by Alex de Campi
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Volume 1 by Alex de Campi is the literary version of a “grindhouse”, B-rated horror flick. Think along the lines of Quentin Tarantino’s grindhouse double feature and you get it, right down to the balls being mutilated. It is jam-packed with gore and sexy ladies The features of this volume are Bee Vixens from Mars and Prison Ship Antares. Bee Vixens from Mars is a short story about alien bee floating through town as incredibly sexy and friendly ladies. Their goal: breed and spread their womanly, bee-like threat. Prison Ship Antares, set in outer-space, describes the revolt of cell-block E ladies against their cruel warden whose mission is to “cleanse and purify” these castaways.
What did and did not work with these stories?
Bee Vixens from Mars
Obviously designed as sex-violence introduction for the double feature to get everyone excited. Thus, the story was pretty shallow. Practically no efforts were made to develop the characters or progress the story. However, this is how it should be done. You don’t want to bog down the anxious viewers with heavy plot details and denouements, etc. Leave that for the follow-up.
The artistry style is reminiscent of Betty and Veronica comic strips with its bright and vibrant color schemes mixed with your classic graphic novel detail. Considering that the story is rather short in both length and depth, this style of drawing pairs well. At times it was difficult to see or read what was going on, but for the most part it was a successful use. Despite this story being a sex-ploitation type story, it didn’t have much nudity or sexual references. Yes, all of the women were barely clothed, they were all very attractive, and there was a reference to some lesbian sex but considering, it was fairly mild.
Prison Ship Antares
Much more involved than Bee Vixens from Mars, the reader actually gets a legitimate story to follow. While it isn’t anything over the top in terms of character development, the reader is able to establish personalities and backgrounds with a few of the inmates, which made it more enjoyable for me. I love grindhouse movies but the simple plots don’t always translate well into books, hence why I preferred this story. I have an issue with how this portion of the volume was set-up, but I will review that below. A quick note- small portions of this story randomly change languages with no seeming transition or translation. I found this discerning since it took almost four pages at one point.
Almost a direct compare and contrast to the above, Prison Ship Antares was drawn a little more crudely with more neutral colors. This worked well with the prison setting as the stereotype of inmates is that they are rough characters and they usually fit a type of demographic, or you imagine them all wearing specific types of clothing, or you believe that all female inmates become lesbians… those types of ideas fit into why the graphic style works. It is interesting to note that this story actually had more nudity and sexual references than Bee Vixens from Mars. It’s addition had more of a comic effect than an erotic one.
The graphic novel made great use of the grindhouse, double feature theme. Before and after each “show” are up-and-coming features that tie into the themes of the stories, such as “Zombie Rapture” and “Black Russian”. I enjoyed the break between the stories and taking the opportunity to enjoy the artistry. I had a particularly hard time physically reading this volume. As an ebook, it had a few challenges:
1) It moves very slowly on the ereader and actually force closed many times.
2) The double features are on opposite orientations. Obviously this could be an issue if you read ebooks on your laptop. I read on a tablet so it wasn’t a huge issue.
a) I also did not realize that you had to flip to the end of the novel to start the second story until I had finished it. I had assumed that it would be formatted to accommodate for electronic reading, but it is setup exactly as the print version.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. Within the context of what this volume is truly about, it excels. This is not a graphic novel for someone looking for a series continuation, story complexity, or even excessive gore/nudity. It simply takes you to that B-rated horror that is laughably shocking.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review*
Title: Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Volume 1
Author: Alex de Campi
Number of Pages: 132
Original Release: 29 June 2014
Literature: overrated. Morality: expendable. Midnight is right for some over-the-top sex and violence, and this Grindhouse double feature is packing the aisles with blood ‘n’ guts and T ‘n’ A! Gasp as insatiable alien insects overtake a Southern town with only a one-eyed deputy to stop them in “Bee Vixens from Mars”! Shudder as the sexy lady convicts of Block E revolt against an insane warden in “Prison Ship Antares”! Tremble in anticipation at the gallery of shocking “coming attractions”! Get filthy with this unique experience from Alex de Campi’s Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight!