Saturday, 21 October 2017

Happy Death Day (2017) - Horror Film Review

I fell in love with Happy Death Day (directed by Christopher Landon of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) the moment I saw the trailer due to the glaring similarities between it and Groundhog Day. I loved that film due to the person stuck in time loop idea, and this is pretty much the same idea here, but with the added twist of each day ends for our heroine with her being murdered by the same mystery figure. Even that idea isn't wholly original as a similar concept occurred in Supernatural: Season 3 in the episode Mystery Spot where Sam was constantly reliving the same day in which his brother Dean was destined to die.

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on her birthday in Carter's (Israel Broussard) dorm room after seemingly having a one night stand after getting very drunk the night previous. She has no idea who the boy is and brusquely leaves. During her day Tree is shown to not be that nice a person, such as being in the midst of an affair with a married lecturer at her university, standing her father up at a meal he had planned, and generally being mean to everyone she interacts with. That night while walking home alone she gets attacked by a hooded figure wearing a baby mask (the baby being the university's football team mascot). She wakes up to discover herself back in Carter's room and soon discovers she is reliving the same day over and over again, each day ending with her murder at the hands of the hooded figure. Tree decides the only way to break the curse of the time loop she has found herself trapped in is to stop her killer from killing her...

Many story beats here are extremely similar to Groundhog day, so much so in fact that characters specifically mention that film (in a scene that was awkwardly implemented and kind of fourth wall breaking). It was fun they acknowledge the influence as this is very similar in style, except the slasher of course. As the same day repeats and repeats Tree starts to go a little crazy that is shown via a humorous montage, eventually she goes on a voyage of self improvement that culminates in one perfect day when she becomes who she needs to be for the various people she encounters. The way events happen is so familiar that this could really be seen as an unofficial sequel to that Bill Murray classic. Rothe is great in her role being able to bring a lot of fun to her character, her facial expressions in particular were always funny, whether it be from exasperation at finding herself in the same situation time and time again, or her knowing wink and nods to the various people she keeps bumping into. Yet when the time calls for it she can also come across as a determined heroine.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Talon Falls (2017) - Horror Film Review

I love horror films, I love how varied they can be, how much scope for different elements they can create. Some films set out to make you think, some films set out to make you scared, and some, like Talon Falls just aim to give you a damn fun time.

Four teenage friends out on a road trip in Southern Kentucky get convinced by a local shop keeper to make a detour to a local scream park called Talon Falls. Arriving there they start to explore the crowded attraction and are both repulsed and thrilled by the scenes of torture they see that actors rather than dummies. At least that is what they assume is happening, but halfway around and they find themselves captured by the burly rednecks that run the park and begin to realise that the 'actors' in the torture rooms are actually unwilling victims being killed for real (and also feature in a snuff film sideline venture). The friends must find a way to escape the nightmare they have found themselves in before they too get their time in the spotlight...

While this has some issues (of which I will get into later) by the time the end credits rolled I had a huge grin on my face, this is a horror that sets out to entertain before anything else. There are plenty of scenes of gruesome violence, and plenty of chase sequences, mostly featuring the final girl Lyndsey (Morgan Wiggins). It is no spoiler to say she is the final girl as the film does that beloved trope of having events start with her in the present before flashing back. The premise is that she is in hospital retelling the story to a Doctor of how she came to be rescued by a trucker. This was a strange mix of House of 1000 Corpses (due to the near identical story), and of torture porn films such as Hostel.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Ritual (2017) - Horror Film Review

The Ritual is a British made horror directed by David Bruckner (The Signal) that takes place in some vast woods in Sweden and seems to be very much based on the folklore of the area, and is also an adaptation of the book of the same name (a book written by Adam Nevill who has glowing recommendations, I shall have to check out some of his work). It features beautiful scenery and some great characters, but can the 'lost in the wood' plot device work well any more after countless other films with the same idea?

Four 30 something friends have decided to go on a hiking trip in Sweden, they include Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton). The trip is in memory of their friend Robert who was murdered during an armed robbery at a convenience store him and Luke had got caught up in. On the way back to their hiking lodge Dom badly twists his ankle, the group decide that rather than stick to the route, they are going to take a short cut through a nearby wood. However the deeper into the woods the group gets the more weird things start happening to them, and the more they start to suspect they are not alone...

The cinematography in The Ritual is stunning, that's the biggest thing I took away from watching this. The woods may be large and very foreboding but it looks amazing and there are no end of neat camera shots to show us this. In many ways this felt like The Blair Witch Project done with a budget, obviously it is not found footage in style but it has many of the same story beats such as local legends, the discovery of weird symbols, people getting lost in the woods, members of the group vanishing mysteriously etc. The first two thirds of this kept my attention far more than the final third, I actually enjoyed the being lost aspect better rather than starting to understand what is going on. I loved how there was a gradual drip feed of terror to the hapless heroes, it starts with discovering a fresh animal carcass pinned to a tree and culminates with the foursome spending the night in a creepy cabin that happens to have a strange altar upstairs. Waking up after all having had similar nightmares there was an element of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 to things at the absolute insanity that occurs. Phil for example being discovered naked, praying at the strange altar, but with no memory of how he came to be doing that.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Survivor: A Tale from the Nearscape (2017) - Post Apocalyptic Short Film Review

Christopher Carson Emmons directed short The Survivor: A Tale from the Nearscape is a near 12 minute award winning post apocalyptic film that stars a silent protagonist and looks quite impressive at the sense of world it creates. It tells a simple story but one that comes across well thanks to the directing.

This takes place in a post apocalyptic world where the outside air has become toxic to breathe. A young boy goes on a supply run to gather water and medicine for his sick mother, avoiding infected, cults, and the brutal police force as he does so.

