Friday, November 7, 2014

Dracula at MPC

First, a word of caution: I have a warped sense of humor. Am I clear on that? Good? Let me continue-

The Holiday Ham was served a little bit early this year- MPC's production of Dracula ramps up the camp with snarling vampires wearing teased hair, modern "Goth" sensibilities, and plenty of stage make-up for the Halloween season. Necks aren't the only things to get chewed up in this melodrama as the cast revels in performances that are mostly way over the top- but in a good way. It's obvious most of the actors are having fun with their performances and it keeps the energy going through most of the show when the exposition threatens to drag the pace down at points-

 James Brady totally nails the role of Professor Van Helsing, a man of medicine and the occult who arrives at Dr. Seward's (Dale Thompson) sanitarium to answer a call for aid. The good doctor's intended has recently passed away and her friend is now suffering the same symptoms. It doesn't take long to track down that the problem is a significant loss of blood and that Van Helsing may know more than he initially reveals. Complicating issues are the insane ramblings of a resident lunatic with the name of "Renfield", whose dialogue is magnificently chewed up by Matt Pardue in another highlight performance. The most effective scenes of the show are when Van Helsing is forced to match wits with the lunatic, and I had a blast watching those two characters play off one another.

The titular character- that's what you all really want to know about, right? Well, Matthew Pavelis tackles the role with incredible enthusiasm and great energy. He snarls, he growls, and he chews up the dialogue with an Eastern European accent while strutting around the stage on huge platform boots and swishing his cape. There are huge moments of exaggerated menace that plays straight to the audience and it never lets up. He successfully channels Bela Legosi and Gary Oldman (The set design and general look of the show seems to show a strong affinity for the Coppola film), so it works on those levels.

This isn't the Dracula I know and I love, though. Names are changed, characters shifted, and events transpire out the usual sequence. I'm not a stickler for a faithful rendering of the classic novel, however. My favorite Dracula film remains the Hammer production (which is not at all faithful, but if you're expecting something closer to the novel then at least be forewarned. Lucy (Westfall, here, rather than Westenra) switches places with Mina in the order of victimization- and the suitors are reduced to only Dr. Seward and Jonathan Harker, respectively. We have Abram Van Helsing father than Abraham, and so on so forth. All the changes don't need to be mentioned, sufficed to say that they're present and so you should be prepared.

4 out of 5.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Some Deadte Press Books I recently got: Wooohooo! BOOKS!

I’ve recently broken down and taken to ordering a few items here and there from Amazon- which is to say, there are no bookstores nearby that sell new releases, much less carry an individual “Horror” section for those of inclined toward literary bloodletting and terror. I don’t get a chance to catch up on my favorite authors all that often and so many of my “reviews” of these sort may be a bit old- but I’m an avid reader and tend to mow through books with a voracious appetite for the especially sick and twisted. So buckle yourselves in for a quick jaunt through my recent finds:

The Innswhich Horror: By Edward Lee

Edward Lee is considered one of the genre’s sickest writers. And when he decided to tackle some Lovecraft, I eagerly leaped at his “Travel Journal” book- but the one I really wanted to read was based entirely on the title; “The Innswhich Horror” brings to mind the very crux of Lovecraftian lore- the towns of Dunwich and Innsmouth with a little nod to the familiar strain of titles in the genre. I didn’t really care what the book was about, I just loved the title-

This book could read as a sequel of sorts to his previous “Journal” effort, this time following a devotee of the writer as he traces the “Master’s” path throughout New England. He comes a town that shares far too much in common with the protagonists beloved “Innsmouth” and he discovers that not all of Lovecrafts’ amazing tale was one of fiction. There are certainly changes since the Masters’ last visit and visceral gore replaces some of the atmospheric purple prose of Lovecraft’s style, but the story moves along at a quick pace and delivers the goods so far as the gore and blood and disturbing imagery are concerned. My one concern is that I don’t feel as though I had enough time with the lead characters to form a connection. There was something missing here that wasn’t missing in the much shorter “Journal” and felt a little rushed. I still enjoyed the story, but would’ve preferred more “bang” for my buck.

3 out of 5.

Last of the Albatwitches : By Brian Keene

I love love LOVE Brian Keene, even if I do find his work to be an exercise in suffering and total masochism on my part. The guy tears me apart with his prose and renders me little more than a gibbering fool by the time I’ve finished most of his stories. But ever since he left the crappy publishing company that screwed him over on royalties and went to Deadite (which upped the price of nearly every title I already had and any forthcoming by maybe a little more than 50%) it’s been hard to catch up on his latest outings. But I was eager to catch up on the adventures of his recurring “Powwow” Wizard and former Amish-man, Levi Stolzfus.

And talk about wishing for more “Bang” in my buck- Levi appears in two short stories here, fighting a demon in the first and then facing one of the erstwhile terrors from Keene’s previous effort in “Castaways”. And what we have here are the beginnings of a better story, but not enough to justify spending $12 on a paperback book. $3 less and I might not have such a negative opinion of the book- but it’s that $10.00 limit that just sort of sticks in my craw and leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth for the little bit of income I can afford in keeping books in my hands.

“The Witching Tree” is the first story and is the better of the two as we find Levi doing what he does best- fighting evil. We see what he’s willing to do, the cost he’s willing to pay, the doubt in his heart, and the fear that leads him to make what might be the biggest mistake in his career as a “Mean MF’in Man of God” (quote to Tarantino via “From Dusk Til Dawn”). I loved this story and would’ve enjoyed a second chapter in the longer tale-

“The Last of the Albatwitches”- however, only peripherally continues the story as Levi is forced to deal with the consequences of his actions in the previous story. The focus, however, is on the hunt for a monster baddy straight out of the pages of a previous work from Keene (“Castaways”). This monster escapes from Captivity and Levi tracks it down- there are some passing references to a Pennsylvania legend known as the “Albatwitch”- a creature I am wholly unfamiliar with despite having grown up in and around the New York area and not so far from Pennsylvania Amish country. So I’m not entirely certain whether this creature is a creation of the writer or if this thing (A close cousin to Big Foot, by description) is a real legend from the back country. Be that as it may, the story felt a little rushed and maybe a little lighter than many I’ve read from the Pennsylvania native.

3 out of 5.

There are a few other titles I’d like to read from Deadite Press, but the problem is that these books cost money that I just don’t have available to me. It seems the titles are almost half the price in Kindle format, but that means purchasing an electronic device for the sole purpose of purchasing a product. I’ll probably come to terms with it eventually, but it still grates in my engine block.