.  I can just see the ear-to-ear smiles on your faces! So let’s get started. And I’ll be immediately spoiling this book, so consider yourself warned.

The premise of You May Now Kill the Bride from the blurb on the back of the book is that a curse that haunts the Fear family affects two sisters at two Fear family weddings decades apart.  Seems pretty straightforward. The story begins in 1923. Seventeen-year-old Ruth-Ann Fear discovers a secret attic in her house where she finds old spell books and learns about the hatred between the Fear family and the Goode family.  Ruth-Ann starts doing spells and casts a spell on a boy named Peter Goodman to get him to like her. He does initially but ends up falling for her older sister Rebecca. However, at the wedding (which takes place the following year on a cliff at the Fear family lodge in Colorado), Peter picks Rebecca up right after kissing his new bride and hurls her off the side of the cliff.  Why? Well, you probably didn’t see this coming, but Peter Goodman is actually Peter Goode, and there is a curse where a Fear and a Goode can never marry each other and live. Well, Ruth-Ann’s father gets upset with Ruth-Ann because when she found out about Rebecca and Peter she got upset and told them that they would never get married. Ruth-Ann and her father struggle and then SHE falls off the cliff after losing her balance.  The moral of this story – don’t have a wedding on a cliff. Ruth-Ann’s father gets even more upset as can be expected and vows to take his revenge on the Goodes. The fact that Ruth-Ann dies was a great mislead because I really thought she was going to a be a more prominent character throughout the story, and I thought this was a great start to the book. It was well-written and just really grabbed my attention as a reader, and I thought that R.L. Stine was back with a great new series!  Mr. Fear will have his revenge and somehow that will affect a future generation of Fears and Goodes – just like the back of the book promised!

Well…none of that happened.  The story flashes forward to present day – we’re back at the Colorado lodge, only now it’s no longer part of the Fear family because it was sold.  Our main character is now seventeen-year-old Harmony Fear, and she and her family are at the lodge for the marriage of her older sister Marissa to Doug Falkner.  Harmony and Marissa’s father says the place is cursed and that that’s why it was sold, and some of the family know about what happened there in 1924. But Marissa’s heart is set on getting married there, so we’re back for another wedding…on a cliff.  What could go wrong? Well, shenanigans happen the day before the wedding, including an uncle choking on chicken feathers and the wedding party getting attacked by squirrels. Uh-oh! Must be the curse! But no, it just turns out to be Harmony doing some silly spells because she also discovered the Fear family spell books.  Her grandfather warns her about doing even harmless spells at the lodge because the place was cursed and spells could get out of hand. The grandfather, Harmony, and Harmony’s brother Robby talk about what happened at the lodge back in 1924 and about the hatred between the Fears and Goodes that went back hundreds of years, but the grandfather mentions that no members of the Goode family had been heard of since then and that Harmony and Robby’s father hired two different investigative firms to make sure none of Doug’s family were related to the Goodes.  As a reader, I’m thinking “Oh, there’s definitely a Goode at this wedding and the curse will strike again.”

Wrong again.  Turns out the curse between the Fears and Goodes was stronger than anyone realized.  Remember when Peter threw Rebecca off the cliff back in 1924? Well that happened right after they were officially married.  The curse was unleashed – hence Peter killing Rebecca. But the curse also caused people to be trapped in the lodge after death – they were dead but not dead and unable to control when they lived, sometimes living in their own time but sometimes living in the present.  This curse trapped Ruth-Ann and Rebecca and also some lodge workers from 1924 who Harmony talked to, thinking they were workers from the present time. This curse also traps Marissa. On the day of her wedding, she goes missing, and it turns out that she was killed when she was pushed off of the cliff.  But she wasn’t killed by a Goode – she was killed by her scorned ex-lover Aiden Murray. Not scorned because Marissa dumped him but scorned because, about a year ago back in Shadyside, Harmony injured his hand while doing some woodworking and ended his dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Harmony discovers Marissa, Ruth-Ann, and Rebecca at the lodge where she learns about Aiden’s actions.  She also learns that Aiden has taken out his revenge on Robby by stealing his girlfriend. I understand being upset at Harmony for injuring his hand, but it seems far-fetched for Aiden to be so angry at the other family members. Plus his revenge on Marissa and Robby seems extremely unbalanced – I mean Aiden went from stealing someone’s girlfriend to pushing someone off a cliff. Talk about going from zero to a hundred.  This all gets wrapped up when Harmony goes from doing silly spells to a big spell – transporting herself back to 1924 where she uses another spell to send Peter flying off of the cliff before the Fear-Goode marriage can take place and unleash the curse.

