In popular culture, Star Trek has always been the thinking man’s sci-fi when compared to the more bombastic Star Wars. Obstacles in Trek are often overcome using logic and the inventive use of technology as opposed to the “shoot X to blow up Y” methods employed by Luke Skywalker and company. So it should not come as too much of a surprise that the Klingon war that has been the overarching plot thread of the Star Trek: Discovery season finale ends with a conversation rather than a battle. However, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. The series up until now has done a commendable job of combining the intellectual mind games of traditional Trek with the fast paced action of the more recent Abrams films. This more muted season finale feels strangely out of place, like a missing episode of the Next Generation.
The finale at times feels like it’s spinning its wheels with too little plot to fill its run time, much of it taking place in a Klingon market with quirky scenes demonstrating how the warrior race spends its free time gambling and frequenting strip clubs. Whilst this is a novel idea, highlighting that the Klingons are not morally black and white but instead various shades of grey just like the Federation, it feels out of place and takes away all the momentum established by the previous episode. It’s difficult to believe that Earth is in danger of imminent destruction when our heroes have time to enjoy kinky sex and hang out with space druggies.
Captain Georgio’s return also feels like a missed opportunity. Having such a ruthless wild card thrown into a war for survival should be a perfect recipe for drama, but instead the character is held back for what will be an inevitable season 2 appearance. It seemed as though the show had already played its best hand with the mid season reveal of Captain Lorca’s identity and has struggled to reach those heights again. Georgio had all the potential to surpass Lorca as the seasons most threatening antagonist but feels neutered by comparison.
Whilst its fitting that our main protagonist Burnham should find a peaceful solution to end the war which she initially caused, it does come across as rather easy and simplistic in execution. The Klingon war machine up until this point has been portrayed as unrelenting and cruel, so to have them so ready to stand down after a single (though potentially devastating) threat felt unearned. Despite this sudden turn around, its is still nice to see Burnham undergo genuine growth as a character and learn that there are sometimes alternatives to meeting aggression with aggression.
The main cast continues to shine, Sonequa Martin Green and Doug Jones’ evolution from comrades to wary opponents to close friends as Burnham and Suru has been a joy to watch over the course of the season, as has the developing maturity from Mary Wiseman as Cadet Tilly. It’s still a stretch to see Shazad Latif as the tough space marine that he is initially presented as but he consistently delivers whenever the scene requires him to show the mental trauma that Tyler has undergone.
The final scene of the Enterprise meeting the Discovery may feel hamfisted for some viewers but combined with the original series score it’s hard not to be nostalgic and excited for where Discovery can go from here. The season overall has been an entertaining ride with more highs than lows and hopefully can go from strength to strength next season, personally I cannot wait for season 2, I just hope the showrunners learn from season 1’s missteps and build upon its triumphs. The potential for a wider exploration of alternate realities or jumps in time provides the writers the opportunity to boldly go……oh, you know the rest.
Like our thoughts on the review? Got some points we missed? Let us know on Twitter @SubCultured!
How do you follow up an almost flawless first issue of Doomsday Clock, that not only established a new status quo for the world of Watchmen but also seamlessly integrated a mystery involving Superman? Don’t forget with art and writing that feels like Moore and Gibbons never left.
Well, if you’re Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, having Rorschach eat Batman’s breakfast isn’t a bad place to start. But we’ll get to that.
Issue #2 of Doomsday Clock picks up right where we left Ozymandias, Rorschach, Marionette and Mime. Sticking with the classic 9 panel grid for most of this opening, we start in Nite Owl’s abandoned basement and are shown two interweaving stories. Mime and Marionette are carrying out a heist gone wrong some time in the past, and Rorschach and Veidt in the present debating the merits of trusting two hardened criminals to save the world.
