Sunday, 30 November 2014

Under the Flesh #2: Ravaged Road - Zombie Horror Comic News

Back in July I first spoke of Under the Flesh which is a zombie comic that had a Kickstarter going to get issue 1 printed and the artwork done for issue 2. Now there is a new Kickstarter going to get issue 2 printed and the artwork completed for issue 3.

Under the Flesh features Ruben Lobos who is a solider who has been fitted with nano machine technology. The world is undergoing zombie Armageddon but the virus only affects the male population. Due to the experiments on him Ruben is immune to the bites and scratches of these zombies. I have had an early look at issue 2 and it is an exciting issue with Ruben fighting his way through zombie filled streets in search of a missing person dear to him. It seems that he is not the only person to have special abilities as this issues features the appearance of perhaps a shadowy antagonist figure.

Currently there are 8 days left on the Kickstarter with $1,956 of the $4,000 goal raised. Under the Flesh is initially set to have a 6 issue story arc and it would be a shame if they fail their campaign as this is not a bad comic. Basing the whole run of a comic on crowd funding does seem slightly risky. I have to say I enjoyed issue 2 a lot more than the first one. It is unapologetic in it's love of 80's style action comics and has some neat ideas contained in it.

If you feel like donating some money or just want to read more about this then head over to the Kickstarter page for Under the Flesh and check it out. You can also download issue 1 of Under the Flesh for free.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Seesar: Flight of Raphtontis (2014) - Horror Music Review

Nine months ago I was contacted by Dr. Will Connor who makes music under the name Seesar. He sent me a link to the Seesar debut album; Flight of Raphtontis as well as his E.P; The Silver Key. I thanked him for the links, promised to let him know what I thought and then my mind must have been wiped as it was only this past week I rediscovered his email and the links.

I always feel unsure when it comes to writing about music as I don't really know enough about it to be comfortable expressing an opinion. Flight of Raphtontis is ambient music and as such it took me a few attempts to get the right setting to listen to it. First I read a H.P Lovecraft short story -  Dagon (to sum up: sailor falls unconscious in his ship, awakens on a seabed that has risen above the sea, he explores the barren new land until he gets to a mountain where he sees a gigantic stone monolith in the distance with bizarre inscriptions on it, he sees a monstrous being and flees, he ends up in a mental institution where he writes the account of his tale and ends saying he can see the arm of the monstrous creature scratching at his window). I found I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't really notice the music.

For my next attempt to soak in the sounds I took a walk at night into the local woods, the music certainly amplified the atmosphere but I felt more fearful of getting mugged than attacked by some creature of ancient origins. Finally I put it on whilst cleaning the Rotting Zombie HQ and found myself whistling along to the amazing music, it had finally clicked with me!

This is music to conduct strange rituals to, maybe some background noise for perusing the Necronomicon and it is well made stuff. It doesn't sound amateurish (as ambient music often times does to me) and it creates a feeling of unease and hidden menace in it's subdued and repetitive nature (a good thing here). Also I love the track titles, favourite one being 'Elder Things Below Kharkhov Station'. The album ends on the cheeky and creepy 'Nyarlathotep in Ten Secs' that does exactly what it says on the tin.

I also listened to The Silver Key E.P which again I enjoyed listening to. Now while this doesn't fit every occasion if you are in the mood for it it is decent stuff. Roll on the pointless score...


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Scream Park (2014) - Horror Film News

It is admin Sunday at the Rotting Zombie HQ and I have just stumbled across an interesting trailer in my inbox for Scream Park that I managed to miss. Scream Park is a horror in the tradition of 80's slashers and features horror icon Doug Bradley (Hellraiser of course) and Ogre from the band Skinny Puppy (Repo! The Genetic Opera).

Bradley stars as Hyde; owner of Fright Land which is a failing amusement park that is facing closure. Desperate to get more visitors to save his business he takes the drastic step of hiring two maniacs to slaughter his staff. Hyde believes the ensuring media coverage will cause punters to flock to the park to see the scene of a mass killing. However he may just have unleashed something he has no control over...

Scream Park obviously has a silly plot but it sounds like a fun film, the trailer certainly reminded me of 80's slashers, check it out below. The film was released on DVD back in April by Wild Eye Releasing.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Juan of the Dead (2011) - Zombie Comedy Horror Film Review

I have owned Cuban based Juan of the Dead on DVD for several years yet it was only at this years UK Festival of Zombie Culture that I actually saw the thing. It has been compared heavily with Shaun of the Dead with a lot of people even suggesting it is better than that film (it's not).

