Thursday, 31 July 2014

Z Nation (2014) - Zombie TV Show News

Due to come out on the Syfy channel in Autumn is a new zombie TV show called Z Nation. It takes place 3 years after zombie apocalypse has ravaged America and follows a group of survivors who have been tasked with transporting a man immune to the zombie disease 3,000 miles from New York to California where the last functioning viral lab is located. Unknown to them this man is hiding a dark secret...

The show is due to be 13 episodes in length and stars Harold Perrineau (Lost, Oz), Tom Everett Scott and DJ Qualls (Supernatural, Road Trip) and is produced by the people behind Sharknado. From the teaser trailer it looks like it could be interesting, makes a change for a proper zombie show to arise rather than the ones such as In the Flesh that have been putting a more human spin on things.

The trailer aired yesterday on the Syfy trailer but I also have it included below for your viewing pleasure. There really can never be enough zombie shows so I will look forward to seeing this. The plot does remind me a lot of The Last of Us it has to be said (no bad thing).

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Purge: Anarchy (2014) - Horror Film Review

I must admit that I was more in love with the idea behind the first The Purge film than the actual thing itself. It was not a bad home invasion film but didn't really do anything new. At the time I thought to myself if a sequel was ever made then it should feature an entirely new set of characters, and that it should take place outside during the Purge rather than inside. Looks like someone was listening as that is exactly what has happened.

The Purge: Anarchy takes place in the future America of 2023. Unemployment and crime is at an all time low as once a year during the night of an event called The Purge all crime becomes legal. Citizens are encouraged to expel their aggression during this night of madness.  On the way home troubled couple Shane and Liz's car breaks down as a result of sabotage. They find themselves pursued by a masked gang downtown. Meanwhile poor waitress Eva and her daughter Cali become the target of a shady group of armed soldiers until they are rescued by a lone gunman who is out for his own reasons. The stranger agrees to help the group get to a safe location in exchange for gaining access to a car so he can complete his mission. Together they make their way across the city running a gauntlet of thugs and psychos as they go.

Anarchy far exceeded my expectations, it looks and sounds amazing and seems to have at least three times the budget of the first film. It steals ideas from a variety of places but joins them together to create a satisfying whole. A big influence seemed to be The Warriors, there are many different gangs roaming the streets, all with their particular style of uniform. The start of the Purge gives a montage of these different groups such as skinheads riding around in a school bus, doll mask wearing thugs on motorbikes, a lorry with a mini gun firing madman hidden in the back, lone snipers and more. It was a great sequence that really set up the tone of the film. The videogame Manhunt I was also reminded off, especially with the military presence that pops up now and again. I was also reminded of Battle Royale, Hostel, and even The Punisher in the form of the friendly stranger character (played fantastically by Frank Grillo) who drives around in an armoured car, has an over abundance of weapons and is dressed all in black with a great coat.

Initially this is very much a horror, the tense moments of the start of The Purge were just as effective and nerve racking as the first film. Knowing the characters have to survive twelve hours of this madness get you really worried for them. Later it turns into far more of an action horror with the hapless characters going from one bad situation to another. Being pursued down an underground railway tunnel by a loon armed with a flame thrower in a beach-buggy one moment to becoming stuck in the middle of an escalating family dispute the next; it never lets up. I was worried for the films end, I could not see how it could manage to bring the suspense and action to a fitting end but it was achieved.

The overall message of the film is one of the rich benefiting from the persecution of the poor and this is very heavy handily drilled in, it is done in a fun way that makes you root for the rich to fail. A sub plot focusing on this was brought into the forefront in a way that was predictable but welcome. One annoyance of this film was that if I were in a world in which this murder night took place I would not be out doing food shopping a few hours before it commences such as Shane and Liz are doing, is a bit unbelievable so their introduction into the film was a bit far fetched, though other characters have a natural fit into this world. I did expect a big twist with the characters that never came so did feel a little under whelmed that everything is in fact as it seems on the surface.

