Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for December - Final Post of the Year

December is often a quiet time for horror and this year was no exception. The sole cinema horror film was Black Christmas which I actually never got around to watching. By all accounts I didn't miss much but I wish I had bothered to see it. It's the end of another year and this blog keeps on moving forward. I have recently split my site index into two halves, as always this can be found at the top right hand side of my blog. My never ending quest to go through my old posts and correct spelling and grammar, replace broken image links, and link to other posts is ever ongoing (not even past 'A' yet so a lot to do). I just need to win the lottery basically, so that I can quit my bill paying job and do this full time!

A quick look at my to-do list and apart from my embarrassing list of eBooks waiting to be read for people (some dating back 7 years) it isn't too bad. There is a podcast to be listened to for review, though I am waiting until every episode is out before doing that. On the film front I have a couple due for reviews in January, and waiting to hear back on a few more. In the world of TV I have quite a few shows that I need to get around to watching, everything from Fear the Walking Dead to the final season of Ash vs Evil Dead and Z Nation. Then with video games I have lots of horror games I started many years back but never got to a point where I could review them. Ones such as Dead Rising 2, Outlast 2 and Five Nights at Freddy's VR: Help Wanted. Also with video games I still have yet to play the DLC for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Fallout 4 and Layers of Fear. With physical books I have literal drawers full of horror books collected over the years from second hand bookshops and so maybe I will get around to reading some of those in 2020.

One last thing before getting onto the news, my 'bests' of the year. Now these are based on media that has been released this year, not ones that I have only experienced for the first time this year:

Best Horror Video Game - Blasphemous
Best Horror Film - Shed
Best Horror Novel - Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! (Tik in very close second)
Best Horror TV Series - Stranger Things: Season 3

British horror novelist Shaun Hutson has a new book out called Testament. This is a direct sequel to Renegades and takes place thirty years later. Sean Doyle is working as an advisor in Iraq when he learns his old nemesis, David Callahan has returned to life, and he is not the only one to mysteriously be resurrected. The novel is published by Caffeine Nights and is £20.oo in hardback.

Music group Psychostick have done a parody cover of Rob Zombie's Dragula that they have titled Zombie Claus. The comedy metal quartet have changed the lyrics to include nods to traditional Christmas literature and music. After watching it for myself I have to admit it is pretty hilarious.

Emo/post-hardcore quintet When I Say Jump have released a new music video of their latest single King of Thessaly. This video, that was produced and directed by Jaiden Frost is about a cannibal cult that lures its victims in with promises of wealth. The band are currently working on their sophomore record.

Captured is due for release on 1st January 2020. I have previously mentioned this before, but to recap this is about a weekend getaway to shoot a music video that turns into a nightmare when an obsessed escaped convict targets the female leader of the rock band. It stars Kirsten Prout (The Twilight Saga: Eclipse), Brittany Curran (13 Going on 30) and Jasper Cole (Westworld, American Horror Story).

Small Town Monsters have released a trailer for their new miniseries On the Trail of UFOs which is set to take an in depth look at America's relationship with the subject, and is hosted by Shannon Legro and features Seth Breedlove. This series will include Area 51, and filming locations include New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

The final news of the year, and indeed the decade is that horror anthology An Hour to Kill is now available on DVD thanks to Alpha Video. I said of this film in my review last year that it "worked pretty well".

And that is it for 2019, I hope everyone reading this has a great 2020 full of horror and mayhem (in the fictional sense). See you on the flip-side.

Monday, 30 December 2019

Office Uprising (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review

It is currently one of those rare times when I have enough space free in my schedule that I can watch a film of my choosing rather than one I have been sent. A quick scroll through my huge Netflix list and I came across director Lin Oeding's zombie horror comedy Office Uprising. It immediately seemed pretty derivative but would it improve over time?

Desmond (Brenton Thwaites - Titans TV series) is a lazy slacker who works in the accounts department of Ammotech; which is a major weapons manufacturing firm. With an urgent report needed by his boss Adam (Shazam!) Desmond decides to leave work early with the intention of writing it at home. Arriving at work the next day he realises far too late a great change has occurred. After he had left, a shipment of a new energy drink called Zolt had been delivered, and everyone who drank that drink has changed into a rage infected psycho. Teaming up with his co-worker Mourad (Karan Soni - Deadpool 1 & 2) and his half infected friend Samantha (Jane Levy - Evil Dead, Don't Breathe) Desmond must now find a way to escape the office block...

