Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Review – Halloween Awakening – The Legacy of Michael Myers

      In the age of the Internet everyone has an opinion on how a long-running series such as the Halloween franchise should be done.  Many of these opinions are expressed on various websites and social media sites, but few back up their opinions with an effort of their own.  Even fewer do so with any kind of style or actual contribution to the story.  However, in the case of Halloween Awakening – The Legacy of Michael Myers, the fans who created this short film may have succeeded where many before, including the “professionals,” have failed.

        Halloween Awakening is a direct sequel to Halloween Resurrection that picks up right where it left off. Halloween Awakening attempts to tie together all aspects and plots within the entire franchise. Halloween Awakening takes the two diverging story-lines within the franchise and combines them into one coherent legacy of Michael Myers.  Fuzz on the Lens Productions undersells themselves with this self-provided movie synopsis on IMDB.  Halloween:  Awakening does not attempt to tie together the loose ends of multiple Halloween plots, it successfully does so and they manage this task with style and an attention to detail that only a true fan could provide.

       It has only been in the past two to three years that I have become a fan of independent horror.  In that short time, I have come to really appreciate what some film makers are able to do on small budgets.  Halloween Awakening is a prime example that a large budget does not make a good movie and the reverse is also true.  Michael Leavy and the rest of the crew of Fuzz on the Lens Productions create an amazing movie with almost no budget at all.  The camera work and lighting is phenomenal.  Leavy understands only as a true Michael Myers fan could that Michael is scary only when he is kept in the shadows for the majority of the time.  The only time I wanted to shout “if Myers was any more obvious he would be giving you a hug!” was the scene in which Billy Brackett searches for his stored gun and even the “real” Halloween films had those moments.  The kills are brutal, but not graphic.  My personal favorite was when Jimmy and Jaclyn are preparing to have sex and Jimmy suddenly has blood coughed onto his face by Jaclyn.  The couple had been unaware the Michael was lurking in the darkness until it was too late!  The lighting and camera work is utilized in a professional manner to leave much to the imagination.  While there are definitely some oversights, such as the lack of a blood trail right after Myers slices through a girl’s throat or the absence of blood on the knife after almost every kill, these are minor issues when compared to the amazing portrayal of such an iconic killer.
        From the very opening shot, we should realize that we are watching the work of people who really appreciate Michael Myers and his story.  The shots and the writing feel very true to the original.  The score is recomposed to give it just enough of an original edge while maintaining the classic Halloween tone.  After the opening kill, we are brought up to date via a voice-over by the now deceased Dr. Samuel Loomis.  If you doubt the value of watching this fan film for even a moment, take this fact into consideration:  the voice-over of Sam Loomis is done by veteran voice actor Tom Kane, who voiced Loomis in the studio production H20:  Halloween Twenty Years Later, as well as 181 other credits.  From there, the story unfolds with an attention to detail that only a true fan and a talented pair of writers could accomplish.

        Michael Leavy and Stephen Della Salla tie together multiple Halloween story lines with finesse.  The Bracket family line and the Myers family line come back together ten years after the end of Halloween Resurrection.  All of the right references are there to provide the proper background and tightly wrap together the stories from all of the films in the Halloween saga.  Intermingled in the traditional Halloween vibe is a somewhat refreshing Scream-esque like actions and dialogue on the part of some of the characters as they avoid the stereotypical horror character mistakes.  Again, the writers manage this without going overboard or seeming to be too obvious about the difference in the characters’ decision processes (read:  no reference to horror movies as movies).  Fuzz on the Lens Productions also brings an impressive acting team together for their production. 
       While there may not be any other well-known names among the cast, they still bring a great deal of talent to the film.  Each actor finds the perfect balance between the typical pitfall of “amateur” actors, that of over or under-acting.  Each line and reaction is delivered with professionalism and tone appropriate to the scene and the situation.  My only issue with the cast was trying to believe that Michael Pio Carone , playing Steven Lloyd, was seventeen years old (I would place him easily in his mid-to-late twenties based on his appearance).   This, however, did not affect his great performance.  Perhaps the only thing more effective than the shooting, lighting, acting, and writing was the use of location.
         From the selection of Independent horror films I have seen, I would make the generalization that setting is a vital aspect of any movie that can be very difficult for an independent film maker.  The budget is not available to rent or build locations, so often they have to make do with whatever they have available to them and write the script around that (I have actually experienced this in an instance where I had to rewrite scenes in a script I had written for a local film director in order to get around the problem of not having access to the location I wanted to use).  I don’t know how the Leavy got around this issue specifically, but it is undeniable that he found a great location for Halloween Awakening.  The move is set at “Smith’s Grove Mental Hospital” and was filmed, according to Leavy, at a “semi-abandoned psychiatric hospital.”  The hospital in which they shot was so fitting for the story and the Halloween legacy that it is almost a character by itself.  The emptiness and vastness of the building helps create an amazing atmosphere of which Leavy takes full advantage.  Words do not do it justice, it is something you need to see for yourself.  The same can be said for every part of this fan-made masterpiece.  Basically, if you took the opening scene of Lorie Strode’s death from Halloween Resurrection, added about thirty minutes of movie, and tacked on Halloween Awakening, you would have had a MUCH better finale to the Halloween franchise than what Hollywood managed to give us!

