Creepshow S01 E03 Serves Up Some Just Deserts

After a brief hiatus, I am back to talk about Creepshow S01 E03. Why the hiatus? Well, last week at work was super busy. And, my internet was having some issues, thanks to my living in China. Fortunately, work has slowed down, it’s the weekend, and the ‘net issues are no more. So, all is well once again in the world of Ian.

The image shows trick or treates with a caption that says All Hallow's Eve, the first of the two stories mentioned in this Creepshow S01 E03 review

This week’s, or rather last week’s, installment of Shudder’s anthology brings two tales of deserved comeuppance. Now, this isn’t anything new to horror anthologies, see nearly every episode of Tales From the Crypt. In fact, it’s not even really new ground for this show. See episode 2. Still, these types of stories are fun. After all, most of us enjoy seeing terrible people get what they deserve.

The first tale in Creepshow S01 E03 is ‘All Hallow’s Eve.’ From the beginnig of the story, there is a sense of somber unease permeating the whole affair. It’s an effective and affective touch, considering what happens. We meet Pete and Jill in their costumes. They are Gold Dragons, a club of sorts, and they’re waiting for their fellow group members. Immediately something feels off about them. Pete, dressed as a hobo, mentions something about the rules, and Jill says something about this being the last time they will be together. If that’s not some ominous shit, you and I have different definitions of ominous.

Creepshow S01 E03 All Hallow’s Eve is Suburban Gothic

Once the gang assembles, they are off terrorize the neighborhood. I must admit, the fear these kids inspired in the people of the neighborhood intrigued me. I wanted to know what the story was, though I did guess it pretty early on. To be fair, it wasn’t that hard to spot. Still, it would have been nice if the mystery had gone on a bit longer. Still, it’s a pretty neat episode. And while it’s not scary, it is spooky with a surprising amount of heart and emotion.

Gothic literature often deals with mysteries, dark secrets, betrayal, crazy women in attics and the men who put them there. All Hallow’s Eve doesn’t have attic ridden loonies, but it does have mystery, murder, and dark secrets. This story is Suburban Gothic.

Visually, the episode is fairly standard, though the break-in to Mrs. Hathaway’s house is a stand out. Odd angles disorient the viewer, and add something different to the episode.

Overall, it is hard to argue that this is the strongest entry in the series. However, it is a solid entry, and it is a bit different from what has come before. My only two gripes about this tale are that the mystery isn’t as mysterious as I would have liked, and we see what happened to the Golden Dragons. It wasn’t superfluous, but it also didn’t feel necessary. My dislike of its inclusion probably speaks to my feelings about the mystery.

I did really like the kids’ acting. Jasun Jabbar Wardlaw Jr. as Binky was especially good. He was funny, as well as a ball of perfectly contained rage. The standout of this segment for sure.

The Man in The Suitcase Is Uncomfortable

The second tale found in Creepshow S01 E03 is the Man in the Suitcase. This story opens with Justin, a down on his luck college kid. His dad is mad at him for under performing at school, and his girlfriend Carla just dumped him. To make matters worse, he’s stuck waiting on his luggage at the airport. Things are looking bad for poor old Justin, and they don’t look like they will improve any time soon.

However, he does catch a lucky break because just when it looks as if it won’t get his bag, it falls down the carousel. He grabs it without a second thought and heads home, getting stoned on the way. Now, as viewers we know something is off about the suitcase. In fact, if we paid attention to the title, we know there is a man in it. We may know that someone is in the suitcase, but we don’t know when he will reveal himself, and we don’t know what he will be like. To the show’s credit, it plays with that expectation, quite a bit, keeping him in the suitcase for a lot longer than I thought they would.

When Justin does finally find him, we see a man so contorted he looks as if every bone in his body has been broken and rearranged in order to make him fit in the luggage. He begs Justin to help him, but when Justin tries to move one of the man’s feet, the man screams in pain and spits out a gold coin. See, when he feels pain, he produces gold coins. Yeah, this is weird, but Justin is in desperate need of money. Plus, the man tells him to stop trying to extricate him from the suitcase and to try later.

Would You Hurt Someone For Money?

From this point on, it’s not too tough to see where this is going to go. If the man produces money when he’s in pain, then hurt him and make money. This is a pretty brilliant setup, as well as an original one. Plus, it brings the idea of morality into the story. Is Justin willing to hurt this man in order to solve his own financial problems. The short answer is yes, but there is more to it than that.

