Saturday, 30 June 2018
I liked the idea behind It Stains the Sands Red but I admit I did go into this expecting it to fail, I was more intrigued how this would play out. Basically this is a movie about one solitary zombie, and it's unending pursuit of a woman across a desert. The fact that the undead never get tired, never sleep, can keep going forever means that even one of the slow shambling type can over time erode a persons will with their constant chasing.
Molly (Brittany Allen - Jigsaw) is the girlfriend of a small time criminal who is en-route to a remote airfield near Las Vegas where he is to meet his boss and get on a plane out of America. A zombie virus has swept the continent and with no sign of aid it is everyone for themselves. The car getting a tyre stuck in a hole is the start of the worst few days of Molly's life. Her boyfriend is attacked and killed by a lone ghoul, she flees into the desert but is horrified to find this creature following her relentlessly. Now she is on a forced march to the airfield some 30 miles away, all the time the zombie hot on her heels...
Aside from nice quality camera footage and some nice little music video style sequences the best thing about It Stains the Sands Red is sadly the title itself. I figured I would be bored, that woman vs zombie would soon turn dull. There is always just about enough going on to keep things from getting boring, this would be a good thing were it not for the fact I just plain did not like Molly. I didn't understand her actions, I didn't pity her mistakes, and by the end of the second third I straight up found myself opposed to her silly ideals despite the efforts of the camera and the sound to try and put me on side with her.
Friday, 29 June 2018
I had been planning to put up a review of zombie horror film It Stains the Sands Red today, however upon getting back from my lunch break a friend recommended I instead check out The Blobby Witch Project for review instead. I once got a DVD called The Bogus Witch Project which (witch?) was a collection of short films parodying that cult movie of a similar name. It was trash with every single film being garbage and so I didn't hold out much hope for this one.
A man is making a video about an abandoned cottage that was used as a tourist attraction when Mr Blobby (a large TV mascot popular in Britain in the 1990's) was in fashion. In modern day (well, 2014) the place is a ruin that is covered in graffiti and has signs of being used for illegal parties and for homeless people to sleep in. As the man explores the cottage he soon discovers to his horror that the owner of the building is in attendance and is none too pleased that someone is in his home...
This is just over three minutes long and I was surprised that it is played more seriously than I expected. I always found Mr Blobby to be unsettling in the first place and so to have him show up in a horror setting with that distinct weird voice was actually effective. The pacing isn't the strongest with this one though, the actual appearance comes just 30 seconds before the film ends and so while it was great the lead up to it felt a little bit laboured. I felt maybe if there had been unnoticed appearances earlier on it would have benefitted the anticipation of the horror. Also I felt a night time shoot would have added a lot of atmosphere.
Still this was an effective little horror that had a subject matter that was unexpected. I really liked the juxtaposition between the innocence of the original setting and the modern day ruin that gave it an ominous vibe. I really loved the last half minute of this, especially as it was scary yet at the same time funny in the surrealness, check it out for yourself below.
Thursday, 28 June 2018
I've made it my task to do at least twenty blog posts per month, something which I feel the need to achieve even when things are more quiet. Last Tuesday came the third DLC map pack for Call of Duty: WWII and so should have been when the third Nazi Zombies map dropped (well technically the fourth). Instead we get The Tortured Path which confusingly is separate from Nazi Zombies and plays quite differently from what I had come to expect. This new mode is made up of three different maps, each map being a different 'chapter' within The Tortured Path. Each map consists of ten rounds, culminating in a boss round, you can only access the other maps once the one previous to it has been finished.
Chapter 1 is called Into the Storm and takes place in a small European village during day time. Compared to the typical Zombies map it is quite small, it consists of some ruined buildings including a windmill and some streets. Because of this small size all areas are opened up from the start, also different is that item boxes on walls are randomised but weapon specific, so each one acts as its own little puzzle box. As you progress through the rounds different weapon types such as snipers and LMGs get unlocked and there is also a way to pack-a-punch the guns. This reminded me a bit of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's Exo-Survival mode in that there are different challenges you are required to do in rounds. These include such tasks as repairing three different radios, protecting a location from zombie attack, killing special zombies and a load more. If you fail one of these challenges (that are time specific) then it is game over, nearly every time I failed Into the Storm it was due to failing these challenges.
The plot is much less important this time around, at least with chapter 1. The intro cutscene is brief and mostly made up of static images, it details how all of Europe has fallen to a zombie plague, and how a special task force was created to combat this undead threat. Into the Storm has you as one of four voiceless new recruits that include three men and a woman. Weirdly the intro cutscene seems to cut out before it has finished making it seem unfinished. Also weird is that they have decided to introduce a new levelling system that clumsily co-exists with the previous one. I really don't know why the creators decided to make a whole new Zombies mode rather than a new map in the Nazi Zombies mold, maybe they felt the mechanics were not working in their favour. As it is despite the strangeness of the changes this mode is quite addictive, the ten round limit and the randomised loot and challenges give this a lot of replay value. While the map is a lot smaller it is cool that there are three of them. Below is my first solo play-through of Into the Storm, I haven't actually unlocked the other two maps yet but as soon as I do I will add to the post with my thoughts on those...it turns out I forgot to actually save my footage of my playthrough, it will be added sometime soon!
