Sunday, 31 May 2015

Walking Bangkai (2015) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

As I mentioned previously Abdul Zainidi (Ostrich Supernatural Game, Jentingkai) recently sent me two short horrors for review. Walking Bankai is the second of these and is a comedic homage to the zombie genre.

It takes place in 2017 and zombie apocalypse has come to the island of Brunei alongside a rice shortage. Three hungry friends have seeked shelter on a balcony. One of the friends starts begging for food, the other two seeing he isn't looking well decide to ignore his plea and instead shut him away in a house the balcony leads to as they fear he may soon become one of the walking dead.

At just six minutes long this is another very brief film, yet in this time there is enough set up that the situation feels authentic. It starts with a description of the predicament and so when the film starts proper you know what is going on. Some of the humour worked for me, some of it did not, the crux of the storyline fell a bit flat as the motivation of a certain character seemed a bit off. It also seemed a bit strange that a balcony was chosen as the safe place to be when surely the house itself would have been a better choice.

There are a few zombies here and all look passable, a really skinny boy in particular really seemed like he was one of the walking dead. The dialogue isn't bad, there are both English and French subtitles used which for some bits seem to fill up half the screen with text.

While the humour doesn't always work there is a lot of atmosphere on show here, it made me interested to see just what Zainidi would do with a feature length zombie film as the setting is perfect for a film about the undead.


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Jentingkai (2014) - Short Horror Film Review

At the end of last year I reviewed Abdul Zainidi's bizarrely titled Ostrich Supernatural Game that was filmed in Brunei. I have now got two other films of his for review both again filmed in Brunei but this time they are shorts rather than feature length films. The first is Jentingkai.

After having an argument with his brother Romu heads out for a walk along a beach, there he finds a mysterious looking urn which he decides to take home with him. Back at home and still angry at his sibling he thinks about how much he wishes he would just disappear forever. Sometimes you should be careful what you wish for, especially when you have chanced upon the resting place of a Jentingkai...

The short plays out like a modern day fairytale there is no dialogue from the characters themselves but instead a narrator speaks over the piece and does so in a story like manner. At just over six minutes long this is very concise and manages to tell a whole story. Like most fairy tales this is a cautionary one that teaches a lesson. Jentingkai is filmed in high quality and doesn't actually call for any special effects at all, instead everything is inferred and explained via the narration.

Some of the physical acting seems to be quite over the top, especially in a scene in which Romu attempts to sneak the strange urn back into his household and sidles by his family quite suspiciously. Being a fairytale I felt this strange type of over acting fitted, and especially without any dialogue from the actors themselves this helped to convey meaning. There is a sinister overtone to the whole short, and while the story was really quite simple it was effective with some creepy scenes involving the Jentingkai.

Overall this was an enjoyable little film that had some decent direction, sure the plot may be as simple as they come but it was done well.


Friday, 29 May 2015

Easy Pickings (2015) - Short Horror Film Review

Easy Pickings is a ten minute long horror written by Michelle Gruver and Dack Guy, as well as directed by them along with Jamie Dawson as part of Dead Box Productions. I have to say I did think the title was very appropriate and playful in how it could be interpreted.

The film follows Billy the redneck; a drunken jerk who is nasty to everyone he meets. He heads to a local cafe where after hassling a mother and her two children leaves to cause trouble elsewhere. The waitress warns the mum that there is a killer on the loose who has been attacking lone drivers and that she should be wary as Billy fits the bill, but is he really the one to be afraid of?

As I often say it is not an easy task to get an entire story down in such a short amount of time, pacing can be an issue or something can end up feeling half completed. There is a definite beginning middle and end for Easy Pickings so that goal was achieved. The idea that a killer was on the loose was introduced late into the short, and the notion that this particular redneck could be the killer was hard to swallow as while he is an idiot he is not at all threatening in the way he looks. The plot in general was predictable and went exactly as I imagined it would but it was fun to see it play out regardless.

The acting was passable but the majority was pretty average, it wasn't helped by a bad sound mix, the music was fine and audible, but I did struggle with hearing the dialogue as especially in the diner scene it was quite hard to make out what people were saying, like they were talking through a tube which was a shame. The music was generic American rock but it fitted the redneck tone Easy Pickings went for.

This indie short didn't outstay it's welcome and despite some average acting and sound quality issues it was quite fun, avoiding being boring. Check it out below if you so wish.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Blood Drive (2010) - Zombie Videogame Review (X-Box 360)

Blood Drive is a vehicle arena racer/shooter in the vein of Twisted Metal, the big difference and what drew me to it is that each of the arenas you battle in are full of the rotting undead as well as other combatants.

The game takes place in post zombie apocalypse America, a new sport has emerged in this new world; 'Blood Drive' where people fight for fame and glory. The latest Blood Drive championship is taking place at Las Ruletas where there are six arenas in which the six people of various backgrounds fight for the cup.

This was released as a budget title and it is clear to see from the average graphics and dull generic American rock music that it doesn't do much to hide the fact. Depending on what cup you choose there are a variety of different challenges to win at. Each new cup is unlocked after the previous one has been beaten. It starts off with just a few rounds but by the time you unlock the final cups there are thirty rounds to get through, with no way to save you are expected to do it all in one play through which for a thirty round cup is I would guess around two hours, and two dull hours at that.

