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Foreign Horror — “Train to Busan”

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa!

Up here in North Dakota, we are swinging into the first triple digit temperatures of the summer this weekend, which is made more unbearable by the humidity that comes with it. Needless to say, there won’t be much work done outside at certain times of the day. I’m a pansy that way, I guess. However, starting next week I’ll be starting a regular schedule of fixing our other home, and, with much luck, we should be moving there in the next couple of months or so. It is in a much smaller town and is a bigger house with a bigger yard. Wish us luck as we continue this endeavor.

For this week, I thought I’d showcase a foreign horror film that showed zombies in a slightly different light than how they are portrayed in the “Walking Dead” and some other American zombie films. As I’m sure fellow horror addicts know, some of the best horror movies to watch have come to us from foreign markets. A lot of people are possibly turned off by having to read subtitles to follow the movies, but it is worth the effort to catch a really good scare. “Train to Busan” is one such movie.

The movie opens with a military checkpoint and a deer who climbs back to its feet after being run over by a farmer’s truck. In that moment, you know whatever causes the dead to reanimate isn’t limited to humans. It then switches to the main characters, a divorced father and his daughter, on the eve of the little girl’s birthday. He is a workaholic who doesn’t spend as much time with her as he she deserves. Her one birthday wish is to see her Mother, who lives in Busan. The father is reluctant to do so, but finally relents when his little girl opens his gift and it is a duplicate for one he gave to her a couple of months prior. They board an overnight train to Busan amid reports of riots going on in the cities. Before the train leaves, two stowaways board it, one of whom is bitten and in agony. It is that one person who starts a chain reaction of zombie attacks on the train.

I enjoyed the movie a lot, and not just for the horror elements. As a father with a less than good relationship with my ex-wife, I was able to relate to the father in many ways. You can tell as the movie progresses how much he loves his daughter and can see the guilt he feels for allowing work to take such so much time away from her. This is while people on their train change into rabid monsters and attacking anything they see moving. The infection is transferred via bites, and the change is rapid as the victims convulse on the floor and then a rage takes over. The reanimated corpses go into a frenzy when they see the living, almost like piranha. These zombies are also sprinters, so it takes a little less of the human mistake from the deaths, but not too much of it. Overall, I recommend this movie for zombie lovers and those who like fast paced movies.

Until next time, loyal patrons…

D.J. Pitsiladis

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Comic Book Review — All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa!

Well, summer has fully arrived here in North Dakota. With temperatures approaching 100 degrees and very little rain so far, things have been pretty unbearable, especially for an autumn baby like me. The one thing that helps me get through it (besides air conditioning) is the fact that we are now closer to Halloween and Christmas, my two favorite holidays. Also, we only have to deal with the high temperatures for the next month and a half to two months before things will get down to the 60s and 70s. I am definitely looking forward to that. For now, I also take solace in the fact that I don’t have to deal with freezing weather and snow storms as I work on the repairs to our new home. We are still hoping to move in there in about six months or so, although some days it feels more “or so”.

This week, I thought I’d introduce a new thing to the blog. I enjoy reading anything and everything I can, which include comic books. I used to collect the X-Men and Spider-Man comics about twenty years ago, however it became very expensive. Sadly, all of the comics I had collected needed to be gotten rid of due to a mold allergy my wife had with my home at the time of the marriage. Considering how the marriage ended, getting rid of all of those comic books is something I still regret doing. Unfortunately, I cannot go back in time, so I try to not think about it too much. I was a loose fan of the Batman comics, but, like many people, the Nolan Batman films triggered a love for the characters in that world that almost eclipses what I felt for the X-titles… almost. That’s what leads me to the inaugural comic book review of “All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy”.

To start things off, I must confess that this review is based on an Advance Reader’s Copy of the book, so things I see in the comic may differ from the final copy. I am unable to discuss any text in the issue, mostly because my copy didn’t include any. Whether this is the final design of the book or not, I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that the artwork in the book is excellent, and is able to carry the story pretty well. The book appears to be about Batman taking Two Face back to Gotham, and most of his Rogue’s Gallery attempting to stop and/or kill them beforehand. It is pretty easy to follow the story, however, I do miss the dialog and narration. I do hope that the words are included in the final copy of the book.

I need to scat and take care of our soon to be toddler. Until next time, loyal patrons…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Cheesy 80’s Movie Review — “Terrorvision”

Hello ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the Casa!

Not too much news on the personal or professional front this week.  Still plugging away on the writing and audio book fronts, and work continues on the house for a move in a few months.  We are looking forward to the bigger space and quietness of small town life again.  More updates are forthcoming as they develop.

For this month’s cheesy 80’s horror movie, I decided to check out a movie I started watching as a kid when visiting my father.  “Terrorvision” is about a creature thought to have been destroyed, but turned into energy and shot off into space.  It is picked up by a family’s overpowered satellite dish, where it changes between solid and energy states.  The family is a collection of misfit members.  The parents are swingers who make their house into an exaggerated “Pleasure Palace”.  The daughter is the stereotypical MTV teenager with multicolored hair and Madonna style clothing.  The grandfather is an eccentric military vet whose influence is clearly seen in his grandson, also a military nut with a love for horror movies.

As the creature makes it’s ways through the family and other unlucky victims, the movie just gets cheesier and cheesier.  There are plenty of hinted at sexuality throughout, and a view of children as obnoxious, bratty, and to be ignored if it interferes with their fun.  I liked the movie better from my memories compared to watching it now with a more refined taste.  If you want a reminder of the 80’s to watch passively, this movie is for you.  There are, however, much better movies, even in the cheesy category.

