Movie Review: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

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Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (4K UHD) [Blu-ray]
Starring Michael Pare;Udo Kier;Barbara Crampton;Thomas Lennon;Jenny Pellicer;Nelson Franklin;Charlyne Yi

This past Friday, horror film magazine Fangoria made its cinematic debut, ahead of its return to print in October, as one of the producers of Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. Launching with a limited theatrical release and wider distribution for rent or purchase on VOD platforms, the release encountered one significant SNAFU as etailer giant Amazon released the title for purchase for only 99 cents through its streaming video service. 

Written by S. Craigh Zahler, The Littlest Reich takes the concept and characters originated by Charles Band over the course of the franchise's prior twelve installments and reboots the story, making this entry the perfect starting point for newcomers. Although I'd been aware of the Puppet Master movies for a good, long while now, I'd never actually seen one. Having Zahler on screenwriting duties was enough to pique my interest though. I loved his horror-western flick Bone Tomahawk, which he wrote and directed, and tapping him to write a movie about maniacal killer puppets was a guaranteed way to get my butt in a seat to watch this. Amazon's screw-up only helped to ensure I was absolutely going to watch it.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a thinly plotted, low budget gorefest that eschews deep and meaningful characterizations in favor of brutal kills and a few doses of T&A. It's also one of the most entertaining diversions I've ever spent 99 cents on, and I can happily say I got my money's worth. This is a fun, silly, utterly ridiculous bit of pulpy midnight theater. 

After crossing paths with Andre Toulon, a Nazi who escaped to America, a lesbian couple is savagely murdered by possessed dolls. The responding officers track the killers to Toulon's mansion (exactly how they deduced that puppet maker Toulon was behind the murder is something the script skirts by in order to get to the action) and kill him. Thirty years later, in the present-day, Toulon's mansion has become a museum exhibit and an auction of his belongings are slated for that weekend. Edgar (Thomas Lennon), a comic book writer and artist, lost his brother to mysterious circumstances as a child, and hopes to sell his Toulon puppet for some quick cash. Tagging along for the weekend getaway are his new girlfriend, Ashley (Jenny Pellicer), and pal Markowitz (Nelson Franklin). The gang checks into a hotel stocked with a number of guests, many of whom are also looking to auction their puppets. 

It's a simple set-up, and the hotel setting gives us plenty of potential victims, many of whom were unwittingly thoughtful enough to bring their own reanimating object of demise. Once the guests are all checked in and we're given enough background on Toulon's hard-core Nazism and occult tendencies (we're also given Toulon's backstory during the movie's opening credit sequence, told in colorfully comic book-like fashion that's totally aces) by the mansion's tour guide, played by Scream Queen Barbara Crampton, we're off to the races.

 Source: IMDB

Source: IMDB

The Littlest Reich is cheaply made, but whatever money went into the production is readily apparent in the buckets of blood decorating the hotel sets and just about every single cast member along the way. The practical effects are lovingly done, sparing not an ounce of squirm-inducing gore to bring the creative kills to life. While it's easy to spot the mannequin stand-ins on occasion, odds are you'll be too entertained to care about some of the movie's chintzier moments, which the film more than makes up for with sheer outrageousness. The killer Nazi puppets are brought to life through stop-motion, and are wholly unsympathetic antagonists in possession of a singular goal: kill everyone.

It's a sad fact of life that in modern America, Nazis are seemingly everywhere - they're in the White House, they're running for Congress and local government seats, they're marching outside WorldCon 76, they're holding rallies all over the place. The Littlest Reich is, if nothing else, certainly timely (there's even an amphibian puppet that seems a clear nod to the alt-right's hate symbol of Pepe the Frog) and none are safe. Zahler, and directors Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, check all the potential victim boxes - gays, blacks, Jews, Asians, a gypsy, men, women, and children all serve as fodder for Toulon's puppets, who drill their way through walls and ceilings, fly through windows, and race down hallways to bludgeon, beat, stab, and set aflame their victims. None are safe, few are spared, and it's fun to see these little Nazi bastards get their comeuppance in a few welcome scenes of just desserts during the flick's finale.

