Sunday, 31 December 2017

Don't Kill It (2016) - Horror Film Review

Don't Kill It (directed by Mike Mendez - Big Ass Spider!)  took me a while to get the tone of just what sort of film it was. Every single action scene to be found here is gloriously silly, but then a lot of the down time felt like it was from a different movie entirely due to how serious it was played. While it could be argued this is meant to be a straight film viewing it as a horror comedy puts it in a much better light, and myself I do think this is meant to be a horror comedy.

Dolph Lundgren (Battle of the Damned) stars as Jebediah Woodley; a demon hunter who has arrived at a small American town after a series of murders have taken place. He has been tracking a demon who has the ability to possess the person who killed its last host, making a chain reaction of new killers (the title is very apt). Jebediah teams up with the chief of police and F.B.I agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe - Halloween) in order to find a way to stop its reign of chaos, however this proves to be quite hard with a trigger happy population...

After a blistering opening (a genuine unintended pun seeing how a woman gets her face pushed into a pot of boiling water during this opener) we get into the film proper. I thought that maybe this ridiculous ultra violence would be restricted to the intro, but thankfully it becomes the norm during a couple of fantastically over the top sequences, more on that later. The story begins seriously enough, until Lundgren opens his mouth. He looks the part, but his dialogue and actions are very out of place with the majority of the rest of the cast, initially at least. Interrupting a traditional scene involving Evelyn and the police chief he arrives like a bull in a china shop, sucking the focus of the scene on to his outlandish performance. This is something that he does throughout Don't Kill It with the more normal characters getting extremely overshadowed by him. By the second half though a fair few characters of his type have appeared, notably the pastor who is all about spouting damnation.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

1922 (2017) - Horror Film Review

1922 is yet another Netflix exclusive horror film, this time around it is based on one of Stephen King's stories; a novella in fact. I am quite hit and miss when it comes to the work of that author, but I can't deny he has some great ideas. 1922 is not a happy film in the slightest and boiling it down to basics it is just a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for. Regardless this is so well made, and the time period used so effective that I found myself not so much liking this as appreciating it for a decent horror.

Surprisingly set in 1922 Wilfred; a farmer (played by Thomas Jane - The Mist) hatches a plan to murder his wife Arlette (Molly Parker - The Wicker Man) in order to get ownership of the land that she inherited as she intends to sell it so that she can move to the city. Wilfred convinces their son Henry (Dylan Schmid - Horns) to assist him with his deed by poisoning the boy against his mother. The two get away with their crime but it is then that things start to fall apart with both of them suffering from the decisions they have made...

I liked the central plot concept of Wilfred in the future writing a confession about his past crimes. It led a good degree of suspense as to what was going to happen as he often hints at what is to come. Many times during 1922 it goes back to him writing this letter, intermingled with him hearing the sounds of rats in the walls. Rats play a big part in this film with them being in many key scenes. For all the supernatural elements to be found here there is easily a case for it all being a personification of Wilfred's guilt. Thinking everything will be fantastic with his wife out the way instead we follow him as his life crumbles around him with misfortune after misfortune visiting him.

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) - Horror Film Review

It is that time of year again when I am desperately trying to burn through the list of films I want to watch for the annual Fright Meter Awards. With The Autopsy of Jane Doe recently being added to Netflix in the UK I put it to the top of my 'to-watch' list, mainly because I was really impressed with The Corpse of Anna Fritz and thought this may be something similar.

Police investigating the crime scene of a family who were all discovered murdered in mysterious circumstances are shocked to discover in the basement the half buried corpse of a beautiful young woman (Olwen Kelly). This body is taken to the local morgue that is run by Tommy (Brian Cox) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch), they are told the autopsy of the woman is needed by morning so that the police will have a complete story to tell to the press. The two start the examination, but through the night the more they proceed the more strange and illogical things they discover about the corpse, and too late begin to realise that they may have stumbled upon something truly terrifying...

