Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Paranormal Farm 2: Closer to the Truth (2018) - Horror Film Review

I enjoyed Paranormal Farm mainly down to the three main leads who all gave very believable performances, especially the two farmers who were not even actors. It did fall into some of the pitfalls of the traditional found footage genre though with segments that seemed slightly over long with not much happening. Director, writer, and star Carl Medland has done something very clever with this sequel, something that builds on the first in such a way that it is essential viewing if you really want to get entertainment out of this frequently funny, occasionally creepy and always charming quasi-horror.

I was concerned going into this that I really couldn't remember how the first film had ended, I even had in my head that the hapless psychic Carl had been killed and so it was jarring to see him heading back by car to the farm from the first movie. Now it soon turns out that Paranormal Farm was indeed just a movie, Carl (Carl Medland) and his producer/editor Taz (Mumtaz Yildrimlar) have headed back after the success of their found footage to create a second film, but this one is to be a behind the scenes documentary that encapsulates catching up with the farming couple Lucy (Lucy French) and Robert (Robert Gray), reminiscing about how their horror film was created, as well as looking more into the local tales that the local farming community have concerning a creature known as 'the beast'.

Paranormal Farm 2 is insanely meta, so much that it was really making my head fizz for the longest time over whether it was legitimately actually just a documentary following up on the success of Paranormal Farm. It goes so meta as to have the cast sit around a computer as Carl reads out reviews from the Amazon page for the film, as well as have  Lucy and Robert respond to a video review. Characters implicitly mention key scenes from the first film  and how they were created, the illusion that this is all a normal documentary is much stronger this time around. Carl mentions for instance that people have asked for there to be more animals if a sequel was made, then going forward nearly every other scene features animals, from a horse ride to dogs fighting, a pet parrot and a supposed panther/puma the animals are everywhere.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Lost Child (2018) - Horror Film Review

Director and co-writer Ramaa Mosley's award winning Lost Child is a drama whose central premise hinges on an element of horror. It mixes the fantastical such as elements of local folklore with themes of abandonment, abusive family members and fractured relationships to make something that is low on thrills yet high on character development in places.

Army veteran Fern (Leven Rambin - The Hunger Games) has returned to her childhood home in the Ozarks after being away for 15 years. She intends to rekindle her relationship with her brother Billy (Taylor John Smith - Insidious: Chapter 3) as she didn't leave in the best of circumstances. Out in the woods one day she discovers a mysterious boy named Cecil (Landon Edwards), thinking him to be lost she takes him home with her and agrees to look after him while the local social worker Mike (Jim Parrack - Suicide Squad, Battle Los Angeles) tries to discover where he has come from. However as the days go on Fern begins to get sicker and sicker, she learns of a local legend about a demon taking the form of a child that lives in the woods, and who then steals the life force of whoever takes him home. She begins to suspect something really may not be right with the boy, and that something terrible could be in the process of happening...

Lost Child is very ambiguous for most of its 1 hour 40 minute run time, right up until nearly the end it still hadn't came out and implicitly stated if this stood on the side of drama or horror. It was quite clever in how it keeps you guessing though with a good portion of the cast seeing Cecil as an evil being, and half thinking he is exactly what he appears to be. Cecil doesn't do himself any favours as he doesn't speak much and flat out refuses to talk about just where he has come from, while there are plenty of odd moments, from nightmares Fern has about him, to the way he acts around certain innocuous items. Rambin is a great lead, her character is suffering PTSD and this is reflected in the amount she drinks, yet there is a real strength to her that creates the scope for her to confront problems straight on, and look at things from different angles rather than be the typical bland protagonist. The meat of the film is the relationship she has with Cecil, how they slowly start to bond, and her fears that due to how her alcoholic father was to her she can't bear the responsibility of looking after a child. Edwards is fine enough as the boy, though for me he was nearly the least interesting character just to how little emotion he constantly displays, he felt at times more a plot device than an actual person.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

The Exorcist: Legion VR - Chapter 2 'Idle Hands' (2018) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

In July I reviewed the first chapter of the five part The Exorcist: Legion VR game. I felt that first chapter was a nice introduction to the game but it wasn't as scary as I had hoped, overall though I was left with good impressions and high hopes for the other chapters. Second chapter Idle Hands I really hoped would improve on the strengths of the first, but instead it plays a little bit differently, and managed to be even less scary than chapter one.

