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  • Writer's pictureCandace Nola

Random Review Fridays!


Today, we have two guest author reviews. One is from author and poet Anton Cancre, who brings us a review of CAMP DAMASCUS by Chuck Tingle.


The other is from author Reed Alexander, who sent in his review of the 2020 movie, CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

 

Camp Damascus, by Chuck Tingle (Nightfire). 246 pages. $24.99 Hardback. $13.99 ebook

Review by Anton Cancre


I've been a huge fan of Chuck Tingle for years. Sure, you know him for the weird ass erotica with Bigfoot and Handsome Billionaire Jetplanes, but his non-pounding books are brilliant, those Select Your Own Timeline fantasies are top notch fantasy and Straight… Straight gave me got-damned fucking chills. I've been saying it and I won't stop now: not a damn person out there does a character like Chuck does. I will not hear a word to the contrary. Camp Damascus is him at the tippy top of his already astounding game.


So, here's the skinny: Rose's family and friends love her. Her church, Kingdom of the Pine, loves her. They want what is best for her. They want her to be righteous and avoid the wrath of God. Maybe that means attaching a demon to her to cure her of that most wicked gayness, but so be it. And they won't easily let her slide back into that life of sin and debauchery.


Yup. Trigger warning like a motherfucker right here. This book is chock full of homophobia, transphobia and deals real fucking head on with the all too honest horrors of re-education… ahem… I mean Conversion Therapy camps. There are also demons and blood and fire and rage and the struggle of breaking free of what others tell you is best for you. It's rough as shit in these pages.


At the same time, Chuck takes what would, in other hands, be cookie cutter, empty shell Bad Guys and treats them honestly. Rose's parents, friends, and straight up to the pastor of the clear analogue for churches like Westboro Baptist aren't empty caricatures but are fleshed out fully as humans. Her dad loves cheesy jokes. Her intended boyfriend seems to be sweet enough. The pastor believes wholly in the love of his church. They all truly want what they believe is best for Rose, as they do the other members who have been through Camp Damascus. Hell, one of Rose's main allies, Saul, used to be a youth pastor in that camp.


Chuck gets that we can, and SHOULD, empathize with these people. That they aren't mustache twirling evildoers out to wreck the lives of others. He also gets that empathy doesn't necessarily equate to forgiveness or allowance. It's the most well-meaning people who can often cause the most harm. Demonizing them doesn't help any more than blanket forgiveness. We need to understand that we are dealing with humans and that we need to deal with them humanely, but we still need to deal with them. I also want to give him credit for showing, in Saul, a portrait of compassionate Christianity that is rarely seen in this type of story.


Don't get me wrong. This isn't a drama. This is horror as bloody and vivid as you could ask for. It's visceral and mean in places. Rose's ordeals are not easy on her or those who choose to stand by her side. There is just all this other brilliant shit going on as well. And FUCK is it good!


I'm calling Camp Damascus as easily one of, if not my top, favorite books of this year. Honest humanity, heart and flesh rending terror, and every page oozing with both the evil and the glory love can bring into the world. Read this damn book now and pick your jaw up off the floor.



 

About Anton Cancre:

Anton Cancre's mother wasn't really pregnant with them when she went to see The Exorcist, but they tell people that anyways because it sounds cool. Their poetry collections, Meaningless Cycles in a Vicious Glass Prison and This Story Doesn't End the Way We Want All The Time as well as their nonfiction book about Silent Hill, Nightmares of Blood and Flesh, are available from Dragon's Roost Press. They're also a luddite who still has a blogspot website (antoncancre.blogspot.com). Pronouns: Any/All/Just Not Late For Dinner


 

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (2020 Remake) Directed by Kurt Wimmer.

Review by Reed Alexander


SPOILERS!!!

Jesus FUCKING Christ this movie is so damn bad. Mind you, it's still riffable, so there is some redeeming value, but the movie itself isn't even good-bad, it's just bad.


