Thursday, 31 October 2013

Halloween Special 2013 - Underrated Horror Videogames

Happy Halloween from a very tired Rotting Zombie. You may see from the photo above that there were at least 8 games yet only 5 are actually discussed in any detail. This is thanks to a real nightmare happening of Blogspot deciding to crash deleting over an hours worth of work despite reassuring me it was saving constantly. I am very exhausted and cannot bring myself to waste another hour redoing so will just skip over the games that were tore away from me.
Below is my Top 10 most under-rated videogame that I own (apart from 9 and 10 that I used to own)

10. Galerians

Teen boy killing people with the power of his mind in a pre rendered survival horror. Can be frustrating a times and I admit I never actually completed it.

9. OverBlood

A terrible looking game with atrocious controls. Luckily there are only 3 enemies in the entire game to fudge your way past. Great Sci-fi tale concerning zombies, amnesia and a vast deserted underground facility.

8. Ghosthunter (2003) - Playstation 2

This PS2 game kinda fell under the radar a bit. Now I have only actually played through this once so its inclusion on this list is a bit sketchy. From what I remember you play as a Police Officer investigating a crime scene when you somehow end up freeing an evil spirit. Different portals open up around the crime scene that take you to different haunted locations around the globe. The variety of the locations was what really stuck with me as there is no introduction or clue as to where you are so it is up to you to discover. I recall an early level set near New Orleans out in the swamps that featured a creepy wooden house full of possessed Teddy Bears. Each location had its ghost types and featured some giant bosses (though I remember the camera was dodgy).

What stopped me ever replaying Ghosthunter though was the terrible last level of the game, bland and featureless it just felt like the designers had run out of money or ideas and was a poor end to an otherwise really interesting game. I also recall the ghost of your deceased wife helped you and was controllable at points in the game which was fun.

7. Forbidden Siren

You play as a variety of different people trapped in a village under the curse of a blood rain that turns all it touches into demons. Powerless for the most part you can use a special ability that lets you see through the ghouls eyes. Very hard and obscure with its puzzles but frightening.

6. Shadow of Memories (2001) - Playstation 2, PC, X-Box, PSP

Shadow of Memories is a combat-less adventure game that starts with your characters murder at the hands of an unseen assailant. You awake in a strange dimension where a creepy creature tells you that he is able to send you back to the day you died in order for you to change your destiny. Destiny is not that easy to dodge though and each time you avoid your murder you soon are dispatched via a different means. Each chapter has you trying to prevent your death as well as travelling through 4 different time periods of the German town you are trapped in; the 1600's, 1901, 1980 and present day. Slowly you unravel the mystery of why someone wants you dead.

Featuring 7 wildly different endings depending on your actions throughout Shadow of Memories is a surprisingly chilling race against time that had a lot of replay value and features clever use of time travel paradoxes.

5. Silent Hill: Downpour (2012) - X-Box 360, Playstation 3

The most recent game on my list and one that I just don't understand why it scored so averagely. I am a huge fan of the Silent Hill games but even I found Silent Hill: Homecoming to be bland, by the numbers. Yet from the very first intro cinematic I was hooked on Downpour. It is true the poorly implemented tutorial sequence is off putting but persevere and you get an interesting tale. Playing as convicted criminal Murphy Pendleton you are being transferred to a different prison when the prison bus crashes and you make your escape to a nearby town...that just happens to be the cursed Silent Hill. As is always the case you are forced to confront your hidden demons.

The locations such as the orphanage and public library give some decent chills while the ever present local radio station run by a DJ trapped in the town gives scene specific licenced songs that I though was a nice touch. The over world sections in which the town twists and morphs into hell on earth were also very well done. Locating a beating human heart in a monster filled maze of a basement is not an experience I will soon forget.

My only real complaint other than the tutorial was that for all the many fun side quests you get given they all result in frankly rubbish rewards.

4. Manhunt

You play as James Earl Cash; a man forced to participate as the star of a brutal snuff film, following the orders of a crazed Director who pits various gangs against you such as white supremacists, survivalists and crooked cops. Very violent, stealthy and inventive, a real exploitation feel to it. 

3. Forbidden Siren/Fatal Frame

The scariest game I have ever played. A young girl trapped in an old mansion in the mountains of Japan. Her only defence against the ghosts is a supernatural camera. So scary, even steals scenes right of The Ring

2. Condemned: Criminal Origins (2005) - X-Box 360, PC

Despite being a launch title Condemned is still one of my favourite games on the 360 and is very scary at times. It is a first person survival horror in which you play as a homicide detective on the hunt for a serial killer. Early on he frames you for the murder of a fellow office and so begins a crazy chase around the most derelict and dare I say it condemned places in the city, battling hundreds of insane, murderous homeless people along the way. Rather than be gun focused most the action takes place with melee weapons that you literally rip off the walls, items such as steel pipes, wooden boards, and even mannequin arms become your best form of defence against the brutal enemies you fight.

