Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Sweet Taste of Souls (2020) - Horror Film Review

Sweet Taste of Souls is an indie horror that had a premise that really interested me, even if, quite bizarrely it was a premise I had already seen in action, in last years Art of the Dead. This was directed by Terry Ross (R.I.P), with a story written by F. Scott Mudgett.

Four members of a small time band are on a road trip to attend a gig they hope will make their careers. They are comprised of Nate (John Salandria - Club Dead), his best friend Kyle (Mark Valeriano - Zombie), Kyle's girlfriend Wendy (Amber Gaston - Mermaid Down), and Lily (Sarah J. Bartholomew - voice work on the Life is Strange 2 video game). The foursome stop off at a roadside cafe where they catch the eye of the eccentric owner, Ellinore (Honey Lauren - Bram Stoker's Dracula), and unknown to the group she hides a terrible power. She is able to somehow turn people into living photographs, who are then displayed on the walls of her cafe as part of a twisted art collection, and she does this with the band. While they try to find a way to escape their timeless imprisonment, the discovery of their abandoned car leads to a man, whose daughter went missing in similar circumstances some years previously, to restart his investigation.

I love the idea of people being trapped inside a photograph, and reminded me to a similar event in Art of the Dead in which characters get trapped in paintings. I was interested to see how this would play out, and if it would be as cheesy as it sounded. The photos characters get trapped in are minimalistic white backgrounds, with props to fill up the space. Within the film these photos are soundproof, and inescapable, aside from having the photo window smashed, with the characters frozen in place whenever a person enters the cafe. There are feelings of Black Mirror at times with how long some of the people have been trapped, one couple indicate they had been there for 20 years! With Ellinore often interacting with the photo frames I thought they might do some sort of effect to show the perspective from the protagonists viewpoint, but this never happens. You get reaction shots of the group shouting at her, then shots of her looking at the photo frame, but never a mixing of the two. This felt very indie, which can best be seen with the cheesy looking way characters fade from the screen when they are initially captured, it's all charmingly cheesy though.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Shelter - Horror Film News

With all that has been going on in the world this year film releases have been noticeably fewer. A combination of companies wanting to wait until the right moment to release their films, and the logistical factors of being able to actually create a film in the first place with all the various restrictions in place. Shelter is an apocalyptic horror that has recently wrapped filming. This comes from director Alex T. Hwang, from a script he co-wrote with his wife, Kathleen Hwang, both of which were responsible for Paranormal Attraction.

Shelter stars Scream Queen Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare), as well as Thomas Haley (Fear the Walking Dead) and Michael Murphy (Lilith). It is about a woman named Karen who is trying to survive during an apocalypse in which an outside force threatens all of humanity, and who receives help from an unexpected source. Producer Kathleen Hwang said about the experience of filming; "Producing a movie during the Coronavirus pandemic, introduces a whole new set of obstacles to meet head on. Keeping cast and crew safe on set was of the utmost importance. We were fortunate to have a script that lent itself to mask wearing other opportunities to keep both the cast and crew safe. Having a very small cast was also beneficial. Director Alex Hwang and I were able to fill many roles off camera in an attempt to keep the cast and crew small and safe. Finally, casting was important so that we could get through scenes efficiently."

Monday, 19 October 2020

Eve (2019) - Horror Film Review

Eve is a UK horror that comes from director Rory Kindersley (Sweet Tooth), who also co-wrote this, alongside Drew Sherring-Hill. To say this stylistic thriller was a head scratcher is no exaggeration, as the credits rolled I was literally scratching my head wondering what on earth had actually happened over the course of the seventy five minute film. I admit to often liking style over substance, and so much of this movie appealed to me, even if I will be hard pressed to write a synopsis.

Alex Beyer (Christine Marzano - Death Race 4: Beyond Anarchy) is a formerly successful actress whose popularity has faded. She hopes to rekindle her fame by getting the part of 'Eve' in a film adaptation of a stage play which saw her win awards as the Eve character. Returning to her stylish London apartment after a holiday with her photographer boyfriend, Liam (Andrew Lee Potts - Primeval) the couple are shocked to discover the place has been vandalised with fake blood, apparently by an Airbnb guest who police suspect may have been a deranged fan. With that on her mind, as well as not being successful at her audition, Alex's mental state starts to deteriorate, and her and Liam's relationship begins to suffer as a result.

