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Under Another Sun

Reviewed by Christian

D.M. Siciliano’s Under the Sun is a deceptive piece of work. Featuring a strange female protagonist, Ravynn, the novel veers in differing directions as the plot unfolds. From the first lines, Siciliano is playing on a number of different genres.

Synopsis

“A crack in time saves 99”

But what do those ominous words mean? Ray is about to find out, whether he’s ready or not. His ‘deceased’ twin sister, Ravynn, is warning him of impending disaster, but Ray can’t seem to convince himself, or his wife, that he’s not crazy. But Ray isn’t the only one communicating with his sister. Ravynn’s surviving daughter, Amelia, seems to know things that defy reason, in a time when reason is slowly slipping away. When Ray’s brother-in-law offers evidence of something terrible coming in the form of prophetic journals Ravynn wrote before her death, Ray can’t doubt the truth any longer. The world is falling down. The family struggles to hold themselves together as the world they once knew and understood begins to collapse all around them, leading up to a cataclysmic end. Can Ray save his family in time?

Focused on a family in danger

​It’s unclear how to even classify the book but probably apocalyptic fiction is the most appropriate. In broad strokes, a reader of Stephen King will be in familiar territory with allusions to The Shining, The Dark Tower, and Under the Dome(even the novel’s name echoes King). There are other King books that appear to be present but naming them might spoil the ending. Still, Siciliano is not directly lifting the plot or even themes, but the tell-tale signs of being familiar are all there.

​The question for King as for Siciliano, alas, does it matter? Apocalyptic fiction, whether political (Orwell, Ayn Rand, Alan Moore) or more personal and spiritual (George RR Martin, Pat Roberston), suffers from the dilemma of engrossing us in a large world with many characters or a few. Siciliano favors the latter approach and the story is firmly focused on a family in danger. Ironically, while Ravynn is a constant presence in the novel, Ray, her brother, is the real triumph. His emotions and bearing feel real and believable. To be sure, it is a bit annoying Ray takes as long as he does to put the mystery of Ravyn together. But, the befuddled protagonist is often what any horror fiction has to have at the beginning. 

Some new twists on an old formula​

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast of characters come off as too generic and borrowed archetypes. Nevertheless, the plot progresses at a good pace. The prose style is fairly solid. The cosmic creepiness when it begins to set in is well done. Siciliano is attentive to detail situating many events in California making her apocalypse credible.

​More experienced horror fans will probably guess much of the final sections. But a more beginning and intermediate reader will appreciate Siciliano attempting some new twists on an old formula. The book is not ground-breaking and the twist when it is revealed is fairly clever. But readers will probably divide whether Siciliano’s revelations come off as more too-clever than just clever enough.

Ravynn and her dilemma aren’t as gripping as Martin’s females who also walk the fine line between the spiritual and utterly horrific. Doing stories with a predetermined ending is a tough road anyone dabbling in Chosen Ones and so on will be saddled with and Siciliano (mostly) keeps us on a solid path to the finale. 

A highly recommended read

For a writer who is early in her career, this shows enormous promise and while not as scary as King’s best work does an effective job of keeping the reader engaged and asking questions. It does not have King’s touch of (admittedly, graphic) humor. Yet it also, thankfully, lacks King’s trademark needless gore. The horror when it is doled is pretty proportionate and what one would expect with the world coming to a close. 

If you enjoy the magic wizard – or more witch in this case – category then this book will be eminently satisfying. One or two plot elements will come off as far too convenient; still, on the whole, D.M. Siciliano has constructed a fairly effective construct. Her fiction is far above average but still, frankly, suffers from trying to wow us with secret exposed after secret exposed. A highly recommended read but one should be mild expecting anything truly novel; Under the Sun is a great synthesis of past horror but not the new step the apocalyptic genre needs to revitalize itself.

About the Author

DM is a lover of all things creative. From the moment she could speak, growing up in Massachusetts, she had a passion for flair and drama, putting on concerts for anyone who was even remotely interested (and even for those who were not). A storyteller by nature, she first pursued her young dream of becoming a singing diva while living in Arizona. She soon found that stage life wasn’t the only form of storytelling she craved, so she dropped the mic and picked up a pencil instead. She still hasn’t given up on her diva-ness, and hopes her pencil stays as sharp as her tongue.