Even if you have not seen the first film I implore you to check this one out as apart from a blink and you miss it cameo (I must have blinked as I indeed missed it) this has nothing what so ever to do with that and is a stand alone film in it's own right. By focusing on the poor instead of the rich, by being set outside rather than inside and by being adventure rather than survival this is a different and better beast than its predecessor. I really hope Anarchy is successful, judging by the packed cinema I was in things looks positive.


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Beyond: Two Souls (2013) - Horror Videogame Review (PS3)

David Cage is a man who splits opinion of himself. Some see him as a great artist whose visions are unique while others see his games as pretentious drivel. I enjoyed the flawed Fahrenheit despite the lame final part. I really enjoyed Heavy Rain that played out like a Saw film, and now here is Beyond: Two Souls that stars Ellen Paige as Jodie who is linked to a ghost; Aiden.

There game plays out over Jodie's life, from when she was a small child and taken to a research facility run by fatherly Nathan Dawkins (Willem Defoe) to her time in the C.I.A and then her life after that when the American authorities are hunting her down. Events do not play out in chronological order and skips wildly about her time line. So one level may see you playing as a little girl unable to sleep at night while the next level may have you as a grown up Jodie in a war zone. The skipping around does help create some questions that make you want to discover what has happened but also makes everything feel disjointed.

I am not actually sure if Beyond can be classed as a game, I feel it is far more of an interactive novel. In previous games of this type there were definite fail states, the character you controlled could die resulting in a restart, here though it is impossible to die. The many quick time events the game revolves around are actually quite meaningless with the only result of failing a QTE being a slightly different scene playing out. I really saw this after having taken a break of nearly two months, I returned and failed all the QTE's in what I  thought was a high threat scene but the game still carried on regardless. For the most part you slowly walk your character around looking at objects and doing these quick time events. There are not even any puzzles to solve, it is all story.

The main plot line is not great at all but Beyond excels at telling little stories that almost feeling like episodes of a TV show. Some are all action, others not that interesting, while others are very much horror based and get to be almost scary in places (almost, not actually scary). A solo trip into a government base where a condenser has gone into meltdown (a condenser being a gateway between our world and the spirit world) was quite creepy with the solitude of making your way down through a destroyed facility and then battles with dead bodies resurrected with demonic souls. Another tale that has Jodie arriving at a remote ranch owned by a Native American family whose property is attacked by a vengeful spirit each night was fantastic and by far the highlight of the game for me. Helped in massive part by the amazing soundtrack that never falters throughout the whole experience, the music is the glue that holds Beyond together, it would be far less without it.

Now here comes the curse of writing a review in two parts being as it is a few days later and my memory has gotten fuzzy, bear with me. The graphics for Beyond are the best on the PS3, even better than the gorgeous The Last of Us, there is a lot of variation as well with scorching heat, pouring rain, blizzards and trips to various locations around America and some around the world including an effective visit to a war zone that ends with your character being pursued by literally everyone in that place, frightening! For the most part the chaff that usual fills these types of games (brushing your teeth in Heavy Rain springs to mind) is gone with QTE events falling into mostly interesting activities.

The real twist with the game is that you control not only Jodie but her ghost Aiden as well. A hit of the triangle button puts you in a first person viewpoint from the ghost, your able to float around interacting with limited points of interest in order to help or hinder Jodie. Aiden can possess people, smash objects and throw them around, he is able to see the memories of people and also can kill people. These abilities while very fun to use are limited to a handful of things in each section but are empowering. One scene sees you as Jodie surrounded by SWAT and Police, controlling Aiden you are able to cause utter chaos and panic as you fling Police cars around and kill with abandon, kind of reminded me of the fantastic bit in Terminator 2 outside the Skynet offices. Aiden's powers are so limited in these scenes that it really makes you wish you could carve your own way rather than be hand held.

I had a lot of fun with Beyond: Two Souls but it barely qualifies as a game and the overarching plot is a bit flat and unexciting while the end section is just dreadful and reminded me of a game from the later 90's. If your after an interactive story then there is enjoyment to be had here and some of the more horror based sections are pretty darn great, but weaker ones (such as preparing for a date with a guy I personally hated but Jodie liked) are pretty much equal to the highs. Still with great graphics and music, not bad acting for the most part this is an experience, just don't expect to actually care about anyone. I admit I spent the game making Jodie's life as miserable as possible just because I was neutral to her plight!