Until next time…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review — “Follow You Home” by Mark Edwards

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa!

I have been keeping busy with audiobook work (it’s finally almost completed, yay!!!), working on the first draft of one novel while also writing a 2nd draft of another, and fixing up our new home. Add to that a part-time job and time with family, and you find a very busy person. Out baby is now ten months old and doing remarkably well. You can’t really tell that he was born two months premature, which we are very proud of. Being busy like this is fun, but also tremendously challenging at the same time. There are some “less than pleasant” things also going on, but the less said about all of that, the better right now. I’m hoping to have a better second half of the year, complete with news of published works. Fingers crossed.

This week, we return to book reviews with a look at “Follow You Home” by Mark Edwards. The story follows Daniel and Laura on the tail end of a vacation tour of continental Europe. They plan on getting married and starting a family, and wanted take one last adventure together before doing so. On a train ride to Romania, their passports and some personal items are stolen while they are sleeping. They, along with a friend they made on the trip, are subsequently removed from the train and left in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night while the train continued on. As they make their way through a dark forest to the next train station, something terrible happens that changes Daniel and Laura. The incident isn’t revealed until the third act, but it is bad enough to split the once happy couple. That is only the beginning of their troubles as strange things begin to happen and people they confide their story with end up dead.

It is hard to give an opinion reason for this story without going into spoilers. I expected the story to go one way, but it swerved about midway in the story. There is a certain level of predictability in the story for the first half, but the reveal on what happened in the Romanian forest is a complete surprise. It is a horrendous thing, and you feel for the Daniel and Laura once you find out what happens. It is well worth finishing reading the book for the ultimate payoff in the story. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

I should be back again next week with another review, and hopefully some additional news on everything going on. Until then…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Movie Review — Chopping Mall

Hello ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the Casa!

A couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d wax nostalgic and check out an 80’s horror flick.  After flipping through the choices on the streaming services, I finally settled on “Chopping Mall”.

The movie opens with a demonstration of a new mall security system, robots that patrol the common areas of the mall.  Any criminals they find are taken down with non-lethal weapons.  It seems like a good idea for the safety of the stores.  That changes when the main computer system is struck by lightning, and the machines become murderous.  Of course, it wouldn’t be an 80s slasher flick without teenagers staying after the mall closes to drink, smoke pot, and have plenty of sex inside one of the stores.  Without them, there would be no movie or body count.

While this fits everything about 1980s slasher flicks, even down to the cheesiness, I thought it was an okay movie.  The special effects and acting aren’t the very best, and the only well-known actor, Dick Miller — a/k/a Mr. Futterman from the Gremlin movies, is on-screen for about five minutes before being killed off.  Overall, the movie is a good one if you want one to just veg out to or poke fun at, but not one for hardcore horror movie fans.

Until next time, patrons…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book review — “The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Phoenix Rising”

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa!

This week, I thought we’d take a little trip into the realm of steam punk. Join me as we take a peek into the first book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, “Phoenix Rising”, written by the husband and wife combo of Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine.

First, for those who do not know what steam punk is, it is a writing genre that takes place in Victorian times, but with steam-powered versions of technology we have nowadays. An example to give a rough idea is the movie and television series, “Wild Wild West”. While I’m not totally sure the time frame fits, the contraptions used in both fit the bill.

“Phoenix Rising” opens up with a bang, literally, with New Zealand Ministry agent Eliza D. Braun on a mission to extricate Wellington Books. Books is an archivist within the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and his capture is of grave concern since he is privy to practically everything known to the organization. Case files, powerful mystical pieces, and information hidden away from the general public for their, the Queen’s, and the Empire’s safeties. Needless to say, Agent Braun is a woman of action who loves things that shoot or go boom. After successfully rescuing the archivist, she is assigned to the Archives to learn humility. Instead, she discovers details regarding her former partner’s last case, the one that ended with him confined to a mental institution. Before long, both Books and Braun are investigating the case and are drawn into a giant conspiracy against the Crown and Empire.

I reviewed the second book in the series, “The Janus Affair”, a couple of years ago, and found the book an excellent read by itself, but having read the first, I appreciate the overall story much more. The ideas for the technology are ingenious, and the story reads much like the classics of the similar genres. You really get a good feel of fire that burns inside Eliza, and see the kind heart she has. It is also a bit steamier than one might expect from a story taking place in Great Britain during the Victorian era. I give this story a solid 4 out of 5 and can’t wait to read more in the series.

Until next time, loyal patrons…

D.J. Pitsiladis

Book Review — “Once Upon a Scream”

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Casa!

Apologies for being away from the blog for so long. Changes in my family and professional dynamics have occurred, which I will go more into in a future post. In the meantime, I’m trying to get myself back into a regular deadline schedule. What better way to do so than starting work on my backlog of book reviews. This week’s offering is “Once Upon a Scream”, a collection of fairy tale themed horror stories edited by Dan Shaurette.

Traditionally, fairy tales have usually contained dark themes and ride the line between horror and non-horror. The stories included in this collection take the step over that line and directly into the horror realm. Although I enjoyed all of the stories, my favorites were “The Black Undeath” (a zombie version of Rumpelstiltskin), “The Godmother’s Bargain” (a twisted version of Cinderella), “Curse of the Elves” (think “The Shoemaker and the Elves” crossed with “Sweeney Todd”), and Mr. Shingles (a troll under the bridge story). Overall, I give this collection a 4.75 our of 5, definitely a must read if you love horror or fairy tales.

Until next week…

D.J. Pitsiladis

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