Friday, 24 November 2017

Incarnate (2016) - Horror Film Review

On paper Brad Peyton (Rampage) directed horror Incarnate sounds like it could be fun, the basic idea behind it is Inception crossed with The Exorcist. Personally I have a bit of a soft spot for demonic possession films, I like the battle of wits that goes on, here with that battle changed into dream world action pieces it was all so unsatisfying.

Aaron Eckhart (I, Frankenstein) stars as controversial Dr. Ember; a psychologist who has the gift of being able to enter the minds of those possessed by evil entities in order to 'evict' the dark force from the hosts body. Upon learning that a young boy named Cameron (David Mazouz from Gotham) has been possessed by the same demon responsible for not only crippling him, but killing his wife and child years previously he is determined to put a stop to the creature once and for all.

From the very start I got a feeling this wasn't going to be anything special and I was sad to see that was the case. In general the whole notion of being able to enter someone's mind seemed so ridiculous. This was a complete copy of the Inception idea with there even being the notion of 'totem' type items that can make the sleeper aware they are in a dream, and the whole throwing yourself out a window aspect. Unlike that though most this film takes place in the real world, you get the introduction that displays Dr. Ember's dream powers, then it is just a couple more times this occurs. A shame really as these dream sequences show Incarnate at its most interesting with the world getting affected by the sleepers consciousness such as summoning doorways and revealing the demon for what it actually is. The other part of the movie is mild investigation coupled with ever so slightly more traditional exorcism scenes that make a point of not being associated with any religion, though it can't resist ending on a homage to one of the more famous possession films out there.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Follower (2017) - Horror Film Review

The Follower is another entry into the very crowded found footage genre, this time around though it is a French offering which does give it a different feel. This is actually only the third French horror I have ever seen after awesome 1978 zombie film Les Raisins de la Mort (The Grapes of Death) and 2006 home invasion terror Ils (Them). Unlike those though this one directed by Kévin Mendiboure (who also came up with the original idea that was then wrote by Vincent Darkman) uses English which for better or for worse leaves a lasting impression.

YouTube style internet personality David Baker (Nicholas Shake) is known by his fans for his investigations into the paranormal. He is invited by an eccentric lonely woman named Carol (Chloé Dumas) to stay at her remote woodland house for a few days as she says the place is haunted. After a few days at the mansion David becomes more and more convinced that the only thing wrong with the place is Carol herself who seems to have mental health issues, and so he plans to leave. However it starts to seem like there may be more to her claims than David first suspects...

I was ready to dismiss this right away as it starts with a kind of cool, but also pretty lame title card sequence that uses cheesy dubstep. Brilliantly though this intro turns out to actually be for David's online channel. With him you get a lead who comes across as a bit of an idiot, someone who has gotten so used to making videos for his fans that he has got an inflated opinion of himself. Because of this he is always fun to watch, he has a way of over acting that I put down to him playing everything up for the cameras. He is constantly filming, even when in dangerous situations he is constantly talking to the camera. From real world experiences of YouTube stars this seems par for the course and so adds a layer of believability to why he never stops filming, such as when he is spying on Carol getting ready for a shower, and when he has a female friend visit his house. He is a sleaze in some ways but I was impressed that his character remains professional and repeatedly turns down the beautiful Carol's advances. Things like this helped balance out his character and so made me as a viewer actually like him more than wish him harm.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Death on Scenic Drive (2017) - Horror Film Review

Wow, Gabriel Carrer's Death on Scenic Drive certainly went off script in terms of my expectations vs reality. Here I was all settled in for a home invasion horror and instead get a trippy art house kaleidoscope. It is all held together by one of the greatest soundtracks I have heard for a long while courtesy of Starsky Partridge, though sometimes it did feel like the film was created around this music and not the other way around.

Larissa (Stephanie Ash) has gone to the countryside to house sit for a family who are out of town, the only company she has is the family dog (Keena) and the next door neighbour; farmer Dallas (Ry Barrett whose credits include Carrer's The Demolisher and the fantastic Exit Humanity). Something begins to happen to Larissa though, as the days go on her actions become more and more odd...

The plot is extremely basic with events left up to the viewers imagination for the most part, though there is enough hinted at to give a more complete picture. Needless to say it was only after going onto IMDB afterwards that I stumbled across the official plot synopsis (that was spoiler filled by the way!). This is the type of slow burn horror where an isolated character has to carry the whole film. There is barely any dialogue over the 75 minute run time with Larissa being totally alone for much the time. This doesn't become boring though and that is mostly to do with the great soundtrack that makes even the most mundane activity (such as going for a jog) seem like the most tense and dangerous thing in the world. The music reminded me heavily of 80's synth and maintains a pace of urgency and unease throughout with its John Carpenter style repetitive beats that never get old. The few moments of silence become almost suffocating without this musical heartbeat dictating the tone.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Vices and Virtues (2017) - Horror Anthology Book Review

Much like with films there isn't much better than a horror anthology when it is done right. The great thing about collections of short stories is that even if there are some which don't resonate with you there is always going to be something that does. Vices and Virtues is a 400 page anthology put together by Ashley Franz Holzmann (The Laws of Nature) and which contains sixteen different tales of horror written by thirteen different authors. I love anthologies that have a theme and this book has a great one, as the title suggests the theme here is vices and virtues with each story ending with a single word that states what the chosen thought was. This ranges from curiosity, trust, love and pride all the way down to chauvinism, manliness and remembrance.

I think perhaps the best thing about this book is how completely different some of the stories are from the usual horror yarn, there are some that hop outside of the traditional short you would expect into a different genre entirely. With The Lonely Man ( by Kristopher J. Patten) you get a John Wyndham style sci-fi story that takes place on Mars with an isolated astronaut discovering someone who should most certainly be dead. With Sesshoseki (again by Patten) you have an action packed Japanese based spy story with horror thrown in thanks to a visit to the notorious suicide forest of Aokigahara. Elsewhere with Heart Full of Love (by L.Chan) you get a futuristic take on Edgar Allan Poe's classic story The Tell-Tale Heart that takes place in a world where synthetic organs are the norm.

With a few of these influences can be seen, but usually there is a unique twist that makes the stories their own beast. Given Form (by S.M Piper), Chaucer's Horses (by Christina Ferrari) and Biserka (Patten's third story in this anthology) all seemed to owe a debt to the master of legitimate terror H.P Lovecraft which is never a bad thing. Then you have My Time Is Very Valuable (by J.D Patrick) that has the idea of a Faustian pact meet up with the film Limitless to great effect. These combinations of horror types and genre types all impressed me a lot with the variety on offer, there is even a spin on zombies with first story The Girl Who Died (by C.K Walker) that just comfortably sits along more realistic stories such as the effective The Compliant (by J.L Spencer) that is about a fake kidnapping gone wrong, and Dammit Janet by Holzmann himself that is a cold observation of a woman who is always wanting better for herself and which leads to her downfall.

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Black Cat (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

The Black Cat is not another adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's cautionary tale as I first assumed, instead it is a charming adaptation of the short story of the same name by celebrated Indian writer Ruskin Bond that deals with the subject of witches. It features legendary Indian actor Tom Alter in one of his final lead roles before his sad death due to skin cancer.

Alter stars as Ruskin Bond; a writer who has recently brought a broomstick in order to clean his messy house up. However not long after taking his tool home he is visited by a mischievous black cat who causes the man no end of trouble. Hot on the heels of this unwelcome invader comes Miss Bellow (Shernaz Patel) who claims to be the owner of the cat and wants it back, but does she have ulterior motives?

This 20 minute short (directed by Bhargav Saikia in his second short film) is a whimsical and magical offering that stays on the side of fantasy for the majority but does have a few scenes that are more frightening. The majority of this has Bond home alone dealing with the troublesome cat, and then his bizarre meeting with Miss Bellows. I loved Alter's performance here, he came across as a likable character whose gruffness never seems much more than an act. Patel also gives a good performance as the mysterious woman that visits. I thought the set decoration for the home was pretty good, though in terms of props the broomstick did seem to be pretty useless as it seemed to cause more mess than it cleared up! The music throughout fits this short perfectly, it all adds to the fantastical nature of this.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Found Footage 3D (2016) - Horror Film Review

Found Footage 3D you might be surprised to discover is a horror from the found footage genre, not only that but it purports to be the first ever one made in 3D. I watched the 2D version as I don't own a 3D TV (does anyone aside from a handful of people?). The film within a film idea creates some funny moments as the tropes of the genre are brought forward in some meta ways, yet when the actual film itself falls for these same tropes you get the impression the ball got dropped somewhere along the way.

A group of filmmakers have decided to make a found footage horror film, and to make theirs stand out from the crowded genre they have decided to film it in 3D. The small crew head out to an abandoned farmhouse that just so happens to have a real world sordid history, soon they unwittingly find themselves starring in their own found footage for real...

This had some good ideas going for it, I will say that much. There are some really funny moments here that take the mick out of found footage in ways that really work Derek (Carter Roy) who was the writer for the movie (within the film) as well as the main actor has total delusions of grandeur constantly comparing his visions to those of famous directors. This leads to some funny moments of him constantly wanting to change the script, even to change the ending so that his character can survive. It becomes meta with the behind the scenes footage constantly being filmed by cameraman mark (Chris O'Brien), his interviews with the crew leads to parallels between what they are making on screen and what is actually being filmed. The increasingly sidelined director Andrew (Tom Saporito) states the two most important things you have to do is explain why the footage is being filmed in the first place, and why it continues to be filmed. That is something Found Footage 3D does well in that these bases are both covered.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

6.66 PM (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review

The award winning 6.66 PM is a comedy horror directed by Jim Klock (who directed and starred in Massacre on Aisle 12) and co-written by Tommy McLaughlin and Chad Ridgely (who also co-wrote and starred in Massacre). It is worth pointing out that other film, as like that this one is full of over the top manic people running around screaming, and full of humour that didn't resonate with me too much. On the plus side again just like Massacre I found myself enjoying this one despite how silly it is, you can't help but get caught up in the silliness and forget about everything outside of the movie.

A reality paranormal investigation crew have chosen the house of notorious serial killer Jimmy Timmy Beck (Scott Burkhardt) to film their new show. The crew include producer Lorraine (Autumn Federici who also co-produced this), cameraman Peter (Chad Ridgely), and two actors pretending to be legitimate investigators; Daniel (Jim Klock) and Sheryl (Alexis Kelley). However they have chosen the night that marks the five year anniversary of Beck's suicide, a night in which the criminal brother of one of his victims (Michael Buonomo also from Massacre but in a much more memorable role here) has decided to enact a ludicrous plan to summon Beck's spirit back into the land of the living...

For the first twenty minutes to half an hour I was not enjoying 6.66 PM, I felt it just was not funny, or particularly interesting with little plot to it other than the cowardly crew investigating an empty building. Thankfully after an early red herring sub plot of a murderer, Beck's spirit does indeed return. This takes the form of him possessing the bodies of the recently deceased which gives the film a very light The Thing vibe in that each time he is defeated he returns as someone else. Each and every character that ended up possessed gave a fantastic performance, the over the top craziness of the character of Beck was reflected so well that no matter who was playing him they all seemed to be the same person. I especially loved the voices put on for this dead serial killer. The heroes are the usual assortment of cowards and liars which lends the film a feeling of Scooby-Doo with adult overtones but does lead to lots of scenes of people either running around screaming or hiding in silly places (like behind a shower curtain, or on the backseat of a car).

Friday, 17 November 2017

My Name is 'A' by Anonymous (2012) - Horror Film Review

My Name is 'A' by Anonymous is an arthouse horror written and directed by Shane Ryan (American Virus, Oni-gokko). When it comes to these type of films I find they are a bit hit and miss for my taste buds, sometimes they resonate, sometimes they repel. With this movie it fell more into the later half, that is not to say I don't appreciate what was being done here, or the yearning for realism, it's just that the more arty this became the more I was put off.

Apparently inspired by true events this shows the days leading up to the death of a young girl in a small American town. We follow a few different people; Alyssa (Katie Marsh) and her best friend The Sidekick (Demi Baumann) are two immature young teens with a fixation on death. Then there is The Performer (Teona Dolnikova) who is a teenage artist with aspirations of a singing career, but who is plagued with depression. Finally there is The Angst (Alex Damiano) whose sexual abuse at the hands of her father have led her into feeling hatred for the world.

