Monday, 30 September 2013

Anger of the Dead (2013) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

Earlier in the year I wrote a small news post about Anger of the Dead, I have had the pleasure of watching the film now. It is an Italian short zombie film clocking in at around fifteen minutes, directed by Francesco Picone.

Alice and Nicholas are in a café where Alice is about to tell her husband some important news. Interrupted by a commotion at a nearby table they see a girl has transformed into a hideous demonic zombie and is chomping down on her boyfriends throat. Cut forward to the future and full on zombie apocalypse has occurred. Alice and Nicholas are on a bridge gathering supplies from the numerous abandoned vehicles left there when zombies attack, their troubles seem to be over when a heavily armed biker appears, but are the zombies the danger they should be most worried about?

First off I love the look of the zombies in this film, all the zombies have almost demonic features, their features twisted into a parody of human rage, they certainly live up to the title 'Anger of the Dead'. They are runners, but also they are not very clever and so easy to avoid and also are easily distracted by noise. A lot of action occurs here, fast, kinetic shots of zombies charging mixed up with focused gun fire and some brutal close combat, the whole bridge scene is quite enjoyable.

The biggest complaint I have to say of this film is that it is a shame the English subtitles are not very well translated, usually you can guess what they should say but at one point when there is quite a big story reveal I couldn't actually work out what it was as it got very lost in translation. The characters in the piece obviously don't get much time to develop but the actors seem to do a good job, the biker (Alex Lucchesi) was the most interesting character, he really stood out as a force to be reckoned with. Special mention must also go to the fantastic music by Riccardo Lacono, reminded me of 1980's zombie flicks which is a very good thing!

Anger of the Dead looks great, has some cool zombie action and was fun to watch, is just a shame the subtitles were below average. The plot is quite traditional (humans are always the real monsters) but it did the job.


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Stan Helsing (2009) - Horror Comedy Film Review

Stan Helsing was free to watch on the X-Box 360 this weekend and as it was horror based thought I might as well take advantage of this to review it. The film comes from the producer of Scary Movie and like that it is a parody of horror films.

Stan Helsing; a clerk at a film rental store is told by his boss he has to deliver some videotapes before he is able to finish work and head to a Halloween party.. Travelling to the delivery address with his friends Teddy (Kenan Thompson from Kenan and Kel), Mia, and ex girlfriend Nadine the group are plagued by bizarre situations. When they get to the gated community the tapes are to go to they discover a cursed place where slashers roam who are made up of parodies of Leatherface, Freddy Kruger, Chucky, Jason, Michael Myers and Pinhead. Everyone thinks Stan is the fabled Van Helsing who it was prophesied would arrive to save the town and so he accidentally finds himself with no choice but to fight back though spends his time trying to do anything but that.

Like Scary Movie the humour here is not fantastic, I haven't seen Scary Movie for a good few years but remember it was funny in places. Stan Helsing didn't make me laugh out loud, or even make me inwardly smile during the entire running time. Bad innuendo, toilet humour and obvious jokes do not a good film make. Along with this bad humour is a lot of female flesh on show, expected for this type of film and again falls flat, the scantily clad characters of Mia and Nadine are attractive but they exist solely for male titillation. Stan Helsing does feature a load of horror film references which is admirable, as well as the mentioned slasher icons there are references to a hell of a lot of horrors such as The Ring, The Sixth Sense, The Hills Have Eyes and many more. My favourite line came from when Stan was talking about the delivery address "Its 1428 Elm Street, I think it's the last house on the left" not funny, but clever I thought.

The main slasher parodies though billed as the main attraction get very little screen time, a lot of the time it is other situations going on like a deranged hitchhiker, transvestite waitress (played by Leslie Nielson) and his karaoke bar and a crazed trucker whose dog (a Cujo-alike) the group accidentally killed.The main showdown with the slasher icons just feels throwaway like there was no time left to film anything better and the ending is just poor. Sure you don't expect great plot but here it is bare bones at best with some bizarre interludes that make zero sense. Acting is of course all pretty terrible as well it must be said and the four main characters are likeable enough for what they are.

