Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Black Mirror: Series 3 (2016) - Horror TV Show Review


For those who don't know Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror is like a modern day version of The Twilight Zone, but one that primarily uses technology as the instrument of terror. Each episode is standalone with a different cast and storyline going on, one of the few things they share is that they take place in a near future where a specific type of technology has become prevalent.

Season 3 is the first to have six episodes instead of three that Black Mirror and Black Mirror: Series 2 featured. This extended season means that a mix of different styles can be shown. There are both ultra personal stories that focus on a single character, to ones that affect thousands. This is also the first season to feature at least one episode that actually ends happily! For those who know the show you can realise just how much of an oddity that is.


The season kicks off with Nosedive which takes place in a world where every citizen has a social media ranking which affects their social status and what they are able to do. It centres on Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard - Jurassic World, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) whose desperate desire to be popular causes her downfall. This is a good example of near future technology as it is something that looks spookily similar to the social ranking system that is currently being trailed in China. This is a great episode but one that becomes more cringy as it goes on, eschewing the typical soul destroying abject terror the series is known for.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Call of Duty: Black Ops IV - Thoughts on the Zombies Mode


Call of Duty: Black Ops IV has been out for a few months now but due to not finishing talking about Call of Duty: WWII's final Zombies map I had been unable to move onto talking about this one. This time around the game is split into three sections: Multiplayer, Blackout, and Zombies.

Blackout is Call of Duty's version of Battle Royale. Up to 100 people are dropped onto an island with the goal to be the last one standing. Classic Black Ops locations are used as locations on this map, including one such location called Asylum which happens to contain within it the Zombies map Verruckt! So depending on where you go in Blackout it is possible to encounter zombies which certainly spices things up a bit. For the Christmas period the zombies were wearing Santa hats which was pretty funny.


Zombies itself then, this launched with four maps. A few weeks back a fifth map was released out of nowhere so I will talk about that too. The launch maps were made up of Voyage of Despair, IXBlood of the Dead and Classified. Voyage of Despair takes place aboard the Titanic just after it has been hit by an iceberg. You play as one of four characters: Scarlett, Diego, Bruno or Stanton who had been on the ship to carry out a heist. During this attempt though an ancient relic got activated which turned most the passengers into brain dead ghouls. The map is long and large with there being multiple floors. As well as the deck there are flooded engine rooms, living quarters, dining areas and various other places. It is wave based as per the norm and being made by Treyarch it is well designed and fun to play.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

What Was Lost (2014) - Short Horror Film Review


What Was Lost is a 24 minute short film that is horror's version of the classic gangster film The Long Good Friday. Not so much with what happens remotely, more that over the course of one day a man's life is ripped down and shattered. While this movie is a few years old now it has recently been released on Amazon Prime, last December in fact. This was directed by Don Swanson who also directed A Wish for Giants.

Joel (John-Patrick Driscol who wrote the dialogue here) has the perfect life. He is married to a beautiful woman, has a well paid prestigious job, and is on the verge of finding a valuable manuscript thought lost to time. Over the course of one day his world is destroyed irreversibly...

Well, isn't this bleak! Starting out I wasn't entirely sure what sort of movie this would be, I always try and keep anything I watch fresh by not reading anything about it beforehand. I figured this may be supernatural due to the search for the manuscript. Instead this is more a thriller that deals with the very human side of existence. The cast is mostly focused on three main characters. First there is Joel, a protagonist who we only see the bad side of, his breakdowns, his misery and his suffering. Yet by his wrongs he is someone you can root for. The other characters include Elsa Carette as Brandi who plays a woman obviously unhappy with her situation in life but who comes across as a bit one dimensional. Anderson (Dustin Kyle) is the third main one who plays a pivotal role in the proceedings and brings a bit of dark humour.

I was interested where the story was going to go, yet I can't say I felt satisfied with where it ended up. This is due to the short taking a slightly more realistic approach with this not being some grand revenge thriller, instead this is quite a morose piece that ends on a real downer, but one which is executed well. To be fair the final shot was something special, especially with the voice over. There were some elements I really liked, a dream sequence fading back to reality was one such part I thought worked well. The score is also great throughout, piano led, it combines to give some decent atmosphere.

What Was Lost was a good enough drama piece, it had a nice central performance, a good soundtrack and some nice ideas, but it isn't something I think I would ever feel the need to go back to now that I have seen it.

SCORE:

Saturday, 12 January 2019

The Gaze (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


The Gaze comes from Ida Joglar who is a filmmaker, editor and video installation artist based in New York. It feels very current in that it fits in perfectly with the #MeToo movement despite being written and shot before that even started, and was based on the directors personal experiences.

Mayra (Siri Miller) is a lab assistant who finds herself sexually harassed by her boss one night while working late. The stress of the event awakens a latent psychic power within her that she puts to good use the next time it happens.

This short horror is obviously making a point. By showing two differing encounters with men in different situations it deals with things that could be seen as nothing, but also could be something. Mayra's best friend plays Devil's advocate throwing out possibilities, but these are used for the protagonist to refute. The culmination of this horror is the literal neutralising of male superiority with the empowerment going to the victim.

This was very well made and with a great performance by Miller. Environments look natural and sterile that puts focus onto the characters themselves. The special effects are effective with the limited times they are used. The plot itself is simple by design but it works as a way to show one such view of what it can be like to be a female in the modern world. I will say that I'm not quite sure of the physics of the ending, I guess you could put it down to the powers of psychic abilities. Regardless it led to a memorable end. The Gaze came out exclusively on ALTER on 13th December last year.

SCORE:



Friday, 11 January 2019

The Nursery (2018) - Horror Film Review


I will be the first to admit that when I started watching The Nursery my hopes were pretty low. This is an indie horror with a typical story, and by around the halfway mark I was plain frustrated with how this was going. So it was a shock some forty five minutes later and the end credits were rolling when I realised this had managed to achieve a complete 180 on my opinion of it.

Maddi Conway stars as Ranae - a cash strapped college student who has decided to take up babysitting as a means to earn money. All she has to do is look after a baby while the parents of the child go on a date, promising to be back around midnight. It isn't long until weird things start occurring and after confessing this to her friends they decide to join her for company. All four soon begin to realise that for whatever reason a vengeful ghost is haunting the property and that it means them harm...


Right from the start I thought the song choices here were really good and well chosen. This is one element that sticks as a constant throughout The Nursery. The hipster style songs that Ranae listens to work as a counterpoint to the unfolding terror, there is a great part early on when the music playing becomes quite distorted for instance. This type of music coming back for the fantastic end credits (black and white clips for each character are played with the image then pausing to bring up their name) was also a delight. It is also the score itself that adds so much. It might be typical horror fare but the music fits the atmosphere like a glove, they blend together very well.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Thing on the Shelf (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


It's been an odd week for my blog in that I have had all the time in the world to be doing blog posts, yet for whatever reason I never got around to doing them. Not really good seeing as how I still have a Christmas backlog to clear. My last review was of Mikal's No Lives Matter, and now it is the turn of another short of his - The Thing on the Shelf which he also wrote and directed.

It is close to Christmas and a mum (Jill Kathryn Lemond) has given her daughter (Aila June Lemond) an elf doll to sit on a shelf in order to make sure she doesn't misbehave. In the middle of the night the girl wakes up to a sudden noise...

I don't really understand the whole elf on the shelf thing that seems to be popular nowadays but regardless of that bit of new child Christmas lore I found this short to be effective. This is just over a minute long but managed to be creepy. I have an unexplainable mild phobia of puppets and so I could feel my skin crawl towards the end of this. As such in my eyes it is a success! The child actor gives an understated performance, while the short length means the zinger is just enough to make you create the rest in your mind. Also I liked that the music goes off key once the horror starts to happen.

In terms of originality this wouldn't win any awards. However The Thing on the Shelf was well put together and was effective as a tiny Christmas horror. With such a short length it is worth a watch.

SCORE:



Saturday, 5 January 2019

No Lives Matter (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


I have a couple of short horror films brought to my attention by Darkly Films, as they are both only a minute long each I bumped them up to the top of my list. No Lives Matter is a short zombie tale that was entered into the Filmstro & Film Riot One Minute Short Film Competition. Director/writer Mikal is no stranger to having to make use of limited time as in the past he has put entries into the even more constrained 15 Second Horror Film Challenge.

Undead apocalypse has swept the city and a band of survivors are fleeing the rotting dead. They end up seemingly trapped in an alleyway and with the ghouls approaching it looks like the end may be near...

I had to watch this short quite a few times to cotton onto just what is happening here, but finally I understand and as a result has made this better, The title is a play on the 'black lives matter' slogan which feeds into this to give better context. This is a comedy horror which only become apparent once I had deciphered this message shown.

The visuals are all really blurry, intentionally so as the camera is focussed on a particular part of the screen meaning all around is fuzzy. This coupled with the great eighties sounding synth soundtrack and editing that cuts moments out leads to something that felt well put together. If I had one complaint it would be that the make-up for the zombies is not consistent, and one of the much younger undead does look quite happy rather than menacing in a lot of the shots she appears in. Still, all in all not bad at all.  Check it out for yourself below.

SCORE:



Thursday, 3 January 2019

Curse of the Witch's Doll (2018) - Horror Film Review


Curse of the Witch's Doll is a low budget horror that at first I was ready to pass off as not really worth a view at all. However the more I watched the more I found myself not minding what I was seeing. The plot goes to some unexpected places, while among the small cast there were a few actors who I really enjoyed watching.

It is 1942 and Adeline (Helen Crevel - KillerSaurus) and her daughter Chloe (Layla Watts) have gone to live in the countryside after their house in Kent was destroyed by a bomb, a place to live which has been arranged by the mild mannered Arthur (Philip Ridout - Dogged). Soon after moving in strange occurrences start happening, doors shut on their own, and Chloe befriends a sinister looking doll she finds. Then one day while out in the woods Chloe vanishes into thin air, Adeline starts to believe that she has been taken away by the spirit of a witch that she believes resides within the creepy doll found in the house...


This covers a lot of ground throughout its 95 minute run time even if a lot of that ground isn't that original at times, or that well linked together. This seemed like it was going to be a haunted doll film to begin with. Kudos to the team for coming up with a creepy thing that actually looks creepy, even if it has a slight look of a Garbage Pail Kid to it. Unlike the dullard that is Annabelle this one actually moves at times too. It is a shame then that this creation isn't actually put to much use and the whole idea felt clumsily handled.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (1993) - Horror Video Game Review (PS4)


The Castlevania series of video games are one of my all time favourites, nearly each and everyone I have played I have really enjoyed, especially the Metroidvania styled ones. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood originally released on the PC Engine CD exclusively in Japan, it found a Western release on the PSP in 2008 as a re-make. I own that version but I stopped playing about halfway through for whatever reason. Then in 2018 it got another re-release, this time on the PS4. Being a lifelong fan with unlikely hopes of a new Castlevania game getting made I again brought this, but this time I actually played it through to completion.

Rondo of Blood takes place in 1792 where vampire hunter Richter Belmont's love Annette has been kidnapped by the dark priest Shaft who has taken her to Castlevania: the home of legendary immortal vampire Dracula, who he and his followers have recently resurrected.


As always the story is quite brief and small, but that is what I love about these games. Having an immortal vampire as the antagonist is of course a lot of fun, but I also love how the lore affects your view of the game world. Castlevania itself is the physical manifestation of chaos which neatly explains away why it looks different each game. Rather than the latter games Metroidvania style (essentially one gigantic level) this features nine stages that are set in and around the titular castle. Starting off with an exciting cart ride into a nearby village your journey takes you through graveyards, chapels, even a ghostly ship makes an appearance. Each level is divided into various stages that are entered and exited by doors or stairwells.

Monday, 31 December 2018

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


Here we are, the final day and the final blog post for 2018. This has not been a good year, I would liken my travel as to that of Dante's journey into Hell. Things have certainly improved with outcomes that would not have occurred had that trip not happened. Still, sometimes I wake up in the night, memories of that fearsome sight of Satan encased in ice, forever trapped in Judecca. All that is to say...roll on the news!

Terror Films has joined forces with Jim Klock (Massacre on Aisle 12, 6.66 PM) and his Code 3 Films group for a three picture deal. The first of these three is to be Red Letters which is currently in post production. The films is about two private investigators who take on a dangerous assignment that leads them to true evil. The film stars Darrell Martinelli, Emily Adams, Kelsey Trainer, and Klock himself who also wrote and directed this. Check out the teaser trailer for this.

 

In time for the Christmas season (that is pretty much over, damn you Silent Singer!) came O' Bloody Night, released by Troma Now on Video-On-Demand. This horror is an anthology, one of my favourite types of film, and of course as the title may suggest, these shorts all take place around the Christmas period. To see this for yourself head here.

Horror reviewer/interviewer Spooky Astronauts and Andrew J.D Robinson (The Becky Carmichael Fan Club, founder of the annual 15 Second Horror Film Challenge) have teamed up to make an immersive how-to filmmaking video for aspiring filmmakers of short films. If that appeals to you then watch the video below.



The easier to pronounce than it first appears to be Agalmatophilia has been released on DVD, VHS and Prime thanks to Frolic Pictures. This bizarre movie is about an office clerk who hires a new secretary that just so happens to be a living mannequin, soon he becomes to develop feeling for it. It sounds all very weird and arty, a guess backed up by the fact this was all shot in black and white. It certainly sounds like something different that's for sure!

 

The Man in Room Six is an art-house horror film that stars the legend Bill Oberst Jr. (Coyote, DIS) and Jackie Kelly. It is directed by Trevor Juenger who also did Coyote. There is a crowdfunding campaign going on  at Seed&Spark to help raise funds for this, more information can be found here. The Man in Room Six is about a troubled woman who meets an elderly man (Oberst Jr.) in a nursing home who claims to be immortal. When this man goes missing the woman is accused of his murder and committed to a girls' psychiatric ward.

 

Finally, in January 2019 comedy horror Hell's Kitty is going to be screened in the UK at the Horror-on-Sea Festival. This movie is about a writer and his possessed cat Angel that won't allow him to have a love life. Among it's claimed iconic cast is Doug Jones (Shape of Water). For more information about the festival go here, and for more information on the film itself check out their website.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Lasso (2018) - Horror Film Review


Lasso is a horror that feels like it stepped right out of the early noughts and along the way took a pit stop at the torture porn genre. It all felt very familiar, yet sometimes familiarity can be comforting. It may be a basic well trod story but it's a competent and entertaining ride.

Kit (Lindsey Morgan - The 100) and Simon (Andrew Jacobs - Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) have brought a bus of senior citizens to a rodeo for a nice day out. Upon leaving at the days end one of the group realises they have left something of theirs behind and so Simon sets out to retrieve it. This delay in the groups departure however accidentally causes them to see the rodeo's dark side, with much of the staff, led by Pomroy Hacket (Thomas Cokenias - Birdemic: Shock and Terror) on a sadistic murder spree. Teaming up with some friendlies Simon meets, that include one armed cowboy Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery - The Boondock Saints, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter) and buff bull rider Trish (Skyler Cooper) they must all find a way to escape the unfolding madness.