The mystery of the corpse is what kept me glued to the screen watching this, I loved how the body was like a puzzle box in that the more the two cut it apart and examine its parts the more mystery they uncover. It starts off simply enough with the fact that the corpse is not a fresh one, yet there is no rigor mortis present. It deepens with the discovery of the severe damage done to the internal organs that the outer body should have showed signs of. By the time the duo discover the inside layer of her skin has been tattooed with strange symbols the slow build up of horror really boils over. This slow drip feed of unnatural horror was fascinating to watch, helped in no end by the performance of seasoned actor Cox who gives a great performance as the middle aged mortician. It seems silly to praise the acting of Kelly as she literally lays on a slab for the majority of the film, yet there was something deeply unsettling about her look. I particularly loved that the camera kept going back to her face with a close up, each time the way her mouth was slightly open led me to think she was suddenly going to break out into a grin, she never did but that shot still was unsettling each time.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Chimera (2018) - Sci-fi Horror FIlm Review

Admittedly I am not the best when it comes to following complicated stories, yet I found myself at the halfway mark of Maurice Haeems directed and written sci-fi thriller Chimera completely lost as to what was going on. There is a heck of a lot of pseudo science to be found here which would be difficult enough to follow as it is, throw in a film that is shot out of sequence and I found myself arriving at the outskirts of confusion city.

So from what I can gather Quint; a genius scientist (Henry Ian Cusick) has managed to successfully freeze his two children alive. He has done this as they share the same fatal genetic disease that killed their mother, he hopes by freezing them in time he will be able to work on a cure for their condition, a cure that will make them super human in effect by taking away the effects of aging, and natural decay. To be able to fund his research he calls on the help of morally corrupt businesswoman Masterson (Kathleen Quinlan -The Hills Have Eyes remake, Horns) who wants to use this cure for herself.

I got so muddled with the different timelines going on concurrently that it was only in the final third that I actually realised these were different times. I thought that perhaps Quint was insane and hallucinating children being at his lab. This fractured way Chimera was paced out was actually pretty cool though, it works by drip feeding you information in a roundabout way. It is hard to complain about either the look of the film, or the steller soundtrack as both were on point and combined to make some appealing scenes. The sound design was pretty clever at times, such as repeating lines of dialogue but distorted, or faded into the background.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Jax in Love (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Award winning Jax in Love is a short horror film that was written by and stars Rakefet Abergel. This impresses as a road trip movie in that this feeling of long journeying is achieved despite the short 20 minute run time. While the central concept may not be much new it is created with panache with a good sense of direction and some nice editing.

Abergal stars as Jax; a wanderer out in the vast emptiness of middle America looking for human connection. When the car she is driving breaks down in the middle of nowhere she begins a new adventure where she will both make and loose new friends.

Jax in Love has great pacing that really compliments the always on the move feel this short has. It covers literally a lot of ground with several different stories taken place for the lead. Abergal is great as the titular character, someone who has quite severe abandonment issues, forever concerned that those she loves will leave her. Her methods for preventing this makes up a lot of this with a nice visual unveiling of just the sort of person she is. In many ways the character is a victim with past demons, this is presented well so that by the end the viewer gets to see her view on the world.

From beginning to end this is paced and shot well with some lovely cinematography going on. The editing was great in one particular scene, sure it is an obvious way to show insanity (similar style was used for Gollum in The Lord of the Rings as one such example) but enjoyable nonetheless. In general the acting was effective across the board with the small cast well chosen, from the slimy rednecks to the man travelling home to his girlfriend all came across as believable for their roles. Jax in Love may speed through its ideas due to its short run time, but comes out overall as a neat, visually attractive piece of filmmaking.


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The Void (2016) - Horror Film Review

I've been meaning to watch The Void all year so when it popped up on Shudder I just had to give it a watch. This was a bit of a hotchpotch one in that it reminded me of a lot of different films, there were traces of Hellraiser and The Thing in its creature design, while the gist of the plot drew many similarities with Turkish horror Baskin, The Beyond, and even Event Horizon.