The arrival of Dr. Manhattan during the heist is a fun unexpected moment that reveals why Marionette is such an integral part of Ozymandias’ plan. Whether or not he’s fully aware of why Manhattan spared Marionette’s life remains to be seen. It certainly appeared that Manhattan was hesitant to kill a pregnant woman. This contrast nicely echoes the Vietnam sequence of the original Watchmen where The Comedian demonstrates he has no such qualms.
Then it’s off to the DC universe without a moment to spare as the Watchmen’s world is nuked into oblivion. This whole segment felt rushed and convenient compared to the rest of the issue. Perhaps I was hoping for a more intricate system for travelling between dimensions than a throwaway of, “Oh, its ok, I’ve installed a new button in the Owl ship”.
However, this is only a minor gripe as I can understand that Johns is more interested in showing how these characters interact with the DC universe than how they get there. What’s more interesting is where the Watchmen initially land, in an almost exact reproduction of the funfair from The Killing Joke. It’s a nice nod to Alan Moore’s other DC work and potentially an indication of the way Johns intends to characterize Batman and the Joker for the rest of the story.
Here is where our team splits, as Ozymandias and Rorschach attempt to recruit Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor to their cause, whilst Mime and Marionette are restrained aboard the Owlship. At this point, Gary Frank’s art goes from good to great, as we are treated to some brilliant visual storytelling, mixing Watchmen inspired visual cues with Geoff Johns’ humour and wit. The Owlship bursting through the Bat Symbol and Rorschach’s exploration of Wayne Manor are particular highlights. Rorschach being distracted by a free breakfast leading to him notice a tell tale breeze under the grandfather clock is an amusing and appropriate way for that character to unearth Bruce Wayne’s big secret.
Ozymandias on the other hand has less luck convincing Luthor, who has reverted back to his evil business tycoon demeanor that readers have not seen since before Forever Evil. Luthor questioning Ozymandias’ intelligence after having the plot of Watchmen explained to him feels like Johns winking to the reader about the more ridiculous aspects of that series finale.
We are then left with not one, but three, cliffhangers as a seemingly resurrected Comedian attacks Luthor, Mime and Marionette escape into Gotham City, and Rorschach is confronted by a hungry Batman. Hopefully the Comedian’s appearance is not all it seems, as I feel that bringing back this character undermines the importance of his murder in the original Watchmen. Perhaps it’s tied to Ozymandias brain tumor. We can only wait and see.
Overall, this issue continues the high quality established by the first, with John’s doing an admirable job of echoing the writing style of Alan Moore and Gary Frank bringing beautiful and inventive imagery to every page. My only negatives being the protagonists convenient journey to Gotham and the reappearance of the Comedian, though these do not detract from the story overall. I look forward to seeing where this story goes next and how one gruff vigilante will come to terms with another gruff vigilante eating his pancakes.
It’s 2.45 in the morning, and I have just returned from the latest instalment of the juggernaut that is the Star Wars Saga.
I actually went to a double bill screening of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, to ensure that I was caught up on the new characters and their introduction. It became quite clear that very little back story is explored with the new generation, and The Last Jedi begins to address that.
To bring us up to date, the Republic was decimated by Starkiller Base, Rey had departed in search of Luke Skywalker, and Finn was left in medical care.
Fast forward two years and we now have Rey meeting Luke, and looking for answers about The Force and how she can use it. Finn is still in the medical bay, and Poe Dameron is becoming a reckless and daring pilot.
As you would expect, there is quite a lot of the movie devoted to Rey seeking guidance from Luke, who has gone to great lengths to isolate himself from the galaxy. We are also introduced to the species native to the island, who have looked after the ancient Jedi temple for thousands of years, and also the Porgs, cuddly looking birdlike creatures that are clearly only in the movie for their cuteness. The setting felt very reminiscent of Fight Club, with recruits following around the master, waiting for some recognition and acceptance.
Towards the end of The Force Awakens we saw that The First Order had confirmed the location of the Resistance headquarters, and were powering up for a second shot when the base was crippled and destroyed. We now have the Resistance evacuating the base ahead of the inevitable counter-attack, in a move that feels very reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. If I am honest, I was a little worried that this would set the tone for the entire movie as simply a reskin of Episode V, in the same way that some people consider The Force Awakens to be a reskin of Episode IV.