Cuba is facing a zombie Armageddon, the zombies dubbed 'dissidents' by the media are rapidly taking over the country. Many choose to flee by sea but Juan and his slacker friends have a penchant for undead slaying and see the outbreak as a way to get rich quick. They launch a service called 'Juan of the Dead' in which they will for a price dispatch any loved ones someone needs taking care of. With the stakes getting higher and higher they must decide if it is worth staying in the dying city or make a break for freedom.

This is certainly a funny film, laugh out loud at times yet at other times it is far too pleased with itself thinking it is being hilarious where the humour falls flat. The visual side is were far more of the laughs come from. Juan's best friend Lazaro is a source of much of this laughs as throughout the film he constantly accidentally kills survivors usually with his harpoon he can barely control, this happens so often that he became a great character. At times it is darkly humorous and there is a definite grey area with these characters as they act without any guilt towards others. One of the best scenes for example had Juan tell a couple of his friends (carrying beer crates at the time) to save a man in a wheelchair attempting to escape the undead, it then cuts to the next scene with the friends turning up using the wheelchair to carry their beer and saying something like "he didn't make it" "we had to leave him behind" "...but not necessarily in that order". The delivery was spot on. At other times as stated the comedy just wasn't up to scratch such as constant jokes about the zombies being dissidents that wore very thin.

The main cast just appear too comfortable in their surroundings, they are meant to be happy go lucky types and take everything in their stride but doesn't make them that likable. Having done time in the army their fighting skills can be excused but it just never feels like they are in too much danger for the most part. The relationship between Juan (played by Alexis Diaz de Villegas) and Lazaro is well crafted and they work well together. However Juan is an ugly lead and I'm sad to say this impacted on my experience as the faces he pulls are very off putting. Also of note is the pretty terrible CGI effects, most notably in an underwater sequence and ones of city wide devastation.

There are some great sequences in Juan of the Dead, one awesome scene involving a car with a harpoon gun on it, while the end is quite spectacular featuring what must be thousands of extras. The zombies are acceptable. they do the part and are quite faceless but feature in a lot of scenes with lots of violence in many different ways against them. The plot is not amazing but goes along at a fair pace with some twists (such as the main cast all ending up naked for a while after the military turn out to be quite hostile to survivors).

Certainly not on a level with Shaun of the Dead but is different enough to stand apart on it's own with some interesting characters (such as one who faints at the sight of blood and so fights blindfolded). It does think it is a far better film than it actually is and that can't help but make me feel embarrassed for it at times. Worth a watch and will make you laugh but not essential viewing.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Theatre of the Dead (2013) - Zombie Horror Film Review

So Theatre of the Dead is an Australian zombie film starring a lot of young actors who they themselves play performers. This is about as traditional as you can get for a zombie film in many respects.

After a long hard day of practising for an upcoming musical the tired performers find upon attempting to leave the theatre that zombie apocalypse has happened while they have literally been locked away. With a couple of the cast badly injured and the theatre slowly getting surrounded by the walking dead the rest retreat inside and barricade themselves in. Soon divisions in the group start to cause friction among the survivors on the best course of action.

I see this as very much an Australian Night of the Living Dead. Of course it is nowhere near as good as that film but the general premise is the same. This is very much a siege film and as is the way you know at some point the zombies are going to get in, especially with the disjointed drama types who seem very two faced even before the stakes get raised. The theatre is an actual theatre rather than a stage and so it works very well as a location to be used, and a nice cheap alternative to having sets. The place is shrouded in darkness and with its gantries and warren of stairwells is an interesting place also.

Most if not all the characters are highly strung and so they bicker and argue constantly. The technician thinks the performers are babyish, the director is obsessed with making the show go on, almost delusional in his refusal to accept what has happened while the big question of if it is safer to stay locked away in the theatre or to make a run to one of the cars and escape threatens everyone.