I left this book just feeling really confused.  I’m unsure how Harmony stopping the Fear-Goode marriage would impact the present day events.  It would keep people from being trapped at the lodge after death, but I don’t understand how it would’ve kept Aiden’s hand from being injured back in Shadyside and then seeking his revenge.  The book makes clear that the lodge is cursed, so it’s unclear as to how the events in Shadyside would have been prevented from happening. Also, I thought that Ruth-Ann and Rebecca’s father’s swearing to take revenge on the Goodes would have something to do with the rest of the book, but as far as I can tell that was a big dud.  Maybe his revenge has something to do with why no member of the Goode family has been heard of since the events in 1924, but that’s just speculation on my part. The book also gives no details as to the why the Fears and Goodes hate each other so much or why the Fears, according to Harmony, have a long history of meanness. Maybe Stine already dealt with this in one of his previous books – I know he’s written several on the history of the Fear and Goode families.  But I don’t think it’s safe to assume that new readers will be familiar with the older books or that old readers (like me) will remember or that we even kept up with the series. I know that I stopped reading the Fear Street books in the early 90s, and I definitely don’t remember the specifics of the books I read when I was kid.

Also, I didn’t get the point of the magic spells.  Maybe this also harkened back to an earlier entry in the Fear Street series, but it seems misplaced and pointless in this book.  I’m guessing the whole purpose for the spells was so that Harmony could all of a sudden become a powerful magician or sorceress (because her grandfather tells her earlier that he believes the magic runs in their family) and transport herself back to 1924.  It all just seemed a bit too convenient for me.

I didn’t really like this book (in case you couldn’t tell) and gave it 1/5 stars on Goodreads.  A lot of other reviewers gave it three or four stars, but I noticed that most of those reviews started with the reader going on about nostalgia and how they loved Fear Street when they were younger.  I’m not reading with my nostalgia glasses on, so this was a big miss for me. I’m still looking forward to the next entry in this new series, The Wrong Girl, which comes out later this month.  From the description on Amazon, it doesn’t seem to involve the Fears or Goodes.  So if you’re dying to know about the Fear-Goode saga or need to refresh your memory, you might need to track down the older books.  I’ve had a rough patch of disappointing books here recently – The Elementals by Michael McDowell, Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, and You May Now Kill the Bride.  I read the new Flintstones comic by DC to clear my palate but was a little disappointed by that too (although I loved the artwork).  So, where do you go when you want maximum entertainment and minimal disappointment? The world of organized crime – Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi.  I’ve seen Goodfellas plenty of times but now I’m ready for a little deep diving.  Hmm, going from the Flintstones to the Mafia. Makes me think of one of my high school friends who wrote in my yearbook about me buying Britney Spears and Metallica CDs at the same time.  I live outside the lines. See ya in October!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

Back to Fear Street – The Stepsister (Fear Street, #9) & R.L. Stine Presents: Scream and Scream Again!

Back to Fear Street – The Stepsister (Fear Street, #9)

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The wait is over and it’s time for another trip back to Fear Street!  If you’ve been keeping up, you know that the last couple of outings were pretty disappointing.  But I’m happy to say I fared much better this time around! Like any book or movie named after a step-relative, The Stepsister is a tale all about the sinister side of blended families.  Emily Casey, our protagonist, is excited about her new stepsister and stepbrother moving into her house on Fear Street, but then a lot of terrible things start happening.  Emily knows that her new stepsister, Jessie, is behind everything but no one will believe her, and she has to expose the truth before Jessie goes too far. A basic premise but a very enjoyable read, although I again predicted the twist ending.  That left me a little underwhelmed, but I still gave The Stepsister 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  The story was well-paced and fun and the characters were interesting, so even though I saw the twist coming I still enjoyed getting there.  I also liked that the chapters had titles – don’t know why but I did. So I definitely recommend you drop whatever you’re doing and check this book out!  Or you can just read ahead for spoilers. The choice is yours.

