Sunday, 17 February 2019
This is a painful post to write, I had written the entire review over the course of an hour, and then accidentally deleted it and was unable to get it back. I am going to try and write this as best I can from memory! From Wikipedia - "Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of casual or scientific determinism...According to determinism, if someone (the demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, their past and future values for any given time are entailed; they can be calculated from the laws of classical mechanics". Once, when I was very wasted I came up with a similar theory, though much more crude. I theorised that the world was a giant clockwork piece, that people in it were cogs following predefined paths, and that there could be a way to accurately predict the movements and actions of any single person by a calculation. Discovering this was actually a well known (though mostly disproved) theory I found the idea of this in this film to be very interesting.
A group of researchers that had came up with a model that could accurately predict how many pieces a glass would break into when smashed have been invited to a remote island home of a mysterious professor. They assume they have been called there to discuss their findings, yet upon arriving they find out they are actually unwilling participants in his own experiment. He has come to believe he has perfected the Laplace's demon theory, and is out to prove it. The group find a miniature of the house, and see that white pawn pieces representing them are in this miniature. Where ever they walk the pieces perfectly replicate their movements via pre set clockwork movements, it seems that their futures have been perfectly predicted. More unsettling is the arrival of a black Queen in the miniature, a piece that represents a deadly threat in the real mansion, that knows exactly where to be at what time to vanish away the guests one by one...
The Laplace's Demon feels like it stepped out of time, it has of it a feeling of the films of the early twentieth century, like a film from the 1950's say. This feel is represented in may aspects of this. It is filmed in black and white, the vast majority takes place in a single room. There are exaggerated performances by the cast (such as the wild eyed ship's captain who accompanies the group), and much of the film itself unfolds by conversations among the group, with action kept at a minimum. This is Italian, but had some decent subtitles meaning even with all the talking it is clear to tell what is going on.
Friday, 15 February 2019
I get so bogged down with the films and other items I get sent to review for various people that I often neglect horror media that I would like to see if I got the chance. I had heard great things about The Haunting of Hill House and so after getting a recommendation about it from a friend I thought it was time I got around to watching it. Due to having a week off work for my birthday I finally had some free time, and so earlier this week spent four hours binge watching the final four episodes I had yet to see. Needless to say this Netflix show is damn well fantastic viewing. It is directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald's Game) and so features a lot of the actors who have previously appeared in his films.
The show takes place in roughly two separate time periods. The first is in the past and it chronicles the events that happened to the Crain family who move into the titular Hill House in order to renovate it to then sell for a profit. The family are father Hugh (Henry Thomas - Ouija: Origin of Evil), mother Olivia (Carla Gugino - Gerald's Game), then their children - Stephen, Shirley (Lulu Wilson - Annabelle: Creation), Theo (Amityville: The Awakening), and twins Luke, and Nell. Over the period of months they are there they encounter all sorts of unsettling events that eventually culminates in 'the final night before they flee in terror.
The second half of the show takes place in present day with the children now fully grown adults. It explores how their experiences from the house has affected their lives, and how the events continue to haunt them. Stephen (Michiel Huisman - Game of Thrones) has become a best selling author based on his fictionalised account. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser - The Twilight Saga) now runs a funeral home, Theo (Kate Siegel - Hush) a psychic care worker, while Luke is a recovering heroin addict, and Nell is in deep mourning.
This show leaps backwards and forwards so much in time that it is like a complex puzzle, whose pieces unlock as the show moves along. There are seemingly throwaway moments that occur that then much later on are shown to have huge significance. People say things that later on mean so much more, or which suddenly give meaning to earlier scenes or episodes. This show is so clever in how it is laid out that there are even a bleed over effect whereby events in the future directly influence events in the past. It is a crazy, mind melting way of setting things out and it works beautifully. Some of the most impactful moments come from these sadistic reveals that utterly change your perception of what has occured in quite a chilling manner.