It's clear Cinestate, Fangoria's new owners, intend to rejuvenate the Puppet Master franchise, and they're off to a solidly fun start with this reboot. It's not high-art in the classical sense, nor, really, is it a good movie in any sense, but in terms of animated Nazi puppets going on a vicious kill spree it certainly delivers on its schlocky premise. This sucker is all kinds of hammy, splattery, low-brow, B-movie fun and Zahler pens a few scenes that are delightfully inventive, and at least one moment that is startlingly, wickedly obscene in its execution. Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich is a gloriously cheesy, delightfully profane, and welcomingly sick. It's easily the most rewarding and funnest 99c movie I've ever watched. 

Final rating (out of 5):


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Review: Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell

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My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Family vacations weren't something I looked forward to as a kid. My parents had this weird idea that going out of state to visit malls was somehow a vacation, and so many summers as a youth were spent in various cities, sitting in various chairs inside various Nordstrom's, Sax Fifth Avenue's, and Ann Taylor's, bored out of my mind and either staring off into space trying not to drool on myself, or whiling away too many hours reading while my mother leisurely scoured the clothing racks for the same discounted articles she could have bought at home.

Spending Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach felt rather similar to the family vacations of my childhood. A whole lot of time was spent doing a whole lot of nothing, trying not to drool on myself as my mind wandered, wishing I was somewhere else, doing something else.

Ramsey Campbell is a fine writer; he's won the Lifetime World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, the Grand Master Award of the World Horror Convention, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Horror Writers Association. He has an impressive bibliography, make no mistake, and I would be sorely mistaken to besmirch his talents as a professional author. I must admit, however, that Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach is simply not for me.

I'm a bit of an introvert (ha, "a bit." Yeah, right.) and family drama is just one of the many various reasons I have for avoiding as many family get-togethers as I can. Thirteen Days is all about the family drama, although it has some minor, barely-there paranormal aspects that Campbell plays around with, giving us hints of and peeks at. I'm also not one for slow-burn horror stories. Yes, I dig good, three dimensional characters, but I also like my gore and unrelenting terror. I like it fast and dirty, and Campbell plays it slow and clean, far too much so for my tastes.

I found too much of this book to be plodding and excruciating, hoping that each of its next too-long chapters might finally posit an actual event or occurrence. Every time Campbell peels back the curtain, such as during the family's visit to the ruins of a monastery, and I think, "Aha! Finally, we're getting somewhere! Some action, some monsters, something!" the curtain limply and unceremoniously falls back into place. There's no energy here, no tension, no suspense, and worst of all, absolutely no surprises. The horror element, if one can call it that, is about as old and recycled as they come, and the secret reason for this family vacation to Greece will be suspected instantaneously by readers despite how many chapters Campbell drags it out for. Sadly, Thirteen Days never rises above being simply mundane.

While there are interesting thoughts on aging and dying, and the local legends of the island of Vasilema, and the various possibilities of extending one's life in exchange for certain sacrifices, none of it has any real weight and certainly no payoff, particularly in light of how prolonged it all is. We're treated to two or three scenes that demonstrate some real potential for chills and the promise of a better story, and no sooner than that are we whisked away to a trip to another beach, another bus ride, a supermarket, or a taverna to eavesdrop on this family and their arguments over tips, parenting styles, and more than a few dashes of ethnocentrism from the arrogant and insufferable Julian. Dear lord, how many pages and hours I spent waiting and hoping for Julian to meet his grisly end in savagely satisfying ways...

For me, thirteen days is simply too long to spend with this family, and now that our trip together is finally over I'm grateful to be going our separate ways.

[Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this title from the publisher, Flame Tree Press.]

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Review: Gate Crashers by Patrick S. Tomlinson [audiobook]

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Gate Crashers
By Patrick S. Tomlinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My original GATE CRASHERS audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

First contact scenarios are a common enough trope in science fiction, but Patrick S. Tomlinson manages to inject a bit of freshness and fun, and more than a few dashes of silliness, into mankind’s discovery of intelligent life out amongst the stars.

Gate Crashers feels at times like an ode to Star Trek (Tomlinson’s Captain Ridgeway of the Magellan being only a hairsbreadth away from Voyager’s Janeway, while Bucephalus‘s Captain Tiberius, a dashing man of action in and out of the bedroom, draws an obvious parallel to one James Tiberius Kirk), replete with a few away missions for our band of cosmonauts that see them tangling with strange new worlds, new life, and new civilizations, boldly going where plenty of aliens have already been before.