So now that I am done with my elaborate gushing over this fantastic short film, let’s take a look at The Rage Circus breakdown.

Acting – 5/5
Story - 5/5

Effects - 4/5

Camera Work/Production Skill - 5/5
Overall Entertainment Value – 4.75/5

Check out the film for yourself for free:  You can also stay on top of what the amazingly talented film makers at Fuzz on the Lens Productions are up to and support their work at their website: 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Now with more Twitter!

The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void blog of all things horror is now on Twitter!  Follow us @ragecircusblog.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Short Review - "The Curse of Jason - Part 1"

It's hard to form an opinion of something in just eleven short minutes.  However, this was just the first of a three part series.  Knowing this and understanding that this is a short fan film, hopefully allows the viewer to sit back and simply have fun with it.  Go in to watching this film just expecting a quick, good time and you will not be disappointed.

Created Brandon Prewitt, co-writer of The Campground, and Jack Norman this film starts with the typical group of campers hanging out at Crystal Lake.  We get a quick nod towards the greatest Jason ever on film with one of the first victims being named Kane in reference to Kane Hodder, who played Jason in Friday the 13th VII, VIII, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X.  The kills come quick and intense and are in no way disappointing.  The directors embrace the limitations of their budget and do not overreach in their attempt to create brutal kills.  Instead, they use a standard trick of the low budget horror film by showing the lead up, the slash of the arm or the raising and dropping of the ax, and then cut to the wound.  The technique is used well and the kills are pretty cool.  Perhaps, most importantly, Prewitt and Norman's Jason delivers.

 Jason is played by co-director and co-writer Jack Norman.  While the uninitiated into the Friday the 13th series might believe that anyone could put on a mask and play Jason, true fans know that idea is a fallacy.  Ask any die-hard Friday the 13th fan and they will name their favorite Jason for you.  In order to properly portray the killing machine that is Jason Vorhees, a certain presence is required.  Jack Norman pulls this off and provides a respectable addition to the line of actors who have portrayed the unstoppable monster.  He seems to model his movement off of the Jason of later films and, in doing so, brings the character to life.

Certain other aspects that are enjoyable about the fan film are not so much the result of the crew's work as they are their correct acknowledgment of the fact that certain things make Friday the 13th what it is and can not be replaced.  They utilize the familiar title graphics and Harry Manfredini's iconic music.  A lot of the shots of the film are reminiscent of the  types of visuals used in the various Friday the 13th movies that went on to become standard in most slasher films.

For the most part, the cast and crew did a solid job of paying their respects to the Friday the 13th franchise and creating a work that is obviously the product of fans.  I can't say in good faith that the production was perfect.  There were moments when I couldn't help but ask the screen "really?" as though it was going to answer, such as when the character Alice barely taps Jason and manages to shove him out of the way or a character's complete unawareness of Jason being right next to them until it is too late.  However, overall, the film is entertaining and should be viewed by any fan of Friday the 13th.  Just trying to catch all of the references alone are worth the view (I already mentioned the nod towards Kane Hodder.  See how many others you can find on your own.).  The cast and crew seem to have had fun making this and you should have fun viewing it.

Due to the short run time of the film, I am not going to attempt to do a by-the-numbers rating until all three parts have been released and I can view them as a whole.

You can check out part 1 of Friday the 13th The Curse of Jason on YouTube at:  You can also check out more work by the cast and crew of Friday the 13th The Curse of Jason and stay up-to-date on their projects at their Facebook page:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review – Shark Station Nyet by Carolyn McCray

I will start off with a piece of information and a warning combined.  Shark Station Nyet is the second book of the Apex Predator Thriller Series by Carolyn McCray.  If you have not read Salechii, the first book of the series, you may not want to read this review.  While I strive to keep my reviews spoiler free, it is almost impossible to review a well-done sequel without giving away spoilers from the first.  That being said, Shark Station Nyet is an extremely well-done sequel that does what few sequels are able to do.  The second book in the Apex Predator Thriller Series surpasses the original in every way!

