Saturday 28 November 2009

Book Reviews

Body Count
Shaun Hutson

Available Now - £7.99
Review by Brad Harmer

The figure in the mask stumbles bleeding through the streets, his pursuers closing in. But they don’t stumble. They stalk...

Who is kidnapping seemingly random victims and then slaughtering them in an elaborate game of cat and mouse? And why are these murders being streamed over the Internet? Watching the horror unfold at New Scotland Yard is Detective Inspector Joe Chapman who searches desperately for any clue that might tell him where and when this savage hunt is happening.

But DI Chapman is about to learn that you should be careful what you wish for. Very soon, he will be closer to the blood-letting than he could have imagined. Forced to fight for his life and the life of someone he holds dear, the only way out looks to be to rack up the biggest body count. But even that might not be enough.

What starts out as actually quite an engaging and tightly plotted crime thriller has seamlessly segued, by the halfway mark, into a completely shamless and pants pissingly embarrassing rip-off of the Rockstar video game Manhunt: a guy wakes up in a cell after begin executed for lethal injection, and receives commands from his kidnapper through a headpiece whilst making a snuff movie.

As usual, it then degenerates into Shaun Hutson’s nineteen-eighties time-warp of gore and hardcore rape scenes. Am I really the only one who finds this stuff really, really stupid and outdated?

The tragedy of it is, is that Hutson is a really good writer. Both his descriptive passages and his dialogue are really good; it’s just that what he writes about is complete and utter garbage.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several highly graphic and gory murders, often using blunt and/or improvised weapons. Some snuff movies.
Sex/Nudity: One highly detailed gang-rape.
Swearing: Frequent and over-the-top.
Summary: A pungent dose of Garth Marenghi-esque thriller/horror, marred the plagiarising of the plot of the video-game Manhunt. Very well written rubbish, but still rubbish. 2/10
One of the most controversial movies of the 1980s – and never granted a certificate by the BBFC until now – the seminal cult shocker Silent Night, Deadly Night finally gets its long-awaited UK DVD release just in time to bring some Christmas fear into the hearts of horror fans looking for something more stirring than the usual seasonal fare.

A slasher movie with bells on, Silent Night, Deadly Night sparked a wave of controversy on its original US theatrical release thanks to its premise of having a killer dressed as Santa Claus, a concept that led to many angry parents, film critics, celebrities and movie industry insiders protesting against and calling for a boycott of this “outrageous” movie. Hey, people were more sensitive back then. Personally I find the idea of a killer Santa less offensive than a sparkly vampire creeping into my teenage daughter’s room every night and watching her sleep, but maybe that’s just me.

Now, at last UK viewers can see at last what all the fuss was about with the release of the fully uncut and most complete version of the film available.

After witnessing the killing of his father and the rape and murder of his mother at the hands of a psycho in a Santa suit, young Billy Chapman, along with his infant brother Ricky, is sent to be raised at St Mary’s Orphanage, an institution run by a tyrannical and abusive Mother Superior. Billy’s earlier tragic experience has already left him deeply mentally scarred, with a pathological fear of Santa Claus and a firm belief that sex is an evil act that must be punished – emotional problemts that the nuns do nothing about...except to reinforce. If this guy isn’t going to suffer from Voorhees Syndrome in later life – no one is.

Ten years later, and free of the shackles of the orphanage, 18 year-old Billy finds himself working at a local toy store as Christmas approaches. Things are going fine until the store Santa takes ill and Billy is forced to step in and don the red and white suit. He manages to get through the final day at work before the holidays, but an incident at the store employee’s Christmas celebrations that evening brings back terrifying memories in Billy, initiating a bloody killing spree in which this now-psychotic Santa sets out to “punish the naughty”.

A superlative eighties shocker that spawned four sequels and ticks all the required slasher boxes – gratuitous gore, nudity, sex, decapitation and Linnea Quigley – Silent Night, Deadly Night is the perfect Yuletide tale of terror.