The acting is ok for the most part, there was no one that particularly stood out, maybe the director whose bullying nature and pantomime villain role makes him fun to watch. There are a few people who were pretty terrible and I am half convinced they were chosen for their roles based on their chest size rather than acting ability. The zombies are for the most part functional, really nothing special but they do the job and there are some more detailed ones. For the most part a few splatters of blood and some ripped clothing is all that is used. The early stage of infection being flu type symptoms led to some tense scenes as you realise that the survivors are in more danger then they realise with a couple of them coughing and sneezing before this initial reaction was revealed.

A lot of Theatre of the Dead is played straight and serious yet there is also a comedic edge that keeps appearing now and again but never takes over completely. Early on in the film one of the cast shoots dead a fellow cast member who has turned into a zombie and attacked the group. The director angrily fires him and then sets off to frantically re work the script for the musical to account for the now deceased character; was pretty funny. A news report shown on a TV at one point was completely missed by me due to the hilarious ticker tape news feed running alongside the bottom of the screen, my favourite head line being something like '#zombieapocalypse trending worldwide on Twitter'. Also when someone tries to fight the undead using dance moves you can't help but laugh.

For all this silliness it does also try to be a serious piece with some quite brutal scenes such as a zombie getting its face stamped into oblivion and plenty of blood and gore. It is a bizarre mix of fun and serious that I don't think it ever really fits together in a satisfying way. The final part of the film is pretty good even if there is a lame one liner and waste of precious ammo just to take out an antagonist. Other things which were a bit stupid was a choreographed fight sequence that appeared out of nowhere, and this damn metal pole that everyone seemed to use throughout, no idea where that came from!

With a generic plot and near universal horrid characters (the exception being the main female lead) it is hard to really love Theatre of the Dead but with some decent siege style situations and infrequent surprises I still enjoyed it.


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Go Goa Gone (2013) - Zombie Horror Film Review

This was my second favourite film of the UK Festival of Zombie Culture 2014. Go Goa Gone is an Indian comedy and I was a bit hesitant as to whether I would find the Indian sense of humour funny or not. I'm pleased to say this was a very funny film indeed. As always a review warning; I had drank three ciders by the time I got around to watching this so it may have seemed better than it actually was.

Hardik (Kunal Khemu) and Luv (Vir Das) are two loser stoners who live with their respectable friend Bunny (Anand Tiwari). An incident with his boss leaves Hardik jobless, while Luv discovers his girlfriend he had been planing to marry had been cheating on him and so when Bunny announces he is going away to Goa on a business trip his two friends decide to tag along. They learn of a Russian Mafia sponsored rave taking place on a small island off the coast of Goa and decide to crash it. The showpiece of the rave is a new experimental recreational drug that everyone is taking, however it has unforeseen side effects and ends up turning the majority of the party goers into flesh hungry zombies. The trio along with a girl; Lulu, and a couple of Mafia guys must now band together to find a way off the dead island...

The characters are what holds this film together, the three main ones work so well together and riff off each other, they are a likable bunch so you can't help but find them endearing in their naive stupidity. Far more than relying on visual gags a lot of the humour actually comes from the dialogue which is quite clever and interesting as well as being laugh out loud funny at many points. For instance when the undead first appear they get into a discussion on what type of monsters they are, first thinking they must be vampires and then ghosts when someone suggests zombies they dismiss the idea saying 'India doesn't have zombies'. A lot of the other comedy comes from how they deal with the walking dead, for the most part they are totally inept, usually running around flapping their arms and with Bunny always screaming high pitched whenever he sees one. When they do get guns and immediately after promising to 'make every shot count' they unload their guns all into one zombie in a mad panic; highly amusing.

It is quite a while before zombies make an appearance but this pre action part of the film was actually really enjoyable and gently eases you into the type of characters the film follows, it must have been a good twenty minutes to half an hour before the craziness starts but the build up was not boring in the slightest. The zombies I had no complaint with, many of them appearing wearing bright colourful clothes which makes a change to their usual drab appearance and there are many of them, hundreds on screen at once at some points which is a great thing. There is lots of fighting zombies, highlights being when an umbrella gets stabbed through one and opens up on the other side of the walking corpse, and when a heavy duty torch gets shoved through a zombies mouth, it falls over and when it hits the floor the torch turns on, disturbingly hilarious.

There is quite a strong anti drugs message running throughout the Go Goa Gone, it even opens with the director himself imploring people not to smoke. This message is not heavy handed though, but events such as the zombie outbreak being linked to drugs and the actual solution devised to win the day all gently suggest to stay off drugs. This is certainly a far better film than the terrible Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave which featured a similar plot, While hardly complicated it is a well told story and never gets boring thanks to the always smart dialogue.

Go Goa Gone did start to drag towards its finish though unfortunately, there is a certain point in the film when it could have ended and maybe should have as the fifteen minutes after this part while containing some really great moments did have the slight onset of sameness about it. The character of Boris who has a big part in this film was made out to be this super cool character but in actuality I didn't think he was that amazing as the script writers felt he was. His tag line 'I kill dead people' (parodying The Sixth Sense) and his general forced coolness grated on me a little bit.

All in all though this was a solid film that I intend to buy when I can. It was laugh out loud funny, exciting and the sunny setting of the island make this stand out from the norm. Another surprise hit.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Exit Humanity (2011) - Zombie Horror Film Review

Out of all the films being shown at the UK Festival of Festival Culture 2014 this was the one I was least looking forward to. A period piece Exit Humanity takes place in the 1870's after the American Civil War. I guessed it would be low budget and seem very false.

Exit Humanity is an account of a zombie outbreak that takes place in the 19th Century. Mark Gibson stars as Edward Young who arrives home to his family to discover his wife turned, now one of the undead, and his son missing. In panic he sets out to try and find his boy. After lots of misfortune and feeling beyond suicidal Young has just one goal left in his life. On the way to this task he meets a young soldier named Isaac (Adam Seybold) who convinces Young to team up to help rescue his sister who has been captured by General Williams (Bill Moseley) and his men who are trying to find a cure for the zombie plague sweeping the land.

This film is simply astounding, it blew me away with just how beautiful it all was. Edward Young is such a tragic character but also a human one. His early tragedies make a real emotional bond to this person, hating zombies with a passion, not caring about his own well being as he has lost everything. There is just no bad acting at all here, there are not many characters but all do fantastic jobs. Special mention must go to Bill Moseley as Williams, I just love it when bad guys get depth to them, here he really thinks what he is doing is the right thing. Straight out of Kill Bill Exit Humanity introduces these bad guys in a fantastic way, each one getting their own title card and description as they pose for photos in black and white. This method really sets them up as something special.

The direction and editing is also of such a high standard. Interspersed throughout are animated sequences that fit in perfectly with the time of the film and naturally flow. It is also split up into chapters, each one with it's own title card. Narrated constantly by Brian Cox the story is from the diaries of Young which are discovered in modern day. The diary method works perfectly as it gives the film a solid pacing with the engaging plot paced so well and also provides back story that just would not exist without unnatural long exposition.

The zombie make up effects look great and there is plenty of action. It does at times seem like the main characters have infinite bullets for their guns and as usual the real enemies of a zombie apocalypse are humans themselves. It all culminates in an intense sequence that drew heavily from 28 Days Later but a lot of the film is mellow and drawn out to really give a complete look at the characters within.

Exit Humanity looks fantastic, has an awesome soundtrack and great acting but what of it's faults? While never destroying the illusion of being the 19th Century it could be said that the sets themselves are quite bare bones. Much of the film takes place outside in woodland and fields but the interior locations are shrouded in darkness or quite small in scope but this didn't take anything away for me. The concept of a diary being found in modern times after a modern day zombie outbreak happening (as told in the introduction) is needless, this works perfectly well on it's own without needing a reason for the diary to be read. My only other petty complaint is that Young roars with anguish so often that it almost becomes a parody of itself, his mournful, anguished roaring even gets incorporated into the plot at one point, it sometimes seems his answer to everything is to look to the heavens and cry out!

Those are all such minor complaints though. In terms of horror films I can't think of anything that comes close to this in terms of showing a bygone time. While bleak there is hope saturated throughout and it is very moving with everyone having lost loved ones in a way that gets you in the gut. Essential viewing for any zombie fan is all I can say really, beautiful.


Monday, 17 November 2014

Bombshell Bloodbath (2014) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I have wanted to see Bombshell Bloodbath ever since I first heard of it last year. Directed by Brett Mullen this American made and based horror aims to emulate the style of the classic Italian zombie films of the 1980's, in particular Lucio Fulci's ones such as Zombie Flesh Eaters. It succeeds in being a homage to those gory films from that time but at what cost?