A dark sense of humor and curiosity for haunted houses and things out of the ordinary led her down the path of completing her first novel, Inside. Several other projects are constantly floating around in her head and her laptop daily, and sometimes keeping her up much too late at night. Occasionally, those projects are so dark and twisted, she needs to leave a nightlight on.

She now lives in Northern California with her two fluffy furbabies, Cezare and Michaleto.

Want to know more about DM. Siciliano? Check out her website here

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Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is the highly anticipated horror flick due for release later this month.

Horror icon Danielle Harris (Halloween, Camp Cold Brook, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood) comes up against the axe-wielding maniac of Redwood in writer/director David Ryan Keith’s highly-anticipated sequel to The Redwood Massacre!

With the release only a few weeks away, a new trailer has surfaced which is sure to excite horror fans everywhere.

Check it out here

Synopsis

A stranger obsessed with the unsolved Redwood murders, convinces a group of bereaved family members to venture into the wilderness in hope of proving the existence of the infamous killer. Their quest for truth sees a sinister turn of events, as the hunters become the hunted. A blood-soaked fight for survival ensues when they find that the tales of the axe-wielding maniac are very real.

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is available On Demand and DVD October 20, 2020

Fans of the original are definitely in for a treat with this one. Check out our review here

What’s your thoughts on the latest trailer? Let us know on FacebookTwitterInstagram or in the comments below!

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Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

Reviewed by Mike Macabre

Independent horror constantly shows us that it can rival the efforts of its mainstream counterparts. With awesome special effects, great acting and stunning locations, many could easily be mistaken for a big budget flick. In fact, only recently we’ve reviewed such movies. The terrific acting in The Legend of the Muse, the stunning scenery in The Faceless Man and the great effects in both are prime examples. Redwood Massacre: Annihilation literally has all of the above.

Synopsis

A stranger obsessed with the unsolved Redwood murders, convinces a group of bereaved family members to venture into the wilderness in hope of proving the existence of the infamous killer. Their quest for truth sees a sinister turn of events, as the hunters become the hunted. A blood-soaked fight for survival ensues when they find that the tales of the axe-wielding maniac are very real.

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

Review

The movie opens with a massacre. The Burlap Killer strolls amongst a sea of bodies, slicing and dicing survivors amid a cacophony of wails and screams. It’s a solid opening, giving viewers a reminder of the Burlap Killer’s brutal, unrelenting nature. This is then followed with another murder by a different killer! However, he’s just as sadistic as our main antagonist.

After this prologue we’re treated to some great cinematography. It has to be said, Scotland is an absolutely stunning place. With rolling hills, winding streams and endless landscapes, you couldn’t ask for a more picturesque location. Yet, the vast majority of the movie takes place in an underground military bunker. I mean, it makes sense. The beauty of the Scottish countryside would definitely detract from the brutal murders occurring throughout the flick! Director David Ryan Keith certainly made the best decision on that front.

Whilst we’re talking about good decisions, let’s focus on the acting!

Who’s who?

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

The film is made up of a stellar cast each bringing a unique aspect to the storyline. Danielle Harris plays her role as Laura Dempsey superbly. A constant presence throughout the movie, Harris’ convincing portrayal of a kick ass fighter is certainly one to watch. With her confident demeanour and determination it’s easy to fear for the Burlap Killer himself as opposed to his potential victims. This is exacerbated even further when you incorporate Gary Kasper. With his huge, imposing frame and menacing persona you can’t help but yearn for a face off between him and the antagonist. Add to that the huge arsenal he brings with him, it’s not your bog-standard slasher! However, the man-mountain also has a softer side when it comes to his friends. The camaraderie displayed throughout the movie is a joy to behold.