Despite there being a certain degree of familiarity baked in, Tomlinson still manages to do his own thing and brings in shiploads of fun along the way, playing a lot of Earth’s first expedition into deep space for laughs. The discovery of an alien artifact by the Magellan’s crew kicks off a wave of scientific advancement, as well as the emergence of an artifact worshiping cult, back on Earth. This latter development is particularly preposterous given the fairly mundane nature of the alien device, and this sense of grandiose discovery for mankind, of things that are commonplace for the galaxy’s alien races, becomes a significant theme that recurs throughout the book. There’s a fun bit of interplay between expectations of discovery and the reality of their situation, but Tomlinson injects plenty of high-stakes action, political machinations, tabloid sensationalism, and world-destroying perils along the way. The threats to mankind are deadly serious, and despite some scenes overloaded with attention-killing technobabble, the story floats along with a good degree of jubilation. Not every joke landed just right for me, but I found myself laughing along with Tomlinson’s wit more often than not. One pun about being a “seasoned veteran” still tickles me, in fact, well after having finished my listen of Gate Crashers.

While the writing is bent toward the comedic, Alyssa Bresnahan’s narration is, unfortunately, largely straight-forward. While she does an admirable job bringing the various characters to life, injecting each member of the Magellan and Bucephalus with their own distinct quirks and voices, her reading is oftentimes much too serious given the tone of the material. Quite a few times, I found myself wondering how Gate Crashers would have sounded with a narrator like Wil Wheaton at the helm, who could capture the irreverence of this particular story and Tomlinson’s writing, much as he had for several of John Scalzi’s audiobooks. Bresnahan’s narration is perfectly adept during this book’s more serious moments, and I’d like to listen to her reading a work that isn’t so reliant on humor, but she too often misses the author’s comedic beats and plays too much of a straight man to Tomlinson’s silliness. On the production end of thing, Bresnahan’s reading comes through crystal clear and Gate Crashers is another finely recorded audiobook from Recorded Books.

Gate Crashers is a fun, witty, feel-good listen, one in which its author has carefully balanced freshness and familiarity while giving us some much-welcomed insight into humanity’s perseverance and ingenuity, and more than a few well-timed fist-pumping heroics as Earth’s most evolved apes outwit far more advanced alien races by the skin of their teeth. If there are more voyages in Megellan’s future, well, beam me up! Or freeze-dry, vaporize, shift, and reconstitute me. Or whatever the hell it is they do around here…

[Note: audiobook provided for review by the audiobookreviewer.com]

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Review: Behind the Door by Mary SanGiovanni

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Biblical meaning of the name Zarephath is "ambush of the mouth." Appropriate, given that much of the horror in Mary SanGiovanni's Behind the Door is rooted in unspoken secrets.

Deep in the woods of Zarephath, PA stands a mysterious structure, the Door, framed in stone, its wood banded in metal. It opens to an alien landscape of a gray ocean and a enormous tower, a land populated by strange and evil creatures. Opening the Door is verboten - it is the one thing every man, woman, and child in Zarephath knows. You do not open the Door.

The Door, however, can grant wishes to those who dare to visit it. Properly worded, a letter detailing an individual's wants can be slipped through the thin crack at the bottom edge of the Door and their desires fulfilled within three days. But the urge to open the Door is strong, and after a single soul seeking a change in their life succumbs to pleas of "them beyond" the Door and briefly opens it, Zarephath is plunged into a nightmare. The wishes the Door has granted are being reversed, and after being haunted by the dead of his past, ex-Sheriff Bill Grainger calls on occultist Kathy Ryan to seal the Door forever.

Right off the bat, I was sucked into Behind the Door. SanGiovanni details the history and folklore of the Door, introducing us to the central figures of her small fictional town. We get an immediate sense of her characters, their afflictions, their flaws, as well as their relationships and their growing awareness of the Door and the evils that have crept through. This intimate overview of Zarephath and our protagonists reminded me, in some ways, of John Connolly and Stephen King, and SanGiovanni lulled me deeply into her narrative with deceptive, masterful ease. Her prose is crisp and tight, and the details are shared with such keen interest that it's impossible not to be absorbed.

