Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween! My 666th Post!

Happy Halloween everyone, and welcome to my official 666th blog post! Whew, it has been a long time coming, crazy to think the amount of hours I must have spent working on this blog. I still remember when I discovered Spell Check, and I still have yet to work my way through all my old posts and correct the grammar, replace broken links, and missing images. Guess it is kinda obvious due to the billion blog posts I have done over the last few days that getting my 666th post on Halloween was a close call but am glad I achieved it.

The blog started off quite terrible, I cringe at the earlier reviews, but it has gone from strength to strength, now being seen by an average of 17,000 unique users per month, and with Google search positions in the Top 10 for many phrases (such as position 8 out of 62 million for 'zombie film reviews'). My writing might not be the best, but I have passion for horror, and really enjoy watching, reading, and playing it. A giant thanks to my friends and family for their support, I wont name names, but you all know who you are my zombie horde! Could not have carried on for so long without you.

It is chucking it down outside, fitting Halloween weather, Rotting Zombie HQ is warm and cosy though. Strange people in masks have cut the power to my house, so am using the laptop to write this. A small doll is hammering at my bedroom door, a hitch hiker with a hook for a hand is leering up at me from my back garden, while something Sinister is watching me from a crime scene photo on my wall. If I survive the night (the curse placed on me by an old crone is due to finally reach me come midnight, thinner!) then I hope for my blog to improve and improve, the next milestone is 1000 blog posts, as long as this is not the final year of Humans then I should reach that mark sometime in the next decade.

If you are one of the many, many people who have sent me stuff to do blog posts about then please carry on being patient, I do need to learn how to prioritise. So many books to read, and films to watch! Eventually it will happen and I will catch up. Keep on horror-ing, and keep on reading my blog, and feel free to send me any improvements, or criticisms you have, I love to hear from you.

Anyway, I will sign off now, bit of a self indulgent post, but I do deserve it...probably! Stay safe, and stay scared,

Forever watching,

The Rotting Zombie :)

Holidays with the Living Dead - Zombie Holiday Hotspots

I do not know why but there seems to be a load of zombie stuff around, maybe just because of the time of year.. First a building company had a zombie article, and then a loan comparison site, and now I am pulled to a holiday site (Cosmos Holidays) where there is an article on the different types of zombies you can expect to see around the world come zombie apocalypse.

Each short section has a funny photo of a tourist hotspot with added zombie, such as a Mummy in Eqypt, and a zombified Santas in Lapland with some advice on how best to avoid being bitten. The article really is worth a read, it's short and full of pictures. So follow this link here if you want to see some cool looking photos and read some safety tips that could well be wrong come the apocalypse (or right, who knows)!

Northampton Ghost Tour 2012

I was dead excited to be going on the Northampton Ghost Tour 2012. There were loads of groups going on the tour, a new group every 20 minutes. The tour guide seemed friendly enough, it's just that she was constantly stumbling over her lines she was reading from a script.

So the first stop for our tour was Northampton Museum that used to be a female prison. After the 2nd health and safety lecture of the night we were taken downstairs into the basement. It has been changed a lot, so was hard to imagine that there used to be a prison there. We were led into a small room were a woman (also stumbling constantly over her lines) babbled on about fairy tale Witches before telling us a true story about the mother of some girl who used to live in Northamptonshire and had been accused of being a Witch...but was found innocent. To help with her tale two young girls mimed the events, one playing the mother, and one the daughter. It was not particularly interesting and gave me a bad sign that tonight was going to be a total waste of the Halloween witching hours. Then we were led through the basement and back out on to the streets. An attempt to create scares was made by the girls who banged on a toilet door and screamed a bit, more irritating than anything to be honest.

With a heavy heart we set off to the old courthouse. Yet another health and safety lecture and we were taken into a courtroom were members of the group were asked to take part in a mock trial of a man accused of setting fire to a tramp. All the group were invited to be a part of the thing, apart from me and my sister who were surplus, so we sat at the back of the room bored out of our minds wondering just what this had to do with anything remotely connected to ghosts, or Halloween.

Thankfully the endurance of the trial came to an end and we were led down to the holding cells in the courthouse where many criminals marked for execution used to be kept. Our group was split in two and I headed off to the male holding cells. A great looking old fashioned jailer took us to two different cells, one with a man who had been convicted of dismembering a woman and dumping her body, who read us a letter written to his wife the day before he was killed, and then to a cell of a man who called himself Captain Slash (Captain Slash was actually a real highway man who was executed in Northampton in 1826). His over the tops rantings were fun, you could tell the actor was enjoying himself.  Not soon after the lights went out and the jailer announced a prisoner had escaped. I was at the back of the queue to leave and so had Captain Slash appear from the darkness and try and scare me. I totally wasn't expecting that, but also didn't bat an eyelid as I thought it was just someone touching my shoulder to get past.

We were taken out to the courthouse car park where we were shown were the scaffolds that people used to be hung at (13 at a time) used to be. Unfortunately the tour guide was in a hurry, so after a 'we better hurry I can feel the presence of ghosts' (all said while reading from her script) we were rushed on, not giving me time to appreciate the location.