In this chapter you head to a mental asylum to interview a school teacher who went crazy and kidnapped a bus full of children. Things don't go according to plan due to evil being present at the asylum, luckily for you though you still have the handy exorcism kit you picked up at the church from chapter one.

For whatever reason the controls in this game are really messed up for me and I am not sure why. I think my save might be a little corrupted but for a weird reason the left Move Controller controls my on screen right hand, and the right Move Controller controls the left. This made it really fiddly and a tad irritating to pick up and use objects. Idle Hands starts off good enough with you getting to explore a security room, it felt much like chapter one in that there is plenty of stuff to look at and read. The second half of the game has you in a long twisting corridor that has a couple of surprises, but only a couple. Like before this is quite a short experience, I was done within half an hour of starting which was a bit of a downer.

I really wish The Exorcist had actual free movement as walking around by teleporting is quite immersion breaking sadly. This is displayed very well in the second part of the game as constantly having to teleport wasn't a great way to move around the narrow corridors. I also found using items to be a bit fiddly with items jerking around when I tried to use them, though this could have been an issue with my camera rather than the game. It ends with an exorcism that to be truthful was a bit boring, I couldn't quite work out how to speed it up, or if it was even possible to speed it up. There were a couple of jump scares but only one of these actually made me shout in genuine fear. The problem with the series so far is that jump scares are the only method really used to try and get a fear reaction. There is no creeping terror like in the excellent Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul.

I ended Idle Hands a bit deflated, it wasn't what I thought I had signed up for when I brought the series. It's fine enough, it just lacks any real scares, the graphics aren't stunning, is pretty short and has a host of wasted opportunities. I'm not convinced these bite sized chapters are an effective way of creating any kind of lasting fear. Check out my complete playthrough of it below.


Saturday, 15 September 2018

octOber: Part 2 (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

In June I was knocked off my feet by the stunning septeMber (written and directed by Mason C. McDonald) which was the first short film in a series that is to span seven parts. From the naming conventions so far I assume each part will take place in a different month as part two is titled octOber. The first film ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and so I was surprised that this one takes place some time later, with this again ending on a cliffhanger it will be interesting to see what happens next.

Two teenage friends; Alex (Brandon Allison) and Jeremy (Adrian Beck) have skipped school as Alex has something important he needs to discuss. Several years back his sister went missing and due to the police calling off the investigation he saw it to himself to try and find her. By luck he has managed to locate the man he believes responsible for killing her; Mr Wittman (Jeff Payne who also edited this short). Together the friends approach his property, Alex has lost faith in the authorities and so intends to give out his own justice...

 I mentioned in my review of part one that I was concerned that having dialogue could break the wonderful spell that the combination of great directing and editing conjured up, and in a way it did slightly. Having dialogue is hardly a surprise as I couldn't envision a seven part series being totally silent. To be fair the dialogue helps fill in some of the missing puzzle pieces, such as the reveal of the serial killer's name, and just what he does in the town. I did find some of the language used to be a bit formal at times, there was a nice vibe towards the two friends though. The film is focussed on Alex and sadly I didn't find him to be that interesting a character, mainly due to how the character acts. I get that he has no faith in the police, I also appreciate there would not be much of a film he had just called them but I found some of his actions to be pretty baffling. Saying that other moments he really shines, a scene in the house felt believable with his 'fight or flight' instincts kicking in.

The serial killer was fantastic once again, there are some really freaky shots of him, but octOber is not about him so much as Alex and so he doesn't get much screen time. The contrast between septeMber where he was the lead and this means he comes across as far more of a movie slasher type figure which leads to some cool moments. The editing and directing was just fantastic once again, my favourite part being a close up of a character legs running down a railway track, coupled with the music this was perfection. I also just loved the crazy opening shot that then goes away unexplained to then show up later with context added. With the plot it was clever how this tied into the first film, it adds in a new angle to the events of that one. It was also awesome to see the end credits looked a lot better this time around, that being my only complaint with the first short.

While not quite reaching the majesty of part one this was nonetheless another great film that was a real joy to watch. I fail to see how the rest of the films in the series can be bad as McDonald is an amazing director, Payne is an enthralling actor, and all the shorts are sure to be full of stunning cinematography.