After Doctor Carters wife Lisa dies he becomes obsessed with the idea that he may be able to bring her back to life. Fired from his job at the CDC he becomes a grave robber, stealing corpses in order to test out his serums. After many failed experiments Carter finally stumbles across something which does revive dead bodies but he finds to his folly that it also turns the undead violent and hungry for flesh. Meanwhile his two daughters discover his twisted work and during a struggle the youngest daughter Cara accidentally gets infected. With the virus making her increasingly detached and violent she decides that she must get Carter the ingredients he needs in order to perfect his work so that an anti virus can be made to cure her.

I think a knowledge of 80's films is needed to really appreciate Bombshell Bloodbath. First off many of the actors over act which I believe is on purpose rather than by accident. Rob Springer as Doctor Carter is a stand out character. Already unhinged when the film starts he gets more and more insane once he has had half his face bitten off by his first successful revival. With his head wrapped in bandages and his manic attitude to his work (such as shoving his female assistants head into a zombie cage when she questions his ethics) he has a real presence, This is also helped by the graveyard sequences where he wears a freaky medieval gas mask (the one that looks like a birds beak). On the side of 'good' you have Sheriff Parks (Larry Parks) who does a fantastic job of being the small town close minded sheriff full of cuss words and anger.  He pretty much steals all his scenes and along with his underlings provides a lot of the humour.

There are many zombie effects and I am glad to say they look pretty decent albeit a little rubbery at times. The look of the undead is what drew me to the film in the first place. One in particular that had its face ripped off looked fantastic. Being a homage to Fulci and Argento there is plenty of gore, people shot get really messed up, while midway through the film there is death by shovel which is such a fun twisted death scene and reminded me of a similar thing in Day of the Dead (also someone being pulled apart in a similar fashion to Rhodes in that film!) In fact there is nothing bad to say about either the zombie make up or the violence on display here.

My biggest problem with Bombshell Bloodbath is due to its reliance on echoing previously made films. I understand it is not to be taken too seriously but sometimes it just seems too silly, too b-movie like. Things like the mad Doctors daughters not seeming too concerned that he has taken to grave robbing and kidnapping and the basic plot rob it of some of it's thunder. Being like a modern day Frankenstein in parts that aspect is well done, it is just when this is expanded to try and encompass more that it fails. The intro and outro sequences are designed to make you care about the wider picture but it would have been no worse or better if these parts were removed entirely.

The main character I guess you are supposed to care about is Cara. Rather than get flesh hungry after getting exposed she instead must struggle with reoccurring violent actions such as smashing a bottle over a guys head after he hits on her, and hallucinations that she has turned into a zombie (including a trippy sequence where she sports a purple wound). I just did not care for this character.

The direction is solid throughout and the whole final sequence is wonderful. My favourite part of the film takes place in slow motion starting with a boot to a face to a certain character, I was heavily reminded of a scene from House of 1000 Corpses, it was also really quite funny. Special mention must also got to the soundtrack which reminded me so much of Goblin, it fitted the tone of the film perfectly.

All in all there is plenty of good to be found in Bombshell Bloodbath but I sometimes felt that it had one trick up it's sleeve and not really any original ideas of it's own, certainly the least memorable of the films I saw last weekend.


Sunday, 16 November 2014

UK Festival of Zombie Culture 2014

Yesterday I attended the 8th annual UK Festival of Zombie Culture and am pleased to say it was another fantastic event. Once again me and my dear friend Lucinda made the pilgrimage to the Phoenix Centre in Leicester, England to watch 13 hours of zombie films on a cinema screen.

Our third year attending the show and for the first time we did not get lost finding the place, even going so far as to make the trip the evening before just to make sure we had our route down.  Turning up at midday on Saturday 15th we got a cider and then went in to watch the first film.

To begin with UK horror legend Zombie Ed welcomed everyone and put on a trailer for a dodgy looking b-movie titled Hell Comes to Frog Town starring Rowdy Roddy Piper. This was followed by awesome zombie author David Moody coming on stage to read an except from Autumn: Disintegration. The first film was Brett Mullen's Bombshell Bloodbath that paid great homage to the Italian undead splatter films of the 1980's. I appreciated the winks and nods and the way it made no effort to take itself seriously but this was not a classic.

