Fresh Meat: <i>The Poor Boy's Game</i> by Dennis Tafoya Fresh Meat: The Poor Boy's Game by Dennis Tafoya Scott Adlerberg Deputy Marshall Frannie must protect her family from a ruthless criminal--her father. FM: <i>Don't Ever Look Back</i> by Daniel Friedman FM: Don't Ever Look Back by Daniel Friedman Katherine Tomlinson 88-year-old retired cop has struggles: eating, remembering, revenge... Now Win <i>This</i>!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Now Win This!: Dread Half-Dozen Sweepstakes Crime HQ Six freshly-hatched crime titles! Enter for your chance to win! FM: <i>From the Charred Remains</i> by Susanna Calkins FM: From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins Angie Barry London's Great Fire destroyed the city, but it uncovered a murder.
From The Blog
April 24, 2014
Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and Blade II (2002)
Angie Barry
April 24, 2014
On Second Thought, Murder Tattoo Not the Best Idea
Crime HQ
April 23, 2014
Game of Pawns: FBI Creates Anti-Spying Short Film
Crime HQ
April 22, 2014
Brosnan a Bad Bond? At Least an Insecure One.
Crime HQ
April 21, 2014
Dog Houses from the Big House
Crime HQ
Showing posts by: Angie Barry click to see Angie Barry's profile
Apr 24 2014 10:30am

After his terrible experience with Mimic, Guillermo del Toro was understandably hesitant about making another American film in Hollywood. But when he was offered the chance to helm the sequel to the successful Blade, the lifelong horror comic fanboy couldn’t resist. With his unique handling of the vampire mythos in his debut Cronos, the studio knew he would bring something new and interesting to the table.

Blade II opens two years after the events of the first film. The titular antihero (Wesley Snipes)—a half-human, half-vampire also called The Daywalker—is searching for his father figure and mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), who was bitten before being snatched by their vampire enemies.

No sooner is Whistler recovered and cured of his vampirism before their base is infiltrated by a pair of bloodsuckers. The twist is that they haven’t come to destroy the hunters: they arrive bearing a peace treaty on behalf of the vampire nation. It seems there’s a new monster stalking the streets, a creature even the vampires fear, and in their desperation they are forced to turn to their enemy for help.

[The enemy of your enemy is your friend...]

Apr 21 2014 2:30pm

From the Charred Remains, by Susanna Calkins, is the second book in the Lucy Campion Mysteries Series set in 1666 London where a body found amidst the debris of the Great Fire turns out to be a victim of murder (available April 22, 2014).

London, 1666. Just days after the Great Fire, former chambermaid Lucy Campion is helping to clear away the debris of her devastated city. Mind already swirling with turbulence—from the fire, from her uncertain place in her master’s household, and from her recent heart-to-heart with her master’s son, Adam—Lucy finds herself caught up in even more turmoil when the body of a man is found in the rubble. A man not killed by the fire.

From the vermin crawling all over him, he’d clearly been dead for a while. Lucy dimly noted a shock of black hair and brownish skin before her eyes fixed on the handle of a knife protruding from his chest…

The constable who takes on the case happens to be the same man who only weeks ago arrested Lucy’s brother for a crime he didn’t commit. Determined to see justice carried out for the stranger stuffed ignominiously in a barrel, Lucy attaches herself to the investigation.

[Even fire can't hide the truth...]

Apr 17 2014 1:00pm

“What is a ghost?” It’s the question at the heart of Guillermo del Toro’s near-perfect The Devil’s Backbone, the pin that holds together the interwoven threads of his layered story. Is it a literal ghost: a restless spirit that persists in stalking the halls at night? Or perhaps the looming specter of war, in a place full of orphans whose parents were claimed by the conflict... Or is a ghost simply the lingering regret for words unsaid, chances untaken, dreams unfulfilled?

The story opens at a remote orphanage in the final days of the Spanish Civil War. Young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives with a suitcase and shoebox of childish treasures, confused and uncertain. And for all that the teachers—including the eloquent Dr. Casares (del Toro fave Federico Luppi) and the elegant Carmen (Marisa Paredes)—are kindly, Carlos has a hard time settling in. The resident bully Jaime immediately dislikes him, the orphanage echoes eerily with secrets, and there is an unsolved mystery surrounding a boy who abruptly disappeared the night a bomb fell in the courtyard.

