Sunday, 30 October 2011

Swords of the Dead by Danek S. Kaus - Zombie Book Preview

I have recently become aware of a unique sounding zombie book by the name of Swords of the Dead written by Danek S. Kaus. It is unique in that a small Town has not only come under attack by zombies, but Ninja zombies at that who despite being dead still utilise their martial arts to (un)deadly effect. I am pleased to be able to provide a sample of the book to give a taste of its humorous style:

Dozens of people, mostly men, were milling around the entrance to the warehouse. The chatter was coarse, fueled by alcohol and nicotine. The sun had gone down a couple hours before but the heat was still radiating off the pavement. Mike and the woman stepped outside. Several of the men gawked at her, lusting. He pulled on his tee shirt. Mike noticed her watch his muscles ripple with the movement, then she spoke up. "My name is Eva Stratford," she said. "I want to hire you." 
Mike didn't want the hustlers and degenerate gamblers nearby to hear talk about money. He put an index finger to his mouth, pointed to the end of the block. Eva understood and walked along beside him, the clacking of her high heels on the sidewalk becoming more evident the farther they got from the noisy warehouse turned illegal fight arena. 
When they were out of earshot, strolling along a darker section of the industrial park, Mike finally spoke, the image of the money still fresh in his mind. 
 "So, why do you want to hire someone like me?" 
Eva hesitated, as though trying to construct her argument.
 "The town I live in has been invaded by some kind of martial arts experts." 
 "So, get the sheriff." 
 "I can't," Eva said. She hesitated again. "They ate him."
 Mike wasn't sure he had heard her correctly. He stopped. Eva stopped.
 "What do you mean ate him?" Mike said. 
 "They ate him," she said. "You know, knife and fork, a little ketchup. Ate him." 
"Oh, come on," Mike responded, not believing her. She had to be pulling his leg. He studied her face, waiting for a punch line that didn't come. 
 Finally, he said "You're serious." She nodded.
 "They ate him," Mike said, still trying to process what she told him. "All of him?"
 "We found a finger inside his pants," Eva said. "It had his wedding ring on." 
 Mike was able to suppress a laugh but couldn't help commenting on the absurdity. 
 "I guess they must have used a really tiny coffin for just a finger," he said. 
 "A dog ran off with it," Eva said. This time Mike burst out laughing. Eva colored, embarrassed, but then she too chortled, succumbing to the contagion of laughter. After a few moments, she was finally able to control herself. She turned serous again. Mike was close enough to smell her perfume. Jasmine? The faint fragrance was tantalizing, made more arousing, as it mixed with her skin and perspiration. He wished his shirt was back off. He imaged slowly undoing each button of her business jacket.
 "I really do need your help," she said.
 "I don't fight dogs."
 "Will you be serious? Please?" 
Mike saw the desperation in her eyes. He wished he hadn't been so insensitive. 
 "Go on," he said, matching her tone. 
 "The sheriff was the first victim. Since then, several more people have been eaten or partially eaten. People are terrified."
 "How do you know that martial artists are doing it?" 
 "I saw a couple of them through a window. Other people did too." 
 Mike resumed strolling, thinking. Eva tagged along. 
"There's one more thing," she said. "I think they're dead." Mike halted. They were standing near some trash cans at the opening of a dark alley. 
 "Who?" "Them. The Ninjas," Eva said. 
 Now he was pissed. 
 "You almost had me there," he said. It was all some stupid joke.
 I'm a doctor," Eva said. "I know death when I see it."
 "And I know bullshit when I hear it. There's no dead Ninjas or any other martial artists roaming the earth eating people." 
 Two blue, glowing circles pounced at him. As Mike's eyes adjusted, he saw a hooded figure slashing at him with two large, serrated knives. Instinctually, Mike pushed Eva behind him, ducked under a sweeping blade and grabbed a trash can lid. He held it up like a shield as the man in the robe slashed and stabbed, the blades clanging and screeching as they punched and scratched across the metal lid. The guy was fast! The ferocity of the attack kept forcing Mike backwards. Without turning his attention away from the attacker, Mike yelled to Eva. 
 "Get out of here!" 
 Mike kept backing up. This was no good. Without a weapon to defend himself, eventually there could be only one outcome. It was just a matter of time. These were not conscious thoughts but a sense of knowing welling up. Survival demanded he go on the offense. But how? 
 Without consciously deciding to do so, Mike ran at his attacker, pushing him with the trash can lid. The blades pounded on the tortured metal. Mike spun around behind the man, jabbed his foot into the back of his knee and pushed. The man dropped to one knee, slashed backward at Mike. Striker twisted the arm palm up and grabbed the knife. Mike slashed the now exposed forearm, cutting a deep gash. He was surprised that no blood gushed out. No time to think about that. The attacker leapt up and spun around, facing Mike. 
 At least he had a blade now, and a shield. He stabbed at the man, who deftly avoided him, despite what should have been a crippling take down. The attacker's blade clanged several times on the lid. Mike drove his blade in low. He jammed it deep into the gut. The man let out an unholy shriek as Mike drove the blade across the belly area. But the attacker did not go down. Mike yanked back the knife, shocked to see the small amount of ambient light reflect a clean blade. Had he missed the belly? Been only slashing heavy fabric? 
 The adrenaline that had him operating on automatic in the ring was waning. A hint of fear wormed its way into his conscious mind. He had to finish this guy now. Mike began slashing, driving forward with his shield. The cowl of the robe fell back, revealing a rotting face. Mike was sickened by the site of it. And the smell. Rotting flesh. And those blue, glowing eyes.
 His blade found the neck, ripped a deep groove across it. The man stumbled backward, screamed again. It was a ghastly, unworldly sound. Still no blood. 
 Not knowing what else to do, Mike drove the knife into the chest. Once, twice, again. The man, or creature, howled. It was ear piercing. Then it fell. Mike stood over the body. Breathing hard. He heard the clack of shoes behind him. He spun around, knife at the ready. Eva.
 He lowered his guard. She looked him over.
 "No cuts," she said, clinically. 
 "Do bruises count?" 
 Eva stepped toward the body. She pointed to the rotting face. 
 "Now do you believe me?" 
 "I don't know what I believe," Mike said, trying to catch his breath. "Let's say that what you told me is true. What's that thing doing here?" Whatever it was, it was gruesome looking. And a little scary.
 "It must have followed me, hid in the back of my SUV," she said 
 She shook her head. Mike didn't believe Eva, but doubted he would get the truth from her. 
 "Will you take the job?" 
 "Do I get paid for this one?" 
 "You really are mercenary," she said. She opened her purse. "How much?"
 "Five thousand dollars," Mike said. "That's the going rate for killing–whatever that is." Mike held out his hand as she counted the money.
 "Now will you take the job?"
 "How many are there?" 
 "Three or four," Eva said. Mike knew she was lying. 
 "How many?"
 "Maybe ten." Too many. One was too many. 
 "It would take a team," Mike said. "I don't have a team. Good luck." He headed back toward the warehouse. Eva called after him. 
 "I didn't think you would be afraid."
 Mike stopped, turned to face her.
 "Lady, I'm always afraid when a beautiful woman gives me money."

