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.

SCORE:


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.

SCORE:

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.

SCORE:



Friday, 10 November 2017

Horror News November 2017 - They Live Inside Us, Mortal Remains, Lilith, Alpha Delta Zatan film news and Steep Steps, Anthony Vincent music news


For the first time in over five years I have two weeks off of my day job, as I tend to favour just a week. Maybe it will be a bridge too far as I left my department in a battle damaged state, but regardless I intend to do a heck of a lot of stuff for my blog (as well as clean my very messy HQ). I have books to read, both digital and physical, I have video games to play, and lots of horror films to work my way through. Hoping to build up a surplus of blog posts to use for rainy days. Any way enough about me, here is another round-up of news.

The people behind the well made horror anthology series The Witching Season have announced they are planning to make a feature film. This film is going to be an adaptation of They Live Inside Us which is about a writer who spends the night in a haunted house in hope of getting inspiration for his latest work. I have actually seen that one but no idea when or how as I haven't mentioned it on this blog before. They say of this 'The feature film will be based on the same general concept as the short film, but the longer run time will allow us to expand and polish the idea into something very unique and powerful'. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign going to raise funds to fund the making of this film with a host of rewards available to backers. That page can be found here, it's worth a visit if only to check out the original short They Live Inside Us which is included there. I wish them all the luck.

Next up a fun music mash up by Electronic Production duo Steep Steps who have had the ingenious idea to mash up the Game of Thrones theme tune with the 80's synth of Stranger Things. The near two minute track is called 'Game of Thrones (in The Upside Down)' and there is a fun music video for it that has the two flitting between two worlds as they perform.



Keeping with music comes the gloriously silly '12 Songs in the Style of The Nightmare Before Christmas' by 10 Second Songs' creator Anthony Vincent. Over this four and a half minutes Anthony covers such classics as Michael Jackson's Thriller and Rob Zombie's Dragula and gives them a Danny Elfman orchestral twist. This is quite funny and had me giggling quite a lot. I was so impressed by this mash-up style that I subscribed to his YouTube channel as he covers a whole host of songs in the style of famous bands.



Shockumentary Mortal Remains is the debut feature of Cryptic Pictures and examines the cryptic life of Karl Atticus; a notorious filmmaker from the 60's and 70's whose works have seemingly been erased from history, and who himself was found dead in mysterious circumstances. This was filmed over a three year period and includes interviews with historians and horror aficionados, including Eduardo Sanchez (co-director of The Blair Witch Project). The trailer certainly makes this seem like something worth watching. Mortal Remains is now available on Amazon, GooglePlay, YouTube, iTunes and Vudu. It is due to hit Netflix next year.



A teaser trailer for upcoming horror Lilith has been released. This movie is about a couple; Heidi and Steve who are travelling cross country in a RV on a vacation where their path crosses with a young woman named Lily. This meeting brings with it all sorts of terror and mayhem. This indie film features actors that include among them Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare) who was also the executive producer here, Carlo Mendez (Parks and Recreation), Ryan Kiser (Truth or Dare), and Ali Ferda (An Ending). It looks to be a bloody piece so may be one to keep an eye on.



Finally a trailer for gay slasher Alpha Delta Zatan is now out. This film from Together Magic Films and Reel Nightmare Films is now playing on Amazon Video US.UK and in over 100 countries on Vimeo On Demand. This is about a frat house that includes among its members a mask wearing killer, and was designed as a role reversal on the traditional female focused sorority slasher films, featuring as it does an all male cast.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Machine Baby (2014) - Short Horror Film Review


Machine Baby is a stylishly shot short horror that really is something quite surreal. This award winning piece (GenreBlast Film Festival award for 'Best WTF Short Film') was written and directed by Sean Richard Budde and has recently been available to freely watch as part of Bloody Disgusting's World of Death series (episode 125). I shall be including the short below my review, at just 10 minutes it is worth a gander.

A paparazzo (Sean McGill) is outside the home of a beauty pageant contestant manager (Christian Gray) where he is secretly taking photos in an effort to find out just why the manager's clients are always so successful. Hearing a strange noise from the basement he sees something quite unexpected, however he is caught by the manager and chucked off the property. Coming back armed with a video camera he is determined to get his scoop, however the price may be too high...


This is a darn weird film but one that uses some interesting tactics to feel unique. The start is near perfection in the disorientating fashion it starts. There was a epilepsy warning at the beginning that I paid no heed to, but the introduction of a strobe light that gets more and more intense, coupled with a song that gets stuck on a small loop, married to the visuals of the manager whispering something to his on stage Miss California client made me feel quite dazed and almost unwell! It was a memorable beginning and was nice to see things stay almost as strange for the rest of this.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

The Last Witch (2015) - Horror Film Review


There was a period a few years back where I really fell out with the found footage horror genre. I felt it had run it's course and there was nowhere else for the genre to go. Then something awesome happened, there seemed to be a second wind for found footage with no end of good to great movies coming out (Be My Cat: A Film for Anne for example). Then there is The Last Witch; a Spanish horror from young director Carlos Almón Munoz that very much represents what I grew to dislike about these types of films.

