Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Tempus Tormentum (2018) - Horror Film Review

James Rewucki's Tempus Tormentum is a film that puts a lot of stock on its visuals and sound, but not so much on its story. It prefers to stick to a very abstract concept rather than tell a cohesive plot, because of this it feels very art house in style and that both works towards it at times, but at others works against it.

A drifter (Tyhr Trubiak - Curse of Chucky) arrives in a small American town and rents a motel room. That night three mask wearing psychopaths break into his room and inject him with an unknown drug before giving chase. Wherever the drifter runs to he comes across strange acting townsfolk who are either unwilling to help, or are in on the bizarre event. The three crazies seem reluctant to kill their victim and instead seem to have other plans for his eventual fate...

More than anything this reminded me of the 2006 horror After..., while that is set in Moscow's subway system and this is set in a small town that is where the differences mainly lie. Both these films look and feel like a combination of a music video and a bad acid trip mixed together and spread over a feature length movie. Aside from the plot of a stranger being hounded my maniacs there isn't really any more meat on the bones, we never get to know what sort of person the drifter is, aside from it seems he has a girlfriend somewhere. Because of this it was very hard to care about his plight at all, there was nothing to him and so no reason at all to root for him as the protagonist. Dialogue is minimal here, there isn't really a conversation at all here. In fact I reckon the antagonists get more lines than the hero character, these three characters are Devil (Darren Johnston), Slashmouth (Paul McWhinney), and Clown (Dr. Rage) and while they don't have much to them they are entertaining in a way. I like the off kilter things they do while chasing their victim, such as Clown who gets in a conversation with a mannequin in a warehouse, then later on in a church starts playing the organ dementedly.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Rampage (2018) - Horror Film Review

One of the stronger memories I have as a child was one lazy afternoon sitting down with a friend in his father's den to play through the videogame Rampage on his Master System. We played through the whole game start to finish in two player and remains the only time I have played the game in its entirety. I mention that because this film is the unlikely cinematic version of that simple game, I failed to see how this could be any good, but with Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson on board I knew it would at least be entertaining.

So in the videogame three humans have been mutated into gigantic creatures; George the ape, Ralph the wolfman, and Lizzie the crocodile woman. The aim of the game is to destroy all the buildings in each stage while avoiding the attacks of the U.S armed forces. In the film adaptation these creatures are instead animals who have become infected with a man made pathogen. A shady research company had secretly been conducting illegal genetic experiments onboard a space station, they were attempting to perfect a bioweapon. However the experiment got out and the station was destroyed, three canisters containing samples of the bioweapon crash in America, one in a gorilla enclosure that Davis Okaye (Johnson - Doom) was in charge of, one in remote countryside that infects a wolf, and one lands in swampland that infects a crocodile. The company responsible set off a homing beacon that draws the mutants to Chicago, they hope that once there they will be able to retrieve a sample from one of the monsters, while the army killing the beasts will hide all evidence of their wrong doing.

While this was a more fun videogame adaptation than Tomb Raider it also fell into the same traps that that one had, namely that it was pretty dull and predictable at times. I expected monsters rampaging around a city from the get-go, this only actually occurs in the last third of the film and so before that I was just waiting in anticipation of this event. When the beasts do finally meet there it leads to some quite visually appealing scenes, this is rated 12A but you still get to see plenty of people get killed and eaten by the threesome. This part is where it is most like the videogame with plenty of carnage with buildings getting destroyed, tanks and helicopters getting obliterated, and a lot of spectacle. Before this stand out moment we are treated to a great prologue with a giant mutant rat on a space station, it gave me fond memories of the fantastic Life from last year; space and horror mix together so damn well. I liked how this could almost have been a direct sequel to that film.

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Depths (2017) - Thriller Film Review

Award winning crime drama The Depths isn't really the type of film I would normally review on this blog, that is my fault though for not really looking into what type of genre this was for before accepting. That isn't to take away from what a solid drama this was, I was certainly kept glued to the screen long after the realisation sunk in that there would be nothing really horror like about this. The story was almost Shakespearean in how it chronicled the disastrous fall out between two flawed friends, and how the descent into the darkest parts of the human soul can happen to anyone given the right push.

Ray (Michael Rispoli - Kick-Ass) and Mickey (Patch Darragh - The First Purge) are best friends who for the last two years have been writing a screenplay together with the dream of selling it in order make their riches. After this screenplay gets rejected the two fall out and soon Mickey finds himself out of a job and addicted to cocaine. Both decide to write a new screenplay independently of each other, though Mickey feels to really get to know the mind of a killer (which their story was about) he has to expose himself to the rawest parts of humanity.

Early on in The Depths the two friends pitch their idea to a businessman, it became obvious there and then that the story they were trying to sell would actually prophetically come to pass as the plot of the movie itself, so in that respect there were not too many surprises in the overall gist of the story. Neither of the two characters are that angelic to begin with, Mickey is lazy and unwilling to put in the work to improve his life, while Ray is shown to have quite a bad temper. The tipping point of their rejection leads to two very different paths travelled with Ray keeping at his job while working to better himself by researching at the local library. Mickey meanwhile loses his job, gets evicted from his apartment, and sees coke as the answer to his creativity. Wallowing in the lows of society is his solution, an early visit to a crime scene inspires him onto this path. Most of the movie focuses on Mickey with Ray relegated to a secondary role.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Twilight Hotel (2018) - Horror Comic News and Review of Issue 1 'Head of the Tale'

Twilight Hotel is a new comic book series from writer and creator Ra X that is going to consist of 4 issues. Issue 1 had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, and on Friday 13th April a week or so back a new campaign was launched in support of the series.

