Wednesday, 22 May 2019

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) - Horror Film Review


It is a rare day in The Rotting Zombie HQ in that I am totally on top of the films I have been sent for review (well, I was when I wrote this a few days back, now there are four sitting there). As such I have finally found time to watch a horror of my own choosing. I am quite late to the party but today I at last saw The Cabin in the Woods. This horror was directed by Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale), who also co-wrote this with Joss Whedon (the writer of Alien: Resurrection, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Serenity to name just a few).

Five friends that include virgin Dana (Kristen Connolly - The Happening), stoner Marty (Fran Kranz - The Village), jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth - Thor), intellectual Holden (Jesse Williams), and slut Jules (Anna Hutchison) go for a weekend break at a remote cabin in some woods, where they accidentally summon a family of undead cannibal rednecks. However everything isn't as it first appears, the friends have had those horror film stereotypes assigned to them, and their whole ordeal is being monitored by a team of scientists who need the group to die in order to complete an ancient ritual.


Watching this so many years after release meant that I knew the whole twist of this typical horror movie not actually being so typical. If I remember rightly at the time the trailers hid this fact from the audience. The Cabin in the Woods opens with the scientists in their facility so it doesn't take much to piece together that things are different here. I like how they take what would be a very generic horror film and splice it up with the scientist part. It pokes fun at the tropes of the genre, most evident being the normal teens being brainwashed into fulfilling their chosen stereotypes. It even finally solves the puzzle for why the group in horrors always split up, again due to being mind controlled. It was cool to get involved in the lore of the world and see that every single horror film made could in fact have been set in the same world. There are references to everything from The Evil Dead, to Hellraiser, werewolf movies, and I.T. This behind the scenes look was where a lot of the humour rested, things such as the American branch of this science group taking wagers on which monster the friends will accidentally summon, as well as their competition with different countries own versions running concurrently was amusing. The main other one being shown is from Japan that sees a bunch of schoolgirls being attacked by a typical Japanese ghost girl. Just the idea that every horror ever took place in the same world was something that was neat to think about.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Firstborn (2017) - Horror Film Review


Firstborn (Pirmdzimtais) is a Latvian thriller that was written and directed by Aik Karapetian (The Man in the Orange Jacket). This is quite a slow burn of a film, in fact at times it is so slow paced that it becomes glacial. I usually find that slow films are often dripping in atmosphere, and that is certainly true with this one.

Cold, intellectual Francis (Kaspars Znotins) is trapped in a loveless marriage with flirtatious and carefree Katrina (Maija Doveika). One night while they are walking home from a friends house they are confronted by a young biker (Kaspars Zale) who assaults Francis and steals Katrina's handbag. With his pride hurt Francis sets out to find the thief on his own, so that he can be seen as the hero. Locating the thief in some remote woodland industrial ruins he attempts to bribe him into giving the stolen items back, but Francis's plan goes wrong and he ends up accidentally causing the man's death. Thinking he has gotten away with it he begins to get more and more paranoid that there is someone out there who knows what he has done. Eventually this turns out to be correct and he gets blackmailed into committing further crimes in order to protect his unborn child from retaliation for his past act.


Firstborn is focussed heavily on the relationship between the two protagonists, though much more of it follows Francis who is quite the unlikable 'hero'. Throughout he comes across as weasley and a coward, with it hard to say that his actions throughout are not more for his benefit than anyone else's. A prime example is when Katrina is attacked, she calls him on his mobile begging for his help, but instead he decides to head off to find the person responsible. He is so selfishly caught up in trying to look like the hero that he fails to be there when people need him. There is bad chemistry between the central two which works great for what this is setting out to do. Francis and Katrina are polar opposites from each other and their lack of communication and trust leads up to a lot of the plot developments.

Monday, 20 May 2019

One Must Fall (2018) - Horror Film Review


One Must Fall is a horror comedy that comes from Antonio Pantoja in his feature length directorial debut, who also wrote and co-edited this. It does something a little different in that the horror and comedy aspects are kept separate from each other. It is all fun and games until the killing begins, then the humour fades away to make room for some pretty extreme violence.

Having recently been fired from their office jobs, Sarah (Julie Streble - Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, The Zombie Movie), and her best friend Alton (Andrew Yackel) are forced to get the first job they can find. This turns out to be working as part of a crime scene cleanup crew. The second day on the job they head to an abandoned paint factory that had been host to a series of murders by a serial killer (Barry Piacente) that is loose in the city. However it soon becomes apparent this killer never actually left the scene of his crime and is more than happy to add Sarah and her colleagues to his kill count.


To start with the comedy part of One Must Fall is in abundance. There are characters, such as Sarah's office boss who are walking caricatures, while dialogue is geared towards humour such as Sarah's mother talking to her about how scared Sarah got watching Psycho as a child, and the scene with the assistant of the cleanup crew manager telling the new starters not to get eye contact with him. It is all faintly ridiculous in a good way. This first act also includes a fun cameo by the legend Lloyd Kaufman, his weird conversation about finding a body was a great throwaway moment that fitted perfectly with the vibe. It makes it all the more abrasive when the horror begins and the humour quickly fades away.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

First Communions (2016) by Geoffrey Girand - Horror Anthology Book Review


What I used to say when accepting eBooks for review is that due to a backlog it would take some time to get around to reading it, but that no matter how long it took I would eventually read it for review. I received a copy of Geoffrey Girand's horror anthology First Communions back in April...2016, my tardy self has just finished reading it, so a review is in order! I will say what I always say for book reviews - I don't review many books and so I never feel I do a good job at these, but practice makes perfect so they say.

First Communions is made up of 16 short stories, each of which has previously been published in various collections over the years. These were all well written, though some I found to be a little too abstract, or flowery in how they were crafted. Luckily for me this anthology includes a few zombie tales which are a perfect fit for my blog. So I may as well start with the zombie ones. For Restful Death I Cry gives a unique sci-fi twist to a typical undead story. Here in what seems to be a post apocalyptic world a man explores a retirement home from a previous golden age in human history, his aim is to scavenge the technology. Medical chairs in the past were used to artificially keep alive the elderly residents of these former homes, some of them are alive even up to the day the story is set. Unto The Lord A New Song takes place after zombie apocalypse has happened, the protagonist of this one discovers the son of a preacher who has created a contraption to make severed zombie heads 'sing'. That was a fun one to read. The best story in the whole book for me though was Dead In The Water that features a zombie outbreak occurring on a pirate ship. Zombies and pirates combined are not a new idea, but I found this one to be quite the entertaining read, I loved how it was paced out, and the final few sentences were great.