And I mean, it's not like they had a high bar to follow. The original Children of the Corn (1984) was not actually very good. Shure, it was fine for horror, but again, that bar is pretty low. But the one thing the original had was fucking plot and story! There are SO GOD DAMN MANY plot holes in the remake that you could bury every fake corpse in them.


Let's just start off with the fact that Eden (played by Kate Moyer), and her cultists gut a fucking pig and paint the roots of the corn with its blood. That didn't tip off the female lead Bo (Elena Kampouris)? She's just like "yeah, that's kinda weird, not anything I should maybe tell an adult about." I mean, the whole movie opens with Eden's friends getting gassed (by the way, snarkiest police dispatcher ever), and we know she's seriously fucked up, so that behavior smacks of something you'd want to intervene on. They try to play it off like Bo is just so obsessed with fixing the town that she doesn't think twice about it... but the kid is playing with fucking pig's blood.


That leads to a scene where Eden hangs one of the other kid's abusive fathers and it would be SUPER easy for the both of them to overpower Eden and they don't even try. Hell, there're at least two moments when the surviving adults could just bumrush all the kids and they would have easily overtaken them.


Speaking of the fucking devil, how the fuck did the kids manage to capture all of those adults and get them in jail. Like... yeah I get that they had weapons but... they're fucking children. There would be multiple points when the adults could organize, rally, and put the little brats down. At least in the original the kids attacked by surprise, all at once, and killed every adult before they had the chance to react.


Then there's the scene when the kids send the adults off into the corn and you're like, oh goody, at least we get to see He Who Walks (I guess because they couldn't afford the rights to the full 'He Who Walks Behind the Rows'), rip a whole bunch of people to pieces, including Bo's dad, Dollar Store Matthew McConaughey. BUT NO! I guess that wasn't in the fucking budget! Hell, they don't kill half the towns folk on camera. Guess they couldn't afford that either. Either that, or their fucking garbage CGI monster was too fucking embarrassing to actually kill stuff on camera.


Speaking of said 'embarrassingly bad CGI monster.' Why the fuck does a kife to the head hurt it? At one point Bo sticks a knife in its fucking head and that hurts it... HOW... what organ did she hit? The goddamn thing is a supernatural construct of corn. Why would it even feel pain?


Oh, and don't let me forget about that absolutely brilliant climax. Bo get's covered in gasoline because the kids are going to burn her, but she convinces them it will cause the whole place to explode, because that's how bags of corn kernels work apparently... but anyway, they buy it and decide to just kill her with weapons, she manages to escape, trails gas all over the place, manages to link it to a car leaking gas, and drives that all over the place. Then she somehow convinces Eden she smokes, because yeah, we haven't even seen her smell a pack of cigarettes in the movie so that TOTALLY makes sense.


And of course, she uses it to light the gas and burn the farm down... just one fucking problem. There are fucking HECTARS of cornfields. Yeah, some of it would have burned. If the kids did absolutely nothing, MAYBE a whole lot would burn, but not every damn corn crop in the county, which is what it would have taken. He Who Walks would just have the kids put out the fire, hell he'd probably help. Eden should have just shrugged and said "Well, there's plenty of corn, dumbass," and that should have been the ending of the movie.


But sure, the whole place burns down, and the children just throw down their weapons and call it a day. Actually, I have the same complaint about the original. If all these kids are supposed to be thralls for He Who Walks... why do they just brush the whole thing off and give up?


And the fucking acting. MY GOD Bo never stops sniveling. It's like the only way she can act is to be on the verge of hysteria literally every second in the GODDAMN movie, even BEFORE the fucking plot kicks in. Eden is actually pretty good for a child actor, though.


Speaking of BEFORE the fucking plot kicks in. I'm pretty fucking sure this movie failed my 30-minute rule, because it felt like FOREVER before the goddamn plot kicks in. Some-fucking-how I managed to sit through the whole thing.


Seriously, this movie is like punishment, it's so fucking bad. Only Riffers need apply.



 

About Reed Alexander:

"I'm the foulmouthed horror movie critic. I post new reviews every Sunday, so stay tuned!"


Find Reed's site here: Reed Alexander | Vocal


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