In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Give Me Liberty

If my posts decrease in regularity over the next few weeks, don’t be alarmed. It’s just that I will be spending the majority of my free time in Liberty City now that Grand Theft Auto IV is finally in my greedy grasp. I’m sure you can understand that typing is fairly difficult when your hands have permanently formed into claws to accommodate a Dualshock controller.

However, preparing for this contingency, I put together something in advance. The newest Grand Theft Auto release is a sequel, which is something we fans of horror are quite familiar with.

So, to celebrate GTA IV’s arrival (and my inevitable hiatus), I present this “Quattro” edition of Coverbox Wednesday.

Micheal T. Weiss is the shit.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Has it been a month already?!

Shane Meadows' Dead Man’s Shoes is a film that played at the Toronto Film Festival in 2004, but I didn’t hear about until much later. It began appearing on some of movie lists online and the more I learned about it, the more it sounded like my cup of tea. It took forever to come out on DVD and even then, I never had any luck finding it. Then, a few months back, I was hanging out at dirtyrobot's (of Filmopia) place and happened to glance at his DVD collection – I say ‘happened to glance’ even though that is basically the first thing film buffs do whenever they enter another’s abode – and what do I see staring back at me?

“Holy crap, you have Dead Man’s Shoes! I’ve been looking for this forever.”
“You wanna borrow it?"
“Fuck yeah I do.”

The only thing better than finally tracking down an elusive title is when it actually delivers on all it promises.

This little indie is superb. There are just so many things about it that set it apart from most other films of this ilk. The lovely locales of the English countryside immediately convey that the antagonists aren’t big city criminals, just a bunch of drug dealing fuck ups that have no idea of the shit that they are in. The minimalist nature of the piece really works in its favour. All the acting is extremely naturalistic, namely Paddy Considine (he also co-wrote the screenplay), who emotes a restrained rage that really makes the character unique. He cares about nothing save for executing a calculated plan of intimidation and mayhem. Dead Man’s Shoes is powerful stuff, especially the last act. There are further reasons to praise the film, as well. It’s beautifully shot, with a great narrative style and music is used to full effect. The song used the opening montage, “Vessel In Vain” by Smog, stayed with me a long time after.

If you can find it, this is well worth your time. Dead Man's Shoes is a shining example of modern British cinema.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

We're Here To Help.

My good friend Serena Whitney over at posted a great article earlier this week about avoiding terrible straight-to-DVD (or STD’s as she calls them :P) horror titles. I too, have fallen victim to many a video atrocity and I thought I might share a few of them here. Some of these are several years old and are probably lying in a landfill somewhere by now, but just in case… Be warned of these painful duds.

A Crack In The Floor – Serena is right, this title is bottom of the barrel. I don’t know what’s worse, Tracy Scoggins’ opening rape scene, Gary Busey’s cameo speech about fucking chickens or AC Slater being cast as the movie’s hero.

The Item – Don’t let the Toronto Film Festival entry marker fool you, this is one of the most incoherently fucked up messes ever – and not in a good way. Leave this item at the checkout counter.

S.I.C.K. – In a movie, whenever one of the characters utters a line like “that’s some fucked up shit right there”; you know you are in for a stinker. That, and the cast spends HALF the running time aimlessly wandering around a forest. By the way, the acronym stands for Serial Insane Clown Killer. I knew this going in, so I guess I have to take the blame on this one.

Green River Killer – or ANYTHING by Ulli Lommel for that matter. This guy makes Uwe Boll look like Orson Welles. At least Dr. Boll’s movies are entertainingly bad. Lommel is the go-to guy when it comes to making STD serial killer flicks it seems, having vomited forth other titles like BTK and Zodiac Killer. Green River Killer is the only one I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through though.

Death Tunnel – This epileptically edited effort is a total train wreck. Not even the great location and the bevy of beauties can save it. This is one of those titles that takes a plausibly good idea and runs it into the ground by borrowing everything else from better films.

However, on the other side of things, there are – believe it or not – good STD’s out there. Here are a few that I found worth my time.

Abominable – This is an under seen gem in my opinion. It is basically Rear Window meets Bigfoot and it works really well. Though, when you’re using classic Hitchcock formula it is pretty hard to fuck up (even last year’s PG-13 Disturbia was surprisingly solid). Plus, Abominable is the triumphant return of Matt McCoy.