Twilight Hotel takes place in the titular hotel which has a very shady past. Tortured souls are drawn to the notorious hotel where they are visited by their own personal demons, much like what Silent Hill in the survival horror videogame series does. An ancient evil known only as SHE resides there, and the building was purposely built as a vessel for SHE to reside in. In issue 1 we meet the narrator Virgil Lee Petty who is the long term maintenance supervisor and who had been due to retire. Things don't go exactly according to plan and instead he decides to relate to the reader just what sort of place the Twilight Hotel really is. Each issue takes place in a different time period with the first issue being mostly about the original owner of the hotel; Calvin Pennyworth III and the reasons for his actions.

I often say I love anthologies and so I was immediately taken with the premise behind this series. The hotel has a kind of The Shining feel about it due to all the death and madness that has taken place there over the years. This is all brought to life by fantastic art work by Michael Aryn, his art is consistently great with art really being the right word for his drawings. There is plenty of vivid blood here that is striking against the backdrops, while characters look realistic rather than overly cartoon like.

Issue 1 is more a set-up for the series rather than a traditional story, the parts concerning the narrator were the most interesting, while the flashback to past events were all done in black and white, but with the lovely blood effects still crimson and so stick out very well. Occasionally you get a full page spread, narration boxes paced about so as you scroll down more and more of the overall picture is revealed. I figure that the following three issues will tell stories in a more traditional structure.

As I mentioned there is currently a Kickstarter going to raise funds for the production of Volume 1 that will be made up of Head of the Tale, Bed Bugs, Truth or Consequences and Pushing Up Daisies. Since the first issue came out last year more artists have been hired to work on the series, this includes Chet Zar who in addition to having a large fan base (100,000 followers on Instagram) previously was an effects makeup artist on such films as The Ring, Planet of the Apes and Hell Boy II. If you want to contribute to the Kickstarter then head here where there are the usual tiers of rewards depending on how much you pledge. Going by issue 1 this is going to be a good series for fans of anthology horror such as The Twilight Zone and Creepshow.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Slop (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

Slop is a short slasher that clocks in at 40 minutes long and which was co-directed by Kelly Kalusha (who also has a role in the film), and Josh Ludwick (who wrote this as well). While this is very indie in some respects I was impressed with the overall quality to be found here, and I liked how the essence of a slasher was condensed down without really seeming to miss much out.

A little girl is abducted by a pig mask wearing man (Jacob Phipps) near an old barn, her friends report this to the police who are shocked to discover the remains of several missing people inside the place. A local news crew want to do a story from the crime scene but can't get access, so they decide to head back in the evening when the police would have left. Unfortunately for them that's also the same idea the killer has...

I really enjoyed this, Slop had a tight three act story that covered all the bases it needed to. It was a neat idea to have the killer discovered early on as it gave a weird feeling of this being a sequel within its own film. Opening with Slop (what the pig masked man is named as in the credits) going about his business we get some nicely edited flashbacks of two of the victims and how they came to be killed. This character is by far the best part of this short and was an imposing presence whenever he was on camera. The look may remind me of both Piggsy from the Manhunt videogame and of Larry from author Adam Millard's comedy send-up of the slasher genre but he was a cool creation. It helps he is built like a brick wall, he steals the scenes he is in. A particular favourite part had him in the extreme foreground looking at the camera as a character tries to sneak past behind him.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

A Quiet Place (2018) - Horror Film Review

A Quiet Place seems to be the film that even non horror fans are all talking about at the moment. It is never a bad thing when a genre piece gets into the public consciousness. Ever since me and a friend saw the teaser trailer for this we wanted to see it, it seemed like it would be like 28 Days Later in tone while I loved the idea that this is a world where any noise whatsoever results in instant death from unknown adversaries.

This takes place in a world in which monstrous aliens have invaded Earth. These creatures are blind, but they have super hearing and attack any noise source within moments of it occurring. The majority of this takes place around a year and a half after the invasion, Lee (John Krasinski who also directs), his pregnant wife Evelyn (Emily Blunt - The Wolfman), and their two children; Marcus (Noah Jupe - Penny Dreadful) and deaf Regan (Millicent Simmonds - perhaps a distant relative of mine?) live in silence on a farm deep in the American countryside. One fateful evening their place of refuge becomes a target for the creatures, it just so happens to be the night that Evelyn gives birth...

I was impressed with how tightly A Quiet Place sticks to the use of silence, and how it gradually incorporated music into this. The first twenty minutes or so play out in complete silence, not even a score to listen to. This quickly sets up the rules of the world, and the great lengths the characters have to go to just to survive. Characters walk around barefoot on specially laid out pathways of sand, their every movement and action measured out to reduce noise as much as possible. While there is a small amount of dialogue to be found here the vast majority of the interactions take place via sign language which was a nice touch as I just figured this would be 90 minutes of people whispering loudly at each other. Obviously there is subtitles for most of us who don't know sign language but I'm sure people who do would have got a kick out of this aspect.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Truth or Dare (2018) - Horror Film Review

As soon as I saw the trailer for Truth or Dare I had an inkling this would be my type of film, even then though I could tell that it seemed incredibly derivative and generic with a trailer that could be any number of teen horrors from the last decade. Truth be told I was drawn to this by the creepy grin that is a recurring motive here, that is because often I pull that same face while looking in a mirror as a means to try and creep myself out when I'm home alone. Another truth; I really need to get a life!