It seems anyone who is going to make a zombie comedy horror nowadays is obliged to copy Shaun of the Dead, and that is on show here from the get-go. Desmond is similar to Shaun in how they are both wasting their lives away by not putting effort into anything they do. Shaun gets drunk and plays hip hop music, Desmond gets stoned and plays live action Mario Kart with his house mates. Also like that film the protagonist is shown initially wandering through chaos without noticing anything is wrong, the whole plot for this character starts because of this borrowed idea. Shaun isn't the only comedy Office Uprising borrows from, much like Zombieland there is even a moment when CGI rules pop up on screen as a character walks around. This lack of new ideas is one way in which this film really suffers. As a whole, boiling it down to its basic components this is Shaun of the Dead crossed with Office Space and The Crazies.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Tamashii (2019) - Horror Video Game Review (Nintendo Switch)

On Christmas I was browsing on my phone when I come across an article on Destructoid talking about obscure gems on the Nintendo Switch store, one of these in particular caught my eye; a horror puzzle platformer called Tamashii that was inspired by Japanese horror games of the eighties and early nineties. There isn't too much about this on the web, or I should say, not much in depth stuff and so my story summary will be taken by my own impressions.

Tamashii takes place within the walls of a corrupted ancient temple that belongs to an immortal dark deity. Due to this corruption its power is weakening and so it creates a being from part of itself (the player character), and tasks this being with exploring the temple and finding out what is causing the problems. Soon it is discovered a witch has taken refuge within the walls of the place, but that your goal may be similar to hers, if not for different reasons.

So this is a 2D puzzle platformer that takes place via a series of levels that can be accessed from a hub world (hub temple I guess). There are five main smaller temples, each of which is dedicated to a different dark entity, and each with their own unique puzzle styles. Your character can double jump, but you have no attack options, the only power you have is related to creating clones. Up to three clones can be created at a time, and these are static, staying in the spot you have created them, unless you use a special switch within certain worlds that lets them move left or right. Mainly the clones are used to activate switches, by being placed over them, or put on pads that activate the exit door. Each of the temples is made up of a series of rooms, each of which is exited by activating the exit. So, each room is one big puzzle basically. I'm not usually a fan of puzzle games like this but here it is helped a lot by how quickly you spawn back into the world should you die. Obstacles and enemies are all single hit kills to you, and you can even kill yourself by holding down the '-' button. Towards the end of each level you are given a choice between a hard and easy path, the hard path is not as difficult as it sounds, and gives you a rune needed later, as well as some story exposition.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Predators or Prey? (2008) by Scott Harper - Horror Book Review

Predators or Prey? is a horror novel that both shames me and makes me a little bit relieved. Scott Harper's vampire book shames me as he sent it my way some seven years ago, that's a hell of a long turn around to reading it. Something I can only put down to laziness and having a string of bad luck concerning eBook readers. I nowadays tell anyone who sends an eBook novel my way; you may be waiting a long long time for a review to go live, but it will eventually happen. Having finally read this one I just have to make the best out of an embarrassing situation.

Wendy and Jacob are a couple who travel the backroads of America, with Wendy's young brother Glen along for the ride. They purport to hunt vampires, but in reality they are swindlers who con their gullible clients by pretending to hunt the creatures. One fateful night however they are horrified to discover vampires actually do exist, after they stumble across a group of them at a graveyard. The two pretenders manage to bumble their way into not only killing a couple of them, but also accidentally burn down the vampires hideout. After fleeing the town, a grizzled man named Teague approaches them and offers his assistance, as he assures the pair that the bloodsuckers will be hot on their trail to get revenge. It seems though that the vampires may turn out to be the least of their troubles...

Predators or Prey? got off to a bit of a rocky start with me as I just could not stand the smug, self absorbed protagonists of Wendy and Jacob. It was good then that the book charts not only their misadventure, but also the demolishing of their relationship. Jacob in particular is a character whose presentation is destroyed over the course of the story, on the surface a cool, assured character, but he hides a cowardly side. Wendy was a character who I liked a lot of the time, but I didn't like how sexulised she was. On at least three separate occasions she is naked in front of a mirror admiring her own body, while she appears to be irresistible to any male character she meets. From priests to shop clerks and motel owners, all are completely hypnotised by her breasts. I know large chested people in real life, and while they get more of that sort of attention than others, not to the degree which it happens in this novel. It just became a little farcical. Outside of the physical appearance I did think she was not a bad protagonist. Her adventure shapes her into someone willing to do the right thing, while with Jacob it shapes him into someone who just wants to look after his own skin.

There are plenty of vampires here, and plenty of action with them assaulting Wendy and Jacob. I liked where the story went, it gave me vibes of Near Dark with the small American towns the two travel through. The detail on the vampires is cool, with many descriptions of damage inflicted on them, and descriptions of the fluids and blood they are covered in. I also liked how many of the tropes for these creatures work here. From needing permission to enter homes, to being afraid of crucifixes, holy water and sunlight, most the tropes are present and are fun to see explored. I liked how the story wrapped itself around so that when the conclusion happens it has all gone full circle. I also liked the misdirection that the middle part of the book becomes. This is a simple story that was told in an enjoyable way. Without subplots, and by following around Jacob and Wendy for the entire story everything is focussed on their plight which helps with keeping events insular.

Predators or Prey? was an entertaining modern day vampire story that featured plenty of action. The protagonists may be very flawed in their own ways but I was interested to see how this tale of revenge would play out, and I can't say I was disappointed. It may lack complexity, but this focus on the one single storyline worked out well. Predators or Prey? can be purchased in paperback here.



Friday, 27 December 2019

Lection (2019) - Post Apocalyptic Film Review

Lection is a post-apocalyptic thriller that was written, edited, and directed by David Axe. I loved his previous film Shed and so was interested to see just what he would do with a film as strange as this one. Due to the subject matter I assumed this was a short film, so upon sitting down to watch it I was a little bemused to see it was around 100 minutes in length. Lection is such a strange idea that I feel I may struggle to write a coherent review of it.

The film takes place in a small woodland community many years after some sort of apocalypse swept the world. The village has been ruled over for many years by Mayor (Mike Amason - Shed), who along with his henchmen keeps order, and provides sustenance in the form of rationed bread (or 'bred' as it is called here). However with the ration increasingly getting smaller a protest breaks out, which results in Mayor calling for an election ('lection') to allow the people to decide if they still want him in power or not. The only candidate is Dot (Sanethia Dresch - also Shed as seemed to be many of the cast members). Over three days the two sides campaign to see who will be the next leader, but in a brutal post-apocalyptic world strength often works a lot better than words...

While it is never specified just how long after apocalypse this takes place in from the way characters talk and write it seems it is quite a while. Dialogue in Lection is extremely minimal with often only single repetitive words being spoken by the cast, and it indicated the art of reading and writing is being lost. There is the occasional sentence being spoken but the majority of the time it is so simple as to be understood in any language, at least in what is being indicated. On the one hand this really works for the film, it dilutes the meanings so that the main story is very easy to follow. It helped make this indie film world feel more real, something isolated from the real world. But it also leads to a little bit of monotony and I found myself more than once wishing there was more dialogue as the woodland setting and the lack of too much happening occasionally made me feel a little tired. Even though it could sometimes be a little dull I was still fascinated with the feel. I liked how there was a semblance of society and law and order, but how twisted it had gotten, with violence never far away from the facade of rules.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Zombies Christmas Carol (2011) - Horror Graphic Novel Review

All year long I have been reading through the many Marvel Zombies graphic novels, if you are a regular visitor to my blog I bet you will be glad for me to get to the end of them! It was with perfect timing that Zombies Christmas Carol just happened to be the latest novel I was due to read. At first I figured that this would be the traditional Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol story but with Marvel zombies inserted, I was nearly correct but not quite. Think Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but in a graphic novel style, the traditional story but altered to include the walking dead set over five issues.

It is Christmas Eve and the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is working late. London is slowly getting overrun by a plague named the 'hungry death' which started off by affecting the poor, but which is now spreading across the city, and which turns its victims into flesh hungry ghouls. In desperation Scrooge is approached to donate some of his vast wealth in order to deal with this disaster, but of course he refuses. That night Scrooge gets visited by three ghosts; the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, and the ghost of Christmas future who hope, over one night of troubling revelations and terror to transform Scrooge into a man who can not only redeem himself, but also save the city of London in the process...

