Monday, 31 December 2018

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for December 2018


Here we are, the final day and the final blog post for 2018. This has not been a good year, I would liken my travel as to that of Dante's journey into Hell. Things have certainly improved with outcomes that would not have occurred had that trip not happened. Still, sometimes I wake up in the night, memories of that fearsome sight of Satan encased in ice, forever trapped in Judecca. All that is to say...roll on the news!

Terror Films has joined forces with Jim Klock (Massacre on Aisle 12, 6.66 PM) and his Code 3 Films group for a three picture deal. The first of these three is to be Red Letters which is currently in post production. The films is about two private investigators who take on a dangerous assignment that leads them to true evil. The film stars Darrell Martinelli, Emily Adams, Kelsey Trainer, and Klock himself who also wrote and directed this. Check out the teaser trailer for this.

 

In time for the Christmas season (that is pretty much over, damn you Silent Singer!) came O' Bloody Night, released by Troma Now on Video-On-Demand. This horror is an anthology, one of my favourite types of film, and of course as the title may suggest, these shorts all take place around the Christmas period. To see this for yourself head here.

Horror reviewer/interviewer Spooky Astronauts and Andrew J.D Robinson (The Becky Carmichael Fan Club, founder of the annual 15 Second Horror Film Challenge) have teamed up to make an immersive how-to filmmaking video for aspiring filmmakers of short films. If that appeals to you then watch the video below.



The easier to pronounce than it first appears to be Agalmatophilia has been released on DVD, VHS and Prime thanks to Frolic Pictures. This bizarre movie is about an office clerk who hires a new secretary that just so happens to be a living mannequin, soon he becomes to develop feeling for it. It sounds all very weird and arty, a guess backed up by the fact this was all shot in black and white. It certainly sounds like something different that's for sure!

 

The Man in Room Six is an art-house horror film that stars the legend Bill Oberst Jr. (Coyote, DIS) and Jackie Kelly. It is directed by Trevor Juenger who also did Coyote. There is a crowdfunding campaign going on  at Seed&Spark to help raise funds for this, more information can be found here. The Man in Room Six is about a troubled woman who meets an elderly man (Oberst Jr.) in a nursing home who claims to be immortal. When this man goes missing the woman is accused of his murder and committed to a girls' psychiatric ward.

 

Finally, in January 2019 comedy horror Hell's Kitty is going to be screened in the UK at the Horror-on-Sea Festival. This movie is about a writer and his possessed cat Angel that won't allow him to have a love life. Among it's claimed iconic cast is Doug Jones (Shape of Water). For more information about the festival go here, and for more information on the film itself check out their website.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Lasso (2018) - Horror Film Review


Lasso is a horror that feels like it stepped right out of the early noughts and along the way took a pit stop at the torture porn genre. It all felt very familiar, yet sometimes familiarity can be comforting. It may be a basic well trod story but it's a competent and entertaining ride.

Kit (Lindsey Morgan - The 100) and Simon (Andrew Jacobs - Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) have brought a bus of senior citizens to a rodeo for a nice day out. Upon leaving at the days end one of the group realises they have left something of theirs behind and so Simon sets out to retrieve it. This delay in the groups departure however accidentally causes them to see the rodeo's dark side, with much of the staff, led by Pomroy Hacket (Thomas Cokenias - Birdemic: Shock and Terror) on a sadistic murder spree. Teaming up with some friendlies Simon meets, that include one armed cowboy Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery - The Boondock Saints, Saw 3D: The Final Chapter) and buff bull rider Trish (Skyler Cooper) they must all find a way to escape the unfolding madness.


I have only seen a couple of Wild West style horrors and so I found the antagonists here to be a fun bunch. Their method of killing their victims is very appropriate to their day jobs with weapons used including pitchforks, spiked whips, branding irons, cattle prods, and of course the titular lasso. With a bunch of crazies on the loose there was no end of variation in the kills here which were always a lot of fun to see. This is all violent stuff with a lot of blood and gore to add to the thrill. Choice kills include a man being sawn in half with a rusty saw, a woman lassoed and then swung round and round until she connects brutally with a tree, and someone who is cattle prodded so much that his eyeballs explode! I would say these are by far the best parts of Lasso and thankfully they are plentiful with a high body count on both sides of the groups.