Starting off bland the locations soon come into their own, highlights being the abandoned shopping centre, still decked out in full Christmas gear, and the claustrophobic library, closed due to a severe fire; creepy as all hell.

There was a sequel but it was a shadow of its former self with the fear removed and the plot explained in such intense detail that all the mystery was swept away. How Condemned 2 managed to make not only a visit to a doll factory mundane, but also even managed to make being chased by a zombie bear a snooze fest I just don't understand.

1. The Suffering (2004) - Playstation 2, X-Box, PC

One of my favourite games of all times and one that I can't help but play through in a single sitting every single time I dust it off. People laud Bioshock for its sense of place yet The Suffering is the definite article. Set on the prison island of Carnate you play as Torque a man on death row for the murder of his wife and child. One night the island comes under vast supernatural attack and Torque finds himself freed from his cell. With the sole aim of finding a way off the doomed island he sets out to battle the legions of hell.

A morality system is in play that lets you help or hinder the people you encounter and gives you an ending based on your actions. An early example is a inmate strapped to an electric chair, the option is left to you whether you kill him or not, more extreme examples include a man with all his limbs removed begging to be killed, a bullet to the head actually counts as a good action. The island has a rich back story that is told via notes written by a wife of one of the wardens. Slavery, witch burnings, cover ups and barbaric experiments on the mentally ill, all have taken place through the history of the place and the great concentration of evil has given forth to creatures that are embodiments of the evils done. For example in the prison you get monsters with syringes for fingers; the embodiment of lethal injection, the grounded ship you find later is surrounded by bloated creatures whose stomach explode when killed to release hordes of rats; the embodiment of the slaves left to die by a greedy captain.

An extremely gory game with lashings of blood and a strong horror element that was criticised as almost torture porn but the character of the island and the things you face create an amazingly fun experience, one that is long and also never gets boring.

As is sadly often the case a sequel was created: The Suffering: Ties that Bind that despite a very strong first 10 minutes falls into disaster with a terrible plot, stupid changes to gameplay and recycled enemy types that are lazily slotted in (the lethal injection monster now rebranded as the embodiment of drug abuse instead for example).

So there you have it, my spoooooky Halloween horror list. Thanks for reading and once again...
Happy Halloween!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Lord of Tears (2013) - Horror Film Review

I received Lord of Tears for review a few weeks back. With my day job being so busy lately I wanted to set aside watching it for when I was not as drained. The trailer was awesome and so I wanted to give the film the time that was needed to soak it all in. Lord of Tears is set in Scotland and really captured the feeling of that place.

After James Findlay's (Euan Douglas) estranged mother dies he receives a letter written to him by her as well as being given ownership of her belongings that include a remote mansion. The letter warns James never to go to the mansion, a childhood incident in which James was supposed to have been driven near mad there given as the reason why. With no memory of his early years and curious about why he was warned away from the property he decides to head there to confront whatever hidden demons he has. At the mansion he meets an intoxicating young American woman; Evie (Alexandra Hulme) who seems to be the embodiment of the joy and happiness that his life has been missing. Plagued by horrific nightmares and visions of a strange Owl Man creature he is nonetheless determined to discover the forbidden secret, helped along by the alluring woman.

Haunting, chilling and often nightmarish Lord of Tears has a lot going for it. With influences that include The Wicker Man it fits into the 'folk-horror' genre (that according to Director Lawrie Brewster is an actual thing!) Mixing Scottish mythology with fiction to create a sense of evil and unease about the mansion. The embodiment of this being the very iconic Owl Man. Wearing the attire of a Victorian gentleman, yet with the head and talons of an Owl it is an intimidating sight, quick shots, and long far away shots give it a dream like feel. Seeing a man with an owls head standing silently in woodland is just un-nerving. David Schofield is the voice of the creature, a deep booming voice but I really feel that the particular deep booming vocalisation took away from the creation at times with the sometimes corny lines it speaks. Skipping media types but it reminded me a lot of Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill videogames. Lord of Tears in general gave me the sense of a survival horror.

With the majority of the film involving just two characters they needed to be strong. Hulme is wonderful as the eccentric Evie, she is a dancer and this is shown at various points when bizarre and somehow unsettling routines are done by her. The very first one in which she dances around James as he sits in a chair had my goosebumps going for no discernible reason. Douglas is great as Findlay. The more time he spends at the house the more his mind unravels as the memories of his past flood back, The relationship between these people is really something special and very well done.

Sometimes quite Gothic (huge mansion, mysterious locked basement, family secrets etc) Lord of Tears is at its best during the nightmare interludes. The style of lots and lots of quick shots to create fear works fantastically and I thought the way an entire sub plot was told mainly just by nightmare images was genius and paid off very well. At times Findlay comes under sustained threat in horrific sequences of insanity that can be quite frightening but always seem to be just too over long.