One night Policeman Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) finds an injured man by the side of the road out in the middle of nowhere and so takes him to the small local hospital where his ex wife Allison (Kathleen Munroe) works. He soon finds out that the hospital has been surrounded by white robed cultists who seem determined to let no one leave, while inside people are transforming into hideous monsters. After Allison goes missing, Daniel, the injured man, and a vengeance seeking father and son head into the basement where it seems she has gone, however this basement may well be a gateway to Hell...

The special effects for The Void are fantastic, I loved all the gruesome monster mutations that seemed like a cross between the Necromorphs from video game Dead Space and The Thing from that film. These are coated in slime, have writhing tentacles and additional limbs and heads growing out from their cancerous mass, with it seeming the original host has been assimilated . I loved these practical special effects with the camera and lighting helping to make these seem chaotic with much of the monsters hidden in darkness, or with close up shots. The set design is another aspect of this that added to the atmosphere with some effective looking locations in the basement of the hospital. This was where the similarities with Baskin come to the fore though, in that film a bunch of policeman find a gateway to Hell in the basement of an abandoned building, here a policeman finds a gateway to Hell in the basement of a pretty much deserted hospital. As such when we start seeing random creatures scuttling around and corpses hanging from ropes I was immediately reminded of similar scenes there.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Creep 2 (2017) - Horror Film Review

Creep was one of the first found footage horrors I ever saw where the killer themselves were the focus of attention. The acting needs to be great for this type of film (as with Be My Cat: A Film for Anne and Capture Kill Release) and as it was for Creep, in fact Mark Duplass who played the killer won an award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the 2015 Fright Meter Awards (that I'm on the panel for). Creep 2 is a straight sequel to that one and has the honour of being the first sequel to one of these more realistic found footage films that I have seen.

It starts with business as usual with the killer (now going by the name of Aaron) murdering his latest victim Dave, but then he reveals to the secret camera filming that he has lost his mojo and is no longer getting the satisfaction he used to get from his craft. Later on a jaded video artist; Sara (Desiree Akhavan) finds a strange request on Craigslist asking for someone to film them for a day, she responds as she is doing a web series about the type of people that put up online ads that is doing terribly, and so she hopes this final attempt at her show will propel her to fame. Aaron immediately confesses to being a serial killer, and that he wants Sara to make a documentary about him and his acts. Sara agrees as she finds Aaron to be really unpredictable and creepy and so thinks he will be perfect for her web series, however she doesn't believe he is who he says he is and so starts to find herself in real danger...

Creep 2 is a lot more funny than the original film was, so much so at least in the first half that I thought this was following the route of Gremlins 2 by almost being a mickey take. All the same tricks that were pulled in Creep are copied here, but with humorous results, Aaron's constant attempts to scare Sara fail spectacularly with it seeming like nothing can faze her. His 'scenes' he is making for the documentary become farcical with the amount of problems he is facing, leading to a laugh out loud moment when he starts to angrily hurl rocks at off screen birds whose singing kept interrupting his monologue. The second half dials back this comedy edge a bit until it finally devolves into proper horror again for the final quarter. I loved how Aaron seems to have met his match with Sara, all the weird things he does bounce off her completely. The first Creep had a really awkward bath scene involving a naked Josef (that the character was then called confusingly), here that is replicated when Aaron strips naked (full frontal on camera) as a way to 'strip' away the barriers between him and Sara, but then he is surprised to see her replicate his action (out of camera shot).

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Test Subject 011 (2017) by Videogram - Horror Music Single News

Its been a few years since I last heard from Magnus Sellergren who is responsible for the always awesome Videogram that proclaims to be the original 1980's VHS-inspired horror synth project. I love me some 80's synth and Videogram always provides the fix I need.