Friday, 14 September 2018

Conductor (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

Conductor is a six and a half minute long horror that was both directed and written by Alex Noyer, it is his directorial debut. Due to the nature of this short I really can't go into much detail as it would ruin the mid film twist, needless to say this is bloody and violent and the plot fits perfectly into the allotted time frame.

Josh (Michael Maclane) is a teen who has decided to enter a competition that is going on in his local mall. The aim is to use a drum machine to make a winning beat, but his attempts are not going well, due in part to his unhelpful friend Logan (Joshua Canada), and also due to the restless crowd of onlookers all waiting for their turn on the machine. Alexis (Kelli Jordan) is a passing sound technician who seeing a flustered Josh decides to help the young man, her advice gives him the confidence to win. However he soon very much comes to regret winning when things take a turn for the horrific...

I can't talk too much about this other than it took me by surprise in the best possible way. Sometimes short films feel like a slice out of a bigger pie, or they attempt to tell a story that should be many times longer than the time given. With Conductor however this is an ideal length, it is like a Black Mirror episode in microcosm with technology used to unleash untold horror. I loved the clean sterile mall coupled with the later goings on that featured lots of great looking special effects.
I also loved Maclane's performance as the awkward mortified teen, and also Canada who was an irritating character type but in this context was pretty funny how he riffed off Josh's reactions. You could argue that elements of this are quite nonsensical, but works in the context of Noyer's vision of the consequences of the pursuit of fame.

Conductor is a short film that is definitely worth a watch if you ever get the chance to, it is bite sized enough that it is no trial to get through, and the elements of horror make this something devilishly entertaining.


Conductor (2018) - Teaser from You Know Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

The Toybox (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Toybox is a supernatural horror about a haunted RV directed and co-written by Tom Nagel (ClownTown). I loved the idea behind this one so didn't hesitate to request a screener to see if it lives up to the premise. What you get here is a horror that is full of unexpected misfortunes, but which is let down a bit by the almost one dimensional characters whose reactions to the aforementioned misfortune is not what you would want.

Charles (Greg Violand - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) has recently brought a used RV for the purpose of going on a roadtrip with his estranged family. His two sons unwittingly go in order to try and build bridges. These are Jay (Brian Nagel who is the brother of the director and who co-wrote the story), and his older brother Steve (Jeff Denton who co-wrote the story and wrote the screenplay), along with his wife Jennifer (Denise Richards - Starship Troopers, The World Is Not Enough), and their young daughter Olivia. Not long after picking up a brother and sister (Mischa Barton - The Sixth Sense, Zombie Killers: Elephant's Graveyard) whose car has broken down things start to go wrong. They all end up lost in the desert while looking for a tourist attraction, then Charles loses control of the RV which seemingly gets a mind of it's own and crashes. Now the group find themselves not only stranded in the middle of nowhere, but as the body count rises they start to suspect there is something very wrong about the vehicle they were travelling in...

Weirdly this is the second 'group stranded out in the American desert due to vehicle breaking down' horror I have seen in a month, the last being Bus Party to Hell. This felt kind of like a sister piece to that film as where that one was about a group who found themselves trapped in their vehicle by hostile forces outside, here it is the vehicle itself which is the danger, with outside being marginally more safe for them. So the bus is evil, but it is not of itself the main villain here as various clues heavily hint towards the fact that the RV once belonged to a twisted serial killer. It seems this killer is not only able to manifest as an evil spirit (who is quite physical) but is also able to take control of the RV itself, using its limited abilities to go on a fresh killing spree, which has the added benefit of causing a series of deaths that appear to all intents and purposes to be tragic accidents. The characters are not very clued in however as up to the hour mark of this 95 minute movie most the group are still blissfully unaware the real extent of the danger they are in.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

The Nun (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Nun is the third spin-off from The Conjuring and is actually the fifth film now in that series following on from The Conjuring 2, the very disappointing Annabelle, as well as its sequel Annabelle: Creation. The titular character was first shown in the second film, and again in Creation and was effective in at least one of those and so I was open to what this film could be like. Unlike the mainline films that purport to be based on real events The Nun is entirely fictional, in fact it is the most unrealistic of the lot coming across like a Gothic fantasy, one that may have left the roots of realism but which is quite a lot of fun as a result.

