Sunday, 19 January 2020
For once I am virtually caught up on the horrors I have for review, so instead this weekend I decided I would watch films of my choosing. Australian horror The Marshes has recently been added to Shudder, the service said it was released in 2020 and so I decided to check it out. In actuality though it first came out back in 2018, but only in Australia.
Three young biologists; Pria (Dafna Kronental), Will (Sam Delich), and grad student Ben (Mathew Cooper) head out to remote marshland on a field trip in order to take some samples. After encountering some poachers the three are wary, but decide to finish up their work before heading back, due to the nearest settlement being a three hour drive away. Pria begins to experience unsettling nightmares, and gets the feeling the trio are being watch, so urges a swift exit. However before they are able to leave they get plunged into terror as someone or something begins to hunt them down...
The Marshes struggles to maintain a course for how it wants its horror to play out. Initially, after encounters with disgruntled locals it seems this would have a Wolf Creek type of vibe to it. Later on this feels much more In the Tall Grass with the location of the marshes itself seeming to be the real enemy. With a murderous swagman (Eddie Baroo - Wolf Creek TV series) who may or may not be real thrown into the mix events become confusing to say the least. It felt like it didn't know what it wanted to be, almost like there were two vying interpretations going on with director/writer Roger Scott constantly going back and forth. This worked in keeping the story ambiguous. For example there is plenty here to point to everything going on to be one long dream sequence, from events that we are shown to actually be nightmares Pria is having, to the coincidence of the primary antagonist just happening to be the same as the figure from a ghost story about the origins of the Waltzing Matilda song Will tells earlier on in the movie. There is just as much evidence that everything occurring is real, with a hazy supernatural explanation for why things are so strange. This non-committal makes the film seem a bit unsure of itself rather than have it feel satisfyingly obtuse. This even stretches to the films ending that is actually two different endings playing one after the other. Both would have been great endings on their own, but together they cancel each other out.
Friday, 17 January 2020
The award winning Good Works is a fourteen minute long horror film from director D.J Remark (who also played the part of Styxman in The Curse of Lilith Ratchet), and which was written by Jason Orr. It takes the familiar style of a lone woman home alone experiencing spooky goings on, but changes up expectations by having the woman relatively unfazed.
Sam (Stella Ryan-Lozon) starts to see eyeless and heartless walking corpses wherever she goes. While she appears a bit frightened of this it doesn't stop her carrying on her daily routine as normal. This leads up to a conversation in which all is explained.
This began quite surreal with corpses appearing around Sam, but her not really noticing them. The reveal was something that wasn't expected, but leads back mainly to a conversation she has with a religious woman who knocks at her door (Leigh A. Peterson). Mainly Sam just carries out normal things, she has a cup of tea, eats some lunch, and gives her mum a phone call. This satisfies not in being scary, but by explaining the biggest mystery it creates. I liked the way Ryan-Lozon acted, was a nice down to earth type of style. The make-up effects for the corpses were not bad, they all looked suitably freaky, and it was all filmed in a satisfying way.
Good Works takes a very familiar style of story telling but turns it on its head a little bit, making for a film that was more interesting than scary, but which changes what you think you know about everything going on.
Wednesday, 15 January 2020
Silhouette is a dark drama written and directed by Mitch McLeod (Birthday Girl) that covers some uncomfortable topics. With a relatively small cast and a budget of $25,000 this succeeds due to the casting choices for the main leads, and the laser focus storyline of the disintegrating relationship of these two characters.
After the death of their young daughter who was suffering a terminal illness, couple, Jack (Tom Zembrod - Knucklebones, From the Dark) and Amanda (April Hartman - Howlers) move into a new property. Jack hopes the change will let them not only rebuild their lives, but also their failing, loveless marriage, but Amanda, still in deep depression from that past trauma is not at a stage where she can move on. Both are haunted by the demons from their past, Jack due to past mistakes he has made impacting the present, and for Amanda she is literally seeing demons in the form of the ghostly figure of her daughter.
Silhouette is not a film designed to set out and scare people, instead the horror comes from realistic trappings of a couple trapped in a doomed marriage. Both characters are flawed, even if Jack comes across as the more normal of the two. Amanda is mentally ill, on antipsychotics and living in a nightmare fantasy world in which existence is barely manageable. The traditional horror elements appear primarily around her, from the demonic ghost of her daughter, to the brutal dreams in which she stabs herself repeatedly in the stomach. I liked the blurring effects used whenever the ghost appears, and Hartman does a sterling job of being terrified of all the unexplainable things going on around her. Initially it seemed she would be the protagonist, but the film is split more evenly, especially in the second half where the camera follows Jack around, leaving Amanda in her miserable solitude.
Monday, 13 January 2020
Short horror film The Mannequin is special in that it is the first film I have seen that was released in 2020. It was directed by Kévin Mendiboure (The Follower) and stars Alexia Zahedi. This follows a format that is extremely familiar to anyone who has seen more than a couple of short horror films, but does it still manage to be scary?
Alexia (Zahedi) is home alone waiting for her partner to return when suddenly all the lights go out. Random unexpected noises occur and she starts to fear someone is in the house with her, but as far as she is aware she is alone, alone that is except for the creepy mannequin she keeps in her downstairs hallway...
The Mannequin is just about four minutes long and it does achieve quite a bit in that time, with two locations in the house having spooky moments happen in. Mannequins are always a creepy object, for me they bring back memories of playing the fantastic Resident Evil 7: Biohazard in VR which actually featured a scene similar to this one involving those life size figures. The basic plot here was very predictable, I guessed right away how this would end and I was mostly spot on. The first half and the second half are mostly the same idea played out twice, and the jump scare had a great idea behind it.
The overall story here didn't stand apart from countless others, but one area The Mannequin really excels is the great sound design, the music on the one hand is suitably horror based, designed to ramp up the tension and suspense, but the sound effects were what really worked here. The highlight being the high pitched whine and distorted sound when Alexia first really panics. Talking of her, while she doesn't speak here, her panicked breathing and gasps sounded good. I also liked the end credits that have the sound of an object repeatedly rattling, calling back to an earlier point in the film.
This may follow a traditional path, but rewatching it I was impressed with how many short horror film tropes were fitted into such a short film. The Mannequin is one I far more appreciated for how it was created, as well as the types of ways it tried to create fear, than for the actual story it was telling.
Saturday, 11 January 2020
The Kingdom of Var is a low budget indie horror that marks director/writer Nicholas Kleban's feature length directorial debut. Apparently the film was initially planned as a short in a two part anthology, but the second part was combined with the idea in the first to make a longer horror. The whole movie was shot in just thirteen days, with post production taking a year and a half.
Weirdo college student Sonja (Vida Zukauskas - Frankenpimp) discovers a strange video tape in her basement one day titled 1594, which shows a man performing some sort of ritual. Becoming obsessed with the tape she does some research online and discovers that it is allegedly a film from the year 1594 which had been created by a time travelling sorcerer; Var (Shawn Van Every). Her research also indicates that by watching the tape the viewer would summon the spirit of Var who would then relentlessly attack his victim. Sonja dismisses all of this as fantastical, yet as more and more nightmarish things begin to occur around her she starts to think there may be some truth in what she has read...
The low budget here means that there isn't much to be scared of. The effects are minimal, the props unrealistic, and the acting ranges from middling to bad. However, rather than try and make a serious horror it seems this low budget look was leant into with moments that are purposely bad and make for some comedic parts, such as when Sonja is being chased and she opens a fridge door which her pursuer runs into and then falls over. This leads to a strange divide between moments that seem like they are trying to be more horrific and moments of absurdist humour, overall despite the bleak direction the story points to this is more of a comedy, albeit quite a dark one.
Thursday, 9 January 2020
The Appearance is a supernatural horror film that is set during medieval times, it is quite fitting then that this was written and directed by the aptly named Kurt Knight (We All Fall Down). I wasn't expecting too much from this, but actually it wasn't bad at all. It may be a gloomy and miserable affair but it has atmosphere in spades.