Monday, 21 July 2014

Under The Flesh (2014) - Zombie Horror Comic News

Under The Flesh is a zombie comic (created and written by G.Deltres) that is currently riding a Kickstarter campaign to get issue #1 printed and the artwork done for issue #2. It is all self funded and independent so is going to rely heavily on it's fans to help it keep going.

A global event known as Desolation Day occurs during which an infection sweeps the globe affecting only males turning them into flesh hungry zombies known as 'fleshers'. Under The Flesh follows short tempered Ruben Lobos who was an elite U.S soldier that was part of an experiment to create a super soldier but during the process the pandemic occurred and so he actually has no idea what the extent of his powers are. He joins up with his jealous girlfriend Dinah and a group of mostly female survivors and holes up in a library to try and survive both the zombie threat and the roving bands of hostile humans.

I read issue 1 of this and must say I really enjoyed it. It seems to perfectly capture the spirit of 80's action comics and makes no apologies for doing so. Main character Ruben is all muscles and anger while the females he holds up with all seem to be a variety of stereotypes but this works for the 80's vibe going on. The artwork in particular (illustrations and lettering by J.L.Giles) is fantastic and really gave me a nostalgic hit, even when talking characters strike poses full of expression, Ruben looking almightily outraged and shocked most of the time, delightful stuff. There is a lot of violence with the zombies looking suitably decayed while heads are severed and fingers ripped off. Issue 1 is part prologue giving background information on Desolation Day while also setting up the main plot line.

Being a male afflicted only disease it does look like this will explore themes of female oppression and sexism and the suggestion that maybe the zombies also rape people gives an interesting angle to the usual inclusive infection style. The zombies of Under The Flesh can work together in groups, as well as hide from their prey and seem very much to be of the running variety of undead so I imagine this will lead to some suspenseful encounters.

I enjoyed what I read here, a great throwback to the past and an entertaining read. The bravado and high excitement  might not appeal to everyone but at the very least the artwork is very well suited to the subject matter. Under The Flesh has currently raised $2,877 of it's $3,500 goal and with 13 days to go hopefully it will be successful. If this sounds like your kind of thing you can check out the Kickstarter page here.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Saw II: Flesh & Blood (2010) - Horror Videogame Review (PS3)

Having played through the Saw survival horror videogame late last year I really did know what to expect with this sequel. It was to be more of the same for sure, the only question I had was would it be an overall better experience, or would it not learn from the many mistakes? Some spoilers ahead for that first game so reader beware!

This like it's predecessor is set between the first two Saw films. In the ending of Saw (the game) Detective David Tapp commits suicide after failing to capture Jigsaw at the Asylum he found himself prisoner at. Now his reporter son; Michael Tapp is trying to discover what made his father kill himself, and it is during his investigation that he is kidnapped and awakes to find himself captive. Like his father before him Michael has been given a game to play, should he survive the insanity of the game he's forced into he will discover just what pushed his Dad to the edge.

Saw II as expected is indeed more of the same. The graphics look just as average as before, while the location used feel just as realistic. The Asylum felt like a real place but became a bit dull by the end, I was worried that this too would use just the one location. Initially you are in an abandoned hotel, certainly a place large enough to set a whole game in. I thought that being mostly made up of identical rooms it would save the developers on creating too many original assets. Thankfully this is not the only location this time around, there is a variety of different places you as Michael travel to. Sure these are dull by videogame standards (sewers and factories for instance) but new locations does keep the game feeling fresh.

The combat has been completely stripped back taking place entirely via quick time events. Whether you are armed with a baseball bat or empty handed a QTE will still pop up so you can defeat your attacker. It feels weird that the choice of fighting has been taken away from you but to be honest the fighting was not the best part of Saw so I did not miss it much. It is a shame that the button prompts in these sections feel so dull, there is no real contact made by just pressing large button prompts. This extends to several scenes of you being chased also where you press buttons to leap over holes, and to throw boxes in the way of your pursuer.