Thursday, 14 February 2019
Metro Redux is a remastered collection of the first two Metro games - Metro 2033, and Metro: Last Light which were both inspired by the Russian novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. This review is going to be something a little different in that I have covered both games before. As such this will be more a summary of the changes made, more importantly how the games hold up today.
Starting with Metro 2033. This takes place in a post apocalyptic world where a nuclear holocaust occured. The survivors from this deadly war headed underground to escape the radioactive wasteland the surface became. As the title would suggest this takes place in a metro, specifically that of Moscow during the year 2033. You play as a young man named Artyom who has been tasked with getting help to save his home from annihilation by mysterious beings known as the Dark Ones.
This is still a really fun game! I had a blast replaying it, in particular the level design and world building stood out. Having read the novel since first playing this I noticed that a lot of incidental dialogue characters say are based on short stories that Artyom hears from other humans on the metro in the novel. This also closely follows the story of the book. The inventory wheel system from Last Light has been fitted onto this now so it is a lot easier to use your various tools. The game looks great, and I was surprised with how good the music also was.
Wednesday, 13 February 2019
#Captured is a found footage horror directed by Joe Homokay, and written by Lizzie Gordon (Cooties!!!) who also stars in this. For the first few minutes I had decent expectations, much in the style of Unfriended this all takes place from a computer screen, something which still feels fresh to this day. However it soon becomes unavoidably apparent that this really is an awful film with little to recommend.
The film takes place as footage that has been edited together by a mostly unseen antagonist. It is made up both of stuff he has filmed, but also online footage, as well as personal recordings from a group of spoilt high school teens who secretly stream sex shows in order to raise money. It shows how the killer one by one hunts downs and kills these people.
I didn't really mind the basis for how the film is framed, having the obsessed killer piece together everything into a single film is better than the usual placeholder text explaining things. With these high schoolers in particular it didn't seem that far fetched that they would be recording everything, especially in modern day, though I can't see many people in reality doing quite as much as these unlikeable students who film everything from drug taking to sex. The main characters, with the exception of Gordon's Ashley are all irredeemable idiots who don't seem to care about anyone, let alone themselves. These one dimensional characters are all just bland as anything with zero effort to make them at all someone you would care about. This is backed up by some decidedly average acting from a cast made up of some pretty old looking 'teens', though Gordon herself was fine enough, and I did kind of enjoy Evan Sloan (Fear the Walking Dead) who channeled the spirit of Seth Rogan, albeit a much more nasty version of him.
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Black Mirror is one of my favourite shows so seeing there was to be a film I was quite excited. Then I discovered this film is a 'choose your own adventure' style one in that choices you make as the viewer while watching vastly affect what occurs. In fact it is stated that the film can be anywhere from forty minutes long (taking the optimal path) to over five hours (if you were to watch every single recorded scene).
This takes place in 1984 where young computer programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead - Dunkirk) is developing a computer game based on a dark 'choose your own adventure' style book that his deceased mother once owned. He gets a job working for software company Tuckersoft based off the demo of his game, and he is given a deadline that he needs to make it by. As the months go on and the stress of creating the game gets to him Stefan starts to suspect that he is not in control of his own actions, that someone is watching him and making decisions for him...
In all honesty I left Bandersnatch feeling a little bit put off by it. It was very well made with the choices you make while watching leading to seamless changes. Indeed it all starts off great, the choices are as innocent as choosing what cereal Stefan eats, or what music he buys in a shop. The general idea of the tortured artist slowly going crazy was executed well, and there are some neat moments here. My biggest complaint is really also the biggest draw with the choices made leading to some wildly different places the film goes to. Due to these divergent plots I was left unsatisfied as rather than ending on a set point there are enough endings that there is no satisfaction for a well tied together storyline. The whole point of this was to make you feel like you were controlling where the story goes, but at the same time I was left feeling like there was no meat on the bones of this. Black Mirror is infamous for its harrowing storylines that make you want to curl up into a ball and die. Here however due to not really knowing what was going on things felt a little up in the air. Needless to say being associated with the Black Mirror brand the one thing you can be sure of is there is no happy ending to be found.