Update 1.0 (30/06) - They have now added in voices for the characters in this mode, this has helped add a lot as them being mute felt off. From what I can tell the soldier that looks like he is wearing a general's uniform is American, the camouflaged male is Russian. I think the two women are either English or American but I haven't been either of those since the update so I'm not sure at the moment.
Update 1.1 (01/07) - I have now recorded a half decent stab at 'Into the Storm' which I shall be including below.
Update 1.2 (26/12) - Months and months ago I unlocked the second two maps that comprise The Tortured Path. The second map is titled Chapter 2 - Across The Depths and takes place on a boat. Again the map is moderately sized, one cool thing with this map is that every now and again the boat will list to the side, this moves crates and vehicles that opens up new routes. A really beat feature. Upon playing this for the first time I beat it and went straight onto the third and final chapter. Chapter 3 - Beneath the Ice takes place in an ancient tomb buried under the ice in the Antarctic. The map is kind of circular with the main tomb being smack bang in the middle.
Wednesday, 27 June 2018
I've tried to see Hereditary quite a few times over the past few weeks, however a lethal cocktail of a really busy work and bad insomnia has caused me to be too tired to go each time I have planned to. This is a movie that has gotten into the public consciousness, a feat that not many horrors manage to do, even my mum had heard of this film when I said to her it was what I was going to see tonight. While many have proclaimed it to be 'this generation's The Exorcist' and how scary it is I would disagree. However it is still a damn fine horror film that I got a lot of enjoyment out of.
Usually I would go into the plot somewhat here, however I can't really reveal too many details as the trailer itself for this movie refreshingly gave nothing away. Early on there are some plot twists that I just cannot go into. The gist of this is that Annie's (Toni Collette - The Sixth Sense) mother dies, this death leads to the beginning of a series of tragic events for her family, events that affect her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne - End of Days), and her two children; thirteen year old Charlie (Milly Shapiro) and the older son Peter (Alex Wolff). Annie suffers the most with it seeming that some sort of evil presence may have appeared within her household that wishes her family harm...
While Hereditary wasn't a scary film it was well on the way there by the time the credits rolled around. I don't know if it is because I have seen so many horrors, or if the plot felt a little bit familiar but it never went enough in any direction to really make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. That isn't to the fault of director and writer Ari Aster (this is his first feature film he has directed) as this is expertly made with plenty of detail to really hammer home the themes and emotions here. The casting choices are perfect, especially with the core cast of the family themselves. Collette is fantastic and gives a stunning performance as the grieving mother, she is believable which is the best thing about her role, and also is refreshing that she isn't really a good character with the film dealing with lots of resentment on all sides of the family. I also thought both Wolff and Shapiro were fantastic too. With Wolff his performance is more down to the physical acting he does, the fear shows on his face deliciously at times. With Shapiro she is just plain enthralling, there is just something about her that made her perfect as the weirdo loner.
Tuesday, 26 June 2018
I am experiencing a slight drought at the moment when it comes to items I have been sent to review. The upside of that is that I am finally getting time to work though the horror films I have pegged to watch on Netflix and Shudder. Today was the turn of Annihilation, this turned out to be a really well made and interesting film that pleasantly surprised me.
Lena (Natalie Portman - Black Swan) is a biologist whose soldier husband Kane (Oscar Isaac - Ex Machina) vanished a year previous while on a covert operation. One day he mysteriously appears in their house and before collapsing states he has no idea where he has been, or how he came to be back at the house. While taking him to hospital, soldiers take her and Kane into custody and she ends up at a military research site next to a strange phenomenon. Two years ago an environmental disaster occurred in remote America, originating at a lighthouse. Since that time a force named as a 'shimmer' has slowly spread outwards from the source. Anyone who enters the shimmer doesn't return and it is not known what happens to people who enter. Looking for answers Lena teams up with an all female group of scientists who plan to head to the lighthouse at the epicentre of the event to try and find a way to stop the shimmer from expanding any further.
I really enjoyed Annihilation, I loved how intriguing the idea behind it was, and how it never explains much of just what is going on. There are so many enjoyable elements here that create a thick level of mystery that is only observed by the five strong team rather than solved. It uses one of my favourite types of plot devices in that in present day Lena is in an isolation room being debriefed by a hazmat wearing scientist about just what happened. The film goes back to the present quite a few times as the film progresses which adds in questions that make you want to know more. For instance she is told she has been gone four months, yet as far as she was aware it had only been a week or so. Also she appears to be the only survivor so by that fact it makes you want to know just what happened to the rest of the characters.
Thursday, 21 June 2018
Once again it is that time of the month when I give out some nuggets of news for your ocular approval. I like the word 'scattershot' and so I shall be applying that erm with the approach to the news for June. First off to the land of video games where I noticed there is a new map for the ever giving wave based zombie survival game Killing Floor 2. This new map is set on a steampunk themed flying airship and is fittingly called Airship. I love that Killing Floor 2 regularly adds free maps but often they kind of look like they should be free, not so with Airship which has a fantastic design, it is one of the better looking maps for game. This map is also objective based with a mini story going on over the rounds you play, rather than just kill everything you must fix parts of the ship as well as defend certain areas at set times. On PC there is also a second free map Endless Lockdown, this is yet to appear on the PS4 version but hopefully at some point this summer.