Mateho the Inquisitor (Jake Stormoen - the Mythica series of films) and his bodyguard and friend Johnny (Kristian Nairn - Game of Thrones) have been summoned to a monastery by monk Felix (Adam Johnson - also Mythica) after the unexplainable death of a fellow monk there. There he finds a teenage girl; Isabel (Baylee Self - The Outpost TV series) chained up in the dungeon, with the abbot of the monastery (Michael Flynn - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers) having accused her of witchcraft that led to the death of the monk. Mateho is determined to prove that the girl is innocent, but as more and more inexplicable events happen he begins to question everything he thought he knew.
The Appearance is a joyless affair that brought to mind the bleak tone of The VVitch: A New-England Folktale, but as it went on I was more comparing it to the excellent Let Us Prey and even as strange as it sounds Alien. The majority of the movie takes place within the dank corridors of the monastery with some outdoor scenes in the muddy village adding some rustic flavour. The dark atmosphere was very effective, with torch flame being the main illumination, with the occasional sunlight shining through the crucifix shaped windows. The costumes used were all as you would expect, as was the set dressing of straw strewn rooms and religious imagery. This was worth noting as it added to the mood and story of a bunch of miserable monks getting picked off one by one by a demonic force, as did the gloomy music that also fitted the tone well.
Tuesday, 7 January 2020
First there was The Childish Thing, then there was The Thing About Beecher's Gate, and now comes the third entry in Jeremy Herbert's Thing trilogy of short horrors with The Things With The Glowing Green Eyes. The previous films had both been of high quality and so after hearing about this one I was excited to see it. Herbert has stated about the film: "Every filmmaker gets a movie that won't die once in a while. This was mine. Lost locations. Missing Footage. Scheduling conflicts so ironclad we had to scrap a movie and reuse pieces of it in this one. It's somehow appropriate the depths to which this one dragged me personally and professionally given its subject matter."
During a weekly town meeting one of the few regulars; Bernie (Morgan McLeod - The Childish Thing, The Thing About Beecher's Gate) nonchalantly asks if anything is going to be done about the things with the glowing green eyes. This then leads to a series of short stories in which each of the other attendants admits to having also seen them, and then recounts their own personal underwhelming experiences with these strange visitors.
There has always been an element of humour to Herbert's shorts but this one was by far the most funny, so much so that on two occasions during the twenty minute run time I did laugh out loud. The dialogue here is just great for each of the characters, with each of the actors performances being spot on. From Daniel Allen as the calm and cool sheriff, to Daniel Alan Kiely as the timid mayor, they all delivered their lines with perfect comic timing. The fact that nothing happens in each of the four recollections was what helped to make this quite amusing. It was also nice to see Jenson Strock playing a part here, I last saw her in The Childish Thing.
While this is funny it still manages to come across as creepy. The titular things don't do anything except stand dead still, most the time you can't even really see them, their out of focus glowing eyes being the only visible sign of them. The situations characters find themselves would be scary in a normal setting, such as the sheriff out in the woods surrounded by the creatures, or Gail (Catherine Csyani) having one standing at the foot of her bed, but the fact these stories all end abruptly gives them a comedic feel. Ghost Stories used a similar idea a few years back of sudden endings, but that failed as it was trying to be legitimately scary and so the endings just created frustration. The music as always was fantastic, the soundtrack sounded alien really adding a layer of atmosphere to these unsettling goings on.
Based on the previous films I had a fair expectation that The Things With Glowing Green Eyes would be a solid piece of entertainment, and it is that. I saw the twisting of expectations that was achieved to be a fun idea, and with solid acting among the cast this was something wonderful. The fact that this had such a troubled production yet still morphed into an entertaining short is testament to Herbert.
Sunday, 5 January 2020
Here at The Rotting Zombie HQ horror is the order of the day. However, I do have a soft spot for anything post apocalyptic and so that is why this prehistoric-techno 3rd person open world adventure game is gracing these pages. Originally released at the start of 2017 Horizon Zero Dawn then got a huge chunk of extra content in the form of The Frozen Wilds expansion released at the end of that same year. I played through the 'Complete Edition' which perhaps unsurprisingly includes both the core game, and that expansion, and this review will reflect that additional content.