While on spring break in Mexico a group of friends that include best friends Olivia (Lucy Hale - Scream 4) and Markie (Violett Beane) go to an abandoned monastery at the behest of a stranger that Olivia had met at a bar. It is suggested they play a game of 'truth or dare' there as part of a drinking game. However when it comes to the strangers turn he chooses truth and then tells the friends that he has tricked them into playing a cursed game. Each in turn will at some point in the future be forced to choose between the two options, but with sadistic deadly consequences for failure to tell the truth, or complete the dare. Heading back to America the group think nothing of this but one by one they are confronted by an evil presence, and refusal to play its game ends in death. As the game continues and the body count rises the survivors must find a way to end the game once and for all.

Truth - this is not a great film, it suffers more than anything due to a lack of any original ideas, hell, it even ends the exact same way that Rings did. I had had a really long and stressful day at work though and I find this a great piece of escapism for a few hours. I went in with my expectations low and so I wasn't disappointed, this may have no surprises but the format worked for me in my current frame of mind. What I love about the horror genre is how versatile it can be, it can suit many different moods, while its more outlandish parts mean that the escapism works due to it being completely un-relatable to real life. We have here a bunch of vapid teens, including token gay guy, two best friends, the nasty one etc but I enjoyed the tenseness of seeing their lives get ruined by this curse.

Monday, 16 April 2018

The Walking Dead: Season 8 (2017-18) - Zombie Horror TV Show Review

I finished off my review of season 7 of The Walking Dead saying how I believed season 8 would be an action packed spectacle. With New Alexandria, The Hilltop, and The Kingdom all gearing up to fight Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his Saviors I did wonder how such an action packed set-up could be sustained for a 16 episode run. Inevitable minor spoilers for this season to follow, with obviously bigger spoilers for seasons which came before.

Season 8 has all out war between the three unified settlements and Negan's band of thugs, however things don't go as smoothly as hoped with the Saviors seemingly able to counter any plan Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and Ezekial (Khary Payton) can come up with. As the war continues and the body count rises people on both sides start to think there has to be a better way for survival, but with wildly different thoughts for how this can be achieved...

This season is all about showing the futility of fighting each other rather than banding together against the zombie threat. The way it achieves this is pretty nicely done. At the start I was on board for the complete annihilation of the Saviors, every character who started talking about stopping the killing I thought was bananas. Yet very slowly, episode by episode I came to see the truth the 'weak' characters were seeing, by the end I had changed and was instead rooting for the war to end. As usual there is a huge three month gap in between the first half and the second half, I really must start to write half my review at this point as my memory is a bit foggy.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Ghost Stories (2017) - Horror Film Review

I had been looking forward to British anthology horror Ghost Stories ever since I first saw the trailer late last year. For one thing I adore anthologies, to get to see one on the big screen was going to be a real treat. Secondly it had an interesting cast, I was intrigued how both Paul Whitehouse and Martin Freeman would perform in a horror setting when they are known for comedy, and it was a thrill to see young Alex Lawther would be in it too (best known for the stand out Black Mirror episode of season 3 'Shut Up and Dance'). While there was no doubt this was a chilling film I couldn't help but feel that it never really knew how to end any of its little tales satisfactory.

Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman - Dead Set, and who also co-wrote and co-directed this along with League of Gentlemen's Jeremy Dyson) has spent his life as a paranormal debunker. One day he receives a mysterious package in the post from a legendary paranormal debunker who had disappeared in mysterious circumstances many years previously, and who was the inspiration for Goodman to take up the job himself. This leads to a meeting with the man who reveals he now firmly believes in the supernatural. He gives Goodman three different case files and tells him these were the three cases that he was never able to solve, and dares the Professor to try and solve them himself, warning him they will change his view of the world forever...

So as with all good anthologies this has a central storyline (that of the Professor exploring the old cases) and then a series of smaller tales. Each story stars one of the principal actors mentioned in my introduction. The first has Whitehouse as night watchman Tony Matthews, he recounts the story of a terrifying encounter he had in a former mental asylum. The second story stars Lawther as nervous teenager Simon who hits a strange creature while driving down a remote woodland road. The final story stars Freeman as Mark Priddle, this one is about an expectant father who witnesses spooky goings on in the nursery he has made for his unborn child. The good news is that all four stories are creepy as hell, and also very weird, you can really feel the League of Gentlemen influence, something Ghost Stories reminded me of even before I knew it was done by Dyson.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Knock Knock (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review

It has been a rough few weeks for me in terms of the films I have been watching for review, there has been a fair few decidedly average ones, and even some that were not good at all. Because of this I was a bit worried that Knock Knock would also fall into this blip of not great films, especially as it shares its name with the Keanu Reeves fronted trash fire that came out in 2015. Thankfully though this indie film delights due to its likeable cast, and that it doesn't try to punch above its weight, making a film that takes place mainly in a nondescript small apartment an entertaining experience.

Former boxer Sam 'Stonefist' Grant (Kerry Tartack) returns home to his apartment one evening to find his neighbour Olivia (Sisi Berry) there. Initially she says she is there to throw Sam a party as it is his 60th birthday the next day over, however he soon discovers that instead she has a more urgent reason. Olivia and a couple of other neighbours; Dragon (Chuk Hell) and Gretchen (Rachel Atterson) suspect that a mysterious new neighbour who has moved in is actually a vampire. One by one they tell Sam stories supporting their suspicion, but is the new neighbour really what they think he is?

