Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for October - Halloween Edition

If all has gone well this news post should be going up on my favourite holiday of the year, obviously Halloween. The only downside of living with horror all year round is that it can be hard to do anything special, the amount of films I get sent for review, coupled with the limited free time I have means I don't have too much additional stuff planned. As for Halloween itself I am planning to go cinema with my bestie to watch Zombieland 2: Double Tap, and my stream some horror games to my poor neglected YouTube channel at the weekend. It turns out that didn't exactly happen, instead going for a spooky curry instead of the cinema, which shall now happen at the weekend.

Some video game news to begin with, starting with the late announcement of the fourth and final Zombies DLC for Call of Duty: Black Ops IV. This new map is again actually a remake, this time it is Call of the Dead brought kicking and screaming into modern day with it this new version called Tag Der Toten. Gone is the George Romero boss zombie and the four celebrity characters, instead you now play as one of the four characters from the Black Ops II Zombies mode.
Back in the 90's there was a horror themed action game called MediEvil, and last Friday a remake of this came out. It is very faithful to the original making it quite nostalgic, though it suffers old fashioned issues such as a bad camera, and can be quite unforgiving due to the fact your health doesn't refill in between levels.
Finally, 1971 Project Helios is an upcoming turn based strategy game that combines modern warfare military tactics and close combat. It takes place in a frozen world where eight people (the characters you control) team up to find a missing scientist. On their journey they deal with raider attacks, investigate military headquarters, and infiltrate a anti-technological religious sect. I love this style of game despite being terrible at them, but it does look pretty.

Psychological horror film Anyone Home (previously Model Home) has recently been released by Gravitas Ventures. This stars Jasper Cole (The Rookie), Kathy Baker (Picket Fences) and Monique Gabriela Curnen (The Dark Knight), and is the first feature film from director Patrick Cunningham. In this horror a single mother (Curnen) moves into an unsold property in an empty development and soon get entangled with a creepy local voyeur (Cole).

Filmmaker David Axe (Shed) has a new film in development named Lection. This is a political thriller set in a post-apocalyptic world, and is about a mayor of a small town seeking to gain power. The cast includes Sanethia Dresch and Mike Amason in leading roles. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign running to help finish production and distribution of this that can be found here. With a description as good as 'a local election in a Mad Max-style universe' this may be one to watch out for.

Documenting the Witch Path (love the title) is a found footage horror from director Carl Sundstrom that Terror Films have acquired worldwide rights to. Inspired by actual events this follows three young documentary filmmakers (Nathaniel P. Erlandsson, Robin Franzen and Carl Sundstrom) who discover a path in the woods to a secluded lake named 'Witch Lake' where in the past those accused of witchcraft were drowned in. This award winning film was released on 11th October on a variety of VOD sites.
Talking of Terror Films, they and Global Digital Releasing are set to begin putting their films on Roku. Twenty one films have been selected including Hell House LLC, Patient Seven, and the documentary Untold and Unearthed: The Path to Pet Sematary.

Veronica Carlson (Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) has signed on to play Dr. Whittingham in Anthony Calvitti's new short film Night of the Devil. Other cast members include Lauren LaVera (Terrifier 2, Clinton Road), Rachel Keefe (Vessel, Watchtower), George Williams (Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks), and Richard Lyntton (Creed). This movie is also to feature music by Cactus and Black Sabbath. The synopsis is that in 1978 four teens enter the woods the night before Halloween and come face to face with the Devil. For more information check out the Indiegogo campaign page here.

What seems surely like a post designed merely to drive traffic to a curtain shop website actually was pretty cool so I am going to mention it. Over on The Mill there is an article about iconic movie posters recreated out of felt. These include Alien, Jaws and The Silence of the Lambs, I have used the Jaws one as this months news header image, so the obligatory credit to The Mill Shop for the use of the image.

Music news now, first a pop/rock song called I Want Red. It is available to listen to on Spotify which I don't actually use. However if you want to check it out for yourself head here.
Lola Black has released the official music video for the cover of Concrete Blonde's Bloodletting (Vampire Song). Originally premiering on Dread Central this will become available via The Label Group/INgrooves Music Group on November 1st (Day of the Dead)

Minnesota based cinematic rock band Coyote Kid have released a concept album named Skeleton Man that is based on the dark world first revealed in the debut single Femme Fatale. This album contains 13 tracks and can be pre-ordered now. They have also created a treasure hunt that can be initiated by a secret code hidden in the album. Finding the treasure will result in free shows for life for the band, as well as a merch bundle.

I actually have plenty more news this month I have received in the half week since I wrote this news post, sadly I don't have the time to be able to add that on to October's news so it shall have to wait till the end of November.

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Transit 17 (2019) - Post Apocalyptic Zombie Film Review

I am always more than happy when a zombie film is sent my way, and so upon hearing about Transit 17 I knew it was something I needed to see. This was written and directed by Guy Bleyaert (The Last Inquisitors) who also has a starring role here. Despite featuring the undead it would be disingenuous to call this a zombie film, as those creatures sadly only appear in the one scene. However, despite this I found Transit 17 to be an entertaining watch despite any issues that popped up.

