Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Interview with the Vampire - Horror Film Review

For reasons unknown I always thought Interview with a Vampire was a chick flick, so I never watched it.  I recently was convinced to watch it by my girlfriend, and I am glad I did! In general I dislike Vampire films, there have been a few good ones such as Lost Boys, Near Dark, and Fright Night but the more traditional ones usually leave me unimpressed.

The film starts in modern day San Francisco with reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) interviewing a strange man; Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) who claims to be a vampire.  The rest of the film follows the story Louis tells of how he came to be a vampire, and what it is like to be one.  The majority of Interview with the Vampire takes place in the 18th and 19th Century.  Louis depressed with life after the death of his wife and daughter meets a vampire called Lestat (Tom Cruise) who turns Louis.  Together they prey on humans though Louis refuses to take a human life, wanting to retain some of his humanity that Lestat seems to have lost.  A young girl Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) whose Mother has died of the plague is turned and becomes like a Daughter to Louis, though he is haunted by the fact that he has stolen a life away from this being who will be stuck for eternity as a little girl.  From the moment he became a vampire up to the present day Louis recounts his harrowed, doomed life, less as a story of interest, more as a warning to others.

Interview with the Vampire is nearly two hours long and is neatly segmented into two different feeling parts.  The first part has Louis relationship with the near psychotic Lestat.  Lestat loves being a vampire and sees humans as weak prey.  Good living and plenty of victims are enough for him.  Louis on the other hand only become a vampire as he was sick of life.  As a vampire he is forever scared of losing his last shred of humanity, his conscience makes his new life one of misery and regret. Cruise plays the role of Lestat fantastically bringing real life to the role, his scenes are quite memorable.  Pitt is a far more brooding character, brought to mind the way Angel acted in the Buffy series.

After an epic finale to part 1 the setting moves across the seas to Paris. Here the film takes on more of a revenge feel as Louis encounters a bizarre theatre troupe comprised of sadistic vampires led by creepy joker Santiago (Stephen Rea) (his first scene in which Louis encounters him is the most surreal scene in the whole film with Santiago doing a bizarre silent routine that involves him dancing on the roof of a tunnel).  The troupe in turn follow master vampire Armand (Antonio Banderas) who is willing to teach Louis the secrets of living as a vampire, but at a high cost.

This film is epic, as one spanning 200 years should be. There is quite a lot of violence, of course mostly revolving around drinking victims blood.  The blood looks awesome, really thick and red.  A few dramatic fight scenes also occur with body parts flying left right and centre as Louis wrecks bloody revenge. In the film vampires can be killed by direct sunlight, and have to sleep in coffins, but they can survive stakes to the heart, fire, and crosses.  They have super human strength and agility as well as the ability to fly (well hover, which does look kinda silly).  The effects for the vampires are subtle but really work.  Veins show more, and the eyes are different, and of course they have fangs but there is not say the violent change the vampires in Fright Night display.

At its heart it is a dark tale film with plenty of horror elements.  Sometimes it descends into high action, other times introspective musings on the meaning of life.  Louis is not that great a character, he easily gets overshadowed by the more eccentric and exciting characters such as Lestat.  It is hard to feel sympathetic for the character of Louis who truth be told is a bit of a whiny loser.  The films ending it has to be said is really quite cool. There is a homoerotic feeling to the relationships between the vampires so if for some reason you wish to see Pitt and Banderas nearly kissing then this is your ticket.

I totally realise I have discussed story and not much else so onto other things for the wrap up.  The locations look great, the film is shot well, and it never looses its steam right up till the end. The later day segments reflect the strangeness it must feel for Louis to outlive time periods.  Lots of blood, and for a vampire film it was cool.  I am not the biggest fan of vampire films but this while quite traditional in places provided a welcome respite from the trash of Underworld, Twilight and its ilk.


Saturday, 26 November 2011

General Update for November 2011 - I'm Late Edition

It is very near the end of the month and I have suddenly realised I have not done a general update yet.  As of late my updates have plunged downhill, this is due to having a job now so not much free time to read, watch or play stuff.  Still I must do more than just the one update a week.

I am still working my way through the Hellraiser collection, quite delayed seeing as I planned to have watched them all by Halloween.  I have a few zombie films I am looking forward to seeing; Pontypool, Seige of the Dead, Undead or Alive, as well as Season 1 of The Walking Dead.  I currently don't have my Cinema pass so am missing out on any new releases unfortunately.