Monday, 11 February 2019
Doggy See Evil is an award winning short horror film from Robyn August (Snap) that was created for the Annabelle Creations 2017 competition. It also won Best Micro Short at Hollywood Horrorfest 2018. In terms of the story it is mostly similar to the previous one I have seen of the directors. With short films, especially ones which come in at under two minutes like this one there isn't really far you can go outside of a sudden shock ending.
It is late at night where a woman's dog seems to be afraid of something in the bathroom. She tries to reassure the dog but it wont move, so she goes in to have a look just to make sure there really is nothing in there...
The best part about Doggy See Evil was the dog itself, I loved the expression on its face throughout. It added a lot to this The actress is fine as well. The actual plot of what happens is nothing special, I would say it is traditional in terms of horror shorts. The payoff is executed well with a nice special effect, while the music adds to the atmosphere well.
While this short was predictable, the addition of an animal made it stand out, it really helped that this dog really did seem to be playing its part well! While the effects were minimal they worked well, adding a bit of sheen to this.
Sunday, 10 February 2019
Snap is a short horror film that clocks in at just over two minutes in length. It stars Robyn August who also wrote, edited, and directed this. While this was very similar in style to quite a few other short horrors I have seen over the years there were elements that I particularly enjoyed.
A man (August) discovers a vintage camera in his closet and decides to test it out. He is troubled when he notices the figure of a woman appearing through the lens, yet without the camera this person is nowhere to be seen. Spooked by this he investigates further...
The whole 'only able to see a spirit through a camera' has been done to death over the years, usually it centres on the camera screen of a mobile phone. Using an actual camera weirdly felt a bit fresh, while I couldn't help but be reminded of the Camera Obscura from the Fatal Frame/Project Zero survival horror video game series which can kill ghosts via taking pictures of them. I liked that the spirit is still able to move around when being watched, it's a small thing but all too often a stationary figure will appear, which is fine, but everyone seems to use that idea.
The directing, editing and the special effects were the best thing about this. The fast paced editing towards the end, the choice of camera angles, and one effect in particular worked so well together, the best part of this. How the rising tension of the music cuts out at exactly the perfect point was great, the whole final thirty seconds of this are just excellent. The lead up to this was good, there were some visual story parts that I couldn't see the relevance of, nor make sense of them in my mind, yet overall I thought that despite a lack of too much originality with the actual story told, Snap was a very well made horror short.
Saturday, 9 February 2019
Brunei's premier horror film creator Abdul Zainidi (Ostrich Supernatural Game, Jentingkai) has been in contact with another short horror film of his, this time the documentary/anthology More Vanishing Children that he wrote, directed, and filmed. This is the second one in his series about missing people and local superstitions in Brunei. While his films all follow very similar themes the location itself is forever unique in feel, and basing his stories on real myths and legends from around the area is a nice touch.
This fifteen minute short is a documentary that covers four different tales of missing children. The first of these is Penjaga (The Watcher) which is about some kids exploring an abandoned house who then encounter the titular spirit. Next up is Anak Buluh (Child of the Bamboo) that details the mythical jungle being Tagur that takes away people who acknowledge it. The third is Kelindahau and is about a creature of that name who likes to play hide and seek with children by spiriting them away. The final story is Memburu Hantu (Ghost Hunting) that sees a group of friends exploring an abandoned school.
While this follows a similar format to much of Zainidi's other work as always it is the setting that worked the best. There are some creepy looking locations used that help create atmosphere, as does the music chosen. The voice over often helps as well as making these stories feel more sinister than the onscreen action. Of the four stories it is Penjaga which I felt worked the best, it had a nice finish to it that a lot of the other ones didn't really have. Saying that Kelindahau had some nice parts, the ending shot of a face lit in the darkness worked well. Of the four different parts though it was Memburu Hantu which fared the worst as nothing really seemed to happen in it. Across these shorts a variety of different beings are examined yet visually on camera there is no real change in how they are displayed, often going into a first person mode, or having a reaction shot rather than show anything.
