Friday, 29 September 2017

House by the Lake (2017) - Horror Film Review

House by the Lake (directed by Adam Gierasch of Night of the Demons) is a horror that tries something a little different in the way it paces its plot. This way didn't really work for me and made the film feel like two distinct chunks, just that one of the chunks was far briefer in time than the other.

Mismatched couple Scott (James Callis from Battlestar Galactica) and his wife Karen (Anne Dudek) have gone on holiday to a lakeside house along with their severely autistic 10 year old daughter Emma (Amiah Miller) and her helper Gwen (Natasha Bassett). Emma starts going on about someone she calls 'the fish man' which her parents assume to be an imaginary friend, however this man may be more real than they think...

Traditionally films have a three act structure, obviously a beginning, middle and end. With House by the Lake this structure didn't seem to be there. Usually in a horror you have the slow build up until around the halfway mark when the proper stuff begins, not so with this. Instead you have a slow gradual build up for over an hour, and then in less than ten minutes the horror begins in earnest. So the majority of this film is a drama and as dramas go it isn't bad. Scott and Karen are about as opposite as people can be, as an outsider the viewer can see how doomed they are. Karen is all about rules and very controlling, while Scott is the polar opposite, they have nearly zero chemistry together with that only appearing when they talk about the distant past, or when they get natural urges. This friction is compounded by Emma's new helper who happens to be a young and quite attractive woman. There are some good scenes with the three, especially when Gwen first appears, so much is shown by body language. I have a soft spot for Callis anyway as I loved him in Battlestar Galactica and here he does a fine job as does Dudek (though there is a really cringe worthy scene of Callis 'playing' a videogame by mashing random buttons on a X-Box 360 controller). This drama is all well and good but it is horror I wanted from this.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Forlorned (2016) - Horror Film Review

The Forlorned isn't the best horror I have seen, it suffers from budget constraints and a pretty ridiculous story. However to its credit it is entertaining, it doesn't take itself too seriously and doesn't try to be something it has no hope of becoming. This was directed by Andrew Wiest (Dead Noon) and adapted from a book written by Angela Townsend.

Colton Christensen stars as Tom; a newly appointed lighthouse caretaker who is to live alone on the tiny island the lighthouse and accompanying house occupy. He is warned by local; Murphy (Cory Dangerfield) about the dark past the island has, of the previous caretakers descents into madness, but he doesn't put much stock in the man's tall tales. It soon becomes apparent that something really is up with the place though, Tom starts to glimpse shadowy figures and hear strange noises and soon he begins to worry he too is slowly losing his grip on reality...

The Forlorned is silly, and this is down to pretty much one thing; the big bad haunting the island appears to be...a giant invisible demonic warthog. The Evil Dead did great things with its unseeable evil force, it managed to be pretty terrifying. Here, while the same techniques are used (the evil creatures perspective as it chases its victim for instance) it is hard no matter how well shot to make a ghost pig appear scary, not helped by the many squeals and squeaks it gives off. More effective are the many ghosts that haunt the island, there is a The Suffering vibe in that nothing but bad events have happened in the islands past, and with Murphy spinning entertaining stories about previous inhabitants and occurrences weight is then given to each odd appearance of one of the poor souls (favourite being the man who was eaten by his pigs after he drunkenly went to feed them one night!).

Monday, 25 September 2017

Mother! (2017) - Horror Film Review

I had heard good things about Mother! so despite knowing literally nothing about it I made an effort to catch one of its last performances at my local cinema. To be honest I kind of wished I hadn't bothered, this was hot trash wrapped up in an artsy bow and while it did plenty of surprising things I was more baffled and confused than being able to enjoy it.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Mother, the younger wife to Him (Javier Bardem) who is a famous poet struggling with extreme writers block. While he spends his days attempting to write Mother spends the time renovating the family home of his that they both live in. The arrival of a strange man (Ed Harris) brings with him untold hardships and trials which threaten to bring an end to the peace and tranquillity the remote homestead used to offer.

You can say I didn't 'get' this film and maybe you are right, yet this was a tough slog to get through, several people left throughout the film and while I don't condone leaving before the end of a movie I couldn't really blame them. This is so deep in symbolism and analogy that the plot becomes extremely bare bones. What starts off simply enough with Mother horrified at the end to her and her husbands peaceful existence then becomes something that plays out like a two hour dream sequence of random nightmare events bringing hell to Mother. Along the way we see extreme violence and murder, we see hero worship, riots, executions and even get to see a newborn baby ripped apart and eaten. If you're looking for some context you will be hard pressed to find some, instead this seems like an attempt to bring famous biblical stories together in an unholy mesh of insanity. You have analogies for the garden of Eden, Jesus Christ, Cain and Able, Revelations and many more, it is all dizzying but not in an enjoyable way. Initially I emphasised with the horror Mother feels at her precious home being invaded by faceless masses, especially as her husband has no problem with all this intrusion, instead it inspires him and so he welcomes it despite Mother's pleas. I myself sometimes suffer social anxiety and so her attempts to find solitude away from the chaos was something I could relate to. Director and writer of this; Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) has stated that Lawrence represents mother nature, and from that we can infer that the home is symbolic of planet Earth.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Red Christmas (2016) - Horror Film Review

I first mentioned Red Christmas back in April of this year and now I have gotten the opportunity to watch it for review. It is an Australian Christmas themed slasher and so from the off it is doing something different. While it is filmed well and full of brutal kills for me the tone was a little too bleak.

