Thursday, 2 April 2020
Rutabaga is a French horror that was written and directed by Julien Botzanowski, who also stars as the main character. I at first assumed 'rutabaga' was a French word, but as it is revealed in the movie it is actually the name of some sort of turnip hybrid. This was an odd one to watch, not much at all happens, yet this wasn't a slow film, there is always things going on. The story is purposely vague, open to interpretation and often to a fault.
After an argument with his girlfriend, journalist Adrien (Botzanowski) is given an assignment deep in rural France. He has been asked to go to a newly opened remote guest house in order to write a promotional article. He is greeted by one of the owners, Mademoiselle Agathe (Anouchka Csernakova), and spends the next few days there, his article facing some difficulties due to no electronics seeming to work in the area. When he is due to leave the owners insist he stay a little while longer, but the more time Adrien stays at the guest house the more he begins to suspect that something really is not right with the place.
At seventy minutes in length it is no small wonder that this felt like it raced along at breakneck speed. Usually if not much happens in a film you would feel like it is a slow burn, here there is a whole lot of nothing, but this nothing maintains some solid atmosphere. This could be accused of being a bit tame in terms of what is shown, but for me the mystery was just about worth it. There are times where characters see things off screen and react to them, but the viewer never does get to see what they have seen. There is a bunch of exposition thrown in towards the finale, but it is said in such a way that the character speaking assumes prior knowledge and so it was never clear exactly what was going on.
Wednesday, 1 April 2020
I was never taken with Beetlejuice when I saw it as a teen. At the time Tim Burton was my favourite director, Batman Returns remains one of my favourite films of all time, but for me there was something a little off about Beetlejuice. It shares plenty of elements with the horror genre but I never felt it went far enough. With its recent appearance on Netflix I decided to give it another chance, but it turns out this is one of the few times where my adult self and my childhood self have pretty much the exact same thoughts.
Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis - The Exorcist TV series) are happily married, and live an idyllic life in their sprawling house by a sleepy village. One day they get in a car accident which results in their deaths, a fact which they soon become aware of when they return home to discover quite some time has passed, with their house sold and a strange new family moving in. The family is made up of tasteless designer Delia (Catherine O'Hara - Home Alone, Frankenweenie), her long suffering husband Charles (Jeffrey Jones - Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), and their goth daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder - Edward Scissorhands, Stranger Things). Adam and Barbara are distraught at all the changes the family are making so come up with a plan to scare them away, but in the process unwisely call on the services of a ghoul named Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton - Spider-Man: Homecoming, Batman) who specialises in getting rid of unwanted pests.
While it is not one of my favourites it doesn't take more than a few moments before it is clear this is traditional Burton in every sense of the word, usually a good thing. There is the typical Danny Elfman theme tune, while the monster designs are very familiar, I wouldn't be surprised if some of this design served as inspiration for the look of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Things such as the black and white pattern that appears throughout, and the gothic looking architecture. I can't recall what I thought of the effects at the time, but now they have dated a bit. That is not me saying it looks bad, practical special effects stand up a whole lot better than the truly atrocious CG of the early 2000s, but the stop animation worm for example do not look the best, nor does the super imposing of characters onto the desert hellscape that occasionally pops up. This is inventive though, parts like the couple visiting the afterlife waiting room are real highlights, including sights like a delivery man who is being moved around via a noose around his neck attached to a metal frame, and the explorer with the shrunken head. The moments where Adam and Barbara change their faces into monstrous visages also look fantastic still.
Tuesday, 31 March 2020
What a difference a month makes, and what a strange time to be living through. The UK, where I am based, is just past its first week of lock down but it is only really this past weekend I have felt what it is like to self isolate. The business I work at for my day job is classed as essential and so I am still heading into the lab and getting to interact with people during weekdays. On the one hand I am getting out the house, earning money, and able to really lose myself in my work, but on the flipside, I'm a die hard introvert so feel I am missing out on the few benefits this pandemic is bringing, namely blissful isolation! Plus I look at all my work colleagues the same way characters in zombie films look at people they suspect of having been bitten, anyone, me included could be unknowingly infected. Anyway, I seem to have a load of news this month, who knows if it is still relevant as the virus is bringing changes to all walks of life. Some news, especially pertaining to theatrical releases and film festivals I have decided to omit at this time.
Doom Eternal came out a week and a bit ago, I'm not finding much time to play it, but when I do I am loving it. Currently I'm around seven levels in and it is a total blast. Resident Evil 3 remake is due out on Friday, so I am desperately trying to zoom through the original in time for that, if need be I will delay playing the remake until the original is completed again!
This past weekend has seen me re-watching the six films of the Resident Evil series. I have a real soft spot for those films and have really enjoyed watching them once again. Saturday saw me get through Resident Evil and Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Sunday I viewed Resident Evil: Extinction and Resident Evil: Afterlife, while on Monday I watched Resident Evil: Retribution, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. For each of these I did a bit of editing on the reviews as well as added my current thoughts on the films. Onto the actual news!
Arrow Video released The Passion of Darkly Noon on Blu-ray on 23rd March. Philip Ridley's 90's cult classic stars Brendan Fraiser (The Mummy) as a young man who falls into a destructive rage after the death of his highly religious parents, Viggo Mortensen and Ashley Judd co-star. This release features a brand-new 2K restoration, and marks the films worldwide Blu-ray debut.
Blue Underground are set to release Zombie and Maniac on 4K UHD Blu-ray on 26th May. Both releases feature a whole slew of extras, Zombie and Maniac are both 3 disc limited editions.
A new clip has been released for Realm of Shadows. This is an anthology horror that stars the legendary Tony Todd (the Candyman and Final Destination franchises), Jimmy Drain and Vida Ghaffari. All the stories in this anthology are said to be based on real events
Dark infinity's Tales For the Campfire 3 is now available on DVD. This is an anthology that stars legendary action star Mel Novak (Bruce Lee's Game of Death), and Dawna Lee Heising. It came out on 6th March exclusively from SCS Entertainment. It includes a bunch of extras, and even has a mini-poster included. This film is made up of five short films that include We One, Cole Canyon Creeps, The Prisoner, The Bitter Half and The Gateway.