I think there is something like six different types of round in the game. The race based ones include a straight up race where every thirty seconds the person in last place is eliminated, and one where you have to get through the most check points. Other modes require you to kill the most zombies, kill the most of everything (zombies and fellow drivers) with the final two rounds being keeping hold of a gold skull the longest and killing zombies but with the lowest scorer being eliminated every thirty seconds. None of these are particularly fun, the zombie killing ones are the best due to the simple fact that the car controls can be pretty loose and so manoeuvring your vehicle through the petty checkpoints which require you to pass them with perfect accuracy is an unpleasant and frustrating mission.

There are eight characters to choose from but despite seeming to have a lot of back story for each one there isn't really an easy way to find it out, you get information on loading screens, and vague things the characters themselves say but other than that there is nothing which makes it a shame. I played through the game as Jackson who seems to be based on Mad Max, other combatants include Reggie who drives an ambulance, and a few other potentially interesting people. There are six arenas to play though, some better designed than others. These include an airport, a stadium, factory, town, car park and casino, more choice would have been better.

The zombies themselves are plentiful but the game features some bad pop up, all of the undead can be mown down quite easily apart from the super zombies which have been stolen straight from Left 4 Dead and include leaping ones, tank ones, and fat poison ones who explode when hit. Not only can you car destroy these but there are a variety of weapons you can collect to destroy them with such as grenade launcher, rail gun and mines. Each character also has a special ability, such as Jackson who has a shock wave effect that kills everything around him.

The only option to play the game is cups, even the option to do a single race has to be unlocked. Multiplayer is also an option, I didn't actually try this mode myself. With dodgy controls, a lack of aim and some far too long cups it is really hard to recommend this, even if you love zombies. All I can really say in the positive is that least the presentation is well done with announcers talking in between matches and some cohesive design choices.


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Poltergeist (2015) - Horror Film Review

Going from the trailer for Poltergeist I can't say I was excited to see this, it looked to be a run of the mill horror and seemed to echo the original 1982 Poltergeist film a little too much, I never see the point of remakes that do little to change up the formula.

After being made redundant Eric Bowen and his wife Amy relocate their family (Kendra, Griffin, and Madison) to a new cheaper house but it isn't long before a whole host of strange things start to occur. At first just the youngest children notice these ghostly goings on but it isn't too long before everyone becomes apparent of them, and it is pretty hard to ignore the supernatural when forces have stolen away your daughter via a magical portal in a closet! Thinking the police would not believe what has happened the Bowens turn to a paranormal group from a local University, they in turn contact celebrity paranormal investigator Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris).

This is a horror film for people that don't like horror, I'm so used to the genre being full of misery and terror that to have something as relatively light hearted as this actually makes it stand out, I had quite a nostalgic hit watching this. To begin with I got a sense of de-ja vu, it reminded me quite a bit of Paranormal Activity, while the whole spirit dimension aspect to the film was pretty much Insidious, but then I thought it wasn't so much this copying those, more that those films cribbed from the original Poltergeist. I have no idea why I never noticed that before with them.

The family unit are ok, though all are not perfect characters, the parents don't have much to them other than Eric seems quite a bitter jerk. Of the children the youngest; Madison is actually the least annoying, eldest Kendra is a stereotypical angry teen, while the boy Griffin is super irritating due to him being terrified of absolutely everything even before the horror starts to happen. Maybe as a result of no character being too great Harris manages to steal every scene he is in, though he doesn't appear till the films final third his character is pretty awesome and has the funniest dialogue. There is a lot of humour throughout to keep things feeling safe and enjoyable rather than bleak and scary.

Talking of scary Poltergeist certainly is not, aside from one scene involving evil clown dolls (their appearance in the house left a mystery) there is no horror here, more a series of exciting events, the special effects come into play with all the strange activity such as cracks in the walls appearing, a possessed tree and flying objects looking pretty decent. When truly disturbing things do happen it is usually just a hallucination such as a character being pinned to a wall as an electric drill pokes holes closer and closer to his face.

This isn't a straight remake thankfully, it shares a heck of a lot in common with the original with barely anything changed, but is brought more into the modern day such as a drone being flown into the spirit dimension before any one physically enters it. The spirit dimension looks pretty cool, lots of corridors with zombie like ghouls growing out of them.

While sharing so much in common with the original that there are no surprises at all it was still entertaining to see the slight differences, while the modern day special effects made it more fun to witness the madness. This is in no way a classic but it is enjoyable, and wasn't a bad way to kill an hour and a half.


Monday, 25 May 2015

Videogram - Horror Music News

I was first contacted a few weeks back in regards to some exciting news for Magnus Sellergren's Videogram but before I have even had a chance to blog about that it rapidly become out of date, so I guess I will mention all I have found out since that time. Videogram of course is responsible for some most catchy and authentic sounding odes to B-movies and exploitation films of the 80's,

The original news was that Videogram had teamed up with Lunchmeat VHS and Doc Terror to release a strictly limited edition VHS that contains the debut album with trailers of old films accompanying the music, however it wasn't much later that Magnus got in contact again to say all the VHS tapes had sold out. Instead there is now a digital version available via that includes the 34 minute VHS video and the VHS master of the S/T album.

I have seen a 15 minute preview of the video and it is certainly good stuff, each of the trailers seemed to be from a different genre and fits the music well, Subway Stalker for example has a spliced together trailer for video nasty Driller Killer, while Eaten Alive! has a trailer for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre knock off. Elsewhere you get ones for post apocalyptic, sci-fi, serial killer and monster films.

I always felt Videogram's music was perfect for what it aimed to emulate, having the music set to trailers just proves this point. The digital download can be purchased from here, while there are also some T-shirts available that feature the artwork done for the VHS, the shirts can be purchased from here.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

CTRL - Horror Film News

CTRL is a British indie horror film that is to be written and directed by Harry Lindley. the press release states it is to meld together several different horror sub-genres including sci-fi, zombies, body horror, psychopath, and haunted house.

