On Inkshares Horror Novel

Have you guys heard about this? I recently heard about a crowdfunding site called Inkshares. It’s basically Kickstarter or Indiegogo crossbred with Createspace or Lulu. It looks like a site where you can crowdfund a novel that will have an ebook and physical presence in bookstores. Unlike Kikstarter or Indiegogo where you give them thousands of dollars and then the writer keeps a percentage and has to then hire editors and distributors, Inkshares does all of that. So if a project is successfully funded at Inshares, it includes a professional manuscript editor and distributor.

I had no idea how any of this works, so I figured I’d dive in and take a look see with my current manuscript. I’m working on a 90 thousand word novel about three strangers entering the witness protection program when they accidentally thwart a serial killer. They’re relocated to a new state, but their new home brings them into contact with horrors beyond imagination.

You can find the Inkshares page, along with fun FAQs and whatnot, and back this project here are: https://www.inkshares.com/projects/horror-novel

Thanks so much for your support!

This is Elliot Arthur Cross eternally grateful for your support. For any questions about the project, please email me at elliotarthurcross@gmail.com. Thank you and happy reading.

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On Oculus film review

I recently caught Oculus, a spooky film about traumatized siblings dealing with a haunted mirror.

Cons: I would have loved more backstory. There’s plenty of ‘scary things happened to owners of the mirror’ but nothing about why or how this started. If they’re planning a sequel or prequel, cool, if not, it feels a little incomplete. I love ambiguity and all, but there’s perhaps a little too much. I’m sure if you show this to three people, you’re going to get three different explanations, and they’re probably equally valid.

Pros: The lightbulb scene. You’ll know it when you see it. This movie is a prime example of mining independent filmmakers for big budget productions. This was a short film shot in one room with one actor, then writer/director Mike Flanagan was given a bigger playground to explore and he turned out a wonderful film. And how about that Karen Gillan? Dr. Who fans already know her as Amy Pond, and Marvel fans will soon see her in Guardians of the Galaxy, and she absolutely killed it in this movie. The whole concept in itself is awesome – we finally have someone completely prepared to take on a haunting. Gillan sets up cameras, thermostats, plants, alarms to change batteries/eat/drink, a kill switch, and an outsider to check in periodically. As much fun as cheesy slashers with stupid characters are, I really appreciate intelligent protagonists.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Great pacing, acting, and scares. Recommended to any horror fan.

On Evidence film review

I recently caught Evidence on Netflix. The is a combo found footage/traditional film following a forensics team investigating brutal murders by hobbling together footage from two cameras and victims’ cell phones.

Cons: The whole a small group of friends on a trip in the desert are stranded with four other strangers while a masked killer picks them off one at a time certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Nolan Gerard Funk was underused. Yeah, I know, I know, but I could have used some more Funk action. While some pieces really work, there’s a lot of standard paint-by-numbers action going on.

Pros: Good cast. True Blood’s Stephen Moyer plays the lead investigator (he’s troubled, but he wants back on the job before his supervisor is sure he’s ready… for some reason). I never cared for Billy on True Blood, but I’ve always liked Moyer. Characters are fleshed out enough. The ending was ambitious. The framing narrative works as a whodunnit and is ambitious enough that it works overall. I didn’t see the twist coming.

Overall: Decent slasher flick. Since I have a soft spot for the subgenre, I’ll go 3.75 out of 5 stars, but I’m probably being nice.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Mr. Jones review

I caught this found footage horror flick on Netflix. I was a teen when Blair Witch hit, and I loved it. There have been imitators and cheap-rip offs since then. And btw, Blair Witch was not the first horror mockumentary, but it was the earliest smash success in the sub genre. Mr. Jones follows a couple of artists (he’s a filmmaker, she’s a photographer) who move to a remote cabin the woods for a year to work on their relationship and make a nature documentary. After a few weeks, they discover their only neighbor is the elusive Mr. Jones, who’s been sending random strangers scarecrow figures since the 1970s. All Hell breaks loose.

Cons: What the Hell did I just watch? I’m all about finishing a movie and having enough ‘well it could mean this’ theories to discuss with fellow viewers, but it was far too abstract. This is the type of movie that you show to twelve people, and you’ll get twelve different explanations. I feel like the found footage angle wasn’t needed; this story could have been told in a standard narrative without losing much, and possibly gain a lot.

Pros: Natural cast that really sold it. Super strong opening, decent middle, and then weak ending. But that shouldn’t take away from the first 2/3’s. Unlike Blair Witch, then went backstory, backstory, backstory, random woods stuff, slow scares, this movie goes intro, scare, backstory, scare, backstory, scare, random shit. It feels refreshing, it feels reel, and it works more often than it doesn’t. So often, with ‘found footage’ movies, it’s hard to justify the shots, and here the in-universe filmmaker creates a camera that shoots in two directions at once to capture his documentary, which really pays off later in the film when they’re using the same camera to learn more about the elusive Mr. Jones.  Star Jon Foster is a hottie, and talented. There’s an early montage of ‘nature is beautiful, everything is wonderful, wait it’s been two weeks now I hate it all’ that is perfectly shot and acted, it immediately won me over.

