Haunted houses are frequently the subjects of horror films, shows, and books. A family moves into a house with a shady, often violent past. Almost immediately, some unseen force begins terrorizing the family. And on and on it goes until the ghost/demon/spirit is expelled from the house. Or until the family finally decides to high tail it out of there. But what happens to the house afterward? Who takes care of selling these haunted, potentially violent places? That’s precisely the question SurrealEstate answers. If you needed to sell a haunted house, you’d call a realtor that specializes in the paranormal. In this case, Luke Roman (Tim Rozon). And, naturally, that realtor would be surrounded by an eclectic team of ghost hunting agents – Susan Ireland (Sarah Levy), Father Phil (Adam Korson), August (Maurice Dean Wint), and Zooey (Savannah Basley). SurrealEstate is basically what would happen if Mulder, Scully, and the Winchester brothers all worked at the same real estate firm. It’s a clever take on the familiar paranormal procedural drama. Featuring a cast of unique – though occasionally underdeveloped – characters and creative “ghost of the week” stories, SurrealEstate is well worth a watch. Though, for a show about ghosts, it’s never quite as scary as you’d like it to be. (4 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: This review is based on the first eight episodes of SurrealEstate. It will be as spoiler free as possible.
SurrealEstate Created by George Olson “SurrealEstate” follows real estate agent Luke Roman (Tim Rozon) and an elite team of specialists that handle the cases no one else can: haunted and possessed houses that literally scare would-be buyers away. Researching, investigating and “fixing” the things that go bump in the night, the team works to create closure – and closings – even as they struggle with demons of their own.
If you’ve ever seen a slasher film, then you’re familiar with the Final Girl. She’s the girl who makes it through the end of the movie, vanquishing the Killer and surviving the bloodbath. But what happens to a Final Girl after the credits roll and the story’s over? How does she cope with all of that trauma and survivor’s guilt? Is she ever able to move on and escape the shadow of the Monster that hunted her? Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group explores all of these questions, acting as both a love letter to slasher films and a deconstruction of the genre and many of its tropes. It’s a fast-paced, thrilling read that you won’t want to put down. Hendrix delivers a novel that’s every bit as action-packed and horrific as the best horror films. But he also deftly explores the trauma of multiple Final Girls – all of whom are inspired by some of the most popular horror franchises. If you’re a fan of horror movies, The Final Girl Support Group is a must-read. (4.5 out of 5 wands)
(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)
The FInal Girl Support Group Written by Grady Hendrix Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For decades she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized—someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece. But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and that no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife…they will never, ever give up.
Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is my favorite My Chemical Romance album. It’s this wonderful explosion of sound, color, and joy. All of the promotion that surrounded it built up this wildly creative world that was delightful to spend time in. I loved the original True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys comic, too—the one that came out a few years after the album and concluded the story that began in the music videos. Yes, it was a bit abstract, and the ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I loved it anyway. I say all of this because I wish I liked The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem more than I did. It’s a great premise, with some delightfully gritty and horrific artwork. But the story is just… disappointing. (3 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from Edelweiss and Dark Horse. All thoughts are my own.)
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys: National Anthem Written by Gerard Way and Shaun Simon Art by: Leonardo Romero Colors by: Jordie Bellaire The Fabulous Killjoys, once a group of teenage exterminators determined to save reality, have lost their way—and their memories. After a period of mental confinement, former Killjoys leader Mike Milligram gets de-programmed and hits the road to bring the gang back together for a final showdown against an evil pharmaceutical corporation, their monstrous hitman, and savage gang rivals.
Look, Seed of Chucky isn’t my least favorite Chucky movie. (That honor is still held by Child’s Play 3.) But it is an absolute mess of a film. Half of it works as a sort of horror/comedy satire of early 2000s Hollywood. But the other half feels like a mixture of misguided ideas and extremely questionable jokes that straddle the line between good and bad taste. For the first time in the franchise, the dolls—Chucky (Brad Dourif), Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), and their child, Glen/Glenda (Billy Boyd)—are my least favorite characters. And that’s a bad sign for a franchise about killer dolls. (2.5 out of 5 wands.)
Seed of Chucky Written and Directed by Don Mancini Gentle Glen (Billy Boyd) is a ventriloquist’s dummy, the offspring of evil doll Chucky (Brad Dourif) and his doll bride (Jennifer Tilly), both of whom are now deceased. When the orphaned Glen hears that a film is being made about his parents, he goes to Hollywood and resurrects them in an attempt to get to know them better. He is horrified when Chucky and his lover embark on a new killing spree, and Chucky is equally horrified that his son has no taste for evil.
I get why horror fans don’t like Bride of Chucky. It’s more of a melodramatic comedy with horror elements than a true, traditional horror film. I can see how that might be divisive. However, I loved this movie. Yes, it’s over the top. And yes, the plot makes no sense. But man, is it fun. Everything about Bride of Frankenstein is deeply enjoyable—from the self-referential humor, to the almost soap opera-esque plot, to the over-the-top kills. This movie just oozes creativity, and it’s exactly the breath of fresh air the Chucky franchise needed.