First things first, the multi-storey apartment that Eve and Liam live at is the star of the movie. This is very uniquely designed, and includes a brightly coloured spiral staircase as a centrepiece, a gym, a huge white room that is half bathroom half bedroom (separated by a net curtain), and the living room even has a slide going into it. As an aside, I spent the whole movie hoping that at some point a character would use the slide, but mild spoiler...they never do. With such an interesting building it is good that the majority of Eve is spent in this location, with about 10% showing characters in other places within London. Going well with this attractive building is some wonderful cinematography, which was shot by Douglas Milsome (Full Metal Jacket). A scene near the end in particular was wonderful, with a character at extreme close range in the bottom left corner, and another character blurred in the background. Helping both of these elements was some neat set design, an often re-visited 'insanity room' in particular really stood out. This room was integral to the films plot (I think) so I wont go into much detail, but think a madman's lair with cut out magazine collages, manic writing on the walls, and a projector forever playing footage from an old black and white movie.

Sunday, 18 October 2020

Boo Premieres on ALTER October 19th - Short Horror Film News

Rakefet Abergel's award winning short horror, Boo is set to premiere on ALTER on October 19th. ALTER produces and releases feature movies, series and short form stories from the horror genre across all platforms. Abergel said of her film "I'm really proud that Boo will be featured on ALTER, which is arguably one of the best distributers a short horror film can have...I'm excited it's finally going to be available for online viewers and I'm looking forward to hearing feedback from fans all over the world!".

Boo is the second film from Abergel's production company, Cyclamen Films, with her first movie, Jax in Love currently streaming on Amazon Prime and Vimeo On-Demand and playing on ShortsTV. When I reviewed Boo last year I gave it a respectable 8/10 and said that it felt like a step up from her previous movie.
Boo heads to ALTER on October 19th to kick-off their Halloween programming, with more platforms to be announced soon. Abergel will be doing a live Q&A on the Boo Facebook page with some of the cast and crew on the week of the premiere.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

The Walking Dead: Season 10 (2019-20) - Zombie Horror TV Show Review

It is that time where I attempt to do my annual review of the latest season of The Walking Dead. Due to the way the show airs I always struggle to write these reviews. Usually each season is split into two halves, one airing towards the end of the year, and the second part airing around February of the following year. I always tell myself I need to write after each half, rather than waiting till it has all ended. Well, this year with the darn pandemic has meant season ten of The Walking Dead is even more fragmented than usual. The pandemic hit before the season finale, A Certain Doom had been completed, and so that episode was pushed all the way back to the start of October. I'm now putting up a review of the season, but bear in mind there are an additional six episodes still to come at the start of 2021. I had heard they will be anthology like in style, each one dealing with a different set of characters. Unavoidable spoilers for previous seasons to follow.

With Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her Whisperers proven to be a dangerous threat, the settlements of Oceanside, New Alexandria and Hilltop live out an uneasy existence. While Alpha gave them her word they will be safe if they don't cross into her land they nonetheless begin to prepare for the inevitable battle. She has in her possession a horde of undead, a collection so large that they would decimate anyone they are unleashed upon. Carol (Melissa McBride) in particular carries a burning hatred for Alpha, and seems ready to break the terms of their shaky truce in order to claim her revenge...

I will be honest here, the way I in particular watched this season means parts of it are very fuzzy. Me and my best friend ended up watching this sporadically, this led to forgetting details of what had occurred previously, and who characters were. In more recent seasons there has always been a overly large cast, I long since gave up on trying to learn any of the newer characters names. Without spoiling much this is a season where the heroes are given a break in terms of shocking demises, plenty of good guys do die, but I can't think of a single character whose death I cared about. The Walking Dead in my opinion is at its best when it features stand alone episodes, and this season contains one of my favourite ones of this type. The 13th episode, What We Become sees Michonne (Danai Guria) experiencing a 'what if' scenario, showing the dark path her life may have led if she had never met up with Rick Grimes. This was created in part by nifty editing, and with digitally adding her to scenes from previous seasons, but with her as a bad guy. It was fantastic stuff, though personally that was due to both Rick and Carl appearing (even if it was just recycled footage). 

