Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Verbintenis (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Verbintenis (that I believe translates as 'obligation') is a short Belgium horror film that was directed and written by amateur filmmaker Wesley Remory. This is a slow burn of a horror that even at just 10 minutes in length feels drawn out, yet this works in making the drama feel all the more realistic.

An elderly man and woman (played by Patrick De Wilde and Liliane Vranckzx) prepare a special meal for their son in their basement. Despite changes that have occurred they are determined to look after their beloved child...

Nearly the whole of Verbintenis plays out in silence with the couple solemnly preparing their son's dinner, yet by what they are doing and how they are acting you can tell they are heartbroken at what is occurring. Their son is locked up and appears to be some sort of zombie like creature, with some nice make-up effects that reminded me of one of the undead from classic 80's Italian zombie flick The Zombie Dead. You get sad music playing at the start and end that compliments the unhappy couple, for the majority though it is silent, so much so when the mother speaks towards the end it was jarring to have the spell broken.

I thought both the man and woman did great jobs here, they show such emotion without even needing to say anything. The set design tells you a lot about what is going on, such as the couple looking at a photo of a boy, this not only lets the viewer know the importance of what is happening, but also serves as a reminder for them for why they have gone down the dark path they have. I thought the dank cellar was effective as the location chosen as the dreary setting helps with the overall mood.

Aside from the usual comment that this may be a bit too slow going for some there isn't really much to complain about with Verbintenis. Sure not much may actually happen but this moody short is brought to life by the realistic acting of the two main leads that can't help but cause you to feel for the hell they have found themselves living with.


Monday, 11 December 2017

The Babyface Killer (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

The Babyface Killer works as a stand alone short horror film, however it is actually a spinoff from Kevin Forte's horror web series The Sin Reapers and features characters created by Kevin. Like Anna that I reviewed the other day this short is directed by Matthew Forte, who also co-wrote this with Vic Varriale who stars here. While rough around the edges there is a kind of grindhouse charm to be found here.

Mark Norman (Varriale) is devastated when his partner Katherine (Xiomara Forman) suffers a miscarriage. Unable to cope with this loss something snaps in his mind and he becomes extremely aggressive around those who are expecting a child. As the weeks go on this disease in his mind causes him to become the notorious serial killer known as the 'Babyface Killer'.

So in thirteen minutes we get the creation of a monster. I liked the transition this man got and how he become what he was with a different feeling origin story. I liked how it chronicled the key points that led him down the dark path he went, the scene in the bathroom when his path crosses with an expectant father all the way up to his first victim under his new guise. I like how the Forte brothers use real world issues to inject their horror creations with, here it being the pain of a miscarriage.

The grindhouse part of this short comes from the cheap looking effects and the sometimes corny dialogue used such as when Mark goes "Why did I do that? Why did I let him live?!" after beating a guy up. It is quite over the top which I guess is fitting for a killer whose M.O seems to be pregnant women. On the special effects side of things it is all practical effects, though not the best quality as can be seen when a woman's belly is cut open and a baby pulled out of her. This doesn't even remotely look realistic, but as I said there is a kind of grindhouse charm to this poor look and goes well with the look of the serial killers get-up (a Halloween mask and boiler suit).

The Babyface Killer is well paced with some nice ideas to it but the low budget does on occasion take away from what should be more darker scenes, while throughout there is an issue with sound quality that leads to loud voices coming across as distorted and muffled. The acting is all fine enough for the story being told and as an origin story from my perspective it hit all the right beats without feeling rushed. If you're a fan of The Sin Reapers this will be a lot more enjoyable with context, but as a stand alone it works fine enough, and it is free to view on YouTube.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

Anna (2014) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

Anna is a short zombie film that clocks in at just under five minutes long and was written and directed by Matthew Forte who makes up one half of indie short film makers The Forte Brothers (the other member being Kevin), who also have a production company; Forte Films Entertainment. Their latest project is a horror short named The Babyface Killer (that I should be looking at in a few days, I have been a bit quiet on the blogging front due to man flu). To get myself acquainted with their work though I had a gander at Anna that uses horror as a method of exploring mental illness.

Anna (Brandi Bravo) is a bulimic who had recently committed suicide, to her horror though she doesn't stay dead long before reanimating as a flesh hungry ghoul. While she can't resist the urge to kill she discovers she has carried her illness over into the afterlife, but this time no matter what she tries there is no way out...