This all starts with an advert for pizza that has the visual quality of an old VHS tape, this advert featured purposely awful and awkward actors and so was amazing, I really enjoyed this and got high hopes for the rest of the 54 minute movie. It was a nice surprise then to see the film proper had camera work of a much higher quality. Each of the four main characters get a decent amount of time to establish the sort of people they are which then feeds back into each of their little stories. Best of these was Dragon's tale about ordering garlic pizza, Hell had a great range of exaggerated facial expressions and despite playing a movie stereotype of a work shy drug abuser still managed to stand out. As an aside it was cool to see a poster I had been umming and erring about buying for a while hanging in the background of his story, that tipped the balance for me and so I paused the film to click it out of my save for later for purchase then and there. Knock Knock can be quite stylish at times and Dragon's part was one example with a nice haze effect put over his flashback.
The other biggest time this shows its style is in the fantastic end credit sequence. The film itself ends on a traditional shot, but then the aftermath plays out over the credits. This whole sequence felt out of place in relation to the look of the rest, it took place against a white backdrop and was essentially a slow paced fight sequence playing out in silence (with a great tune playing over it), but with the credits appearing around this it just gave a real feeling of coolness, helped again by the fantastic facial expressions of the cast.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

The Trouble with Terkel (2010) - Animated Comedy Film Review

The Trouble with Terkel is a Danish made animated film that was directed by Thorbjorn Christoffersen and Stefen Fjeldmark. Now this shares a lot of its style of humour from Sausage Party, that was a film I could barely stand due to its focus on trying to be as offensive as possible. As such the type of humour to be found in this movie is the absolute polar opposite of what I enjoy, there wasn't a single joke here that amused me and so that could not help but make me dislike what I saw.

Terkel (Mike Olsen) is a typical teenager in what appears to be an alternate dimension in which it is normal for everyone to be foul mouthed and nasty to each other. One day he starts getting death threats from a person unknown and he starts to fear for his safety. It all comes to a head on a school camping trip organised by his teacher Mr. Balsac (Shark Firestone).

This is pretty mediocre stuff, but thankfully at least the animation is fine enough. It is nowhere as near as good as Pixar but I have seen far far worse. The animation is functional even if characters look unfinished, and they have a kind of unique look to them in that they resemble muppets in how they move. While I thought the actual script was awful the voice actors all do actually pretty good jobs, there was no one at all who I felt were bad at their lines, and it was great to see (well, hear) Chad Ridgely (Massacre on Aisle 12, 6.66 PM) as the voice of Uncle Stewart. This has English dubbed over the original language and no attempt is made to lip sync so is a lot of flapping mouths with no sound coming out. There are quite a few song and dance numbers throughout this, none of them were any good, and one rap played out in the original Danish with not even subtitles to help make sense of what was being said. The one concession was a header saying something like 'this next part will make no sense', stuff like this just added to the unpolished feel.

Monday, 9 April 2018

But Deliver Us From Evil (2017) - Horror Film Review

But Deliver Us From Evil is a horror written and directed by Joshua Coates, which bases itself on lore from the Bible. While it is a film about a demon it eschews the typical possession plotline and instead plays out kind of like Species, but replacing the alien with a succubus who only seeks out males and who kills them during intimate moments.

Jeremiah (Grant Harvey - Supernatural) is a loner who has spent his life in foster care, he was unable to get adopted due to the strange condition he has that grants him visions of the future for people in peril. The movie starts with him arriving at college to study religion, but unknown to him it is also the place that an ancient demon known as Lilith (Alice Rose) has chosen to carry on her endless mission to corrupt men and kill them.

While this has some interesting ideas behind it I felt that the budget couldn't really give the room needed to explore these themes. Jeremiah is not a likeable lead which from the start makes it hard to get too invested in his story. He is an unlikely protagonist in that he comes across as abrasive and weird, but he also doesn't work as his story seems to be almost turned into a subplot with him only joining the main plot of Lilith's rampage very near the end. In fact the realisation for him comes with just ten minutes of film time left. Leading up to this point he indirectly helps and hinders people as he wanders around campus acting all brooding and preoccupied with the visions he has. A twist occurs that seems to reveal to him just who the strange woman who has befriended him actually is (Lilith of course), yet the very next scene he is with the lady and apparently didn't get the memo as acts like he has no idea she is a force of evil. This leads up to a farcical exchange with another character that I couldn't tell if it was meant to be funny or not.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

ARK Park (2018) - Video Game Review (PSVR)

I had a list when I first got my PSVR of exactly the type of things I wanted to experience. I wanted to be scared, to go into space, and to fly like a bird. I have done all those things, but when I heard about ARK Park I realised I should have added walking with dinosaurs to that list. ARK Park is a spin off of ARK: Survival Evolved which as far as I can tell is a survival game that has is full of dinosaurs. Now this is game is playable in multiplayer too, however I don't know anyone who has that so this review is based on my time with single player only.

In this game you play as a visitor to a Jurassic Park style theme park island that is full of dinosaurs. After riding the monorail you go to the visitor centre, then onto the park proper where you can visit a series of different areas in order to gather resources, as well as help defend a robot that is repairing special machines that keep the various dinosaurs docile.

This is a game that starts to show more and more cracks the deeper you get into it, in fact the first hour of this is the best as there is a lot of excitement and wonder. However with each passing hour you begin to realise just how shallow this experience ultimately is, and it soon sets within you a kind of desperation to find more stuff to do. It starts off fantastically with a wonderful tutorial that has a flying robot guide you through the basics of the game. You are introduced to the controls, and then take a really fun train ride over to the visitor centre. The centre lets you play around with some static dinosaurs, feeding them, looking at them, and activating the different animations they have. It was a lot of fun getting to see all these creatures up close, with some such as the T-Rex being quite imposing due to their size in relation to you. The tutorial takes you through the basics of gathering resources before taking you to one of the shooting missions.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Winterglass (2017) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew - Fantasy Book Review

Back when I was in my teens the fantasy genre was pretty much the only genre I read. I loved the worlds of Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, and Weiss and Hickman, they were such vivid wonderful creations. The flipside of all that is that this genre is known for huge books and long, long chains of novels. Winterglass at least is a quick read, what I assume to be the first entry in the Winterglass series is a novella, coming in at just 130 pages. It is also currently the only book in the series, though from how this ends I assume there will be more to come.

