Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Game Night (2018) - Comedy Crime Film Review

I don't know exactly why but I had in my mind ever since I first saw the trailer for Game Night that it was a horror. Of course it isn't, instead it is a darkly comic crime thriller, but I had been planning to write a review of it and I have no time to do another blog post today and so a review I shall do. Jason Bateman (The Gift) stars in this and I have never liked him in anything outside of Arrested Development, yet here I found his presence not to be that bad.

Game obsessed couple Max (Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams - Red Eye) host weekly game nights that their best friends always come to. One day Max's successful brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler - Super 8) turns up in town, he invites the group to his rented house so that he can host his own game night. He tells them that he has arranged a murder mystery type game; one of the group are going to be kidnapped and the rest must follow clues to find out where the person is being held. Not long after telling this two men break into the house, beat-up Brooks and kidnap him, the rest all thinking it is part of his game don't take it seriously. Splitting into pairs the friends all try their own ways to find and rescue Max's brother, not realising that he was actually kidnapped for real by some legitimate criminals...

Game Night was a funny film, though I saw this on my own in a moderately busy cinema I still laughed out loud on at least a handful of occasions. When it wants to be this film can be hilarious, but with so many jokes there were a fair few that fell flat for me, such as topical ones about Donald Trump, or references to current Marvel movies. The comedy comes both from the dialogue and physical gags, out of the six friends each of them had their moment to shine, but it was Billy Magnussen (Black Mirror) as the dumb Ryan who gave me the most laughs due to how over the top thick he was, a scene when he is trying to bribe a woman with a pitiful amount of money was perfect due to how slowly he was giving her the cash (funnier than it sounds). Another great character was played by Jesse Plemons (also Black Mirror). His character was a very creepy next door neighbour cop who was perfect with his really awkward scenes and his complete lack of emotion in his delivery of his lines, coupled with complete lack of facial expressions.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Cry Your Way Home (2018) by Damien Angelica Walters - Horror eBook Review

It is always such a good feeling to finishing reading one of the many books I have been given for review purposes. Cry Your Way Home is an anthology of short horror stories written by Damien Angelica Walters. The 17 stories here have a definite feminine angle to them with many revolving around relationships between mother and child, or featuring female protagonists, this is no bad thing at all.

This reminded me quite a bit of Mercedes M. Yardley's anthology Beautiful Sorrows in that a fair few of these stories are both abstract in nature as well as coming across as a kind of fairytale. This is best shown with opener Tooth, Tongue, and Claw, and A Lie You Give and Thus I Take which is a mash-up of several different well known fairytale situations, and which I couldn't really tell what was going on. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys: The Elephant's Tale was another really quite weird one, somehow coming across like a mix between Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted and a Nick Cave song, with a grimy circus and an elephant main character leading to some quite surreal passages.

Many of the stories here deal with a parents loss of their child, this concept is explored several times, often with the child having committed suicide, or at least suspected to have. On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes is realistic horror in the way it switches between the perspective of the unsuspecting mother and her distraught daughter. Falling Under, Through the Dark has a grieving mother trying to reconnect with the moment her son drowned. Umbilicus has a child again feared drowned, and another mothers attempts to discover exactly what happened no matter the cost to the world. Then there is Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice which again brings up suicide but with a bizarre almost Robert Rankin style short about a Frankenstein child.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Sengoku (1991) - Horror Video Game Review (Nintendo Switch)

Back in the 90's my favourite type of video game was the scrolling beat-em up, and it was a golden age for those. Having recently purchased a Nintendo Switch I wanted to test the waters of the online store, and so seeing Sengoku there for a cheap price I decided to pick it up. Now the benefits of this port is that you can set how many lives you want to have. I decided right away I would bump up my lives to the maximum of 99, and with infinite continues it came down to not how hard an experience this would be, but more just how much fun is the game? As an aside; apologies for the wonky pictures used, I couldn't find any decent images online of the game so had to resort to taking my own!

A portal to an ancient Japanese version of Hell opens above an unnamed American city, and hordes of demons invade. It turns out that 400 years previously an evil Japanese warlord had been defeated by two warriors and that he had vowed to some day return. It turns out that the descendants of the warriors both live in the city and so they set out to defeat the warlord and close the portal to Hell...

Upon loading this up you are given two options; play the Japanese version of the game, or play the North American version. I played through the game on both these options and as far as I can tell aside from the subtitles changing language I found the North American version to be slightly easier. I guessed the story the first playthrough and was mostly correct in my assumptions. It was sad to see that the English translations are at one both terrible and lazy, so much so that I enjoyed the Japanese version just for the fact I couldn't tell what was being said in cutscenes.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

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

Another month and another news round-up of everything I have been sent in the last month. First up there is going to be a DVD release of obscure horror film The Soultangler which is the first release from the partnership of the AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) and Bleeding Skull! The press release says of the film 'if Re-animator was shot on Long Island for the price of a used car, The Soultangler would be the result'. A mad doctor develops a drug that allows users to inhabit corpses and transform into maniacs; sounds pretty cool to me. Previously only ever released on VHS the DVD release is going to include a director's cut, commentary track by director Pat Bishow, behind the scenes footage and more, it can be pre-ordered here.

Agramon's Gate is a new demonic horror film that is due to star Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop 1 and 2) and Yan Birch (The People Under the Stairs, Death House) and is going to be written, directed and produced by filmmaker and actor Harley Wallen. In this film a young man with a dark past holds a seance during a housewarming party, but things go wrong and something evil is unleashed in the home.

Mr. Cleaver is now on Prime and Vimeo On Demand. This a slasher that is 'a sex, drugs, and gore throwback to the straight-to-video slasher movies of the early 90's'. The synopsis is that a group of lowlifes break into a seemingly abandoned warehouse where they become hunted by the murderous owner. From the trailer this low budget horror looks like it has been designed to appeal to those who like their terror trashy and over the top, so could be fun.

Artsploitation Films have acquired two foreign horror films for distribution in 2018. Chilean Trauma (a man and his son go after a group of women out in the countryside), and Argentinean Luciferina (a woman discovers Satanic horror out in the jungle). These are going to be shown at select film festivals, followed by Blu-Ray and VOD. Artsploitation also have the U.S and Canadian rights to EuroObscura's A Taste of Phobia which is an anthology created by 14 international directors, the central concept being that each short is to focus on a different phobia. These include mazeophobia (fear of being lost), astrophobia (fear of celestial objects), and caetophobia (fear of hairs) and so sounds like it is going to be quite random. The trailer makes this seem like it could be quite bloody and entertaining, there's few things as good as a decent anthology.

Game news now and I have been meaning to say for ages, but around Christmas time there was a free new map for Killing Floor 2 called Krampus Lair. This re-skinned the monsters to have a festive theme to them, and features a boss fight against Krampus itself. Variety with bosses is one thing this game really lacks so having a new boss can only be a good thing. Not sure if I mentioned this one, but there was also a free map released before then titled Nightmares. In this one each round takes place in a different horror filled location. Levels include one where you are tiny, a World War I based map, a cavern full of cobwebs, and a twisted fairground.

Zombie VR game Throw Anything came out on HTC Vive/Steam VR on February 28th. In this one you have to throw anything you can get your hands on at the undead that are attempting to scale the high-rise building you find yourself on. The most exciting thing for me about this is that later in the year it shall be coming to PSVR (and Oculus Rift). Check out the trailer.


Saturday, 10 March 2018

Love Eternal: The Silent Film Cut (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

Love Eternal: The Silent Film Cut is the latest short horror film from Forte Films Entertainment that is again directed and co-written by Matthew Forte (Anna, The Babyface Killer), with Arriana Vasquez as assistant director and co-writer. This is probably my favourite short film I have seen of theirs, this is down to the neat style gone for, one that plays to the strengths of the filmmaking.

This near 8 minute short is based on Bram Stoker's classic Dracula story but plays around a bit with the ending. Here we find Dracula many years after the end of the novel's story with Mina by his side as his vampiric bride. A prologue reveals that the vampires powers are fading and so he finds himself in a life or death struggle with an old adversary...

This has been made to mirror the style of silent horrors of the early 20th century, as such there is no spoken dialogue, or even sound effects, instead what you get is music constantly playing, while dialogue appears on screen as intertitles. To compliment this the footage has a grainy overlay on it creating an effective homage to how these old horrors look today. In particular I was taken with the mournful piano based soundtrack that suggested just by its sound that an end was coming. The small cast of four (Dracula played by Alfonso Marquez, Mina played by Felicia Garcia) don't have to worry about spoken dialogue and so tell their story by actions. The performances are less exaggerated than actors in these original type of films gave but it was still clear what was going on. If I had any complaints about the way the dialogue is shown is that there is quite a lot, especially to begin with, I wondered if it could have been streamlined a bit.

The meat of Love Eternal is a fight between Dracula, Mina and an old foe. This was fun to watch and had some great iconic Dracula moments, my favourite when the Count grins at his opponent mid fight. This whole sequence had some nice editing to it, I liked how shots would get out of focus. I also liked the Mina is shown to be a capable fighter herself, a nice modern touch for this homage to have.

The tale of Dracula is one that pretty much everyone knows, and most will be familiar with the style that Love Eternal has gone for. For me it was the soundtrack, the tragic vibe, and the retro visuals that worked well the most. Love Eternal: The Silent Film Cut is free to watch on YouTube, it's worth a watch if you like your vampires the old fashioned way.


Friday, 9 March 2018

Before I Wake (2016) - Horror Film Review

I've been avoiding watching Before I Wake for quite a long while, that is for the reason that it didn't look like the sort of horror I would enjoy, namely that it is one of those creepy little kid films that often leave me so cold. Still this was directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan who also directed the great Hush, and the enjoyable Gerald's Game so I was slightly open minded on this one.

Jessie (Kate Bosworth - Straw Dogs) and Mark (Thomas Jane - 1922) are still in grieving for their young son who died in an accident, yet they decide to adopt a new child hoping he will help them heal their pain. They choose young Cody (Jacob Tremblay) whose had a rough time with several past foster parents turning out allegedly to be bad people. They soon discover that when Cody sleeps his dreams become real, and Jessie abuses this power to have images of her dead son come to life when the boy sleeps. However with the good comes the bad and so it turns out that when Cody has nightmares they also become real, and these nightmares have the power to kill...

I didn't like Before I Wake, mainly with how lazy it feels. I have seen no end of similar movies to this one and so every twist and turn left me cold despite a few good ideas. The first 50 minutes of this are pretty dull and focus on the discovery of Cody's dreams and how his power to bring their dead son briefly back in a dream form widens a divide between the already struggling couple. Jessie just becomes an abuser as far as I could see, while Mark actually treats the child as if he is his son. The second half shifts gears and introduces horror, but it is so by the number that I never found any of it particularly interesting. While the acting of the main couple is fine enough (well Thomas Jane is as great as he always is nowadays; he has really grown as an actor, much like Ethan Hawke has) I just plain did not like the character of Jessie. When a plot twist occurs two thirds in and she becomes the primary main character I wasn't impressed, and in fact became to suspect she might have some sociopathic tendencies with the lack of emotion she displays towards certain events.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Wastelander (2018) - Post Apocalyptic Film Review

Wastelander is the second post apocalyptic film I have seen this year, Blue World Order being the other one. This is influenced far more by the Mad Max series and shares a similar group of characters, though to me it shared also a lot with the Fallout series of video games, both in the costumes characters wear, and also where the plot itself goes to.

Tom Hanks look alike Brendan Guy Murphy stars as Rhyous; a wandering wastelander on a post apocalyptic Earth who is on a quest to discover Eden. Eden is said to be one of the last surviving pre-apocalypse places left intact on the planet. In Rhyous's way though are an army of barbarians known as The Scourge, these rule the wastes through violence and fear and think the past should be left behind, and that anyone seeking the mythical Eden should die...

Wastelander has many problems, but it also does a lot that delights. There is always something new going on here with very little downtime in between shootouts, gladiatorial type fights, car chases, and close quarters combat. It is all done with an obviously low budget yet plenty of shaky camera work, CGI, and green screens do their best to keep this world feeling as realistic as possible. The best thing about this film is the wonderful costumes that all the characters wear. Most of the enemies Rhyous faces, as well as him and his comrades all wear outlandish Mad Max style armour and masks. I could never work out why so many people wore cool looking masks when there didn't seem a need to, but it seemed to be the fashion as no one bats an eyelid with people walking around looking like futuristic soldiers as a fashion choice. This did get confusing at times as one of the main antagonists looks nearly identical to Rhyous.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

An Idle Mind is the Devil's Playground (2016) - Horror Film Review

An Idle Mind is the Devil's Playground is an obvious homage to the style of The Twilight Zone, in fact it even has the endorsement of Spats White who was a friend and collaborator of Rod Serling who created that show. What works best for this film is that despite being made in 2016 it looks to all intents and purposes like a lost TV episode from the 1960's.

Reclusive Sid Kottler (Ben Lokey - Michael Jackson's Thriller) is a long term shut-in who has a severe case of anthrophobia (a fear of people or human contact). One day he awakens from a dream and is shocked to discover a man he had just dreamt about sitting in his bedroom. Thinking he is still dreaming he goes back to sleep, however he soon finds out that each time he awakens the person he was dreaming about has manifested in his house, and soon Sid finds himself in his own personal hell with a house full of strangers...

The pacing and style of acting in Devil's Playground is very reminiscent of the time period it is aping, it really did feel like a lost episode of The Twilight Zone which is no bad thing as I love that show. I couldn't get over how authentic this felt, even after watching the end credits I felt that this couldn't have been created in modern day, aside from the smooth directing! Everything from the costumes to set dressing and even the style of film work just felt like something out of time, all wonderful stuff, and of course this was shot in black and white to complete that feel.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Little Nightmares: The Residence (2018) - Horror Video Game DLC Review (Playstation 4)

I only recently got around to playing the second DLC for horror adventure game Little Nightmares and I almost wish I hadn't. The main game was fun enough, not amazing but it was something that felt different. Then the first DLC The Depths dropped and while it was decent enough it didn't really do much different, and it maintained the sense of frustration inherent with the design of the game. Second DLC The Hideaway was even worse, featuring as it did a bland location, and a slew of puzzles that were all solved in the exact same way. Thankfully then the third and final DLC level The Residence is not only the most horror filled part of the entire Little Nightmares experience, but actually surpasses everything else in terms of level design, and more importantly fun.

Escapee 'the kid' ended DLC 2 by riding on an elevator up to the home of 'The Lady' who you encounter as the final boss in the main game. While avoiding being detected by her, and avoiding the shadow children who hunt you, you must collect three different statues in order to open the door that may lead to your long awaited freedom...

As bizarre as it sounds there was a real feel of old school Resident Evil with this DLC. The majority of my hour long playthrough had me in a mansion type area trying to find the three statues needed to open a big door. Each of these statues had their own puzzle around the acquisition that was a lot of fun to solve, mainly due to the sense of satisfaction at finally working out how to get them. One of the puzzles is even identical to one in Resident Evil; the object you need is on a plinth, but should you pick it up then the door you entered by slams shut and the roof starts to descend. Once I worked out how to solve one part of this puzzle based area the rest slid into place like completing a jigsaw, so yes, quite satisfying.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Persona 5 (2017) - Adventure Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

For reasons that baffle me to this very day (and which haunt my nights) I decided to review Persona 4 after only 24 hours playtime back in 2010. I think I must have assumed I was near the end, however it was actually 91 hours long. I would like to think I'm more professional nowadays and so for this review of Persona 5 I have actually completed it first! It took me a whole year to finish this RPG, clocking in with a game time of 97 hours.

