Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Zombie Apocalypse at the Forest of Marston Vale - Horror Event

So last Friday I attended the Zombie Apocalypse at the Forest of Marston Vale which is the biggest zombie apocalypse event in Bedfordshire. Basically this is a walk around Marston Vale forest in the dark where you have to make it all the way around without being attacked by one of the 40 zombies patrolling the pathway. It was advertised as being for adults only and so I had mild hopes it might be a bit scary, which it wasn't, but it was something different, and something fun.

So I got a lift up to Bedfordshire with my best friend and her friends, we started as we meant to go on with some pre drinks. The event started at 19:00, on arrival at a visitor centre we all had to sign a form to say we are fine with being scared, that we wouldn't attack any of the undead, and that we wouldn't run (and various other stuff). We were then each given a white T-shirt with a zombie silhouette and the event logo on it...I would include a photo but I have literally no idea what happened to my shirt at all, maybe too much of my vodka and coke I was drinking fogged my memory (drinking it for Dutch courage of course).

Around 20:00 we were taken out the visitor centre into a field where the event organiser explained how it would work. The task was to complete a circuit of the 2km forest path, making our way past the 40 zombies as we did so. If we made it back to the visitor centre without our T-shirt getting any blood on it we could get our ticket price refunded (£15), however the zombies aim was to touch your shirt with their blood stained hands. We were instructed to stay on the path at all times wherever possible, and that we would be leaving in groups. Luckily we were in the first group to be let go, so off we went, not getting too near the front of the crowd. I think there were roughly 200 people who attended this, being let go at one and a half minute intervals.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Serial Cleaner (2017) - Crime Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

I liked the premise behind Serial Cleaner, and I also liked the visual style. In my head this was going to be similar to Hotline Miami except rather than killing buildings full of goons you would instead clean up buildings full of dead goons. While this can be a lot of fun it can also be immensely frustrating at times and it was this divide that meant it didn't endear itself to me as much as it could have.

Set during the 70's you play as a man known as 'The Cleaner'; an expert at removing bodies, blood and evidence from newly created crime scenes. Mainly he does jobs for the Mafia, due to being deep in debt with them over gambling losses. One day however he get contacted by a new client, and it turns out the mess they leave behind is far more barbaric than what he is used to. With evidence pointing to the fact the Cleaner is helping out a sick serial killer his conscience slowly starts to get the better of him...

So this is 100% a stealth game that takes place in an elevated viewpoint that reminded me a lot of Party Hard. Each of the 20 levels takes place in a different location such as a farm, TV studio and rooftops. In each level you must avoid the patrolling guards while collecting evidence, hiding bodies and cleaning up blood. You have a vacuum with which to suck up spilt blood, with a set percentage needed for each level. Bodies can be picked up and either taken to your car and put in your boot, or placed in one of the environmental disposers. In the nightclub for instance you can dump bodies in the piranha tank, while in the Mafia hideout you can put bodies in the meat grinder in a butchers shop. Each time you are caught the level restarts, but for more difficulty bodies and evidence will spawn in a slightly different place each time, and the time of day will also change up.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

News: Halloween Edition 2017

It is close to Halloween but I'm really not feeling it this year for some reason. I should be, there has been a sharp rise in horrors at the cinema this month, while Z Nation season 4 is going strong, there was a triumphant return of The Walking Dead last week, and the much awaited season 2 of Stranger Things is out. I have two weeks off work in a few weeks so I hope that restores my mojo. I have an eclectic selection of news I am going to put up today, so excuse the lack of any sort of theme here.

First up some food news. Tabanero Hot Sauce have released a limited edition selection of The Walking Dead themed hot sauces. These include original, extra hot, Agave sweet and spicy, as well as a 'bloodiest mary mix'. As far as I can tell this is all just regular sauces but with The Walking Dead packaging. Worryingly Tabanero say these sauces can cure infection from zombie bites, all well and fun saying that now but come undead apocalypse there may be some unhappy customers! Still I guess they will be too busy eating brains to worry about lodging a complaint, and the bottles do look cool with a different zombie on each of the different flavour bottles.

UK thriller B&B has recently been released in the UK, US, and Canada. This award winning film is about a gay couple who get more than they bargained for when they decide to stay at a homophobic man's bed and breakfast. I said of B&B when I reviewed it back in May: 'I found it to be an interesting film, and an entertaining one, it helped that there was no bad acting'.
A collectors edition DVD box set of digitally remastered Traces of Death has been released thanks to Brain Damage Films. This box set contains all five volumes and purports to all be footage of real life death and gore. Really not my thing but I'm sure there are people out there that would love this.
The trailer for new horror show Bible Black has been released, the show promises to be a 'thrilling new hybrid of literature and animation' and aims to follow in the footsteps of Amazing Stories and The Twilight Zone. Episode 1 is now available on Amazon Video.

Released on 20th October was Celldweller's latest single Electric Eye (Zardonic Remix). This drum and bass remix is heavy in sound and quite energetic, it marks Zardonic's 6th remix appearance for record label FiXT. More music news and One Last Shot have released a music video for their song Slitting My Throat On My Own. The video has the band exploring a haunted house attraction, but as they make their way through it band members start to vanish one by one until it is just vocalist Jeremy Romance left. Romance said of the video "We also wanted to just have fun with this video and not be as serious as usual because Halloween is one of our favourite seasons".

