Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Zombies Ruined My Day - Zombie Video Game Review (X-Box Indie)

I haven't reviewed a X-Box Indie zombie game for a while now, but like the actual undead they just keep on coming and now I have quite a large bunch beating at my door.  Zombies Ruined My Day is a cartoony side on shooter that is a breath of fresh (I guess rotten) air in the never ending glut of overhead zombie shooters.

You play as a nerdy office worker who finally gets a date with the girl of his dreams.  The only problem is that zombie apocalypse happens the very same day.  Full of nerd rage you must defeat waves upon waves of zombies in a variety of locations.

The game immediately sets itself apart by being side on.  A nice change that makes the game stand out.  Zombies Ruined My Day is a shooter that requires a surprising amount of strategy.  I went into shooter mode and while that worked for the first stage found myself repeatedly dying on the second until I realised I had to plan my attack.

You start off at first with a weak pistol with infinite ammo and an Uzi.  The Uzi has limited ammo which can be replenished by shooting the military zombies and collecting the power ups they drop.  Zombies arrive in waves and walk Lemming like; when they get to a wall they turn around and walk the opposite way eventually working there way down to your level.  It only takes one hit by a zombie and you too join their ranks (a nice change to a Game Over screen).  You have to plan to make sure you have enough ammo to take out all the waves.  As well as military zombies who drop ammo there are also a wide variety of other special zombies.  In the levels I played there were builder zombies who dropped barricades when they died which can be deployed to hold off the hordes.  You can jump but this is pretty useless as there are usually too many zombies to make this of any use.

There are a wide variety of levels each with their own boss.  Starting off in an office building where zombies arrive via elevators you move onto others including a construction site and a funfair.  You unlock more weapons as you progress such as rocket launchers, mini guns and shotguns as well as get more tasks such as throwing innocents into the mix who must be protected.  Despite the cartoony look the game is quite hard and requires you to use your brain.

The game looks great, with good sound effects, it is disappointing that there is no music but judging by the trailer this is probably not a bad thing.  For only 80 Microsoft points this is well recommended.  I admit I only played the Demo (which only had 2 stages) but I am going to buy this when ever I get a job and get some cash!


Monday, 29 August 2011

Iils (Them, 2006) - Horror Film Review

Iils (or Them as I am going to refer to it) is a French horror film set in Romania.  Much like The Strangers the film is about a couple being terrorised in their own home by a mysterious group of people.

Clementine and Lucas are a French couple who have recently moved to a small Town in Romania.  Clementine teaches French at the local School, while her writer husband stays at their remote country home.  One evening while they are relaxing at home strange things start to happen.  Starting off with prank calls and a stolen car their evening turns to terror as they realise that they are under assault from a group of hooded strangers who seem intent on murder.  Working together they must escape the house and find safety.

The whole film is subtitled but this was never an issue for me, it really reminded me of The Strangers with a similar set up.  Where that was a little too slow paced for me this also enjoys a sedate start, both films mirror each other quite a lot with events in both starting off with pranks and car sabotage before devolving into more violent going ons.

The location is really great.  The big country house the couple live at is scary enough on its own, all overgrown fields and woods surrounding the place, the house is cavernous and dilapidated with creepy paintings on the walls and a ruined greenhouse attached.  Half the house also seems to be under renovation with plastic sheeting up and walls missing.  Half a house is hardly the safest place to take refuge!  The house has narrow corridors, rusty locks, and creepy attics which really makes what happens all the more scary.  Later on a change in location if anything ramps up the terror all the way to the end.  The film is near blood free with a lot of things implied rather than seen and Them cleverly avoids the many jump scares that make up American horrors. There are some though such as a great scene which put me off ever wanting to spy through keyholes!

The main characters of Clementine and Lucas are played well with some good acting, Clementine is determined and does quite well considering her ordeal shes goes through.  Lucas on the other hand spends most the film moaning and complaining, one sequence in which Clem is being attacked all Lucas can keep repeatedly saying is "What's happening? Where are you?" as if she is in any position to respond; patience Lucas!  The aggressors (as the film is titled Them it is hardly a spoiler to say there is more than one) are irritating even if they do get the fear going.  I always want to see the attackers get their comeuppance in films like this, it's just attention seeking when you mess around with lights and sound to goad your victims so you deserve to be killed.

