Michelle Garza reviews Aletheia for This is Horror.

There are monsters that dress in the skin of men, and hauntings that go beyond your average apparitions, alive and threatening. Women turn to lizards, dead dogs can see, and the things that drive men mad can step from their imaginations into broad daylight or slink around by the light of the moon just beyond the sight of their own eyes.

Heartfelt thanks to Michelle Garza for this dark love. Read more at This is Horror.

Dead Snow

I finally got to see Dead Snow (dir Tommy Wirkola), and from start to finish, it could not have been more fun. Nazi Zombies, creepy-horny med students, Ski-Doos, out-house gross-out. Lots of intestine.
Dead Snow
Four guys in one car and three girls in another head out to a cabin in the Norwegian alps. The forth girl, Sara (Ann Dahl Torp), dating the token cutie (Vegar Hoel), has gone on ahead, and, unbeknownst to her friends has met a grizzly end. The gang settle into the cabin—cue snow-fights, beer-guzzling, and a truly disgusting sex-in-the- shitter scene—to wait for Sara to join them. One dark and stormy night, a grizzled hiker calls by and tells them a tale of Nazi torture and pillaging in years gone by. Although played for laughs, the subtext for this scene, like that of the entire movie, is the brutal German occupation of Norway and the country’s spirited resistance.

Heil to the yeah. The undead platoons close in on the cabin, picking off the students by one in a frenzy of flying limbs, buried war chests, and dead-cherry snow. Did I mention bowel? Lots of bowel. The action scenes are tight and the Nazi Zombies are fully sick in their SS drag. Upside-down teeth, Francis Bacon eyes, green skin. The kids are good too, more realistic than your average Hollywood fare. Chubby, boring, and inarticulate. One’s allergic to blood, another has a thing for erotic asphyxiation. Your typical med students. But in their own way perhaps more interesting than the interchangeable paper dolls we’ve come to expect in US B-ville fare. So, you know, we almost care when they get bit.
Dead Snow, Review by J.S. Breukelaar
Yeah, you can drive a Panzer division through some of the plot holes, but the Colonel Klink Zombi (Orjan Gamst) is a trip, and some of the shots are superb. A hoard of trench-coated undead push through the surface of the snow like crocuses in the devil’s garden. Spring-time for Hitler? Some memories will never die.

Jim Mickle’s Stake Land

I watched this at the Sydney Film Festival and I dug it. There was Ginger Snaps (2000) and Bigelow’s Near Dark before that, but U.S. indie offerings in the vampire genre have been somewhat wanting compared to what the British have been serving up for years:  zombies (28 Days Later), for instance, and werewolves (Dog Soldiers). Some kind of antidote to the scourge of blockbusters like Blade and I am Legend seems long overdue, and Jim Mickle does it with Stake Land.

Teenage Martin (Connor Paolo) loses his family to the vampire epidemic sweeping the country, starts hanging out with a badass vampire killer known only as Mister (Nick Damici). The pair are joined by not your usual misfits—a middle-aged nun, pregnant barmaid, a marine—all trying to stay one step ahead of the bloodsucking scourge, plus some cannibalistic tribes and Fundamentalist nut jobs who drop live vamps from the sky into frontier settlements for fun, oh, and because God told them to.

Beyond 70s-era taut cinematography, and a brave take on a Matthesonian world in which the monsters evolve—get smarter—Stake Land has three essential things going for it.  Read more

It Came From Del Rio, by Stephen Graham Jones

Just finished reading Stephen Graham Jones’s It Came From Del Rio on my new Kindle. I’d wanted to read it for ages, but couldn’t get it here in Sydney, so it was the first book I bought on the kindle. Okay, this is a read that grabs a hold of your psyche and just won’t let go. Think Dashiell Hammett meets Carlos Fuentes in hell—radioactive bunnies, chupacabra (bald, blood-sucking canines) vengeful border narcs, zombie dads, and that’s just the wildlife. Throw in a bad case of mouth ulcers, a Bonny-and Clyde subtext, and a lonely ham radio nerd and you’ve got one of the strangest murder mysteries this side of the border, told with Stephen Graham Jones’s signature heart, elegant prose and killer sense of place. I became hooked on Jones after reading How Billy Hanson Destroyed the Planet Earth and Everyone On It—there’s not many sff writers around of whom you can ask every single time—how the hell did s/he do that? Jones is one of them