The movie takes place in Romania in 1952 where a priest; Father Burke (Demian Bichir - Alien: Covenant, Machete Kills) and a novice nun to be; Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga - American Horror Story, The Final Girls) head to a secluded mountainside cloistered abbey after a nun is found there having committed suicide. Father Burke has a special assignment to see if the abbey is still a place of God or if it has succumbed to evil, though he isn't given an explanation as to why that may be the case. The two soon discover that a lot of dark events have occurred at the lonely abbey and that their investigation might cost them their very souls...

I had avoided watching any trailers for this and so didn't have any real expectations of what it may be like. I actually found the more fantastical elements to be a nice breath of fresh air from the more grounded mainline films. There was a nice Gothic atmosphere that is sustained throughout, helped by the remote location that a good 90% of The Nun takes place in. While this has not scored well with critics I thought it was pretty entertaining, it has an interesting backstory, a real purpose to the plot, and features plenty of demonic possession (the demonic possession genre is a particular favourite of mine it has to be said). It also weirdly shares many similarities with video games of all things, at least to my mind. The location reminded me of both the monastery from Silent Hill: Downpour, as well as the castle from Resident Evil 4, then there is the game type situations characters find themselves in. Mysterious keys, special items, environmental puzzles, even an end of film boss fight all fed back to this feeling like a survival horror. One part that has Father Burke trying to find a way into the main abbey that has been closed off with a raised drawbridge in particular reminded me of a quest in a game. On that topic there is a sequence towards the end that felt like it had been lifted from the nurse scene in the film adaptation of Silent Hill, though replacing static zombie nurses with static zombie nuns.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Candle Cove (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

Candle Cove is director Andrew J.D Robinson's latest short horror film (previous ones of his include Placebo, A Walk Home Alone, and Sightings). This is a loose adaptation of a Creepypasta story (which are horror-related legends and images that appear around the internet). Even before discovering that fact I had thought to myself it felt like one of those so it shows the sensibilities of the source material was covered well.

A brother and sister (Tristan McIntosh and Anne-Carolyne Binette) are sorting through a cupboard when they come across some old VHS tapes of a childhood silent puppet show called Candle Cove that they used to sneak downstairs late at night to watch as kids. After the brother questions what happened to it the sister remembers that he never saw the very last episode as he fell asleep, she recounts that it was very odd as was just full of screaming. The two decide to check out the tapes with the sister deciding to put on that strange last episode...

This short is just two minutes long, and so it is impressive how effective parts of it are. It starts (and ends) creepily enough with vintage looking footage of some old puppets. The discovery of the tapes, and the build up of anticipation for the payoff was an addictive watch, I must have seen this short at least ten times by the time I got around to writing this review. Personally for me though the reveal just wasn't that exciting, it failed to resonate with me, and truthfully I don't quite get it. This is no fault of Robinson as it is an adaptation of an existing story that had a similar twist to it, for me it was a shame as otherwise this is an excellent short that has some great attention to detail, the end credits in particular were fantastic.

The editing for Candle Cove was great, as was the choice of music, as well as the unsettling sound effects used towards the end. Sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, as is the case here. The quality of Robinson's shorts forever seems to improve. See what you think for yourself, I shall include it below.


Saturday, 8 September 2018

He's a Bleeder (2011) - Short Drama Film Review

Gil Ben-Harosh's He's a Bleeder isn't a horror film as such, but as someone was kind enough to send a recommendation to my inbox I thought I may as well check it out for review. It is a nearly 8 minute crime drama that felt like a slice out of a bigger film with it both beginning and ending in the middle of a story.

Brothers Buddy (Philip Hersh) and Bucky (Joseff Stevenson) have recently taken over the stripclub that their deceased father used to run. After the club boss is found to be abusing his position (Russ Kingston) the duo decide they need to make an example of him...

It is Stevenson who really makes this short, he has much of the screen time with the character of Buddy relegated to a side role. His performance was spot on, I really liked the way he would stutter his lines, it gave the character a sense of being unsure of himself, obviously new in the role of co-manager with his more silent brother coming across as more authoritative. He was a compelling actor and easily the best thing about He's a Bleeder, and he's mainly what made this short comedic.

While obviously an indie production, and with the weird sense of this being a slice out of a bigger pie I found He's a Bleeder to be a compelling enough comedy drama, mostly down to Stevenson. If you have a spare eight minutes then give it a watch, I will include it down below.


