Belzebuth is Not for the Faint of Heart [Review]

If like me, Sandy Hook is one of the worst days you can remember, Belzebuth is going to be a tough watch. In the first thirty minutes or so, there are three massacres, all involving children. The first echoes Sandy Hook closely, with 28 kindergartners being gunned down by an older schoolmate.

Special Agent Emanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosio), who’s infant child is stabbed to death in the film’s opening, is called on to investigate each of these horrific events. Though there’s no apparent link between the massacres, Emanuel suspects that there is. The mother of the first murderer tells him that a man covered in Satanic tattoos visited her before the shooting.

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The Unsuitable Will Suit You [Book Review]

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice opens, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Molly Pohlig’s debut novel The Unsuitable stands as a direct refutation. Set contemporaneously to Austen, the novel tells the story of Iseult Wince, a twenty-eight year old woman whose father wants to marry her off and be rid of her.

Iseult doesn’t want to be married. She’s driven away the suitors her father has invited to dinner for a decade. There are so many Iseult needs a journal to tell them apart. Her success is genuinely funny to read about because, “Iseult derived a real satisfaction from causing a true, panicky silence.” As repulsive as her behavior is, her circumstances scare suitors off as well.

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The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” [Comic Review]

The Butcher of Paris #5 “Beating Chance” closes out the series with a whimper. Writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Dean Kotz have great intentions. They’re putting a much needed spotlight on a real-life serial killer who preyed on the most vulnerable of victims: Jewish people fleeing the Holocaust in France during World War II. It’s too bad the series doesn’t do the subject matter justice.

The closest it comes to paying tribute to the murdered is at the end of this final issue, when it lists the names of “Petoit’s confirmed victims” in between panels in which Petoit is executed by guillotine. Since the first issue, it’s one of the only times the series has focused on the victims at all. Instead The Butcher of Paris has mostly followed those tasked with capturing Petoit, and eventually Petoit himself.

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Sequelland: A Story of Dreams of Screams [Book Review]

Randy Meeks says, “Sequels suck” in Scream 2, which is ironically a good sequel. He sparks a debate in his film class with the students trying to come up with examples of good second entries into franchises. Outside of James Cameron and The Godfather 2, they don’t agree on much. In his book, Sequelland: A Story of Dreams and Screams, Jay Slayton-Joslin conducts a series of interviews with the creatives behind horror sequels, which, to quote Randy Meeks, “Suck.”

The interviews are excellent. Slayton-Joslin chats with 11 directors, all of whom are well-spoken. They talk frequently about why they decided to make these movies. Some, as Ernie Barbarash puts it, do it because, “It was either, ‘Do the movie and have a job, or don’t do the movie and nobody gets paid.’” Others, as Slayon-Joslin says in one of the collections many wrap-around essays, “take the jobs for love of the franchise.”

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The Dead Lands is the Māori Buddy Cop Horror You Didn’t Know You Needed [Series Review]

The Dead Lands has a brilliant premise. Waka (Te Kohe Tuhaka) is a Māori warrior, notorious for his ruthlessness. He’s lived a life without honor but has conquered much of the lands surrounding his and is feared by the neighboring communities. When he dies, he goes to the afterlife and at the gates of heaven, he’s charged by another warrior.

He pounds on the door, asking to be let in, as the other warrior gains ground. When Waka realizes no one is coming, he turns and fights. Quickly, he cuts the other man’s throat. The unnamed warrior’s head tilts back, dead. But then he begins fighting again, despite the killing blow.

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Skull: The Mask is Nasty B-Movie Fun [Chattanooga Film Festival Review]

In the scene that best captures the essence of Brazilian slasher film Skull: The Mask, a monster (Rurik Jr.) stalks toward a priest (Ricardo Gelli). The priest backs toward a crucifix. He takes Christ’s hand, at first it seems, for comfort. But the hand comes out and reveals itself to actually be a sword hidden in Jesus’s arm. The priest and monster proceed to have an epic sword fight in front of a stained glass background.

The movie starts long before that fight in 2021. Skull: The Mask opens in 1944, with soldiers that look a lot like Nazis conducting a ritual to summon Anhangá, a Brazilian god. They cut a man’s stomach open and bathe the titular mask—which looks like the skull of one of the pig things from the rancor pit in Return of the Jedi—in blood and entrails. One of the maybe-Nazis puts the mask on. The mask doesn’t like that. The maybe-Nazi’s head explodes.

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Tigers Are Not Afraid Returns Fairy Tales to Their Gory Glory [Steelbook Review]

Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid opens with a shocking set of juxtapositions. White text on a black background tells audiences that, “Since the beginning of the drug war in 2006, 160,000 have been killed and 53,000 have disappeared in Mexico… There are no numbers for the children.” From there, López takes her audience into a classroom where they’re discussing the nature of fairy tales. The children are wearing pristine white uniforms. Their symbolic innocence crashes against the sobering statistics.

As Estrella (Paola Lara) writes a fairy tale about a prince who has forgotten that he’s a prince, the scene changes again. Now the camera is following Shine (Juan Ramón López), a boy around the same age as Estrella. Instead of going to school, he’s stalking two gangsters through an alleyway. When Caco (Ianis Guerrero) steps into a corner to pee, Shine steals his phone and his wallet. It’s a wonderfully tense moment because as López shows again and again throughout the film, she knows how to milk a scene for all it’s worth.

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The Only Good Indians is Phenomenal [Book Review]

Stephen Graham Jones is prolific. According to his website, he’s “the author of 23 or 25 or so books, +300 stories, some comic books, and all this stuff here.” The Only Good Indians is the 5th of those 20 plus books I’ve read, and it’s by far the best.

The Only Good Indians opens with “Ricky Boss Ribs,” a member of the Blackfeet tribe, hanging out in a bar. He’s working with “a drilling crew over in North Dakota.” His work is so dangerous that “Each time he came back with all his fingers he would flash thumbs-up all around the platform to show how he was lucky.” He has no illusions about how dangerous the bar is for a Native American man. When he slips outside to pee, there’s an elk in the parking lot, destroying vehicles.

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