Diane (Dee Wallace from Critters, The Hills Have Eyes) has invited all her family together to stay at her outback home to celebrate Christmas. However the arrival of a mentally and physically disabled stranger named Cletus (Sam Campbell) brings death and destruction as he is obsessed with the idea that Diane is his mother, and that if she won't accept him then he will take everyone she loves away from her.

Red Christmas starts well with the introduction of all the family members and the vast dysfunction that exists between them, which is all displayed in a blackly comic way. Diane just wants a family get together but most the group don't get on well with each other. You have prudish Ginny and her vicar husband Peter (David Collins), then you have heavily pregnant Suzy with her husband Scott as well as third daughter Hope, Diane's Down Syndrome afflicted son Jerry, and finally her partner the care-free Joe. The arrival of the stranger brings an end to this introduction stage and unfortunately it is from this point that the plot goes downhill slightly. The actual dialogues between the characters are always good, it is more that what happens is then an excuse for mayhem. The majority of the film is the group constantly splitting up to do inane plans to help them survive, whether it be going off to get the keys to a car, going off to try and rip down the climbable terraces attached to the house, or just going off. I get it is a dysfunctional family but when the majority of bad things happen due to characters refusing to follow instructions it becomes a bit farcical, especially with the amount of running around and screaming everyone does.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Entertaining Demons (2017) by Daniel I. Russell - Horror Book Review

Daniel I. Russell's Entertaining Demons is a horror book that felt a little bit different from others of it's type. In fact a lot of this book feels more like a twisted adventure story in the vein of Neil Gaiman, while the other half is more familiar. It is the meeting up of these two styles that really makes this something unique in feel.

15 year old Molly is the unwitting star of a reality TV show called PI: Paranormal Investigations due to her home being seemingly haunted by a ghost. She is unable to stop being in it though as the show provides the money her and her grandfather need to keep her mentally ill mother in a good nursing home, while she hopes the show's host; paranormal expert Samuel will be able to find a way to stop the hauntings. However things are not what they seem with the spirit haunting the house actually a demon, and worse two more demons are travelling to her sleepy English town with the aim of shutting down the show using whatever means they can...

When I first started reading this I wasn't immediately hooked, I've seen the demonic presence haunting a house so many times in films over the years that it has gotten to be quite a dull subject. It was the introduction of the sub plot involving the two demons that my interest got heightened. I found everything about these two characters to be fascinating. They ride around in the bodies of humans but are able to come out at will, one of them is like a huge shaggy beast, while the other one is made up of snapping teeth on stalks and that can turn its fingers into deadly needles. The descriptions for these two were endlessly descriptive, Russell is fantastic at providing vivid images of these creatures. They are anti-heroes in that they are looking to disrupt the events playing out but are in no way whatsoever good people, these are demons who care absolutely nothing for humanity and this shows in their actions. Much of the really violent stuff happens around these two and much of it is so over the top crazy that aside from a couple of torture scenes it comes across as quite fantastical. There is a lot of descriptions about destroyed and eaten people, and of the aftermath of victims of these two (with a strange focus on sex organs), yet it is always captivating, again in the vivid way it is all described. Around half of the book is focused on these two and Entertaining Demons is all the better for it. These are not the only demons of the book though with the others also receiving enough attention to really make them stick in the mind, whether it be the skull crown wearing demon stalking Molly, or the demon of TV; Audience who was a fantastic creation with some David Cronenberg Videodrome style moments of repulsive organic technology.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Walk Home Alone (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

A Walk Home Alone is the second of director Andrew J.D. Robinson's short horror films he sent my way. While Placebo was quite sterile in its portrayal, here we have something that is more familiar and deals with a common subject in six minutes, but does so in a novel way.

There is a serial killer loose in the city and it seems he targets young woman walking home alone and leaves their bodies in the river, this is all told to us from a radio broadcast. We then follow Alice (Maura Stephens) as she makes her way to her flat in an apartment building, and who is quite preoccupied with something and so doesn't notice she is being followed...

A Walk Home Alone is shot in black and white and again features a soundtrack that is once ominous and seemingly at odds with what is happening on screen. What I really enjoyed about this is that the serial killer plot is faded into the background, while it bookends this short it is the sub plot in the middle that becomes the main crux. This also avoids cheap scares and instead builds the tension and horror by what it doesn't show. Robinson tears down the victims defences within this middle story by its sweet resolution and so when the main plot comes back into the forefront she is naturally in a weakened state of mind.

While it is up to Stephens to carry the emotional range it is Jurgen Vollrath as the stranger who stole the show for me. There is just something strange about his character, yet he manages to not comes across as threatening. The boyfriend on Alice's phone for me was the weakest part as there didn't seem much emotion behind the voice, though that could be excused as not knowing the context for why he might sound that way. A Walk Home Alone avoids doing the expected with it's story and by only hinting at what happens is all the better for it. By focussing on the unimportant and leaving the horror in the mind of the viewer rather than displayed on screen this wins out for me.


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Placebo (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Another day and another short film, this time it is Andrew J.D. Robinson's Placebo that deals with the subject of body dysmorphia in under three minutes. Shot in an art house style fashion this (mostly) black and white takes place in blackness. A woman is getting plastic surgery done to make her look like a photo of a lady she has brought along, however it turns out things are not as simple as they first appear.

