Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Prodigy (2019) - Horror Film Review

I remember seeing The Prodigy I think back in 2004, they were very good. That was mostly what my thoughts were as I was waiting for new horror The Prodigy to begin. Of the film itself I knew nothing, I assumed it was about a child, as a boy featured on the movie poster, but other than that nothing. This was directed by Nicholas McCarthy (Holidays "Easter" segment) and written by Jeff Buhler who wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Pet Sematary.

At the exact same time that twisted serial killer Edward Scarka (Paul Fauteux - Frontier) is gunned down by police, baby Miles is born in a hospital to new parents Sarah (Taylor Schilling - Orange Is the New Black) and John (Peter Mooney). As Miles grows up it is soon apparent that he is a child genius. By the time he is eight though, Miles (Jackson Robert Scott - Fear the Walking Dead, It) starts to exhibit sadistic tendencies and his parents come to fear him. Going to a child psychologist Sarah is directed to a man who offers her a bizarre explanation for her child's behaviour.

Man this is one bleak movie, this plays it seriously throughout with no sense of humour at all. The way this is edited it is clear right away that Miles is somehow possessed by a dead serial killer, scenes of a female victim fleeing from his house mixed in with John driving Sarah to hospital in the prologue make this crystal clear. A nice touch was that the gunshot wounds on Scarka match the blood spots that are on baby Miles when he is born. After a meandering montage of notable moments in the family's life it begins properly eight years later. Kids can be terrible in horror films, for one their acting ability is limited, then there is the opposite problem where sometimes scripts for children make them sound like creepy little adults. I'm in two minds about Robert-Scott, I think I thought he was not bad if his character a little irritating. He did bring with him a real sense of creepiness though, he can certainly look creepy, and some of the lines he gets worked well. His intelligence means he is a master manipulator as well as a killer which leads to some clever enough moments and revelations.

Monday, 18 March 2019

The Blood Hunter (2018) - Horror Film Review

he Blood Hunter is an indie vampire film directed and written by Trevor Styles (Hobbes & Phil V.S Zombies), with Chas Llewellyn co-directing and writing. It follows in the footsteps of Near Dark, From Dusk Till Dawn, and John Carpenter's Vampires in that it takes place in the dusty backroads of   America, and in Vampires case both feature vampire hunters.

Former soldier Deckard (Tom Paxinos) lives a disastrous life, with a bitter ex-wife, a drinking problem, and money troubles. Things get worse one night when his home gets invaded by a gang of vampires. After inadvertently killing one of them, the leader - Caleb (Chas Llewellyn) swears bloody revenge on Deckard and plans to destroy him. Meanwhile Deckard has joined a local group of vampire hunters known as the Blood Hunters who set out to end Caleb and his gang.

Being a low budget indie horror my expectations were not the highest when going into this. So it was with pleasant surprise that this exceeded my expectations, while also happening to be one of the most bloody vampire films I think I have ever seen! Near every action scene here ends with characters drenched with blood, whether it be their own, or someone else's. On several occasions vampires literally explode in a room filling crimson wave of blood and gore, it never fails to look fantastic with the sudden transformation of the set from normal to red nightmare. There is even one such occurrence where the blood is made to look like it has hit the camera and drips down it. The Blood Hunters weapons of choice are guns and these always look like they cause a lot of damage by the huge chunks of gore that fly out of their targets. On the vampire side of things their bites cause geysers of blood to spray out, and several heads get ripped off! While all this blood might not always look the most realistic the film makes up for it with the sheer amount of the stuff, something which impressed me from beginning to end.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Bird Box (2018) - Horror Film Review

I have wanted to see Bird Box ever since I first heard of it last year. Due to a never ending series of films sent to me to watch for review it has taken a while to get around to seeing it. When I first heard of this I thought it was a rip off of A Quiet Place. In that movie anyone who makes noise ends up dead, while here anyone who opens their eyes ends up dead. Turns out this was actually based on a book written some years previously, so it is purely coincidental that they have a similar framework going on.

Bird Box takes place in two different timelines. In the apocalypse part an unexplainable phenomenon that causes victims to commit suicide is sweeping itself around the globe, eventually getting to the city where Malorie (Sandra Bullock - Demolition Man, Gravity) - a reluctant mother to be lives. In the unfolding chaos she ends up in a house with a bunch of strangers that include among them Douglas (John Malkovich - Being John Malkovich, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Exo Zombies) and Tom (Trevante Rhodes - The Predator). The group quickly realise that there is some sort of force outside that if looked at drives the person insane.
The other timeline takes place five years after the apocalypse occured, Malorie, as well as two young children, all blindfolded set out on a desperate boat ride down a treacherous river to an alleged safe zone in a forest.