The best part of The Survivor is the set dressing and costume design, some such as the police uniforms are great looking, while the dilapidated wastelands the boy travels looks authentic enough. For a 12 minute film there is a lot that happens, such as three separate chase sequences, a couple of dialogue scenes and some nice but brief action. A lot of the narrative initially comes from the boy's toy robot that has an A.I chip built into it and so provides information about the world the boy is travelling through. This is provided by a voice that has been added over the footage and so seemed a bit odd at times. In a Fallout type of way I loved the idea of an A.I infused children's toy though. So at first the suspense comes from the decreasing oxygen supply the boy is fitted with, the infected of this seem more ill than anything, though a sequence where a narrow alleyway leads to hands bursting out of walls and even a tyre create a type of zombie vibe.

At times the acting wasn't the strongest but the many characters felt like they belonged in the world, especially interesting was the supply shop that had a kind of washed out Z Nation vibe to it. The police chase towards the end felt at odds with this complete sense of law and order having broken down but it gave meaning to television interference shown earlier and at the end of the short, hinting at a bigger cohesive world than what is shown here. It also of course is an indication of the total divide between the general population and those still in control.

With some nice special effects, unobtrusive CGI, and a hero's journey The Survivor is a nice little foray into a doomed world, one that is helped, not hampered by the main characters muteness. This short is currently being shown at a variety of film festivals, and is available to watch on YouTube.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Something Scary (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Something Scary is the third short horror film to come from Andrew J.D Robinson, the others being Placebo, and A Walk Home Alone. This actually stars Aileigh Karson who also featured in Placebo. Horror and video games are two of my favourite things so when I saw Robinson's latest short was going to marry the two things together I had high hopes, but for me it just didn't quite come together.

Karson stars as GamerGurl; an online star of a YouTube style video game channel. She has received a beta of horror game Something Scary and is going to stream her playthrough live for her fans to watch, however once she starts playing things begin to get strange...

First off, I loved how this was presented, the short is shown almost like it is a video you would watch online, most the time GamerGurl is on video in the corner of the screen with the fake game taking up the rest. The game has nostalgic pixelated graphics which feeds over into the end credits that have a similar look to them. Karson is a great choice for lead, she comes across as naturally likeable and talks to the camera well, which is helped by the editing for her segments. The game she is playing looks pretty basic, but that is totally understandable as this is an indie film, I wouldn't expect something looking stunning so it does the job it was created to do. For me though I wasn't sure which of the several little twists were meant to be the scary part, none of them felt like they hit home to me personally. I even re-watched this 4 minute short a few times to see if I had missed something.

While the actual horror aspect didn't work for me in terms of originality this was good, I haven't seen a short horror set out in this way before. Also with Karson you have a lead who fitted the character she was acting as very well, and the style of the short is pretty cool. Something Scary is by no means a bad piece of work, it had some good ideas going for it, but to me it just felt constrained by the short run time that seemed to get in the way of some of those neat ideas getting to flourish.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I Am Alone (2015) - Zombie Film Review

Zombie films always hold a special place in my heart, after all zombies are the reason I started this blog just over 9 years ago. As such I always look especially forward to seeing any films featuring the undead. Award winning I Am Alone is another found footage, it is all I seem to be getting sent my way lately, however it is also true it has been a long time since I have seen a bad one and thankfully this doesn't fall into that camp. Found footage films in the zombie genre are rare, but there have been a fair few over the years, most notably the late, great George Romero's Diary of the Dead. Despite obvious budget constraints in places this indie effort by director Robert A. Palmer (who also co-wrote this with Michael A. Weiss) shines tall in this niche sub-genre, mostly due to the heart on show here.

The film begins mid zombie apocalypse and cameraman Mason Riley (Gunner Wright) finds himself a 'guest' of the CDC. It is explained to him that his friend, and star of a survivalist reality TV show Jacob Fitts (Gareth David-Lloyd) after being bitten managed to resist succumbing to the undead plague for days and days, when in every other example known the victim had turned within minutes. Mason, producer Adam, and Jacob had been up in the Colorado Rockies where Jacob had set off alone to film a 7 day survival challenge, it had been when Mason and Adam had returned to the local town that the trouble began. Now the CDC want to go through the pieced together footage they retrieved from the three men in order to try and figure out just what it was about Jacob that allowed him to resist the disease for so long...

I applauded Hell House LLC just the other day for doing something different than just pure found footage and so it was nice to see I Am Alone also try something different. The footage is intercut with the present day sections that take place in the interrogation room of the CDC. Mason and his interrogator; Dr. Marlow (Marshal Hilton) are physically watching the footage on an old CRT TV. These sections are where the budget is at it's most obvious as reminded me of a mid 90's video game FMV, in a cool way though as it was always a treat to come back here and get perspectives of what was going on by the duo watching. As with all good films shot in this style it follows the tried and tested formula of events eventually surpassing the flashbacks (so to speak). I liked the ticker tape display that was updating on how much of the population was estimated to be one of the walking dead, and the infrequent power outages hinted at what was to come.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

If you had asked me before yesterday the last time I had taken some decent time to play PSVR I wouldn't have been able to tell you. It was my favourite purchase of 2016 and I had some great times with it at the start of 2017 with Resident Evil VII: Biohazard but I had come to think of it as being pretty poor. In my head it was a let down. However I decided to give Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul a go as I had brought it when it first came out a few months back, but only tried it for around 10 minutes. I'm really glad I did give this another whirl as it reminded me how damn good PSVR actually is with an immersive and genuinely terrifying experience.

In the game you play as an unnamed person arriving at night at what appears to be a typical American house. Finding the key you let yourself in but it isn't long before you discover something isn't right at all, a demonic force is prowling the place and hunting both you, and a mysterious girl you find. Armed with a spell book you discover you must explore the house, finding the required items that will hopefully expel the dark evil...