Kris Saknussemm’s Enigmatic Pilot

‘Amazing technologies, deviant desires.’ Map that onto antebellum America, throw in some hardscrabble characters and a strange journey that cuts across time and space, and you’ve got Enigmatic Pilot, the second installment in Kris Saknussem’s Lodema Testament. This is a seductive, enfolding trip of a novel, an audacious yarn that nods to the New Weird and tips its hat to the evolving traditions of Steam Punk, but owes as much to the ghosts of Melville and Samuel Clemens, whose spirits, like the enigmatic script at the center of the story, illuminate the pages with the queasily addictive light of true lies. More than just a subtitle, this ‘tall tale too true’ takes up where Saknussem’s cult hit Zanesville leeaves off, or rather before it begins, not so much a prequel as the source code. It is more accessible, less obscure, even more darkly hilarious, and packs quite a haymaker. If Saknussem has matured, he most certainly has not mellowed.

Lloyd Meadhorn Sitturd, the mysterious antecedent of Zanesville, is a six year-old mixed-blood genius with a towering ego and a libido to match. In 1844, his misanthropic dabbling forces him and his eccentric parents to flee Zanesville, Ohio, lured westward by a mysterious letter from Texas. It is thus that they find themselves in the great American fray. With the frontier closing on the century like a curtain, Lloyd finds himself center stage amongst a cast of Melvillian burnouts, Poe-ish zealots and Whitman-like dreamers. Prosthetic hands, glowing eyeballs, gibbering mooncalves and a mysterious abolitionist called Mother Tongue—it all comes crashing down on the boy when an experiment with manned flight goes hideously wrong and Lloyd must come face to face with, as his Creole mother says, “ where yer mine true ends and de worl’ begins.”

Stare into the void for long enough, Nietzsche said, and it stares back. Only then—where the reflection in the broken mirror stands up to what can’t be fixed—that the heart’s journey can continue. At the heart of both Enigmatic Pilot and Zanesville, is both a ghost and a terrible crime, unspeakable, a crime that in the Lodema universe represents much more than loss of innocence. For this writer, no true American dreamer is innocent, and manifest destiny is just another word for dirty deeds done dirt cheep. No, for Saknussemm, a far greater loss than overvalued innocence is soul—that capacity for reinvention and renewal that, after an assault, is often the first thing to go and the hardest thing to get back. It is in such a way, on the fecal streets of St Louis, that Lloyd Sitturd loses his soul, only to find it rewritten in the scars of a runaway slave girl called Hattie.

Signs and scars. These are the recurring motifs throughout this astonishing novel, which conceives of them as one and the same. The act of writing is an act of scarring, a bleeding tattoo performed on the flesh of the world. As the Sitturd’s journey unravels from St Louis to Independence with secret societies in hot pursuit and vigilante gangs lying in wait, where imploding androids and other blackly hilarious horrors lie strewn across their path, Lloyd feels caught up in something both organic and mechanical—‘not quite meat and not quite metal,’ a spiraling schematic reminiscent of the machine he tried to pilot over St. Louis. Hieroglyph, tattoos, scribble, musical scores, diagrams, patterns and code pulsate on the pages and push this narrative forward and back, west and east, toward the end and always in the direction of a new beginning as febrile and as inventive as anything in print today. Which all seems to suggest that the most enigmatic pilot of all is some strange amalgam of writer and reader, and the most thrilling flights are those which where the destination is anything but manifest. Welcome to Enigmerica.

And now back to the novel

Oh, but just before I do… watched Daybreakers last night, a little post Halloween treat. Killer take on the vamp story. Australian feel to it, but in a good way. Sam Neil wasn’t entirely convincing as the evil corporate sucker, but he played it for camp, always good to see a fine actor enjoying himself. The best thing about the film was the premise, which was smart and tricky and original—the world literally turned upside down as vampires inexorably populate the planet—and the seamlessness of the world created by the Spierig brothers, from a blood-deprived hero chainsmoking to block his cravings to armor plated vehicles set to daylight drive mode—was truly impressive.