This is roughly split 70/30 between the past and the present with both stories playing out chronologically. It reminded me a bit of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead in how it shows the sudden descent of civilisation into mayhem. It is by far the most exciting part of the film with explosions, car crashes, and mass scenes of panicking humans. My assumption that in terms of action it would be downhill from there was correct. I do like the use of past and present to tell a story, but here it did remove a lot of the suspense from the past section. With just Malorie and two children in the present it stands to reason that everyone she is holed up in the house with are going to die, it is just a case of finding out how.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Struck (2017) - Film Review

It was twenty minutes into London based indie film Struck that I realised it wasn't a horror film in the slightest. Well sometimes that happens with me as I never like to turn down a film, especially if it sounds interesting. The email I first received about this did mention this was "...not really a horror film" so I guess that mistake is on me! As I had said I would review it, here is that review, albeit one probably a bit shorter than usual. Despite all of that meandering introduction Struck is a solid drama that I did actually enjoy.

This centres around four high schoolers whose school years are swiftly coming to an end, with university looming in the distance. Best friends Jenny (Daisy Montgomery) and Kate (Olivia Rose), and their male counterparts in the form of best friends Steve (Connor Mayes) and Jamie (Will Sutcliffe) talk about typical things for people of their age - plans for the future, parties, and general gossip. However, there is a life changing secret that threatens to destroy the friendship of all involved.

I was watching Struck with the intention of seeing what horror elements I could get out of this, and it was a nice surprise to get more of that sort of vibe as this seventy minute drama played out. The majority of this takes place in woodland which seems to be a popular hangout spot for the students. At first this woodland seems cosy and insular, somewhere where privacy is ensured, shown early on with Jenny and Kate smoking without fear of being found out by anyone who would care. As the movie goes on though this woodland seems to morph and transform, it seemed to take on an oppressive, almost suffocating atmosphere that worked in tandem with the more serious subject matter that was going on. By the time the open ended finish happens this had taken on an ominous tone.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

West of Hell (2018) - Horror Film Review

West of Hell describes itself as a horror Western which I guess it could be seen as. This is very much a low budget horror, one that has a decent enough idea for a story, but one which is executed in a way that failed to satisfy despite some cult actors being in it. This was directed by Michael Steves (Clinger) who also co-wrote it.

It is 1872 and a bunch of strangers get aboard a night train bound for Atlanta. These include wanted criminal Jericho Whitfield (Tony Todd - Candyman, Night of the Living Dead) who intends to scalp and kill fellow passenger Annie Hargraves (Jennifer Laporte) as revenge for his former master's treatment of his family, as she is his daughter. Protecting her is mercenary Roland (Michael Eklund - House of the Dead, The Outer Limits). However this drama is all put on hold when the passengers realise something very wrong is going on, and that they may well be on a train that is going straight to Hell...

West of Hell feels like two separate films that have been patched together quite clumsily. The first half plays out with a mild feeling of a Quentin Tarantino movie, though less skillfully done. How it is slowly revealed that none of the characters on the train are as innocent as they first seem via their interactions with each other was engaging enough. It would have been nice to have at least one character who you could get behind though. Everything is rolling on ok until the horror elements are introduced. It isn't the horror per se which is the problem, the second half works a lot better than the first, and that second part is pure horror. It is more that the introduction of this element just doesn't work. Initially it is strange spooky noises that are heard, this weirdly enough is the way that the strangers band together despite no real evidence anything bad is going on. Then seemingly randomly a shape shifting antagonist is briefly introduced.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Abduction 101 (2019) - Horror Film Review

Abduction 101 is a good example of an indie horror film done right. It impresses with a novel format, and an engaging soundtrack. Directed and written by Robin Entreinger and Steve Noir, this was nominated for Best Special Effects, Best Badass and Best Nudity Scene at the Independent Horror Movie Awards. This movie also happens to mark the first test run of my new Bluetooth headphones for my PC, a test that worked very well and really added another layer to my enjoyment.

So this follows quite an odd style. The events of the film are a retelling of a nightmare that a woman (played by Luna Labelle) is telling to an off screen person. In this nightmare she tells a story about three women (played by Adrienne Stone, Nixi Oblivion, and Brianna Shewbert Rouse) who live in a house by some woods. While out running one day one of the housemates sees strange masked men wandering around and realises they are coming from a strange compound in the woodlands. Curiosity getting the better of her she, along with the other two decide to investigate to see what exactly they are up to...

I found the retelling of a dream to be a pretty cool way to plot a film, especially when the person telling the story barely even features in the dream at all. A lot of this occurs with following just one character around at a time. Filling in the gaps you have both the primary narrator explaining what is happening, but you then also get the immediate thoughts of characters as narration as they move around. This added so much as without it may well have gotten slightly dull. At several points during the course of Abduction 101 it goes back to the real world, signified by being shot in black and white. Within minutes it is established that the whole woods thing is a dream, yet by having that in colour and the real world in black and white it makes it the focal point. It still felt like maybe the events happening may actually feed back into reality.

Friday, 8 March 2019

The Unseen (2016) - Horror Film Review

Whenever I get sent a film for review I try my hardest to avoid reading the synopsis before hand. With Canadian horror The Unseen I knew it be an invisible man film, yet my assumptions were totally different to how this actually plays out. All too often this type of film will centre on a scientist that has accidentally caused themself to become transparent. That story has been done so many times before that it has made the whole notion of an invisible man to be dull. Here though we get a much more human story with the invisibility treated as a disease.