Then there were a few stories that tapped into the vibe of H.P Lovecraft. He remains to me to be the writer of the most legitimately terrifying stories ever written, no one has ever even come close to the soul wrenching horror of his stories. Saying that I always love a good homage to this master and there are a few here. The anthology starts off with Translatio that features a cursed writer forced to write down the words of an ancient God, the horrors he puts onto paper come to pass in real life. Psychomachia was about a mine whose miners appeared to have accidentally tunnelled all the way down to Hell itself. These same miners then get possessed, or changed by the experience, this reminded me of the ghouls from horror comedy Peelers. This was all told in a roundabout way long after the events had occurred. If I recall rightly it ends with a bit of a needless twist end. Release Me is the one most inspired by H.P Lovecraft, Girand even states this saying he tried to write the most Lovecraftian story he could. In this one a cursed house on top of a hill is home to a literal sleeping giant contained within the basement, great stuff!

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Hunter's Weekend (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review


Hunter's Weekend is a found footage/mocumentary comedy horror film that comes from writer and director Amy Taylor. Horror like many genres is one where the majority of directors are male, off the top of my head Tricia Lee (Blood Hunters, Silent Retreat) and Jennifer Phillips (Blood Child) are the two directors that came to mind as the few examples I could think of for feature length films. Taylor's intent seems to be to give a female voice to horror, and with the small crew being made up of 60% women, and with a subject matter about toxic masculinity it makes for something a little different.

Lyle (Benjamin Guenther) is a park ranger at a national park who along with his hapless assistant Victor (Christopher J. Young) holds an annual hunting competition there. This year they have hired a cameraman in order to get a documentary made of the event. It turns out that the participants are all serial killers. However the duo soon discover that there is a rogue killer on the loose, one who is breaking the rules by murdering the other players. More due to his beloved event getting ruined than a sense of responsibility for his guests Lyle and Victor set out to find and stop this rule breaker...


There are some additional things you have to look out for when reviewing found footage horrors, the most important for me is how believable is the central premise of everything just happening to be filmed. It works here due to the documentary aspect, having hired a cameraman the two are going to make full use of him. You soon come to realise Lyle and Victor themselves are also serial killers which gives a contrast with What We Do in the Shadows due to the comedic nature of this, and having bad people hiring a filmmaker. It felt a little weird how it was revealed about the nature of the people taking part in the event. It is left up to the viewer to piece together that the cast are mostly killers. Eventually this comes really obvious from the dialogue, but I spent a good ten to fifteen minutes of the start of this confused, trying to work out in my head what all the throwaway comments meant. When they find a severed hand and work out it belonged to a notorious killer I was thinking 'how on Earth did they know it belonged to a serial killer?' due to not realising the nature of the contest. Even then I never did work out what exactly the aim of the event was, were these people there to kill other humans, or where they hunting animals? I found a lot of my questions to initially be distracting from the unfolding plot.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Agapornis (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


Agapornis (Love Birds) is a short Spanish horror that comes from director Jose Mellinas (who was an actor in [REC] 3: Genesis as well as Game of Thrones). Mellinas also co-wrote this with Rosario Curiel, and appears in a small role within the short. This is a black and white horror that goes for a Gothic vibe, rather than over the top violence and jump scares.

After their mother passes away sisters Laura and Alicia inherit her remote house. Alicia had been away from the family for quite some time and her sister resents her for leaving her alone with her possessive mother, and her mother's boyfriend Mario. It also turns out there is a forgotten secret from the families past that just may come back to haunt Alicia...

While I didn't feel the overall story was conveyed as well as it could have been I did like the oppressive mood this created. The black and white 1970's setting gave off a moody feeling, while the interaction with the two sisters makes it clear there is an unaddressed issue. The horror comes in the form of a mysterious radio that their bird obsessed mother adored. This radio keeps turning up in the most random of places, always accompanied by a loud distorted cackle. This reminded me a bit of The Twilight Zone, I could see this with a little bit of adapting working great within the structure of that classic show. The twist here though didn't feel like it had the impact it should have. With a run time of just under fifteen minutes I felt some aspects were not able to be explored fully which left me with questions. It is nice to leave stuff to the viewers imagination but for me these lost elements led me to being a little confused as to characters motivations.

This does have some good moments though, especially the final scene that weirdly made me think of the monster from the DLC for The Evil Within video game (The Assignment). I liked how the voice of the mother echoes to make it sound like her voice is coming from a speaker. It all ends on a somewhat ambiguous note. While there is a good atmosphere built up just from the creepy house alone I found the obvious horror moments to work well, and found this to be engaging.

Despite a few issues with how the story was told here I think that altogether this worked even if at times it seemed to be just on the cusp of being creepy, rather than actually being so. Agapornis is currently in a festival run, being shown around the world.

SCORE:



Friday, 10 May 2019

Flesh City (2019) - Horror Film Review


I received an email from the director and writer of Flesh City - Thorsten Fleisch whilst I was on a rare night out in town, in the process of getting very drunk, around a month back. I just loved the poster for his film and kept looking at it wondering just what sort of film this would turn out to be. My day job has been exhaustingly busy with its endless overtime and so it has taken me quite a while to get to the film. Over the course of three days I have finally managed to get the time to watch all of it, and what an experience it was! I'm not sure how this review will pan out as this is a very hard film to really talk about due to its abstract nature.

Taking place in Berlin, this follows a young man - Vyren (Christian Serritiello) who heads to a nightclub. There he befriends a young woman called Loquette (Eva Ferox) and together they head away from the crowded dance rooms and go deep into the clubs labyrinthian basement. It is down there that they are attacked by some sort of electronic insect, Loquette is abducted by a lightning man, who also performs some sort of operation on Vyren that changes his hand into a kind of fleshy tendril. Leaving the club, confused and hurt he stumbles through the Berlin streets, everything he touches with his mutated hand causes that too to mutate, changing the brutal architecture of the city into that of flesh...