Although it takes a while for series lead Kathy Ryan (first seen in 2016's Chills and very briefly mentioned in last year's Savage Woods) to appear, SanGiovanni at least gives us plenty of meat in other areas to chew on. Once Ryan finally sets foot in Zarephath, it's a headlong collision with Lovecraftian cosmic horrors and a race to the finish. SanGiovanni is flat-out an excellent Lovecraftian horror author, and she brings all the tentacled goods to the yard here. There's a particularly strong scene involving the discovery of a pair of corpses in a garage that, when Ryan prompts one of officers to turn over one of the prone bodies, had me softly muttering to my Kindle, "No, no, no, no, no." It's a wonderful bit of gross-out material, and the toll the Door begins to take on the townsfolk is a nicely horrifying discovery.

Ryan is a flat-out excellent series character, and I've been rooting for her return ever since I finished Chills a couple years back. She's a strong and capable master of the occult, and it's refreshing to see SanGiovanni's largely male cast treat her with the respect she's due. Perhaps it's wishful thinking to believe that a group of alpha male police officers and butch townies can treat a woman, even one with such specialized talents as Ryan's, as an equal whose abilities go unquestioned with nary a trace of mansplaining. But given that our Cheeto-In-Chief was, on the morning of this writing, taking to Twitter to call one of his former female staffers a dog, I'll gladly take it. Such an idealized portrayal of men easily and respectfully accepting the abilities and knowledge of women as equal, if not superior, to their own is not only welcome, but certainly necessary in these times. Maybe such a fair and balanced representation of the sexes is SanGiovanni's attempt to write her wishes into existence in the hopes that the Door can fulfill them. Or maybe it's just nice to read more into the text than was intended. If I can wish for something from this particular Door, however, it's for the return of Kathy Ryan, and soon. She's a character with plenty of staying power, and I hope to be reading many more volumes of her adventures in the years to come.

[Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this title from the publisher, Kensington, via NetGalley.]

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Review: Rattus New Yorkus by Hunter Shea

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although humans are at the top of the food chain, we believe we're the dominant species on Earth largely only through our own hubris, and often to our own peril. In the genre of natural horror, this is often the predominant theme, and being too smart for our own good more often than not meets with disaster. Urban legend has it that there are five times as many rats as people populating the boroughs of New York City, while scientific estimates place the rat census at approximately 24% of the human population. Even at this much lower end, it's safe to say that's a lot of rats.

Rats are prime fodder for scary stories. They carried the plague, after all, and are host to a number of diseases, like rabies, salmonella, leptospirosis, and some even carry hantavirus. They've been the subject of horror books and movies - James Herbert wrote a series of novels about these suckers beginning with The Rats, and their celluloid exploits have scared audiences aplenty in Willard, Of Unknown Origin, and The Food of the Gods - but if you really want your blood to curdle, check out Morgan Spurlock's real-life horror documentary, Rats. Hell, just the trailer alone should make you shiver! These rapidly scurrying, long-tailed critters with those sharp incisors built just for gnawing can be frightening critters in the right hands...or even worse in the wrong hands.

Hunter Shea introduces us to New York exterminators Chris and Benny (or Benita if one must be formal), former spouses and now somewhat uncomfortable co-workers, as they take to the streets to test a brand-new rodenticide, Degenesis, which promises to control Manhattan's rat problem with maximum efficiency and efficacy. I probably don't need to tell you that it doesn't work, or that it ends up doing exactly the opposite of what its developer, Dr. Finch, promised. Oversexed and hyper-aggressive, the city's rats are ready to challenge mankind for ownership of the Big Apple.

When he's not delivering emotionally loaded whoppers like Creature, Shea writes fun, highly entertaining, playful creature features. Rattus New Yorkus falls firmly into the latter camp with Shea delivering a tight, perfectly sized, single-serving novella-length story. Chris, our first-person narrator, is New York through and through, delivering sarcastic responses and one-liners no matter the situation, while pining over his lost love. Since the story is confined to Chris's headspace, we don't get to know Benny except through him, but Shea gives us some nice flashes of insight into her personality and their lives together on the job, as well as a decent idea what their marriage had been like. The first person narration serves the story well, though, limiting the viewpoints on any given scene solely to Chris's observations and keeps things moving along pretty rapidly.