A Shudder reminder next; Shudder is the Netflix of horror and features a multitude of horror films for your viewing pleasure. For the Halloween period there are going to be a fair few releases for the service, this includes Shudder exclusive Can't Take It Back (urban legend mixed with social media), Amer (Belgian-French giallo), I Sell the Dead (period horror comedy about two grave robbers), Found Footage 3D (filmmakers creating a found footage unwittingly find themselves in their own real life found footage) and UK Shudder exclusive The Girl in the Photograph (two psychopaths target a group of models at a secluded house). More excitingly the awesome horror show Masters of Horror arrived 23rd october, I adore this show, owning it all on DVD. Each of the hour long episodes is directed by a different legendary horror director that include Dario Argento, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, John Landis and many more. If you haven't seen that show you need to! Upcoming for November is Wolf Creek: The Series (Shudder exclusive), Another Evil, Sam Was Here, and a few other older horrors including the Basket Case trilogy. Shudder is available in the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland on a variety of formats include the web, iOS, Android, Apple TV and X-Box One, and costs (at least in the UK) £4.99 per month, or £47.88 annually. I subscribe to the service and while I don't use it too much it is a great resource to have access to.

Mad Sin Cinema is in production of several provocative and experimental films by Shane Ryan that feature 16 year old gender-fluid actor Lilith Singson in the lead for several of them. These include Red Oedipal (a bloody and twisted romance) and Half-Breed (a transgender fantasy/horror tale). Red Oedipal is currently filming, while Half-Breed is in production. If you want to donate towards the completion of either of these films then head to the gofundme page (here).
I am at the end of my news splurge with a new trailer for psychological horror Blood Runs Thick which is about a woman who starts to hallucinate after her husband goes missing. The film gets it's red carpet premiere in Beverly Hills on October 31st.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Evil Within 2 (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

The first The Evil Within game was much maligned, mainly in that it didn't seem to have an entire identity of its own, instead it was content to grab elements from many games (notably Resident Evil and Silent Hill) and splice them together in a way that wasn't always satisfying. Indeed I felt very disappointed at the time, yet a second playthrough last month made me come to appreciate that a little bit more. With The Evil Within 2 promising to fix many of the issues the fan base had first time around would it be something better, or merely something different?

Three years after the event of the first game (in which detective Sebastian Castellanos got pulled into a monster filled hive mind dream machine named STEM) Sebastian's life is in ruins. Chucked off the force after his account of what happened to him was put down to mental stress, and with the shadowy Mobius group responsible for the event nowhere to be found he spends his days drinking his sorrows in seedy bars. Then Mobius member Julie Kidman appears, she tells Seb that not only is the daughter he believed perished in a fire five years previously still alive (Lily), but that she has been used as a key component in a second STEM machine. This machine had been used to simulate a sleepy American town but something went wrong and Lily went missing, Mobius want Seb to go into it to retrieve her for them. It soon becomes very apparent that things have gone south, with the participants in the STEM program having mostly transformed into murderous monsters, and so the former detective finds himself once more fighting through a nightmare world...

One of my early complaints with the first game is how the various areas didn't fit together well at all, there was an inconsistency to where you would travel. It seems the developers have listened as now the world is much more focused, and far more bland as a result. I only really appreciated how cool the seemingly random locations when I replayed the game last month, here there is far less of that. The majority of the game takes place in the artificial town of Union that has fallen somewhat into a state of disrepair. It is laid out as you would expect a town to be, having industrial and business districts among it's streets. These streets make a big departure for the series as it becomes semi-open world. Think Silent Hill in fact as much like that series streets are closed off by huge holes in the ground. Silent Hill was the biggest vibe throughout The Evil Within 2 for me this time around, especially Silent Hill: Downpour due to the amount of side quests you get to do. I loved these open world areas, made better that a large proportion of the buildings you find are fully explorable, and reveal secrets in the form of new weapons and XP, as well as giving you hidden side story, cutscenes, and literature that is all completely optional. There are roughly three such areas in the game, each of them a lot of fun to explore. There is also a weird underground facility area named 'The Marrow' that links up these disparate areas, I actually loved exploring this maze like place, especially in one really awesome scene that saw the viewpoint change to first person as you crept through a dank sewer! The core problem of having locations more realistic is that they lose some of the insanity that came before, it is only really towards the end when you get areas that reminded me of the best of the first game.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

DIS (2017) - Horror Film Review

I first heard of Bill Oberst Jr. back at the start of 2014 when I saw his powerful performance as the star of arthouse horror Coyote. I am firmly of the mind that he isn't capable of giving anything but his all to his performances as here he is in his latest film; DIS (directed and written by Adrian Corona) and once again he gives an intense and gruelling show. This film is the most arthouse I have seen for a while and with that style I sometimes enjoy them, I sometimes dont. Still at around an hour long this one doesn't have time to drag, instead telling an abstract tale that flows naturally.

So this was a bit hard to follow and I will admit the plot summary comes from both my own experience of this, and of the IMDB plot blurb filling in some blanks. Oberst Jr. stars as Ariel; an ex-soldier with a criminal past who has taking refuge in Mexico, in some woods after a probable recent escapade. While out hunting one day he comes across a ruined building, while investigating it (after seeing the figure of a half naked woman) he is ambushed by a hooded man who wants Ariel's bodily fluids as food for his mandrake garden.