There is a surreal edge to this one that coupled with the ominous music combine to make something seem off from the very start. The whole film is shot from a face on perspective with minimal dialogue. This is more a portrayal of mental illness than a fleshed out story. However it gets the message across well with stylish editing and directing, the zinger was effective in bringing context to the strangely wrong atmosphere.

The beauty of short films is that when they are done right such as here they manage to give a vibe and feeling without all padding that makes longer ones. There really isn't much more I can say about Placebo other than it does the job well.


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

A Robot Named Fight (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)

It is a nostalgic month in the world of video games it seems as after the fun Citadale: The Legends Trilogy that I reviewed yesterday comes A Robot Named Fight which is another retro throw back to the classic days of yore. This time around the inspiration is Metroid, and specifically the Metroidvania (one huge 2D level) style of Super Metroid as the graphics are 16 bit and the sound is authentic to that time. This has a difference though in that the game is a Metroidvania in style but has roguelike elements thrown in, in that you only have the one life and the game is procedurally generated so no two playthroughs are the same.

Millennia ago the mechanical Gods arrived and brought with them peace for the robots who lived on the world. However one day a huge moon sized mass of evil flesh known as the Megabeast arrived and spewed out thousands of monstrous creatures which decimated the land and massacred the robots. One robot decides to make a stand against this hell and descends into the planet in search of lost artefacts of ancient wartime in order to defeat this unholy terror...

A Robot Named Fight is fantastic and like the best roguelikes it is extremely addictive with that 'just one more go' feeling perfected. I love how like Metroid it really is. This is a 2D platformer that is one huge maze like level made up of hundreds of smaller rooms. You play as a robot armed with a cannon and as you progress you can collect upgrades that both make you more powerful (such as extra health, guns do more damage and increase your speed) and unlocks more skills for you that help you get to places in the levels that you couldn't previously get to. Rockets can destroy metal doors for example, while the spider ability allows you to navigate narrow spaces. Elsewhere you can get a double jump to reach high places, eventually unlocking a jet pack. There are also suit upgrades that let you survive in hot areas, torches to light dark places and so much more. Each playthrough is different and so every time I played I unlocked different abilities and upgrades.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Citadale: The Legends Trilogy (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)

Citadale: Gate of Souls was originally released on the Wii-U last year and has now been re-released as part of the Citadale: The Legends Trilogy which funnily enough is made up of three different games. These games are modelled on the classic Castlevania series, so much so that many plot points, level design, and enemy types, as well as the weapon system are virtually copied totally. Nowadays with Konami seemingly refusing to make any more Castlevania games a copy is better than nothing, and thankfully Citadale is a damn fun game.

So there are three games to be found here, each one can only be played once the one before it has been completed. Starting off is Citadale: Gate of Souls. A Dark Lord (who is in no way Dracula) terrorises the land, playing as Sonja Dorleac and wielding the Dark Lord killer 'Shadow Blade' you make your way to his castle to meet up with your husband (who happens to be the Dark Lord's son) in order to seal his Dad away behind the Gate of Souls.
The second game is Citadale: Curse of Darkness, it is 24 years later and with the seal on the Gate of Souls weakening, a wizard (the son of Sonja) has headed to Citadale in order to repair it to full power. After failing to return Sonja's other son Gabriel decides to also make the journey to see what has come of his brother.
Finally you have Citadale: Legacy of Fate, 17 more years have passed and now the wizard's son Christopher makes the fateful journey to the dark castle as evil is once again rising to suffocate the land.

This is a very nostalgic game as it is made to resemble an 8-bit game, like the early Castlevania's were. The graphics are simple but with modern technology there is far more animation to them, while the amazing soundtrack is done in the chiptune style. It is a 2D platformer that has you battling through various locations such as forests, caves, mines and castles with a unique boss at the end of each level. The variation of these bosses is impressive with only one repeating over the 18 levels (a giant eyeball that behaves and looks differently each time). These bosses have simple attack patterns but are fun to fight and range from skeletal demons, giant insects and humanoid foes and they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Normal enemies range from zombies to skeletons, ghosts, bats and spiders. There are some that appear to be ripped straight out of Castlevania in the way they look, especially a large knight with a shield, and the final boss for Gate of Souls that not only has a battle that takes place in an identical throne room to Castlevania but the boss is a vampire who teleports around the room and summons bats.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Goodnight, Gracie (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Goodnight, Gracie (written and directed by Stellan Kendrick) may be under 4 minutes in length but it doesn't pull any punches, this is a brutal little film! Rather than build any set-up this opens straight into the horror that only gets more intense until the shock finale. This short was actually created as a proof-of-concept for the crew yet still manages to stand on its own right.

8 year old Gracie (Caige Coulter) is awoken in the middle of the night to sounds of screams. Investigating she discovers her mother being hacked up with an axe by a mad man (Courtney Gains from Children of the Corn) and so decides to combat this evil the only way she knows how.

With the first shot pretty much showing a crucifix coming loose off a wall and swinging upside down I thought this was going to be about demonic possession, that could also be inferred by all the religious imagery. So it makes the change in tone all the more shocking to see a close up of a hacked up body. While Coulter was fine enough it was Gains who stole the show with his manic mannerisms, hypnotic to look at. I loved how they didn't shy away from gore and violence despite having a young child front and centre. This was inspired by the director's real life divorce of his parents and tells quite a bitter message of 'blind faith leads to death'.