The press release was a bit low on solid details but Dirge is a new horror film that was directed by Richard Oakes and Adam Leader. It takes place in 1970's England and has Charlie (Neal Ward) and Olivia (Nadia Lamin) heading on a journey into isolated woodland where they must face their darkest fears. This is a psychological horror that is about 'questioning ethical principles of our society, how we deal with mental illness and the duality of love and ego'. I love the concept trailer for this, it is quite fantastic so I hope the film itself lives up to the ideas shown there.
I last mentioned Five Wild Animals back in February when a teaser trailer for this was released. It is a horror about a group of friends who travel to a remote mountain town for a Halloween party. It is due to premiere this Autumn but in the meantime so new stills have been released, a few of which I shall include below.
The 25th June marks the four year anniversary of Videogram (Magnus Sellergren's project that is made up of music based on eighties horror synth). To celebrate the anniversary SelectaVision is releasing the Choice Cuts 2014-2018 compilation on CD and on Digital. The fourteen track album takes songs from all official Videogram releases and includes some additional bonus tracks. Pre-orders for the digital release are available here.
There is a new Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds for Albert Pyun's new film Bad Ass Angels and Demons. Set at the end of the world 'the Bad Ass Angels fights the demons to establish the dawn of a new generation for Planet Earth'. For any Jean-Claude Van Damme fans it will be interesting to note that Pyun directed 1989's Cyborg. The campaign was started to raise funds for equipment and special effects needed for the film, the amount needed has already been raised but you can still contribute here if you so wish.
Dark comedy Vidar the Vampire (first mentioned back in August last year) came out on VOD on 12th June. It is about a 33 year old bored Christian farmer who wakes up one evening to discover he is a vampire. There was a new trailer at the start of the year so I will include that below.
Blacklava Entertainment has released a new trailer for the upcoming region free DVD release of Triptychon of Fear. This is a trio of 'gloomy and horrifying stories' from Grindhouse Entertainment. The first story is about a drug addict duo who crash while fleeing the scene of a crime and find untold horror. The second story is about a man who finds himself trapped in an old attic by a mysterious force. The final story is about a woman who has ran home after being chased by a ominous stranger, once home she starts to suspect she may have imagined the figure chasing her. This DVD is due out on 13th July.
An Idle Mind is the Devil's Playground that I gave a respectable 8/10 back in March has now been released on DVD on Amazon, BestBuy, Barnes & Noble and more online retailers. The film felt like a lost Twilight Zone episode (on a side note I have recently brought the complete The Twilight Zone on Blu-ray, most exciting for me!) and is about a long term shut-in who has a huge fear of people, but one day finds his house full of strangers he cannot get rid of.
Finally FraXtur is an upcoming post-apocalyptic TV series that stars such people as Denis Richards (Starship Troopers) and Dallas Page (The Devil's Rejects). It is about a bunch of millennials who find themselves in a post apocalyptic wasteland where not only lack of food and water is an issue, but also violent tribes and terrifying monsters. Bad title aside this does sound like it could be interesting.
Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Die Zombiejäger is a Swedish zombie film directed and co-written by Jonas Wolcher (Cannibal Fog). It very much reminded me of the low budget zombie films of the 1990's as it doesn't attempt to tell much of a story, has zombie makeup that goes all over the place in terms of quality, and has heavy rock music play whenever the fighting begins. Loving films about the undead as much as I do I can get on board with this type of messy film making, one of the things I often say with regards to zombie movies is that they fall into one of the genres when more often than not bad makeup actually benefits the picture, quantity over quality I think and here you have quite a few of the undead.
The plot for this is really quite simple, basically there has been a zombie outbreak in Gothenburg. The affected area has been contained and the government have hired three German mercenaries to come in and clear up the mess, so Heinrich, Dieter and Ivo arrive on scene to kill some zombies and along the way uncover a plot that may be far more outreaching than what first appears.
This is a very old school indie zombie flick in that outside of people battling the undead in a variety of cool ways there is not much going on. There are a couple of sub plots but they are mostly inconsequential with it all just being an excuse to battle lots of zombies. Most the film focuses on the three German mercenaries and they have many many fight scenes which usually follow the format of a shot of them firing their weapons and then the camera showing the effect the attack has on the relevant zombie. There are not many parts of the fighting that deviates from this particular style of film making and so there can be a bit of a loss in motion. However I never got bored of these fight scenes, there is a grindhouse/B-movie vibe with the desaturated look making everything seem slightly unreal. I never got bored of the low angle shots of the zombies with the sky usually attractively positioned behind them. There are plenty of guns used, as well as throwing stars and a stick. It was nice to see the CGI was limited, certainly never a moment where I felt things looked digitally fake with most the effects seeming to be practical ones. There are lots of moments of zombies eating random bits of flesh, even eating from their own wounds they have had inflicted.
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
So I try and do one of these blog posts every year after the annual E3 video game show has been on. Now my body seems to have forgotten how to get rest from sleeping for the past few weeks and so I am exhausted, but I decided this year I would do twenty blog posts a month and so I find myself doing one tonight which may appear to be filler. In past years for E3 I have headed to the Wikipedia page to do a round-up based on the list contained there. To be different, and due to the aforementioned tiredness I am only going to mention the ones I personally saw at the press conferences I watched on the internets, so excuse me for missing anything too important out!
Before I begin I should also mention this will probably a scattershot approach to these rather than covering them conference by conference. So there is to be a new Fallout game titled Fallout 76. This was revealed before the event and initially I was excited for this is to be a prequel to the other games set around 30 years after nuclear Armageddon hit the globe. This time around the setting is West Virginia and it is reported to be four times the map size of Fallout 4's game. That is where the excitement dies for me though as this is going to be an online only game that is apparently a blend of base building and survival. While I like the idea of there being actual story missions in the game I don't like the idea of random strangers constantly killing me, and I found the base building aspect of Fallout 4 to be as dull as dishwater.
On the subject of sequels there were many revealed this year including Halo Infinite which didn't get much more than a teaser trailer. I heard a rumour this is going to also be an online only game. Gears of War 5 is coming, this time around it seems you will be playing as a man and a woman who have headed off into the wastelands for some sort of personal quest. Truth be told I haven't got around to playing most the series, I loved Gears of War, I didn't really enjoy the second game and so despite owning the third and the prequel I haven't touched them yet. I do mean to remedy that (and play the fourth one) so maybe if I do them in time I will get some excitement for this. Metro: Exodus was shown off for a second year in a row, this is a sequel to Metro 2033 (excellent) and Metro: First Light (a bit disappointing). For the third game you are going on a grand adventure above the surface of the nuclear wasteland of Russia. The claustrophobia of the tunnels, and the poisoned surface requiring you to wear a gas mask were both very cool concepts before, while this looks fantastic I hope there is still plenty of suffocating horror here.
Yet more sequel news now and an unexpected one in the form of Dying Light 2, a sequel to a game I never thought would be made. This one seems to take place in the near future in an apocalyptic looking ruined city. While this was great news I was a bit concerned that the demo shown off didn't seem to actually feature many zombies, I fear that they only appear at night as the super zombies now, with it just being gangs of hostile humans during the day. Also unexpected was the news that Prey was releasing some DLC in the form of Mooncrash which as the title might suggest takes place on a moon base. Apparently this DLC is slightly roguelike in that the layout changes each times you play it giving plenty of replay value. A sequel to the most recent re-boot of Doom got a teaser trailer, this one is called Doom Eternal and looks set to be set on a demon infested Earth. Doom 3 is one of my favourite games of all time and so while I didn't like the emphasis on action over plot that the re-boot went for this is still a game I am hyped for. The same goes for The Elder Scrolls VI that got announced. I loved Skyrim at the time but got sick of it after the million re-releases, however I have been playing The Elder Scrolls Online for over a year now and love that so would be very interested to see how this one turns out.
A gameplay demo for The Last of Us 2 was shown, it seems to be more of the same for sure but I am most certainly on board for this. It appears that Ellie will be the main character this time around, the demo showed her stealthing around a bunch of goons in a forest. A demo was also shown for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The first game in the latest re-boot was a stunning piece of survival horror adventuring, but the sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider ditched the horror part to just be action. It is hard to say at this point if the horror will return or not so I am not too interested in this currently.
I will end this splurge of news on Resident Evil 2 the remake. This had a really cool demo which looks astounding. Rather than be a straight up remake this is instead a re-imagining with a different feeling of playing, based on the over the shoulder view of the later Resident Evil games rather than fixed camera angles. It looks like it is going to be very atmospheric and bloody and so I am hyper excited for this one. I thought this years E3 was not bad at all, while there wasn't any announcements which really blew my mind it was good to get a deeper look at some of the games I'm excited to play.
Sunday, 17 June 2018
Another day and another horror anthology, yesterday was A Taste of Phobia while the one I watched for review today was German Angst which I first mentioned back in April (here). Now I love my anthologies and I like them even better when they are as well made as this one. The theme this time is pretty obvious on the surface in that each of the three films contained within German Angst are German shorts, they are all set in Berlin, and each directed by a different German director. Unlike A Taste of Phobia though these films all share a lot of themes in common with each other, such as the harshness of existence, and of course plenty of body horror.
The first film is Final Girl that was written and directed by Jorg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) which comes in at around twenty five minutes. A self harming teenage girl obsessed with guinea pigs lives alone, that is aside from the man she has tied up in one of the bedrooms. The main character made this one with a great performance by Lola Gave. She plays the part of a girl who has well and truly cracked, most the voice over for this being her giving a multitude of facts about guinea pigs which in a twisted way gives a view of her world and the inherent cruelty it has. You could see the insanity dancing in her eyes which made her role seem more believable. This was the least good of the three films, and I don't mean it was bad, I enjoyed it, just in comparison there is less going on. It features some bloody scenes of torture and self harm, I liked how flashbacks were inserted into certain scenes, and how this seems to be the end of the girls journey that mostly occured before Final Girl even starts.
