Tuesday, 28 April 2015
Outbreak: The Hunger is Texan Scott Shoyer's debut zombie novel. Despite a generic title Shoyer promises the book will offer something different to the genre he sees as getting stale. He is a life long horror fan of both film and novels (even having his own horror blog) and as such feels he was able to avoid the cliches that plague the zombie genre. Shoyer states:
"Sure there's a lot of zombie novels out there, but I set out to give horror and zombie fans something different. I didn't just want to write just another version of the same old story."
The book looks at the emergence of a deadly zombie virus from the perspective of two different groups; an elite group of soldiers who are trying to stop and contain the outbreak, and a group of families visiting Austin Zoo who find themselves at the epicentre of the terror and must band together to attempt to survive.
With praise from author Joe McKinney (of Dead World fame) it seems maybe this really could be something worth checking out. I read a teaser of the book and have to say it was pretty hilarious in a good way with a whole host of random zoo animals suddenly turning into random zoombie animals and snacking down on the humans with Shoyer describing the attacks in gleeful detail.
Outbreak: The Hunger was released on 14th April and is available in both eBook and paper formats. It is the first book in a planned trilogy with Shoyer already hard at work on the follow up.
Monday, 27 April 2015
For once I am actually punctual with my game reviews as the second DLC for The Evil Within came out just last Wednesday, I really enjoyed the first DLC and so I was expecting more of the same and more of the same is what I got.
The story picks up from The Assignment with Kidman still on her mission from Mobius (generic evil organisation), this time around she is exploring the later half of the main games levels and is still being haunted by the mysterious head of Mobius. Meanwhile Ruvik; antagonist of the main game starts trying to possess Leslie who is the man Kidman has been tasked with rescuing from the dream world he is trapped in.
The Consequence is again two chapters in length, both roughly around an hour and a bit. Things started off very badly for me though, and I have to say it was half my fault. The first DLC played around with having a weaponless character to control, your main tool was a torch that could be used to open up hidden areas. When this device was taken away from me and I entered a pitch black section of the game I figured that this was another different way to have the game be frightening but my appreciation for this new thing turned to frustration as I could not see a single thing. I somehow managed to progress until getting completely stuck in an invisible maze. Forty five minutes later I was still lost in it, repeatedly dying via holes I could not see. I actually had to turn to a guide to find out how to progress and I discovered that right by the entrance to the dark level there was a bunch of infinite flares I was meant to have taken. So partly myself to blame, and partly the game for not sign posting these essential items well enough.
Thankfully after this mishap I got back on track and started having fun again. The creepy search light headed woman monster again made a Pyramid Head style appearance and I was slightly disappointed to see a similar situation thrown up that appeared in The Assignment; that of having to evade her until an elevator arrived at my location. Towards the end of Chapter 3 I got given a gun finally, it made a nice change to be honest and it wasn't long before a plot device meant this weapon was again vanished from my grasp.
This DLC mostly took place in the ruined city that looked so drab and dull in the main stories levels but I would guess that this time around there is around 80% new locations with you visiting areas from the main game in the other 20%. I found it really quite clever how you enter these old levels, and how Kidman interacts with Seb's story. It felt to me like effort was put in while the main game was still being created to link up these two story lines; I appreciated that. I enjoyed how it played with your expectations also with areas having very different feels to them than before.
There was not much new game play wise apart from a few gun sections and a few boss fights that were entertaining enough now they involved weapons. A chase sequence again popped up, having to stealth around enemies was also in abundance while the hidden puzzle boxes had slightly more involved solutions to them than before so felt like a natural progression. I didn't notice any new enemy types, the same Haunted folk, and exploding creatures. There is a lot more bloody level design with walls made of eyeballs, and sprinklers that spray out blood.
There was plenty more story given, files and cassette tapes as well as ghostly flashbacks, it did do a job of fleshing out the overall plot but still was not particularly exciting. Scene changes seemed a lot better handled with the environment warping around Kidman in a way that reminded me of Silent Hill. For the most part both the sound and graphics are solid, a few rough textures every now and again but the lighting in particular really impressed me. What I also loved, and always do is battle damage showing on the character model, Kidman's clothes are ripped and she gets cuts and bruises on her body as the game goes on.
Thankfully The Consequence did exactly what I wanted it to, combined these two DLC packs were actually a lot more enjoyable than the bloated main campaign, Kidman is a more interesting character than Sebastian who just come across as dull and generic while the much reduced combat again delighted me. With the two story DLC packs released there is just the mission based one to go. While I do prefer story to missions getting to play as a monster does sound intriguing, it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
Thursday, 23 April 2015
On Tuesday night myself and my assistant were invited down to London to experience The Generation of Z: Apocalypse event that I mentioned in February. It is basically like a theatre production but one in which the crowd themselves are involved. It takes place in a purpose built underground bunker and features plenty of zombies and mayhem. There will be spoilers about the actual plot but I will try and cloak them in mystery as best as possible.