I could see the near total lack of cohesive story to be something that people could get repelled by. I get the feeling this is a film that you would either hate or love. Thankfully for me sitting through this trippy experience I fell onto the loving it side. I admit straight away I have no idea what is going on here! I don't get what the aim of this was, or what any kind of metaphors the abstract images signify, but I know I found it to be engaging. There is so much going on here that I can't see how you could be bored. Through the trip you get close up visuals of large beetles, their movements making electronic sounds, you get Satanists putting on web shows, a subplot involving a avant-garde music group led by singer Womb Envy (Marilena Netzker) preparing for a show, and then the literal sight of a flesh city that felt like something from a David Firth animation.

Monday, 6 May 2019

High on the Hog (2019) - Horror Film Review


When I found out that the modern day grindhouse film High on the Hog starred Sid Haig (House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects) I knew I just had to see it. This isn't really a horror, but it fits in right at home in the genre due to its dedication to recreating the feel of a 70's exploitation film. What would otherwise be a simple enough story is made much more involving due to this reverence for its inspirations by director Tony Wash.

A deadly strain of weed is being sold in the city, a strain which causes its user to lose their mind, and which is causing an increasing number of fatalities. In actuality it is the result of a corrupt politician hoping to halt the legalisation of marijuana by causing a new scare in the vein of 'reefer madness', but that isn't known to the DTA agents investigating this outbreak. Loose cannon Agent Dick (Joe Estevez - Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance) thinks he has pinpointed the source of this bad strain to a man affectionately known locally as Big Daddy (Haig), who grows weed out on his farm. Dick is prepared to go to any lengths, no matter how illegal, to get his man.


So the first thing that has to be mentioned is how choppy this all is. The film is made to seem like it is poor quality with frequent moments when the film 'burns up' as well as the inclusion of 'missing reel' sections whenever something juicy is going to happen. With this comes a very fast paced editing style with many shots only being a second or so long before switching to the next, over and over again. There are also semi-subliminal images edited into the footage, and out of context shots, such as of half naked girls dancing spliced into it as well. Rather than make this a confusing mess though it really adds to the grindhouse/exploitation angle that make up the bones of High on the Hog. This also features one of the best 'bad trip' montages I have seen in a movie of this type. The way this starts with a girl smoking some contaminated weed for us to then see her perspective was so good looking. As her friends all turn into plasticine figures, the camerawork and editing goes into overdrive, and we see her heart and veins (also as plasticine), it creates a really disorientating and suffocating feel that is perfect for what this scene was going for.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Aliens (1986) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review (1990 Director's Cut)


Originally I had intended to play the video game Alien: Isolation following on from watching Alien the other week, due to that taking place as its own sequel to the original film. Last night however I found myself with an urge to carry on with the series and so for the third time only I sat down to watch director James Cameron's Oscar award winning Aliens (Cameron of course known for such greats as The Terminator and, Terminator 2: Judgement Day). I first saw this in the mid 90's and happened to see the 1990's director's cut. A few years later I got the box set of the first four Alien films and watching the theatrical release version I was disappointed to see some of my favourite moments were gone. Now nearly two decades later I have again returned to this film, once again opting to watch the director's cut of the film.

Over fifty years after Ripley (Sigourney Weaver - Alien, Ghostbusters) escaped her doomed space merchant vessel in an escape vessel, it is finally discovered. She is awoken from cryo-sleep and explains her actions to her bosses at the company she works for. However her story is deemed too unbelievable and she is stripped of her work licence and suspended. Ripley then learns that the moon in which her and her team first encountered the eggs that lead to so much misery has in the past fifty years become inhabited by a space colony. After losing contact with this group her former employees decide to send in a team of colonial marines to investigate. Fearing for the safety of the colonists, as well as with the promise of getting her old job back she agrees to go with the marines to act as a consultant on the alien menace. However upon arriving things quickly go downhill, this time around rather than just facing the one xenomorph there is a whole army of the creatures to face...


Aliens eschews the slow paced survival horror of the original for something that is far more action packed. The first third or so is tense, and it does take a while for the threat to become known, but from this point onwards this is much more action horror with many of the scenes fast paced with lots and lots of guns and aliens. Immediately impressive was the set design, that like the original stands out as iconic. While there are a lot of models used here for establishing shots it all looks really good even now. The only noticeable elements that don't work as well are scenes involving the transport ship that sits uneasily against the backgrounds it's been superimposed onto. The director's cut features seventeen minutes of additional footage which helps to flesh out characters more, as well as provides additional scenes of xenomorphs attacking. This extra footage all fits in well and adds some meat onto the bones of the action here.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

SHED (2019) - Horror Film Review


I almost missed seeing SHED. Thankfully I did eventually notice it sitting at the bottom of my white board 'to watch' list, and I say thankfully because this is a damn good movie. This is an indie film and it really does show, but rather than be a hindrance, director (as well as writer, editor, cinematographer, cameraman and producer) David Axe leans into it with something that felt like a legitimate throwback to eighties horrors.

Middle aged 'crazy' Mike (Mike Amason) holds yearly Halloween parties at his remote farmland property that all his young friends attend. He has a reputation for his conspiracy theories, the biggest one of his being that centuries ago skin stealing creatures arrived in America and now live among the general population in secret. Two of the party goers go outside for some fresh air and stumble across a shed with a 'Keep Out' sign on it. One of them decides to enter the building and apparently is killed, the other one runs back to the main house and lets everyone know, yet upon arrival back at the shed the alleged victim appears alive and well. It turns out that skin stealers really are real, and that they are determined that no one is to survive the party in order to keep their secret safe...


SHED doesn't waste any time in setting up the main plot. Within 20 minutes the horror has began and it stays on point for the whole 82 minute run time. This takes place nearly entirely at night, the way it is lit, and the way it is directed gave me a real nostalgic feeling. Scenes are often poorly lit, not in a way that makes it impossible to see what is going on, but instead in a way that compliments the action with the shadows helping set the mood. The cinematography and camera work is often a thing of beauty here, I loved all the different classic ways of filming, I was reminded of The Evil Dead on more than one occasion. Filming people inside a building through the window from outside, first person perspective shots and the whole remote setting brought that to mind.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Zombie Land Saga (2018) - Comedy Anime TV Series Review


I don't watch nearly enough anime, so recently I have been making an effort to get through the backlog of stuff on my list. While the premise behind Zombie Land Saga didn't really sound like my thing, the fact it had the undead in it meant my hand was forced. With season 1 being just twelve 23 minute episodes I zoomed through this in a week, a good sign as the last anime I watched - Clockwork Planet was also twelve episodes, yet took me the better part of six months to drag my way through.

Sakura Minamoto (Kaede Hondo) is a normal Japanese girl who has aspirations of becoming a pop idol. On her way to hand in a application form to audition to be one she is hit by a truck. She awakens in a strange mansion and is shocked to see it is full of zombies, she flees but eventually comes to the realisation that she too is now one of the undead. A mysterious man - Kotaro Tatsumi has somehow brought her, and six former pop idols from history back to life as zombies. His goal is simple, to create the ultimate pop idol group in order to bring attention to the prefecture of Saga, doing so he hopes will save it from decline.


So from the summery it can be inferred that this is a comedy. While it is comical it never turns into the sort of farce that animes such as Excel Saga were. Instead it keeps things relatively normal outside of the crazy situations the group get into. This also surprised in that it has a lot of heart to it at times with characters growing as people over the course of the season. Some of the characters get episodes dedicated to them, that shows how events from their pre-death lives has impacted on who they are now, and the consequences of their passing. Saki Nikaido for instance used to be the leader of a biker gang, and comes across a girl that she realises is her former best friend's daughter. She has aspirations of keeping that same gang alive. The youngest member - twelve year old Lily Hoshikawa in a different episode discovers her father and the impact her death had on his life. I did quite like that some of the characters suffer PTSD from their deaths, in particular for Ai Mizuno who died after being struck by lightning during a gig.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Francis Makes a Friend (2019) - Short Horror Film Review


Francis Makes a Friend is a short fifteen minute horror written by Jake Braden, who also co-directed with Logan Wood, as well as features as one of the cast members. It works on a few levels in that not only is it a horror film in it's own right, but it also perfectly captures the real life horror of being in an uncomfortable social situation that you can't escape from. Another level for me personally was that it features puppets, which are a mild weird phobia of mine.

Francis (Tistan Szucs) has been invited to a small party that his new college friend Alex (Braden) has invited him to. Not only is he in an awkward situation due to not knowing anyone and being a bit of an introvert, but he is expected to drink which is something he doesn't do much of. As the night goes on the party starts to get more and more sinister overtones to it, but is this all just in his mind?


This short is split up into different chapters that chronicle the different parts of the party. These different scenes (or phases) such as Puppet Show and Dare Wheel neatly split up the short, even if at the same time give it a tiny bit of a disjointed feel. In each phase at least one out of place event happens that makes the normality of the situation take on a dark tone. This starts off gently enough with a dinner scene in which Francis's rice for a split second turns into maggots, but each of these phases ramps up. The highlight of this for me was Puppet Show which took place entirely as a literal show complete with location changes and multiple characters. Who knew a puppet being gutted and covered in blood could feel so disturbing!

Coming from the perspective of Francis, the film as a whole follows the perspective of an unreliable narrator. There is a sense what is happening could be interpreted two ways, either it is all in his head due to some kind of mental illness, or the surreal stuff is actually happening due to some malicious intent. The confusion and uncomfortableness of Francis is portrayed well by Szucs, while the other cast members adherence to acting normally creates an unsettling disconnect. This is all helped by some nice camera effects and vocal distortion. With all this weirdness going on the ending is a bit underwhelming, but then that might be the point with the perspective switching to reality rather than Francis's claustrophobic view.

For me Francis Makes a Friend worked due to creating a sense of being trapped in a social situation. There may not be much actual story to it but I was interested to see how things would turn out, and it is worth it for the puppet story alone that is the definite highlight. I believe this is currently having a festival run, so if you get a chance check it out.

SCORE:

Saturday, 27 April 2019

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


While I liked monsters as a kid my path into horror wasn't a sudden drop, it was more an incremental series of stepping stones that led me to completely falling in love with the genre as a whole. I remember many of these steps, watching Night of the Living Dead for the first time as a teen with my childhood best friend was one of them. The first zombie film I ever saw, it was so much fun and a great gateway drug into that marvelous genre. This same friend was also there the first time I saw Scream, another movie that had a big impact on me. As the years went by our friendship gradually faded and we came to see each other less and less, so much so that it had been at least five or six years since we last met. It was sad to hear recently of his tragic passing, this months general news post is dedicated to him, see you on the flip side old friend.

Call of Duty: Black Ops IV saw the release of the second DLC map for the Zombies mode - Ancient Evil. This is the fourth and final map in the Chaos storyline and chronologically takes place immediately after the launch map IX. Ancient Evil takes place in an ancient secret underground city in Greece. At first I wasn't impressed, the architecture reminded me a lot of IX and so I thought it was a bit lazy. However it fast became one of my favourite maps for this latest incarnation of Zombies. This map is split into two halves, the first in the underground city, then after a great flight on the back of pegasus you get to the 'evil' side of the map which takes place in dark caves. Unique enemies for this map include Jason and the Argonauts style skeltal foes, as well as a boss monster that shows up occasionally which is a huge four armed brute. I really love the design of this map, it felt so much better than the first DLC map.


The PS4 exclusive open world zombie game Days Gone was released on 26th April. This has you as a biker in post apocalyptic America out in the wilderness. So far I have played under ten hours so can't give too much of an impression other than it has already gotten its hooks into me, it is addictive in the Ubisoft way of giving you a huge map with plenty of points of interest to investigate, such as bandit camps, former evacuation centres, and friendly settlements. A big draw of this was that you occasionally encounter hordes of zombies that reminded me of the ones from World War Z. A review will follow when it is finished, I imagine that will be quite a way away!

Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper is to get a 3 disc limited edition set from Blue Underground. This includes Blu-Ray, DVD, soundtrack CD, collectible booklet, reversible sleeve and a 3D lenticular slipcover. This is a 4K restoration which is uncut and uncensored and includes exclusive new extras. In this classic movie a psychopath is on the loose in New York and being hunted by NYPD detective Fred Williams. The New York Ripper is due for release on 25th June.

Kasper Juhl's Your Flesh, Your Curse has been released in Europe thanks to TetroVideo as a special two disc deluxe package. In this arthouse horror a murdered girl ends up in limbo where she is forced to relive repressed memories. In my review last May I said that it was "...a beautiful looking film". The film can be purchased here. Below can be found a sneak peak of this film.



Al Lougher's award winning short film The Dollmaker has been added to the roster of ALTER. This Pet Sematary inspired Faustian tale won  the Best Horror/Thriller award at Comic-Con last year, and stars Steven Yeun (Glenn from The Walking Dead). Check out this ten minute terror in its entirety below.



Indie thriller Made Me Do It is due to be released by Indican Pictures on 23rd April. This 80's slasher throwback follows disturbed soul Thomas Berkson who is encouraged to kill by the voices in his head. His latest targets are college student Ali Hooper, her brother, and her ex-boyfriend.

 

Jalbert Brothers Studio's latest show after Haunted Tours is Share Your Scare that claims to be 'the only show out there that truly drives into the reality of paranormal activity'. Hosted by psychic medium Valentina Lomborg this features 'real stories by real people, with real scares'. With episode titles such as Black Cloud, Bloody Fetus, It Follows, and Demonic Lust it sounds interesting enough. Share Your Scare is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Terror Films is set to launch seven found footage films on the subscription streaming service POV Horror. The films set for release are Hell House LLC, Savageland, The Documentary, The Claire Wizard Thesis, Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, The Follower, and the never before seen Swedish horror Documenting the Witch Path.


Toxic Tutu is now available world wide on DVD, as well as on VOD. Thirty years after starring in Troma Entertainment's cult classic The Toxic Avenger, Mark Torgl (Melvin the 'Mop Boy') resurfaces at a fan convention where he is promptly abducted and taken to a secret containment rich toxic oasis. This comedy features amongst its cast Lloyd Kaufman, Mel Novak, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts.
Also featuring Mel Novak is Michael S. Rodriquez's Last American Horror Show Vol. 2. This is an anthology featuring six 'hair-raising' tales from a variety of up and coming directors. Other actors in this include Maria Olsen (Paranormal Activity 3, I Spit on Your Grave), Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Shivers), Jonathan Tiersten (Sleepaway Camp), and Timothy Quill (Army of Darkness). This is due for release in 2020.

New slasher/black comedy The Curse of Valburga currently has an Indiegogo campaign running to raise funds. Two crooked brothers set up a tourist trip to a local mansion that is based on a mysterious legend about the property that in reality has been fabricated by them. It turns out that a group of native inhabitants live in the dungeons of the mansion, and during the first trip by the brothers they come out to prey on the tour group. For more information check out the Indiegogo page.



Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired North American rights to Play or Die. This sees two gamers that decide to take place in an exclusive escape game. They follow the clues and make it to the finale that is based in an abandoned mental hospital deep in the middle of a forest. There they find four other participants, as well as learn that only one of the group will be able to get out alive. This is directed by Jacques Kluger and based on the best-selling novel Puzzle by Franck Thilliez. This comes to On-Demand and Digital platforms on 2nd July.


Finally is news that Captured is coming soon to VOD. This stars Jasper Cole (Westworld, American Horror Story) and is about an escaped convict that is hunting the female lead of a rock'n'roll band that have gone on a weekend getaway to film a music video. Cole plays a local handyman who happens to know the convicts past. This is directed by first time Argentinian director Joe Arias.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Rottentail (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review


Rottentail is a comedy horror directed by Brian Skiba and which was based on a graphic novel by Kurt Belcher. Watching this it is not surprising it's based on comics as it is very bright and over the top, looking like a graphic novel that has been brought to life. This is indie b-movie shannangins and it opts to go for gross out comedy for the most part which couldn't help but bring to mind comparisons with Peter Jackson's Braindead (Dead Alive).

Peter Cotton (Corin Nemec - Stargate SG-1) is a rabbit obsessed scientist that is working for the U.S military, working on a cure for infertility. A colleague of his is also working with rabbits, though he has created a mutant creature hoping for it to be used as a weapon. Peter discovers this creature one day and while trying to free it from its cage is bitten. The bite gradually transforms him into a half human/half rabbit monster who comes to call itself Rottentail. Meanwhile an old school friend of his - Anna (Dominique Swain - Face/Off) has asked Peter to help her prove that the secretly corrupt local pastor - Jake Mulligan (William McNamara) has illegally acquired her deceased father's church. Despite now being a murderous monster Rottentail sets out to help his former friend.


So weirdly enough this isn't the first half man/half rabbit monster movie I have seen, that would be 2015's Bunny the Killer Thing. Both films by subject matter alone are horror comedies, and both have their moments of bad taste, having plenty of jokes revolving around sex and bodily functions. The transformation of Peter is relatively quick here, there are a few scenes of the initial change but the mutations (that all happen off screen) quickly turn Peter into the monster. This is a good thing for the most part as scenes of him and his new personality battling for control made me cringe a bit as Nemec hams it up giving a Jim Carrey like over the top performance. Rottentail is essentially Jim Carrey's portrayal of The Mask character crossed with Robert Englund's Freddy Kruger. The crazed bunny is constantly wise cracking and talking to himself, while all his victims get their own one liners as he finishes them off. It's an acquired taste and eventually I came to not really mind this character. The fact this is based on a comic, along with the visuals of the film means this over the top method of acting actually fits in quite well.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Alien (1979) - Horror Film Review (2003 Director's Cut)


The Alien series of films have for whatever reason never really set my world alight. The other day I had the strongest urge to check them out once again and so rather than dig out my VHS tapes I bought a Blu-ray box set of the first four films. Before yesterday I had only seen Ridley Scott's Alien all the way through the once, and that was around twenty years ago, so I was interested to see what I would think of it now. I will add that it is the 2003 director's cut version of the film which removed five minutes of original footage and replaced it with four minutes of additional that wasn't in the original theatrical cut.

The crew of a space travelling merchant vessel that is on its way to Earth (that include among them Sigourney Weaver as Ripley) get awoken from cryosleep ten months early due to the discovery of a distress call from a moon their ship is passing near to. Protocol says they are to investigate the signal before they can continue their journey. The crew discover an ancient spaceship, and within it a whole load of giant eggs. From one of these eggs an alien creature bursts out and attaches itself to one of the crew members, the victim is taken back to the main ship where events happen and soon a huge seemingly unkillable alien creature is on a murderous rampage.


I at first thought that this seemed to be a little slow paced, but then I had to remind myself that one of my favourite horrors Halloween can also be seen as slow in the modern era. This is a masterclass at keeping the titular foe barely glimpsed throughout, indeed in around two hours the xenomorph gets just four minutes of screen time in total. I remember as a teen thinking the creature looked like a man in a suit, which it is, and to my mind it still looks like a man in a suit on the few occasions you see it properly. Usually you just get glimpses of it, all that are quite iconic images today, such as the tail wrapping itself around the legs of a victim, or the close up shot of its head with the second mouth coming out of the first. This is great creature design, and in general the film as a whole is very well designed.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Beaning (2017) - Short Horror Documentary Review


Featuring content such as The Gaze and The Outer Darkness the online 'premium horror entertainment brand' ALTER really is becoming something that is becoming associated with quality in my mind. Towards the end of March experimental documentary The Beaning was released on the service.

This nine minute documentary directed by Sean McCoy looks at the theory that the accidental killing of Cleveland Indians baseball player Ray Chapman in 1920 by a fastball thrown by Carl Mays was in fact part of an occult ritual that propelled the New York Yankees to super stardom. What it lacks in specific details it makes up for in the experimental art house style it is set out with. There is archival footage mixed in with horror film footage from the time, of witches and devils, which coupled with the droning sinister soundtrack creates a feeling of unease about the whole thing.

Experimental always seems to work better with more grainy and old footage so this is a good combination of the two. I liked how the two elements were mixed, such as an old fashioned giant devil superimposed over the ground of a baseball stadium. It isn't all recycled stuff though, there are some newly filmed sequences that fitted right in with the tone, especially the sequence featuring Tillinghast Huston and Jacob Ruppert drinking, smoking and laughing together in a smoke filled room as they morph into classic versions of devils. The over the top facial expressions of the actors in these recreations were entertaining to watch.

The theory put forth is not very believable due to not too much evidence but that doesn't take away how interesting this was. This has obviously been made as horror, and with the reality of the actual 'beaning' having occurred I found it quite interesting for the few bits of information it contains. As with a lot of experimental films this has been edited together in quite a beautiful, captivating way. The Beaning is a perfect fit for the type of content ALTER puts out, it is worth a watch, so I shall include it below for you to check out for yourself.

SCORE:



Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Pale Faced Lady (2019) - Short Horror Film Review


The Pale Faced Lady is a new short horror film from Jeff Payne (Michael Myers Versus Jason Vorhees) that takes place entirely as a narrated story. It reminded me a bit of Creepypastas in how it was set out. It was actually based on reality in a way, in that the idea came about due to a recurring nightmare about a ghostly woman Payne had while staying in an apartment.

A girl tells the story of how she came to be living in an old house that was inhabited by the ghost of a pale faced lady. Due to her young age her parents didn't believe her, the ghost sightings ramp up until tragedy strikes.

This was written, directed, and edited by Payne, his editing work on the amazing septeMber and octOber was impressive enough that I didn't think that aspect would suffer at all here. The story is a classic one, and that was the vibe going for in this desaturated ten minute short. It was full of traditional haunted house imagery such as dolls and creepy looking rooms. The stand out part was the lady herself, she is used sparingly enough but always looks freaky, especially the part when it shows her with a twisted grin looking out from an upstairs window.

The story itself was traditional and this did detract from the impact it had, there weren't any surprises even if it was told well. The directing was one area that never fully satisfied, there were one too many long shots of the camera rotating in place around a room, especially towards the end of this it started to make me feel a little queasy with all the spinning. This did have some great end credits though, the credits written on burnt up paper that then reformed in reverse looked great.

The Pale Faced Lady is a short made with the quality you would expect of Payne, especially with the editing. As a homage to classic ghost stories it did what it set out to do, though by doing this there wasn't really any surprises to be found.  This can be seen for free on YouTube so I will include it below for you to check out for yourself.

SCORE:



Saturday, 20 April 2019

Terror 5 (2016) - Horror Film Review


I love anthologies so I had hopes for the Argentinian Terror 5 which as the name slightly suggests is made up of five different stories. These five stories all take place the evening that a political crisis is unfolding in a small town due to a recent tragic building collapse. Terror 5 unfortunately has some of the worst subtitles I have seen for a long time, as such this is more my interpretation of what was going on as the English subtitles were near gibberish at times.

This starts off with Colegio in which a boy is asked to go to school at night with the assumption he is going to get laid. However he instead discovers a strange secret club where students drink and smoke while torturing the teachers that they believe have let them down.
I guess you would call Gritos the wraparound story, in this one the victims of a preventable disaster rise from their graves in order to get revenge on the corrupt officials whose negligence killed them.
TTT sees a horny young couple go to a hotel for a night of sex but instead find themselves starring in their very own snuff movie.
Senorita Virga follows a group of friends during a fancy dress get together. The bullying of Bruno - the weakest member of the gang pushes him to his breaking point.
Finally is Marina O Mariana in which two men wait on a deserted street for a mystery person to arrive.