The film takes place in a world where a virus caused worldwide zombie apocalypse six years back. During this time a group calling themselves 'Marshals' (I may be wrong on the name) took over control of Europe, their aim to not only wipe out all the undead, but also to wipe out any opposition to their rule. To counter this a resistance group emerged that seems to be made up of ex-military. The resistance learns of a possible cure for the deadly virus, and are tasked with delivering a teenage girl to the UK that will facilitate the creation of a vaccine. A group of soldiers led by Tex (Bleyaert) that include among them Eve (Zara Phythian - Cannibals and Carpet Fitters, Doctor Strange) and, Brad (Lee Charles - Cannibals and Carpet Fitters) set out to complete this dangerous task, helped by their handlers who include Snow (Stefanie Joosten - the inspiration and voice of Quiet in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain).

For such a grandiose story there were going to be constraints with how Transit 17 was created. One of the most obvious ones here is how sparingly the outside locations are used. Outside of a few key scenes around two thirds of this takes place inside, whether it be inside an armoured vehicle while travelling, or inside a variety of disused warehouses. The scope of the devastation of the virus outbreak is only ever suggested, though there is a good sense of this in how the characters talk. The other obvious constraint was the overarching use of CGI. Sometimes this could be a problem, but Transit 17 really goes all in with this, everything from muzzle flashes, to explosions is full of CGI that looks slightly too clean. I didn't mind this though, as most the time it was not bad, and when it was bad it was funny rather than distracting. A whole sequence involving a helicopter looked quite terrible, but this one section managed to look so bad it swung the other way and become entertainly so, I let out a happy laugh with the culmination of that scene. Elsewhere the CGI really works wonders. This takes place in the near future, so has sci-fi elements such as computer interfaces everywhere, and holograms. Scenes taking place in the antagonists base were a highlight, I loved the parts that have the main bad guy, credited as 'Commander' (Silvio Simac - Transporter 3) talking to a hologram of his boss.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Killer Unicorn (2018) - Horror Film Review

I admit to not being that sure what I would think of slasher Killer Unicorn. A hot pants wearing killer targeting drag queens sounded a little bit out there. Rather than try to make this subject matter serious there is instead a line of humour throughout that plays to the self obsessed and vapid cast of characters.

It is nearly a year to the day since Danny (Alejandro La Rosa) was attacked by an unknown man who drugged his drink at a gay bar, before being saved by his friends who left the attacker for dead. Now there is a unicorn mask wearing killer on the loose (Dennis Budesheim), who has started killing Danny's friends off one by one. He soon begins to realise this unicorn killer's main target is him, and that if he is to stop the killing he will have to confront this demon from his past.

Unsurprisingly for a film about drag queens this is quite a camp film with all the characters acting and speaking with exaggerated gestures. With their unique make-up (costume design and make-up are a highlight of this) and the locations that are mostly made up of various gay clubs this has a strong visual design to it. The cast of conceited and self absorbed people make for some amusing moments as no one is treated seriously. These are people who walk right by corpses without even noticing them, and whose immediate thought upon seeing a blood soaked victim is that it is a 'new look' the person was going for. From the very beginning the films tone is set out, particularly with a fun intro credit sequence that has all the actors and the characters they play introduced via a series of text messages in a group chat they are all in. It can be exhausting at times with so many dramatic acting people but leads to some humour such as when someone comments "that's a really cute look for a killer".

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Halloween at Aunt Ethel's (2019) - Horror Film Review

Halloween at Aunt Ethel's is a comedy horror film written and directed by Joseph Mazzaferro (Scathing). After a decent enough start I had hopes this might actually turn out to be good. However with a plot lacking substance, humour that mostly falls flat, and too much unnecessary archaic titillation it soon becomes clear this couldn't become anything really worth watching.

Best friend high schoolers, Melissa (Madeleine Murphy) and Mandy (Stephanie Town - Phantom Flyer) are walking home one day in October when Mandy starts talking about a local woman known as Aunt Ethel (Gail Yost - Anne). There is an urban legend in the area saying decades ago the old woman murdered her entire family, and that every Halloween she kills and eats anyone who dares trick or treat at her house. Melissa thinks the story is ridiculous, but it turns out to be true, and this Halloween Aunt Ethel has her sights set on the girl...

The best part of this entire movie is the prologue, so it was all downhill from there. It is established straight away that Aunt Ethel is in fact crazy, after she is shown killing two teens with an axe. This horror is quite comedy orientated but can come across as not funny, and at worst even a bit awkward to sit through. A lot of the jokes come from the Aunt Ethel character who attempts to be a wise cracking slasher in the vein of Leprechaun (it even features a terrible rap performed by the cast that plays over the end credits, much like Leprechaun 5: In the Hood did). For all the jokes here I can only think of one that worked for me, that of a trick or treating father and son deciding to skip Aunt Ethel's house when they hear screams coming from there during the finale. To the films credit though there isn't really many sex jokes, and bodily function jokes are absent altogether, these are often the most low brow type of jokes these type of films often include. It is also good that the comedy doesn't really get in the way of the action, there are moments here played for horror exclusively.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The Curse of Lilith Ratchet (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Curse of Lilith Ratchet is a horror that was both written and directed by Eddie Lengyel (Mother Krampus 2: Slay Ride, Scarred). It fits into the sub-genre of horror of young adults messing with things they really shouldn't be, resulting in paranormal haunting (think Truth or Dare, The Bye Bye Man). It has long been a criticism of mine about these types of films that they always feel very formulaic, typically having a second act lull where the origins of the supernatural evil are explored. Having now watched a film in which there is no second act lull I am considering my previous wishes, as this movie really wasn't the most exciting one out there.