You know what your getting into if you watch these type of films, they must appeal to someone as otherwise why do all the parody films keep getting made? I have been critical but as an overall experience I really did not mind it, it kept my interest and while it failed at making me laugh at all the whole feel of the film was consistent and was perfect for a lazy Sunday evening with the brain switched off.


Dead Nation: Road of Devastation (2011) - Zombie Horror Videogame DLC Review

Dead Nation is a fantastic zombie game that came out back in 2011 on the Playstation Network. I loved its level design and it was real fun to play. Road of Devastation is the DLC that was released for it and which I have finally stumped up the £3 something asking price to play.

Disappointingly there is not any story to this one, all you really need to know is it takes place after Dead Nation and has you as either the man or woman character running a series of gauntlets in some pre made testing grounds.for the benefit of your shady captors. You have to run the gauntlet six times, each time the zombies you face get stronger.

What I do like about this is that each time you run the gauntlet there are different routes you can take that give you different benefits. You can go the XP route and get lots of that to improve your weapon stats, you can go the weapon way to get a new weapon, the same for armour and special weapon routes. This at least means that you never get bored as there are in total six alternate paths, one for each round.

The level design is ok, there is no real theme to tie the disparate locations together. For the most part they are streets full of abandoned vehicles, though one route did take me through an area full of vegetation from which plant based zombies emerged.Traps appear sometime that can be used to mass kill zombies such as buzz saws and electrified fences. Enemies are not really any different from the main game, I did not mind though, zombie design is great in Dead Nation, will never tire of shooting cop zombies and the rest, though the zombie soldiers are still kinda boring to fight. On some routes hulking super zombies get air dropped in.

As well as the six round main part you can also access an endless mode. I am sure this may be fun in two player, and it kept me occupied for an hour early this morning but unlike the main game I can't see myself ever desiring to return to this. So much DLC is just not very good, this falls into that category, for the price if your a fan then why not, just don't expect anything in line with the quality of the main campaign.


Monday, 23 September 2013

Riddick (2013) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review

I made it my mission earlier in the year to watch and play all the Riddick content available in order to be up to speed for this new entry in the on going saga. Taking place following the events of The Chronicles of Riddick this is in fact more a sequel to Pitch Black and at times often feels like almost a remake of that. Slight spoilers ahead but I always try not to reveal anything.

The film starts with a badly wounded Riddick (Vin Diesel) on a hostile planet where every single piece of wildlife seems to be after him, a flashback reveals he was betrayed by the Necromancers (who he became leader of in Chronicles) and left for dead on this planet. Several years later and he has fully adapted to the harsh world, with home made weapons, and even training up a wild Dingo like creature as a faithful pet. Coming across an empty mercenary outpost he activates the distress beacon he finds there where his status as a wanted criminal brings down rival groups of bounty hunters both aiming to capture him. This begins a war between them and Riddick, but unknown to the mercs there is a far greater danger than the escaped convict on the planet.

Chronicles was very over the top and bombastic full of special effects and a giant cast, here it has really been dialled down, a much lower budget which brings it more in line with Pitch Black and gives the film a more gritty, primal feel than the ultra clean sets used previous. Riddick is in his element on the wild planet, well he is his usual moody self but the scenes of him interacting with his pet creature give him a more friendly side than has been seen before. The character of Riddick has always come across as far too serious and silly but here he even manages to seem cool at times. this does then gets let down by bizarre out of place misogyny towards the only main female character Dahl (Katee Sackhoff best known as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica). Here finally Diesel gets to be Riddick as he always imagined him to be, rather than his usual method of trying far, far too hard to be an iconic rebellious character, though that isn't to say there are plenty of moments where you can tell he really thinks he is being badass when he almost embarrassingly isn't.

Finally there are decent creature effects, the monsters of Pitch Black were ok looking, the dog creatures in the prison section of Chronicles were truly awful looking though. The wildlife of the deserted planet all look pretty decent, and decent effects really go for a lot of things, maybe not some of Riddicks more outlandish moves but is all fun. The planet itself looks fantastic as well, some wonderful rain sequences later on. I have always appreciated the grimy, dirty style of machinery and buildings in the series, it is always consistent, here is no different, all looks rough and lived in.

