I have a great love for 1980s slasher movies, possibly more than most any other horror genre. Many independent film companies in recent years have tried to recapture the charm of the slasher movie. Most have fallen short—or simply were missing that strange essence that came from 1970s and 80s film techniques.
The closest modern slasher resurrection I’ve seen is Bloody, Bloody Bible Camp, which was a ridiculously fun film. Still, the spoof elements continually reminded me that the movie was, in fact, not an 1980s slasher, but just a fun homage made by fans of the genre.
However, I still pursue my never-ending quest to find the perfect slasher resurrection.
About a year ago I had the question: Has the 1980s slasher genre ever been captured in a book? Is there a piece of fiction that reads and feels like a classic slasher film?
That was when I conceptualized the idea of a small-press indie-publishing company which focused solely on horror novellas and novels which try to recapture the slasher genre. I worked over the details of how such a company might work, even coming up with the name SlashHouse Fiction. Ultimately, I passed this concept onto a few of my business savvy friends who then ran with it.
The Water Babies by Russell Holbrook is the first publication from this indie-publisher.
Reviewing a book like this is very difficult. Not only am I friends with the author, the editors, and the publishers, but the whole idea for the publishing company was mine. Because of my history with this particular book, I came into The Water Babies with excitement, anticipation, and high expectations.
The story, just like any good slasher film, begins with a group of horny, drinking, smoking teenagers planning a weekend trip into the woods. Each of them excitedly talks about their desire to get laid, to get drunk, and to have an overall good time.
Unfortunately for them, there is a legend about the old woods where they’re planning on visiting. An old covered bridge over the creek is the site of multiple gruesome deaths. The story goes that two young boys who drowned in the creek still come back at night, and if you park on the bridge in the dark, they’ll crawl up from the murky depths and kill whoever has disturbed their domain.
The teens, not caring about the old legend, go and set up camp near the old bridge.
Unfortunately, for them, their trip ends up being far grimmer than they expected.
Now, let me say first and foremost, the plotline and concept behind this story is perfect in almost every way. It blends the slasher genre along with a ghost story very well, creating a spooky atmosphere that eventually deludes down into a boiling cesspit of blood and gore.
Taking an old urban legend that could be familiar to any small town in America, Holbrook mixes in his own devilish and macabre storytelling style to deliver a shocking and rather enjoyable tale.
What else could a horror fan or gore hound ask for?
Of course, the book isn’t without flaws. In fact, there were moments where I found the book was difficult to read due to typos, grammatical errors, repetitive story elements, or choppy sentence structure. Now, as a writer, I am no stranger to these mistakes. Even in professional publications, typos are an inevitable fact of life. However, I simply felt that The Water Babies would have been better served to have gone through at least one or two more proof edits before going to print.
Secondly, the flow of the story was a bit jarring—even confusing—at times. There were moments where the scene had transitioned into a flashback or dream sequence, and I was left wondering if I’d missed something. The change wasn’t seamless and often forced me to stop reading and go back over the previous pages. Additionally, the cast of six main characters blend together at times, making it difficult to figure out who is talking or acting at points.
Lastly, I have one final complaint about the chapter lengths. Some chapters only lasted a page and a half, while others went on for nearly twenty. While most books vary in chapter length, the differentiation in The Water Babies just seemed too drastic. I found myself wondering when a chapter would end, even hoping it would end, when it got too long-winded for its own good. In particular, the flashback to the origin of the murders (which I also felt came too early in the book) was exceedingly long and difficult to sludge through.
All in all, don’t come into The Water Babies expecting the fast-paced storytelling and smooth dialogue of genre masters like Richard Laymon or Edward Lee. The book is an early attempt by an aspiring author looking to get his name out there, and when viewed in that light, the book is fairly enjoyable. Therefore, if you’re interested in giving a new and growing author a try—and you enjoy a fun, gory short read—than give The Water Babies a try. Come in with the right mind-set, and you might just find yourself one enjoyable slasher “movie” experience.
While it still doesn’t quite capture of the magic of the 1980s, it might scratch the itch for a short time.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
For the past few years, the legend of Krampus (also known as the Anti-Santa or Anti-Claus) has rose to popularity in horror culture. This is partially thanks to Michael Dougherty's (of Trick r' Treat fame) 2015 film of the same name. However, today I'm not talking about the feature length film.
Crypt TV, a fan favorite YouTube channel for horror, has just uploaded a short horror film also titled Krampus. In this story, an unruly teen sits unhappily on Christmas Eve as her sweet grandmother and typical middle America parents read The Night Before Christmas. When it come to her turn to read, she has her own sinister spin on the story.
Take one guess that it involves Krampus.
This short video provides a fun bit of holiday horror to wet your taste buds (with blood). There is nothing really special or new here. There isn't even a twist or surprise like many of the Crypt TV videos. However, if you're looking for a very quick horror pick-me-up, this will provide with enough Christmas spirit, blood, and chills, to make you happy--even if only for a second.
Thanks Crypt TV, and Merry Christmas!
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
Chupacabra Territory is put out by Maltauro Entertainment, the same people behind the slasher throwback Bloody, Bloody, Bible Camp (which was a movie I enjoyed thoroughly for its tongue-in-cheek humor and dark biting comedy). Chupacabra Territory takes a different approach to the horror genre. This movie attempts to capture a more serious and realistic tone by using the ever popular—and ever overused—found footage technique.
The real question is, does this movie bring something new or unique to this sub-genre, or does it stick to the roots and formula that have made many other found footage films so popular? (Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, etc.)