The courtroom cells was the first actually good part of the evening, so I was more happy as I headed off to the Northampton Library.  After another health and safety lecture we were led up the stairs. First we were told about a Grey Lady ghost who was said to haunt the library (cue little girl walking past in a grey dress). Then about the ghost of a miserable boss said to haunt the place (cue a door opening and a guy shouting at us). Then we were led to a room which had been slightly decked out like a ballroom. During the 2nd World War dances were held there.  Here there was a whole bunch of young girls wearing white face paint (I don't know why, there seemed to be a large surplus of young actor females on the darn tour). They played out some odd dance before advancing on the crowd watching, trying their best to look angry at us. then they retreated up some stairs and acted dead.

We were then led downstairs. Special mention has to go to the staircase here, populated by a boy pretending to be the ghost of a janitor. He was hilarious, shouting at us to move on, and ad libbing a lot, very entertaining, my highlight of the night.

We went into a small room, some guy I couldn't see from around some shelves was reciting a poem or something. It all ended when yet another small girl trying to look ghostly led us out and down some stairs while the janitor appeared again to shout some more at us. Downstairs we were taken outside, here the tour guide told us about the ghost of a builder who was supposed to have died on the site and haunts the staircase we had just came down.

We were then given a little story by more damned young girls about the tale of a cursed doll that roamed the halls of a school in Finedon before some pupils tracked it down and hacked off its feet. Then we were shunted into a small room were an unintelligible poem was recited from a speaker to us.

The night was drawing to a close now and our group were led to a room were we were introduced to a bunch of misfits known as the Northampton Paranormal Research Society. To be truthful this was a great part of the tour. They may have been odd looking, but they were interesting in their shyness and the things they said. It was fascinating to see some real life ghosts hunters. They talked about a poltergeist they investigated who knocked over fridges and lifted up sofas, and they warned vehemently against the use of Ouija boards (as the man said, 'they open up portals to evil dimensions'). So jealous of these guys, they must have an interesting life.

And that was it, tour over at around nearly two hours I got my monies worth (tickets were £7 each). It may not have been scary, it may have been utterly terrible in places but all in all I did enjoy it. Next time I would suggest they actually get some adult actors for the adult roles.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Zombie Life Insurance Ad

I was recently contacted by the Zombie Survival Consultant for who gave me a link to a video he had gotten his hands on that shows that when it comes to life insurance zombies are discriminated against. I never really thought about it before but I guess if there were zombies and they had been integrated into society there would be a lot of prejudice against them!

The below video is a fun little advertisement that made me smile, it is awesome when companies go to lengths to make advertisements that are actually entertaining. So feel free to go visit if you plan on getting life insurance, as shown here, it is too late if you are already dead!

Hunted: The Demon's Forge - Fantasy Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

When this game first came out I was quite interested in it despite its average review scores. It has been described as a Gears of War style dark fantasy game, by that it means there is a lot of cover based shooting (though with crossbows, and bows rather than sci-fi weaponry).

Two mercenaries;  E'lara (a female Elf) and Caddoc (a gruff warrior) are investigating some ruins that Caddoc had been having dreams about. There they discover a mysterious stone and the woman from Caddoc's dream - a strange supernatural being called Seraphine. She tells them that the stone is called the Death Stone and has the power to make them stronger. She tells the duo that a nearby village where she lives has came under attack by monsters (goblin type creatures) and that her body has been kidnapped. With promises of her rich father being able to compensate them for rescuing her they set off.

I really enjoyed this game even if it is pretty much a one trick pony, I have to admit I finished the game months ago so my recollection might be a bit hazy. I tried to write a review at the time but was just not able to do so.  Hunted is a big game, at least 10 hours long I would say. It is split into around 6 to 8 large areas, each made up of many levels.  Initially you are in a town that is under attack by Lord of the Ring style goblins (the games main enemy type). You learn that the captured townsfolk had been taken to the large (very large!) mines under the city. I don't know why but I felt that the mines were the last area in the game so I was very surprised to discover I was not even half way into the game at this point.

Levels for the most part are quite linear, with multiple routes given the illusion of freedom. For the most part Hunted is a cover based shooter. In single player you can choose to be the warrior or Elf, but the Elf with her crossbow was just the obvious choice. It is fun in the same Gears of War way to slowly advance from cover to cover picking off enemies. I can imagine co-op (for which the game is designed) would be a lot of fun. If your partner gets downed you can revive them, and doors that require both of you to open act as check points.

As I mentioned enemies for the most part are goblins, but there are also minotaurs, skeletons and other fantasy monsters as well as a variety of boss battles that split up each area. The story is usual fantasy fare, done with a dark feel. The constant exchange of jokes and insults between the two protagonists is always entertaining and manages to provide a lot of backstory for the two likable people.

Throughout the game you can find new weapons and skills, and you get a RPG lite mechanic where you can upgrade your magic and skills. Expected turret sections appear, as well as survival based sections where you must hold out against waves of attacking enemies. There are plenty of optional side quests which really impressed due to the variety and scope of them. Side quests usually involved quite large areas with their own mood and mini stories. My favourite one involved going into a pitch dark tomb in which you had to use a torch to light your way.  The walls were made up of skeletons whose arms reached out to try and grab you.

