DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

You met me at a very strange time in my life...

Read my novel: Complete Darkness

Listen to the PODCAST I co-host: Hosts in the Shell

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Matt hangs out with the New Men (review)

New Men: Bonds of Brotherhood

Mario Dell’Olio (@DellOlioMario)  

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

“The new men at NAC seemed to be a different breed. There always seemed to be some drama brewing among them. The guys were incredibly forward with their desires and sexual preferences. They called out hypocrisy or any perceived injustice that may have occurred…” 

What happens when the will of ‘God’ and the heart of men collide? Could there be anything better than to be in love in Rome, one of the most romantic cities on the planet? Where though does it leave you if your ‘love’ is regarded with bigotry and disdain by those who you are learning to call ‘brothers’… in the seminary where you are training to be a priest?

So many questions and much to ponder as the destinies of the young men Anthony, Kevin and Miguel are intertwined here in New Men: Bonds of Brotherhood. How does one deal with falling in love with your best friend but having to hide it from the world? For Miguel, in particular, his love comes at a price. Miguel never thought he’d meet the love of his life while studying but when he falls head over heels for the vibrant young woman who greets her life with such a sense of adventure it changes everything.

If you’ve enjoyed the fiction of André Aciman you’re in the right place because much like Call Me By Your Name, New Men is a multi-layered treat.

'everyone's a critic'

Mario Dell’Olio writes with a sizzling mixture of passion, theological insight and heartfelt descriptive skill. He makes what could be a trite ‘the homophobia from the church and society is evil’ message is handled with a light touch and witty tale of idealism and hope. It’s an impressive skill to blend a cross-genre romance that keeps fizzing along whilst bringing plenty of historical fiction, and no small amount of insider knowledge of life in a seminary too.

The struggle of being gay and Catholic is one that doesn’t often get explored in such a backdrop of training for ministry but Dell’Olio blows the doors off the intolerance and hypocrisy that the young heroes find themselves facing. The book is a powerful testament to how those who preach ‘love your fellow man’ don’t like when you take them literally…

I might be a straight guy, but this book was a fascinating romance-against-the-odds and I’d recommend it to anyone who is LGBTQ+ friendly and ideally beyond as there is real spirituality to be found in these pages.

The best seminary set novel I’ve experienced – and that’s from someone who spent 7 years working for a theological college!?

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(5 - A vital joy of hidden romance and struggle)

Click the banner below to check out some dark sci-fi...


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Matt Cares A Lot about I Care A Lot (review)

I Care A Lot (15)

Dir. J Blakeson 

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@cleric20)

“Caring, sir, is my job, my profession. All I do every day is care…” 

Marla Grayson (the always excellent  Rosamund ‘Gone Girl’ Pike) cares. She cares a LOT but not about the old people she is made the legal guardian of – no what she cares about is money, as she makes clear she want the cash to finance a lifestyle of the super-rich.

How her scam works is that her dubious doctor friend will recommend certain older people can no longer look after themselves and do paperwork to that affect. Marla sweeps into court and is granted licence to ‘look after their interests’ which in her case means selling off their assets while they are detained in a care home – potentially against their wishes.

A “cherry” is an oldie with significant assets but no family but Marla picks the wrong one who turns out to be the mother of the very nasty and scary mafia-type Roman (Peter Dinklage). Cue carnage as the two evils smash head on in a contest of wills, threats, violence and all manner of dastardly deeds…

'she's not kidding'

When Marla realised that the life of her partner and lover, Fran (Eiza González) is at risk the stakes escalate because she hates to lose – no matter the cost. Roman’s mother Jennifer (Dianne Wiest) tells her she is “the worst mistake you’ll ever make” and so the scene is set of the kind of crime craziness that is somewhat reminiscent of the Wachowskis’ Bound.

Brit Director Blakeson delivers a slick and cinematically indulgent ride, keeping the action crisp and the tension frosty. I Care A Lot is a film that you just can’t look away from and as such – a rare treat which would have been great to witness on the big screen!? 

Dinklage is superb channelling more than a little Tyrion - chewing scenery and sucking smoothies – which he is liable to throw at his lackeys when upset. What follows is an extremely fun rollercoaster of thrills, spills and plot twists that is liable to leave you shaken at just how awful people can be…

Highly recommended viewing!