When Carlos is given the boy’s bed, he soon suspects that the missing Santi never actually left the orphanage. Something began haunting the school in the wake of his disappearance, a being the other boys call “The One Who Sighs”, and it isn’t long before Carlos comes face to face with the ghost and hears a most frightening warning: “Many of you will die.”

[But even in the midst of violence, there can still be hope…]

Apr 9 2014 3:30pm

Last week, I discussed Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 debut, Cronos, and now I'm back to examine his 1997 thriller Mimic, which opens with dire circumstances: a sickness akin to a Biblical plague has broken out in New York, striking down an entire generation of children. No cure can be found, no treatments are working, and in desperation the CDC turns to an entomologist to attack the source of the disease with one of mankind’s oldest pests—the common cockroach.

Given the resilience of the insects, Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) resorts to genetically splicing DNA to create the Judas Breed, a super predator that eradicates the plague carriers. As they are designed to be sterile and die out once their work is done, Dr. Tyler and her husband, Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) of the CDC, promptly move on with their lives.

Fast-forward to three years later, when strange happenings in the city’s subways prove that the Judas Breed did not die out as expected. With their genetically modified metabolism, they have been breeding and evolving at exponential rates. Until the insect has begun to mimic its new prey…

[And you thought it was hard to kill a cockroach now…]

Apr 3 2014 2:30pm

Over the past two decades, Guillermo del Toro has more than proven himself as a master of his craft. I’ve long been an outspoken fan of his and have made it a mission to introduce as many people as possible to his work. And while most know him for his action blockbusters, I wanted to shine a light on his earlier works as well.

It was 1993 when a then unknown Mexican filmmaker burst onto the scene with a low budget and most unusual take on the vampire mythos. Cronos enjoyed quite a lot of buzz at Cannes and won several critics’ choice awards but had a minimal release in the States. Even now, while many recognize del Toro’s name, it seems that few are familiar with his feature debut.

Cronos is a film that defies convention and expectations. Gone are the typical trappings of vampires. There are no castles or Victorian houses, no mysterious gentlemen in fancy evening wear or nubile ladies in revealing nightgowns. Rather, del Toro indulges in his uniquely distinctive aesthetics.

At the heart of the story is a mystical object created by an ancient alchemist, a golden scarab that houses delicate clockwork and a strange insect. When the device is activated and attached to a living person, the transformation into an immortal—and bloodthirsty—creature of the night begins…

[There's always a price to pay for immortality...]

Jan 25 2014 1:00pm

The Arnifour Affair by Gregory HarrisThe Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris is the first book in the Colin Pendragon historical, detective mystery series (available January 28, 2014).

A genius detective and his faithful partner are sitting in their London flat having a quiet evening at home when a rich woman of a certain age arrives on their doorstep. She’s ushered in by the pair’s housekeeper and reveals that there’s been a dreadful murder that requires their personal attention.

“It’s my husband…” She hesitated. “He was murdered nearly a fortnight ago and my young niece, who was with him at the time, was savagely attacked and remains in a coma even now.”

It’s a set-up that’s been done dozens of times. And for anyone with even a passing knowledge of Sherlock Holmes, it would be easy to assume that this was another tale featuring that acerbic gentleman detective and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson.

But this is, in fact, a new mystery series starring Colin Pendragon, the genius, and Ethan Pruitt, our narrator. And what distinguishes it from the Holmes canon Harris is clearly playing with is how he subverts the original tropes.

[We love setting tropes on their heads!]

Jan 2 2014 10:45pm

The Harlot's Tale by Samuel Thomas is the second in the Midwife's Tale mystery series about seventeenth-century English midwife Lady Bridget Hodgson (available January 7, 2014).

As a midwife, Lady Bridget Hodgson is all too familiar with death. But, thankfully, it isn’t a constant companion. That is until a murderer begins stalking the whores of York. Summoned by her brother-in-law Edward, the chief constable, to examine the bodies, Bridget finds herself drawn into a sordid web of prostitution and religious fanaticism.