The middle short is Make A Wish (around thirty five minutes) which was directed by Michal Kosakowski with a story written by Goran Mimica. This was my favourite film, very nasty indeed, but in a way that has you as the viewer not minding so much. A deaf and mute couple find themselves at the mercy of a violent gang of thugs. however an amulet they own may be the key to turning the tables on their assailants. This was a brutal piece of filmmaking that had some gruesome scenes of torture including an ear being ripped off, stabbing, burning and more. The aspect of potential body swapping added a fun twist to this. This was really well made and while some of the gang members were a little bit over the top I found the ring leader to give a captivating performance both visually and with the way he delivered his lines. This brings in themes of racism, and of the effects of victimisation, and the justification aggressors use. However the way in which it explores this was interesting, a corruption of ideals making the victim acting in a way that makes him no better than those who are wishing him harm.
This had some great flashback sequences that took place in a Polish village under assault by a group of Nazis during World War II. The look for this was helped by a grainy type of stock footage effect to this flashback, and plenty of grindhouse horror and cool looking effects such as someone getting their head crushed under a boot. I was a little bit confused as to what actually happened due to scenes playing out in alternate ways suggesting that just maybe things aren't what they appear to be. While there is an obvious link with Germany's dark past it also works in context with things which are happening in the world today, with an English gang member helping to remove this just being a German problem.
Saturday, 16 June 2018
First mentioned by me back in March (here) A Taste of Phobia is a horror anthology that is made up of 14 different short films created by different directors. As the title may suggest the theme of this anthology is phobias, yet rather than go for the obvious route such as clowns, heights, enclosed spaces etc more niche phobias are explored. I have said it countless times before but I love anthologies, the short length means even if you don't get on with one of the shorts another one is sure to delight. With A Taste of Phobia more often than not the films were not the strongest, a lot of this is down to how the films were tackled with the phobia itself coming centre stage a lot of the time meaning there wasn't really a plot to speak of. The films that used the phobia within the context of a story were the ones that really stood out for me. A lot of these films focus on a single character on their own, rather than much interaction with other people, because of this some of them felt quite samey.
This 90 minute anthology starts off promising with Chaetophobia - Fear of Hair (directed by Lorenzo Zanoni and Alessandro Sisti) in which a hairless serial killer hunts a victim. The actor playing the killer had some great facial expressions while the special effects were stomach churning. This was a recurring theme with many of the short films being quite disgusting and bloody, a lot of self mutilation throughout. As for this first film it was enjoyable and had a darkly comedic finish.
Pharmacophobia - Fear of Medication was the first of a bunch that don't really tell much of a story. In this one a sick man learns something unsettling about the medication he has only just taken. I found this to be a bit bland and uneventful, and thought the soundtrack sounded a bit average. This was followed by Parthenophobia - Fear of Virgins that had a male porn star get a really bad panic attack upon learning his co-star he had to perform with was a virgin. There were some cool distortion effects, and some nice editing of arthouse style shots of bloodied hands and falling, but again it felt like a manifestation of a phobia rather than an actual story.
Friday, 15 June 2018
septeMber is a new short horror film/episode from Dark Red; the creators of the three part fan fiction film Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees. I mentioned that short back in January (here), truth be told I wasn't blown away by that, it was high quality but it just didn't resonate with me. So going into septeMber my expectations were not the highest.
An innocuous looking man (Jeff Payne) arrives home and gets what very much looks like a body out the back of his vehicle. It soon becomes apparent this man is a serial killer and we get to see his ritual in the things he does post-kill. However his peaceful evening is ruined when it appears that someone may be in the house with him...
I absolutely loved this, to say I was blown away isn't an exaggeration at all. The cinematography is beautiful, it has a tendency to focus on small objects such as a chess board, or a pot of jam and just frame it in such a stunning way. There wasn't a single shot here that felt wasted, the inserts helped give us insight into the sort of man the killer is, the angles and perspectives bring this character to life without him needing to even speak. Payne is fantastic here, this is the first episode in a seven part series and I am almost afraid that any dialogue will break the mesmerising spell that this first film conjured. It is just the little moments that delight, the killer covered in sweat after lugging a body to his workshop, the spray of water that gets on his glasses when he leans in to turn off the shower, hell, there is even a shot that is a close up of a pair of glasses with details playing out in the reflection on one of the lenses - this is such an attractive piece of film making by writer and director Mason McDonald with some great editing by Tabitha McDonald. There has been a lot of love and care put into every aspect of this, the song that the killer plays was even created especially for septeMber by Dustin Miller which makes sense when you listen to how appropriate the lyrics were.
Usually this would be the point I would balance out the pros with the cons but there really are not many in this ten minute piece to comment on. I would say that the black screen with the spidery red text looked a bit basic in comparison to the film itself, and also maybe there were a little too many fixed angle shots used, the camera never really gets an opportunity to move around too much. This does give an impression of being in hiding, with the man frequently being filmed looming above adding to this feeling of dominance the character had. I guess you could also say that it wears its inspirations pretty obviously at times, such as a shot of blood going down a plug hole that was a homage to Psycho. I am a little bit stunned with just how good this first episode was, and how elevated it is from my tempered expectations. Part 1 of septeMber is currently free to watch on YouTube, I suggest you give it a watch and witness art in motion.
Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Around mid May time I saw Italian director Andrea Ricca's short horror film The Spirit Board. I felt the CGI was pretty average but once I found out that Ricca was responsible for most elements of the short, from the directing down to the computer effects I was more impressed. Since then I have received an email saying I should check out the rest of the directors short films (that are all free to watch on YouTube. I thought rather than give each film a review of its own I would instead do a roundup post dedicating a little bit to each of the films I have seen. These films all follow a very similar format that seems to be a character discovering an evil and then being forced to defeat it, usually in silence so that the shorts are universal.
First up is The Guardian (2008) which has an archaeologist discovering an ancient urn at some ruins, this has the unexpected effect of summoning a skeletal warrior who will stop at nothing to get it back. This clocks in at four minutes and takes place outside. The skeleton doesn't look amazing, certainly sticks out like a sore thumb but this displays the playful attitude that Ricca seems to like, one point for instance the skeleton is using its shield as a kind of surfboard as it chases a man in a car. This isn't terrible.
The Furfangs (2010) is a five minute short about a man who discovers four furry little sharp toothed aliens have invaded his home. This feels like a homage to Critters and Gremlins with most the film being the guy battling them in a manner of comedic ways. The music and 3D effects for this one were done by Gennaro Acanfora and while the effects again don't look anything more than average are neat with how they interact with the real locations. This one was a pretty fun one, an early highlight.
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
I have bad memories when I think of Jurassic World, whenever anyone asks my opinions on it I state it was trash and that I couldn't stand the characters. I was surprised then to see I had given it a 7/10, and so while Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a much better film than that one it perversely has the same score. As an added admittance I am extremely tired both as I watched the film and as I write this review, so apologies if it seems particularly poorly written.
It has been four years since the disaster on the island that was home to Jurassic World and in that time the dinosaurs have been left alone. However a volcano long thought dormant has become active again and unless they get help the dinosaurs are going to become extinct once again. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard - Jurassic World, Black Mirror) is recruited by the current owner of the dinosaur franchise; Eli Mills (Rafe Spall - The Ritual) to help try and rescue the creatures before they are wiped out, he plans to rescue as many as possible and take them to a protected area where they can live in peace. Claire recruits ex raptor tamer Owen (Chris Pratt - Jurassic World) to help, as Eli in particular wants to save Blue; the last surviving raptor. Not everything is as it seems though and soon Claire, Owen and a few others find themselves in a battle to stop the creatures being sold on the black market as living weapons...
The best thing about Fallen Kingdom is that there are no super irritating children. The characters of Zach and Gray ruined every single scene they appeared in before, here thankfully they are gone. This is a much more serious film in that it manages to claw back some dignity that the overly family friendly previous film lost. Around two thirds of the movie takes place at night in the rain which couldn't help but bring back memories of Jurassic Park. There was a bit of a bluff with the trailer in that it appeared that the whole movie would be the volcano on the island, in actuality this island section is only the first third of the two hour film. The main part centres around a large mansion...Resident Evil with dinosaurs instead of zombies? Almost if you squint your eyes it is. Meandering I was for a bit, my older point regarding the children is that there is one here who has quite an integral part. Isabella Sermon plays Maisie who is the grandchild of John Hammond's (the owner from the first trilogy) brother. She is a lot less irritating than the 'hilarious' comedy duo from before and so she worked a lot better.
Sunday, 10 June 2018
I really enjoyed both Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2, they were films I had almost forgotten about until Jeepers Creepers 3 popped up on Netflix. With that first film I enjoyed how novel the antagonist seemed, a monster who also had a lot of intelligence to it, even able to drive around in a vehicle. The second movie was more focused on a singular location and took the creature back to basics more with the iconic truck being nowhere in sight. I found the third film to be very interesting mainly due to when it was set. The sequel was set just four days after the events of the first movie and so it was a brave decision to have this new one set just one day after, in between those two. I say brave as it obviously means the Creeper cannot be defeated due to him being alive and well in the second film.
On the eve of the Creeper rampaging through the police station (the third act of the first film) Sheriff Dan Tashtego (Stan Shaw - The Monster Squad) appears, he has had previous experience with the monster 23 years previously and so knows exactly what his men are up against. He organises a crack squad of Creeper survivors to hunt down and finally kill the beast for good. Meanwhile Gaylen Brandon (Meg Foster - They Live, 31, The Lords of Salem) is visited by the spirit of her deceased son who warns her that the monster is back and will be heading to her farm to retrieve an item of importance that he buried there...
So I was quite excited when I discovered this was set between the two other movies. Having recently seen Phantasm: Ravager (another unexpected sequel to an old franchise) I was braced for low quality but also expected plenty of fan service. Well I was right on both fronts. To be frank until the later half of the movie the quality was actually pretty good, this didn't feel like a cut rate horror, the Creeper (Jonathan Breck again reprising this role) looked great, there were plenty of cool scenes that worked, and the van was back in all its glory (or should that be...gory?). However later on there seemed to be heavy use of quite average looking CGI, especially during a key chase scene that was nearly ruined by the inclusion of homing bombs that really did not look anything more than superimposed over the scene. I understand this didn't have the best budget but was still something I found that brought me out of the immersion.