Thursday, 6 September 2018

Cold Skin (2017) - Horror Film Review

I have been getting a whole bunch of films sent for review lately which actually turn out to be pretty darn good. When I sat down to watch Cold Skin (directed by Xavier Gens - Hitman, and with a screenplay co-written by Jesus Olmo - 28 Weeks Later) I admit to not really expecting much. I was surprised then to find a film that not only told a fresh feeling story, but also one which was a quality product from start to finish, even if at times it takes itself perhaps a little too seriously.

In 1914, just before World War I breaks out an unnamed man (David Oakes) arrives at a remote antarctic island to take on the year long position of weather observer. The only other inhabitant is a grizzly man calling himself Gruner (Ray Stevenson - Outpost, The Book of Eli) who looks after the strangely fortified lighthouse there. On his first night on the island he finds his cabin assaulted by monstrous creatures that seem to have came up from the sea. Eventually he forms an uneasy alliance with the hostile Gruner who explains that the creatures attack en masse most nights, together they fight them off day after day, but slowly as the duo's methods get more and more brutal the man begins to question just who the real monsters are.

I really quite enjoyed Cold Skin due to a wonderful sense of place it has. The film is mostly held together by the three main actors who all do sterling jobs. The man is more an instrument at first for the viewer to see the unfolding horror from a fresh perspective. He is a bit of a blank slate in that his motivations for taking the isolated job are never explained and his past is never explored. As the film progresses he becomes the Ying to Gruner's Yang, starting to question if the pointless violence and bloodshed is all worth it. By the movies end I liked what they did with his character, it opened up interesting suggestions of the real fates of other characters. Gruner on the other hand is a far more bitter and dark person. It is never revealed exactly why the island is attacked night after night and so there comes a timeless quality to the regular fighting, like it is something that has occured for eternity. It was interesting how these two characters were polar opposites in lots of ways but are brought together by a common goal. The third character is that of Aneris (Aura Garrido) who is a non hostile monster that is almost like a pet to Gruner. For a role that has no dialogue at all Garrido puts a lot of emotion and feeling into her performance, more impressive when she is in heavy make-up for her role. Her plight is almost like a twisted mirror version of The Shape of Water, thankfully while this does have a fantastical element to it this is a much better film than that odd one.

Friday, 31 August 2018

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for August 2018

I still haven't gotten used to doing a reduced number of blog posts each month, it always feels like I should be writing one; a feeling I can never really shake. However it has freed up time to do other things such as going to the gym, watching Netflix, and playing far too many video games! It is another busy month with lots to cover on the old news front.

I feel like I have mentioned this before but there is still a GoFundMe campaign running to raise funds for horror comedy sequel Slashening 2: The Final Beginning. 2015's The Slashening was a comedy slasher where a group of friends get attacked and killed by a killer wearing a sack on their head. The sequel picks up five years later where it seems a copycat killer is on the loose. The funds needed are so that the 'big bloody' finale can be made. A music video that is from a song used in the movie has been released. To contribute to the project go here.

Something else I have mentioned before with Throw Anything which is a cartoon like zombie survival VR game that has now came out of early access and received a full release on Steam. There is now a final boss "Mystery Scientist X", a new special mission, an updated lobby that has more interactive elements, new stages, and upgraded graphics and sound effects. The game is out on HTC Vive, SteamVR, and Oculus Rift and a PSVR release is due out later this year.


This next piece of news is pretty crazy in that a new film series is coming out...but all eight of the films in the series are coming out at the same time! The film series is called The Darkest Nothing and is said to cover "Modern cannibalism, extreme BDSM, the COPINE scale of pedophilia, vigilante hunters, trolling, snuff, chemical drugs, rituals, obsession with morbidity, red rooms, uncaught serial killers...". Basically a lot of taboo type subjects. The series focuses on psychiatrist William Jameson and his video studies of extreme behaviour. It seems each film has Jameson exploring a different type of taboo, in the second chapter Gynophagia for instance Jameson comes face to face with a cannibal, while third chapter Ideophrenia has him meet a man known as Butcher who acts in underground slasher movies. Currently Filip Halo and Incubofilms are looking for funding to complete this series of films, any suggestions can be left on their many Facebook pages (one for each film), more details can be found at their website here. I have included the trailer in a previous news post but it is a stylish one so I shall include it again.