Jon Campling is great in his role as Tom Dempsey, Laura’s father. He’s driven, yet easily swayed and is happy to let his daughter lead the way. Damien Puckler plays Max, the mysterious stranger who convinces the party to go and find the masked killer. His motives are clear from the outset and he lives up to these expectations as the movie goes on. Finally, Tevy Poe‘s portrayal of Jen is the only time the director conforms to stereotype. The flirtatious friend of Laura is a standard mould seen in the vast majority of slashers, yet, she still plays a good part and ultimately I think the movie is perfectly cast.

The Effects

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

As you can probably expect if you saw the first film, Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is rife with blood, gore and great effects. Given the small cast, we do have to wait a considerable amount of time before we get to the brutal killings, however, this just serves to build suspense. There are some great props used throughout and the creative murders are a credit to the makeup department and special effects team. There’s dismemberment, evisceration and, as you can guess, bucket loads of gore!

Overall, this movie is certainly not one to be missed and I would highly recommend it to everyone. Even if you haven’t seen the first one, you can quickly grasp the concept!

Check out the trailer here

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is coming to DVD and Digital on October 20th from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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Legend of the Muse

Reviewed by Mike Macabre

We all love mythology, right? After all, the vast majority of horror influences can be linked to stories told in ancient times. Werewolves can be traced back to the Greek Legend of Lycaon, Frankenstein can be linked to the Jewish legend of The Golem, and as for vampires, well stories about bloodsuckers have existed for millennia. Legend of the Muse is another which draws on these old tales in the form of Celtic mythology.

Synopsis

A painter’s life is changed forever when a mythical and deadly spirit from Celtic lore becomes his muse and lover.

Starring Riley Egan, Elle Evans, Kate Mansi, Max Decker, Jennie Fahn and Lou Ferrigno Jr. and written/ directed by John Burr.

Legend of the Muse

The movie follows Adam (Egan), an introvert artist who lives alone in an overpriced, rundown apartment. When he meets Hector (Decker), a new tenant in the building, Adam’s life starts to get a bit more interesting. Whilst serving as a driver to assist Hector’s criminal activity, Adam encounters a mysterious woman (Evans). Silent, seductive and seemingly inhuman, the woman appears again in Adam’s apartment. From here the story progresses into an intriguing, sensual bloodbath.

Review

I’m genuinely unsure where to start with this one. John Burr has written an absolutely superb story that just keeps on giving. Admittedly, it was confusing to begin with, but it didn’t take long for the pieces to fall into place.

The accolade for outstanding performance would easily go to Elle Evans. Despite not having a single spoken line, she dominates the screen in every scene she’s in. To portray such a range of traits and emotions without words is an impressive feat. Displaying a multitude of characteristics from sweet and innocent, sultry and seductive, to downright terrifying, Evans pulls it off flawlessly. This, coupled with Egan’s convincing portrayal of the timid artist provides a strong cast that are a credit to the movie.

Legend of the Muse

There’s a good amount of blood/gore in the movie. Not too excessive, but enough to satisfy most horror fans without detracting from the main storyline. Speaking of the story, there may have been one issue I had with it. Who hides body parts under the floorboards?! I mean give it a couple of days and you’ll have a smell that even the strongest air fresheners wouldn’t be able to shift! That aside though, the effects were pretty good and the makeup department definitely deserve a shout out for their efforts.

Check out the trailer here

Legend of the Muse is available to watch now Amazon

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To coincide with our competition giving away a free SIGNED copy of The Crows, we interviewed C.M. Rosens to find out her writing influences, her motivation behind the novel and more. Check it out!

How did your interest in writing start?

My interest in writing started when I was really little and as an only child I had some imaginary friends – my mum and her parents encouraged me to write them down or to tell them about the ‘adventures’ I had in Dinosaur Land (I was obsessed with dinosaurs when I was 5/6). I’m fairly sure you got there via a magic bubble that appeared around you when you jumped down a hole under a bridge, like Alice in Wonderland meets Journey to the Centre of the Earth / The Lost World. I’d seen the Disney film of Alice and read the illustrated Ladybird abridged books of JCE and TLW, so it was mostly a mash-up of that, but with a T-Rex called Lucy who was the queen who let me ride her. I’ve been making up stories pretty much all my life – writing is just a way of remembering them!