Talking of sound and light these are both handled well.  To begin with it is noise the attackers use to scare the couple; playing loud music, turning on the house TV, making strange noises but as the film goes on sight becomes the weapon of choice with the attackers repeatedly playing around with the lights, waiting for their victims to go into a well lit place before suddenly turning off the lights, or blinding them with flash lights they all carry.

I wasn't expecting to find this as scary as I did, quite similar to The Strangers but with a stronger second half this is one French film I will gladly recommend.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Resident Evil 4 - Horror Video Game Review (Gamecube)

I was quite literally terrified when I saw what Resident Evil 4 was turning into.  I adored the survival horror styled slow paced events of the previous games in the series so I outright decided to have nothing to do with this 'mainstream' action game the series seemed to have evolved into.  That all changed on the day of release, I was sleeping round a friends house when I awoke to the sounds of him playing his new game.  The sounds tempted me into the front room where what I saw made me leave the house and head to the nearest shop to buy myself a copy.

Resident Evil 4 takes place in 2004 at a remote Village somewhere in Europe.  Leon Kennedy now working for the U.S Secret Service has travelled to the Village to rescue the American Presidents daughter Ashley Graham who was kidnapped by a mysterious cult.. Upon arriving there Leon is ambushed by the local population who despite acting normally for the most part (e.g: not zombies) are psychotic.  He escapes but the two local police officers he arrived with are brutally murdered.  Trapped in the Village of the damned Leon must evade the crazed townsfolk and rescue the Presidents daughter.

The game compared to previous entries in the Resident Evil series is far more action orientated, there is hardly any of the slow build up of fear but more a constant bombardment of crazies attacking en mass.  Despite over 20 hours of action things never get boring due to ever changing locations and events.  Starting off in the Village it seems that this is to be the games main location.  After a pretty awesome boss battle against the Towns Mayor in a burning shed I honestly thought I was at the games end, a great 6 hours I thought.  I was blown away when I discovered that this was just a small sliver of the game!  There is so much variety in this game, is quite ridiculous.  There are sniper sections, puzzles, turret sections, sieges, action, action, action, horror, adventure and excitement.  The way this game never lets up pace from start to finish is something to behold.  A constant stream of new enemies, amazing bosses and stunning locations!

The main enemies in the game are Ganado's who are the local crazed population.  Starting off as villagers wielding sickles, pitchforks and axes these change up to medieval style cultists armed with swords and crossbows to Soldiers armed with more modern weaponry.  A multitude of other enemies also abound; mutant dogs, giant insects, hulking ogres and Killer 7 rejects.  Bosses are many and varied from a fight with an aquatic monster in the middle of a lake to fights with chainsaw wielding maniacs and giant plants.  None of the enemies from previous Resident Evil games appear but their absence is not missed.

The plot is quite cool even if it is nothing really special.  The new characters introduced are ace though; super solider Krauser and Victorian midget Ramon Salazar being particular highlights.  The game is influenced from a lot of things, there are sections that bring to mind the claustrophobic terror of Alien while other areas echo The Crazies and in particular French b/w zombie flick Grapes of Death.  The film Dagon released previous to Resident Evil 4 has a whole section in it that is replayed in the game (a siege from violent villagers).  One section in the game sees Leon going down a white corridor avoiding deadly laser traps; a blatant homage to the first Resident Evil film.

Enemies drop gold, and dotted around the levels are treasures that can be exchanged with meme-tastic shop keepers "what are you selling?" to get new weapons, armour, ammo, and larger holding cases.  Weapons are many and can also be upgraded at the shops.  There are a variety of pistols, magnums, shotguns, machine guns, rocket launchers, and more.  A stupid amount of weapons.  You can only carry a certain amount of equipment though as it must fit into your briefcase Tetris style. I haven't even mentioned the additional play modes such as the amazing Mercenaries mode.