Persona 5 starts with your school age character (knick named Joker) being arrested whilst in the middle of a daring casino robbery as part of a group known as the Phantom Thieves. He is taken away to an interrogation room where he is asked to recount his version of events leading up to his capture. A large chunk of the game is a playable recollection of events. Joker arrives in Tokyo to stay with a coffee shop owner Sojiro, due to being on probation after having been charged with assault. Him and his new friends through a series of events unlock 'personas' which are manifestations of their inner psyche. They also gain the ability to enter 'palaces' which are in a supernatural realm and which are twisted versions of the palace owners mindset. Basically kind of like Inception; by going into a mind palace and stealing the treasure located there they are able to 'steal the heart' of their target which results in them developing a conscience and admitting their crimes in the real world. However the more they change people to better help society the more they find their actions become investigated by the police and government and soon find themselves with danger of arrest...

I loved Persona 4, and I love Persona 5 but I don't think story wise it is as much of a draw. Early on we are introduced to the antagonist and so there is none of the mystery and surprise that came with Persona 4's hunting a serial killer storyline. Instead over the course of a year you go after different targets, starting with a teacher who abused his position to sexually harass students, you end up going after business leaders and politicians. As you do so your fame increases with public opinion constantly spurring you on to further actions.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Start a War (2018) by Entropy Zero - Album Review

Start a War is the 10 track debut album for composer Maks SF under his Entropy Zero name. Previously he was written music for video games and commercials, he describes the music of Entropy Zero as 'sounds of war blended with heavy industrial and electronic music'. If I had to sum up the sound of this album it would be that it sounds like a collection of boss battle video game music. I always have to preface by saying I don't consider myself well versed in music, so everything I put here is from my own personal viewpoint and not based on knowledge of the subject.

First track Eliminate is a statement of intent for the album and does sound remarkably like boss battle music you would find in a game. This is the style that permeates the whole of Start a War with the majority of the tracks all sounding kind of similar but with different flourishes to them to set them apart. Second track War Machine features trailer composer Cliff Lin (Nuclear Winter), while third track Dancing Body of the Dead has elements of dub-step to it that sounded like it would be right at home in DmC: Devil May Cry. This track was an early favourite. Constant Domination, Reloading, Fire in the Hole, and Decimation all are high energy, and good in their own right, but variations on a theme, Party With The Devil stood out with its Mortiis type heavy industrial drumming. Penultimate track Unstoppable injected some drum and bass into the sound which went perfectly with the fast pace. Finally it is up to Crimson Sunrise to close things out. This is a much slower track than the rest with a nice Nine Inch Nails feel to it. It is also the very best track on the album, it was a strong epic finish to Start a War.

There isn't a single track on this album that doesn't sound like it would be an odd fit for any type of battle music, personally I felt that there were a few in the middle that all sort of melded into one in my head. There were some stand out tracks though with Crimson Sunrise being the most interesting one. It is the problem I always have with instrumental soundtrack albums in that the tracks are too short for my liking, just as it gets going the track usually ends, with an average length of around two minutes per track and an overall play time of 22 minutes I was always left wanting more, in general though I do like to get lost in tracks, especially when there is a music beat that I really enjoy. Entropy Zero's Start a War was released 9th February, it can be brought or streamed from a variety of locations, check here for details, is worth a listen.


Monday, 26 February 2018

Castlevania (2017) - Horror TV Show Review

Castlevania is one of my most favourite video game series of all time, and also one of my favourite game styles of all time (Metroidvania, which is one huge level that opens up as you gain new abilities). Hearing there was a Netflix series out based on the games, specifically Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse I was interested to see how it turns out. Thankfully this four part cartoon is not only beautifully made, but also captures the violence and horror of the games.