Horizon Zero Dawn takes place in a post apocalyptic world in which animal like robots exist in far greater numbers than humans. By that alone you can probably guess what caused the apocalypse, even if it isn't as simple a line as it initially appears to be. In this new world mankind have regressed back to living in tribes, each holding various spiritual beliefs, and many worshipping or fearing ancient surviving technology. You play as Aloy (voiced by Ashly Burch - Borderlands 2, Attack on Titan English dub) who since birth has been mysteriously exiled from her tribe; the Nora, along with her carer Rost (voiced by JB Blanc - Breaking Bad). As a child she discovered a 'Focus' which is an augmented reality device that allows her to interface with past technology. As an adult the once passive machines have become increasingly hostile to human life, and murderous corrupted machines have also started to appear in larger numbers. Because of her special abilities Aloy is sent out into the greater world in order to find out what is causing the machines to become corrupted, along the way discovering just what happened to cause the ancient world to collapse.
Including the expansion this took me around 65 hours to get through, in this day and age I actually see that as a smaller game than many. It is hard to go into too much detail as so much changes from the start that it would be spoiler upon spoiler. This post apocalyptic landscape is much less Mad Max, and far more Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. The world has returned to nature with most signs of the old world lost to time. Instead you get lots and lots of beautiful nature to explore, and this takes place over a variety of biomes, from the snowy Nora lands that the game starts in, to canyons, forests, and deserts, all the way to the huge mountains of the expansion. Sure it might not initially make sense how these locations are so close to each other, but they make for a game that can often be stunningly pretty. The game world is pretty huge, existing as one large world, rather than a series of smaller open world locations such as with The Witcher 3. There is a ridiculous abundance of fast travel points (campfires here), with many of them even being within eyesight of another one, no complaints here as once you have opened them all up it makes going from mission to mission a great streamlined experience.
Thursday, 2 January 2020
Making Faces is the latest short horror film from Andrew J.D Robinson (The Becky Carmichael Fan Club, Candle Cove). This takes a look at the falseness of the online persona people portray and explores that in a horror setting. I admit to not quite understanding this one, yet even despite not getting it I found this to have, like so many of Robinson's recent shorts a sustained sense of unease that stayed with me long after I had finished watching.
This starts effectively with a young woman: Cassie (Willow McGregor) posing for happy selfies of herself, but struggling to hold back the tears. This set the tone for the whole short with the duality of actual and projected emotions. The main part of the short is a phone conversation Cassie is having with a photographer about a photo she had brought, which had turned up blank. As the woman tells her about the circumstances that led to the unique range of photographs she is selling Cassie comes to learn the horrific truth for herself.
After repeated viewings of Making Faces there is no sense of inexplicable dread lost. It helps that the main character is on her own in an isolated setting, it also helps with the sudden loud sounds that break up the relative silence, from a doorbell ringing (that despite sounding nothing like my own I thought it was from my door!), to the abrasive ringtone on Cassie's phone the sound is designed to put you on edge. McGregor is a relatable protagonist and I like how you get a sense of the inner turmoil she was facing. It was also a nice touch that there is perhaps a guest cameo of the character Becky (voiced by Gabrielle Banville) from another of Robinson's shorts. A lot of the horror comes from the nightmarish images caught on camera, the faces trapped in anguish and terror are quite creepy.
Making Faces was a well made nine minute short. The trip-hop style music is forever associated by me to the Silent Hill horror video games and so its use here effortlessly combines with the story to give a feeling of creeping dread. Watching this was a good way to start off the new year.
Wednesday, 1 January 2020
I had intended my December news post to be the very last thing I wrote on my blog in 2019. After shutting down my PC and closing my office up for the year I happened to be listening to part 2 of the horror comedy Red Ice from Next Day Theater's Parabasis podcast anthology series. I don't know why but I had assumed it was a three parter, and with only two episodes on iTunes I figured there wasn't any reason to review it until the final part was out. So egg on my face when episode 2 ends, and with it brings an end to the story. Red Ice is set out like a found footage, a device that works as well as audio as it does using film.