Thanks to our friends at Arrow Video, we've got two copies of the Silent Night, Deadly Night DVD to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to with your name and postal address before midday on Saturday 5th December (UK time). The first two names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a copy of this awesome DVD!
The Zombie Handbook
Rob Sacchetto
Ulysses Press

Available Now - £9.99
Review by Blake Harmer

In this world that seems to have now been completely filled with zombie related media such as books, films, comics, computer games and toys - both serious and comical - it seems that little more can be done with them. Sure the more serious works such as World War Z and The Walking Dead are truly brilliant, and films such as 28 Days Later, Night of the Living Dead, and parody Shaun of the Dead are also great. But I think it took me to just read The Zombie Handbook to find out that there is nothing original in making the zombie a thing of comedy as it has all been done before.

For those not in the know, The Zombie Handbook is a colourful companion to help you survive the zombie apocalypse should one occur. It is written by Rob Sacchetto, who has been involved with other projects such as Zombie CSU and the documentary Zombiemania. However, the whole thing plays out like an incredibly watered down version of Max Brooks The Zombie Survival Guide, and is nowhere near as cleverly written.

On the plus side though, the book does make a lot of references to different zombie films in order to classify every different type of zombie, and there are quite a few zombie jokes that should raise a smile, and overall the artwork is quite good. But sadly the damage has already been done due to the book’s complete lack of originality.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Lots of mentioning of brain eating and lots of pictures of the living dead covered in blood or being killed but nothing truly horrific as it is mostly done in a humorous way.
Sex/Nudity: Some pictures of Zombies having sex and a description of zombie copulation leading them to have a zombie baby but nothing is shown or described graphically.
Swearing: None that I truly noticed as it is more like a survival handbook than a narrative story.
Summary: This retreads a lot of the ground covered by other works and fails to offer anything new, sure there are a few comical bits that you may enjoy if you love all things zombie, and some of the artwork is quite good. But the lack of originality shows through and there is a lot better zombie fiction that I can recommend over this. 5/10

The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men
Edited by Stephen Jones

Available Now - £7.99
Review by Brad Harmer

The Mammoth Book of Wolf Men brings together twenty-three tales of terror and transformation from classic pulp novellas like Manly Wade Wellman's The Hairy Ones Shall Dance and The Whisperers by Hugh B. Cave, to modern masterpieces such as David Case's The Cell and Clive Barker's Twilight at the Towers. Also collected are memorable stories by contemporary masters: Ramsey Campbell, Les Daniels, Stephen Laws, Scott Bradfield, Denis Etchison, Karl Edward Wagner and many more.

This isn’t a new compilation. It’s been republished to cash in on the ill-advised remake of The Wolf Man. I know that, because I remember going off to holiday in Scotland one year when I was about thirteen, and picking this book up at a motorway service station. So, for me at least, this has been a most spectacular stroll down memory lane – as well as a major reason for why I like werewolves so much, and to a lesser extent, horror in general.

For some reasons generic horror compilations tend to be rather middling – but those that focus around a theme like, say, werewolves, vampires, zombies or whatever, tend to be really good. This one is. Particular highlights being Clive Barker’s Cold War espionage tale Twilight at the Towers, the phenomenal Rug, and Manly Wade Wellman’s dollop of pulp awesomeness The Hairy Ones Shall Dance. There are a few duds but thankfully they’re few and far between. For the price, you won’t be disappointed.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Frequent, bloody and lycanthropic.
Sex/Nudity: Occasional scenes, but generally speaking not that graphic.
Swearing: Nothing unusual for the genre.
Summary: An excellent compilation that provides a good spread across both time and style. You know a teenage girl who really likes The Twilight Saga. You owe it both you and her to get this and slip it into her stocking this Christmas. 8/10

1 comment:

  1. What with the constant mention of 2012 and the repeated threat of the world ending, and the publication of yet another zombie survival handbook.. are they trying to tell us something?