Friday, 28 December 2018

Mandao of the Dead (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review


By this point in my life I am conditioned to expect a zombie film whenever I see a '...of the Dead' in the title of any film. Due to this I was slightly disappointed Scott Dunn's horror comedy Mandao of the Dead didn't have any rotting fiends. This indie film has a certain quirky charm to it however, while it may be a little bit bare bones there is some nice chemistry with some of the characters.

Jay Mandao (Dunn) discovers in the lead up to Halloween that he has gained the ability to astral project whenever he sleeps. While using this ability he accidentally meets the ghost of a man who has been recently murdered by the crazy ex girlfriend of his adult nephew Jackson (Sean McBride). Together they try and find a way to stop this death from ever occurring...


This is a comedy, but not in the traditional sense of having laugh out loud jokes and gags. Instead this is a comedy in the bright and breezy way dark subjects are covered, and the off-kilter world the character inhabit. Visually there are moments that made me smile, Jackson discovering a corpse and trying not to be sick was pretty amusing for instance. With the dialogue I liked that all the explanations for why characters know the weirdly specific knowledge they do is passed off with a convenient throwaway line that works due to this being a comedy.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Call of Duty: WWII - The Frozen Dawn (2018) - Thoughts on the Final Nazi Zombies Map


The downside to being sent so many films, books, and games to review on this blog is that it doesn't leave me much time to do blog posts about the things that interest me the most. That is not a criticism, more that the pressure of reviewing things in a timely manner leads to me neglecting things. The final Nazi Zombies map for Call of Duty: WWII is one such thing I have long neglected to cover. As well as the map itself I shall be talking about that years Zombies mode in summary.

The Frozen Dawn takes place in the lost city of Thule in Antarctica. Taking things back to normal after The Tortured Path experiment this is a traditional zombies map. Playing as Drostan, Olivia, Marie or Jefferson you open and explore the hidden city in order to find a way to stop the zombie epidemic sweeping the planet. To be honest I think I have played this map around four or five times in total. The final map for any Zombies game is usually the one that gets left out a bit, there are some stunning exceptions (Revelations being one such example, though if you are MrDalekJD it will be so forgettable you even miss it off a 'Ranked Maps' YouTube video, seriously, zero respect for that guy!). My issue with The Frozen Dawn is that it is very similar in look to Beneath the Ice from The Tortured Path. Both have you exploring ancient ruins beneath the ice and so it felt odd to have such a similar map.


Starting off on the surface you work your way down into the depths of the underground city. The map is moderately sized essentially being a long loop. There are narrow corridors and cavernous rooms that are set against of a backdrop of immense size. From my limited time playing this it is ok, but then that is the problem with Nazi Zombies as a whole. This was touted as being the most scary and serious Zombies mode yet, on paper this sounded good. By being so serious though the mode lost a lot of the charm and actually become a bit stale and dull. This map is a perfect example as it is bland personified.

I did not mind The Final Reich, I loved the horror elements and I really loved that finally the game gave you steps towards the elusive Easter egg mission. Due to 'hardcore' player complaints this really useful new addition of listing the steps were removed for the subsequent maps. With the steps gone so did me and my friends enjoyment and desire to play the maps. It is frustrating more than anything having no idea what you are meant to be doing. It didn't make us want to play the maps more, it did the opposite and made us just give up.


Changing up the formula so much for The Tortured Path also seemed a weird decision It felt like the developers were unsure what direction they wanted to take the game, though I am happy that this season there were eight maps, even if four of those were quite small (Grosten Haus has become my catchphrase of the year for describing any bad). As a game in its own right this isn't bad. As a Zombies mode though it is sadly the worst one, it just isn't that much fun to play often being frustrating more than anything. The maps are not bad, there is fun to be had here, but why play this when there are so many better examples already out there?

 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Red Venom Kills (2017) - Exploitation Film Review


Red Venom Kills is a movie that has been made as a loving homage to the exploitation and grindhouse flicks of the 70's. It features a host of scantily clad females, cheesy dialogue and bad acting, yet all with a purpose to them, to echo the inspirations this draws from. While it is stylish and fun to look at I also hate to say I found large chunks of this plain boring.

Alexa Rae stars as a former hooker who was left for dead after being ambushed by the henchmen of the evil Dark Widow (Deana Hernandez) after going onto her turf. With her last moments she discovers an elixir her mother had left for her that gives her super strength and stamina, and also a deadly Amazonian poison. With these tools she becomes reborn as the super heroine Red Venom, and six months later returns to the streets of Silk City to take her revenge...


