Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Spirit Board (2016) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

I heard of The Spirit Board from director Andrea Ricca and soon found out it is going to be one of the short films shown at this years Horrorcon UK which took place from the 19th to 20th May (so the weekend just passed). It is an Italian horror that gets around a low budget through the use of CGI for its effects.

Ilaria Lamberti stars as a woman who has decided to use a ouija board, however she accidentally summons an evil spirit that appears in the form of a zombie. While avoiding the ghouls attacks she tries to use the board to find a way to send it back to where it came from.

First off what this does right...I liked how this was a silent movie, there is a soundtrack but in terms of dialogue there is none. When the woman uses the board there are subtitles to show what she is asking the spirits. At just under six minutes a complete cohesive story is told, this was well paced, there was a nice ramping up of events. Starting off with a ghostly figure sitting opposite the main character things escalate leading to the appearance of a zombie.
The biggest problem I had with this was how awful the CGI looked, especially for the monster of the short. It looked like something from a Dreamcast game, jerky unrealistic movement and it never seemed like it was actually in the house with the woman. Instead it looked artificial and almost cartoon like in how it appeared. This unfortunately made what happens not very scary at all, even a little silly at times. I am behind the general idea behind this but personally having an actor in makeup would have been far better than low quality CGI.

While The Spirit Board may be charming in its late 90's style of animation, while the plot itself is decent enough for a short I just wasn't able to look past the off putting basic look of the central monster here. However apparently Ricca not only directed this, but was responsible for the whole craft, from the editing to the cinematography, all the way down to the computer effects, and that amount of passion is something that should be respected.


Monday, 21 May 2018

God of War (2018) - Horror Fantasy Video Game Review (PS4)

I spent a few months back in 2013 playing through the entire God of War series of video games and had quite a fun time with them. None of the games completely blew me away but they were exciting and bloody even if Kratos was a pretty despicable main lead. It was nice to hear a new game in the series was coming, and an unexpected surprise that instead of Greek mythology the setting would leap to Norse mythology instead. Not only that but this soft reboot for the series would have an older, more repentant Kratos (voiced by Christopher Judge) who not only has had to live with the consequences of his past rash actions, but now has a son; Atreus (Sunny Suljic) who he wants to ensure doesn't go down the same dark path he did.

The game begins some time after the events of God of War III with Kratos living a mortal life in the wilderness with his son, and his wife having recently died. Her dying wish was that her ashes be scattered from the highest mountain in all the lands. One day a stranger arrives at the home, this stranger turns out to be Baldur; a God who is after Kratos for unknown reasons. With his peaceful existence shattered Kratos decides to set out on his quest with his young son to carry out his wife's wishes.

The previous games in the series had been around five to ten hours long each and so I picked this up expecting a little adventure to play in between doing Mass Effect: Andromeda. It wasn't long after starting this that I heard this was actually a much larger game, I reckon it must have taken me between 40 to 60 hours to complete, and that is without 100% all the side quests and getting all the collectibles. God of War was a linear fighting adventure game before, here this is a semi open world adventure RPG. You gain abilities and armour that level up your character, while enemies themselves have different levels to them meaning you have to get stronger to do some areas. This is a long game, but that includes the side quests which are entirely optional but see you going to huge new areas.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Darkness Comes (2013) - Horror Film Review

Darkness Comes (also known as Dying Light) is an indie Scottish horror that was directed by David Newbigging with a story by Gordon Mclean. This manages to do a heck of a lot with very little and works wonders as a horror due to the great cinematography and use of light and shadow.

Eddie (Owen Whitelaw) thinks it is his lucky day when he hooks up with beautiful stranger Suze (Kelly Wenham - Dead Set). She takes him to a dilapidated room in an abandoned building but rather than have sex she instead injects him with a syringe full of a mysterious drug. Tying him to a bed frame Suze then proceeds to carve runic symbols into his chest, it seems he is the key ingredient in some sort of Satanic ritual. Locked in a dark room with a psycho Eddie must try and find a way to escape, before the darkness comes...

I initially thought this would fall into the torture porn genre, it all feels very Saw/Hostel like to begin with. The entire film takes place in the one sparse room, the only furniture being a bed frame, the only illumination coming from one dim light bulb. At just over an hour long this is shorter than most feature films, even so I wondered if this could remain involving for the whole duration. Thankfully it does, this is down to the unrelenting horror that starts a few minutes in and never lets up. The strongest element here is the oppressive unrelenting score that grinds its way into your mind, it perfectly compliments the grubby otherworldly seeming room.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Friendsgiving (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

Friendsgiving is a short horror that clocks in at around the 7 minute mark, it was directed and co-written by Samantha Kolesnik and as the title may suggest is set around Thanksgiving. While this is a horror comedy it was good to see the horror aspect was quite strong here, despite the humour here it was more bleak than I expected it to be which is only a good thing.