Three friends; Mario (Alfonso Romeo), Eduardo (Jorge Gallardo), and Sandra (Paula Pier) have decided they are going to make a documentary in the hopes of making it big on YouTube. They decide to base it on the Terrassa witch trials that took place between 1615 and 1619 in Spain. Six women were convicted of being witches and sentenced to death by hanging, however while five of the women were indeed killed it is unknown what happened to the sixth; Joanna Toy. The trio decide they are going to investigate her home in order to try and work out what happened to her, a bad move it turns out, due to the legend that after 400 years have passed the spirit of Joanna Toy will return for her revenge against the hunter's ancestors. That would be fine, but not only has that exact amount of time passed, but Sandra also happens to be a descendant of one of the people who brought the witches to twisted justice...


I wanted to like this film, I really did, but it falls into so many tropes of the old style of found footage that I couldn't help but be constantly disappointed. This feels like a lower budget version of The Blair Witch Project, but with none of the scares that film had. Here you get shaky camera work, corrupted camera footage, running around in the dark and plenty of being lost in woodland. They even have a similar set up; two men and a woman camping in the woods in exploration of a legend about a local witch. Where this does stand out is that the Terrassa witch trials were actually a real world thing, there were indeed five women who were hanged, and there is no evidence today of just what happened to the sixth witch Joanna Toy. It isn't the first found footage to have horror based on a real event (Hungary's Bodom that was to do with the Lake Bodom Murders springs to mind as one example), however it is neat that research was done to make the film seem more realistic.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

All the Devils Are Here (2014) - Horror Film Review


All the Devils Are Here (previously known as Sleepwalkers) is directed and written by Ryan Lightbourn (Roid Rage) and was filmed on a budget of $30,000 over a two week period. Despite the low budget and swift filming time this is a quality production and features some great looking special and practical effects both for the creatures and the victims they kill.

Five college students have headed out to Florida to the remote holiday home of one of the group. These students include jock Kyle (Ben Evans) and his girlfriend Amy, nerdy Evan (Tommy Goodman), English Owen (Ben Owen) and Kate (Ansley Gordon). Here they intend to celebrate spring break together but instead find themselves at the beginning stages of a deadly zombie/vampire outbreak. Soon they team up with some locals and a couple of escaped convicts to try and survive the night against their relentless foes...


Ryan states that this film was made as an ode to straight to video horror films of the 80's and early 90's and that does show in the film, especially with the soundtrack that is ripped straight out of the 80's. There was a timeless feel about All the Devils Are Here for the most part, indeed I thought it was set in the past for quite a while until a character pulls a mobile phone out their pocket. It couldn't be much of a homage without a cheesy montage or two and there are a few here, I loved the early ones of the friends driving around in their yellow jeep, then when things get real there is a neat little montage of them preparing the house they are at for attack. The camera work on the other hand is all modern in style, it is crisp and clean, a nice compliment to the visuals; much of this takes place in the lazy sunshine of a nostalgic era with some nice saturation used. I did find that the final third that takes place at night was a lot harder to see what was going on. At times it seemed a bit too dark, but this did help immensely with having the already great special effects and make-up effects look even better. The camera had a habit of being a bit too close up to characters when they were fighting which I think contributed to the few moments when I struggled to make events out.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Murder Made Easy (2017) - Horror Film Review


After a week or so of just putting up posts about my own stuff it was about time I returned to items that had been sent for my perusal. So today I watched David Palamaro's indie thriller Murder Made Easy. I should admit that my expectations were pretty neutral for this one, I knew the general gist of the film so assumed it would be pretty bland. However this award winning horror (won the Indie Spirit Award at the 2017 Women in Horror Film Festival) does something really quite clever and unique.

It is a year since Joan's husband Neil died of a heart attack (Joan played by Jessica Graham) and she and her friend Michael (Christopher Soren Kelly) have arranged a night to remember with several close friends. The two are soon revealed to be sociopaths and have planned to kill their guests in retaliation for crimes they had committed against Neil. They have arranged a series of staggered dinner dates to take place over one night, each guest is first confronted over their past transgressions and then murdered and hidden away in time for the arrival of the next one. However with the two finding themselves so adept at killing can they really trust each other once their fool proof idea has come to pass?


Murder Made Easy is a very simple idea, I don't mean that it is lazy, obvious or too bare bones, instead the fact this is an indie project is brought to the forefront. I kept thinking during my time with this that this would be excellent as a stage play. The majority of this revolves around the interactions Joan and Michael have with their guests and the eccentricities that each of the new people bring to the screen. Both Graham and Soren Kelly play straight people, cold and calculated who are quite subdued for the most part. Each of the people who turn up are the opposite, larger than life people such as Angela (Sheila Cutchlow) who is obsessed with the books she has written, idiotic indie film maker Damien (Daniel Ahearn), ultra strict vegan Cricket (Emilia Richeson), and the theatrical Marcus (Edmund Lupnski). At first when Marcus appeared I didn't like the acting Lupnski brought to the role, it seemed too over the top and silly, but then I realised this is actually perfect, he and the others put so much into their characters, make them seem so outlandish and crazy that it goes together fantastically. You get the sense that these people are lesser prey to the killers, something that goes with the controversial thesis Michael had written about the strong deserving to rule the weak however they seem fit. There were elements of Crime and Punishment in this thinking, a vibe that only gets stronger later on.