Friday, 16 October 2020

AMC - October Highlights - Horror TV News

Slightly late to the month but here is AMC's schedule for October, which includes a slew of Halloween appropriate horrors. Firstly, as I have already covered, Fear the Walking Dead is back for a sixth season. It premiered on Monday 12th at 21:00.
Not horror, but still a darn good show, Better Call Saul season 4 starts in October, in its TV premiere. It will air Thursdays at 21:00 until 9th December.

Now onto the Halloween films. 17th October sees the triple bill of Scary Movie 1-3. These horror comedies are quite ridiculous but have some good moments. 24th October is when the original Scream trilogy is shown, all of which are decent in their own right. Finally, on 31st October comes Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and Halloween: Resurrection. A bit of an odd selection seeing as Curse is the end of one saga and H20 and Resurrection are part of a different timeline, but any excuse to see anything Halloween is good by me.
These shows and films can all be viewed on AMC, which is on BT channel 332/381 HD.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Welcome to the Circle (2020) - Horror Film Review

It is with good timing that I came to be watching David Fowler's feature length directorial debut, Welcome to the Circle. I have just recently finished playing the video game Far Cry 5, both of which feature crazy cults. This film was very limited in scope, and while it suffers due to a tiny cast and a sometimes ridiculous script it at least offers up something to think about with how it tries to tell its story.

While out camping, Greg (Matthew MacCaull - Black Fly) and his young daughter, Sam (Taylor Dianne Robinson - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2) suffer a bear attack. Greg awakens to find himself at a strange commune out in the woods, being looked after by some female cultists. He soon learns his daughter is fine, maybe too fine, as upon discovering the cult is not as wholesome as first appears he struggles to convince her to make an escape with him. Meanwhile, Grady (Ben Cotton - Slither) is on route to the commune, hired to extract a cultist and de-program her. However, while much of the cults beliefs appear to be crazy, it does seem there is some truth hidden behind the facade of madness.

What exactly happens here? That is not so clear to say. The whole vibe of the film reminded me of a dream sequence episodes in an established series, such as the ones in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Walking Dead. The films first act trundles along perfectly sensibly, with it appearing the movie would all be about Greg and his attempts to escape. However, the films second act switches tracks and the story never gets back to a logical footing. Much of the film seems like it is taking place in an alternate reality, it is hard to explain what is going on, but includes the idea that mirrors hold some strange power, that people can be changed into mannequins/mannequins can be brought to life, and the whole location being some sort of an inescapable circle. Some of this works, some does not, and the film expects you to just let events wash over you rather than think too deeply about the washy ideas presented.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space to Help Save Cinemas - Sci-fi/Horror Film News

This month I have been experimenting with putting up a blog post daily, with the hopes being that I may be able to get rid of my monthly news post round-up. I have David Black (Sinister Symbiosis), the writer and producer of upcoming sci-fi/horror film Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space to thank for the idea, as his film was the first in a good few years that received its own news post, and I found it was not too much extra work for me to get done on the weekend during my blog time.

Anyway, it is another week and another press release about his upcoming movie. The film is now going to be offered to all cinemas worldwide for free, which is a cool thing to offer. Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space pays homage to b-movie sci-fi and horror of the 1950's to 70's while also keeping current by including such topics as the pandemic, murder hornets, 5g and various conspiracies. David Black said of the offer "Challenging times like these necessitate creative thinking. We've been under stage 3 and 4 lockdown from the moment we started filming so we had to come up with unique ideas to make this movie. I believe that if cinemas wish to survive then they will have to open their minds too and find new ways of doing things. We are offering them an opportunity to screen a film and keep 100% of the revenue. It's now up to them as to what steps they take next." The film will be free to cinemas in January 2021. For more details about the film check out its Facebook page.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Chop Chop (2020) - Horror Film Review

Chop Chop is a farcical crime horror that felt like one of those stoner movies where characters are bounced from ridiculous situation to ridiculous situation, but with murder and mayhem instead of comedic hijinks. It was directed and co-written by Rony Patel (In Me) in what was debut feature film role as director. He also had a hand in the editing, production design as well as being a producer on the film. This was an odd horror that always kept the viewer guessing as to the real intentions of the mysterious protagonists.