Rita (Kelsey Andrae) has recently moved into an apartment building and has visited her new neighbour Grace (Kaylor Otwell) in order to borrow some flour.; Upon learning that Rita is to spend Thanksgiving on her own Grace decides to invite the girl to the meal she is putting on for friends. Despite getting weird vibes off of her posh neighbour and her silent husband she decides she will go anyway, this may turn out to be the last mistake she makes...

I thought that this was going to be more light hearted but right from the start there is an ominous tone that is created from a combination of the lighting, the sinister soundtrack playing, and Otwell's intense performance. I felt that Otwell and Andrae in particular were very well chosen for their roles; the first being very creepy, and the later being likeable. The meat of the short is the dinner itself that is layered with warning signs for the poor girl, the best being a random guy running out the kitchen shouting for help as Grace's husband wearing a plastic apron chases and captures. It may all be familiar stuff but it was expertly shot with the camera quality in particular standing out.

Friendsgiving may have went plot wise in an obvious straight line but it was a fun short that was well made with some great casting choices. A nicely directed little dose of darkly comedic horror that stayed away from being too goofy.


Friday, 18 May 2018

Phantasm: Ravager (2016) - Horror Film Review

Finally I have gotten to see the fifth and final film in the Phantasm series. It has been a crazy few days with me watching the entire run one after the other. Phantasm: Ravager had a bit of a troubled history, it is a fair complaint that this feels a bit confusing made up as it is of several short stories originally made as a web series, as well as the abandoned idea for a fifth film that was come up with in the late 90's. Whether this succeeds or not is down to how much you like Phantasm, for me I was able to look past its faults and just enjoy a more fitting end than Phantasm IV: Oblivion achieved. For the first time this wasn't directed by Don Coscarelli, instead this was done by David Hartman (Godzilla: The Series) with him co-writing this with Coscarelli.

The structure of this film is such that it is hard to really give a general outline of the plot, with the story going across dimensions to alternate timelines.  Reggie (Reggie Bannister) wanders the desert after the events of Oblivion, searching for his friend Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) while pursued by The Tall Man's (Angus Scrimm in his final film before his sad passing) deadly spheres.
Elsewhere an elderly Reggie resides in a nursing home where he is informed by an older Mike that his wild stories of alien undertakers and armies of zombie dwarfs are a product of early onset dementia.
In other places Reggie awakens out of a ten year induced coma to discover the world has been taken over by The Tall Man, the survivors led by Mike leads guerrilla operations to try and defeat the almighty alien forces in the post apocalyptic wastelands.

This is the most confusing film so far but this is very purposeful with the alternate timeline angle making the viewer never quite sure exactly what is real and what is not. The way it is edited I appreciated as the transition between different realities is nicely handled. Characters will walk around a corner to then have the scene transition somewhere else entirely, Reggie the only one realising things have altered. For instance he will be outside a nursing home being approached by nurses, then suddenly he is in the hell of the post apocalypse and instead has gasmask wearing zombie henchmen approaching him. The way these transitions occur lead to you constantly questioning just what is real and what is not, this even goes as far as to have two different endings melded together so even when it finishes it is left somewhat up to your imagination what the entire series had been about.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998) - Horror Film Review

It is day two of my binge watch of the entire Phantasm series and it was time for the film that had left such a sour taste in my mouth for so long. When I first watched Phantasm IV: Oblivion it was as far as anyone was concerned the very last film in the series. This wouldn't have been so bad if it had not finished on such a huge frustrating cliffhanger, thankfully there was a fifth film released in 2016 which I have not seen yet, but hope it resolves the series this time around. Apparently a very ambitious fifth film had been intended to be made soon after Oblivion, and that this was created as a precursor to that.

As always this picks up exactly where the previous film had ended (Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead). Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) has headed off on his own after discovering he may not be human, his brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) follows after him (the brother now being a floating sphere...it's a long story). Concerned for Mike his best friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) gives chase. Events lead Mike, Jody, and Reggie, as well as the ominous Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) to Death Valley where the Tall Man's origin is discovered, and a final confrontation is attempted.