Bob (Aden Young) is a miserable industrial worker who hides the bizarre secret that he is slowly turning invisible. One day he receives a call from his ex - Darlene (Camille Sullivan - Dead Rising: Endgame)  asking for his help with their daughter Eva (Julia Sarah Stone) who has been acting out of character in recent months, so Bob decides to travel down to see her. When she then goes missing Bob goes on a desperate quest to find her...

The whole concept around this movie is of course unrealistic, yet the way the subject is handled here was very well done I felt. It gave a sense of believability due to the drama style situations that present themselves. The invisibility feeds into everything that occurs here, yet it is not the focus, instead it is about the rekindling of a relationship between a estranged father and his teenage daughter. The main sense of peril comes from a subplot revolving around illegal activity that has nothing whatsoever to do with Bob's condition. This is also a film that takes itself very seriously, characters are morose and bitter, Bob in particular is an abrasive protagonist whose attitude does not help any situation he gets into. There is lots of drama here but not much light. The way the acts are set out was something I did appreciate though. When a good half hour into this the attention switches to Eva I was surprised, though this is only briefly on her, but was a welcome vacation from Bob's story.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Abnormal Attraction (2018) - Comedy Fantasy Film Review

Abnormal Attraction isn't a horror film, but it does contain horror elements. What it is, or what it tries to be is a comedy fantasy film. I was drawn to this purely for the reason that legendary actor Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange, Halloween) was in it. I was actually quite surprised just how many actors in this movie I knew of, it certainly has a large cast of notable people. It is a shame then that the humour for the most part is the exact type of humour I really do not like.

This takes place in a world where monsters co-exist with humans, with a fragile peace that sees the monsters seen as lesser beings. These include everything you can think of, from more traditional horror icons such as vampires, werewolves, mummies, and zombies, to more fantastical beings who don't really fit under the umbrella 'monster' term such as tooth fairies, mermaids, and the sandman. This is split into three chapters, each roughly taking place at the same time as each other, over the course of one day.
The first chapter follows Dr. Stanley Cole (Bruce Davison - X-Men, Insidious: The Last Key) who has agreed to lead an AA meeting, due to his friend and colleague Nick (Nathan Reid) who normal runs the session not being able to do it that particular time. Stanley discovers rather than alcoholics it is an attraction to monsters addiction that the group is about. The second chapter then follows Nick to show what happened to him during this time. The third chapter then follows Nick's girlfriend Alyssa (Nicole Balsam) and shows what she is upto during the same time period.

The very best thing about Abnormal Attraction is how the three stories work with each other. Characters from one chapter then turn up in other chapters in a natural progression of what they had been doing that day. For instance pervy Finbar (Jason Leavy - Terrifier, and who also co-wrote this) encounters Nick after his car has broken down. Later on he turns up in Alyssa's story where it turns out she is a good friend of his. While it is obvious all three chapters are connected (even all starting off at the exact same location) it was cool how the characters were all intertwined much more closely than it first seemed. This use of chapters was by far the most enjoyable element of this film and is really what saved it for me from being just plain bad.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Devil's Path (2018) - Horror Film Review

Again I find myself apologising for how long it has taken me to get a blog post up. I intended to watch the award winning LGBTQ psychological thriller Devil's Path on Friday, but it has taken me three days to get through it, no fault of the film, more my own circumstances.

It is the early nineties and Noah (Stephen Twardokus who also co-wrote) has gone to a remote forest trail called Devil's Path, which is a well known gay cruising site (as far as I can tell a place where people looking for simple fun go to hook up with strangers). He meets up with a random guy - Patrick (JD Scalzo) and together they head deeper up into the mountains, ignoring the warnings of a park ranger that there have been unexplained disappearances occuring there. Noah ends up getting assaulted by a stranger, and soon him and Patrick flee deeper into the woods, with two angry men armed with branches in hot pursuit. As they work together to escape their attackers and make it back to civilisation it starts to appear that maybe the biggest danger they face is from each other...

The mild start to this hides what turns out to be a pretty bleak film. Within fifteen minutes the two are being hunted, but right off the bat I found the attackers to be kind of lame. They are armed with branches, but I wouldn't say they were big branches, more like long thin sticks. I also found the initial chemistry between the two leads to not be great. It was a nice touch that they have such opposing views that they almost dislike each other, and that they are then forced into a situation where they are forced to work together despite these differences. However there seemed a bit too much antagonism between the pair with no apparent reason for this. For example when Noah goes to wash some blood off his face in a stream and Patrick notices scars on his back he angrily confronts him about it, this seemed to make no sense.

Friday, 1 March 2019

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for February 2019

Momo allegedly tells young children to self harm, and kill each other, but did you read she also implores them to tell one and all to visit this blog? Another month, and a slightly later news post. This past week I've been stuck in bed each evening, rather than paying this place any attention. With my digital post box overflowing I realised it was time to come back.

The first teaser trailer for Daughter of Dismay has now come out. The film is described as 'an epic, moving and emotional trip through a world of witchcraft and occultism'. It is directed by James Quinn (Flesh of the Void, The Temple of Lilith) and was shot in 70mm.