As I did say earlier it has been a while since I played the game, but it was a lot of fun, nothing fantastic, but an enjoyable, violent fantasy romp which actually looks quite good save for the odd animation issue (your finishing moves with the bow often look terrible for instance).


Zombie appearances in videogame: Moonwalker (1990)

Moonwalker is quite a fun platformer based on the terrible Michael Jackson film of the same name.  Each level sees you as Jackson searching behind doors, in car boots, behind windows and bushes searching for children, kinda dubious when you think about the rumours. When you find them they say 'Michael!' and run off. Find all the children on a level and Bubbles the chimp appears and leads you to the boss. The game is split into 5 different areas, each with a different theme, and a different Michael Jackson tune playing.

The third area in the game is based in a graveyard, a graveyard where the main enemy type is a zombie. As you search the graveyard zombies rise up from graves, jump in from off screen and appears as bosses. You would think the song choice for this level would be obvious; Thriller right? Nope, instead for some reason the song chosen is 'Another Part of Me'. The Thriller tune appears briefly in one of the boss fights when you do your special dance attack (makes the zombies all start dancing like in Thriller for around 5 seconds). Cool to see zombies, but to this day I have never understood why the blatantly wrong song choice was chosen, though it has been suggested it may have been copyright issues as Michael Jackson never actually wrote Thriller.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D - Horror Film Trailer

I didn't mind the first Silent Hill film, it did an acceptable job of transforming the game onto the big screen. Saying that though I never expected a sequel, and definitely not one were Sean Bean would return to reprise his role.  Silent Hill: Revelation looks to be heavily influenced by the Silent Hill 3 videogame.

Cheryl; the girl who had gone missing in the cursed town as a small child is now grown up when events lead her back to the town of Hell. As always I am dubious by the use of 3D, if it is anything like how the Resident Evil films have treated 3D it will just be a lot of things being thrown at the camera (such as Pyramid Heads giant sword as seen in the below trailer).  Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is out on Halloween, I shall hopefully be seeing it before the end of the week and will give you my thoughts then.

Paranormal Activity 4 (2012) - Horror Film Review

Yeah, yet another Paranormal Activity film is out. I was patient, I enjoyed the first two but the third was just a snooze fest which brought no new ideas (actually removed some as it was set in the past). The fourth film introduces the magical wonder of X-Box's Kinect.

Paranormal Activity 4 is a direct sequel to two, set in 2011, five years after possessed Aunt Katie kidnaps her nephew Hunter and vanishes. Alex; a 15 year old girl starts noticing strange things are happening in her house when creepy kid Robbie from across the street moves in due to his Mom being hospitalised for a few days. Robbie is always serious, walks around the house in the dead of night, and talks to a sinister imaginary friend. Anyway with all this bizarre stuff happening (things moving around on their own, loud unexplainable noises) Alex and her boyfriend Ben secretly set up webcams all over the house to catch any of this stuff. Knowing the format of the previous 3 films you can pretty much imagine what happens next.

Sigh. Paranormal Activity 4 is a scary film in places, it is just that it is so predictable now that many of the scares are completely reduced. There is only so many times you can see someone being dragged off down a hallway by an unknown force before it becomes normal, and expected. Having seen the terrifying Sinister the night before this was like entering the shallow end of a pool of terror, parts were scary but nothing compared to that film.  Being a found footage there is of course no soundtrack but I found this quite distracting this time around, again going back to Sinister but that proved what a gigantic addition music is to horror. It tries so hard to scare, to be creepy but almost always fails. Not one of the dozen or so jump scares in Paranormal Activity 4 made me jump, or even be surprised, while as mentioned the dragging scenes, and floating objects, shutting doors etcetera made little impact. The only fearful parts for me here were the loud random noises, and of course the last 5 minutes which were a thrill ride, much like in 3. You can't recommend a film based on the last 5 minutes though. The usual format of day and night cycles are used here, ensuring each time it turns to day any kind of atmosphere has dissipated.

The plot has gotten a bit lost now, having spread over 4 films a story that should have been told in 1, maybe 2 at most. The tag line for this one is 'All the activity has led to this...' I'm sorry to say but no, no it hasn't at all, nothing is explained, instead more convolution is added, it feels like padding to draw out the already stretched out storyline. The characters are for the most part unlikeable. Alex and her boyfriend are fun, nice characters, but Alex's parents are idiots, and of course her neighbours are just horrid. I must say though that Aiden Lovekamp who plays Alex's kid brother Wyatt does a fantastic job, more so than the creepy Robbie kid played by Brady Allen who does everything that makes badly done spooky little kid film roles so terrible and in the process comes across as totally fake.

The whole point of setting up the cameras all over the house were to record the strange goings on, yet after the first few nights truly messed up stuff starts being filmed, yet no one ever bothers to look at the recordings again, a week or so later and not once has Alex or her boyfriend checked the footage when that was the whole point in the first place. Really it is just a crummy plot excuse to have cameras everywhere. It is also stupid that Alex is impotent, unable to get anyone to even listen to her, let alone dismiss her claims that something is in the house, though I guess the parents; portrayed as preoccupied with their marital strife hardly even acknowledge their children, or each other.

I just can't recommend this film, maybe if you have never seen a previous one in the series, but then what's the point of starting here? I really really hope they wrap up the story in Paranormal Activity 5 (already being made) as it should have been ended a long time ago. If the X-Box motion sensor was the only new idea they could bring (apparently it is able to reveal ghosts) then they need to find something different that I can actually Kinect to for the next one.


Monday, 29 October 2012

Witch Dog - Halloween News

The dog in its Witch costume might look cute but soon after this picture was taken it went on a rampage, killing 3 and critically injuring 4 more. It was eventually subdued when a S.W.A.T team were called in and after a tense battle its satanic powers were defeated. Police Commissioner for the Northampton Metropolitan Police commented on the incident saying "It is a shame when dogs like this one lose their way and turn to the dark arts, to be honest I blame the owners, the tell tale signs were all there".

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sinister (2012) - Horror Film Review

This is getting silly now. Since watching Sinister earlier this evening the world has turned into a fearful place, the fear wont leave. Now sitting at my desk in Rotting Zombie HQ with all the lights on, a text message made me nearly fall off my seat backwards, everything is leading my heart to an early failure. Without a doubt Sinister is the most downright scary film I have ever suffered, never have I so wanted to leave a film than here. From start to finish my heart was in my mouth.

Controversial, struggling true crime writer Ellison Oswalt (superbly played by Ethan Hawke) moves to a new town with his wife and two kids to investigate a murder case where a family were discovered hanging from a tree in the back garden of their house, with the exception of the youngest child who had vanished. It just so happens the house Oswalt has chosen to live in while he writes the book he is working on is the very one and the same where the murders took place months previous. He discovers in the attic a box containing a projector and a set of film reels. His curiosity leads him to watch the Super 8 reels and discovers each one shows the brutal murder of a different family by an unknown assailant. Oswalt nearly calls the police to report the findings but his dream of writing a famous book (after a string of terribly received ones) stop him. As he gets more into his investigation stranger and stranger things start occurring in his house. Whoever had killed all these families now seems to be going after him.

The reason this film is so terrifying is due to the soundtrack. It builds up such terror and atmosphere that everything is turned into an endurance test. At times I thought of shielding my eyes but the knowledge that by far the scariest part of the film was the horror of the music, creeping terror. For example, each of the different montages of Super 8 murders had their own short totally messed up mini soundtrack playing, added a whole new layer of fear as did the build of and crescendo of the music for when the jump scares erupt.

The jump scares actually made me jump on many occasions, one in particular nearly had me shouting in fear, even when they are so obviously coming it still never failed to make my heart skip a beat. The lighting of the film is near non-existent. Normally with these types of films daylight brings with it periods of relief but not so here. 95% of the film takes place in the one location, the night scenes have Oswalt for whatever reason never turning on the damn lights, the most logical step I would do if I heard strange noises in the dead of night. Daytime meanwhile is nearly as dark, the rooms covered with thick curtains that barely let the light in.

Hawke is in every single scene in Sinister, this is very much an event shown from his perspective, he carries the film expertly bringing real flaws to his character of the writer searching desperately for his next big break at the cost of neglecting his family. Acting is all of a high standard, there are not many people in the film but all give solid performances.

I knew nothing about Sinister going in, I thought it was a demonic possession type film but instead plays out (at least initially) very much like The Strangers before diverting into more of an Insidious type vibe, subtly done. The more supernatural elements are also what brings the film down slightly. Spooky ghost children almost dancing around made me laugh, not cry. I didn't really like the look of the make up either on these children. The end twist of Sinister I figured out roughly 20 minutes into the film, it does not really do a good attempt at hiding it, so a later reveal by Deputy So and So (James Ransone nearly steals every scene he appears in with his subtle comedic banter) was not really even needed.

Sinister is a truly unsettling film that combines sound and visuals into a horrific combination. I do not know when I have last been as uncomfortable and yearning for a brightly lit room as I was in the dark cinema. Like Insidious I don't think I will ever wish to see Sinister again, it delivered horror, creeped me out, did it's job. Also like that film it again delivers a simple, yet well created story.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

First Blood - Murder Mystery event at Abington Park Museum

This evening I went to my first ever murder mystery event. Usually, or so TV and films had led me to believe an actual murder takes place but I guess thankfully there were no real murders here. I turned up fashionably late due to some confusion over when it was going to start (7pm, not 7:30pm!). I had been worried there wouldn't be many people going but there was around 30 people in all, the Museum was quite crowded. We were all entitled to one free glass of wine or bottle of beer, and lots of nibbles.

The story for the murder mystery was that the last scenes of a horror film were being filmed, due to budget constraints members of the public had been drafted in as extras to play zombies. The scenes of a Vampire revealing himself to an actress were filmed, all quite humorous due to the actor playing the vampire being a drunk and the real actors (all in character) wandering around in the crowd mumbling to themselves and being larger than life. After some scenes were shot it was time for the murder to take place. The lead actress had been killed in an unknown manner. She had two puncture wounds on her neck as if she had been bitten by a vampire. The police were called and informed the Directors P.A that they would be at the museum in an hour, in the meantime we were given the chance to try and solve who the murderer was.  Soon after another person was found dead, again with two puncture wounds on their neck.