SPOILERS AHEAD…

So let’s talk about those terrible things that Jessie does because they range from serious but harmless pranks to attempted murder.  She rips the head off of Emily’s favorite teddy bear, steals her sweater, deletes her school report from the computer, and puts peroxide in her shampoo.  Serious but harmless. Jessie then kills Emily’s dog by stabbing it in the chest, sets a school bathroom on fire after trapping Emily inside, pushes Emily down a steep flight of concrete stairs at a concert arena, makes out with Emily’s boyfriend, and pushes Emily into an open grave during a family camping trip and tries to bury her alive.  With the exception of making out with Emily’s boyfriend, I’m pretty sure these others would warrant a mental diagnosis. And in fact, Jessie is seeing a psychiatrist twice a week. But here’s the twist…

It turns out the actual culprit is Nancy Casey, Emily’s older sister (although Jessie did accidentally rip the teddy bear and steal the sweater).  Nancy blames Emily for the death of their father (who drowned while boating with Emily during a family camping trip to Fear Island) and for losing her boyfriend Josh (who dumped Nancy and started dating Emily).  I was already suspicious of Nancy just from knowing about her father and ex-boyfriend and also because when all signs are pointing to one character that usually means it’s someone else entirely. But the real giveaway was right after the bathroom fire scene.  Before going into the bathroom, Emily had run into both Nancy and Jessie, but after getting rescued she thinks to herself that Jessie was the only one who had known she was in the bathroom. That was a pretty obvious sign to me that Nancy was involved. Now to be fair, I thought that maybe Nancy and Jessie were both involved and working together but still leaned more towards Nancy as she had the most to be upset about.

Quick aside – I think it would’ve been awesome if the antagonist had turned out to be Emily’s mother!  It wouldn’t have made sense as she wasn’t always in the right place at the right time to pull some of the stunts, but how cool would it have been if she was all, “You killed my husband!!!!”  I mean, that would’ve taken the Fear Street series to a whole new level. But I digress.

Now Jessie isn’t completely innocent.  She definitely did some bitchy things. She was kind of insulting when she first moved in and took over the bedroom that she and Emily had to share.  She also secretly talked on the phone at night and was overhead saying, “I could kill her. I really could kill her.” She also sneaked out of the house a few times.  But it turns out she was talking to and meeting up with her boyfriend who her father didn’t approve of because he was three years older. As for Jessie seeing a psychiatrist, she was apparently blamed for the death of her best friend but was actually innocent.  So I’m assuming she had to see the psychiatrist to deal with that, although I don’t think a specific reason is actually given. And I guess the threat she made on the phone was maybe just innocent teenage anger over her and Emily not getting along. Maybe Jessie can schedule a group therapy session at her next appointment because this family’s definitely got some issues to work through.

Speaking of the other family members, Emily and Nancy’s mother is pretty basic and falls into the trap of being more into her new husband than into believing her daughter that something terrible is going on.  The new husband, Hugh Wallner, is interesting. He’s more rough around the edges than Emily and Nancy’s real father and picks on his thirteen-year-old son for doing typically stupid teenage boy things and for engaging in that dangerous gateway activity – reading!  Mr. Wallner mentions that his son, Rich, is a “real bookworm” and brags that he himself hasn’t “picked up a book since high school.” Not sure that this a good bragging point. Mr. Wallner also has a couple of sexist, pervy moments. When Mrs. Wallner asks who’s going to clean up after dinner, Mr. Wallner says, “Not me.  That’s what I like about living with four women. There’s always someone to clean up after dinner.” Mrs. Wallner responds, “You’re a sexist pig,” smiles, and kisses him on the forehead. Now, I’m no stick in the mud so I can laugh this off. But I can also see how Emily and Nancy would definitely not appreciate that this is the man their mother chose to replace their father with.  Then during a camping trip in South Carolina, everyone except Mr. Wallner is feeling less than excited, so he says, “Come on, gang. How can I get my harem into an up mood?” EEEEEWWWW! Who uses the word “harem” to refer to their wife, daughter, and step-daughters? And I guess also Rich? I feel like Mrs. Wallner should be making some mental notes – sounds like we have another issue to address at that group therapy session.