Lex and her boyfriend Dru visit her loner brother Leo at his top floor apartment in London, there they discover he has created a digital virus which has become sentient and is rapidly evolving. After becoming trapped in the building by the rogue A.I the three must work together and get over their personal issues to try and stop the virus which is determined to spread its influence across the globe.

The whole film is to be shot in just the one location, the budget constraint of £17,000 meaning this was a necessity, but one in which CTRL has been neatly fitted into. It was originally conceived as an apocalyptic disaster movie that would be quite global in its scope, instead signs of this apocalyptic struggle are portrayed via news reports and stories the trapped trio witness which sounds quite an interesting method to get around the small budget. The central concept was 'what if a digital virus was able to escape the computer and become airborne?', this may be reflected in the biological drones the virus is able to create.

There is currently a Kickstarter campaign going to raise funds for the filming which is due to take place in August, as said £17,000 is to be the amount needed, so far and with ten days to go £11,002 has been raised so hopefully they will be successful. You can check out the Kickstarter here to find out more and donate if you so wish. Despite this being a low cost production it is hoped that this will not be reflected in its look, going by the excellently made teaser trailer (also made on a budget) this will not be the case.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Music Store Massacre (2013) - Horror Film Review

I was first contacted by Gordon Price; the writer and director of Music Store Massacre just over a year ago in order to give his film a review, I'm ashamed to say I had a bit of a meltdown with his message getting lost in The Rotting Zombie vault and so it was only recently that I rediscovered the film and actually sat down to watch it.

Detective Young (Dave Meadows) witnesses the aftermath of a brutal murder in which his partner has been killed by her priest brother in bizarre circumstances. The priest is found on a gurney with his leg self amputated and having carried out a blood tranfusion to a demonic looking guitar. Several years later after Young finds the same guitar at the scene of several murders and suicides he starts to think that the instrument is cursed and sets out to discover just what is going on. Meanwhile random people keep coming into contact with the device, and it is indeed cursed for it compels people to go out and kill and so all over town the body count rises.

The cast of Music Store Massacre are a miserable and bitter lot, with the exception of a rare handful every single person in this film represents the worst of the worst; racists, sexists, rapists, wife beaters, extortionists, gang bangers and creeps all have prominent roles. At first I thought this was a pretty terrible idea to have such hateful people saying such nasty things but as the film plays out it becomes apparent all these people by their actions have set themselves up for a fall. The quite cool looking demonic guitar kind of hypnotises anyone bad who attempts to play it, it makes them search out hateful people and murder them, and then when there are no more victims nearby they are compelled to kill themselves. This is slowly revealed as the film progresses and the reveal that people who are pure hearted are spared by the curse was a glint of light in the darkness.

This movie is all shot in black and white but kind of like Sin City blood appears as red which works as there is plenty of blood and gore here. There is a high body count and some of the deaths are really quite fun and inventive, the titular music store massacre features death by flute, and death by oboe, later on there is a death via mobile phone, and plenty of stabbings, gun shots and even a hanging appears. All of these feature gratuous amounts of blood, I think they are meant to come across as funny for a lot of the time. The special effects are pretty terrible but fit the comedic over the top methods.

There are so many different sub plots going on that I was at times confused, characters are introduced only to be killed off a few scenes later, some of the side stories fizzle out into nothing, and the film ends before the main plot is even finished, instead we get a soppy and bizarrely positive ending involving two of the nicer side characters with the Detectives stories resolution ignored. In general the acting ranges from terrible to acceptable, I have certainly seen worse and the bad actors don't get in the way of the plot. I can't help but feel some further editing would have made this a more stream lined experiance, there is certainly some fat around the edges in this one hour forty minute piece. The film is split into various different chapters, each feature a bloody title card with a hilariously dramatic deep voice that announces each new chapter.

With such an array of nasty people it is inevitable that plenty of generic rock music would feature, that has to get a pass in a film where a satanic guitar is the focal point. As expected there is also plenty of sleazy sex and a bit of nudity, this fits the unclean world that is portrayed but why so many of the female cast are walking around in stockings and garters seemingly as a fashion choice is beyond me. In general the film looks quite rough at times, but mostly is not badly edited with some quick paced art house style sequences that can often be effective.

When I first sat down to watch Music Store Massacre I fully expected to have a monotonous and awful time but actually this is not as bad as all that, under all the bigotry and hate comes a pretty decent tale which actually has some revelations later on that took me slightly by surprise. I think the fact that there are pure people here, and that these people are spared being killed is a great decision, it gives hope into what could have been a far more miserable time, there is no one who dies here who does not deserve it in one way or the other, 'death to thou who hates' indeed. While it is slightly over long and rough around the edges it avoids being boring. Music Store Massacre is currently free to watch on YouTube and Pivot Share for a limited time.


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Closure Limited And Other Zombie Tales (2012) by Max Brooks - Zombie Horror Book Review

I have never particularly liked Max Brooks books, his first one The Zombie Survival Guide was entertaining up to a point but was so geared towards American audiences that I often felt alienated by the advice provided. Next up was World War Z which of course went on to becoming a high grossing film, but for the book itself I never found myself too interested in the method used of portraying zombie apocalypse from testimonies of the people who lived through it. Would Closure Limited be any better than those so-so ones?

In this slim book there are four short stories, two of which are set in the World War Z universe. First up is Closure, Limited: A Story of World War Z that follows a man in Iceland visiting a boat where people find ways to get closure for loved ones missing during the apocalypse. It was written in a similar style to the main book and so again there is just something about that whole written universe that leaves me cold, a slight air of pretentiousness to everything. The story itself doesn't really do much but has some new ideas.

The next story is titled Steve and Fred, this one is actually two unrelated stories but they meld together interestingly. The first one is pure action and has Steve; a soldier assaulting a base over run with the undead, he does crazy stunts, has cool one liners and gets the girl. The second half concerns itself with a man called Fred who is slowly going insane having been trapped in a hotel toilet due to thousands of dead outside the small room. At first I thought it was a bit strange having these two entirely unrelated tales but actually the parallels between the two characters situations was well done, probably my favourite story of the four.

The third one is called The Extinction Parade and is a recounting of mankind's extinction by zombies from the perspective of a vampire. I enjoyed this one even if it didn't feel too original (Scott Baker's Rotter World novel came out the same year and dealt with a similar subject). At times it feels a bit too silly, but also manages to be affecting and regretful in equal measures.

This compilation ends with the second World War Z short story titled The Great Wall: A Story from the Zombie War which is an interview with a woman who was put to work rebuilding the great wall of China to stop the hordes making it into a human safe zone. This was ok, nothing really exciting again.

At 124 pages this is a very small book which for the asking price of £5.99 is a bit steep I felt, I'm sure you can find it for cheaper now. Even without the price I just never really got gripped by any of the stories here, they were ok to read but certainly nothing that is going to stick around in my mind for too long.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Battery (2012) - Zombie Horror Film Review

Back in 2013 at the UK Festival of Zombie Culture I caught the last half hour of The Battery and thought what I had seen was fantastic. It is only now that I have seen the whole thing. I was worried that the rest might not live up to the powerful final third, but was there any reason to be nervous?

The film takes place in New England and follows Ben (Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim); two former baseball team mates who now live a nomadic life style after zombie apocalypse has swept the country. Ben relishes the new world, he is in his element savaging for supplies and living off the land, Mickey however is stuck in the past, not able to forget the world that used to exist and just wanting to find somewhere safe to live in comfort. After discovering other survivors via a radio transmission Mickey becomes obsessed with finding them, even their ominous warnings to stay away is not enough to stop him from his new found goal.

The Battery has a very laid back feeling to it, there are plenty of long, lingering, lazy shots that goes perfectly with the summer vibe. The duo are aimless, they have no goal so there is no sense of urgency for them, they soak up their surroundings and so this slow approach to filming works well. Some reviews I noticed complained about these slow shots and wished the film had been cut down but I disagree, especially later with a protracted scene in a car these long single shots help make things seem real, much more than multiple kinetic camera angles would have done.

This laid back approach is also echoed in the amazing soundtrack which is full of stripped back light hearted songs. Music plays a key role in the film, Mickey uses his headphones as a means to escape the dead world he has come to know, his music is like a security blanket to him, the fact that Ben puts up with this is a great unspoken sign of the trust the two have in each other as it is up to Ben to protect him from threats his music might drown out. The best part of the film in fact comes courtesy of music, a little number that was laugh out loud funny.

There is very little plot to speak of here but that is in no way a bad thing as instead lots of time is dedicated to showing just how well Ben and Mickey work together. They have a shared past of being trapped in a house for three months, which gives the reason Ben wishes to be always on the move but also suggests that they must be close if they survived that without getting sick of each other. Ben is nearly the polar opposite in the way he behaves, he is the one who provides all the food and kills the zombies. Mickey in fact starts the film having never killed one and with no desire to and that is a bone of contention between them. Montages of the two hanging out pop up throughout the film and really provide a sense of comradely that no amount of dialogue could provide. In fact over half the film is just the two hanging out doing normal things, it makes the times when danger rears its head all the more impactful. Gardner and Cronheim are perfect fits for their roles, their performances are so realistic and believable and really adds to the films tone.

The Battery is filmed in some beautiful locations; countryside, old houses, rivers and long stretching roads, along with the summer vibe and twee music you can often forget a zombie apocalypse is even going on. The cast is very minimal and that isn't just limited to the human characters, the undead are a constant threat but in such small numbers that they are never really something to be afraid of. The make up for the ghouls is passable but they are not really the point of this road trip/buddy movie. There is quite an omnipresent feeling of bitter sweetness throughout the film, seeing these men go about their lives with the weight of what they have lost behind them made me just want them to find happiness, everything they do has a sense of sadness and wistfulness, despite this there is plenty of gentle humour throughout with some very funny natural scenes at times.

Jeremy Gardner not only stars but he also wrote and directed this, while both him and Cronheim produced it and you can tell it is a real labour of love, despite having around a $6,000 budget this works with what it has and leaves a film that really stays with you. What you get here is a film about two believable characters, both flawed people, but also people you just can't help but root for. This has gone straight into my top ten zombie films of all time; essential viewing.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

One Drop - Horror Film News

Canadian director Tricia Lee's next horror film titled One Drop has just began shooting. Lee has previously done psychological horror Clean Break and creature feature Silent Retreat. One Drop is to be another creature feature, this time set in a deserted hospital.

A single mother awakens in the basement of a medical facility with no memory of how she got there, not only does everyone in the place appear to be dead but she discovers she is nine months pregnant. As she tries to escape the facility she comes to realise there is some sort of nightmarish creature stalking the corridors which does not want her to leave.