I liked the three act structure, each act roughly split into half an hour means this was split up neatly. with each act taking place on a different day. The first day serves as an introduction to our tortured souls. All the characters see no hope or future in the world and are mostly nihilistic in their thoughts. The middle chapter is a ramping up in terms of self destruction. The four main characters are all self harmers and there is a montage of them all cutting themselves, as well as the revelation that at least one of the girls is being abused by a family member. It is here that flash forwards to the murder are shown in meaningful ways. The final act sees My Name go into its most arthouse style with long shots of characters in silence with music playing over the top and filters put over the footage and increasingly scenes shown out of order.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Statik (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

So technically Statik isn't horror despite what I may have said in the reviews title, it does have an air of bizarre mystery about it, while sometimes it hints at awful things. This is an exclusive PSVR puzzle game that makes ingenious use of the PS4 controller to create atmosphere.

The plot is pretty obtuse but what is clear is that you are a test subject for Dr Ingen at an undisclosed laboratory. You are given a series of puzzles to solve, in each test you awake strapped to a chair with a strange device locked over your hands. By interacting with this device from the inside you complete a series of tests on it, once successful you are knocked out, awaking in either a room to be surveyed with weird questions, or inside a tank where you are given puzzle parts to make up some sort of cube.

It is going to be hard to explain just how clever and unique Statik feels. Each of the 10 or so levels gives you a different device to solve, this is done by using pretty much all the buttons on the PS4 controller. Each button or stick corresponds to a part of the device on screen, each device has three different sides that all have different functions upon it. So one time for example the buttons can set dials, other times rewind and fast forward cassette tapes. In each level you are expected to work out the answers for yourself, there is no hint system and all the answers are already subtly around you. Sometimes solutions to puzzles are contained within the set dressing of the room you are in, such as a poster on a wall (for a shape based puzzle), or as colour coded objects (for when you have to put in a colour combination lock). Other times it is the device itself that gives you the hints such as one that had a screen of static on it that would clear when pointed in the right direction. There are all sorts of ways you are forced to use your brain with memory puzzles, shapes and sound ones among others. Sometimes I would nearly be pulling my hair out in bafflement only to then have a Eureka! moment and feel like the cleverest person in all the land. The fact that you are always left to your own devices rather than spoon fed answers I always thought was fantastic.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

February (2015) - Horror Film Review

All year long I had heard people saying how good a film called The Blackcoat's Daughter was yet I could just not find this anywhere. Luckily I realised the film is actually called February everywhere outside of the U.S, not only that but it had been sat gathering dust on my Netflix list for quite some time.

February takes place out of sequence quite a lot of the time, yet despite this it isn't actually that hard a film to follow. During half term at an American Catholic boarding school two students are left behind due to their parents not turning up to collect them. Kat (Kiernan Shipka) is worried her parents died in an accident due to a nightmare she had, while Rose (Lucy Boynton from I Am the Pretty Thing That Live in the House) purposely gave hers the wrong date so that she would have time to tell her boyfriend she is pregnant. Kat's behaviour starts to become very strange with the usually meek girl acting out of character which concerns Rose. Meanwhile in a separate storyline Bill (James Remar from Dexter) offers stranger Joan (Emma Roberts from American Horror Story) a lift with him and his wife after seeing the girl waiting for a bus in the cold winter night.

I loved the way February was set out, it creates mini cliffhangers, and has little chapters that play with time. Sometimes it shows the same timeframe but with another character's perspective, sometimes it runs stories concurrently that don't take place together. An example is a phone rings and a character goes to answer it, then future events happen and it is only later on in the film it goes back to the phone call scene and shows it in full. It does this with various characters in a variety of ways. Stripped to its bare bones this is a film about demonic possession, whether that be actual, or down to mental illness, but it skirts away from a lot of the usual tropes (with the exception of one scene) and has that angle put on the back shelf with it insinuated by how characters have started acting.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Bloody Zombies (2017) - Zombie Horror Videogame Review (PSVR)

Before I can get on with my review of Bloody Zombies it is essential I mention a few things which have certainly coloured my enjoyment with the game, and which have influenced the path of what I am about to say. Firstly I didn't complete the game, I reached the final level but it was just too damn hard to beat. This goes onto my second knowledge bomb; I only played this game in single player, as with every single scrolling beat-em up ever made the fun increases the more players you have. I did try and play online with other people but the servers for Bloody Zombies are pretty dead. My final footnote is that I played this in VR, going the other way I feel this would be a lot more bland outside of the virtual world.