Back in October last year I gave found footage horror Hell House LLC a solid 7/10, however it is a film that has really stuck with me, enough that if I were to review it today it would get an 8/10. Due to this I was very excited to hear a sequel was being made, it is quite rare in the genre for sequels outside of the main stream (Creep 2 is the only indie one that comes to mind). Hell House LLC was a mockumentary about the lead up to a horrific event on the opening night at a Halloween haunted house tour that was set in an abandoned hotel. Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel has journalist Jessica Fox (Jillian Geurts) travel to the infamous hotel to uncover evidence of murder and strange disappearances. Director Stephen Cognetti says of it "I made this film with the fans in mind in hopes that it would answer questions from the original while deepening the overall story". This is due for release on September 14th via Terror Films, for now check out the trailer.

Next, from Indican Pictures is news that 7 Witches has come out this August. Care and Cody are due to get married on an island they have rented for the occasion (someone's doing well!), unknown to them however their special day is the exact same day a 100 year old curse comes to pass and they find themselves fighting a whole bunch of witches (probably seven of them). I can't embed the trailer for this one, but if you head to Indican Pictures website you can check it out (here).

Another new horror now with Death of a Vlogger which is also a found footage horror. In this film a vlogger gains viral fame when one of his videos contains evidence of an alleged haunting. The film is a 'unique mix of documentary and real archive footage' and was filmed on a micro budget by BAFTA New Talent and Michael Powell nominated filmmaker Graham Hughes. It is to be released by Tartan Features. Check out the trailer.

Some smaller news now, first Bellator MMA fighter Steve Mowry has joined the cast of The Harvester, he is to be the titular Harvester itself. Based on a series of graphic novels this is about a hell-spawned killer tasked with harvesting souls for his father; the King of Hell. The film is set to come out later 2019/early 2020.
Meanwhile Michael Berryman (Devil's Rejects, Hills Have Eyes, Weird Science) is to star as Jed Bedford in Room 9. This is written and directed by Thomas Walton, the synopsis being 'life altering sins of the past revisit lost souls in a small town... 40 years later!'. This movie is currently being filmed, more details can be found here.

Dead By Christmas is an upcoming feature film from Reel Nightmare Films that is due for release October 2nd and was filmed on location in Southeast Louisiana. As the title would suggest this is a Christmas themed horror, it concerns a group of friends raised together in a troubled orphanage that get stalked by a killer from Christmas past. Once again check out the trailer for this one, the Santa costume is pretty unsettling!

There is currently an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to letter and print Book 1 of a 2 part graphic novel series titled Graveyard Shift. It asks a question: 'what if The Universal Monsters were the X-Men?' This is a labour love from Jon Malin (Cable, Thunderbolts) and writer Mark Poulton (Savage Hawkman, Avengelyne). This is due for release in February 2019, it has far exceed it's target but can still be backed here.

Last but not least Jalbert Brother Studios have released their third feature film Terror Talk, it is now available on Amazon Prime. The synopsis sounds fun, a viral outbreak causes a doomsday prepper to retreat into his new house, but soon finds that while he might be safe from the deadly contagion outside he is trapped in a house that is haunted by evil ghosts. I would take my chances with the virus I think! If you want to check that out yourself follow this link.

Ok, so that wasn't actually the last post as I have some breaking news! Alex Noyer's short horror Conductor is to premiere at Horrible Imaginings on September 2nd before beginning a festival run. The seven minute short is about a musical engineer who mentors a young enthusiast through composing a beat for a special competition with horrific consequences.
The short is also to be shown in Provo, UT for the Film Quest Film Festival on September 7th at 9pm.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Wave of Mutilation (2015) by Sean E. Britten - Zombie Horror eBook Review

In May earlier this year I reviewed Sean E. Britten's Screamers which was a zombie novel with a difference and was also pretty great. After the review I realised I actually owned an earlier book of Britten's that to my shame I had not yet got around to reading. Staying true to form in reading slow I have finally finished this earlier book; another zombie novel, but this one a far more traditional read that swaps the remote Australian riverside for more well travelled America.

This time around we get to read about undead apocalypse from the very start. Cyndi Hong gets herself caught up in absolute mayhem while on route to work in New York. By a series of perilous adventures she first meets up with some gangsters, where she befriends Jules, and a lady named Jen, before then meeting up with a small boat of fellow survivors. Together they set out to find a safe place to try and survive zombie Hell.