This is a serious film that has plenty of gruesome moments of Anna both eating the insides of people but then purging herself and bringing it all back up. While she is a zombie she is more of a lucid one than the usual shambling corpse, she has the mind to refrigerate the organs she pulls out of her victims, and is shown not only opening doors (a big hindrance to the traditional undead) but also writing and being aware of herself. The horror comes not from the fact she is dead, more that she has the realisation there is no escape and she will be stuck with her negative though patterns for all eternity.

This is all shown with her bouncing around her small apartment which in it's plainness focuses the attention on Anna and her plight. This wasn't a bad short and it was different to the normal zombie film but I found the subject matter to personally be a bit grim and depressing for my tastes, I'm never one for too much disgusting situations. This is free to watch on YouTube so I will include it below, a well paced short that delivers the message it set out to do, if not to my tastes.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

Horror in the Clouds (2017) by Scott Shoyer - Horror Book Review

When it comes to reading eBooks I am a lot better than I once was, however I realise I really am not the fastest reader around. On the plus side though I find it rare that I get sent a book for review that I don't like in one way or another, and this one is no different. I first heard of Scott Shoyer back in 2015 when I did a news post about his book Outbreak: The Hunger (the Outbreak books now form a trilogy). Horror in the Clouds is his latest novel that was released in August this year, it is the fourth one of his to be published by Severed Press and it is based on Lovecraft's Cosmic Horror. That subject is a double edged sword for me as H.P Lovecraft is my favourite horror author and no one can match his skill at creating genuine terror with words. On the other hand though I love any story that takes on similar themes to his.

Damien Squire, his wife, and son Brandon are on a family vacation to visit the Grand Canyon when they make the mistake staying in the remote town of Derleth. The people of Derleth worship an ancient evil; an Elder God named N'Xabez that is trapped between this world and its own. For hundreds of years the townsfolk have sacrificed visitors in order to give this being power, but with the arrival of the Squires everything changes, it seems N'Xabez has found a way to escape its prison and that this particular family hold the key to it doing so...

Horror in the Clouds is a simple story in that it doesn't really bog itself down with a myriad of subplots, instead everything here seems relevant to the overarching plot. There are basically two different plot threads going on, first of all you have the Squires family vacation, and secondly it follows some key members of the cult that secretly rule Derleth, and their realisation that a big change is coming. I have no idea why but right until the books end I was getting confused with Damien and Brandon in that I kept forgetting which was which, my fault entirely but a point I felt was worth mentioning. The Squires are mostly a normal enough family, it is Damien that has demons in his past with a mentioned suicide attempt. This means when he first glimpses the titular 'horror in the clouds' (a great title that I'm sure Lovecraft would have approved of) and mentions it to his family they become concerned he is slipping back into his mental illness. The cult storyline on the other hand feels different in that we are essentially following the antagonists (well, agents of the antagonists), my favourite of these was Sheriff Landry whose family have protected the secrets of Derleth for generations, yet his knowledge of exactly what he is helping keep under wraps is not really understood that well and so as he finds answers so do we. I liked how he was duty bound to essentially act like a bad guy (in context of the story) yet found himself at odds with the lunacy of the cult leader's behaviour.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Somebody's Darling (2016) - Horror Film Review

Within five minutes of starting to watch Sharad Kant Patel directed indie horror Somebody's Darling I had misjudged it badly, it felt like it was going to be mean spirited and bleak. Usual internet problems on my phone at work meant it was later the same day I watched the rest, from the comfort of my bed as I am in the throes of the dreaded man-flu. I don't know if it was delirium from my illness but there was something I found quite ethereal and hypnotic about this slow burning character piece.

Sarah (Jessa Settle) is a young coed who goes to a party at a rich fraternity house on campus. There she meets the mysterious Christian (Paul Galvan) who happens to be the President of the house. He instantly finds himself attracted to Sarah but she spurns his advances as she sees him as wanting a conquest rather than legitimately interested in her. Christian begins to get obsessed with this girl, as his obsession takes him down darker paths his brotherhood begin to get concerned about the changes happening to him...