This tried very hard to be authentic and I loved that it did. The film pops and crackles all the way through, occasionally the film footage burns out, and there are even missing scenes with placeholder text explaining this. The movie opens up with some trailers for the directors previous grindhouse style films, and there is even an seventies style intermission sign halfway through. Add to this scenes that play out in bright primary colours such as blue and red and you have a film that looks different to the modern day style of filmmaking.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Blood (2017) - Horror Film Review


With Reinert Kiil's Norwegian horror Christmas Blood I was a little cheeky with regards to the list of films I have outstanding to review. Due to the obvious Xmas theme I it felt like it would be a good film to watch on Christmas eve and so I bumped it up the list. With the killer in this slasher being dressed up as Santa I thought this may be a comedy, much like what happened with Axemas, however this is far more serious than I expected, though there is black humour peppered throughout.

A serial killer who only kills his victims on Christmas eve is finally stopped after 13 years of terror in Norway and locked away in a mental asylum. Six years later however he escapes and sets out to complete his 'naughty' list he has made. Unknown to him the victim he has chosen is already dead, but the house she used to own is the location of a reunion party that a group of friends are having. Meanwhile a detective teams up with a former detective (Stig Henrik Hoff) who had been obsessed with capturing the killer, together they set out to stop him for good...


I really wanted to like this horror and to be fair I didn't think it was awful. It had a lot of good things going for it. Firstly like the snow itself the camera work and quality is crisp and clean adding an element of class to this. A big complaint I did have though is just how dark the movie as a whole seems. A lot of this takes place in poorly lit locations, from the outset to the end this was a problem for me, I constantly wished there was some sort of light source used to brighten up the surroundings as it could be hard to see what was going on. The group of partying girls are the usual assortment of character types, such as the loose one, the rebel, the good one etc. I liked the dynamic within the group as they really are not having a great time due to friction between some of them. None of these characters really appealed to me, I guess the mute girl was something different as it led to some good moments of her silently running without screaming as you would usually expect. The better storyline was that of the two detectives, I enjoyed the differences between them, the former one being an alcoholic slob, the other one being much more professional and highly strung.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Shellmont County Massacre (2018) - Horror Film Review


Having spent the last few weeks firmly concentrating on the Fright Meter Awards nominations it felt nice to step back into the shallower waters of the indie horror films I get sent for review. My expectations for Gus Trapani's Shellmont County Massacre were very low, initial impressions didn't do much to quell my concerns. However this actually really isn't that bad a film at all, this is something with twists a plenty and some likeable characters.

Billy (Roderick Klimek) is the local sheriff for the tiny rural Shellmont County, his partner is Donny who is seen as a younger brother by the man. One day they hear of a barbaric murder of a woman and her child. Before long more senseless murders occur with it discovered there is a sick killer on the loose, a clown mask wearing maniac who seems to kill just for the thrill of it.


The plot here is pretty bare bones and I would say that aspects of this are where the movie falls down a bit, especially with character development. Where this does excel though is the characters who get time devoted to them. I found the main characters of Billy and Donny to be great choices. Both are likable people who feel a burning duty to protect the people under their care, yet both are also conflicted in how they should respond to this killer. The film does a great job of showing this inner turmoil, especially with Billy. Klimek is great in this role and was a protagonist I really could get behind. The core characters are slim but all fit their roles well, even ones who don't get as much screen time have enough to them to make them interesting. There were two who felt both under developed and unrealistic though.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Fright Meter Awards 2018 - The Winners


Once again the annual Fright Meter Awards winners have been announced. I admit that this year I hadn't seen as many of the potential candidates as I would have liked to, my personal life went through some turbulent times for a few months that led to my blog taking a back seat. However when the final nominations were voted for and put forward I made an effort to watch each and every one I had not yet seen. That is except for the Suspiria that was gold dust in terms of locating and so I had to abstain from being able to count that in any of my personal final votes. So without further ado...

Best Horror Movie:



While I didn't vote for Hereditary to win I can't really complain too much as it was a great horror, even if it wasn't as scary as it had been made out to be. I had voted for The Ritual as out of the contenders that was the one that I really enjoyed the most. If it had been completely up to me Veronica would have not only been a contender, but also have been the winner.

Runner-up: A Quiet Place

Other Contenders:

Halloween
Mandy
The Ritual


Best Director:

Ari Asher (Hereditary)


I voted for Asher to win so not much to add on this one, it had some really good directing throughout.

