Kevin Strange’s Star Wars: Rogue One Review

Lucasfilm and Disney took a HUGE gamble by breaking from the traditional Skywalker storyline with its “A Star Wars Story” franchise which follows characters only tangentially related to the saga of Luke, Leia, Obi Wan and Darth Vader.

Does this gamble pay off or does ROGUE ONE turn out to be a giant, unmitigated disaster?

STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE was directed by Gareth Edwards who last helmed the big budget American Godzilla film from 2014 (and incidentally shows Darth Vader here about as much as he showed Big Green in that film.)  So he’s no stranger to taking on franchises with a ton of history behind them.

But to be tasked with creating the first STAR WARS film outside of the Skywalkerverse? Lots of pressure. And rumors of massive re-shoots only months before the film was set to be released only intensified the feeling of unease as we inched closer and closer to its December 2016 release date.

As Han Solo famously says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

So does it crash and burn like a Star Destroyer after one too many laser blasts from a squad of X-Wings? Or does it soar into nastalgia-land and do enough fan service to earn its place in the pantheon of STAR WARS films before it?

For me, it lands somewhere in the middle. It’s not as good as Episode 7 and still worlds better than any one of the prequels without touching the brilliance of original trilogy. ROGUE ONE is the kind of STAR WARS movie I EXPECTED to see back when THE PHANTOM MENACE came out.

It’s a big, loud, dumb blockbuster with enough heart to propel it forward while failing to create that charm that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had in the original trilogy.

None of the characters stand out as the kind that people will be talking about for years to come. For me, the only character I really gave a shit about was Forest Whitaker’s batshit crazy turn as Saw Gerrera the robot-legged, oxygen-huffing rebel who helped Jyn Erso (played wooden and dead-eyed by Felicity Jones) escape after the imperial general Orson Krennic comes for her father.

Mads Mikkelsen, who I normally love, phones it in as Jyn’s father Galen. The rest of the cast is a fairly generic (but ethnically diverse because, you know, political correctness) group of rebels who deliver the equally generic hero dialogue with little conviction and then die on command as the story calls for tragedy.

Even the android here, K-2S0, failed to impress me. Of all the droids in all the STAR WARS films, this one impressed me the least. He’s a cheap C-3P0 worry-bot knock off who looks like a rejected IRON GIANT prototype.

The only characters outside of Saw Gerrea that even held my attention were the duo of Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and his friend Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen. These two would have been awesome characters in a better movie. In fact, I would have loved to see them in their own movie.

Same goes for Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. I would have much rather watched a movie about him going crazy and losing his feet, slowly drifting further and further away from the rebel alliance’s core values until he practically becomes their enemy.

But we don’t get that movie here. We get 6 or 7 story lines all rushed to get us to the final attack on the imperial garrison on Scarif which, admittedly, is a breathtaking scene. It’s a scene that, by itself, makes Episode 4: A NEW HOPE a better movie.

It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film doesn’t have the same emotional gravitas as the brave rebel team’s doomed final mission at the end of the movie. There are so many cut scenes to new planets, new characters, and convoluted exposition scenes explaining which video-game-like task they need to complete next, that the film seems both rushed and boring at the same time. No story thread is given enough time to unwind in a natural way.

Even the score seems overly loud, driving us impatiently from one character death and set piece explosion to the next until we’re both bored and numb from all of the elaborate visual effects space ship fights and CGI aliens shouting orders at each other.

ROGUE ONE isn’t a bad film. But it suffers from trying to serve too many masters all at once. The re-shoots didn’t help to shore up the story lines. The score doesn’t help to add emotion to scenes that simply needed more time to connect with the audience, and ultimately, while the movie serves as a great lead-in to A NEW HOPE, it only manages to show how much better of a film the original STAR WARS is, rather than existing as a great  STAR WARS story in and of itself.

I give it an 89% chance of having 3 out of 5 Strangeheads.

Kevin Strange’s Phantasm: Ravager Review


Fresh off a theatrical screening of the new 4K restoration version of the original 1979 PHANTASM film, I decided it was high time to man up and give the latest sequel of one of my favorite horror franchises a go. So I rented PHANTASM: RAVAGER and held on to my balls. So to speak. Get it? Balls? Spheres? Anyway.

As I finished watching the original Phantasm the other night, I couldn’t help but remember the words of a prominent horror fiction editor about “it was all a dream” trope endings. He’d said, more or less, that if your book ended with all of the happenings turning out to have just been a dream or a hallucination, don’t bother sending him your work for publication. I’m paraphrasing here, but basically he said that it felt cheap, like he’d wasted his time reading the story because none of it “really happened.”


As Phantasm ended, I couldn’t help but think that this is maybe the only horror franchise in existence that sort of hinges its entire mythology on “it was all a dream” logic. I laughed as I exited the movie theater, thinking of how cool it was that a horror franchise had thrived and became a cult favorite off of a reviled story telling trope.

So imagine my glee when Phantasm: Ravager started and within the first five minutes of the movie, a startlingly old Michael sat with an even older Reggie at a retirement home and told him that everything they’d ever been through in THE ENTIRE PHANTASM FRANCHISE had been nothing more than Reggie suffering from early onset dementia. Forty years of storytelling right down the fucking tubes for that horror editor. A lifetime of fandom just… poof, up and gone, just like that.



So this 4th sequel of the Tall Man franchise is every bit a loving tribute and fan service to a four decade long franchise full of head popping shiny spheres, creepy mausoleums, hooded dwarves and quadruple sawed off shotguns. Just look at the end credits. David Hartman was basically a one man band here. He directed, co-wrote with series creator Don Coscarelli, shot it, scored it, edited it, and did the visual effects for it.