So there you have it.  Zombie books are always welcome and brain eating Ninja zombies are right up my street.  A review of the whole Novella will be coming soon.  Swords of the Dead is available now on Kindle.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Alien VS Predator (2010) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

Average reviews were the order of the day when this was first released.  Having now picked it up for the cheap price of £8 I thought I would see if it is as bland as suggested. Like the Alien VS Predator games that came before this one has three different campaigns in which you play as a human marine, a Xenomorph, and a Predator.

As a human you are a marine sent to investigate a distress call put out from a planet owned by a rich businessman. Arriving on the planet you discover it has been overrun by aliens, the Weyland-Yutani group had discovered a Predator temple buried on the planet, and found Xenomorphs there. With the arrival of a band of Predators alerted to this it seems escape from the planet will be very hard indeed.

The human campaign was ok, as in decidedly average. The planet is full of jungles and at times it worryingly feels like the poor Turok remake with your slow, clumsy marine firing ineffective guns at creatures hidden in long grass, and in trees. The constant beep of your motion tracker is very cool though, as it always is in Alien games, but you really do feel quite weak fighting the acid spraying Xenomorphs. The game is very plain in its design with no surprises anywhere and little joy to be honest. Weapons are functional but boring, everything looks ok but not amazing and the plot is terrible; all meat headed marines and meandering around the planet quite aimlessly.

Enemies are quite cool, Xenomorphs are quite fun, climbing around ceilings, popping out of vents, and spitting acid at you from afar, it can be unfair sometimes with close range kills destroying your health due to the acidic blood. To mix up the action there are plenty of robots to fight, as well as a few Predators who usually just turn up as boss fights. They can be kind of annoying as when their health is low they run off and hide to recharge. It is not a spoiler to say an alien Queen also appears in a boss fight, nothing special.

The Alien campaign is the shortest of the three. It is quite easy, but fun enough. As a Xenomorph you can climb on walls and ceilings, you can pierce enemies with your spiked tail as well as slash, and do brutal finishers on downed enemies. It can be quite disorientating climbing around the walls and the finishers require button prompts which are very hit and miss, you can easily get killed due to the game not recognising your inputs which is frustrating. It was during this campaign when I realised with disappointment that the three different campaigns use the same locations. I may have been approaching levels from different places but was still a let down. There are some original sections added, but most of it is recycled from the marine game.

The Predator campaign is actually the best of the three. It is really quite empowering playing as the bad ass monster. You can turn invisible, jump large distances, have access to a variety of cool weapons such as a shoulder mounted cannon, spear, proximity mines, discus, and your wrist blades. As the Predator you can also have access to heat vision (just like in the films) and later get an acid vision power up letting you see aliens. It is the same locations once again but picking off humans one by one is fun, and the finishes (that usually see you ripping enemies heads off) are entertaining even if the button prompt issue once again rears its head.

