"Run-of-the-mill" seems like a modestly accurate way to describe myself in terms of horror fandom. In certain respects I find that valuable, since ideally I can make an appeal to those like myself, to those who may be testing the waters, and hopefully to the hardcore horror fans as well. (And I sincerely encourage feedback, especially from the latter.) It wasn't until several years ago, the present time of this writing being December of '09 to give perspective, that the genre genuinely appealed to me and I owe all that to the film adaptation of Stephen King's 'IT'. After that, it was a slow and steady progression that grew into watching more Stephen King film adaptations, then into watching general horror films. In more recent years it's branched from solely films into different mediums, namely: comics (comic books, manga, graphic novels, webcomics, etc.), purely written literature, and different games.

But let's get to the point, shall we? The Darkley Niche is something I've constructed after the comic-in-progress that a friend and myself plan on self-publishing, an anthology of short horror stories much in the same vein as 'Tales from the Crypt' and similar titles. The series centers around a faceless persona we've affectionately dubbed Alan Darkley, the Niche's namesake, and a cast of storytellers whose tales fall within particular subgenres and sister genres of horror. This site is the drawing board, if you will, where everything posted is either a form of research or a roughing out of ideas. It's all relevant in some fashion. By exploring these different horror stories and their mediums a better understanding and influence of the genre, as well as inspiration, can be put into the comic. Even if you have no personal interest in the project, perhaps you can glean something from the reviews and the like. And if nothing else, the Niche will work to serve my own purposes.

Be sure to browse over the column of banners below if you're looking for posts on a particular topic. (And at the very bottom of the blog, if you would like to consult the complete listing of post labels.) Otherwise, scroll down past them to get to the most recent articles. Likewise, refer to the right side for our latest tweets.

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

Meet The Darkley Storytellers

About Myself

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Well, here's yours truly. The name's Drew, in case you were wondering. The Niche is my personal site, while the comic-in-progress is a partnered effort with Don, a lifelong friend of mine. We collaborate on the stories, but my partner's the writer in the outfit while I am the illustrator. This is currently little more than a side project, but we hope to make something of it.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

double dud feature: Don't Look Down and New Year's Evil

Still playing catch-up on the film reviews, as mentioned in the triple haunted feature post. So once again the Niche presents a multiple film feature, affectionately dubbed the "double dud". Don and myself have seen our fair share of failure horror films, but try to glean what pearls we can from the grime. Every film, however horrible it may be, has at least one grain that is or could be made worthwhile. Finding that hidden potential can serve our own stories in the Darkley comic, as well as marking what mistakes to avoid.

Like the last multiple film feature, we'll keep the synopses shorter and leave out the important spoilers.

When you have to scan the DVD cover because there
aren't any decent images online, that doesn't bode well.

A made for television film, 'Don't Look Down' seems like a far cry from the stories associated with horror adept Wes Craven, who produced it. Especially when it feels like a Lifetime Channel program. It begins with an excursion to some woodland cliffs for a photo shoot when a loose rail gives (just as she strikes a 'Titantic' pose and says, "Ohhh! I feel like I'm flyiiiiing!" -- priceless), resulting in Rachel (Tara Spencer-Nairn, 'Wishmaster 4') plummeting to her death. Carla Engel (Megan Ward, 'Amityville: It's About Time'), deeply ridden with guilt for being unable to save her younger sister, develops a case of acrophobia, thoughts of suicide, and hallucinations of Rachel. Her husband Mark (Billy Burke), the photographer, can only watch as the effects wear her thin.

The remainder of the movie is spent with Carla involved in an experimental therapy group for acrophobics, but members begin to die one by one, falling to their deaths. Is Dr. Sardowski (Terry Kinney, 'Body Snatchers' 1993) killing his patients with his extreme methods? Is Carla scizophrenic like her mother and murdering her group mates? Or perhaps it is Rachel's vengeful spirit, pushing Carla to the breaking point? The only time in which 'Don't Look Down' actually becomes entertaining is near the end. It's meant to be serious, and likely scary, but for viewers with a sense of dark humor it comes off as just funny. Certainly the story has potential, but it's just done so boringly. If you want a good thriller about acrophobia, save yourself the trouble and watch Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' instead. I give it one-and-a-half out of five "flyiiiiing" Rachels.