So Wave of Mutilation is a far different beast than Screamers, and a far more predictable affair, though that is not to take slight against the quality of the writing here. It is only the individual components which are familiar, but the way these wild situations link up make for a real rollercoaster of a story with Cyndi thrust into insanity after insanity. The initial outbreak in New York was exciting with the undead waves described in great detail, like much of the book this part is quite vivid and cinematic, helicopter rides, shootouts, sieges and explosions punctuate Cyndi's journey to hoped for safety. Now gangsters are not something I find that interesting when it comes to zombie stuff (with the exception of the great Gangsters, Guns, and Zombies). I think this is due to Ian McCellan's novel One Undead Step from 2014 which gave me my fill of gangster related undead shenanigans. It is lucky then that due to the fast paced world of Wave of Mutilation this whole side bit is left behind at around the halfway point of the novel, something that I was quite surprised to see.

There are plenty of characters throughout though it is Cyndi who is the only constant. She's a likeable lead, someone who discovers a natural ability with handguns, and who has courage in spades. With the other characters it was good to see that no one seemed safe from sudden and swift death. There were people who I thought were dead set to be core characters that would last to the end only for them to be unexpectedly wiped out, this is of course a good thing. Not many characters get real plot development to them, and some are obvious odes to other characters in other media. Arriving at an army base ruled by a soldier named Rhodes it was very obvious where things were going to go, as this character pretty much acts the same as the infamous Rhodes from George Romero's great Day of the Dead. There are nods to other zombie media everywhere, from some characters discussing who would win in a fight between a zombie and a shark (that occurs in the film Zombi 2), to coming across the S-Mart that is of course a reference to the Evil Dead series. It makes for a fun read but at times it did feel like there were not a whole host of original ideas here, though tackling such topics as racism and sexism felt strangely relevant in today's world.

Britten nearly reaches the dizzy heights of David Moody (the Autumn series of books) when describing crowd scenes, you get a real idea in your mind of what the characters are looking at. Also his zombie virus can infect animals as well which leads to some set pieces with zombie dogs, and even a zombie tiger. Zombified animals are always a nice touch and help inject some new situations into a typical story. I appreciated that children are not spared, all too often in zombie novels they are avoided, but here we get children and babies both appearing as undead. There are no end of descriptive violence to the zombies from all manner of tools and weapons, from shotguns to samurai swords and meat tenderizers these tools of destruction have a visceral sound to the damage they cause to the walking dead.

While Wave of Mutilation may not be the most original feeling story out there, the zombie genre is one where such things really do not matter. This a well written thrill ride of a story, while at times the destination may be very clear it is still fun to see how our characters reach their finish, it is hard to be too down on such a fun journey.


Sunday, 26 August 2018

The Cleaning Lady (2018) - Horror Film Review

I always love when I receive a film for review and it turns out to be a good one. Thankfully that is the case for director Jon Knautz's (Still Life, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer) The Cleaning Lady that manages to tell a familiar story but with a female twist to it, making something that feels at once mature and impactful.

Alexis Kendra (Hatchet II, Infected, and who also co-wrote this film with Knautz) stars as Alice, a 'love addict' who is currently trying her best to end a relationship she's been having with married man Michael (Death House, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End). She has also taken a recent step of hiring a cleaning lady called Shelly (Rachel Alig - Ghostline). Shelly is a shy meek woman who has severe burns over much of her face, Alice feeling sorry for her begins an odd sort of friendship with the lady. This may turn out to be quite the mistake though as the cleaner has quite a severe moral code and isn't afraid to use it on those she judges needs her assistance...

From the very start when someone puts rats in a blender I could tell that The Cleaning Lady was going to be a good film. It has a dark vibe to it but one that feels very natural and unforced in the way it rolls out. With Alice you have a flawed protagonist, someone who knows that what she is doing is wrong but who is unable to take the proper steps to fix the bad situation she is in. Perversely with Shelly you have an antagonist who is unaware that what they are doing is wrong, the character seems to sincerely believe they are helping out even when the methods are brutal. While there are quite a few side characters it is the relationship between this odd couple which is really the meat of the film. Both are great in the roles they have, in particular Alig who manages to come across at once both pitiful, but also intimidating. The character doesn't speak much and has a habit of just appearing out of nowhere making the first two thirds or so have an air of creepiness to them. She felt at times like a female Norman Bates, a silent voyeur to the goings on of Alice, though one who wants to be her, rather than have feelings for her. This culminates in a scene where she secretly makes a latex mask of Alice so she can literally be this woman.