Painted Creek Productions have recently released a trailer for sci-fi action thriller Abeyance. Harley Wallen (Betrayed, Moving Parts) wrote, produced and directed the film, and it stars Scout Taylor Compton (Rob Zombie's Halloween 1 and 2), Richard Tyson, Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys), Mel Novak (Game of Death), and Vida Ghaffari.


Next up some always good undead news. The new POV zombie anthology, Virus of the Dead came out on DVD last Tuesday. This film had 22 different filmmakers from around the world to contribute segments. These directors included Timo Rose (Fearmakers, Barricade), Shane Ryan (My Name is 'A' by Anonymous), James Cullen Bressack, and many more. Among the actors include Clint Eastwood's daughter Kathryn, as well as Mhairi Calvey (Braveheart).
American Horrors Channel has picked up experimental horror short Shovel for their weekly programming and 2019 film festival as a Special Invitations Selection.
Another month and some more Camp Death III in 2D! news. In the run up to its release on 15th February it managed to break two world records, that being Longest Movie Trailer (7 hours, 20 minutes and 1 second), and Shortest Movie Trailer (500 Milliseconds).
BigStarTV is now home to the movies of Artsploitation Films that includes ones such as Red Christmas, The Anatomy of Monsters, Der Bunker and Counter Clockwise.

Production has started on Dustin Ferguson's Meathook Massacre: The Final Chapter. In this last installment of the cult franchise it has been 20 years since Dani (Danielle Brookshire - Cheerleader Camp to the Death) and her friends were attacked by a meathooked madman in rural Nebraska. Unknown to her the killer has tracked her down. This is to feature among its cast Alan Maxson, Vida Ghaffari and Robert Lankford.

ALTER (that has its own channels across platforms including YouTube, Facebook, and its own website has released their sixth exclusive short - The Daughters of Virtue (directed by Michael Escobedo). I seem to recall quite enjoying this one, you can see the whole film for yourself below.

Finally the awesome zombie short Still is now out for release on Amazon Prime. The film geniously tells the tale of a gold painted living statue entertainer (Joe Capella) who finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and must use all his skills of standing still to survive! This was directed by Carl Timms (Off Grid) and with makeup effects by Stuart Conran (Shaun of the Dead).

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The House (2016) - Horror Film Review

The House (Huset in its original title) is a Norwegian film that was written and directed by Reinert Kiil (Christmas Blood). Unlike his festive themed one this movie is played straight and serious with the situation throughout being very bleak. This had some great stuff going for it, but occasionally it felt a little too obtuse.

It is World War II and two Nazi soldiers, along with their Norwegian prisoner are lost in the woods of Norway. Unable to find their way to their rendezvous point, and with the temperature rapidly dropping as night comes, on the two decide to take refuge in a house they spot in a clearing. It soon becomes apparent that there is something very wrong with the house, and that it has no intention of letting them leave...

I have to say when I saw this was a horror film featuring both Nazis and snow I immediately expected a zombie type film like Dead Snow. Instead this is more of a paranormal horror that mixes elements of demonic possession, as well as more ghostly goings on. I found the possession angle interesting in how it was displayed on screen as flashbacks that allude to this having happened at some point in the houses past. Nothing in this movie is explained and I think that works in its favour. I have my thoughts on what this was about. The House is a slow burn of a film that at times feels more like a character piece drama than a traditional horror. Mainly this focuses on the trio of the soldiers and their prisoner. Kreiner (Mats Reinhardt) is the commanding officer and is more jaded in a way, though no less loyal to his country. Andreas (Frederik von Luttichau) is a naive young idealist who has taken Nazi propaganda to heart. Rune (Sondre Krogtoft Larsen - Christmas Blood) has less to him, he has few lines, and remains a mystery throughout, with clues pointing as to his real purpose in terms of story.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Nightstalker Case: Found Footage (2018) - Horror Film Review

As you may possibly tell from the title The Nightstalker Case: Found Footage is a horror film from the found footage genre. What is most interesting about this is that it is only one part of a much larger story that has been told by Steve Fabry in songs, books, and films. Both Sercati and The Nightstalker have made albums revolving around this concept, while Fabry has also written two books about his idea. The central concept is that of an angel who has decided to come to Earth to help mankind. While it is cool that there is a whole host of media used to tell the story it does also mean that as an outsider just using this film I was left with not too much information to base my thoughts on.

Michel (Michel Garsou) is on the way back from a pub with his friends and just so happens to be filming their journey due to testing out a new video camera he has brought. As they get near to an underpass they see the strange sight of a figure dressed as a surgeon standing over a corpse, this person gives chase but is stopped by a mysterious hooded figure dressed all in black. Michel realises that this hooded man could be the Nightstalker - an urban legend said to protect people from evil. Michel teams up with a friend who is a strong believer of this legend, and together they set out to prove once and for all that it is real...

So, this movie never really strays far away from the found footage genre tropes in the slightest, this works both for and against it. Starting off we get the usual on screen text saying about how this footage had been found, for this film it is found by police on the corpse of a man. What follows is sequential footage leading up to the untimely demise of this man. The camera quality is not the best when it is in motion. On the one hand this fits the idea that this is 'found footage' and legitimises it. On the other hand however it means sequences where characters are chased, or chase others causes the picture to descend into very blurry territory where it can be hard to make anything out. The key moment at the start of the film where Michel encounters the Nightstalker was one such part, not helped that it was dark at night(stalker).