The cast includes Lara Gilchrist (from Battlestar Galactica and zombie videogame Dead Rising 2) as well as Benjamin Arthur, Torri Higginson, Mark Taylor, and Julian Richings. Currently sets are being built and prosthetic work is on the go but to help with post production a Indiegogo Campaign has been launched. The amount hoped to be raised is $20,000 Canadian dollars, so far $9,371 has been raised with just 37 hours left before it ends. If you fancy donating then there is a host of awards available, check out the Indiegogo page here if you so wish for a bunch more information on what this film is to be.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - Post Apocalyptic Film Review

I went to the cinema not expecting at all that I would be faced with the dilemma of whether I should review Mad Max: Fury Road, sure it is post apocalyptic but it is not horror, I finally came to the decision that I really should give it a review though in case I regretted it later.

Tom Hardy stars as the titular Mad Max, this film has been classed as a reboot of the franchise but as far as I'm concerned it could easily fit into the time line of those ones. Set in post apocalyptic Australia it starts with Max being hunted down and captured by a band of marauders who follow the local warlord Immortan Joe. This soon takes back seat to the story of one of Joe's commanders; Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who during a routine mission to head to Gas Town to get petrol turns traitor and heads off into the desert having secretly stowed away Joe's 'wives' in her war rig and planning to take them away to safety. Soon Joe's entire mobile army is in pursuit which just so happens to include Max (now tied to the front of one of the chasing vehicles). After a series of events Max ends up also on the rig with the wives and Furiosa, but can they get to their destination with a whole army at their heels?

Now I have only seen the first two Mad Max films and only once many many years ago and so I can't quite recall the tone of them other than they were really violent. While Fury Road is a 15 there is still plenty of violence though when it comes to blood that is in very short supply with the main consequence being an attacker falling off their vehicle/vehicle exploding. I say vehicle as this is very much a two hour chase sequence, all the fighting, shooting and plot development happens while on the move with probably fifteen minutes in total that doesn't involve being in a moving vehicle.

There is far more of a fantasy vibe this time around. Locations are outlandish and over the top, while the clothes and car design is almost surreal. Joe for instance wears a perplex plastic suit of armour, while his fortress has been built into the side of a mountain and is very dramatic looking. Mad Max actually lives up to his title, before it seemed 'mad' meant he was angry but now the character has frequent visual and audio hallucinations of his wife and child (who as is lore were murdered in the past). He is very much the strong silent type and quite an anti hero, at least to begin with as the pre film blurb says his only desire is to survive.

For a long chase there needed to be variety and this mostly comes from the different gangs who pit themselves against the huge rig. The vehicles are all very distinctive, Joe's one being a monster truck while others include a converted digger, tank, and various motorbikes, jeeps and vans. Early on a gang riding around in spiked cars that resemble hedgehogs appear, later there are crazy contraptions with many different car types all welded together to create things real bizarre to see. With all these things it was disappointing to see the iconic Mad Max car featured little, I don't know what it is with reboots wanting to exorcise cult things from them (such as A-Team not having the awesome van) but the few glimpses of the car just makes me wish Max actually got to use it for more than a literal half a minute.

The plot for Fury Road is very bare bones, to expect less in an action film of this type would be hoping for too much, but all you really need is a motivation and the action does the rest. The key characters do get some depth to them, in particular the mysterious Furiosa who slowly reveals her motivations for her betrayal, and rogue 'war boy' Nux (wonderfully played by Nicholas Holt) whose transition from brain washed cultist to a more fleshed out person is believable. Otherwise though there is not much to anyone. Max has zero character development and as a result this feels like a side story to one of his other films, this is very much Furiosa's tale, he just happens to be in the right place at the right time. On the enemy side the hundreds of kamikaze pursuers show no regard for their safety and have a hive mentality, it is a harsh apocalyptic world they live in where life is cheap after all. The leaders of the bad guys also have no development, they are pursuing because something has been stolen, there is no attempt to make them more realistic.

There are few female characters in Fury Road and I don't really like the way they get portrayed. Furiosa aside the rest of the female cast give the impression of contempt for the males, All the males are shown as completely crazed with the only real voice of reason belong to the women. Luckily as said Furiosa is a much more pragmatic character, less said about the awful Australian plucky stereotypes who show up later the better.

This film looks fantastic, there can be no complaint at all about the art direction, this is a beautiful and surreal world of deserts, salt plains and canyons with a kind of insane ballet to the way the action plays out. Men on poles attached to the top of vehicles, exploding spears and dancing flames all are just wonderful to witness. A particular highlight is the constant sight of a vehicle that has a bunch of men playing drums on the back, the front full of speakers with a man playing electric guitar, all seeming so bizarre but fit so well in the mad image. The way these drums and guitar actually feed into the actual soundtrack for the chase scenes is expertly done.

With no real let up in action I did find myself feeling tired at the spectacle at times, it is just relentless action for the entire running time so would have preferred the occasional quiet moment to recharge my action batteries, being a 15 there is nothing over the top though guns, blades and even a chainsaw pop up at one point or the other but certainly far more clean than the old films.

Fury Road could have been terrible, but with such a beautiful artful film and such well directed set pieces from George Miller this actually turned out not to be bad at all. For me the constant action did end up draining me but look past that and there is plenty to enjoy here despite the lack of any development for Max himself.


Friday, 15 May 2015

Last of the Living (2014) by David Moody - Zombie Horror Book Review

Last of the Living (not to be confused with the film of the same name) is a compilation of short zombie stories written by David Moody (author of the fantastic Autumn and Hater horror series). The stories have mostly appeared in various forms elsewhere though the first and last ones are revealed for the first time here.