Dracula (Graham McTavish - The Hobbit trilogy) falls in love with a human female named Lisa and they end up getting married. However the church mistake Lisa's medical skills as witchcraft and she is burned at the stake. A distraught Dracula in anger summons an army of demons from Hell with the aim of wiping out all humanity. Trevor Belmont (Richard Armitage - also The Hobbit trilogy); a vampire hunter gets caught up in this unfolding chaos while visiting a besieged town, together with a magic user named Sypha (Alejandra Reynoso) they attempt to protect the town from the evil hordes...

This first season of Castlevania is frustratingly only four 20 minute episodes long, which was apparently due to Netflix not having too much faith in the show. Well due to the great response the second season has already been approved and is going to have more episodes. The animation for this show is of a high quality, as is the voice acting, though it did feel weird that everyone in this fictional land has English accents when you assume they would be in the Romanian region. I was pleased to see this was handled maturely and seriously without the need to inject humour into the bleak goings on. It doesn't shy away from scenes of violence with even the first episode showing what appeared to be a child torn in half. Throughout the show we get lots of blood and violence, even if there isn't an over abundance of fan service. Favourite moment of violence for me was someone getting their eye whipped out in episode 2! This mature tone sometimes felt a bit overblown, everyone is so serious and talking in an adult way that it felt like they were trying too hard for what is essentially a cartoon.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Haunted Tours: Episode 2 'I Killed Them' - Paranormal Reality TV Show News and Episode Review

In June of last year I first mentioned the paranormal investigation reality TV show Haunted Tours. I have seen quite a few of these shows in the past and usually not a lot happens in them, they are overproduced with tacky recreations and hyperbole. This one promised to be more extreme, but also more real in what it portrays.

The preview episode I watched was the second one in the series and had the group of Stephen Erkintalo (the investigator), Victoria Catherine (the host), Brian and Jake Jalbert (the cameramen), and producers heading to Ashley's Restaurant which is said to be haunted by two different spirits. One of the spirits was meant to be that of a frequent visitor to whatever it used to be in the 1800's who ended up brutally murdered, while another is that of a child who was killed by a train on the nearby railway tracks.

Over the course of the 45 minute episode Erkintalo does his best to get in contact with the spirits using any means necessary short of outright being aggressive to any nearby ghosts. His tools include a Ouija board that allegedly has human ashes and blood smeared on it, a spirit recorder, and using a mirror to try and bring forth spirits into the real world. He seems to be the wild card of the group in the disruptive energy he brings. He comes across as a risk taker designed to antagonise the other crew members with his actions, such as when he tells any spirits present they are welcome to harm the group, or when he decides to lay down on an in-use railway track in an attempt to cajole spirits into interacting with him.

The group dynamic isn't one of firm friends, instead you get the feeling of a unified goal but with different personalities rubbing against each other leading to a feeling of simmering, yet very mild tension. This felt more real due to the swearing the cast do, as well as the avoidance of those cheesy recreations I mentioned earlier. Yet being bare bones (though focusing on the entertaining stuff) not a lot really happens aside from people saying they feel a presence, or the spirit recorder occasionally making noises that could be inferred to be relevant to the case the group are studying. Sill this is all par for the course for these type of shows and I liked how the group keep referring to a previous episode which gives a good sense of flow and cohesion, whilst at the same time indicating that viewers can expect things to get more intense as the show progresses.

Haunted Tours may be going into a crowded market but it has enough to it that it fits in well, and it was nicely edited. Occasionally (at least in this episode) it felt like not enough was going on to maintain interest, but that was only on a couple of occasions. I liked the group dynamic of sceptics and believers as it gave a more balanced look at things, especially with some of the comments made about things they are doing. Haunted Tours is out on Amazon and has had some good reviews, you should check it out if you get the chance.