You might think to yourself, “King Salazar the Third (hey if you’re going to talk to yourself, you might as well have some fun with it), what could possibly be better than a book about an underwater shark park written with great attention to the details about the sharks where they all get loose and terrorize a park full of guests?”  I am here to tell you that the answer to that question is Shark Station Nyet.

While not necessary, I would highly recommend reading the short bridge story Open Water, which comes as part of the Apex Predator Thriller Series box set on Amazon.  In this story, we are shown what happens immediately following the rescue of the protagonists from the Shark Park.  We are also reunited with a character we thought dead from Salechii (but I won’t tell you who).  Following this incident is where Shark Station Nyet picks up seamlessly.

“Putin wanted weaponized sharks to help guard Russia's coastline. And what Putin wants, he gets, however he also got far more than he expected!

Join our heroes as they battle the biggest and smartest sharks they have ever encountered!” (

Our remaining heroes from the first book travel to an underwater shark station in the frozen wastelands of Russia in order to assist with a search and rescue mission.  Callum is recruited by the secretary of the Navy due to his shark expertise and his experiences at the shark park.  He, in turn, demands that he be allowed to bring his allies from the shark park with him to assist.  This is perhaps the weakest story aspect of the book, but I challenge you to come up with a better way to get the protagonists involved.  Unlike her story telling in Salechii, McCray does not bother with the rhythmic increasing and releasing of tension in this story.  Once the peril starts to build, it never loosens up!

Shark Station Nyet contains all of the shark action from Salechii, but with the added suspense and thrill of a more direct human threat this time.  From early in the story the characters learn that they are facing not only the elements and weaponized sharks, but a saboteur as well.  They do not know who they can trust, but do know that death may wait around any corner.  The knowledge brings out both the best and the worst in some of the characters.

McCray dives much deeper into the personality of her characters in this book.  You really get to see the impact of the first life-and-death situation they faced in Salechii and how it has impacted each of them personally.  Their decisions in this book are very much formed by the experiences of their past.  Knowing that there is a traitor in the midst of the cast of characters makes you examine each of them more closely.  McCray seems to anticipate this and provides us with less definitively “good” or “bad” characters, adding more depth than she did in Salechii.

Overall, Carolyn McCray does an excellent job in taking all the things that made Salechii great and making them better.  McCray’s use of descriptive language is amazing and makes it easy to see the action in your head as you read.  For any fan of shark horror and thriller, this book is a must read. 

So, let’s take a look at the Rage Circus breakdown:
Story Concept – 4.5/5
Story Execution - 5/5
Story Flow – 5/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) – 5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) – 4.5/5
Overall –4.86/5 – Read this book now, but prepare to have to pry it from your hands every time you need to put it down!

Shark Station Nyet by Carolyn McCray is available through in several formats:

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Review - "Salechii" by Carolyn McCray

Take one part Jaws, mix one part Deep Blue Sea, a dash of Jurassic Park and a whole lot of mind-reeling excitement and you have Salechii by Carolyn McCray.  McCray mixes some of the best elements of these stories while creating something 100% original in her story of a shark park about to open to the public when things start going terribly wrong.
“Salechii: A Shark Park is supposed to be all about learning to respect and protect sharks, however after a Level-5 Hurricane hits and the sharks get out of their pens, the only lesson learned is how fast can you swim?”

Building off such a simple premise, McCray develops a tale of suspense that will leaving you racing for the last page to see what happens.  The rise and fall of action continue to build throughout the story like a rollercoaster ride through shark infested waters.  McCray masterfully paces out the action and creates a landscape of peaks and valleys in her story until she reaches the apex of her mountain and sends us rushing down the side of an Everest of a tale.  Throughout the entire story, from the moment the terror starts to mount, we find ourselves cheering for the characters and hoping to see them make it out in one piece.
McCray provides us with characters that we are clearly meant to either love or hate.  Most of the characters wear their motivations out in plain sight for all to see.  Despite this lack of three-dimensionality in the characters, McCray provides us with enough of a range of humanity to still feel invested in what happens to each one of them by the end of the book.  In a way, this is refreshing.  The book serves as great entertainment without taking itself TOO seriously.  Instead of getting bogged down in complex characters that slowly reveal their nature, McCray focuses on the horror of what is going on around them.  I would urge that you not take this to mean that the characters are cardboard cutouts, because they are not.  We are given enough to cheer for the characters (or the sharks) in every scene without the need to overanalyze every action of every character.  The best characters in the story, however, are definitely the sharks.

