Tuesday Terrors: We Review Chernobyl Diaries and Greystone Park (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Source: Mania.com

Welcome to this week’s Tuesday Terrors, the final column before Halloween.  And I’ve got plenty of horror treats for you this week including reviews of three new films on DVD, and Lisa Morton’s outstanding Trick or Treat: A  History of Halloween.  We’ve also got the usual goody bag full of news and trailers!
 
THE TERRIFYING NEWS
 
Universal adapting Stephen King’s “Gramma” into feature film.   Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Sinister) and Universal are turning The Stephen King short story “Gramma” story into a feature film entitled Mercy.  Variety reports Peter Cornwell (The Haunting in Connecticut) is going to direct.  The story follows two young boys who go with their single mother (Frances O'Connor) to take care of their elderly, senile grandmother named Mercy, only to discover that she's a witch who made an evil pact with a dark force many years before. 
  
Elvira returns…in comics!  Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, is returning in 2013 with a new series of Elvira comic books.  Well maybe…Writer R.H. Stavis and artist Jeff Zarnow (Godzilla, '68), are the creative team and the stories will focus on the Elvira’s MISS-adventures centered around a backstory about Halloween. But if you read the comment below from Cassandra Peterson, it certainly does not sount etched in stone. 
  
 “Unlike a typical licensing deal, we are bringing together the power of the Elvira brand, a top-notch female writer and a rising artist to develop a new line of comic books independently,” says Peterson.  “We will then find a publishing/distribution partner that shares our vision to unleash these stories to the world.” 

Official Redband trailer for Evil Dead Remake.  Directed by Fede Alvarez, the film concerns five twenty-something friends who become holed up in a remote cabin where they discover a Book Of The Dead. An archaeologist's tape recording reveals that the ancient text was discovered among the Khandarian ruins of a Sumerian civilization. Playing the taped incantations, the youths unwittingly summon up dormant demons living in the nearby woods, which possess the youngsters in succession until only one is left intact to fight for survival.  

 
First trailer for “Stung”.  The long lineage of giant insect films continues with “Stung”.  Written by Adam Aresty, the film is "about a garden party that turns sour when a colony of killer wasps mutates into seven-foot tall predators."  

 

 
Spiders 3D hitting film festivals!  And now even more giant bug business…ok, ok, I know Spiders are not insects, let’s not argue semantics.  Following the crash of a derelict Soviet space station into a Manhattan subway tunnel, a new species of spider is discovered in the wreckage. When the spiders mutate to gigantic proportions, an MTA subway employee has to save his family and all of New York City from destruction. 

 

 
Sideshow’s Jack the Ripper coming soon!  The Sideshow Originals team presents this horrifying interpretation of Jack the Ripper's true identity, a being transforming between the world of men and the realm of the Undead.  A maniac with unparalleled ability to strike at his targets from the darkness of a twisted afterlife. This creation takes form as the latest Premium Format figure from THE DEAD collection.  Each piece is individually painted and finished, each with its own unique quality and detail that is the trademark of a handcrafted Sideshow Collectibles product.  The piece stands over 25 inches tall overall.  The Jack the Ripper Premium Format figure is a unique vision of artistic horror and a definitive showpiece for any collection.
 
 
Features:
 
Trailer for found footage film “Entity”.  In 1998, thirty four unidentified bodies were found in shallow graves in a remote Siberian forest. After subsequent investigations, no official explanation by the Russian authorities was ever offered about the circumstances of the deaths. The case was closed. In 2010, a small English TV crew from the show 'Darkest Secrets' set out for the Siberian forest. 'Darkest Secrets' focuses on revisiting the sites of unsolved crimes and they employ the gifts of a psychic whose extraordinary powers may help shed new light on cold cases. The last communication to their production office in London stated that they were approaching the Siberian region where the bodies were found. Nothing was heard from them again. 'Entity' is the story of what happened to them.  Not to be confused with the 1981 film, “The Entity”.  

 
I Spit on Your Grave Too.  The sequel to the remake will again be directed by Steven Monroe.  Aspiring model Jessica goes on what should have been a simple photo shoot but it soon goes horribly wrong.  Raped, tortured and kidnapped to a foreign country, Jessica is buried alive and left to die. Against all odds, she manages to escape. Severely injured, she will have to tap into the darkest places of the human psyche to not only survive, but to exact her revenge. 
 
New Haunted House novel from Joe McKinney.  Dark Regions Press has just released Crooked House by Joe McKinney.  In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning point.
 