So this is about the legend of the mandrake plant that this film states is grown from the blood of murderers. Even without Bill saying this was an arthouse film it wouldn't have been hard to guess (he also says this was one of the strangest projects he has ever worked on). It has full frontal male and female nudity, discordant music, and quickly edited together abstract shots so ticks all the arthouse boxes. DIS takes place in two different times, the present that has Ariel and his accidental meeting with the mandrake gardner, and black and white segments that has Ariel arriving at a remote criminal den after needing to lie low. The only dialogue (aside from screams) occurs in the brief black and white flash back moments and so a lot of what is going on is up to the viewers interpretations.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

The Faith Community (2017) - Horror Film Review

2017 has been a good year for found footage horror, so much so that when I turn on a film to discover it has been made in that format I don't feel revulsion, but instead intrigue. In many ways The Faith Community (produced, written, and directed by Faith R Johnson) is fantastic, it goes back to basics with the found footage being extremely amateurish, this helps to add a good dose of realism that even some of the less stellar acting can't really take away from. The whole plot is also a big shining point here, I haven't seen a story like this in a found footage before, yet at a crucial moment the ball is dropped which really was a damn shame.

Three friends; Hannah (Janessa Floyd), Andrew (Aiden Hart), and Colin (Jeffrey Brabant) have gone away to a religious retreat for a weekend out deep in the woods. Colin is going to film what they get up to for a project the trio are doing. However upon arriving they find something quite different to what they had expected. The retreat is run by a charismatic man (Jeremy Harris) who calls himself 'The Messenger', and whose teachings are very twisted, as are his methods for dealing with those he sees as false believers...

The way The Faith Community is filmed is very raw in feel. Colin is a terrible camera man, awful in fact. His shots are nearly always out of focus, he is forever fiddling around audibly with the camera as he films, and he has a stunning habit of missing peoples heads out of shots. Because of this a layer of authenticity is created that sustains throughout. I always find it so immersion breaking to have found footage where the camera shots are perfectly framed constantly, here they are rarely well framed, only in one scene, and that is amusingly when one of the cult members (for that is what the trio have unknowingly joined up with) has set up the camera themselves. There is a vein of jet black humour that runs throughout this, several times I almost laughed out loud in purposefully set up moments. Colin who is the least religious of the three is constantly swearing, something the other two are constantly calling him up on, when events have started to take a dark turn they still obliviously call him up on his language that I found amusing. Another great scene had Andrew gushing with praise to The Messenger as unseen to him, just in the background what appears to be a corpse is being dragged away. I loved these little moments of levity.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter (2016) by C.A Verstraete - Zombie Horror eBook Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies may not have been the first historical zombie novel but it did bring the idea into the mainstream. There is something about an undead uprising before the advent of modern technologies that is endlessly entertaining to read about. Of course Pride and Prejudice's big thing was that it was the original text from Jane Austen but with extra parts slotted in. Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter is slightly similar, though this time around a fictional book has been written about real world Lizzie Borden who was on trial in the late 19th Century for the axe murder of her father and stepmother in Massachusetts, and who was acquitted of the charge. This book theorises what if she really did commit the murders, but with the twist that it was down to her parents both being zombies.

After finding her parents infected with a strange affliction that causes them to try and violently attack her, Lizzie Borden is forced to kill them. John Fremont; a member of a secret group named 'The Society' introduces himself to Lizzie and tells him that people have been returning from the dead all over the city, and that his group are dispatching them in secret so as not to cause a panic. However due to the clandestine nature of their actions they can't stop Lizzie from being arrested for murder. Without even knowing if she is going to be locked away for her perceived crimes she must work with John and others to investigate just how this plague came to the city, and what part her father may have had to play in all this.

This book starts off with no slow introduction, instead we are thrown straight into Lizzie's first contact with the undead. This abrupt start didn't really resonate with me as I felt more confused than anything at what was going on. Not at the actual events, more that the main character is in the midst of action with no feeling of what sort of person she was. However the book then settles down into something more familiar with the main bulk being the investigations that Lizzie, her sister Emma, and John carry out on various properties her father once owned. This leads to a lot of localised zombie fighting. I liked the idea of a secret society trying to contain an undead apocalypse from coming to pass and I liked what they did with the character of John. Initially it seems he is to be Lizzie's love interest, for me I couldn't stand his character as it felt like he was using her for his own ends, so it was good to see him fade out the story, I had worried this off putting nature of his was accidental on Verstraete's part, but it wasn't at all. Of the other main characters it is Lizzie who stands out as the best one. She is strong willed, but there was also a vulnerability to her character on the many occasions she bites off more than she can chew. The less said about her sister Emma the better though, she came across as a perpetual damsel in distress whose meek nature and poor sensibilities just created no end of situations where she need to be rescued from the ghouls.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Happy Death Day (2017) - Horror Film Review

I fell in love with Happy Death Day (directed by Christopher Landon of Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones) the moment I saw the trailer due to the glaring similarities between it and Groundhog Day. I loved that film due to the person stuck in time loop idea, and this is pretty much the same idea here, but with the added twist of each day ends for our heroine with her being murdered by the same mystery figure. Even that idea isn't wholly original as a similar concept occurred in Supernatural: Season 3 in the episode Mystery Spot where Sam was constantly reliving the same day in which his brother Dean was destined to die.