Suffice to say, that the man in the suitcase has a secret. It takes a while for him to reveal that secret. And a lot of torture at the hands of Justin, his ex-girlfriend Carla, and his roommate Alex. But when he reveals his secret, it is sweet, inevitable, and in hindsight, obvious.. And, it’s made evens sweeter by the fact that the wicked are once again punished.

Creepshow S01 E03 Has Two Strong Tales of Justice

Of the two stories in this episode, I preferred The Man in the Suitcase. It feels more confident in its telling, and it is a bit more visually interesting. Plus, it saves the resolution of the mystery for the end. Unlike All Hallow’s Eve, it is not very easy to guess what is happening with the man in the suitcase. Sure, we can maybe guess nothing good will come of the situation, but as for how, that’s a bit more difficult. I liked the thematic link of morality and justice because it such a staple of schlock type horror, and it is done well in this episode.

I am happy to say that I’m still enjoying this series, and it is well worth the subscription to Shudder. I’m looking forward to watching and reviewing episode four.

Have you seen this episode? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading.

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Welcome to OrphanCorp Review: YA Dystopia Lit

This is a review of Welcome to OrphanCorp by Marlee Jane Ward. This short novella brims with tension, pain, acidity, and just a little hope. Telling the story of Miriiyanan Mahoney, this novella speak to truths about systems and offers a warning just as relevant today as 4 years ago when it hit the market.

The photo shows the cover of Welcome to OrphanCorp, the subject of this review. A little girl holds a sign with the title.

In the bleak future of this short novel, corporations have taken charge of orphanages. And let me tell you, they do not treat their charges well at all. In many ways, this novel acts as what could be a precursor to something like the Handmai’s Tale. Only instead of religious fundamentalists taking over, it was the oligarchy.Ward never explains how the world of Welcome to OrphanCorp came to pass, and for the purposes of this review it doesn’t matter. In fact, it’s not too hard to imagine something like this happening in today’s world.

All you have to do is look at the private prison system, and how private corporations are responsible for the mess along the US border. Those are real places, and this is fiction, but so often those lines blur.

Welcome to OrphanCorp Presents Freedom as the Lesser Evil

Mirii is a hard case. She’s got a smart mouth and a quick mind. She has been in the system for a long time and is a week from release. What happens when she gets released? Well, she gets to be free on the outside, but that is terrible as well. The world outside of the corporate orphanage has gone to hell, but at least she’ll be free. But what does that mean? She doesn’t have a family, or a job, or even a place to live. The prospect of leaving the orphanage is compelling, but it’s also a bit like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Inside, the kids do whatever they can to remain sane. This includes cuddle parties, sex, and going on missions. The latter is where trouble really happens, as these missions are illegal. Whether it’s just sneaking out to explore the grounds or to steal some drugs from the pharmacy, missions are bad news if you get caught.

Laughs in the Face of Corporate Inhumanity

One thing that really struck me about this novella is the humor. Sure, the book is terrifying and tragic. And yes, it presents a world full of pain and anger and anguish. It’s hard reading about kids in pain, even if they are fictional. But, Mirii is so acerbic and clever that we can’t help laugh with her. She puts on a tough facade, and humor is part of her armor. Of course, she is not as tough as she appears, which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the times she falls apart.

Another thing I appreciated about this novel was the world building. In a short amount of time, readers understand this strange and frightening world. The adults at the orphanage are called Aunts and Uncles, clearly a perversion of family. When the orphans get in trouble, they have to face the Consequences and go in Time Out rooms. Both of these are awful punishments, but their names make them sound innocuous. It’s a great bit of contrast between the expectation of what those words mean, and the reality of the novel.

Overall, I recommend reading this book. It’s short and well written. The world and characters spring to life on the page, and the tension is palpable. This might be a young adult novel, but it is suitable for anyone interested in corporate over reach, finding hope in the darkness, and good stories.

Thank you fro reading my review of Welcome to OrphanCorp. If you’ve read this book, join me in the discussion in the comments. And if you haven’t, you should.

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Killing Gravity: Sci-Fi Thrills in Outer Space

Killing Gravity is a short novella by Corey J White. It tells the story of Miriam “Mars” Xi, a young woman trying to make her way in a dangerous and futuristic cosmos. Xi (pronounced like the Roman Numeral) is the result of horrible experiments by the MEPHISTO corporation which left her with special powers. If you guessed these powers were psychic in nature, you wouldn’t be wrong.

The image shows the cover of the novel Killing Gravity, and has a woman in a space suit floating in the void of space.