Luckily, the movie wisely chose to change things around by making a bold decision to introduce new characters quite early on, who become central to the film’s plot.
Finn wakes up from his recovery and wants to go and find Rey, but instead meets Rose, who changes his mind, and becomes his companion for much of the film.
Supreme Leader Snoke was presented as a hologram throughout Episode VII, but here we see him take a central role, as he tries to manipulate his subjects, as any decent villain would do.
We still see regular sniping between General Hux and Kylo Ren, as they vie for favour with Snoke aboard his flagship, and by the end of the movie there is a clear winner in this infantile struggle.
Captain Phasma returns which a much more interesting role, in that she does a lot more than simply walk about ordering others to do as she commands. She proved to be one of my favourites with her increased use as a character, and seeing her engaging in combat is encouraging.
BB-8 seems to have been upgraded from central character with the occasional comedy moment to occasionally on screen, but always commanding attention when he is. BB-9e was introduced in the summer as a First Order version of the new favourite droid, but he is in and out of the movie so quickly a more cynical person might think he was only featured in order to sell more toys.
Rey and Kylo Ren had an intense fight towards the end of The force Awakens, and there is a large investment in exploring the relationship between the force-wielders.
This is one aspect which frustrates me a little. Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One, and was supposed to be one of the best Jedi. In this movie we see a lot of new Jedi powers, and whilst it is good for the story, it did leave me beginning to predict the next series of new powers that we would have seen.
I would suggest that there is plenty of space combat to keep fans happy, plenty of drama, and loss of characters, though some new tricks you didn’t see coming are generally well received. The humour is a little more abundant, but some of the jokes miss the mark, but they can’t all be golden. There is also a cameo of a character that was very well hidden from the media, so I will not mention who it is, but it was great to see.
My biggest criticism of the movie is that it felt like it was 2.5 hours long, which is was, but that is like saying I was fed up with The Return Of The King for going on another 20 minutes or so after they could have ended the movie. I will almost definitely see the movie again at the cinema, but it began to feel like so much needed to be crammed into this movie that the Episode IX team will need to work hard to create some form of peril for our new heroes.
This film is definitely much darker than the previous one, but it feels like it is constantly trying to throw in a joke or sidewards glance to remind you that there are other factions and allegiances being represented, and I have already mentioned the Porgs.
Overall I enjoyed the movie, and would recommend it, although not before advising of a trip to use the toilet prior to the film starting.
– Justin Smith has been a podcaster for over 6 years, and has been visiting the cinema regularly for 4 of them. When he’s not playing games with Star Wars themed miniatures, he spends time with video games.
March 26, 2014 was a sad day in television as it marked the final episode of Psych on USA Network. Millions of fans across the country thought that was the last they’d see of Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster, the duo responsible for the titular psychic detective agency. Little did we Psych-Os know the showrunners had another trick up their sleeve: a movie. Airing on December 7th, Psych: The Movie reunites the bulk of the main cast and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited.
In preparation of the movie, I sat down and revisited all 8 seasons of Psych, which was no easy task since the show was removed from Netflix and I had to watch everything on DVD. Can you imagine swapping out all those discs as each episode ended? It was exhausting.
Anyway, here are my picks for the top 15 episodes of Psych. Wait for iiiiiiit…
Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot episodes usually aren’t the best episodes of any series; it often takes time for the characters’ personalities to gel and worm their ways into our hearts. But in the case of Psych, the characters are pretty much as they are fresh off the page. Shawn Spencer (James Roday) is lazy and unambitious despite his gift of hyper-perception and deductive reasoning. He uses this gift to call in numerous tips to the police in an effort to collect reward money but when the cops start to suspect him as the culprit, his only out is to feign psychic powers. Though he’s met with some skepticism, courtesy of Santa Barbara head detective Carlton Lassiter (Tim Omundson), he convinces the interim police chief Karen Vick (Kirsten Nelson) to bring him on a case. At that point, Shawn drags his best friend and enabler Burton “Gus” Guster (Dulé Hill) along for the ride. We also get a look at Shawn’s strained relationship with his father, Henry (Corbin Bernsen), an ex-cop who is not too happy with Shawn lying to the cops, but when he goes to bat for Shawn and reveals what he’s willing to do for his kid.
Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast
Season 1, Episode 15
When a sorority hazing goes badly and ends with the death of a college girl, the incident is written off as a copycat suicide based on the death of Santa Barbara’s urban legend, Scary Sherry. Juliet (Maggie Lawson), however, goes undercover in the sorority to investigate deeper, asking Shawn and Gus for help. “Scary Sherry: Bianca’s Toast” doesn’t feature any big name guest stars or off-beat musical improv but the teacup scene is one of the funniest moments in the show and I’m including it on this list for that alone. Also, the B-plot with Lassiter training an elder rookie has some great moments.
Season 2, Episode 1
When a judge on the hit singing competition reality show “American Duos” has a few brushes with death, he goes to the Santa Barbara police for protection. A parody of Simon Cowell, Nigel St. Nigel is portrayed to perfection by a smug Tim Curry and his performance carries the episode. Bonus points for the second special guest star, Gina Gershon, playing a booze-riddled and absent-minded former pop star, a clear lampooning of Paula Abdul. Bonus bonus points for the episode also giving us James Roday and Dulé Hill dressed as Roland Orzabal and Michael Jackson while performing Tears for Fears’ “Shout.”
Disco Didn’t Die. It Was Murdered!
Season 3, Episode 5
“It’s a big birthday cake!” Taking its influence from the pop culture of the 70s, including shows like The Mod Squad and movies like Shaft, Shawn and Gus are called in to find new evidence in a case that was recently overturned, which just so happened to be the biggest case of Henry Spencer’s career. The trio need to track down clues which brings smack dab into the middle of the 70s; from the polyester shirts to a ’73 Mercury Cougar to a 70’s-themed disco run by a dude named “Pookie,” “Disco Didn’t Die” hits all the notes to fan the flames of nostalgia in the most humorous way possible.
Tuesday The 17th
Season 3, Episode 15
Written and directed by James Roday, “Tuesday the 17th” is the first episode that takes film homage to the next level by taking influence from classic horror movies. When an old camp friend approach Shawn and Gus to investigate the disappearance of a counselor at his new camp, they soon find themselves being stalked by a masked slasher. But the swerve, that the camp is meant to be a murder mystery camp where people figure out the identity of the killer, is met with another swerve, wherein a real killer is picking off the counselors one by one. The episode features almost every horror movie trope known to man and, in general, has a ton of fun with the premise.
High Top Fade-Out
Season 4, Episode 7
There are a lot of things to point to as making “High Top Fade-Out” a great episode. It features guest appearances by Jaleel White and Kenan Thompson as old college friends of Gus, as well as 50% of Gus’s college singing group, Blackapella. Tony Todd also makes an appearance though slightly less Candyman and more undercover cop. The episode marks the introduction of Kurt Fuller as coroner Woodrow Strode, a character that would make multiple appearances through the series and become more off the wall each time. The intro song was rerecorded by Boyz II Men as a way to cement the singing quartet theme. But probably my favorite part of the episode is Dulé Hill’s performance. Though he’s never been a slouch in any episode, he emotes a full range from anger to pain to concern as he works to repair his relationship with his friends. Every minute of it is fantastic.