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) wakes up on her birthday in Carter's (Israel Broussard) dorm room after seemingly having a one night stand after getting very drunk the night previous. She has no idea who the boy is and brusquely leaves. During her day Tree is shown to not be that nice a person, such as being in the midst of an affair with a married lecturer at her university, standing her father up at a meal he had planned, and generally being mean to everyone she interacts with. That night while walking home alone she gets attacked by a hooded figure wearing a baby mask (the baby being the university's football team mascot). She wakes up to discover herself back in Carter's room and soon discovers she is reliving the same day over and over again, each day ending with her murder at the hands of the hooded figure. Tree decides the only way to break the curse of the time loop she has found herself trapped in is to stop her killer from killing her...

Many story beats here are extremely similar to Groundhog day, so much so in fact that characters specifically mention that film (in a scene that was awkwardly implemented and kind of fourth wall breaking). It was fun they acknowledge the influence as this is very similar in style, except the slasher of course. As the same day repeats and repeats Tree starts to go a little crazy that is shown via a humorous montage, eventually she goes on a voyage of self improvement that culminates in one perfect day when she becomes who she needs to be for the various people she encounters. The way events happen is so familiar that this could really be seen as an unofficial sequel to that Bill Murray classic. Rothe is great in her role being able to bring a lot of fun to her character, her facial expressions in particular were always funny, whether it be from exasperation at finding herself in the same situation time and time again, or her knowing wink and nods to the various people she keeps bumping into. Yet when the time calls for it she can also come across as a determined heroine.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Talon Falls (2017) - Horror Film Review

I love horror films, I love how varied they can be, how much scope for different elements they can create. Some films set out to make you think, some films set out to make you scared, and some, like Talon Falls just aim to give you a damn fun time.

Four teenage friends out on a road trip in Southern Kentucky get convinced by a local shop keeper to make a detour to a local scream park called Talon Falls. Arriving there they start to explore the crowded attraction and are both repulsed and thrilled by the scenes of torture they see that actors rather than dummies. At least that is what they assume is happening, but halfway around and they find themselves captured by the burly rednecks that run the park and begin to realise that the 'actors' in the torture rooms are actually unwilling victims being killed for real (and also feature in a snuff film sideline venture). The friends must find a way to escape the nightmare they have found themselves in before they too get their time in the spotlight...

While this has some issues (of which I will get into later) by the time the end credits rolled I had a huge grin on my face, this is a horror that sets out to entertain before anything else. There are plenty of scenes of gruesome violence, and plenty of chase sequences, mostly featuring the final girl Lyndsey (Morgan Wiggins). It is no spoiler to say she is the final girl as the film does that beloved trope of having events start with her in the present before flashing back. The premise is that she is in hospital retelling the story to a Doctor of how she came to be rescued by a trucker. This was a strange mix of House of 1000 Corpses (due to the near identical story), and of torture porn films such as Hostel.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Ritual (2017) - Horror Film Review

The Ritual is a British made horror directed by David Bruckner (The Signal) that takes place in some vast woods in Sweden and seems to be very much based on the folklore of the area, and is also an adaptation of the book of the same name (a book written by Adam Nevill who has glowing recommendations, I shall have to check out some of his work). It features beautiful scenery and some great characters, but can the 'lost in the wood' plot device work well any more after countless other films with the same idea?

Four 30 something friends have decided to go on a hiking trip in Sweden, they include Luke (Rafe Spall), Hutch (Robert James-Collier), Phil (Arsher Ali) and Dom (Sam Troughton). The trip is in memory of their friend Robert who was murdered during an armed robbery at a convenience store him and Luke had got caught up in. On the way back to their hiking lodge Dom badly twists his ankle, the group decide that rather than stick to the route, they are going to take a short cut through a nearby wood. However the deeper into the woods the group gets the more weird things start happening to them, and the more they start to suspect they are not alone...

The cinematography in The Ritual is stunning, that's the biggest thing I took away from watching this. The woods may be large and very foreboding but it looks amazing and there are no end of neat camera shots to show us this. In many ways this felt like The Blair Witch Project done with a budget, obviously it is not found footage in style but it has many of the same story beats such as local legends, the discovery of weird symbols, people getting lost in the woods, members of the group vanishing mysteriously etc. The first two thirds of this kept my attention far more than the final third, I actually enjoyed the being lost aspect better rather than starting to understand what is going on. I loved how there was a gradual drip feed of terror to the hapless heroes, it starts with discovering a fresh animal carcass pinned to a tree and culminates with the foursome spending the night in a creepy cabin that happens to have a strange altar upstairs. Waking up after all having had similar nightmares there was an element of Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 to things at the absolute insanity that occurs. Phil for example being discovered naked, praying at the strange altar, but with no memory of how he came to be doing that.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Survivor: A Tale from the Nearscape (2017) - Post Apocalyptic Short Film Review

Christopher Carson Emmons directed short The Survivor: A Tale from the Nearscape is a near 12 minute award winning post apocalyptic film that stars a silent protagonist and looks quite impressive at the sense of world it creates. It tells a simple story but one that comes across well thanks to the directing.

This takes place in a post apocalyptic world where the outside air has become toxic to breathe. A young boy goes on a supply run to gather water and medicine for his sick mother, avoiding infected, cults, and the brutal police force as he does so.