There is nothing quite like this game, and no better in the genre.  Even Resident Evil 5 aped this game but despite being fun failed to be as good (due in no small part to the hideous forced co-op that just does not work in single player with an A.I controlled monstrosity).  It led to the Sci-fi Dead Space series as well as killing off the traditional survival horror games of old. A sublime game that everyone should play, a true classic in every sense of the word.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Film Review

Despite buying a boxset of the original 5 films a few years back from a charity shop I have not actually seen any of them.  I figured I would wait to see this one before watching the originals.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Rise of the Planet of the Apes but the trailer looked interesting so I gave it a go.

Billed as a prequel to Planet of the Apes the film takes place in modern day America where scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) has discovered a possible cure for Alzheimer's via testing on lab chimpanzees.  After his star chimp goes wild and is killed the project is shut down with all but one of the chimps put down; Caesar a baby of the star chimp.  Will takes the baby home and as the chimp grows Will comes to realise that he is hyper intelligent and that his cure actually works.  After protective Caesar protects Wills Dad (suffering Alzheimers) from an angry neighbour the chimp is taken away to an ape sanctuary ruled over by Jon Landon and his cruel, sadistic son Dodge (Tom Felton) where Caesar starts a revolution with his fellow apes to escape their confinement.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is far more slow paced than I at first expected, the build up to Caesar's eventual revolution takes most of the film.  The first third of the film has Caesar growing up living with Will and his ill father.  In this section Caesar seems more like an excitable child than anything else, full of wonder of the world beyond his window, but also showing a love for his adopted family, such as a tender moment where he gently helps Wills sick father to hold a fork.  The next part of the film charts Caesar's imprisonment with a band of normal chimps at an ape sanctuary.  He appears truly alone here as he cannot bond with the inferior chimpanzees due to his increased intelligence and the evil wardens mistreat him making him start to hate humanity.  Finally the last part sees Caesar put a plan into motion to escape and lead his 'people' to a better land.  This is full of action, damn exciting, but at the same time sad that things have come to this.  Caesar is a wonderful character who despite being completely animated makes you really root for him due to his extreme likability.

The plot does peter out a bit toward the end where it does seem at times just an excuse for plenty of ape vs human shenanigans.  The apes goal seemed to me a bit aimless so felt like they were just rampaging for no real reason.  Caesar has morals and doesn't want any human to be killed unless he believes they really deserve it.  If you have gone to see the film based on the exciting trailer then that sequence set on the Golden Gate Bridge is awesome but the lead up is equally as compelling.  The acting is of mostly a high standard and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by Tom Felton's performance.  He may be type cast as a bad guy but his portrayal here is far less of the sneering Draco Malfoy and much more realistic with his inclusion feeling natural.

Not a good review I will admit, but for some reason I found this quite hard to do, not quite horror, not quite fantasy this is still an interesting and thoughtful film.


Monday, 22 August 2011

Super 8 - Horror Film Review

I have only noticed it recently but trailers seem to keep featuring music scores from other films.  The trailer for Stephen Spielberg and J.J Abram's (Cloverfield) Super 8 had the theme to E.T making me think it was a sequel to that film.  Talking of trailers, there was one for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy before Super 8 which had Magneto's theme from X-Men: First Class as the trailer music, stop it already, make some new music!

Super 8 takes place during 1979.  A group of kids are filming a scene for their amateur zombie film at a train station at night when they witness a catastrophic crash after a truck purposely rams into a high speed train passing the small station.  The injured truck driver warns the kids that if they are discovered at the scene then they and their families will be killed.  With the approach of a large military force the kids flee and vow to tell no one of what they saw.  Soon after strange events start happening in the children's small home Town of Lillian with people going missing, blackouts, suspicious army radio chatter, and hundreds of random objects vanishing ranging from power lines to microwaves and car engines.  It seems that the military train had been carrying something dangerous, something which escaped containment during the disaster and which the military will do anything to contain.

I thought Super 8 was going to be a kids film due to the main characters all being children but the film evokes a modern day The Goonies.  The kids are all endearing and likable and show a lovable innocence as they get themselves caught up at the forefront of events and their immaturity leads to funny lines and situations throughout.  The military force are shown as faceless drones bringing to mind the insanity displayed in George Romero's The Crazies with the forces determined to cover up what has happened whatever the cost, and while they never go to such drastic measures as Romeros' soldiers do they go as far as their 12A rating allows.  The film is surprisingly violent in places and with the cinemas surround sound explosions and action is made unnervingly loud.

Much like J.J Abrams Cloverfield the big evil is sparingly glimpsed for much of the film, only being revealed towards the end.  This is an effective method but unfortunately when you do get to see what the cause of events really is it cannot live up to the expectations built up by visceral scenes of destruction earlier on.  This leads me onto my next complaint which is that the last five minutes of the film are truly soppy and cheesy as Hell with every single action so blatantly obvious that it is almost cringe worthy.  It makes a good attempt but thankfully does not ruin what comes before.

The time period of 1979 feels authentic and there is quite a lot of humorous references and wisecracks that bring life to the characters.  It really is the main cast of the oddball gang of friends that give the film its character; fat angry Charles, comic relief Cary, nerdy Martin and everyman main character Joe Lamb have a believable friendship with great acting.  In contrast the adult actors are nowhere near as good with stereotypical military dick Nelec coming across as very one dimensional and a bad subplot involving Joe Lambs cop Dad disguising himself very unconvincingly as a soldier to escape his confinement and rescue his Son which is kinda stupid.

Full of special effects, mystery and mayhem Super 8 is a real ride from start till end (well start till 5 minutes before the end).  Held together by the interactions of the children and the humour that their perspective brings on events this is a film well worth seeing.


Sunday, 14 August 2011

Condemned 2 (2008) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

I have often said that Condemned is one of my favourite games of all time, though a launch title for the X-Box 360 it still remains an enjoyable and really darn scary game. News of Condemned 2 filled me with joy but when I actually played it my hopes were dashed as it removed everything that was good from Condemned and filled in the gaps with bad ideas.

Condemned 2 takes place nearly a year after the events of the first game where FBI agent Ethan Thomas had been framed for murder. Thomas has quit the FBI and now a homeless alcoholic he spends his time in seedy bars getting drunk. A key character from Condemned; Malcolm Vanhorn is found dead and so Thomas is returned to the SCU (Serial Crime Unit) to aid them with their investigation. His investigation uncovers a plot to kill key members of a secret organisation by the thought to be dead SKX (the villain of the first game) that may be linked to the ever escalating violence in the city.

Oh dear, what has happened? Condemned was scary, mysterious, atmospheric, this is none of those things. The locations of Condemned helped to make for a foreboding atmosphere being as it was set in a series of condemned locations ranging from an apartment store to a library and subway station.  Here the locations are just not that great. So many of the levels just do not feel right and feel like created places rather than real ones. Case in point is one of the games earlier levels set in an abandoned doll factory. It should be creepy as hell; dolls are creepy right? Not here, you are assaulted by a bizarre number of robotic exploding dolls, and even attacked by a crazed girl wielding a deadly lollipop saw but there is no fear there at all.

Hidden through the game are some gems, a level set in a museum under renovation has you battling security guards as well as looters who have dressed themselves up in ancient armour, all around you are display cases ready to be smashed open to get weapons to defend yourself with such as a crossbow and numerous medieval swords, another level that sees you pursuing an escaped serial killer through a bowling alley, closed school and other random buildings is quite fun. There are a load of terrible levels, one set in the SCU building is so bright and sterile that it feels like you have been transported into F.E.A.R while another set during riots is just plain frustrating due to terrible signposting.

The combat has been shaken up this time around. Weapons now break after extended use and your useful taser has been relegated to a limited use tool that doesn't even pop up until a third of the way into the game. Combat is more complicated and doesn't have the oomph that your desperate battles in Condemned had. Guns have sadly increased significantly with some levels being nothing but gunfights. Brings me onto another bugbear; enemies are no longer just the homeless and drugged up, you now frequently fight a rogue SWAT team armed with assault rifles. Monsters have also increased with annoying oil creatures which crawl out of walls as well as in the later stages annoying enemies who must be killed from afar (up close the screen blurs and shakes so much that it is literally impossible to see what the heck is going on). Might also add that a freaking mutant grizzly bear chases you throughout one level!

The plot of Condemned was ambiguous, never made clear if all the paranormal stuff Ethan witnessed was all in his head, mostly it stuck to realism. Here the games plot is needlessly explained, most of the questions are answered too much, and the reveal of an ancient secret organisation pulling the strings is a real hoky let down. The plot is pretty terrible, only really the subplot is any good. Several of the earlier levels take place during riots, discarded radios provide details of how the riots are progressing and you frequently get caught up in them. After the last week of the London riots this was strangely relevant. Hidden around levels are TVs and Radio's that feature news reports on the events taking place in the city, including the cautionary tale of a reporter who went undercover as a homeless man and what happened to him. The game flings a load of naff plot twists at the games conclusion no doubt for a hoped sequel.

Minor but irritating issues include Ethan Thomas himself who has managed to change race. He used to be a fat Hispanic man but has changed somehow into a muscular very pale white man. Your partner Rosa was a fat woman but has been reinvented here as a younger looking, slim one, least she kept her race. Really odd design choices!

This game is so disappointing, in places it shines but this is too infrequent. The fear has been sucked out of Condemned and a unique almost FPS brawler has been turned into at times just another FPS.  The story is so bad that it even impacts on the previous game ruining all its mysteries. The game is well made and can be entertaining in places but extremely disheartening to play, I really would have preferred no sequel to this travesty (almost).


Thursday, 11 August 2011

Event Horizon - Horror Film Review

Some reviews write themselves, some have to be pried out my head and vomited onto screen, Starting off on a bum note but this has taken me all day to write, it is trash! Alas even I have off days.

Event Horizon is a classic cult British sci-fi thriller released back in 1997.  I first become interested in it after learning that the survival horror video game Dead Space was in part influenced by the film.  On a side note it is fun to see the mixed relationship Event Horizon and the game Doom have.  Event Horizon uses a Doom sound effect at the films start while the plot of Doom 3 is very similar to Event Horizons.

The film takes place in 2047, a search and rescue vessel under the command of Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne) is seeking out an experimental ship called the Event Horizon after receiving a distress signal 7 years after it mysteriously vanished on its maiden voyage.  Along with the crew of the rescue vessel is Event Horizons creator Dr William Weir (Sam Neill) who wants to discover just what happened to his ship.  After arriving the crew are puzzled to find it completely deserted.  While exploring the ship they start to have vivid hallucinations that seem to point to the fact that something terrible has happened on Event Horizon.

Event Horizon takes quite a while to get going, and up until the last quarter is a slow paced affair with lots of long atmospheric creeping about.  Until that last part I was beginning to think that the film was not what I had expected, sure I was enjoying it but it was maybe a bit too slow, and a load of the characters in the film are irritatingly stupid, especially a woman nicknamed Mama Bear who follows a hallucination of her son to her doom despite the fact that if she had two brain cells it would be astonishingly apparent that there was no way on God's Universe her child could be on the damned Event Horizon.  The other characters vary between annoying, plain and mean but the film still finds room in its limited main cast of 7 or 8 to include a token black comic relief guy (he is a welcome relief as much the film is bleak and dark).

It sounds like I didn't enjoy the film, but I did, it doesn't help that I watched it in chunks rather than in one sitting, that always interferes with my enjoyment of films.  The director Paul Anderson has stated that a large amount of violence was cut out of the film to get his film rated, as such you would expect it to be quite tame but no; there is plenty of gore with self mutilation, and inventive killings.  The film also pays heavy homage to The Shining, almost like a Sci-fi remake of that film at times with rivers of blood, possession, and even two creepy blood soaked girls making an appearance.