This takes place in 2020 and a radio documentary team have been invited to interview a crew surveying for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, that is using cutting edge technology designed to be much more protective of the environment. It soon becomes clear that maybe everything is not as well meaning and innocent as it at first seems. Even this pales in comparison to the events that follow, events that result in this recorded audio being the only surviving testament to the horror witnessed at that remote base...
Red Ice is a two parter, with each episode being roughly twenty five minutes long in length. Rather than go the route of having purely audio there is a lot of background noise and effects used to really make it seem like the cast are actually out in the Arctic. These effects are what really make this so successful, it adds a lot of atmosphere. Despite being a comedy the horror part isn't shirked on, and the humour isn't overwhelming. Instead it is more subtle in that it shows itself mainly through the dialogue characters have. I can't go too much into the story without spoilers, but this involves a fun twist midway through episode 1 that includes both racism, rampant drug abuse, and a complete disregard for environmental protection. Occasionally due to being audio only it was slightly confusing I found.
There is a large cast here compared to audio books I have listened to in the past, including among them Julian Kingston as Kevin, Jennifer Yadav as Amara, and Becca Barrett as Michelle. Having the format of an audio based play was something I have strangely not personally come across before and it was quite enjoyable. It also feels very much of the time, dealing as it does with topical issues such as climate change. There is a sense of justice to what happens here, the horror helped along by some great sounding roars during the more dramatic moments (such as the majority of part 2).
Red Ice was an enjoyable story that was told in a fun fashion. I liked it enough that I subscribed to the Parabis podcast for whatever they put out in future. A nice blend of dry humour and horror that gets more dramatic as it goes on makes for a fun hour. Head to the Next Day Theater website for info on how to listen to this yourself.
Tuesday, 31 December 2019
December is often a quiet time for horror and this year was no exception. The sole cinema horror film was Black Christmas which I actually never got around to watching. By all accounts I didn't miss much but I wish I had bothered to see it. It's the end of another year and this blog keeps on moving forward. I have recently split my site index into two halves, as always this can be found at the top right hand side of my blog. My never ending quest to go through my old posts and correct spelling and grammar, replace broken image links, and link to other posts is ever ongoing (not even past 'A' yet so a lot to do). I just need to win the lottery basically, so that I can quit my bill paying job and do this full time!
A quick look at my to-do list and apart from my embarrassing list of eBooks waiting to be read for people (some dating back 7 years) it isn't too bad. There is a podcast to be listened to for review, though I am waiting until every episode is out before doing that. On the film front I have a couple due for reviews in January, and waiting to hear back on a few more. In the world of TV I have quite a few shows that I need to get around to watching, everything from Fear the Walking Dead to the final season of Ash vs Evil Dead and Z Nation. Then with video games I have lots of horror games I started many years back but never got to a point where I could review them. Ones such as Dead Rising 2, Outlast 2 and Five Nights at Freddy's VR: Help Wanted. Also with video games I still have yet to play the DLC for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Fallout 4 and Layers of Fear. With physical books I have literal drawers full of horror books collected over the years from second hand bookshops and so maybe I will get around to reading some of those in 2020.
One last thing before getting onto the news, my 'bests' of the year. Now these are based on media that has been released this year, not ones that I have only experienced for the first time this year:
Best Horror Video Game - Blasphemous
Best Horror Film - Shed
Best Horror Novel - Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! (Tik in very close second)
Best Horror TV Series - Stranger Things: Season 3
British horror novelist Shaun Hutson has a new book out called Testament. This is a direct sequel to Renegades and takes place thirty years later. Sean Doyle is working as an advisor in Iraq when he learns his old nemesis, David Callahan has returned to life, and he is not the only one to mysteriously be resurrected. The novel is published by Caffeine Nights and is £20.oo in hardback.