All the 5 or so characters had their own motivations for murder and we were given 10 minutes to go and speak to them all and try and piece together who the murderer was. I am happy to say I solved it and in great P.I style got the correct person even if I had their motivation wrong. The puncture wounds were just a red herring, the actual cause of death was by strangulation.

Having never been to an event like this before I did not know what to expect. As it was it was a bit chaotic at times due to the large crowd, some bits of the performance were missed but the actors were great at really staying in character, it was hard to question them though as I was grinning like a Cheshire cat at the surreal-ness of speaking to people who were acting, a fact that some of them picked up on and still in character asked me why I was smiling when a murder had taken place.

So it was a new experience, a fun one with friendly actors and a crowd of spectators who ranged from drunks, the bemused, and ones really getting into the spirit of the thing. First Blood was performed by the Looking Glass Theatre company.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Evil Dead (2013) - Horror Film Trailer

The Evil Dead trilogy is an amazing thing, Evil Dead is one of my top 10 favourite horrors of all time. I had heard there was a remake in the process (as they seem to be remaking every single horror film ever nowadays) and today saw the trailer for it. Technically this is the 2nd remake as Evil Dead 2 was a reinvention of 1. The film looks to be ultra gory with far more realistic effects used. The original had zero budget and it really showed but the film still managed to be genuinely creepy, making it a classic horror film.

A lack of Bruce Campbell (though he is a Producer), and a lack of humour is not necessarily a bad thing for this reboot, the original film was played mostly straight anyway. The story had continued in games and comics and these continuations were for the most part not actually any good (the Marvel Zombies VS Army of Darkness graphic novel is a must read though). This trailer has gotten me interested, at the very worst I hope it draws people who have not seen the classic trilogy into doing so.

I really must get around to reviewing them on my blog, a stupid oversight on my part. Anyway check out the bloody trailer below.

House Call - Horror Film News

A while back I reviewed House Call a short high quality horror film. For Halloween the film is going to be made available for all to see for a limited time. From October 26th to November 1st is the time it will be made public and can be viewed on the House Call Facebook page as well as Vimeo and Youtube. At just 17 minutes it is well worth a watch.

The Zombie Revolution - London Zombie Event on 27th October 2012

This is actually a charity event so I can't really speak ill of it. On the 27th October 7pm till 9pm there is going to be a zombie walk in London in aid of St John's Ambulance. Everyone participating will be given an MP3 that will play out a story as well as give instructions for the zombie horde to follow such as zombie zumba, and zombie conga. They are hoping to get over 1000 participants which should make quite a good zombie horde.

Tickets cost from £5 to £25 and includes the MP3 download as well as a weekly email. It's all for charity and you might be in need of St John's Ambulance come apocalypse if you accidentally hammer a rusty nail through your hand while making barricades. More details can be found at Zombie Revolution.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Horror News: Halloween Edition 2012 Part 1

As I expected I have become swamped with loads of horror news in the run up to Samhain so I thought a good old fashioned news post was in order.

Firstly might I direct you to a business website. CB Structures Inc design pole buildings, hardly scary stuff, but they have written an article on the best pole barn to have created in event of zombie apocalypse. The article includes details on what materials the structure needs to be created out of but also gives tips on the best food and supplies to have, as well as some useful zombie fighting tips. Having bowling balls to drop out of high windows onto zombies is a fun idea! They also suggest the best and worst people to have in your zombie surviving team. A fun article that is worth having a look at. It can be found at CB Structures Inc.

Now I am not into drum and bass, mostly due to my next door neighbour who plays the infernal stuff loudly all the time, but regardless of that I will mention that a 'drumstep' horror album has been released. No idea what drumstep sounds like, kinda a more electronic drum and bass. 'Monsters Volume 3' by Figure was released on 16th October, it features 15 'spooky' tracks one of which includes a collaboration with Tommy Lee. If this is your type of thing then sure get it, why not. Song titles are cool, my favourite one is titled 'Michael Myers is Dead'.

Last but not least, and while I am on the subject of music I was alerted to a band (Americans UK) who have created a zombie based song titled 'Zombies Attack!!!'. The video for the song is made up from panels from a webcomic that sees zombies attacking the band as they play a gig. Well I will stick it below so you can see for yourself, I thought it was pretty cool, all songs about zombies are of course! Links to purchase 'Zombies Attack!!!' and the comic featured in the song can be found at Trip City.


I still have a Fall Out shelter full of horror news so I will save the rest for another day so as not to bloody the waters. My own news is that I am going to a murder mystery event this Thursday with my father which has the storyline of an actor at a play murdered by a real life Vampire. I will post my thoughts on it on this blog no doubt.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) - Horror Film Review

The Omen had Damien Thorn as a young child, it's sequel had him now as a 13 year old awakening to his destiny. This film he is now 32 years old and the head of a powerful company with close contact with the American President.

Damien arranges to become the American ambassador to Britain as he has realised the 2nd coming of Christ is imminent and that he is to be born in England. It is prophesied that the Antichrist will die, Damien hopes to kill the new Jesus before that happens so that Satan can rule the world. Meanwhile a group of Priest assassins armed with the 7 holy daggers (the only weapons capable of killing the Antichrist) set out to kill him.

