If you’re looking for a wonderful companion piece to the upcoming feature film adaptation of the infamous book trilogy “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” Cody Meirick’s documentary “Scary Stories” is a great refresher course for fans. It’s also a wonderful look at how history repeats itself, with the elementary school touted horror anthology nearly suffering the same amount of censorship and hysterical panic that EC Comics endured decades before its release. It’s a fascinating but nasty bit of history repeating itself, but history also learning from itself, as well.
“44 Pages” isn’t just an important documentary, but it’s perhaps one of the most life affirming and entertaining made in a while. Centered on the “Highlights” magazine writing team as they prepare for the 70th Anniversary issue of the publication, “44 Pages” is a long overdue exploration of the classic children’s magazine. Director Tony Schaff brings us along to discover how the magazine was created, and how it’s created today. There’s also an interesting exploration in how the magazine has managed to stay alive in the age of digital media, and what it’s done to remain relevant and a key tool in educating children around the world.
Halloween has come early this year! Lionsgate has graced horror fans with a ton of really interesting documentaries from the History Channel and A&E Network in America. For folks that always wanted to know the “Real” story behind “Frankenstein” and “The Wolfman,” well this is where you can turn. Truth be told, the entire double disc DVD set garners an array of forty five minute documentaries, with the Frankenstein topic taking center stage. With all three documentaries clocking in at 178 minutes in length, it’s a treasure trove for individuals that love Frankenstein and Mary Shelly. Featured in the first disc is “In Search of the Real Frankenstein,” “Frankenstein,” and “It’s Alive! The True Story of Frankenstein.” Oddly enough while all three documentaries can sometimes become repetitive, they offer up a unique look at Frankenstein with different angles and approaches.
For families interested in exposing their young storytellers to unique and interesting scary stories that won’t traumatize them, Scholastic offers up a three pack of DVD’s at over two hours in length featuring stories of all kinds. They’re related mainly to the season of fall and bones, but they’re also about exploring the unknown and the vast scary dimensions of reality that can seem scary to children quite often. With voice work from esteemed actors like Joan Allen and Rita Moreno, many of the stories are sometimes crudely drawn, but appealing nonetheless in their whimsy.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a long time friend with author Doug Brunell, but this review is as objective and fair as possible.
Reading “Nothing Men” is a lot like the beginning of a rollercoaster, where you’re riding up further and further and building up to momentum. You’re sitting waiting thinking “Here it comes, here it comes,” and when the rush finally does come, author Doug Brunell delivers on a final half that soaked with blood, guts, and an ending that will likely make you re-think travelling to small towns ever again. “Nothing Men” made me think about the like of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Tobe Hooper, and prompted flashbacks of films like “The Wicker Man” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
No matter how far you run, you’re never really quite out of the grasp of the environment and its deadly residents that dwell in its bowels, and that sends a surge of dread and a bleak atmosphere in “Nothing Men” that’s wrenching. Especially in its final pages. Author Brunell simply doesn’t let his characters off the hook, and punishes just about everyone in the book. It’s almost like a splatter version of “Funny Games” at times. Partly they pay for playing god, and partly for their hubris in the situation. Hubris is the ultimate undoing for just about everyone in the book, and Brunell unfolds layers of Valley Bottom slowly with every chapter.
The lovely Jennifer Dornbush has written one of the few manuals for writing that I tore through in a matter of hours. “Forensic Speak” is a painstaking guide for screenwriters, and authors of all kinds who want to write a crime or detective novel, but don’t know all of the terminology that comes with the profession. Writing a novel or screenplay without knowing the terminology not only immediately removes all believability from your story, but is distracting to the viewer or reader who may know more than you do, in the end. I assumed “Forensic Speak” would be three hundred pages of endless terms and definitions, but Ms. Dornbush structures the book to where anyone seeking a reference for a particular terminology can find what they’re looking for.
Through the respective teachings and psychology of Jung and Freud and many others, author Kim Hudson creates a rather astonishing look at the breakdown and dissection of the virgin role in popular fiction and how the role applies to the order of storytelling and screenplays. For those interested, this is strictly a book for the writers, primarily the screenwriter who would want a second glance and exploration in to the virginal figure of lore and myth that involves the female virgin that forms a quest of exploration through hardships.
While the male virgin is more based around realistic hardships that also lead to a similar quest of exploration. The way author Hudson masterfully breaks down the elements of the character and the models of archetypes and molds, she manages to explain just about every popular tale in pop culture where our virginal hero is one who is guided on a quest and led through a journey of awakening aided by the coward i.e. “Star Wars.”
Is your attention span lowering? Here’s a test: Take a book, a book you’re interested in reading, clear your schedule, and sit down in a quiet room to read it. If you can get through fifteen pages without stopping, without skimming, then you’re just fine, but if at the third page you’re sitting there thinking of other things, or decide to perform another task, there’s a great chance your attention span is lowering.