Open Water 2: Adrift – Originally just titled Adrift, Lion’s Gate slapped the OW2 on there for product recognition. It was not needed, as this has nothing to do with the 2003 film. I think Adrift stands on its own merits and is a worthwhile watch.

Brutal – Unfortunately marketed to look like a Hostel clone, this little ditty is actually about a serial killer in a small town. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; it’s a tad rough around the edges at times, but hey! Where else are you going to see Michael Berryman play... a good guy?!

So, that’s my contribution to the cause. Hopefully, Serena and I have made the STD minefield of your local video store a little less treacherous for all you horrorphiles out there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

24. The Mountebank

So, here it is... the fruit of our twenty-four hour labour has finally been posted on the YouTubes. It looks like Darrin tweaked the title and end credits before he threw it up there, but this is essentially the cut that was shown last Wednesday. Enjoy!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Near Dark

One of the great things about the Final Girl Film Club is that we often get to revisit movies from the past that I would never think to watch again otherwise. When discussing bloodsuckers of the eighties, films like The Lost Boys and Fright Night are immediately referenced of course, but if you dig a little deeper, Near Dark will invariably be mentioned. I suspect it is on a good number of film geek’s top vampire movies lists. Much like while watching Scarecrows last month, I was surprised by how much of Near Dark I’d forgotten. I didn’t remember Tim Thomerson was even in it. Christ, it’s been ages since I’ve seen that guy!

Near Dark is just a well done film with all the pieces fitting together nicely. It was the result of a collaboration between Kathryn Bigelow, who has had a fine career directing movies like Point Break and Strange Days, and genre veteran Eric Red. Near Dark has a story that doesn’t get bogged down with the how’s and why’s of undead lore. It just presents the here and now of the existence of a nomadic band of vampires. It is, for the most part, not sensationalized. There is no flying, no fangs and the V word is never uttered. This lack of supernaturalism is what I think makes Near Dark stand out. The ensemble cast is rife with familiar faces. Some of them stayed around like Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Adrian Pasdar (Nathan Petrelli on TV’s Heroes) and some faded away into obscurity like Joshua Miller and Jenny Wright.

An Aliens reunion of sorts.

Before Carrie Anne Moss... there was Jenny Wright. Quintessential 80's babe!

Near Dark is a little dated though. There is no question what decade this was made in. Even the score, provided by Tangerine Dream and heavily channelling Carpenter, further supplants the movie in the eighties. That is not a knock, just an observation. This doesn't extend to the F/X work by Gordon J. Smith however, because that still holds up well.

Near Dark is a solid movie. It might be a little dusty, but there is no disputing its relevance.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

No Signal.

I know people who like to illegally download movies off the Internet. I, myself, don’t generally condone such practices and there are two reasons for this. First, you will never convince me that watching a movie on a computer monitor is the same as watching it on your television or in a theatre. The second reason is I am of the generation that is used to ‘purchasing’ a physical product, or at least renting the use of it. Getting something for nothing is a concept that still seems foreign to me. This is not the case with the youth of today, who are growing up in a world where EVERYTHING is at their fingertips. Bit Torrent, the evolution of Peer-to-peer networking sites like Kazaa and Morpheus, makes the transmission of data even faster. But I’m getting off topic here.

Let’s rewind a few months. There was a horror film that premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival called The Signal. It was there that it was picked up by the indie film company Magnolia Pictures. As 2007 went on, The Signal garnered more and more online buzz, receiving a huge push from, which is now probably the biggest horror site on the Web. By the time 2008 rolled around, a February 22nd release had been announced and I had put it at #7 on my most anticipated horror list. If you are a Canadian reader, I bet you can imagine where this is going. February 22nd rolled around with nary a Canadian screening. Ha Ha, fuck you, no Signal for you! Theatre goers in California got to dodge knives (literally) in theatres while we up here in the Great White North were shafted once again. This, ever frustrating, happens all the time. Sometimes they will even do a full on cock tease. I remember actually SEEING a coming soon poster for David Twohy’s 2002 film Below at my local AMC and yet the release date came and went.

Well, guess what? We are not living in an era where we Canucks have to eat shit and like it when great films like Donnie Darko and High Tension are withheld from us. If I want to see the The Signal and it is willfully being kept from me, then I CAN acquire it another way. It is simple supply and demand. I would have gladly forked over my twelve bucks, but you took that option away. Now, there are consequences for such actions. It’s about time you fix this broken system Hollywood, or soon it may be YOU who is left holding the bag.

So, without going into any details, I ‘somehow’ saw The Signal recently. Here are my thoughts.

One day, all forms of media (TV, cell phones etc) are hijacked by a mysterious frequency that causes mass psychosis and hysteria. Mya (Anessa Ramsey) desperately tries to navigate her way out of the city, with her infected husband Lewis (AJ Bowen) and her new lover Ben (Justin Welborn) right on her tail.

The Signal is one bizarre film. I had heard previously that it was one story broken into three acts – called transmissions – done by three separate directors (David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry), but it still didn’t prepare me for what was to come. The movie starts off with an intro sequence that looks like it came right out of a grindhouse era slasher. I knew that this had to be some sort of false opening ala The Last Horror Movie, but considering the duration of it, I was actually starting to wonder if I had the right flick. Eventually though, the first transmission (the best imo) begins and chaos erupts 28 Days Later style. There is not much new going on here, but this subgenre is my favourite, so it’s pretty hard for me not to enjoy product like this. The shit hits the fan, the survivors grab makeshift weapons and head for the hills.

Then, the second transmission starts. This is where The Signal goes haywire. This director turns the movie into a comedy horror slapstick joint that is COMPLETELY in contrast to the first act. I really can’t decide whether this works or not. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying the festivities, but at the same time, I was always wishing the movie would get back on track. It was like I was watching one of those shorts they put on in between features on The Movie Network*. The actors are really the only thing (apart from the ubiquitous signal of course) that keep you aware that you are watching the same movie.

Finally, the third act gets going. This one is the more cerebral of the three, focusing mainly on how the signal affects everyone’s minds. I’d say that overall The Signal is fairly average fare. It’s unfortunate, but the unorthodox format is sadly the only thing that makes The Signal stick out from the crowd. It’s a good experiment though and kudos to the filmmakers for being bold enough to try it. Keeping the source of the signal ambiguous was a good choice and they should be proud of what they accomplished with the small budget.

The Signal is worth checking out for curiosity’s sake, but just be aware you will not be getting the intense, action-heavy flick the trailer would have you believe.

* - The Movie Network (or TMN) is the Canadian equivalent of HBO.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

24. Part Three

The Film Race screening was last night and it went really well. I can honestly say, being as objective as possible, that our short was definitely in the upper echelon of the twenty-five or so that were shown. There were also four other teams in the programme that didn't make the first deadline, so thankfully we weren't the only ones that fucked up. The event had a good turnout and the crowd seemed receptive to our short. Seeing some of the weaker entries, the care that we took to make sure we had good sound and camerawork was well worth the hassles. Sitting there, watching Melissa & Mike up there on the big screen - the very same one on which I have seen countless films projected - saying lines that I had written just days before was surreal to say the least.

Overall, I'd say our little project was a resounding success. And I even met up with some buds afterwards for the screening of Inside (still as unrelenting as ever) and post carnage beers. A good night I'd say.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The B-Movie Diplomats.

As I have stated before, my old video store horror section seemed to be a patchwork of sorts, old and new, rated and unrated. A lot of the more colourful covers were from a company called Embassy Home Entertainment. They were the video branch of Embassy Pictures, which was a fairly successful independent film company in the sixties, seventies and eighties. I hadn’t realized just how many Embassy titles we had at our store until recently. Here’s a sample...

When using images for Coverbox Wednesdays, I try to post as many originals as possible. I use captures from my own collection and what ones I am able to get from video stores that still carry VHS – thanks again Queen! Often though, I have to look to the Internet, on which there are some great resources.

One such source is a website called Critical Condition. Sifting through is like experiencing nostalgia in digital form. Their VHS archive – many of which stared back at me when I was an underpaid schmo – numbers in the hundreds. I just wanted to give them a little shout out because they have an excellent setup over there.

For more Embassy covers, click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that a certain French flick releases on DVD today. Inside (À l'intérieur) is probably one of the most extreme - even by French standards - films to come around in a long time. It is intense, brutal and absolutely pulls no punches.