…It had served as a bedchamber, but now seemed like nothing so much as a slaughterhouse. Blood covered the uneven wood floor, a thin coating in some places, but pooled so deeply in others that it would take hours to dry. As I slowly raised my eyes to the bed, horror welled up and a scream clawed to escape my throat…as I tried to comprehend the terrible scene before me.

It is the summer of 1645 and a terrible heat wave holds York in its grip. Animals are dying of thirst, crops are withering in the sun, and a fire-and-brimstone one-eyed preacher named Hezekiah Ward has come to town. In his impassioned public sermons, Ward lays the fault of the weather upon the sinful ways of the people, singling out York’s prostitutes as particular offenders inciting God’s wrath.

[Oh, sure, always blame the pros...]

Nov 13 2013 2:30pm

Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses, a historical mystery by Catriona McPhersonDandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson is the third of the witty historical mystery series to be published in America (seventh in total), in which Dandy goes undercover at a girls' school in Scotland where schoolmistresses have a habit of disappearing (available November 19, 2013).

The setting: 1920s England. The situation: Dandy Gilver—wife, mother, and lady detective—receives a most unusual phone call from an old friend. It seems that the friend’s youngest sister, Fleur Lipscott, has taken up a position as a teacher at a remote girl’s school in Scotland and is acting most strangely.

As Fleur’s reputation is that of a wild flapper and airy dreamer, Dandy is intrigued and more than a little confused. So off she gets to Scotland to uncover the cause behind Fleur’s transformation.

But once in Portpatrick, things only get more confusing and muddled. Mistaken for a replacement teacher sent by an agency, Dandy finds herself in the middle of the mystery at St. Columba’s School for Girls. It seems several past teachers disappeared abruptly, some in the middle of the night. The remaining teachers are acting odd, and Fleur herself is almost unrecognizable and clearly terrified of something.

Then a body washes up on the nearby shore.

[Isn't that always the way...?]

Oct 17 2013 10:30am

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)I love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Given such a limited release it might as well have been direct to video, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil nevertheless managed to charm on the film festival circuit, and is definitely several tiers above the typical “made for TV” horror out there. While well on its way to achieving cult status, this is still one of those movies that usually elicits a “Huh?” when I reference it.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a couple of innocent, well-intentioned hillbillies who have recently purchased a ramshackle cabin in the woods. While to the horror savvy it has clearly been a place of madness and murder, in Tucker and Dale’s eyes it’s a rustic fixer-upper and the summer home of their dreams.

[It's about to become the home of their nightmares...]

Oct 13 2013 10:00am

Behind the Shattered Glass by Tasha Alexander is the eighth book in the Lady Emily historical mystery series (available October 15, 2013).

Lady Emily Hargreaves is just sitting down for after-dinner coffee in her charming country manor house when a man staggers through the French doors and falls down dead at her husband’s feet.

A most irregular occurrence: unless you’re a lady detective whose gentleman husband happens to be an agent (AKA spy) for the crown, a lady who frequently finds herself entangled in sordid mysteries of just this sort.

In this, the eighth in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, there’s a bit of just about everything. Scandalous affairs that would shock proper society. Suspiciously lost heirs to old family fortunes who turn up at the most inopportune moments. Upstairs/downstairs drama and class commentary. Romance. Intrigue.

[Romance and intrigue are the perfect mix!...]

Oct 6 2013 10:00am

Andrea from AMC's The Walking DeadAt my day job, I’m known as the Zombie Girl—in fact, that’s what my newest manager called me for a solid month before she finally remembered my name. So, naturally, whenever a new movie or book hits the market, people ask me for my thoughts. And after every new episode of The Walking Dead, everyone’s eager to chime in with their two cents and compare them with mine.

This past season there was an almost overwhelming consensus after the third episode. Namely that Andrea was an idiot. So many problems would be fixed if only Andrea did the right thing. In fact, Andrea was the worst. By season’s end, she totally deserved what came to her.

Now, I remember well my rants during season two regarding Lori and her ineptitude, how she was essentially a waste of plot and airtime. (I still stand by those season two opinions, though I appreciated the grace with which Lori faced her death in season three.) So I’m not blind when it comes to ladies in this series acting like fools.

