“GRINDHOUSE: DOORS OPEN AT MIDNIGHT, VOLUME 2” (Comic Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
Comic books and grindhouse films are practically family: with both having been accused of not only corrupting America’s youth but lowering the standards of entertainment as a whole, it would only be a matter of time before these long lost twins would once again cross paths. Enter Dark Horse’s new horror series GRINDHOUSE, an unapologetic kitsch work that bridges the gap between the titans while embracing the exploitative nature of the late 1970’s low budget horror phenomena. While perhaps the not first comic to take the path of “low-brow murder porn,” GRINDHOUSE is one of the few to have done it so well, with some of Dark Horses finest talent adding their own personal touches of the macabre.
With volume two on its way to shelves everywhere, we are once again invited to stare deep into the abyss of madness beginning with “Bride of Blood.” Set in the wintry woods of medieval England, Lady Branwyn’s life is filled with promise as she prepares for her wedding. Unfortunately, bad luck appears just around the corner when her wedding is suddenly attacked by marauders. Raped, muted, and left for dead, she spends her time recovering in a nunnery while planning her revenge; one that leaves the snow tainted with the blood of her enemies.
Following a brief intermission, the seats quickly settle to “Flesh Feast of the Devil Doll,” a literal camp horror of epic proportions. As the female-only Oneida Field Hockey Camp begins another summer of snorting coke and starting trouble, an ancient demon rises from the grave on the hunt for virgin blood. The monster, with the body of a stripper and the face of parasite, soon descends upon the not so helpless girls and teaches everyone a valuable lesson in friendship and ultra-violence.
GRINDHOUSE: DOORS OPEN AT MIDNIGHT does a lot of things right when it comes to the fickle nature of short form horror comics. Granted, it does get the extra benefit of getting to exploit common tropes than forced to avoid them, allowing for a bit more freedom under the grindhouse flag. But even with the advantage, the series doesn’t slack off where it’s important, that is, with a couple of solid stories and even better art. On “Bride of Blood,” writer Alexi de Camp (who writes both stories) digs deep into such revenge classics such as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but adds a brilliant bit of originality by setting the tale in the middle ages. He even takes the work a step further by exploring the political implication for the wedding’s destruction, creating a well-rounded story that is much more than just splatter gore. With Federica Manfredi’s pencils exploring movie layout and presentation – such as a few pages “filmed” from behind the brides veil – the entire work resonates beautifully with grindhouse vibe and creates a wonderfully rounded work.
“Flesh of the Devil Doll,” on the other hand, manages to fit with the theme by creating one terrifying looking villain via artist Gary Eskine. While the plot may not be terribly original (though that’s probably the point), the demon, with her spinning head and monstrous sexual appetite, will appeal to fans of both religious and sexploitation films. This tale is a bit more fun than its predecessor, focusing more on smashing as many grindhouse genres as possible and seeing what emerges. Surprisingly, what comes out is pretty damn good, and what it lacks in insight, it makes up for with babes, bikes, and guns. You can practically smell the stale popcorn.