Thursday, 31 October 2019

Lovecraft Country

What could be scarier than a unknown entity stalking you across the cosmos? Being a person of color in 1950s America of course! Back then you didn't know whether the white man you saw on the corner would shout a racial slur, or whether he might summon a lynch mob to hang you for being in the wrong neighborhood. Against this backdrop, the specter of cosmological horrors from beyond space and time can only make things worse! How do you combine the two? You take a little trip to Lovecraft Country!

Written by Matt Ruff, I picked up this novel in 2018, and have given it a lot of thought in the last year. It's a very interesting work balancing the mundane fears of the African American community already present in the United States in the 1950s with the more esoteric panic of monsters from beyond the veil of time and space. Understandably our protagonists in this story are struggling against both the prejudice of the white community which wishes to 'put them in their place' and the monsters which want to put them in their stomachs.

Told in chapters from the perspectives of various characters it first takes up the mantle of Atticus Turner, a Korean War veteran who did his time fighting the communists for Washington. Sadly, that earns him very little respect from white veterans, and even less from the average white man in the North of the United States. He finds that his father has gone missing. Accompanied by his uncle, George who wrote The Safe Negro Travel Guide (based heavily on the Negro Motorist Green Book), they discover his father has been kidnapped by the mysterious Samuel Braithwhite of Ardham. To free him, he must travel to this remote and rural area to take part in some strange ritual which may cost him his life. There though, he may have an ally in the strange son of his tormentor, Caleb.

From here, the story explores the minutia of life in 1950s America for people of color. Of course, it adds to that by throwing in ghosts, monsters, curses and other sundry issues which would drive the average man mad.

It is a fascinating tale which almost reads like a series of interconnected TV episodes, which ironically is what it was originally opted as. It picks up with ghost stories, interplanetary travel, cursed dolls and even heist plots, all with an overarching battle between equally dangerous wizards in the background. It makes for, what is in effect, an engaging series of short stories wrapped up as a novel. They all tie together quite neatly, making for some very exciting reading.

Ruff tells a fascinating story. One which comes together and has creeps and spooks which could easily come from the real Lovecraft country. It is compelling at its heart because it isn't just a regular series of horror stories. It does its best to examine the challenges facing African Americans in the United States before the Civil Rights era, and uses these characters to tell a frankly fascinating story\ies which can be enjoyed from the comfort of your living room, and will hopefully make you think. For fun stories and some great ideas, I heavily encourage you to read it, and look forward to the series coming out in the future!

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Zombieland: Double Tap

A few nights ago I was thrilled to sit down and watch a film which comes ten years later as a sequel to one of my all time favorite movies. That film was the unexpected, but much appreciated Zombieland: Double Tap.

The original Zombieland was a surprise hit comedy, poking fun at both the early 2000s and the zombie genre in general. It had a cast of actors who were all up and coming (with the exception of Harrelson, as well as one enormously funny cameo) and has become a small cult classic in the zombie genre. Making over four times its budget it should well be considered a hit, and I still find it an uproariously funny movie to this day. It even spawned a short lived pilot for a television series in 2013 which sadly didn't get off the ground. Though, with the saturation of popular media with shows like Z Nation and The Walking Dead, maybe that isn't a bad thing.

The film is a surprise return to the big screen by some big name actors to a relatively niche production! Jessie Eisenburg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin all come back to pick up their roles as Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock respectively. It shouldn't need to be said that each of these actors has gone on to bigger and better things, that they would be willing to come back to such a strange film is perhaps a testament to how much they enjoyed the original.

Picking up ten years later, we follow our survivors as they traverse the zombie infested ruins of what was once America. We find that the zombies have evolved, the dopey and relatively unintelligent "Homers", the predatory and learning "Hawkings" who can find efficient ways to kill their prey and the "Ninjas" who are silent but deadly hunters. Setting up shop in the Oval Office, the foursome decide that they've found a place to hole up and lay low for a while. However, the strain of years begins to take its toll, Columbus and Wichita's relationship is fraying and the overbearing Tallahassee is starting to rub the all grown up Little Rock the wrong way. Finally having enough, Little Rock and Wichita run off, leaving the two men to each other's dubious company.

Soon though, the come across another survivor, the bubbly, blonde, pink (and somehow not terminally dumb) Madison (Zoey Deutch). Joining the gang, they set out to find the wayward girls, which is made more difficult by more evolved and vicious zombies. Across the wasteland again they drive, also looking for a new home and a clue maybe at the community called Babylon.

From there the film does deliver on some fun action scenes, great gore and hilarious comedy. The actors still have it and their chemistry is well put together. They feel like a family and good friends at least. The new additions to the film crank up the comedy in a lot of unexpected ways, and do a good job at engaging and subverting out expectations. Whether it is Nevada (Rosario Dawson) or Berkeley (Avan Jogia) you'll be pleasantly surprised by the characters who turn up.

Is it as good as the original though? Some minor spoilers below if you haven't seen either film!

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Meddling Kids

What happens when you combine the Cthullu mythos with Scooby Doo? You get a ragtag group of 70s kids growing up and returning home to fight horror on a spooky island! Here now is a prime example of some quirky and almost out to lunch Meddling Kids!

Written by Edgar Cantero in 2017 it tells the tale of the Blyton Summer Detective Gang (and their dog Sean) who solved the mystery of the Sleepy Lake Monster in 1977. Picking up thirteen years later, the gang is getting back together because their lives have, since that summer, fallen to pieces. The kids, Peter Manner, Kerri Hollis, Andrea "Andy" Rodriguez and Nate Rogers have aged. In 1990 they find themselves oddly drawn back to Sleepy Lake and the Deboen Mansion where they almost got caught by the machinations of a treasure hunter Thomas Wickley. In the end, he proved to be a goon in monster costume, but the night they caught him, they found themselves facing more than just a man in a mask.

Kerri is now an underachieving alcoholic, Andy is an Air Force drop out, Nate has checked himself into the mental ward and Peter has checked out of life thanks to a drug overdose. The original dog, Sean, has also passed on, leaving his legacy to his grandpup Tim. Has their old nemesis come back to haunt them? Or is something more sinister afoot at Sleep Lake in the Blyton Hills...