Zombie apocalypse has come to the U.K but it has been contained within the boundaries of London thanks to the K.R.O.N.O.S Corporation who have built huge walls around the capital. A year since the outbreak occurred four survivors; Teller, Mick 'The Brick', Rei, and Eddie happen upon each other just as a K.R.O.N.O.S copter crashes in the street. They are informed by a transceiver they find in the wreckage that they need to use a homing beacon to locate the key cards of 4 key members of the company in order to get into the H.Q where the cure for undead apocalypse awaits.

Bloody Zombies is a classic style 2D scrolling beat-em up that has up to four players fighting through the over run streets of London. The graphics are cartoon like and reminded me quite a bit of the hand drawn style of The Dishwasher series of games. Each level takes place in a different location as is the way, these include a graveyard, a train, London bridge, the Natural History Museum, a night club and more. It was cool to have a game entirely set in London and made for some detailed environments. There is variation in the levels in that your not just fighting your way to the end, but occasionally have little missions to do. In the night club for example you have to destroy the speakers to stop zombies being attracted by the noise. At other points you have to survive against waves of enemies as you try to use switches and raise bridges.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Oni-gokko (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

Yesterday was American Virus and today is another short horror that was written and directed also by Shane Ryan. Oni-gokko (Tag) is an eight minute long Japanese horror, now I have a history with those as I consider the anthology box set; Tales of Terror (that is made up of 33 Japanese short horror films) to be the scariest, nay, the most terrifying item I own. To this day I haven't been able to bring myself to rewatch it, but that's a story for another time. This doesn't join that exclusive club, but there is something about this that leaves an impression.

The plot isn't totally explained, or rather it is left to the viewer to fill in some gaps. From what I can tell a teenage girl (Miki played by Eri Akita) is seemingly being haunted by the vengeful spirit of her sister Aki (Mariko Wordell) who holds her responsible for her death when she was just six years old. Aki wants her sister to prove just how sorry she is for her past sins...

I loved the mystery behind this, the fact that events are so open to interpretation means it stuck with me. The death of Aki in the past for instance, just how much was her sister to blame, there are so many questions about that. There is also a possibility that Aki is just a figment of Miki's guilt riddled mind, and that her self harm is a response to that guilt. Just because this features Japanese actresses this doesn't mean it follows the vogue of what occurs in that countries films, instead Ryan gives his own spin with a spirit that is less black and white. Wordell comes across as pretty sinister with the emotionless look on her face, her performance is helped no end by the use of light and shadow to really make her seem out of place, my favourite shot had her spinning in a circle while the lighting dims and brightens briefly. It was a bit strange that the spirit was not that of a little girl but it did add to the oddity to have Aki grown up.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

American Virus (2015) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

I am getting sent a lot of short horrors for review at the moment which is never a bad thing really. As I have stated on many occasions before having such a limited time to tell a story really forces you to be creative in what you build. American Virus is a POV zombie film that I enjoyed, but which did feel more like a clip from a larger film than one that feels self contained.

A virus that turns its victims into flesh hungry crazies has been unleashed on America, but unlike the norm it has been successfully quarantined. That is until a small grassroots terrorist gang decide to escalate events themselves by stealing a sample of the virus with the aim to spread the infection to the whole country.

It was cool to see a couple of notable people have worked on this film, the biggest draw I guess being the daughter of Clint Eastwood; Kathryn Eastwood who not only stars as the main antagonist, but also co-wrote this with Shane Ryan (Red Oedipal, Ted Bundy Had a Son) who himself also co-stars and directs this. Tommie Vegas (Party Night) also makes an appearance that was nice to see. It was interesting to get a film shot from the perspective of the bad guys, though aside from the broadcast message the group have filmed for the media a lot of this camera work is very shaky and indie in that it is people running around. There is kind of a message here about the half life existence of the daily grind for the average person, but there wasn't too much time to fully explore that. There are a few different techniques used here, this includes editing that shows events out of order, black and white sequences, and news report style parts.

For me the music was the least effective part, it was all very dramatic and serious, but did come across as a bit generic. In terms of visuals though this was attractive enough when shaky cam footage wasn't being used, and the zombie/infected make-up featured plenty of great looking blood. American Virus also featured the best on screen kiss I have seen for a while, love really does make people act crazy! With a guerrilla type feel this zombie short feels different enough, and at just five minutes long left me wanting more. American Virus is to show up as a segment in upcoming zombie anthology Virus of the Dead that is due for release 2018.