The human protagonists are a nice touch, but it's the rats that are the main attraction. After Degenesis fails spectacularly, Chris and Benny have more than their fair share of close calls and near misses as New York's rat population explodes exponentially all across town, turning into an uncontrollable calamity. I had a hunch Rattus New Yorkus was going to be right up my alley, and this suspicion was nicely solidified during an underground encounter roughly halfway through that made the hairs on my arms stand on end. From that point on, Shea charges firmly ahead toward a battle for the ages that will prove once and for all who's in charge - man or beast?

If that's not enough to sweeten the deal, there's a bevy of flamethrower action during the book's climax that rat haters are sure love. For the rat lovers out there, there's plenty of squirm inducing chompy-chomps on unsuspecting victims and tidal waves of rodents scouring the streets (waitaminute, tidal waves of rodents? I better jot that down. Could be the next Sharknado!).

[Note: I received an advanced reading copy of this title from the publisher, Kensington/Lyrical Underground, via NetGalley.]

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Fan Art!

I don't often receive fan art from readers, but when I do it's always deeply rewarding. It's a great feeling to know that a reader has appreciated one of my stories so much that they, in turn, are moved and inspired to create their own art in tribute. The following book cover animations were created by one of my Twitter followers, @JoeStalksBeck - check out this bit of awesomeness!

@JoeStalksBeck has a whole series of videos animating various book covers of some of her favorite reads over on YouTube. It's definitely worth a look

Thank you so much @JoeStalksBeck!


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Review: The Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let's cut right to the quick - The Mouth of the Dark is weird. Seriously weird. Like bug-fuck, batshit crazy weird. Tim Waggoner revels in weirdness here, revealing new layers of oddities and arcane horrors on nearly every page. Yes, it keeps the book moving, which is exactly what you want in a narrative whose timespan is so firmly compressed (the events of The Mouth of the Dark take place within about 24-48 hours or so), but hot damn is it ever weird.

Weird isn't a bad thing, though, and it's one of the central selling points behind The Mouth of the Dark. On its surface, it's about a man searching for his missing daughter. As these types of stories often require, the father takes a trip down a wickedly dark rabbit hole and uncovers a secret world, in this case Shadow. Existing alongside our own daily rigamarole, only a certain special few can see Shadow and the peculiar life lurking within. There's green-gloved men who eat paper covered in hot sauce, couples who eat dogs, and a horrifying entity called The Harvest Man. The Harvest Man has breath that can kill - breathe out, and a black cloud envelops his victim. Breathe back in, and the victim turns to ash. He's like a wickedly fucked up Lamaze teacher with a case of halitosis cranked to 11. Oh, and there's also killer sex toys that sprout tentacles to help users rub one out while asphyxiating them.

Jayce discovers all these things in pretty short order, and Waggoner continually assaults him and us readers with new information and odd-ball scenarios on the regular. Discovery is the name of the game here, and in searching for the absent Emory, Jayce keeps finding more and more dark corners to peek into and only barely survive. Some of these corners involve the secrets of Shadow, while others pertain to his own buried and forgotten past, and nearly every single one of them posits some intriguing bit of fantastical horror. Others are a bit more personal, and frankly Jayce is kind of a creeper when all is said and done, what with his strangely frequent musings on his daughter's sex life and what potential kinks she may get off on. This struck an odd, disquieting note with me. Although Jayce isn't incestuous, he simply seems to let his mind wander down some off-beat tracks and Waggoner is content to let it flow, eschewing any darker aspects between father and daughter, thank goodness.

The Mouth of the Dark largely succeeds on the merits of its strangeness. I will admit I'm not a fan of fantasy lit, and by extension a lot of urban fantasy, which runs wild here in more horrifying and perverse forms. Waggoner throws readers directly into the deep-end, right alongside Jayce, and it takes some time to get oriented to the parallel Shadow reality running alongside our own. Frankly, I struggled quite a bit to suspend my disbelief early on, but as I wised up to Waggoner's game I was better able to appreciate the story. It didn't quite satisfy me, particularly the resolution, which felt like a rush to the exit, but it didn't disappoint either. Waggoner has one hell of an imagination, and at times The Mouth of the Dark feels like an episode of Fringe if Clive Barker had gotten his hands on the screenplay. I definitely can't complain about that, and any story that features homicidal sex toys will always be worth a read as far as I'm concerned.

