Monday, 30 September 2019
Getting towards the colder months now here in the UK, though the weather has yet to catch up aside from a bit of rain. Secretly I much prefer the cold weather to the sometimes heat of summer. First off is news concerning me. The fifth annual 15 Second Horror Film Challenge is due to take place later this year. People submit their 15 second horror films which then get judged in a series of categories. I'm happy to announce that this year I have been asked to be on the award panel, so I am looking forward to doing that. Film entries can be submitted for free until October 14th via here.
I'm starting off with something that only incidentally relates to horror, but I'm writing this post while slightly hungover and I found the music to be quite easy listening for my current mood. Pop-flavoured synthwave artist The Bad Dreamers (David Schuler) has released a new single, Georgetown that contains within it some subtle nods to horror in both the music and the lyrics. The Bad Dreamers creates a nostalgic feeling of the eighties so you should check out his stuff, as listening to it while writing this post I have become slightly addicted myself.
Drag queen horror flick Killer Unicorn has now come to VOD/DVD thanks to Indican Pictures. Described as 'American Psycho with a big ol' dash of Rocky Horror Picture Show' this is about a unicorn mask wearing killer in Brooklyn who targets drag queens.
The trailer for sci-fi/horror drama Three Mirrors Creature's Flashes of Flesh has debuted online. This experimental drama is the directorial debut for writer/cinematographer Giuliano Tomassacci. It stars Michela Bruni who 'in the aftermath of an emotional shock, becomes pervaded by a sensory spirit and undertakes a purifying - although grievous - voyage'. If the film is anything like the six and a half minute trailer then it certainly is going to be very experimental. As a warning the trailer features flashing imagery.
Next up is the trailer for Australian horror Turbines which is about two immigrants who get jobs working on a wind farm in rural Australia. They soon run into a whole host of problems from narrow-minded locals to immigration officers. It's not really made clear but the blurb seems to suggest this could be down to the wind turbines themselves? I hope it is as that would be funny. Turbines stars Igor Breakenback and Bianca Bradley and is due for release at the start of October.
Heavy metal frontman Ven Scott's short horror film Date from Hell is now available to watch for free on both Facebook and YouTube. This eleven minute horror is about a couple on date night who end up running into a roving serial killer.
A teaser trailer has dropped for anthology film Realm of Shadows, with all the shorts here said to be based on real events. It stars Tony Todd (West of Hell, Candyman) as a Catholic priest who has to go against the 'diabolic' alter ego of his close friend Robby. It also features Vida Ghaffari as the muse of Master Makin who has tension with her acolyte Corey.
Finally, in what has been a trailer filled month of little details comes the trailer for Joe Raffa's Dark Harbor. In this one a heavily pregnant woman returns to her childhood home island off the coast of Maine to face her mother, and attend her father's funeral. It is here she discovers a dark family secret. This had its world premiere at the Catalina Film Festival earlier this month.
Saturday, 28 September 2019
Dead List is a low budget horror film with an anthology like structure to it. It took me around half the movie to even realise it was an anthology, which is strange considering how much I love those type of films. What Dead List certainly isn't is a high quality production, yet this was fun in a totally dumb type of way, something I think was realised by the creators.
Deane Sullivan stars as Cal, a down on his luck actor whose latest audition has gone quite terribly. Due to the way his story is told it is not immediately obvious how he is linked to the various stories going on. Each of the other actors who turned up for Cal's audition in turn start to become cursed by a strange glowing symbol they find burned into their skin, which is a result of their names appearing in a strange magical book. I thought it was a nice idea not to have Dead List play out chronologically, by not following a logical time line there were a whole bunch of neat little twists that wouldn't have worked otherwise.
In Zander, after hearing reports of a dangerous black man on the loose Zander (Matt Fowler) is shocked to discover he seems to have become this man. This one was the shortest of the stories, with a simple scene which acts slightly like a commentary on racism within the police.
In Scott the main lead (Nick Bandera) discovers he has gone completely deaf. While the ending for this one was fun I did feel this was the weakest part of Dead List, it seemed slightly confusing as to what was going on.
With Jason, the titular character (played by Eric Pierce) and his house mate Karl (Holden Andrews who directed both Zander and Kush) pick up a crazy old lady they accidentally hit with their car. The standout actor here was Susan Stangl who looked suitably deranged in a role that mostly had her tapping on windows while grinning maniacally. It was at this point I began to cotton on that this was actually an anthology.
Thursday, 26 September 2019
If I hadn't been paying attention I might have missed British horror film Wolf entirely. There were no trailers for it and it only seems to be having a limited run. I soon discovered why, as this is an indie horror that is obvious to see doesn't have the biggest of budgets. It was a nostalgic feeling watching this, as it reminded me of seeing indie films on a big screen at the much missed UK Festival of Zombie Culture. This was actually quite appropriate as it turns out this was written and directed by Stuart Brennan, whose zombie film Plan Z was shown at the 2016 festival.
Wolf takes place in Britannia (what is now obviously Britain) in 150AD. After four messengers go missing north of Hadrian's wall a group of ten Roman soldiers are tasked with heading out to try and discover what has become of them. Four days journey into Caledonia the group get attacked by some sort of deadly creature. Up against a seemingly invincible enemy they have never encountered before, the soldiers have to try and make it back to the safety of the wall before they are all killed.
As the title would suggest this is a horror film about werewolves, and being set in what would become Scotland I couldn't help but entertain myself by imagining this was a prequel to Dog Soldiers. The video game Wulverblade had already clued me in on the myths of the werewolf type creature in that part of the country so it was interesting to see a different take on the myth. During the prologue it become evident just how low budget Wolf was actually going to be. I'm actually pretty impressed it managed to get a cinema release, more impressed than the man sat the other side of the aisle from me who walked out after barely ten minutes had gone by never to return! This goes the route of keeping the monster hidden from sight for the majority of the movie, mostly it appears on screen as a blur, or deep in the background of the woods the film occurs in. When you do eventually get to see the antagonists it wasn't that bad a look, different to the traditional hairy wolf creature you would expect.
Tuesday, 24 September 2019
100 Acres of Hell is an unapologetic throwback to inbred redneck in the woods styled horror such as Wrong Turn. It was directed by Hank Leigh Hump, with Lisa Lakeman and Ernest O'Donnell as second unit directors, O'Donnell also playing one of the main characters here. It was written by Jason L. Koerner, Ed McKeever, and Gene Snitsky, with former WWE star Snitsky starring in the leading role, and Koerner acting in a bit part.
Buck Severs (Snitsky) is a former pro wrestler whose career ended after a tragic accident. Him and his friends used to have 'Bro's Weekends' together, and due to having not seen Buck for several years they decide to arrange a new one to reunite the friends. They decide to head to the remote Foggy Creek which is home to an abandoned wildlife preserve, and are undeterred by the locals warning them against heading there. There was a local legend of a deranged redneck named Jeb Tucker (Sam Anoai - a former wrestling star himself) who once went on a rampage at Foggy Creek, but was assumed to be just a story. It soon turns out he is alive and well, and none too happy about intruders invading his home...
If you come to this film expecting something fresh and new then you may be disappointed as nearly everything about this horror is as generic as you could get. From the locals warning the 'city folk' away, to lots of random kills, a mostly predictable story, and an utterly forgettable film score there is nothing here that surprises, save for the ridiculous twist towards the films end, that was very dumb and made little sense, but have to say it was a fun finish. 100 Acres of Hell seems intent on providing some mindless entertainment and in that respect it mostly succeeds.
Sunday, 22 September 2019
From the very first moment I set eyes on metroidvania action game Blasphemous I just knew that regardless of quality it was something I just had to play. I loved the pixel graphics, and I thought the gothic look was amazing. So as soon as it came out I snapped it up on the Nintendo Switch, and thankfully it turned out to be a damn stunner.
The story here is never explicitly explained, what story there is I pieced together from cutscenes, as well as the lore that can be read for most the items you get in the game. I'm sure my summary is incorrect, but I am purposefully putting my own thoughts as to what is going on, rather than researching it. Blasphemous takes place in a world where religious apocalypse has come to pass. Fervent religious belief has manifested in the form of the coming of 'miracles' which have corrupted the peoples of the land in a variety of ways. It seems the most pure of heart have been transformed into living statues, while the most corrupt have been judged as guilty and changed into murderous versions of their former selves. You play as 'The Penitent One', a mask wearing man who sets out on a quest to bring about an end to the time of miracles.
The metroidvania style of 2D platformer is one of my favourite styles of games, yet I have found that the tone is really important for my enjoyment. Take Hollow Knight for instance, that is a wonderful game, and yet I haven't played it in months, the insect theme not really appealing too much. Then there is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night which was touted as a replacement for the much missed Castlevania games. While that is a delightful game, and does feel like a homage to that series that is another that I have not played in some time despite being deep into it. With Blasphemous I adored the game world, the dark gothic look with overt religious themes to the landscapes and enemies you face, it felt like a video game that would have been created had there been such things in Medieval times. The game world is a dark and moody place, this came across at times like a 2D Bloodborne. This is fitting as there are many elements that have had people calling this very Dark Souls in style.
Saturday, 21 September 2019
Linus de Paoli's A Young Man with High Potential is a German thriller that was hard to watch for reasons different to normal. The story here revolves around real horror as opposed to anything paranormal or monstrous, and the hard to watch feeling comes from being forced to become an unwilling voyeur, carried along for the dark ride.
Adam Ild Rohweder stars as Piet, a socially awkward introvert who lives on campus at Bauer University. One day he is approached by Klara (Paulina Galazka - The Lure) to team up for a class project, which he ends up unwittingly agreeing to. Being so unused to female attention Piet soon falls for the girl, but is distraught when she rejects his advances. Then one fateful evening she arrives at his apartment to apologise, which puts in motion a chain of terrible events that will forever change Piet.
Being an introvert myself, albeit one with better social skills I found myself at first identifying slightly with the main lead, which makes what happens all the more uncomfortable. The prologue has an investigator, Ketura (Amanda Plummer - The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Pulp Fiction) meeting up with Piet where it is straight away revealed that Klara has not only gone missing, but later turned up dead. Ketura believes that what Piet told the police was not entirely true. The rest of the film, with the exception of the final scene then goes back in time to reveal exactly what happened. I always like this type of storytelling as it is a way of giving purposeful spoilers in order to hook the viewer into needing to know what has occured. The majority of the movie takes place over one night, at times I wanted to sink into my chair, at others I had my face covered and holding my breath. For a thriller this does it what it sets out to do, with me finding what was going on abhorrent, yet at the same time forced by Piet being the main lead to have some sort of empathy for this damaged individual.
Friday, 20 September 2019
I was surprised to realise that it had been two years since Andy Muschietti's (Mama) adaptation of Stephen King's It had been released. Though it didn't seem as if it had been that long I did realise that my memory of that first film was a little woolly. I didn't have time to get around to re-watching that one so had to settle for a quick read through of its Wikipedia plot summary before It: Chapter 2 began. I really enjoyed that first film but was aware that I had been caught up on the hype train a bit. For this second one I'm out the loop enough that I'm not even aware if there was a hype train this time around.
Having seen the 1990 mini series of It I had a fairly good idea of where this second chapter would go, and it certainly all started familiarly enough. This picks up 27 years after the events of the first film in which a group of small town misfits banded together to defeat the monstrous being known as It (Bill Skarsgard) . They had made a pledge that should the creature ever return then they will reunite to stop it once again. During the decades the friends have drifted apart, with only Mike (Isaiah Mustafa - Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments) staying in Derry, obsessed with finding signs of It's re-emergence. Once he does he contacts the old group; Beverley (Jessica Chastain - Mama), Bill (James McAvoy - Split, Atomic Blonde), Richie (Bill Hader), Ben (Jay Ryan), Eddie (James Ransone - Sinister, Sinister 2), and Stanley (Andy Bean) hoping the group can meet up to stop the creature once and for all.
The intention of how violent the world of this film can be is displayed straight away in the brutal prologue in which two gay men are attacked quite viciously. That reminded me that the first film also never made an attempt to keep the physicality of attacks reigned in. Scenes like this are few and far between with the majority of the horror here being the various situations the characters find themselves in. The first half of the movie has each of the friends going off on their own little quests. This boils down to a series of side stories with each character getting in a different scary situation. Beverley, returning to her childhood friend gets attacked by a huge monstrous granny for instance, while Ben revisiting the school he used to attend comes under assault by a flaming demonic version of Beverley. I enjoyed these little sections, but this first half suffered a little by having the cast conveniently separated. It was the second half in which the friends are reunited that I found much more enjoyable. Due to the special effects fest that this is I was never scared at what was happening, this was endlessly inventive though with it being a joy to watch.
Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Revenge of the Slasher is a short award winning comedy horror that is Julian Hoffman's directorial debut, and which was also written by him, as him and Zac Spiegalman coming up with the story. While this is most certainly a comedy it is never so over the top as to get in the way of the entertaining story.
After Ernie 'The Autumn Hill Killer' (Spiegalman)'s latest rampage at Camp Autumn Hill is stopped by final girl Joey (Catherine Brown) he dejectedly returns home to face the anger of his disappointed wife. Two days later and Joey decides against the better judgement of her best friend to start enjoying the bad things in life, and begins a cycle of alcohol, drugs and partying. Meanwhile Ernie after the breakdown of his relationship decides to really be committed to being the best killer he can, and sets out to take revenge on the person who he sees as the cause for his misfortune.
While Revenge of the Slasher is based on the slasher genre as a whole, it is most specifically the Friday 13th series that this takes inspiration from, due to the lakeside area Ernie kills in. While this isn't the first time a comedy horror picks up after the 'final battle' of a killing spree (the book Larry by Adam Millard springs to mind) it is handled in a way I enjoyed quite a lot. For a silent antagonist I felt a lot of sympathy for Ernie, which is helped by his bumbling nature, such as during a training montage of him practising axe moves, but constantly dropping the axe and tripping over. I also liked how the Joey side of the short plays out, with the two characters lives affecting each other without them actually meeting up. Perhaps my favourite scene is when Ernie is in the background killing someone by the docks at night, while Joey in the foreground drunkenly shouts abuse at him out of earshot.
Often comedy horror films have an over reliance on terrible jokes that just fall flat, and there are at least one or two moments here. The main way this short shines is by the way Ernie is made into the main character of this, the humanising scenes become funny because while going through all these human emotions Ernie is still an axe wielding masked madman, so the contrast works well. There is also a large body count which is helped along by some decent enough special effects, some good editing, while special mention must go to the lovely soundtrack.
Revenge of the Slasher is a charming 23 minutes of nostalgic fun that rarely falters, managing to be a entertaining homage to 80's slashers, as well as a pretty funny short in its own right. This is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and several other countries.
Monday, 16 September 2019
Indie exploitation director Dakota Ray (American Antichrist, The Acid Sorcerer) is back with his sixth feature length film, this one titled The Dark Days of Demetrius. With Ray you always know what you are going to get, and that is a delightfully twisted tale that takes place in the dark underbelly of American society. All the usual things you would expect in his films are here, from violence against animals, insects and the homeless, to prostitutes, drugs, senseless murder, and of course Ray in a leading role.
Ray stars as Demetrius, a serial killer who has been given the nickname 'The Live Stream Killer' by the media, due to him putting up videos of his kills on the internet. Being a narcissist and hoping for more attention he contacts corrupt news reporter Clive (Fred Epstein - American Scumbags) to give an interview, but the reporter wants to use this story for his own ends. Meanwhile a copycat killer calling himself Baphomet (Sebastian Oake who also co-produced the film) rises up in order to get his chance to shine.
Normally with these films you get a series of interconnected stories that feature a whole host of miscreants doing their own thing. Dark Days felt like a much more traditional way to tell a story, with Demetrius getting the vast majority of the screen time during this hour long movie. With this character you get a lot of narration of his thoughts and beliefs, there is even a flashback to his childhood to shed some light on how he is the way he is, and some dream sequences whereby he likens himself to God. While the parts featuring Clive and Baphomet are separate they did feel more like subplots, than their own little movies. At first I wasn't sure about Epstein as Clive, his dialogue seemed a bit over the top, but then I soon realised this is very purposeful, he became my favourite character mainly due to the devilishly evil way he would grin at the laptop screen as he writes his sensationalist stories, with his eyes wide with excitement.
Sunday, 15 September 2019
Tabernacle 101 is an Australian supernatural thriller that was produced, written and directed by Colm O'Murchu. While at times the frequently cheesy special effects and somewhat annoying main lead threaten to derail this, that same cheese also makes this into something that feels weirdly wholesome.
Frank (David Hov) is the atheist host of an online show that goes around debunking spirit mediums and various religious beliefs. He is a man of science and believes that any talk of the afterlife is ridiculous. After his partner on his show; scientist Sarah (Elly Hiraani Clapin - Bad Karma) manages to find a way to bring the recently deceased back to life, Frank jumps at the chance to have the experiment performed on himself. He believes if he is able to die and then come back he will be able to prove to the world that there is nothing when you die. The experiment goes ahead, and a triumphant Frank returns to life happy in the knowledge that what he thought was true was correct. However he starts to experience unexplainable events; strange figures that only he can see appearing, and objects moving around on their own, and slowly starts to realise that he has been wrong all these years. Teaming up with psychic Meredith (Mikaela Franco) he discovers the experiment he was a part of managed to open the door to the afterlife, and now demonic forces have invaded Earth set on causing chaos.
So watching Tabernacle 101 I was reminded of a whole host of other films covering a similar topic, quite a few of which I hoped never to be reminded of. The 2017 version of Flatliners has a very similar story of an experiment of going to the afterlife that leads to dark entities following the characters back. This felt like a low budget version of that. Other films that this also brought to mind was the truly awful Hereafter, as well as the pretty darn good We Go On. So in terms of originality this can't be said to stand out too much. What this does have that none of those movies did is an overwhelming feeling of wholesomeness. That is itself an accomplishment in a film that features demonic possession, some violent deaths, and even Satan! There was just a feeling of innocence to what occurs here, whether that be the charmingly average CGI, or the relationships between the characters, I can't quite place.
Friday, 13 September 2019
I was really not sure about the direction that the third series of Marvel Zombies comics would go. I knew that the story here didn't follow on from the cliffhanger ending of Marvel Zombies 2, that one picks up with Marvel Zombies Return that is on my reading list down the line. My concerns was that this third one was either a complete reboot, or was its own separate entity completely. Once I finally got over myself and gave this a read I was delighted that it ties in neatly to what has gone before.
Marvel Zombies 3 was a 4 part mini-series that interestingly takes place both in the Marvel Zombie Universe, but more importantly in the main Marvel Universe, where the events are automatically more important due to being the home of most the heroes and villains of Marvel comics. A team of Z-list super heroes who work for A.R.M.O.R (Alternate Reality Monitoring and Operational Response Agency) are called out to a reported incident of a reality breach in a Louisiana swamp. What they discover are the walking dead, and totally unprepared they nearly get wiped out. It seems zombie Deadpool from a different reality where everyone is infected with an undead virus, has managed to get to this version of Earth with the aim of spreading the disease to all life. After the survivors of this fight manage to stop the outbreak from spreading any further, Morbius, who works at A.R.M.O.R HQ decides a vaccine must be created just in case any more undead manage to find a way to this reality. The only problem is that to do this some volunteers must travel to the zombie reality to get a blood sample from an uninfected human there. Being robots Machine Man and Jocasta are the ones sent, but not everything is as it first appears...
After a very confusing start this soon became a very good graphic novel. To be fair it was confusing because I was impatient to discover if this was in any way related to the other books and so had little patience. The actual story here in the overall timeline is between the first and second books, this occurs around a year after the first book and reveals that there were far more Marvel super heroes and villains still around on Earth than there appeared to be. Here a whole cast of characters live under the rule of zombie Kingpin. I really didn't know who a lot of the characters featured here actually where, if names like The Conquistador, Siege and Machine Man mean anything to you then you are a bigger fan than me. In my anti-defence if a character hasn't turned up in a film then to me they are Z-list. Ones I did recognise that I haven't yet mentioned off the top of my head are Vulture, Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange and Man-Thing.