On the book front I have Danek S. Kaus's Swords of the Dead to read as well as a billion Stephen King, Jamers Herbert and Dean Koontz novels.  Meanwhile at games I am playing through Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well as Demons Souls and Sam and Max: Night of the Raving Dead.

As you can see I have plenty to be going on with, I just need to pull my finger out and update more often! On a side note Blogger is god awful to use as it frequently breaks but regardless I am going to set up a pointer for to point here as the site is more established.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Traumatized by Alexander S. Brown - Horror Book Review

Traumatized is a collection of horror stories all penned by Alexander S. Brown. The book is just over 300 pages, and the font size is not large to make up for the length.

I was quite concerned after reading the first tale 'Bloodlines', concerned as I did not remotely enjoy it.  The story featured a haunted mansion but it plodded along so slowly that I was quite bored, it doesn't help that it is the longest story in the book. The next story 'April' was better but still I just found myself not enjoying it.  It was halfway through the third tale (about a religious cult) that something clicked, I realised I was really enjoying it, glued to the book.  From that point on the book had me in its thrall. Story followed story with me completely addicted to what would come next. There are so many different types of horror that it seems crazy this all come from the mind of just the one person.

The book has ghost tales, ones about serial killers, vampires, demons, witches, and even my favourite creature the zombie! 'From Midnight to One' (about a woman living out in the middle of nowhere whose home gets invaded) actually caused me real fear, previous to this H.P Lovecraft was the only author able to scare me.  I confess that after reading that particular story I had to get out the house and go visit a friend for company! Another truly scary one is 'It's All True' about a man visiting an abandoned hospital in order to do research on a new book.  Both given me the fear just thinking about them!  At other points Browns work starts to resemble Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho or Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted going really grim and disgusting with 'Live Through This' (an unpleasant story about a homosexual rapist) and final story 'Zoe's Swan Song' (a celebrity seeking perfection).  I really thought I was going to vomit reading it, the descriptions are so detailed and horrific, but I could not stop reading despite feeling faint!

A lot of the time the endings to the stories are heavily signposted (literally in the fantastic 'Two Miles' about a mobster who wakes up in a burning hot desert with no memory of how he got there) but this doesn't stop the enjoyment of finding out how the story gets to that point.

The writings reminded me of spoof horror writer Garth Merenghi; titles such as 'Feast of the Pigs' (about Police who eat their prisoners) had me in stitches as the concept is so ridiculous yet played so straight faced. Brown does dabble in similes far too often, seeming to include them whenever he can, but some are genius and whether intentional or not quite funny (example; 'She appeared similar to a decaying clown from hell').  He goes a bit too graphic for my likings sometimes, sex scenes invariably are too detailed for my innocent mind to like.  On the other end of the scale some of the violence is crazily over the top and looses its impact on occasion.

Regardless of all this I can say with hand on heart that with the exception of H.P Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe this is the very best horror anthology I have ever had the pleasure to read!  Brown's imagination is unrivalled, being able to take so many generic horror ideas and craft them into entertaining, pulpy stories that don't challenge the mind but do just satisfy that particular horror itch we all have. He has a real gift, and is certainly a true Master of Horror.

Despite a false start the book is a highly entertaining read, Brown is a talented writer able to conjure up fear, disgust, and humour as well as live up to the standards of pulpy horror . I look forward to what he does next!


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Enslaved: Odyssey to the West - Fantasy Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

Enslaved is a post apocalyptic adventure game set in America.  Rather than the usual dreary browns and greys of wasteland America you get lush visuals full of greenery and sunshine.  Unfortunately the game did not sell well at all which is a real waste (land).

Enslaved is based on Journey to the West (one of the four great classical novels of China) It starts with Monkey (the character you play as) a prisoner on a slave ship.  Another prisoner; Trip has escaped her cage and in doing so accidentally brought about the destruction of the slave ship, freeing Monkey in the process.  After a mad dash through the disintegrating ship (as it flies over a ruined New York) he manages to get to an escape pod which crash lands.  Monkey awakes to find he has been fitted with a slave collar, the female escapee Trip explains that she now controls him, he must help her make the long journey across the continent, if he refuses her commands the slave collar will kill him, if Trip dies then that will also kill Monkey.