There are eight tales of zombie apocalypse here all written in the style that Moody has come to be known for. The title Last of the Living is fitting as each story only deals with a handful of people rather than large groups, each goes along a similar path with various causes and alterations for the demise of mankind featuring.

Each of the stories has a preface by Moody explaining how he come up for the idea of it, and these introductions are actually really interesting, kinda fascinating to read his inspirations and constraints for them all. As always he writes characters that are at once both flawed and fleshed out, he always shines more when there is more space to delve into a characters thought process.

Reeling from his introduction where he stated his desire to leave the zombie genre alone (fair enough of course!) I settled into first and longest story The Cost of Living. This was one of three different versions of the same story and Moody's third attempt at the story he wished to write. After an outbreak of a disease that is spread by victims being compelled to attack non infected Stuart decides to turn his home into a fortress, his family being the most important thing to him. As his estate gets surrounded by thousands of carriers it starts to seem that his fortress is actually a prison. This story is from the perspectives of Stu, his wife Gabby and his teenage son. Their inner thoughts and feelings were great at showing other characters in less favourable light than their thought processes during their chapters would suggest. Without spoiling anything there was quite a powerful moment that really knocked me for six!

The next story Priorities is an earlier attempt at the same story, while next simply titled Flash Fiction Version is again a shortened version. It was interesting to see how he was able to evolve the tale and his final version is definitely the best of the trio but at the same time I was concerned that this was the format the whole book was going to follow with just different versions of the same story over and over again. This proved to be false though as from that point onwards each one was totally different.

The fourth story was titled Isolation, I was pleased to read that originally it had been planned as a short story set in the Autumn universe, while it had been altered to be its stand alone thing (mostly in that the infection immediately makes the dead rise rather than a few days later) this very much fitted. The usual tropes of an Autumn short story are present here with a deluded main character who you can just see is going to end up defeated by his own hubris. The two main characters of Keith and Anna very much felt like the character Webb from the main Autumn series split into two characters.

The fifth and sixth short stories both played with the idea of undead Armageddon in different ways. The former Who We Used to Be plays with the idea of just what would happen if everyone on Earth suddenly died and came back to life as walking corpses but with all the intellect and reasoning they formally had, Sixth story Tightropes settled on the idea of what would happen if the apocalypse happened but it didn't actually cause the destruction of mankind. There were really compelling comparisons throughout of the fine line between keeping order and losing it all as a society and a more intimate one of main character Dale's attempts to end an affair that could destroy his family if he was found out.

Penultimate story Murial was Moody self censored, even with censoring this was still a solid little tale that had me actually laugh out loud at the end. The final one of the book Wish I Were Here manages in just four pages to make a sombre and doomed story that I feel will stick around in my head for a while with the endless purgatory it portrays.

From a strange start Last of The Living soon picks up, while some of the eight contained here could be seen as slightly predictable it is that which often engaged me as a reader, following a flawed character to their logical tragic conclusion is always a joy to read and there were for certain more than a few surprises. As always if your a fan of zombie fiction then Moody's books should be considered an essential read.


Thursday, 14 May 2015

House of Many Sorrows (2015) - Horror Film News and Trailer

I first mentioned this film last September but details were scarce (here), I now have got some more details concerning this Barry J.Gillis directed horror. The film features Ginger Lynn Allen, Tom Malloy and Kim Sonderholm.

Guests of a country bed and breakfast start disappearing after a mentally disturbed man takes over running the place from his terminally ill mother. That's all the plot I know of at the moment, and watching the trailer below gives you that information anyway. As trailers go it isn't bad, the film looks like it is quite weird and that is not always a bad thing. House of Many Sorrows is currently in post production.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

The Lost Level (2015) by Brian Keene - Fantasy Book Review

As anyone who has ever sent me an eBook for review knows I am terrible at getting around to reading the blasted things, I'm old fashioned in that if a book is not a book then I find it hard to get into. Brian Keene is mainly a horror author, I have read a few of his ace zombie books in the past (The Rising and City of the Dead) and while The Lost Level is not a horror title I felt confident enough I would actually get around to reading it.

Aaron Pace is an occultist whose research leads to him discovering the ability to summon doorways to alternate realities. He goes on many different adventures to these bizarre worlds until one day he discovers the place he has travelled to has got no exit, he has accidentally gone to a realm known as 'the lost level', a place that is said to be impossible to escape from. As he struggles to come to terms with his predicament he sets out in the hope of finding a way back home from this most bizarre world.

Keene wrote The Lost Level as a tribute to the lost world/man out of time genre of pulp fiction fantasy, as such it does read as very simple and without anything resembling depth. Having never read anything from this genre before I can only assume this is a accurate picture of what these books read as but I was at first disappointed before coming to accept it for what it was. The actual premise I found to be quite fascinating, the book itself is set out as a written recollection from an older Pace of his journey that led him up what appears to be a tragic end. 

The realm he finds himself is in perpetual sunlight and features a complete mash up of different genre types with the premise of the lost level being that it is made up of things from every different type of dimension possible. There are dinosaurs battling robots, Nazi UFO's, a dying cowboy who speaks of a horrific zombie plague, monsters of different fantasy types, forbidden temples, alien abductions and reptilian pursuers, really everything but the kitchen sink is included here. These different elements usually end up with a chapter to themselves each which makes it seems like a giant check list of different ideas but also help in keeping you never knowing what is around the corner.

