Sunday, May 6, 2012

City of the Lost

A few weeks ago, I went to Barnes & Nobles to pick up the new Jonathan Maberry novel, Assassin's Code. It was sitting on the new book table, at the front of the store, so I grabbed a copy on my way in, and carried it around, as I looked over all the other goodies on the shelves.

And that's when I saw it.

Bright orange spine. Title in black. Author's name in yellow. City of the Lost. Stephen Blackmoore. I'd never heard of the guy, but, what the hell, I'm always looking for something new. I pulled the book off the shelf. Right off the bat, an interesting cover. A cityscape in shades of orange. And in the foreground, a tough guy with a cigarette, a black leather jacket, and a smoking hole in his chest. Ok. You've got my attention.

I flip the book over; read the back cover. Mm hm. Joe Sunday, Leg breaker for the mob, goes out on a job and ends up a zombie. Sorta. And then the freaks come out. Joe is thrust into a dark world of supernatural horror. Sounds good.

And then...those seven words that had me putting Maberry back on the table (Don't worry, Jonathan. I picked up Assassin's Code the next week.) and taking City of the Lost up to the register: "Cover and interior art by Sean Phillips."

I know Sean's art from his work with Ed Brubaker on Criminal, Incognito, and, most recently, Fatale. To me, Sean is the go to guy for noir artwork. His splash pages for the essays in the back of Brubaker's comics are masterpieces. So, yeah, I want this book.

And what a book it is. It's Criminal, with monsters, and I mean that in the best possible way. It's Richard Stark's Parker, stuck in a horror film. It's supernatural noir! (Not to be confused with Supernatural Noir, a great anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, from Dark Horse Books.)

Joe Sunday is a bad guy, but you will find yourself rooting for him, as he goes up against bizarre foes, even badder than he is. You've got a nazi wizard, a feral dwarf, an incubus bartender, and, of course, a beautiful femme fatale. Everyone is looking for a magic stone. Most want it for something nefarious. Joe needs it to keep from rotting away. They all walk the dark streets of L.A., wheeling, dealing, and dying, as the clock ticks down to the final confrontation.

Blackmoore's writing is slick and fast, like his characters, and Sean Phillip's art is as fantastic as ever. The violence is nice and bloody, and the story is filled with twists and turns. This book is great as both horror and noir, and I would recommend it for fans of both.

I certainly wish for Stephen Blackmoore to have a long and fruitful writing career. Purely for selfish reasons, of course. I want to read much more of his work. (That's the problem with discovering a new author. No backlog to dig up and enjoy.) So, thanls to Stephen and Sean for some great entertainment. Keep it up guys.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Inkeepers

Before I get into The Inkeepers, Let me tell you a little bit about my history with Ti West. Years ago, I heard of this movie, The Roost, by some hot shot young director (That would be mister West). The reviews I read were all positive, so, when I found a used copy of the movie on DVD, I picked it up, took it home, watched it, and...was not impressed. Flash forward to Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, another film directed by Ti. I loved the first Cabin Fever, so I had high hopes. Not impressed. (At the time I was unaware that Mr. West was not happy with the final cut of the film, but that's neither here nor there.)

I decided to give up on what I assumed was an over hyped writer/director.

Jump ahead to just a few weeks ago, when I was asked to guest co-host on Fangirl Radio. (Check it out, on You won't be disappointed.) The guest was Ti West. I knew that The House of the Devil was streaming on Netflix, so I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with the works of the man.



The House of the Devil is a beautifully shot movie with great acting, great dialogue, and a slow burn story that builds to a bloody climax.

Shit. I forgot. Not long ago, I ran across The Roost on late night tv. As I had nothing better to do, I decided to give it another chance, and I quite enjoyed it.

Anyway, The Inkeepers came out on bluray (and DVD, of course) the day after we (we being Jessica Dwyer [THE fangirl], Ren Willocks, and myself) spoke with Ti, so I ran out and picked up a copy. I have just finished watching, and I figured I should write this, whikle it's all fresh in my mind. (Not that it will make me any more coherent.)

Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy) are working at The Yankee Pedlar, during it's last weekend of business. The only guests are an angry woman and her young son, and an old actress (played by Kelly McGillis) who has psychic powers. Claire and Luke are searching for proof that the inn is haunted. Funny stuff happens. Spooky stuff happens. That's all you need to know about the story. You ARE going to watch the movie, right?

Despite a rocky start to our "relationship," The Innkeepers has solidified my fandom of Ti West. I think that one of Ti's strengths, which shines in this movie, is his natural sounding dialogue, which the actors deliver with top notch ability. Hopefully you will understand when I say that it doesn't sound like actors delivery their lines, it just seems like two (or three, or whatever) people talking. To me, this is a sign of true talent.

The story itself has that Ti West slow build, that eventually leads to a truly frightening end. This movie isn't a splatterfest, or one scare after another; it takes it's time, letting us get to know, and care about, the characters. Again, another sign of a master storyteller.

Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left [remake], Shark Night 3D) is quirky and cute, as Claire. Ti said that this role is the closest to the real Sara, and I think it shows. She doesn't seem to be acting. And, I know, good actors never seem like thay are acting, so Sara may take my statement as a double compliment. She is NOT "glammed up," and I think that is why I find her cuter here, than in any other movie I have seen her in. I didn't dislike her, in her other films, but I like her very much in this one.

Pat Healy (Ghost World, Magnolia)...well, the first thing I thought, when seeing him, was "Hey! He looks kinda like Jeffrey Combs!" (I think it's the nose.) That is, Jeffrey Combs with a fauxhawk. Pat plays things low key, imbueing Luke with a dry humor and quiet charm.

Sara and Pat work well together, giving the film a warm, friendly, easy going feel, until, well, until the shit hits the fan. Ti West picked two great leads, for his best film to date. If he keeps up with the top notch writing, casting, and directing, I will keep up with purchasing and watching.

So, do yourself a favor, and check out The Innkeepers. And The House of the Devil. And Fangirl Radio (On!)