Despite the familiarity of its premise, Killing Gravity offers plenty of new ideas for fans of the genre. Or at least it did for this fan. One thing that makes this story different from something say Firefly is Mars’ attitude. She is tough as nails and a loner, but she also has a tender side. Well, maybe tender isn’t the right word. Maybe a sense of guilt and atonement would be better descriptors. At any rate, it is clear from the moment we meet her that Mars takes no guff, but also is more than just a living weapon.

Of course, she can and she will kill when necessary, though it’s not something she likes to do. Eventually, as in all of these stories, she is forced to face the demons of her past because they won’t leave her alone.

Mars’s character arc, while somewhat predictable, is compelling nonetheless. She begins the story by just wanting to get away. That is not really an option. If it were, there wouldn’t be much of a story. As the disruptions in her life mount she meets up with a motley crew of scrappers who she grudgingly befriends. Mars’s relationship with this crew, Squid, Mookie, and Trix becomes an integral part of the plot and is important in helping to show Mars’s development. Without them, she’d just be a hard-ass.

Killing Gravity Has Action, Excitement, Death, And Heart

In any novel, but especially one like this, the characters are what matter. Yes, psychic powers and awesome weaponry are cool to read about. However, they are not enough to sustain this reader’s interest on their own. Luckily for me, Killing Gravity has plenty to offer beyond spectacle.

First, there is Mars. As I’ve already written, she is more than just a one dimensional waif or murder machine. She is a nuanced character who acts tough. And yeah, she is tough. But she is also sensitive, and near her emotional breaking point for the majority of the book. White makes the wise decision to give her emotional damage/vulnerabilities. These are necessary because her powers are so vast. As a voidwitch, she can crush entire starships, hurl meteors, and make heads explode. She’s dangerous, which is inherently cool. And sure, you can ride the coolness wave quite a ways. But there has to be more.

Beyond Mars’s fully rounded character, there are shocks and surprises throughout the novel. They don’t always succeed for me, but I appreciate their inclusion. White makes a genuine effort to play with readers’ expectations, and should be applauded. Sometimes, things were predictable, or not entirely refreshing. But, that’s okay. Not everything has to reinvent the wheel.

Plus, Killing Gravity has Seven, a weird cat-like creature with expandable guide flaps. I pictured it as kind of a cross between a kitty and a flying squirrel. Seven is Mars’s constant companion, and is one of the cutest critters ever to grace the page. She’s also quite dangerous when she needs to be.

Clean Prose, Good Descriptions

The prose in this novel is crisp and clean. White does a fantastic job of providing just the right amount of details to make the world come alive, but doesn’t overwhelm.

All in all this is a quick and enjoyable read with plenty of action, death, chills, and heart. It’s maybe not the most original piece of sci-fi I’ve read, but it does twist and turn the tropes of the genre in fun and exciting ways. It’s well worth the read.

Have you read it? Let me know in the comments. And if you haven’t you should purchase a copy from his website.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, don’t get into any trouble you don’t want to be in.

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Wendy’s Feast of Legends Leaves Indy Devs Cold

So, yesterday Wendy’s (yes the fast food place) released Feast of Legends, a role playing game. And if you go off my twitter feed, it was the end of the world. Several independent game developers were angry at this publicity stunt. They were mad that a fast food company got more exposure in one day than any game developer gets in their entire time of making games. Others were angry that the a mega corporation that doesn’t treat its workers well co-opted the hobby.

The image shows Wendy's Feast of Legends, the subject of this post, and a game that has annoyed some indy game developers.

I am not here to weigh in on the ethics of what Wendy’s did by releasing Feast of Legends. On one hand, I can totally understand the complaints from the indy world. Many independent game developers struggle to get their product out there. Plus, they spend a lot of time, love, and money creating their games. For a fast food joint to come in and steal their hunger, as it were, has got to sting. I get it.

And this goes into the idea of the redhead led fast food restaurant has co-opted the hobby. I am not sure I agree with that take. Did they make a silly game that is both serious and a parody? Of course they did. And, did they have a lot of money to throw at it? Again, yes they did. Does that mean they are trying to corner the RPG market or slight game developers? I don’t think so.

Besides, as it states in this Forbes article, Critical Role played a hand in making this game happen, and that is a popular and well respected bastion of nerddom. I know not everyone enjoys CR (and I have never seen an episode), but lots of people do.

In the Face of Wendy’s Feast of Legends, What’s an Indy Dev to Do?