First off and for someone who does not go to London often the actual building the event takes place in was really not difficult to find being a brief walk from a tube station. I went to the eight thirty showing which was fully booked and so there were plenty of people around including You Tube stars Caspar Lee and Joe Sugg (if their names mean anything to you). It all starts with everyone being brought down stairs into the basement.
With the slam of a gate a group of five soldiers entered the room shouting at everyone to get back and waving their guns around. The leader told the crowd that zombie apocalypse has swept London and there is nowhere safe anymore. The location we were in was a processing facility, designed to process survivors so that they can be taken away to safety but from the looks of things the base was no longer safe. It's not long before a man turns up coughing up blood before going on to attack two girls, all three swiftly being killed by gun fire. The guns fired blanks but were super loud and it was quite thrilling to see the actors get shot as they reacted well. After more talking between the soldiers and after they had checked us all out for any signs of infection a horde of zombies appeared behind the wire fence, first a couple, then more and more, by the time we were hurriedly led out the room there must have been around thirty fully made up zombies clawing at the fence and moaning, was a buzz to see so many of them.
The blurb for the event said there would be choices you got to made which would shape the experience but the biggest of these wasn't really a free choice as the large group got split into two with half led down one corridor and the other down a different one. My group went with the comedy soldier (who was called Moose I think) as well as a female soldier and a rookie and went to a waiting area with several zombies dispatched en route. Throughout the whole event there was a lot of humour, I don't know if that was because we were with the joker character or if the other group also got as much laughter. In this room there was a lot more story told which led into one of the characters getting a stomach injury. For the stomach wound there was plenty of fake blood used which looked pretty cool and people from the group were invited to get involved, some leaning against doors to hold them shut from attacking zombies while a poor girl got the job of putting pressure on the soldiers wound which resulted in her hands becoming crimson red!
After this room the group were then split in half again so there were now four different story lines playing out which I have to say is a great incentive to visit again, though I did also find myself wondering what was going on elsewhere and if the story I was following was the best one or not. Our now much smaller group followed Moose into a room containing a jail cell where a man was locked up in, Two screens built onto the wall showed camera footage of the other groups rooms (which seemed to be an infirmary, a command room and another one I can't recall). An intercom by the screens let the soldiers talk to each other while every now and again you would hear the other groups stories play out via radio chatter. Before leaving this room someones throat got slit resulting in a lot of convulsing and blood. When you have a man bleeding out on the floor right by you it does help make it all seem more real than if it was someone up on a stage. The only real decision of the night was provided here but it didn't seem to make much difference as despite the majority of the group deciding one thing a vocal minority made it so the actual decision made was different and when we were later blamed for the results of that decision we didn't really make it seemed a bit off.
At this point I have to point out how impressive the acting was throughout, there was not a single bad actor, and even the zombies seemed real and didn't seem to ever fall out of character. The man who played the leader; Sarge was the best of the bunch, when he was ordering his men (and women) around he seemed very authentic, not just in the way he spoke but his actual physical acting. The other soldiers were also all good with Moose being a great one constantly making jokes and interacting with the audience. Meanwhile other characters also did solid performances such as the actor playing a prisoner and several plants in the audience who kept popping up all the way to the end really helped make things seem more real than they were. Now I didn't have any characters really talk to me directly but my assistant did on several occasions and said afterwards that they seemed really believable.
Things soon took a turn for the exciting when a self destruct sequence got initiated. With the TV monitors displaying warnings, red lights flashing and an automated voice calmly saying there were ten minutes before the facility was destroyed I really felt like I was in Resident Evil or any number of horror videogames, it was a pretty awesome feeling! We were told before hand there was to be no running, and that is a perfectly acceptable health and safety rule but with just ten minutes to escape us all slowly walking down corridors was a bit immersion breaking, on several occasions when zombies were hot on our heels it was a bit of a minor distraction that everyone was walking so calmly rather than charging head long (which is what I would have done were it real). That said by the end people did charge off (including my loyal assistant; thanks for that!) leaving me at the back feeling very vulnerable.
After a couple more rooms the plot was pretty much over with, the end was a taut walk down a series of narrow corridors that had plenty of mesh fences that hordes of zombies were behind, when one of the zombies made a sudden impressive attempt to launch itself over the top of one of the fences I let out a small yelp I have to admit. This part of the experience was a load of fun, it felt like I was in a car-less ghost train. Finally we make it to a large room, the one we started in, zombies were spaced out in a zig zag pattern and we walked through the middle. The zombies did not move from their spots but they did growl and claw at us and I ended up leaping in fright from one to the other all up the room in a pinball fashion which was very funny.
With the event over it was time to get some pictures with the zombies and grab a drink. A few brief highlights I forgot to mention elsewhere include a zombie death by chainsaw which featured a lot of blood spraying everywhere, and a zombie that got loose in the audience moments before all the lights suddenly went out leaving everyone in pitch black panic.