Runner-up: John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)

Other Contenders:

Halloween (David Gordon Green)
Mandy (Panos Cosmatos)
Suspiria (Luca Guadagino)


Best Actor In A Leading Role:

David Howard Thornton (Terrifier)


Another one that I voted for. David Gordon Green made Terrifier, he was stunningly creepy throughout, a well deserved win in my humble opinion.

Runner-up: Nicholas Cage (Mandy)

Other Contenders:

John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Rafe Spall (The Ritual)
Dan Stevens (Apostle)


Best Actress In A Leading Role:

Toni Collette (Hereditary)


Yet another one that I voted for, however this was a painful category for me. Revenge was a fantastic film, Matilda Lutz was awesome in it, but Collette was just in another league to everyone else I have seen this year.

Runner-up: Jaime Lee Curtis (Halloween)

Other Contenders:

Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place)
Claire Foy (Unsane)
Matilda Lutz (Revenge)


Best Actor In A Supporting Role:

Alex Wolff (Hereditary)


While I didn't vote for Wolff I can see why he did win this one, he was great. My choice was Alex Lawther who was creepy as hell in the disappointing Ghost Stories. Ever since he traumatised me in Black Mirror I have followed his career closely. Least he was the runner-up.

Runner-up: Alex Lawther (Ghost Stories)

Other Contenders:

Linus Roache (Mandy)
Michael Sheen (Apostle)
Anton Yelchin (Thoroughbreds)


Best Actress In A Supporting Role:

Tilda Swinton (Suspiria)



Can't really comment much on this one seeing as how I never was able to watch this. My choice was Milly Shapiro who for me made Hereditary the oddity it was with her captivating and weird performance.

Runner-up:  Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place)

Other Contenders:

Ann Dowd (Hereditary)
Judy Greer (Halloween)
Milly Shapiro (Hereditary)


Best Screenplay:



Yet again Hereditary gets a win, I thought it was a good story, but not too different to many others with how it all goes along. For me I voted for Annihilation which I just found very interesting all the way through.

Runner-up: A Quiet Place

Other Contenders:

Annihilation (Alex Garland)
Halloween (Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride & David Gordon Green)
Suspiria (David Kajganich)


Best Makeup:



Again I cannot comment...I really did try to find a way to watch that one, honest! Least my choice was the runner-up.

Runner-up: Terrifier

Other Contenders:

Mandy
The Predator
Victor Crowley


Best Score:



What can I say? Halloween is my favourite horror franchise of all time and the music has always been really good. I was so happy a new film got made, that iconic tune, and the reworkings and additions just gave me so much joy.

Runner-up: Annihilation

Other Contenders:

Hereditary
Mandy
A Quiet Place


Best Editing:



While I did have my issues with this arty trippy movie it did have some good things going for it, the editing being just one of those, so I can happily say I voted for this to win this category.

Runner-up: A Quiet Place

Other Contenders:

Ghost Stories
Halloween
Hereditary


Best Cinematography:



Annihilation was my choice for this one, it had some really beautiful framed shots, again not having seen the runner-up I can't really complain too much.

Runner-up: Suspiria

Other Contenders:

Annihilation
Halloween
Mandy


Best Special Effects:



For me The Ritual was my choice, the monster itself was so cool looking let alone everything else here.

Runner-up: Terrifier

Other Contenders:

Mandy
A Quiet Place
The Ritual


Best Costume Design:



I chose Apostle for this one, truth be told this was the category I had least interest in as it seemed pretty even with the choices. Still least my choice came second.

Runner-up: Apostle

Other Contenders:

Mandy
The Nun
Winchester

Another year and another round of deserved winners. All being well next year I should be able to concentrate more on finding the years best in choices!

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Mandy (2018) - Horror Film Review


I had heard that Mandy was Nicholas Cage's own John Wick. I don't mean that the style of film is similar (though thematically they are), more that this was a film that made the lead actor relevant again, and showed just how great they can actually be. This is a psychedelic nightmare journey into the heart of Hell but for me this great idea just didn't grate well against my film watching skin. Mandy has been nominated for many different categories in this years Fright Meter Awards, I admit the committee has a habit of adoring the more arty films, I seem to remember the god awful Mother! also getting lots of nominations in the past. Nicholas Cage is up for Best Actor In A Leading Role, Linus Roache is up for Best Actor In A Supporting Role, Panos Cosmatos is up for Best Director. The film is also up for Best Horror, Best Makeup, Best Score, Best Editing, Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Special Effects and Best Costume Design, phew!