After stealing a shrunken head from a new age magic shop, friends Alice (KateLynn E. Newberry - Auditorium 6) and Lauren (Brianna Burke) sell it to a local paranormal podcaster - Hunter (Rob Jaeger - Chill: The Killing Games). His research leads him to discover the head belonged to a woman named Lilith Ratchet (Crissy Kolarik), who apparently hundreds of years back performed a ritual that would grant her eternal life, so that she could forever force the world to feel the pain her husband's betrayal caused, by placing a curse on herself. By reciting a rhyme and playing a game (seemed to basically be 'hot potato') with the shrunken head participants are able to summon the spirit of the woman. Thinking all this wouldn't actually do anything, Hunter decides doing a live podcast at a Halloween party in which him and others play the game is a good idea. It is not long after though that people begin to die, in the order in which they lost the game of 'hot shrunken head'.

At around one hour forty five this felt like it was a bit too long, I felt that a good fifteen minutes of this could have been cut, there were even entire scenes that I felt added nothing at all to what was happening (Hunter talking to his mum, and a seance, as two such examples). It is quite slow to start, with the first victim dying around the forty minute mark (not including the obligatory prologue that shows the final participants of a previous game getting offed). So while usually there would be some research into just what is happening midway through, this instead occurs nearly right away. Thanks to the internet Hunter is able to immediately explain the whole backstory of Lilith Ratchet. This takes place as a flashback sequence, and it was a good way to show the story. Lilith herself at least looks cool, contact lenses to give her eyes a freaky look, pale skin, a Victorian style dress, and long black claw like fingernails. Her character isn't that interesting though, she doesn't speak, her story isn't at all sympathetic, and she has a physicality to her that makes her presence not as creepy. She really doesn't do too much either.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Spine Chiller (2019) - Horror Anthology Film Review

2018 saw the release of the indie horror anthology film Weird Fiction that I absolutely loved, despite some constraints from the budget that meant some of the mini-films included in it could be a bit low on quality. Well, director and writer Jacob Perrett is back with another horror anthology - Spine Chiller, that could be seen as a spiritual successor to Weird Fiction in that it is also based heavily in the eighties, and also has been 'aged' to make it seem like a lost cult classic. The quality of this new Halloween themed film is very impressive, though the plot I admit left me a lot confused, so apologies if my summary isn't completely correct.

Spine Chiller is set out much more like a traditional film, rather than have a host introducing the shorts. They are instead flawlessly edited in, so much so that on occasion it took me a while to even realise I was watching a short and not the main story going on. The main story is called Devil's Night and is about an urban myth of a serial killer who only appears around Halloween in a small American town, and who abducts his victims from the annual 'Spine Chiller' Halloween party held there. This one had some interesting ideas going for it, and I liked the idea of the victims having their faces removed by the abductor. It culminates in a finale that was frankly the best part of the movie, it really gave off vibes of Mandy with the protagonist (possibly Derric Hyde as Ryan) coming off like Nicholas Cage's Red Miller. It goes to some grindhouse places, anything involving a pumpkin mask wearing psycho armed with a chainsaw, in a grotty bathroom, as well as strangulation via intestines gets a rotted thumbs up from me!

Don't Go In The Basement is the first short contained here. It features Isabella Rodriquez (Weird Fiction) as a housesitter who has been warned by the owners of the house she is at not to go into the basement. Curiosity gets the better of her, and after a series of incidents finds herself getting stalked by a knife wielding man disguised as a zombie. Due to the similarity of the prologue it took me a while to realise this was a short. This is also to its credit though as there is a large overlap with characters drifting in and out of the main story that is going on. This wasn't bad but it did feel like a slight retread of that prologue, and running around a house being slowly chased didn't make for something that was particularly exciting. I did like the killer though, his slow movements reminded me a lot of Michael Myers from Halloween. Spine Chiller as a whole takes a lot of inspiration from the look of that film, from horror movie marathons various characters are watching, to the whole way this is filmed, heck, it even starts with a camera shot from the perspective of the mask wearing killer. This again is no bad thing, I adored the look of this film, and the purposeful low-fi look to it, from constant film grain, to some muffled audio.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

3 from Hell (2019) - Horror Film Review

Rob Zombie is one of my favourite directors, I love the grimy, dirty style the look of his films go for, and I love the despicable characters he creates. 3 from Hell could be seen as the sequel no one asked for, 2005's The Devil's Rejects had one of the best horror film endings ever created, as the anti-heroes drive full speed towards a police blockade, Lynyrd Skynrd's Free Bird plays over the scene, until the film ends in freeze frame of the characters getting shot up. So to get a sequel to this in which the ambiguous ending is made clear is something that technically I should have a problem with. However, as stated I love Rob Zombie's films (with the exception of  The Haunted World of El Superbeasto), and so not only a chance to see another movie of his, but also to revisit such fun characters was something I was well on board for.

After being shot to pieces the deadly trio of Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie - Halloween, House of 1000 Corpses), Otis (Bill Moseley - Repo! The Genetic Opera, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig - High on the Hog, Night of the Living Dead 3D) are rushed to hospital. Miraculously all three survive, only to be imprisoned, with Spaulding later getting executed. Then in the late 80's Otis's half-brother Winslow Foxworth Coltrane (Richard Brake - 31, Halloween II) breaks Otis out, with their next plan to free Baby. To do so they decide to target the arrogant warden of her prison - Virgil Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips - Westworld, The Lords of Salem) by kidnapping his family and friends.