I am looking forward to seeing this again. I want to see if I am as conflicted about the ending as I was when I first saw it back in September at Midnight Madness. Everything up until the last ten minutes is absolutely PERFECT. It's an unrelenting opera of tension and gore and then... I don't even really know how to explain it. I know that French filmmakers are notorious for having no boundaries, but I couldn't help but feel that the final bit of Inside crossed a line somewhere. That said, some months have passed and I've had time to reflect. And I also don't have a certain friend barking in my ear about how offended he was, while driving back from the screening.

Regardless of all that, if you are fan of extreme cinema, this is absolute MUST watch. Just be aware of what you are getting into.

Monday, April 14, 2008

24. Part Two.

So, the Film Race happened last weekend. What a learning experience! It was really tough; they don’t call it a challenge for nothing. Here’s how the twenty-four hours played out.

10:00pm – The challenge starts. All teams are emailed the theme and prop/action they are required to use in their short. The plan is that Mike (our director) and Darrin (our DP and editor) will start throwing ideas around and I’ll show up at midnight and come in with a fresh perspective.
10:45pm – I leave my house to meet up with them at Mike’s place in Scarborough (or Scarberia as I like to call it).
12:15am – I arrive at Mike’s. They tell me the theme is ‘fake’. To which I say, “What? That’s pretty vague.” The prop is ‘chopsticks’. Mike and Darrin have an idea in the works that is really ambitious. It involves two storylines, but we can’t find a good way to intersect them at the end.
2:15am – We finally decide to scrap what we have and start from scratch. Four hours wasted. Not a good start.
3:00am – Finally, someone comes up with that ‘nugget’, from which something usable can spring.
4:00am - Darrin and I have spent the last hour banging out a half page of bullet points that make up the skeleton of the short. He’s leaving now because he has to pick up the actors in the morning. Mike has gone to sleep because he – paying the price of being a father to an infant - has had none in the last thirty-six hours. That leaves me, who fortunately took a nap before I came, to bang out a script.
5:15am – I have a six-page script printed out in front of me. That’s too long for a three and a half minute short, but I’m sure some will be cut once we’re on set. Right now, it’s time for some sleep.
7:55am – I am woken by Mike’s door buzzer. Jeff (our F/X guy) has arrived.
8:30am – Berge (our producer) arrives.
10:30am – We are at our location, a loft apartment in West Toronto. The four of us meet up with Darrin who arrives with Melissa and Mike H (our actors). The location is great with tons of space to move around and lots of natural light.
10:55am – The fire alarm in the building goes off. Are you kidding me?! The fire trucks come and we find out it was a false alarm on the first floor. This costs us about thirty minutes.
12:35pm – Our first shot is in the can. Less than twelve hours left!
1:30pm – Onto Page 2 of the script.
1:45pm – Melissa points out an error in continuity that sets us back a bit. Oops!
2:45pm – So incredibly behind schedule! Mike H. and Melissa are doing an incredible job, especially since I shoved the script into their hands less than two hours before they were in front of the camera.
3:00pm – Up until this point we were shooting in sequence, but Jeff has to be gone by five, so we set up our one F/X shot before he has to leave.
3:30pm – An F/X “malfunction” sets us back further still.
4:00pm – I leave to perform an errand. I drive to College and Spadina to pick up a hard drive we’ll need for editing. I can only hope that most of the remaining three pages is shot by the time I return.
5:00pm – I’m back at the loft. Thankfully, there are only a few shots left. Melissa has to be at work for quarter after six, so we are wrapping soon, done or not.
5:45pm – Shooting is done! Mike and Darrin go on ahead, while Berge and I stay behind to clean up.
7:15pm – I arrive back at HQ (Mike’s place). Fucking Toronto traffic! If there was one lesson (even though there were many) to be learned here, it’s don’t have your HQ in Scarberia!
7:50pm – The footage capturing process is finished. The editing process can begin. To avoid the too many cooks problem, Mike, Berge and I retire to another room while Darrin compiles a rough cut.
8:30pm – Darrin is still editing. Things are not looking good. Once we have it done, it will take up to fifteen minutes to burn to a DVD and the drop off point is AT LEAST twenty minutes away.
9:30pm – Darrin is a magician with a Mac! He has a rough cut finished in just over ninety minutes. There are few tweaks that need to be done, but we have no time.
9:45pm – We have the first cut on a DVD, but the window of opportunity on the 10pm deadline has closed. But, there is a second deadline at 11pm. If we can get it in by then it will still screen with the rest of the films on Wednesday. Mike and Darrin perform the necessary tweaks. I agree that putting in a superior product late is better than a lesser product on time, but the prospect of either diminishes by the moment.
10:15pm – The second cut is still not done. Berge and I go on ahead to the drop off point with the first cut to make sure we have something to hand in for 11pm. We are the failsafe.
10:45pm – I go inside the Duke of York pub (the drop off point) and introduce myself to the organizers. I ask them how many submissions they received. They tell me twenty-eight.
10:55pm – Berge and I are standing outside the Duke of York. I’m talking to Mike on the phone. They are right behind us with the final cut!
11:00pm(+/-) – I am standing at the organizer's table when Mike bursts through the door with the final cut. The four of us celebrate outside. We’d love to stay and have a beer, but bed ways is right ways now. They’ll be plenty of time for cocktails after the screening on Wednesday.
12:00am – We’re back at Mike’s. He burns another copy of the final cut and we watch it about five times in a row. He’s right; it’s way better than the first cut. It’s something to be really proud of I think. And it’s my first writing credit. EPIC!
1:30am – BED! WHAT A DAY!! I can’t wait for Wednesday night!