So this falls into the 'walking simulator' of game types in that your avatar is totally helpless in terms of being able to defend themselves. You explore the large house with events happening that lead to new areas opening up. Along the way you find keys, letters, and key items, as well as cassette tapes that both shed more light on what has occurred and help you try and achieve your goal. While a lot of the environment can be interacted with, such as opening drawers and doors a lot also can't be interacted with, more often than not you will find your disembodied hands vanishing into the furniture. I got around this immersion altering fact by saying in my head that was just part of the spooky goings on. Less so is that while some doors can be interacted with (either making a locked noise or actually being able to be opened) there are some that just appear to be set dressing with no interaction at all. The controls are awkward in that you use the ever not perfect move controllers, thankfully there isn't the hateful teleporting to move around, instead you use the face buttons to move forward and backward, while you can turn incrementally to the sides. I really wish there had been the option to move around without the weird incremental turn thing.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Hell House LLC (2015) - Horror Film Review

Another day and another found footage, this time it is the turn of Stephen Cognetti's Hell House LLC which has a cool premise to it. I was actually sent a screener of the extended DVD version of the movie which has around 9 minutes of extra footage which was nice, I don't know what was added over the original but nothing seemed out of place. I often go on about 'new' and 'old' styles of making found footage, and this falls into the old style. The sub genre used to be known for frustrating shaky cam and blurred footage, of which there is some of that here. However the whole film is set out like a documentary with the footage incorporated in as part of this documentary so there is a nice sense of structure that combines well.

Five years after an unexplained event led to the death of a whole bunch of staff and visitors at the opening night at a Halloween haunted house tour set at an abandoned hotel, a film crew decide to make a documentary to explore what really happened (as there was a huge cover up by the local authorities). They manage to locate one of the original staff members; Sara (Ryan Jennifer) who not only gives her version of the story, but provides the crew with the footage the event planners filmed in the run up to opening night which forms the basis of their investigation.

I really enjoyed the style of this film, normally there are a few sentences on a black screen at the start as plausible explanation for why we are seeing found footage, but Hell House LLC goes the extra mile with the whole movie taking place as a produced documentary. I admit for the first five minutes I was almost convinced this was a legitimate show rather than a film. You have interviews with local towns people, experts in the field, and researchers, as well as news bulletins and footage filmed from one of the visitors. This initial first footage works in giving more questions than answers, it is heavily hinted that the horror that unfolded took place in the basement yet that is where the filming ends with the guest getting turned around before seeing anything. This part was also neat in unknowingly to the viewer at that time revealing what happened to staff members that then get much bigger roles in the meat of Hell House LLC.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Flatliners (2017) - Horror Film Review

I mentioned in my second news post of the week yesterday that the reason there was no review was due to the showing of Flatliners being on too late at my local cinema, and so now here is that review. When I was a child I remember my parents owning a VHS of the original Flatliners but aside from the first five or so minutes I never actually saw it. I had no idea whatsoever it was a horror so when I first watched the trailer for this re imagining I was quite surprised, and also interested.

Courtney (Ellen Page) is a junior doctor who has been researching the concept of the afterlife in her spare time after having lost her sister in a car accident she caused 9 years previously. She decides to carry out an experiment in which her heart is stopped so that she can have her brain waves analysed while she's dead, before being revived. She enlists the help of several other junior doctors; rich Jamie (James Norton), shy Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), serious Marlo, and intelligent Ray. The plan is carried out and Courtney returns to life having experienced something amazing, not only that but she is changed and has a new zest for life, while able to access parts of her memory that had been locked away (Limitless style). One by one her friends also have a go and for a little while all seems great. However they seem to have brought something back with them, something which wants to punish them for their most deepest, darkest secrets...

To me Flatliners felt like a cross between Final Destination and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The former in that the death that stalks the group is faceless, appearing as the form of the person the individual feels they have wronged in their past. For Courtney it is her sister, she gets frequent hallucinations that occur at any time and get increasingly more terrifying. For Marlo it is visions of the patient she accidentally killed during her second year as a junior doctor. There is the Final Destination vibe in that it is the environment that is the threat for the group, such as when Marlo hallucinates someone has put a bag over her head while she is driving causing her to nearly crash. The A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe comes from the afterlife experiences themselves, each starts off beautifully before slowly twisting into a Hell. Such as Jamie who is cheesily driving a motorbike through a deserted city with a beautiful girl clinging onto him, before he finds himself in a dilapidated neighbourhood all alone.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The First Date, Kill or Be Killed, Bye Bye Baby, The Black Gloves and Buckout Road - Horror Film News and Trailers

A second day of news and trailers for various films, yesterdays post was so well received that an encore was demanded, demanded! Or maybe it is due to going to a late screening of Flatliners, followed by a planned streaming of the PSVR Paranormal Activity game meaning I wont have time to do anything more substantial.

The First Date is a horror comedy anthology coming from Reel Nightmare Films (Hotel Camarillo) that has been released on Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video (US, UK and DE), and worldwide on Vimeo On Demand. The film's synopsis reads "Tired of the online dating world, a hopeful woman decides to give it one last try with a stranger who owns his own theatre has a collection of very strange short films." It is very hard to get an idea of what type of film this is going to be from the trailer, I'm assuming the short horrors all revolve about dates, the blurb says this includes paranormal scares, science fiction, thriller and b-movie comedy.

UK teen horror feature Kill or Be Killed is now out on DVD in the UK. Apparently this was first made way back in 2013 under the name Tag but has only just been released. It was directed by B.L Parker and written by Aaron Ellis (who also acts in this). Other actors include among them Ed Sanders (Sweeney Todd) and the very prolific Kim Sonderholm (Harvest). The story sounds interesting; 5 years after a group of teenagers were found dead in mysterious circumstances a paranormal investigator interviews the only survivor, who happens to be in prison having been convicted of murder. This survivor insists that the friends were forced into a deadly game of 'tag' by an inhuman force.

Bye Bye Baby is the latest short film from director Pablo S.Pastor (his previous film being the award winning Into the Mud) and is part of the 2017 Sitges Festival's Official Selection. In the short a woman plans to spend a quiet night home alone, but after a friend's call things start to go very wrong and she starts to wonder if she is actually really alone in the house. This is described as a homage to horrors such as Scream and Halloween with the intent to make the viewer never want to be home alone ever again! The trailer certainly works at making you intrigued.

Unique director Lawrie Brewster's (Lord of Tears) latest film The Black Gloves is to make it's premiere at Horror Channel's FrightFest Halloween event in London, UK on 28th October. This black and white film is a prequel of sorts to Lord of Tears taking place in the 1940's, and tells the story of a psychologist obsessed with the disappearance of a young patient and the owl headed figure that haunted her dreams. Tickets for the FrightFest event can be found here if you want to go and see this. Meanwhile check out the awesome trailer, I really love this trailer, the bird type whistle is perfect here.

Finally to close off today's batch of film news comes the trailer for Buckout Road that marks the directorial debut of Matthew Currie Holmes and stars among others Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon I-IV), Evan Ross (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) and Colm Feore (House of Cards, Thor), as well as features the always awesome Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare) in a guest appearance. I have just seen the trailer and you can colour me impressed, this looks like it might actually be pretty scary, and a well made scary film at that. The plot revolves around a group of students whose research into the most haunted road in New York State; Buckout Road leads to a series of horrific urban legends about the location coming to pass. This award winning film is due to be shown on October 7th in Nashville, Tennessee as part of International Black Film Festival (tickets can be brought here) and on Friday 13th October in Toronto, Ontario as part of Commffest 2017 (tickets here).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Crazy Lake, Blood Runs Thick, The Wicked Gift and Tales of Frankenstein - Horror Film News and Trailers (and Z Nation news)

It is that time again when my inbox vomits out news of a horror nature, but first off a reminder that the fourth season of the always fantastic Z Nation started last week, with new episodes airing every Friday at 9/8c on Syfy. The first episode of the new season was as funny and crazy as ever so I feel this will be another great season.

Onto film news and we have Crazy Lake that came out 3rd October on VOD and DVD thanks to Indican Pictures. This homage to 1980's slashers was directed by Jason Henne and Christopher Leto and is about a group of several friends who get together at a remote camping spot. Things are going great until the appearance of an escaped convict who brings with him all sorts of crazy. I like how the trailer is edited with the escalation of noise, there are plenty of obnoxious youngsters, though little hint of the slasher side of things.

Director Romane Simon's latest film Blood Runs Thick has now got a teaser trailer. In this movie a young woman struggles with scary hallucinations and the onset of insanity after her husband goes missing. Included in the cast is Emily Killian (The Chosen), Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers, Twin Peaks) and Alexander Man (Voodoo Retribution). The teaser doesn't show too much but does feature a little girl with a demonic voice.

The Wicked Gift promises to represent the rebirth of Italian horror in cinema and comes from award winning independent actor/director Roberto D'Antona (The Reaping). It is due to come to the big screen on 6th December and has a plot that seems appropriate for Italian horror. Ethan suffers from insomnia due to terrifying nightmares, nightmares that he discovers conceal something more horrific than he could possibly imagine (seems to involve demons).

Finally for today is Tales of Frankenstein that stars Mel Novak (Game of Death's) and has Wolverine creator Len Wuin in his final film. It also features among its other actors T.J Storm (Deadpool), Jena Sims (Sharknado 5), and Ann Robinson (War of the Worlds). Despite the obvious low budget this actually sounds pretty interesting. This is an anthology of four different short films based on some of director/writer Donald F.Glut's stories in his book of the same name, and they all seem quite B-movie in style. This is due for release in 2018 which marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein novel. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign going to cover post-production costs, that can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Don't Knock Twice (2016) - Horror Film Review

While I will never complain about the amount of films I get sent my way to watch for review it does make it hard to find time to watch films of my own volition. I had been meaning to watch U.K based Don't Knock Twice for a trio of reasons, first as it is a horror that is available to watch on Netflix. The second reason it is an eligible film for the 2017 Fright Meter Awards (of which I am a committee member), and the final nail in the coffin was that there has been a PSVR game recently released that by all accounts is pretty dull, but which I am going to give a go anyway and thought the context of the film might add atmosphere to it.

Chloe (Lucy Boynton) and her friend are discussing an urban legend that was around when they were kids; the legend being that if you knock twice on the door of a certain abandoned house in the neighbourhood then it's ghostly occupant will do the same to your door and make you vanish. They decide to show how silly they were for being scared of this as kids by knocking on the house. Much to Chloe's horror (and maybe disgust at how petty this particular spirit is) her friend goes missing that same night. With increasing signs that she is next to be taken she decides to reunite with her estranged mother who gave her up for an orphanage 10 years previously but is now seeking to take her back having sorted her life out. The spooky goings on don't stop though, at first her mother; Jess (Katee Sackhoff) thinks her daughter is making up her tales of being stalked by an evil supernatural woman, but soon she too gets caught up in the events and must find a way to save her daughter from being taken...and unlike certain parents she doesn't have a 'particular set of skills'.

Don't Knock Twice is quite a by the numbers generic mainstream horror that to begin with did feel very similar to no end of others (Lights Out and The Bye Bye Man are a couple that come to mind). You have an evil force that follows some arbitrary rules and constantly shows up to cause problems for the main lead but who seems weirdly powerless and restrained from just straight up doing what it wants. This is where I had some of the biggest problems, though to the movies credit it often goes out it's way to explore these potential plot holes, such as the fact that the demonic woman isn't able to just appear and take Chloe due to the love of her mother protecting her from the spirits power. However this evil is kind of irritating more than dangerous to begin with, only causing trouble and chaos when none else is around, the usual horror film trope of no one believing the victim due to scary stuff only happening when she's alone. The demon is unpredictable in how it is able to operate, doors are key and there are some decent moments involving these as anything that opens can be turned into a gateway to the demon's realm. However at one point it is able to use the capability of a phone to prank call Chloe, and take pictures of her, this only occurred in one scene and felt quite out of place as at no other point does it use technology as a weapon of fear. Also I have to wonder how many hapless door to door salesmen or Jehovah witnesses have vanished over the years by knocking on the cursed door unaware of the legend?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Don't Let The Devil In (2016) - Horror Film Review

Why was that film so weird!? Is what I exclaimed when the end credits rolled for Don't Let the Devil In. Courtney Fathom Sell who wrote, directed, produced and edited this among other things certainly has a unique way of making films if this is anything to go by. At once this has traces of both The Wicker Man, of 80's Italian horrors and of a living nightmare wrapped up in a near arthouse style bow.

New York based John Harris (Marc Slanger) and his wife Samantha (Jordan Lewis) relocate to a small Appalachian town where John is to oversee the development of a casino as a land developer. They hope the change of scenery will allow them to heal after their loss as Samantha had recently had a miscarriage. However it soon becomes apparent that neither of them are welcome at all in the town, the casino is heavily opposed by the town folk, mainly due to the relocation many of the townsfolk face. They see John as the person to focus their hate onto. Aside from the outright hostility they face the couple soon come under more direct attack from what appears to be a group of Satanists.

The editing is maybe the best thing about Don't Let the Devil In, it is what made this so memorable to me with the audacious decision to feature several really important scenes off camera, and then just either suggested, or mentioned by characters as having occurred. This starts off early on when Samantha mentions seeing what appeared to be a strange altar hidden at the back of the local general store, as she recounts this discovery there is a quickly edited together sequence showing what she is describing. This happens time and time again, such as when John is arrested for being drunk in public, one scene he is laying on a bench, next scene he is behind bars, and another when he is just about to be attacked, then the scene cuts to the next day and him waking up all bloody by a river. This even applies to the big finale, it is all set up for something spectacular to happen then just fades to black with the viewer left to piece together what actually occurred by who is on screen and what they are doing. I loved this blase way of storytelling, not only does it make good use of a low budget but it also assumes the viewer isn't a complete idiot and lets them infer the events.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Die Laughing (2017) - Horror Film Review

Die Laughing is a found footage horror that is in line with the current vogue of having films that centre around a killer taking centre stage, much like Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, Capture Kill Release and A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex. While with each subsequent release these new type of found footage loose some of their shine, as long as you have a good main lead they can still entertain. While Die Laughing did get a pass due to Bob Golub's performance I do feel that it wont be long until much like the more older style these too will start to feel stale.

So Bob Golub stars as himself (and also co-wrote and co-directs), though unlike real life where he has had a successful career in both stand up and on film he instead plays a washed up comedian with a penchant for murder. Golub responds to an ad on Craigslist that was looking for someone who had killed, the poster intends to make a documentary on just what it is like to do that. However the filmmaker finds himself caught up in the goings on of Golub far more than he ever intended to.

This follows closely the format that has been seen in other films though straight away it kinds of trips itself up on the whole 'found' footage aspect. This was perhaps the loosest part as it never comes across as feasible throughout Die Laughing that anything would ever have been done with the footage due to the very incriminating evidence it shows. The filmmaker is a blank slate and doesn't do much but observe for the most part. While it seemed ridiculous that even after people start getting murdered the cameraman doesn't react in any sort of sane way it did become entertaining how uninvolved he became and how he doggedly becomes a hench man of sorts for Golub.

Friday, 29 September 2017

House by the Lake (2017) - Horror Film Review

House by the Lake (directed by Adam Gierasch of Night of the Demons) is a horror that tries something a little different in the way it paces its plot. This way didn't really work for me and made the film feel like two distinct chunks, just that one of the chunks was far briefer in time than the other.

Mismatched couple Scott (James Callis from Battlestar Galactica) and his wife Karen (Anne Dudek) have gone on holiday to a lakeside house along with their severely autistic 10 year old daughter Emma (Amiah Miller) and her helper Gwen (Natasha Bassett). Emma starts going on about someone she calls 'the fish man' which her parents assume to be an imaginary friend, however this man may be more real than they think...

Traditionally films have a three act structure, obviously a beginning, middle and end. With House by the Lake this structure didn't seem to be there. Usually in a horror you have the slow build up until around the halfway mark when the proper stuff begins, not so with this. Instead you have a slow gradual build up for over an hour, and then in less than ten minutes the horror begins in earnest. So the majority of this film is a drama and as dramas go it isn't bad. Scott and Karen are about as opposite as people can be, as an outsider the viewer can see how doomed they are. Karen is all about rules and very controlling, while Scott is the polar opposite, they have nearly zero chemistry together with that only appearing when they talk about the distant past, or when they get natural urges. This friction is compounded by Emma's new helper who happens to be a young and quite attractive woman. There are some good scenes with the three, especially when Gwen first appears, so much is shown by body language. I have a soft spot for Callis anyway as I loved him in Battlestar Galactica and here he does a fine job as does Dudek (though there is a really cringe worthy scene of Callis 'playing' a videogame by mashing random buttons on a X-Box 360 controller). This drama is all well and good but it is horror I wanted from this.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Forlorned (2016) - Horror Film Review

The Forlorned isn't the best horror I have seen, it suffers from budget constraints and a pretty ridiculous story. However to its credit it is entertaining, it doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't try to be something it has no hope of becoming. This was directed by Andrew Wiest (Dead Noon) and adapted from a book written by Angela Townsend.

Colton Christensen stars as Tom; a newly appointed lighthouse caretaker who is to live alone on the tiny island the lighthouse and accompanying house occupy. He is warned by local; Murphy (Cory Dangerfield) about the dark past the island has, of the previous caretakers descents into madness, but he doesn't put much stock in the man's tall tales. It soon becomes apparent that something really is up with the place though, Tom starts to glimpse shadowy figures and hear strange noises and soon he begins to worry he too is slowly losing his grip on reality...

The Forlorned is silly, and this is down to pretty much one thing; the big bad haunting the island appears to be...a giant invisible demonic warthog. The Evil Dead did great things with its unseeable evil force, it managed to be pretty terrifying. Here, while the same techniques are used (the evil creatures perspective as it chases its victim for instance) it is hard no matter how well shot to make a ghost pig appear scary, not helped by the many squeals and squeaks it gives off. More effective are the many ghosts that haunt the island, there is a The Suffering vibe in that nothing but bad events have happened in the islands past, and with Murphy spinning entertaining stories about previous inhabitants and occurrences weight is then given to each odd appearance of one of the poor souls (favourite being the man who was eaten by his pigs after he drunkenly went to feed them one night!).

Monday, 25 September 2017

Mother! (2017) - Horror Film Review

I had heard good things about Mother! so despite knowing literally nothing about it I made an effort to catch one of its last performances at my local cinema. To be honest I kind of wished I hadn't bothered, this was hot trash wrapped up in an artsy bow and while it did plenty of surprising things I was more baffled and confused than being able to enjoy it.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Mother, the younger wife to Him (Javier Bardem) who is a famous poet struggling with extreme writers block. While he spends his days attempting to write Mother spends the time renovating the family home of his that they both live in. The arrival of a strange man (Ed Harris) brings with him untold hardships and trials which threaten to bring an end to the peace and tranquillity the remote homestead used to offer.

You can say I didn't 'get' this film and maybe you are right, yet this was a tough slog to get through, several people left throughout the film and while I don't condone leaving before the end of a movie I couldn't really blame them. This is so deep in symbolism and analogy that the plot becomes extremely bare bones. What starts off simply enough with Mother horrified at the end to her and her husbands peaceful existence then becomes something that plays out like a two hour dream sequence of random nightmare events bringing hell to Mother. Along the way we see extreme violence and murder, we see hero worship, riots, executions and even get to see a newborn baby ripped apart and eaten. If you're looking for some context you will be hard pressed to find some, instead this seems like an attempt to bring famous biblical stories together in an unholy mesh of insanity. You have analogies for the garden of Eden, Jesus Christ, Cain and Able, Revelations and many more, it is all dizzying but not in an enjoyable way. Initially I emphasised with the horror Mother feels at her precious home being invaded by faceless masses, especially as her husband has no problem with all this intrusion, instead it inspires him and so he welcomes it despite Mother's pleas. I myself sometimes suffer social anxiety and so her attempts to find solitude away from the chaos was something I could relate to. Director and writer of this; Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) has stated that Lawrence represents mother nature, and from that we can infer that the home is symbolic of planet Earth.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Red Christmas (2016) - Horror Film Review

I first mentioned Red Christmas back in April of this year and now I have gotten the opportunity to watch it for review. It is an Australian Christmas themed slasher and so from the off it is doing something different. While it is filmed well and full of brutal kills for me the tone was a little too bleak.

Diane (Dee Wallace from Critters, The Hills Have Eyes) has invited all her family together to stay at her outback home to celebrate Christmas. However the arrival of a mentally and physically disabled stranger named Cletus (Sam Campbell) brings death and destruction as he is obsessed with the idea that Diane is his mother, and that if she won't accept him then he will take everyone she loves away from her.

Red Christmas starts well with the introduction of all the family members and the vast dysfunction that exists between them, which is all displayed in a blackly comic way. Diane just wants a family get together but most the group don't get on well with each other. You have prudish Ginny and her vicar husband Peter (David Collins), then you have heavily pregnant Suzy with her husband Scott as well as third daughter Hope, Diane's Down Syndrome afflicted son Jerry, and finally her partner the care-free Joe. The arrival of the stranger brings an end to this introduction stage and unfortunately it is from this point that the plot goes downhill slightly. The actual dialogues between the characters are always good, it is more that what happens is then an excuse for mayhem. The majority of the film is the group constantly splitting up to do inane plans to help them survive, whether it be going off to get the keys to a car, going off to try and rip down the climbable terraces attached to the house, or just going off. I get it is a dysfunctional family but when the majority of bad things happen due to characters refusing to follow instructions it becomes a bit farcical, especially with the amount of running around and screaming everyone does.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Entertaining Demons (2017) by Daniel I. Russell - Horror Book Review

Daniel I. Russell's Entertaining Demons is a horror book that felt a little bit different from others of it's type. In fact a lot of this book feels more like a twisted adventure story in the vein of Neil Gaiman, while the other half is more familiar. It is the meeting up of these two styles that really makes this something unique in feel.

15 year old Molly is the unwitting star of a reality TV show called PI: Paranormal Investigations due to her home being seemingly haunted by a ghost. She is unable to stop being in it though as the show provides the money her and her grandfather need to keep her mentally ill mother in a good nursing home, while she hopes the show's host; paranormal expert Samuel will be able to find a way to stop the hauntings. However things are not what they seem with the spirit haunting the house actually a demon, and worse two more demons are travelling to her sleepy English town with the aim of shutting down the show using whatever means they can...

When I first started reading this I wasn't immediately hooked, I've seen the demonic presence haunting a house so many times in films over the years that it has gotten to be quite a dull subject. It was the introduction of the sub plot involving the two demons that my interest got heightened. I found everything about these two characters to be fascinating. They ride around in the bodies of humans but are able to come out at will, one of them is like a huge shaggy beast, while the other one is made up of snapping teeth on stalks and that can turn its fingers into deadly needles. The descriptions for these two were endlessly descriptive, Russell is fantastic at providing vivid images of these creatures. They are anti-heroes in that they are looking to disrupt the events playing out but are in no way whatsoever good people, these are demons who care absolutely nothing for humanity and this shows in their actions. Much of the really violent stuff happens around these two and much of it is so over the top crazy that aside from a couple of torture scenes it comes across as quite fantastical. There is a lot of descriptions about destroyed and eaten people, and of the aftermath of victims of these two (with a strange focus on sex organs), yet it is always captivating, again in the vivid way it is all described. Around half of the book is focused on these two and Entertaining Demons is all the better for it. These are not the only demons of the book though with the others also receiving enough attention to really make them stick in the mind, whether it be the skull crown wearing demon stalking Molly, or the demon of TV; Audience who was a fantastic creation with some David Cronenberg Videodrome style moments of repulsive organic technology.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Walk Home Alone (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

A Walk Home Alone is the second of director Andrew J.D. Robinson's short horror films he sent my way. While Placebo was quite sterile in its portrayal, here we have something that is more familiar and deals with a common subject in 6 minutes, but does so in a novel way.

There is a serial killer loose in the city and it seems he targets young woman walking home alone and leaves their bodies in the river, this is all told to us from a radio broadcast. We then follow Alice (Maura Stephens) as she makes her way to her flat in an apartment building, and who is quite preoccupied with something and so doesn't notice she is being followed...

A Walk Home Alone is shot in black and white and again features a soundtrack that is once ominous and seemingly at odds with what is happening on screen. What I really enjoyed about this is that the serial killer plot is faded into the background, while it bookends this short it is the sub plot in the middle that becomes the main crux. This also avoids cheap scares and insteads build the tension and horror by what it doesn't show. Robinson tears down the victims defences within this middle story by its sweet resolution and so when the main plot comes back into the forefront she is naturally in a weakened state of mind.

While it is up to Stephens to carry the emotional range it is Jurgen Vollrath as the stranger who stole the show for me. There is just something strange about his character, yet he manages to not comes across as threatening. The boyfriend on Alice's phone for me was the weakest part as there didn't seem much emotion behind the voice, though that could be excused as not knowing the context for why he might sound that way. A Walk Home Alone avoids doing the expected with it's story and by only hinting at what happens is all the better for it. By focussing on the unimportant and leaving the horror in the mind of the viewer rather than displayed on screen this wins out for me.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Placebo (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Another day and another short film, this time it is Andrew J.D. Robinson's Placebo that deals with the subject of body dysmorphia in under three minutes. Shot in an art house style fashion this (mostly) black and white takes place in blackness. A woman is getting plastic surgery done to make her look like a photo of a lady she has brought along, however it turns out things are not as simple as they first appear.

There is a surreal edge to this one that coupled with the ominous music combine to make something seem off from the very start. The whole film is shot from a face on perspective with minimal dialogue. This is more a portrayal of mental illness than a fleshed out story. However it gets the message across well with stylish editing and directing, the zinger was effective in bringing context to the strangely wrong atmosphere.

The beauty of short films is that when they are done right such as here they manage to give a vibe and feeling without all padding that makes longer ones. There really isn't much more I can say about Placebo other than it does the job well.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Robot Named Fight (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)

It is a nostalgic month in the world of video games it seems as after the fun Citadale: The Legends Trilogy that I reviewed yesterday comes A Robot Named Fight which is another retro throw back to the classic days of yore. This time around the inspiration is Metroid, and specifically the Metroidvania (one huge 2D level) style of Super Metroid as the graphics are 16 bit and the sound is authentic to that time. This has a difference though in that the game is a Metroidvania in style but has roguelike elements thrown in, in that you only have the one life and the game is procedurally generated so no two playthroughs are the same.

Millennia ago the mechanical Gods arrived and brought with them peace for the robots who lived on the world. However one day a huge moon sized mass of evil flesh known as the Megabeast arrived and spewed out thousands of monstrous creatures which decimated the land and massacred the robots. One robot decides to make a stand against this hell and descends into the planet in search of lost artifacts of wartime in order to defeat this unholy terror...

A Robot Named Fight is fantastic and like the best roguelikes it is extremely addictive with that 'just one more go' feeling perfected. I love how like Metroid it really is. This is a 2D platformer that is one huge maze like level made up of hundreds of smaller rooms. You play as a robot armed with a cannon and as you progress you can collect upgrades that both make you more powerful (such as extra health, guns do more damage and increase your speed) and unlocks more skills for you that help you get to places in the levels that you couldn't previously get to. Rockets can destroy metal doors for example, while the spider ability allows you to navigate narrow spaces. Elsewhere you can get a double jump to reach high places, eventually unlocking a jet pack. There are also suit upgrades that let you survive in hot areas, torches to light dark places and so much more. Each playthrough is different and so every time I played I unlocked different abilities and upgrades.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Citadale: The Legends Trilogy (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)

Citadale: Gate of Souls was originally released on the Wii-U last year and has now been re-released as part of the Citadale: The Legends Trilogy which funnily enough is made up of three different games. These games are modelled on the classic Castlevania series, so much so that many plot points, level design, and enemy types, as well as the weapon system are virtually copied totally. Nowadays with Konami seemingly refusing to make any more Castlevania games a copy is better than nothing, and thankfully Citadale is a damn fun game.

So there are three games to be found here, each one can only be played once the one before it has been completed. Starting off is Citadale: Gate of Souls. A Dark Lord (who is in no way Dracula) terrorises the land, playing as Sonja Dorleac and wielding the Dark Lord killer 'Shadow Blade' you make your way to his castle to meet up with your husband (who happens to be the Dark Lord's son) in order to seal his Dad away behind the Gate of Souls.
The second game is Citadale: Curse of Darkness, it is 24 years later and with the seal on the Gate of Souls weakening, a wizard (the son of Sonja) has headed to Citadale in order to repair it to full power. After failing to return Sonja's other son Gabriel decides to also make the journey to see what has come of his brother.
Finally you have Citadale: Legacy of Fate, 17 more years have passed and now the wizard's son Christopher makes the fateful journey to the dark castle as evil is once again rising to suffocate the land.