The film starts at a party and for some reason I thought the entire film was going to take place in this setting, though it does take place exclusively on the college campus. It is hard to do this contrast without making Somebody's Darling seem cheesier than it was but the parallels between this and Twilight struck me. The story beat of brooding outsider attracted to innocent girl resonates in both, though here things go down a different path, and a far less cheesy one at that. I loved how subtle the horror aspect of this movie was, the obvious fact is always shown on screen but the truth of the matter is never really revealed in too much detail until way later in the film. You have the brotherhood sleeping during the day and seeming to have a hypnotic control over people but aside from that elements are only ever really hinted at as to the truth of who they are.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014) - Horror TV Episode Review

Some people have put White Christmas in with season 2 of Black Mirror but it was actually fittingly a one off Christmas special. Sure in the world of this show that means there is no cheer to be found at all, instead we get an anthology of three interconnected stories that all take place over the festive season.

Matt (Jon Hamm) has been isolated at a remote outpost with Potter (Rafe Spall) for the unspecified job they both do. Despite having worked together for over five years they never normally talk to each other, but as it is Christmas Matt forces the issue and they sit down to talk about what led them to getting such remote jobs. Matt talks about a shady dating advice service he used to run that went wrong, then he talks about his previous job as an A.I integrator. This leads to Potter and his traumatic story of how his ex girlfriend 'blocked' him and the repercussions of that.

Usually Black Mirror is pretty harrowing so to have the stories all take place in the past meant I didn't feel much worry for the main two characters as obviously they survive seemingly all right (sure this turns out not to be the case but I didn't know that at the time!). As always it was more the use of technology that really made me think, there was some interesting things here, but also some which felt a bit too outlandish and so hard to take seriously. This episode takes place in a world where everyone has implants, like Google Glass but inserted into the brain. As such people can be 'blocked' which results in them being greyed out and their voice made unintelligible to whoever blocked them. The exploration of the uses of this made me think quite a bit even if it then set up a twist that became very obvious. Thankfully that was only one of many twists, some which were less obvious, and some that were handled better.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

The Daughters of Virtue (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

The Daughters of Virtue is an award winning short horror (Best Horror Short at the 2017 Nightmares Film Festival) that was written and directed by Michael Escobedo. This was something pretty special and is helped by having a look and sound to it that makes it feel like a lost film from the 1970's somehow transported through time and space to the modern day.

Sylvia Panacione stars as Alice; a lonely housewife who is hosting a prayer group at her house. However it begins to become clear that the group have an ulterior motive for coming to Alice's house. The leader Betty (Maria Olsen) believes Alice has not been truthful in her prayers to God and with the help of the others plans to make her confess her sins using whatever methods it takes...

As I said in my prologue this feels like a film out of time. Especially impressive was the audio, it sounded a bit muffled, purposely of course, like inferior recording equipment was being used. The whole look of the short has a dull slightly desaturated look to it which combines so well with the beige clothes most the cast are wearing, and the beige house they are in which made it all seem old fashioned. My favourite part of The Daughters of Virtue though is the acting. There isn't a bad person amongst the small cast, but Olsen stands out as the bullying leader, with Alice's straight performance not far behind.

I never knew where the plot was going to go, from the start you get the feeling something is not quite right, the feeling of entrapment created a lot of suspense as I couldn't tell how much danger Alice actually was in. It is set up to look suspenseful and sinister but I wondered if it would be relatively more innocent than the feeling of threat and peril I was getting. The music helps a lot with this that goes in perfect tandem with the smooth concise editing and the beautiful way a lot of the shots are framed with a great blend of light and shadow. The Daughters of Virtue is just over 12 minutes long but to me I was so caught up in it that it felt like a feature length movie. I mean it was so captivating that the outside world faded away and I was totally caught up in the film, not that it in any way seemed to drag. The way this is a cohesive full story while also feeling like a scene pulled out a feature length film was pretty clever. It turns out Escobedo is actually developing a feature length of this so would be interesting to see how that turns out.

The Daughters of Virtue is a damn fine short horror that works so well thanks to a great combination of good acting and sublime film making. One of the better short horrors I have seen in quite some time.


Saturday, 2 December 2017

ZBurbs (2016) - Zombie Horror Comedy Film Review

It has been a fair while since I last watched a zombie film so it was cool to see a screener for ZBurbs turn up in my inbox. This is a romantic zombie comedy (or rom-zom-com I believe) that takes place almost exclusively in the one location and that has a very light hearted look at the undead that borders on the absurdist.

