Sunday, 23 July 2017
Burn is a short English horror film that is a debut collaboration between Slaughtered Bird Films and Dragon Egg Media and was directed by Judson Vaughan (Soul Breaker) and written by Chris Barnes (editor of The Slaughtered Bird). The whole film was made over just 3 days with a low budget of under £5000.
Peter (Max Cavenham) and Lou (Emma Kelly) are expecting their first child and in preparation Peter is making his unborn son a series of tapes talking about his life. There has been a series of brutal murders in the area and it is soon revealed that the perpetrator is none other than Max himself who commits suicide before being caught. Fast forward five years and Lou and her child Charlie have moved to a new area to try and carry on with their lives, yet a discovery of a hidden tape brings with it surprising revelations...
At a quarter of an hour long this doesn't have time to outstay its welcome and in fact is pretty decently paced. Initially I thought the film was leading up to the pretty obvious revelation that Peter was a killer and so was pleased to see that revealed early on. I would say Cavenham was my favourite of the actors, his camera sections had a great intensity to them. The other characters did fine enough jobs but he stood out the most. It was interesting exploring the aftermath of having found out someone you loved was not who they appeared to be, though it would have been good to see the initial aftermath rather than skip forward five years straight away. It is a lazy comparison to make but Dexter was what most come to mind watching this with a bit of Capture Kill Release mixed in too.
The horror is kept to a minimum but when it does come it has more impact and is pretty crazy in a slightly over the top way (who doesn't love a chainsaw?). It all ends on a bit of a question which is the best way to have finished this I feel. Burn is full of decent camera work and some nice cinematography, again mostly revolving around Peter. This is a psychological horror that does the job it set out to do and works mainly because of the self contained nature and natural flow that gives an entertaining insight into a troubled family. Burn is coming to film festivals in the near future so keep an eye out for it.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
Seoul Station (original title Seoulyeok) is the animated prequel to the best zombie film of 2016; Train to Busan. I was quite excited to see this film and while I knew it wouldn't and couldn't possibly be on par with that instant classic I still looked forward to watching it. To be fair it is pretty much what I expected, though sadly aside from taking place in the same city (one day before the events of the film) there is no link tying this to that one in a narrative sense.
Seoul Station chronicles how the zombie infection started in Seoul, however we don't see the actual cause, though maybe witness patient zero in the form of an injured homeless man staggering through the streets. It isn't long before this man has turned into a flesh hungry monster, and soon his ranks swell with those of the many homeless. The film focuses on two different sets of characters. After having an argument with her vile boyfriend a teenage runaway decides to spend the night with the homeless, however she gets caught up in the outbreak and with the help of a seasoned vagrant seeks to escape the carnage. At the same time in a different part of the city the boyfriend is found by the girls father who demands he take him to his daughter and in doing so they too get caught up in the unfolding apocalypse.
Tuesday, 18 July 2017
I'm sure if you even have a passing interest in zombies you would have heard the awful news. The King of zombies George A. Romero sadly passed away on Sunday after a brief battle with lung cancer at the age of 77. Rarely can one person be credited with creating an entire genre, Romero was one of those rare people. Sure there were zombie films before he came along but up to that point they were kind of dull, and the zombies in question were nearly always the result of Voodoo magic, most the time not even dead, just under control of some nefarious person, such as can be seen with 1932's White Zombie.
It was Romero who created the zombie film as we know it today; that of undead flesh eating monsters. It is not an exaggeration to say his films influenced countless people, that his films captured the minds of so many people who credit him as the reason for their works. In books you have amazing horror authors such as David Moody and Duncan P. Bradshaw who both say if not for his films they wouldn't have written zombie novels. The creator of The Walking Dead cites him as the key influence for the comics and by proxy TV show. In videogames again everything from Dead Rising to Resident Evil to the Zombies mode in Call of Duty all exist due to this legend of film making, he even got a guest appearance as a zombie in the classic Zombies map Call of the Dead. In films the affect is felt even more keenly, pretty much every single zombie film released over the last 50 years exist because of one man's vision and that is just a mind blowing achievement. Even this blog you are reading exists because of him. I loved Michael Jackson's Thriller video as a child, I used to watch the zombie section over and over again, yet it was only after watching Romero's original sublime trilogy (that were the first, second and third zombie films I ever saw) that I found myself hooked on zombies proper.