The blame falls to FEARnet for watching this one, and being January we couldn't pass on this. How many horror movies are there that take place on New Year's Eve, after all? The premise itself seemed sound for a decent '80s slasher flick: a killer calling himself "Evil" (Kip Niven) telephones in on a live, New Year's rock celebration show and tells host Diane "Blaze" Sullivan (Roz Kelly, 'Full Moon High') that he will commit murders at midnight. Yet they still manage to drop the ball on this film. And yes, pun most definitely intended.

"This... is... Eeeviiil!" -- overly exaggerated
tongue curl and all, using a voice distorter

Is a woman in her near-forties really the sex symbol
that would appeal to a teenage demographic?

First, there's the number of plot holes, the biggest being the most obvious. Somehow the murderer manages to drive across four time zones, allotting enough leeway for a killing in each. Just as an example, the shortest distance from Texas (Central) to California (Pacific) would still take approximately eight hours to drive. But our boy begins much further out in the Eastern Time Zone and makes his way to California. Please explain how that would work.

Putting logic aside for the time being, Evil's first target is a nurse working the late shift at the Crawford Sanitarium. Disguising himself as a newly transferred orderly, it's apparent that this was all planned out ahead. Waiting until the midnight countdown before delivering the deathblow to his victim, he records the murder on cassette tape and replays the slaying on air when he telephones in to Diane again. Likewise, Evil uses a similar tactic of donning a disguise and cover story to pick up a pair of women at a bar, whom he records, slays, and replays to the rock show host.

Meanwhile Diane's son, Derek (Grant Cramar, 'Santa Claws'),
exhibits mommy issues as he watches the show from her hotel room.
Why don't you love me, Mommy? Why???

ZOMBIES! SHOOT THEM IN THE HEAD! -- Oh, wait, those are
just ravers. Still... better to be safe. (for real zombie raver action,
watch 'Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave'.)

Disguised as a priest and likely on his way to a third target, a nun whose photograph is seen nearby, Evil accidentally angers a gang of bikers and ensues in a chase. Abandoning his car at a drive-in cinema (playing trailers for 'Blood Feast' and 'Blood Bath'), he steals another with a young woman in the backseat. She, however, manages to escape and the murderer hitches a ride to the hotel where the New Year's rock celebration is being televised. Despite police protection, Evil manages to enter and enact part of his revenge on Diane, which involves her chained to the bottom of a moving elevator. Without revealing too much, we learn that the serial killer has a deeply-rooted grudge against women, explaining the M.O. of female victims. Diane herself is the pinpoint of his personal vendetta and has been appropriately saved for last.

"Please... I'll do anything you want. We can even get it on if you
want to. I won't make any kind of fuss..." -- Is that really the best
thing to say in this situation? Encouraging a potential rape?

Wearing what appears to be a Stan Laurel mask,
it's never explained why Evil dons this near the end.

Unlike most horror/slasher films, however, the police actually prove to be pretty competent. Officers interrupt Evil before he can kill the woman kidnapped in the stolen car and the same happens with Diane. A chase ensues with gunfire exchanged between Evil and the police, leading to the rooftop of the hotel. Cornered, the murderer quotes one of the more famous lines from Shakespeare's Hamlet and jumps to his death. There is more involved with the ending, but that ties in with the spoiler. Needless to say, this isn't the end of Evil. A sequel was never filmed, however, so in reality this would prove to be the end. Probably for the best.

I must admit that I was rather critical of 'New Year's Evil', but having re-watched segments to refresh my memory I found that there were some redeemable qualities. The music, while typical 80's rock performed by bands that would have been forgotten otherwise, was rather catchy. Much, much better than 'The Howling II'. And I swear that Diane's musical introduction to the celebration special sounds like Puscifier's "The Mission". Listen and compare for yourselves if you won't take my word for it. And on a similar note, 'New Year's Evil' occasionally uses a whisper-like "shh-shh-hah-hah" audio string in the background, very similar to the one made famous in the 'Friday the 13th' films. That earns itself a couple brownie points in my book.

All in all, 'New Year's Evil' is a cheesy '80s slasher very typical of the time. It's not great by any means, but it's good for a laugh. And unlike 'Don't Look Down', this won't bore you to tears. I give it two out of five ball drop globes.

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