First off, boy does this film do some serious ret-conning! The first two films were both blatantly set in the 1970's, yet this film wants you to accept that those events actually took place in the 1950's. To be fair I guess the only way around that would be to have the film take place around 2000 which would immediately date the film but still it is kinda silly. My only other gripe really is that it is supposed to take all 7 holy daggers to kill Damien but here 1 apparently is enough.

This time around I was pleased to see Sam Neill (of Jurassic Park and Event Horizon fame) playing Damien, in his first international film role no less. He really gets into the role of the Devil's son coming across as really quite evil on the one hand but also with a false humanity to him. His alone scenes where he rambles on in prayer to the Devil are fun, and he has the best line in the movie (not hard, the dialogue is pretty terrible!) when he says "Birth is pain, death is pain, beauty is pain!". What of the plot this time around? It is passable and fun. Part of the plan to stop the 2nd coming is to kill all the male born children of the 4th of March, This is shown during a montage of off camera baby deaths with some nasty ones such as a mother ironing her child, and a priest drowning a baby during its baptism implied. A lot of things in this film are implied rather than shown but as always the imagination does a great job of filling in the deaths.

Talking of deaths this time around most the adult ones are of the bumbling, hilariously inept Priest assassin squad. They are really shown as a bunch of clowns coming up with Scooby-Doo level of intelligence plans. From the moment the first assassin climbed a lighting rig in a studio, then perilously walked along it, dagger in hand, slowly creeping up on Damien...who was sat on a chair so far away from the rig that even if the Priest had done a running jump he would not have made it anywhere near him. This was the start of the hilarity as all the Priests end up getting killed in embarrassing, and funny ways that surely must have been intentional. Watch out for the scene on the bridge though, Sam Neill at his most creepy!

The direction is quite well done, a surplus of main characters muddy the water a bit with some odd sub plots that run their course rather oddly (a young boy getting corrupted by Damien, and his right hand man dealing with having to order the deaths of so many innocent babies). Special effect wise they do seem better than Omen II, nothing amazing but cool looking enough.

I have to say I have been quietly impressed with the Omen films. I knew the first was good but expected the sequels to be terrible. They are not, they have each been entertaining despite the somewhat hokey nature of the stories. For this film Sam Neill saves the day, it would have not been half as good without his magnetic presence.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Damien: Omen II (1978) - Horror Film Review

As promised here is the second of the five Omen films. The title of this film is really gonna mess with my filing system (Damien: Omen II? I would have gone with The Omen II).

Initially the film takes places one week after the end of The Omen, but that's just to wrap up the death of a surviving character. Skip forward 7 years and Damien is now 13, living with his Uncle's family in America. He seems quite a normal kid, so normal that he himself doesn't even realise there is anything strange about himself, but a series of disciples of the Devil awaken in him the knowledge that he is the Antichrist. As he comes to terms with this knowledge all around him who discover his evil die in a series of random accidents.

First off Jonathan Scott-Taylor as Damien is not very scary at all. He has kind of a piercing stare about him but is quite small and has a very high pitched voice making anything he says sound silly. William Holden as Richard Thorn (Damien's Uncle) follows the same kind of route that Gregory Peck travelled down in the first film. Interestingly enough Holden was originally picked to play Peck's character so is cool that he instead ended up playing the brother. In some ways this film could almost be seen as a half remake of The Omen but with a lot more ridiculous deaths. The special effects do not seem to be as good, whether it be a woman getting her eyes pecked out by crows (big hair to hide the fact it isn't the actress being attacked!), or the various random other deaths made quite humorous by the various actors actions. Pinned to the end of a speeding train all one character could do was wave his arms around in the air which had me laughing out loud; I'm sure that was not the intended response.

This is not a scary film, I would not say even mildly scary, at least The Omen had its moments. That isn't to say it is a snooze fest, for the near two hour running time I was plenty entertained, and pleasantly surprised that it was watchable and not just a cheap cash in. The plot is just a bit unbelievable, people who find out Damien is the Antichrist all need hardly any evidence, though the watchers who look out for the boy is a clever plot device which led to some obvious yet welcome twists.

All in all not a bad film, I have seen far worse horror sequels (Friday 13th Part II onwards for example). I shall continue on my Satanic journey and soon watch the rest. As always I will end by saying I really love Halloween, wish it was here all year long!


Friday, 19 October 2012

Dead Space 2: Severed (2011) - Sci-fi Horror DLC Review (X-Box 360)

Before playing the DLC for Dead Space 2 I thought I would give the main game a little playthrough just to pick up the controls. I totally forgot how great that game is, though it is true to say it is very noticeable where it stops being survival horror and becomes horror action (around the midway point).

Severed has you playing as security officer Gabe Weller (one of the main characters from the on rails horror shooter Dead Space: Extraction) who is in the Titan mines when the necromorph outbreak occurs. Contacting his pregnant wife who is at the medical centre for a check up he urges her to escape. Then ignoring his orders to combat the necromorphs (nearly his whole team have been killed anyway) he decides to try and rescue his wife.