This is a very nostalgic game as it is made to resemble an 8-bit game, like the early Castlevania's were. The graphics are simple but with modern technology there is far more animation to them, while the amazing soundtrack is done in the chiptune style. It is a 2D platformer that has you battling through various locations such as forests, caves, mines and castles with a unique boss at the end of each level. The variation of these bosses is impressive with only one repeating over the 18 levels (a giant eyeball that behaves and looks differently each time). These bosses have simple attack patterns but are fun to fight and range from skeletal demons, giant insects and humanoid foes and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Normal enemies range from zombies to skeletons, ghosts, bats and spiders. There are some that appear to be ripped straight out of Castlevania in the way they look, especially a large knight with a shield, and the final boss for Gate of Souls that not only has a battle that takes place in an identical throne room to Castlevania but the boss is a vampire who teleports around the room and summons bats.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Goodnight, Gracie (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Goodnight, Gracie (written and directed by Stellan Kendrick) may be under 4 minutes in length but it doesn't pull any punches, this is a brutal little film! Rather than build any set-up this opens straight into the horror that only gets more intense until the shock finale. This short was actually created as a proof-of-concept for the crew yet still manages to stand on its own right.

8 year old Gracie (Caige Coulter) is awoken in the middle of the night to sounds of screams. Investigating she discovers her mother being hacked up with an axe by a mad man (Courtney Gains from Children of the Corn) and so decides to combat this evil the only way she knows how.

With the first shot pretty much showing a crucifix coming loose off a wall and swinging upside down I thought this was going to be about demonic possession, that could also be inferred by all the religious imagery. So it makes the change in tone all the more shocking to see a close up of a hacked up body. While Coulter was fine enough it was Gains who stole the show with his manic mannerisms, hypnotic to look at. I loved how they didn't shy away from gore and violence despite having a young child front and centre. This was inspired by the director's real life divorce of his parents and tells quite a bitter message of 'blind faith leads to death'.

Goodnight, Gracie was in the Official Selection at the Sitges 2017 film festival where it had it's world premiere. It is to be the Opening Night film at the San Antonio Horrific Film Festival in Texas on October 20th and will also be shown at the NYC Horror Film Festival on October 29th, with more festival appearances to be announced soon.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Latched (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

I have had an influx of short horror films sent my way these past couple of weeks and leading the vanguard is Justin Harding's Latched. To me at first this seemed like it was going to be a bit whimsical and pretentious with its subject matter of fairies and I assumed the horror content would be light. Because of this assumption I was all the more shocked (happily so of course) when Latched changes tone and becomes something a lot more violent.

A single mother travels to the woodside holiday home she owns with her toddler in order for her to prepare for a dance troupe she hopes to do the choreography for. One day out in the woods she finds the body of a bizarre looking small creature that she brings back home with her in order to ask her neighbour what it is. It ends up going in her rubbish bin but an accident involving spilt breast milk somehow revives this creature that over the following days starts to grow and grow out of sight.

17 minute Latched is a film of two halves, literally in that the first 8 or so minutes is set during day time, and the final half mostly takes place at night. This distinction is also a firm divide between the fantastical and the horrifying. So the first part establishes the woman and her child, it is split into days that mostly consist of the woman interpretive dancing her way around her house as the baby looks on, and occasionally the fairy creature makes an appearance unseen by her to steal milk. This was all well filmed (with fantastic choreography) and the special effects nice enough but it was light on scares. One of these special effects involved an old man looking at a flyer to see the figures in it start moving, I don't know the significance of that part of Latched as it didn't seem to add anything other than a side of surreality. This man in general was a bit of a disruptor to the main plot to begin with even if he was needed to bring the story along.

Friday, 15 September 2017

3 (2016) - Horror Film Review

3 is an indie horror film that was directed and written by Lou Simon. This happens to be the second female directed horror that revolves around torture I have seen this year (Jessica Cameron's Truth or Dare being the other). At first I was ready to dismiss this, I found the characters to be irritating and the situation pretty silly, however as the plot moved on I began to recognise that actually this was something a little different, helped in no part by actor Todd Bruno whose very antagonistic role managed to generate sympathy regardless.

A man (Mike Stanley credited as It) is on his way to a meeting, his journey takes him onto the American backroads where he finds his way blocked by an abandoned car. With the owner not around he decides to move the car so he can continue on his way, however hidden in the back is someone wearing a mask who knocks the traveller out. We then find out that the assailant (Bruno credited as He) had specifically kidnapped this person as part of a plan him and a woman (Aniela McGuinness credited as She) had come up with. A year previous She was raped but there was never enough evidence to convict her attacker, she believes it is the man they have kidnapped and hopes to get a video confession off of him to give to the police. However He's efforts to get the truth out of their victim become ever more drastic and brutal...

Where most films revolving around torture focus on the victim here the focus of the film is far more on the antagonists who don't actually see themselves as the bad guys. There is a weird divide between the scenes of horror that take place in the basement and the more normal goings on upstairs. Despite it being for She's sake she wants nothing to do with the man, she tends to constantly change the subject whenever he is mentioned. Soon it becomes apparent that both her and Him have serious mental problems. The kidnapper is prone to outburst of uncontrollable violence when he gets angry, while she is so vague on the specifics of the rape that as a viewer you begin to question just who it is that is telling the truth. Out of the three it really doesn't seem like It is the one at fault despite being caught up in a few lies. As for the woman she keeps insisting He was at the party where the rape happened despite him telling her they didn't meet until months later when she start seeing a psychiatrist, and so you begin to doubt if she what she thinks happened actually took place. Bruno is fantastic as the kidnapper, he is a former army medic who got honourably discharged due to PTSD from his time in Iraq. Initially I found both him and the woman to be awful people, I didn't want them to succeed. But by showing us how really messed up the man is you can't help but begin to pity him.