This follows the pattern of each sequel not quite being as good as the last, Oblivion is really one for the fans as it assumes a lot of knowledge and gets deep into the lore of the series. When Phantasm was first made there was a load of footage that just never got used, one thing that Oblivion excels at is using this footage as flashback and dream sequences in a way that feels natural. Having the exact same actors in both the 70's scenes and the 90's just feels special. Director and writer Don Coscarelli even feels confident enough to finish this movie with an unused scene from Phantasm. With this movie more than any other exploring time travel it is fitting.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994) - Horror Film Review

I watched Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead the same day I watched Phantasm and Phantasm II, as such I was getting quite tired, but persevere I did. This time around writer and director Don Coscarelli had no studio interference to contend with and so the stipulations of II were dropped. As such A. Michael Baldwin returns as Mike, his love interest is killed off, and the dream sequences missing are now back in abundance. While this is a decent film it again is not as good as the previous ones in the series.

Picking up where the second film ended Reggie (Reggie Bannister) succeeds in rescuing Mike from the clutches of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), however it is only a temporary reprieve of two years. In that time Mike had been in a coma, but as soon as he wakes he is again kidnapped. With the assistance of a friendly sphere (lethal flying orb of death) that contains the soul of Jody (Bill Thornbury reprising his role from Phantasm) Reggie heads out on a mission to once again locate the terrifying Tall Man. Along the way he joins up with a young boy named Tim (Kevin Connors) and a martial artist named Rocky (Gloria Lynne Henry) who both have their own reasons for wanting to stop the alien being.

Much like the films before it this follows a similar format, this has more in common with the second film in that again it is set out like a road trip with Reggie heading to deserted town after deserted town. Aside from the prologue though there are not any zombie dwarfs to see, instead they are replaced with a trio of thuggish zombies. This threesome pop up time and time again and make up the majority of the action scenes, the make-up effects for them were neat looking but they seemed to go against the lore of the franchise a bit, and the way they keep surviving impossible situations felt a little silly (silly but fun). It was great to see the original cast all reunited though the way the plot goes means that it is only Reggie who has the majority of the screen time, Thornbury and Baldwin both are only really secondary characters with Rocky and Tim taking front and centre. Neither of those characters really appealed, Rocky had an abrasive tough girl act, while Tim came across as a sociopath due to the cold way he is first shown murdering humans (though slicing someone's neck open with a frisbee covered in razor blades was an awesome looking effect!).

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Phantasm II (1988) - Horror Film Review

I had just finished watching Phantasm for the first time in over a decade when I decided I may as well hop straight into Phantasm II. While this was the most expensive film made in the five strong franchise it found itself with some studio interference. The three biggest changes director and writer Don Coscarelli was forced to make was 1. He was only allowed to use one of the original actors for the roles of Mike and Reggie, so Reggie Bannister reprised his role, but A. Michael Baldwin who played Mike couldn't return. 2. The character of Mike had to have a love interest this time around. 3. The dreamlike quality that made the first film seem so special was removed in place of a more traditional process, this meant no dream sequences were allowed.

It has been seven years since the events of the first movie and during that time Mike (James Le Gros) has been kept in a mental asylum due to his wild stories of The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). He is picked up by friend Reggie upon release but they return to Reggie's family home to find it destroyed and his family dead. With nothing left to live for he teams up with Mike to find and kill The Tall Man. Meanwhile this fearsome being has been going from small town to small town murdering the inhabitants and growing his zombie dwarf army, picking up his trail the two friends mean to end him once and for all.

This isn't as good a film at all as the first in the series, however it is still a decent enough sequel even if it does revisit a lot of the same ideas as before. Sometimes this lack of new ideas works, such as expanded scenes involving the murderous spheres, sometimes they don't, as can be best seen with the final scene which is nearly identical to how the first movie finished. Scrimm has a lot less screen time this time around, and with the reduction in the dreamlike elements he doesn't have as memorable a presence here. He doesn't really do much as a character, though has a nice demonic themed part where he hangs a priest by his own crucifix necklace, and there is a great looking sequence involving hydrochloric acid.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Phantasm (1979) - Horror Film Review

Back when I was still getting properly into the horror genre my parents brought me a DVD that contained clips from various horror franchises such as Friday 13th, Leprechaun and Candy Man. It was the clip from Phantasm which really stuck with me though, the scene featuring the iconic sphere. I have been meaning to re-watch the series for a while now as I have never seen 5th installment that came out in 2016, so today on a week off of work I decided to head back into the surreal world of The Tall Man.