So in 1968 came the original The Night of the Living Dead. This was a black and white horror that stood out for many reasons. Romero was a genius in that he used horror as a means for social commentary. This film did so much that just had never been done before. The main hero lead was played by a black actor which was unusual in the 1960's, also the fact that he doesn't survive the events of the film due to being killed after being mistaken for a zombie by an all white hunting party at the films conclusion was not only shocking but was also a commentary on racial issues at the time. The fact that the human antagonist actually had the right idea all along was also something new, as was the fact that the attractive young white couple introduced end up getting eaten around the films midpoint rather than surviving. Watching it in modern day it is hard to find it as scary as it would have been but Roger Ebert summed up the feeling when the film first came out the best:
"The kids in the audience were stunned. There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying. There was a little girl across the aisle from me, maybe nine years old, who was sitting very still in her seat and crying...It's hard to remember what sort of effect this movie might have had on you when you were six or seven. But try to remember. At that age, kids take the events on the screen seriously, and they identify fiercely with the hero. When the hero is killed, that's not an unhappy ending but a tragic one: Nobody got out alive. It's just over, that's all."
There are such classic scenes here, such as the survivors boarding up the farmhouse they find themselves trapped in whilst under assault by hordes of undead. Then there is of course probably the most iconic scene to come from the film; that of the little girl rising up to become one of the dead, eating her father and brutally butchering her mother with a trowel. NOTLD was the genesis for numerous tropes in the genre such as humans always being the real monster, how divisions within a group is always the cause for defeat, and of course the fact that anyone who dies can come back as a living corpse.
Next up came The Crazies in 1973. This featured a different type of zombie, here they were instead infected people, with the disease turning them into psychotic mad men. The army are swiftly called in and the town isolated. By the end of the film you realise the real crazies of this film are actually the faceless hazmat suit wearing soldiers who will stop at nothing to ensure the outbreak is contained, whatever the cost.
Five years later in 1978 comes what many consider to be Romero's finest work Dawn of the Dead. This one centred around a shopping centre that a small group of survivors take refuge in, thinking it will be paradise it instead leads to apathy and resentment between the group until human interference once again leads to the destruction of everything. This time being a commentary on capitalism with the zombies existing as metaphors for the Western worlds obsession with money. Correct me if I'm wrong but the classic 'open door and get swamped by zombies' trope originated with this movie. I have actually only seen Dawn of the Dead four times, and that is because my go to Romero film is Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead arrived in 1985 and closes off the original trilogy. This is hands down my favourite zombie film of all time. Carrying on from the events of the first two films zombies now are everywhere, a group of what could be the final survivors spend their days in a claustrophobic underground bunker. Half the people there are army, half are scientists desperately searching for a cure. The rift between these two very different groups leads once again to death and destruction. Day of the Dead is the film that desensitised me to violence in films, I remember watching it as a teenager horrified, but too scared to look away as the bad guys got their comeuppance and were viciously pulled apart, one man having his head pulled off while still screaming, and fantastically nasty main bad guy Rhodes has the most iconic and classic death scene in any film ever as far as I'm concerned. Also who can forget Bub?
In 2005 the next instalment in Romero's world came to fruition; Land of the Dead and sadly I class it as the most disappointing film I have ever seen, I saw it at the cinema twice, on different sides of the world as I couldn't believe it was as bad as my first impressions were. I expected a worthy successor to the original trilogy but instead got a pretty bland zombie flick that seemed like it was trying too hard to make a statement (this time the divide between the rich and the poor) and I did not enjoy where they took the zombies. This one was set in a secured settlement where zombie hunters discover that the undead are changing and showing signs of intelligence. With expectations low I didn't really mind 2007's Diary of the Dead. There was a brief few years where zombie found footage films were the done thing and this followed suit. I may have only seen it once but I remember it being ok. Finally in 2009 was Survival of the Dead, another ok film, this one took place on a small island which two warring groups inhabited.