Heading back to the bar for another cider I got some raffle tickets and tried my hand at the 3 minute zombie killing challenge which again was Dead Rising. I did merely average so was happy enough. Lucinda did abysmal at the challenge last year yet despite now owning Dead Rising 2 she refused to play, I'm sure she would have done good! Before the second film of the day started horror author Adam Millard read an excerpt from a zombie book of his that takes place in the Wild West. The next film was Exit Humanity and was simply astounding. I was not expecting much to be honest but was blown away. Set just after the American Civil War it follows Edward Young who looses everything he holds dear when an undead plague sweeps the land. Features a great score and some amazing acting and actors (such as horror icon Bill Moseley). A very moving film.

After another cider I visited David Moody's stall, was great to see him again (plus he knew who I was!). Brought a bunch of books from him (and Lucinda gifted me one also, thanks again!) and also spoke briefly with Adam Millard. I am sad to say I have never read any of his work so shall ensure before next years event I rectify that as he seemed like a real nice guy. After suffering a terrible animated short (British made claymation Dan of the Dead) the next film to be shown was Go Goa Gone; an Indian comedy. I am pleased to say this was another very good film, very funny. It follows two loser friends who get trapped on a small island off the coast of Goa when drugs at a rave turn the takers into flesh eating ghouls. The only complaint against this one is that it went on slightly too long.

With an hour break we headed back to our hotel to get warmer clothes and then got some food to eat at a nearby takeaway. A short film starring school children was next, I missed this due to queueing up for more cider but by all accounts it was terrible (so bad it was good my friend said) This short was followed by Australian Theatre of the Dead which is about a bunch of actors who barricade themselves in their theatre after zombie apocalypse happens. It wasn't a bad film, just very generic.

By this point both me and my friend were quite tired, Lucinda headed back to the hotel for sleep while I headed in to see the fifth film of the night Juan of the Dead and to see if my raffle tickets had won me anything (they did; 3 books and 2 films). I actually own Juan on DVD but not actually seen it. This was a Cuban comedy that has drawn parallels with Shaun of the Dead and while it was very funny at times at others it was trying too hard and not as hilarious as it thought it was being.

I just about survived the fifth film but I was crashing badly, knowing the final film wouldn't be over till near one in the morning I'm ashamed to say I left rather than see it. It was New Zealand zombie film 'I Survived a Zombie Holocaust'.

This years zombie festival  was the best in terms of films shown with Exit Humanity and Go Goa Gone both being films I would love to own, was great to see the usual faces even if I am so self conscious at these events that I retreat into my shell a lot. Counting down the days for next years event!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Hillbilly Horror Show Volume 1 (2014) - Horror Film News

Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1 is an hour long horror anthology film that was released on 21st October last month. I have a soft spot for anthology films, of course Creepshow being a classic example.

There are four horror shorts included in volume 1 (volume 2 and 3 to be released in 2015). These include the following films;

Franky and the Ant - this won an award at the 2013 LA Indie Film Festival and is about a wronged man who wants more than vengeance on those who have wronged him.
Amused - A mother returns home to find something horrific attacking her daughter. She flees into the empty countryside pursued by the terror.
Doppelganger - In a tribute to the classic Ray Harryhausen style of stop motion creatures a skeleton goes on a journey to find his own kind.
The Nest - This won best foreign short at the 2011 Atlanta Shortfest and is about a rancher under attack from a swarm of giant flesh eating bees.

So a varied bunch of films and from the awards might actually include some decent stuff. In between these shorts there are the hillbilly's; Bo, Cephus and Lulu who introduce them. Not sure what to make of those parts as the character of Lulu in particular just seems to be there to provide titillation (she is played by model Rachel Faulkner). Anyway if this sounds your thing then go get it, and check out the trailer below...

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Wotsits Zombie Fingers and Maynards Sour Tricks and Spooky Treats (2014) - Halloween Themed Food Review

As the Halloween season is pretty much dead and done I wanted to officially end Halloween 2014 by talking about a few more horror themed products launched to cash in on the season to scream.  First up is Wotsits Zombie Fingers...

I don't mind Wotsits in general though their powdery nature makes them a nightmare to eat if your doing anything else at all. In a shocking twist these corn puffs had a limited edition of flamin' hot zombie fingers. I like these, not bad but be warned there is false advertising as they are exactly the same look and shape as normal Wotsits; not actual zombie fingers!