The fact we missed the first deadline is a little heartbreaking, but we’re all happy with the final product and that’s all that is really important. There are a lot of woulda-coulda-shoulda’s that may have changed our fate, but we can take all this earned wisdom and apply it to our next project. This was a great creative experiment and a fantastic way to spend a weekend.

Faith In Humanity Reaches an All-Time Low.

Really? Really?? #1 at the box office?! This saddens me. No, I didn’t see it. The trailer ALONE should have been enough to keep people away from this. I can only assume that the majority of the take was teenagers looking for someplace to hang and the demographic that absolutely HAS to see a movie every weekend. Christ, I’ll bet Prom Night 2 is already in the works.

If someone can tell me how The Ruins – a legitimately decent product – makes $6M in its opening weekend and an obvious steaming pile pulls in four times that, I’d be really interested to know.

I try to remember that these remakes and sequels serve a purpose and keep the genre afloat commercially so the studios are more apt to take a risk on the good stuff, but it’s hard, oh so hard. I really don’t mean to sound like a snob here, but COME ON!! THIS is what represented horror this weekend…

Oh, the humanity!

Friday, April 11, 2008

24. Toronto Style.

This weekend is going to be an interesting one. My friend Mike and I signed up for the Toronto Film Race happening tonight. It is an annual event where you write, shoot and edit a short film in twenty-four hours. It can be no longer than four minutes and must be submitted by 10pm Saturday. There are only two guidelines, which I assume must be to guard against anyone doing anything beforehand. Participating teams are given a theme and also a surprise element (like a specific prop or action) they have to use. Other than that, the sky’s the limit.

Mike and I have been friends for a few years now. We met while waiting in line to see Haute Tension during Midnight Madness in 2003. Since then, we’ve worked on two indie projects together, the feature Dillenger’s Diablos in 2004 and the short Godfather of Gore last year.

I’m pretty pumped about getting the creative juices flowing again. It should be a good preamble to the series we are planning to do this summer. I’ll get back to you in a few days to let you know how it all went down.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Brave Old World

I’d say The Mist had a pretty good reception among genre fans when it came out last year. I liked it. The novella is one of my favourite works of Stephen King and I felt the movie was an almost flawless adaptation. Despite some bad CGI at times and an ending that I’m still conflicted about – though considering the book’s, which was not what I’d consider cinematic, I do understand why it had to be that way – I thought it was a success. The DVD came out a few weeks ago and the two disc edition includes an interesting feature that I wanted to point out. Director Frank Darabont (who has collaborated with King four times now) had originally wanted to film The Mist in black and white. This was met with immediate resistance from the money men. So, realizing the general film audiences disdain for the format, he relented and shot it normally. Fortunately, with current technology as it is, you don’t have to choose one or the other. A black & white version of the film is included on the DVD and I feel it is the superior of the two.

It totally gives The Mist a sense of the old school creature features that inspired King and Darabont growing up. The long shadows provide a heightened air of paranoia and further evoke The Twilight Zone, which also served up its subtext in the guise of science fiction and horror. I was specifically hoping that the lack of colour would help mask some of the weaker visual effects and it does to a certain extent. It’s a very interesting experiment and I’m glad that Darabont was able to indulge in it.

The set is rammed with other cool stuff, as well. There is a lengthy special effects featurette where gore guru Greg Nicotero gets a lot of face time. It’s always a joy to watch this man work. He didn’t seem bothered at all that most of the stuff he and his team designed was being replaced by CGI. Their practical effects were criminally underused in this movie. Another featurette worth mentioning is a profile on Drew Struzan. You may not know him by name, but you sure as hell know his stuff. His artwork is unmistakable, having done countless movie posters over the last few decades. Tom Jane’s character and the opening scene, where he is painting in his studio, are a nod to Struzan and his work.

Regardless of whether or not you caught The Mist in theatres, this DVD offers you a new experience either way.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Beast In The Cellar

While contemplating which memories to talk about for Final Girl’s “Don’t Be A Douchebag Day” a few weeks ago, I took a trip to my parent’s house. I had to pay a visit to the “crawlspace”.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!

The crawlspace is a sprawling L-shaped cave some four hundred square feet into which over fourty years of the Clarke’s heirlooms/junk has accumulated. This would be all well and good, if this space wasn’t just over three feet high. They don’t call it a crawlspace for nothing! And that doesn’t count all the metal ducts jutting out everywhere, seemingly TRYING to smoke you in the head. Anyway, piled in the back, amongst all my G.I. Joe’s and old Maxim mags is my collection of horror paraphernalia. Stuffed in boxes are innumerable posters, props, clippings, trading cards and God knows what else. I’m sure I’ll pull some of it in the future to post here once I have gone through the five hundred plus covers that were at my store. It was during this latest crawlspace excursion, something in particular caught my eye. In addition to The Legacy paperback I mentioned before, there were others. Before it was stashed away, Amok by George Fox also had a place on my father’s bookshelf. The cover always captivated me as a child. The picture of the bloody sword just seemed so visceral. Later, when it was tossed in the crawlspace, as many old books were, I would shift by it every time I went in there to look for something. It lay on the floor discarded and I paid about as much attention to it as you do the “Welcome To” sign of your hometown. It’s just THERE. However, this time, sitting there amongst all my stuff, I noticed it again and picked it up. I suddenly thought to myself, ‘you know what? I’m going to read this sucker!’ It was a mere three hundred pages and would serve as a nice break from that weighty Dark Tower series, of which I am now on the last part.

And read Amok I did. Tore through it, in fact.

Towards the end of World War II, after Germany fell, the battle still raged in the Pacific. The Japanese were holding fast, on turf they knew well. This was, of course, what led to the momentous decision to drop atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Shortly after, the Japanese surrendered. Unfortunately, the Pacific had thousands of tiny islands, where many Japanese soldiers were stationed, not knowing the war had ended. These men were called stragglers. They survived in the jungle, still manning posts long abandoned by their comrades, for as long as four decades after 1945. Amok tells a story of one such straggler, a hulking maniac hiding in the jungles of the Filipino island of Luzon.

The storytelling in Amok is excellent. I knew nothing of the Philippines and the wonderfully descriptive depictions of the land made it seem like I was actually there. Fox actually served time there as a U.S Airman and it shows. Furthermore, my knowledge of the Second World War consisted mainly of the European campaign against the Nazis, so this was also a good history lesson. The book goes back and forth between two timelines, the fourties during the Japanese occupation of the Luzon province of Cagayan and 1978. The strength of this piece is the many characters though, all richly drawn, including the amok himself, who incites the fear of an entire region by grotesquely dispatching countless people with his samurai sword. The climax of the book is extremely intricate, with a hunting party of about half a dozen men going out after the amok, each with a different motive for doing so.

One thing I was always aware of while reading was, how the fuck was this never made into a movie? George Fox was not unknown to Hollywood, having co-written the script for the seventies disaster flick Earthquake. Amok was written in 1978 and bears an ever so slight resemblance to David Morrell’s First Blood, that was adapted for the screen a few years later. Maybe that had something to do with it.

I was totally immersed in this world the whole time. Not bad for a book that was sitting around in the dark for twenty odd years waiting to be picked up again.