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(5 - Delicious. dark and masses of fun)

Awesomeness öööö – Really excellent scripting and plot elevates this romp

Laughs ööö – Darkly funny throughout

Horror ööö – Violent and menace aplenty

Spiritual Enlightenment öö - Can you say 'reprehensible?'

click below for some dark scifi reading...


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Matt lives in a time of DRAGONS (review)

Living in Times of Dragons: The Remnant King Book One

John A Pretorius (@JohnAPretorius1

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20

“I don’t pray a lot for myself. You can say that’s my default setting. I don’t like admitting that I have no control and the events of the past months only underscore this. The idea, the Christian idea, that we have no control over anything has always scared me.” 

Dragons eh? Next to magic might just be the most overused fantasy trope – with seemingly every author putting a dragon into their stories these days to channel the huge fan base these legendary creatures have. So when picking up Living in Times of Dragons I was expecting another standard dragon-em-up mixed with magic and set in an alt near future South Africa. What I got was a fascinating remix of the standard lore, some interesting characters and an injection of Christian faith into the tale too. 

We get to join American ex-pat, father and widower, Roger Rommel – your average guy with issues, one thing is sure though – he didn’t believe in dragons. And so as Pretorius says in his blurb - unfortunately they did not return the sentiment.

Roger finds himself in South Africa after a self-imposed exile and runs headlong into a confrontation with dragons who it turns out are real and want to kill us!? Our ‘hero’ though has something up his metaphorical sleeve - a dream crafting ability which allows him some foresight into the future (although I don’t think he saw the dragon danger). Might he be the one person who can stop them?

Turns out the man vs dragon conflict has been raging for thousands of years old out of sight of most of us and Roger and his son are in serious danger. Who will survive and what will be left of them?

I’ve got to know John a bit on twitter over the last few months – both writing books at the intersection of the spiritual and fantastical gave us pause to check out each other’s tomes. I asked John about his thoughts on writing his, he told me:


“The inspiration for my book Living in Times of Dragons is not a linear line, but the basic kernel for it came when I was trying to find a story for private detective I thought up called Roger Rommel.

“The dubiously named Roger was created around the time I began to explore film noir and American detective fiction by the likes of Raymond Chandler, which happened after leaving school. It was also around this time where I first encountered CS Lewis (whom I never read as a child), GK Chesterton and the somewhat forgotten American author James Stoddard, all whom lit a fire in my imagination. Originally I wanted to use Roger for a noir novel with him as protagonist, but that went nowhere. I then began a second, more fantastic novel that I got further in, but which also went nowhere. On and off I tried stories with him and other characters, and those books never got off the ground

'there are all sorts of different dragons!'

“I ended up thinking about the character visiting an office of a rich prospective client, setting up your usual case of dames and blackmail. Roger would get distracted and look out the window, only to see a dragon flap its wings over the Pretoria skyline. After circling, the dragon went to attack them, singling out Roger. This scene does not even appear in the final book or any of its drafts, but it served as the seed for a series projected to be four books long, of which three are in a state of completion.

“Major literary influences are all over the map, but there are three major sources. I was definitely influenced by Lewis' more adult fiction like his Cosmic Trilogy and JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but it definitely drew its tone from two separate sources: Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, and Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun cycle. Like in the latter, the book is written as a memoir of fantastic events, told at a definite time and place for the character, looking back on climactic events in their lives. Only difference is, Wolfe gives a definite ending for his character at the end of the first chapter. The Big Sleep, and Chandler on the whole, was a huge influence on the general tone Roger takes in narrating events..

“The biggest influence was probably GK Chesterton's The Man who was Thursday. Despite being written in the early 1900s, it feels like what you'd get if the Monty Python gang tried to write a Christian allegory in the form of a James Bond parody. A mindscrew of epic proportions, it has many thematic overlay with the Remnant King saga, and also has a character named Doctor Bull for good measure. Although it keeps its meaning oblique, a study of the text indicates that the novel was written out a frame of mind of depression, of someone trying to make sense of a chaotic world.

“Finally, two other influences that are not very apparent, is the Bible, particularly the Book of Job and the Book of Jonah, as Roger is something of an amalgamation of the two, just cast as a detective.”