As for Rich, Emily describes him as “that weirdo with his Stephen King books.”  And of course, he’s reading Pet Sematary, so when the family dog gets killed he immediately falls under suspicion.  This prompts Rich to yell out in teenage angst, “Just because I read books doesn’t mean I’m a killer!”  If I had a nickel for every time I had to say that. Just kidding – I’ve never had to defend my love of reading.  So it’s a bit weird that Rich has to. But I’m wondering if this was a bit tongue-in-cheek of R.L. Stine – maybe there was some parental backlash when kids started reading Fear Street books.  I don’t specifically remember my mother having any problems, but who knows? Maybe it gave her pause when my reading list went from The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High to books about teenagers being murdered.  This leads me to an interesting side note that Craig brought to my attention – at the age of thirteen, Rich is reading way more mature material than I was at his age, including the Fear Street series.  And looking at Young Adult fiction today, the books definitely seem to be way more complicated and detailed than the books I read as a kid and teenager. It’s amazing to me when I find my old books just how small and thin they were – it seemed like I was reading full-fledged novels at the time when they weren’t even two hundred pages.  So I applaud Rich for his literary maturity! And kudos to his open-mindedness as by the end of the book he’s reading The Hardy Boys.  Variety is the spice of life!

As for our recurring characters, this time around we have Della O’Connor (the protagonist from The Overnight); Ricky Schorr (the character I mentioned in my last post as being the first to have two terrifying Fear Street experiences in The Overnight and Halloween Party); and our lasting couple Lisa Blume and Cory Brooks (making this Lisa’s now sixth appearance in the series – the most overall).  However, they were all relegated to honorable mention status as students that Emily and her best friend just notice in the hallway or cafeteria.

Now for a bonus feature!  Back in my very first Back to Fear Street blog post, I mentioned that Stine was coming out with a new Fear Street book called Return to Fear Street: You May Now Kill the Bride.  Well, that book has arrived and here’s what it looks like:

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Gorgeous cover!  And this would also make a killer back tattoo!  I haven’t read it yet but definitely looking forward to it!  And Amazon shows the next book in this series comes out in September and is called Return to Fear Street: The Wrong Girl.  That’ll definitely be added to my collection!

Wait, what?  There’s more?  Yes! Because Stine put out ANOTHER book.  It’s a short story collection called R.L. Stine Presents: Scream and Scream Again! that includes a story from Stine and stories from the Mystery Writers of America.  It also has a pretty great cover:

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I just got finished reading this one and gave it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.  The collection included some really good stories that made me think of Are You Afraid of the Dark.  They’re definitely written for kids, but they’re still a lot of fun and a few genuinely creeped me out, especially the last one, “The Platform” by Peter Lerangis.  Some of my other faves were “Ring and Run” by Steve Hockensmith, “Area Code 666” by Carter Wilson, “The Only Child” by Joseph L. Walker, “The Girl in the Window” by Tonya Hurley, and of course “The Best Revenge” by Stine.  A good read for adults and some family-friendly scares for the younger readers!

So happy reading and I’ll see ya in September!

Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ 

 

“Fan of the 13th: A Small Compilation of Friday the 13th Fan Films”

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“Fan of the 13th:  A Small Compilation of Friday the 13th Fan Films”