Goodnight, Gracie was in the Official Selection at the Sitges 2017 film festival where it had it's world premiere. It is to be the Opening Night film at the San Antonio Horrific Film Festival in Texas on October 20th and will also be shown at the NYC Horror Film Festival on October 29th, with more festival appearances to be announced soon.


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Latched (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

I have had an influx of short horror films sent my way these past couple of weeks and leading the vanguard is Justin Harding's Latched. To me at first this seemed like it was going to be a bit whimsical and pretentious with its subject matter of fairies and I assumed the horror content would be light. Because of this assumption I was all the more shocked (happily so of course) when Latched changes tone and becomes something a lot more violent.

A single mother travels to the woodside holiday home she owns with her toddler in order for her to prepare for a dance troupe she hopes to do the choreography for. One day out in the woods she finds the body of a bizarre looking small creature that she brings back home with her in order to ask her neighbour what it is. It ends up going in her rubbish bin but an accident involving spilt breast milk somehow revives this creature that over the following days starts to grow and grow out of sight.

17 minute Latched is a film of two halves, literally in that the first 8 or so minutes is set during day time, and the final half mostly takes place at night. This distinction is also a firm divide between the fantastical and the horrifying. So the first part establishes the woman and her child, it is split into days that mostly consist of the woman interpretive dancing her way around her house as the baby looks on, and occasionally the fairy creature makes an appearance unseen by her to steal milk. This was all well filmed (with fantastic choreography) and the special effects nice enough but it was light on scares. One of these special effects involved an old man looking at a flyer to see the figures in it start moving, I don't know the significance of that part of Latched as it didn't seem to add anything other than a side of surreality. This man in general was a bit of a disruptor to the main plot to begin with even if he was needed to bring the story along.

Friday, 15 September 2017

3 (2016) - Horror Film Review

3 is an indie horror film that was directed and written by Lou Simon. This happens to be the second female directed horror that revolves around torture I have seen this year (Jessica Cameron's Truth or Dare being the other). At first I was ready to dismiss this, I found the characters to be irritating and the situation pretty silly, however as the plot moved on I began to recognise that actually this was something a little different, helped in no part by actor Todd Bruno whose very antagonistic role managed to generate sympathy regardless.

A man (Mike Stanley credited as It) is on his way to a meeting, his journey takes him onto the American backroads where he finds his way blocked by an abandoned car. With the owner not around he decides to move the car so he can continue on his way, however hidden in the back is someone wearing a mask who knocks the traveller out. We then find out that the assailant (Bruno credited as He) had specifically kidnapped this person as part of a plan him and a woman (Aniela McGuinness credited as She) had come up with. A year previous She was raped but there was never enough evidence to convict her attacker, she believes it is the man they have kidnapped and hopes to get a video confession off of him to give to the police. However He's efforts to get the truth out of their victim become ever more drastic and brutal...

Where most films revolving around torture focus on the victim here the focus of the film is far more on the antagonists who don't actually see themselves as the bad guys. There is a weird divide between the scenes of horror that take place in the basement and the more normal goings on upstairs. Despite it being for She's sake she wants nothing to do with the man, she tends to constantly change the subject whenever he is mentioned. Soon it becomes apparent that both her and Him have serious mental problems. The kidnapper is prone to outburst of uncontrollable violence when he gets angry, while she is so vague on the specifics of the rape that as a viewer you begin to question just who it is that is telling the truth. Out of the three it really doesn't seem like It is the one at fault despite being caught up in a few lies. As for the woman she keeps insisting He was at the party where the rape happened despite him telling her they didn't meet until months later when she start seeing a psychiatrist, and so you begin to doubt if she what she thinks happened actually took place. Bruno is fantastic as the kidnapper, he is a former army medic who got honourably discharged due to PTSD from his time in Iraq. Initially I found both him and the woman to be awful people, I didn't want them to succeed. But by showing us how really messed up the man is you can't help but begin to pity him.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

September 2017 Horror News Round-up :Your Flesh, Your Curse, [Cargo], Jasmine, Gone, and Bacchanalia - Horror Film News and Trailers

Nowadays I tend to store up horror news rather than do lots of little posts about whatever bits come my way and so once again I have released a valve to unleash a news storm. First up then...Your Flesh, Your Curse had its world premiere at the BUT Film Festival in the Netherlands at the end of August. This is the 5th feature film from 25 year old filmmaker Kasper Juhl, whose previous films include award winning social realistic horror A.G.W.A.U (also known as A God Without a Universe). This latest film is about a woman named Juliet (Marie-Louise Damgaard) who ends up in limbo after being brutally murdered. Here a spiritual guide forces her soul to relive repressed memories. Sounds cool enough and it also features the most prolific actor ever; Kim Sonderholm.

Next up is news of thriller [Cargo] that is trying something daring for a feature film, or least that's what it appears from the trailer. Ron Thompson stars as a businessman who wakes up to discover he has been kidnapped and imprisoned in a cargo container. A call to his phone informs him that he has 24 hours to raise a ridiculous sum of money or else he will die. I got a slight hint of Phone Booth and Cube, though I do wonder how this tale can be sustained for a lengthy time without boredom setting in, still it would be interesting to find out. [Cargo] is currently nearing the end of post-production. The soundtrack is to be released by Invisible Hands Music while a novelisation written by producer J.C Macek III is coming in January 2018 by Bloodhound Books.