So The Generation of Z: Apocalypse event for me was a huge success. It was cool to see zombies in real life as it were. I wish I could say it was frightening but it really wasn't, as much as I tried I could not take what happens seriously as I never felt completely immersed which is no fault to the many great actors. While I did feel like I was missing out on other story lines the groups splitting up was a good idea and gives incentive to go back and watch it all again. My assistant found the lack of any real choice to be slightly disappointing, she also thought the plot was a bit simple but for me the simpler the plot the better when it comes to the zombie genre. Also what has to be mentioned is the ticket price which is pretty expensive with tickets ranging from £27.50 to £42.50 depending on when you go.
With great zombie make up, some decent acting, fun special effects and a great location I would happily recommend this event to anyone, provided they can afford the ticket of course! When it comes to the price though there really is not much else out there that is like this, I think if you love zombies and this sounds like it would be something you would like then you would certainly get huge enjoyment out of it, in fact even if you don't like zombies then I would still say to go. Tickets can be purchased from here and the show itself runs up to 5th July 2015 with several performances a day, highly recommended.
Monday, 20 April 2015
Beyond the Grave is a Brazilian post apocalyptic zombie film that has won 14 international awards and been selected for over 80 film festivals world wide. I call it a zombie film yet these undead ghouls take a backseat to what feels like a Mad Max/Western mash up.
After the seven gates of Hell opened up and unleashed the living dead onto the world mankind fell into ruins. In this dead world Rafael Tombini stars as an unnamed police officer who is still trying to do his job. He is hunting a supernatural figure known as the Dark Rider who not only may be responsible for unleashing the apocalypse but also has ties into the Officers past before the world ended. His travels lead him to a small group of friendly survivors but when their safety becomes threatened he sets off on a path of revenge.
Beyond the Grave has a lot of trappings of the Western genre. From the nameless hero who is too busy with his mission to be a good guy to the mournful music and long shots of empty vistas (usually an unending road here) as well as slow action scenes Officer is like a modern day Clint Eastwood, albeit one who wears a black suit and wears a cracked pair of spectacles. Only talking when necessary and armed with a samurai sword and pistol he is an interesting character and one who spends the film with a bullet less gun (after using all his ammo in the intro sequence) that makes for some interesting scenarios. His opposite; the Dark Rider dresses like a cowboy and wears a gas mask. This being of evil is able to come back from the dead and is armed with a gun that fires bullets made from bones. Out of all the characters in the film these are two who really stand out being polar opposites of each other and both fixed with a drive to defeat the other.
There are quite a few zombies to be found here but they pose such little threat that no one really takes them seriously. They move painfully slowly and often don't even seem interested in the living though their bite will turn one still. With the supernatural element it is suggested they go wherever the Dark Rider goes but they are figures of pity more than of dread with the Rider and his lackeys who are the real monsters of the film.
The Kill Bill style story of revenge is quite well handled and gives drive to root for Officer, a mid film plot twist I did not expect and really was quite brutal and unexpected. The middle of the film has a short interlude set before the apocalypse which was a nice buffer for the 90 minute piece while either side is lots of mournful silence and driving around punctuated with lo-fi action set pieces. The bad guys all have distinct looks to them and there are some interesting ideas used. One of the bad guys is armed with a harmonica that plays a note that makes peoples ears and eyes bleed for instance.
While in Spanish there is not too much dialogue to begin with anyway. There are musings on the futility of living and the lack of trust in the world now that no one can really be trusted, while the best parts come as Officer is driving around in his cool looking car and a lone radio station broadcasts music inter cut with a man talking about his sad past and how the world has ended. This radio is used to flesh out the back story of the world in a more natural way than characters suddenly mentioning the cause.
The film has quite a low budget it seems but this works for the wasteland where the only places visited are dilapidated, blood smeared buildings and special effects are practical ones that just gave me a nostalgic hit of 70's and 80's exploitation films. My only real complaint there is that a crossbow that is used quite a lot is completely silent, at times I got briefly confused when people fell down dead until it showed the close up shot of a wooden bolt sticking out of them. A big finale that I was looking forward to (and turned out not exactly the finale) was over all too quickly and left me a bit disappointed. The characters all seem fine, there was no one that particularly seemed terrible, was just a shame that the English subtitles were not perfect and so sometimes I had to translate in my head what was actually meant to be said.
Beyond the Grave was an interesting piece, very different to the norm and I loved how the zombies were handled with them seeming like victims rather than true monsters. A sombre look at the fate of mankind with a great soundtrack. This is currently free to watch on Hulu USA.
Sunday, 19 April 2015
I must admit I was pretty disappointed with The Evil Within, I found the plot uninteresting and the controls and mechanics just a bit too fiddly. The first of the three DLC add ons was released back in March but I have only just got around to playing through it. There will be spoilers about The Evil Within's plot so proceed with caution!
The Assignment follows Julie Kidman who in the main game was revealed to be working with a shady organisation that was responsible for all the horror unleashed (in short the plot revolved around a sinister dream machine that was haunted by Ruvik; an evil madman). The plot here starts midway into the main games storyline and shows just what Kidman got up to at the many points she got lost or separated from Sebastian (the main game's hero) as well as provide back ground on just why she turned out to be working for the bad guys.