One night Shelly (Marieh Delfino from The Invitation) hears a noise in her back garden so she sends her husband Bill (Ian Alda) to investigate. After a while he still hasn't returned so he heads downstairs to discover an ill looking intruder standing over her husbands body. This man attacks her but before he can do any harm Bill pulls out his brain and eats it, this makes Shelly pass out. Waking up the next day she discovers Bill now has an insatiable taste for meat and has a huge bite mark on his shoulder, aside from that though he appears perfectly normal. Realising he ate the intruder Shelly contacts her best friend Carrie (Courtney Scheurman) and together they try and work out just what to do with this turn of events...

The biggest problem I had with ZBurbs is that I simply didn't find any of the jokes funny at all, not a single one made me laugh or even crack a smile which is a huge problem when this is meant to be a comedy. The jokes weren't distasteful, they weren't poorly done, they just did not appeal to me, which I found to be a bit of a shame as I actually thought otherwise this wasn't the worst film I had ever seen. Despite having such a light hearted atmosphere to this there was also a bit of a body count with at least a couple of victims to friendly good zombie Bill being completely innocent, yet this doesn't affect Shelly's conscience in the slightest. I can only imagine her mind must have snapped at some point and she is in huge denial. When the pizza delivery girl is consumed for instance it is commented that it didn't matter as she was an orphan. Elsewhere later on when one of the many government agents arriving at the house is bitten and realises they can never see their wife again a joke is made of this too which felt a bit cruel. There is a way to do dark humour but this fails by somehow being quite mean, yet portraying itself as airy and breezy. Our main leads are not good guys at all (which can be seen by many scenes of the heroes splitting up the money and belongings of victims amongst themselves) yet they are forever treated as such with the plot making good things happen to them constantly.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The Spiritualist (2016) - Horror Film Review

Carl Medland's The Spiritualist is a slow, brooding English paranormal horror that falls very deeply on the side of drama. There is so much drama in fact that at times the horror is very far away, it reminded me quite a lot of 2015's The Invitation which also fell heavily on the dramatic side of things. This movie is pretty much the definition of a flawed gem, there are moments of near perfection here, several scenes are just amazing to watch. Unfortunately there is nearly as much here that repels due to a series of frustrating story beats and movie making decisions.

Laura (Jasmyn Banks from Eastenders) suffers severe night terrors and begins to suffer hallucinations at the family mansion she lives at with her boyfriend Jake (Judson Vaughan from short horror Burn). Having recently lost her mother (Julie T. Wallace) who before her death had descended into insanity Laura starts to believe it may be her mother's spirit haunting her, the only alternative being that she is going crazy just like her mother before her. Her friend Petra (Petra Bryant) contacts a spiritualist she knows (Caroline Burns Cooke) and so one night this medium along with friends of Laura and Jake come to the mansion in order to perform a seance and banish any evil spirits that may lurk there...

This is a film of three very different halves, over an hour and forty minutes this feels like several films spliced together in sometimes confusing ways. The first half hour was by far the worst of this, as a measure of honesty I was attempting to watch this initially at my work which has about as good a signal as the concrete prison from Xtro 3: Watch the Skies. As such I was getting constant buffering on my phone which did contribute to my lack of enjoyment. I found this first part pretty confusing due to the way flashback sequences are shown here. There is no fade away or even scene cut when past segments are shown, instead they flow seamlessly from present to past. So we get Laura waving off her boyfriend before heading outside for a walk (in the present) where she bumps into her Dad (in the past) and they have a talk about her mother's deteriorating condition. Another example is her and her boyfriend talking outside the mansion (in the present) in the exact same shot the camera pans across to some grass where her Mum and Dad (in the past) are messing around. It was a novel way of showing how much history has affected Laura's whiny outlook on life (and boy is she whiny) but it led to a lot of confusion for me until I worked out by what was being said what was actually going on.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Rotting Zombie interviews Maura Stephens

I recently got the opportunity to interview Canadian indie horror actor Maura Stephens. In the nine years my blog has been going I have only previously done one interview, it was a long time ago and pretty awful and so I felt the need to get out my comfort zone and try another one! I first saw Maura in Andrew J.D Robinson's short horror Placebo, then in a larger role as the main lead in another of his shorts; A Walk Home Alone. She has also done work with CryptTV and 15 Second Horror Film Challenge among other things. Included after the interview are a few of the short films she has appeared in for your viewing pleasure.

Could you give some background about yourself, and what got you into doing horror?