So Wotsits Zombie Fingers are misleading and make little effort with the design of the bag but actually taste fine


Next up ARE some sweets I got at a reduced price. Maynards Sour Tricks are sour coated jelly sweets, I ate the pumpkin adorned packet in one go and it gave me a belly ache...maybe a tricky curse? The other is named Maynards Spooky Treats and features a witch on the front of the packet. These jelly sweets did not give me a belly ache but they did make me feel a bit sick...another curse perhaps? Both packets feature weird jokes on the back that seem to be incomplete.

Both these sweets caused me afflictions in various ways but could have been caused by their addictive nature, I like the cover design but in general I really not am keen on sweets anyway.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Horns (2013) - Fantasy Film Review

I didn't know what to make of the trailer for Horns, it looked like it was going to be a strange film, I also didn't know if I would be able to take Daniel Radcliffe seriously having never seen him as anything but 'the boy who lived' before. Though completed in 2013 it has only just seen a cinematic release.

Radcliffe stars as Ig Perrish a troubled young man who is deep in grieving after his life long love Merrin was brutally murdered. Everyone in the small town he lives in is convinced that Ig is responsible for the death and so everywhere he goes he is hounded by the police, news reporters and the people of the town, even his family believe he did it. One day he awakes to find strange horns growing out of his head, he is horrified by this deformity but no one else in the small town seems to mind or even notice. Ig discovers that when he is around people they find themselves forced to tell him their deepest darkest secrets and desires, and with this new found ability of his he sets out to find out who the real murderer of Merrin is.

Horns is a real strange beast, at it's heart is a serious story, one that had real emotion behind it. There are constant flashbacks to happier times and not so happy times showing how Ig and Merrin fell in love during their lives. This is effective in really creating an emotional bond with the main character, I found myself imagining myself in his situation and how painful losing a loved one would be. These flashbacks also slowly reveal hidden truths and toy with what you have previously been told, such as if the relationship was as strong as it had been made out to be from Ig's perspective.

The other side of Horns is the whole horn thing itself. There is no explanation for the horns appearance or the power they give Ig and yet this power is essential for moving the more grounded plot forward. I wondered how people would react to this bizarre thing and the route gone down whereby people seem to really struggle to be able to see the growths is a sensible one. Much of the films humour comes from the people he meets unable to not tell him their sordid secrets and from his ability to make people do things for him such as one funny part when he convinces the news people following him to fight each other in order to secure an exclusive interview..

Set in a town bordering on a forest the film is a beautiful piece, I found myself thinking how amazing it would look on blu-ray, I may end up buying it just to look at the scenery. The soundtrack is also really good featuring a lot of David Bowie as well as other great sounding bands. This is not a horror though, it is more a mishmash of murder mystery and fantasy. The plot is really well handled, I cared for the main characters and found myself invested in the story, it is really heartfelt portraying such a real bond of love. The fantasy element on the other hand actually reminded me a bit of Jennifer's Body, both feature attractive main leads who find themselves with strange new powers they didn't want and both end up going down dark paths. There are a few scenes of horror but are few and far between.

There is a lot of religious imagery used throughout, from the obvious of Ig's horns making him look like a devil to more subtle things such as a cafe being called 'Eve's' and having an apple in it's logo. I was fascinated to find out each of the main characters cars licence plates refer to specific bible passages which reveal just what sort of person they really are. The town is full of religious people so there is lots of talk of punishment by God and biblical quotes but it never feels heavy handed in the use of this imagery.

Where Horns drops the ball though is its end sequence, at two hours long it is lengthy and I just felt the final sequence went on far too long and felt too unnatural. By the time the payoff comes it just goes too over the top, too much fantasy. In general the later demon sequences are quite ridiculous and take away from the sad plot line. Throughout there are just too many references to sex including a few needless sex scenes that served no purpose at all.

I thought Horns was an interesting film, and nearly a fantastic one, it certainly looks and sounds the part and I was surprised at how much Radcliffe has come on in his acting ability. On the negative side of things though the supernatural element does eventually end up getting in the way of a decent whodunit.


Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Babadook (2014) - Horror Film Review

I did a blog post recently in which I pretty much just complained about horror films not being shown at my local cinema. Well I'm riding high with a lot of egg on my face as there are currently three showing. Australian made The Babadook was by far the most interesting of the horrors I wanted to see.