Starring quite a few famous actors and with a intriguing plot Event Horizon is a great little sci-fi film combining elements from some of the best horrors to make for a thrilling ride.


Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box)

Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil is an expansion pack that was released soon after the FPS Doom 3 came out.  It features additional enemies and weapons in a self contained story.

The game takes place 2 years after the events of Doom 3 that left an entire research colony bar 1 plucky Marine dead after a gateway to Hell was accidentally opened. A life sign is detected in the Martian ruins and a new team of scientists are sent to Mars to investigate.  You play as a Marine who is with a team searching for the life sign which you find in the form of a bizarre Martian artifact that resembles a living heart.  Drawn to the mysterious object you reach out and touch it, instantly releasing the denizens of Hell once again.  This time the forces of Hell are led by a demonised Dr Betruger (the human antagonist of Doom 3) and his three Hell Hunters who want the artifact.  Your instructions are to bring the artifact to a head Scientist at the Mars base to work out what it is and what to do with it.

Being an expansion the game is quite a bit smaller than Doom 3, it seems like a whirlwind tour of various locations that feature none of the build up that Doom 3 enjoyed.  Almost right away you gain access to a Gravity Gun (must have been influenced by Half Life 2), the gun can be used to catch enemy projectiles and fling them back, usually with deadly results.  This weapon does feel a bit tacked on, and can be fiddly swapping between it and your other weapons.  Another new weapon is the double barrelled shotgun that is very slow to reload but at close range is the games most powerful weapon.  You are also able to use the artifact which basically initiates bullet time once activated, upgrades give you first speed, then later on invulnerability.

There are quite a lot of locations but you race through them too fast to really appreciate them.  Starting off in some Martian Ruins you work your way to the new research base before revisiting some old locations from the original games research base (that has deteriorated into being split between dimensions) and then onto a jolly old jaunt through a monster infested Hell.  Doom 3 did not have much of a story but this one has even less, again you can collect files and audio logs off of dead people but there are far less of the, and for the most part they are not as interesting to read.

All the old enemies from Doom 3 return, as well as a couple of new ones but apart from formulaic bosses the new enemies are quite similar looking to the murky originals.  The game does include quite a few zombies including new ones in the form of bio hazard suit wearing zombies encountered in the sewers, and naked zombies roaming the old Science base.  Resurrection of Evil cannot be called a pretty game, and seems to have a few more bugs than Doom 3 had such as skipping speech, and issues with selecting different weapons.  It is worth playing if you have played Doom 3 as it clears up that games cliffhanger ending but it is nowhere near as fun or well designed as that game was.

Additional content on the disc is Doom, Doom II, and Ultimate Doom which are all worth playing if you don't already have them.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Shock Horror Issue 5 - Review

Yet again the latest issue of Shock Horror vanished in the post, once again I had to contact them to send me another copy.  Shock Horror is really settling into a groove now, some stuff is still bad but others have improved considerably.

Starting off this issue with an interesting retrospective on Hammer Horror Ingrid Pitt it moves on to the best part of the magazine; Dr Dales How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse column which is always hilarious.  I have said before that his Podcast is not very funny, but when he writes it is gold.  The film reviews, book reviews, and comic reviews are as good as always (there always seems to be plenty of zombie comics reviewed), while the videogame reviews are as terrible as they always are.

The usual articles again appear; Mike Peels boring special effects one (he seems good at what he does, it just doesn't interest me much), Mick Leans Director's Chair one (about troubles he faces directing an indie film), and Scarlet's Sanctuary which always surprises me how interesting it is.  A new hopefully regular feature launched this issue in the form of Suzi on Serial Killers which looks to focus on a different real life serial killer each time.  This time it is the acid bath killer John George Haigh whose life is chronicled; informative stuff!

A couple of interviews with indie filmmakers on their upcoming films and some interviews with horror luminaries such as Frank Henenlotter (responsible for the Basket Case trilogy) and cult British star Emily Booth round things off.  Not a bad issue, still a few teething problems, and I don't think I will ever like the amazingly slow progressing comic strip (what has happened so far could have taken place in half the time at least!).