Nicholas Cage (Face/Off, The Rock) stars as Red Miller: a simple man living an idyllic life with his wife Mandy (Andrea Riseborough - Oblivion, Black Mirror) in a deep forest. One day the leader of a cult - Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache - Batman Begins, The Chronicles of Riddick) happens to see Mandy and takes an instant shine. His cult team up with a demonic biker gang to kidnap her and her husband, events happen and Red is left with burning vengeance on his mind. With weapons in hand he sets out to get revenge...


This is an extremely trippy film which is usually something I love. There are crazy visual effects, motion blur and unnatural colours, distorted voices and slow down. Yet this impeded my enjoyment. Mandy is two hours long, but the first hour is drawn out extremely slowly with events moving at a glacial pace. The whole home invasion part of the film plays out almost like one long dream sequence. A character lays on her bed literally dreaming, then it turns out that what is happening is actually real. Even for me I sometimes was feeling this was a little too slow, yet the feeling of a dream is realised so well, from the washed out colours, to the bright primary colours, the effects and the editing can sometimes be beautiful. There is one scene here that nearly blew me away with just how stunning it looked. The camera is focussed on Sand's face as he speaks, his voice rife with distortion. As he talks his face impeccably morphs into Mandy's face. It does this again and again, back and forth, ever so slowly over the course of several minutes, it was stunning how the switch couldn't be seen. One moment it is his face, the next hers with no understanding of just when it switched, really was a phenomenal effect.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Thoroughbreds (2017) - Horror Film Review


I will start off this review by saying that Thoroughbreds isn't really what I would class a horror film, even calling it a thriller is a bit of a stretch. It fits in with the genre of unhappy people who don't really know what they want out of life, something along the lines of Garden State and Ghost World but on a darker path, I guess more in line with the classic Heathers. The reason for me watching this particular film was once again thanks to the Fright Meter Awards as Anton Yelchin (Green Room) has been nominated for Best Actor In A Supporting Role in what was his last role before his sad and untimely death.

Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy - Morgan, Split) has been hired to do some extra tutoring to a girl she used to be friends with: Amanda (Olivia Cooke - Ouija, The Limehouse Golem). They soon rekindle their friendship with Lily interested to discover her friend has been unable to feel any emotion at all for her whole life. Lily's mum has re-married to Mark (Paul Sparks - House of Cards), a man that the girl cannot stand, and so hoping to use her friends unique perspective on life she sets out to get him removed...


As I was watching Thoroughbreds I knew it would be a movie I would have trouble writing a review for. This is a lot of talking between the two central characters with not much really happening outside of that. This isn't surprising when you take into account this originally had been planned as a stage play. The two leads are both well suited to their roles, both are good actresses though it was Cooke who impressed me the most. Maybe I just found her character to be a better one. Though she is incapable of emotion she comes across as better than Lily who can feel emotions but chooses to be ruled by them. The other characters here don't really figure in too much. Yelchin had a nice small role, one that was pivotal to the middle third, he was really the only other one who had much to him. Mark was set up to be seen as the adversary, while Lily's mother had barely anything to her at all.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Victor Crowley (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review


Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in Adam Green's Hatchet series of slashers. Before picking this up I can't say I had paid much attention to these at all, I didn't even know they were comedies. Reading the synopsis of the previous three films I was interested to learn that each one follows immediately on from the last which I thought was a neat idea. For this one though, while I assume it is chock full of fan service to those three this takes place ten years later and so I didn't feel too lost, especially after an intro narration that provides info on just who the notorious killer is. Victor Crowley has been nominated for Best Makeup in this years Fright Meter Awards.

So, it is ten years after the events of the original Hatchet films and sole survivor Andrew (Parry Shen - the Hatchet series) has just released an autobiography hoping to get rich off his story. His publicist convinces him to take part in a show that is being filmed in the place where the original killings occurred, so he boards a small plane to go there. Meanwhile wannabe filmmaker Chloe, her boyfriend, and her best friend Rose (Laura Ortiz - The Hills Have Eyes) have met up with guide Dillon (Dave Sheridan - The Devil's Rejects) in the swamp itself to make a trailer for a film based on the event. The plane Andrew is on ends up crashing into nearby, even worse the filmmakers accidentally resurrect the long dead Crowley (Kane Hodder - the Friday 13th and Hatchet series) and now all are in danger.