And am I disappointed with how Andrea’s character was handled, given the sheer badassery of her comic counterpart and inspiration? Sure.

But treating Andrea like the show’s whipping girl, publicly flogging her as a stupid and inept woman acting purely on lust who willfully let the situation with the Governor get out of hand? There I have to draw the line.

[The line is drawn!...]

Sep 13 2013 2:00pm

Stir of Echoes starring Kevin BaconI love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Released mere weeks from The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes wasn’t given much of a chance to make a stir. At a surface level, both films have the same set-up: the main character sees dead people.

What sets Stir apart in my books is its rewatchability (is that a word? If it isn’t, it should be). The Sixth Sense was great the first time, good the second, but after that…. Once you know the big twist, the story loses much of its power. Stir of Echoes, though, is something you can appreciate no matter how often you watch it.

[No one ever gets tired of Bacon, after all...]

Jul 24 2013 5:45pm

Banner for The Walking Dead's Season 4 on AMCHalloween, 2010: After several months of anticipation, I sat down with some friends and switched on the TV. As a long time zombophile and avid reader of the comics, I had monumentally high hopes. AMC had already proved that they could handle drama, and handle it well. And while I knew there would inevitably be deviations from the source material—this wasn’t HBO or Starz, after all—I was still giddy at the possibilities.

And the pilot did not disappoint. There was Rick, just as I’d pictured him. Morgan and Shane and the Bicycle Walker. In fact, it was an almost frame-for-frame recreation. And Greg Nicotero’s zombies were incredible. I was on Cloud Nine.

Season 1 was solid and enjoyable. The changes made sense, and added the spice of the unexpected. The performances were good, the effects impressive. But…. By the finale, I somehow still wasn’t entirely sold. Something was missing. I enjoyed the show, and I could get very excited about certain aspects. But I didn’t love it.

[Is it blasphemy? Hang on. Salvation awaits!]

Jul 10 2013 12:00pm

The Mothman PropheciesI love the mainstream, popular, and critically acclaimed films as much as the next person. The last thing I’d consider myself is a cinematic snob. But there are times when a truly amazing movie slips into—and out of—theaters without much buzz before fading into obscurity. So I’d like to bring a few of those gems back into the light and remind you that sometimes the blockbusters aren’t the only films that can give you plenty of bang for your buck.

Released in January of 2002, The Mothman Prophecies was set up for failure from the get go: no one really thinks to go see a horror flick in January. Which is a grave injustice, because the atmosphere of the movie is perfectly suited for grey, stormy winter weather. And let me tell you: if you’re a fan of atmospheric films, they don’t come much spookier than The Mothman Prophecies.

[When the eyes of the Mothman are upon you...]

Feb 20 2013 10:30am

Last Days by Adam Nevill is a paranormal/horror/mystery novel in its first U.S. release (available February 26, 2013).

Kyle is a documentary filmmaker on the verge—of bankruptcy, of giving up, of desperation. When eccentric billionaire Max Solomon offers him a dream opportunity on a silver platter, he can’t help but agree to the job. The shooting locations have already been chosen, the expenses paid, the interviews arranged. What’s more, this project has all the hallmarks of being Kyle’s big break.

The subject: The Temple of the Last Days, an infamous cult that self-destructed in the Arizona desert back in the early 1970s. The cult’s leader, Sister Katherine, claimed that she knew the secret to immortality. That she could read thoughts. That she had summoned “presences”…

But she died more than thirty years ago, taking most of her followers with her. Her claims were nothing but the ravings of a madwoman. There couldn’t possibly be any truth in the paranormal angle Max wants covered in the documentary.

Unfortunately for Kyle and his cameraman Dan, the past has a way of coming back to bite.

[Watch your backs!]

Feb 1 2013 10:30am

The marketing campaign for the movie was unavoidable. With the preponderance of supernatural romance in the media today—Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, Beautiful Creatures, etc.—of course Warm Bodies would be advertised to appeal to that ready-made audience.

But if the adaptation is anything like its source material, a lot of people are going to be surprised when they step into theatres. Because Isaac Marion’s novel Warm Bodies is not Twilight with zombies.