The acting and script is not bad, it is quite funny at times, and the film has three distinct acts which all give a different feeling to the film. The first act of Riddick alone is great because of the sole focus on him and his battles in the wilderness, a silent Riddick is a much more fun one to watch. Act 2 sees his battle with the two very different merc groups. One; a ragtag bunch led by Santana (played fantastically by Jordi Molla), the other a more serious military style outfit led by someone who has a connection to Riddick's past. A lot of humour comes from Santana who is truly a nasty character but who spends the film having comically bad thing after bad thing happen to him. The final act feels like a homage to Pitch Black, even having the same sort of character types, though this does seem to drag on slightly, the middle act being the most fun. While some characters are great others don't have much personality to them, Dahl is token hard girl, while most the mercs are just meat bags there to be killed, fun to see the wrestler Batista appear though. Matt Nable as the boss of the second merc group is very good also, he gives some real believability to his role as a father.

Riddick is really quite violent in places, the most gruesome one to date, memorable scene of someone getting pierced through the stomach then lifted up and their head bashed repeatedly to almost pulp against a wall, later there are messy executions where blades get stuck in characters mid slice, and a cool decapitation that looks great, action in general is much better than in previous instalments, the gritty setting helps and smaller, contained story cuts off the chaff that the over blown Chronicles could have benefited from. A few scenes of female nudity that feels tacked on for no real reason, this includes Sackhoff's character which was bizarre and unneeded I felt.

The best film in the series; a desperate Riddick on the run, hunted both by human enemies and creatures on a harsh empty planet shows Diesel performing his role at his best so far.


Thursday, 19 September 2013

Northampton Clown - Horror News

As I live in Northampton I have finally decided I must do a blog post about the so called Northampton Clown that is terrorising the place and who has become an Internet sensation. Northampton has previously been famous for the home town of comic book creator Alan Moore and as the place where an old woman in red beat up a gang of criminals armed with sledge hammers who were in the process of robbing a jewellery store.

The Northampton Clown first appeared on Friday 13th this September, he has appeared in a series of photos waving, or holding a bunch of balloons, dressed much like the evil Clown from Stephen King's IT. A Facebook page has been created called Spot Northampton Clown where the clown has promised that a surprise is in store sometime later this week as well as stating he would be interested in the town holding a Clown Day every week.

I approve of this, horror is of course awesome and is cool it is happening in my home town even if I have yet to see him/it myself. Would be shocking if his intentions actually turned out to be horrendously nefarious but as he has had an interview with the local paper I assume his identity is already known to some so most likely is just a bit of off peak fun.

UPDATE 13/10/2013:

The British newspaper The People revealed the identity of the Northampton Clown in a 2 page spread. You can Google who it is if you wish but personally I would not recommend it as it is more fun not knowing.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

God of War: Ascension (2013) - Fantasy Videogame Review (Playstation 3)

God of War III has sat on my shelf waiting to be played for years but never has as had not got around to doing God of War II, anyway I decided to get all the games in the series (minus dodgy mobile game) to play through them all. God of War: Ascension is the latest one to be released, but the first one chronologically.

Six months after Spartan warrior Kratos was tricked into murdering his wife and child by Ares the God of War he is rapidly going insane, plagued by illusions created by the Furies; the guardians of honour who are tormenting Kratos for breaking his oath of allegiance to the War God. Orkos the oath keeper visits Kratos and informs him that there is a way to forever stop the visions and to break the hold the Furies have over him. As the warrior hunts for the means to save his sanity the Furies in turn hunt him down in order to get him to serve Ares once again.

Ascension like the others before it is a 3D adventure brawler that sees you as Kratos violently battling a series of mythological monsters through a slew of fantastical locations. I thought QTEs (quick time events) were a thing of the past but it turns out they are still going strong here. Many enemies can be finished off with these sequences, while this is mandatory for defeating the bosses. Once you get the hang of them they are not too difficult so are just about excused here. I always feel these games should roll round many different places but here as before a few large ones are used. The Furies prison of the damned is built on the gigantic being Hecatonchires and so the level itself moves around as the giant attacks you. Later on you explore the statue of Apollo which is a huge construct, and an early level in the mountains with huge mechanical snakes was also cool. Locations all look great, there are not really any boring levels, maybe the village you initially start off in.

