Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Killers (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


I'm currently getting in the routine of putting one blog post out every two days, so it was with nice surprise that the next film on my list to review - The Killers was a ten minute short. This was written and produced for the Playhouse West-Philadelphia 25 Day Film Project that took place between 5th October and the 30th October last year. It was created in ten days with apparently no budget and limited resources.

The Killers is a fly on the wall mockumentary that follows three different serial killers as they go about their work. First off is Frank who targets teenage females, next we see Danny who targets people with personality disorders, and finally is Trish who goes after depressed males. Each of these three briefly talk about their work before they are filmed killing a victim, so as you might guess this is a horror comedy.

As I was watching this the style of the fake documentary reminded me a lot of The Office, something the email I received about this actually points out. Like that show the camera operator makes you feel part of what is unfolding, this leads to some of the humour. In Danny's segment as he is hiding behind a pillar waiting for his victim he beckons the cameraman over to join him. Then later during Trish's part at several points she makes knowing glances at the camera, even leaning over and whispering "I'm going to kill him now". Then they also get the talking heads style interview parts where they get to speak more about themselves.

I enjoyed this, yet it is pretty much the same joke told three times in a row. The killer and method of killing may be different but it all plays out quite similar. Due to being a limited time short there isn't a beginning or end wraparound to explain just what the aim of these killers being filmed was, or for what purpose. This was directed by John Woods, and written and produced by both him and Alex Webster, both these people also had roles in the short. The official trailer has been released so I will include that below.

SCORE:



Friday, 22 March 2019

[Cargo] by J.C Macek III (2018) - Horror Book Review


In October last year I had the joy of watching [Cargo] which is a film that takes place entirely in the one small location of a shipping container. At the same time I was pointed to the novelisation of the film by J.C Macek III, he was a producer of the movie, and also provided the voices of two characters in it. I had been provided with a free copy of the book, but due to not being able to get the download to work (Amazon hates people being in different regions it appears!) I ended up buying it myself. I guess this review will go a little differently in that a lot of what I will talk about is the contrast between the book and the film rather than to the quality of what is written.

So corrupt businessman Anthony Peterson wakes one day to find himself locked inside a shipping container. The only item with him is a mobile phone which soon rings. He is informed that both him and his wife have been kidnapped, and that if Anthony doesn't raise ten million dollars ransom money within 24 hours then both him and his wife will be killed. With only a phone at his disposal Anthony goes on a desperate mission to try and get the needed money. Along the way he begins to question just what sort of a person he actually is.

Being able to set an entire film in the one dark location, with just the one character was a hard task I felt. Yet somehow it worked, helped in no small part by the exciting camera work that replicated the action Anthony is hearing over the phone. Here without the constraint of being visual it works out better than even that. A lot of the issues I had before was that I didn't understand Peterson's shift in attitude over the course of the movie, the unexpected resolution felt weird. Here though you read much more about what is going through the characters mind. Being able to read his thoughts, and his realisations it makes a lot more of a natural type of sense.

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).