The plot was interesting and had beats that reminded me of The Wicker Man, the whole mythology of the Owl Man well presented. The plot twists that come were super obvious for the most part, especially the biggest one that is heavily sign posted up to the reveal but this did not detract too much. The mythology and the setting create a bizarre sense of believability.

Special mention must go to the fantastic soundtrack, vocal tracks used at the most perfect times. The DVD actually comes with a soundtrack CD which was cool. The film is presented quite uniquely in this day of package-less media we seem to be getting into. Lord of Tears comes in quality packaging ladled with artwork and includes not just the soundtrack but also a booklet and a link to a 440 page downloadable book that includes story boards, the script, history of how the film came to be made and some interesting short stories.

Lord of Tears is very compelling viewing, atmospheric with a great sense of loneliness, regret, sadness and horror, beautiful and at the same time chilling it stands out from the pack.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Raventhorne (2011) - Fantasy Videogame Review (X-Box Indie)

First off, must wish a happy birthday to my friend Claire as it is her 27th birthday today, woop! Onto the review. As always I have loads of indie games waiting to be played. I must stress I have only played the demo so is not that fair a review. A long day at my day job makes for a tired rotting zombie. Raventhorne is a 2D fantasy brawler with RPG elements.

After waking up after apparently being dead (I kind of skipped the intro) you head off into Viking land to battle monsters. You play as some sort of Viking and are armed with a sword, hammer, and have access to magical attacks.

I was initially thrown by how tough the enemies were, the first one I encountered took a hell of a beating before it was vanquished. A few enemies later and I levelled up, becoming stronger and gaining more health so I think after a tough start it may get easier to play. You have a stamina bar also that quickly reduces meaning you are left defenceless at times during fights which was irritating.

Raventhorne looks beautiful, almost hand drawn 2D art style to it though the animation were a little bit Monty Python-esque for my liking, frames missing or some such thing. While I soon tired (what with being tired in the first place anyway) I feel that with proper investment there would be some fun to be had here, looks good and has a fitting fantasy soundtrack.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Mr Kipling Fiendish Fancies - Halloween Horror Food Review

Every year around Halloween food manufacturers either morph their products into a Halloween theme or bring out something just for the season. I really do love shops around this time of year, I always think how amazing and awesome it would be if all year round there were huge cobwebs and spooky designs in shop windows. Anyway, I got to try a fiendish fancy cake the other day. The packaging promises that they are exceedingly creepy...

As far as I could tell they are just normal cakes. They have a cool orange and black outer sugary shell, inside is just cake. I was expecting hidden razor blades, cockroaches, hell even a severed finger, but no, just a very sweet cake. Nothing creepy about this! Just who are they testing this with to come up with the false information that these are in any way creepy!

I don't know if this was just coincidence but my dear friend who purchased these and who I assume consumed the majority of these went missing one day later. She was eventually found in an abandoned mental asylum speaking in tongues, coated with some strange ectoplasmic goo, strange runic symbols carved into her very flesh, no memory of what had happened to her, or what had become of the cakes. Maybe the curse of the fiendish fancies caused this, though thinking about it the exact same thing happened to her back in April so probably not...

Anyway. Darn nice, bad for you cakes but in no way affiliated with the dark arts, nice packaging design does not change this fact.


Monday, 21 October 2013

God of War: Chains of Olympus (2008) - Fantasy Horror Videogame Review (PS3)

God of War: Chains of Olympus was first released in 2008 for the PSP. In 2011 it was remastered and put on a disc alongside God of War: Ghost of Sparta on the PS3 which is the version I played.

Chronology wise this is the 2nd in the series taken place some years after the events of God of War: Ascension. Kratos has been working for the Gods, hoping to one day be freed from the pain and torment he has known after being betrayed by Ares the God of War. Summoned to the city of Attica to stop a Persian invasion he witnesses Helios the Sun God plummet out the sky and the dark land become enveloped by a strange mist. Morpheus the God of Dreams has plunged the world into slumber, this has also afflicted most of the Gods of Olympus. Setting out to free the Sun God Kratos uncovers a plot to destroy the world, but just who is responsible?

Technically this is the first PSP game I have ever played. I expected the graphics to be quite basic which they are, though they are functional and give a good sense of scale. The HD up-ressing is well done, everything looks smooth though close up can be quite blurry. Coming from the new PS3 Ascension to a 5 year old game was quite jarring (I am currently on a mission to play all games in chronological order) but at times the locations were quite interesting with some grand scope (a section set in Tartarus features a huge bound Titan in the background for example). Battles are more arena based, often upon walking into a large area red barriers will appear on all the exits while enemies start spawning out of the ground. A maximum of around 5 enemies at once, though the combat is good fun.

I expected Chains of Olympus to be quite short but it was good to find out this is a decent length, must have been around 5 or 6 hours in total. The biggest concession was save points everywhere, along with checkpoints everywhere. The actual save motion is kinda badly done, as is the inventory screen which reeks of PS1 quality style. The music is actually really good and fitted the Greek mythological style to a tee. Cutscenes frequently pop up and are not bad, fully voiced and as is always the case with these games there are lots of basic looking topless females if that is your thing.