Fixed camera angles mean sometimes it can be difficult to work out where you are meant to be going in levels, simple puzzles of the switch and moving block variety break up the action and can be satisfying to solve though sometimes a hint as to your general goal would have been helpful. The main meat of the game is the vicious combat.

Kratos is armed with the Blades of Chaos (basically swords on chains) and through the course of the game he gets access to 4 elemental powers of lightening, ice, fire and souls of the underworld...yeah I realise that last one isn't actually an element. Later powers give you the ability to summon a shade of yourself to fight alongside you, as well as a device that freezes enemies and one that repels them. Powers can also be used to solve puzzles. One such power can reconstruct destroyed objects such as broken bridges and crates, while your shade can be used to activate switches. All these items can be powered up by collecting red mana from chests and defeated enemies, not too hard to level them all up to their fullest.

All enemies are finished in super brutal ways; centaurs have their insides ripped open, medusas have their heads sliced open while the poor elephant men end up on the floor with their exposed brain quivering. Heads, bodies, limbs are ripped off, faces are stamped on, monsters get impaled with their own appendages and eyes get torn out. Super violent, channelling the spirit of man indeed! Very satisfying to dismember your mythological foes like this. Bosses occur every now and again and are fun to fight; Furies, a giant Kraken, and a Chimera to name a few.

The plot of Ascension is basic but functional, what I did like was how it is set in both the present and the past. Present Kratos is battling his way through the prison of the damned having escaped his chains, while past Kratos goes on his grand journey. Was interested to know how he came to be captured and the voice work is pretty good with some nice looking cut scenes but certainly nothing memorable. This goes for the plain music as well; just loads of chanting and stuff like you would find in any fantasy game.

Not a bad game, I had fun with this despite occasionally getting lost (due to my own incompetence) and many times dying due to missing QTE's or accidentally jumping off platforms to my doom. Onto the next in the series which I believe is God of War: Chains of Olympus.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Zombabiez - Zombie Halloween Costume for babies News

I got sent an email last month about a Kickstarter for a baby Halloween costume, there is around 30 hours left on the it, and it has achieved its goal so Zombabiez is going to be a thing. It is a torso only costume that looks fun and is totally non violent looking while giving an oddly cute look.

Designed by Stephanie Davidson a recent graduate of the Rhode Island school of design the costume consists of a chequered shirt on top with entrails dangling down all around on the bottom half. The entrails are all primary colours and completely inoffensive and the baby in the Kickstart video seems to like chewing it a lot. Davidson stated she was sick of Halloween costumes for babies being too cutesy and with her love of horror and zombies decided to create her own idea.

While the costume is neat it immediately got me thinking of how a more realistic version could be used in zombie films! I will never get bored of zombie things, which is good seeing as my blog has zombie in the title! You can visit the Kickstarter page here if you are interested in it, has a fun zombie video which is well made as well as more of the process that went into creating this undeadly cool costume.

If you are after more cool Halloween style things then check out Shutter Bombs interesting article Halloween Smoke Bomb Photography - Take Amazing Photos.

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Walking Dead: 400 Days (2013) - Zombie Horror Videogame DLC Review (X-Box 360)

The Walking Dead: 400 Days is the surprise DLC that was released for the most excellent The Walking Dead Telltale adventure game released periodically from last year. 400 Days features five different tales that can be played from any order and surprisingly enough take place over the 400 days from the zombie outbreak. The five stories can be played in any order and once they are all done an epilogue story plays out.

Vince's Story - 2 days after the outbreak Vince is on a bus on the way to prison for murder. Stuck in heavy traffic zombies attack the vehicle which is bad news for him and his two new buddies who are all chained up in it.
Wyatt's Story - Being pursued by a menacing looking truck Wyatt and his best friend drive off into the misty woods where they accidentally mow someone or something down.
Russell's Story - Russell is a teenage boy walking down a long road when he is picked up by a guy in a vehicle whose conversation and actions border on the sinister.
Bonnie's Story - Bonnie; an ex junkie and a couple find themselves hunted by a large group through corn fields for reasons unknown.
Shel's Story - Shel and her younger sister Becca are holed up with a group of fellow survivors at a petrol station. Over time conditions turn increasingly sour as the group leader becomes bitter towards any outsiders.