Liv (Atala Arce) and Chuck (Jake Taylor) have their romantic evening ruined by the appearance of a sinister serial killer (David Harper) who is there on the pretence of delivering pizza. They end up inadvertently killing the man, and then make the decision to dispose of the body themselves, rather than alerting the authorities. This begins a surreal night in which the couple go on a calm and collected mission to dispose of the corpse, yet each step in their journey results in a higher and higher body count from the two. It seems they really are having the worst luck.

The way Chop Chop plays out makes it at times feel like a bit of a black comedy, as each situation the couple find themselves in results in no end of mistaken intentions. It can be inferred from the films wafer thin story that they are not entirely innocent people, which can be seen both in the unemotional way they deal with death, and the contacts they have that are obviously not on the right side of the law. The film is split into Quentin Tarantino style episodes, each one with its own title card. An early example titled 'Brother' leads into the realisation from Chuck that the pizza guy they killed had an identical twin brother. These title cards often give obscure hints as to the direction the movie is going to head in. Speaking of Tarantino this at times felt like an indie homage to Pulp Fiction with the way scenes build upon each other.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Stories of the Dead (2018) - Zombie Horror Anthology Book Review

Stories of the Dead is a zombie anthology with a difference. The book was created as a tribute to the late great George A. Romero and so each of the eighteen stories contained within it have their undead based on the style of walking dead he created. In fact eight of these are directly linked to some of the films that Romero put out. This collection was edited by David Owain Hughes and Duncan P. Bradshaw (Class Three) and they both have stories featured here.

The anthology can be neatly split into two styles. Those which directly take their influences from the films, featuring the same locations and characters, and those who take Romero's world of the walking dead and create their own unique stories. As much as I love Romero it is only The Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead films from his zombie series that I enjoy. Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead were both forgettable, while Land of the Dead was so terrible that I found myself going to watch it twice at the cinema. I just couldn't believe how bad it was, and so had to see it a second time to make sure that I wasn't the problem. Thankfully then it is only Romero's first three zombie films that have stories dedicated to them here.

It starts off with Dan Howarth's Grounded that takes place in a NASA control room and shows a possible catalyst for the zombie plague. Aside from the bizarrely quick way this 'space radiation' manages to get about the place this was a classic zombie story featuring plenty of trapped survivors battling a force they don't understand.
Beekman's Diner by Jeff C. Stevenson is where I saw the potential for this anthology. It slowly dawned (of the dead) on me while reading this that it serves as a prequel to Night. Harry, Karen, and Helen are at a diner when the zombie plague reaches them, they of course being the doomed family who are found hiding out in the basement in Night. This, as with many other stories all felt like fan fiction, but that is of course because they are fan fiction, but written by competent authors.
Mama by Nikki Tanner still takes place during the events of Night, but with a different farmhouse, and seemingly (by the upbeat conclusion) a different reality to that of the films. Here abuse, both sexual and physical is explored, being a bit of social commentary into proceedings as was standard with Romero.
The Last Scare of Johnny Blair is Nathan Robinson's contribution to the anthology and as the title suggests is all about Barbara's ghoulish brother, Johnny. It was fun to see a possibility of what he was up to during the events of Night (the remake seemingly).
The final story based around the first movie is Collateral Damage by Anthony Watson. In this one a posse member discovers his dark but truthful calling in life.

Sunday, 11 October 2020

#Alive (2020) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I had heard good things about #Alive and thought the trailer looked good, so I was excited to get around to watching this Netflix zombie film. Being a South Korean movie it is hard not to compare this to Train to Busan. While it is not as good as that movie it is still a solid zombie movie in its own right, especially considering it is director/screenwriter, Il Cho's debut feature length movie.