Mr. Yin Presents…
Season 4, Episode 16
The second episode in the Yang trilogy, “Mr. Yin Presents…” is a love letter to Alfred Hitchcock. The murder of a waitress leads Psych and the police to discover that Yang was working with a partner, the mysterious Mr. Yin. After Shawn fingers Mary Lightly (Jimmi Simpson) as the killer, he realizes how wrong he is when Mary winds up dead, murdered in the same manner as Detective Arbogast from the Hitchcock film Psycho. The gang soon find themselves in a trap, each playing a role from different Hitchcock movies; Shawn as L.B. Jefferies from Rear Window, Henry as Mark Rutland from Marnie, etc. The episode is filled with references to Hitchcock, both visual and in dialogue. It’s a fantastic watch and leads to some great character development for the rest of the series.
Season 5, Episode 12
Despite the recent revival, Twin Peaks was one of those cult shows that had a rabid fan base but never really struck a chord with the culture at large. The showrunners of Psych however, found enough to work with and centered an entire episode around its atmosphere. Featuring many of the original stars of Peaks, “Dual Spires” plops Shawn and Gus in the center of a small mountain town where the people are a little off-beat, forcing them to dig through the residents’ idiosyncrasies to discover the truth behind the murder of a young woman. Dana Ashbrook, Ray Wise, and Sherilyn Fenn all make appearances, as well as Chris Isaak’s “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” in a nod to the 1992 Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me.
This Episode Sucks
Season 6, Episode 3
Don’t let the title fool you; the episode is actually pretty good. Admittedly, I almost didn’t put it in but the more I thought on it, the better it became. This is the vampire episode and the showrunners went all in making that apparent. The episode not only guest stars Kristy Swanson and Corey Feldman, both vampire famous in their own right, but Tom Lenk show ups, who had a recurring role in the Buffy TV series. “This Episode Sucks” essentially benches Shawn and Gus, relegating them to second fiddle as they freak out over the idea of vampires in Santa Barbara (though they do dress up as famous vampires; Shawn as Lestat and Gus as Blacula). Despite all of that, I like this episode as it gives Lassie a chance to shine. It introduces Marlowe as his love interest which sets up his character arc for the remainder of the series. Shawn and Gus may be the protagonists of the show but it’s nice when some of the other characters get the spotlight.
Season 7, Episode 3
There’s no denying the impact found footage films have had on the movie industry. Luckily, the writers of Psych recognized this and blessed us with their own take on the genre. Wrapped around the search for Bigfoot, “Lassie Jerky” finds Shawn and Gus in the woods with some college film students when they stumble upon three dead bodies. The episode is a masterpiece shot from all first-person perspectives and perfectly homages the classic found-footage film, The Blair Witch Project. It also guest stars WWE’s Big Show and has probably my favorite scene in the entire series, an impromptu acapella rendition of the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame.”
Season 7, Episode 5
The landmark 100th episode of the series. Shawn gets himself invited to a dinner party in a swanky mansion and tries to smooth his relationship woes with Juliet. When she can’t make it, he brings Gus along and discovers that the party was thrown by a recently released from jail rock icon, Billy Lipps, with all of the party guests tied to the case that sent him to prison. A riff on the movie Clue, “100 Clues” was promoted with a real-time contest that allowed viewers to choose who the killer of the episode really was by using a special hashtag on Twitter. Much of the humor in the episode is based on Clue and also includes three of the film’s stars as guest stars: Leslie Ann Warren, Martin Mull, and Christopher Lloyd.
Psych: The Musical
Season 7, Episodes 15 & 16
This might be cheating a bit as it spans two episodes but “Psych: The Musical” originally aired as a 2-hour special so suck it, I’m counting it. Though I’m not a fan of musicals, I wholly enjoyed this episode, if only because of how they made each of the musical interludes diegetic. Shawn and Gus are tasked with tracking down an escaped mental patient, a deranged writer who learns that a version of his play based on the Jack the Ripper murders, is premiering at the local playhouse. There are a number of highpoints in the episode, including the return of Ally Sheedy in her role as Yang, Anthony Rapp, best known for as Mark in Rent, and Dulé Hill as “Jamaican Inspector Man.”