The main enemy type you battle are undead soldiers, armed with swords and bows. Bigger enemies such as golems and giant wolf creatures appear frequently as do more demonic creatures and flying bird monsters. Kratos has his chains as his default weapon but later gets access to a powerful armoured glove. He also gets access to some magical attacks such as an Ifrit, the gaze of Charon and an awesome Sun shield that can be used to fling back projectiles at their sender as well as interrupt attacks in order to counter attack. Bosses are fun to fight and start well with the early battles against a huge beast; the Basilisk. Nearly every monster you fight can be defeated with QTE's that involve inputting button presses or rapidly tapping buttons. The ones that require you to use the analogue stick I found hard to get to grips with initially that led to some frustration.

Starting off in the cities of Attica and then Marathon you soon get to various different temples but the highlight by far was the Underworld Hades which Kratos travels to for reasons I didn't particularly understand. While here you fight through various hellish places that did bring to mind Dante's Inferno. The plot is very basic, this very much feels like a side story but it does get really interesting towards the end having some quite cool moments (as well as the weirdest QTE I have ever done!). From when Kratos goes to Hades though I did get confused as a new story seemed to start that I seemed to have missed the start of.

With experience gained to improve your weapons, and hidden items that increase your health and magic the combat and exploration while simple, never gets boring. Really not the hardest game in the world but I did have a lot of fun exploring this simple looking, yet enjoyable world. Onwards to..God of War!


Sunday, 20 October 2013

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) - Zombie Horror Film Review

Resident Evil: Retribution is the fifth film in the W.S Anderson Resident Evil saga. It seems the new one out next year shall be the last in the series. Originally released in 3D though I saw the DVD version for this review.

After an awesome intro that ties up the cliffhanger of Resident Evil: Afterlife we find Alice (Milla Jovovich) a prisoner of Umbrella some unknown time later. She is being routinely tortured and interrogated by Jill Valentine who is under mind control by the evil corporation. A system shut down occurs in which Alice is able to escape her cell. She soon comes into contact with Ada Wong (Bingbing Li); a known Umbrella spy who reveals she now works for Wesker (Shawn Roberts reprising his role from Afterlife) who has now defected. He appears on a video screen to tell Alice that the base is under the control of an A.I; Red Queen, the very same one that was out for her blood in the very first film, and that a team of specialists are at that very moment breaking into the remote Russian base to free her. Along the way she finds a young girl (Aryana Engineer) who mistakes her for her mother (for reasons).

Retribution starts off with action and never lets up, it gets to be quite exhausting with the almost zero amount of down time. The thing that drew me most to this was the return of numerous characters from all of the previous films. From the first one you have the very hot Rain (Michelle Rodriquez) and One. From Resident Evil: Apocalypse Carlos (Oded Fehr) and Jill (Sienna Guillory) appear, while from Afterlife the character Luther West (Boris Kodjoe). It can be quite dizzying at times the amount of new and old characters who come and go, all handily explained with the excuse of the facility Alice had been held in partly being a clone factory. It was really fun to see Jill (wearing her Resident Evil 5 catsuit), Carlos and Rain all on the bad guys side now (and on the good side also, as I said; clones). Leon Kennedy and Barry Burton from the games appear but this just adds to the crowded cast of characters. Ada Wong is the best voiced though as Bingbing Li who plays her has her voice dubbed by the voice actor from the games!

Also adding to the noise is the fact that the place Alice is held at was also used for demonstrational purposes to show the effects of the T-Virus to potential customers. Huge life like habitats have been made that mirror central New York, suburban America, Moscow, Japan (the location from Afterlife's intro) and China, though that last one is not actually shown. Populating these simulations are the clones who have been given false memories to help accurately simulate an outbreak. A dream sequence Alice has of being a suburban housewife heavily mirrors the start of the Dawn of the Dead remake, very heavily but is awesome. In each of the zones entered the watching Red Queen starts up a simulation to try and kill the intruders and escapees.

Zombies now run, they charge headlong and are of the Las Plagas variety with tentacles coming out their mouths, universally run, but there are so many that it is awesome. A great early fight sequence has Alice battling a literal horde of undead via a bike chain and pistol. Moscow has Soviet zombies armed with guns and vehicles, these also look awesome and are quite fearsome, creating a fun chase sequence. As the giant with the massive axe was so popular in Afterlife there are now two chucked into the mix and while there are no zombie dogs for once, there is instead a elephant sized licker that constantly harasses the group. In the end it is the human enemies who have the most screen time, a never ending final duel fight sequence is very well choreographed and mostly fun as all hell to see and has a great and stylishly shot finish to it.