In other news Jasmine is coming to VOD/DVD in around a weeks time, it is set in Hong Kong and follows a hapless outsider who is trying to find out who killed his wife a year previously. When I reviewed it I said 'where Jasmine excels is giving us such an interesting character in the form of Leonard. He is a flawed hero and the film never goes away from showing us this'.
In other news zombie slaying video game Killing Floor 2 got a new map in summer in the form of The Tragic Kingdom that takes place at a twisted carnival of terror. Fighting against hundreds of undead in a sinister fairground is really effective, even more so is that the enemies have been re-skinned, so the normal zeds are wearing pig masks,  the smaller ones are now pinheads etc. Maybe the most horror focussed type map yet released, and of course it is free for anyone who owns the game.

The Edmonton Festival of Fear International Film Festival opens on Friday 13th October, it has been announced that Gone shall be getting its world premiere here. This film is special as it features a guest appearance by the master of terror Stephen King. In the movie three friends go on a fishing trip deep in the woods. As they tell scary stories around a camp fire one night bizarre things start happening that leads to the three disappearing into the darkness of the woods.
Bacchanalia is coming to DVD on October 10th in North America and is available for pre-order now. This was originally shot in 2013 under the title The Winedancers (I covered it back in 2014). This is a comedy horror that again features Kim Sonderholm and is about an innocent wine tasting weekend that turns into something very...odd.

And there you have it, another round-up of the latest news that has been thrown my way. I will end by mentioning Steam video game A Robot Named Fight, a game that is stunning, think Super Metroid crossed with a rogue-like. A review shall be coming in the future for that hidden gem.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

3 Dead Trick or Treaters (2016) - Horror Film Review

3 Dead Trick or Treaters is a Halloween themed horror anthology film that was written, directed, shot, and edited by Torin Langen over 4 years. I love anthology films, especially if they do something a little bit different, and sure basing an anthology around Halloween isn't anything new (Trick 'r Treat for instance) but this one goes the extra mile as there is not a single line of dialogue in the entire 73 minute run time.

Including the wrap-around story there are five different tales contained here, all of which ooze with quality which you don't usually see with indie movies of this type. So the one that ties everything together is the titular 3 Dead Trick or Treaters. A paperboy concerned about the number of papers left outside a customers house decides to check out the property, in the backyard he discovers three newly dug graves, each one with a Halloween mask hanging on a crudely made crucifix, each one also has a short story tacked to it. His curiosity gets the better of him and he decides to read them. A lot of the time the wrap-around story in anthologies is bare bones and doesn't do much to excite. However this one is pretty fantastic (with great use of banjo), it even sets up a few little cliffhangers so when another short starts I found myself desperate to return here. Special mention has to go to both the intro and outro credits, the former is a stunning portrayal of a crazed writer and his increasing madness at not being able to get published. The music, the editing, the off kilter angles, and the close ups on the mad man meld together simply perfectly and let me know straight away this anthology was going to be a great one. The music that opens and closes the films is great, that and the style brought to mind a punk aesthetic that goes so well.  Also the wrap-around features a special effect that was ripped straight out of The Evil Dead, made me grimace seeing it, lovely stuff.

It took me until partway through the first complete film Fondue to remember that in the email Torin had sent me about his film that he had mentioned it was totally dialogue free. Truth be told I was a bit concerned, I worried how my interest would be kept, I feared I may get bored. This all got swept away when the crux of Fondue started. Two teenagers buy Halloween masks and bowls in order to go trick or treating. They arrive at a house and a mask wearing figure answers and beckons one of them inside... for a special type of fondue. The masks sold this one for me, with no one talking and everyone wearing masks this became creepy to watch. I love how much expression can be told just by gestures and body movements, never does it seem like people are over acting to compensate, it just seems like talking just isn't needed. This is a weird story but it works well, my only real complaint is that I felt like the home owner should have been an older person, his hand when he beckons the trick or treaters in is a young hand. A bit of a strange thing to have an issue with, just my personal preference.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Black Mirror: Series 2 (2013) - Horror TV Show Review

Continuing my drive to watch all of Black Mirror in anticipation of series 4 I have recently polished off series 2, that like the first series is just three episodes long. Much like the first one it contains within it one of the best episodes the entire show has aired, the special blend of harrowing and soul destroyingly terrifying.

First episode is Be Right Back that has a sci-fi bent to it. After Martha (Hayley Atwell) loses her husband Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) in a car accident she is distraught, in her grief she decides to use a new online service that allows people to stay in contact with the dead. The service pulls together all the online presence of the deceased in order to make a virtual duplicate. Martha uses this intensely and one day is told there is a next stage in the service. An android that perfectly replicates the look of Ash is delivered but due to the limits of its programming it makes Marta uncomfortable with its lack of any real personality. This episode reminded me a lot of an Outer Limits one I saw back in the day, I fully expected this to go a similar route with the android turning psychotic but instead there is the more measured bleak outlook. With your loved one still there albeit virtually you can't actually really ever get over the death as you're deceiving yourself. There is the general age old message of 'be careful what you wish for' that was explored well and was suitably depressing, but for me this episode just never hung around in my mind too long.