The best part of The Survivor is the set dressing and costume design, some such as the police uniforms are great looking, while the dilapidated wastelands the boy travels looks authentic enough. For a 12 minute film there is a lot that happens, such as three separate chase sequences, a couple of dialogue scenes and some nice but brief action. A lot of the narrative initially comes from the boy's toy robot that has an A.I chip built into it and so provides information about the world the boy is travelling through. This is provided by a voice that has been added over the footage and so seemed a bit odd at times. In a Fallout type of way I loved the idea of an A.I infused children's toy though. So at first the suspense comes from the decreasing oxygen supply the boy is fitted with, the infected of this seem more ill than anything, though a sequence where a narrow alleyway leads to hands bursting out of walls and even a tyre create a type of zombie vibe.

At times the acting wasn't the strongest but the many characters felt like they belonged in the world, especially interesting was the supply shop that had a kind of washed out Z Nation vibe to it. The police chase towards the end felt at odds with this complete sense of law and order having broken down but it gave meaning to television interference shown earlier and at the end of the short, hinting at a bigger cohesive world than what is shown here. It also of course is an indication of the total divide between the general population and those still in control.

With some nice special effects, unobtrusive CGI, and a hero's journey The Survivor is a nice little foray into a doomed world, one that is helped, not hampered by the main characters muteness. This short is currently being shown at a variety of film festivals, and is available to watch on YouTube.


Thursday, 12 October 2017

Something Scary (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Something Scary is the third short horror film to come from Andrew J.D Robinson, the others being Placebo, and A Walk Home Alone. This actually stars Aileigh Karson who also featured in Placebo. Horror and video games are two of my favourite things so when I saw Robinson's latest short was going to marry the two things together I had high hopes, but for me it just didn't quite come together.

Karson stars as GamerGurl; an online star of a YouTube style video game channel. She has received a beta of horror game Something Scary and is going to stream her playthrough live for her fans to watch, however once she starts playing things begin to get strange...

First off, I loved how this was presented, the short is shown almost like it is a video you would watch online, most the time GamerGurl is on video in the corner of the screen with the fake game taking up the rest. The game has nostalgic pixelated graphics which feeds over into the end credits that have a similar look to them. Karson is a great choice for lead, she comes across as naturally likeable and talks to the camera well, which is helped by the editing for her segments. The game she is playing looks pretty basic, but that is totally understandable as this is an indie film, I wouldn't expect something looking stunning so it does the job it was created to do. For me though I wasn't sure which of the several little twists were meant to be the scary part, none of them felt like they hit home to me personally. I even re-watched this 4 minute short a few times to see if I had missed something.

While the actual horror aspect didn't work for me in terms of originality this was good, I haven't seen a short horror set out in this way before. Also with Karson you have a lead who fitted the character she was acting as very well, and the style of the short is pretty cool. Something Scary is by no means a bad piece of work, it had some good ideas going for it, but to me it just felt constrained by the short run time that seemed to get in the way of some of those neat ideas getting to flourish.


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

I Am Alone (2015) - Zombie Film Review

Zombie films always hold a special place in my heart, after all zombies are the reason I started this blog just over 9 years ago. As such I always look especially forward to seeing any films featuring the undead. Award winning I Am Alone is another found footage, it is all I seem to be getting sent my way lately, however it is also true it has been a long time since I have seen a bad one and thankfully this doesn't fall into that camp. Found footage films in the zombie genre are rare, but there have been a fair few over the years, most notably the late, great George Romero's Diary of the Dead. Despite obvious budget constraints in places this indie effort by director Robert A. Palmer (who also co-wrote this with Michael A. Weiss) shines tall in this niche sub-genre, mostly due to the heart on show here.

The film begins mid zombie apocalypse and cameraman Mason Riley (Gunner Wright) finds himself a 'guest' of the CDC. It is explained to him that his friend, and star of a survivalist reality TV show Jacob Fitts (Gareth David-Lloyd) after being bitten managed to resist succumbing to the undead plague for days and days, when in every other example known the victim had turned within minutes. Mason, producer Adam, and Jacob had been up in the Colorado Rockies where Jacob had set off alone to film a 7 day survival challenge, it had been when Mason and Adam had returned to the local town that the trouble began. Now the CDC want to go through the pieced together footage they retrieved from the three men in order to try and figure out just what it was about Jacob that allowed him to resist the disease for so long...

I applauded Hell House LLC just the other day for doing something different than just pure found footage and so it was nice to see I Am Alone also try something different. The footage is intercut with the present day sections that take place in the interrogation room of the CDC. Mason and his interrogator; Dr. Marlow (Marshal Hilton) are physically watching the footage on an old CRT TV. These sections are where the budget is at it's most obvious as reminded me of a mid 90's video game FMV, in a cool way though as it was always a treat to come back here and get perspectives of what was going on by the duo watching. As with all good films shot in this style it follows the tried and tested formula of events eventually surpassing the flashbacks (so to speak). I liked the ticker tape display that was updating on how much of the population was estimated to be one of the walking dead, and the infrequent power outages hinted at what was to come.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul (2017) - Horror Video Game Review (PSVR)

If you had asked me before yesterday the last time I had taken some decent time to play PSVR I wouldn't have been able to tell you. It was my favourite purchase of 2016 and I had some great times with it at the start of 2017 with Resident Evil VII: Biohazard but I had come to think of it as being pretty poor. In my head it was a let down. However I decided to give Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul a go as I had brought it when it first came out a few months back, but only tried it for around 10 minutes. I'm really glad I did give this another whirl as it reminded me how damn good PSVR actually is with an immersive and genuinely terrifying experience.