Saturday, 9 June 2018
Inheritance (directed and written by Tyler Savage) was an interesting film in that while it deals with the supernatural it never really shows much, instead it insinuates and dances around the notion that the main character and his bloodline may be cursed. I found this method to be refreshing, the pervasive sense of something not quite right impacted on most scenes here.
Ryan (Chase Joliet - It Comes at Night, Zombex) finds out his biological father has recently passed and left him a large house in his will. He heads to the coastal town of Herald Point with his pregnant fiancee Isi (Sara Montez) in part to check out the property, but also to try and get some idea of what sort of person the dad he never knew was. His father had left him a letter warning him to sell the house immediately but Ryan instead decides to stick around. The longer Ryan stays at the house though the more he starts to grow distant with Isa, with paranoia and rage inexplicably building up inside him...
Much of this 90 minute film doesn't really have any obvious horror to it, yet a combination of the soundtrack and an ever present sense of something not quite being right adds a lot to even the most innocent of scenes, such as when Isa and Ryan visit a local shop, or when a realtor pops around to ask them about selling the house. Dream sequences are mixed in with the rest of the film but are never addressed with it not being apparent if these are for the viewer or if they are hallucinations that Ryan is getting, though I guess he does get directly addressed by these 'ghosts' at points. With half an hour left this shifts gears into something more approaching traditional horror, culminating in a great sequence that really ramped up the tension and left the viewer guessing. Even then this is just the one scene, but a powerful one helped by some stand out cinematography and some clever editing.
Wednesday, 6 June 2018
My memory of David Cronenberg's Videodrome is pretty fuzzy but I seem to recall it had a lot of bizarre organic technology within it. Sequence Break (written and directed by Graham Skipper - Space Clown) as far as I'm concerned is a unofficial sequel to that piece as this feels intensely Cronenbergian in the way it plays out. I'm not really too much into arthouse as I feel it confuses more than anything, yet while this is certainly confusing there was a sense of style to the movie. Playing videogames is my favourite past time and so I really wanted to enjoy the film and was ready to look past any of the small flaws it may have.
Oz (Chase Williamson - Beyond the Gates that also co-starred Skipper) is an introverted video arcade repair technician that meets the girl of his dreams; beautiful geek Tess (Fabianne Therese - John Dies at the End) who visited the store he worked at one day. This chance meeting coincides with the mysterious appearance of a new arcade game circuit board, once Oz installs it into a machine he discovers a hypnotic game that causes intense hallucinations and visions that bleed over into his life. The game has some sort of power and soon Oz keeps finding himself compelled to play it and discover the forbidden secrets it hides. However Tess also finds herself drawn to the strange thing, as well as a strange crazy vagrant (John Dinan) who appears, and whose riddles seem to suggest he knows the terrible truth behind the game.
This has a small cast with only really two main characters with Oz and Tess. They are both meant to be videogame geeks but this never really came across very well in the dialogue with only a couple of references that felt a bit forced. This wasn't helped by the scenes of them playing games that featured lots of waggling of joysticks and bashing of buttons, sometimes as the two looked up and talked to each other while doing so. Tess was the more likable of the two and that brought me to another issue. Oz is a loner, I get that, I'm one myself, but we never get shown just what sort of person he really is. With him on his own for so much of the run time it was hard to root for him when his actions seem so off and it not obvious if that was the fault of the machine or just how he was. There is one scene for instance when he is quite rude to Tess and I never really understood why.
Monday, 4 June 2018
I had interest in seeing Cargo even before I realised it was a zombie film. This is not a typical undead movie, despite the adventure aspect of this it shares a lot in common with Maggie, because of that it also shares the same flaws that that one had for me. Cargo stars Martin Freeman (Ghost Stories) who is one of those rare actors that I just do not like in any role he does, that is not a fault of his acting ability, it is more that I have never seen him play a character that appealed to me, here is no different.
It is an unspecified time after a viral breakout turned most the population (of at least Australia) into brain dead zombies. Andy (Freeman), his wife, and their 1 year old baby Rosie had been travelling on a river in a houseboat in the wilderness, but a situation causes them to leave that and head into the outback itself. Soon Andy is on a mission to find someone suitable to look after Rosie for he is infected and has just 48 hours left to live before he turns.
Much like Maggie this focuses on relationships between people rather than the overarching pandemic. Because of this there are not many scenes featuring the infected, they take a background role with them glimpsed by characters but usually at quite a distance. In fact there is only really the one action scene here and that comes right towards the end and doesn't even feature the main cast. The plot centres on Andy and Rosie and so Freeman has to carry the film on his own a lot (as well as carrying a baby on his back). His character was designed to be a 'fish out of water' so he spends a lot of time making bad decisions and coming across as a bit of an idiot, in fact the reason he is on a quest to find a carer for his child is a direct consequence of a series of bad decisions he makes at the films start. Aside from the baby that doesn't count as an actor there is also Thoomi (Simone Landers), she is a young indigenous Australian that initially forms an alliance of convenience with Andy. As the movie goes on they come to form a bond of sorts, especially with their interactions with Vic (Anthony Hayes) who becomes an antagonist for the trio. Hayes did well with his role, giving a menacing performance to a character that felt a little bit one dimensional at times.