By Adam Troutt

It’s that glorious, erratic, ever changing time of the year again:  Friday the 13th!  While for most of the country, the maligned and misunderstood holiday is a host for people’s dread and fear of mishaps and a 24 hour cornucopia of a relentless unlucky streak, for horror fans it brings a polar opposite effect.  Just like Halloween, it becomes a day for merriment, celebration, and murder (fictitious….for the most part).  Now, if you’re a ravenous horror aficionado, as myself, you spend your damned near religious holiday exclaiming with an incessant vexatious sense of glee “Happy Friday the 13th” to every passerby that crosses in your generalized direction, but also ingesting a healthy helping of the oeuvre of Friday the 13th films.  Whether you’re the nitpicky or time constrained fan that pulls just a few choice selections that rank as your favorites to bookend(or jumpstart) your day, or you’re the gluttonous, masochist fanatic who tries to sate your hunger with the grueling task of trying to fit every last film in before the night comes to a close, and Saturday the 14th takes over, but that flick and its sequel is a whole other article.  Having completed this feat multiple times, I can tell you it’s not for the faint of heart.  Now, while I’d never be so blasphemous as to say that the franchise has reached a stalemate, let’s be real:  with 10 films, a crossover flick, a remake, and a in name only T.V. show there’s plenty of blood soaked carnage to entertain you, I thought I could offer up an alternative, or a welcomed addition, to your holiday festivities.  Which brings me to the subject of fan films.

Fan films, as I’m sure most of the are well versed in, are celluloid love letters to our cherished characters and creators of intellectual properties that have imprinted on our psyche and gassed us up to bring to life our wildest, out there theories, alternative storylines, and what ifs that dare to be.  Ranging from kids ketchuping it in the backyard with a VHS camcorder to actual productions churning out a quality film that could easily mask as an addition to the already exhaustive parts that exist.  Films, usually short in nature, that curb our hunger for more of the worlds that have engulfed our being.

Seeing as Friday the 13th remains a celebration of our fandom into a franchise of characters that we know and love as much as our own families, I thought I’d offer up a couple of these endearing films of fandom as another way to commemorate the franchise and our obsessive adoration for it.

1.  Slash Up:  Sarah Connor Vs. Jason Voorhees – Much of an explanation and plot synopsis of this tome is not really necessary from the title.  I’ll have a go of it though.  The year is 1988, and Ms. Connor is taking up to freelancing for Cyberdyne and I guess combing the country side and busting baddies.  I’m assuming in this world that Skynet has been effectively defeated, or just not an issue yet(it’s been a while so I can’t recall the timeline exactly), and given her newly exposed penchant for badassery she decides to dump the diner and take up the philanthropic work of damning evil time and time again.  After Sarah cozies up in the quiet New Jersey outskirts of Crystal Lake, she stumbles, with great agility, upon a group of raucous teens YOLOing it in a cabin of decadent sin.  Her arrival proves a little too late as the hapless teens get effectively picked off with sanguined glee by the SkyNet like(Shit!  Is that the connection?!  Was Jason Voorhees just another T-800 created by Cyberdyne?  But I digress, that’s another fan flick altogether) murder machine Jason Voorhees, and his life partner and best friend that I’m sure he lovingly referred to as “machete”.  Now, with the body count diminished, superfluous characters canon foddered away, it’s up to Sarah Connor to save herself and whatever still functioning body parts are left of the teens, as Jason’s murderous rage laser focuses on her.

Working on what I assume was a basically nonexistent budget, and running at only about ten minutes long, this isn’t going to leave you frothing at the mouth for the next installment of the “Vs. Jason” spinoff series, but it is a fun spirited entry into the Jason mythos.  Having seen many no budget atrocities in my days I’m pretty lenient on the production value of independent art.  So, take it with a grain of a grain of salt when I say that I thought the look of the flick and the acting within were actually pretty good.  The teens imitating the 80s predecessors pull it off in being satirical without venturing into the work becoming cheesy itself, or just plain obnoxious.  While Nicole Marines isn’t going to nudge Linda Hamilton, or even Lena Headey, off her spot, she does a solid job of tussling with her undead adversary.  I know what you’re saying:  “Shut the fuck up about all this shit with the teens and Sarah, Adam!  What about Jason?!”.  To which I say:  *crawls into corner and starts rocking while sobbing uncontrollably*.  After that, I stand up super manly like and rest your weary soul by informing you that you have no worries.  Derek Russo, as before, isn’t the hulking beast that is Kane motha fuckin’ Hodder, but he does possess enough of a threatening presence to get you to set aside the pitchforks and torches.  Considering it’s a slasher film, or at least plays in that wheelhouse, I thought it a tad too lite on spilling the red stuff and assembling creative kills, though I imagine this was simply due to budgetary constraints, and seeing as this is more of a novelty to see these popular figures go head to head, it’s a small gripe.  Really my only real complaint is that there is an unnecessary introduction to the short talking about making it and sizing up the opponents.  Basically, preproduction stuff that could’ve easily been a bonus video or included at the end credits.  Overall, it’s a fun, short but sweet flick not meant to be taken too seriously.  So, if you’re strapped for time or just need a cap off, kill ten minutes and watch Sarah battling it out with Jason.