Well, as I predicted, the Child’s Play formula overstayed its welcome. Child’s Play 3 is easily my least favorite of the trilogy. Everything about this film feels tired. It’s the same old basic plot. Chucky (Brad Dourif) finds Andy (Justin Whalin)—this time, at a military academy. Chucky tries to either kill him or take someone’s body—this time, Chucky goes after Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers), one of the other boys at the academy. Nobody believes Andy when he warns them of Chucky’s danger. People slowly start dying, with Andy looking like the most logical culprit. Eventually, things hit a climax as Chucky reveals himself and tries to transfer his soul to another body. Yawn.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Doctor Who met The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, then look no further. Jacqueline Rayner’s The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is exactly what it sounds like. After traveling to 1939 LA to see the world premiere of The Wizard of Oz, the Doctor and her friends are shocked to learn nobody’s ever heard of the film, the book, or its author. Even more shocking is when a tornado carries the TARDIS (and all of its occupants) away to a suspiciously Oz-like land. To escape, the Doctor, Graham, Yaz, Ryan, and a stowaway named Theodore have to act out the events of the book and find the Wizard of Oz before the mysterious Wicked Witch gets to them. It sounds like it’s gonna be a big gimmick, but it’s surprisingly emotional. The Wonderful Doctor of Oz is a quick, fun read that exemplifies the endless possibilities of Doctor Who. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: Mild spoilers follow. Read at your own risk.)
Doctor Who: The Wonderful Doctor of Oz Written by Jacqueline Rayner When a sudden tornado engulfs the TARDIS, the Thirteenth Doctor and her fam find themselves transported to the magical land of Oz. With a damaged TARDIS and an unexpected stowaway from the 1930s, their only hope of getting home is to follow the yellow brick road.
But when an army of scarecrows ambushes them, they quickly realise that everything is not as it should be, and they’re thrown into a fight for survival against a mysterious enemy. As each of her companions becomes a shadow of their former selves, only the Doctor is left standing.
Desperate to save her friends, she must embark on a perilous journey to seek help from the mysterious Wizard of Oz – and stop whatever forces are at work before she and her friends are trapped in the fictional world forever.
There’s something special about big movie musicals. The way the music, visuals, performances, and spectacle all mesh together—there’s just nothing like it. Even when they’re bad, there’s still some joy to be found in them. In the Heights is one of those musicals that’s been begging for a film adaptation since it first debuted. It’s just so joyous and full of energy, with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton) trademark earwormy music and a lovely, heartfelt story. It’s no wonder fans have been waiting a decade for this movie. And thankfully, after a period of development hell that saw the film pass between producers and studios, In the Heights finally has its film adaptation—directed by Jon M. Chu and written by Quiara Alegría Hudes (the musical’s original writer). And it’s good. Honestly, as a fan of the stage version, I can’t imagine how it could be much better. In the Heights is unabashedly a musical. It’s filled with breathtaking beauty, realistic characters, and so much charm. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll feel a part of a community. It’s everything I could’ve wanted and more. (4.5 out of 5 wands.)
“In the Heights“ Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes Directed by Jon M. Chu Music and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda The creator of “Hamilton” and the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” invite you to the event of the summer, where the streets are made of music and little dreams become big… “In the Heights.” Lights up on Washington Heights… The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop, where a kaleidoscope of dreams rallies this vibrant and tight-knit community. At the intersection of it all is the likable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), who saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life. “In the Heights” fuses Lin-Manuel Miranda’s kinetic music and lyrics with director Jon M. Chu’s lively and authentic eye for storytelling to capture a world very much of its place, but universal in its experience.
A mysterious game found only in the darkest, most obscure corners of the internet. A game that ties together a multitude of conspiracy theories. A game that might be killing its players and lead to the end of the world. It’s a pretty great hook for a book, right? Thankfully, Rabbits, Terry Miles’ debut novel, lives up to its promising premise. It’s a fast-paced, twisty, mind-bending read. But it closest itself some to vagueness and underexplained ideas, resulting in an uneven climax that doesn’t quite bring its mysteries to a satisfying conclusion. (4 out of 5 wands.)
(NOTE: I received an early copy of the novel from NetGalley and Del Rey. All thoughts are my own.)
“Rabbits” Written by Terry Miles Rabbits is a mysterious alternate reality game so vast it uses our global reality as its canvas. Since the game first started in 1959, ten iterations have appeared and nine winners have been declared. The identity of these winners are unknown. So is their reward, which is whispered to be NSA or CIA recruitment, vast wealth, immortality, or perhaps even the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe itself.
But the deeper you get, the more deadly the game becomes. Players have died in the past—and the body count is rising. And now the eleventh round is about to begin. Enter K—a Rabbits obsessive who has been trying to find a way into the game for years. That path opens when K is approached by billionaire Alan Scarpio, the alleged winner of the sixth iteration. Scarpio says that something has gone wrong with the game and that K needs to fix it before Eleven starts, or the whole world will pay the price.
Five days later, Scarpio is declared missing. Two weeks after that, K blows the deadline and Eleven begins. And suddenly, the fate of the entire universe is at stake.
There’s a pretty common problem that many first books in a series suffer from. And that’s an overall lack of focus. Often, the first books of a series try to be too many things all at once. They introduce a host of characters. They spend a lot of time expanding the series’ universe, sowing the seeds for future books. And they try to tell their own self-contained, satisfying narratives. Some books get the balancing act between all of these perfectly right. Others don’t. The Library of the Dead falls into the latter camp, suffering from a pretty chronic case of first-book-in-a-series syndrome. It’s not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It just tries to be too many different things at once and comes off as unfocused instead of compelling. All of the elements are there, but the plot, itself, feels a bit like an afterthought. (3.5 out of 5 wands.)
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Tor Books. All thoughts are my own. This review will be as spoiler free as possible, though may contain very light spoilers.
The Library of the Dead By T.L. Huchu Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.
She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.