Alien VS Predator is functional at best. It does what is expected, has all the sights and sounds you would expect from the licence, it just doesn't seem to have any passion at all, bland locations, a poor excuse for a story, and just really feels like it is ticking off items on a list of things to include in an Alien VS Predator game.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nightmares in Oz - Horror Comic Review

Nightmares in Oz is a horror comic due to be released by the ace Viper Comics on that scary day of October 31st 2011.  For your 0.99 Cents you get a digital download of 48 pages, so quite the beefy buy.  But what is Nightmares in Oz, and is it any good?

A group of teens have all chosen to go on a camping trip to some woods outside of a small American Town called Osmann Grove.  It just so happens that a few hundred years previously a young girl had been burnt to death on a scarecrow pole by the Townsfolk of the time who had been convinced the girl was a witch  Just before the girl died she placed a curse on all of the Townsfolk of Osmann Grove, as well as all their descendants.  Each generation evil comes to the Town to kill to remind the Townsfolk of the grave mistake they have made.  That time has coincided with the arrival of the teens.  Soon they find themselves pursued by the forces of evil across the woods, cornfields, and graves of Osmann Grove.

For the 48 pages you get a heck of a lot of action, and many many violent deaths.  It is only a few pages in that the murders start, and they really don't let up as the helpless teens are killed one by one by the evil forces.  The main killer is an animated scarecrow, he is armed with a scythe that he wields with lethal accuracy, for most the time you see the scarecrow his weapon is literally dripping blood.  Mute, lithe, and deadly his appearance is foretold by the sound of straw snick snickering along.  A horde of flying demons also appear, more a nuisance than a threat they still manage to kill quite a few of those unwary teens.  The seemingly good force in all this is the ghost of the burned girl.  She implores the teens to help her find a way to end the terror.

The plot is quite weak and not a lot is really explained, the comic is to be continued (twist ending) so maybe the next one would explain some of just what is going on.  There seems no real point to anything, the teens are there to party and include all the stereotypes you can think of; the mean jock, the bitchy girl, the cool guy, the wimpy kid etc.  Nightmares in Oz (cool title) really reminded me of a tacky teen slasher film with characters you don't care about, a poor excuse for plot, and lots of bloody horror.  Sometimes it is good to just relax with a piece of trash though, and I did find myself quite guiltily entertained by the goings on.  Makes me sound really shallow but the many deaths did it for me; people being decapitated, impaled, disemboweled, lovely stuff thick with plenty of the red stuff.

The art work is good with nearly realistic, but slightly over the top looking characters, the killer scarecrow comes across as suitably menacing.  My only gripe with how the comic is set out is that one page was in the wrong order causing a brief moment of confusion, I'm sure this will be remedied before it is released on the 31st.  The comic would make a great tacky movie, and as a comic it was a fun, exciting, albeit shallow read that featured plenty of entertaining violence, so left me satisfied.


Monday, 24 October 2011

General Update for October 2011: Spooky Halloween Edition

It is near months end and I have only just got around to doing a general update.  Been a very busy month outside and inside the blog.  I for the moment have a paying job, that is great for getting money to buy new things to review and talk about, but terrible for sucking the energy out of me and making my PC the last place I want to be when I have gotten home from work.  So onto films...

Paranormal Activity 3 is at the Cinema currently, I have heard tell that it is the best of the three so far, I will definitely be checking that out.  Contagion; a disaster film about a deadly virus is also showing, not sure if I will get time to check that one out though.  I most certainly missed Guillermo del Toro's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, the trailer was not very good but that doesn't say much when nowadays they are near universally bad.  I still have a pile of horror DVDs waiting to be seen, and have ordered a few cheap zombie flicks as well as Season 1 of The Walking Dead. Oh yeah, I am up to Hellraiser 5, I planned to have reviewed all 9 by the end of the month, the best laid plans of mice and men. Books...

I am reading Traumatized by Alexander Brown at the moment, it is a collection of short horror tales.  So far it has been really quite good, each story is totally different from the last, lots of variation.  I have a few back issues of the excellent Darkside Magazine to read, as well as Issue 6 of Shock Horror Magazine that shocked me as I had totally forgotten about it.  In time for Halloween I have a comic from Viper Comics about an evil Scarecrow that looks kinda cool. Also have a cool sounding tale of Ninjas and zombies to read that I am looking forward to. Onto games...

A friend lent me Demons Souls on the basis that I review it when it is done.  It is very good, very atmospheric (and hard!) but as I play it I am aware the sequel has just been released so feel a bit late to the party.  I am also playing the so so Alien VS Predator for the X-Box 360, nearly done with that.  One of the Episodes for Sam and Max Season 2 is all about zombies, called something like Night of the Raving Dead. I shall be doing a post about that particular chapter.

So lots and lots going on, and so little time to do it.  Still, stick around dear followers!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Dead - Zombie Film Review

A friend of mine recommended I watch The Dead, he said it was the best zombie film he had seen in a long long time.  It sounded cool, the only problem was that it was not yet released on DVD.  That time has now come to pass and so last night I lay on my sofa and gave the disc a whirl.

The Dead takes place in Africa.  Zombie apocalypse has happened and American Lt Brian Murphy (Rob Freeman) is on the last plane out of the country when it crashes into the sea off the coast of West Africa.  He makes his way to shore as the only survivor (pretty much).  Even as he lays on the beach recovering zombies start appearing, drawn towards his living form.  From here on in it is a relentless journey as Murphy heads inland hoping to find a plane he can use to escape the doomed continent, ever under attack by the undead hordes.  Along the way he teams up with Sgt Daniel Dembele; an African soldier who has gone AWOL from the army in order to find his son.  Together on the road trip from Hell the two travel into the beautiful and haunted land.

The Dead is a stunning film.  The natural vistas bring a sense of both isolation and insignificance to the pairs quest.  The film features no big towns, streets, or roads, instead we get open plains, rocky mountains, deserts, and corn fields with the ever present dust, and sweltering sun beating down.  The two can never afford to stop, it is never long before roving undead appear.  They walk like zombies of old; so slow, such lifelessness in their eyes.  These are not angry, hate filled creatures, but emotionless empty shells. I believe real life amputees where even used to play some of the zombies.  The closest we get to civilisation in the film are small villages made of clay huts, an abandoned rusting airfield.  The country was not much to begin with and now with zombie apocalypse nature is claiming back its land.

The film is played realistically and seriously and in a very straight way.  For the whole of the films 108 minute running time there is not one single joke or pun made by either of the main characters.  These are people on the edge, desperate to fulfil their goals.  Dialogue is very, very sparse, Murphy on his own does not say a word, so the first fifteen to twenty minutes are near silent, even teamed up with Dembele the pair hardly say much to each other, only speaking when necessary.  Even so a link is built between the two, and you come to really root for them.

Plenty of violence occurs with lots of zombie chompings and head shots.  Limbs are cut off, heads decapitated, driven over and sliced up but the blood spilt is minimal.  The true fear comes from the tension that always seems ready to explode.  Many of the films set pieces take place in stressed situations.  Climbing a rocky outcrop to escape grabbing hands, changing a wheel on a truck while the zombies get closer and closer, even just the act of sleeping brings with it danger beyond imagination.

It is not perfect though, some of the dialogue feels a little forced in order to create tension, such as when they argue over whether to use their precious water supply to fix their overheated truck, or when after crashing the truck at night at one point they argue whether to turn on the headlights or not so they can see where they are. It seems whenever the pair stop, no matter how remote the location zombies start to appear, either really bad luck or just to make the film more exciting.  The acting for the most part is stellar.  Characters don't feel like they are acting, it all seems quite natural.  There is one part where a kid runs into the background to sit on his mothers lap that really felt ultra choreographed and forced, as if it had been practised hundreds of times; as stupid as it sounds that was officially the worst part of the film for me.

The Dead is a haunting, bleak and thoughtful film.  It feels at times like The Road with zombies.  A beautiful film.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Hellraiser: Bloodlines - Horror Film Review

You can usually tell a horror franchise has lost the plot when it has an entry set in space, so I was kinda worried when the opening of the fourth Hellraiser film is set in the future; 2127 to be exact.  This film spans three different time lines, following the trails of the family who designed the original puzzle box.

A scientist on a space station has summoned Pinhead in order to destroy him, just before he is able to though a group of armed soldiers turn up and arrest the man (Dr Paul Merchant) due to him hijacking the station he is on (and also designed).  Whilst being interrogated Merchant begs to be able to kill the demon, thinking him mad his interrogator Rimmer decides to hear his story. Merchant reveals that his ancestor Phillip L'Merchant was a toymaker in the 18th Century who was tasked with creating a unique puzzle box for a rich client. The puzzle box is the original Lament Configuration that summons demons to Earth.  After this tale is done he then talks of another ancestor John Merchant; an architect who encounters Pinhead in the mid 90's (a few years after the events of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth).  His family bloodline is cursed and each generation has worked to create a foil to counteract the evil they have unleashed on the world.

The film is quite cool in that it is set in three distinctly different time lines.  The original story was to have equal amounts of time dedicated to each timeline, but the script got butchered due to the desire to focus on Pinhead (who was not created until the 20th Century).  The 18th Century scenes are authentic in look but it is off putting that it is supposed to be set in Paris yet everyone speaks with American accents.  Originally time specific Cenobites garbed in powdered wigs and such were due to be featured, but these were cut from the script.  Instead we get a demon summoned; Angelique who is a Princess in Hell.

The 1990's section of the film is the most traditional section.  Following on from the twist ending of Hellraiser III we see the creator of the Lament Configuration building stalked by Angelique (still in human form) and Pinhead who she summons to help destroy Merchant.  Angelique believes seduction techniques can help her get what she wants (the destruction of the Merchant bloodline), while Pinhead who is beneath Angelique wants to get him by pain.

The last section set in the future bookends the film, it is kinda interesting in a tacky sci-fi type of way. Lots of  plasma rifles and long corridors.  For a film that is set in three distinct time periods it works surprisingly well, albeit in a cheap way.  Each Merchant is played by the same actor (Bruce Ramsey) his wide eyed innocence in his first two incarnations grates a little, he is too clean cut a character to be able to root for.  His more grizzled and worn out future incarnation is good, just a shame the sci-fi part is the smallest of the three.

Pinhead is joined by a Dog cenobite as well as two conjoined twins.  The violence unleashed is quite fun to be honest, people getting skinned alive, decapitated and ripped apart, at times the film feels like it was made for TV but was actually the last Hellraiser to be get a cinema release.

I have done it again and written this review on two different time periods so will read confusing and lost I no doubt fear.  Not a bad film, an interesting concept, and Doug Bradley is on fire as Pinhead here, one of his best performances since the original.  In a side note I have been told I talk too much of plot and don't critique films.  I may try and change the way my reviews are written.  Watch this space...(probably wont)


Monday, 17 October 2011

F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

I had memories of F.E.A.R 2 not being that great, I recalled it being too Sci-fi and not enough horror based.  Replaying it for review (and in anticipation of someday playing the apparently average F.E.A.R 3) I discovered things are not quite so grim.

Including the two additional episodes (brought together in F.E.A.R Files) this is the fourth F.E.A.R game that features the damned explosion at the Vault.  The game begins slightly before the end of F.E.A.R and ends not that long afterwards (I would guess a month at most).  You play as Delta Force operator Michael Becket whose squad has been tasked with taking into custody a woman high up in Armacham (an evil corporation responsible for events), you soon find that you and your squad were all recruited. for your psychic abilities.  After the Vault explosion knocks you out you awake in a mysterious Hospital that is under attack by ATC clean up crews led by the vicious Colonel Vanek who want to destroy all evidence of Armacham's involvement in the events that have devastated the City.  With the help of a mysterious voice on your radio calling himself Snakefist you must evade the ATC clean up crews, as well as Replica soldiers 'awakened' by Alma (a psychotic ghost) and find a way to stop Alma's rampage which is literally ripping the City to shreds.

This game looks so much better than the other F.E.A.R games, the graphics are really quite good and feature lots of large chunky characters and enemies, everything seems so much larger than the average looking things of F.E.A.R.  Now the reason I did not rate F.E.A.R 2 too highly at first was due to locations.  For the first half of the game locations are realistic in feel, apartment buildings, streets, a Hospital, and a School.  What F.E.A.R does well is create locations that feel real, and Project Origin continues this feeling for most the game.  The last third turns into ridiculously large and convoluted secret bases that feel like videogame levels rather than real places which is a real shame as you leave the game only really remembering these large soul-less bases rather than buildings covered in details such as posters, graffiti and everyday objects like telephones, computers and books.  What is really cool is how totally destructible some areas are with windows, objects and walls all collapsing during hectic gunfights.

Enemies for the most part are quite similar to F.E.A.R.  You get an assortment of ATC and Replica soldiers who look different but act much the same apart from having better A.I to ensure they duck and hide more realistically.  The fighting is visceral and your weapons really feel like they pack a punch.  Blood sprays in large amounts, a particular highlight was that the Nail gun weapon now actually pins enemies to walls, nice attention to detail!  There are not really any new weapons, there is a cool Doom style BFG weapon that reduces any enemies the energy weapons ammo passes into skeletons.  More monster type enemies appear in the form of crawling mutants who are in plentiful numbers.  Ghostly enemies appear in the form of ghosts who are kinda annoying as they invert the screens colours when they attack, also there are ghosts who can reanimate dead bodies.

To break up the FPS action there are sections where you control a giant battle mech and lay waste to lots of foes, while some turret sections also feature, one near the end of the game has a bizarre rock number that starts playing, kinda cool but totally out of the blue for the games serious style.  The story is easy enough to follow, though again it assumes you have a knowledge of the F.E.A.R storyline.  Like the other F.E.A.R's this is not a scary game despite the many appearances of Alma.  In the original games she appeared mostly as a child in a red dress, but here she is portrayed as a grown up naked monster/ghost chick that reminded me of The Grudge or The Ring in the look of her.

Not a bad game, it looks and plays well, it just is let down by some very bland last levels where it could have done with something memorable.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth - Horror Film Review

Pinhead is back once more, in an original story this time rather than a linked sequel.  This time the series really starts its descent into the tropes of horror sequels with a much higher body count, less serious, and more screen time for the bad guy.

A young reporter Joey (Terry Farrell) at a Hospital witnesses a man ripped to shreds by magical chains.  Thinking there may a story in the events she starts researching to find out what happened.  She learns about a nightclub called The Boiler Room where the incident took place, and that the man had been attacked after stealing a cube off of a statue the owner keeps there (the statue in question is the monolith that appeared at Hellraiser II's dodgy twist ending).  Meanwhile the club owner; arrogant J.P Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) discovers that Pinhead is trapped in the statue,  he offers J.P power if he helps to release him.  It all boils down to the fact that Pinhead has been split into two and so there is the demon part who wishes to rule the Earth, and the human part who wants to stop the evil side.

At first I was a little confused; in the previous films Pinhead was pretty much emotionless, an agent of Hell.  In this film he is a far more evil character; getting angry, taking great delight in hurting people, and being far more crafty in general.  With the appearance of good Pinhead this change makes far more sense.  No longer bound by the laws of Hell evil Pinhead cares nothing of his job (to take careless souls away for an eternity of torture) and instead seems to want to destroy the world, in fact he is now scared of the puzzle box as it has the means to banish him.  Pinhead is joined by a whole host of Cenobites he creates and together they unleash carnage on the City.  The scenes of them banded together are quite exciting, and certainly the action highlight of the film.

The special effects are quite cool this time around.  The Cenobites are varied including one with a video camera embedded in his face, one with a ever lit cigarette sticking out her throat, and one (that seems very dated now) that has Cd's stuck into his skin, and fights by ejecting Cd's from his chest and flinging them with deadly force at his victims.  There are a heck of a lot of kills, I would say the body count stretches into the hundreds!  Many of these are via Pinheads chains while some other more inventive ones include a glass of water that transforms into a floating watery Pinhead face before turning into an ice spear and impaling some poor girls throat, and the aftermath image of a man killed seemingly by having his mouth filled up with Pool balls.  Yes, it is a bit over the top, but Pinheads rampage is very enjoyable to watch as he hams about doing Christ like poses all over the place.

The film is set in the early 90's and is an echo of the time; much like the dress style in Hellraiser was a window to 80's fashion.  The plot this time around actually makes sense, though there are some tenuous plot links to advance story (the reporter Joey just happens to have recurring nightmares about her Dad dying in Vietnam, it just so happens that all war dreams are linked so good Pinhead is able to contact her via dreams, and just so happens Pinhead's human past is deeply trenched in warfare).  More back story on Pinhead is revealed here as well, following the last part of Elliot Spencer's life (his name before being reborn) leading up to his reasons for using the fated puzzle box.  Also there are enough nods to Hellraiser II to please series fans.

I really enjoyed this film, characters are well rounded, especially the tragic character of Terri (played brilliantly by Paula Marshall) who has one of the worst life's imaginable and is played as secretly ultra vulnerable.  It is dated definitely, but is fun, violent, and keeps a nice fun side to the series.


Wednesday, 12 October 2011

F.E.A.R Files - Horror Videogame Review

F.E.A.R Files comprises two expansion packs released for the original F.E.A.R; Extraction Point, and Perseus Mandate.  I assume if you are wanting to play this then you have played F.E.A.R as the plot will be utterly incomprehensible if you are jumping in a virgin.

Extraction Point continues directly after the ending of F.E.A.R with you continuing to play as F.E.A.R operative 'Point Man'.  Alma believed destroyed is instead still going.  She sabotages your helicopter causing it to crash.  Together with your two squad mates you need to make it across City to a Hospital where you will be extracted (hence the title Extraction Point).  The City has felt the effects of the explosion that destroyed The Vault (at the end of F.E.A.R) so there is ruination everywhere.  Soon after starting Paxton Fetell (the main villain of F.E.A.R) mysteriously comes back to life.

Extraction Point takes place over 6 Intervals (Levels) and takes around three to four hours to blast through.  Many of the locations you travel through have the usual F.E.A.R curse of being boring run of the mill places.  You get sewers, warehouses, a subway station, and a Hospital amongst over places.  Hardly the most exciting locations, but that's what F.E.A.R does well creating realistic locations rather than exciting gamey ones.

Enemies mostly comprise of the soldiers from F.E.A.R, new classes of soldiers appear such as one who has a giant metal shield and fires a mini gun, while some new weapon types appear such as a laser gun.  Invisible red eyed children also are in abundance, more annoying than scary they run up to you and hit you before running away again.

Extraction Point really is more of the same and offers nothing new, it also features quite a muted ending.  It is fun to play though despite its bland locations.

Perseus Mandate takes place during and after the events of F.E.A.R, roughly half and half.  In this add on you play as the originally named Sergeant who is a member of a 2nd .F.E.A.R squad dispatched to the City.  You are tasked with finding out the motives of a shadowy Mercenary group known as the Nightcrawlers.

This add on is far more action heavy then Extraction Point, the plot takes far more of a back seat.  There is not really any paranormal stuff until around the halfway point mark, instead it is a series of battles against ATC Security forces, the Nightcrawlers, and Replica soldiers (who also battle amongst themselves).  New enemies are obviously the Nightcrawlers who behave much like the Replica army but are armed with a new type of machine gun.  The red eyed children, and floating ghosts are joined for this instalment by creatures who pull you into the ground.

Location wise there are offices, warehouses, sewers, and plazas with the final location resembling the Vault from F.E.A.R.  Locations are ok, but have lost some of the believability that has come before.  I actually enjoyed Extraction Point a lot more to be truthful, endless battles got to feel a bit stale, and this game even involves several boss fights.

For a budget price F.E.A.R files is an amazing buy, you get a lot for your money, and a blood soaked fun FPS romp, just don't expect to be scared, F.E.A.R never really was a scary game, and even less so in this guise.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Hellbound: Hellraiser II - Horror Film Review

Before Hellraiser was even released scripts where being written for a Hellraiser II, and III.  The films were supposed to focus on the step-mum Julia as the main antagonist but after it was discovered how popular Pinhead was this was quickly changed.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II takes place very soon after the end of Hellraiser. Kirsty (again played by Ashley Laurence) is being kept at a mental institution due to her tales of battling demons.  Her Doctor; Philip Channard (played with sneering glee by Kenneth Cranham) is secretly obsessed with the occult, and so uses the information learnt from Kirsty to get his hands on a blood soaked mattress that Kirstys step-mum Julia died on in Hellraiser.  Using mental patients as sacrifices he brings Julia back from Hell, and then uses the aid of a mute puzzle solving patient (young actress Imogen Boorman) to solve a puzzle box (the Dr has three of the blasted things) so that the good Dr can see Hell himself.  Kirsty meanwhile has had a vision of her Dad in Hell and is determined to go there to rescue him, so the whole bunch all go on a field trip.

The plot in this film is utterly bonkers, I'm surprised the film doesn't collapse under the plot holes that at times threaten to drown everything.  For a start, and just a minor one; at the end of Hellraiser Kirsty's Dads house burnt and collapsed to the ground, yet here the house is not just intact but in perfect condition. For half the film things progress pretty well but it seems the second the characters go to Hell all semblance of a plot falls away to create a series of unrelated set pieces.  Dr Channard turns into a literal one liner spouting machine 'The Dr is in the house!', 'I'm closing your file!', 'I recommend...amputation!' ugh, awful.  Julia in the first film couldn't be evil all the time as she had to pretend to be a good wife, here she is given free reign to ham up her lines which the actress Claire Higgins does amazingly.

Hell is quite a boring place, it resembles a location from the kids film Labyrinth with loads of grey corridors, and M.C. Escher style walkways, where is all the pain and suffering that made Frank so scared of returning?  To return to plot again, apparently they wanted to get Andrew Robinson to reprise his role as Kirsty's Dad, but he refused leading to a lot of scenes being re-written which maybe accounts for the random nature of events.

But what about the stars? What about the Cenobites?  They get caught up in sequel-itus, as they were so loved in the first film they are turned into good guys here, and manage to do even less then they did in Hellraiser in the process.  It being revealed that Pinhead was once human had a big impact on the following Hellraiser films I admit, and is well done (his ace transformation being the opening sequence of Hellbound) but Pinhead as a good guy? Not a great move.

I have to say the film is terrible, but it is also fun to watch, a Hell of a lot of fun to watch, I may score it low but it is worth seeing if you want a film where you can joyfully shout abuse at all the inconsistencies.  Don't get me wrong, this is certainly not a boring film, just a slap in the face to the straight nature of Hellraiser.


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Hellraiser - Horror Film Review

For this Halloween month of October I have set myself a horror challenge, my challenge is not too hard, it is to watch all 8 of the current Hellraiser films.  Turns out this is quite fitting as Hellraiser: Revelations; the ninth in the series is to be released on DVD on October 18th.  By all accounts Hellraiser 9 is utter rubbish, and is the first not to have Doug Bradley in it.

Hellraiser is based on the Clive Barker novella 'The Hellbound Heart' and apart from a few key differences is the same story.  A thrill seeking man (Frank) gets a hold of a puzzle box said to open a gateway to unimaginable pleasures, after opening it he is promptly destroyed by a group of demons called Cenobites.  Franks brother Larry moves into their childhood home with his unhappy wife Julia.  Accidentally blood is dripped onto the floor of the attic which just so happens to be where Frank opened the cursed box.  This resurrects Frank in a zombie form, he convinces Julia (who is obsessed with him) to get him victims so he can drink their blood and become fully human again.  Larry's daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) discovers this and manages to get a hold of the puzzle box and unknowingly opens it.  This summons the Cenobites who want both Kirstys and Franks souls to take back to Hell.

Yeah, so pretty much the whole plot was discussed there, but the film is a classic, everyone has seen it surely?  Unlike the rest of the films in the series this one is far more haunting, and does not focus on the Cenobites.  Most the film follows the relationship between Frank and Julia, flashbacks show the passion Julia has for Frank and explains why she is so willing to turn to murder to help him.  Relationships seem to be a big part of this film with that between Father and Daughter, Husband and Wife, and the muted love story between Kirsty and her friend Steve.

As a heroine Laurence plays the role well, looking both suitably scared, but determined to do what needs to be done.  She's not bad looking apart from the awful 80's fashion sense that haunts the film and her.  The true icon of the piece is of course the iconic Pinhead (played expertly by Doug Bradley).  The Cenobites lack of screen time only makes them more effective and creepy, Pinhead is the Cenobites voice, and what a great voice it is; 'We will tear your soul apart!' what an iconic line.