Puzzles are the main meat of the game and as before it feels a bit silly that most your puzzles are free of peril compared to the life threatening ones of the film. Again you encounter many victims of Jigsaw in various torture devices but whether it be freeing a woman from a box rapidly filling with water, or escorting a man tied to a long pole across a series of fiery traps it is always your brain that is needed not the ability to self torture. There is more variety this time around and in general I found the puzzles more fun and less taxing with a large amount relying on memory skills. There are slightly too many ones where you must divert electricity flow but the time based ones are more infrequent (a good thing as here the time limits are often punishingly short).

Like the first game you encounter many, many people all playing their own games, the majority tasked with killing you to earn their freedom. A common enemy type is a guy with a spiked head mask who charges at you and who is usually defeated in a humorous way such as tricking him into running into an empty elevator shaft, or dropping a huge crate on him. Boss style characters pop up now and again and are quite fun. You have a guy with knives for hands (!) who pops up several times and also a bent cop who decides killing you is more important than escaping the hell hole your both in which leads to stealth sections where you pop from cover to cover avoiding gun shots.

The believability of several square miles of city being converted into one huge death maze is really quite silly, again with such a high body count the premise seems quite stupid. This is a world where waist high boxes stop you dead in your tracks, much of the game could have been over much more quickly should your character just be able to climb these pathetic obstacles. Michael Tapp and the people he encounters are badly voiced and just don't seem like they appreciate the danger they are in. Michael in particular is just full of wisecracks and doesn't seem at all concerned by having to murder tens of enemies, when you were playing as a Detective this was fine to stomach but a reporter shouldn't be this unfazed by taking lives. The sound I had a real problem with, even up really high I found it very difficult to hear what anyone was saying and had to put subtitles on in the end. The plot is nothing special, mostly revealed via dictaphone recordings and case files you find which was ok at least in showing what happened to David Tapp after the first game.

I have to mention a late puzzle in the game which sees you trying to traverse a carousel. While making your way around it should you step under a red spotlight your shotgun jacket will explode killing you instantly. The trouble is these spotlights are really wishy washy and hard to see where they are, plus my character kept getting stuck in the scenery in this segment. In all honesty this small two minute section must have taken me close to a hundred attempts to do! Highly frustrating and really marred an enjoyable experience. Too many times instant deaths will set you back to the last checkpoint you passed, many doors have shotgun traps set to them and if your not paying attention something like this, or a collapsing floor or a tripwire can lead to an unfair restart.

Saw II was exactly what I expected but it was really addictive, I lost a lot of hours to it this weekend and nearly have no regrets. A better game than Saw and well designed, this survival horror will not appeal to everyone and doesn't look or sound fantastic but there is fun to be had for sure.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Remaining by D.J Molles (2012) - Zombie Horror Book Review

Originally written in 2012 ad self published The Remaining has this year been released by Orbit. Apparently in the two years since it was first self published it has sold 250,000 copies with four books written in the series.

U.S soldier Lee Harden waits in a bunker below his home, his mission to wait there until his superior gives him the all clear to head back to the surface, or if he looses contact with his handler for 48 hours he is to open his classified orders and proceed according to those. Many times before in his past he has stayed in his bunker, each time it has led to nothing and he is able to return to normal life but this time the unthinkable happens, Lee realises something truly cataclysmic has occurred. His classified mission speaks of a deadly virus that would have most likely decimated the population, turning the infected into people filled with utter violence. His mission is to establish contact with groups of survivors and with them help to reestablish law and order. Protected from this chaos Lee along with his trained dog Tango heads out of his bunker finally and steps into a dark new world.

I really loved how the book is set out, the character of Lee having been staying in his bunker for a month while the apocalypse happened means he is just as blind to the reality of the world as the reader, his bunker well equipped with food, water, medical supplies, weapons and other luxuries is a safe haven. His first forays out of this sanctuary are well written, suspenseful and scary. I wanted nothing more than to retreat back to Lee's base and stay locked away from the world. He is a good guy through and through with no suspicion as to any wrong doings, a cookie cutter hero but he is likable as a result and his drive to complete his mission is admirable.