This indie horror comes from first time directors Sebastian and Federico who based the five stories on urban legends. It at the least has some style to it, and some decent cinematography. I appreciated the unified look of this with each story taking place at night. While Colegio plays out in its entirety at the films start, the rest play out over each other with frequent swapping between them. One thing Terror 5 really excels at is how these stories all intertwine with each other. The wraparound story for instance features a news bulletin which most the other characters for the other stories see, whether it be while channel surfing in TTT, or an announcement on the radio during Marina O Mariana. More impressive was the incidental dialogue that references both characters of other stories, as well as key locations. There are also some nice twists that play with your perception of time, such as a video one group watch that corresponds to events in another tale.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Top Knot Detective (2017) - Comedy Action Film Review


I'm hoping this blissful four day Easter weekend will allow me to gain ground somewhat on the many blog posts I need to do on this humble blog, especially as my day job has been so busy that it has left me too tired to be blogging in the evenings lately. Top Knot Detective (written and directed by Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce) isn't a horror, it is a comedy mockumentary about a fictional TV show that if real would have been something I would have loved to cover here.

 The documentary is about an obscure cult Japanese Samurai/Detective series from the early 1990's called Ronin Suiri Tentai which came to be known as Top Knot Detective in Australia. In the show a Samurai detective - Sheimasu Tantai becomes a Ronin and sets out on a path of vengeance to find the man responsible for the death of his master. The documentary charts how this show came to be, as well as follow the history of the man who played the main character - Takashi Takamoto (Toshi Okuzaki). It follows the events that led to the cancellation of the series, and the downfall of Takamoto.


Top Knot Detective does for Japanese Samurai shows what Garth Merenghi's Darkplace did for horror shows. Both have a documentary format and focus on shows that look absolutely terrible and which star a lead actor who is completely deluded as to the quality of what he is working on. It is important that the show itself is something that is so bad it's good and that is the case here. The overriding thought watching this was just how much I wish Top Knot Detective actually existed, it looks amazingly awful. That show itself is represented so well here, the rubbish special effects, the abysmal acting, and the editing and pacing combine for something so compelling. The story of a man on a path for revenge was something that I would love to see, and could really imagine working well as a show! Being based around the creation of this show it isn't so much like Darkplace which centered on individual episodes, but from the start to the end we get to see the evolving story which leads to some satisfying resolution for that part of this film.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

The Man with the Magic Box (2017) - Sci-Fi Film Review


Polish sci-fi film The Man with the Magic Box (original title Czlowiek z magicznym pudelkiem) isn't a horror, yet it has attached to it elements that I do quite like and find it hard to pass up on when offered for review. This features both a dystopian future, as well as time travel, both things I enjoy seeing.

The story begins with Adam (Piotr Polak) being given a new identity and a new job as a janitor in Warsaw 2030. He is a bit of a misfit and seems out of place in this future world that has elements of 1984 to it. In the office block where he works he forms an attraction with Gloria (Olga Boladz) and the two start an unlikely relationships of sorts. Meanwhile Adam has discovered a strange radio in the old apartment building he is living in, one that it is suggested could be a conduit to allow him to travel back through time to the 1950's.


The look of the near future Warsaw is very well done, streets are murky and filled with dusty ruins, offices are sparsely decorated and the future technology is very minimalist. Drones fly overhead, VR is a common thing, computers are holograms, there are frequent power cuts, and water is rationed. All old technology has been banned in this future state, while it seems an ongoing war is happening. This was all brought together to create a different sort of future to the usual neon signs everywhere in films such as Blade Runner. There was also a nice line in future clothing that really stands out as something unusual, glowing shoes, strangely coloured clothing is unified throughout to really make the old fashioned garments that Adam and later Gloria take to wearing stand out.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Soul to Keep (2018) - Horror Film Review


I had planned to watch Soul to Keep for review last night, but a combination of being extremely hungover and wrongly thinking it was a short film led to that getting postponed till today. I have a real soft spot for films about demonic possession, while this one can be a little goofy at times it was still a decent enough indie horror.

After their uncle dies two siblings Erin (Aurora Heimbach) and Josh (Tony Spitz) inherit his remote property. They decide to head there, along with a bunch of their friends that include among them deaf Tara (Sandra Mae Frank in an award winning role), jokester Freddy, jock Brandon, and Wiccan Grace (Kate Rose Reynolds - She Wolf Rising), with the aim to have a weekend full of drugs and alcohol. During their partying on the first night they discover a secret room down in the basement that is set up with the necessary items to summon a demon from Hell, thinking it will be a fun jape they perform the spell. Unknown to the others Grace ends up getting possessed, and one by one the demon within her sets out to consume the souls of her friends...


This starts off pretty weird due to the very strange dynamic the group have. They have strange songs, drinking games, and party traditions that I think are there to make you aware of how tight a bond these life long friends have. As an outsider it just seems bonkers though, such as the crazy songs they all know off by heart, or the insane looking nonsensical drinking games they play. They have such an awkward looking way of partying that it seemed like none of the characters had actually partied before and were there for montage shots only.  Having a deaf person among their number means the majority of the lines characters say are also said via sign language which was a nice touch. Both these factors gave Soul to Keep a bit of a different vibe.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Pet Sematary (2019) - Horror Film Review


As I said back in 2012 when I reviewed Pet Sematary Two, I liked the original movie version of Pet Sematary but I couldn't really tell you much about it due to near totally forgetting what happened. I thought that would help with this new remake of Stephen Kings (apparently) classic horror novel. This wasn't a bad film but even with the changes made to make it stand out from the original it did feel a little bit familiar.

Louis (Jason Clarke - Terminator Genisys), his wife Rachel (Amy Seimetz - Alien Covenant, Stranger Things), and their two young children Ellie and Gage move to a small rural town. They soon discover quite near to their new home is a pet cemetary which their next door neighbour Jud (John Lithgow - Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dexter) explains is where the townsfolk have always buried their pets. One day Ellie's beloved cat Church is found dead, Jud tells Louis there may be a way to fix things without Ellie discovering this. In the dead of night Jud leads his neighbour to a remote ancient burial ground deep in swamp land and gets him to bury the cat there. To Louis's surprise the next day Church turns up seemingly alive and well, however the cat has changed into something quite...wrong. Later that year a tragic accident occurs, and Louis in his desperation decides against Jud's advice and does something from which there is no turning back.


Often remakes feel pointless, maybe more so when the original is such a classic (it is one of the only film adaptations of King's books that he states actually scared him). There are some key changes done to set itself apart both from the original film as well as the book. For anyone who hasn't seen the trailer it will be a mild spoiler but here, rather than have the two year old toddler Gage die in an accident it is instead his older sister Ellie who is brought back changed. The young actress Jete Laurence was most impressive. I have said it many times before but children can make or break horrors, usually due to their inexperience they are not the best, Laurence though shines. She essentially plays two different roles in Pet Sematary, her nice normal happy self, and then the very twisted dark version that comes back. She is the best thing about this movie, genuinely creepy and actually pretty darn freaky. I loved her scratchy voice, the sheer presence she brings to her scenes was also impressive. Being an older child it means there is much more dialogue between her and Louis, her descriptions of the afterlife are quite haunting, while despite her small stature she is a formidable creature!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Tik (2019) by Sean E. Britten - Horror Book Review


Well, I surprised myself with Tik, for such a slow reader such as myself I actually got through the whole novel in just over two weeks. I'm hoping that relative turnaround speed is a turning point in my eBook reading as I have a large digital pile of books dating back to 2012 still waiting to be read for review! Tik is the latest book from indie horror author Sean E. Britten (Kill Switch, Screamers). I have yet to read a bad book from Britten, and thankfully after having read this I can still say that is the case.

American students Hunter, Elly, Oliver, Cathy and Mia have gone on spring break to Mexico, mostly to party. Wanting to get at least a little bit of culture they decide to travel away from the coastal party towns to visit some remote Mayan ruins inland, Australian backpackers Jake and Ian decide to tag along. The plan after going to the ruins is to stay overnight at a small secluded town called Macondo, and then travel back to the coast the next day. However the town they choose to stay at has an unsettling atmosphere, and is populated by creepy looking skinny inhabitants who uniformly have bloodshot eyes, and a strange manner to them. Soon after leaving the town the next day their hire cars both break down unexpectedly and they are forced to return to Macondo get assistance. It turns out the entire population are actually vampiric like creatures who feed on unsuspecting tourists such as Hunter and his friends...

Tik initially seemed to me like a teen horror from the early 2000's converted into a book. It seemed like it was going to be about dumb teens with plenty of sex and drugs thrown into the mix, something that really doesn't appeal. It felt like the story here started a few days too early, it is a good twenty percent of the way into the story (excluding the violent prologue) that it really gets going. The parts before that take place at the partying coastal town where a wild contrast to where this went. This was likely a purposeful contrast but I felt there was nothing that really occurred in those first few chapters that couldn't have been talked about via some exposition from the main characters. Once the characters reach Macondo though Tik really steps up a gear and gets into a real page turner, thankfully leaving the party atmosphere behind and moving into horror territory.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

The Walking Dead: Season 9 (2018-19) - Zombie Horror TV Show Review


I will start off my review of the latest season of The Walking Dead to state once again how I just do not understand people who say it has gotten terrible. Half the time it seems the people saying this are the same ones who admit to not even having watched it for years and years and years. The Walking Dead is my favourite TV show and I make no apologies for how much I love it, despite the constant issues I have with how it all plays out. I felt season 9 could be a difficult one, it was already revealed one of the main actors was going to be leaving the show, while taking place after the end of the Saviours story arc meant the biggest threat was now gone. Some great decisions moved the story along in a way that I did not expect though. Spoilers for previous seasons, as well as minor spoilers for this season to follow!

So season 9 of The Walking Dead takes place over two different time periods. Initially we follow Rick (Andrew Lincoln) as he attempts to keep together the disparate groups of Hilltop, Oceanside, The Kingdom, New Alexandria, and the now neutral Sanctuary. Trying to create Carl Poppa's dream of a united society is harder than expected though, especially when some people hold violent grudges. Then not even halfway through the season there is a time jump of six years. During that time leap all the different settlements have retreated into themselves and became distant from each other. However the arrival of a new group of creepy zombie skin wearing foes known as The Whisperers, led by the cold hearted Alpha (Samantha Morton) means that once again everyone must put aside their differences to come together.


Going into this I knew a key character was going to leave, I wondered how on earth the show could manage to keep going with such an integral person gone. The time jump turns out to be the perfect solution to that problem with so much changing, and so many new characters appearing that it doesn't matter too much that that particular character has gone. Over the seasons as the cast got larger and larger there was a reduction in the core casts individual screen time, and now it sits at a point where there isn't really anyone I would say is the main character. Initially the second third of the show deals with a group of new characters who looked they walked right in off the set of Fear the Walking Dead. I mean by this that they seem B-list compared to the built up characters. By the end of the season though, while I could not tell you a single name of any of the five strong group I felt they were well on their way to settling into the show. They include among them a deaf and mute girl which was someone who really felt like a great addition. One scene involving her in a cornfield being pursued by zombies really stood out due to the sound being muffled to reflect what she herself could hear. It made for a very disorientating and claustrophobic sequence.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Night (2019) - Horror Film Review


If I were to rank all the many different horror genres in order of preference I reckon the torture/snuff genre would be somewhere down near the bottom. The anthology Faces of Snuff I watched a few years back cemented that fact for me. Night feels like one of those shorts but drawn out to fill just over an hour. With all that said bear in mind I really do not like this particular sub genre too much, as that fact is going to impact my thoughts on this.

Casual serial killer Adam (Nicholas Michael Jacobs who also directed, wrote, edited, produced, and helped with the cinematography!) over the past six months has been kidnapping girls in order to kill them on live stream, both for pleasure, as well as to raise money from his viewers who can pay to request he do specific things to his victim. This found footage follows him as he abducts a young teenage girl (Gianna Jacobs) and puts on his latest show.


The way this found footage is set out I appreciated, but at the same time it was off putting. Usually in this genre for enjoyments sake there is editing to make slow parts move quicker, often with some sort of text at the start as an excuse for this editing. Here there is an intent to appear as realistic as possible, and so all the down time you would often get is left in. This makes Night have quite a poor start. The first four or so minutes play out with the camera pointing at a blank wall as Adam shuffles around in mostly off camera. Then we have around another five minutes of him out on the street stalking the girl in silence. Finally though there is a title card and the movie begins proper. This dedication to approaching realism is a double edged sword with it sometimes leading to a slight feeling of boredom, but other times drawing you into the experience.