400 Days took just over an hour to play through, so roughly ten minutes per story. Considering this it is a wonder that you get to really get a feel for the characters and how you think they would act and react to things. The best part of The Walking Dead was really getting into the mindset of Lee and knowing in your mind how you think he would act, here you have far less time to work out how people would act, going by inference of the situation around you. For instance Shel would want to protect her little sister, while Russell's interaction with the stranger would have a lot of mistrust present.

There is at least one huge decision that must be made in each story, some are quite grim and all in running with the theme of the human side of things involving humans and not zombies. In fact the walkers are largely absent from the game, appearing rarely and having little impact on events, from my play through I only encountered zombies properly the once, is hardly even a zombie game yet it works due to the characterisation. Humans are the key component here and manage to be quite effective in creating tension and thrills as well as drama.

I really loved how you could play the game in any order, it was cool piecing together events from the scattered snap shot of various days, having characters from one tale appearing in others lets you join the dots and work out what has occurred over the 400 days. Taking place after The Walking Dead Season 1 there are a few references to things there but are all minor, would have been nice to get some more. It does seem to set things up for Season 2 and apparently the save from 400 Days will also carry into the next season.

You can argue that it is more interactive story than actual game, and it really is but the level of engagement with events you feel you have makes up for this and the action parts were rather dodgy in season 1 anyway. I could have done a whole game of this, like David Moody's Autumn: The Human Condition compilation book but in playable form! I am really looking forward to season 2, forgot how much fun The Walking Dead is.


Saw (2009) - Horror Videogame Review (PS3)

A slight confession of mine is that I have always wanted to play the Saw games, I knew they wouldn't be stellar games but the allure of survival horror drew me on. Finally being cheap enough I purchased the first game.

Apparently canological the game Saw is set between the events of Saw and Saw II. You play as Detective David Tapp who after apparently being killed in the first film awakes in an abandoned mental asylum that has been turned into a giant death trap for his benefit.  Jigsaw informs him he is to be tested for his obsession with catching the killer and must work his way through the asylum solving the many deadly traps and encountering people whose lives he has ruined in his desire to stop Jigsaw. Many different people have also been captured, mostly criminals that Tapp has arrested in the past, each has been given their own game to play with the end goal being to kill Tapp and get the key to freedom hidden inside his body.

Saw is definitely survival horror and the whole premise actually does lend itself well to this type of game. This is more puzzle focused in keeping with the nature of the films, you spend as much time solving puzzles as you do fighting the desperate people trapped in the asylum with you, more in fact. Puzzles range from arranging cogs on a board to operate switches to picking locks, arranging pipes to turn off poison gas, and operating electrical boxes to re route power to doors, all take place in a mini game screen and usually you are given a sometimes harsh time limit to solve these puzzles that do get a bit stale. Not so bad when it is just the one, but when you have to solve many puzzles and fail at the last hurdle it is frustrating to have to re do them all again, especially when the puzzles seem to be random each time.

It is weird that the main niggle I have with the game isn't how it plays, or controls but more on the impossibility of the whole thing. The asylum is absolutely huge, it is full of spike traps, TVs, poison gas, bombs and barbed wire. In short it would have taken a small army to get the place decked out like it is. This also applies to the people captured. At least 50 I would say are there, far more than in any of the films, just thinking about how silly it is that all this could happen did take me out of the experience a bit. I did like that enemies have a legitimate reason for wanting you dead, the idea that each enemy is a trapped soul who can only win their own game by killing you was cool, some enemies don't even attack you; some commit suicide, others forlornly watch you pass by and all around their are torture rooms containing people who failed their initial game of escaping.

The people you face are all very weak, one stab with a scalpel or one shot with a revolver is enough to kill most any enemy. To spice things up some enemies are strapped to explosives and will chase you down while others proximity to you is enough to start your explosive neck brace beeping (you wear this for most the game) so you must get away from them until their own neck brace explodes. Some enemies are blind and react via sound while a Silent Hill style Pyramid Head character (in the shape of a huge person wearing a pig mask) frequently appears in the background to kill off people and generally gets in your way.