Starting off the first third of The Remaining establishes Lee's role, his expertise and his judgement with scenes right out of action films as he stalks and hunts prey. In the world of the book surviving humans are far more of a threat than the sporadic infected. It seems everywhere you go hostile humans with evil intentions are never far away making the world a scary place. The human to infected ratio reminded me a lot of the game The Last of Us as here also the literal monsters of the piece take second place to hostiles. Events go by in a whirlwind and expectations are wildly changed due to a series of unfortunate events, also managing to mess with some classic horror tropes .

The infected are not zombies per se. Here they have succumbed to a virus that is slowly eating away their brains. Infected are feral, hunt together in packs and are full of rage. Ambling slowly until they detect prey, able to use basic weapons such as hammers and shovels, hard to kill and they are lucid enough to be able to dismantle barriers and hunt. The first appearance of an infected is wonderfully done demonstrating what a threat even one can be. The scenes with the infected are often exciting, a siege at one point led by a boss style infected really reminded me of Resident Evil 4's enemies, it read like a scene from a game or film, vivid descriptions really letting you visualise what was happening.

If I had a criticism it would be that it seems to end just as things start to happen, it is more of a prologue than a stand alone novel, something that is backed up by there being more in the series. Had I not known this I would have felt slightly cheated as it is not the longest book I have ever read (just over 300 pages with a large text size used). What is here is excellent and really easy to read and quite gruesome. I can't really remember a book where the essentials of needing food and water to survive are so at the forefront, here the lack of these have a noticeable effect on the key characters who are handled realistically and are all likable;  from the boy Lee saves to a mother and daughter that join him, they do not have much character to them but you do end up caring for them.

Sometimes a simple tale done well is worth more than a hundred convoluted plots. The Remaining while not doing much new still managed to keep my eyes glued to the pages, well written, interesting and left me really wanting to read more; a great start to the series.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Upper Footage (2013) - Horror Film Review

The Upper Footage starts with instructions on how to get the most out of the film which I found quite unique. It recommended that it be watched on a laptop, that decent headphones be used, that it be watched in a dark room, and lastly that it be watched alone. To get the most out of it I did just that rather than watch it on my TV that I had originally planned to do. The Upper Footage is from the found footage genre (Paranormal Activity, Apollo 18 etc) which I admit I am totally sick of, but is this one any good?

The start of the film gives some background on how the footage came to be found with a back story detailing how the footage had been blocked from being shown for years but has finally been released. Four rich kids in New York head out for a night of drinks and drugs, one of them; Will deciding to film the night (I guess his camera was new or something). Wanting to pick up some cocaine they head to a rougher part of town to get it where one of the group decides to bring a 'normal' girl (Jackie) back to a penthouse apartment. A drug fuelled night begins but is cut short when Jackie is discovered dead in the bathroom from an apparent overdose. Rather than call the Police the group instead decide that they are going to try and cover up the death, Will continuing filming on the premise that they can watch back the footage in the morning so as to get their stories straight for the cover up.

First off I wrote my notes for this in the dark, so it was with some dismay when I turned on the lights and discovered the pen I had been using was not actually working that well (amateur!) so my recollections will have to rely mostly on my memory. I am fed up with the found footage genre I had thought, the same old tricks are used again and again but with this film I found (footage) out that it is actually just supernatural horror that I am sick of. To call The Upper Footage horror would be doing it a disservice, it is certainly harrowing, but feels strangely realistic and like something that could actually happen. Of course it is always a leap to accept that events would be filmed by someone the whole time and here is no different with quite a loose excuse given.

The rich kids are portrayed as pretty horrible people. These young adults are racist, sexist, elitist and homophobic to a high degree but it never comes across as parody. Their interactions with Jackie (whose face is permanently pixelated out in a creepy fashion) have them treating her almost like a sub species due to her not being wealthy, this explains in part the insane plan they decide to come up with when she dies.

Taking place over one long night there are highs and lows, around half the film is the lead up to Jackie's death with the remainder much more poorly filmed that ties in nicely with the downward shift of the films tone. The camera is almost abandoned at times that leads to some fantastic sequences that take place over a period of time but all in one shot. I do not know if the actors ad libbed or if they had a script but it is very impressive that they were to stay in the moment during these shots. There is little effort made to get nice looking footage, a lot of the film is blurred, a gigantic section is just pitch black with literally nothing to see but lots to hear. I have just never seen anything like this, usually found footage is so unrealistic but here there was a feeling that this is something that could actually happen, it had me wondering just what I would have done in that situation.