This is a different beast to the action heavy shenanigans of Seb's story in that you pretty much don't actually get access to any weapons. As a result you spend a lot of the game crouch walking around doing your best to avoid being spotted by the zombie like Haunted. Instead of a pistol you get a magical torch, this torch as well as its traditional job of providing illumination can also reveal hidden doors in the locations Kidman finds herself in as well as reveal the form of invisible Haunted enemies. I actually thought the lack of weapons was a great design choice, the action was not the main games strong point and being powerless really does make the game a more tense and frightening experience. Around halfway through you do get some cathartic shooting for a limited time that was really quite fun.
Much like the main game there are some trippy sequences where what your seeing changes before your very eyes. Doorways vanish, colour filters come on, flashbacks turn into present day, and the man who gave you your assignment pops up frequently almost like a speech based nemesis (usually with a sudden burst of static filling the screen).
Often you find that DLC just involves a load of recycled areas and while it is true that you visit quite a few identical locations things feel fresh as you get to go to areas in these places that were locked to Sebastian. Also interesting is that some of the random locations you get warped to (a design choice I hated) get some back story, for example you get to go to the village Kidman grew up in that previously just seemed like a random level. Finding out how Kidman gets to the main games cast was surprisingly well done as many times in that game she just popped up and vanished all the time. Also I appreciated how the developers went out of their way to explain why Kidman's levels are not as chock full of enemies, they didn't need to explain that so was a nice touch.
The Assignment is split into just two chapters, each one around an hour and a bit in length each, I was itching for more so when the proverbial end credits rolled I felt a bit deflated as the actual story was only half told, upto the end though I had a lot of fun with this. It turns out the next DLC due out sometime in April titled The Consequence is actually the second half of Kidman's story. This new story gives a bunch of familiar enemies but also has a couple of new ones, the best by far is a giant armless woman with a search light for a head who is The Assignments version of Silent Hill 2's Pyramid Head as she turns up at several points to both terrify you and hunt you down. The design for her is very freaky even if it is derivative.
On the one hand this first DLC is as a whole a lot better than the main game, by sticking to pretty much the one gameplay mechanic and taking away your ability to defend yourself the horror really ramps up. On the other side of the coin it is quite short and left me wanting more but for the price you do get value for money. Also the whole thing is still thickly letter boxed which I never thought was ever needed. But anyway if you were left cold by The Evil Within I would still say this DLC is worth playing.
Saturday, 18 April 2015
Corpse Party is a strange beast of a game. Originally released on the PC in 1996 the version I played for review was the remastered PSP version that came out in 2011 and featured a host of new content.
A group of teenage friends and their teacher have stayed late at school to help clean up after a festival. They decide to perform a friendship ritual named "Sachiko Ever After" which would ensure they would always be friends no matter what happened in their lives. Shortly after this ritual is performed however there is a sudden earthquake and the friends and their teacher all fall unconscious. They wake up to discover they have not only all been separated from each other but the school they now find they are in is very different to their one. In this dilapidated school lay countless corpses of students from various locations, it seems they have been transported to a hellish dimension where they are destined to roam the inescapable corridors and classrooms until they die of thirst and hunger, get murdered by the angry spirits haunting the place, or get possessed and kill themselves or each other...
Corpse Party was made using the popular RPG Maker program and it really shows as it has the most basic of graphics you can imagine. The game looks like an RPG of the 16 Bit generation and so you would imagine it would not be scary at all, yet this is a disturbing piece that really goes to some messed up places. This is barely a game and at times feels like an interactive novel, it is very linear and there is only really one right path through each of the games five chapters. There is no combat to speak of and barely anything else that requires any skill, a few switches to press, some key decisions to make that affect if you see one of the many bad endings or make it to chapters end, and a few ghosts to avoid but other than that it is all doing specific things to trigger the next plot beat.
There is lots of talking in this game, and it is all fully voiced but unless you are fluent in Japanese this will be lost on you. It is skippable, but not quickly enough for my liking. All I can say about the voice acting is that characters seem emotional and there are lots and lots of blood curdling screams of pain and anguish as well as plenty of creepy voices saying some horrific things. Key characters commit suicide, murder and die in horrible ways. Each chapter has a variety of 'wrong ends' which usually involves a graphic death scene described. These include someone whose tongue gets cut out their mouth, being buried alive, being stabbed to death with a pair of scissors and many other brutal demises. The text is very well written and more than makes up for not understanding the language being spoken. Never before in a game has merely reading text on a screen made me feel so disturbed and creeped out!
Each chapter sees you controlling a different set of students, all who are separated into alternate dimensions so that while they can't see each other they can see the results of other characters actions, so if a character dies in one dimension the corpse can be seen in other ones. The setting of the Heavenly Host Elementary School is a really quite scary one. Anyone who dies in the place suffers the pain of the method of their death for eternity. The hundreds of bodies scattered around the school all have I.D cards that give details on the name and school of the body as well as their method of death which builds up a picture that this place is a nightmare world.