I thought this was a good movie, though I wouldn't say it was a great one. Following on from the amazing The Devil's Rejects was always going to be hard, and with a noticeably lower budget, as well as that one not really needing a sequel this doesn't manage to reach the highs of before. That isn't to say at all I didn't think this was a great Rob Zombie movie, I had a lot of fun with it, though the first half is a lot better than the second half where the events move to Mexico. When I first heard of 3 from Hell Sid Haig was meant to be one of the main leads. Sadly, due to his ill health in real life (tragically having died earlier this year) his role was cut down to just a single scene, but it was good to see him again, even if I also admit to being disappointed by how little he is in this. Thankfully they decided to replace him with Richard Brake, who had a stand out role in 31, in fact he pretty much made that film for me with his amazing performance. Sheri Moon Zombie has improved a lot over the years, here brings her to the best she's been. Her character of Baby is now more crazier than before, but also a lot less irritating. I loved how much of a wild card she was, like a Black Label Harley Quinn. Moseley is just great in everything he does, his Otis is as entertaining as ever. Meanwhile with Brake he had some funny scenes, but he wasn't all that memorable due to being around established characters.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Shredders (2019) - Short Comedy Horror Film Review

This past weekend was quite a lazy one for writing blog posts, thankfully though I had a lot of short films waiting to be watched for review, and so I bumped comedy horror Shredders up the chain a bit due to being just under eighteen minutes long. This was directed by Darren A. Furniss, and written by Michael James Dean (the director of Already Dead), who also co-stars here as one of the three main characters.

During an office Christmas party there is an outbreak of lethal murderous creatures, which leads to Stan (Dean) and boss Richard (Darren Ruston - Already Dead) barricading themselves in his office. Soon they are joined by fellow survivor Peggy (Sophie Mensah - Yesterday) who comes up with a plan for the three to avoid the monsters and escape the office block.

From the very start there is a sense of urgency to this, with the outbreak already in full swing. There is no explanation given which adds to the comedy elements that often work so well here. The comedy seemed very British with the humour mostly coming from the humourous interactions between the three characters. An early example being Stan and Richard barricading a door with a heavy desk, only for it to be revealed that not only is the door a sliding one, but the desk itself is on wheels. This absurdist humour runs throughout and always worked well due to how straight faced everyone acts, with a descent into out of place small talk during down time (such as when one of the characters asks Peggy what her plans for Christmas are while they are riding a lift). Characters never over react unless called for, and their calm interactions in the face of insanity was well done. Of the three the character of Peggy is the straight one, being the catalyst to bring the plot forward outside of the initial room. As such Mensah doesn't get that many funny moments, but the duo of Stan and Richard make up for that.

I really liked the feel of this, and I liked how it was filmed. Despite this being about killer creatures (named 'Shredders' due to apparently 'shredding' their victims) you never actually get to see them. There is one early part showing the silhouette of a creature through a clouded window, and later one glimpse of a creature at the very end of a long hallway. It is left up to the actors to react to these creatures who are nearly always off screen, done by the camera pointing at the characters, or later on, by the camera staying inside a lift as the characters go off screen to do battle. This really worked in saving on cost, surprisingly well in fact. The set design is sparse, but the amount of Christmas decorations everywhere was effective, as was the amount of screaming occurring from off in the distance. I guess any complaints I had was the slightly underwhelming end, and just a couple of the jokes falling slightly flat.

Shredders was a short that exceeded my expectations, it is very well made with some well lit locations, good music, and dialogue that was more funny than it should be due to the performances of the leads. All in all a great comedy horror that really leans into its strengths. Shredders will be available online on October 31st.


Thursday, 17 October 2019

Glass Cabin (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Glass Cabin is a short 14 minute psychological horror that comes from Can Turedi who both directed and wrote this. It was executively produced by Maya Korn who has been touted as being a young up-and coming producer of horror and genre films, and it was produced by Luca Marcovici. This short attempts something a little different by never explicitly stating whether the horror unfolding onscreen is actually real, or if it is just assumed by the protagonist.

Professional tennis player Scarlett (Revell Carpenter) is away at a remote snowy retreat to get in some uninterrupted practice. One evening a groundskeeper named David (David Mar Stefansson) arrives at the house to help her set up the wi-fi, his behaviour immediately creeps out Scarlett. A day or so later the man once again appears at the house unannounced, and she begins to suspect that he has hostile intentions...

There are many elements here designed to make this seem like a horror, yet the build up of the atmosphere means that the first ten minutes of this nothing bad actually seems to happen. This time is spent showing how isolated Scarlett actually is, while giving enough signs that something is not really right. The score sounds like something straight up from Hereditary, all screeching violins, and suspensful beats that feed into the desolate frigid surroundings. A glass house is something that can't help but invoke paranoia due to the contrast between the lit interior and the dark exterior.

Due to the way this is set out it is ambiguous just what is going on, I could see this from the two perspectives, it is easy to see this as a home invasion film, but also one more psychological in nature. That did lead to a slight issue for me in that by keeping this a mystery it means that not much actual horror can take place. It is a slow build up but much of the tension comes from the music, with what is actually being shown on screen not that creepy. There are moments for sure, and it is done in such a way that you can relate to the idea of a scared woman fearing the worst about a young strange man dressed in black appearing at her house.

While there was a slight feeling of dissatisfaction by how this ends I did appreciate what was gone for here. The location was fantastic, and the weather really added to the atmosphere, while both the two main actors did good jobs. The sense of isolation is palpable here, and that is perhaps Glass Cabin's greatest strength. Glass Cabin had its world premiere at Screamfest LA on October 13th.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Deranged Foxhole (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Deranged Foxhole is a short 16 minute horror film from Dave Sweeney, who wrote and directed this, as well as playing a character here. While not perfect there are some great casting choices, and it is full of nice cinematography and camera work.