Those words were true when Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote them in 1851, and they were true in 1933, when a fire burned half of Crook House to the ground, taking James Crook’s wife and two sons with it. A disgraced bootlegger and former pro baseball player, James Crook returned from prison to find his house, and his life, a pile of cinders. Broken and insane, he rebuilt Crook House, putting his pain and loneliness into every timber.
 
But Hawthorne’s words are still true today, and nobody knows that better than Dr. Robert Bell, who has just moved into Crook House as part of his hiring package from a small Texas college. He soon discovers that Crook House is more than just a new beginning for himself and Sarah and their daughter Angela. For the Bell family, Crook House is a place where the past still lives, and its horrors waiting for the next drowning man.
 
With Crooked House, Joe McKinney brings you a chilling novel in the vein of The Shining by Stephen King, a haunted house tale that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.
 
 
Nightmare magazine Debuts!  Earlier this month a brand new horror magazine debuted online called Nightmare magazine.  Nightmare is an online horror and dark fantasy magazine. In Nightmare’s pages, you will find all kinds of horror fiction, from zombie stories and haunted house tales, to visceral psychological horror.
 
Edited by bestselling anthologist John Joseph Adams, every month Nightmare will bring you a mix of originals and reprints, and featuring a variety of authors—from the bestsellers and award-winners you already know to the best new voices you haven’t heard of yet. When you read Nightmare, it is our hope that you’ll see where horror comes from, where it is now, and where it’s going.
 
Nightmare will also include nonfiction, fiction podcasts, and Q&As with our authors that go behind-the-scenes of their stories. The publication schedule each month will include two pieces of original fiction and two fiction reprints, along with a feature interview, an artist gallery showcasing our cover artist, and our monthly column about horror, “The H Word.” We will publish ebook issues on the first of every month, which will be available for sale in ePub format via our website and also available in other formats such as Kindle and Nook. We will also offer subscriptions to our ebook edition in a variety of formats. Each issue’s contents will be serialized on our website throughout the month, with new features publishing on the first four Wednesdays of every month.
 
The first issue features stories by Laird Barron, Jonathan Maberry, and Sarah Langan.  Check it out here: www.nightmare-magazine.com
 
Clive Barker updates the status on The Scarlet Gospels.  On his Facebook page, author Clive Barker updated fans as to the progress of his latest novel The Scarlet Gospels.  The book will feature the character of Harry D’Amour that appeared in Lord of Illusions based on one of Barker’s stories in The Books of Blood. 
  
“A lot of you ask about the status of The Scarlet Gospels. Firstly,thank you for caring. Several portions of the book are written and the scale of the narrative is massive.This is without doubt the most metaphysically ambitious book of mine since Imajica. But unlike Imajica,which offered an entirely new cast of characters,The Scarlet Gospels builds its narrative around Harry D'Amour and the Hellraiser mythology.  Unlike Mister King,who has found brilliant ways to connect his different worlds so that we come to understand that each is an echo or reflection of the rest,I have no such grand ambition in mind.I simply want to tell an apocalyptic tale in which Harry will meet the forces of Hell as they appear in The Hellbound Heart and the first Hellraiser movie. 
  
Since I became so unwell earlier this year I am trying to be a little kinder to myself.That means that I can't tell you exactly when the book will be finished,only that it will be.  My love and heartfelt thanks for all the concern you've shown for my well being.  Over and over again I've been gently advised to get well first, then worry about which story will be told when I've finished the fifth and final Abarat book.  I hope this was useful.” 
  
The Walking Dead videogame Collector’s Edition.  Telltale Games’ popular, episodic game which has only been available as a downloadable game will now be released as a boxed version December.  The five episodes of The Walking Dead video game’s first season are included, along with a limited edition version of The Walking Dead Compendium One with new cover art from Charlie Adlard. Both the regular and collector’s edition versions will be available on December 4th.  
  
Featuring cover art exclusive to the Collector’s Edition, this is the first 48 issues of the fan-favorite, New York Times Best Seller series collected into one massive paperback collection! Over one thousand pages chronicle the beginning of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning continuing story of survival horror- from Rick Grimes waking up alone in hospital, to him and his family seeking solace on Hershel’s farm, and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot: The Governor.” 
 
 
THE HORRIFYING REVIEWS
 
Greystone Park (Arc Entertainment) 
Grade: C+ 
  
Oh boy…another found footage horror film, this one coming from Sean Stone, son of renowned director Oliver Stone.  I can’t think of too many settings more terrifying for a horror film than an abandoned mental hospital.  When we were in our teens, my friends and I frequented one near where we lived…a sprawling complex of about a dozen building, all connected with tunnels that went underneath them all.  They are inherently terrifying places and you have to work hard to make them boring and mundane…unfortunately that is exactly what Greystone Park does. 
  