For a game with so little actual game to it it falls onto the story to keep the player engaged, luckily this is a fantastic story mostly focused on a deranged teacher who kidnapped and killed students back in the 1970's. The initial few chapters deal with the students trying to cope and understand what has happened to them with the first three chapters all roughly forty five minutes in length. It is chapter four when the main plot comes into focus and all ramps up to the final chapter which took me around two and a half hours to complete. In this time you get to play as all nine of the cast and see things from their particular viewpoints and experience many powerful plot twists and cliff hangers. For me the Japanese sounding names really confused me as to who was who not helped by the fact that the pixelated look meant that the girl characters all looked kinda similar. The highlight was playing as a little girl looking for her big brother, her vulnerability is really made to feel real and you can't help but feel fear for her safety.
Some parts of the game were a bit too Japanse in feel and left me feeling quite alienated. Early on a character keeps going on about her backside being itchy which was a really weird thing, while a later scene that is a flashback to an earlier time sees a girl playing with her younger brother in a bathroom that has huge implications of incestuous actions that left me feeling uncomfortable in a bad way. There are some nasty subject matters Corpse Party covers that include rape, suicide, incest, paedophilia and murder and so this isn't a feel good game in the slightest. I must mention there is one sequence buried in chapter five that really gave me the fear!
New additions for the PSP and later versions include a whole bunch of extra students showing up in the game and frankly weird light hearted 'extra' chapters that follow various students from other schools doing such bizarre things like finding a friendly ghost his missing stylish hat and designer glasses. In all versions occasionally you are treated to beautiful Manga artwork of particular scenes (usually of corpses it must be said). The music is tense and moody and really helps with the pure bleakness, though ramps up to some awesome dramatic music for the whole of chapter five.
Overall the story and setting of Corpse Party is the thing that kept me going. The idea of a closed space where children all over Japan have found themselves eternally trapped in, suffering their own personal nightmares is an engaging one that feels so fresh. Students leaving desperate notes ranging from the darkly humorous to the bleak constantly make this setting feel real and horrific (one student who writes about being so thirsty that he decides to cut his wrists open to drink his own blood, others who resort to cannibalism and depraved acts on the corpses of their friends),
For such a basic looking thing this frankly amazes me at how creepy and sinister it manages to be without really even trying. You wont get through this without at least being disturbed at least a few times but for some the lack of actual gameplay may well put them off long before the end credits roll, as may the often perverted dialogue it should be said.
Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Invasion of the Undead is an indie horror comedy that was filmed on a budget of $17,000 and was made based on similar films of the 1980's. It wears its influences on it's sleeve giving at once a familiar feeling while also feeling modern.
When Allison Hillstead (Marie Barker) discovers a zombie in her bathroom she doesn't quite know what to do, that is until a passing girl scout gives her the business card of a duo of paranormal exterminators. However the two exterminators; nerdy Jake and his best friend; cocky Desmond (Greg Garrison) are quite new at their business and soon find themselves in over their heads when a literal army of the undead appears. It turns out the ghouls are under the command of the deadly Guy Smiley who has links to the demon realm and has set in motion plans to take over the world.
At first I worried that the humour would be too overbearing and take the focus off the plot, my concerns soon faded as after a bizarre start the comedy faded into the background. It is still there constantly but it never gets in the way and for the most part works in the context it is used in. The main actors Barker and Garrison are both attractive leads and also quite likable, The character Desmond in particular was someone it was easy to root for as he came off like a young Han Solo portraying the loveable rogue type, heroic, but doesn't use his head enough. The same can't be said for his bookish partner Jake who pretty much only uses his head.
Before I carry on I have to talk about the amazing zombies, ones which really have a completely unique look for the zombie genre. The first sighting of a zombie was not impressive, it looked very fake and weird looking but I soon came to realise this was a planned style. The zombies remind me of something you would see on a ghost train ride at a tacky fairground, they have weird angular heads and bright red lights for eyes and all of them appear to be decked in day-glo make-up like something from a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration, or the gang from the alley scene in Batman Forever. Main zombie Guy Smiley has the best design featuring as he does a gigantic grin covering his whole face that glows bright blue or red depending on his mood. Again with the references but The Mighty Boosh also sprang to mind with the kinda tacky effects but at the same time oddly sinister. Time and time again I was just hypnotised by the special look, it really saved the film for me as traditional zombies and I don't think I would have enjoyed this as much.
The plot is simple enough but it has some classy ways to advance the story. Some flashbacks to a hundred years past really look the part, while the brief looks at the demon dimension feel quite trippy. Best of all later on there is a fight with a stop motion creature that looks fantastic in that jerky movement way of the style. There is minimal cast but they do an adequate job, the acting is not the best I have ever seen but it is certainly the right side of average. The humour works also which is a plus, I did laugh out loud at a couple of points mostly concerning the disembodied talking head that Allison ends up carrying around with her. Kudos must also be brought to the great soundtrack that worked fantastically in tune with the visuals.
On the horror side of things Invasion of the Undead is not a scary film in the slightest feeling like more of an action piece but echoing the more child friendly horrors of the 80's despite some occasional strong language (thankfully no shoe-horned in female nudity here). It has some strong connections to videogames which pop up throughout; the zombies brightly flash when attacked, with one boss type one flashing red repeatedly when nearly defeated. The boss style battles even have title cards for the two fighters while a sword fight sees one sword glowing halogen blue and the other one glowing halogen red (echoes of Scott Pilgrim VS. the World).