Last September saw the release of his 14th release, this was in the shape of a 4 track EP titled Test Subject 011 which to anyone with a passing interest in horror should see this is inspired by Stranger Things. The four tracks are made up of Hawkins National Laboratory (Intro) that clocks in at just 13 seconds. Title track Test Subject 011 is next and is just another great synth track, this one also has a video out for it. I love what Videogram does with its music videos as it always mixes clips from old films into a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the sound. Here is no different with an amazing looking mech battle playing out over the duration of the tune. Third track is Dr Brenner which fittingly uses a sound bite with his name in it, finally is the six minute long Hawkins National Laboratory (Outro).

This latest EP can currently be purchased on the Videogram Bandcamp page (here), while this and all his albums and previous EPs are streaming on all the biggest platforms such as Spotify, Deezer and, Pandora. The biggest news being for music lovers, and certainly fans of Videogram's work is that Test Subject 011 is coming out as a 7" vinyl single in January 2018.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

The Temple of Lilith (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

The Temple of Lilith is a short 3 minute long film that in itself is a companion piece to Sulphur for Leviathan that is another short (13 minutes in length) that is due for release next year. Both these films are from Sodom & Chimera Productions that I first heard of when I saw the trailer for Flesh of the Void. This, like that is directed and written by James Quinn.

This is an arthouse film that is quite abstract in what it shows. It went over my head a bit, was only the end credits where the characters were named that I realised how abstract this actually was. Lilith (Suicide Girl Hex Suicide in her first ever film role) enslaves Christianity (Blade Amodio) and joins up with Baphomet (Justin Ewing).

I really liked this, this is the kind of arthouse I can get behind. This was filmed on 16mm and the grainy look reminded me of those cool creepy home made videos in Sinister. The best thing about this was the easy on the eye Hex Suicide who just looks the part so well, she seems a part of this bizarre world, the camera just compliments her look and she has a nice range of unsettling smiles. The other characters also please with some nice designs to their costumes. The score is by Musica No Grata and was also pretty excellent and very fitting, though I didn't really think much of the Doom Metal song that ends this. Still this has made me interested for Sulphur for Leviathan, Quinn does the type of arthouse that it seems I can get on board with.


Monday, 18 December 2017

Stranger Things: The VR Experience (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

Before starting out on this review it has to be noted that Stranger Things: The VR Experience is completely free and so I find it hard to be too critical. The bigger question becomes; is it worth your time? With that I would say yes, though only because it is so short at around three minutes long.

The experience takes place within the time frame of the first season of hit show Stranger Things. You play as a person unknown who is at Will Byers house that has been decked out with the iconic Christmas lights. While in the house you get a phone call from a familiar voice warning you about the Demogorgon...

Even for an experience this is pretty bare bones, I would say my favourite thing about this is the title screen that has the theme tune playing and titles nicely decked out in glowing red. You play the game using the Playstation Move controllers, one acts as a flashlight, while the other grants you minimum interactivity. You can turn on the spot but you cannot move until set times have passed, in total you get to warp to two different places in the house, and answer a telephone, that's it as far as gameplay goes.

The graphics aren't amazing, I didn't really feel like I was in a real location unlike say Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul. Immersion is a key strength of VR and so it was a shame it didn't really feel like I was anywhere due to the muddy textures used in the house. It all ends on a jump scare that leads into a trailer for season 2 of Stranger Things.

If you have PSVR then there is literally no point in not giving this a go, it's cool that it is free, but then it would be criminal to charge money for this. As a test bed for a VR game set in the shows universe it demonstrates possible potential, with much better graphics and more movement a game such as this could be fun, as for this experience itself though it is unfortunate that the best thing about this is the title screen.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

December News 2017 - Shudder releases, 60 Seconds to Die, Alpha Delta Zatan film news, and Priest, Dead Animal Assembly Plant and The Creptter Children music news

I have been suffering, suffering with the most deadly disease known to man; Man Flu (TM). So much so that I have cancelled a series of social engagements and neglected my poor blog. Being an introvert the former is not so terrible, but the later is not acceptable and so I find myself this Saturday night (for this is when this was written) writing a news post and getting up to date with my inbox rather than attending the Christmas party of my day job.