While the rest of his family went away on vacation, Oh Joon-woo (Ah-In Yoo) stayed behind, being a big gamer and a generally lazy person. For him it turns out this was a good decision as one day he wakes up to discover a zombie outbreak occurring in his city. Pretty soon he is barricaded in his apartment and swiftly running out of food and drink (his laziness meant he hadn't been shopping like he had been meant to). The last message he received from his parents before the network went down was to 'survive', it is that singular goal that drives him. At his most desperate time he becomes aware of a fellow survivor in the apartment block opposite to him, Kim Yoo-bin (Shin-Hye Park). While they cannot meet, they slowly, over the course of several days find ways to get in contact with each other and start to form a friendship.

This isn't the first zombie film I have seen that takes place in apartment blocks (that would be the German Siege of the Dead), but it is the first film I can think of where the protagonists thinking was in line with mine. I have often said if somehow a zombie outbreak occurred in real life I would hole up in my house, though I realise that like Oh Joon-woo my supplies would be extremely limited. I liked with this film that there is never some grand plan to make an escape, the characters main goal is to survive, and with all the creature comforts of home that is seen as the place to do it. There are little moments here that work really well, such as Oh still playing online games until everything goes down. I am not sure the characters portrayal was totally my thing. I get that Oh is meant to be a bit dense, and certainly not used to having fend for himself, but I found the exaggerated physical acting for comedic effect to be a bit grating at times. The character has a good contrast with Kim, she is someone who personality wise is almost the polar opposite of Oh. She always comes across as deadly serious and someone who always plans ahead.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil - Fantasy Video Game News and Trailer

The latest installment in Valorware's 9th Dawn franchise, 9th Dawn III: Shadow of Erthil was due to release on Steam, iOS, Android, X-Box One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch on Tuesday 6th October. I have never heard of this series before, but I will let the press release do the talking...

'9th Dawn III is a huge 2D open world RPG and "collect-a-thon" dungeon crawler packed full of adventure, allowing you to explore dungeons filled with more than 270 unique monsters - and enough treasure, loot, and rare materials to last a lifetime. There are also 1,400 uniquely drawn items to collect - including more than 300 weapons and 550 armor types and accessories!'

This indie RPG takes place in a typically sounding fantasy world, taking in fields, snowy regions, forests and mountains. As you play you can unlock spells and abilities and level up your crafting abilities. You can also recruit monsters to fight alongside you (upto a maximum of ten). In addition you can recruit a companion who too can also have upto ten monster fighting alongside them. Also included in the game is an in world card game that includes 180 collectible cards, and fishing mini-games. On PC and consoles local co-op is an option. Check out the trailer below to see if it looks like your thing.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Abigail Haunting (2020) - Horror Film Review

Abigail Haunting
is a no thrills low budget paranormal horror that was directed and co-written by Kelly Schwarze. It could easily be seen as a slow burn as not much of note happens from the very beginning to the end. With a decent enough protagonist I didn't mind my time here, though is not going to leave much of an impression.

After escaping from an abusive relationship, Katie (Chelsea Jurkiewicz - The Tormenting of Jones) returns to her childhood home. There she finds her foster mum, Marge (Brenda Daly) is now suffering severe dementia and lives as a shut-in. Katie decides to spend a few days there, but she can't shake an unsettling feel about the place. The longer she stays the more she begins to suspect that something is haunting the place, something that relates to a dark secret from Marge's past.

Barely anything happens during this eighty minute horror, and even when it does it is so slight as to be quite forgettable. Objects occasionally move around on their own, Katie experiences audio and visual hallucinations, and sometimes Marge does creepy things. Aside from that not much else occurs. Thankfully Katie has someone to talk to outside of the monosyllable speaking Marge, in the form of a childhood friend she rediscovers, Brian (Austin Collazo). The scenes with them together were the most interesting, only in that it makes a difference for her not to just be wandering around the house on her own. A lot of the horror revolves around a large garage area that Katie was always warned not to go into as a child. What could be an interesting revelation is told in a strange way that seemed to suck away any importance.

There isn't really much more to say about Abigail Haunting. On the one hand it is perfectly watchable, has decent performances from the small cast, and seems to be filmed competently. On the other hand though it doesn't succeed as a horror, those moments are few and far between and manage never to make much of an impact. There are elements to the story that I did find interesting, but the basic plot is roughly explained without giving the viewer a reason to really get invested with it. Abigail Haunting is due for release on 25th January 2021 thanks to High Fliers Films.