McCray seems to have done her research prior to writing this book.  As an avid Shark Week viewer, I was pleased to see all the detail that is given to the sharks and the way they look and behave.  While liberties are taken here and there for the sake of story, most of the shark-related facts are accurate.  They are presented as truly magnificent animals that are deserving of our respect.  At the same time, we see the terror that they could be.  For me, sharks have always held a weird fascination.  Nothing scares me more than the idea of being in the middle of the ocean, completely out of my element, and seeing that fin break the water.  McCray creates that exact sense of terror through her sharks.
Overall, I found Salechii to be a great read and a highly entertaining story.  The story flow is fantastic and it is a book that you will not want to put down once you start.  If you are a fan of shark fiction, I highly recommend this book.

So, let’s take a look at the Rage Circus breakdown:
 Story Concept – 4.5/5
 Story Execution - 5/5
 Story Flow – 5/5
 Character Development (give-a-damn factor) – 4.5/5
 Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
 Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
 Editing (including grammar and spelling) – 3/5
  Overall –4.5/5 – Read this book now, but make sure you are on dry land when you do so!

Salechii by Carolyn McCray is available through in several formats:
Stand-alone Kindle book:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review - "The Way of All Flesh" by Tim Waggoner

Is there a single sub-genre of horror right now that has been more overdone than zombies?  I do not make this statement lightly as it was George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead that drew me into horror in the first place.  Lately, however, zombies have just been told from every possible angle and story arch possible until it seems like there is nothing left to be said about the living dead.  Perhaps that is not entirely true.  In his visceral feast The Way of All Flesh, Tim Waggoner proves that there is some life left in zombies.

“In a world where zombies battle the living, which is more terrifying?

David is trapped in a nightmarish version of his hometown, pursued by crimson-eyed demons and insane cannibals, with no idea how he got there. At every turn he’s taunted by a mysterious youth named Simon who knows far more than he lets on.

David’s sister, Kate, fights for survival in a word decimated by flesh-eating zombies—and her brother’s one of them. She’s determined to put a bullet in David’s brain to set him free.

Nicholas Kemp is a human monster, a born killer. But in a world ruled by the living dead, he’s no longer the most feared predator, and he’ll do whatever it takes to become that again. He plans to start by killing Kate. “  (

The synopsis of this book tells you exactly why you are about to experience one of the few fresh takes on zombies in the last decade.   The Way of the Flesh shifts between three different viewpoints throughout the story.  We see two survivors, one who is a sociopathic killer and another who is just trying to make it in a post-apocalyptic world.  This in itself is not that unique.  What truly stands out about this book is the perspective of David, a zombie.

Waggoner does an astounding job in fleshing out the characters to make them seem to jump right off the page.  While many authors are able to do this, other than the classic tale Frankenstein, I fail to come up with any examples in literary history where the author makes us feel so conflicted about simultaneously empathizing with the creature and hoping that he fails in his quest because of what his success would mean to the other characters that we have come to care about.  Oh, and make no mistake, you will feel the push and pull of those emotions constantly!

If there is one thing Waggoner does not do in this novel, it is hold back.  Waggoner proves what a master he is when it comes to delivering characters we desperately want to see succeed and then taking our breath away at the situations into which he throws them.  Once the suspense starts pouring on, it does not let up.  Waggoner fashions a literary clamp around our heart and just keeps tightening it until it bursts.  The action is constant with only enough lulls to allow us to connect even more deeply with the characters and draw us into the mystery of what is going on in his zombie-infected world.  Nothing is too horrifying for Waggoner to address in this novel.

Overall, I cannot praise this book enough.  Waggoner does a masterful job in crafting a tale of horror that will stay with you long after you have closed the back cover.  If you are a zombie fan, you owe it to yourself to read Tim Waggoner’s The Way of the Flesh.

So, let’s take a look at the Rage Circus breakdown:

Story Concept - 5/5
Story Execution - 5/5
Story Flow – 4.5/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) - 5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) – 4.5/5


The Way of All Flesh by Tim Waggoner is available through many retailers including direct from the publisher, Samhain Publishing at:

 E-book version -

It is also available on Amazon at: