Friday, 19 April 2019

Top Knot Detective (2017) - Comedy Action Film Review

I'm hoping this blissful four day Easter weekend will allow me to gain ground somewhat on the many blog posts I need to do on this humble blog, especially as my day job has been so busy that it has left me too tired to be blogging in the evenings lately. Top Knot Detective (written and directed by Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce) isn't a horror, it is a comedy mockumentary about a fictional TV show that if real would have been something I would have loved to cover here.

 The documentary is about an obscure cult Japanese Samurai/Detective series from the early 1990's called Ronin Suiri Tentai which came to be known as Top Knot Detective in Australia. In the show a Samurai detective - Sheimasu Tantai becomes a Ronin and sets out on a path of vengeance to find the man responsible for the death of his master. The documentary charts how this show came to be, as well as follow the history of the man who played the main character - Takashi Takamoto (Toshi Okuzaki). It follows the events that led to the cancellation of the series, and the downfall of Takamoto.

Top Knot Detective does for Japanese Samurai shows what Garth Merenghi's Darkplace did for horror shows. Both have a documentary format and focus on shows that look absolutely terrible and which star a lead actor who is completely deluded as to the quality of what he is working on. It is important that the show itself is something that is so bad it's good and that is the case here. The overriding thought watching this was just how much I wish Top Knot Detective actually existed, it looks amazingly awful. That show itself is represented so well here, the rubbish special effects, the abysmal acting, and the editing and pacing combine for something so compelling. The story of a man on a path for revenge was something that I would love to see, and could really imagine working well as a show! Being based around the creation of this show it isn't so much like Darkplace which centered on individual episodes, but from the start to the end we get to see the evolving story which leads to some satisfying resolution for that part of this film.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Man with the Magic Box (2017) - Sci-Fi Film Review

Polish sci-fi film The Man with the Magic Box (original title Czlowiek z magicznym pudelkiem) isn't a horror, yet it has attached to it elements that I do quite like and find it hard to pass up on when offered for review. This features both a dystopian future, as well as time travel, both things I enjoy seeing.

The story begins with Adam (Piotr Polak) being given a new identity and a new job as a janitor in Warsaw 2030. He is a bit of a misfit and seems out of place in this future world that has elements of 1984 to it. In the office block where he works he forms an attraction with Gloria (Olga Boladz) and the two start an unlikely relationships of sorts. Meanwhile Adam has discovered a strange radio in the old apartment building he is living in, one that it is suggested could be a conduit to allow him to travel back through time to the 1950's.

The look of the near future Warsaw is very well done, streets are murky and filled with dusty ruins, offices are sparsely decorated and the future technology is very minimalist. Drones fly overhead, VR is a common thing, computers are holograms, there are frequent power cuts, and water is rationed. All old technology has been banned in this future state, while it seems an ongoing war is happening. This was all brought together to create a different sort of future to the usual neon signs everywhere in films such as Blade Runner. There was also a nice line in future clothing that really stands out as something unusual, glowing shoes, strangely coloured clothing is unified throughout to really make the old fashioned garments that Adam and later Gloria take to wearing stand out.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Soul to Keep (2018) - Horror Film Review

I had planned to watch Soul to Keep for review last night, but a combination of being extremely hungover and wrongly thinking it was a short film led to that getting postponed till today. I have a real soft spot for films about demonic possession, while this one can be a little goofy at times it was still a decent enough indie horror.

After their uncle dies two siblings Erin (Aurora Heimbach) and Josh (Tony Spitz) inherit his remote property. They decide to head there, along with a bunch of their friends that include among them deaf Tara (Sandra Mae Frank in an award winning role), jokester Freddy, jock Brandon, and Wiccan Grace (Kate Rose Reynolds - She Wolf Rising), with the aim to have a weekend full of drugs and alcohol. During their partying on the first night they discover a secret room down in the basement that is set up with the necessary items to summon a demon from Hell, thinking it will be a fun jape they perform the spell. Unknown to the others Grace ends up getting possessed, and one by one the demon within her sets out to consume the souls of her friends...

This starts off pretty weird due to the very strange dynamic the group have. They have strange songs, drinking games, and party traditions that I think are there to make you aware of how tight a bond these life long friends have. As an outsider it just seems bonkers though, such as the crazy songs they all know off by heart, or the insane looking nonsensical drinking games they play. They have such an awkward looking way of partying that it seemed like none of the characters had actually partied before and were there for montage shots only.  Having a deaf person among their number means the majority of the lines characters say are also said via sign language which was a nice touch. Both these factors gave Soul to Keep a bit of a different vibe.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Pet Sematary (2019) - Horror Film Review

As I said back in 2012 when I reviewed Pet Sematary Two, I liked the original movie version of Pet Sematary but I couldn't really tell you much about it due to near totally forgetting what happened. I thought that would help with this new remake of Stephen Kings (apparently) classic horror novel. This wasn't a bad film but even with the changes made to make it stand out from the original it did feel a little bit familiar.

Louis (Jason Clarke - Terminator Genisys), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz - Alien Covenant, Stranger Things), and their two young children Ellie and Gage move to a small rural town. They soon discover quite near to their new home is a pet cemetary which their next door neighbour Jud (John Lithgow - Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dexter) explains is where the townsfolk have always buried their pets. One day Ellie's beloved cat Church is found dead, Jud tells Louis there may be a way to fix things without Ellie discovering this. In the dead of night Jud leads his neighbour to a remote ancient burial ground deep in swamp land and gets him to bury the cat there. To Louis's surprise the next day Church turns up seemingly alive and well, however the cat has changed into something quite...wrong. Later that year a tragic accident occurs, and Louis in his desperation decides against Jud's advice and does something from which there is no turning back.

Often remakes feel pointless, maybe more so when the original is such a classic (it is one of the only film adaptations of King's books that he states actually scared him). There are some key changes done to set itself apart both from the original film as well as the book. For anyone who hasn't seen the trailer it will be a mild spoiler but here, rather than have the two year old toddler Gage die in an accident it is instead his older sister Ellie who is brought back changed. The young actress Jete Laurence was most impressive. I have said it many times before but children can make or break horrors, usually due to their inexperience they are not the best, Laurence though shines. She essentially plays two different roles in Pet Sematary, her nice normal happy self, and then the very twisted dark version that comes back. She is the best thing about this movie, genuinely creepy and actually pretty darn freaky. I loved her scratchy voice, the sheer presence she brings to her scenes was also impressive. Being an older child it means there is much more dialogue between her and Louis, her descriptions of the afterlife are quite haunting, while despite her small stature she is a formidable creature!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Tik (2019) by Sean E. Britten - Horror Book Review

Well, I surprised myself with Tik, for such a slow reader such as myself I actually got through the whole novel in just over two weeks. I'm hoping that relative turnaround speed is a turning point in my eBook reading as I have a large digital pile of books dating back to 2012 still waiting to be read for review! Tik is the latest book from indie horror author Sean E. Britten (Kill Switch, Screamers). I have yet to read a bad book from Britten, and thankfully after having read this I can still say that is the case.

American students Hunter, Elly, Oliver, Cathy and Mia have gone on spring break to Mexico, mostly to party. Wanting to get at least a little bit of culture they decide to travel away from the coastal party towns to visit some remote Mayan ruins inland, Australian backpackers Jake and Ian decide to tag along. The plan after going to the ruins is to stay overnight at a small secluded town called Macondo, and then travel back to the coast the next day. However the town they choose to stay at has an unsettling atmosphere, and is populated by creepy looking skinny inhabitants who uniformly have bloodshot eyes, and a strange manner to them. Soon after leaving the town the next day their hire cars both break down unexpectedly and they are forced to return to Macondo get assistance. It turns out the entire population are actually vampiric like creatures who feed on unsuspecting tourists such as Hunter and his friends...

Tik initially seemed to me like a teen horror from the early 2000's converted into a book. It seemed like it was going to be about dumb teens with plenty of sex and drugs thrown into the mix, something that really doesn't appeal. It felt like the story here started a few days too early, it is a good twenty percent of the way into the story (excluding the violent prologue) that it really gets going. The parts before that take place at the partying coastal town where a wild contrast to where this went. This was likely a purposeful contrast but I felt there was nothing that really occurred in those first few chapters that couldn't have been talked about via some exposition from the main characters. Once the characters reach Macondo though Tik really steps up a gear and gets into a real page turner, thankfully leaving the party atmosphere behind and moving into horror territory.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Walking Dead: Season 9 (2018-19) - Zombie Horror TV Show Review

I will start off my review of the latest season of The Walking Dead to state once again how I just do not understand people who say it has gotten terrible. Half the time it seems the people saying this are the same ones who admit to not even having watched it for years and years and years. The Walking Dead is my favourite TV show and I make no apologies for how much I love it, despite the constant issues I have with how it all plays out. I felt season 9 could be a difficult one, it was already revealed one of the main actors was going to be leaving the show, while taking place after the end of the Saviours story arc meant the biggest threat was now gone. Some great decisions moved the story along in a way that I did not expect though. Spoilers for previous seasons, as well as minor spoilers for this season to follow!

So season 9 of The Walking Dead takes place over two different time periods. Initially we follow Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as he attempts to keep together the disparate groups of Hilltop, Oceanside, The Kingdom, New Alexandria, and the now neutral Sanctuary. Trying to create Carl Poppa's dream of a united society is harder than expected though, especially when some people hold violent grudges. Then not even halfway through the season there is a time jump of six years. During that time leap all the different settlements have retreated into themselves and became distant from each other. However the arrival of a new group of creepy zombie skin wearing foes known as The Whisperers, led by the cold hearted Alpha (Samantha Morton) means that once again everyone must put aside their differences to come together.

Going into this I knew a key character was going to leave, I wondered how on earth the show could manage to keep going with such an integral person gone. The time jump turns out to be the perfect solution to that problem with so much changing, and so many new characters appearing that it doesn't matter too much that that particular character has gone. Over the seasons as the cast got larger and larger there was a reduction in the core casts individual screen time, and now it sits at a point where there isn't really anyone I would say is the main character. Initially the second third of the show deals with a group of new characters who looked they walked right in off the set of Fear the Walking Dead. I mean by this that they seem B-list compared to the built up characters. By the end of the season though, while I could not tell you a single name of any of the five strong group I felt they were well on their way to settling into the show. They include among them a deaf and mute girl which was someone who really felt like a great addition. One scene involving her in a cornfield being pursued by zombies really stood out due to the sound being muffled to reflect what she herself could hear. It made for a very disorientating and claustrophobic sequence.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Night (2019) - Horror Film Review

If I were to rank all the many different horror genres in order of preference I reckon the torture/snuff genre would be somewhere down near the bottom. The anthology Faces of Snuff I watched a few years back cemented that fact for me. Night feels like one of those shorts but drawn out to fill just over an hour. With all that said bear in mind I really do not like this particular sub genre too much, as that fact is going to impact my thoughts on this.

Casual serial killer Adam (Nicholas Michael Jacobs who also directed, wrote, edited, produced, and helped with the cinematography!) over the past six months has been kidnapping girls in order to kill them on live stream, both for pleasure, as well as to raise money from his viewers who can pay to request he do specific things to his victim. This found footage follows him as he abducts a young teenage girl (Gianna Jacobs) and puts on his latest show.

The way this found footage is set out I appreciated, but at the same time it was off putting. Usually in this genre for enjoyments sake there is editing to make slow parts move quicker, often with some sort of text at the start as an excuse for this editing. Here there is an intent to appear as realistic as possible, and so all the down time you would often get is left in. This makes Night have quite a poor start. The first four or so minutes play out with the camera pointing at a blank wall as Adam shuffles around in mostly off camera. Then we have around another five minutes of him out on the street stalking the girl in silence. Finally though there is a title card and the movie begins proper. This dedication to approaching realism is a double edged sword with it sometimes leading to a slight feeling of boredom, but other times drawing you into the experience.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Us (2019) - Horror Film Review

I can say with some certainty that Us was a horror film I had been looking forward to seeing. It is after all the next film from Jordan Peele, he of Get Out fame. I really liked the idea behind Us, though it did suffer a little from the same issue I had of his previous film. Again this is very much a social commentary, though where his first film seemed to be about racism, here it seems to be more looking at the class divide in America.

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong'o - Black Panther), her husband Gabe (Winston Duke - Black Panther), and their two children, Zora and Jason have headed to their holiday home in Santa Cruz for a getaway. Adelaide is nervous about the trip due to a traumatic incident that took place in a hall of mirrors by the beach there as a child. Her nerves seem warranted as the first night at their home they are confronted by four mysterious people who break in and hold them hostage. The family are horrified to discover the intruders are dopplegangers, twisted versions of themselves who plan to torment and kill them for reasons unknown..

Purely based on Peele's previous film, and the fact the main characters are a black family I assumed this would be looking at issues of race. It turns out however that the skin colour of the characters is not really a factor at all this time around, they seem like a relatively wealthy middle class group, the people out to get them brought to mind H.G Wells 'Morlocks' from The Time Machine - uneducated, brutish, poor rising up against those above them. Based on the trailer this seemed like it would follow the path of a home invasion horror, yet this turns into something far more than that, mixing in elements that wouldn't be out of place in the zombie genre. Some street scenes seemed very apocalyptic in how they were set out.

Monday, 1 April 2019

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for March 2019

Another monthly news post that is slightly late. 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for horror in both video games and films at the very least. Personally I am itching to see Us, and am excited for the release of zombie game Days Gone as well as the Five Nights at Freddy's VR game later in April.

Starting off with some news I forgot to include in last months news round-up. Terror in the Skies is a documentary of encounters with mysterious winged creatures, such as Alton's man-eating Piasa Bird legend, as well as West Virginia's Mothman. This is made by Small Town Monsters who previously did The Mothman of Point Pleasant. A trailer for Terror in the Skies was released back in February.


The unsettling looking experimental horror Flesh of the Void is now available on Vimeo on Demand after a limited run of DVDs in 2017 sold out in a matter of weeks. The re release includes three bonus shorts.
Pretty darn good Italian black and white horror The Laplace's Demon is now available in the US, Canada and UK on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and other on demand platforms.
On the subject of Italian horrors the official trailer for The Last Heroes has been released. The film is about a group of friends who are forced to confront the ancient curse of Kaisha.

The UK based Alternative/Electro-Rock group Iamwarface have released a music video for their song Fear The Future. The song is about how the media is able to play a large place in our own emotional wellbeing, and can be seen below.

Frolic Pictures have recently released 13 grindhouse double feature DVDs that are available both online and in shops. Each DVD is around 3 hours  of content that includes trailers, vintage TV commercials and intermission cartoons. The films are - Tentacles/The Devil's Daughter, Shivers/Rattlers, Witchboard/The Hearse, Partners/The Concorde...Airport '79, Flashpoint/Harry in Your Pocket, Paperhouse/The Death of Richie, Death Sentence/Race for Glory, Old Enough/Funland, Go Tell the Spartans/Cry of the Innocent, Sabata/Day of Anger, Asylum/The Medusa Touch, The Diamond Mercenaries/Dogs, and finally Evilspeak/Stunts.

British psycho thriller The Unseen has been acquired for US release. This was written and directed by Gary Sinyor, and is about a grieving couple who start to experience hallucinations to do with their deceased son. This is being renamed as Amaurosis by Subliminal Films and is due for a limited theatrical release on May 17th with a VOD release coming afterwards.

And that is another month of news sent my way. Currently my blog is putting out one post every two days, a schedule that is working very well for me. In May my day job is due to change to four days a week meaning I am currently planning to use Monday each week as the day to store up some blog posts, hoping that will work out. Coming up over the next few weeks will be video game reviews of the frustrating Zombie Vikings, as well as Outlast 2. On the film front there is a load on my list as usual, but am also planning to get some older films watched for review, such as 2001's Valentine. Finally a review of the latest season of The Walking Dead will be dropping at some point.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Long Lost (2018) - Horror Film Review

It wasn't long into the multi award winning Long Lost that I just knew this was going to be a memorable film. Directed and co-written by Eik Bloomquist (She Came from the Woods, The Cobblestone Corridor) this had a strong cast, a compelling narrative, and managed to sustain a feeling of sinister awkwardness throughout the 90 minute run time.

Average guy Seth (Adam Weppler) recieves a letter inviting him to the home of a long lost millionaire brother - Richard (Nicholas Tucci - You're Next) that he didn't even know he had, so he decides to go. Arriving at the remote luxurious mansion Seth soon gets put on edge by his newly found brothers abrasive and obnoxious personality, almost to the same degree that he finds himself attracted to his flirtatious and attractive live-in girlfriend Abby (Catherine Corcoran - Terrifier). As his unease grows the couples attention on him leads him to suspect that something really isn't right.

This is one of those movies that I could tell I wouldn't be able to do justice to within the confines of a review. It is to Long Lost's credit that there really isn't much horror in the traditional fashion, yet throughout there was such a feeling of expectation of things to go wrong that the pressure just built and built. There is something that felt off, a feel of quiet malice. Even during the jovial moments of the trio playing silly games (such as a marshmallow eating contest, or torch tag) the directing and lighting make things feel oppressive and dangerous. It reminded me a lot of both Get Out, and even a little bit of The Wicker Man - the feeling of a character being in a seemingly normal situation but experiencing profound unease.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

The Outer Darkness (2015) - Horror Series Review

I've mentioned it before but ALTER is a 'premium horror entertainment brand' that showcases cinematic horror shorts from around the world. It operates on multiple platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and its own website. A few weeks back horror series The Outer Darkness joined its ranks of films and shows. Originally released in 2015 as a short film, directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton, The Outer Darkness has now been split into three parts and released as a series.