Darlene (Jolie Curran) turns up at the apartment of Johnny Delmonico (John Calavanico) looking for her estranged father Jimmy. Johnny tells the girl he no longer lives there, and then invites her in for drinks. Wanting to find out more about her dad Darlene heads in. Later more people show up at his apartment, all with their own agendas.

The quality of the filming in this short was something that I appreciated from beginning to end, the shots are nicely framed, and I loved the lighting, that is used to best effect when showing the glistening sweat on the face of the slobbish Johnny. In tandem with this is the great soundtrack that complimented every scene it was in. From the chilled ambience while Darlene and Johnny are talking in his kitchen, to the more John Carpenter esque urgent beats of the more action orientated sequences, this was all very good stuff.

Calavanico was perfect for the lead role of the unhinged Johnny, from his very first appearance there was something notably off with his character, his presence made him the focal point of all of this. The other actors range in quality with most of them doing good jobs, in particular Nicholas M. Garofolo as the Detective stood out for me. In terms of the actual story here this was enjoyable, but the format of various people appearing at the apartment couldn't help but make this feel a little bit disjointed. I liked where this ended up going, as bananas as it was, but personally think some makeup, or effects should have been used to indicate dead characters as their appearance was all a little bit too crisp and clean.

Deranged Foxhole was a well made short that had quite a few good things going for it, from the perfectly cast main character, to the professionalism of the camera work, and the lovely score, this all unified for an enjoyable little film.


Sunday, 13 October 2019

We Are The Missing (2019) by Andrew J.D Robinson - Horror Novella eBook Review

I know Andrew J.D Robinson for his thoughtful short horror films, such as the fantastic The Becky Carmichael Fan Club, and so when I received word that he had a self published novella coming out - We Are The Missing, I knew I had to check it out. I often skim read any requests I receive due to wanting to go into things with no expectations, so initially I was a little bit concerned this wasn't actually horror based at all. What starts off as a disappearance of a girl subtly transforms over 50ish pages into a kind of localised paranormal apocalypse.

The novella transpires as a series of accounts pieced together from notes and recordings found at the house of reporter Dylan Carter. Due to this format We Are The Missing is the second ever novel I would describe as falling into the 'found footage' genre of  written stories (the other being Michael Wehunt's chilling short story October Film Haunt: Under the House). So, as said rather than be told in a traditional story format this instead is mostly made up of interviews from the reporter and the various people he talks to, as well as his thoughts coming from his journal.

It all starts when school girl Riley Madison goes missing one day in the town of D'Arcadia. Despite a large search, no sign of her is ever seen. Carter interviews her parents Angie and John, as well as her best friend Mackenzie. Events gradually spiral with a spate of missing persons in the town, as well as a series of strange unexplainable traumas the townspeople suffer, from a huge increase in suicides, to an outbreak of mass hallucinations in which the sufferers claim to feel like they are being watched. With each new revelation of the horror unfolding the situation gets more and more out of control until the point that every single person in D'Arcadia is affected one way or another.

For a small novella like this I found the amount of ideas stuffed into this to be endlessly interesting. I most liked how elements from real life are used to help tell the story. There is everything from looking at the mass hysteria of the dancing plagues in the 1500's, to talking about the cordyceps 'zombie' fungus that infects ants, all the way to explain rational causes for why people might claim to have seen ghosts. All this added detail to the story, and grounded it due to the ties to real life that gave this a little bit more of a realistic feel to it, at least in the first half of the novella. By the last part of the book the story has gotten really out of control, yet the path to get here was so natural, a gradual progression rather than a series of stilted jumps.

This was all well written, though without having read anything of Robinson's before I assumed it would be. There are many horror elements here, some which work well, and others not so much. The most creepy parts were around the middle, when ghostly figures are seen more and more, there are plenty of different moments that felt a little unsettling. The more fantastical this gets the more the horror aspect subsides, but it still remained engaging. At times humour is put into some situations, and it didn't always work, but it was in limited enough supply that I didn't really mind. There was one section of the book that uses the analogy of the dead being compared to immigrants, while this is current with what is going on in the world it did feel a little bit heavy handed in the comparisons, and stood out from the rest of the style of the story a bit.

We Are The Missing was a well written, and interesting novella that impressed with just how much content was fitted into the story being told. I found the format of a series of interviews to be engaging, with conversations opening up more hooks to keep the reader wanting to know more. This manages to mix up moments of creepy ghost horror, with relatable real life horror, with even some cosmic horror ideas fitted in, all written in a way that made it so easily to visualise in my mind.


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire (2019) - Horror Film Review

One of my regrets in terms of this blog is only giving 2015's Hell House LLC a 7 out of 10. I really hate having to give ratings for anything, but that was a solid film deserving at least an 8 for style alone. It was a film whose premise really stuck with me, and so when Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel was released in 2018 I expected great things. The second movie in the trilogy took the ideas of the first and ran with it. Unfortunately it ran in completely the wrong direction, turning something special into just another found footage movie. It felt like a lazy cash grab based on the perhaps unexpected popularity of the first. I had heard that director and writer Stephen Cognetti wanted the third film; Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire to be more in line with the first, and I'm pleased to report this is a fantastic return to form.