The group (three males and a female) spend a lot of the film arguing, it almost seems at times they take turns to gang up on each other, this did get tedious at times as it just seemed to go on and on. The acting was not bad with the exception of the unending arguments, and they look the part appearing suitably drugged up during the party scenes and desperate after that. The second half did drag a little bit but was actually the more engaging part of the film with an almost real time feel to it all leading up to a shocking end. The Upper Footage is certainly a powerful piece of film making and the use of headphones creating some jump scares and bringing you further into the horror than speakers would.

Not a bad film at all, very well made (as in badly made, but that's what makes it seem more believable) with a realistic setting and an interesting plot. Worth a watch certainly, the plot while basic kept me glued to the screen.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Alien Breed 3: Descent (2010) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

I have not done a blog post in a week, stupid insomnia and work really draining me. Still not great as am writing this review while slowly succumbing to the effects of some trusty Zopiclone, such is life! Alien Breed 3 is the third and final part in the revamped series and again is an isometric shooter. While the plot is hardly Shakespeare there will be some spoilers ahead as a warning.

Conrad is still on the ancient space hulk that the ship he was travelling on (the Leopold) got embedded in. With his friendly computer A.I taken over by the evil A.I of the alien infested ship at the end of the second game, and with both ships on a collision course with an icy planet things don't start off on a great note. More pressing then the impending crash though is that this evil A.I has dreams of bringing the horror of the alien menace to the entire universe via Conrad's ship, the Leopold, so he must find and destroy the A.I core before it can download itself into that ship and make good its escape.

I don't know if it was due to the time that had elapsed since I played the last two games in the series but I found myself really enjoying Descent even if yes, technically it is more of the same. The evil A.I is a great character and the voice actor is fantastic coming across as a smarmy British guy, plus the logs that reveal backstory are actually interesting this time around and really give him some depth, with his story as a twisted scientist creating the alien creatures as part of a secret project before releasing them on his fellow ship mates, and becoming immortal by downloading his consciousness into a computer program.

The A.I's interactions with Conrad is constant throughout the six hour play time (again set over five levels) and forever enjoyable, threatening, shouting, taunting and offering Conrad the power to join up with him. Sadly it is all one way as Conrad's thoughts are displayed via lines of text that are totally out of eye view so I often missed them. The levels much like before are created as a series of almost maze like structures with switches and computer terminals needed to be accessed to bypass destroyed structures and blocked doorways. You are constantly attacked by the alien hordes who are here in much greater numbers than before, especially the last few levels were you are rarely given time to breathe as you come under constant assault from all sides. There are a lot more bosses in this third instalment, and while kind of formulaic are actually quite a lot of fun to fight. These bosses include a huge alien (obviously based on the Queen alien from those films) that keeps popping up as a recurring threat.

Water is the big innovation here and is used a hell of a lot in the rapidly sinking ship (spoiler zone: the ship crashes into an ocean on an ice planet). With this water comes a new type of electricity based enemy, as well as having the option to run taken away whenever you're in it (slowing you down as it does). I found the flooded areas quite fun as it was something different. Also something that seemed new were fixed angle sequences which were more cinematic than what I remembered previous. One in particular that saw you traversing the ships roof with magnetic boots and a space helmet really stood out. Unfortunately as much as I loved these new types of things I had really hoped I would get to leave the space hulk and explore the planets surface. Two whole games all set on the same ship was a bit too much really even if it was enjoyable. A couple of new guns are introduced but the assault rifle is still king.

This is certainly the hardest game in the trilogy but is the best crafted one and has the most new ideas. Some things still irritate such as the gun turret stations that technically you can use to easily fight the aliens, but the turrets themselves seem almost non existent in supply. With a great antagonist though this could actually be my favourite in the trilogy. Gone are the unsure baby steps of Evolution (though that had a great sense of place), thankfully ditched are the terrible babysitting parts of Assault. With less exploration and far more action it really is a close call. Basically if you have the other games and are unsure of whether to finish off the trilogy then I say yes, do that.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Returned (2012) - Horror TV Series

I have taken a heavy dose of insomnia lately so have been putting off working on my blog as my brain is literal mush. Saying that I polished off the last of The Returned; a French supernatural TV show based on a film of the same name that I reviewed once upon a time and did not think it was amazing (more just plain confusing).