The actual plot is quite simple with Pace befriending a woman named Kasheena after rescuing her from a roving band of evil reptiles. They, along with a Chewbacca type creature they name Bloop go on a journey to get to the woman's village where she suggests the village Shaman might hold the answer to escape the world. There really is not much more to it with the three main characters being under developed but again I assume this is a facet of the genre. Pace has little of the book that explains his past, it is glossed over how he  came to get the weirdly useful skills he has that lets him be the hero of the story (with certain flaws), while the love story that blossoms between him and Kasheena is cheesy and predictable but again I am sure it is a facet of the genre.

While as stated (many times) I do not know the genre what I do know is that Keene is a great writer so based on that knowledge I am confident that any complaints I have are due to the fantasy elements rather than his skill. There are many enthralling moments in The Lost Level, I loved the mash up of different elements, as well as comments relating to real world phenomena such as the Bermuda Triangle and the Philadelphia Experiment., while the initial panic Pace has when he realises he is trapped is tangible.

Overall as a tribute this book works well, for me personally though I just found it all a bit too simple and cliched for it to really keep my attention. Saying that there are a lot of good well written ideas here and with a sequel and prequel also planned I would not be adverse to revisiting this strange world.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2015) - Zombie Horror Videogame Review (PS4)

After hearing just how good Resident Evil: Revelations 2 was I hurriedly finished my play through of the 3DS original game in the Revelations series. This sequel was released in four parts initially, each part containing two different chapters making up a total of ten (including two bonus chapters that were rewarded for buying all four chapters).

Set between the events of Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 Claire Redfield and Moira Burton are at a party for Terra Save; the group they work for. The party gets crashed by armed soldiers who kidnap Claire and Moira as well as injecting them with some strange concoction. The two women wake up in cells at an unknown location where they are soon on a quest to find a way off the island they have found themselves trapped on. Six months later and Moira's father Barry Burton arrives on a search and rescue mission, he soon meets a strange little girl called Natalia who decides to join him.

The first episode was roughly an hour and twenty minutes in length, after being spoilt with the length of The Evil Within's DLC I at first worried that there would not be value for money here, yet at £20 I got over eight hours of story and that doesn't even include the Raid Mode which is a series of missions that can be played with a variety of characters who can level up. The Raid Mode levels are mostly taken from areas of Revelations 2 but also include some revisits to places from Resident Evil 6. This game looks great, the graphics are solid and after the letter boxing of The Evil Within it was great to see full screen with large enemies and characters.

As usual for modern Resident Evil games you spend the vast majority of the game with an A.I partner tagging along, this is designed for two players but if you are alone you can switch between the two at will. Claire and Barry are traditional in that they can arm themselves with a variety of weapons, but Moira and Natalia are more support based characters. Moira has a torch which can be used to blind enemies as well as find hidden items in the levels, she also has a crowbar that can open locked boxes and doors. Natalia can detect the presence of nearby enemies as well as point out hidden items and open treasure chests, while her small size means she can climb through narrow holes. For the most part the A.I does it's job quite well though on occasion they did get stuck on scenery which was mildly irritating.

I was pleased to see that many of the enemies you fight were zombies, or at least humanoid in appearance. The undead are split into a few different types, more human looking ones use weapons and can chase you down, while more decayed ones look like the undead from Italian zombie films of the 1980's which is not a bad thing at all. There were a fair few enemy types that had glowing weak spots that had to be destroyed but the best ones were large invisible bugs that could only be seen by Natalia, shooting into empty space based on her desperate shouts was something quite original that I had not seen in a game before. The monsters are fun to fight, this is helped by the weight your weapons seem to have, gunshots feel like gunshots, and while there is nothing too graphic you can do to the ghouls head shots will still incapacitate. There are a whole range of bosses to fight here, many do later show up as regular enemies but the final boss in particular is a joy to fight and feels suitably epic.

There are quite a variety of locations used but for the first two episodes Barry's levels took him over old ground, I was worried that this is all he would be doing for the game but towards the end of episode three and for all of episode four he gets entirely new locations. The game takes place on a small island but there are many different areas including old favourites such as sewers, mines and villages that called to mind Resident Evil 4 while some of the more interesting places included a slaughterhouse, a creepy cave full of dismembered children's dolls and an underground mansion that was a huge burst of nostalgia. There are in fact many nods and winks to previous games with characters even mentioning things from the very first Resident Evil game. Being a sequel to Revelations there are a few mentions of that but nothing so drastic that it would ruin your enjoyment. Where that was a convoluted mess this one is a far more straight forward story and is all the better for it., there are plenty of revelations and half the game being set six months in the future was an interesting plot device to play around with.

Mostly this is survival horror and feels classic in tone even if it does stray into straight action on a few occasions, usually where you have to survive waves of enemies while waiting for a lift or an event to happen. There are a few simple puzzles throughout, these usually just involve finding a crate to use as a platform though. Some of the locations almost feel Silent Hill in tone which was something that actually worked well, the second bonus chapter; stealth based Little Miss went as far as to have the whole chapter shrouded in thick mist with the only enemy types being the most Silent Hill looking ones. The other bonus chapter The Struggle was full of story but was mission based and not too interesting.

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 works well as a chapter based game, far better than the first one did, it is a fun time, looks the part and moves along at a fair old pace. It would have been better if half of Barry's levels didn't take place in the same locations, and as always files you find dotted around the levels could have been more interesting to read. This never gets stale though and I was hooked throughout, set pieces such as an exploding factory and crumbling tower kept things interesting and for me personally hearing so much swearing in a Resident Evil game was a novelty. Raid Mode was a bit boring but it is an extra anyway and certainly increases the value for money. If your after a decent modern day survival horror then this is the place to be, just don't expect to find anything scary here.