Playing characters and storytelling in various forms has been my jam since I was a wee feral beast. Growing up homeschooled definitely helped facilitate that because there was so much time to be a creative little weirdo with my four sisters. We really embraced creating our own worlds. Two of my sisters, Sarah and Celia, and I ended up making our own films with a webcam in 1998/1999, they were black and white and laggy and all silent films because webcams back then were pretty dodgy, but then we got a camcorder so we had colour and sound and went crazy with it. My love for playing pretend never faded, so here I am.

It's funny, even when Sarah and Celia and I would make our improvised camcorder films we would lean towards horror with offbeat comedy elements thrown in. So it's always been a genre I naturally gravitated towards. I remember being really little and filling a notebook with creepy childish doodles of Edward Scissorhands and wanting to dress as him for Halloween. I always connected more to the stranger worlds and characters. Edward, Lydia Deetz, Nosferatu...

You have done a lot of fun shorts, some even coming in at the 15 second mark, how long do these typically take to film and is it hard being able to get into your characters having such limited screen time for them?

I've done a lot of shorts that have only taken a few hours at most, sometimes maybe only an hour. Depends on locations and if it's particularly bloody shoot. But even A Walk Home Alone took very little time because everyone came so prepared and it all took place in one building. In terms of getting into character within such a short timeframe, I find my solo prep before the shoot day is vital depending on the content, like if it's a more wordy piece like A Walk Home Alone. But if it's more something where I have to be scared and a bit emotional, but have little to no lines, then I tend to dive in armed with my instinct and imagination, sometimes plonking certain images or ideas into my noggin while shooting.

What is your favourite film you have done, and why? Going off that what has been the toughest film to do?

They all have a special place in my heart, which is hideously fromage-y but true. If I had to pick, picturing you holding a super soaker to my head, I would have to say Beauty Sleep. Perhaps in part because it is the longest film I've done so I was able to spend more time with the character and felt a particular connection to her. It was a ride because I got to act backwards and try to express this character's unravelling without any dialogue. I'm also a total sucker for surreal films, so I was already won over after reading the first page of the script. As for the toughest, I did a short film in a warehouse in winter with very limited heating. Freezing temperatures. Tank top. Ooooof! Enough said.

I often find if I watch any behind the scenes footage for films I like it ruins the effectiveness due to knowing how it was all put together. Do you find you can't be scared by your own films?

That's a great question. A Walk Home Alone actually got under my skin, which I wasn't expecting because it can be hard to be scared by your own work despite how effective and cleverly it has been written and produced because you have all the behind the scenes stories in your head as you watch it and you remember how much laughing and joy actually took place. I remember my first time watching it though, and getting to that last moment where you hear the newscaster's voiceover; the weight of the situation really sunk in and left me feeling genuinely disturbed. I'd love to say more but it would spoil the "fun" for those who haven't seen it yet.

Do you watch much horror at all? What's your favourite scary movie?

Now I'm imagining you wearing the Ghostface mask. It's a tricky question. Horror has so many awesome sub-genres too, so it's hard to pick just one film out of everything that is out there. The film has been with me since I was a child though is Robert Wise's The Haunting. I've always had a real soft spot for a good paranormal story. Kind of obsessed with ghosts as a child...and adult. Solid writing, gorgeous black and white cinematography, brilliant performances, and the spooks still get under my skin after all these years. "Whose hand was I holding?" Vomit. Urgh. So good.

Finally, do you have any upcoming horrors in the pipeline?

I have another short with Andrew (J.D Robinson) on the horizon called Dispatch. I can't give too much away, but the script is one of my favourites of his, really juicy and unsettling. I play a 911 dispatcher with the lovely Erin Kiniry (from Mitchell Slan's award winning short Balloon) as the panicked caller. I think people are going to really dig it.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Child Eater (2012) - Short Horror Film Review

Child Eater has recently been made into a feature film but originally it came out as a 14 minute horror short. While there are problems with this short it is easy to see how it could have been built into something grander than what was here.

Written and directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen Child Eater stars Cait Bliss as Helen; a babysitter who is looking after Lucas (Cameron Ocasio). One night the boy is insistent a monster is in his closet, she humours him but it isn't much later when she finds him abducted. With her boyfriend Tom (Dan Reiss) she runs out into the night to track him down, it seems he has been taken by an urban legend; a blind old man named Robert Bowery who is said to eat children's eyeballs in a bid to restore his lost sight.