The second episode White Bear is the episode I would show if someone wanted a taste of exactly what Black Mirror is, it still haunts me to this day. A woman wakes up in a house with complete amnesia, going outside she sees people all filming her on their phones, and who ignore her cries for help. After being attacked by a masked man with a shotgun she meets up with another seemingly normal person who informs her a mysterious television signal started playing one day that brainwashed the majority of the population into becoming passive voyeurs, and that sadistic people known as 'hunters' kill other uninfected for sport. She learns that there is a transmitter at "White Bear" station that will stop the nefarious broadcast, and so she heads there hoping to end it all. This is just such a messed up episode, to say much more would spoil it, needless to say I did not see the ending coming and it provides such material to dwell on years after watching it, this is still something I think about; Charlie Brooker at his most stunning. Interestingly originally this was originally going to be a zombie apocalypse story but was changed into this form that deals with karma and perverted justice.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

lvl - Devil's Advocate Remastered (2017) - Music Album Review

I'm certain I have said this before but when it comes to music I am pretty much clueless. As such I never go out my way to review it as I don't feel I know enough to have a valid opinion, after all we all like what we all like. Listening to lvl's Devil's Advocate I was attracted to the songs as it nostalgically reminded me of music I liked long ago, I had been planning to say that in the review. However it turns out the reason it sounded like late 90's rock music is that it is late 90's rock music as this is a remaster from 1999's debut lvl album. This has also got additional material in the form of 7 rare/unreleased songs.

Usually when I'm sent music I like it fine enough but it never feels like something I would play too much, though in here this is such a hit of pure teenage nostalgia for me reminding me of everything from Korn to Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails to Mortiis. I'm not sure which songs were added where so I can only speak to the album as it's laid out now. It all starts great with She: Backslide, a heavy crunchy loud intro that was an early highlight, an equally awesome remix also closes out the album. Following this is the very chuggy and occasional eurotechnic sounding Best Way Out before first instrumental File# 81259 comes in with its 50 seconds of dark soundbites.

Caught Sick comes 4th and is a brilliant track of electronic rock that sounded a bit like slowed down early Muse, that one ends on a great repetitive riff. Just Like You follows and for the most part I felt it was a bit too samey, maintaining the same pace for most the song, the midpoint though descends into a crazy cacophony of drums that was dazzling to hear before then changing back into slow gear. Title track Devil's Advocate is the 6th track and it is easy to see why the album was named after it. Dan Levler almost shouts the lyrics while a brutal short riff rips through the song again and again.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Documentary (2014) - Horror Film Review

The Documentary is a horror film done in the style of a found footage that was written and directed by Walter Moise (editor and producer on Counter Clockwise). As usual even uttering the F.F word has caused the klaxons to go off and the steel shutters to drop down at The Rotting Zombie HQ. Nowadays the genre falls into one of two styles; normal people who end up recording something terrifying on their camera (Altar, The Blair Witch Project) and purposeful recordings done by a psychopath (Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex). The Documentary falls into the later half but features a director who has none of the charisma, or indeed the screen presence that others in the genre achieve.

Serial killer D. (Aaron Bowden) holds auditions on the pretence of creating a documentary to explore conquering fear. He decides Sandra Novak (Tristin Rupp) is to be his leading lady. As far as she is concerned they are to meet up a few times to explore her darkest fears, but in reality D. has set up hidden cameras all around her home, is stalking her, and is engineering a series of misfortunes to occur in her life.

I think the very biggest problem with The Documentary is that D. rarely appears on camera, when he does it is only briefly and his face is always blurred out. He also doesn't address the camera much either, he chooses editing to tell his story. Adrian Tofei and Balazs Szitas in their respective films are making their movies for others to see, as such they are far more engaging and dare I say it relatable in part. D. is the absolute worst, I guess as he is a serial killer this is a good thing but as a viewer I couldn't stand him. He is very misogynistic and that seems his main personality trait, often he goes into rants about women calling them all sorts of names. His modus operandi is strangulation and we get to see that at many points here as while Sandra may be his main target he is also killing prostitutes and escorts on the side, usually by asking them to strip naked and then turning on them when they are at their most vulnerable. I didn't see the need for the full on nudity that occurred in these moments, again in the mindset of a serial killer filming this it can be excused. This just wasn't enjoyable to watch really as there wasn't any real motivation to care about anyone, I got traces of the abysmal Faces of Snuff in that this is violence for violence's sake without any sort of light, even if that had just been in the form of delusional tendencies.

Friday, 8 September 2017

It (2017) Horror Film Review

I loved the 1990 adaptation of Stephen King's It novel, I still to this day remember exactly where I was when I saw it (laid in bed watching it on my TV one Sunday morning around 5 years ago during a rough patch in my life, was great escapism!). I thought Tim Curry was fantastic as Pennywise, I still do, however Heath Ledger had already proved with The Joker that different actors can bring different abilities to the same role and so hearing it would be Bill Skarsgard playing the infamous clown didn't faze me, especially as I heard he was amazing in his role. I climbed aboard the hype train for this latest adaptation of the story and managed to get to the film without having seen a single trailer, something I really wish I could achieve more often.

Set in the small American town of Derry in the late 1980's a group of young misfits that include Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Richie (Finn Wolfhard who was also fittingly in Stranger Things) and Beverley (Sophia Lillis) discover that the reason for the huge number of child disappearances over the years (that include Bill's younger brother Georgie a year previously) is down to a monstrous creature that takes on the appearance of a clown (Skarsgard), and which can only be seen by children. Conquering their individual fears they team up together to find a way to stop the evil of It.