Despite not having seen the previous films I found myself really enjoying this for what it is. While this is a comedy it doesn't travel too far down that path, the jokes are plenty and are usually funny, yet they also don't overwhelm this with there being plenty of straight up horror moments. There are a wide variety of character types and it seems no one is really safe as some of the more colourful ones are killed off almost immediately, while ones that seem safe bets also get killed off pretty fast. Shen was great here as the cowardly survivor as he has plenty of redeemable qualities. Also surprising was Sheridan as Dillon. At first he came across as a complete self centred boaster, yet he too had plenty of redeemable qualities and really reminded me a lot of the legend Bruce Campbell in how over confident he was constantly. Hodder does what he does best, looking intimidating while killing people in gruesome ways, it is hard to find much fault with him here even if the character of Crowley doesn't do much different to Jason. I guess that is the point though, this is a soft mickey take of those types of slashers while being legitimate itself outside of the comedic moments. This is like a halfway house between a straight horror and the likes of Scary Movie.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Unsane (2018) - Horror Film Review


Another day and another start to a review with me saying 'I wouldn't have watched this if not for the Fright Meter Awards'. It is especially true of Unsane though as even the box art made me think this wasn't going to be good. Claire Foy (Season of the Witch) stars in this and has been nominated for Best Actress In A Leading Role.

Sawyer (Foy) has moved to a new city to get away from a stalker that had been making her life hell. Still suffering from anxiety she goes to a psychiatrist for help but instead ends up being tricked into committing herself to an asylum as part of a health insurance scam the place is running. She is more than shocked to discover her stalker David (Joshua Leonard - The Blair Witch Project) is an orderly working there under a false name, but of course no one believes her, assuming her accusations are part of her illness. Is her stalker really working there though, or is she legitimately suffering delusions?


The key mystery of this which really brought me in was whether this stalker character was real or not, yet Unsane doesn't do a good job at all of making this ambiguous, in fact the opposite, showing its hand far too early on for my liking. At first this seemed like a nightmare, the whole sequence where Sawyer is tricked with events spiralling out of control was thrilling and also scary in a real world sense. It soon becomes apparent though that this isn't really where the tension lies, it is instead her encounters with her believed stalker. While this isn't the usual sort of horror I would go for (alright, this is far more a thriller) I still found myself unable to stop watching. A lot of this was that I felt so concerned for Sawyer, I needed to see that everything worked out well for the character due to the injustice she faced. But it was also how she would get out of the far more dangerous situation she found herself in when everyone she tells assumes her just to be crazy.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Terrifier (2016) - Horror Film Review


Terrifier is another film about an evil clown, I had thought before watching this that it couldn't possibly be interesting due to the glut of these type of films, everything from It to, well to Clown. In fact just today three different people said pretty much the exact same thing to me when I described Terrifier "another film with a killer clown, how original". It didn't take long to realise that this particular one is really something special, and that is square on the shoulders of David Howard Thornton who plays the supremely creepy Art the Clown. So it is no surprise to me that he has been nominated for Best Actor In A Leading Role in the annual Fright Meter Awards. The film itself has also been nominated for Best Makeup and Best Special Effects, it delights across the board.

It is Halloween and two girls are on their way home from a night of partying. Dawn (Catherine Corcoran - Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1 and 2) is too drunk to drive so her more sensible friend Tara (Jenna Kanell - The Bye Bye Man) volunteers, but decides they first need to eat. It is around this time that they get the attention of Art the Clown; a creepily painted mime who starts to stalk the pair, following them to a local diner. This is just the start of a night of bloody mayhem and terror with Art going on a violent rampage...


This feature length film is based on a 2011 short of the same name, also I found it interesting that the character of Art has previously appeared in 2013's All Hallow's Eve that was also written and directed by Damien Leone. This seems to be completely stand alone though as far as I could tell. So this is a slasher that is a love letter to the old grindhouse movies. As such we get some truly gruesome sequences that if not for the sometimes sub par special effects would be stomach churning. As the film progresses these special effects get better and better which is really a good thing as the severed heads and disfigured faces of the first twenty minutes or so looked very unrealistic. I get that this was probably done on purpose to fit in with the grindhouse style but when everything else here is so damn sinister I felt these early moments ripped me out the film somewhat.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Son (2007) - Short Horror Film Review


The Son is a short horror film directed by Adrian Vallarino that clocks in at around eight minutes. For much of the run time I really wasn't sure what to expect but this pulls it back together for the finish. The whole film feels like it stepped out of time with the rural setting giving the feeling of something from the sixties or seventies.