This takes place in the city-state of Sirapirat that many years in the past was conquered by a near immortal being known as the Winter Queen. This woman brings with her winter wherever she rules, and so the place has been plunged into perpetual winter. Nuawa is a fighter who earns her keep through arena fighting. Upon learning that the Queen's General; Lussadh is holding a contest with the winner getting to join her army Nuawa enters, for her own personal reasons.

The fantasy world described in this book was never really well explained, in fact I started to suspect that I had accidentally dipped my foot into the middle of an ongoing series. It turns out though that this was the first book, so it is a shame that nothing is really ever spelled out. I kind of had to try and assemble a picture in my head of this place. Events are described with an assumption you know what has been going on, characters have motivations that are never revealed to the reader, at least not as far as I could tell. By the books end I had a good enough idea of how Sirapirat operated, but that was about it, no idea what the world was like, or any importance of what happened here.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Great Horror Video Games with Disappointing Sequels

A bit of a different post than usual in that this is more of a blog post rather than a review or news. I'm away from The Rotting Zombie office currently (yeah, that exists) and am not going to be back there until later today as off to see Ready Player One. I have an e-book for review that I am so very nearly at the end of, but want to allow time to write a non rushed post about that, so will have to wait till Friday (the next time I'm free). That is all a round-about way to say that this post is something I thought about writing while daydreaming at my bill paying job.

So today I'm going to talk about great horror video games that have terrible sequels. I'm not talking about down the line, say the third or fourth game, I mean fantastic games that get immediately followed by hugely disappointing sequels. I guess the catalyst for this was reading a bad review of The Evil Within 2, personally I really enjoyed that one, but it has got me thinking of some prime examples. There will be some spoilers here, but the games I talk about are all old so shouldn't be much of an issue.

The Suffering: Ties That Bind (2005)

The Suffering is an example of a game that is near damn perfect for a horror. If it was a film it would be straight to video for sure, yet it is a masterclass in world building and inventive enemy design. The Suffering has you play as a prisoner that has been incarcerated on a prison island with a very bad track record. A supernatural event leads to the evils of the island manifesting as demonic monsters, your goal is to escape. It is a simple goal but one that is made all the more joyous by the detail put into everything. The island feels like a real place with logical layout and plenty of history told via unlockable info screens. The enemies too feel logical with the background given for them A lot of the monsters are based on different methods of execution used in the prison, Creatures with huge needles for arms refer to death by lethal injection, while monsters with guns melded to their back refer to firing squads. Meanwhile the antagonists are the spirits of people from the island's past, such as the head doctor of the mental asylum that used to be in use on the island.

With all this I was very excited for a sequel, after all The Suffering is a game I have happily played through in one sitting on many occasions. It all starts off great, having escaped the island in the first game you arrive at a city on the mainland but immediately get captured by a shady mercenary group, before managing to escape after the reveal that the chaos of the island had spread to the city as well. This stunning start then devolves into tedium, and lazy design. Without the confines of the island setting the levels you go through start to feel random and unconnected and include such joys as sewers and warehouses. I have only played through this the once so my memory is foggy, but what offended me the most was how lazy the whole experience was. The same enemies from the first game all reappear but with different background as to why they exist. So for instance the needle armed creatures are now a metaphor for illegal drug use, while the monsters with guns melded to their backs are now referencing gun violence. You even get some of the same key antagonists returning, so now the head doctor of the asylum is revealed to have also done a stage show on the side. I should go back to this one day but the gut punch of disappointment is still there all these years later.

Manhunt 2 (2007)

Manhunt is another game that I would happily play through in one sitting. It has its problems for sure but for someone who hates stealth usually I adored this one. This has the vibe of The Warriors and has you as a man who was due for execution, but instead finds himself forced to participate in a sick snuff movie with a director communicating to you via a headset. The game has you battling various different gangs such as white supremacists and survivalists. The lynchpin of the game was the brutal executions you could do on enemies, the longer you built your meter up the more violent the kill.

Honestly I haven't played much of Manhunt 2, I played the first few levels before tapping out, and it had some nice ideas, such as a level that takes place in a Hostel type place of rich people killing innocent victims. My complaint is that the executions were heavily censored, ridiculously so, so much in fact that it was often hard to even tell how you were even dispatching enemies. This made the most fun part of the whole experience into a trainwreck, there was no longer any point stealthing, as the reward was a censored mess, so you may as well just kill people the traditional way.

Condemned 2 (2008)

Condemned was one of the launch games for the X-Box 360 and another fantastic horror. In this one you played as a detective who was framed for murder and so had to go on the run to try and hunt down the person actually responsible. This all took place in first person with some really grimy and creepy locations such as sewers, an isolated farm, and a ruined department store full of christmas decorations.

Condemned 2 (Condemned 2: Bloodshot outside of Europe) failed for two key reasons. Firstly most the locations you visit were changed to clean sterile environments, such as the Police HQ and a museum, These locations just didn't have the creepiness or isolation of those before. The supernatural element that was only ever hinted at was brought to the foreground here and ruined by over explanation. Every single obscure part of Condemned was dragged kicking and screaming into the light and explained away to the point of tedium. Add in a shady mercenary group, an increase in projectile weapons over melee ones, frustrating dream sequence levels, and confusion over what made Condemned scary and you have a game that manages to be dull due to overproduction. A level set in an abandoned doll factory should be freaky as hell, yet this game manages to make it not so. I guess at least you battle a zombie bear in one level!