Some of the blood effects are quite terrible with cuts seeming like they are just painted on but elsewhere the special effects really do shine, such as Jake who just looks fantastic by the films end (his role reminded me a lot of a similar character in Lollipop Chainsaw). At times Invasion of the Undead verges on the precipice of outstaying it's welcome even at it's 80 minutes run time but it just manages to cling on in my opinion. It is refreshing to get characters who you can actually like
The combination of traditional movie monsters merged with electronic lights and glow in the dark make-up creates something that feels really quite modern (such as for once great use of CGI) yet hanging on to the beloved sensibilities of the time when horrors didn't need to be grim, they could just be fun throwaway escapism. Sure it may call to mind a whole host of other media but it has enough ideas to stand on its own. Invasion of the Undead is available to rent or to buy on Vimeo.
Friday, 10 April 2015
Many saw Resident Evil: Revelations as a return to form for the iconic horror series that has lost its way recently with convoluted plot lines and an increasing focus on action. Originally released on the Nintendo 3DS it was later upgraded to HD and released on consoles. The version I am reviewing is not only the original hand held version, but also played without the circle pad pro meaning I only had the one analogue stick. That fact is important as it does factor into my overall enjoyment of the game.
The story (set between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5) is unfortunately quite a mess though true to the games name it does hold some revelations. From what I could piece together one year after an organisation called Veltro destroyed a pretentious floating city in a biological terrorist attack Jill Valentine and her partner Parker are sent by the B.S.A.A (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) to investigate a ship in search of Chris Redfield and his partner Jessica who went missing while investigating claims that Veltro were back in action.
Revelations takes place over twelve chapters, each one of which is usually split into two or three smaller sections. These bite size chunks work well on a handheld, while the various locations and character swaps theoretically keep things feeling fresh. Each chapter ends on a cliff hanger and begins with a recap montage feeling like a TV episode. My first complaint though is the fact that for around 90% of the game you are exploring with an A.I partner in tow. The A.I is inoffensive, not requiring healing, and has infinite bullets but just by their presence a lot of the fear that had the potential to be there is gone.
The characters of Jill and Chris are the same as they ever where but I took more complaints with the newer ones. Most chapters see you flipping between various duos, Jill's gruff partner Parker is fine enough, but Chris's partner Jessica looks ridiculous in an outfit that is just not practical seeming almost half naked for no good reason at all. Even worse at some points in the game you get to play as one half of a comedy duo. Two idiots making bad jokes and getting into 'zany' situations does not fit right with a horror game, the segments featuring these guys did admittedly break up some of the histrionics but did not stop them from feeling really out of place.
Revelations does not stick to survival horror despite a strong start with Jill alone exploring the mysterious Queen Zenobia. In general Jill's levels are more traditional while Chris's levels are far more action centred and the other characters (such as Parker's flash back levels) are even more like straight up action. The controls do not work well for action though, the missing analogue stick was keenly felt with a stodgy camera meaning I often got attacked by creatures I could not see, or turn quickly enough with the tank controls to fend off threats. When you want to attack an enemy you go into a first person perspective which makes for an easier time at shooting but means you can't move. You also have access to a device that lets you scan the environment for hidden items and scan enemies to gain extra healing items but this is fiddly to use and means your gun is not quick to hand.
There are no zombies at all to be found here, instead the main enemy type is some sort of humanoid leech creatures that latch onto you with their jaws, or fire organic projectiles at you. These creatures are meant to have once been humans so I guess they are vaguely zombie like. Returning favourites include monster dogs and the threatening lizard monsters; Hunters who also turn up later on as invisible enemies. There are quite a few bosses to fight none of which are that hard, but most of them are passable, some enjoyable ones where you are operating a gatling gun, and the end boss itself I did find an enjoyable battle as it felt quite low key and old school. To fight all these you get the usual assortment of guns, three of which can be carried at any one time, and it is easy to switch between these weapons.
The reduced graphical fidelity of the 3DS means the game looks kinda Resident Evil lite at times, enemies dissolve when killed to save on memory and locations in general are not too detailed. The adventure mainly takes place on board the huge Queen Zenobia ship that features a variety of different places, but you also get to go to a pretentious floating city as well as the snowy mountainous wastes where a Veltro facility is located. While the graphics are not the best the same can't be said for the many, many cut scenes that all look decent, and the music is not bad, it is just a shame that the plot is a giant convoluted mess that makes little sense
I did enjoy Revelations but at the same time I have to say it is not a fantastic game, merely an adequate one that just manages to stay on the right side of interesting. At around 8 hours long there is value to be had here also even if a lot of locations are revisited time and time again. If you are playing this with two analogue sticks then add on another zombie head to my score.
Thursday, 9 April 2015
I recently posted a review of Bodom which is a Hungarian found footage horror about two students investigating some strange murders at Lake Bodom. For directors Jozsef Gallai and Gergo Elekes they have decided their next film is to be another found footage film, this time called Moth.
