Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: Diary of a Madman

The Story: While talking with a convicted murderer who may or may not be insane, a town magistrate is attacked by the man and accidentally kills the murderer while defending himself. Soon he is haunted by strange sights and a haunting voice, similar to what the murderer claimed happened to him, and must find out what is tormenting him and how to stop it.

My Thoughts: This film is fairly obscure, but it’s well-made, combining veteran horror actor Vincent Price with a unique premise that is handled effectively. The villain, while not quite up there with one of the “big names” of horror like Dracula, is none-the-less one of the more memorable antagonists that the genre has seen.

I was pleasantly surprised that the film weaves spiritual themes into the story, most prominently the way that the villain is able to get a hold on many of his potential victims due to their sin opening them up to his influence. One character wisely concludes that the evil in our hearts, if we follow it, can be just as dangerous as a horror villain.

Content Overview: Some scariness and mild violence. One scene involving a stabbing is more intense than usual for an old horror movie of this sort. A few subtle references to sexual immorality occur.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

The Story: In the early twentieth century, a British man agrees on a whim to go on a boat trip with a sailing fanatic he hardly knows, and while their personalities and different backgrounds cause them to clash at first, they soon become good friends. As they look into some odd circumstances that nearly got the sailor killed, they realize that they may have stumbled onto a German scheme to invade England, and decide to find out if their suspicions are justified.

My Thoughts: While this book starts out a bit slow, the lively writing style keeps things interesting, and soon the pace picks up. Sometimes the lengthy nautical details were dull, but I found them easy to skim over without losing track of the story. The mystery is complicated, and while some elements of it are shaky, overall I was impressed at how the author wove everything together.

This novel is often considered the first spy thriller, and it holds up well to the test of the time, despite some archaic aspects. The author’s real life love of sailing can be clearly seen, particularly in one of the main characters, which fills the story with his enthusiasm for the subject and makes it believable and fun. It’s a worthwhile read for thriller fans who don’t mind an older style of writing.

Content Overview: Some mild foul language and mild violence.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movie Review: Jumanji

The Story: Many years apart, two friends and two siblings find a game and start playing it, unaware that it contains an evil force. Circumstances cause all four of them to wind up in the same round, and as the game unleashes all sorts of dangers, their only hope is to finish the round so that they can reach the end and escape the game’s influence.

My Thoughts: As a fantasy author, I greatly enjoyed the unique premise of this movie. Watching the world of the game and the real world intersect in spectacular ways keeps things exciting, and while some critics have bashed this film for being nothing more than an interesting idea propped up with a lot of special effects, it’s much more than that.

The four main characters, two of whom have been deeply scarred by life, and two of whom have been deeply scarred by the game, discover the importance of facing what haunts them, and being courageous and selfless in life. Their journey through the elaborate and frightening challenges that the game throws at them gives this film a heart that makes it well worth seeing.

Content Overview: Occasional mild language, slightly more than usual for a family film. The violence and scariness are mild, but might bother some children.