It's good that this was made into a feature as there is a lot of lore stuffed into the first few minutes of this that feels a little over the top. As well as the legend of the old man who eats eyeballs Helen also sees fit to awkwardly add in an additional story about a black stork that eats children's eyeballs. Her and Tom have barely any chemistry between them, they seem like chalk and cheese with Helen being deadly serious and Tom being more of a joker. She also seemed like a bit of a sociopath as while running out into the woods after the abducted child she gets into an argument about pregnancy rather than seeming concerned about the child. Later on when someone dear to her has perished she seems to show no emotion to this change in events.

The best thing about this is the boogeyman character played wonderfully by Boomer Tibbs, he has quite a freaky look about him with his bald head and thick glasses and his first introduction here is quite fun with him licking Helen's face! This goes through a lot in it's short run time, it all ends on a pretty generic note but was still enjoyable. The short version of Child Eater is currently available to watch on Shudder. It would be interesting to see if with more room to breath this became a better experience, it seems Cait Bliss also plays the hapless babysitter in the full version too.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Little Evil (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Little Evil is a comedy horror that was written and directed by Eli Craig (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, the failed pilot for the Zombieland TV series). The movie is a parody of The Omen and so a knowledge of that film is needed to really get all the jokes. Even if you have seen that though this doesn't really do too much to stay in the mind, but one thing I will say is this certainly gets better as it goes along.

Adam Scott (Krampus) stars as Gary; a newly married man whose wife Samantha (Evangeline Lily) has a strange silent child called Lucas (Owen Atlas) that he becomes the stepfather of. After a series of incidents Gary comes to realise that Lucas might actually be the Antichrist and initially sets out on a plan to defeat him, but maybe all the boy needs is love...

I realised watching this that I actually like Scott as an actor, here he plays a hapless good guy who tries his hardest to do right by his new wife. He makes all the effort with Lucas and this creates a lot of the humour as this blatantly evil child is able to act with impunity by his devoted mother. It starts well with Samantha finding Gary buried alive in the back garden with a 'one week earlier' plot device used to show what led up to this moment. This first half of the movie wasn't great though, I didn't find a lot of the characters interesting or likable, more they just come across as weird with off putting conversations. By trying too hard to be a parody of The Omen this attained a kind of dull feeling with events just done in a more comedic fashion, such as a teacher at Lucas's school getting impaled on metal fencing, and of meeting a small devil hunter.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Incarnate (2016) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Follower (2017) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Death on Scenic Drive (2017) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Vices and Virtues (2017) - Horror Anthology Book Review

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

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

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

Monday, 20 November 2017

The Black Cat (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Found Footage 3D (2016) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Saturday, 18 November 2017

6.66 PM (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Friday, 17 November 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 16 November 2017

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

February (2015) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

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

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

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

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

Monday, 13 November 2017

Oni-gokko (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Sunday, 12 November 2017

American Virus (2015) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

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

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

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

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


Saturday, 11 November 2017

Sightings (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Another week and another short horror film from Andrew J.D Robinson (Placebo, A Walk Home Alone, Something Scary), this time it is Sightings that clocks in at just two minutes long. I would say in terms of effectiveness as a horror this was the best one of Robinson's I have seen yet, it gave me genuine chills.

Two sisters are consoling themselves about their other sister who has gone missing, however due to inserts of a corpse it seems the viewer knows more than they do...then they get a fateful phone call. At 120 seconds that is a nice little story, I confess I got so caught up in this that I totally forgot this was so short and so the ending took me by surprise. Sightings is made in a clever way, giving the viewer more information than the characters on screen (though could possibly be aspects of a dream one the two had). Throughout we get inserts of both a girl walking down a lonely path, and of a corpse (that has wonderful make-up effects on it). I was impressed with the quality of this and how relevant each shot was to the overall message.

The ending is very effective, it gave me proper goose bumps due to the simple repetition of a key dialogue line coupled with the music stabbing ominously. For me it was this ending, and the inserts that made Sightings work so well. There is very little dialogue here, what there is is all relevant and important (plus hints at a supernatural possibility).

 It takes skill to be able to tell a story in such a short span of time, this was an effective little horror that worked without the need for lazy jump scares, or unoriginal topics. It's freely available to watch on YouTube so check it out below and see what you think.