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Happy Death Day 2U (2019) - Horror Film Review

I was pretty pleased with Happy Death Day, it filled a space I didn't know needed filling - that of Groundhog Day crossed with a slasher. The sequel Happy Death Day 2U was a film I knew I needed to see, more than anything to see how they could possibly manage a sequel. It actually released on my birthday, perfect timing seeing as how this is about a girl reliving her birthday over and over again.

This picks up where the first movie ended with college girl Tree (Jessica Rothe) having escaped her nightmare time loop in which she was repeatedly killed by a baby mask wearing killer over and over again. It isn't long before she discovers that love interest Carter's (Israel Broussard) roommate Ryan (Phi Vu) was the accidental culprit behind her misfortune, due to a strange scientific device he had created, and which had malfunctioned. While trying to fix this something goes wrong and Tree is horrified to find herself once again back on her birthday, repeating the same day over and over. However she soon realises something is even more wrong, not only is she stuck in the same day, but this time around she is in an alternate reality where some important changes have occurred...

Of all the ideas I thought a sequel would go, having it take place on the exact same day again was one I didn't think of. If you haven't seen the first film then not only will this one be as confusing as hell, but also a lot of the jokes will be completely lost on you. Most the cast of character reprise their roles and leads to some great moments. Tree furiously marching through the campus upon arrival back in the loop was hilarious. With prior knowledge there is no effort to shed any light on who all these characters are and so the film expects you to be able to keep up. The biggest change is that this is barely even a horror film anymore, in fact the whole killer angle is relegated to a subplot due to the fact that in the reality she finds herself in she is not actually the killer's target.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

The Laplace's Demon (2017) - Horror Film Review

This is a painful post to write, I had written the entire review over the course of an hour, and then accidentally deleted it and was unable to get it back. I am going to try and write this as best I can from memory! From Wikipedia - "Laplace's demon was the first published articulation of casual or scientific determinism...According to determinism, if someone (the demon) knows the precise location and momentum of every atom in the universe, their past and future values for any given time are entailed; they can be calculated from the laws of classical mechanics". Once, when I was very wasted I came up with a similar theory, though much more crude. I theorised that the world was a giant clockwork piece, that people in it were cogs following predefined paths, and that there could be a way to accurately predict the movements and actions of any single person by a calculation. Discovering this was actually a well known (though mostly disproved) theory I found the idea of this in this film to be very interesting.

A group of researchers that had came up with a model that could accurately predict how many pieces a glass would break into when smashed have been invited to a remote island home of a mysterious professor. They assume they have been called there to discuss their findings, yet upon arriving they find out they are actually unwilling participants in his own experiment. He has come to believe he has perfected the Laplace's demon theory, and is out to prove it. The group find a miniature of the house, and see that white pawn pieces representing them are in this miniature. Where ever they walk the pieces perfectly replicate their movements via pre set clockwork movements, it seems that their futures have been perfectly predicted. More unsettling is the arrival of a black Queen in the miniature, a piece that represents a deadly threat in the real mansion, that knows exactly where to be at what time to vanish away the guests one by one...

The Laplace's Demon feels like it stepped out of time, it has of it a feeling of the films of the early twentieth century, like a film from the 1950's say. This feel is represented in may aspects of this. It is filmed in black and white, the vast majority takes place in a single room. There are exaggerated performances by the cast (such as the wild eyed ship's captain who accompanies the group), and much of the film itself unfolds by conversations among the group, with action kept at a minimum. This is Italian, but had some decent subtitles meaning even with all the talking it is clear to tell what is going on.

Friday, 15 February 2019

The Haunting of Hill House (2018) - Horror TV Show Review

I get so bogged down with the films and other items I get sent to review for various people that I often neglect horror media that I would like to see if I got the chance. I had heard great things about The Haunting of Hill House and so after getting a recommendation about it from a friend I thought it was time I got around to watching it. Due to having a week off work for my birthday I finally had some free time, and so earlier this week spent four hours binge watching the final four episodes I had yet to see. Needless to say this Netflix show is damn well fantastic viewing. It is directed by Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald's Game) and so features a lot of the actors who have previously appeared in his films.

The show takes place in roughly two separate time periods. The first is in the past and it chronicles the events that happened to the Crain family who move into the titular Hill House in order to renovate it to then sell for a profit. The family are father Hugh (Henry Thomas - Ouija: Origin of Evil), mother Olivia (Carla Gugino - Gerald's Game), then their children -  Stephen, Shirley (Lulu Wilson - Annabelle: Creation), Theo (Amityville: The Awakening), and twins Luke, and Nell. Over the period of months they are there they encounter all sorts of unsettling events that eventually culminates in 'the final night before they flee in terror.
The second half of the show takes place in present day with the children now fully grown adults. It explores how their experiences from the house has affected their lives, and how the events continue to haunt them. Stephen (Michiel Huisman - Game of Thrones) has become a best selling author based on his fictionalised account. Shirley (Elizabeth Reaser - The Twilight Saga) now runs a funeral home, Theo (Kate Siegel - Hush) a psychic care worker, while Luke is a recovering heroin addict, and Nell is in deep mourning.