Music group Psychostick have done a parody cover of Rob Zombie's Dragula that they have titled Zombie Claus. The comedy metal quartet have changed the lyrics to include nods to traditional Christmas literature and music. After watching it for myself I have to admit it is pretty hilarious.
Emo/post-hardcore quintet When I Say Jump have released a new music video of their latest single King of Thessaly. This video, that was produced and directed by Jaiden Frost is about a cannibal cult that lures its victims in with promises of wealth. The band are currently working on their sophomore record.
Captured is due for release on 1st January 2020. I have previously mentioned this before, but to recap this is about a weekend getaway to shoot a music video that turns into a nightmare when an obsessed escaped convict targets the female leader of the rock band. It stars Kirsten Prout (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Brittany Curran (13 Going on 30) and Jasper Cole (Westworld, American Horror Story).
Small Town Monsters have released a trailer for their new miniseries On the Trail of UFOs which is set to take an in depth look at America's relationship with the subject, and is hosted by Shannon Legro and features Seth Breedlove. This series will include Area 51, and filming locations include New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
The final news of the year, and indeed the decade is that horror anthology An Hour to Kill is now available on DVD thanks to Alpha Video. I said of this film in my review last year that it "worked pretty well".
And that is it for 2019, I hope everyone reading this has a great 2020 full of horror and mayhem (in the fictional sense). See you on the flip-side.
Monday, 30 December 2019
It is currently one of those rare times when I have enough space free in my schedule that I can watch a film of my choosing rather than one I have been sent. A quick scroll through my huge Netflix list and I came across director Lin Oeding's zombie horror comedy Office Uprising. It immediately seemed pretty derivative but would it improve over time?
Desmond (Brenton Thwaites - Titans TV series) is a lazy slacker who works in the accounts department of Ammotech; which is a major weapons manufacturing firm. With an urgent report needed by his boss Adam (Shazam!) Desmond decides to leave work early with the intention of writing it at home. Arriving at work the next day he realises far too late a great change has occurred. After he had left, a shipment of a new energy drink called Zolt had been delivered, and everyone who drank that drink has changed into a rage infected psycho. Teaming up with his co-worker Mourad (Karan Soni - Deadpool 1 & 2) and his half infected friend Samantha (Jane Levy - Evil Dead, Don't Breathe) Desmond must now find a way to escape the office block...
Sunday, 29 December 2019
On Christmas I was browsing on my phone when I come across an article on Destructoid talking about obscure gems on the Nintendo Switch store, one of these in particular caught my eye; a horror puzzle platformer called Tamashii that was inspired by Japanese horror games of the eighties and early nineties. There isn't too much about this on the web, or I should say, not much in depth stuff and so my story summary will be taken by my own impressions.
Tamashii takes place within the walls of a corrupted ancient temple that belongs to an immortal dark deity. Due to this corruption its power is weakening and so it creates a being from part of itself (the player character), and tasks this being with exploring the temple and finding out what is causing the problems. Soon it is discovered a witch has taken refuge within the walls of the place, but that your goal may be similar to hers, if not for different reasons.
So this is a 2D puzzle platformer that takes place via a series of levels that can be accessed from a hub world (hub temple I guess). There are five main smaller temples, each of which is dedicated to a different dark entity, and each with their own unique puzzle styles. Your character can double jump, but you have no attack options, the only power you have is related to creating clones. Up to three clones can be created at a time, and these are static, staying in the spot you have created them, unless you use a special switch within certain worlds that lets them move left or right. Mainly the clones are used to activate switches, by being placed over them, or put on pads that activate the exit door. Each of the temples is made up of a series of rooms, each of which is exited by activating the exit. So, each room is one big puzzle basically. I'm not usually a fan of puzzle games like this but here it is helped a lot by how quickly you spawn back into the world should you die. Obstacles and enemies are all single hit kills to you, and you can even kill yourself by holding down the '-' button. Towards the end of each level you are given a choice between a hard and easy path, the hard path is not as difficult as it sounds, and gives you a rune needed later, as well as some story exposition.