What made you choose horror?

I didn’t exactly choose horror as a genre, I’d always thought I couldn’t write anything like that. It turned out that the story I wanted to tell had a lot of Gothic elements (my favourite!) and was based on a romantic cosy paranormal mystery I’d written in 2013 for fun. The rewrite got a bit darker, had more body horror, and went into the darker side of Gothic tropes and conventions. The gory bits are fairly few and not that bad (in my view) but that’s very much dependent on personal taste, I guess. Horror is such a broad genre with so many facets, but it gives you as a writer a lot of scope to explore personal and/or socio-cultural anxieties and concerns, the reasons why certain things frighten or horrify.

What was your inspiration behind The Crows?

Stephen King’s Rose Red was a big influence on The Crows in its current form, and Salem’s Lot, with the idea of a house being evil (Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was actually something I read after the draft was done!) I wanted to invert this and create a house with a personality that was more three-dimensional than just ‘evil’. Other influences include the Lovecraftian mythos, my own working class background and some real life experiences (not all my own), Hammer Horror films, the early seasons of Midsomer Murders and quite a lot of Terry Pratchett. I have a lot of time for the idea of people just trying to live their lives while surrounded by magic and various things going on.

Will there be a sequel to The Crows? Or anything else written in the Pagham-on-Sea universe?

There is a sequel to The Crows – the next novel is called Thirteenth, and follows the Porter clan more closely. I also have a short story, The Sound of Darkness, which is set in the council estate on the edge of Pagham-on-Sea, coming out in the anthology F is for Fear with Red Cape Publishing. There are a few more books linked to the town in various stages of planning and drafting, which will use overlapping settings and some overlapping characters, but will be standalones. One of them, Eldritch Girls Just Want To Have Fun, is a slasher-romance or goremance co-written with Nita Pan (author of Life and Death, a dark, tragic and philosophical short story in the Supernatural Beings anthology From Ashes to Magic). That follows a different member of the eldritch family you meet in The Crows, but that’s mainly set in Brighton c.2016. It looks like it has series potential on its own, so watch this space.

Now you’re a published author, what advice would you give to those just starting out?

I think my main advice for those starting out on their publishing journey is that it’s not one-size-fits-all. There are pros and cons to every route, and in my case I chose self-publishing as I’d had good feedback from traditional publishing houses but it ‘wasn’t what they were looking for’. I also wanted to collaborate with artist Tom Brown (co-creator of the Hopeless, Maine graphic novels) and wanted to retain the creative control to include illustrations that I would otherwise have to negotiate with presses. However, I’ve got a publishing contract for my non-fiction popular history book, which is being published under my real name rather than my pen-name. I would say in both cases that a good editor makes a world of difference, especially one you can work well with. I’ve also had the benefit of good alpha and beta readers, and my books tend to have about eight pairs of eyes on them before they make it to the editor. I want to produce a quality product as well as a good book, so I think investing in that, however you do it, is really important.

When you’re not writing what are you generally doing?

When I’m not writing, I’m not doing anything particularly interesting – I do like to travel though! Obviously not at the moment… and honestly, apart from walking and working, I don’t think I’ve got anything exciting out of lockdown! I did take up Burlesque and Belly dance online though, but I can’t continue with them due to my shift patterns.

If you were to set a goal for your future what would it be?

In terms of goals… I think my main one would be to get Eldritch Girls out there, which is one of my favourite passion projects and just so much fun to write. I would also like to get an anthology of Pagham-on-Sea short stories completed (co-written with Guillaume Velde) and get the sequel to The Crows out by Jan 2021. For personal goals – I would just like to be able to travel again. I haven’t been to the USA/Canada since I was 14, and I’d love to go there again and visit friends I haven’t seen for years.

And finally, who is your favourite horror icon?

My favourite horror icon is Sir Christopher Lee. I love Hammer Horror films and out of the greats of that era he’s my favourite. Vampires were always my favourite monster as a kid and I will always have a huge soft spot for his Dracula.

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You can find out more about C.M. Rosens here