Saw is split into around 7 levels each in a different part of the asylum though it kinda looks all similar anyway. Locations range from the cafeteria to theatre, library and cells but there is not much variety. Each level has Jigsaw tasking you with rescuing someone from your past whose life you have affected, including the wife of your partner who died in the Saw film, a reporter who accused you of being the Jigsaw killer, a victim you rescued from one of Jigsaws games and more. The voice acting is pretty terrible though, all these characters just sound angry and annoying, you would expect the situation they are in they would maybe be scared instead? A bit silly to be honest and another thing that drew me out of the experience.

It is quite a dark and grim game, it evoked memories of Manhunt for the sense of being played by an unseen voyeur, and also of Silent Hill with the grimy look of the setting but doesn't manage to be as good as either. The Saw films are described as torture porn and the game seems to go for a similar vibe, many times you have to fish keys out of a toilet full of needles, or stick your arm in a barrel of acid for a key for no real reason, speaking of which you sustain vast damage doing this but quickly vanishes after a moment, another silly little thing. It got to be quite formulaic but despite that I could not stop playing as it is all mostly so easy and entertaining enough that you just slide through losing hours to it. It all leads up to a bleak ending that was something I totally thought it would be. I don't like the Jigsaw killer as a character, and everyone in the universe are super annoying so never cared for them.

Levels are full of tripwires and rigged doorways meaning you have to be ever vigilant, didn't stop my head suddenly exploding as I set off yet another shotgun due to my haste. Also you spend the entire game shoeless so broken glass on the floor must be avoided. Why Trapp didn't take the shoes of any of the people he kills is beyond me.

Obviously Saw was never going to be a must have title, and it is designed to appeal to fans of the series but as a videogame survival horror it does enough to appeal to horror fans even if it does not excel at anything. I will probably pick up the sequel soon enough as that is also cheap as chips now.


Sunday, 8 September 2013

Fatal Rewind (1991) - Sci-fi Videogame Review (Megadrive/Genesis)

As a teen Fatal Rewind was one of those games that I would spend hours studying screen shots for, It was even featured on the classic 'to be this good takes Sega' advert as an early reason to get a Megadrive/Genesis. Fatal Rewind was in fact the Amiga and Atari ST game 'The Killing Game' released a year previous that had two levels chopped off and a name change for it's console outing.

In the future there is a popular TV show called The Killing Game in which participants are forced to enter with the reward for winning the game being freedom. You play as one such contestant. Wearing a mech suit your goal is to forever advance upwards through the sets avoiding the ever rising acid river and also dispatching the many robots programmed to kill you.

This is one tough cookie, you collect power ups that can be used to change the gun you fire but there are also key cards you need to get to progress which take away what ever power up you currently own. The enemy design is quite bland with floating groups of squares and circles, your mech is quite cool, able to jump kinda high and also able to scale walls with ease. Each stage is split into 2 acts, all stages themed on different things. The first stage has a futuristic look to it for instance while later stages have an underground cave, Greek temple motif and more.

As a 16 bit game it really does hold a special place in my heart, it is still as fun and challenging to play as ever and has a great tune playing even if there is only the one tune throughout the entire game. Special mention must go to the novel replay feature. When your mech explodes and you die a replay is shown, a replay that lets you take over at any point meaning you don't have to do the whole stage over, kinda cool!


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) - Sci-fi Film Review

With Riddick due out this Wednesday I thought it was high time I saw the previous one having played the game and watched Pitch Black and Dark Fury. Apparently The Chronicles of Riddick is a cult classic despite not doing well at the cinema. Just checked this and the directors cut sold 1.5 million copies on its first day of release!

Five years after the events of Pitch Black and Riddick's self imposed exile to a desolate frozen planet is ended with the arrival of bounty hunter Toombs. Knowing of only one man who knew his location Riddick heads to New Mecca where the priest he rescued in Pitch Black resides. There Riddick finds out that the planet is about to be assaulted by Necromongers; a mysterious unstoppable army who are out to kill or enslave the entire universe. The leader of the Necromongers; Lord Marshall wants Riddick dead for he is the last of the Furyan race who were prophesied to kill him.

There are so many special effects used in this film that it gets an unrealistic feel to it, so many of the settings are fantastical and large in scope that they just look fake, like being inside a videogame. That is not to say the film looks bad, it looks fantastic, just was always in danger of dragging me out of the experience due to the unreal look of locations.

I have said before but Riddick is a complete dick of a character, usually he is a pretty damn miserable, unlikeable being, here is not really any different, it feels like he is the only one who doesn't know what a joke he is. Still there are quite a few awesome fight scenes with him battling multiple adversaries at once and he even gets to show some rare emotion at one point which made a nice change but overall he is still a complete one dimensional anti hero. Much better is the character of Jack (now named Kyra). She has some crazy combat skills that perfectly complement Riddicks fighting style, her character was a much more likable one and more awesome to watch her in action with her cool shoe blades she is armed with.

Judi Dench (who has a small part in the film) has gone on record to say she had no idea what the plot was, I kinda agree, it is a simple plot yet manages to seem convoluted and confusing so much so that my first attempt to view it a few months back failed. It has a great style to it and some cool sequences, one where Riddick is racing across the surface of a desert planet, out running the deadly sunrise was a particular highlight, as is the design of the Necromongers, whose ships resemble huge stone statues and communicate via human in a bubble device things (hard to explain!), great designs, unique.

The CGI effects may be bad at times, such as the battle with the monster dogs but the action more than makes up for this, maybe style over substance but it doesn't matter when it is so inventive. I am really looking forward to Riddick now, this feels like a film I would happily watch again, something that I don't get the urge to do often.


Monday, 2 September 2013

You're Next (2011) - Horror Film Review

It has been kicking around since 2011 yet has only just saw a cinema release. I thought the trailer was poor and I was so sick of home invasion films that I only went to see it for my blog, in fact just before it started I sent a friend a text saying I did not want to be there. Still despite my tiredness and apathy I decided to give You're Next a chance. Warning, there be slight spoilers ahead!

Crispin Davison (A.J Bowen) and his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson from Home and Away) arrive at Crispin's rich parents house out in the country along with his brothers and sister to celebrate the parents wedding anniversary. During the anniversary meal the home comes under crossbow attack from outside by an assailant wearing an animal mask, after more violence it is revealed that there is also an invader already in the large house. With their cars disabled and a mobile phone jammer stopping any calls made the survivors must find a way to get help before all are slaughtered by the merciless killers.

This film is freaking awesome! My expectations were so low and at first it all seemed justified. It starts off like any other film of this type, though the Davison family are quite dysfunctional and all seem to have grudges with each other. There was a vein of humour that is odd for home invasion films but still I was prepared for tradition. The initial attack leaves the family panicked and it is quite tense until the hilarious moment a character nobly runs out the house to get help (in slow motion) and is immediately killed by a piano wire. You're Next is laugh out loud funny, and I wasn't the only one, the entire cinema was laughing at points in this film. The douche brother Drake walking around with an arrow stuck in his back, the sarcastic comments the group say to each other, and the bumbling antics of the invaders are all so funny and fresh feeling without being over the top.

Usually invaders in these films are emotionless husks but here they make a lot of mistakes and get into Home Alone levels of ineptitude thanks to main lead Erin whose hidden survivalist background makes her more than a match for all the attackers combined. She is a very strong female lead and a joy to watch as she is hyper violent and awesome. Many times the invaders are humorously repelled thanks to her efforts via a variety of methods. The second I saw her beat someone to death with a meat tenderiser was when it really felt the tables had turned and she at least would survive. So used to seeing scared hero's just trying to survive that it is refreshing to see someone not holding back.

You're Next is super violent, well deserving of it's 18 certificate, people are stabbed, impaled, hacked at and more all with lashings of blood and gruesome sound effects, hell, someone even gets killed via food blender! Especially later on there is a strong 80's horror vibe going on, an amazing soundtrack complimenting the hunt around the house perfectly. Plot is where it is at it's weakest, has a predictable but fun midway twist and some other twists that I never saw coming but no questions are left unanswered about motive. With the father being an ex M.O.D employee and various family members and nearby neighbour all having reasons why someone may be after them it is not right away clear cut why they are targeted. The title 'You're Next' comes from that message being written in blood on the walls at various points in the film, not sure why the need was there to do that and is a poor title that didn't make me want to see it. The usual thing of people very quickly getting over the death of loved ones occured and the fact the group now there is a killer upstairs yet don't try to find him, plus the fact they are always splitting up led to slight rolling of eyes but also gave loads more kills (many people die in this film, a high bodycount, and a high number of inventive deaths!)