Artsploitation Films have announced the acquisition of two new films. The Dead Ones is an American indie horror directed by Jeremy Kasten. In this one four outcast teens are made to stay at school in order to clean it after an incident they caused. However a gang who have stylied themselves on The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse have broken into the building and are hunting the four friends down.
Dead Dicks is about mentally ill man Richie who is shocked to discover himself reborn each time he tries to kill himself. This has been described as 'Cronenberg meets Brunel'. Check out the trailers for both of these ones.
Hex Studios have released a new video on their YouTube channel which is made up of a feature length video diary that covers the teams adventures at Glasgow FrightFest, obviously this must have taken place pre quarantine. They talk to the festival organisers and guests, as well as provide tips for filmmakers and show some behind the scenes stuff.
Multi-award winning actor/filmmaker Michael S. Rodriquez (Last American Horror Show) received the 'Directing Honor' at the Hanford International Film Festival in California on 7th March. He won the 'Director's Choice' award for his short horror Jack Incarnate (that reimagines the theory of Jack the Ripper and his crimes). The film previously also won 'Best Short Horror Film' at the festival, as well as at last years Los Angeles based Nollywood Film Awards Festival.
American Horrors has announced it is continuing production on its original TV series Groovey TV, Gorecast, American Horrors: The Lost Seasons, The American Horrors Intermission, Mission Terror and Horror Show. Founder and head of programming, Hart D. Fisher stated:
"I am personally bunkered down in the American Horrors studios and I'm prepared to ride this thing out right here, even if I'm the only one left to keep the horror streaming."
Frolic Pictures have announced the release of a whole bunch of double feature DVDs. From my experience with these I can say they are quite fantastic, at least the double feature I watched was pretty darn great. As always, there are far too many to list, some chosen at random include Ghosthouse/Firehouse, Kindergarten Ninja/Ninja Demon's Massacre, Winterbeast/Nudist Colony of the Dead, and The Witch Who Came from the Sea/The Bat People. The full list can be found here.
On the Trail of UFOs was due for release on 20th March, and to advertise this a final trailer was released. This documentary takes an in depth look at America's relationship with UFOs and follows investigator Shannon LeGro as she travels across the United States, going to such places as Area 51, New Hampshire and New York.
Dark electro-pop band Shadow Fashion have released a new single and video for their track Children of The Night. The band, who are said to appeal to fans of Depeche Mode, The Cure and New Order have created a song that speaks 'of the loneliness and isolation we have all gone through'. The video was shot in three locations, including the Houston Vampire Ball.
Horror rock band Saturday Nite Shockers have shown off their new video for the song Blessed Be. The inspiration for this video comes from The Craft as well as the historical Salem Witch Trials. The band say the theme of the song is one 'of self-pride despite the oppression or discrimination of others'.
Finally, please check out YouTube channel Collectors Detective. This channel reviews comics, as well as the occasional movie review and is hosted by Andrew Carr, who I can confirm is not only a comic book geek, but is also one who is passionate about the subject and gives out good recommendations. Check out his view on the DCeased mini series below, and if you like what you see then head to his channel and subscribe as he deserves way more subscribers than he currently has!
That is it for this month. When this pandemic initially arrived in the UK I was concerned that now really might not be the time for people to be watching horror, but I think it is actually the right time to be watching anything you damn well want. Escapism will be key for getting through all this and horror films are just as relevant as any other form of entertainment media as a means to escape the world. We are all missing seeing family and friends so any gateway out of this reality is a good one. So, be safe out there, wash your hands, stay the government approved minimum distance from people, and rejoice that at least the dead are not walking...yet!
Sunday, 29 March 2020
Whenever I review an anthology I say this, but here goes again; boy do I like anthology movies, there is always something new just around the corner when watching them. The Theatre of Terror is an anthology that was directed and written by Tom Ryan. It contains within it four different short films, each of which was also directed and co-written by Ryan. Rather than be created specially for this, each of the shorts was a previously released stand alone short that was brought together, there isn't really a theme, though I guess you could say the theme is New Jersey, as each of them was filmed there.
After finding a flier that talked about requesting help to keep an old theatre running, Amber (Lauren Renahan (Pretty Fine Things) heads there to give her assistance. Inside the building she encounters a strange man (Ryan) who tells her the theatre has closed down now, but that he is more than happy to give her a tour before she leaves. In the main room he starts to tell her stories of four different people who once frequented the place. This part makes up the wraparound story; The Theatre of Terror. The story here didn't really go anywhere, aside from the introduction this is more a vehicle for each of the shorts to be introduced, there are environmental hints that lead up to the beginning of each of the shorts.
The first one is The Gift. Here, a prostitute (played by Heather Brittain O'Scanlon) ends up in a antique shop while on the run from an accidental death she caused. The shopkeeper sensing her anguish gets the woman to recount the events that led up to her situation, promising he will be able to give her a gift that will give her what she wants most. Most of this short plays out as a flashback, showing how the lady came to be a street worker. The horror part comes towards the end, with the old adage of being careful what you wish for. What happens here is coincidentally similar to a short story in the Black Mirror episode 'Black Museum', obviously that had a much bigger budget and so was able to explore the idea further. While this was one of the better shorts here I did feel it took a bit too long to get to the really interesting part, it felt like it was stuck at the end with no real time to develop the idea. I did like the design of a creepy doll and what was done with it though, that part was a highlight.
Saturday, 28 March 2020
I don't tend to do news post any more that focus solely on the one topic, but when I received an email from indie writer/producer/director/filmmaker Ryan McCoy, I felt I needed to make an exception. My Hollywood Story is a slickly made video that is now up on his YouTube channel. It is twenty two minutes long so I felt it was a bit too much to fit in neatly with my monthly news post (that will be going up on Tuesday).
In the video McCoy talks about what he thinks is the current state of the American film industry as it stands today, and why he believes now is the time for aspiring filmmakers to tell their stories. He talks about his experiences in the industry both negative and positive. This is all shot, edited, produced and featuring McCoy. It is split up into chapters and really was quite interesting. Obviously the 'now' he talks about isn't these strange times we are all in, but more the times before, and the times that will follow.
He also talks about his 2012 found footage horror film Evidence, as he was talking I started to suspect that I had once seen this film. A quick search of my blog and I found an old review I wrote at the time, so I went back to that and read through it, and did a little bit of editing. Often I totally forget the particulars of what happens in films I have seen for review, there have been hundreds and hundreds over the years, with that one though I still remember the cool twist that changed up the style of the found footage format. Anyway, I digress, McCoy talks about how this film of his had its idea stolen by a producer who then went onto make a horror film in the same sub-genre a year after his film released, it even used the same title. The experience of this burned him a bit, and so he also talks about why there will never be a sequel made by him of Evidence.
My Hollywood Story has gone up today on McCoy's channel, hopefully I will be able to include it below, if not then I will include a link to the page it can be found. It made a change looking at something that was around the industry itself, rather than just checking out a film for review. There is also due an announcement McCoy has about the formation of a new media company and film company. Interesting stuff indeed.
Friday, 27 March 2020
Much like Turnabout I had a feeling that Vipul K. Rawal's Indian thriller Tony might not actually be a horror film. Due to the subject matter I took a chance on it, as the synopsis did have some horror elements. In terms of the quality of the film making, and the general idea behind it this was decent enough, but the key part that drew me to this actually became background to the core story being told, and I think that was to the movies detriment.
Psychology student Ashish (Mahesh Jilowa) is discovered to be in possession of an unlicensed gun after he is stopped at a police roadblock. The frightened man is hesitant to reveal just why he had a firearm, but eventually he decides to tell his story. He, along with three other students had been given an assignment in which they had to analysis a person of their choosing. Martin (Dhruv Souran) decides to do something a little different, he secretly filmed a confession booth at a Catholic church in the hopes of being able to interview someone who had a dark secret. He thinks they have struck gold when they hear the confession of a man named Tony (Yashodhan Rana) who talks about having murdered many people. They manage to get in contact with this serial killer and the man tells the group that if they go along and witness his crimes then he will give them all the information they need for their project. Thinking this will make their careers the friends all agree to his terms.
It seemed to begin with that the majority of the film would be Ashish's account of what led up to him getting found with a gun. In actuality it is around half the film that takes place in the past, huge chunks are dedicated to the present day, with a police officer investigating Ashish's claims. I figured the serial killer part would be where most the film takes place, but this is sadly left to fade into the background. There are a fair few murders on screen, but these are brief, and a chunk of them even take the form of a montage. To begin with the character of Tony felt suitably cold and calculating, but then there is a strange shift in which the students begin to idolise him, especially Martin. There didn't seem to be a realistic reason for the change in these students attitudes. There is no sense of remorse or guilt at witnessing the killers crimes from the group, except for Ashish. The characters were also not that well developed, Kartik (Kabir Chilwal) as an example had barely any lines until towards the films climax. The character of Tony also took more of a back seat, with him hardly figuring in the present day sections. There was no real sense of threat from this guy.
Wednesday, 25 March 2020
This story is put together from my understanding of the film. After a boy's mother dies he is left with no choice but to consume her in order to not starve to death, eventually he is discovered and rescued by someone else. This child either grew up to be a wealthy businessman, or he grew up to be a butcher (I'm not sure which). In present day the wealthy businessman offers his rich clients a delicacy that is very hard to find, and also quite illegal. His butcher abducts people from off the streets and slices them up for food. A food critic (Mario de la Rosa - Hellboy, Terminator: Dark Fate) discovers all this and decides to check it out for himself, with the possible aim of secretly trying to find a way to stop it.
It doesn't take an understanding of the Spanish language to know this really wasn't my type of horror. Consumption of human flesh as a horror topic ranks up there with insects as one of my least favourite types of horror. In real life I really like meat, I often don't feel like a meal is a meal unless it contains some sort of meat. The idea of eating human flesh though is something repulsive, and so I felt queasy throughout Omnivores. This by default made me not like the film, I didn't enjoy the topic, and I was glad when it was all over. That is just me though, ignore that if it is the sort of thing that does appeal.
Monday, 23 March 2020
These are weird times we are living in. Turnabout isn't really a horror film in the traditional sense, and it wasn't even one I was obliged to review, as it was sent my way along with a bunch of other films that I could pick and choose from. Traditional horror films rarely scare me anymore, and when they do I can see the ropes and pulleys that are creating the illusion of horror. I am quite an empathetic person, able to read the emotional state of people around me and subconsciously change my own state to match, an annoying habit. So with this crime drama I felt I was a third passenger on the night of madness that unfolds, and I found myself with heart in mouth fearful for all the repercussions this night brought with it.
After a failed suicide attempt in which waster Billy Cain (George Katt) was saved from drowning himself in the river one dark night, he decides to call his old best friend to ask for help. Perry (Waylon Payne - Walk the Line) hasn't seen Billy for over fifteen years, but as he tells his wife, it is his duty to help out his old friend, and so he leaves the comfort and safety of his bed to travel out to help. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and over one long night of deviancy Billy is indeed saved, but with a high cost to Perry...
I really enjoy the types of film whose story takes place over one single span of time, and with Turnabout nearly the entire film takes place from around midnight to half six in the morning. Both Katt and Waylon were expertly cast and fitted their roles perfectly. Katt plays the waster rascal, a seemingly loveable rogue who frequents the dives of the town they both live in. Waylon on the other hand has grown to be a respected member of the community, the owner of a small opticians, and with a wife and child. A lot of the format of the movie has Billy taking Waylon to places he would never normally frequent, and do a lot of things that is totally out of character for him. I empathised with his plight, as he keeps saying, he has work in the morning, so the last thing he wants is a wild night. In real life, when pubs were still a thing, I have been in situations where I really wanted to get home to get some decent sleep for work, but have been convinced against my better judgement to keep on having 'just one more drink'. Throughout the movie I kept projecting myself onto Perry, and so was keenly feeling his anxiety.
Sunday, 22 March 2020
Who's That at the Back of the Bus? is another surreal horror from director/writer Philip Hardy (Moose Limbs). This takes a typical short horror film idea and does something to it to make it a little more unique.
An old lady (Susan Barham - Seven Boxes) gets on a nearly deserted bus at night. With a drunk man being on the ground floor (Richard James-Neale - The Legend of Tarzan) she decides to go to the top floor where it appears she is alone. However the reflection in the window in front of her seems to tell a different story...
At under five minutes I predicted the type of short horror this would be. These types of horror are dime a dozen, so usually a film of this type wouldn't stand out. However, there is what seems to be the usual Hardy twist in that rather than a ghost or demon, it is something far more silly presented as the threat. A lot of the film has the woman constantly checking the window reflection where she sees that it appears she is not alone, and then looking back to see nothing. it is the last minute where things ramp up. I liked the change up from the usual antagonist, and it is as darkly bizarre as I had come to expect. It also had a good design to it, more blood in one scene would have been cool, I can see why there wasn't though.
While the general idea behind this has been done before this was a skillfully made horror that again invoked something like The League of Gentlemen with the jokes removed. Its short run time means that Who's That at the Back of the Bus? is definitely worth checking out.
Saturday, 21 March 2020
A few years back a friend from work recommended I check out a YouTube video titled The Blobby Witch Project. This was a found footage short horror film that in its three minute runtime managed to present a ridiculous situation (popular 90's TV mascot Mr. Blobby turned killer), yet still create genuine moments of horror with the idea. Earlier this year the creator of that video; Philip Hardy left a message saying I should check out some of his other short horror films he has made, and so I checked out 2017's surreal Moose Limbs.
Doctor Tom Beaumont (Daniel Attwell - 1917) has recently relocated to a rural English town with his wife, Sue (Kelly Harrison - The End of the F***ing World) where they find themselves treated badly by the locals. This is due to the fact that both of them are half-human, half-deer people and the country folk there are all into hunting. An incident occurs at the local pub (a place people used to go to drink alcohol) which may cause the locals to put aside their speciesism.
This short clocks in at just over fourteen minutes and is roughly in two halves. The first half introduces the doctor and it is clear to see the obvious contrast between these characters discriminated against due to what they are, and real world racism. Everything from graffiti scrawled on their car telling them to 'go home', to the very frosty reception they get at the pub, full of scowls and sideway glances. This works in showing how ridiculous that topic is. There was a Straw Dogs type vibe here that I liked, it is of course ridiculous to have half-man, half-deer creatures but this is handled in a way where it manages, like the Mr. Blobby film previously made to have layers of horror here. The tone of the music, and the way it is all filmed creates a sense of peril.
The second half felt like something different entirely, and if I was to give some criticism to Moose Limbs it would be that these two parts felt like they were different films entirely. The message of the first half is dropped to instead focus on a gruesome body horror section. This was well made, and chaotic, and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the first half.
Moose Limbs was something so much better made and put together than what I had seen of Hardy's work previously, I admit I was surprised by the quality here. It takes a surreal idea and normalises it, helped by Attwell's always straight faced performance, a zany one would have dragged the short down. The actors here, especially the main ones really made the idea here work. Check it out for yourself below.
Thursday, 19 March 2020
Anthologies are one of my favourite styles of horror films. I have said it so many times before, pretty much every single time I review one of them in fact, but it's a simple fact that having a variety of stories rather than just the one means even if some aren't great there is always something new and different not that far away. Despite the bland title, Nécrologies turned out to be something good, even the weakest of the short films here had something unique to offer at the very least.
Within the film there are five different stories, with a sixth one working as the wraparound. The set-up is that a horror vlogger has snuck into a graveyard at night in order to take some selfies. He gets caught however by the graveyard keeper (Jean-Claude Dreyfus - The City of Lost Children) who takes him to his hut. He tells the vlogger he is going to call the police to report him, but after learning the man is interested in horror he decides to tell him a series of bizarre and unsettling tales about how some of the many people buried in his graveyard came to meet their ends.
The first short is The Call of Death, that was written and directed by Nathalie Epoque. Here a woman who is home alone begins to get threatening calls on her phone from a man who seems to have an intimate knowledge of the woman's life. All the shorts within the movie are around ten to fifteen minutes long, and that really works for this one. There is the right sense of suspense here, and the length means to doesn't have time to become dragged out. The pay-off for this is absurd, but it wasn't something I at all saw coming, so this was a great start to the anthology.
Wednesday, 18 March 2020
It was only when I noticed the upcoming release of season 3 of the Netflix show Castlevania that I felt propelled to getting around to watching the second season. The video game series of Castlevania is one of my all time favourites, it is horror based after all, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was one of the twins, along with Super Metroid that created the fantastic Metroidvania genre of platform games. One of my complaints of the first season was that it only contained four twenty minute episodes. This time around that episode count is doubled and episodes in general are closer to thirty minutes, so there is far more story being told. Spoilers for the first season are bound to follow, so if you have yet to see that then pop off and return here in approximately 80 minutes.
The vampire hunter Trevor Belmont (voiced by Richard Armitage - The Hobbit trilogy), magic user Sypha Belnades (Alejandra Reynoso), and half vampire Alucard (James Callis - Battlestar Galactica) have pledged to rid the land of Dracula (Graham McTavish - The Hobbit trilogy). Together they head to the Belmont family home where lies centuries of knowledge with how to battle vampires.
Meanwhile, Dracula is hell bent on wiping humans from the face of the Earth in retaliation for the murder of his human wife. In charge of his armies are two human forgemasters, Hector (Theo James - the Divergent trilogy), and Isaac (Adetokumboh M'Cormack - Lost). His vampire lieutenants led by Camilla (Jaime Murray - Gotham) however start to plan against him as they see it suicide to completely wipe out their primary food source.
I expected that the action would really ramp up for this new season, I imagined there would be the heroes fighting their way across the demon infested lands in search of Castlevania. How wrong I was, however despite six of the eight episodes being more plot heavy than action orientated I loved this. The heroes spend nearly the entire season sat around in a basement researching, while the antagonists spend most their time getting up to intrigue and plots at Castlevania. A smaller complaint of the first season was that we see Dracula's commanders, yet I don't believe they actually got any speaking roles. This time around there is a lot of character development, especially around Hector and Isaac who were both great characters, and via flashbacks are shown just why Dracula saw them as needed. Even with quite a few of the high up vampires getting fleshed out there were still a few who didn't get any speaking lines despite being well designed. In particular, a vampire wearing a turban was one character I really wish had got to be an actual character as he looked cool.
Tuesday, 17 March 2020
After a traumatic incident in the past, Laurie Ann Cullom (Scott) suffers extreme agoraphobia and is unable to leave her house. It is now 1988, and her mother has gone away on a business trip, so she is left alone for a few days. Strange things start occuring around the house as the days pass, doors are found open when before they had been closed, objects subtly move, and soon Laurie begins to fear there is someone in the house with her. Meanwhile, Sheriff Parks (Dossett) gets some progress on his search for a local girl reported missing in the area.
Apparently this was inspired by real events, but that is a dime a dozen nowadays. More interesting was how this starts, a screen of text saying that the movie is a recreation of the last 72 hours of Laurie, a series of events that the text says has turned into something of an urban legend. What this film does do right is everything involving the titular woman. Agoraphobia is the perfect excuse for why the character doesn't just flee the house at the first sign of danger. I liked how at the films start her house is her safe space, the outside world is scary and full of peril, but she is happy and content in her own little world. This gradual build up over the films first 45 minutes inverts this with it becoming clear to the girl that what she believed to be true has been turned on its head. At times (excluding the subplot), from musical beats, to the decisions made this felt like Halloween if the entire film had been laser focussed on one victim. Ideas such as not showing the antagonist until the films third act, even the way the killer moves around are shout outs to eighties slashers. The way the killer cocks their head to the side at one point in particular made me think of Michael Myers.
Monday, 16 March 2020
My digital pile of eBooks sent to me for review are an eternal fountain of shame, so it is always nice to finally get around to reading more of them. Toni Odell's The Devil Brigade I recieved way back in 2013, that sweet time of pre-apocalypse. This is a novella, and was the first in a planned series of books I believe. As such it serves as a kind of prologue to a much larger story.
It is the 1890's and Ringmaster Tom journeys around the back towns of America with his travelling freak show. His star attractions include twin little people, a mute wolfman, an obese man, and Ben, who Tom touts as 'Bubonic Boy: Black Death - Alive!' It turns out that Tom, at some point in the past made a Devil of a deal to fund his freak show ambitions, but now, his debtor has returned to ensure Tom keeps up his side of the bargain.
The aim of this novella seemed to be to get various characters to the certain places and roles they needed to be for the next installment of the series, a Phantom Menace if you will. Ben is the protagonist here, and it is a chance encounter with a mysterious young woman that starts off his story proper. The majority of The Devil Brigade takes place at the carnival and campgrounds the show are currently placed at. Tom is soon shown to be a nasty character, ruling his charges by physical and verbal abuse. His actions are eclipsed by a much larger in scope terror. A few scenes are set at the headquarters of this larger adversary, without going into details these parts had the more memorable moments of horror.
The plot initially appeared to be one thing, but then something happens at the start of the third act that really gets the story running. It all ends a bit abruptly with a lot of story threads hanging loose which cements the fact this was designed as a springboard rather than being a totally self contained tale. This can most keenly be witnessed with the character of Michael, he gets several chapters to himself, with what happens in them seemingly unrelated to the main story, at least to begin with, even though there is never any crossover.
The Devil Brigade was an easy book to read, and became quite descriptive when it wanted to be. While the story on its own felt a little incomplete it did set up the hints of a much larger 'good vs evil' story where both sides had grey areas to their ideologies. The Devil Brigade can be found at various sites, including Amazon.
Sunday, 15 March 2020
The Black Gate is a French horror film that was co-directed by Guillaume Beylard and Fabrice Martin, with Martin also writing this. It feels modern in how it was created due to the use of CG, yet the feel of this movie was straight out of the classic era in the eighties of Italian horror, especially the works of Lucio Fulci (Zombi 2, City of the Living Dead). That of course is no bad thing at all.
Estranged siblings, David (Nicholas Couchet in his sole film role) and Sarah (Jeanne Dessart) meet up after many years apart. As a child Sarah saw her parents murdered in bizarre circumstances, and she is pretty sure their uncle will be able to shed more light on what exactly happened. Together they decide to visit him to finally get some answers. Meanwhile, three men on the run after a bank robbery find their getaway vehicle breaking down in a remote French village. After they come under attack from seemingly invincible robed figures they flee for the safety of a nearby house, which just happens to be where David and Sarah's uncle lives.
The Black Gate brings with it a feeling of unapologetic insanity, I got the feeling watching this that anything could happen, and it frequently does. The prologue wasn't that good and I worried I would be in for a dull ride. This then goes into the story proper and despite a barebones plot I found myself hooked. This is an indie film, and it brings with it a whole lot of sterile looking CG shots that always seemed too clean and artificial to fit into the film very well. This did bring with it a certain charm though. Magical effects, gun blasts, and even a decapitation all use CG to various degrees of success. Thankfully CG isn't used for everything, there are plenty of great looking zombies here that more than anything reminded me of Italian zombies of the eighties. The way these creatures walk, the way they look, and the make-up effects was all so cool and nostalgic.
Friday, 13 March 2020
I discovered after having watched Darlin' that it was actually the third part in a trilogy about cannibal savages. First was 2009's Offspring which had a clan of cannibals out to kidnap a baby, and this was then followed up in 2011 with The Woman, in which the last member of the clan was captured by a sadistic lawyer who hoped to 'civilise' her. Darlin' obviously works as a stand alone horror as thinking back there were only a couple of moments that referenced past events, mainly this was a self contained film. It seems the only returning actor is Pollyanna McIntosh (The Walking Dead) who reprises her role as The Woman, and who this time around also directs in her directorial debut.
Feral teenager Darlin' (Lauryn Canny) is discovered at the doors of a Catholic hospital by nurse Tony (Cooper Andrews - The Walking Dead). The child is cleaned up and it is decided to send her to a Catholic school run by a sleazy bishop (Bryan Batt - Scream: The TV Series). With his school facing closure he hopes the publicity of a wild girl getting civilised and becoming a servant of God will save that from happening. However, the person who dropped off Darlin' at the hospital (McIntosh) is on a mission to find out what happened to her, and she will kill anyone who she sees as an obstacle to her goal...
There were several different directions this movie could have gone in, but it kind of feels like it wanted to go in all of them at once. The main story about Darlin's rehabilitation into a normal member of society is the main part of this. There is a time jump of several months with the girl soon able to speak and read, and excited to 'have the devil' taken out of her. She lives with a bunch of other teenage girls and during her road to recovery she gets up to hijinks such as smoking pot and discovering music, but not much of horror occurs. The subplot features The Woman and is far more horror based. She acts like a movie monster, one scene as an example shows her on a rampage at the hospital. Along the way she racks up a body count, and eats her victims on occasion. Weirdly her rampage goes seemingly unnoticed. There is one scene where it appears the authorities are after her, but then this is abandoned with the later half of the film having her living with a group of oddball homeless people. Knowing this is a sequel it makes a lot more sense the films attempts to humanise her, but there is a weird disconnect between The Woman's murderous tendencies where many of her victims are complete innocents, and the moments where she is made out to be a good person, if misguided. The most disonate moment with her path through the film comes in a scene where Tony is driving her, with her crazed reactions at not knowing what a car is played out as a little comedy skit. This coming off the back of her rampage just felt odd.
Thursday, 12 March 2020
Jeff Wadlow (Truth or Dare)'s Fantasy Island is a weird proposition to see, as it is a horror adaptation of a 70's TV show that remained purely in the realm of fantasy (funnily enough). By the trailer this would appear to be going to Saw levels of body horror, yet Blumhouse's take on this concept is strangely without fangs.
A group of strangers have won a competition, with the prize being their biggest fantasy will come true on the mysterious fantasy island. These winners include Gwen (Maggie Q - Nikita), Melanie (Lucy Hale - Truth or Dare, Scream 4), cop Patrick (Austin Stowell), and inseparable step brothers, Brax (Jimmy O. Yang) and J.D (Ryan Hansen - Friday 13th). The island's owner, Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña - Ant-Man) warns the guests that once their fantasies start there will be no way to stop them until they have come to their natural conclusion. Each of the guests specified fantasies do indeed magically seem to come true, however there is a darkness that comes to each one that twists and turns them into nightmares...
I didn't have high hopes for this one, and it was roughly in line with how I thought it would be. The biggest unexpected part of this for me was how utterly bloodless this was, and how little peril the characters are in compared to how the film wants you to think they are in. This is certainly a horror, but the danger never ranks up like you would expect. A key part of the trailer that got me interested in this was a scene that looked like something from Hostel. This like many other scenes plays out with not much happening. Not all characters do survive, but even when they do die it is in an underwhelming way. Bullet wounds are virtually bloodless, and other methods of death seemed designed for the least amount of violence, such as falling off a cliff, or drowning.
Wednesday, 11 March 2020
Cybernetic Showdown is the latest film from director, writer, editor, and producer, Ian Russell. His previous film, 2008's The Killing Death was an unexpectedly funny crime drama that was full of terrible jokes, and dodgy CG. Cybernetic Showdown is even more ridiculous, and to my surprise, despite the different genre this turned out to actually be a sequel to that film.
This is a post apocalyptic movie in which all of the world has been destroyed by some unknown disaster. The last bastion of civilisation exists in New Winnipeg, a walled city that is under constant threat of invading mutants.The cyborg Detective Inspector Sergeant Jimmy Hopper (Tyhr Trubiak reprising his role from The Killing Death) is all that stands between the inhabitants of this place and the mutated disciples of 'His Holiness' (Tyler Glennon).
Throughout the movie I noticed a whole bunch of actors that worked on Russell's previous work. Due to this it took me longer to realise than I would like to admit that this was a sequel. Returning actors include Stephen Washen as the mayor, Neil Reimer (sadly reduced to a much more minor role), as well as a bunch who were, like Trubiak reprising their roles. Highlights being Caley Gibson, again playing a janitor who gets into a fun fight, and Jeremy Dangerfield as Frank, who was completely scene stealing despite technically only being there in audio form. It was just the one part with this character but he had the funniest and most witty dialogue of the movie, and had a fantastic new look. Before, Jimmy was the straight man to Frank's frequent nonsense, here he has changed to fill the main lead, and a lot of the film rests on his shoulders. With his eyepatch that he doesn't actually need, his ever present cigar, and his cybernetic enhancements, that seem to consist solely of a Nintendo Power Glove, this was a visually interesting character. He had a silly backstory, and his gruff and overly serious persona shone, but his way of talking in purposely tired cliches did feel a bit exhausting at times with the joke wearing a bit thin.
Monday, 9 March 2020
Tokoloshe: An African Curse (also known as Tokoloshe - The Calling) is a South African horror film that was directed and co-written by Richard Green (the second unit assistant director on District 9). I'm going to state right away that having watched this I am none the wiser as to what the actual story was, the way it is laid out is very confusing. From what I could tell it is like if The Shining was trimmed down to a 67 minute run time with some minor changes made.
A writer goes to an empty hotel with his wife and young child in order to work on his latest novel. Unknown to him and his family however is the fact that the hotel has a curse placed on it by the original native owners of the land it sits on. A tokoloshe dwells in the place, this shape shifting evil must kill every ten years in order to keep on living. Meanwhile, or maybe at some point in the future a young lady, Thembi (Shezi Sibongiseni) plagued with dreams of the hotel decides to head there with a psychologist named Dr. Richards in order to save the family there. She once visited the place as a child and feels it calling her back. As the intro blurb states, Dr. Richards went missing whilst investigating the place, and so his fate at least is known.
There were plenty of horror elements here, and if they had been framed in a half cohesive way then this might have been something good. As it was I just couldn't make head or tail of what was going on. The easiest place to start is that this is a The Shining clone. You have the empty hotel in which the father character gets possessed by some type of evil. He regularly talks to the ghosts of the hotel, such as sitting down to drink at the bar with the ghostly bartender. At one point his laptop is seen by his wife, and much like Jack Torrance's typewriter it is full of repeated words, and there are also moments when children are glimpsed standing next to each other in corridors. Oh yes, and the child rides around on a toy that is almost but not quite a tricycle. This wouldn't be bad as a copy if it was paced out better, but it is just a confusing muddle of scenes with different characters. It took effort just to write the plot summary in my second paragraph, I waited the whole movie expecting to get some plot exposition but it never came around.
Saturday, 7 March 2020
Nowadays it seems found footage horrors can either be quite good, or pretty dull, with there not seeming to be much that falls outside of those opposites. Tucia Lyman's feature length movie directorial debut M.O.M. (Mothers of Monsters) happily falls into the former. Maybe not happily as this film is short on light hearted moments. this uses the found footage format in a way that was unlike anything I can think of, at least in recent memory.
Melinda Page Hamilton (Grimm, iZombie, Ghost Whisperer) stars as Abbey, a 42 year old single mum who suspects her son, Jacob (Bailey Edwards - Bright) is a budding psychopath. In the past she had gone to the authorities with her suspicions but nothing had come of it. Now, knowing they won't believe her she has instead decided to secretly film Jacob, as well as vlog in the hopes that her footage can help any other mothers out there who also suspect there is something wrong with their child. However, it might possibly be that her son has discovered what she is doing...
Anyone who has seen anything more than a handful of found footage horrors will know the general format. Typically there will be some text at the films start explaining how the footage came to be filmed and edited. Here, M.O.M. does something a little differently. The film plays out on a laptop screen, with an unseen person clicking on various movie files from a folder. At times these play out chronologically, at times they are more random. So there might be footage from when Jacob was a child, to then go to recordings from the camera Abbey has set up in the house, to then go to a personal video that Jacob has filmed while out with friends. There are a bunch of characters throughout, such as Abbey's mum, and Jacob's girlfriend, but the majority of this is just Abbey and her son.
Friday, 6 March 2020
The idea of someone who is invisible to the naked eye has never been one that I have found too compelling, over the years there have been numerous attempts to bring this to the screen, from Universal's The Invisible Man to the Kevin Bacon fronted Hollow Man, and all the way up to the near present with Unseen. Of course effects have gotten better, but that is only one of the reasons why I think Leigh Whannell's (actor, and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) The Invisible Man succeeds. It is also down to making the titular man into someone far more evil than misguided.
Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss - The Handmaid's Tale) begins the film by fleeing from the home of her abusive and controlling boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen - The Haunting of Hill House) in the middle of the night, much to his fury. While staying at the home of a friend of her sisters; cop James (Aldis Hodge - Black Mirror episode 'Black Museum') she receives a letter stating that Adrian has killed himself. The letter also states that she has been left a large amount of money from him. While she initially doesn't believe Adrian would ever commit suicide a lot of the fear she has had since leaving him begins to subside. That is until a series of strange events occur that lead her to believe that not only is Adrian not dead, but that he has somehow found a way to make himself invisible in order to torment her. To everyone else around her though it seems Cecilia is losing her mind.
This might sound a tad sad but I have been trying to get around to watching the Sonic the Hedgehog movie for some weeks now (I was a huge fan of the games as a teen!), but every week at the moment a new horror is coming to the cinema. Because of this, and because I have never seen a decent movie about an invisible man I was not that excited for this one, especially learning it was over two hours long. I was happily surprised then to see how much fun this was. Usually the invisible to see fella himself would be the focus, with his discovery of invisibility taking up the first act, here though this is all done behind the scenes, it is up to Cecilia to work out what is happening. By doing this Adrian is turned into much more of a sinister antagonist, and in terms of suspense and horror this felt like a twin to supernatural films such as Insidious and Paranormal Activity in the way objects are moving around on their own. Making the viewer aware he is in the same room as Cecilia but keeping him unseen created so much tension throughout many scenes.
Thursday, 5 March 2020
We (original title Wij) is a film that is more drama than horror. However, due to what takes place in it there was an uncomfortable feeling watching this, I was both repulsed by the protagonists, and also drawn to see just how the story would all play out. This is in Dutch and Flemish, with English subtitles, and refreshingly the subtitles are actually decent (after a run of films I have seen recently that had dodgy ones). This was directed and written by Rene Eller, and was adapted by the book of the same name by author Elvis Peeters. It is also quite out there with what it decides to show on screen, and while it is mostly relevant to the subject matter I did think on a few occasions things got a bit gratuitous.
It is summer and eight teenage friends in a Belgian-Dutch border village are looking to have fun. What starts out as a series of seemingly harmless pranks eventually escalate into far more serious crimes, including prostitution, blackmail, assault and death. The movie is split into four chapters, each one dealing with a different character from the group, these include innocent looking Simon (Tijen Govaerts), Ruth (Maxime Jacobs), artistic Liesl (Pauline Castelyn), and aggressive Thomas (Aimé Claeys).
First off, and what I think has given this a bit of a controversial edge to it is the amount of nudity this film shows. All of the eight characters are naked on quite a few occasions, with full frontal nudity shown. There is even a scene early on that shows explicit sex scenes. Now sex is a big part of We's story and so its inclusion in some form is essential, however I really didn't think some moments of this were all that necessary, the explicit sex scene in particular could have been edited around rather than showing insert shots of genitalia. Being teens, and being into experimenting, all the friends routinely sleep with each other, the girls in particular seems to think it empowers them, and so the descent into selling their bodies for money is one the majority of them are more than happy to do. This fits in with the very nihilistic view the characters have. They see adults as worker ants, and do everything they can to rebel against law and order. This made it hard to like any of them, I found their actions to be very questionable, but then it isn't We's intention to give the viewer nice characters.
Tuesday, 3 March 2020
Award winning The Lord Doesn't Hate You (Dio Non Ti Odia) is an Italian indie horror that is just oozing with atmosphere despite the low budget. It was directed by Fabrizio La Monica and is available both in colour and in black and white. The screener I had was the black and white version, which is fortuitous as that is the directors preferred version of the film.
This takes place in the middle ages and follows a man (Roberto Romano) who has taken his daughter (Emilia Passalacqua) on a journey into the mountains near to their village. The girl is sick, and there is a legend of a wise woman who lives at the top of the mountain who will be able to cure her. That is at least initially what appears to be going on. After the first act however the motive of this pilgrimage is brought into question, with revelations of a more sinister reason for the journey.
This is nearly evenly split into three acts. The first half hour is the man and his daughter and their travels. The prologue shows this same man, at some point in the future tied to a stake as villagers watch on, and so I was eager to see just what would happen for this to come to pass. The second act I found more frustrating, it went nearly into art house territory with even less dialogue, not an exaggeration to say this is quite a slow burn. Then for the third act a lot of questions are answered, and a key scene missing from the middle of the movie plays out to wrap everything up. The black and white perfectly went with this tortured journey, the forests and hills, as well as the basic, yet very well fitting mournful soundtrack all complimented each other very well.
Monday, 2 March 2020
To say I was not looking forward to seeing Brahms: The Boy II would be an understatement. My review of The Boy is only one of three I have written where I have received a copyright claim on the images I used in the review. Coincidentally this has only ever occured when a big budget horror has received a middling score from me. Needless to say I wasn't that excited to see the sequel, time will tell if this also gets flagged. I saw the film last night (at the time of writing), with plans to write the review first thing in the morning. It's not really a good start to say I completely forgot I had even seen it until quite some time after waking up.
Liza (Katie Holmes - Batman Begins, Miss Meadows) was home alone with her young son Jude (Christopher Convery - Stranger Things, Gotham) in their London apartment one night when some burglars break in. During the intrusion Liza ends up getting knocked out by them. Fast forward half a year or so and Liza is still terrible PTSD, with frequent nightmares and hallucinations. Jude is faring even worse, having not spoken at all since the incident. Liza's husband, Sean (Owain Yeoman - The Belko Experiment) decides an extended vacation to the countryside will do them the world of good. They decide to stay at a cottage on the outskirts of a huge mansion, and it is while exploring the nearby woods that Jude discovers a doll buried in the dirt, and indicates he wants to keep it. Soon, he has named the creepy doll 'Brahms'. His parents at first think it is good that he has found a companion, but soon things start to take a darker turn when Jude starts acting more aggressive, and a series of strange events occur that he blames on the doll. Is something wrong with the boy, or is there really something sinister about Brahms?
I have to say I thought Brahms: The Boy II was a lot better than the first movie, even if it does retcon some stuff. Spoilers for the first movie, but it is revealed at the end of that one that the doll is just a doll. Instead the real Brahms was a disfigured madman living within the walls of the mansion. Here that is changed, with the insinuation that actually, yes, the doll is a thing of evil. While we never get the Chucky levels of animation I always hope for, we at least move past the static Annabelle, as Brahms often turns his head, or moves his eyes when characters aren't moving. It raises the question of what came first - the doll, or the madman, as it is seen to have an influence over Jude that causes him to start acting, and to start dressing like the doll. Another change from the original is that the stinger at the end of The Boy is amended to feature a different character. Talking of ending stingers this one has a terrible one. I was surprised there was even a sequel, so to have another final twist that sets up the possibility of a third film was a step too far, just let it be!
Sunday, 1 March 2020
Red to Black is a vampire story based on a screenplay by author/director Romane Simon (Blood Runs Thick, Hybristophilia). Rather than tell a far reaching large tale this novel instead takes an up-close look at a small family of vampires, and the various struggles these characters face in their average day to day life.
Xavier Gains is a vampire who is nearly 1000 years old, he lives in a converted building with his sister Daniella, and his cousin Barry, who are obviously also blood suckers. Mainly taking place in modern day Los Angeles this initially follows Xavier who has fallen in love with a woman named Marisa, and after revealing who he really is has invited her, of her own free will to live with him. This romantic story has hurdles in the way though, especially in the form of small time reporter Douglas who is none too happy that Xavier has stolen away his wife. He has created a band of vampire hunters in order to exterminate Xavier and his kind with the hopes of winning back his wife's heart.
While this was initially very much about Xavier his character kind of fades to the wayside by the time the main meat of the plot appears. While there is the obvious supernatural aspect to Red to Black the plot itself felt something much more grounded in normal drama (again, I mean outside of all the horror parts). Boiling it down this story is about trying to find true love, with many of the characters motivations stemming from not wanting to be alone in the world. At times this felt as shallow as an episode of Friends, but there is also elements to this that felt like they were out of a Shakespearean tragedy. Despite Xavier being the catalyst for much of what happens he gets relegated to a back seat role with him personally never really in any peril. He is very much the protagonist of the story but I felt his more sadistic nature didn't make for a likeable lead. Sure Douglas is shown to be weak in character, yet Xavier's constant torturing of the poor guy made him into a character you could on some level identify with. His wife left him for a man who by his nature is better in every way, so he tries to get revenge on the pretence of wiping out vampires when in actuality his main problem is just with one of them.
Despite all the grounded drama of using and manipulating people, feelings of being slighted, and arrogance that is gained by being powerful there are moments of proper horror here which made for some of the more entertaining parts. A good example is when Barry tricks two victims into following him into an alley, I loved how this all played out. I also enjoyed the notion of different types of vampires rather than just the traditional kind, such as Xavier's followers who have hooked claws. The brief hunters vs vampire battle was also a highlight. With the protagonist being so old I had hoped there would be more of an Interview with the Vampire vibe of him talking about himself throughout history. Yet aside from when he is first turned this history is never explored that much. As a novel this was very easy reading, with a writing style that was simplistic in setting out its story. At 140 pages this was a quick and smooth read, telling its story in a way that covered a lot of ground without events feeling rushed.
Red to Black is a vampire story that focuses on the human element of existence as an undead blood sucker rather than anything that is full of bloodshed and violence. For me personally I preferred the few moments of horror here, the love triangle plot wasn't so involving to me. Red to Black can be found on Amazon if you want to check it out for yourself.
Saturday, 29 February 2020
Jack in the Dark is a weird beast of a game in that it is a very short experience that was created during development of Alone in the Dark 2 as a promotional tool. The game takes place in two different rooms and can be finished in under ten minutes.
It is Halloween and the child Grace Saunders finds herself trapped inside a haunted toy shop. There she discovers Santa locked up in a cage, and toys which have come to life, seemingly with a creepy jack-in-the-box as the cause of all the evil.
The tone here is kind of weird, it is very Christmas focussed despite taking place during Halloween. The puzzles you encounter all revolve around distracting the various toys blocking your way. One example is playing a toy drum to make some toys march into a toy box. The music is jolly, and aside from the evil jack-in-the-box there isn't much of a horror vibe. Also, judging by how this one ends it really isn't canonical. Apparently the girl you play as is the girl who has been kidnapped in Alone in the Dark 2. To cement the fact this is a promotional game it ends with a series of screenshots from that second game.
This was a fun little experience, however it really isn't essential to play, as a curio it does its job. Even better is that it doesn't cost anything, it was an extra with Alone in the Dark. So if you are after a bite size bit of horror gaming then check it out.