Despite the lukewarm reception I gave the later films there is nothing that can ever make me see the original three; Night, Dawn and Day as anything but stunning films, they are the foundation blocks for the entire genre that we know and love today. I shall most certainly be revisiting his legacy sometime very soon (and doing a new review to replace the awful original I did of Day of the Dead). R.I.P George A. Romero the King of Zombies, The Rotting Zombie salutes you in classic Bub fashion!
Monday, 17 July 2017
Man Underground is a strange film to pin down, at its heart it is a drama with some mild sci-fi elements to it. It is more a look at a group of three isolated loners brought together to achieve a goal of making a film. There is barely any horror here to speak of, and yet there are elements if you look for them, and with the sci-fi element never verified as real or fake there is scope for this to belong.
George Basil stars as conspiracy theorist Willem Koda who after an alleged encounter with aliens while working as a geologist for the US government is obsessed with getting the truth out there. He decides to make a film of his life in order to spread the truth and in doing so teams up with his geeky best friend Todd (Andy Rocco), and hires an aspiring actress working at a diner (Flossie played by Pamela Fila). As the three make this very amateur movie they start to form a bond of sorts but Willem's abrasive personality soon starts to cause rifts.
Sunday, 16 July 2017
Simple Creature is director/writer Andrew Finnigan's modern day retelling of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Though I was worried this would be too literal a re-telling it instead carves its own path using the classic story as a loose template. It also melds modern technology with the mythos, so for example we have the 'monster' being made up of stolen body parts replaced with synthetic ones being used, and enhanced abilities the result of nanobots.
Em (Carollani Sandberg) is a student studying out in the country where she meets farm boy Seth (D'Angelo Midili) and soon they get together. On the way home to visit her father one holiday the bus she is on gets in a crash and she seemingly dies. However her Dad happened to be working on a human enhancement program at shady scientific research lab Singularity and chooses her as his next subject. Over two years she is enhanced with artificial organs and computer software but her desire to leave the facility, coupled with her lost memories returning sees her escape to reunite with Seth. However Singularity are not finished with her and will stop at nothing to retrieve their experiment.
Saturday, 15 July 2017
Turkish made (and set) No.70: Eye of Basir is a horror game that is set out in the 'walking simulator' style much like The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. As such this features no combat of any type, or even enemies for that matter as is the normal way with this type of game. What it does feature is lots of walking and the occasional puzzle solving over the course of the roughly two hour play through time. I played this using an X-Box 360 controller and should state that the game ran at a very low frame rate...but my PC is not designed to play video games and so that is most certainly the reason why!
I'm a bit lost as to the details of the story but basically you play as Aras whose brother Erhan has gone missing in mysterious circumstances. One day you awake to discover strange doorways in your house that never used to exist, it is while exploring these new rooms that you find a room containing the ancient device known as the Eye of Basir. Using its powers you decide to head to where you first saw it as a child; your grandmothers house at No.70.
Friday, 14 July 2017
I'm not sure I have ever reviewed a documentary on my blog before, so this may be the inaugural review for this type of media. Hotel Camarillo is a 65 minute documentary about the Camarillo State Mental Hospital in California and it mainly focuses on what ghost hunters have documented about the place over the years. Currently it is a university (I believe) with the old wards of the notorious mental home slowly being changed into dorm rooms and other such places.
I do enjoy documentaries about haunted places but I have to confess I am a huge sceptic when it comes to real life cases of ghosts and other paranormal goings on, though to quote the iconic poster from The X-Files 'I want to believe' but until I see proof with my own two eyes I can't help but feel like an outsider. This didn't take away from my enjoyment of this documentary though, the many people interviewed, many of them ghost hunters all seem like they really do believe in the existence of ghosts. All the interviewees talk about what they experienced in a matter of fact way and there is the evidence they have recorded to back it up. I did love the sense of rivalry the different groups had with each other, such as one funny moment when someone is apologising for not cleaning up the flour they had spread on the floor in one of the rooms (to try and get evidence of ghostly footprints). It sounded like this type of rivalry would make for an entertaining film.