Overall it combines genuine horror and violence with a rich layer of comedy that came out of nowhere and is never over played. I was taken aback by just how much I enjoyed this film, left the cinema with a big grin on my face, fun, is indeed fun and shows their is still life in the home invasion genre.


The Amateur Monster Movie (2011) - Zombie Horror Film Review

The Amateur Monster movie is an indie film that sets itself up as a parody of terrible horror films. The question to be asked is can a cheaply made amateur horror film really manage this task?

The intro in which a Boy Scout group are slaughtered by a werewolf and zombies on the small Island of Cadaverous sets up the tone of the film well giving legitimate humour and also to show that despite being a parody it wouldn't skimp on violence. The action then goes to loner nerd Walter Romero (Chris Ouchie) whose discovery at school of his best friends death at the hand of monsters transforms him into an action hero of a kind determined to get to Cadaverous Island and take his revenge. Along the way he joins up with stoner Johnny Mason (Kyle Richards who also wrote and directed the film) and school hottie Ashley Valinski (Samantha Goetz). Meanwhile after zombie apocalypse starts to claim the town the slimy Mayor and a group of Police led by foul mouthed, no nonsense Officer Larry Hopkins (Steve Golla) head to the Island to answer a distress call.

Now I did like The Amateur Monster Movie, it has a lot of good things going for it and some of the humour hits the nail on the head. The purposeful over acting of the characters works a lot of the time, not just being restricted to shouting or over empathising words. Ouchie is something quite different in his role as Romero, his character seems to act like he thinks he should be expected to act speaking a lot of stilted rabble rousing soundbites that no one really pays much attention to, his blind adherence to the stereotype he has put himself as makes him assume Ashley will become his girl, and his grim determination to end the horror is at complete odds with the bullied loser he is at the films start. Surprisingly it is a lot of the adult actors whose roles fall flat, maybe the wooden acting fits in with the aim to do a parody but it just makes their roles seem flat and boring.  The stoner character just become super irritating, Golla and his fellow officers are awesome though.

Mostly this functions as a zombie movie and has enough that it does a fun job, the zombies have some grey makeup on and that is about the extent of it but I am one of the proponents of the adage that that is all you need, they just need to look different from the humans but alike at the same time. Usually zombie violence on humans result in latex skin tear but other ones such as a zombie pulling someones head off looks bad. Never scary but then that isn't really the point. Characters treat the zombies with little respect such as the stoner trying to imitate Michael Jackson's Thriller dance in front of the approaching hordes. The werewolf looks rubbish, I'm not really sure what the point of it in the film really is and apart from a few small scenes and a cringe inducing song played during a Scooby-Doo style chase scene it is not even relevant.

Frequently I was laughing out loud during the film, it excels when it is doing montages and dance scenes, one where a trio of characters are dancing in their truck to music on the radio as their colleague is slaughtered behind them was fantastically done, and a montage scene in which Romero and his new found friends get stoned intercut with scenes of zombies taking over the town is really well edited together. Many of the jokes do fall flat such as low brow scat jokes but others such as the recurring 'double team' joke became quite funny and are used in moderation. Love the way that Romero doesn't manage to hit literally anything in his shotgun action scenes just adds to the characters endearing charm.

The soundtrack is awesome, by far the best thing next to the humour, good enough that I sat through the entire end credits to listen to it. The dialogue is badly written, far too much swearing uncomfortably jammed in that just sounds too forced and out of place that it brings you out of the experience. A lot of characters you wouldn't expect to die are killed, even for a zombie film characters die who I didn't expect to. Plot is terrible but it is meant to be and the script does highlight this.

All in all The Amateur Monster Movie is certainly not terrible, it has enough going to keep it entertaining, maybe some stuff should have been left on the cutting room floor to trim some of the fat off, still I feel it is worth a watch.