Yes, there’s a love story. And it’s a delirious and grand one, full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He’s R, a zombie, and she’s Julie, a living girl. He’s just eaten her boyfriend—she’s just thrown a knife into his forehead. This is certainly not a match that seems feasible, at least not at first.

[As the man said: The course of true love never did run smooth...]

Dec 19 2012 1:00pm

You better watch out...death by icicle!I readily admit that I am a total Grinch. There are many reasons for this, though having worked retail for half of my life is perhaps the largest one. So when my beloved October ends and November creeps in, with its now unavoidable Christmas trappings of bright lights, cliché music, and saccharine movies, I am usually not a very jolly elf.

Which is why I am grateful for the surreal offerings out there for the macabre minded. I’ll let everyone else guzzle eggnog and marathon It’s a Wonderful Life—I prefer my holiday fare with more bite.

So for anyone who’s sick and tired of claymation Rudolphs and singing snowmen, here’s a trifecta of alternatives to put you in a better mood:

3. Santa’s Slay

Santa is not the cheery fellow the songs would have you believe—he’s actually the son of Satan, forced to deliver presents to children because he lost a curling match to an angel a thousand years ago. No, really.

[Satan...Santa... The power of anagrams!]

Oct 28 2012 11:00am

The Jock, The Scholar, The Whore, The Fool, The Virgin—all the horror tropes, but much deeper than that!Most films are released with some sort of hyperbole on their packaging: “The best film to come out of England!” or “An Oscar-worthy performance by Lead Actress!” Understandably, people tend to skim over these glowing reviews, which more often than not reek of prepaid endorsements or blatant lies.

All that being said, I have a grandiose claim to make today: The Cabin in the Woods is the best horror film in a decade. But wait! I promise to back this up.

Like all genres, horror tends to fall into periods of stagnation. Every decade or so a new trend comes along to rejuvenate it: the ’70s were all about serial killers, the ’90s belonged to vampires, and the last decade saw “torture porn” and a lot of creepy grey people who moved weird—and usually spoke Japanese.

[That makes it difficult to understand...]

Oct 9 2012 10:30am

Kiss Kiss Bang BangNoir is a bit like black licorice: an acquired taste that’s bitter and sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Of course, this is the point. True noir is all about terrible people doing terrible things to each other. Bad calls and irredeemable acts. Unsavory characters and dames who are like sharp knives—gorgeous to look at but deadly when they slip between the ribs and into your heart.

It took me years to warm up to the chilly darkness of film noir, and I still have to be in just the right mood to sit down with one after dinner.

But there are, as always, exceptions. Namely: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a film I can watch any time, any day, and on repeat. A film that defies logic, convention, and all expectations. It’s a neo-noir that’s candy-coated and laugh-out-loud funny, and easily the most accessible example of the genre.

Which is why I’m so darn outraged that it isn’t a staple of the cinemaphile’s diet. Since its release in 2005 it’s slowly built up cred with a cult following. But as one of the few who saw it in theaters and clamored for a sequel, I take it as a personal insult that most of the world seems unaware of this gem.

[That will no longer be the case!]

Sep 3 2012 10:30am

She can bake a pie and survive a zombie apocalypse too!As I’ve previously mentioned, I have an issue with many of the portrayals of women in the horror genre. For every Nancy of Elm Street, with the determination and wits needed to fight back against evil, there are dozens of screaming ninnies whose sole purpose is to look attractive until they are ripped apart by a monster/madman/fill in your ghoul of choice here. And as I made clear in my last post, I just don’t have patience for useless characters in my horror stories.

So here are five ladies who are more than capable of surviving in a zombie-infested world—who are, in fact, even more badass than most of their male counterparts.

05. Helen Robinson (Fido)

The mother Lori Grimes will never be, Helen has perhaps the most interesting character arc in the independent charmer Fido. At first she’s the stereotypical 1950s housewife, concerned about her family’s appearance and status, and she even purchases the undead servant Fido to impress the new neighbors. But by the film’s end, she has begun to question her society’s arbitrary demands, has challenged the status quo by befriending Fido, and doesn’t hesitate to gun down several hungry zombies when they threaten her son’s life. Helen proves that you don’t have to give up your femininity to take names and kick ass.

[She’s a classy lady!]