I was hoping for a high quality piece of film making and I can happily report that is exactly what I got. From the very start not only was there great directing and awesome special effects, but also plenty of gore. Knowing the way this would play out I still found myself immersed in the world of the 80's. It seems ridiculous to say this felt derivative of Stranger Things so instead I will say it, like that creates a group of imminently likable children who come across as fleshed out. The iconic opener of Georgie's encounter with It set up the tone for the whole movie and I was quite surprised how that scene played out, didn't expect to see what I did! This is created to be a scary film and while I personally didn't find it frightening (I put it down to over exposure of the horror genre) there are many pretty messed up moments that brought to mind both A Nightmare on Elm Street and even The Evil Dead, such as can be seen in the bathroom blood explosion scene.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

I Know You're in There (2016) - Horror Film Review

When I first started watching I Know You're in There my heart dropped as once again I found myself face to face with what appeared to be a found footage horror. The start is pretty awful, it felt like no end of bland films from that genre, but thankfully as the film goes on the found footage element gets used less and less, but also importantly in a more and more effective manner.

Tom Redding (Will Hurst) finds out one day that his mother who abandoned him many years ago has committed suicide, and that in her will she had left him her remote and isolated home up in the mountains. It is also revealed to him that he has a catatonic sister who is going to be put in an asylum now their mother isn't around to care for her. Weirdly Tom jumps at the chance to look after his sister Chloe (Grainne McDermott), he thinks it will make a good project for a video he is making for school. So against the advice of Dr. Jorgenson (Mindee de Lacey) Tom heads off to the wilderness with his wheelchair bound sister in tow, and with his girlfriend Jaime (Karin Lee) planning to join them both in a few weeks. Things start off ok but Tom soon begins to suspect that Chloe is faking her catatonic state after a series of bizarre incidents occur, it seems that all work and no play makes Tom a dull boy too...

I really liked the idea behind I Know You're in There, I found it original to have a catatonic character be the starting point for horror. With her somehow malevolent stare Chloe is the perfect person to really be creepy. However the way the horror is handled isn't the best in my opinion with some missed opportunities and bad editing fluffing up what could have been really something special. Another aspect that brings this down is that this wants to be The Shining, the second half especially felt like a low budget remake of that, complete with a cabin fever affected Tom walking around holding an axe, his long lank greasy hair stuck to his face and an evil grin on his lips, and a saviour character who travels and travels only to...well if you've seen that Kubrick classic you can probably guess their fate.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Revelator (2017) - Horror Film Review

I really really wanted to love Revelator, it has a great sense of style and is engaging with plenty of shady characters, and yet I left the viewing with more a sense of befuddlement and confusion than anything else. It didn't seem that I could really understand what was going on no matter how hard I concentrated, maybe it was due to a long day in my day job draining my mental faculties but the frustration set in at around the halfway mark and I never recovered.

J. Van Auken (who also wrote and directed this) stars as John Dunning; a psychic loner who has the curse of being able to see ghosts where ever anyone has died. A rich former client dies and leaves John in her will an island, one which he believes will give him the peace he so desperately seeks due to no one having ever died on it. However her powerful family want the island for themselves and will stop at nothing to get hold of it, especially the brutish Elias Bellvue (Alex Klein). The head of the family Carmine (Grey Lucey) promises to help John if he investigates how his son was killed, and so teaming up with reporter Valerie Kreuger (Mindy Rae) John sets out to do just that.

Sometimes totally unrelated films can be grouped together as unofficial sequels, I couldn't shake the feeling here that John in Revelator is actually Miles from We Go On (in that film Miles was cursed with the ability to see dead people). Obviously it is just coincidence that the films bleed into each other a little bit. Both films have similarities to The Sixth Sense, probably the most famous 'I see dead people' style of films, though talking of that style is something that Revelator does have. The ghosts seen here are the most horror based part, each one is frozen in time, mirroring the moment of their death. You get a gun shot victim perpetually standing on the spot silently screaming, a heart attack victim constantly grabbing his heart. There is a creepiness to these figures helped by the slight blurring effect used on them. The genre here is a cross between detective and supernatural with a lot of it leaning on the former, especially when it comes to the rough handed interactions he ends up having with a lot of the cast.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Black Mirror: Series 1 (2011) - Horror TV Show Review

I have loved Black Mirror from the very first episode I ever saw of it, and yet I still have not seen all the 13 episodes currently out due to the especially haunting and traumatic feel of many of them. The show is basically The Twilight Zone or Tales of the Unexpected but with a focus on technology. Each episode is stand alone and takes place in a different reality to the others and explores a different type of existing or near future technology and explores it's application up to a usually horrifying conclusion. Episodes fall into one of two categories; extremely cringe inducing, or something that will traumatise you, each and every episode I have seen has left me thinking about it for many days or weeks afterwards.

Season 1 of Black Mirror is made up of just three episodes, the first one The National Anthem weirdly predicted a real life story that came out of past British Prime Minister David Cameron in which it was alleged that he once had intercourse with a pigs head (!). Charlie Brooker says he had not heard of this when writing the story and so truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. In The National Anthem a member of the royal family is kidnapped with the kidnapper demanding the Prime Minister; Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) have sex with a pig live on TV or else he will kill his hostage. This falls into the cringe inducing section of Black Mirror with the act taking up an uncomfortable and horrible length of time. It was an interesting discourse on peoples preoccupation with non important media when the important stuff gets ignored, yet out of nearly every episode I have seen of the show this one feels the least crazy and out there and wasn't really a good indication of the general style.