The main problem with Retribution is that it is all style over substance. It all looks great, the CG effects while still dodgy at times are so much better with each installment. It is a real roller coaster though which becomes a bad thing. It is like a LSD induced fever dream, a manic desire to cram as many characters from the game as possible leading to the feeling that it is almost just fan fiction. The plot is very basic and not that exciting, compared to the scope of the others this feels like a side story, like a straight to DVD film much like the Japanese CG Resident Evils are. As a geek I have to say someone injecting the Las Plagas virus into themself should mutate into a monster, not just become invincible as happens here!

Now I am very tired and this is not the most condensed review I have ever done so I will end here. To sum up; Retribution looks fantastic, very stylish and features some fantastic action sequences as well as fun nods to the video games, yet the horror element the series so struggles to hold onto has mostly been lost once more.


UPDATE: 30/03/2020:

Having watched this again recently me thoughts are pretty much the same. It really is style over substance. It was nice to see a whole bunch of returning actors it has to be said.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) - Zombie Horror Film Review

Having gotten a hold of Resident Evil: Retribution (which I have not seen when I wrote this review) I am excitedly going back through the previous ones. Hot on the heels of Resident Evil: Apocalypse comes my review of Resident Evil: Extinction. Boy this is such a better film than that one.

Around five years after the events of Apocalypse and the measures used to contain the T-Virus outbreak in Raccoon City have drastically failed. The T-Virus swept the Globe turning the majority of humanity into brain dead zombies. The virus even affected plant life, killing off vegetation, soaking up the oceans and turning everything into a desert wasteland straight out of Mad Max. Survivors live a nomadic life, forever on the move as to stay in one place will result in annihilation at the billions of hungry ghouls. Alice (Milla Jovovich) has been travelling alone, worried that the evil Umbrella corporation are still after her and so not wanting to put her friends in danger. Meanwhile her friends have joined a convey, that is led by Claire Redfield (Ali Larter). Their paths cross once more, though unluckily for them just as the North American branch of Umbrella (hiding out in a bunker, and headed up by Dr. Isaacs who is played by Iain Glen) once again locate Alice and send some new improved creations out to get her.

Extinction is straight up a good film, no patch on Resident Evil for sure but entire worlds better than Apocalypse. For one thing zombies have been given the care and attention they deserve, these zombies look ancient and weathered and yet are actually centre stage rather than badly edited background creatures. For this film they wanted to make the goriest Resident Evil yet and they succeed, plenty of blood and guts. Alice's nemesis the zombie dogs yet again show up and are most welcome, while joining them and the zombies are a new undead foe; crows. I love the sequence with these, right out of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and a great ending to that sequence. For fans of the games a tyrant type character is later introduced (though with shockingly bad looking CG effects) and for fans of modern zombies (I.E: fans of running/rage zombies) there is a new threat for Alice and chums to face.

The desert setting lends itself well to the Resident Evil universe, I love the idea that a zombie virus could make grass itself undead in a fashion and the souped up monster slaying vehicles of the convoy, as well as the apocalyptic dress wear give the film a consistent theme. Leaping ahead to years into Armageddon was a brave move and one which really pays off. The Umbrella compound  swarmed by hundreds of zombies was a heavy nod to Romero's finest hour; Day of the Dead and the wire frame map effect were a welcome nod to the first film, thankfully ignoring the style that Apocalypse puked out.

The special effects in the CG sense as I said are terrible (CG tentacles sadly extremely fake looking) and also quite bad are the characters and their acting abilities once again. Returning from Apocalypse are comedy character L.J (Mike Epps) and male lead Carlos (Oded Fehr), they are not so bad this time, though a new annoyance is Larter's Claire who seems uncomfortable in her role. The new side characters that include 70's looking Otto (Joe Hursley) and sniper cowboy Chase (Linden Ashby) are pretty flat and terrible. Albert Wesker makes an appearance thanks to Jason O'Mara but is very bad and with zero screen presence, no wonder they replaced him for Afterlife. Mention must go to Iain Glen's role, he shines as main bad guy Dr. Issacs (reprising here his small role from the previous movie).

The plot is not bad, there is reason for the actions everyone takes, and an excuse for events to happen, the sequences at the Umbrella compound are very enjoyable with some great shout outs to locations from Resident Evil, including a fantastic fake opening that had me thinking for a moment I had accidentally put the wrong film on. This does everything right that Apocalypse failed at, a far better attempt and as a zombie horror it works, yes I said horror, not action!


UPDATE: 29/03/2020:

I was surprised to find this wasn't as enjoyable as I remembered. Most the zombies have a strange identical look to them, and the story is barely even there, this felt very much like a side story. I was too harsh at the time on the CG, it is an improvement from the previous films, and while the characters are pretty flat they each have their own quirks that actually makes them feel like characters who would show up in one of the many games.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

House Guest (2013) - Horror Film Review

To start with I am in a bit of a rage. I just spent half an hour writing a review using crappy 'Blogger' for it to decide on it's own that it wished to delete the post. Cheers for that you complete piece of junk. If it wasn't for my Google rankings I would leave here and just use Nothing but trouble on Blogspot, avoid! Excuse me if I sound disinterested, but that's what you get having to try and remember what you just spent half an hour of your precious life (which I will never get back!) writing about. Apologies to House Guest if I sound bored out of my skull.

Jen invites her new boyfriend (Chase Diamond)  back to her house as her parents are away on holiday. Also there is her adopted brother Rob (Alex Vincent from Child's Play 1 and 2) and his friends who all decide to get drunk. There is a killer on the loose in the city and unknown to them the killer is none other than Chase's psycho father; Micky. Also unknown to the group Chase has invited dear father along to the house as a place to hideout until the heat has died down. With the party in full swing and with the ever present news channel playing in the background it isn't long before everyone discovers just who they have allowed into their home.

What I loved about this film was the suspense it builds. The father (played by Randall Speakman) is so obviously (to the viewer) the killer, everything about him screams it, so as the group sit there drinking with the news channel on silent you just know any second a mug shot of Micky is going to show up on screen. By far Brian Jalbert as Chase is the best character, utterly torn between his new found friends and his loyalty to his father who he has only recently discovered is a cold blooded killer. The tension, unseen to the group is amazing during the initial drinking games, the way the characters are not informed, yet you as a watcher are is fantastically done. I am so bored of home invasion films yet it actually makes a change to have the invader not only not wearing some goofy mask, but also to actually be invited in rather than invade.

For an indie film (filmed in 6 months on a budget of $3,000) House Guest is very good. Acting is frequently terrible with lots of other emphasising and un natural behaviours; Jen's (played by Maylin Morera) sole topic of conversation to everyone she meets being about the killer on the loose is odd (also why have the news on during a night of heavy drinking:?). The directing by Jake Jalbert is very good, lots of great shots used and the soundtrack used is also great, very fitting. Speakman works as the villain, especially as he reminded me of a high school bully I once knew. The characters of Rob and Jen also work very convincingly as brother and sister, the scene where she is constantly apologising to her brother for the terror that has transpired was stunning in my very humble opinion.

Violence is few and far between, a pre credits sequence was quite poor (including pre-requisite female nudity) and later violence is used sparingly. I expected 90 minutes of torture porn, instead getting 70 minutes of suspense which i just did not expect. Watching the trailer I admit I thought it looked like trash but it turns out House Guest is actually decent.

House Guest can be purchased from the official site, or brought from trusty Vimeo. I enjoyed it, I was drunk (still am) but thought it was far better than it had any right to be.


Monday, 14 October 2013

End Storm by Maz Marik (2012) - Zombie Horror Book Review

End Storm is the very first e-book I have ever read all the way through. I'm quite old fashioned, I like the feel of a book in my hands, not reading words off a screen. Back in around January I got hold of this. Now when I get actual books I can zoom through them in less than a week, so for an e-book I added on a couple, but no! Now 9 months later I have finally finished. Tried reading it on my computer - that never went well. Got a Kobo Mini device to read it on - somehow managed to destroy that (now has the End Storm cover half burned into the screen!). Finally yesterday I got a hold of a real Kobo and proceeded to finish reading it.

Now here at The Rotting Zombie I do get sent quite a lot of films and books for review, just because it is free that doesn't influence my views of something. Sometimes I think I am the very worst person to review horror things as I adore horror so much that even things that would have normal people clawing their own eyes out I lap up like water in a desert (in my opinion Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 is one of the most amazing films ever created; even the director has gone on record to say he hates it). Saying all that though I find it hard to believe anyone would call End Storm a bad book. Mild spoilers follow.

It starts with the sky falling; an intriguing prospect that drew me in. A boy; Stephen and his mother Emma start in a crowd of panicked people while the father Robert at work in the city is at the epicentre of whatever calamity occurs. Whatever happens changes people. Victims of this apocalyptic event turn into feral, almost monstrous beings who while intelligent enough to work together are filled with hate and anger and desire only to kill and maim in the most sadistic ways possible those who are unaffected. The tale is split into two concurrent stories. Emma and her son decide to head into the country to a favourite holiday spot where they will await Robert (they left a note for him at their home). On the way they meet up with a huge group of survivors. Robert meanwhile battles his way through the mean streets of the city to find his family, not knowing they have left already. He is joined by a fiercely loyal dog named Fox. Having been near the centre of the calamity Robert has been affected, some strange transformation occurring within him. He relentlessly continues on, forever pursued by a giant almost boss type being.

With really short chapters and no shortage of action End Storm is a real page turner, it can be so addictive to read the short snappy things that you can easily get drawn into events without noticing the time fly by. Emma and her desire to protect her son is a noble character but Robert who I did like as a character is kinda dumb. While it can be good to give yourself hope his naive assumption that when he returns home everything will be fine got a bit irksome when it was obvious this couldn't possible be the case. A side character Emma meets called Kyle has good intentions but spends nearly the entire book doing nothing but making the wrong decisions leading others to suffer. Characters in general are quite under developed, mostly appearing as just a faceless name to show up and then die in some awful way.