The movie begins by introducing the four main characters as they plan to take a camping trip in the Pinewood Forest to hunt the legendary chupacabra. These character’s relationships aren’t exactly clear from the beginning, nor is their reasoning for going on this hunt. At first, the movie presents them as a team of professionals who are filming a documentary about the legend of the chupacabra—and ultimately hope to capture footage of the creature on film. Three of the four team members have professional interest in the project, either for scientific reasons or for the purpose of the documentary itself. However, the fourth member of the party, Morgan, seems to have no real reason to be there besides someone to complain.
Already, this creates some confusion for us as the audience. Why is Morgan even going on this trip? Why are these people choosing to do this documentary at all? What interested them in the legend of the chupacabra?
Unfortunately, the unanswered questions only mount as the film progresses. Instantly, upon arriving in the Pinewood Forest, the film crew is warned by a park ranger to turn around because the trail is closed. The crew members blatantly ignore him and sneak into the forest anyways. This seems illogical since this is a team of supposed professionals.
After this first poor decision, it seems that the logic of the main characters only continues downhill—and any professional film crew or scientist would decide it was safer to leave and take a different approach to the project. In many ways, these types of choices make sense for the horror genre. The characters ultimately make poor decisions that lead to their untimely demise. However, when the characters and their choices are so unrealistic it’s hard to believe, it has the effect to draw us out of the movie.
Still, even with these bumps in the road, this movie has potential to be fun and entertaining. Unfortunately, the one major thing that frustrated me was the lore they built around the chupacabra. I grew up on stories and legends of the real chupacabra and came into this movie with an expectation that the creature presented here would be similar. Instead, the filmmakers took many liberties with the lore.
This isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself, but if they weren’t planning on using at least some of the original legend then why call the creature a chupacabra at all? Why not just call it something else?
The filmmakers created a seemingly complex biology and conspiracy behind the creature in their film which is never explained to us as the audience. The main characters seem to know a lot about the creature and its abilities, but they never talk about it in enough detail for us to really know where any of these facts are coming from. Additionally, they have an old leather bound book that talks all about the chupacabra—but they never say where they got it.
I realize this is a found footage film and that a lot of elements get left in the dark. However, the amount of lore that is just glossed over without a second thought or explanation to us as the audience is almost unacceptable. There are many long and drawn out scenes of the characters just having fun or partying, scenes I felt could have been cut in favor of a more balanced story and a clearer explanation of the creature.
However, it wasn’t all bad. There were a few great moments in the film—moments that made me either gasp or groan in pain. Now, it’s nothing like watching a Saw film, but there was fun kill scenes. In particular, the first attack on the neighboring campers was enjoyable and the final attack at the end of the movie was great as well. The filmmakers did a good job of making the creature seem menacing with its glowing eyes in the dark and the brief glimpses of it leaping through the trees.
It also helps that many of the actors were good at playing their parts, despite how annoying their character may be. I particularly enjoyed the main character, Joe, because he seemed the most realistic of the people. He reminded me of many friends I have had through the years.
Ultimately, Chupacabra Territory is a film that tries hard, but fails in many areas. The pacing is a little slow, the lore doesn’t match the real chupacabra, and a lot of the “conspiracy” isn’t ever explored in detail. However, a few entertaining moments and some decent acting help bring the movie up a few notches. If you enjoy found footage or backwoods horror movies, maybe give this one a try. Just don’t expect anything spectacular (or any real understanding of the creature) if you do.
RATING: 2 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
Welcome to Occult Concept, a journalistic website and blog providing reviews, promotions, news, and interviews, for the cult and independent horror community. Previously known as A Slice of Horror, this blog's main focus is on helping independent and lesser known directors, film companies, authors, and publishing houses reach more members of the indie and cult horror community.
With the ever growing number of obscure horror films and books on the market, I feel a need to provide a collection of helpful and detailed reviews, news articles, and promotions to the independent community and it's fans. This site is your horror haunt for reviews and news about those films, books, and companies that are harder to pin down. You can visit the Archive page to see all of my old reviews.
I love to work with artists, filmmakers, publishers, production companies, and authors to promote new and upcoming projects in the horror genre. If you are interested in having your work featured or reviewed on Occult Concept please send me a message via the contact page.
Who Am I?
My name is N.C. Patterson and I am the creator and writer here on Occult Concept. I have been an active member of the indie horror community for over six years, providing services as a professional writer, editor, blogger, and book publicist.
I previously ran this website under the name A Slice of Horror. It was a passion project to help reach out to the community I loved. Creators of every walk of life--including filmmakers, authors, publishers, and more--contacted me to be featured on this blog. Companies ranging from small businesses like Slasher Studios and Wild Eye Releasing to larger ones such as Anchor Bay and TOR publishing were among the many that I worked with.
During that time, I also acted as editor-in-chief for a small non-profit horror magazine titled WitchWorks Magazine Ltd. I worked with new and fresh voices in the horror genre to create quarterly anthologies of short stories. Undergraduate and intern editors helped to bring this project to life.
Now, after a short hiatus from the horror community, I felt it was finally time to resurrect my horror blog under a new name--Occult Concept. To learn more about me, my writing, and my work, please visit www.ncpatterson.com
Occult Concept is a horror blog and podcast focusing on cult cinema from the 70s and 80s as well as fiction in a similar vein. We are also a publisher of indie horror fiction in the genres of occult, paranormal, and sci-fi.