Thursday, 12 September 2019
Last month I finally got around to watching season 2 of Stranger Things and from that I zoomed right into and through the third and currently final season (though a fourth has been confirmed). Stranger Things is a wonderful homage to everything eighties. The second season was great, but I never felt it reached the heights of that first season. I imagined the quality would again slip a tiny bit for the third season. Despite a vaguely downward start this season soon proved to be not only just as exciting as previous ones, but also keeping the amazing humour that led to me laughing out loud on many occasions. There are going to be unavoidable spoilers for previous seasons here.
The year is now 1985 and in the small town of Hawkins a huge shopping mall called 'Starcourt' has appeared, taking away business from the many smaller shops. This season is a lot about the core cast growing up, Mike (Finn Wolfhard - It) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown - Godzilla: King of the Monsters) are a couple, as are Lucas and Max, with even Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo) claiming to have found a girlfriend while he was away at science camp. All of this has left Will feeling quite lost. The plot this time around is that a group of Russians have secretly infiltrated the town. They know about the gateway to the 'upside down' and they intend to use reopen it. This has the undesired side effect of allowing a part of the Mind Flayer (the big evil in season 2) that got trapped in the real world to become reactivated.
The format of Stranger Things is that there are many different stories going on that eventually meet up for an explosive finale. This season more than any other really separates everyone completely, with characters not even seeing each other for the vast majority of the show. Of these storylines it was the one featuring Steve and Dustin that was my favourite. Season 2 showed what a fantastic odd pairing they were, so to have them off doing their own thing for nearly the whole show was a great idea. Steve is my favourite character, I love how cool he thinks he is compared to how everyone else sees him, and with him wearing a ridiculous sailor outfit for the whole season this is more evident than ever. The duo get paired up with newcomer Robin (Maya Hawke - Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) who is a great new addition, as well as Lucas's sister Erica (Priah Ferguson) who up to this point had just been a side character only appearing in a few episodes. These parts include some of the most funny scenes, such as hilarious call backs to things that have occured in previous seasons, and a very funny rendition of The Neverending Story theme song at a most inopportune time.
Another story going on that is barely horror based is that of Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Jim Hopper (David Harbour) discovering a huge conspiracy going down in the town. This also features a new character, the wonderful Alexi (Alec Utgoff), who like Bob in season 2 was someone I really grew to love. This storyline was the most action packed of the lot with a Terminator style antagonist who is constantly turning up to get in brutal fights with Hopper all over the town of Hawkins. On the subject of Hopper I didn't really like what they did with his character this season. He just comes across as moody and angry all season that made it hard to really get on his side. In general the tone of the show is a lot darker this time around.
Wednesday, 11 September 2019
The majority of this review I am transcribing from a voice note I made while sitting in my car after having watched Crawl (directed by Alexandre Aja - Piranha 3D, The Hills Have Eyes), due to being busy later on in the evening I saw it. I watched the film at the same time as my sister, but didn't watch it with her, coincidentally discovering later that we had unknowingly been in the same screening as each other! That was useful as I got her and her boyfriends perspectives on the film too. I wasn't expecting much from Crawl, this was about my fifth attempt to go see it. I've never been too keen on horror films about animals, films like Lake Placid and Jaws kind of bore me, but surprisingly to me this film was actually very enjoyable.
Wannabe professional swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario - Maze Runner, Moon) gets a call from her sister warning about an incoming category 5 hurricane, and that she is worried about her father, Dave (Barry Pepper - Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Saving Private Ryan) due to not being able to get in contact with him. Hayley isn't really on speaking terms with her dad but decides to drive to his house to check in on him for her sisters sake. Eventually she tracks him down to their childhood home where she discovers him lying unconscious in the basement (which is nothing much more than a glorified crawl space). As she tries to drag him to safety she suddenly discovers just how he came to be injured, there is a huge alligator in the basement with them, and it is blocking the exit. Her father comes to and so the rest of the movie is them working together to try and escape before the rising flood water, or the alligator kills them.