Overall: There’s so much going for this movie in the first two acts that I’m so frustrated by the weak finale. Three out of five stars. Give it a watch with a friend, and then spend a half hour discussing your theories to what it all means.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Bad Words film review

I’ve never been disappointed with Jason Bateman, and the trend continues after seeing Bad Words (also his directorial debut). The movie follows a foul-mouthed jerk in his 40s who finds a loophole allowing him to compete in the National Spelling Bee (yep, all of his competitors are in the 8th grade or younger). Of course parents are outraged, and there’s some fun with a reporter (Kathryn Hahn) who travels with him.

Cons: I figured out the mystery of why Guy was competing relatively early on, but it was still fun watching the movie develop. Without spoiling anything, the way the competition ends is a little too sweet and expected, but I will hand it to them for adding an additional gag I didn’t see coming. The plot was a bit by the book.

Pros: Such a wonderful script. Bateman usually plays the nice guy (or in Arrested Development, the nicest in a narcissistic group), so it was fun seeing him swear at kids. There are some great jokes, wonderful cast (Allison Janney is always fun and Philip Baker Hall has such a presence). Great find in the child actor Rohan Chand, he holds his own and I could see him being successful in years to come.

Overall: 4.25 out of 5 stars. Strong performance by Bateman and great dark humor. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but solidly entertains.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Veronica Mars film review

I recently took a short road trip to the theaters to see the Veronica Mars movie. Here’s my history with the franchise: I never watched it when it aired, “girl teen detective” sounded really stupid to me, and eventually I let a friend lend me the three seasons on DVD. I loved them and devoured the series in 2 weeks. The kickstarter came up to fund the movie, so I helped out with a whopping dollar donation. Yep, I sure helped make it.

The film picks up years after the series ends, and embroils Veronica (the impeccable Kristen Bell) in another murder mystery back in her hometown of Neptune. You don’t need to have seen the series, but you should have if you want to get the references (season three optional).

Cons: The murder mystery part has always been the weakest point for me in the series. They usually don’t drop in any clues about the killer until Veronica figures it out. So it’s more of a ‘how will the detective find the killer’ than the audience playing ‘whodunit.’ I won’t spoil the solution, but I figured out the killer very quickly. Besides that, there’s the whole evil organization sub-plot that never gets resolved. It felt like set-up for a future movie (fingers crossed we get one). And I was bummed at some of the character deaths.

Pros: Humor, acting, script, direction. It’s a really fun movie with some big payoffs from the series. A movie continuation from a TV show could easily suck, but this was Veronica Mars at its very best. The series had great cameos from well established actors, and the movie continues that tradition (Jamie Lee Curtis, James Franco, Justin Long, etc.). The best part of season three was the introduction of Piz (played by Chris Lowell), and there’s lots of great Piz action here (I love Chris Lowell and his character, but why that horrible name?).

Overall: 4 out of 5 stars. Fun, witty adventure with high stakes and great characters.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.

On Stage Fright (2014) review

Stage Fright (which has nothing to do with the 1980s Italian horror film) recently came out on VOD. I’ve been looking forward to this one. And while I love musicals, horror movies, and Meat Loaf, I did not love this musical horror movie featuring Meat Loaf.

Plot: Minnie Driver appears as a Broadway star killed off in the first scene. Her agent is Meat Loaf, and she has twins (daughter Camilla and son Buddy). Fast forward 10 years, and Meat Loaf is poor and running a musical theater summer camp where his adopted children/slave laborers Camilla and Buddy work as cooks. The big show of the season is the Phantom of the Opera rip-off that Minnie Driver died in, and it seems as if the killer is returning to keep the show from performing.

Cons: The show centers around the Haunting of the Opera, an obvious Phantom of the Opera clone. Why not be original and come up with a new horror idea? Yes, Meat Loaf sings, but his talent is not utilized here. The man has been on Broadway, has performed in numerous movies and music videos, and I’ve seen him live. They could have written him better music. It seemed like characters were well thought out, but perhaps underdeveloped, which makes me wonder if there are a few scenes that were left on the cutting room floor for time and pacing issues.

Pros: Snappy script that left me chuckling a few times. Good acting. Fans of Todd and the Book of Pure Evil will recognize Hannah as the camp diva. Enough music that had me tapping along (but I could have used more). I only sort of figured out the killer (there was an additional twist I didn’t see coming, but fit). Decent set-up and well shot. Really, the movie felt like it bordered on greatness.

Overall: I so wanted to love this movie. There’s a lot going on for it. But for anyone who’s seen Project Runway, you know what I mean when I say it felt a tad safe. The envelope could have been pushed further, the script could have been sharper, etc. Still, I don’t wish for my time back and I could see the potential for rewatches. So I’ll go for 2.5 out of 4 stars. That seems fair.

This is Elliot Arthur Cross wishing you happy viewing.