Tag Archives: vampires

‘Gil’s All Night Fright Diner’ by A. Lee Martinez (Book Review)

Gil’s All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez is a fun, quick read I recommend for those of us that enjoy fantasy stories that don’t take themselves too seriously. It begins with the unlikely (in other universes) pairing of a vampire and a werewolf.

While passing through the town of Rockwood, rough werewolf Duke and self-doubting vampire Earl end up in an out-of-the-way diner. They find out that this is no ordinary diner- it has a recurring zombie attack problem. Earl and Duke help the diner’s owner Loretta work together to fend off an attack and stay on as workers to help solve the undead issue. The zombies, however, are only a symptom of the real problem; local teenager Tammy is hell-bent on bringing the old gods back to this dimension and ruin things for everyone.

Gil’s All Fright Diner is a simple story written with plenty of humor. I really enjoyed the character development of Duke and Earl, but was a bit disappointed in the female characters. For example, I was left trying to figure out why Tammy felt the need to destroy the world besides the fact that she’s a teenager. I suppose evil doesn’t need an excuse, but I felt it needed more. Also, the constant reference to Tammy’s hotness (and her using sex to get anything) and Loretta’s ugliness (she was fat and therefore, undesirable) was over the top.

Thankfully, to balance out Tammy, there is a ghost called Cathy who I at first thought was there to be rescued but ended up being a strong character in the fight against evil. Also, “ugly” Loretta is a strong woman that takes no bullshit from zombies or any other creature even with her limited human body. While Duke and Earl can heal themselves, Loretta can not, so her bravery kicked ass.

I have a few A. Lee Martinez books I’ll review here; he’s a fun fantasy author to read.

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Cronos, a Vampire Movie that Will Bug You (in a Good Way)


…and I promise it won't make you sparkle in sunlight. Love, The Alchemist

Cronos (1994) is a Mexican movie filmed in English and Spanish directed by Guillermo del Toro. It is different from any vampire movie you’ve seen, and bonus! No angsty teenagers. It begins with the following creepy narration:

In 1536, fleeing from the Inquisition, alchemist Huberto Fulcanelli disembarked in Veracruz, Mexico.  Appointed official watchmaker to the Viceroy, Fulcanelli was determined to perfect an invention which would provide him with the key to eternal life.  He was to name it the Cronos Device. Four hundred years later, one night in 1937, part of the vault in a building collapsed.  Among the victims was a man of strange skin, the color of marble and moonlight. His chest mortally pierced, his last words: “Sua tempore.” This was the Alchemist.

The introduction has a bit of a steampunk and clockpunk feel as does the antique shop of the old man (Federico Luppi) who stars in the film. Yes! An old man can star in a vampire film, and it can be good thank you very much.

Eventually the owner of a shady corporation, De la Guarda (Claudio Brook), finds the instructions for the Cronos Device and fixatedly seeks the device itself that has been lost. All he knows is that it is in an angel statue. His nephew, foulmouthed and oddly obsessed with rhinoplasty Ángel de la Guarda (Ron Perlman), is in charge of searching for any angel that might have the device within.

Our old man Jesús Gris lives a conventionally boring life with his dancing instructor wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) and little granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath) who has an endearing relationship with Jesús. He finds the Cronos Device, and not knowing what he is doing, activates it. He starts to feel more energetic and looks younger, but at a price of course- he starts craving blood. Since he doesn’t have the instructions, he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing and he seeks answers. Gris and the elder De la Guarda’s complementary searches clash violently as we unravel the mystery of the device.

The movie has a very international feel with the use of different languages in signs, buildings, and newspapers. It is set in 1997. The names of most of the characters have interesting meanings and have deep symbolism relevant to the story. Their use is typical of magical realism and the use of Christian imagery in Latin American fantasy. To not spoil anything I will just say that literally, Jesús Gris is Jesus the Gray, and Ángel de la Guarda means guardian angel, Mercedes is short for María de las Mercedes (Mary of Mercies), and Aurora means “dawn.” Knowing those meanings may enhance your enjoyment of the film. Or confuse you a bit.

Besides the unusual (for Hollywood) protagonist, the movie doesn’t depend on cheap thrills to scare you, uses plenty of dark humor throughout (the cremation scene is particularly funny) and realistic dialogue. This movie’s been around some time so forgive me if I’ve just discovered it- have you seen it? What did you think?

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Salma Hayek in Cirque du Freak- The Vampire’s Assistant (Movie Review)

salma hayek bearded lady

Hey, at least I don't have a unibrow this time

The film Cirque du Freak is based on the first three books of a young adult series called The Saga of Darren Shan or alternately, Cirque du Freak.  It is unfortunate that this film comes after several vampire movies and TV series because I am sure vampire fatigue will make some people dismiss it. That would be a mistake because Cirque du Freak isn’t annoyingly angsty and any love story is secondary to the plot. It is grittier, darker, and surprisingly fun.

I have not read any of the Cirque du Freak books, so I didn’t go see this movie with preconceived notions about what I thought I should see. I enjoyed The Vampire’s Assistant. It has lots of dark humor, seriously scary moments, and blessedly few cheesy ones (a graveyard pinball scene comes to mind).  The casting is pretty much perfect except for Mr. Crepsley. He was supposedly converted into a vampire when he was 20 years old but the actor, John C. Reilly, is clearly in his forties. Weren’t vampires supposed to look the same as when they died? This may be explained in the books, but not in the film. Overlooking that detail, Reilly does a great job as Mr. Crepsley. The circus freaks were wonderfully done by several brilliant actors, and it is a pity we didn’t get to see more of them. The only freaks I thought looked truly fake were the CGI creatures that look like mini-druids.

Darren Shan, the titular vampire’s assistant, lives in a suburban neighborhood where people dress in pastel and khaki, and absolutely no freaks are allowed. He is a straight A student and all-around good kid. His best friend Steve continuously gets him in trouble, so Darren’s parents forbid him to hang out with Steve. Still, Darren rebels and continues to see him anyways. They go to a Cirque du Freak show recently come to town and that’s where the trouble begins. From suburban teens, they end up becoming enmeshed in a war between Vampires and the Vampaneze.  The main difference between these two factions is that the Vampaneze feed off humans and kill them, while the Vampires don’t kill anyone they feed on. Darren and Steve become pawns of a Mr. Tiny, a character that at first reminded me of Fringe’s Observer, only this guy is truly evil and instead of just observing is an enthusiastic participant and instigator of the Vampire/Vampaneze war. (When I looked up the actor, Michael Cerveris, I discovered that hey, he was Fringe’s Observer with lots of prosthetic makeup. D’oh! I guess he’s been typecast.)

Salma Hayek plays the part of Madame Truska,  the Bearded Lady, who gets visions that she can’t remember. Her character has a romantic relationship with Mr. Crepsley and besides providing him support and blurting out random visions (and showing off her cleavage) doesn’t have much to do. This is very disappointing for an actress of Salma’s caliber. I am hoping that she chose this role because of the strong potential for sequels and that the character of Madame Truska will become more important in future installments. Come to think of it, all the female characters could do with more independence and strength and not be there for the sole comfort of males, offering up blood (or body parts) for consumption. Since The Vampire’s Assistant is clearly set up for at least one sequel, I hope things change for all the ladies, including Madame Truska.

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