Low Road West Aims High, Lands in the Middle [Graphic Novel Review]

Low Road West opens with a fantasy I’m sure that many of us has had at one point or another: an unnamed character walking out of their job. In this graphic novel, it’s a bus driver responsible for transporting five teenagers from a war-torn Washington D.C. to San Francisco. The driver quits around Oklahoma (I for one can’t fault him. I’ve driven from New Haven, CT to Tulsa, and it’s a long 24 hours.) and makes his way out of the story.

The main cast is the teenagers — Emma, Ben, Angela, Shawn, and Amir. The war has forced them, and many others off of the East Coast. Much of the inner continent has been turned into a desert because as Amir says, “Pretty much every oil well in the U.S. is on fire.” None of them can drive a bus, especially one without gas, so they’re forced to walk. They’re saved from military deserters by a mysterious archer before they arrive in Custer’s Wake.

Continue reading at Wicked Horror!

Perfect Experiments but Reaches Inconclusive Results [Review]

Stories set rules for themselves. Sometimes those rules come through dialogue, like in Gremlins. Other times stories use visual cues to tap into the knowledge that viewers bring in with them. If viewers see a rickety old mansion like the one in Crimson Peaks, they’ll be disappointed (or for the less hearty, relieved) not to see any. Eddie Alcazar’s feature-length directorial debut Perfect spends its first act establishing a dream-logic that falls somewhere between The Mirror and Lost Highways.

It starts with an image I couldn’t identify. It strobes. Alcazar is using this abstract image to let viewers know that the film isn’t going to be using the visual language of traditional films. A man off screen ponders, “All these aspects of myself, all of these thoughts, how do I heal them? How do I unify them? How do we create the ‘we’ to an ‘I’?” The quote tips off audiences that this is a film exploring self-improvement.

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Funny Games Will Resensetize You to Violence [Blu-ray Review]

Funny Games is structured around a series of escalating, violent games. On the way to their lake home, Anna (Susanne Lothar) and Georg (Ulrich Mühe) try to guess the opera song the other plays on the car’s stereo. Peter (Frank Giering) joins the games after they arrive, knocking on the door while Georg and Georg Jr. (Stefan Clapczynski) are setting up the boat. When Anna answers, he asks her for eggs. When she gives them, he drops them and asks for four more. He drops those four when the dog, Rolfi, jumps at him and his newly arriving friend Paul (Arno Frisch). They insist that Anna give them four more eggs — the last of her stock. When she refuses, they get violent. The games only get worse from there, eventually reaching a fevered German version of “eenie meenie miney mo” where the loser is executed.

The trick is, though, that Peter and Paul only get violent as part of a game or when a rule is broken. They do define the parameters some of smaller games they play later on, but they never explain the overarching game. When asked why they’re doing this, Paul rattles off different possible explanations, saying that maybe they are drug addicts, or maybe they’re bored rich kids, or maybe they were abused as children. After each, he laughs and admits it was another lie. It’s something that Heath Ledger and Christopher Nolan borrowed for their Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight.

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She Could Fly: The Lost Pilot #3 [Review]

She Could Fly: The Lost Pilot #3 takes the reader and Luna into new territory: a first date. What started shakily last issue has developed into a fledgling relationship. Luna has a boyfriend. She and Gary go to see Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. True to the series, Luna describes the film by saying, “Everything in this feels like soft cotton.”

Unfortunately, the date doesn’t go well. Luna’s having intrusive thoughts (“YOU SAY THE WRONG THING EVERY TIME”; “HE DOESN’T LIKE YOU. YOU’RE CRAZY”) during the movie. Her anxiety escalates when Gary convinces her to drive them home in his car. She’s had a recurring fear of killing someone while driving (one I share) and when she bumps the curb, she has a panic attack.

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In Head Count, The Thing Meets Candyman [Review]

At a sleepover in fifth grade, my friends and I goaded each other to go into the bathroom at midnight, close the door, and spin three times chanting, “Bloody Mary.” If the urban legend was true, Mary herself would’ve come out of the mirror and killed the speaker. We were terrified. Elle Callahan’s feature length directorial debut Head Count taps into that folk fear with an original, shapeshifting monster.

Evan (Isaac Jay) is visiting his brother Peyton (Cooper Rowe) in Joshua Tree National Park over Spring Break when he meets Zoe (Ashleigh Morghan) and her hard-partying group of friends. He ditches Peyton for them, not knowing what he’s getting into. He has no idea what he’s doing when they start reading each other scary stories from “anonymousnightmares.com” and he reads, the incantation to summon the Hisji.

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Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 [Review]

Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 opens with the monster. It’s not clear what the monster is exactly, but it’s clearly terrifying. It seems as though it’s some kind of spirit, inhabiting the corpse of a dead woman. The monster’s rising from the Mausoleum that Paul was breaking into when he was knocked unconscious last issue. While it resurrects, it spews pseudo-spiritual spooky sh*t like, “Those who believe in me.. Who die for me… likewise shall be restored.”

From there, the issue slows down, giving our hero pets and their new human acquaintances time to talk about what’s been happening. Beasts of Burden: The Presence of Others #2 spends too long in that quiet space, losing its forward momentum. In keeping with the series, there’s a monster attack that disturbs that peace. After Paul starts doing things that don’t quite match with his character.

Keep reading at Wicked Horror!