Just to end this post to give thanks to Beck Photographic for permission to use the awesome photo of Emily Booth!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Smash Cut - Horror Film Review

I am quite well known in some circles for my apparently truly terrible taste in films, delighted at Road Train, bedazzled by The Blair Witch 2, and laughing my guts out at Dude where's my Car?  So when about half way through Smash Cut I came to the conclusion that the film was near genius I began to worry that once again my errant taste was flaring up.

Smash Cut stars veteran actor David Hess as Able Whitman a schlock horror filmmaker who seeks solace at a strip joint after his latest 'master piece' is mauled apart by fans and critics alike for its terrible special effects.  Befriending a stripper he offers to drive her home and in his drunken state crashes his car killing her.  Unwilling to confess his crime he instead hides the body on his film set; as part of the set.  Praised for the realistic special effects (the real life corpse) Whitman becomes convinced that what his films are lacking are bodies, so he sets out on a gruesome murder spree to collect body parts.  The strippers sister (played by ex-porn star Sasha Grey) meanwhile teams up with an eccentric P.I to discover the whereabouts of her missing sister.

Smash Cut is a very strange and bizarre film calling to mind art house classics like The Driller Killer as well as being a homage to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (the splatter king director who also has a guest appearance).  Many of the shots are set up in arty ways, such as a scene played out from a cars rear view mirror, and scenes shot as if from an old fashioned film camera.

For a film that focuses so much on special effects it is a shame that the effects used are pretty terrible for the most part.  The film within a film has purposely bad effects but it was disappointing to see that the effects used for the film proper are sometimes barely better, in particular decapitations (of which there are a surprising number) usually result in an extremely fake looking head being displayed.  I don't know if that is a homage to the type of films being parodied or if it was unintentional.  There are a hell of a lot of murders in the film, and most totally over the top with Whitman in his insanity babbling and cackling with relish as he dismembers his victims, such as using a clapper board to saw off his biggest critics head, and harpooning his boss while dressed as a Sailor (ingeniously the original scene was supposed to be set on a boat, the location was changed to a bus but the Sailor disguise was never changed making the whole sequence ultra surreal!).

A lot, if not all the acting in the film is very bad, legend Michael Berryman is good (despite wearing a very fake wig) but the stars are Hess as Whitman and Jesse Buck as Isaacc Beaumonde who both ham up their scenes with totally over the top acting that is befitting a pretentious film director, and an over confident P.I.  An ending fight between the two is almost too much but thankfully is not too long winded.

The soundtrack is varied and has a lot of discordant Jazz that coupled with the weird P.I brought to mind heavily the cult survival horror videogame Deadly Premonition which also featured discordant Jazz and bizarre police work.

A high body count, some humorous comedy moments, and an artsy style bring together a sometimes flawed curio that tried to preach a message about the plight of independent filmmakers while throwing heaps of blood at you.  At first I was bored but it became intriguing enough for me to care.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Horror Film Remakes - Are they ever a good idea?

It seems to me that we are living in an age of remakes lately with classics being recreated left right and centre for a modern audience.  Are these all merely money making devices using the films legacy to pump money out of unsuspecting patrons? Or is it a way to get a new generation to watch films that they might have missed or be unwilling to watch (the fools!)?

When I first thought about this topic I was of the mind set that all remakes are terrible, it is certainly true that remakes get the ire of the fans.  A lot of remakes have been utterly awful.  Case in point Friday 13th (2009).  The Friday 13th series can never really be considered to be a great series, most the films were after all just an excuse to get scantily clad teens brutally chopped up in inventive ways by the slasher icon Jason but as a product of their time (during the 80's slasher faze) they worked.  The remake on the other hand was terrible.  Despite it's slick visuals the film was just boring as hell, full of lazy plot holes and a Jason who teleported off screen and was as frightening as a sack of potatoes.