More Vanishing Children is a tiny bit rough around the edges, but then that is something the director readily admits. Personally I thought it was a bit more higher quality than some of his previous shorts, especially the camera quality which seemed to be a big improvement, on the whole this remained engaging throughout with the anthology aspect working out well. This film was a selection at the Bucheon International Film Festival in 2017.
Thursday, 7 February 2019
Knock Knock Knock Knock is the second film in the Sincerely, Psychopath: Disposable Screams series (despite not being the second one to be made in that series). The first was 2012's Creak, and both were directed and written by Luther Bhogal-Jones. This one goes very deep into arthouse territory, thankfully this works out well for this.
Natasha Lamper stars as Freya, a woman who has recently had a nervous breakdown which resulted in extensive self harm. She has been left home alone in her flat and advised to take her medication. She hasn't long been there however when she starts to hear an urgent knocking at her door. With no one there when ever she opens the door she decides to resort to desperate measures to catch the prankster. Is there really someone there, or is this a lingering effect of her recent breakdown?
I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this but I was looking forward to finding out. Something as simple as a simple unexplained knocking at a door can make for some engaging viewing. Knock Knock Knock Knock is fantastic, if you had shown this to me and said it was from the eighties aside from the crisp, clean image, and modern special effects used in places I would have seen no reason not to believe you. This is a homage to the Italian horror/giallo films of that time and it is a masterful homage. Everything about this just felt ripped straight from that, from the title cards (a great kinetic film title it has to be said), the freeze frame ending shot, and the wonderful score by Umberto.
The arthouse use is varied with a whole slew of the type of tropes used for that style of film making, such as sped up and slowed down moments, scenes morphing (from laying on the floor to laying on grass), use of different primary light colours. This even devolves into pure animation at one point. There are some lovely shots here that give you an insight into the mind of the protagonist that is as fractured as the mirror that breaks during this. As the press release itself admits "Admittedly a wafer thing plot...this premise is the jumping off point for a succession of visually arresting moments". These visually arresting moments were varied and kept me glued to the screen to see what would come next, helped along by some nice cinematography.
Knock Knock Knock Knock was a great ten minute short, a hypnotic whirlpool of madness that was a blast to witness. The short has a novel way of release in that it is only available to those who request it. Anyone is free to see it but to do so you must email Faster Productions to be given a link to download the film. If you are interested then send an email to email@example.com with the subject line 4KANDLES.
Wednesday, 6 February 2019
Hunter is a modern day vampire film that was directed by David Tarleton, and with a story written by Jason Kellerman, who also stars in this as the titular lead. This felt very much like a superhero origin story which is something I enjoyed seeing develop over the ninety minute run time.
Kellerman is Hunter - a former MMA fighter, and now homeless man on the cold streets of Chicago, who is haunted by the demons of his past. After joining a homeless shelter that focuses on talk therapy he meets the owner - Danni (Rachel Cerda) and the two begin a friendship that starts to heal the damage done to the tormented man. Meanwhile Hunter becomes wise to a threat in the city, one that he may have encountered previously but passed off as hallucinations.
Being an origin story for Hunter this follows a clear path for the protagonist with his past handled in an interesting way. While mainly centred on the present there are visions and flashbacks to previous points in his life that throw hints on the sort of things that occured with him. The story is told in a roundabout way in that he reacts to things that initially seem confusing, yet as plot points are drip fed to the viewer things slowly start to make more sense. The style of editing used, especially for the flashbacks can be dizzying with random shots mixed together with shots of blood creating a confusing miasma. With the plot starting off with Hunter at his lowest it was interesting to see how things would progress for the core characters.