Widower Amelia (Essie Davis) lives alone with her strange boy Samuel who is approaching his seventh birthday. This time of year is always hard on Amelia as her husband died in a car accident the night her son was born. Each night his mum reads him a story book before bed but one evening he chooses a strange book to read that she has never seen before. Titled 'Mister Babadook' it is a children's pop up book that features some really disturbing pictures and writing and scares the poor boy. Samuel becomes convinced the Babadook is real much to the annoyance of Amelia who starts to think there is something really wrong with her child and his obsession with monsters. Soon though she starts to experience strange events in her house at night, starts to hallucinate about a shadowy figure wearing a top hat, and slowly her mind starts to unravel...

When I left the screen at the end of the film people all around me were laughing and saying what an awful film The Babadook was, and yet me myself found it to be terrifying. It follows the tried and tested horror method of having a day and night cycle (such as Paranormal Activity, Insidious and may others have) with moderate horror taking place in daylight but the real ordeal starting at night. A lot of this fear came from sitting tense waiting for the horror to end. I didn't care about the characters, both mum and son are annoying people, more I was waiting for a breather. Flickering lights, strange noises and voices, even a bit of people being dragged around by unseen forces, it's all been done before but it is still effective. The majority of the film takes place in the grey depressing, deteriorating house the two live in, this reflects Amelia's state of mind, there is a lot to point to that the events of the film do not actually even occur, it could just as easily be in her fragmented mind, driven mad by her troubled and possibly psychotic son.

Noah Wiseman plays Samuel and he is one of the most irritating characters of recent years. He squeals, he shouts and plays up, he ignore his mother and is basically a little brat. It's telling that his teachers and even his aunt can barely stand him. Amelia is also at the end of her tether with him. In some ways the events of the film can be seen as a far more human tale, There are even slight undertones pointing to a more incestuous relationship between the two, such as them always sharing a bed together and him walking in on her using an adult toy. These are very slight undertones it must be stressed but again points to a more psychological explanation than a paranormal one.

Where the film becomes great is the appearance of the pop up book. It is creepy as hell and sent shivers down my spine with it's intricate knowledge of the woman and her child's fears. The Babadook itself is kept to the shadows for a lot of the time, when it is revealed it is all puppetry which just looks uber disturbing. The horror here is of  a children's story book come to life. Repetition of actions such as the constant knocking on doors, and the fact that the Babadook gets more powerful the more you deny it exists all point to the origins in make believe. What I found interesting in the direction of The Babadook is that it constantly follows Amelia, regardless of what is happening it is her story, it feels real fresh, even when she is behaving extremely weirdly and may be possessed the camera is still always centered on her. Davis is very well cast and is so easily able to portray herself as both a doting mother and as someone in the grip of true madness, the way she flips between the two states is wonderful. The use of jump cuts and time speeding up do the best portrayal of insomnia I have seen, there is some really excellent editing going on here.

There are not actually many jump scares to find here which I really appreciated, instead there is a creeping terror, with events slowly ramping up to a large degree. The glimpses of Mister Babadook are sparse but always effective, usually the camera lingers on it for a split second leaving your imagination to fill in the blanks. The sense of unreality works so well in the films favour such as one of the most bizarre scenes. Unable to sleep at night Amelia watches TV, channel after channel has fearful images using clips from really old films, it piles on the disturbing and finally ends with her finding herself looking out the window of a house in the background of a news report, a maniacal smile on her doppelgangers lips; gave me goosebumps!

Unfortunately the low budget of The Babadook can be seen at times. It is a really shame that the big finale features some very generic roaring noises which I have heard in countless other films and programs before. They should have made some effort to give their wonderful monster some unique sounds rather than public domain ones. Also the film just does not seem to know how to end. All I can think of is that the makers could not decide how to finish the film and so just piled every idea they had on, one after the other. There are around six or seven false endings towards the end and at least one or two of them would have made for an amazing finish (one even took it's inspiration from The Evil Dead). Instead when it finally does finish it is on such a lame note that it couldn't help but remove some of the atmosphere that had been built up during the rest of the running time, especially when the film devolves into a Home Alone parody for a bit towards the end. When your laughing at a film but not laughing with it then something has gone wrong,

The Babadook is a really scary film that is let down by some poor script and not knowing when to end. It stands out enough to be worth a watch for its bizarre main antagonist and I love the fact that it leaves it up to the viewer to come up for an explanation of what has occurred.