This show leaps backwards and forwards so much in time that it is like a complex puzzle, whose pieces unlock as the show moves along. There are seemingly throwaway moments that occur that then much later on are shown to have huge significance. People say things that later on mean so much more, or which suddenly give meaning to earlier scenes or episodes. This show is so clever in how it is laid out that there are even a bleed over effect whereby events in the future directly influence events in the past. It is a crazy, mind melting way of setting things out and it works beautifully. Some of the most impactful moments come from these sadistic reveals that utterly change your perception of what has occured in quite a chilling manner.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Metro Redux (2014) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

Metro Redux is a remastered collection of the first two Metro games - Metro 2033, and Metro: Last Light which were both inspired by the Russian novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky. This review is going to be something a little different in that I have covered both games before. As such this will be more a summary of the changes made, more importantly how the games hold up today.

Starting with Metro 2033. This takes place in a post apocalyptic world where a nuclear holocaust occured. The survivors from this deadly war headed underground to escape the radioactive wasteland the surface became. As the title would suggest this takes place in a metro, specifically that of Moscow during the year 2033. You play as a young man named Artyom who has been tasked with getting help to save his home from annihilation by mysterious beings known as the Dark Ones.

This is still a really fun game! I had a blast replaying it, in particular the level design and world building stood out. Having read the novel since first playing this I noticed that a lot of incidental dialogue characters say are based on short stories that Artyom hears from other humans on the metro in the novel. This also closely follows the story of the book. The inventory wheel system from Last Light has been fitted onto this now so it is a lot easier to use your various tools. The game looks great, and I was surprised with how good the music also was.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

#Captured (2017) - Horror Film Review

#Captured is a found footage horror directed by Joe Homokay, and written by Lizzie Gordon (Cooties!!!) who also stars in this. For the first few minutes I had decent expectations, much in the style of Unfriended this all takes place from a computer screen, something which still feels fresh to this day. However it soon becomes unavoidably apparent that this really is an awful film with little to recommend.

The film takes place as footage that has been edited together by a mostly unseen antagonist. It is made up both of stuff he has filmed, but also online footage, as well as personal recordings from a group of spoilt high school teens who secretly stream sex shows in order to raise money. It shows how the killer one by one hunts downs and kills these people.

I didn't really mind the basis for how the film is framed, having the obsessed killer piece together everything into a single film is better than the usual placeholder text explaining things. With these high schoolers in particular it didn't seem that far fetched that they would be recording everything, especially in modern day, though I can't see many people in reality doing quite as much as these unlikeable students who film everything from drug taking to sex. The main characters, with the exception of Gordon's Ashley are all irredeemable idiots who don't seem to care about anyone, let alone themselves. These one dimensional characters are all just bland as anything with zero effort to make them at all someone you would care about. This is backed up by some decidedly average acting from a cast made up of some pretty old looking 'teens', though Gordon herself was fine enough, and I did kind of enjoy Evan Sloan (Fear the Walking Dead) who channeled the spirit of Seth Rogan, albeit a much more nasty version of him.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) - Horror Film Review

Black Mirror is one of my favourite shows so seeing there was to be a film I was quite excited. Then I discovered this film is a 'choose your own adventure' style one in that choices you make as the viewer while watching vastly affect what occurs. In fact it is stated that the film can be anywhere from forty minutes long (taking the optimal path) to over five hours (if you were to watch every single recorded scene).

This takes place in 1984 where young computer programmer Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead - Dunkirk) is developing a computer game based on a dark 'choose your own adventure' style book that his deceased mother once owned. He gets a job working for software company Tuckersoft based off the demo of his game, and he is given a deadline that he needs to make it by. As the months go on and the stress of creating the game gets to him Stefan starts to suspect that he is not in control of his own actions, that someone is watching him and making decisions for him...

In all honesty I left Bandersnatch feeling a little bit put off by it. It was very well made with the choices you make while watching leading to seamless changes. Indeed it all starts off great, the choices are as innocent as choosing what cereal Stefan eats, or what music he buys in a shop. The general idea of the tortured artist slowly going crazy was executed well, and there are some neat moments here. My biggest complaint is really also the biggest draw with the choices made leading to some wildly different places the film goes to. Due to these divergent plots I was left unsatisfied as rather than ending on a set point there are enough endings that there is no satisfaction for a well tied together storyline. The whole point of this was to make you feel like you were controlling where the story goes, but at the same time I was left feeling like there was no meat on the bones of this. Black Mirror is infamous for its harrowing storylines that make you want to curl up into a ball and die. Here however due to not really knowing what was going on things felt a little up in the air. Needless to say being associated with the Black Mirror brand the one thing you can be sure of is there is no happy ending to be found.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Doggy See Evil (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Doggy See Evil is an award winning short horror film from Robyn August (Snap) that was created for the Annabelle Creations 2017 competition. It also won Best Micro Short at Hollywood Horrorfest 2018. In terms of the story it is mostly similar to the previous one I have seen of the directors. With short films, especially ones which come in at under two minutes like this one there isn't really far you can go outside of a sudden shock ending.