13 year old Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) has snuck into the Morningside funeral home to see the funeral of Tommy; a friend of his older brother Jody (Bill Thornbury) who recently was found dead in strange circumstances. Once everyone has left he is surprised to see the funeral director (Angus Scrimm) single handedly placing Tommy's coffin back in the hearse and driving off. Mike idolises Jody who looks after the boy since their parents died a few years previously and so follows him everywhere. One night while following him to the cemetery Mike gets attacked by a hooded dwarf which further cements the idea that something very wrong is going on at the funeral home. Soon Jody and his friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) also figure something strange is happening, their investigations leads to the discovery of an army of evil zombie dwarfs, deadly floating spheres, and the terrifying reality bending powers of the otherworldly Tall Man...

I haven't seen this movie in quite some time, at least ten years and so I was slightly concerned that this wouldn't match the fond memories I had of it. Thankfully this even surpassed my expectations, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a stone cold classic - they really don't make them like this anymore! There is a strong sense of a nightmare about this, a lot of stuff doesn't make much sense, while characters die only to show up fine later on and vice versa. Then there are the many iconic dream sequences, the use of slow motion and exaggerated sound effects, and iconic shots that make so much of this memorable.  I just love how many different elements are going on here to always keep you glued to the screen, and how nothing is really explained in terms of what is happening and why.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Armenian Haunting (2018) - Horror Film Review

Armenian Haunting is a horror film written and directed by Art Arutyunyan (Alpha Delta Zatan) that not only is meant to be scary, but also to remind people about the Armenian genocide by the Turkish that occurred in the 20th century. On the subject of the genocide; I had no idea at all that this had even happened, in that respect this movie succeeds. Unfortunately this just doesn't really work as a horror, mainly due to budget constraints that sometimes make this come across as humorous rather than frightening.

Set in America this follows student Maro (Vaneh Assadourian) who has been doing research into her family's history, specifically the genocide that her Grandma (Tamara Grigorian) survived when she was a child. After her cousin is found dead in mysterious circumstances Maro learns that a curse was placed on her bloodline and that her and the rest of her family are in danger at the hands of an evil spirit due to a promise that was broken long ago. Now Maro must discover what exactly this broken promise involved, and how to appease the spirit that is enacting bloody justice.

After a slightly promising prologue that has a man hearing voices, before seeing a figure that causes him to drop dead with fright things soon go downhill. This initial intro wasn't bad and in a way reminded me of The Ring. From then on though the movie mostly centres on Maro and her sloppy investigations into the family curse. A lot of this involves documentary segments of Maro filming people as they talk about history, and about events leading up to the outbreak of the curse. It became apparent that most the scenes shot outdoors were then dubbed over later on. Characters talking have an echo to them that seems unnatural and became distracting to me, not helped by sound effects that are placed in the correct places but sounded a bit generic. There is a tendency at times, especially with the Grandma character to have people facing away from the camera while lines are said, again this was a bit distracting.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Call of Duty: WWII - The Darkest Shore and The Shadowed Throne (2018) - Thoughts on the DLC 1 and 2 Nazi Zombies Maps

For the past few years I have done a blog post about the new Call of Duty Zombies map each time a new one has come out. However I never got around to doing a post about the first Nazi Zombies DLC map and so thought I would combine both the maps that have arrived in DLC into one post. What I really liked about the base map The Final Reich was that the instructions for the Easter egg (that gives you the ending to the level) was built into the core game itself with instructions given to you on what you should be doing next. It seems unfortunately that the developers took notice of the whining by the vocal minority of hardcore Zombies players and have removed these steps. Now no matter how well designed or fun the subsequent maps may be there is a nasty taste left in my mouth, and a bit of resentment towards Sledgehammer for removing one of the biggest improvements to this game mode.

Starting off with The Darkest Shore which came with DLC 1: 'The Resistance'. This map takes place on a Nazi sea fortress that is a medium sized rectangular map that contains cliff side bunkers, a mine cart section and an underground submarine pen. I was initially very pleased with this map, it has a fantastic intro cutscene that sees your four characters; Marie (Katheryn Winnick, Droston (David Tennant), Olivia (Elodie Yung) and Jefferson (Ving Rhames) arriving with a contingent of soldiers at the island in rowing boats. However before they are able to get to shore zombies burst out the seas and drag off everyone under the waves until it is just the heroes left alive. It starts off differently to usual in that before it starts proper you have to kill a mob of undead that are climbing out of the sea. To help you there is a free to use mounted machine gun, it was something different and went well with the preceding cutscene.