Project Zero II/Fatal Frame II (2003)

I haven't played it in quite a few years but Project Zero (or the far greater title Fatal Frame as it was known outside of Europe) was a game that legitimately terrified me. A Japanese survival horror that had you play as a young woman searching a remote mountain mansion in search of her lost brother this was like The Grudge or The Ring in game form. The mansion was full of evil ghosts and your only weapon to battle them was a magical camera that could destroy their souls. The whole sense of isolation and claustrophobia made this so scary.

The sequel isn't nearly as bad as some of the others on this list but what made the first game so intrinsically scary is lost here. The location is changed from a remote house to a remote village, not as effective but still ok. My problem is that now instead of one character there are two; twin sisters. Aside from on a couple of occasions you have your sister with you constantly. The fear of isolation is removed when you have a friendly A.I partner near you, it was very much needed for the story being told but what made the first game so atmospheric and uncomfortable to play was very much reduced.

Writing this I have realised that I really need to give these games a second chance, I very much doubt my mind will be changed but would be interesting to see. These few examples were all off the top of my head so am sure there are other ones I have missed. Let me know in the comments below what you think are truly bad sequels to stunning horror games!

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Bad Friday (2017) - Short Comedy Horror Film Review

Yesterday I put up a review of short comedy horror film Frankula that starred David Barry as Frankie Abbott. Bad Friday is a companion piece to that film with some of the same cast and was also released last week, quite fitting as this one takes place on Good Friday.

Frankie Abbott goes on a day trip to a park with the rest of his nursing home under the supervision of  carer Agnes (Emma Dark - Seize the Night). Seeing a young girl with a giant Easter egg Frankie gets jealous and steals it, however he soon finds that wherever he goes he sees a knife wielding Easter bunny threatening him.

Much like Frankula the humour here is old school in fashion. As I said with the other review the character of Frankie Abbott comes from old sitcom Please Sir! so I assume it fits that cheeky tone. This time around the short makes more sense, but then this is not a dream sequence like that was. The horror is kept to a minimum with the bunny killer just lurking around in the background, the humour being that only Frankie can see the ominous figure, a manifestation of his guilt. At seven minutes this goes along at a steady pace, telling the story it wanted to, again it is inoffensive for the most part, the bus section aside, but resonated even less with me than the other short. Still if you're a fan of this type of old fashioned humour and want to see some classic actors then check it out, there is a certain charm about it. Bad Friday is free to watch on YouTube so I will include it below.


Monday, 2 April 2018

Frankula (2017) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Frankula had little to no meaning to me, that is not because of any sort of lack of quality, more that this is a light hearted spin-off to late 60's/early 70's British sitcom Please Sir! In that show David Barry played pupil Frankie Abbott, Frankula is set in modern day and shows what that character is doing now. I have never seen or heard of Please Sir! so what I guess would be most the comedy is lost on me.

So Frankie Abbott is now in a home being looked after by a carer (Emma Dark - Seize the Night). One day he is led out to a graveyard by Clarissa Cobra (Caroline Munro - Maniac, Dracula A.D. 1972) where he meets Vera Vomit (Judy Matheson - Twins of Evil) and vampire psychiatrist Dr Spritzer (Martin Rudman - Bad Friday), and discovers his carer is actually a vampire also. Is Frankie only dreaming or do evil forces really want to transform him into Frankula?

This is all inoffensive stuff with the horror in low abundance, the closest we get is blood being mistaken for tomato sauce. The vampires are cheesy in that Hammer Horror type of way and was a nice call back to the era this piece is intended to remind viewers of. A lot of the humour was lost on me and I can't really say how much actually knowing who these characters and actors are would add to this. While I didn't find it funny, at seven minutes it had no time to offend, or to drag which is of course a good thing. Frankula is free to watch on YouTube so I will include it below.


Sunday, 1 April 2018

Whispers (2015) - Horror Film Review

I was surprised to see that Tammi Sutton; the director and writer behind Whispers was also responsible for Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil (2002). It is good she has came on in leaps and bounds from that, as while this movie isn't fantastic it is in a different league to that trash heap. I don't often give films scores in the lower half of the table. Whispers was really quite close to a below average score but in the end the things it does do right helped bring up the rating somewhat.

Catherine (Keeley Hazell) and her husband Harvey (Craig Rees - Angel) have recently lost their young child and so have moved to the English countryside in order for Catherine to recuperate from the ordeal, as she hasn't taken the death well at all. She starts to experience supernatural goings on at the mansion they are staying at; doors slamming, ghostly voices, and vivid nightmares. This all comes to a head when friends of theirs - Simon (Phil Bloomberg - Psychosis) and his pregnant girlfriend Sasha (Barbara Nedeljakova - Hostel) come to stay for the weekend.

Whispers is a horror film, but one that relegates that part to one side to instead focus on the drama of the situation the couple find themselves in. This is a film about grief, focused on Catherine, and Hazell is a great fit for this role, making for a believable performance. Rees is also a good fit as her husband, they seem to have little chemistry between them, but then that is the point, flashbacks to counselling sessions show the huge division that their child's death has had on their relationship. In deep depression, and on medication it is no surprise that no one really believes Catherine when she starts talking of ghosts, I myself thought maybe all the goings on could just be in her head. My favourite character was Simon though, if only for his ridiculous lower lip moustache he was rocking, cheered me up every time I saw him!

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Sengoku 2 (1993) - Horror Video Game Review (Nintendo Switch)

Discovering the Neo Geo port of Sengoku on the Nintendo Switch store earlier this month was a pleasant surprise, I loved the creepy vibe of ancient Japanese demons attacking a modern day city, it felt different to other scrolling beat-em-ups. I had heard many people complain about it though saying it was only with the release of Sengoku 2 that the series got good. While the graphics and sound effects are a lot better, and the game as a whole is more polished I felt a certain something was missing for me this time around, whether the surprise factor was gone, or if it just isn't as good a game I really am not sure. Much like the first game I bumped my lives right up to the maximum of 99 as I wanted to switch off my brain and relax rather than be stressed about dying.