End Storm is a hell of a violent book, with so much passivity normally when the bad times come they really come. At one point Robert meets up with some happy go lucky teens, I assumed as they were fun, good people they would all happily survive, but no! Brutally and mercilessly beaten to death is their reward not long later! People are raped, children killed, horrific acts committed usually while the heroes look on, powerless to stop anything. When they do engage the zombie like monsters they get really beaten up, flesh bitten off, bones broken. The infected seem intent on mayhem and I don't quite understand their motivations. They work in groups and let out shrill cries to summon others to their aid and exhibit abnormal strength, even one alone can be a huge danger.

At times it can get a bit soppy, the long sequence of Emma and Stephen hanging out with other survivors dragged slightly but the relationship they have is well done, I almost shed a solitary tear at the ending. End Storm is a bleak affair, human compassion always resulting in death, the characters all on their march towards probable doom with no end in sight to the chaos swirling around them.

Snappy, violent and well written End Storm is worth a read, and is cheap enough that there is no excuse really not to pick it up.


Bonus: my dead Kobo-Mini -

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) - Zombie Horror Film Review

The first Resident Evil film is in my Top 10 films of all time, it is sublime. It is a shame then that none of the sequels even come close to it. Disappointment is a word I would use when I first saw Apocalypse, but with the sands of time lowering my expectations would it on a second viewing turn out to be not quite so bad? Apocalypse follows on from the events of the first film where Alice (Milla Jovovich) was captured by Umbrella.

Set around three weeks later, Raccoon city has been over run by the zombie creating T-Virus thanks to the actions of the evil Umbrella Corporation. Key Umbrella employees are evacuated before the outbreak becomes public knowledge, which includes wheelchair bound Dr Ashford (Jared Harris). Major Cain (Thomas Kretschmann) seals off the city with orders to kill anyone trying to leave it, while also activating some special Umbrella projects in order to get combat data from them. These include a monstrous being named Nemesis, and Alice herself who thanks to Umbrella now has superhuman powers. Alice soon hooks up with other survivors including Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr). In the evacuation Dr Ashford's daughter got lost, he contacts Alice and the others and promises them a way out of the city if they rescue his daughter. They have till dawn as at that point a nuclear bomb is going to be detonated to contain the zombie outbreak.

Alexander Witt the director needs a slap and some strong words as some of the directing in this film is pretty terrible. For some reason whenever zombies are shown they move in heavily edited and blurred slow motion, which quite frankly looks terrible. Zombies in general are pretty bad here, they move in packs and so there is not much chance to see individual ones. For the most part they only turn up to hurry the action on, disappearing for huge chunks of the film. An early action sequence showing Umbrella mercenaries battling the undead was quite cool, and in fact copied straight from the intro sequence in the video game Resident Evil 3.

What I loved about Resident Evil were all the numerous nods to the video game franchise, here there are quite a few also which are fun to try and spot, for the most part the story is a mashup of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3, yet it is Resident Evil: Code Veronica that the biggest nods point to. Alice charging down a corridor as a gun ship fires at her, slow motion gun catching - both stem from the intro to that game. With the introduction of key characters from the video game series my enjoyment got ruined somewhat. The previous instalment I can fit into the canonical events of the series yet here having Carlos and Jill show up (even if they are wearing the appropriate clothes), while Resident Evil 3 bad guy Nicholai (Zack Ward) is now a good guy. It proves the series is separate from the games once and for all.

Zombies are quite terrible in Apocalypse but other monsters do make appearances. The licker so popular from the end of Resident Evil makes a come back with some siblings. Again the CG makes these look a bit fake. The zombie dogs also make a triumphant return and while I have complained about the zombies and their horde patterns the inclusion of a classroom full of zombie school children got my approval. The Nemesis monster is fantastic and has some great sequences. Him going up against the S.T.A.R.S Charlie squadron is a fun part, and his battles with Alice are never dull. Armed with a rocket launcher, mini gun and superhuman strength gives him a real presence in all his scenes.

The acting goes down to new lows here, Guillory and Fehr in particular really ham up their lines (but at least are easy on the eyes) while Jared Harris as Dr Ashford bellows all his dialogue for reasons I just can not fathom. Jovovich is as ok as ever and while bad guy Tom Cain is pretty one dimensional Kretschmann does the role well. Most the other characters are completely forgettable and the inclusion of a comedy character is never a good sign. You know something is up when the best acting comes from the child lead.

Like the later games Apocalypse lost any attempt at horror to bring pure action, downtime is minimal and shocks are non existent, this may have zombies and other monsters but even when they literally rise out of their graves these ghouls are not at all frightening. Now Apocalypse certainly is not a bad film, it is fun to watch albeit quite goofy and it does make an attempt to pander to the fan base but overall it is inoffensive, mainstream, shallow and designed for people who have misplaced their brains.