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
It was my aim this year to stay more up to date with current horror themed video games, my plan was to buy one a month so I can give a timely review. It all started well with the excellent VR treat Resident Evil 7: Biohazard in January, Berserk and the Band of the Hawk was the game I brought in February but a series of constraints meant I had to wait until now to finish playing it. This was made by the people behind Dynasty Warriors and so it takes the form of huge battles against thousands of enemies in war like settings.
In the story mode you play as Guts who starts the game being forced to join a charismatic mercenary named Griffith and his group who are known as the Band of the Hawk. The game covers all three films showing Guts ascent through the ranks, and the ultimate betrayal that occurs during the iconic eclipse moment. I had expected the game to end at this point but it then goes on to cover the events of both season 1 and season 2 of the latest Berserk show, and actually finishes past the end of the second season of the anime. For someone who had only seen last years anime before playing this it was a revelation to me to discover how Guts came to be the cursed sword man, and also how little monster type stuff was in the world before the Eclipse event. It gave me so much insight on the show that it feels crazy now to think how much I was missing out on. This brought with it new issues though, I was halfway through the game when season 2 came out and I swiftly realised that the game was going to include (the then) new seasons events and so I had to make a decision to stop playing it as I didn't want the show ruined.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
WTF! fits itself firmly into the slasher genre and has a decent dose of comedy to mix. It impresses on some fronts such as the special effects for the many kills, as well as the set-up, but it also fails in some important places also, namely in making the big twist far, far too obvious and by giving us a forgettable looking slasher villain.
Three years ago Rachel (Callie Ott) was the only survivor of a killing spree at a party that saw the deaths of all her friends. Now with a new group of friends that includes her jock boyfriend Sam, stoner Jacob, Bevan, Bonnie and Lisa, as well as her quiet brother Toby she hopes to conquer her fears about that night by heading to a remote house for spring break to party. However as the flash forward to an interrogation room shows history repeats itself and Rachel again finds herself seemingly the only survivor of another killing spree...
Sunday, 9 July 2017
Continuing my campaign to get through eBooks faster I have recently finished reading Greener Pastures by Michael Wehunt. This is an anthology of 11 short horror tales that share a similar feeling of loss and the passing of time. Initially I worried I would not enjoy this book at all, the style of writing was a bit off putting, not in that it was badly written, more that it was a bit too well written with Wehunt content to let his words dance around the page with a lot of what he writes suggestive of events rather than simple to decipher.
So starting off we have Beside Me Singing in the Wilderness and Onanon both share a kind of vampire type vibe and so I wondered if that meant the entire book was going to be a collection of those sort of stories. Both the stories were pretty obtuse in what they describe with work needed on the readers part to work out what they are really about, I just wasn't feeling either of those ones. Next came the title story Greener Pastures which is one I got on a lot better with, it shares kind of a H.P Lovecraft style tone to it, but lighter and less foreboding. The suggestions of other worldly beings, and the setting of a remote and isolated diner gave this a good atmosphere that brought to mind The Twilight Zone. A Discreet Music follows this and was probably my least favourite, as far as I can tell a man turns into a swan for some reason? While the thought of turning into a bird is a noble passion I just couldn't really get on with it.
Saturday, 8 July 2017
Nowadays the term found footage doesn't immediately install in me a sense of dread, there have been a load of great ones over the last few years such as The Dark Tapes, Capture Kill Release and A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex. However Altar takes a page right out of the original wave of found footage horrors, and while it doesn't resort to the hated shaky cam it does still follow tenaciously the tired tropes of the genre.
Maisy (Stefanie Estes) is going on a school reunion with a bunch of her old friends that is going to take the form of a camping trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains. She has decided to take her young brother; painfully shy Bo (Jesse Parr) with her to try and get him out his shell a little bit, he has Aspergers and since the death of their parents he has become increasingly withdrawn. As Bo has recently gotten into film making she suggests he bring his camera so he can make a documentary out of the whole trip. On the way to the camp the car him and Maisy are travelling in gets lost and them and a few others end up in an isolated camping ground that just happens to be near to a creepy altar...