The younger Stone makes a feeble attempt to try and document a true life experience, even down to he and his co-stars Alexander Wraith and Antonella Lentini, playing themselves in the film.  It begins at a dinner with them all gathered along with Oliver Stone and discussing the ominous Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey, an actual asylum that dates back to 1876 and was closed in 2003.  Alexander entices Sean by his tales of patients being tortured with electroshock therapy and lobotomies and stories of patient’s records being erased so the doctors could perform experiments on them.  
  
Despite the fact that Sean has just met Alex, he and Antonella decide to accompany him to the facility to explore it, and of course, document the entire episode on their camera.  What follows is an hour of the trio meandering about the decrepit walls of the facility, jumping at every noise and shadow.  Sean begins to suspect that Alex is leading them into something dangerous yet apparently isn’t smart enough to turn around and leave. 
  
Stone attempts to salvage the film by introducing several supernatural elements during the last half hour including an apparent ghost or demonic entity that traps two more friends (who happen to show up) in a room and tosses them about like rag dolls before pulling off a remarkable trick by making them disappear without a trace.  Greystone Park is a muddled mess of found footage, supernatural horror, and slashers (in the guise of a patient who escaped and was never found again) and none of them work because Stone doesn’t commit to any single one.  It’s a wasted opportunity. 

 

 
Chernobyl Diaries (Warner Bros)
Grade: C
 
Speaking of wasted opportunities, Chernobyl Diaries mirrors Greystone Park with a fabulous setting for a horror film which it fails to take advantage.  In fact that ghost city of Prypiat is the star of the film and frankly has more of a personality than any of the human actors.  Chris, his girlfriend Natalie, and her friend Amanda have traveled to Kiev in the Ukraine to visit Chris’s older brother Paul.  Now I can’t even begin to describe just how air-headed these characters are…Paul apparently moved to Kiev because of the women…or at least that’s the best explanation the film can offer.
 
At Dinner, Paul tells the group he’s booked them on an extreme tour of the city of Prypiat, the city that was abandoned overnight after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  Despite the fact that Chris thinks it’s a seriously bad idea, and the fact that Paul has a habit of getting Chris into trouble, Chris decides to go because he lost the group vote.  And of course you know that if you lost the vote you’re obligated to do any stupid thing the rest of the group wants you to do…even if it might cost you your life.
 
So they head to the office of their tour guide Yuri, a former soldier, and joined by two others for the tour, Michael and Zoe.  More dumbness…as the group arrives at the checkpoint, the guards refuse to let them enter.  By Yuri’s own admission this has never happened before.  Is our intrepid little group concerned?  Hell no!  Yuri knows a secret back way into the city which isn’t so secret since it has a guard post but it is abandoned.  The group explores the town, encountering mutated fish, packs of wild dogs, and even a black bear.  However, when they return to the van to leave the vehicle won’t start and they find themselves stranded with the sun starting to set.
 
Cherobyl Diaries take far too long to get moving.  We’re almost an hour in before the group is stranded and we’ve had endure uneventful meandering about the rundown city.  Things go from bad to worse once the van is disabled or perhaps that should be go from dumb to dumber.  It seems the idea to hike back to the main post never occurs to the group until far too late.  There are also confusing continuity gaffes such as rapid fire changing from day to night and back without accounting for the time.  
 
Once they flee into the city we never get a good idea of what is actually stalking them…mutated dogs?  Bears?  Ghosts?  Well those are all more interesting than what it actually turns out to be.  Chernobyl had promise and a lot of atmosphere but little else.

 

 
Truth or Die (Bloody Disgusting Selects) 
Grade: B 
  
Truth or Die is a British export (known across the pond as Truth or Dare) and it’s a twist on those old revenge slasher films that were so prevalent in the 1980s.  At a party among teens, shy, nerdy Felix becomes the butt of practical jokes and is beat up by one of the boys named Chris.  Several months later, Chris, along with some of the other teens from the party including Paul, Luke, Eleanor, and Gemma, are invited to a birthday party as Felix’s family’s stately country home.  When they arrive however, the caretaker informs them the house is closed up and directs them to the caretaker’s cabin about a half mile away…to which they have to walk.  Now ok, If this is me and you pull a mansion out from underneath my feet and try to replace it with a cabin, I’m turning around and going home.  But apparently the lure of free liquor is too strong for this intrepid group of partiers. 
  
They arrive at the cabin not to find Felix, but rather his older brother, Justin, an Afghan war veteran.  Justin explains that Felix is late returning home from helping on a charitable mission but there’s plenty to drink and eat and Justin would like them to stay.  Before long, though, Justin reveals that Felix is dead, having hung himself in the very cabin after one of the guests had sent him a postcard, taunting him about what happened at the party months earlier.  Justin holds the group hostage, demanding to know which of them sent the postcard.  When none of them refuse to admit to the deed, Justin forces them into a game of Truth or Dare, forcing them into life and death trials like sticking a hose down their throats that is hooked up to two different jugs…one holding water, and the other containing battery acid.  He then forces one of the others to pick which way to turn the valve in a twist on Russian roulette.  Soon the guests are at each other’s throats, blaming each other for sending the postcard as the game turns more and more bloody. 
  
Despite the flimsy premise, Truth or Die has some wickedly antagonistic performances.  There’s not many characters here for whom you can have sympathy.  Chris is a typical meat-headed bully, Luke a gutless weasel who will sell out his own friends, and Eleanor who thinks she can use her feminine charms and attributes to her advantage.  While Justin initially appears to be a caring big brother, wanting to find out what happened to Felix, it becomes clear that he is unhinged himself. 
  
There are some gaping holes in the plot such as one of the friends showing up late and spraying Justin in the face with pepper spray, and watching him writhe about on the ground instead of grabbing his gun…he would regret it a few minutes later.  Jennie Jacques is especially strong as the buxom yet shrewd Eleanor and the film tosses on a few more twists near the end to shake things up a bit even more.  

 

 

Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton (Reaktion Books)
 
Halloween seems to get bigger every year as already America’s second biggest holiday in terms of retail sales.  But as author Lisa Morton points out, Halloween is also our most misunderstood origins.  It isn’t based upon a single event such as Independence Day or Christmas.  Morton covers in depth Halloween’s long, twisted history with its origins in the Celtic feasts and celebration of harvests known as Samhain.  Now most people with even a tertiary knowledge of Halloween history are already familiar with this aspect but Morton goes into greater detail, documenting the lore of heroic battles from Celtic mythology that take place on Samhain, as well as other folktales from Celtic and Irish lore.  
Morton covers the next step in Halloween’s evolution into the Holiday we know today as Samhain would be co-opted by the Catholic Church into their All Saints and All Souls holy days as a means of converting the pagans to Christianity.  By the 1500s Samhain had been completely absorbed by these Christian holy days and festivals.  Morton also touches on the influences that events such as the Black Plague, the witch hunts, and Guy Fawkes Day, have played in shaping our modern version of Halloween.  It’s very clear that what we know as Halloween today has dozens of long roots that date back centuries, including the traditions of bonfire nights, fortune telling games, and ‘snap-apple Night’ which is from where our bobbing for apples game derives.
 
It is when these traditions came to America and melded with new ones that our Halloween was truly formed.  Pumpkins, unknown to Europe but native to America would become a Halloween icon.  Morton leaves no stone or pumpkin unturned in uncovering the many diverse origin threads of Halloween, from Washington Irving’s immortal story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” to John Greenleaf Whittier’s 1850 poem, “The Pumpkin” which describes carving “wild, ugly faces’ in pumpkins lit from within by candles.”
 
Halloween began to truly take off in the 1930s and 1940s. Anoka, Minnesota became the self-proclaimed Halloween Capital of the World by putting on the first organized Halloween celebration and parade which continues to today.  Morton goes onto relate how Halloween became the retail juggernaut it is today with dedicated Halloween stores, some in business all year round, as well as the many haunted house attractions that pop up around the nation each year.  And kudos to Morton to giving a nod to the legendary Bob Burns.  Burns, owner of one of the most prestigious collections of horror and sci-fi film memorabilia, was one of the first people to turn his home into a haunted attraction back in the 1950s.
 
Morton goes on to look at how Halloween, which we Americans tend to think of as our own, is celebrated around the world in countries like France, Italy, Germany, Russia, and Japan.  Morton also looks at how film and fiction has influenced Halloween and vice-versa.  
 
Simply the best book about Halloween I have ever read and if you are a fan of the holiday like I am, this is a must add to your library! Grade: A

If you’re looking for even more horror fun, be sure to check out Chuck Francisco’s Shock-O-Rama every Saturday right here at Mania:  Shock-o-Rama

Tim Janson is a columnist and reviewer for Mania Entertainment. He writes Level Up, the weekly look at videogames, From the Vault, a dig into genre films of years gone by, and the horror dedicated column, Tuesday Terrors. Tim has written for Fangoria, Newsarama, City Slab Magazine, Twitch Film, and Cinefantastique. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA). Be sure to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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