• Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight Volume 2: Bride of Blood/Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll



    Published by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: Nov. 12, 2014
    Writer: Alex De Campi
    Artist: Federica Manfredi/
    Cover: Francesco Francavilla
    Purchase at Amazon

    This second volume in the Alex de Campi’s fantastic Grindhouse series (and oh yes, there will be a third volume) collects issues 5 through 8, which followed the same formula as the first four issues: two 2-part stories plus faux movie posters. And as with the previous two stories covered in those first four issues, each story features a different artist, giving each story its own look and vibe. This collection not only houses both stories from issues 5 through 8, but also contains all the covers used for the four issues as well as the movie posters each issue contained. And as a bonus, there are additional movie posters in the collection not seen in the monthly comics. The way the book is set up is as if you were at a double-feature, putting trailers (movie posters) before the feature as well as the trailer (poster) for the feature itself, and then more trailers/posters in between the two features and even at the end. Each of the individual issues also had inside front covers that formed a single issue when put together and they throw that in here as a two-page spread. And if that isn’t enough, there’s behind the scenes artwork that follows each of the tales.

    Bride of Blood - artwork by Federica Manfredi
    A bride’s wedding day couldn’t be any more perfect for the sweet young bride to be, Branwyn. It’s all there: family, friends, getting married to a lord…picture perfect. That is, until a group of reavers breaks up the ceremony for some apparent random acts of violence. Branwyn escapes with her brother Corrin (I wanna wear my armor, wahhh) and her mother, but there are all separated from one another once they get caught by the reavers. Corrin is to go find Branwyn’s groom Lord Callyreath, who seems to have run off, being the coward and general douche bag that he is, while their mom orders Branwyn to go hide but she doesn’t make it that far.

    Corrin heads out and sees more of the Lord’s rottenness than he expected, and befalls a fate that keeps him from sharing what he had seen. Branwyn and her mom become the objects of rape for the evil doers and suffer a lot worse than anyone else, but Branwyn survives. She knows the reavers and her ex-soon-to-be-husband are out there and she pulls a fast one on some nuns to get her plan of revenge rolled out.

    The story continues with her douche bag ex-fiancé Lord Callyreath out hunting wild boar in the snow with some nobles from the south. They find an injured boar, but are shocked by what their dogs are REALLY eating and it isn’t pork. The group decides hunting is over and they split up and one portion of the party meets Branwyn head on. Emphasis on head. It doesn’t end well, as you can no doubt imagine. Not for the men anyway.

    She sends a message to Lord Callyreath via carrier fowl, and he, along with the noble he was leading back to the road to the south, meet Branwyn at the river. After battle, he doesn’t have much to say. Nor does he have much to say at the convent that he wakes up in as he recovers. He may want to say something, but remains silent. It’s probably best that way.

    For the first ten pages, the vantage point goes from the bride’s point of view behind a veil, and then the more traditional angle of an outsider observing, and the behind-the-veil work is really quite interesting. Manfredi’s artwork has a classic beauty to it and the way her panels are laid out, although pretty compact at times, not only help create atmosphere (such as golden, swirling borders during the wedding) but a real sense of chaos and urgency during the carnage. He lays down high detail while avoiding a cluttered mess, and she’s not reluctant to push the violence to a plentiful level. And the coloring by Dortea Gizzi complements Ms. Mandfredi’s artwork quite nicely. The blood is bright and attention grabbing when it needs to be, and the mood created by the coloring helps to accentuate makes the story all the better. The second half of the story sees use of the contrast of a white background against a vivid foreground which gives the pages an interesting depth. The blood red against the snow white makes for a striking image, and the gray overtone of the second half of the book paints a very bleak mood. We can’t forget to mention the cover (which was the cover for issue #5), illustrated by fan favorite (well THIS fan at least) Francesco Francavilla. If you haven’t check out his Black Beetle books, you’re denying yourself some serious greatness. This is his third cover in the series and by far the best looking one. It has a 60s Euro horror movie feel to it, like something Mario Bava would have his name attached to.

    De Campi’s writing style, at least within the pages of her Grindhouse series, goes for the gut with great competence, and she has the ability to capture the essence of the movies of which she’s paying tribute. Her writing style and the subjects she covers in this series is something that should please fellow genre dorks. Rape-revenge tales are usually so brutal and uncomfortable, and she puts that on the pages to great effect. The rape scenes (yeah there’s a couple) are nasty without showing the nastiness all in your face which, to this reader, makes it even more uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.

    Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll – art by Gary Erskine
    Hundreds of years ago in upstate New York, Native Americans interrupted a ritualistic ceremony held by those friggin’ white people in an underground cavern. They take out all the participants and cave in the joint in with a massive explosion. Jump to the present, the same site is now the home of a field hockey camp, full of nubile and horny young women.

    One insecure and shy girl arrives at camp with no experience in field hockey (or any other activities the rest of the girls are into) and the chicks give her some guff at first, but its short lived. After a little hazing and a topless whipped cream fight, the house-hen sends them down into the lame little town to blow off steam. There is NO chance they can get into trouble. Just some fun loving teens.

    But this is no coming-of-age story, and as the tittie-ball action is happening, a lonely trucker gets some encouragement from a hitchhiker to forget his wedding vows for a moment while she shows him a little action. Fast forward to what seems a reversal of roles with the ever-so-classy facial shot in a porno, the hitchhiker reveals herself in more ways than one, and things start to look bleak for the trucking community and the girls.

    The field hockey camp girls, teamed with a group of local young men, fight off the nasty truck drivers under the control of the evil demon succubus thing that’s been tearing up people at the truck stop. After round one, the group regroups and hashes out a plan, but one of their ranks gets taken by the monster, forcing the girls to take the fight to the monster on its own ground. The very ground the field hockey playing area covers. That’s where the demon spawned all that time ago (see the first issue) and that’s where it needs to be defeated. New girl Renae, the ugly duckling unpopular type, steps up her game and works with Tina, who might have bitten off more than she can chew with this monster fighting. And the main battle could cost one of the girls an arm and a leg, but only either or if she’s lucky. And once the kids get to the battleground, they find out the demon-thing has some friends. Some very old friends.

    Sex-starved virgins, $3 whores, jizz-faced truckers, and a fucked up demon…a faultless formula for success. Alex De Campi knows exactly how to give those of us who enjoy such elements what they want and in spades. The three Bs (blood, beasts, and boobies) gloriously weave their way through every tale in her sleazy title and to this reader she is a goddess among comic writers. No slight toward the artwork, which is perfectly enjoyable and appealing to the eye, but the star of this book is Ms. De Campi, make no mistake about that.

    She always gives the readers something to look forward to with Grindhouse. Part two of Flesh Feast lacks the sleaze of the first part, but it’s super violent and satisfyingly gooey. It’s a total cheese fest in the dialogue department and full of movie clichés, but told in a way that doesn’t become self parody, or just someone making fun of crappy movies. The artwork is clean but detailed, with some glorious splatters moments, steering this tale far away from PG-13 territory. Gary Erskine’s demon is one nasty creature and takes up a lot of space in the book, and thankfully never fails in maintaining its creep factor.

    And fans of the series are no doubt happy to know the series is continuing with a second coming, “Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out” will feature a story called “Slay Ride” with art by R.M. Guera. This is a good thing. There was a time where it seemed this series was to be only 8 issues and done. If Alex de Campi entertains requests, how about a nice sleazy 70s Euro sex comedy, or maybe a sexploitation hay romp, like the stuff Bethel Buckalew used to make. Go get right on that lady.