Lake of Fire takes place in 2018, nine years after the events of Hell House, in which a tragic occurrence happened at the opening night of a haunted house tour set in an abandoned hotel, which resulted in the unexplained deaths of most the staff, as well as plenty of visitors. It also takes place a year after the crew of a TV show called 'Morning Mysteries' vanished while investigating the hotels sordid past. Now billionaire Russell Wynn (Gabriel Chytry) has brought the hotel in order to put on an interactive play by his 'Insomnia' play group. This movie is set out as a documentary that attempts to piece together what happened on the ill fated opening night of his play, and to do so pieces together multiple filmed footage in the lead up to opening night.

So this is a real return to the trilogies roots in that it copies to an extent the path the first film done. Firstly, being set out as a documentary the story felt more cohesive, and it gives plenty of hooks for the anticipation of what was to come. From talking heads, to time stamps detailing how close it is to the opening night, and interviews with characters who appear in the footage it builds up the excitement nicely. By leaning more into the documentary aspect this once again stands apart from the more typical found footage horrors out there. Straight away a decent explanation is giving for just why everyone is filming. This time around it is due to journalist Vanessa Shepherd being given exclusive access to behind the scenes, for a program she intends to make. What felt different for this third installment is that characters are aware of what happened before, at least a couple have actually seen Hell House LLC (though the second film's footage was never discovered) and so they have some trepidation setting foot in the place. This is shown mostly with Vanessa, as well as Russell, who ominously instructs his cast to never set foot in the hotel after dark, and enforces a strict 'buddy' system so that no one is ever alone in the place.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Ready or Not (2019) - Horror Film Review

I have a bizarre problem with new horror Ready or Not (co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett whose previous work includes segment '10/31/98' on V/H/S as well as Devil's Due) in that I find it near impossible to remember what the film is called! In my head it is called Hide and Seek as that is the title that comes to mind whenever I think of this. I can only imagine that title had been taken for them to call it Ready or Not. As an aside, when I was looking this up on IMDB just now the title I used to search for it was inadvertently Here I Come. Thankfully the title is near enough the only thing I have an issue with in this entertaining comedy horror.

It is Grace's (Samara Weaving - The Babysitter) wedding day, with her due to marry Alex Le Domas (Mark O'Brien - Bad Times at the El Royale) whose eccentric family are very wealthy due to the board game empire they have created. Alex had been away from his family for some time and so most of them are none too pleased that he has come back with a woman in tow. The couple are married at the Le Domas's family manor and all appears to be going well. That evening though Alex reveals to Grace that it is tradition that she play a game with the family at the stroke of midnight. All she has to do is pick a card from a family heirloom and play the game that the card reveals. She picks 'Hide and Seek' which unknown to her is the worst possible choice. The members of Le Domas believe a legend that an ancestor of theirs made a deal with the devil, the deal being wealth and success in exchange for a ritualistic sacrifice of any new family member who draws the 'Hide and Seek' card. While Grace sets off to hide in the mansion (thinking it is all a game) the family unknown to her tool up and set out to find and kill her before dawn comes.

I was expecting this to be far more of a horror than it was, instead this has a heavy dark line vein of black comedy running all the way through it. Thankfully this comedy nearly always hits, with many moments that were laugh out loud. The whole way this played out reminded me very heavily of 2011's You're Next. In both movies you have a rich eccentric family meeting for a special occasion. Both films feature a lot of dark comedy that stems from the various family members weird personalities, and both films feature accidental death, and one of the characters turning out to not be on the side you think they were originally on. The biggest difference is that You're Next is home invasion with the family the victims, while here with Ready or Not it is the family who are hunting down the stranger.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! (2019) by Duncan P. Bradshaw - Comedy Horror Book Review

There was a time in my life when I read a lot of books, so many in fact that I felt it was even worth mentioning on my CV. Nowadays I rarely manage to finish three in a year, something which I blame squarely on video games, I am just an innocent pawn in the ever increasing length of those damn addictive time sinks. Still, that didn't stop me from picking up the special edition of Duncan P. Bradshaw's latest comedy horror novel, Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! I really enjoyed his zombie novels Class Three, and Class Four: Those Who Survive, and with the title alone I knew this new one would be something I would also enjoy.

Father Flynn is a member of The Order of The Crimson Rosary, that deals with the more supernatural aspects of the Catholic faith, from exorcism, to judging the apparent appearance of miracles. After a series of embarrassing incidents stemming from an over reliance on alcohol, and an inflated opinion of his own judgement and abilities Flynn is given an ultimatum. He can either return to his old job of maintaining the last microfiche machine of the Catholic church, or he can go to St Judas's for rehabilitation. He decides on the later, which takes him to a sleepy Welsh town, which coincidentally is also where a group of cannibal nuns from outer space have chosen for this years harvest of humans. Flynn eventually becomes aware of the aliens plot and sets out to stop them, along with the help of his rival O'Malley, as well as a demonic creature living in his beard, and a few other odd sorts.

This all starts off extremely silly, with a most ridiculous introduction to Flynn that takes the form of a botched exorcism. Compared to previous books I have read of Bradshaw's this felt more stupid than usual, meant in a positive way of course. While the level of absurdity does simmer down a little bit as the story progresses there were plenty of moments throughout that make for entertaining reading. Reading this I was reminded of golden era Robert Rankin in the writing style, things such as small tangentially related stories being narrated by characters, and recurring oddballs with twisted aspects to their personalities (such as the 'Welcome Nun' and Ian the taxi driver who is endlessly accidentally running over anyone, or anything that happens to be remotely near his taxi's path). This is different though with the level of violence that is put into his stories. I first noticed this with Class Four during a gory few chapters set in a twisted carnival. Then again, with his short story Q&A (from the horror anthology Trapped Within) which was nothing but extreme violence. Cannibal Nuns again features a lot of extreme body horror with plenty of descriptions of the nuns chowing down on victims (the alien's real mouths being around the chest area of the humanoid looking suit they wear). On more than one occasion, in fact on at least four occasions people get their arms bitten off which was always fun to see, can never be too many arms getting bitten off!