Living in Times of Dragons does a lot of world-building as it is the first in a planned franchise. I found that at points the dialogue gets very detailed in places which might put off those who enjoy a faster-paced romp. But it weaves an interesting tale and is hopefully the start of series that will ratchet up in pace as it goes on.

Pretorius writes with an interesting style and the book has some great flourishes including a map, some visuals and font play which I’m a fan of so grab the paperback if you have chance. Overall if you’re looking for a modern dragon fantasy – this is a solid addition to the genre that brings enough new thinking to the party to be worth taking a look.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(4 - Dragons can still be relevant in this remnant)

Click the banner below to check out some dark sci-fi...


Trigger Warning: Downrange vs Carnage Park


Trigger Warning: Downrange vs Carnage Park

The premise of an unseen shooter picking off targets isn't necessarily a new one but it can be an effectively ghastly one. There are a number of films that have elements of this: Netflix’s Red Dot has the titular scene of a couple menaced by the laser sight of a sniper set against a beautiful snowy landscape. Then there’s the sickeningly powerful final third of Full Metal Jacket which sees crack US marines helplessly pinned down by a lone sniper. In Brit thriller Towerblock the plot effectively brings a ‘retribution through sniper’ motiv and Targets back in ’68 riffed on the average guy snaps – buys lots of ammo and starts shooting random people. Let’s not forget the claustrophobic Phone Booth either which took the location and minimised it.

Baddie snipers can be found in Jack Reacher, Dirty Harry films and American Sniper to name but a few. Horror auteur Ti West explore the trope in Trigger Man and there are a seemingly never-ending number of entries in the Sniper movie franchise where it’s the hero with the long barrel gun.

Here though I’m looking at two real gut-punch horror flicks – the ‘new fresh prince of horror’ Mickey Keating’s Carnage Park which my favourite description of is ‘the hills have eyes and they also have a sniper rifle’ and the cinematic tour-de-force and incredibly violent Downrange from Ryûhei Kitamura…

So let our sniper-em-up showdown commence:


Downrange (18)

Dir. Ryûhei Kitamura

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Sergeant, we have a shooter in an elevated position. Request state assistance as soon as possible.”

The fear of the unknown is a primal one. The fear that somewhere in the aforementioned ‘unknown’ is a maniac with a high-powered rifle who wants you dead is even worse… Hold that thought.

Country road trips can be taxing – but they’re generally less fun when you get a tire blowout. Meet Todd (Rod Hernandez) and his girlfriend Sara (Alexa Yeames) a young couple giving a ride to their pals Jodi (Kelly Connaire) and Keren (Stephanie Pearson), Eric (Anthony Kirlew) and Jeff (Jason Tobias). All is fine with flirty banter and small talk until one of their SUV’s tires explodes. As the youngsters struggle to change the tire and Sara tries organise a group selfie a muffled gunshot fizzes out of nowhere blowing most of her head apart.

From that moment on Ryûhei ‘Azumi’ Kitamura's Downrange changes from being just another teen road movie into a nail biting survive-em-up which amps up the tension along with the body count.

'I spy with my little eye...'

The bogeyman sniper is a fearsome enemy. Well positioned, relentlessly accurate and in no hurry to rush through his latest batch of victims. It’s a simple but hugely suspenseful set up that sucks you in with powerful cinematic scenery and likeable victims and won’t let you go until the final girl tries to face down the killer.

There are plenty of other horror tropes mixed such as the ill-fated occupants of another vehicle bearing a family happen along, I don’t fancy their chances... And then the police arrive – will they save the day or are they too going to be walking target meat bags?

'things get a bit out of hand...'

Downrange is a visually visceral experience, it is not a film for the easily shocked or those looking for some light-hearted entertainment.  If you thought Kitamura's nihilistic No One Lives was his darkest work, think again. Here is a sniper bogeyman for the ages, the terror and tension engage on a primal level and the level of savage glee on display is purely disturbing in the best possible way.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(4.5 - Wrong place, wrong time, grim but fun)

Click the banner below to check out some dark sci-fi...



Carnage Park (18)

Dir. Mickey Keating

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20)

“Well, sir, some folks might get mad... some folks might even wanna take a little revenge. 'Cos idle hands, Well... They're the devil's playground. The Bible says so, so it must be true. But... Either way, out here - there's one thing that's certain. God don't pick no favourites.”