I played through the game in both the Japanese and English versions, but didn't really see much difference. Annoyingly this time around there wasn't a story told before the game starts, I had to kind of piece it together from the cutscenes in between levels. I couldn't even tell if it was the same evil warlord from Sengoku or not. Playing as the two warriors from that one you have to fight your way to the enemy's stronghold and defeat him, that's about it. Something about him trying to alter time to make it so that he rules the world (possibly?).

There is a bit of a Turtles in Time vibe this time around with the warlord's floating fortress able to travel through time (at least it was nice to see that Technodrome like creation return, this time with added dragons!). Each of the four levels takes place in a different time zone, starting with the modern day characters in the 1500's (no explanation for that), you then go to the 1940's during World War II, the 1990's, then finally onto the floating fortress itself. To be honest I expected more levels this time around, not less. Sengoku's final level may have just been a boss battle but it still casts this in a bad light being a visibly game shorter than the previous one. The levels all have you just scrolling from left to right but they do go to some memorable places, the third level for instance takes place in a busy shopping district, so it is full of onlookers and civilians running around, level two features a section where you are fighting along the back of a huge bomber as planes fly around in the distance. The demon levels go more abstract, such as one background featuring gigantic ghostly warriors in mid fight, and another with a huge drum that a crazed drummer works at. There were three or four sections here that took place with you on horseback as well, helped to break up the relentless fighting a bit.

Friday, 30 March 2018

Carnivore: Werewolf of London (2017) - Horror Film Review

As disclosure right at the start of this review of Carnivore: Werewolf of London I just don't rate the werewolf as a movie monster. To me it always seems like a wasted opportunity to have a creature that is essentially just a large wolf when you could have something far more unique and terrifying. Even classics in the genre like An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Dog Soldiers don't get my blood pumping, so I thought there wouldn't be much chance of this indie horror making much of an impression, and sadly it doesn't, despite some occasional good ideas, and some cliche busting moments.

London couple Dave (Ben Loyd-Holmes - Torchwood) and Abi (Atlanta Johnson) have headed out into the country for a romantic weekend at a cottage they have rented from farmer Sam (Gregory Cox). Dave craving commitment in what was meant to be a simple fling had planned the trip so that he could propose, however the couple soon discover there is some sort of creature prowling around outside the property, something that wants to kill them, and that may be getting assistance from an unlikely source.

I would say one of the biggest problems with Carnivore is that it becomes a little bit boring, the majority of the film is the cat and mouse game they play with the werewolf. While they are safe in the house there are plenty of plot reasons given for them constantly leaving, whether it be lack of phone signal, trying to get to a nearby car, or needing to turn the circuit breaker back on. I did like that the cottage is so tiny, and that the vast majority of the movie takes place in and around this location with a small but competent cast. This gave a claustrophobic feeling that was helped by plenty of close up camera angles that follow the two as they move around. I also liked that this felt almost real time in how it plays out, it isn't at all, but the progression over the course of one evening felt smoothly done with events progressing rapidly.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Convergence (2015) - Horror Film Review

Convergence is a film that constantly surprised with where the plot went, this was despite some issues surrounding the sometimes muddled plot. It is actually the second 'person trapped in bizarre-world hospital' movie I have seen this year after Inoperable. What saves this from being a forgettable horror is the welcome inclusion of an actor who is fast become a favourite of mine.

While responding to an explosion in downtown Atlanta detective Ben (Clayne Crawford) is caught in a second explosion after witnessing a suspiciously acting paramedic in a warehouse. He awakens in hospital, but it is one that is mostly deserted, and populated by a bunch of strange acting people that include Ben's Captain (Mykelti Williamson). However also in the hospital is Daniel (Ethan Embry); a religious madman who thinks it is his job to kill all who are undeserving of God's love...

So I guessed the early twist pretty early on with regards to just where Ben is and how he got to be there, but not content with this cliche move trope Convergence later goes to some really quite interesting places. Seventy minutes into the film a whole new cast of characters are introduced, these people have their own horror movie going on that perfectly intertwines with Ben's. This part was really quite clever, it even provides answers for just what the demonic looking shadow people were that were seen earlier in the film. This final act was welcome as up to this point Convergence just didn't seem to be going anywhere. The core part of the film is Ben vs Daniel and his cronies. For whatever reason Daniel seems to have a special power that convinces people to do his bidding, not supernatural in origin, more it felt that he provided answers and hope for other people trapped in the hospital.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Soul Dimension: Episode 0 (2018) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

The third video game review in a row now, can you tell it is nearing the end of the month and I am picking the low hanging fruit to increase my post count? Soul Dimension is a new episodic VR game, currently only episode 0 is out. The whole experience took me around 15 minutes to play through, however this was less than £2 and so that alleviates the short length somewhat. Whether all episodes will be as cheap and as short I don't know.

Soul Dimension takes place in a large mansion, you play as a father who is trying to piece together missing fragments of a photograph at the behest of the ghost of a little girl that is likely the protagonists daughter. As you search the house you catch glimpses of a strange mask wearing woman, as well as frequent sightings of the little girl's ghost.