Friday, 8 May 2015

World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen (2015) - Zombie Horror Film News and Trailer

World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen is a found footage film which as I never get tired of saying can be a really boring genre of film to watch. However this time around it combines two of my favourite things; zombies and World War I.

A documentary team head to the Somme to make a TV show that hopes to explain the mysteries behind the terrible battle that raged there in 1916 during the first World War, however their investigation leads to the accidental release of an army of the dead and now they find themselves trapped in a modern day hell.

Nazi zombie films are quite a vibrant and unexpected sub genre, there have been a heck of a lot of media about this, everything from films such as Zombie Lake and Outpost to videogames like Call of Duty's zombie mode and Zombie Army Trilogy. Now I do realise World War I had no Nazi's in it, but the undead are still German soldiers and so still fit into the genre. I visited the Somme last year so would be good to see a film based on the location.

World War Dead was released on 4th May on DVD and BD and currently has quite a low score on IMDB, scores on there don't always mean everything but it can be hard to make a good found footage film, even in the zombie genre (such as Diary of the Dead which I recall wasn't too bad). It stars Ray Panthaki (28 Days Later) and Emma Washington (You're Next) so should at least offer some decent acting. I did enjoy the trailer, check it out below if you so wish...

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Unfriended (2014) - Horror Film Review

I felt it was my duty to see Unfriended when I saw it pop up on the list of films out at the cinema, I had never heard of it and upon reading that it was a film of the dreaded found footage genre I was not expecting anything remotely good. This is somewhat different to the norm as the entire film takes place on the screen of a teenage girls laptop, and it also takes place entirely in real time (and was even filmed in one long take!).

After an embarrassing video showed up online of teenager Laura Barns she kills herself, unable to live with the ridicule of her classmates. One year later and Blaire Lily is talking over Skype with her friends when she starts getting strange messages coming from the Facebook account of Laura, it isn't long before a mysterious sixth member of the Skype group she is in turns out to be using Laura's Skype account. The group at first think it is an internet troll who has hacked into the deceased girls profiles but things soon take a turn into the twilight zone for it seems that the actual explanation is something far more supernaturally sinister. Warned that if they end the Skype call they will all die the friends must confront their darkest secrets and hope to survive...

Unfriended is a terrifying film, for someone who is totally numb to the whole found footage genre I thought I had seen it all, that there was no new tricks that could be used but boy was I wrong. Before hand I wondered how a film that took place on a laptop screen would be interesting, let alone scary but the unrelenting pace of the real time event just left me reeling. Usually there are moments of light, times when the horror briefly ends (such as the day and night cycles of Paranormal Activity) but here when the horror starts it just goes on and on with the poor teens trapped in a cycle of terror that you as a viewer also feels trapped in.

The person controlling the events forces the teens to confront their dark secrets and in doing so causes huge rifts between the group, this in a way reminded me of the Saw films, though a much more psychological way than the torture porn of that franchise. The key event of the film is a 'have you ever...' drinking game the group are forced to play with the typed words of Laura's Skype account posing questions based on events from the friends lives and then giving an ominous countdown. The laptop used looks legitimate and includes among other programs and websites Skype, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo. There is lots of screwed up stuff that happens with windows opening up on their own, music suddenly playing and photos and videos that shouldn't exist appearing to expose peoples dirty secrets.

At times the laptop seems a bit too artificial, by this I mean that for a film that was made in 2014 the girls laptop sure makes a lot of old school noises (such as a noisy grinding sound when searching for things on a search engine), while opening up images and videos takes a fair old while which I am sure was used to build tension. It could just be that Blaire's laptop is ancient though. The idea is also not wholly original, there has actually been a found footage film that took place totally on a computer screen before (The Collingswood Story back in 2002) though that used the computer to show events external to the machine while in this about 95% takes place on screen. As for the plot, well Panic Button (2011) had pretty much an identical story of someone or something getting revenge for an online video that caused a suicide.

Despite some generic characters the acting is actually pretty good, especially considering the whole film was filmed in one long take which was a great discovery. Variations in the script for what could happen kept the actors on their toes meaning they got to improvise a lot. The written text on the laptop comes across as a bit artificial at times but all in all this is engrossing stuff.

It is often said that what your mind conjours up is far more terrifying than anything that could actually be shown, here this is put to great effect as the Skype videos of each of the friends are constantly buffering, freezing, tearing and cutting out so when someone does die (and there are a fair few deaths) you only get to see the slightest glimpses of the method of death, a buffering sign followed by the briefest few insane seconds of someone with their hand being mashed up in a blender (for example) makes for a spooked out viewer. As Unfriended goes on more and more revelations are revealed and the victims start to appear less and less innocent all the way up to an effective but somewhat predictable end. There are some very clever mind games that play out, one in particular involving two printed out messages was very cool but to reveal that would ruin the surprise.

By two thirds of the way in tears of actual fear were streaming down my face; I was very scared indeed! In terms of reviewing this I am rating this based on the effectiveness of this as a horror film, not as a film I would ever wish to see again. If you really want to be scared then I suggest rather than see this on a huge cinema screen you instead watch it alone on a laptop, maybe pretend your part of the doomed Skype call. I was pleasantly surprised there is still life in the bloated found footage genre and despite some generic character types I still had a fun time watching this glimpse of the awfully titled cybernatural sub genre, though once you have seen it once the impact will be gone.