What happens when a deranged Vietnam Vet is left to create his own psychotic ‘carnage park’ in a dusty stretch of hell? Here we have a film that is part ‘true crime’ shot through Tarantino filter – bank heist gone wrong / turns into kidnapping / then goes full gnarly gore-fest.. You have to give props to a film that bears the title card: ‘The film you are about to see is perhaps the most bizarre episode in the annals of American crime.’

'dem country folk have odd ways'

If you’re getting Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibes then you’re on the right (twisted) path. After a monologue from our sniper gun lovin Veteran Wyatt Moss (Pat Healy) we get to join a calamity prone duo of felons named Scorpion Joe (James Landry Hébert) and his partner in crime Lenny (Michael Villar). Lenny’s not doing so good - bleeding out in the backseat of the getaway car whilst unwitting hostage Vivian’s (Ashley Bell) screams echo from the trunk. So far, so Reservoir Dogs, but this is merely a prelude to the insanity and ‘carnage’, which forms the main part of the film.

'get away car'

Vivian is a survivor you see but for a good part of the film its her versus Wyatt in a savage battle of cat-and-mouse shot though with a heavy dose of insanity and some very nasty deaths. The lean, mean plot works to the film's advantage, and the gruesome tour around the killer’s bunker of body filled mineshafts is a hark back to ‘70s massacre films in the same way that Rob Zombie worships those heady days of horror.

Taking a trip to Carnage Park is a rollercoaster of thrills, spills and heavy-duty shocks.

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:


(4 - Shoot em all - let God sort them out...)

Click the banner below to check out some dark sci-fi...


Both Downrange and Carnage Park are well worth checking out for those who like to test themselves  – and would make a seriously ‘killer’ double bill!?


Sunday, February 07, 2021

Matt isn't himself, Ringer (review)



D.T. Wilby (@davidtwilby

Reviewed by Matt Adcock (@Cleric20

“Ultimately, could his replacement do a better job of being him than even he could? Had they copied him verbatim, or was this monster an upgrade? A better friend? A better son? A better lover? The myriad of questions their encounter prompted were both intriguing and disconcerting.” 

What would you do if there was another ‘you’ out there? One that believed it was the ‘real’ you and that you were an imposter. It knows how you think, it can anticipate your reactions and moves and most of all, no-one will know the difference if they meet this ‘other you’… 

I love this concept which I first read in the 1846 novella The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky where a man is driven to breakdown when his life is usurped by a doppelgänger – so I was delighted to find a cool sci-fi restyling of this nightmare premise. 

The core premise of D.T. Wilby’s techno-horror Ringer is that a high-tech company might one day be able to create clones of us, a freaky ‘what if’ that worms its way under your skin and grips like a fishhook – tearing through your nerves as it builds to a killer twisty climax. 

Told from the point-of-view of a guy named Will, this is a guy on the edge, suffering night terrors and a fear that something isn’t right. Unfortunately for him, he’s right thing are pretty freakin far from alright.

I asked D.T. Wilby about his writing inspiration for his book. He said: 

“In terms of some background to writing Ringer, I find that a lot of the stuff that I come up with is what I'd call small scale, more 'kitchen sink' sci-fi. It's not about the end of the world, but might be about the end of someone's world. What I like to try and explore is how technology may impact on individuals, both positively and negatively. Another trend I've picked up on in my writing so far is isolating my protagonist, cutting them off from any support network while they deal with the challenges facing them. 

There's also a lot of 'Monster In The House' too, as Save the Cat would have it. The concept of sleep paralysis/night terrors was something that I've never experienced, so it was interesting to explore that. I also wanted to look deeper into the sense of individualism and self - how that will stand up to the technology coming down the tracks, how it could undermine someone mentally to have that sense of uniqueness chipped away at gradually.” 

The good news is that the research has paid off because Ringer is a page-turning sci-fi treat. As the nightmare action cracks along it keeps you on edge throughout. Wilby writes with a compelling narrative and lots of authentic dialogue that doesn’t feel forced. You might not have a full-scale mental breakdown reading this but you’ll sure be entertained by this grim spectacle and you might start to look twice at that person over there who looks a bit like you!?

Out of a potential 5 - you have to go with a Darkmatters:

ööööö (5 - does another you want your life?) 

Read more Sci-fi!! 

Click this banner to find out more about my near future nightmare cyberpunk novel (soon to be a comic too)...