The films plot is good, but the film seems to fall apart a bit towards the end (quite literally actually) when Kirsty is chased around her Dad's house by monsters who don't really seem able to do anything apart from stand still and look creepy.  When I first saw this film I didn't like it too much, it was depressing, and the character of Larry (played by Andrew Robinson) reminded me a lot of WWE owner Vince McMahon.  However watching it for review I was surprised how into it I got, it really is a classic, it cannot be denied.  Sure the special effects can be a bit dodgy (the flesh ripping sequences look uber fake, and in one scene you can see a charging monster actually being pushed on a trolley by a crew member) but the Cenobites look amazing.  One of the best Hellraisers and essential viewing for any horror fan.


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace - Horror Comedy Show Review (DVD)

I love this show, and have long wanted to spread the word about it's brilliance.  After watching through all 6 episodes again yesterday I thought it was prime time to review.

You may notice that halfway through the review the text size changes, this is because BT who I have my Internet with are useless and I had to hurriedly cut and paste a load of text to Word after my Internet connection cut out.  Unfortunately Blogger hates having text copied into it from Word so leads to all the mistakes seen here which are beyond my ability to fix.

From the best selling master of darkness Garth Marenghi comes a re-released edition of his seminal 1980's horror show 'Darkplace'.  Darkplace takes place in Darkplace Hospital at Romford.  A gateway to Hell has opened beneath the Hospital, and so each episode a different evil must be dealt with by the only man who can; Dr. Rick Dagless M.D (Garth Marenghi).  Dagless is joined in his fight by his best friend Dr. Lucien Sanchez (Todd Rivers), his hard ass boss Thornton Read (Dean Learner) and woman Dr. Liz Asher (Madeline Wool).

Unfortunately the show was cancelled before any episodes where ever shown but here on this DVD 6 episodes have been saved together with interviews with some of the original cast members to bring the ultimate Darkplace experience as well as a host of extras such as a small booklet, lost scenes, interviews, retrospectives and more.

Of course none of the above is actually true, the show was created in the early 2000's by Matthew Holness (Marenghi/Dagless) and Richard Ayodade (Learner/Reed) and is a parody of bad 80's shows.  The whole thing is played straight faced with a plethora of  terrible special effects, wooden acting, bad filming, sound issues, dubbing and stand ins that make the shows hilarious to watch.  This is helped massively by the modern day interviews with the cast that inter cut the show, the actors and Marenghi all convinced of the shows power to terrify and astound even now.  This contrast between purposely terrible show and straight faced opinions on the power the show still has today fuse together for utter hilarity.

There are six episodes on offer, by far the best two are 'Hell Hath Fury' (about telekinetic powers), and 'Scotch Mist' (the controversial racist episode about an evil Scottish mist) and are ones I watch over and over.  There is not a bad episode on offer here, each have their high points such as the crazy slow mo fight sequence in 'Skipper the Eye Child' for instance.  Even knowing the whole thing is a hoax it is still hard sometimes to remember this as everything on the DVD is done so po-faced.  Even the episode commentaries are done in character by the (actual) actors.

The problems I had with this are not real problems at all and comes from some of the cast who are well known for comedy and so take you out the hoax.  Ayodale is best known as Moss from the I.T Crowd, while Matt Berry (Rivers/Sanchez), Julian Barratt, and Noel Fielding from The Mighty Boosh also appear.  The show feels so authentic, and apart from a scene too ridiculous (a chase sequence in the episode The Apes of Wrath) all works really well.  Special mention must be made to the amazing soundtrack, all synths and creeping horror tunes that really embody the 80's

The show is hilarious, and whilst a bit dark is very re watchable, horror comedy done well.


Monday, 3 October 2011

Devil Blood - Horror Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)

There is a never ending stream of horror themed videogames being vomited out of the Indie games section of the 360 Dashboard.  Sometimes I worry that this blog will just change into something dedicated to just reviewing a conveyor belt of terrible games, as the pile of Indie games I have to test is constantly growing.  On the plus side Devil Blood has no zombies in it, a nice refreshing change, also the game is an FPS which is also a nice change from the twin stick shooters that stuff the channel.

You play as a nameless man who is on the trail of a powerful Demon.  Apparently you are too weak to beat him and must collect Demon souls.  You do this by exploring what I assume is Hell, it is certainly very red.  Red corridors, very Doom like.

This game is frustrating, boring and far too red.  Enemies consist of red floating Demon heads which you must shoot with your red gun.  The problem is the enemies are ghost like and damage you by flying through you.  Their speed and the way they keep going back and forth through you until you die is ultra frustrating.  Your only punishment for death is to start at the beginning of the level again but this involves a tedious walk through long red corridors before again being assaulted by the hordes.  There is no option to invert the aiming, so I struggled with attacking anything, due to being somehow only able to play FPS games if aiming is inverted.

Your weapons are various red weapons that glow with a red sheen.  They fire some sort of red projectile that the demons don't seem to mind, it seemingly has no impact on them, occasionally one will just vanish from existence.  Going for this game is the sound.  No music but it has an atmospheric background noise of blowing wind, and wind chimes.  This game is a prime example of why there are not more FPS games on the Indie channel, maybe twin stick shooters really are the way to go.

The game is set in Hell, quite fitting when it is Hell to play.