In the game you play as an unnamed person arriving at night at what appears to be a typical American house. Finding the key you let yourself in but it isn't long before you discover something isn't right at all, a demonic force is prowling the place and hunting both you, and a mysterious girl you find. Armed with a spell book you discover you must explore the house, finding the required items that will hopefully expel the dark evil...

So this falls into the 'walking simulator' of game types in that your avatar is totally helpless in terms of being able to defend themselves. You explore the large house with events happening that lead to new areas opening up. Along the way you find keys, letters, and key items, as well as cassette tapes that both shed more light on what has occurred and help you try and achieve your goal. While a lot of the environment can be interacted with, such as opening drawers and doors a lot also can't be interacted with, more often than not you will find your disembodied hands vanishing into the furniture. I got around this immersion altering fact by saying in my head that was just part of the spooky goings on. Less so is that while some doors can be interacted with (either making a locked noise or actually being able to be opened) there are some that just appear to be set dressing with no interaction at all. The controls are awkward in that you use the ever not perfect move controllers, thankfully there isn't the hateful teleporting to move around, instead you use the face buttons to move forward and backward, while you can turn incrementally to the sides. I really wish there had been the option to move around without the weird incremental turn thing.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Hell House LLC (2015) - Horror Film Review

Another day and another found footage, this time it is the turn of Stephen Cognetti's Hell House LLC which has a cool premise to it. I was actually sent a screener of the extended DVD version of the movie which has around 9 minutes of extra footage which was nice, I don't know what was added over the original but nothing seemed out of place. I often go on about 'new' and 'old' styles of making found footage, and this falls into the old style. The sub genre used to be known for frustrating shaky cam and blurred footage, of which there is some of that here. However the whole film is set out like a documentary with the footage incorporated in as part of this documentary so there is a nice sense of structure that combines well.

Five years after an unexplained event led to the death of a whole bunch of staff and visitors at the opening night at a Halloween haunted house tour set at an abandoned hotel, a film crew decide to make a documentary to explore what really happened (as there was a huge cover up by the local authorities). They manage to locate one of the original staff members; Sara (Ryan Jennifer) who not only gives her version of the story, but provides the crew with the footage the event planners filmed in the run up to opening night which forms the basis of their investigation.

I really enjoyed the style of this film, normally there are a few sentences on a black screen at the start as plausible explanation for why we are seeing found footage, but Hell House LLC goes the extra mile with the whole movie taking place as a produced documentary. I admit for the first five minutes I was almost convinced this was a legitimate show rather than a film. You have interviews with local towns people, experts in the field, and researchers, as well as news bulletins and footage filmed from one of the visitors. This initial first footage works in giving more questions than answers, it is heavily hinted that the horror that unfolded took place in the basement yet that is where the filming ends with the guest getting turned around before seeing anything. This part was also neat in unknowingly to the viewer at that time revealing what happened to staff members that then get much bigger roles in the meat of Hell House LLC.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Flatliners (2017) - Horror Film Review

I mentioned in my second news post of the week yesterday that the reason there was no review was due to the showing of Flatliners being on too late at my local cinema, and so now here is that review. When I was a child I remember my parents owning a VHS of the original Flatliners but aside from the first five or so minutes I never actually saw it. I had no idea whatsoever it was a horror so when I first watched the trailer for this re imagining I was quite surprised, and also interested.

Courtney (Ellen Page) is a junior doctor who has been researching the concept of the afterlife in her spare time after having lost her sister in a car accident she caused 9 years previously. She decides to carry out an experiment in which her heart is stopped so that she can have her brain waves analysed while she's dead, before being revived. She enlists the help of several other junior doctors; rich Jamie (James Norton), shy Sophia (Kiersey Clemons), serious Marlo, and intelligent Ray. The plan is carried out and Courtney returns to life having experienced something amazing, not only that but she is changed and has a new zest for life, while able to access parts of her memory that had been locked away (Limitless style). One by one her friends also have a go and for a little while all seems great. However they seem to have brought something back with them, something which wants to punish them for their most deepest, darkest secrets...

To me Flatliners felt like a cross between Final Destination and A Nightmare on Elm Street. The former in that the death that stalks the group is faceless, appearing as the form of the person the individual feels they have wronged in their past. For Courtney it is her sister, she gets frequent hallucinations that occur at any time and get increasingly more terrifying. For Marlo it is visions of the patient she accidentally killed during her second year as a junior doctor. There is the Final Destination vibe in that it is the environment that is the threat for the group, such as when Marlo hallucinates someone has put a bag over her head while she is driving causing her to nearly crash. The A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe comes from the afterlife experiences themselves, each starts off beautifully before slowly twisting into a Hell. Such as Jamie who is cheesily driving a motorbike through a deserted city with a beautiful girl clinging onto him, before he finds himself in a dilapidated neighbourhood all alone.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The First Date, Kill or Be Killed, Bye Bye Baby, The Black Gloves and Buckout Road - Horror Film News and Trailers

A second day of news and trailers for various films, yesterdays post was so well received that an encore was demanded, demanded! Or maybe it is due to going to a late screening of Flatliners, followed by a planned streaming of the PSVR Paranormal Activity game meaning I wont have time to do anything more substantial.