The Returned takes place in a remote French mountain town that has a dark history. All of a sudden dead people have started coming back to life, appearing near where they died and returning to the town to visit their friends and family, unaware at first that they are dead and thinking it is the same day as when they left the world. The series follows about four of these recently returned, all oblivious to each other at first and all with their own agendas. Camille is a 15 year old who returns after dying in a bus crash 4 years previous to find her twin sister now grown up. Victor is a very creepy little boy who follows a lonely woman home one evening. Serge is a serial killer who picks up where he left off, whilst Simon returns to his bride to be after 10 years deceased only to discover she is now with someone else and his at the time unborn child now grown up.

This is one effective show, the soundtrack (by Mogwai) is really good, it gives the show such atmosphere and just manages to fit each scene perfectly. The soundtrack perfectly compliments the visual look of The Returned. It all looks fantastic with a uniform bleak appearance dark dull colours, stark, cold building design mixed in with squalor and ruin whilst the whole town is watched over by head cop Thomas via high tech surveillance systems. The town I kept thinking is somewhere I would love to live in. It may as well be cut off from the rest of civilisation and has a deep history to it that is slowly revealed.

The acting whilst in French (with subtitles) appears to be amazing, even that of the child actors, especially Swann Nambotin who plays Victor. I do not like 'creepy' child characters normally, they are always so ineffective to me and full of over acting, but Victor is genuinely unsettling, yet likable at the same time. For much of it he doesn't say more than a few words, his stare alone just has some weird, other worldly look to it. All the characters appear to be layered changing as the show goes on. Serge for instance is a killer, yet by the end of it I really came to not so much like him, as understand him a bit better. I really can't think of a single actor who brings down the tone of the show, all are very good.

Watching The Returned the thing that sprang to mind was Twin Peaks, it shares a lot of the bizarre, the strange, and the unsettling atmosphere of that, but gone is any of the humour, this is played serious with moments of light twinned with darkness, sorrow, regret, and sadness. Exploring the themes of the dead returning to life all aspects are looked into and you can see the pain and confusion that comes from the returned who just do not know what their place in the world is anymore. The key questions of why these people have come back to life keeps you gripped throughout, and are they zombies, angels, or ghosts? I'm tempted to go with zombies myself though don't expect any brain munching action but do expect some latent supernatural abilities.

Season 1 is comprised of eight episodes of roughly 55 minutes each, each is full of twists and turns with interweaving plots that at first seem unrelated but slowly get tied together. With Twin Peaks the story seemed to unravel a bit towards the second season, I fear that with The Returned getting a second season that this may happen here too. As much as I loved this, at times it did seem some plot lines were just a tiny bit filler. Thankfully a lot of the plot is tied up, there are some huge questions remaining at the end but it is such a powerful final episode that I was still satisfied. Plot for the main characters is drip fed, for example in one episode you see someone has lots of scars all over their belly, a flashback (of which there are many) pops up in a later episode. This device is done again and again, the going backwards and forwards in time is very well done.

As I said at the start I am suffering crushing insomnia so apologies if this review is a bit poor. Based on my knowledge of the film I was not expecting much of this, yet it is a it is one billion times better than that confusing mess, some slightly poor CGI effects but overall it looks, sounds, and actually is a master piece of creation. If you want a French Twin Peaks, or Silent Hill the TV show (minus monsters) then you really should check this out!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Of Silence (2014) - Horror Film Review

Of Silence is an Indie film that is written and directed by Jeremiah Sayys who also stars in the main role. It is described as a psychological thriller and it has to be said is a real slow burner. The whole thing was filmed in just 12 days with a low budget of $125,000.