Does CR’s involvement in the game mean that a corporation can’t co-op a hobby? Of course not, but it makes it less likely. I don’t think indy devs are going to lose buyers because of this free pdf game. In fact, it might act as inspiration for some. Sure, they can’t use the exact ideas from this book, but they can easily adapt it to another franchise. In fact, someone else I follow on twitter was doing just that. It may have been tongue in cheek, but he tagged several big fast food chains in an attempt to get them to bite on one of his pitches.

But beyond getting mad, or trying to get a company to hire you to write an RPG, what can you do? Well, of course, if you are a creator: keep creating and keep promoting. I know it’s tough, and it can be frustrating to have a burger joint come along and put out something that shits on your efforts. But, you have to ask yourself: does Wendy’s Feast of Legends really shit on my efforts? I think the honest answer to that is no.

And of course, people can get mad about this. No one needs my permission to have feelings. So, yeah, get mad, and then put that energy to use. Petition fast food places to support indy developers. Or, promote your work and the work of other creators you know. Game designer or not, check DriveThruRpg and find games you can buy, try, and spread the word about.

By its very nature, independent game design is always behind the 8-ball. We need to support each other in ant way possible. But you know what? Part of that support is focusing on what we can do for our community.

Keep Trying and Don’t Let the Evil Corporation Get You Down

So, yeah, Wendy’s made Feast of Legends, and that made some people upset. It also tickled a lot of people’s funny bones (mine included). I don’t laugh because of the possible perceived damage to the indy developers. I would never laugh at that. It’s a hard job that usually comes with minimal monetary rewards. However, I do laugh because the game is silly. It’s full of bad puns and ridiculous locations, and I kind of want to play it.

We can so often become so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we get angry at the success of others. And true, Wendy’s is a major corporation with lots of money, but I think getting mad at them is a waste of time and energy, both of which are precious commodities. Again, though, I am not here to tell anyone how to feel or what to think. So please, don’t think I am.

If you have made it this far, thanks for reading. Please leave a comment if you have something to say about this.

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Creepshow S01 E02 Tales of Horror and Vengeance

Creepshow S01 E02 tells two very disparate tales. There is a little bit of thematic resonance between them, but not much. The first story Bad Wolf Down concerns a combat unit in WW2. The episode opens with American GIs fighting a bunch of Nazi soldiers. The GIs are in trouble and have to retreat. Soon, they find themselves in an abandoned jail where some obvious shit has gone down. Though, I do have to say, it takes them a while to notice that some shit went down.

The image shows a comic book cover as featured in Creepshow S01 E02

Seriously. I understand they are in a stressful situation, and maybe not thinking straight. But, they don’t check the room or look for danger. They just kind of hang out and slowly realize something is amiss. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it did strain my credulity. I know, I know, complaining about credulousness in a s show lie this is silly, and I agree. Still, the key to maintaining suspension of disbelief in any type of creative endeavor is not to break the illusion. Unfortunately, Bad Wolf Down did that a few times for me.

That is not to say, however, that I didn’t enjoy this story. I did. The characters are definitely archetypes and don’t bring anything new to the genre. There’s the asshole sergeant, the tough but fair captain, and the young kid who believes in God. But, that’s okay. The actors perform their roles well enough, and Jeffrey Combs is always a welcome sight, especially when he’s chewing scenery.

As one of the thematic elements that ties the two stories together is vengeance, I need to talk about that. First, we get vengeance in the form of Combs’ Nazi commander. The GIs killed his son, and they must die for their transgression.

Creepshow S01 E02 Bad Wolf Down Hamstrung By Budget

The second form of vengeance in Bad Wolf Down is the captain getting revenge on the sergeant who left him and the rest of the unit to die in jail. I don’t want to spoil too much, but you can probably guess from the title that there are werewolves. Yes, this is a werewolf story, and that’s cool. There aren’t enough of those thanks to vampires and zombies getting all the action.

The budgetary constraints seep through in this story. Werewolves require transformations, which I imagine are costly to film. This episode solves the problem in a clever way: flipping through the pages of a comic book to show the change. We still get to see the Wolfmen wreak havoc, which is nice.

The ensuing slaughter after the change is also good fun. Though, I must say, it felt a little lackluster. I don’t know if it was lack of tension in the fight, or just that everything looked a little fake. Whatever it was, I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be. Still, it was great fun.

Creepshow S01 E02 The Finger

Of the two stories told in Creepshow S01 E02, I prefer The Finger. It’s got a macabre sense of humor, and a strong sense of the story it wants to tell. Bad Wolf Down knew the story it wanted to tell as well, but it didn’t quite feel as assured as The Finger does.