I really expected this novel to be the least interesting one out of the whole series for me. How wrong I was, this is a gorgeous graphic novel that is full of wonderful illustrations, and bright vibrant colouring. The style for the characters is exaggerated, unrealistic proportions such as Scrooge's long chin, yet it never goes over the top. Characters look exaggerated for sure, but they are also in proportion to each other and fit neatly into this cartoon world of Victorian London. Panels are easy to follow and have variation to them, including some great looking full page images, such as Scrooge's reaction when he sees what the ghost of Christmas future looks like, and a full page image of the undead nightmare that Marley's ghost has become. The lettering is also very simple to read with clear text bubbles, as well as Gothic style text used for narration that appears on the page in the form of scrolls.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - Children's Horror Film Review

Much as I was surprised that I didn't own the Disney stop-motion musical classic The Nightmare Before Christmas on DVD or Blu-Ray earlier last week when I went to watch it I was also surprised that I had never reviewed it before on my blog. This is a film I'm sure virtually everyone is familiar with, one which weathered the love affair emo kids had with it in the early noughties and has once again returned to just being a great classic. I saw this when it was showing at the cinema originally, and have always been a big fan of this. It is a film that straddles the line between being a Christmas film and a Halloween one, this year I chose it as the first Christmas film I viewed for 2019.

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon - Fright Night for the speaking voice, and Danny Elfman - Forbidden Zone for the singing voice) is the ruler of Halloween Town, and each Halloween in the real world he and his people 'invade' in order to make the event occur. Jack has grown tired of doing the same thing year after year though and yearns for something different. His prayers are answered when wandering one day he stumbles across a clearing in a forest which contains gateways into each of the other yearly special events. The Christmas door in particular draws his attention and so he enters, finding himself in Christmas Town. After his experience there he returns home, determined that the next years Christmas will be one done by him and his horrific subjects...

This was the first of the stop-motion films of Disney in the 90's and was also the best. This is helped by the typical Tim Burton Gothic aesthetic (Burton created the story and characters for this), and the typical playfully dramatic music of Danny Elfman. Throughout there are many songs and nearly all of them are great. From the introduction piece 'This is Halloween' to the festive feeling 'What's This?', and the usual villainous song in the form of 'Ooogie Boogie's Song'. There really isn't a bad song to be found here, from the sang numbers to instrumentals all work so well, unlike something such as The Corpse Bride which had mostly average songs. I guess here 'Making Christmas' is the worst one, visually appealing, showing as it does the contrast between Santa's Elves making presents, and the twisted Halloween Town version of this, but the song suffered due to not having a catchy chorus.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Paranormal Farm III: Halloween (2019) - Horror Film Review

I can genuinely say that I was excited to sit down to watch found footage horror Paranormal Farm III: Halloween. The second film was extremely clever in how it turned out (within the lore of the film world) that most of what happened in Paranormal Farm was staged, and that for Paranormal Farm 2: Closer to the Truth the crazy stuff that starts happening that time around was actually real. I couldn't possibly see how they could get away with using an identical plot device for the third movie, but they kind of do, and they succeed with it as well. By now the real life farm the films are made on has become a comfortable location to visit, and so it was a delight getting to go back to the property and meet the same old characters for one last journey into horror, whether real or fabricated.

This picks up around a month after Carl (Carl Medland who also wrote and directed this) fled the farm after his producer/editor Taz (Mumtaz Yildrimlar) and him were attacked by a bizarre cult. It turns out the cult unknown to them were actually just friends of farmer Darren (Darren Earl Williams) and Lucy (Lucy French) who were playing a prank on the pair due to them annoying Darren. Needing to get paperwork signed so that the behind the scenes documentary they had filmed can get released Carl and Taz have returned, but they discover there appears to be some actual paranormal occurrences on the property. Carl decides to put his ever unreliable psychic abilities to the test in order to finally stop the ghostly goings on, as well as finally discover how the often sighted beast plays into this, and how it relates to the long dead girl Sarah...

This has been a good year for found footage sequels with both this and Hell House LLC III: Lake of Fire wrapping up their respective stories. And with Halloween there is a clear ending point with all the outstanding questions answered. While Hell House LLC may be the more creepy series it doesn't have the heart of the Paranormal Farm series, or have as likeable characters. Much like before Carl is frequently hilarious, an early gag involving a fake tongue had me laughing out loud as one example. Carl and Taz's pranks they play on each other could be seen as cheap jump scares, but going into the meta of it these characters are trying to scare each other, not doing it for the benefit of the viewer. With the ending of Closer to the Truth seeming definite I was surprised how much I was able to forgive some of those plot elements being fake (again I mean within the context of the film world), and I appreciated how they mentioned some of the biggest parts of that, such as Taz and Carl both seemingly getting killed, and explaining what actually happened to them.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Marvel Zombies Supreme (2011) - Zombie Graphic Novel Review

All year long I have been reading my way through the various graphic novels that make up the Marvel Zombies series. With the over aching story seeming to be cleaned up, with Marvel Zombies Supreme we get a story of undead superheroes that takes place in its own little bubble. After the sheer inventiveness of Marvel Zombies 5 this return to a low key, and dare I say it generic story made for a weaker story. For me personally I had not heard of a single Marvel superhero in this one and so my enjoyment was not as high as previous.

