I’m immediately intrigued by the plot of the new story arc in “Grindhouse: Doors Open At Midnight” #5. I’m a big fan of b-movies and schlock cinema — one of my favorite theaters is The Spectacle, a former Brooklyn bodega converted into a 25 seat theater that screens the strangest stuff committed to celluloid. Alex de Campi loves the genre as well and has used the limitless storytelling budget of comic books to create a Grindhouse-style blood and guts story based in a medieval setting. It feels like a mash up of plot points from “Kill Bill” and “I Spit On Your Grave.” I’m hopeful that since these similarities are introduced so quickly, the team will expand beyond them in the upcoming parts of this arc.
Branwyn is set to wed her betrothed Lord of Callyreath on a tiny isle surrounded by extras from Twelfth Night. I like the slow burn of the opening of the story as we switch from POV shots behind Bran’s bridal veil to third person shots of the action in general. It’s a fun choice by artist Federica Manfredi to put us in Bran’s shoes during the height of her joy because we know what is coming. If you picked this book up and did not know what is coming, I am sorry and maybe grab a copy of “Adventure Time” to cool off (also this story is called “Bride of Blood,” so come on).Â
The action hits fast and seemingly without reason as the wedding party is raped and slaughtered by a band of woodland reavers. I was a little more uncomfortable reading these scenes than I would be watching them on film, I think because of the static nature of comic images. It sits in front of you until you turn the page or your gaze which made me shift a little in my seat. I also should not have read this book on a subway train. Manfredi’s art is clean and very matter-of-fact, reminiscent of Steve Dillon, which also adds a level of disconnect to the grimy events unfolding. Most Grindhouse films have a grain to them that make the film look dirty, like the reels were dragged through a supermarket parking lot. All of this happens in the clean light of day at a wedding. There’s a tragic splash page at the end of the carnage that is beautifully composed as Bran, bloody and violated, crawls to the body of her mother, gallons of blood smeared across the forest floor. There’s beauty in chaos and it’s right here.
Readers don’t actually find out how Bran survives, or why she was left alive, as the story dashes forward (because this is a revenge tale and we need to get to the revengeance). De Campi’s script is incredibly efficient, hitting the beats we need to get Bran into the role she was destined for, finding her coward of a fiance, the only other survivor of the incident, and making him pay for his disgusting escape, which involved hacking wedding guests to pieces as he floats away on a swan boat. I’m willing to bet the reavers were after him in the first place and by the time Bran gets her hands on him he’ll probably wish they had reached him first.
This book is not for the faint of heart or easily offended. The tone of the letters column felt grosser than the story but I’d guess that is on purpose. It’s the equivalent of sitting through a film then having the unwashed guy in the bootleg Bart Simpson shirt behind you loudly declare his top five naked death scenes in way too much detail. There is intense violence and some very mature themes, but I liked how professionally it was handled. The creative team is off to a solid start and as mentioned above I hope they will use the elements here to put a unique twist on the Grindhouse revenge story.Â