Remake A.K.A. Cloudy…With a Chance of Improvement
Season 8, Episode 3
One of the more off-beat episodes of the entire series sees the gang remaking an episode from the first season as a commentary on Hollywood’s remake culture. “Cloudy…With a Chance of Murder” focused on a school teacher who was charged with the murder of the local weatherman, with Shawn and Gus assisting her legal team in getting her acquitted. “Remake” follows that same premise but peppers it by recasting the guest stars, many of whom had already appeared in other episodes as completely different characters. Thankfully, they also saw fit to change the murderer and the method behind the murder, so as to deliver an almost new mystery. My favorite part, though, was the appearance of Ed Lover as the court bailiff and his delivery of the classic “come on, son” line.
Nightmare on State Street
Season 8, Episode 9
I really seem to like the episodes that homage classic horror movies, huh? Anyway, “Nightmare on State Street” has a lot going for it, most notably guest star Bruce Campbell. The film focuses on Gus’s nightmares, which stem from Shawn’s absence and leads directly into the end of the series. As such, the episode devotes significant time to A Nightmare on Elm Street, and more than just the title. But the episode also references Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, all while framed within Gus’s dreams. Other guest stars round out the fun, such as Dean Cameron, who played Chainsaw in one of Shawn’s favorites, Summer School, William Zabka, a.k.a. Johnny Lawrence from Karate Kid, and Phylicia Rashad, who returns as Gus’s mother. “Nightmare on State Street” aims for horror lovers and hits the mark with its numerous references. Oh, and zombie Curt Smith.
Season 8, Episode 10
I really needed to add the series finale here, mostly because of how well it ties up each characters’ arc. Shawn has a difficult time telling Gus that he’s moving to San Francisco to be with Juliet, especially after Gus manages to find a new job and get his life back on track. This episode shows the depths of Shawn and Gus’s relationship, with Shawn blaming himself for disrupting Gus’s life but Gus uprooting himself to be with his best friend. It also gives us closure to Lassie’s respect for Shawn when he refuses to listen to Shawn’s video confessional that he’s not a real psychic despite years of Lassie’s skepticism. We also get to see McNab finally promoted, assuming the title of detective despite having the worst score Lassie has ever seen. All of this is wrapped up alongside guest appearances by two actors idolized by Shawn; Billy Zane and Val Kilmer. “The Break-Up” is an emotional finish to a hilarious train ride and, in my opinion, the perfect way to end the series.
Boom boom boom… Wrap up! I know a lot of my fellow Psych-Os out there may disagree with a few of my choices, which is fair. Narrowing down a list like that has been one of the hardest things to do, especially with a show as diverse as Psych has been through the years. So hey, if you disagree with me, let me know! What is your favorite episode? And what are you most excited for from the upcoming movie? Feel free to drop a comment down below or you can find me on Twitter, @IdiotAtPlay, and tweet me your picks.
Vampires are a staple of Halloween and one of the most famous horror icons around. So I figured reading a vampire tale for Hallow-Reads was as good an idea as any. That’s when I was presented with The Line by Rob Ferreri, a self-published novel about a team of vampire hunters.
The Line tells the story of Alexander, an immortal ex-vampire and his mission to hide an ancient amulet from Dorian, his ex-master. When the amulet is discovered in present day New York, Alexander assembles a team to help him combat the vampire threat and protect the amulet. The team, which he dubs “the Line” are chosen ones, people who come from a long line of vampire slayers. The plot boils down to Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets The Avengers and works in many ways. However, there are quite a few ways that it just falls flat.
The book opens with a scene of our Alexander being healed of his vampirism and turning against his former brethren. It’s an interesting concept, one that doesn’t get explored often in pop culture, but it also doesn’t get explored much here, either. We know Alexander had a history as a vampire and worked with Dorian, but Ferreri never delves into that. There’s no back story showing us how Alexander became a vampire or what regrets he may have. We’re only told he was a vampire, isn’t any more, and now wants to rid the world of vampires.