The First Date is a horror comedy anthology coming from Reel Nightmare Films (Hotel Camarillo) that has been released on Amazon Prime, Amazon Instant Video (US, UK and DE), and worldwide on Vimeo On Demand. The film's synopsis reads "Tired of the online dating world, a hopeful woman decides to give it one last try with a stranger who owns his own theatre has a collection of very strange short films." It is very hard to get an idea of what type of film this is going to be from the trailer, I'm assuming the short horrors all revolve about dates, the blurb says this includes paranormal scares, science fiction, thriller and b-movie comedy.

UK teen horror feature Kill or Be Killed is now out on DVD in the UK. Apparently this was first made way back in 2013 under the name Tag but has only just been released. It was directed by B.L Parker and written by Aaron Ellis (who also acts in this). Other actors include among them Ed Sanders (Sweeney Todd) and the very prolific Kim Sonderholm (Harvest). The story sounds interesting; 5 years after a group of teenagers were found dead in mysterious circumstances a paranormal investigator interviews the only survivor, who happens to be in prison having been convicted of murder. This survivor insists that the friends were forced into a deadly game of 'tag' by an inhuman force.

Bye Bye Baby is the latest short film from director Pablo S.Pastor (his previous film being the award winning Into the Mud) and is part of the 2017 Sitges Festival's Official Selection. In the short a woman plans to spend a quiet night home alone, but after a friend's call things start to go very wrong and she starts to wonder if she is actually really alone in the house. This is described as a homage to horrors such as Scream and Halloween with the intent to make the viewer never want to be home alone ever again! The trailer certainly works at making you intrigued.

Unique director Lawrie Brewster's (Lord of Tears) latest film The Black Gloves is to make it's premiere at Horror Channel's FrightFest Halloween event in London, UK on 28th October. This black and white film is a prequel of sorts to Lord of Tears taking place in the 1940's, and tells the story of a psychologist obsessed with the disappearance of a young patient and the owl headed figure that haunted her dreams. Tickets for the FrightFest event can be found here if you want to go and see this. Meanwhile check out the awesome trailer, I really love this trailer, the bird type whistle is perfect here.

Finally to close off today's batch of film news comes the trailer for Buckout Road that marks the directorial debut of Matthew Currie Holmes and stars among others Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon I-IV), Evan Ross (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) and Colm Feore (House of Cards, Thor), as well as features the always awesome Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare) in a guest appearance. I have just seen the trailer and you can colour me impressed, this looks like it might actually be pretty scary, and a well made scary film at that. The plot revolves around a group of students whose research into the most haunted road in New York State; Buckout Road leads to a series of horrific urban legends about the location coming to pass. This award winning film is due to be shown on October 7th in Nashville, Tennessee as part of International Black Film Festival (tickets can be brought here) and on Friday 13th October in Toronto, Ontario as part of Commffest 2017 (tickets here).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Crazy Lake, Blood Runs Thick, The Wicked Gift and Tales of Frankenstein - Horror Film News and Trailers (and Z Nation news)

It is that time again when my inbox vomits out news of a horror nature, but first off a reminder that the fourth season of the always fantastic Z Nation started last week, with new episodes airing every Friday at 9/8c on Syfy. The first episode of the new season was as funny and crazy as ever so I feel this will be another great season.

Onto film news and we have Crazy Lake that came out 3rd October on VOD and DVD thanks to Indican Pictures. This homage to 1980's slashers was directed by Jason Henne and Christopher Leto and is about a group of several friends who get together at a remote camping spot. Things are going great until the appearance of an escaped convict who brings with him all sorts of crazy. I like how the trailer is edited with the escalation of noise, there are plenty of obnoxious youngsters, though little hint of the slasher side of things.

Director Romane Simon's latest film Blood Runs Thick has now got a teaser trailer. In this movie a young woman struggles with scary hallucinations and the onset of insanity after her husband goes missing. Included in the cast is Emily Killian (The Chosen), Tom Sizemore (Natural Born Killers, Twin Peaks) and Alexander Man (Voodoo Retribution). The teaser doesn't show too much but does feature a little girl with a demonic voice.

The Wicked Gift promises to represent the rebirth of Italian horror in cinema and comes from award winning independent actor/director Roberto D'Antona (The Reaping). It is due to come to the big screen on 6th December and has a plot that seems appropriate for Italian horror. Ethan suffers from insomnia due to terrifying nightmares, nightmares that he discovers conceal something more horrific than he could possibly imagine (seems to involve demons).

Finally for today is Tales of Frankenstein that stars Mel Novak (Game of Death's) and has Wolverine creator Len Wuin in his final film. It also features among its other actors T.J Storm (Deadpool), Jena Sims (Sharknado 5), and Ann Robinson (War of the Worlds). Despite the obvious low budget this actually sounds pretty interesting. This is an anthology of four different short films based on some of director/writer Donald F.Glut's stories in his book of the same name, and they all seem quite B-movie in style. This is due for release in 2018 which marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's classic Frankenstein novel. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign going to cover post-production costs, that can be found here.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Don't Knock Twice (2016) - Horror Film Review

While I will never complain about the amount of films I get sent my way to watch for review it does make it hard to find time to watch films of my own volition. I had been meaning to watch U.K based Don't Knock Twice for a trio of reasons, first as it is a horror that is available to watch on Netflix. The second reason it is an eligible film for the 2017 Fright Meter Awards (of which I am a committee member), and the final nail in the coffin was that there has been a PSVR game recently released that by all accounts is pretty dull, but which I am going to give a go anyway and thought the context of the film might add atmosphere to it.