The game is a third person level based adventure that is a lot of fun to play as. For a change the post apocalyptic world is beautiful to look at, nature has reclaimed the world.  The first third of the game is the most beautiful taking place in a devastated New York over run with greenery taking in such locations as Broadway, Grand Central Station and the Brooklyn Bridge.  The City is a giant tomb with absolutely no life other than birds, it feels so empty and bleak. Unfortunately the locations after this rapidly go down hill, some nice mountain levels degrade into swamps and ugly places such as deserted robot factories full of dull colours. Apart from some bad texture pop in the game does look quite brilliant throughout.

It is never explicitly revealed but it is hinted at that the world ended after a huge war involving robots.  Now littered over the world are robots lying dormant, ready to be activated when their sensors detect human life.  Monkey fights these with his staff, and the combat is really powerful with brutal finishing moves that manage to look violent even though he is only dismantling robots.  Defeated enemies drop experience orbs, and the levels are littered with these orbs.  They can be used to upgrade Monkeys health and shield, as well as give him more moves to use in combat.

The best thing about this game is Andy Serkis, and the cut scenes in general are really well done.  Andy is the voice and motion capture for Monkey. The interaction between Monkey and Trip (voiced and motion captured by Lindsey Shaw) is really well done, starting off as highly suspicious of each other they come to really care for each other without the need for any soppy love scenes.  A third character; Pigsy (a little fat man whose armour resembles that of a Pig) joins the group which leads to lots of humour, and rivalry between him and Monkey, as well as a love triangle forming.  He lends the game a light hearted touch that helps to not make things too bleak.  This is not a particularly happy story, lots of bad things happen which isn't even sorted by the ending.  I was honestly nearly crying after seeing the ending, an amazing ending, really worth playing through the game just to see, to say any more would be to ruin it.

The game is quite easy, levels a combination of simple puzzles, platforming and robot bashing.  Bosses make appearances and are fun enough to fight, and Monkey gains the ability to fly around on a cloud for some sections of the game.  Hidden in levels are bizarre markers that reveal random photos of Andy Serkis doing different things (such as working in an office, or visiting the Pyramids with his children), these are cool to see.

I love this game, it is a shame that not more people brought it (me included!).  It has a fantastic script, likable characters, and a truly special ending.


Thursday, 10 November 2011

Famous for Dying by The Active Set - Music Video featuring zombies

This is the second time today I have written this post as Blogspot is junk and frequently breaks down.  Sigh, here I go again, sorry if my enthusiasm seems muted.

I had never heard of The Active Set prior being sent a link to their video for song Famous for Dying.  They are not really my thing, their music sounds a little like Interpol but I don't really like the vocal style.  The song starts off like most other music videos, the band playing their song.  This is interrupted when a group of zombies turn up and after a brief battle rip the band to pieces, for the final two thirds of the song the zombies sit around eating the band members in a moment similar to that in classic Night of the Living Dead.

The special effects are bad in a fun way, and there is a cool moment when the bands drummer sticks his drum stick into a zombies eye socket.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Year After Infection - Zombie Film News

I heard tell of an interesting film currently being made by Vertice Films.  Interesting for one because it has zombies in it (always a good thing) but also because the film really does sound genuinly interesting.

The Year after Infection is a compilation of four different stories told over the course of a year (the year following zombie apocalypse).  Each of the four stories takes place during a different season.  Thats about all I know.  The trailer is ok but seems to lack much zombie action and focus The Walking Dead style more on the survivors then the undead. I will certainly be keeping an eye on this though.  See what you think...

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Panic Button - Horror Film Review

This film was so different to my expectations, I thought I was in for a Hostel style teen horror, instead what I saw was a much more intelligent psychological terror.  I have lost my mojo lately, so again not a very well written review, apologies for that.

Four strangers from the UK have won a competition from a popular social networking site; (a spoof of Facebook).  Their prize is an all expenses paid trip to New York.  The four; single mother Jo, geeky Max, Gwen, and slimy Dave are at first over joyed to see the luxury they are getting; limos, champagne, and a private jet.  It is when they are on the jet that things start to go awry.  As part of the in flight entertainment they are given a quiz to do by a mysterious representative of the social networking site who appears via TV screens as a computer animated Alligator.  The quizzes are just that little bit too personal, revealing humiliating and nasty facts about the group.  Things get even more sinister when it is revealed that the punishment for refusing to take part is the death of a friend from their friends list.  Pitted against each other by the voice the group must somehow work together whilst all the time having the threat of a death of a loved one hanging over them by the cruel sadistic Alligator.