Tuesday, 5 February 2019
It was around this time last year that the three part fan fiction slasher film Michael Myers Versus Jason Vorhees was released via Dark Red (responsible for septeMber, one of my favourite short horrors I've ever seen). To celebrate the anniversary the three parter has been re-edited into a single film with new scenes and music added to help it flow better.
It is business as usual for killers Michael Myers (Jeff Payne) and Jason Vorhees (Dustin Miller). For reasons unknown they happen to be in the same remote area, after inadvertently stealing each others kills they start up a titanic battle lasting days. With these two seemingly indestructible killers battling who will come out on top?
Having seen this in its original form I felt it was fine enough, but it didn't really appeal to me. That is despite Halloween being one of my favourite horror franchises (I have seen all the Friday 13th films but they are near universally terrible). Having this now as one single 33 minute film I found myself enjoying this a whole lot more. I realised watching this though that having two silent and unkillable leads doesn't make for a plot that is that exciting. I see now that Freddy vs Jason worked well because of the differences between the two killers. Even with the re-editing at times this short threatened to get a little bit dull.
It is hard to deny that this doesn't look and sound great though, the iconic music really adds a lot to this, and the editing is fantastic. I like the quality of the footage also with some nice drone shots, and plenty of blood being splashed around. The two killers look the part, obviously lower quality than the real things but they are still iconic in their looks. The main draw is seeing which one comes out on top and it was nice to see there appeared to be a real resolution. Check it out for yourself below.
Sunday, 3 February 2019
2019 is shaping up to be a fine year for horror video games. Starting off with the long awaited remake of the 1998 game of the same name, we then have the post apocalyptic Metro Exodus in February and then open world zombie survival game Days Gone in April. A good start to the year. For the longest time Resident Evil 2 was my favourite horror game of all time. In anticipation of this remake I replayed through the original once again - it still holds up as a damn fine game. As a uber fan of the series of course I have been very pleased with how this remake has turned out...though there are also some issues that I struggled to look past.
The game takes place in 1998 and follows the misadventures of two people - rookie cop Leon Kennedy who has headed to Raccoon City for his first day on the job, and the feisty Claire Redfield who has come to the city looking for her missing brother. Both soon discover the place is over run with the living dead, by the time they realise this though they are deep in the city and trapped. Taking refuge in the local police station both must try and find a way to escape the cursed land of the dead.
There will be mild spoilers here, mainly based on the differences between the two versions. So, is this a better game than the original? The short answer is no, that's not to say it is worse either, just that while there are plenty of improvements, especially when it comes to the controls, there are some elements that rubbed against me the wrong way. Both Leon and Claire have their own separate stories. Completing the main game with Leon will unlock the B mission for Claire, and vice versa. Each of the two characters mainly inhabit the same locations but there is roughly 1/4 of the game that has areas exclusive to each character.
Saturday, 2 February 2019
Well, it has been a while since I saw something as immediately weird as Ryan Policky's short horror film Shovel. When I was much younger I used to watch this show called Headf*ck on the Sci-fi Channel, it was made up of a collection of messed up short films and music videos. This short would feel right at home on that I feel.
A young girl (Aeona Cruz) walks around a field collecting flowers. Meanwhile in an unrelated scene a hulking man (Doug Newville who also wrote this) armed with a shovel goes on an indiscriminate killing spree. Eventually these two story lines meet up to form an unexpected resolution.
With barely any dialogue to speak of and an abrasive track by horror industrial group Genessier this six minute short felt almost like a music video. The music is a constant drone that gave the feeling of being deep into a nightmare. Talking of drones there are some nice shots from the sky, the camera work and editing really help build up an oppressive atmosphere, such as the choppy close up shots of the killer. The overhead shots give a sense of scale that create the feel that all of Shovel takes place in someone's bad dream.
Shovel works because of the great blend of the music and visuals, both are essential in creating this bizarre dreamscape that was an experience to watch, and with the unique style it was going for this this was an addictive watch as well. Shovel is now available to watch on Amazon Prime.