The DLC is around an hour long and is spread over two chapters. The first is set in the mines, the second set in the medical centre.  Disappointingly there are no new locations used, it is all recycled from the main game with the exception of a multiplayer level that is repurposed. There are no new weapons, one new enemy type and that's about it.  Gabe operates identically to Isaac Clarke, though no zero gravity sections.

Severed is all action, there is no survival horror here. The plot feels rushed and it really does not add anything to the mythos of the Dead Space universe. Admittedly the ending was shocking but the effect was kinda lost as a glitch occurs after completion which means the game fails to end, you have to manually quit out of your game which was a bit dodgy.

All in all not much to recommend here, even if you love Dead Space I would say avoid this, is not worth the cost.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Omen (1976) - Horror Film Review

A special person brought me The Omen box set a while back, I have finally gotten around to watching the films, I started today funnily enough with the first film. I had seen it a while back but my memory was kinda hazy on the particulars of it (the perils of getting old).

When Robert Thorn's son dies soon after being born the staff at the Roman hospital he is at convince Thorn to substitute the dead child for one whose mother died during childbirth so as not to break the heart of Thorn's unknowing wife; Katherine (played by Lee Remick). Five years later and Robert is the American ambassador in London. Their child Damien is loved by them but then things begin to change. Their sons nanny commits suicide to be replaced by a creepy nanny Mrs Baylock, a strange Rottweiler takes up residence at their house, while Damien himself starts to behave strangely (such as being fearful of churches and terrifying animals just by his presence) A crazed priest contacts Robert and informs him in the worst way possible that his son is not actually his son; it is the Antichrist! As more and more people start dying around him Robert sets out to find the truth.

Despite being made in the mid 70's this film still holds up today, it has really good direction, and interesting plot and a great soundtrack, though is not actually scary. Gregory Peck as Robert is brilliantly cast, his slow realisation that Damien is evil is long coming but well done. Damien himself is not really in the film too much, and when he is he is either being silent or screaming. There are a lot of deaths in this film, far more than I recalled, people get killed in a way that made me realise the Final Destination films must be partially based on this. The death's are all violent, but all set up like accidents as well, such as the iconic death of a priest who gets speared after a metal pole on a church roof is struck by lightning causing it to fly off. Other death's are equally as grim; a hanging nurse, several falls from high places, decapitation and more, very well shot with good special effects used.

The film is nearly two hours long but doesn't outstay its welcome with a variety of locations used. Though mainly set in London it also takes in Italy and Jerusalem. While for the most part a thriller there is also a few horror parts, one in particular set in a derelict graveyard was particularly memorable due to a pack of demonic dogs. The making of the film had a lot of bizarre accidents surrounding it such as planes getting struck by lightning, the dog handler being attacked by one of the Rottweilers, and even the girlfriend of one of the crew members got decapitated in a car crash. All nasty stuff but led to the belief by some working on the film that it was cursed by Satan itself!

My film posts get far more views than my other posts yet lately I have been concentrating on the videogames. As such my brain has actually melted and I am struggling to remember how to review films! I will end by stating  The Omen is a definite horror classic. They do not make them like this anymore!..unless you count the 2006 remake that is supposed to be kinda similar (review coming soon!)


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Alien Breed 2: Assault (2010) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

Well the first game in the revamped Alien Breed was called Episode 1 so it is a bit weird that the next game is called Alien Breed 2 and not Alien Breed Episode 2. Again it is an isometric 3D adventure game, it is comprised of five different levels, each one roughly forty minutes long, so for 800 Microsoft Points you get a good few hours.

Episode 1 ended with your character (baldy Conrad) boarding the derelict space hulk his ship the Leopald had crashed into. Assault picks up right where that game ended with you investigating the mysterious ship. It is on a crash course with an icy planet so your priority is to find a way to stop this from happening.

Location wise this is nowhere near as interesting as Episode 1. The Leopald was a ship in a state of disaster, everywhere you went you saw explosions, people dying, panic. The hulk on the other hand has been dead for nearly 400 years, there is no one living on it apart from the billions of alien bugs. As such it is not as exciting to explore. Each level barely looks different from the one before, a series of meaningless tasks  are given to you like restoring power to systems, finding key cards, fixing valves. All not too fun. A few sections split up the fetch quests though, a brief escort mission made a nice change of pace while a late game turret section was fun. Story wise you find a lot about where the bugs came from and how they came to be roaming a dead space hulk, again there are nice comic book sequences between levels. some great voice acting comes to the play later on also.

As was the issue with the first game the aliens are just not varied enough, you have the face hugger clones that burst out of egg sacks, then a bunch that all look kind of similar but I did find them easier to identify than the first game. Again the Aliens style scanner on your HUD is the star of the show creating tension when you see the red dots suddenly appear and charge towards you. There is only the one boss in the game but it was quite an epic one for a game that looks like this, reminded me of the end boss from Resident Evil 2.

I did enjoy ploughing through Alien Breed 2: Assault, and do want to get the third game to finish the story but it just is not varied enough to be an essential purchase. More of the same really, I will leave that up to you on whether that's a good or bad thing.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Mass Effect 3: Leviathan - Sci-fi Videogame DLC (X-Box 360)

Mass Effect 3 left kind of a bad taste in my mouth and not just because of it's 'bad' ending. Mostly because I was impatient to wait for the patch which fixed the bug that stopped me importing my Shepherd into the game so I effectively played through the game using a quite different looking Shepherd. Still I snapped up the DLC for this game, just hoped it would be better than the on disc DLC.