UPDATE 29/03/2020:

I have recently watched this again, those zombie scenes are still garbage, the stupid blurring and slow-mo is a design choice I still can't understand. Nemesis is what really saves this movie, every single scene he is in is a good one. I think if I was reviewing this one now I would add an extra head to my score.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Bioshock Infinite (2013) - Adventure Videogame Review (PS3)

Bioshock is one of my favourite videogames of all time so when a new game in the series was announced I was excited....that game of course being Bioshock 2 which really was not as bad as people made out! Bioshock Infinite came next, released earlier in the year to much critical acclaim and actually created by the first party studio. Where Bioshock took place in the undersea city of Rapture after its society had imploded into violence, Bioshock Infinite takes place in the floating city of Columbia and starts off with its society intact, albeit sitting on a powder keg of unrest. Mild spoilers follow!

Towards the end of the 19th Century a floating, travelling city named Columbia was created as a display of American exceptional-ism, the city, run by its founder; the prophet Zachary Hale Comstock. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1899 the city brutally intervened, which led to the American Government asking for the city to be recalled. Comstock seeing this as a sign of weakness and betrayal refused and instead declared Columbia no longer under American rule, the city then disappeared into the sky. Now 1912 and Booker DeWitt is told if he travels to Columbia and rescues a girl imprisoned there then all his gambling debts he owes to some very bad people will be wiped clean. His arrival sets off a chain of events that lead to open revolution against Comstock and his followers by the downtrodden who have united under the banner of the Vox Populi.

Now Infinite is pretty much gameplay wise a retreading of Bioshock. You have the same sort of weapons that again can be upgraded, you have magic (plasmids previously, now called vigors) that let you set enemies on fire, summon a bunch of attacking crows, turn hostile machines onto your side etc. You travel linear levels collecting money and food off the floor, listening to recordings you find and battling fantastical creations (Infinite even has its own version of Big Daddies, though these hulking machine men are nowhere near as iconic). The floating city is a neat idea and is well realised, sky rails dotted around the game let you travel them opening up combat opportunities.

So gameplay wise this is nothing new but it is the story part that really sticks with you. For much of the game you have a young woman Elizabeth with you as a friendly A.I. She is able to open up 'tears' in the fabric of time and space that give you glimpses into alternate realities and times (also able to do this in combat to give you access to friendly machines and items to utilise). Elizabeth is an amazingly well crafted character. The plot gets really interesting when you start to explore alternate realities. Columbia goes from being an idyllic place (though one with intense racist ideals) to a war zone and you can't help shake the thought that it is all because of your actions. Playing Bioshock I always wondered what it would have been like to see the fall of Rapture, here you actually get to witness first hand the fall of Columbia. Both sides; the racist ruling elite, and the poor, harshly treated working class who unite under the banner of the murderous Vox Populi are despicable people. At one point DeWitt (fully voiced throughout) comments that maybe the destruction of Columbia is what everyone deserves, but I disagree, it was a beautiful place, much like I imagine Rapture had once been. The plot goes to some brain melting wonderful places and is what really stuck with me from the game, days later I just can't stop thinking about how wonderfully the story plays out.

My main criticisms of the game number quite a few points. First off this is a very violent game. Now I love violence but the initial outbreak took me by surprise with just how brutal Booker is, his character is one that at times seems alien to me, he does horrific things during fixed sequences that I as a player was perplexed at and would not have done myself. Vigors are never really explained, seeing as how they are nearly all used for violent means it seems strange that Columbia would have need of them, they feel kind of out of place. Falling into the same trap that Bioshock 2 did the locations start off fantastic and fall downhill. Up to just over halfway through the game I loved everywhere I went. The fair, Battleship Bay, the Hall of Heroes, the fantastic factory and slums areas; all great, all full of colour and vibrancy. After the midway point though everything seems to grow larger, get darker, more grey and brown, it loses its sense of being real. Giant constructs that seem to exist merely for fighting through such as large Greek palaces and flying ships take away from the other settings. Usually I would never say this but if a largish slice had been cut off the later part of the game you would not have heard me complaining! As an endnote on this, the reusing of assets detracts greatly, the same few posters and paintings are used far too often everywhere you go.

There is nothing to rival the Big Daddy monster of Bioshock but still some cool enemy design is used. The Patriot (a walking robot that resembles either George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Comstock) is awesome, the under-used Songbird is very well designed also, while the human enemies are varied. Fun to fight if a little easy (that is what harder difficulties are for), you can now do finishing moves on enemies which seems a bit too over the top. Your vigors though not really needed are fun, the electricity attack for instance can cause heads to pop, while using a possession attack on an enemy causes them to kill themselves Syndicate style in remorse after they have served their purpose.

I could speak for thousands more paragraphs about this game, it is very memorable. Bioshock Infinite is a stellar game, extremely interesting story and a great sense of it being a real place (the early parts of the game let you soak in the world, interacting with friendly citizens). Unlike its ancestor though it is not one I am desperate to jump back into anytime soon, well worth the journey at least once though.