2.  Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th Fan Reimagining 2017 – Now, admittedly, this bite sized slasher isn’t sporting the catchiest of titles, but nevertheless don’t let that put you off of it.  Camp Crystal Lake – Friday the 13th Fan Re-imagining 2017, or CCLFt13FR2017 for short, for the most part plays out like an omitted scene from one of the sequels.  It’s not until the end that CCLFt….we’re just going to lovingly refer to it as “CCL” from now on.  Anyways, it’s when the dust has settled and the blood coagulated that CCL becomes its own unique murderous mutant.  The plot remains simple.  Camp counselor Jack has slipped off to the woods to start toking up.  Jack’s bogarting break is interrupted by his counselor peer, Marcy.  Marcy brazenly hot boxes herself into his smoke break to partake in the fruits of the earth without so much as even offering to put five on it.  Despite this egregious faux pas, the two hit it off swimmingly and take to the dense woods for a light stroll of toke and talk.  Getting well acquainted doesn’t last too long for Marcy and Jack, seeing as the number one D.A.R.E. supporter comes along and helps them kick their habit.

I was actually really impressed with CCL.  The photography, direction, and acting are all solid, and effectively builds tension once the threat becomes apparent.  Even the script works, playing out like a Kevin Smith slasher short.  The dialogue is essentially just pointless back and forth between developing characters that aren’t going to make it past the 10 minute mark(or will they?!) making it effective in holding your interest and sucking you into being a part of the movie instead of just an uninterested spectator.  Upon first viewing you can’t help but get that knee jerk reaction of frustration whenever Jason shows up because the Jason in this short isn’t the Jason we are familiar with.  Bear with me though, and press play with an open mind because without giving anything away, come the end we leave with all being forgiven and questions needing to be answered.  Lucky for us, the ending credit scroll shows that this is just Chapter One of a series, and I personally look forward to Chapter Two.

3.  Voorhees (Born On a Friday) – When compiling this list I knew I wanted to provide you with works that were entertaining, but to also give you a variety of different takes and voices.  Cue Voorhees (Born on a Friday), gifted to us from blinky500.  For the uninitiated, blinky500 is the YouTube channel of filmmaker, and Jack of all filmmaking trades, Chris R. Notarile.  Mr. Notarile has spent the better part of a decade making cinematic art, from the full length narrative feature to the brief wonder of the short form concept trailer, and all that in between, specifically lots and lots of fan films.  In all this time Chris has proven his prowess for creating compelling stories from already existing properties.  In short, this dude is the god damn king when it comes to fan films!  In this extensive list of fan films is Voorhees (Born On a Friday).  What pulled my attention was that instead of watching Jason dispatch horny, unruly teens deep in the woods of Crystal Lake we follow the OG slasher herself, Pamela Voorhees.  With the change of M.O. we get to step away from the titillation of mowing down nubile young tarts and brainless roided up jocks and explore the psychological torment of a broken character who can’t find a constructive way to deal with the pain, anger, and grief of losing someone you can’t live without.