It is late at night where a woman's dog seems to be afraid of something in the bathroom. She tries to reassure the dog but it wont move, so she goes in to have a look just to make sure there really is nothing in there...

The best part about Doggy See Evil was the dog itself, I loved the expression on its face throughout. It added a lot to this The actress is fine as well. The actual plot of what happens is nothing special, I would say it is traditional in terms of horror shorts. The payoff is executed well with a nice special effect, while the music adds to the atmosphere well.

While this short was predictable, the addition of an animal made it stand out, it really helped that this dog really did seem to be playing its part well! While the effects were minimal they worked well, adding a bit of sheen to this.


Sunday, 10 February 2019

Snap (2016) - Short Horror Film Review

Snap is a short horror film that clocks in at just over two minutes in length. It stars Robyn August who also wrote, edited, and directed this. While this was very similar in style to quite a few other short horrors I have seen over the years there were elements that I particularly enjoyed.

A man (August) discovers a vintage camera in his closet and decides to test it out. He is troubled when he notices the figure of a woman appearing through the lens, yet without the camera this person is nowhere to be seen. Spooked by this he investigates further...

The whole 'only able to see a spirit through a camera' has been done to death over the years, usually it centres on the camera screen of a mobile phone. Using an actual camera weirdly felt a bit fresh, while I couldn't help but be reminded of the Camera Obscura from the Fatal Frame/Project Zero survival horror video game series which can kill ghosts via taking pictures of them. I liked that the spirit is still able to move around when being watched, it's a small thing but all too often a stationary figure will appear, which is fine, but everyone seems to use that idea.

The directing, editing and the special effects were the best thing about this. The fast paced editing towards the end, the choice of camera angles, and one effect in particular worked so well together, the best part of this. How the rising tension of the music cuts out at exactly the perfect point was great, the whole final thirty seconds of this are just excellent. The lead up to this was good, there were some visual story parts that I couldn't see the relevance of, nor make sense of them in my mind, yet overall I thought that despite a lack of too much originality with the actual story told, Snap was a very well made horror short.


Saturday, 9 February 2019

More Vanishing Children (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Brunei's premier horror film creator Abdul Zainidi (Ostrich Supernatural Game, Jentingkai) has been in contact with another short horror film of his, this time the documentary/anthology More Vanishing Children that he wrote, directed, and filmed. This is the second one in his series about missing people and local superstitions in Brunei. While his films all follow very similar themes the location itself is forever unique in feel, and basing his stories on real myths and legends from around the area is a nice touch.

This fifteen minute short is a documentary that covers four different tales of missing children. The first of these is Penjaga (The Watcher) which is about some kids exploring an abandoned house who then encounter the titular spirit. Next up is Anak Buluh (Child of the Bamboo) that details the mythical jungle being Tagur that takes away people who acknowledge it. The third is Kelindahau and is about a creature of that name who likes to play hide and seek with children by spiriting them away. The final story is Memburu Hantu (Ghost Hunting) that sees a group of friends exploring an abandoned school.

While this follows a similar format to much of Zainidi's other work as always it is the setting that worked the best. There are some creepy looking locations used that help create atmosphere, as does the music chosen. The voice over often helps as well as making these stories feel more sinister than the onscreen action. Of the four stories it is Penjaga which I felt worked the best, it had a nice finish to it that a lot of the other ones didn't really have. Saying that Kelindahau had some nice parts, the ending shot of a face lit in the darkness worked well. Of the four different parts though it was Memburu Hantu which fared the worst as nothing really seemed to happen in it. Across these shorts a variety of different beings are examined yet visually on camera there is no real change in how they are displayed, often going into a first person mode, or having a reaction shot rather than show anything.

More Vanishing Children is a tiny bit rough around the edges, but then that is something the director readily admits. Personally I thought it was a bit more higher quality than some of his previous shorts, especially the camera quality which seemed to be a big improvement, on the whole this remained engaging throughout with the anthology aspect working out well. This film was a selection at the Bucheon International Film Festival in 2017.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

Knock Knock Knock Knock (2018) - Short Horror Film Revew

Knock Knock Knock Knock is the second film in the Sincerely, Psychopath: Disposable Screams series (despite not being the second one to be made in that series). The first was 2012's Creak, and both were directed and written by Luther Bhogal-Jones. This one goes very deep into arthouse territory, thankfully this works out well for this.

Natasha Lamper stars as Freya, a woman who has recently had a nervous breakdown which resulted in extensive self harm. She has been left home alone in her flat and advised to take her medication. She hasn't long been there however when she starts to hear an urgent knocking at her door. With no one there when ever she opens the door she decides to resort to desperate measures to catch the prankster. Is there really someone there, or is this a lingering effect of her recent breakdown?

I wasn't sure exactly what to expect from this but I was looking forward to finding out. Something as simple as a simple unexplained knocking at a door can make for some engaging viewing. Knock Knock Knock Knock is fantastic, if you had shown this to me and said it was from the eighties aside from the crisp, clean image, and modern special effects used in places I would have seen no reason not to believe you. This is a homage to the Italian horror/giallo films of that time and it is a masterful homage. Everything about this just felt ripped straight from that, from the title cards (a great kinetic film title it has to be said), the freeze frame ending shot, and the wonderful score by Umberto.