Second episode is Fifteen Million Merits that takes place in a dystopian future where the majority of society have to constantly cycle on exercise bikes in order to power the world. Overweight people who are unable to contribute are mocked and given menial and degrading jobs to do. In this world Bling (Daniel Kaluuya who went on to do Get Out) meets a girl one day and decides he is going to help her achieve her dream of being a famous singer, but things don't exactly go according to plan. This time around it is society's obsession with fame and the distractions of apps like Facebook and Snapchat that is the focus, this future is the drastic culmination of that. This was the best episode of the first series and really showed how inventive Black Mirror could be, and it's ability to hold up a mirror to everyday things and make you think about just how you are living your life.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Dark Tower (2017) - Horror Film Review

The Dark Tower is based on the series of apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy/western/horror books written by the master of horror Stephen King. Now when it comes to King I have never rated his work, admittedly I have only read a few of his books but didn't enjoy the writing style, though I can't deny he has a great imagination as the amount of awesome films based on his works testify to that proof. So I have never read any of The Dark Tower books so can't judge how faithful this film is to those, though I believe this is actually a sequel to the book series.

New York based Jake (Tom Taylor) is a young boy who has been having constant terrifying and vivid nightmares about an evil known as 'the man in black' who has been trying to weaponise children in order to send out a psychic beam to try and destroy a huge construct known as The Dark Tower. Jake comes to discover his dreams are actually visions and when agents of this man try to abduct him he finds a way to travel between worlds to a post apocalyptic planet where Roland; the last gunslinger (Idris Elba) resides. He learns from Roland that the man in black (Walter played by Matthew McConaughey) is trying to destroy the tower as it is the device that protects the universe, with it gone the universe will be plunged into darkness. Using Jakes abilities Roland sets out on a path to finally stop Walter for good.

The Dark Tower isn't a bad film but nor did it do anything that leapt out to me, it was fine in a brain dead entertainment sense but I did expect more of a complicated story than the very simple one we got here. Having not read the books I didn't feel that a poor job was done of explaining the set up, though it did just appear to be good vs evil kind of vibe. Roland is a decent enough good guy hero, the strong silent type. I did love that his guns were meant to have been made out of the legendary Excalibur sword from legend, that was a nice touch. Walter on the other hand was a cool bad guy, McConaughey seemed a perfect fit. He is a mortal human by all accounts but is a magician, able to influence people to do whatever he wants them to, whether it be to spill their secrets, or to simply stop breathing. He has magic balls with which he can spy on any place in the universe, a network of teleporters, and a small army of monsters that wear human skin as disguise. The dynamic between Roland and Walter is interesting, I enjoyed the scenes where they confront each other, and the way their powers rebound off each other with Roland unable to shoot Walter due to him being able to catch the bullets, and Walter unable to use his magical powers to influence Roland.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

We Put the World to Sleep - Film News

Adrian Tofei; the writer, director, producer and main star of the very realistic found footage masterpiece Be My Cat: A Film for Anne has announced his new project; We Put the World to Sleep and has also launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to get it made. His aims with this are to go against the status quo and create a film that defies the expectations of the everyday median line. The film is to star two lovers (played by Erisse Peterson and Duru Yucel Tofei) who as far as I can tell seek to end the world in this movie. I don't even know if it is going to be horror based but his previous work was so authentic that anything this guy does next is sure to be interesting. The description on the Facebook page for this is a 'apocalyptic LGBT female antihero film'.

Like his first film We Put the World to Sleep is going to be created using controlled improvisation, this is to get the best performances out of his cast and to give the film a sense of believability. Adrian was fantastic in this respect so though it wont be him this time around I hope his directing will give these two woman the ability to also come across as real. With Be My Cat having a budget of $10,000 this new one has the far more ambitious budget goal of $300,000, so quite the leap. The Indiegogo page says if that amount is not raised then concessions can be made, and if not enough is made to see Adrian's budget then further campaigns will be launched so that this movie will get made at some point. If you wish to contribute to this or to read more about the project then check out the page (here), I wish Adrian all the best and am interested to see what his vision turns out to be.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Little Nightmares: The Depths (2017) - Horror Video Game DLC Review (Playstation 4)

When I brought Little Nightmares I opted for the more expensive version that includes Secrets of The Maw. This is a three part DLC package that tells a different story that just so happens to be going on at the same time as the main game. While it is pretty much more of the same it does connect in interesting ways.

This time around you play as a boy; another prisoner in The Maw, and like Six he too has decided to escape his prison. As you progress it becomes apparent there is at least another child also in the midst of escaping. Your adventure sees you falling into the titular depths, these are the lowest part of the construct and many of the rooms here are flooded and patrolled by an underwater adversary known as the Granny...

The Depths is around forty minutes long and is made up mostly of new areas though there is some crossover with the boy passing through areas the opposite way that Six did. Most of the DLC takes place in the flooded area and sees you having to desperately leap or swim from floating debris to platforms whilst the underwater creature pursues you. This is basically the iconic shoe room from the main story stretched out to explore further possibilities with the mechanic. The boy controls identically to Six but instead of a lighter he is armed with a flashlight that does a much better job of illuminating the rooms you travel through. A lot of the puzzles revolve around managing the floods, there are switches that rise and lower the water level and many floating objects that must be moved into the right place to act as bridges once the water is risen.