Voorhees opens up on the saccharine scene of Pamela setting up a birthday party for Jason.  As an upbeat doo wop from the 50s drowns out(pun!) any dialogue, a sheriff approaches and delivers news that while we don’t hear it it’s apparent it’s the crushing blow that her one and only son has died.  We leave Pamela in a mess of tears and jump ahead a year to find Ms. Voorhees channeling that pain and rage in the best way she knows how:  chasing down and murdering Crystal Lake camp counselors.  We follow Pamela in the singular event that sets off the chain reaction that plagued the 80s as she approaches her very first victim.  What I love so much about this short is the emotion that comes with traveling along with a character that to some degree we can all sympathize with.  Even in a fit of manic rage and with bloodlust soaked into her fingertips you can’t help but feel sadness for her.  Despite her actions, which in all reality are heinous and unconscionable, she lost the person she loved more than anything else in existence, including herself, because of an unjust, unfair, and unforgiving world.  Beyond the toxic waste, the telekinesis, the dead fuck dances, the Ethels and Juniors.  Beyond the late night skinny dips, post coitus impalings, hockey masks, and 3D gimmicks is a tragic story of a parent losing their child and finding a warped sense of justice in the only way their damaged mind can surmise.  Voorhees does a great job of showing a version of Pamela that I imagine Betsy Palmer or herself would be proud of.  Showing the audience not just a villain that hunts down premarital fornicators, but a fractured mind that has been hurt beyond repair.  Admittedly, the acting is a bit dodgy here and there, with some lines of dialogue being delivered flawlessly with the weight of every word felt, while others turn out a bit flat.  Given that this whole ten minute short was filmed in just about 3 hours, I can forgive those lost bits of dialogue and just chalk it up to the actors not being able to knock it out of the park without a few more takes to find the characters.  Despite the weaknesses, Monica Dinatale does an impeccable job of bringing to life Ms. Voorhees.  In such a short running time she impressively fleshes out Pamela into the terrifying but sympathetic character she is.  While we all love Jason and he has always satisfied with the more impressive body count, Pamela was always a much more interesting and nuanced character.  Voorhees does a solid job of exploring a part of the franchise that has been largely left behind and forgotten about.

4.  Revenge – Revenge is easily the most ambitious of these fan films just by the simple fact that the run time is that of a full length feature.  It clocks in at one hour and thirty minutes.  Don’t let that put you off, Revenge does a valiant job of structuring its run time properly.  The story is a simple one, and though it takes place within the franchise timeline after part eight beginning with Jason crawling from out of a sewer and instantaneously vomiting up toxic waste, it could easily be seen as a remake of the first Friday the 13th(except with Jason as the killer instead of Pamela Voorhees).  Revenge follows a group of camp counselors as they, along with their hapless camp director, set out to ready the camp into fighting shape for the kids who will soon be showing up for a summer filled with fun and excitement.  As we all well know, that summer will never come to fruition as Jason shows up to whittle down the intruders one by one.  The characters parallel the assortment that lived in the franchise with the likes of the “crazy Ralphs” who will stop at nothing to shut down progress, the obligatory final girl, the sharp tongued jokester, the awkward shy guy, the hottie with loose morals, etc.

While set in modern day(at least modern to when it was filmed around 2004) it plays out like a flick from the 80s, mainly in part to the music and the camera set ups.  Regardless of its production flaws from what had to be a meager budget, Revenge can easily be viewed as a long lost direct to video sequel that never surfaced before Jason Goes to Hell came out.  The acting is a bit lackluster but then again the franchise has never been praised for the chops of its thespians.  The kills, although a bit bloodless, remain creative enough to hold interest, and Jason is an impressive force that harkens back to the Jason Voorhees from parts two through four.  I’m not going to speak too much more on Revenge as the flick speaks for itself as a slasher that fits in smoothly with the later sequels.  Set its low budget aside and go in with the mindset of Paramount taking a last stab at the franchise before New Line could take over.

5.  Friday the 13th:  The Curse of Jason – I can say with relative ease and the utmost of confidence that this is one of my favorite shorts of this faniest of films list.  Be not confused, you won’t find Hollywood quality or a moving painting of artistry beaming from the frames of The Curse of Jason.  What you get is a frenzy of cheesy, bat shit anarchy.  The flimsy plot revolves around poor Jimmy as his family and friends are mowed down erratically by the potato sack donned Jason Voorhees.  10 years later the traumatized Jimmy resurfaces along with Jason, eager to dismember and disembowel the new group of walking talking body bags.  What’s so great about this love letter to the series is its constant references and nods to the franchise that it aspires to be.  It plays out like a collage of scenes and concepts littered throughout the OG flicks and then assembled by the likes of Neveldine and Taylor.  From the opening scene, Jason casually and nonchalantly strolls into frame and commences with the proverbial hack and slash that doesn’t really let up until the credits roll.  The Curse of Jason easily has the highest body count of any of the other fan films, and what they lack in blood and tangible fear they make up for in hilariously awkward action choreography and bad acting.  A taunt, intense horror masterpiece this is not.  What it is though is twenty-six minutes of digital insanity that will warm your dark withered soul.  When you lack a budget and means to produce an A list quality product, then this is how you make do with what you have.  The Curse of Jason is an absolute blast that any Friday fan is going to gush over.  Friday the 13th fandom at its very finest.