Friday, 3 November 2017

What Remains of Edith Finch (2017) - Adventure Video Game Review (Playstation 4)


What Remains of Edith Finch is another game in the so called 'walking simulator' genre, seen previously with Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Gone Home. I've wanted to play this for a long time so seeing it in a Halloween sale I snapped it up and played through the whole game in one sitting. Sometimes quality is better than quantity and that is the way here with an experience that took me around 2 hours to see everything.

You play as Edith Finch; the last of her line who has travelled back to the creepy family home she grew up in. The Finch's are said to be cursed with none in Edith's family dying of natural causes. She has gone back to the home as when her mother passed away she left Edith a key that is hinted will reveal the secrets of her family. Whenever someone died their bedroom was sealed up as a sort of memorial, as such new additions kept being built on top of the original building. With her key Edith finally gets access to these locked away rooms, and as she works her way through the maze like house she discovers exactly what happened to each of her cursed family.


I really enjoyed my time with What Remains of Edith Finch and I loved how the game is laid out. In the present you explore the ramshackle building, but each new room you get to you are then transported back in time to play out the last moments of one of the deceased. These all take place as interactive stories and range from the farcical to the fantastical to the harrowing. There are no punches pulled in that a fair few of these have you taking the role of a child, one even has you as a baby. Knowing that death awaits at the end of each of these you can't help but feel sad and sorrowful, yet the way these play out are pretty stunning at times. A guy working in a cannery for instance escapes the tedium of his daily grind by imagining himself in a fantasy kingdom where he has gone on a great voyage. While you control his hand dealing with the fish in his present, you also control him as a 3D avatar that is exploring a world. Another standout story was set within the confines of a horror comic. A story about a fatal home invasion is shown via cell-shaded panels and with John Carpenter's Halloween theme tune playing in the background. Elsewhere a hungry girl imagines herself as various animals scouting the land for food, you hunt leads you to human prey.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Jigsaw (2017) - Horror Film Review


The first Saw film is a classic of it's type, I still state that to this day, I hadn't seen anything quite like it and that twist; boy was that twist cool! I enjoyed Saw II but already I could see cracks starting to show in just where the films could go. I ducked out of the next three films in the series coming back for Saw VI and was not impressed with what I found; a ridiculous and convoluted story that featured multiple protegees of the allegedly dead original Jigsaw killer John Kramer (Tobin Bell). While I enjoyed the actual torture game part everything around it was very confusing to me. Finally was Saw 3D (Saw: The Final Chapter) that purported to be the death of the franchise but ended unsatisfactorily. So hearing it was returning with a new name I admit to being interested to see where things would go now. This movie needed to be a shot in the arm and bring it with it new ideas, and a new attitude, but while I did enjoy Jigsaw it really is just more of the same.

The convoluted storyline is all but thrown out, to be honest I'm not sure if this is a semi re-boot or a continuation. So John Kramer the notorious Jigsaw killer has been dead for 10 years, but it seems a new game is being played. Five strangers awaken in a converted barn where they are forced to partake in a series of brutal and deadly games due to past sins they had been hiding. Meanwhile bodies start turning up all over the city, they appear to be the work of a copycat killer as far as Detective Halloran (Callum Keith Rennie) and Detective Keith Hunt (Cle Bennett) are concerned, but medical coroner Logan Nelson's (Matt Passmore) studies of the deceased seem to turn up more and more conclusive evidence that John Kramer is somehow (and inexplicably) still alive...


One thing I have always liked about the Saw franchise is how the stories always have clever beats to them, nothing is ever quite as it seems and so it was fun to see that is again the case here. At times I wasn't sure if this was a prequel or a sequel to the other films in that Kramer's origins are explored once again in a way, yet obviously takes place 10 years after he died. The reveal was as always neat and unexpected though I kind of figured a little bit of it out even if my calculations were a bit off. Like the others I have seen it was the game itself that was the more interesting part. I remember the series being very wince inducing but here it seems a lot more neutral when it comes to showing scenes of tortures, the camera never greedily focuses on the torture aspect but really doesn't shy away from showing some fantastic looking effects for the dead. There are some awesome looking corpses here and the camera never attempts to hide these away. An early one of someone whose head was sliced in half vertically looked great, later someone is turned into mincemeat, another person has their head opened up like a melon. The five victims were not an interesting bunch, sure they all had secrets to tell but when a few of these victims all turn out to have wronged Kramer at some point in the past I had to roll my eyes a bit. It is farcical how many people in that guy's life caused him legitimate pain and suffering, seemingly every single person he ever interacted with in his whole existence at some point did some evil act such as kill his dog, burn down his mailbox, or cut him up in traffic! The list is freaking endless and done to death.