I’m not gonna lie. When I heard that this movie was basically David and Reggie and a camcorder, shot over long periods of time when money allowed it, I was not at all excited to see the final product. But seeing it play out with all of the jumps in time and setting, it turns out that was the perfect way to shoot the script that David and Don wrote.

And so the film plays with this idea that Reggie is suffering from dementia, casting him in and out of vivid post-apocalyptic landscapes with awesome gigantic spheres laying waste to everything in sight.


Angus Skrimm, The Tall Man, to his credit, old as the goddamn stars in this film, hits all his lines note-perfect. It’s like he was born to play the sinister Tall Man. And die playing him as well. Which is fine by this Phan. The man in the suit screamed BOOYYYYYYY! one last time, and it brought a goddamn tear to my eye.

PHANTASM: RAVAGER is cheap. Man, is it cheap. There are long passages of the film that reek of a made for Sci-Fi channel original. And much of the film’s visual effects are jarringly bad CGI. But you know what? Having just watched the 1979 original, there’s a fucking puppet fly monster that Michael and Jody beat to death inside a jacket.

This wasn’t a series based on fancy visual effects in the first place. It was about atmosphere and unique storytelling. And while much of the acting is stiff and lines are delivered halfheartedly, Reggie and Angus–really the two most important players here–play their roles with the utmost sincerity.


Did PHANTASM: RAVAGER need to be made? No. But I’m glad it was. I’m glad Reggie got to fire that bad mother fucking four barrel shotgun one last time. I’m glad Reggie, Michael and Jody got to cruise in the ‘Cuda one last time. And I’m glad Angus’s Tall Man got to menace our heroes one last time.

Very few franchises get to keep their heart, their soul and their enthusiasm over the decades without being taken over by different writers, directors, or studios who want to change or re-imagine, remake or recast the characters and drastically alter the story.

The PHANTASM franchise went out on its own terms with its integrity intact and that, for me, was worth every goddamn sequel. I give it four out of five Strangeheads.



Sean Kelly reviews Murder Stories for your Brain Piece

svssthumbMurder Stories for your Brain Piece by Kevin Strange is a collection of short stories about death, murder, giant dicks, and the insides of buttholes.
The first story, Ass Worship, took a ridiculously silly concept and managed to make it somewhat sad by
approaching it with a level of seriousness in it’s characters. It was about poor little creatures called The Glutoids that live inside of woman’s asshole, constantly being smashed by shits or drowning in suppository goo. It was more funny and entertaining than anything else, but the ending was pretty bleak. I kinda felt bad for little Filipo, which just made me find it humorous again when I really thought about what had just happened. I think its a testament to how well it was done that I didn’t even really see the silliness of this bit until after the fact, I was just worried for the little guy that tried so hard to make a better life for his people.
I Killed Jessica, Again was an unlikely partnership story. Two enemies having to work together for their mutual benefit. Lots of impressive imagery in this one. It managed to tell a story that could have easily been novella length in just a handful of pages. It was very entertaining and at times pretty tense. It also had some really memorable characters, Jason in particular. While a flag waving, gun toting redneck is not a character I’d typically enjoy, I felt he was what really made this story as good as it was.
An Otherwise Ordinary Kind of Life was a short crazy mess of a mind fuck. Its one of those stories that layers twist over twist until you have no idea whats going on anymore. If Cronenberg had smoked crack while making eXistenZ, it might have turned out something like this.
Sleep Now, Sinner, once again, took a ridiculous concept and made it serious by approaching it with sincerity. Kevin seems to be pretty good at doing that. Much like the first story did with sadness, this one did with tension. Until I finished it and remembered that it was all brought on by a giant queef, which made it funny again. This was another really short one so there’s not much to say besides how well it created such vivid images in so few words.
Ms. Dumb Ass and her Friend Fucking Von Stupid Shit was another twisty mind fuck one, but even sillier than An Otherwise Ordinary Kind of Life. It was pretty hilarious and unexpected. And it had an awesome bit of ultra-violence at the beginning that was extremely creative. While this wasn’t one of my favorite stories of the collection as a whole, that opening scene was definitely one of my favorite single moments in the book. Would love to see this animated Superjail style.
Loch Ness Lay was gross. Like fucked up hentai level gross. You can probably tell by the title what the story was about. I won’t spoil anything specific. This was actually one of my favorites of the collection in a way just because it actually made me scrunch up my face a couple times. And again, the description here was extremely well done. For better or worse, I could vividly picture everything that was going on.
Inside an Asshole was easily the best of the bunch, so it was appropriate that he saved it for last. An unforgettable barrage of nastiness. Just about any horrible thing that exists, happens in this story. Richie G is one of the sickest bastards I’ve ever read about. Usually when you go as excessively far as this story does, it becomes lame and boring after a while. This one never does, he gradually ups the ante and presents the horrible memories and events in such a way that it never became cheesy. I took this shit very seriously, and it even left me feeling a bit sick. As someone who grew up on ultra-violent films since childhood, disturbing me is no easy feat, but this one managed to do it a little bit. It also packed a fair bit of emotion amongst it nastiness as well. And it finished up with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Not only was this my favorite story in Murder Stories for your Brain Piece, its one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. If you’re one thats always looking for something that really pushes it with completely relentless atrocities, I recommend this more than any Splatterpunk novel.
Overall, Murder Stories for your Brain Piece is easily one of the best anthologies I’ve read and I highly recommend it to anyone who thinks they can handle it. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Strange’s fucked imagination.