The Finger is the story of Clark Wilson, ‘the only man who walks in LA.’ Clark is a loner whose family abandoned him, and good riddance. His ex-wife Samantha only thought he was good for reaching high shelves. His stepson stole his car, and his stepdaughter was a meth head who offered him sexual favors for him to keep her secrets. Thankfully, he did not take her up on such offers.

If one of the themes of Bad Wolf Down was that of relying on others in times of trouble, The Finger goes in the opposite direction. Clark has no one, and furthermore, doesn’t seem to want anyone in his life.

So, Clark is a lonely web developer who collects discarded things. Yes, he collects trash on his walks and brings it home. One night, he finds a weird and gross looking finger. Now, a normal or sane person would leave the finger alone. But Clark is not normal, and he may have a few screws loose. So, he takes the finger home and starts researching what kind of animal it belongs to. He can’t find anything, but he does accidentally spill beer on it. The finger soaks up the liquid immediately.

We All Need Friends

This is some freaky shit, and if it were me, or any other right thinking individual, I’d get rid of that finger. Instead, Clark puts it in a butter dish and then places it in the fridge. The finger soon grows into an arm, and then into a fully formed murderous monster. Of course. Anyone surprised by this probably shouldn’t be watching horror. In a twist, though, the creature befriends Clark, and they hang out. Clark has found his comrade, and Bob, the cutest monster you’ll ever see, has found his.

This story is funny in all the right macabre ways. Clark is likably unlikable, and breaks the fourth wall quite a bit. He’s cynical and jaded, but doesn’t grind the audience down with these aspects of his character. There is not a lot of momentum to this story, but the humor and Bob kept my interest even when the action wasn’t moving at a quick pace. I enjoyed the storytelling as well as the inevitable conclusion to this story.

Final Thoughts

Overall Creepshow S01 E02 is a strong addition to the series, though it is weaker than the first episode. It doesn’t have as many scares, and the creepy factor is lower as well. Still, it feels like the source material, and offers up some good entertainment. Well worth watching, I’d say.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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Birds of Prey Trailer Reaction: I Don’t Hate It

Here is my Birds of Prey trailer reaction. I watched it last night and again today. Anyone who knows me knows that I dislike the movie version of the Suicide Squad for a multitude of reasons. And, anyone who has seen that movie should agree that Harley was the best part of it. So, I am glad to see Margot Robbie reprise her role here in this movie, despite it’s unwieldy full title.

Anyway, onto the trailer. At first blush it looks like it’s carrying on the aesthetic of the Suicide Squad. Fine, if that’s what DC wants to do. Beyond that, I am happy to see that Harley is distancing herself from Joker. I know we need a little bit of that relationship because it is what defined the character for so long. Still, I hope they don’t spend too much time on it in this film. Get in, establish she’s left him behind, and move on. Easy peasy, giant hammer to your facey.

The image shows Harley Quinn form the new Birds of Prey trailer kissing a hyena.
Harely has a new Pudding!

Difficulties abound when judging a movie based on its trailer, and this one is no different. The sorrowful song playing over the whole thing makes it feel generic. Seriously, so many movie trailers do this nowadays it’s become boring. At least this one is a little different thanks to the song choice. Beyond that, though, it looks like there will be some good action, and comedic beats. Again, it’s truly difficult to tell because we don’t get much dialogue, though we can get a sense of the plot. Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask is apparently a new player in town, and it’s up to Harley and the rest of the birds to take him down.

Birds of Prey Trailer Reaction–Fans are Hard to Please

Even before the trailer dropped, people were complaining about the Black Mask not wearing a mask. And yeah, I get that. After all, it is kind of the character’s whole schtick. It would be like Joker looking like a gangster rather than a clown. Oh, wait…. Man, I dislike Suicide Squad so much.

Another fan reaction I have heard since the Birds of Prey trailer dropped is “This isn’t my BoP team!” Again, I can understand that. Everyone has characters and teams they love, and I am no different. While it’s true that Harley hasn’t traditionally been part of the team, movies are different. Plus, she’s the most bankable character in the movie, so of course they’re going to go with her. Why couldn’t they just make a Harley movie? Good question, and one I don’t have an answer for. Furthermore, I don’t really care.

In closing, I think this movie will be all right. Will it be a masterpiece of cinema? Doubtful. Will it have at least a few good performances and action sequences? I really hope so. Am I more excited about this than Joker? Definitely.

So, what’s your reaction to the Birds of Prey trailer? Let me know in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading.

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