Chloe (Lucy Boynton) and her friend are discussing an urban legend that was around when they were kids; the legend being that if you knock twice on the door of a certain abandoned house in the neighbourhood then it's ghostly occupant will do the same to your door and make you vanish. They decide to show how silly they were for being scared of this as kids by knocking on the house. Much to Chloe's horror (and maybe disgust at how petty this particular spirit is) her friend goes missing that same night. With increasing signs that she is next to be taken she decides to reunite with her estranged mother who gave her up for an orphanage 10 years previously but is now seeking to take her back having sorted her life out. The spooky goings on don't stop though, at first her mother; Jess (Katee Sackhoff) thinks her daughter is making up her tales of being stalked by an evil supernatural woman, but soon she too gets caught up in the events and must find a way to save her daughter from being taken...and unlike certain parents she doesn't have a 'particular set of skills'.

Don't Knock Twice is quite a by the numbers generic mainstream horror that to begin with did feel very similar to no end of others (Lights Out and The Bye Bye Man are a couple that come to mind). You have an evil force that follows some arbitrary rules and constantly shows up to cause problems for the main lead but who seems weirdly powerless and restrained from just straight up doing what it wants. This is where I had some of the biggest problems, though to the movies credit it often goes out it's way to explore these potential plot holes, such as the fact that the demonic woman isn't able to just appear and take Chloe due to the love of her mother protecting her from the spirits power. However this evil is kind of irritating more than dangerous to begin with, only causing trouble and chaos when none else is around, the usual horror film trope of no one believing the victim due to scary stuff only happening when she's alone. The demon is unpredictable in how it is able to operate, doors are key and there are some decent moments involving these as anything that opens can be turned into a gateway to the demon's realm. However at one point it is able to use the capability of a phone to prank call Chloe, and take pictures of her, this only occurred in one scene and felt quite out of place as at no other point does it use technology as a weapon of fear. Also I have to wonder how many hapless door to door salesmen or Jehovah witnesses have vanished over the years by knocking on the cursed door unaware of the legend?

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Don't Let The Devil In (2016) - Horror Film Review

Why was that film so weird!? Is what I exclaimed when the end credits rolled for Don't Let the Devil In. Courtney Fathom Sell who wrote, directed, produced and edited this among other things certainly has a unique way of making films if this is anything to go by. At once this has traces of both The Wicker Man, of 80's Italian horrors and of a living nightmare wrapped up in a near arthouse style bow.

New York based John Harris (Marc Slanger) and his wife Samantha (Jordan Lewis) relocate to a small Appalachian town where John is to oversee the development of a casino as a land developer. They hope the change of scenery will allow them to heal after their loss as Samantha had recently had a miscarriage. However it soon becomes apparent that neither of them are welcome at all in the town, the casino is heavily opposed by the town folk, mainly due to the relocation many of the townsfolk face. They see John as the person to focus their hate onto. Aside from the outright hostility they face the couple soon come under more direct attack from what appears to be a group of Satanists.

The editing is maybe the best thing about Don't Let the Devil In, it is what made this so memorable to me with the audacious decision to feature several really important scenes off camera, and then just either suggested, or mentioned by characters as having occurred. This starts off early on when Samantha mentions seeing what appeared to be a strange altar hidden at the back of the local general store, as she recounts this discovery there is a quickly edited together sequence showing what she is describing. This happens time and time again, such as when John is arrested for being drunk in public, one scene he is laying on a bench, next scene he is behind bars, and another when he is just about to be attacked, then the scene cuts to the next day and him waking up all bloody by a river. This even applies to the big finale, it is all set up for something spectacular to happen then just fades to black with the viewer left to piece together what actually occurred by who is on screen and what they are doing. I loved this blase way of storytelling, not only does it make good use of a low budget but it also assumes the viewer isn't a complete idiot and lets them infer the events.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Die Laughing (2017) - Horror Film Review

Die Laughing is a found footage horror that is in line with the current vogue of having films that centre around a killer taking centre stage, much like Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, Capture Kill Release and A Guidebook to Killing Your Ex. While with each subsequent release these new type of found footage loose some of their shine, as long as you have a good main lead they can still entertain. While Die Laughing did get a pass due to Bob Golub's performance I do feel that it wont be long until much like the more older style these too will start to feel stale.

So Bob Golub stars as himself (and also co-wrote and co-directs), though unlike real life where he has had a successful career in both stand up and on film he instead plays a washed up comedian with a penchant for murder. Golub responds to an ad on Craigslist that was looking for someone who had killed, the poster intends to make a documentary on just what it is like to do that. However the filmmaker finds himself caught up in the goings on of Golub far more than he ever intended to.

This follows closely the format that has been seen in other films though straight away it kinds of trips itself up on the whole 'found' footage aspect. This was perhaps the loosest part as it never comes across as feasible throughout Die Laughing that anything would ever have been done with the footage due to the very incriminating evidence it shows. The filmmaker is a blank slate and doesn't do much but observe for the most part. While it seemed ridiculous that even after people start getting murdered the cameraman doesn't react in any sort of sane way it did become entertaining how uninvolved he became and how he doggedly becomes a hench man of sorts for Golub.