How to Give a Good Critique

1.) Identify What the Author is Trying to Do

In my first workshop at the University of Hartford ten years ago, Ben Grossberg dragged a desk into the center of the room, perched on top of it, and asked us how could we make this desk into a good chair. We gave him plenty of reasons. The desk lacked back support. The seat needed a cushion. It was so high off the ground so his feet were dangling.

Then Ben asked us how useful our feedback would be the person who made the desk.

Not very.

Continue reading at A Murder of Storytellers!

My Top Horror Films of 2018

2018 was another great year for horror. Last year saw two excellent horror films, Get Out and The Shape of Water, earn Best Picture nominations and whether you give a damn about the Oscars or not, it certainly put a spotlight on the genre. It likely played a role in established filmmakers like Luca Guadagnino and David Gordon Green agreeing to direct high profile remakes of horror classics (to mixed results). A high tide lifts all boats, and the horror world might soon flood from rolling in hit after hit. It seemed like a great year to me.

I’ve divided my list into “Hits” and films that flew “Under the Radar,” based on whether or not they were first available in theaters or streaming/VOD.

See the list at Wicked Horror!

Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #4 [Review]

Endings are hard. No one quite knows what to say at a big goodbye, whether it be the end of a relationship or a funeral. It’s equally difficult to close out a story in a satisfying way, with so many famous failed finishes (looking at you, Seinfeld). When it all comes together just right though, it can save a bad story (looking at you, War Bears) or elevate a good one (holy shit, Frank Darabont’s The Mist, I’m still not okay). Evan Dorkin and Benjamin Dewey’s Beasts of Burden: Wise Dogs and Eldritch Men #4 wraps up the miniseries well, connecting all of the threads. It’s satisfying, if not world shattering.

Issue #4 starts with Tommy escorting his prisoners, our heroes Lundy, Miranda, and Emrys into the human camp. The humans have set up “a powerful suppression field,” counteracting the Wise Dog’s magic. They’re also threatening the dogs with unmagical but effective guns. And thus begins the villain’s monologue.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Evil Dead II 4K DVD and Blu-Ray Combo is Groovy [Review]

The Evil Dead series uses a classic horror setup. In the first two films, Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) and his friends go to a cabin in the woods for a weekend of partying and reading aloud from an ancient evil book (“Legend has it it was written by the Dark Ones, Necromicon Ex Mortis.”) In Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, they summon Kandarian demons who promptly possess them. While the first film is a more serious take, the second goes bonkers. It’s part slasher, part possession film, part pro wrestling match, part Lovecraftian horror, and excellent.

Director Sam Raimi didn’t invent point of view shots. In Hitchcock, in Carpenter, in the groundbreaking Peeping Tom, and in nearly every film of the slasher boom, the camera stalked. It plodded, giving viewers a glimpse of what a killer saw as they closed in on their victim. In 1987, Raimi hitched a rocket to his camera (figuratively) to show what the world looked like to the Kandarian demons. It zooms miles in a second, breaking down doors, chasing down cars, and sending poor Ash halfway across the damn forest without missing a single branch. It was frenetic, revolutionary.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

War Bears #3 Excels, Redeems the Series [Review]

I was down on War Bears in my first two reviews (which you can read here and here). Those issues moved slowly, almost meandering with no sense of an endgame despite the series only having three installments. The characters felt flat and the story stagnant. The only thing consistently working was Ken Steacy’s stellar art. He drew the hell out of Alain Zurkowski’s early comic creator story, and the fictional comic Al created, werebear heroine Oursonette. The good news is that Steacy’s art reaches the high bar he set for himself in the first two issues.

The better news is that the story really comes together in this last issue. Margaret Atwood, who I was fool to doubt, masterfully threads the storylines together, reinvents them. She reveals character details that recast everything she and Steacy have shown their audience already. War Bears ends with one of the more effective flash forward endings that I’ve ever read.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!