Other lazy remakes that come to mind include the pointless 1998 remake of Psycho, the Director purposely made the film an almost complete copy of Hitchcock's master piece that brings to mind the question: if your going to recreate a pre-existing film then why remake it identical?  This is also a crime that A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) makes with Freddy Kruger's murders all identical to the original and so left me bored (though I did enjoy Kruger's and Nancy's new portrayals).

Not all remakes are bad though, I personally adore the two Rob Zombie remakes of Halloween and Halloween 2.  He is my favourite Director so I am biased but the key characters of Loomis (played amazingly well by legend Malcolm McDowell) and Laurie Strode are recreated completely different from their original incarnations.  Another great remake that people sometimes forget about is the master piece of John Carpenters The Thing  (1982) itself a remake of a 1951 film.  I regret that I have not ever seen the original version but it cannot be denied that Carpenters version is sublime.  Of course the remake of that is due for release this year unfortunately (might be good!).

Some films are remade totally different for each generation.  Two different series come to mind.  The first is Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  First done in 1956 this black and white classic had a small Towns population slowly being replaced with Alien pod people.  I have never seen this version but by all accounts it is very good, and has an iconic ending.  This was remade in 1978 starring Donald Sutherland with the films location moved from a small Town to the City of San Francisco, an unsettling film with a truly shocking ending.  Again it was remade in 1993, this time called Body Snatchers.  The same plot but this time set on an American Military base, the weakest of the remakes but not bad (despite an awfully fake looking sequence where a boy gets thrown out a helicopter).

The second series of successful remakes is the story of I Am Legend (a book by Richard Matheson)  Released under the title The Last Man on Earth (1964) it starred Vincent Price as Richard Neville surviving in a world where everyone but him has turned into vampiric creatures.  1971 saw it remade, this time titled The Omega Man and starring Charlton Heston it was very much a product of its time with haunting Western style 70's music.  2007 saw the film get a second remake, called I Am Legend and starring Will Smith.  It was not bad despite interference from the Studio resulting in changes to make Will Smiths character more of a hero (the whole point of the plot is supposed to be that Robert Neville thinks of himself as a good guy but is actually the true monster of the piece).

I guess in conclusion what I am trying to say (other than plug lots of my past reviews) is that remakes have the potential to be good, try and keep an open mind.  I know that is a very hard thing to do, news of The Evil Dead being redone had me apoplectic with rage but sometimes remakes can be good.  For every The Mist there is a 28 Days Later (a blatant remake of John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids apocalypse tale).  I know there are an amazing number of films I have not mentioned, so will list some notable remakes here...Last House on the Left, The Hills have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, The Ring, The Grudge, Fright Night, The Blob, House on Haunted Hill, The Eye and The Crazies.

Monday, 1 August 2011

General Update for August 2011: Zombie News Edition

First off some zombie news...N.J Hallard's book 'Breaking News: an Autozombiography' is on special offer throughout August on all eBook formats, that's $0.99 for the U.S, and £0.75 for us here in Blighty.  Breaking News: an Autozombiography is a zombie tale set in Britain after a zombie apocalypse occurs.  Not many zombie stories are set in Britain so I am quite interested in reading this.  A sequel is in the works titled 'Rising Up: an Autozombiography' that is due to be released towards years end. N.J Hallard can be found at

Onto dear old me.  I have rearranged some page elements and created an actual email address for my blog, all damn exciting stuff but it needed to be done.  My email address is

I have been playing far too many games lately and not concentrating on other types of horror culture at all.  I intend to watch more horror films as I have a pile by my TV waiting to be seen, plus I am feeling the urge to watch some classics (The Evil Dead is calling to me, mostly it's just saying "dead by dawn! dead by dawn!" but has also been telling me to re watch the legendary trilogy).

Always plenty of horror videogames to play such as Croc: Legend of the Gobbo's...oh actually that is a kiddy 3D platformer (hey it is fun!) but Fallout is always waiting and the fun FPS Redneck Rampage is giving me some pleasure.

My next book I am to read is going to be a collection of Stephen King short stories, and I am over half way through Shock Horror Issue 5.  Weather sure is humid at the moment...