The dialogue tags were the most tedious part of the book. Dialogue tags should be straightforward as the most effective ones are a simple “she said” or “he asked.” Sure, it’s great to mix them up a bit for some exclaiming, questioning, or accusing. But The Line makes them all as homogenous as possible. Every dialogue tag follows all of the dialogue. Every time. Now, this isn’t how most authors handle it; in scenes with two characters, for example, it’s generally easy to follow the flow of the dialogue, making the need for a tag each time unnecessary. But Ferreri uses them for every line and it gets very distracting.
From my understanding, The Line was originally written as a screenplay, and after reading it, that’s fairly obvious. The dialogue tags, for example, reminded me of slugs, the character name that precedes each line of dialogue, making it easy for the actor to know which lines are theirs and which belong to their costars. Sure, Ferreri punches up his dialogue with adverbs, but these are little more than parentheticals, the stage direction used to indicate how the actor should deliver the line.
This isn’t the only similarity The Line as a novel has to a screenplay. The book focuses a lot on the action; every few pages, a new action scene occurs. Whether it’s a showdown between the protagonists and the bad guys or some sort of training exercise, action scenes take precedence. Which makes sense considering The Line is a vampire based action adventure more than anything else. However, this focus detracts from any sort of character development, of which there is very little.
The Line is straight forward, to the point, and exactly what one could expect from a ninety minute action flick.
Does a novel need chapters of deep backstory to be enjoyable? No, not at all, but unlike movies, novels aren’t constrained by a certain length. There’s no hard and fast rule that a novel should be a set number of pages. In that sense, novels have an advantage over films when it comes to character development.
The Line implements a sort of ticking clock, yet another action movie trope. Alexander and Co must stop Dorian from getting the other half of the artifact before the next lunar eclipse or the world will suffer. Because of this, the plot moves at hyperspeed. Characters are introduced, destinies explained, trainings held, and lots of fight. There’s no time to get to know the cast. We see them put through the wringers of training a total of one time before they accept their fate. They trust each other implicitly after knowing each other for at most a couple of days. There’s very little internal conflict and it gets resolved in a page or two, which diminishes the stakes.
The parallel between The Line as a novel versus a screenplay makes sense when you look at author Rob Ferreri’s history. He’s worked on a few full-length feature films, most of which were made prior to the publication of The Line. He clearly has a strong grasp of writing, but it seems that scripting is a difficult habit to shake. Novels and screenplays are two different creatures and what works in one doesn’t necessarily work in the other. I don’t feel that his writing style is bad; just that it’s not the ideal approach for a novel.
Don’t get me wrong; there are quite a few good parts about The Line, most notably the character introductions. When we meet each of the characters, they get the spotlight in their own little vignette of a story. Detective Jay Hong is ambushed during one of the biggest cases of his career. The Blades brothers, Diego and Julian, are career criminals and we first see them during a high-octane car theft and eventual chase. Lena Somnianti is a sophisticated artist and fencer, a well-travelled and intelligent woman. They all make grand entrances, yet don’t really live up to their promise. Sure, they’re competent enough in their own right but none of them ever feel fleshed out besides what we learn at the outset.
This is really the fatal flaw of The Line. It never really lives up to its own story. It’s complete, has a plot and a diverse cast, but that’s the bare minimum when dealing with a novel. As a film, The Line would have been magnificent fun. More Underworld than Anne Rice, it didn’t quite fit into my idea of “horror” so it probably wasn’t the best entry for Hallow-Reads, but I still found myself engrossed in the tale as it unfolded.
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Besides all of the cute decorations, cooler weather and delicious special edition food and candy, it’s also the time to plant oneself in front of the television and binge watch scary movies. But what does one do when movies get boring? Turning to books is usually a good idea. Thankfully there’s a subset of writers who focus on telling spooky, scary, or downright grisly tales that are best enjoyed during Halloween. I had the chance to check out one of these tales, Grim, Volume I: Teen Spirit, by Nicholas Meece.
Teen Spirit starts with a grisly murder outside of a nightclub in a small town before transitioning to the story of Steve, a teenager and budding writer, and his best friend, Jen. They share a passion for filmmaking and horror movies, so when Steve tells Jen about the murder and convinces her to investigate it with him, she’s all in. The murders don’t stop there, though, as the Reaper, as he’s known, tears through the town, killing people very close to Steve’s and Jen’s houses.
While I enjoyed Teen Spirit, I do have to say it’s full of missed potential. There are a lot of great moments in it, such as the opening prologue with the murder, which sets the tone for the horror-themed story. However, once our main characters are introduced, a lot just seems to get lost along the way. We meet Steve and find his passion for writing leads him to lock himself in his bedroom for hours on end to finish a work in progress. He’s secretive about his hobby, not allowing anyone to read his stories until he feels they are perfect. He’s in love with his best friend Jen and wants their relationship to blossom into more than just friendship, but they also plan on moving to California and living together, which is slightly weird but at least makes some sort of sense.
Steve gets the most depth while, unfortunately, Jen is more of a one-note character. We know she’s interested in filmmaking and wants to move to California. She likes Steve’s company but doesn’t see him romantically like he sees her. That is, until she’s told that she does see him romantically by a mutual friend. It’s an odd exchange and one that doesn’t really feel natural. In fact, most of the women in the book come off as caricatures, more like plot devices than real women. The exchanges between Jen and her friend Angela feel forced and stilted. There are so few of them that they’re easy to overlook, but the book is so short that these exchanges are huge chunks of the word count.
I thought the story started to pick up around the time Steve convinces Jen to investigate the murder with him. This could have made for an interesting tale and was the thread that I was most looking forward to; two teenagers struggling to use second hand knowledge of police procedurals and figure out who committed a grisly murder would have made for an intriguing tale. Couple that with the twist ending and Steve’s true agenda could have made it even more engaging. It soon becomes apparent, though, that their sleuthing isn’t the purpose of the tale. Meece is taking his love for horror movies and creating a slasher story. However, with a little fleshing out, he could have blended the two genres and created something with a little more meat on the bone.
That’s not to say Teen Spirit isn’t entertaining. It’s just heavily bogged down in horror movie tropes. A couple of fresh out of school kids in their sexual prime. An alcohol-fueled house party that swells out of control. The caring, housewife who’s concerned for the wellbeing of her taciturn son. The inclusion of all of these seem intentional based on Meece’s love of horror. After reading through Teen Spirit, I didn’t quite make this connection and the tropes bothered me. However, I dwelled on the story for a few days before starting writing this and I developed a deeper appreciation for it.
It’s hard for me to go into depth for a review of Teen Spirit only because of how short the story is. I read it entirely in a single train ride of only about an hour, which isn’t a lot of time for a “book.” That’s why my biggest disappointment with Teen Spirit is its length. As I mentioned earlier, there were plenty of areas that Meece could have elaborated on the story, delving deeper into character histories and motivations and actually following through with Steve and Jen’s intentions of tracking the killer. I assume he didn’t do this because he intended to write a short and sweet slasher tale which, if that is the case, he at least succeeded in doing. One benefit Teen Spirit does have is its cliffhanger ending, hinting at a much larger story looming in the distance. As of the time I’m writing this, there has not been a release of Grim, Volume 2, which is slightly disappointing. Hopefully, that’s still on Meece’s “To Do” list and hasn’t been abandoned completely.
All in all, I would recommend Grim, Volume I: Teen Spirit if you’re bored with horror movies on Netflix and are just looking for a change of pace. While it’s not as deep as a Stephen King novel, it provides a quick dose of horror-fueled entertainment. Not too long to get boring, but just long enough to create a creepy, slasher atmosphere. And if you crave more, you can always check out Meece’s non-fiction and movie reviews over at www.morbidmuch.com. He’s definitely a proponent of horror and a voice that adds to the genre.