Russ Kingston (Low, He's A Bleeder) stars as the father; a farmer whose son has headed out to hunt rabbits. He tells the boy to make sure he is back by midday, but when he doesn't return the father begins to panic...

I really wasn't sure of this for much of the run time, and that is due to the way the character of the father behaves. There was a weird exaggerated style to his performance that made him look and feel like something out of a comic book or cartoon. From his facial expressions as he is working, to his frantic running around when his son hasn't returned there was something just odd about his character. Flashback sequences allude to why he is like this but I didn't feel they totally explained it all away. Of the story itself I was pleased with how it turned out, there was a nice ending shot that really cemented The Son, saved it in fact.

While I did have issues with The Son in places I did like where it eventually ended up, for that alone I would say it is worth a watch, that and the old timey feel that it creates through grainy footage and old fashioned music worked well to make it feel all a bit timeless.

SCORE:



Monday, 10 December 2018

Apostle (2018) - Horror Film Review


As it is the time of year for the Fright Meter Awards nominations I once again find myself watching a horror that I might have missed otherwise. Apostle is up for awards in three different categories. Dan Stevens is up for Best Actor In A Leading Role, Michael Sheen is up for Best Actor In A Supporting Role, while the film itself is nominated for Best Costume Design. This film takes place in 1905 which is one year earlier than Winchester which I reviewed last week, just stating that as a pointless observation.

So it is 1905 and drifter Thomas Richardson (Stevens - Downton Abbey) has been tasked with heading to an isolated island which is the home of a strange religious cult. He is going there as his sister has been kidnapped by the cult, with them demanding a ransom for her safe return. Upon getting to the island he discovers the cult has a bit of a sinister side to it with torture used for anyone who goes against the rules, and blood letting that is required by the worshippers. The leader of the cult: Prophet Malcolm (Sheen - The Twilight Saga) believes in a Goddess who is able to bring fertility to the land, it turns out this Goddess might actually be real...


Apostle is quite a bleak film that has little joy going for it. The protagonist Thomas is the poster boy for this bleakness in that he constantly looks and acts like his every waking moment is pure torture (he does have a good backstory at least). For someone who is supposed to be on a secret mission he doesn't do much to fit in, doing a poor job of hiding his real objective. The characters here are all hard to like with many being downright villains. I guess Andrea (Lucy Boynton - Don't Knock Twice, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House) is the most relatable being as she is the voice of reason on the island. Everyone does a good turn here though as bleak as everyone acts the acting is all solid stuff, both Stevens and Sheen deserve the nominations they received, while the rest of the cast also fit in well.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Revenge (2017) - Horror Film Review


The real joy of being a member of an annual horror film awards committee is that you get to see films that otherwise you would pass by. Matilda Lutz's performance in the fittingly titled French thriller Revenge got her a nomination for Best Actress In A Leading Role in the Fright Meter Awards 2018. Having now seen that film I can really see why, she and the film both were stunning.

Jen (Lutz - Rings) is the mistress of rich businessman Richard (Kevin Janssens) who has taken her to a remote villa out in a desert canyon from which him and his two friends: Stan (Vincent Colombe) and Dimitri (Guillaume Bouchede) do their annual hunting trip. He had planned to have a few days of fun with her before his friends arrive, but they turn up early and straight away it becomes apparent they desire the flirtatious Jen. The next day the desire gets the better of one of the men and something terrible occurs. Realising Jen isn't going to stay quiet about what has happened, and with her threatening to expose her secret relationship with Richard to his wife the men leave her for dead in the middle of the desert. However going back to recover her corpse the next day they discover she has vanished, for she is very much alive and out for revenge...