6.  Never Hike Alone – If you’re a dead set stubborn bastard that will only end up venturing into the woods on one of these treats I’ve pointed you to make damned sure Never Hike Alone is the one you trek down.  We’ve come to the end of the list and with our last hike we’re going to grab our survivalist knapsack, complete with tent, MREs, and sick ass bowie knife accented with serrated blade to really get interesting when 127 hoursing it up, and join YouTubemans Bear Grylls, Kyle McLeod.  Kyle runs a popular(at least I assume it’s popular, I don’t know his life or his subscriber amount) camping/survivalist/hiking video blog.  He travels around documenting himself as he makes his way through different forest terrains.  During Kyle’s most recent excursion he stumbles upon an abandoned camp ground.  I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this.  Nailed it!  It’s Camp Crystal Lake.  Now, defunct and dilapidated, Kyle sets out to explore his new-found ghost town, of sorts.  Upon discovering just what camp he has nomadicly inhabited, he regales his audience with the legend of the camps past indiscretions.  Of course like all the counselors before him, he writes the threat off as just another urban legend used to torture little tikes around crackling campfires.  It doesn’t take long before the myth becomes all too real and Mr. McLeod is fighting for his life and having to implement those collective survival skills.  Will Kyle be able to survive his way out of Crystal Lake or will Jason gain another sacrifice for mama’s murderous vengeance?

Well, shit, I’m not going to answer that for you.  Watch and find out for yourself.  Even though my vocal range is garbage, I can’t sing enough praise for this fan flick.  The creative force behind Womp Stomp Films has created something masterful.  A tight, aggressive horror force that rises above the standard generics of most slasher films.  Never Hike Alone does what damn near none of the original franchise is capable of doing, assembling something that is knuckle white intense and at times truly fucking scary.  Be forewarned, if you’re looking for creative gruesome fodder and nubile young women who have an allergic reaction to having clothes on, you won’t find that in Never Hike Alone.  This is survivalist horror thrown into the middle of a slasher franchise.  Given that this is a fan film I can’t imagine the budget being that high, but despite that, the movie looks like, well, a movie.  The cinematography is beautiful, stark, and vivid.  The acting is top notch, and action choreography directed flawlessly.  Lack of budget wasn’t made to be a crutch for this crew, everyone brought their A game, firing on all of the cylinders.  Fan films don’t really happen in this condition, a rarity of a gem.  Should I mumble along some mention of Jason?  This is the Jason I want to see portrayed in these fandom fests.  He is terrifying.  A vengeful, menacing force.  The best performance I’ve seen in a fan film about the titular series.  This is the sequel you need to see!  I don’t want to discuss the ending too much, I’ve kept pretty spoiler free up to this point, no need to start mucking it up now.  I’ll just mention that the ending sailed this bad boy right up to the Crystal Lake docks with a satisfying conclusion that added to the flawless climax that came before it with a mind blowing twist connecting it to the original series and revved up my excitement to compile this list.  If you’re looking for something fresh that can compete and elevate the Friday the 13th series, Never Hike Alone is what you should be watching.

Time for me to shut the hell up and let you get to watching.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my incoherent ramblings, and let me know what you thought of the flicks within this list.  Also, if you got any suggestions, like Lundgren, I’m all ears.  To all you Friday fans:  Have a murderously safe and Happy Friday the 13th.

Adam Troutt is an obsessive horror cinephile. He aspires to one day be a filmmaker, but in the meantime he devours more horror films than is healthy for human consumption