Leviathan has you investigating rumours of an unknown alien being with the ability to destroy Reapers. Not wanting to pass up a chance for further support against the galaxy threatening menace you set out to locate Leviathan to recruit it to your cause whether it wants to or not. And it certainly does not, having the same abilities as the Reapers it controls people to stop you finding it's location, you discover it could even be a rogue Reaper.

This DLC cost 800 Microsoft points and lasted around two hours. It takes in a variety of different locations and is around 50% story and 50% fighting. This was good as I had feared it would be just all mindless arena fights like so many missions in the main game were. The story is actually really interesting, it sheds a lot more light on the Reapers and the reasons for their attempted galaxy wide genocide of every intelligent species.

There are no new enemies, or any boss battles but there are a few new weapons to be found, as well as a new special power. Locations vary, some look great (nothing to rival the Shadow brokers ship from Mass Effect 2) while others are bland pre fab buildings, one cool location had you fighting through a series of walk ways that were getting blasted to pieces around you. Leviathan has kind of a horror bent to it, with plenty of mystery and possessed people.

I enjoyed this a heck of a lot more than I expected. Once all the single player DLC has been spat out I fully intend to start the trilogy again, this time with an evil male Shepherd.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Fantasy Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

Well after nearly a year and 93 hours later I am happy that I have seen as much of Skyrim and done as many quests as I felt the need to. I can't say I completed it as there is not an actual end to it as far as I can tell.  Sure you can get all the quests done, but the world of Skyrim will still be there to explore.

Skyrim sees you as a prisoner on your way to your execution when a dragon appears which everyone finds quite exciting as they thought dragons only to be legends. Through the course of the game you come to discover that you are 'dragonborn' able to use the magic 'shouts' only dragons can, and learn of just why dragons have come back. As always with these games though that is just the excuse for you to be in the world with side quests in the hundreds far out numbering the main plot. You get to join the Thieves guild, to join the Dark Brotherhood, to en roll at the Mages University, become a leader of a clan of Werewolves as well as carry out tasks for both Gods and Demons, but also simple village folk.

Skyrim looks beautiful, it is on the North of the continent and is an icy, snowy, mountainous region. The world looks simply stunning and feels like a place you would just wish was real. There are lots and lots of Towns and Villages dotted around, all with different feels to them and each stuffed to the gills with quests. Over 50 hours into the game and I still had not visited all the towns. The last game 'Oblivion' was not terribly exciting. It had a shed load of dungeons but they were all designed and looked the same.  Here the dungeons are much more interesting and varied and effort has been made to give a unique feeling between them thanks to journals and objects scattered around the dungeons. Some areas in these different caverns and forts actually made me gasp out loud in the level design. Usefully now also there is usually a secret passage at the end of each dungeon that takes you right back to the entrance without needing to back track.

The combat system is so much better this time. You can have magic equipped to one hand, a weapon to the other, or double hands of magic, or even a sword and shield, two handed weapon. All so easily selectable, so streamlined. Oblivion had a broken levelling up system that ended up turning enemies into nightmares, but this levelling system is sublime. Each time you level up you can increase either your health, magic, or stamina and then put one point into a billion different level trees (everything from archery up to lock picking, smithing, armour and speech).

I am struggling to write this, for me Skyrim was not a game, it was an experience, a chance to walk in a fantasy world, a living breathing place. Sure you have zero respect for anyone as they all behave so stupidly but you can just exist without the fear of violence. I would play this game intensely for about a month at a time, and then have a few months off before charging back into it. The shouts are a genius move, they do a variety of different things. For instance one shout gives you Jedi powers; the ability to fling enemies across the environment, by far my favourite shout as there is nothing more satisfying than flinging an enemy off a huge cliff (of which Skyrim has many). Other shouts include the ability to slow down time, move at lightning speeds, summon animals to fight with you, scare away enemies and even summon a freaking dragon to take on your foes!

Enemies are varied, a collection of bandits, soldiers, wizards, witches, zombies (many many zombies!), monsters and animals. Merely wondering around the world of Skyrim will see you assaulted by bears, ogres, wisps and even dragons who act as boss characters. Any fight with a dragon is epic, they attack at any time, in the middle of a swamp, up a mountain, they even attack you in villages where you assume you would have been safe. Killing dragons is important though as each dead one gives you a dragon soul which is used to get more shouts and upgrade your existing ones.

So at 93 hours I have for the time being ended my journey, taken a seat at the Ragged Flagon and put my feet up. There are still many many quests waiting for me, as well as the DLC that features a storyline revolving around vampires, and DLC that lets you purchase a house in the country and raise a family. I don't think I will ever be done with Skyrim, it is the ultimate open world game, even better than Fallout 3 which I adore. It just looks so good, so complete, so large and epic and so damn fun just to walk around in, whether your pushing your demonic horse to its limits (I never knew riding him off a cliff would lead to such a humorous but deadly accident!), bothering the neutral giants and their mammoth herds, collecting plants, or hunting wildlife this game just keeps on giving. Truly epic.