Where The Final Reich created its terror from the sections that played out in near pitch blackness here instead you have a thick mist that rolls in every few rounds. This mist makes it very hard to see enemies until they are almost on top of you, like the darkness this works well and makes things a lot more tense to suddenly have a corpse lurching out the pea soup at you. The mist also brings with it a new zombie type; the Meuchler that resembles a Dead Space necromorph, no surprise seeing as how the people behind that series built this mode. While the map is long rather than large you can use a mine cart system to quickly get around, this is also where you find the parts to open up the pack-a-punch machine.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Weird Fiction (2018) - Horror Anthology Film Review

In January earlier this year I had an interview with young Jacob Perrett in which he said he was working on an anthology feature length film made up of four separate stories. I have previously seen some of his work and thought it was good if a little rough around the edges. The great news is that Weird Fiction blows everything he has done before out of the water, this is another level of professionalism that just continually impressed. I believe some of these shorts have been released previously, but repackaged into this anthology, no bad thing as I would put the anthology style of film as one of my favourite types, there is always at least one that is worth seeing.

With Tales From the Crypt seeming to an influence this anthology is very eighties themed with all the stories take place in that decade, with an appropriate soundtrack, and grainy footage to give the impression of an old VHS cassette tape. The wraparound segment features director and writer Jacob Perrett as 'the Collector' who is a creepy figure who introduces each tale (that are roughly 20 minutes long each) with glee in his voice. I thought that Perrett's character was the best in the whole film, he was entertaining, looked great, and his script was well written. I liked how he adds his own little comments in after each of the shorts has ended.

The first short is titled Goodnight, Daddy and fits neatly into the slasher genre. There has been a number of missing females in the area and it is thought a serial killer is on the loose. Two teenage boys decide they are going to see if they can find the bodies of the missing women, and by a stroke of luck (or should that be misfortune?) they succeed in their plan. This was one of my favourites, the eighties vibe delighted and I knew there and then that whatever the quality of the rest of the films I would come away having enjoyed Weird Fiction. Taylor Rhoades plays the role of the killer and he would be a recurring lead actor throughout all the shorts. He plays a character that is meant to be a lot older than he is but thanks to face paint his youth is hid very well, I really liked the killer character. This felt like Halloween but with an interesting twist, while the teenage boys helped give this the feel of an eighties horror such as Fright Night and The Lost Boys. Some of the night scenes felt a little too dark at times, and the editing made things a bit confusing also on occasion. There is one scene for example where a character gets stabbed in the face, I still have no idea who stabbed the character, or how, but at least it was lit, and shot in such a cool way.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Day of the Dead: Bloodline (2018) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I knew one day I would have to get around to seeing Day of the Dead: Bloodline, and seeing as it is a lazy Sunday I thought that day might as well be now. George Romero's Day of the Dead (I really need to do an updated review of that that is actually well written) is my favourite zombie film of all time and so I was immediately immensely sceptical of this re-make. That classic has been re-imagined before (2008's Day of the Dead that I was too kind towards for what it was), but this sticks much more closely to the general outline of the original. Sadly even getting over my distaste of a stone cold classic getting recreated this is still a pretty terrible film.

This takes place in a world which has been overrun with the running dead, a pocket of civilians and soldiers have taken refuge in an underground bunker built into the side of a mountain. Zoe (Sophie Skelton) was a first year medical student who is now the army base's Dr. When a little girl gets a potentially deadly flu virus she gets permission by the bases moody and strict leader; Miguel (Jeff Gum) to head out with a group to retrieve essential medicines from the hospital she used to train at. However once there Zoe encounters Max (Johnathon Schaech - Prom Night) who in life had been her creepy stalker who had attempted to rape her, and in death has inexplicably retained some of his human intelligence. Max still obsessed with the woman sneaks back to the bunker with the group and soon all hell breaks loose...

Ok, I do like that this isn't a straight re-make and tries to forge its own identity. Replacing Bub with the sinister Max, having the main female's boyfriend actually also being the brother of the base commander, these were fine enough changes. The very best character in the whole film in fact was Max, Schaech plays a villain character that has no redeeming features, but he plays it with relish. Making the zombies runners rather than shamblers is also fine enough these days, they have a weird, vaguely unsettling, vaguely comedic walking run that I could never decide if I thought it worked or not. The make-up effects were also quite cool, there was one zombie who had its jaw almost missing, a ghoul whose head got crushed into the ground, shots of intestines getting pulled out of bodies, and a nice leg snap that saw the bone come out the leg.