Father Jonathan Crowe (Jonny Phillips) runs a support group for people who have experienced bizarre encounters. During one meeting Jenny (Isla Carter) arrives and recounts a haunting story about a game of chance she took part in where winning grants you your wildest dreams, but losing has dire consequences...

Each of the three parts is roughly split into around eight minutes and by the end Jenny's story at least is told. Part one introduces the support group and the various characters within it. while starting off the anthology segment. Part two contains the majority of the gambling storyline, before part three brings it to a close and takes us back to the present day. I found this to be quite captivating with what was going on, there were both unexpected twists and a suspenseful atmosphere. The wraparound story was something that felt like it could really go somewhere, especially with later revelations. I felt if this was made into a proper anthology show there were a lot of places to go to if each of the characters in the meeting got their own segment, that would be something interesting.

As it is, adapted from a film I don't know if there will be more to come, or if this is it. Regardless this had some decent acting, and some nice creature effects. With most this taking place in a dark room it did come across as a bit sparse, though this darkness also focussed the attention on the insular drama whose subject matter occasionally made it feel slightly ridiculous. Still, I have to admit my attention was drawn. There is a lot of good stuff on ALTER, The Outer Darkness is no different. Check it out for yourself below.


Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Zombie (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Back in August last year I got to check out two music videos/short films that were made in part thanks to composer/producer John Whitaker (1i2c). Both Undertaker and Umbilichord used a great blend of music and visuals to tell a story. Now he has released a new hybrid - Zombie, which of course I was immediately interested in.

This six minute short sees the emergence of a classical zombie (John Whitaker) who emerges from a sack in a biohazardous area and stumbles off into a nearby town. Meanwhile a more human character (Richard Markworth) leaves his house, and makes his way across the town, eyes glued to his phone throughout his journey.

So the idea behind this is very obvious, the social commentary of humans acting more and more like zombies themselves is one that has been done many times before (most notably by George Romero in Dawn of the Dead). In these times it seems that contrast is all the more fitting with everyone owning mobile phones, and everyone for the most part seeming unable to leave them alone. There is a nice mix of the two different characters making their way through town which also had some nice distinctive camera work. The traditional zombie is full of close up camera work and dizzying point of view shots. Meanwhile the human character gets more straight camera work.

This is all held together by the music which drones on in a relentless fashion which goes well with the two zombies walking ever onward. I most liked the zombie parts here, the camera work is fantastic, and there are some great shots, such as a hand on metal railings, and one part where the ghoul walks in front of the sun. John Whitaker was recently at Nova Nights: Progressive, Transgressive & Underground event where three horror films of Nicolai Kornum featuring his music were shown (Hammer Blows, Umbilichord and Undertaker, this was followed by a live interview between him and Billy Chainsaw, this took place on 21st March so I'm a little late mentioning that! Anyway, check out Zombie below and see what you think.


Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Killers (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

I'm currently getting in the routine of putting one blog post out every two days, so it was with nice surprise that the next film on my list to review - The Killers was a ten minute short. This was written and produced for the Playhouse West-Philadelphia 25 Day Film Project that took place between 5th October and the 30th October last year. It was created in ten days with apparently no budget and limited resources.

The Killers is a fly on the wall mockumentary that follows three different serial killers as they go about their work. First off is Frank who targets teenage females, next we see Danny who targets people with personality disorders, and finally is Trish who goes after depressed males. Each of these three briefly talk about their work before they are filmed killing a victim, so as you might guess this is a horror comedy.

As I was watching this the style of the fake documentary reminded me a lot of The Office, something the email I received about this actually points out. Like that show the camera operator makes you feel part of what is unfolding, this leads to some of the humour. In Danny's segment as he is hiding behind a pillar waiting for his victim he beckons the cameraman over to join him. Then later during Trish's part at several points she makes knowing glances at the camera, even leaning over and whispering "I'm going to kill him now". Then they also get the talking heads style interview parts where they get to speak more about themselves.

I enjoyed this, yet it is pretty much the same joke told three times in a row. The killer and method of killing may be different but it all plays out quite similar. Due to being a limited time short there isn't a beginning or end wraparound to explain just what the aim of these killers being filmed was, or for what purpose. This was directed by John Woods, and written and produced by both him and Alex Webster, both these people also had roles in the short. The official trailer has been released so I will include that below.