Colby (Sayys) is a man deep in grieving after his wife has died. He no longer goes to work but instead stays at home where he is surrounded by memories of happier times, he mopes around the place remembering past events and generally not looking after himself with bills piling up and services being cut off. Soon he starts to hear strange voices, and witnesses unexplainable events. Is Colby going crazy and hallucinating these things, or is there actually a more sinister other worldly presence invading his reality, drawn to him by the deep sadness and silence he has come to know?

To start with I just did not get this film at all. The main character himself is obviously a very troubled and depressed man who has stopped living and instead just exists, a shell of his former self, unable to recover from the mortal blow his life has taken. Flashbacks throughout reveal just what occurred to get him to this point and it is all downbeat stuff. First and foremost this is a drama, the horror takes a back seat and even when it does rear it's nightmarish head it is easy to call into question if any of it is actually real.

To start with not much happens out of the ordinary; a few auditory hallucinations when his family visit for his birthday (a real fun time is had by all with his parents wildly over compensating for the fact Colby is pretty much a walking corpse). After the forty minute mark the hallucinations start to step up with his increasingly angry dead wife showing up to attack him verbally and physically, day and night cycles getting all mixed up and strange black smoke and shadow that seems to herald the arrival of madness. By the end I was so confused with the skipping around in time and weird events happening that I just shrugged my shoulders and went along with the ride, no longer even trying to decipher what on earth was happening. As the credits rolled I just thought to myself that there must have been something I missed as it was all so very odd.

As a piece on grief and devastating loss it is well done, Colby has a permanent victim face and the way his house is lit with dark shadows and featureless scenery gel well with the feeling that was gone for. A few scenes are very well done, such as when in his back garden he encounters his wife in a flashback in the bright sunshine, yet at the same time he is there in darkness as his dead wife screams at him. The whole film takes place in his house and this deteriorates along with his quickening apparent madness with first the phone lines being cut off, then later gas and electricity (due to the pesky bills he is not concerned with) plunging his world into one of enforced solitude and darkness.

Of Silence looks great, the special effects are pretty damn good and the film is shot in a high quality, there is nothing bad that can be said of that. The acting is also not bad, Colby's family are fine even if his sister Haley comes across as a bit too naive for the age she is supposed to be at. The family don't feel that tight of a unit especially when all together. As mentioned the plot just left me a bit cold. After a point I didn't understand the motivations of Colby. All this really scary and strange stuff is happening to him yet he doesn't seem the least bit concerned about leaving the house, even when he is stabbed in the leg by a weird occult looking dagger by some unseen force he decides against calling for help and just pulls it out so that he can limp around for the rest of the time, apparently unconcerned about what is going on.

Two of the cast share surnames with Silent Hill characters (Ashlee Gillespie who plays Haley, and Najarra Townsend who plays Aimee) this is fitting as the film does have a very Silent Hill vibe going on due to the manifestation of evil seemingly appearing due to Colbys inner demons. Also Jacob's Ladder seemed to share common ground here. An interesting subject matter for sure but Of Silence is just a little too slow paced even for me who usually laps up films that take place at a glacial pace. A scene in which Colby searches for some batteries seemed to play out in real time over quite a few minutes for example (nitpicking I know).

I appreciate what was done here and it is very well made and directed, but overall I just could not get to grips with it and this lack of grip led to me not enjoying it too much, or really caring about the plot which is a shame.


Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Twiztid & Blaze: Sickman (2014) - Horror themed music video

Now I don't really know music that well but I just had to do a blog about the official music video for Sickman by Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie as it features not only Kane Hodder (best known as Jason Voorhees from the Friday 13th films) but also features Sid Haig (from House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects).

In the video the musicians are out drinking but when they head back to their cars to leave they are kidnapped by a scarred man (Hodder) who takes them to some remote building and tortures them to death. Sid Haig's character then asks the murderer to bring the bodies to him where he then cuts open his hand and drips white blood onto the corpses, it all ends with a 'To Be Continued' message.

I don't know the genre of music; rap perhaps? The song is quite catchy though and wasn't a chore to listen to as I watched the six minute long video. Sickman is taken from Twiztid's album 'A New Nightmare' that is available to buy now from Twiztid's website as well as on iTunes. Check the video out below and see what you think, is pretty cool to see two horror icons sharing screen time together in my opinion!