The cinematography of this movie is stunning, the rich, clear colours, the perfectly framed shots are a work of art, as is the Carpenter inspired soundtrack that is constant throughout. Some scenes were almost art, the part where ants crawl over a prone body for example was pure perfection. The female revenge genre isn't one I ever really feel comfortable with, yet over the years there have been some great examples such as Bound to Vengeance. The violence against women part is the section I really don't really enjoy watching in these movies, I'm all up for the revenge bit, just the prelude to that can be pretty nasty. Lutz is stunning here, the carefree, flirty and cheeky girl she plays at the films start may as well be a different character to the cold merciless killer she transforms into. After the first half hour her character doesn't even speak anymore, this felt realistic both due to her character being on her own, but also due to the terrific trauma she has gone through. On that front though this is very much a film rather than anything approaching realism. However driven she may be she spends half the movie with a large branch impaled through her stomach, whilst out in the hot desert with no food or water. I can look past things like this when the film is so well made. Having a female director (Coralie Fargeat who also wrote the screenplay) creates a real feeling of empowerment in that the men are shown to be weak and not as powerful as they would at first appear, while Jen escapes the stereotypes of her gender to be born anew.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Payment (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


Payment is a short horror that is written and directed by director Ben Larned. This nearly eight minute film deals with the classic 'sell your soul to the devil' plot device, yet this time around there is a LGBT twist to the events.

For 10 years Stephen (Thomas McNamara) has been in hiding due to a demon (Jamal Douglas) that is hunting him down to collect his soul due to a bargain they once made. With a plan in mind Stephen takes the step of summoning this being, however he is shocked to discover that the demon has a secret of his own to share...

I liked how tender and intimate this short was, the majority of it is a softly spoken conversation between the two very different characters. There is no shouting, or scenes of action and high violence, instead we get two very different people sharing their thoughts and feelings. I enjoyed this, mainly due to the fresh perspective given to the demon who explains the turmoil and hardship his job entails, someone who has feelings and is as much trapped in the life choices he has made as Stephen is.

The lighting is kept to a minimum with only a few moments of soft, almost peaceful music playing. The focus is very much on the two characters rather than the bland empty motel room they are sat in. If I had any complaints it would be that sometimes they are so soft spoken that I had to strain my ears to make out what they were saying. All in all though this gave a fresh spin on an old story, one that is bittersweet, but also one that is peaceful.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Purgatoric (2018) Short Film Review


Purgatoric is an experimental art film from award-winning filmmaker Emma Dark (Seize the Night). This clocks in at around four minutes and was made with a minimal crew that was made up of just Dark, she was responsible for the screenplay, editing, camera, and directing. I admit I don't get this at all, but the great score by The Core meant I enjoyed my time with it.

A man (Billy Chainsaw - Strippers vs Werewolves, Cry Wolf) is alone on a beach, it might be post apocalyptic, it might be current day, it might even all be metaphysical. He appears a bit lost and anguished but soon comes to a realisation.

So I didn't understand this, though am sure the title is a clue, at least as to the state of mind of the character, but I did really love the music. I also liked how this had been made to give a retro feeling to the look. It was shot digitally and then during post production altered to make it look like it was filmed on a Super 8. The title and end cards were also really well done, I loved the trippy morphing they did. it just fitted well with the vibe of this. Check it out for yourself below.

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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Winchester (2018) - Horror Film Review


It is that time of the year once again when the annual Fright Meter Awards are in progress with the nominees announced for the various categories. Being a member of the awards committee I find myself having to get up to speed on the films that got nominated but which I hadn't seen. Winchester is up for the award for Best Costume Design. This is another of those horrors that purports to be based on true events, being as it is about the infamous Winchester house in America that is said to be one of the most haunted mansions in the country. The actual plot itself is entirely made up for this movie, but the belief that victims at the hands of Winchester rifles haunted the mansion was held by the real life Sarah Winchester, as was her obsession with constantly adding and building to her property.

It is 1906 and psychiatrist Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke - Terminator: Genisys) has been hired by the Winchester company to judge the sanity of principal shareholder Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren - the Prime Suspect series). In return for him diagnosing her as of unsound mind (and thus being forced out of her company) Price will be compensated handsomely. He arrives at her property where he discovers she believes that ghosts of victims of her family's famous rifle haunts her, and her house. Initially believing her to be suffering from hallucinations he slowly begins to realise that there may in fact be some truth in what she speaks...


This reminded me a lot of the classic Thir13en Ghosts, albeit a much more mellow and less violent version. The location itself is the most memorable part of this, a huge sprawling mansion that is constantly being modified and added to 24 hours a day. Rooms that lead nowhere, secret passages, and many doors that have been sealed off. There wasn't as much house exploration as you would expect though, with a series of corridors and rooms that you never really see people going through logically, they just get shown at the start and end of their wanderings around the mansion.