The brief synopsis is that a student and his enthusiastic lecturer head to Europe to investigate the mythology of the Mothman legend and find themselves caught up in horror.
As well as direct the film Jozsef Gallai is also the writer for Moth and co-stars as Adam the student. I quite enjoyed Bodom and hope that Moth builds on the style displayed there. The film is due for release January 2016. Check out the teaser trailer below...
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
Back in October last year I did a small blog post about Wasted; a pitch for a zombie comedy themed TV show that followed a bunch of stoner losers post zombie apocalypse. While it was unsuccessful in the competition it had been entered in there is now a new opportunity, this time with CineCoup. There is a 12 week online challenge for people to submit their ideas with the winner getting funding to make a feature film (rather than a TV show this time around). The creators of Wasted have made a short film to get their pitch across which I have just seen.
In the twelve minute film a bunch of stoner friends sit around a TV playing zombie videogames and watching zombie films. One of them poses the question of what they would do if the undead rose up in real life which leads to dream sequences of each of the four guys imagining themselves in the apocalypse, each of which goes wrong for them (such as one of them managing to blow up a car accidentally while trying to refuel it). After this talk the gang leave their house to discover the apocalypse actually has happened...
I'm not going to do a proper review with ratings and all that as this does feel like the intro to the idea being posed. Also the film is described as a rough cut and as such there were some noticeable sounds missing and some rough special effects used as well as plenty of dodgy CGI work. As a concept though it did get my interest, sure the acting was not fantastic (nor terrible, merely ok) but the conversation was interesting enough and I thought the dream sequences felt quite novel in a zombie based sense. One of the characters was super irritating which was a minor annoyance but overall it was enjoyable enough.
Now there is just two days left for the Top 60 voting on the CineCoup site and to my credit I only found out about this a week last Tuesday when the competition had been going on for 11 weeks by that point. If you want to vote for Wasted and hopefully get it into a winning position then head on over to the site (here).
Sunday, 5 April 2015
Surgeon Marta are one of my favourite bands, I love their stuff. As it is a lazy Sunday for me I thought it was about time I put one of their videos up on my blog. Send More Cops! is a tribute to Return of the Living Dead, of course an iconic scene of that film has zombies requesting more cops and paramedics to turn up so that they can be eaten. The zombie themed band Send More Paramedics were also obviously influenced by Return also.
In the video (which is about eating the police) zombies chant at the camera in a scene filmed in black and white with footage of Surgeon Marta cut in. Later in the video a bunch of zombies assault a house, a woman inside tries to hold them off with the aid of a rifle but the ghouls manage to get in and corner her. It all ends with zombies eating the intestines of a poor guy.
A fun video which really does not take itself seriously, and a good song in its own right. As an interesting aside the making of this video apparently led to Surgeon Marta getting evicted from the house they were renting which is kinda funny. Anyway check out the video below...
Saturday, 4 April 2015
Outburst (or Udbrud as it is called in Danish) is a short forty minute zombie film directed by Henrik Anderson, It was made as homage to the exploitation films of the 1970's and 80's and features plenty of gore.
A young woman is having breakfast with her Mum and Dad when she gets caught up in a zombie outbreak, escaping out onto the street things are even worse and so she makes her escape on foot, and then later on by car. With pustule covered undead apparently everywhere is there really any place to escape to?
The film is in Danish with English subtitles available but with the exception of a voice over at the very start of Outburst there is no dialogue at all. The nameless girl not once uttering a single word, nor the undead around her. I can see why it was done this way as there would be not much reason for someone on their own to talk in the first place, but it also helps make the film appeal more to an international audience. The voice over gives an overview of such stating about the population growth the world has experienced in the last couple of hundred years and how in the middle ages population growth was naturally tempered by the outbreak of epidemics. It also throws some analogies about how people exist only to eat nowadays which of course can be contrasted with the zombies who also seem to appear just to eat.
Outburst reminded me a lot of Peter Jackson's early films Brain Dead and Bad Taste in that humour is mixed in with over the top violence and lashings of blood and guts. The director has stated that the biggest influences were Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci and these influences are obvious to see Nowadays it is the curse of film makers, especially ones making low budget films to rely on CGI for the effects. Here this is not the case (apart from some gunfire later on). People get their stomachs ripped open and insides pulled out, throats get slashed and heads destroyed, even an eye ball gets pulled out all in glorious practical effects that look at the same time unrealistic but also awesome. There is a lot of blood sprayed out from missing limbs and cut arteries, frequently the floor is awash with blood and this gore is focused on with even the camera lens getting sprayed at various times.
The humour is quite surreal and weird and comes at fits and bursts. A squirrel waving hello to some kids, a woman's compulsion to squeeze a boil on her husbands head and some over the top deaths leads to some bizarre and gross humour that made me feel quite queasy at times.