I have only seen a couple of Wild West style horrors and so I found the antagonists here to be a fun bunch. Their method of killing their victims is very appropriate to their day jobs with weapons used including pitchforks, spiked whips, branding irons, cattle prods, and of course the titular lasso. With a bunch of crazies on the loose there was no end of variation in the kills here which were always a lot of fun to see. This is all violent stuff with a lot of blood and gore to add to the thrill. Choice kills include a man being sawn in half with a rusty saw, a woman lassoed and then swung round and round until she connects brutally with a tree, and someone who is cattle prodded so much that his eyeballs explode! I would say these are by far the best parts of Lasso and thankfully they are plentiful with a high body count on both sides of the groups.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Mandao of the Dead (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review


By this point in my life I am conditioned to expect a zombie film whenever I see a '...of the Dead' in the title of any film. Due to this I was slightly disappointed Scott Dunn's horror comedy Mandao of the Dead didn't have any rotting fiends. This indie film has a certain quirky charm to it however, while it may be a little bit bare bones there is some nice chemistry with some of the characters.

Jay Mandao (Dunn) discovers in the lead up to Halloween that he has gained the ability to astral project whenever he sleeps. While using this ability he accidentally meets the ghost of a man who has been recently murdered by the crazy ex girlfriend of his adult nephew Jackson (Sean McBride). Together they try and find a way to stop this death from ever occurring...


This is a comedy, but not in the traditional sense of having laugh out loud jokes and gags. Instead this is a comedy in the bright and breezy way dark subjects are covered, and the off-kilter world the character inhabit. Visually there are moments that made me smile, Jackson discovering a corpse and trying not to be sick was pretty amusing for instance. With the dialogue I liked that all the explanations for why characters know the weirdly specific knowledge they do is passed off with a convenient throwaway line that works due to this being a comedy.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Call of Duty: WWII - The Frozen Dawn (2018) - Thoughts on the Final Nazi Zombies Map


The downside to being sent so many films, books, and games to review on this blog is that it doesn't leave me much time to do blog posts about the things that interest me the most. That is not a criticism, more that the pressure of reviewing things in a timely manner leads to me neglecting things. The final Nazi Zombies map for Call of Duty: WWII is one such thing I have long neglected to cover. As well as the map itself I shall be talking about that years Zombies mode in summary.

The Frozen Dawn takes place in the lost city of Thule in Antarctica. Taking things back to normal after The Tortured Path experiment this is a traditional zombies map. Playing as Drostan, Olivia, Marie or Jefferson you open and explore the hidden city in order to find a way to stop the zombie epidemic sweeping the planet. To be honest I think I have played this map around four or five times in total. The final map for any Zombies game is usually the one that gets left out a bit, there are some stunning exceptions (Revelations being one such example, though if you are MrDalekJD it will be so forgettable you even miss it off a 'Ranked Maps' YouTube video, seriously, zero respect for that guy!). My issue with The Frozen Dawn is that it is very similar in look to Beneath the Ice from The Tortured Path. Both have you exploring ancient ruins beneath the ice and so it felt odd to have such a similar map.


Starting off on the surface you work your way down into the depths of the underground city. The map is moderately sized essentially being a long loop. There are narrow corridors and cavernous rooms that are set against of a backdrop of immense size. From my limited time playing this it is ok, but then that is the problem with Nazi Zombies as a whole. This was touted as being the most scary and serious Zombies mode yet, on paper this sounded good. By being so serious though the mode lost a lot of the charm and actually become a bit stale and dull. This map is a perfect example as it is bland personified.

I did not mind The Final Reich, I loved the horror elements and I really loved that finally the game gave you steps towards the elusive Easter egg mission. Due to 'hardcore' player complaints this really useful new addition of listing the steps were removed for the subsequent maps. With the steps gone so did me and my friends enjoyment and desire to play the maps. It is frustrating more than anything having no idea what you are meant to be doing. It didn't make us want to play the maps more, it did the opposite and made us just give up.


Changing up the formula so much for The Tortured Path also seemed a weird decision It felt like the developers were unsure what direction they wanted to take the game, though I am happy that this season there were eight maps, even if four of those were quite small (Grosten Haus has become my catchphrase of the year for describing any bad). As a game in its own right this isn't bad. As a Zombies mode though it is sadly the worst one, it just isn't that much fun to play often being frustrating more than anything. The maps are not bad, there is fun to be had here, but why play this when there are so many better examples already out there?