I recently started getting sent emails updating me with new arrivals on Shudder (the Netflix of horror), this is pretty cool and so I will share what I have been told will be there this December. A few days back The Void joined the service, this is actually a film I have wanted to watch for a while and so a review shall be coming at some point. On 21st Beyond the Gates also arrives, now this one I have owned on DVD for most the year, the blurb on the back makes this sound like Jumanji 2 but with terror instead of fantasy and adventure. Scandinavian Noir mystery Black Lake arrives on 21st December, this series tells the story of a remote and neglected ski resort that Johan and his friends travel to with the intention of reopening it, but instead experience a series of disturbing events. Season 2 of Jordskott comes January 18th 2018. I haven't heard of this before but is described as 'Nordic Noir series laced with Gothic menace'.

UK produced horror anthology 60 Seconds to Die has now been released on DVD. The awesome sounding thing with this anthology is that each film is only 1 minute long! Frat house slasher Alpha Delta Zatan is now available on Amazon Prime in both the US and UK. This LGBT-oriented horror was one of the top VOD releases on Amazon Video in October and has been picked up for a DVD/Blu-Ray release.

Music news now and Priest released their full length debut New Flesh earlier this year, with it coming to vinyl and CD a week or so back. The blurb states the album 'contains 10 tracks that sound like when 1982 imagines how 2019 should sound like'. Judging from the video for The Cross this really seems to be the case, I loved that tune.

Dead Animal Assembly Plant released the music video for their cover of Johnny Cash's song God's Gonna Cut You Down on December 6th, I like the make-up the band have here, while the song also features guest vocalist Erik Gustafson from industrial band Adoration Destroyed.

My final bit of music news comes with Australian gothic/industrial hard rock outfit The Creptter Children who have a new music video out, the first one since 2016. The video is for Asleep With Your Devil which is the title track of their EP that is due for release on January 12th.

And with that my inbox is clear of any news. It is soon coming up to Christmas so I hope everyone has a frightful time. With my illness nearly gone here's to more blog posts in what has been my most prolific year since this site started nine years ago.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Babysitter (2017) - Horror Comedy Film Review

The Babysitter is a horror comedy that is available exclusively on Netflix. That service doesn't seem to have the best track record when it comes to exclusive films but I was very pleasantly surprised to see this one is actually legitimately hilarious and may just be the funniest film I have seen all year.

Cole (Judah Lewis) is a 12 year old nerd who is pretty much afraid of everything, and to his embarrassment he is the only person he knows who still has a babysitter. His babysitter though is hot Bee (Samara Weaving) who seems to have a real connection to the boy, together they have a load of fun with her being all that Cole needs. One day Cole's friend Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind) dares him to sneak back downstairs once he has gone to bed to see what Bee actually gets up to once he is usually asleep. Cole does just that and is beyond shocked to discover Bee is actually a Satanist who with her friends is into human sacrifice. Discovered, Cole must now try and survive a night of mayhem as Bee and her friends try to kill the sole witness to their crimes...

I really enjoyed this movie, the humour was on point constantly and I loved how the cast interacted amongst themselves. This is a film about growing up, coming into your own and conquering your fears. At the start of the film our lead is a wimp, he's bullied and afraid of everything from needles, to bugs, his tree house, and driving. Over one night of madness he is forced to confront these fears, with his ordeal shaping him into a better person. I loved how the first kill of the film is a geeky teen more Bee's age, Cole witnessing his brutal murder is like looking into a mirror of himself in the future, the geeks death brings with it the realisation that change within his own life is required unless he will stay a victim forever.

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.