I had only seen the trailer a few times prior to seeing this, but I feel the trailer did a grand job of not spoiling a very early twist which raised the stakes a lot. Due to this I'm not going to spoil that little twist, but this will mean that I have to spin the truth a tiny bit. Needless to say, but the film is a lot more exciting than I gave it credit for, and there was actually a body count. While the father and daughter are the main characters there are a bunch of additional ones who seem to only appear in order to get eaten. I wondered at first why the film was titled 'Crawl' when it was set in a basement, but it turns out this is quite fitting, with the alligator of course crawling around everywhere, and due to the low ceilings the characters too do a lot of crawling. The way the film plays out, the basement itself is really only the start of the problems the characters face, with the rising water comes the rising alligator too, who is much more at home swimming about than being on dry land. Everywhere the characters go the blasted creature appears, the animals really are like real world monsters in the way they look. The constant threat of this creature had me coiled like a spring in my chair, I could feel myself so tense wondering where the next attack would come from.
Monday, 9 September 2019
September marks the Apex Back Catalog Blog Tour which pretty much sums itself up with the title. Apex Publications have published around 70 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books since it was created in 2004. Their intention is to show off their back catalogue by getting a review of one of their older books for every day of September. I was invited to participate and after spotting zombie anthology book Appalachian Undead in their catalogue I just had to do a review of it. Anthologies often have themes and for this one unsurprisingly the theme is zombie stories that occur in remote feeling Appalachia in America.
So within this book are twenty different short stories about the undead, by a variety of authors, most of which I had never heard of. Usually there is at least one bad story, it is the law of averages, here though there were not any bad stories. Sure some were a bit predictable, some ended in ways I didn't particularly agree with, and some were not that exciting, but none of them were badly written or downright off putting. The Appalachians are known for their isolated communities and so many of these stories feed into this isolation, and sense of things being done differently.
This kicks off with When Granny Comes Marchin' Home Again by Elizabeth Massie which also begins a trend of older people being the focus of a few of these shorts. Here an old lady tries to perfect a potion that will allow her to cheat death. This was a good start. Another one revolving around an elderly lady was Company's Coming by Ronald Kelly that uses the idea of the undead as an analogy for racism, with a lady hiding some zombies from a bloodthirsty posse. The best of the stories based on old women was the fantastic Calling Death by Jonathan Maberry in which we slowly learn the chilling reason why there is a perpetual sound of digging and moaning coming from an old collapsed mine, I loved the ending of this one.
Saturday, 7 September 2019
Momo: The Missouri Monster is the latest documentary to come from director Seth Breedlove (Terror in the Skies). As the title obviously suggests, this time around the focus is on a single creature, a bigfoot type monster that terrorised a small town near Louisiana, Missouri for a few weeks during the summer of 1972. This does something different for a documentary in that rather than straight recreations to show what witnesses say they saw it instead uses footage from a lost monster movie from the 70's, the titular Momo: The Missouri Monster. This would be well and good, but the thing is this movie never actually existed, segments purporting to be from it were actually created specifically for this documentary.
So according to historical accounts from the time, in the summer of 1972 a foul smelling bigfoot type creature was sighted by several different people. The biggest sighting being that of a family who claim that it was seen by their home holding a carcass of a dog. Along with this monster, during this period there were also many claims of having seen strange lights floating in the sky, which gave this an extraterrestrial angle to it. These events caused enough of a panic at the time that an organised posse of twenty men did actually go out hunting for 'Momo' one night.
So, this documentary is split into two very different parts, that of the fake film, and the historical side itself. I always felt there was a bit of a divide with these two sections. The real part features interviews for witnesses from the time, as well as an exploration into the possible explanations for the creature, everything from an alien visitor, to a black bear and more. Like Breedlove's previous documentary I appreciate a balanced view that is given, in fact with most the interviewed people saying they don't believe there is any truth to the legend it often seems this is a lot of nothing. However I did find this interesting, and maybe bizarrely I found this part to be more effective, and even more chilling than the fake movie.
Wednesday, 4 September 2019
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark has one terrible title, though it seems it is so called as it is based on a book series of the same name from the 1980's. Much like Goosebumps, rather than focus on one story this instead combines a variety of the books into one cohesive whole. There were three books published, combined having over 80 short horror tales, so there is plenty of scope for more films if this one turns out to be successful. It is directed by André Ovredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe) so I knew in terms of directing at least this was going to be good.
