Friday, 22 September 2017

Entertaining Demons (2017) by Daniel I. Russell - Horror Book Review


Daniel I. Russell's Entertaining Demons is a horror book that felt a little bit different from others of it's type. In fact a lot of this book feels more like a twisted adventure story in the vein of Neil Gaiman, while the other half is more familiar. It is the meeting up of these two styles that really makes this something unique in feel.

15 year old Molly is the unwitting star of a reality TV show called PI: Paranormal Investigations due to her home being seemingly haunted by a ghost. She is unable to stop being in it though as the show provides the money her and her grandfather need to keep her mentally ill mother in a good nursing home, while she hopes the show's host; paranormal expert Samuel will be able to find a way to stop the hauntings. However things are not what they seem with the spirit haunting the house actually a demon, and worse two more demons are travelling to her sleepy English town with the aim of shutting down the show using whatever means they can...

When I first started reading this I wasn't immediately hooked, I've seen the demonic presence haunting a house so many times in films over the years that it has gotten to be quite a dull subject. It was the introduction of the sub plot involving the two demons that my interest got heightened. I found everything about these two characters to be fascinating. They ride around in the bodies of humans but are able to come out at will, one of them is like a huge shaggy beast, while the other one is made up of snapping teeth on stalks and that can turn its fingers into deadly needles. The descriptions for these two were endlessly descriptive, Russell is fantastic at providing vivid images of these creatures. They are anti-heroes in that they are looking to disrupt the events playing out but are in no way whatsoever good people, these are demons who care absolutely nothing for humanity and this shows in their actions. Much of the really violent stuff happens around these two and much of it is so over the top crazy that aside from a couple of torture scenes it comes across as quite fantastical. There is a lot of descriptions about destroyed and eaten people, and of the aftermath of victims of these two (with a strange focus on sex organs), yet it is always captivating, again in the vivid way it is all described. Around half of the book is focused on these two and Entertaining Demons is all the better for it. These are not the only demons of the book though with the others also receiving enough attention to really make them stick in the mind, whether it be the skull crown wearing demon stalking Molly, or the demon of TV; Audience who was a fantastic creation with some David Cronenberg Videodrome style moments of repulsive organic technology.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Walk Home Alone (2017) - Short Horror Film Review


A Walk Home Alone is the second of director Andrew J.D. Robinson's short horror films he sent my way. While Placebo was quite sterile in its portrayal, here we have something that is more familiar and deals with a common subject in 6 minutes, but does so in a novel way.

There is a serial killer loose in the city and it seems he targets young woman walking home alone and leaves their bodies in the river, this is all told to us from a radio broadcast. We then follow Alice (Maura Stephens) as she makes her way to her flat in an apartment building, and who is quite preoccupied with something and so doesn't notice she is being followed...

A Walk Home Alone is shot in black and white and again features a soundtrack that is once ominous and seemingly at odds with what is happening on screen. What I really enjoyed about this is that the serial killer plot is faded into the background, while it bookends this short it is the sub plot in the middle that becomes the main crux. This also avoids cheap scares and insteads build the tension and horror by what it doesn't show. Robinson tears down the victims defences within this middle story by its sweet resolution and so when the main plot comes back into the forefront she is naturally in a weakened state of mind.

While it is up to Stephens to carry the emotional range it is Jurgen Vollrath as the stranger who stole the show for me. There is just something strange about his character, yet he manages to not comes across as threatening. The boyfriend on Alice's phone for me was the weakest part as there didn't seem much emotion behind the voice, though that could be excused as not knowing the context for why he might sound that way. A Walk Home Alone avoids doing the expected with it's story and by only hinting at what happens is all the better for it. By focussing on the unimportant and leaving the horror in the mind of the viewer rather than displayed on screen this wins out for me.

SCORE:

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Placebo (2017) - Short Horror Film Review


Another day and another short film, this time it is Andrew J.D. Robinson's Placebo that deals with the subject of body dysmorphia in under three minutes. Shot in an art house style fashion this (mostly) black and white takes place in blackness. A woman is getting plastic surgery done to make her look like a photo of a lady she has brought along, however it turns out things are not as simple as they first appear.

There is a surreal edge to this one that coupled with the ominous music combine to make something seem off from the very start. The whole film is shot from a face on perspective with minimal dialogue. This is more a portrayal of mental illness than a fleshed out story. However it gets the message across well with stylish editing and directing, the zinger was effective in bringing context to the strangely wrong atmosphere.


The beauty of short films is that when they are done right such as here they manage to give a vibe and feeling without all padding that makes longer ones. There really isn't much more I can say about Placebo other than it does the job well.

SCORE:

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Robot Named Fight (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)


It is a nostalgic month in the world of video games it seems as after the fun Citadale: The Legends Trilogy that I reviewed yesterday comes A Robot Named Fight which is another retro throw back to the classic days of yore. This time around the inspiration is Metroid, and specifically the Metroidvania (one huge 2D level) style of Super Metroid as the graphics are 16 bit and the sound is authentic to that time. This has a difference though in that the game is a Metroidvania in style but has roguelike elements thrown in, in that you only have the one life and the game is procedurally generated so no two playthroughs are the same.

Millennia ago the mechanical Gods arrived and brought with them peace for the robots who lived on the world. However one day a huge moon sized mass of evil flesh known as the Megabeast arrived and spewed out thousands of monstrous creatures which decimated the land and massacred the robots. One robot decides to make a stand against this hell and descends into the planet in search of lost artifacts of wartime in order to defeat this unholy terror...


A Robot Named Fight is fantastic and like the best roguelikes it is extremely addictive with that 'just one more go' feeling perfected. I love how like Metroid it really is. This is a 2D platformer that is one huge maze like level made up of hundreds of smaller rooms. You play as a robot armed with a cannon and as you progress you can collect upgrades that both make you more powerful (such as extra health, guns do more damage and increase your speed) and unlocks more skills for you that help you get to places in the levels that you couldn't previously get to. Rockets can destroy metal doors for example, while the spider ability allows you to navigate narrow spaces. Elsewhere you can get a double jump to reach high places, eventually unlocking a jet pack. There are also suit upgrades that let you survive in hot areas, torches to light dark places and so much more. Each playthrough is different and so every time I played I unlocked different abilities and upgrades.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Citadale: The Legends Trilogy (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)


Citadale: Gate of Souls was originally released on the Wii-U last year and has now been re-released as part of the Citadale: The Legends Trilogy which funnily enough is made up of three different games. These games are modelled on the classic Castlevania series, so much so that many plot points, level design, and enemy types, as well as the weapon system are virtually copied totally. Nowadays with Konami seemingly refusing to make any more Castlevania games a copy is better than nothing, and thankfully Citadale is a damn fun game.

So there are three games to be found here, each one can only be played once the one before it has been completed. Starting off is Citadale: Gate of Souls. A Dark Lord (who is in no way Dracula) terrorises the land, playing as Sonja Dorleac and wielding the Dark Lord killer 'Shadow Blade' you make your way to his castle to meet up with your husband (who happens to be the Dark Lord's son) in order to seal his Dad away behind the Gate of Souls.
The second game is Citadale: Curse of Darkness, it is 24 years later and with the seal on the Gate of Souls weakening, a wizard (the son of Sonja) has headed to Citadale in order to repair it to full power. After failing to return Sonja's other son Gabriel decides to also make the journey to see what has come of his brother.
Finally you have Citadale: Legacy of Fate, 17 more years have passed and now the wizard's son Christopher makes the fateful journey to the dark castle as evil is once again rising to suffocate the land.


This is a very nostalgic game as it is made to resemble an 8-bit game, like the early Castlevania's were. The graphics are simple but with modern technology there is far more animation to them, while the amazing soundtrack is done in the chiptune style. It is a 2D platformer that has you battling through various locations such as forests, caves, mines and castles with a unique boss at the end of each level. The variation of these bosses is impressive with only one repeating over the 18 levels (a giant eyeball that behaves and looks differently each time). These bosses have simple attack patterns but are fun to fight and range from skeletal demons, giant insects and humanoid foes and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Normal enemies range from zombies to skeletons, ghosts, bats and spiders. There are some that appear to be ripped straight out of Castlevania in the way they look, especially a large knight with a shield, and the final boss for Gate of Souls that not only has a battle that takes place in an identical throne room to Castlevania but the boss is a vampire who teleports around the room and summons bats.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Goodnight, Gracie (2017) - Short Horror Film Review


Goodnight, Gracie (written and directed by Stellan Kendrick) may be under 4 minutes in length but it doesn't pull any punches, this is a brutal little film! Rather than build any set-up this opens straight into the horror that only gets more intense until the shock finale. This short was actually created as a proof-of-concept for the crew yet still manages to stand on its own right.

8 year old Gracie (Caige Coulter) is awoken in the middle of the night to sounds of screams. Investigating she discovers her mother being hacked up with an axe by a mad man (Courtney Gains from Children of the Corn) and so decides to combat this evil the only way she knows how.


With the first shot pretty much showing a crucifix coming loose off a wall and swinging upside down I thought this was going to be about demonic possession, that could also be inferred by all the religious imagery. So it makes the change in tone all the more shocking to see a close up of a hacked up body. While Coulter was fine enough it was Gains who stole the show with his manic mannerisms, hypnotic to look at. I loved how they didn't shy away from gore and violence despite having a young child front and centre. This was inspired by the director's real life divorce of his parents and tells quite a bitter message of 'blind faith leads to death'.

Goodnight, Gracie was in the Official Selection at the Sitges 2017 film festival where it had it's world premiere. It is to be the Opening Night film at the San Antonio Horrific Film Festival in Texas on October 20th and will also be shown at the NYC Horror Film Festival on October 29th, with more festival appearances to be announced soon.

SCORE:




Saturday, 16 September 2017

Latched (2017) - Short Horror Film Review


I have had an influx of short horror films sent my way these past couple of weeks and leading the vanguard is Justin Harding's Latched. To me at first this seemed like it was going to be a bit whimsical and pretentious with its subject matter of fairies and I assumed the horror content would be light. Because of this assumption I was all the more shocked (happily so of course) when Latched changes tone and becomes something a lot more violent.

A single mother travels to the woodside holiday home she owns with her toddler in order for her to prepare for a dance troupe she hopes to do the choreography for. One day out in the woods she finds the body of a bizarre looking small creature that she brings back home with her in order to ask her neighbour what it is. It ends up going in her rubbish bin but an accident involving spilt breast milk somehow revives this creature that over the following days starts to grow and grow out of sight.

17 minute Latched is a film of two halves, literally in that the first 8 or so minutes is set during day time, and the final half mostly takes place at night. This distinction is also a firm divide between the fantastical and the horrifying. So the first part establishes the woman and her child, it is split into days that mostly consist of the woman interpretive dancing her way around her house as the baby looks on, and occasionally the fairy creature makes an appearance unseen by her to steal milk. This was all well filmed (with fantastic choreography) and the special effects nice enough but it was light on scares. One of these special effects involved an old man looking at a flyer to see the figures in it start moving, I don't know the significance of that part of Latched as it didn't seem to add anything other than a side of surreality. This man in general was a bit of a disruptor to the main plot to begin with even if he was needed to bring the story along.

Friday, 15 September 2017

3 (2016) - Horror Film Review


3 is an indie horror film that was directed and written by Lou Simon. This happens to be the second female directed horror that revolves around torture I have seen this year (Jessica Cameron's Truth or Dare being the other). At first I was ready to dismiss this, I found the characters to be irritating and the situation pretty silly, however as the plot moved on I began to recognise that actually this was something a little different, helped in no part by actor Todd Bruno whose very antagonistic role managed to generate sympathy regardless.

A man (Mike Stanley credited as It) is on his way to a meeting, his journey takes him onto the American backroads where he finds his way blocked by an abandoned car. With the owner not around he decides to move the car so he can continue on his way, however hidden in the back is someone wearing a mask who knocks the traveller out. We then find out that the assailant (Bruno credited as He) had specifically kidnapped this person as part of a plan him and a woman (Aniela McGuinness credited as She) had come up with. A year previous She was raped but there was never enough evidence to convict her attacker, she believes it is the man they have kidnapped and hopes to get a video confession off of him to give to the police. However He's efforts to get the truth out of their victim become ever more drastic and brutal...


Where most films revolving around torture focus on the victim here the focus of the film is far more on the antagonists who don't actually see themselves as the bad guys. There is a weird divide between the scenes of horror that take place in the basement and the more normal goings on upstairs. Despite it being for She's sake she wants nothing to do with the man, she tends to constantly change the subject whenever he is mentioned. Soon it becomes apparent that both her and Him have serious mental problems. The kidnapper is prone to outburst of uncontrollable violence when he gets angry, while she is so vague on the specifics of the rape that as a viewer you begin to question just who it is that is telling the truth. Out of the three it really doesn't seem like It is the one at fault despite being caught up in a few lies. As for the woman she keeps insisting He was at the party where the rape happened despite him telling her they didn't meet until months later when she start seeing a psychiatrist, and so you begin to doubt if she what she thinks happened actually took place. Bruno is fantastic as the kidnapper, he is a former army medic who got honourably discharged due to PTSD from his time in Iraq. Initially I found both him and the woman to be awful people, I didn't want them to succeed. But by showing us how really messed up the man is you can't help but begin to pity him.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

September 2017 Horror News Round-up :Your Flesh, Your Curse, [Cargo], Jasmine, Gone, and Bacchanalia - Horror Film News and Trailers


Nowadays I tend to store up horror news rather than do lots of little posts about whatever bits come my way and so once again I have released a valve to unleash a news storm. First up then...Your Flesh, Your Curse had its world premiere at the BUT Film Festival in the Netherlands at the end of August. This is the 5th feature film from 25 year old filmmaker Kasper Juhl, whose previous films include award winning social realistic horror A.G.W.A.U (also known as A God Without a Universe). This latest film is about a woman named Juliet (Marie-Louise Damgaard) who ends up in limbo after being brutally murdered. Here a spiritual guide forces her soul to relive repressed memories. Sounds cool enough and it also features the most prolific actor ever; Kim Sonderholm.



Next up is news of thriller [Cargo] that is trying something daring for a feature film, or least that's what it appears from the trailer. Ron Thompson stars as a businessman who wakes up to discover he has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a cargo container. A call to his phone informs him that he has 24 hours to raise a ridiculous sum of money or else he will die. I got a slight hint of Phone Booth and Cube, though I do wonder how this tale can be sustained for a lengthy time without boredom setting in, still it would be interesting to find out. [Cargo] is currently nearing the end of post-production. The soundtrack is to be released by Invisible Hands Music while a novelisation written by producer J.C Macek III is coming in January 2018 by Bloodhound Books.



In other news Jasmine is coming to VOD/DVD in around a weeks time, it is set in Hong Kong and follows a hapless outsider who is trying to find out who killed his wife a year previously. When I reviewed it I said 'where Jasmine excels is giving us such an interesting character in the form of Leonard. He is a flawed hero and the film never goes away from showing us this'.
In other news zombie slaying video game Killing Floor 2 got a new map in summer in the form of The Tragic Kingdom that takes place at a twisted carnival of terror. Fighting against hundreds of undead in a sinister fairground is really effective, even more so is that the enemies have been re-skinned, so the normal zeds are wearing pig masks,  the smaller ones are now pinheads etc. Maybe the most horror focussed type map yet released, and of course it is free for anyone who owns the game.

The Edmonton Festival of Fear International Film Festival opens on Friday 13th October, it has been announced that Gone shall be getting its world premiere here. This film is special as it features a guest appearance by the master of terror Stephen King. In the movie three friends go on a fishing trip deep in the woods. As they tell scary stories around a camp fire one night bizarre things start happening that leads to the three disappearing into the darkness of the woods.
Bacchanalia is coming to DVD on October 10th in North America and is available for pre-order now. This was originally shot in 2013 under the title The Winedancers (I covered it back in 2014). This is a comedy horror that again features Kim Sonderholm and is about an innocent wine tasting weekend that turns into something very...odd.



And there you have it, another round-up of the latest news that has been thrown my way. I will end by mentioning Steam video game A Robot Named Fight, a game that is stunning, think Super Metroid crossed with a rogue-like. A review shall be coming in the future for that hidden gem.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

3 Dead Trick or Treaters (2016) - Horror Film Review


3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a Halloween themed horror anthology film that was written, directed, shot, and edited by Torin Langen over 4 years. I love anthology films, especially if they do something a little bit different, and sure basing an anthology around Halloween isn't anything new (Trick 'r Treat for instance) but this one goes the extra mile as there is not a single line of dialogue in the entire 73 minute run time.

Including the wrap-around story there are five different tales contained here, all of which ooze with quality which you don't usually see with indie movies of this type. So the one that ties everything together is the titular 3 Dead Trick or Treaters. A paperboy concerned about the number of papers left outside a customers house decides to check out the property, in the backyard he discovers three newly dug graves, each one with a Halloween mask hanging on a crudely made crucifix, each one also has a short story tacked to it. His curiosity gets the better of him and he decides to read them. A lot of the time the wrap-around story in anthologies is bare bones and doesn't do much to excite. However this one is pretty fantastic (with great use of banjo), it even sets up a few little cliffhangers so when another short starts I found myself desperate to return here. Special mention has to go to both the intro and outro credits, the former is a stunning portrayal of a crazed writer and his increasing madness at not being able to get published. The music, the editing, the off kilter angles, and the close ups on the mad man meld together simply perfectly and let me know straight away this anthology was going to be a great one. The music that opens and closes the films is great, that and the style brought to mind a punk aesthetic that goes so well.  Also the wrap-around features a special effect that was ripped straight out of The Evil Dead, made me grimace seeing it, lovely stuff.


It took me until partway through the first complete film Fondue to remember that in the email Torin had sent me about his film that he had mentioned it was totally dialogue free. Truth be told I was a bit concerned, I worried how my interest would be kept, I feared I may get bored. This all got swept away when the crux of Fondue started. Two teenagers buy Halloween masks and bowls in order to go trick or treating. They arrive at a house and a mask wearing figure answers and beckons one of them inside... for a special type of fondue. The masks sold this one for me, with no one talking and everyone wearing masks this became creepy to watch. I love how much expression can be told just by gestures and body movements, never does it seem like people are over acting to compensate, it just seems like talking just isn't needed. This is a weird story but it works well, my only real complaint is that I felt like the home owner should have been an older person, his hand when he beckons the trick or treaters in is a young hand. A bit of a strange thing to have an issue with, just my personal preference.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Black Mirror: Series 2 (2013) - Horror TV Show Review


Continuing my drive to watch all of Black Mirror in anticipation of series 4 I have recently polished off series 2 that like the first series is just three episodes long. Much like the first series it contains within it one of the best episodes the entire show has aired, the special blend of harrowing and soul destroyingly terrifying.

First episode is Be Right Back that has a sci-fi bent to it. After Martha (Hayley Atwell) loses her husband Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) in a car accident she is distraught, in her grief she decides to use a new online service that allows people to stay in contact with the dead. The service pulls together all the online presence of the deceased in order to make a virtual duplicate. Martha uses this intensely and one day is told there is a next stage in the service. An android that perfectly replicates the look of Ash is delivered but due to the limits of its programming it makes Marta uncomfortable with the lack of any real personality. This episode reminded me a lot of an Outer Limits one I saw back in the day, I fully expected this to go a similar route with the android turning psychotic but instead there is the more measured bleak outlook. With your loved one still there albeit virtually you can't actually really ever get over the death as you're deceiving yourself. There is the general age old message of 'be careful what you wish for' that was explored well and was suitably depressing, but for me this episode just never hung around in my mind too long.


The second episode White Bear is the episode I would show if someone wanted a taste of exactly what Black Mirror is, it still haunts me to this day. A woman wakes up in a house with complete amnesia, going outside she sees people all filming her on their phones, and who ignore her cries for help. After being attacked by a masked man with a shotgun she meets up with another seemingly normal person who informs her a mysterious television signal started playing one day that brainwashed the majority of the population into becoming passive voyeurs, and that sadistic people known as hunters kill other uninfected for sport. She learns that there is a transmitter at "White Bear" station that will stop the nefarious broadcast, and so she heads there hoping to end it all. This is just such a messed up episode, to say much more would spoil it, needless to say I did not see the ending coming and it provides such material to dwell on years after watching it, this is still something I think about; Charlie Brooker at his most stunning. Interestingly originally this was going to be a zombie apocalypse story but was made into this that deals with karma and perverted justice.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

lvl - Devil's Advocate Remastered (2017) - Music Album Review


I'm certain I have said this before but when it comes to music I am pretty much clueless. As such I never go out my way to review it as I don't feel I know enough to have a valid opinion, after all we all like what we all like. Listening to lvl's Devil's Advocate I was attracted to the songs as it nostalgically reminded me of music I liked long ago, I had been planning to say that in the review. However it turns out the reason it sounded like late 90's rock music is that it is late 90's rock music as this is a remaster from 1999's debut lvl album. This has also got additional material in the form of 7 rare/unreleased songs.

Usually when I'm sent music I like it fine enough but it never feels like something I would play too much, though in here this is such a hit of pure teenage nostalgia for me reminding me of everything from Korn to Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails to Mortiis. I'm not sure which songs were added where so I can only speak to the album as it's laid out now. It all starts great with She: Backslide, a heavy crunchy loud intro that was an early highlight, an equally awesome remix also closes out the album. Following this is the very chuggy and occasional eurotechnic sounding Best Way Out before first instrumental File# 81259 comes in with its 50 seconds of dark soundbites.

Caught Sick comes 4th and is a brilliant track of electronic rock that sounded a bit like slowed down early Muse, that one ends on a great repetitive riff. Just Like You follows and for the most part I felt it was a bit too samey, maintaining the same pace for most the song, the midpoint though descends into a crazy cacophony of drums that was dazzling to hear before then changing back into slow gear. Title track Devil's Advocate is the 6th track and it is easy to see why the album was named after it. Dan Levler almost shouts the lyrics while a brutal short riff rips through the song again and again.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Documentary (2014) - Horror Film Review


The Documentary is a horror film done in the style of a found footage that was written and directed by Walter Moise (editor and producer on Counter Clockwise). As usual even uttering the F.F word has caused the klaxons to go off and the steel shutters to drop down at The Rotting Zombie HQ. Nowadays the genre falls into one of two styles; normal people who end up recording something terrifying on their camera (Altar, The Blair Witch Project) and purposeful recordings done by a psychopath (Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex). The Documentary falls into the later half but features a director who has none of the charisma, or indeed the screen presence that others in the genre achieve.

Serial killer D. (Aaron Bowden) holds auditions on the pretence of creating a documentary to explore conquering fear. He decides Sandra Novak (Tristin Rupp) is to be his leading lady. As far as she is concerned they are to meet up a few times to explore her darkest fears, but in reality D. has set up hidden cameras all around her home, is stalking her, and is engineering a series of misfortunes to occur in her life.


I think the very biggest problem with The Documentary is that D. rarely appears on camera, when he does it is only briefly and his face is always blurred out. He also doesn't address the camera much either, he chooses editing to tell his story. Adrian Tofei and Balazs Szitas in their respective films are making their movies for others to see, as such they are far more engaging and dare I say it relatable in part. D. is the absolute worst, I guess as he is a serial killer this is a good thing but as a viewer I couldn't stand him. He is very misogynistic and that seems his main personality trait, often he goes into rants about women calling them all sorts of names. His modus operandi is strangulation and we get to see that at many points here as while Sandra may be his main target he is also killing prostitutes and escorts on the side, usually by asking them to strip naked and then turning on them when they are at their most vulnerable. I didn't see the need for the full on nudity that occurred in these moments, again in the mindset of a serial killer filming this it can be excused. This just wasn't enjoyable to watch really as there wasn't any real motivation to care about anyone, I got traces of the abysmal Faces of Snuff in that this is violence for violence's sake without any sort of light, even if that had just been in the form of delusional tendencies.