Friday, 7 July 2017
It's that time again when my inbox here at The Rotting Zombie HQ is over flowing with news requests and so I shall fling them out in the style of words on a page. I have no idea what news there shall be as I am going to work my way upwards until my rotting visage bursts out the proverbial mail sack.
Peelers; the zombie film set in a strip club came out on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S in time for Independence Day, followed by a Canadian release on VOD come July 11th. I said of this when I reviewed it last November: 'this certainly has its moments, and is worth watching for the zombie make-up'. It also has a ballsy ending that I appreciated. Another zombie film; Night of Something Strange also released recently...today in fact it came on on VOD worldwide. I reviewed this one also back in November and thought it was a funny and entertaining film that had great (and very gross) special effects, plus it features the legend in the making Wayne W. Johnson who is a delight to watch whatever role he happens to play. Now I saw both Peelers and Night of Something Strange at the UK Festival of Zombie Culture 2016 and in very sad news indeed I can report that festival is it not coming back in 2017. The tireless event organiser Zombie Ed put out a statement that said work commitments have meant he has not had time to organise it. I really hope the festival does return in 2018 as it is a legitimate highlight of my year, me and my best friend always have such an awesome time.
The king of lo-fi sleazy crime films Dakota Bailey (My Master Satan: 3 Tales of Drug Fueled Violence, American Scumbags) has a new film coming out quite soon, it is titled The Acid Sorcerer and judging from the frankly awesome trailer is going to be filled with violence and horror. His style of film making may not be for everyone, and at times it seems he does go out his way to try and shock, but even if you have no interest in the film check out the trailer below as it is sublime (and I love that the psychedelic nightmare drug sequences are back).
Directer Jim Klock's 6.66 PM is a horror comedy that is getting its world premiere in November. In this film a group of fake ghost hunters enter the home of a dead serial killer to make a TV show, but to the fraudsters shock they discover the spirit of the notorious killer actually does live on, and he intends to start a new killing spree starting with them. It is hard to tell from the teaser trailer if this is going to be good or not, but check it out and see what you think.
In some more horror film news Woodhaven Media have launched a brand new website and merchandise store. Woodhaven Media are a motion picture production company that are known for horror genre movies. These films can now be brought from the website (here) as can t-shirts and more merch is to follow in the future.
I first mentioned Slashening 2: The Final Beginning back in September, this was to be the follow up to the comedy horror The Slashening but sadly halfway through filming Annum Films ran out of money and are currently trying to raise funds to complete it. To do so they have created a Go Fund Me page (that can be found here). As a sneak peak of what the final film will be like the first 12 minutes have been released fully edited, I shall include it below. The guy who plays the home owner in the clip is scene stealing every time and I loved how it makes a lot of reference to the events of the first film.
So a whole bunch of film info there, I will end by saying my new office is up and operational, it feels great to have a room dedicated to this blog and not just a corner of my front room! It's in the early stages still but as Caught in Joy sings; Rome Wasn't Built in a Day.
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
It was less than twenty minutes into A Beginners Guide to Snuff that I realised this was going to be a good movie. This is very much a black comedy, but one which mixes elements of pure horror with idiocy so well that I felt a strange mix of being both uneasy and having quite a bit of fun. This was made by the Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri and Phil Flores) who also made The Hamiltons (boring fact of the day; I own The Hamiltons but have never gotten around to watching it).
Dresden (Joey Kern from Cabin Fever) and his younger brother Dominic (Luke Edwards from Jeepers Creepers 2) are two aspiring actors whose move to L.A to become big stars hasn't gone too well. Out of money and with the prospect of having to head home with their tails between their legs they decide to have one last go. Discovering a competition to make a horror film with the prize being $250,000 the brothers decide to enter, but with only one week before the closing date they are forced to act fast. They plan to make a fake snuff film but auditions for the female star don't go well. Dresden comes up with a plan to make their film look really authentic, they are going to kidnap their top choice (Jennifer played by Bree Williamson) and pretend they really are going to kill her in order to get a realistic performance, later down the line they mean to let her in on the situation. However the plan starts to go wrong when Dresden begins to get a little bit too much into his role, that and the fact that they really have chosen the wrong women to mess with...