Special mention has to go to the books design, for the special edition at least. The cover artwork is striking, enough so that a colleague at work saw it and assumed I was reading a small comic book. Then there is the layout with this feeling like what a DVD would be like if it was transformed into a book. This even starts off with a humorous anti-piracy warning before going on to give a series of trailers for fake books that all sound amazingly stupid, such as Killer Bass, about a disgruntled sound engineer who alters the speakers in a nightclub so that the sound they create can kill. Then after the story has ended there are not only ending credits, but also a series of DVD equivalent extras that include alternate endings, deleted scenes, and even a directors commentary which sees Bradshaw writing about his influences throughout the 40 chapters of his story.

Of these cultural influences there are many, and from the commentary more than I even spotted. They range in size with some more obvious than others. There is a character called Yowder who acts and talks like Star Wars Yoda, though it was nice to see that Bradshaw states in the notes that he is based on the Yoda from the hilarious Bad Lip Reading 'Seagulls! (Stop It Now)' video. Then there is nearly an entire chapter that is basically a simplified version of the plot to Predator, with the alien replaced with a cannibal nun, and the soldiers replaced with children. What I enjoyed most about that one was how slow I was to realise this, it was only towards the end when the nun self destructs that I thought to myself "hang on a minute!". There are also more subtle references as well, such as the odd sentence or scene that nods at such things as Blade Runner and Kill Bill.

Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! was a really entertaining read, I loved the twisted characters here, and the absurdities that make the world in this book so frequently funny, and while the many references occasionally feel like they are on the cusp of suffocating the reader, they never actually do. All in all a well written book filled with low brow humour, lots of inventive swearing, plenty of the old ultra violence, and an exciting story to boot.


Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Incredible Violence (2018) - Horror Film Review

Incredible Violence is a nasty film that does indeed include a lot of what the titular description suggests. Despite being very darkly comedic this wasn't something which I found to be an easy or comfortable experience at all. It is said to be semi-autobiographical, this will be more apparent later into this review.

G. Patrick Condon (Stephen Oates - Frontier) is a filmmaker who had been given $250,000 by a shady organisation to make a movie, the only problem is that he has already spent the money, and with the deadline looming he is running out of time. Needing to create something, but with little to no budget he decides to do something extreme - to become the slasher in his own horror movie, to hire some aspiring actors (that includes among them M.J Kehler as main protagonist Grace)  and then murder them for real on camera. He rents a remote house and hires a cast, with their only instructions being that they must stay in the house for a month while filming takes place, and that they must do anything he faxes over to them to do. However this drastic course of his doesn't go exactly to plan, and the boundaries between what is real and what is staged start to blur...

The general set-up for this, namely a remote house where people are being filmed 24/7, and secretly getting killed off reminded me heavily of the little remembered classic My Little Eye. This type of format lends itself well to meta narrative, and some breaking of the fourth wall. The semi-autobiographical nature of this can most keenly be seen in that the director within the film is actually named after the real director and writer of this. In both reality and in the film the actors have been told to stay in the house while filming was taking place, and also neither are told what scenes they are set to do, and what occurs in them until close to filming began. The first half of this is more typical than the later part. Comedy is here, but very dark, and soon disappears almost entirely. One example of this is Condon having secretly murdered his first victim to then discovers their blood is extremely difficult to clean off the floor. Eventually having done this he retreats to his bed in the attic and lays down only for his morning alarm to go off. Condon is the source of a lot of the dark humour in the mildly inept way the character carries on.

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Last Ones (2017) - Zombie Horror Film Review

When I started this blog over 11 years ago it was dedicated to all things zombie. Over the years that focus shifted to include horror in general. So every time I get an actual zombie film to review I always feel a bit of excitement. It has been quite a while since I last saw one and so went into Andrew Jara's The Last Ones hoping for great things. From a brief bit of research it seems this was originally released in 2010 under the title Last Days, then it was re-released in 2017 in an edited shortened form, and with a switch from colour to black and white.

A deadly virus sweeps the planet that kills the majority of people it infects, some of those infected return back to life as flesh hungry ghouls. During the early days of this apocalypse gruff survivor Michael (Algernon D'Ammassa - The Cellar Door) comes across naive John (Mark Ocegueda) at his family home and they decide to team up. Nine months later and the pair are living a simple, if repetitive life at John's house, convinced they are the last ones left alive. By night Michael patrols outside the property, always on the hunt for the walking dead, by day the pair keep up maintenance of the generator at a local store, and attempt to grow food in their garden. One day while at the store John stumbles across a new survivor, a woman called Karina (Marcelle Bowman - Dark New World) and decides to bring her home. This leads to the last days of the pairs relatively idyllic existence, as she brings with her world changing revelations...