Panic Button is a real psychological horror.  It reminded me quite heavily of the under rated My Little Eye.  There is a terror through out that is helped along by the claustrophobic jet, with the majority of the film taking place in the cabin of the jet.  The Internet is such a big part of everyones lives, Panic Button is scary in that it all rings true, the amount of personal information the majority of us happily put onto these faceless networking sites would give anyone ammunition to use against us.

The four main characters are all really well played, all British actors, they play their roles perfectly, and realistically, with lives on the line just how far would you go to protect your loved ones?  The reactions as they slowly realise the situation they are in is really well played, believability is a key factor in what makes this film so genuinely creepy.  Alligator starts off as a jovial character, his slow descent into cruel Saw style tormentor is quite subtle, Joshua Richards is ace as the voice.  My favourite character was Michael Jobson as Dave who plays his stereotype very well bringing a real vulnerability to the role.

The tone is quite bleak throughout, a ever present sense of dread helping this.  The plot keeps you guessing throughout, though the twists are not too amazing but still keep your eyes glued to the screen.  The film looks wonderful, with great direction, and despite a minimal use of violence the fear holds out.  It also plays in near real time, a really neat feature that I always love in films.

This is a real product of our time, sites like Twitter and Facebook taking our information, while the Internet encourages bad behaviour due to the anonymity that using it gives us.  It certainly made me think twice about  the Internet.  Now I'm off to delete my Facebook account; you know, just to be on the safe side!

Panic Button is released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 7th November 2011.  A surprisingly effective thriller!


Friday, 4 November 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 - Horror Film Review

I went to the Cinema Tuesday night, finally got to see the Paranormal 3.  I had heard tales that it was the best yet.  With now three films in the series should it still be called Paranormal Activity, or just Normal Activity?

After some brief clips from the stories of Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 discussing family videotapes the aforementioned videotapes play.  They were all taken in the late 1980's when the two sisters Katie and Kristi are little girls.  Their step Dad Dennis is a wedding videographer and so likes to film his family lots.  When creepy goings on such as strange noises, and images are seen he decides to set up video camera around the house to catch anything supernatural happening.  He finds it all quite exciting and seems to have little regard at first for all the damn creepy stuff going on.  As the nights pass more and more scary things start happening and Dennis begins to realise that it isn't fun and that him and his family are in mortal danger from a supernatural entity.

A sequel too far perhaps?  I think it is because I have seen so many 'found footage' films now but there really were no surprises in this latest entry.  People being dragged away by unseen forces were terrifying in Paranormal Activity 1 and 2 but here they have just lost all their fear through familiarity.  Sudden crazy eruptions of furniture made me leap to the roof in Paranormal Activity 2, but again here they have lost their impact.  I will never forget the kitchen scene in 2 when all the cupboard doors suddenly slammed but the same kind of effect is played far too many times here.  Again with the door slammings, jump scares, and time lapse footage showing a figure standing in one spot for hours; all have been done to death in other films and just feel boring here.

The third film being a prequel is a nice touch, and being set in 1988 leads to some nice looking set work, and clothes.  The plot though is just not very good, and the characters not too interesting.  Dennis the main lead is likable, even if he seems to not care too much how the spooky goings on are going to affect his step kids.  He seems too caught up in the events to appreciate just how messed up it is making his children.  His wife Julie is not in the film a great deal, mainly as the activity is kept hidden from her for most the film.  The other main characters are Katie and Kristi.  Kristi has an imaginary friend called Toby who turns more and more sinister as the film progresses going from an amusing interlude to a thing of terror.  Minor characters such as a babysitter and Dennis's apprentice Randy bring humour to the film but they too get caught up in the fear.

My main fault with the plot is that it is just silly, things make no sense such as why the videotapes were kept in the first place when they show such incriminating evidence, and I know the kids are supposed to have no memory of all that takes place but surely they would remember something?

The film is scary, I will grant it that, but so much opportunity is missed, I kept imagining horrifying things and instead got muted things instead.  The moving camera in the kitchen/front room was under used, and should have been far more scary, the special effects are too clinical.  The last third of the film really ramps up the horror and makes the film finally near nail bitingly terrifying but it is too little too late, though it did bring to mind 'The Last Exorcism'.

So all in all not a fantastic film, not bad, but so very average when it should have been scary as Hell.