[Note: I received an advance reading copy of The Mouth of the Dark from the publisher, Flame Tree Press.]

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Review: Creature by Hunter Shea

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hunter Shea knows all about horror. An author with a score of books to his name, podcaster for Monster Men and The Final Guy, and writer of Video Vision posts for Cemetery Dance, all point toward a man who has lived and breathed the horror genre since he was a boy. He knows and writes about cryptids, ghosts, crazed killer animals, and plenty more in-between. But he also knows about real horror, true horror, like when your body begins to fail and suffer from a handful of maladies, any of which on their own could be fatal, the person slowly degenerating into a life that is more misery and pain than anything else.

Kate suffers from a host of autoimmune disorders and lives in a state of chronic pain. Her joints slip out of their sockets with painful regularity and a mason jar filled to the brim with her daily regiment of pills sits on the nightstand beside the bed she only rarely leaves. Her husband, Andrew, is her caretaker, reliant on his dayjob to provide them with the medical benefits that help keep her alive, although the specter of chemotherapy is an ever-present threat, as are worries of emergency surgeries and cardiac arrest.

Kate doesn't get to enjoy her life very much. Mostly, her only company consists of her small dog, Buttons, and classic black-and-white movies on television or her computer tablet. Frustrated by his lack of time with her, and a growing dissatisfaction with work, Andrew takes a leave of absence and rents a lakeside cottage in Maine for the two of them to enjoy and while away their summer. He hopes the change of scenery will help, and that, just maybe, Kate can enjoy some sun and sand.

Their arrival, unfortunately, doesn't exactly go as planned. There's something in the woods surrounding their summer retreat. Strange, violently loud animal cries awaken them in the middle of the night, along with the noise of rocks pelting the house as whatever is out there attempts to lure them outside. What began as a hope for escape soon grows into a dire struggle for survival as the creature in the woods, and the monsters within Kate's own body, threaten to kill them.

Right from the very beginning of Creature it's clear that Shea has plenty of first-hand experience dealing with severe, chronic medical disorders. As it happens, his own wife suffers from afflictions similar to Kate's, and Creature oftentimes feels like a highly autobiographical work. It's honest and unflinching in its depictions of struggle from the perspective of both the afflicted and the partner cum caretaker. When they were dating, neither Kate nor Andrew expected their marriage to take the direction it has, and there's an ever-present sense of loss over the things that could, and should, have been. But there's also an overriding sense of love and compassion for one another, a love that has borne them through the worst of things and will carry them along no matter how grim things get. They manage to carve out moments of happiness, but still bicker and fight when emotional currents run high.

Kate and Andrew aren't a perfect couple, but they work well with what they've been given, and Shea does an excellent job portraying the reality of their relationship, warts and all. He bleeds onto each and every page, imbuing this couple and their shared life with a perfect sense of well-lived in realism. When drawing so heavily on personal experience, once might be inclined to glamorize the characters involved or tack on overly saccharine sentimentalities, but I never got that sense here. Kate and Andrew never struck me as being drawn in any way other than completely and utterly honest, and oftentimes to heartbreaking effect. Kate's disorders are awfully severe and it's impossible to not sympathize with her constant ordeals, and Andrew's by extension.

By now, you're probably wondering about the titular creature. I've spent an awful lot of time here discussing the people, but not the monster. Monsters, of course, are Shea's bread and butter! I can only say, have no worry, because Creature's creature is absolutely present, but oftentimes in omnipresent ways. We hear the creature and see the aftermath of its visits for a good long while before we're presented with it in a fully in-your-face appearance on the page. Creature is a slow-burn, one that constantly builds its way toward a grand climax, and Shea meticulously places the various pieces of his frightfest with careful deliberation.

Shea is more widely known for his fun, gloriously violent, B-movie inspired creature feature romps. Creature is a bit of a departure from stories like Megalodon in Paradise or Jurassic, Florida, but readers who came to Shea by way of We Are Always Watching will have a grand idea of what to expect here. This isn't a mile a minute gorefest, but it packs in a number of scares that are absolute powerhouses thanks to their authenticity and realism. Creature is a slower, characters-first work of horror, but make no mistake, Shea certainly delivers on the horror and in a number of particularly gut-churning, all too-human ways.

[Note: I received an advance reading copy of this title from the publisher, Flame Tree Press.]

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