For the simple fact that this is in black and white I couldn't but help think of Night of the Living Dead. There is an almost timeless feel to the location the duo are based at with nothing to suggest a more modern time than that classic, of course that was a good thing. This plays to its indie roots by working very much with what its strengths are. There is a very small cast, and the story is so insular that it is easy to get caught up in this little story. There are no huge scenes of action and mayhem, instead this takes a page out of the original idea for The Walking Dead comic series, by focusing on the survivors and their interactions, rather than the undead hordes. Zombies of course do make an appearance, though the lore within the film means they never show up in great numbers, and like Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend these creatures only seem to come out at night. The undead here are presented as acting as brain dead as they literally are, stumbling around, and almost oblivious to the living.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Mummy Rebirth (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Mummy Rebirth is a nonsensical horror that was co-directed by Khu (Snare) and Justin Price (The 13th Friday). Sometimes films can be so bad that they are good, and sometimes they are just so bad. This is a perfect storm of bad acting, bad special effects, and a bad story that was a confusing mess from start to finish.

From what I can gather; in ancient Egypt a priest named Sebek was murdered by guards of the Pharaoh due to having discovered access to a gateway between the world of the living and the underworld. Fast forward to present day and explorers Noah (Carter) and Daniella (Brittany Goodwin - Gears of War 3) are working for archaeologist Sager (David E. Cazares - The 13th Friday) who wants them to find Sebek's secret, which he believes is the location of a lost city. On their journey they end up betrayed by Sager and his men, and also accidentally resurrect Sebek, who is now in mummy form and is able to command the monsters of the underworld.

Try as I might I just could not follow the story going on here whatsoever. Partly that was my fault, I never got fully immersed in the film and so my mind kept wandering. Partly this was due to the terrible flow that led me to being permanently confused. There are a load of shoot-outs between the two heroes and soldiers of Sager, but these appeared to be happening long before they get betrayed, I'm not quite sure why they were fighting each other when there are also plenty of moments when they are just coexisting peacefully as well. Then there are the random scene changes that were quite disorientating. The locations in the film are as follows - cavern, museum, mansion, woodland, and then desert. All fine and good if there was any explanation for why characters are suddenly in different places, instead a scene ends and a new one begins with people in a different location with me clueless as to why they are there all of a sudden. This culminates in the ridiculous finale which picks up mid-battle. Noah and Daniella not two minutes ago were in a wood talking to each other, then suddenly they are caked in blood fighting a gigantic 60 foot tall CGI monstrosity for god knows what reason. It was all so confusing in a most off putting way.

Friday, 4 October 2019

She's Just a Shadow (2019) - Thriller Film Review

She's Just a Shadow is a Tokyo based crime thriller from director Adam Sherman. It really isn't horror based, but there were enough interesting elements here that I wanted to check it out. From blood drenched scenes to a sick serial killer, and almost art house style montages this sounded like something a little bit out there. But would it be too much style over substance (abuse)?

There are several storylines all revolving around a Tokyo gangster, Red Hot (Kentez Asaka), his partner Gaven (Kihiro), and his girlfriend Irene (Tao Okamoto) who is the head of a ring of prostitutes. As they struggle to defend their turf from a rival gang led by a man named Blue Sky, Gaven torn between two lovers fantasises about escaping from his life of crime, while Irene in a loveless relationship dreams of controlling the city. Meanwhile in the background a perverted serial killer sets his sights on Irene as his next victim.

There really wasn't much plot here despite how many different plates are spinning. The majority of the characters spend most the film snorting copious amounts of cocaine and drinking heavily. This decadent lifestyle was draining to watch, with no end of montages of naked females doing crazed coke binges. In fact, with the exception of Irene nearly every female character here spends most of their time completely naked. It makes sense in that they are prostitutes, but on the flip side, outside of some stylish scenes there isn't too much going on. The heavy and often serious dialogue would like you to believe this is deep, but the sometimes corny script turns the lines into a whole lot of nothing. As far as I could tell everyone was miserable due to the way they are living their lives, but no one is that concerned about really making an effort to change it.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Hangman (2019) and Hangman II (2019) - Short Horror Film/Music Video Review

It seems like it has been quite a prolific year for composer/producer John Whitaker (1i2c) whose previous videos include Bed of Nails, and Zombie, as he is back once again with a third video based on his new album Special X, which features tracks inspired by the titles of Michael Slade novels. I received news of Hangman at the start of last month, then before I was able to put up a review I was contacted again to say a sequel to this short was in the process of being created. A few weeks later and that sequel is also out there, so this shall be a double review of both his new shorts/music videos. First is Hangman that was co-written by Whitaker and Richard Markworth, and filmed by Graham Bedford and Whitaker.

This is Western themed and Whitaker describes it as his first black humour horror comedy. In this one three cowboys walk through hostile terrain. One by one they start to be picked off by an unseen assailant, who hooks a hangman's rope around their necks. Just who could be responsible for this?

As always this is set to an instrumental track of electronic music. The usual urgent sounding beats as always compliment the characters walking around on screen, and this urgency adds to the growing paranoia of the three men. There are often filters used to make these videos stand out, and this time there is a sepia style contrast, complete with artificial film grain.

Hangman II is a direct sequel and with the killer revealed the story here now becomes much more violent. A game of cards turns deadly when the hangman makes his intentions clear. I found this one to be more enjoyable due to an increase with action over people walking around. I particularly liked a scene where the killer somehow shoots out ropes from both of his hands to ensnare his prey, and the amount of times characters stumble off their rock stools was amusing. There were some more interesting camera shots here also, such as the opener of a revolving shot from a drone as it slowly comes down over the men playing cards.

These shorts always have a unique style to them, and with Hangman and Hangman II this is no different. A great location, and music that lends itself so well to these types of films means these are again enjoyable to watch. Both Hangman and Hangman II can be seen on YouTube.