Zombies do not need a lot of make up to become effective foes but here they get a really unique look. The zombies are all covered in pustules, some of them have most of their faces obscured by large white lumps, this could not help but remind me of the ghouls you battle in The Last of Us. I was impressed with the make up of the zombies for sure, though it was inconsistent at times with it being really obvious that some were treated to contact lenses which really completed the look, while others had no such things and stood out more for having normal looking eyes.
My other complaint is a bit of a double edged one. There are plenty of child zombies in Outburst, and it is really quite funny how a serene fairytale neighbourhood transforms so rapidly into utter chaos. Children never feature enough in the average zombie film so I am not complaining about that. It is just a shame a lot of the children are (understandably) having a fun time and don't hide that on their beaming faces when they are meant to be the ravenous undead.
The plot is a bit all over the place and goes to some strange places seeming to skip genres at one point. This often feels more like a concept piece than an actual film and the final scene leaves the zombie genre altogether and heads into the post apocalypse genre feeling like something straight out of Mad Max (which was very intentional). Characters of all types dressed in ridiculous get up such as gas masks, jewelled eye patches and guy liner. Quite a cool action sequence entirely takes place in cartoon form which was a neat way to approach that particular bit.
All in all I did enjoy Outburst and I really liked the physical special effects used, gave me a twinge of nostalgia as for the most part films like this are just not made any more. A more tighter plot and a finale that didn't feel like it was taken from a different film and this would have been essential viewing. As it is I do think it is worth a watch if you have more than a passing interest in zombies.
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Now on the fifth season and The Walking Dead shows no sign of growing stale. Season 4 was in my opinion the best yet so this season had some big shoes to fill. There will be spoilers for previous seasons so if you have never watched the show then don't read the review! There will be unavoidable spoilers for season 5 but I will keep them to a bare minimum.
With Terminus turning out to be nothing more than a cannibal food bank it is up to Rick Grimes and his crew to escape the cursed place and look for real salvation. Eugene's promise of safety in Washington leads the group on a deadly road trip, ones that begins to blur the line between the living and the dead. Will there be sanctuary at the end of their journey this time around or is it just another pipe dream?
Season 4 worked for me so well due to it starting off pretty average and just getting better and better and better. This time around I would say season opener No Sanctuary was actually the most action packed and (literally) explosive episode, there was nothing in the rest of the season to match it in terms of spectacle. Instead there is a slew of rock solid episodes that are all expertly crafted and handled and each have something unique and interesting to offer (with the exception of two, but more on those later). There are a couple of interesting flashbacks that offer more insight into characters (such as a great one of Eugene and Abraham meeting for the first time) and even some great hallucinations that feature some dead people reappearing such as the Governor (looking ace).
Following on from the success of character specific episodes Rick's group soon gets split up and so there are various episodes focusing on either half of the gang as well as answering some lingering questions from season 4 such as the whereabouts of Beth. As always this way of doing episodes helps really bring out the character of some of the more minor characters who can tend to get swamped when everyone is on screen together. There are far more other groups of survivors encountered then ever before, the post apocalyptic world has far more humans than I ever pictured which makes for some nice conflict (as I always say humans are far more dangerous than the walkers).
As always no character is really ever safe but here this promise actually becomes irritating due to the high frequency of fantastic characters being killed off, usually just as they become likable, Time and time again big chunks are dedicated to making average characters more interesting only for them to then die soon after. There are at least three big ones killed off in this way while the more annoying ones survive to ruin things another day. The big theme of season 5 is Ricks realisation that humans have become the walking dead, that everyone is living on borrowed time, but the theme I picked out was that if your cowardly and pathetic then you are more likely to live.
Zombie effects in The Walking Dead just get better and better, the undead here look frankly amazing and even better is the amount of violence they have inflicted against them. They have rotted to the stage were it really doesn't take much to severely damage them, such as house favourite Daryl swinging a chain into three zombies which removes their heads, to a poor ghoul getting her head jammed in a car door and squished into pulp. The human death sequences also seem to have gotten more gruesome, one in particular had a characters cheek ripped off; really quite graphic!
One slightly annoying thing I noticed that for some episodes characters just do not appear with no explanation given. Michonne vanished one episode, while another featured a party where characters are shown to be looking awkward and out of place in such a foreign setting but all I could notice was that Eugene and new character; the cowardly priest Father Gabriel were just missing for no good reason for that entire episode. Maybe it was to save on paying everyone wages, or maybe they were not available for filming those days? There are two episodes out of the sixteen in this season that just played out a bit too quietly for my liking. I spend the whole time out of my mind with anxiety and stress for the groups safety and then the second they find somewhere that may be safe I start wishing something terrible would happen; I'm a bad person it seems!
Season 5; it's an amazing season, that much is true but it doesn't feel as fresh as season 4 frequently did. With an amazing opening and some tense sequences throughout I feel like this is probably my second favourite season, though far too many decent characters are killed off. I also found the use of licensed music to be quite effective, in my mind is Try which opens with Nine Inch Nails playing, makes a change to the usual score. It all ends with an enjoyable finale that really sets up the plot for season 6, counting down the days already.
P.S: Spin off series Fear the Walking Dead is due to air this summer,