It is becoming clear to me that VR within the confines of a house is pretty effective. With this game though the detail isn't as clear as it should be in places, specifically with text that appears as unreadable smudges. This is a horror game, yet it really wasn't scary, save for one moment when some crows flew towards me. After surviving the terror of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul this pales in comparison, there isn't really much horror to speak of, the masked woman, the occasional swinging chandelier, and those crows are about it. Your progression through the mansion is very linear with doors you pass through usually locking behind you. There are a few simple puzzles to solve along the way, such as books that must be put onto a shelf in the correct order, and a safe with a combination to find.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (2017) - Video Game Review (X-Box One)

Due to the fact I once reviewed the almighty Battle Royale on this blog I just had to review PlayerUnknown's Battleground. That film was the primary influence on the game after all. With Fortnite and PUBG being as big as they are I'm sure many of you already know what this new type of game is about. Basically 100 players parachute out of a plane onto a large island, the aim of the game is to be the last person standing. At intervals the playing area shrinks to smaller and smaller circles of the map. Should you be caught outside this area then you will be in the poisonous mist and take damage. Along the way you gather weapons and armour to protect yourself.

There is no story to speak of save for survive to the end, with a multiplayer only game though that doesn't really matter. I have been putting off writing this review for a long time. Firstly the game has not officially came out as a finished product on X-Box One, secondly I have only played a few of the different game types, and thirdly and most importantly I have yet to win a match. The highest position I have gotten to is fourth place.

There is no other game quite like PUBG, and that includes Fortnite. I don't want this review to just be a VS argument on which game is better. I have extensively played both and so can say that while Fortnite is the better made game and is a lot more fun I actually prefer PUBG due to how much more immersive it is. For the huge amounts of stuff that Fortnite gets right I just don't enjoy the base building aspect of it, and as interesting as the map is it is just too small and hard to get lost in. There are times in PUBG where you are so far away from the safe zone that it becomes a quest in itself to reach. In Fortnite no matter where you are in the map if you leave enough time you can make it to any point on the island before the poisonous mist gets you, taking away some of the stress. Fortnite controls a hell of a lot better, but is more designed for fun than serious play, as can be seen with some of the more gimmicky weapons such as the boogie bomb that makes the target start dancing uncontrollably.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Nightmare Boy (2017-18) - Horror Video Game Review (Nintendo Switch)

Nightmare Boy is a platformer in the style of a metroidvania, that is to say the game takes place in one huge level with new areas opening up as you gain new abilities and collect items. At its heart this is a platformer, while you do get stronger there is no real RPG element to speak of. It was the visuals that appealed to me, that and the fact I darn love metroidvania games. However while on the surface this is an attractive looking game as soon as you start to play it you discover the many problems it has both in terms of level design, and how your character controls.

You play as a young boy named Billy whose pillow comes alive one evening while he is laying in bed. The pillow changes into an evil magician who casts a curse on Billy, transforming him into a monster before departing. Billy gives chase only to discover he isn't on Earth anymore, instead he has found himself trapped in a dream world. Aided by the a prince of the land Billy sets out to find and defeat the magician, rescuing children trapped in their own nightmares along the way.

The graphics have a lot of charm to them and add a lot of character to the different locations you visit. For some reason there are fake scan lines over the screen that there is no option to switch off. I think they were included to make the game seem retro, yet this is not pixel based and so just looks weird. So the game features one big level made up of a variety of smaller areas, most areas end in a boss fight that grants you new powers and abilities. The different areas include a graveyard, dungeons, a mansion, and a dreaded ice section amongst others. Each area has its own distinct look to it so it is always recognisable, but there is none of the solid design of better metroidvanias, the areas sometimes loop back into other places, but more often than not you get to the end and then have to work your way back out. I really wish there had been a teleportation option to get around the game world as backtracking can be a bit of a pain. When you do get shortcuts open up I often found them to be full of tough enemies that made it easier just to take the long way around.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Tomb Raider (2018) - Adventure Film Review

Originally I had no intention of reviewing Tomb Raider on my blog, after all it appeared to have next to nothing to do with horror. However once I started watching it I realised the plot is heavily based on the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider; a game that is damn near perfection, and also happens to be very much a horror game. While the movie strips away nearly all elements of horror and the supernatural I felt it was worthy of a review if only as a contrast to the vibe of the video game.

Seven years after her father went missing Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina) discovers clues as to just where he may have went. She teams up with Lu Ren (Daniel Wu - Warcraft: The Beginning) and together they sail a boat to the mysterious island of Yamatai, which is said to be the resting place of the mythical Queen Himiko who legend says had the power over life and death. This also happened to be the place Lara's dad had been heading when he went missing. They arrive, though lose their ship in the process, and to make matters worse immediately get kidnapped by a shady group calling themselves Trinity. The leader of the group; Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins - Predators) reveals he was responsible for murdering Lara's father seven years previously after he refused to help Trinity locate the tomb of Himiko, her dad feared they would use the power it contains for evil. While she doesn't believe the legends that say the Queen holds supernatural powers she is still determined to ensure that whatever is found doesn't fall into Trinity's hands...

So in the video game the island was home to armies of mad men, and Mathias was their leader. Here he is changed to be a member of Trinity which were the antagonists in the 2015 sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider. Immediately that survival horror aspect is lost. In the game it turns out the legends of the Queen were actually pretty accurate, while here this is far more of an adventure with the supernatural element corroded to the point of being feasible in the real world. Loving the game so much I couldn't help but compare this to that and this is in no way anywhere near as good. I did enjoy the elements that were taken from the game. Firstly it was a great idea to base the film on what I believe is the very best Tomb Raider game out there. Secondly it was great to see the screen version of Lara to be the younger, more realistic looking rebooted version, rather than the ridiculous sexed up version of the 90's. Much like in the game she got battle damaged as the film progressed, she is young and inexperienced and so makes plenty of mistakes. There are a few iconic moments that were transported over from the game, and weapons as well, such as the bow and arrow, climbing axe, and duel pistols.