The arthouse use is varied with a whole slew of the type of tropes used for that style of film making, such as sped up and slowed down moments, scenes morphing (from laying on the floor to laying on grass), use of different primary light colours. This even devolves into pure animation at one point. There are some lovely shots here that give you an insight into the mind of the protagonist that is as fractured as the mirror that breaks during this. As the press release itself admits "Admittedly a wafer thing plot...this premise is the jumping off point for a succession of visually arresting moments". These visually arresting moments were varied and kept me glued to the screen to see what would come next, helped along by some nice cinematography.

Knock Knock Knock Knock was a great ten minute short, a hypnotic whirlpool of madness that was a blast to witness. The short has a novel way of release in that it is only available to those who request it. Anyone is free to see it but to do so you must email Faster Productions to be given a link to download the film. If you are interested then send an email to with the subject line 4KANDLES.


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Hunter (2018) - Horror Film Review

Hunter is a modern day vampire film that was directed by David Tarleton, and with a story written by Jason Kellerman, who also stars in this as the titular lead. This felt very much like a superhero origin story which is something I enjoyed seeing develop over the ninety minute run time.

Kellerman is Hunter - a former MMA fighter, and now homeless man on the cold streets of Chicago, who is haunted by the demons of his past. After joining a homeless shelter that focuses on talk therapy he meets the owner - Danni (Rachel Cerda) and the two begin a friendship that starts to heal the damage done to the tormented man. Meanwhile Hunter becomes wise to a threat in the city, one that he may have encountered previously but passed off as hallucinations.

Being an origin story for Hunter this follows a clear path for the protagonist with his past handled in an interesting way. While mainly centred on the present there are visions and flashbacks to previous points in his life that throw hints on the sort of things that occured with him. The story is told in a roundabout way in that he reacts to things that initially seem confusing, yet as plot points are drip fed to the viewer things slowly start to make more sense. The style of editing used, especially for the flashbacks can be dizzying with random shots mixed together with shots of blood creating a confusing miasma. With the plot starting off with Hunter at his lowest it was interesting to see how things would progress for the core characters.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Michael Myers Versus Jason Vorhees - The Complete Saga (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

It was around this time last year that the three part fan fiction slasher film Michael Myers Versus Jason Vorhees was released via Dark Red (responsible for septeMber, one of my favourite short horrors I've ever seen). To celebrate the anniversary the three parter has been re-edited into a single film with new scenes and music added to help it flow better.

It is business as usual for killers Michael Myers (Jeff Payne) and Jason Vorhees (Dustin Miller). For reasons unknown they happen to be in the same remote area, after inadvertently stealing each others kills they start up a titanic battle lasting days. With these two seemingly indestructible killers battling who will come out on top?

Having seen this in its original form I felt it was fine enough, but it didn't really appeal to me. That is despite Halloween being one of my favourite horror franchises (I have seen all the Friday 13th films but they are near universally terrible). Having this now as one single 33 minute film I found myself enjoying this a whole lot more. I realised watching this though that having two silent and unkillable leads doesn't make for a plot that is that exciting. I see now that Freddy vs Jason worked well because of the differences between the two killers. Even with the re-editing at times this short threatened to get a little bit dull.

It is hard to deny that this doesn't look and sound great though, the iconic music really adds a lot to this, and the editing is fantastic. I like the quality of the footage also with some nice drone shots, and plenty of blood being splashed around. The two killers look the part, obviously lower quality than the real things but they are still iconic in their looks. The main draw is seeing which one comes out on top and it was nice to see there appeared to be a real resolution. Check it out for yourself below.


Sunday, 3 February 2019

Resident Evil 2 (2019) - Zombie Horror Video Game Review (PS4)

2019 is shaping up to be a fine year for horror video games. Starting off with the long awaited remake of the 1998 game of the same name, we then have the post apocalyptic Metro Exodus in February and then open world zombie survival game Days Gone in April. A good start to the year. For the longest time Resident Evil 2 was my favourite horror game of all time. In anticipation of this remake I replayed through the original once again - it still holds up as a damn fine game. As a uber fan of the series of course I have been very pleased with how this remake has turned out...though there are also some issues that I struggled to look past.

The game takes place in 1998 and follows the misadventures of two people - rookie cop Leon Kennedy who has headed to Raccoon City for his first day on the job, and the feisty Claire Redfield who has come to the city looking for her missing brother. Both soon discover the place is over run with the living dead, by the time they realise this though they are deep in the city and trapped. Taking refuge in the local police station both must try and find a way to escape the cursed land of the dead.

There will be mild spoilers here, mainly based on the differences between the two versions. So, is this a better game than the original? The short answer is no, that's not to say it is worse either, just that while there are plenty of improvements, especially when it comes to the controls, there are some elements that rubbed against me the wrong way. Both Leon and Claire have their own separate stories. Completing the main game with Leon will unlock the B mission for Claire, and vice versa. Each of the two characters mainly inhabit the same locations but there is roughly 1/4 of the game that has areas exclusive to each character.