Sunday, 3 June 2018
The Castlevania series of platform games are mostly all excellent, each time Konami released a new one I would immediately buy and love them. There has not been a Castlevania game in a long, long time now due to the company no longer committed to making video games. To fill that void thankfully a Kickstarter was launched to make a spiritual successor to it with the director of the very best one; Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in charge. The campaign was beyond successful and so a modern Metroidvania style horror action game is due to be released titled Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. In the meantime a prequel to this game was made, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was designed in a retro style, to emulate the original NES games. So we get old fashioned graphics with limited palettes, and chip tunes.
You play as a cursed man named Zangetsu who hunts demons in order to try and find a way to lift the curse they placed on him. In Curse of the Moon he is on a mission to defeat a powerful demon that resides in a huge castle. Along the way he frees three other people who had been captured by the demons. Miriam is a fast whip wielding woman, Alfred is a magician with access to powerful spells, while Gebel is a vampire who is able to not only summon bats, but can turn into one. The characters can be switched between whenever you want, each having different skills and weaknesses. Zangetsu is a strong all rounder who has the most health, Miriam has a long reach and is able to slide under platforms. Alfred is the weakest of the characters and has a pathetic reach, yet his magic spells are very powerful and able to kill many enemies in just one hit, lastly Gebel's ability to turn into a bat means he can reach distant platforms the others cant. Management of the characters is key as if one dies you get sent back to the last checkpoint, however if when a character's health is low you swap them out you essentially get four lives rather than the usual one.
The game is split up into eight different stages, the structure most resembles Castlevania III with a map showing your progress, and with the choice of multiple characters. As this is a spiritual successor to that other series the levels and enemies can occasionally feel very similar, yet this also throws some surprises in where you go. Starting off in a train station and then a train later stages see you exploring an ancient ship, heading into an Egyptian style tomb, and traversing a ruined cathedral. The final three stages are set in a huge castle that is obviously a homage to the one from Castlevania. Every level has alternate routes through it meaning there is some replay value as it is impossible to see everything on the first playthrough. Also when you complete the game you unlock a new difficulty which in a cool twist is actually a continuation of the story. Despite going back through the same levels you have one less character to use, and the boss fights are remixed.
Saturday, 2 June 2018
I have been lucky enough to encounter quite a few entertaining short horror films lately, there hasn't been a bad one among them. The latest treasure I got to see is The Childish Thing by Jeremy Herbert and boy is it a gem. They say you should write what you know about and with this short Herbert has done exactly that. The evil of this piece is nearly exactly based on an imaginary monster that terrified him as a young boy when he had night terrors, he has channelled his fear of this creature so that despite the goofy look to it there is something undeniably creepy about the creation.
Jack (Morgan McLeod) is due to move out from his childhood home and as a favour to his mum he has gone there in order to sort out things before the move. While exploring the place he comes across an old notebook from when he was a kid and is reminded of a monster he used to be scared of from that time. This seems to awaken something though and soon he starts to think he can glimpse this nightmare from his past. Thinking he may be imagining things he enlists two friends; Lane (Jenson Strock) and Hal (Deven Fenn) to keep him company, however this creature may actually be a very real threat...
Salt and Iron that I watched the other day succeeded for me mostly due to the great soundtrack, that one element was nearly head and shoulders above the rest of the entertaining film. With The Childish Thing the music is on par, it fits perfectly with the visuals, and the story itself as well as adds so much atmosphere. The main score is very mysterious, it suggests an off kilter The Twilight Zone style influence that makes the sphere that Jack is currently existing in feel out of sync with the rest of the world. This surreal feeling isn't pushed to the side, instead it is embraced and reflected in Jack's interactions with the other characters who also see this oddness reflected in Jack's skittish look.
Friday, 1 June 2018
Salt and Iron is a short horror that is around 11 minutes long, that was directed by George James Fraser. This was a fun short that succeeded mostly due to a great choice for the main lead, and a fantastic soundtrack.
A redneck (William Decoff) is out fishing in the forest when he encounters a mysterious young woman. Following the girl through the trees he is led to a group of other females where it seems his dreams are about to come true...
The best thing about Salt and Iron is the great soundtrack that I can badly describe as 'synth banjo'. It starts off all Deliverance like and then builds up to greatness adding so much atmosphere to this mini piece. Aside from the man talking to himself at the films start there is no dialogue, the women speak through their body language with the man seeming to be under some sort of spell from them. Decoff was great, he looked the part and gave a believable performance. The women were also all good, and strangely intimidating in their numbers and the silent way they moved around. A lot of them seemed to have tattoos and piercings which did make me wonder what they were meant to be, there was a dreamlike feeling to what was happening but due to body markings I did wonder if they were a bunch of cult members or if it had been intended that there was something more ethereal to them. Also there was a scene at the end where I couldn't tell if something was being eaten or merely touched as characters seemed to be doing both, knowing which would have changed the context for me slightly.
There is full frontal female nudity here but it does make sense within the context of the film and mainly exists in a scene that features plenty of blood, these women are in no way being shown in an exploited sense, they are all in the position of power. It ends on the perfect shot of the man's fishing rod catching a fish which was just the best comparison for the events that had occurred, a darkly comedic way to finish. Salt and Iron had a good cast and that wonderful soundtrack, well worth a watch if you ever get the chance.