It is 1968, and in the small American town of Mill Valley on Halloween four teenage friends, that include Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Auggie (Gabriel Rush - Better Call Saul, Gotham), Chuck (Austin Zajur), and drifter Ramón (Michael Garza - Wayward Pines) decide to break into an old mansion that has a reputation for being haunted. In the past a rich family lived there, and they happened to have a daughter named Sarah who due to some sort of disfigurement was kept locked away in a secret room. She apparently used to tell local children scary stories, but after these children started disappearing, and with rumours that she was behind their vanishing she killed herself. Anyway, the friends discover a secret room, and in that room discover a book of stories written by Sarah. Stella decides to take the book but is soon alarmed when she discovers horrific stories concerning people she knows are writing themselves on the blank pages. Realising that the chronicled events appearing are actually happening to the people written about, Stella and her friends set out to find a way to stop the horror, before they themselves end up as part of a scary story...
This movie flew by, so much so that I was a bit surprised when the end credits rolled around that nearly two hours had passed. This must be doing something right that I was so involved that I never once felt bored, or that time was really dragging. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy Scary Stories, however this is such a formulaic teen horror that it just can't be said to be original in any way. A creepy, supernatural female antagonist, a middle act that comprises of the heroes doing a lot of research, even a character falling over and twisting their ankle, all of this is so unoriginal. One Missed Call, The Ring, heck, even The Grudge, this tightly fits into the genre for better or for worse. One of the plus side though is the idea of each victim having their death be based on a different short horror tale led to a lot of variety. A zombie creature looking for her lost toe, a living scarecrow, spiders bursting out of someone's face, and a fantastic looking humanoid blob creature meant boredom could never set in. Jump scares didn't really seem to be in abundance which itself was refreshing, though the horror is usually more action like in its pace than sustained terror. I guess being a 15 rated movie would explain that, and why this is such a bloodless film.
Monday, 2 September 2019
It was just half a week ago that I watched the horror anthology Urban Fears, and now today I sit down to watch sci-fi horror Xenophobia and discover with some joy that it too is an anthology. The format for this one is one wraparound story with three other ones coming off of it. You could argue this is B movie trash, but that isn't entirely fair. Sure it features some questionable acting, and some suspect effects at times but it is actually a fun movie that knows what it is trying to achieve.
The wraparound story is called Trona Pinnacles. A young man, Eric (Baker Chase Powell - Little Dead Rotting Hood) is out in the Nevada desert taking photos when he gets abducted by aliens. His experience leads to him seeking out an alien abduction support group from which the other three shorts come from.
In Doomsday (directed by Joe Castro - the Terror Toons series) Becky (Kristen Renton - Sons of Anarchy) is out camping with her husband Harry (Nick Principe - Army of the Damned) when they come across a strange sight out in the woods. This initiates a nightmare struggle for Becky to stop her mind controlled husband from delivering an apocalyptic McGuffin to the nearby city.
In Starchild (directed by Steven Escobar) a woman babysitting at a house must fight off an alien presence that invades the property.
Finally in Last Phase at the Sullivan House (directed by Thomas J.Churchill) a group of former abuse victims have kidnapped a man called Edgar (Mark Hoadley) after witnessing him trying to murder his wife. However he has a bizarre explanation for what his motivations were.
While the stories are all related in a way, they all feature a different form of alien menace, of which all of the creature designs look pretty good. There are CGI effects used, and occasionally they do look a little bit bad, but they are used sparingly, apart from the outdoor scenes of U.F.Os in the sky. Thankfully for the most part it is practical effects that are used, something that just works so much better. All the alien designs are pretty great, and while they look like unreal they still feature some cool designs. The two headed creature in Doomsday manages to really look freaky, and I liked the throbbing effect they use when showing it. The creature in Starchild did kind of remind me of a roomba in its size, it wasn't bad but wasn't as much a standout as the other ones. For Last Phase there is a real The Thing style gross mutation going on. On the one hand sure it doesn't match the effects from that almighty film, however it still looks fun, and far from terrible. These creature designs were the highlight for me with Xenophobia.