Some time in the past a team of super heroes from another dimension, calling themselves the Squadron Supreme got trapped in the main Marvel universe. Eventually they found a way to get back to their own world, but not before they agreed to provide data on their DNA structure to the scientists at a Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S research facility. There, a rogue scientist conducts a secret experiment to create clones of the Squadron Supreme, and he kind of succeeds. However his clones come back as twisted zombie versions of these heroes, ones who have an unending taste for human flesh. After the facility goes into lockdown an elite military special-ops unit is sent to investigate, unaware of the horrors they are to face...

Apparently the Squadron Supreme were characters that were heavily based on DC superheroes. Even to my unknowledgeable eye Hyperion is an obvious stand in for Superman, Nighthawk for Batman, Lady Lark for Wonder Woman, and Whizzer for The Flash. A problem with having so many characters in one place is that when they are together in a group they really don't do much, mostly just standing around in the background while others fight. It becomes a lot better when these characters are seperated, it leads to some pretty fun fights, the best being the fight with the undead version of The Shape later into the novel.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Needful Things (1991) by Stephen King - Horror Book Review

On many occasions over the past few years, usually when reviewing one of the many adaptations of his books I have commented how I am not a huge fan of Stephen King. However this is a position I am more than happy to change if I come across a book of his I really like, and so I have many of his works sat in a queue waiting for their time to be read. Needful Things was one of these, and earlier today I finished reading the nearly 800 page novel. I have memories of skimming through this book back when I was a teenager and my sister happened to be reading it, so it had a little bit of sentimental value returning to read it properly.

A new shop has opened in the sleepy town of Castle Rock, it is called 'Needful Things', and its new in town owner Leland Gaunt promises to sell to each visitor the item which they most desire. All he asks for in return is that they each do a seemingly harmless favour for him. By this process he orchestrates chaos and destruction that will send local sheriff Alan Pangborn to his limits as he tries to stop the madness spreading across Castle Rock.

I have only really ever read a handful of Kings novels but I had heard how he likes to include easter eggs referencing other books he has written. Throughout Needful Things there are many references to an incident involving a crazed dog many years previously which obviously points to his earlier novel Cujo. Then there is the penitentiary 'Shawshank' that gets mentioned every now and again. I'm sure there are many more included here which I didn't notice, but even spotting these ones really added some flavour to the novel. This was an easy to read novel, but did have some bad choices for what was being written about. Things such as Brian Rusk's inappropriate dream about a female teacher at his school for instance, his young age creating moments where I didn't want to picture what King was writing about.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Black Morning, Winter Green (2019) by Hvile I Kaos - Music Album Review

Hvile I Kaos (Norwegian for 'to rest in chaos') is an orchestral project created by Kakophonix (Chris Brown). I rarely do music reviews, and with good reason, and that is due to not really listening to much music so being totally unsuitable to knowing how to review it. Travelling I listen to podcasts, blogging I have to work in silence or cannot concentrate, in fact the only time I really listen to music is if it is in a film or a video game. Well I believe it was a film in which I first heard the music of Hvile I Kaos, and now I have listened to the latest album - Black Morning, Winter Green which is comprised of three tracks, and a bonus outro track.

It starts with I. An Inviting Afterglow which immediately brought to mind the dark fantasy world of The Witcher series of video games. At around nine minutes it's rustic in sound with plenty of string instruments, and manages to come across as expansive.
This carries on directly into II. Grand Darkness Engulfs which after four minutes into its nearly thirteen minutes takes an unexpected dark turn with evil sounding strings. This eventually transforms into a tune that felt tinged with melancholy.
The third proper track is III. A Shock of Winter Green which I found to be the most enjoyable of the three. It is a lead up into more urgent sounding music.
To finish off the album is Bonus: Outro which is a spoken word piece. I have to confess due to the echo on this track I couldn't make out a word the lady was saying, coming across sounding like the sound of an announcement at a train station, though with a more enjoyable lilt to the sentences being spoken.

Black Morning, Winter Green was a decent bit of music, as an accompaniment to tidying my house it made cleaning all the better. The quality of the recording is high, the skill and arrangement of the music is clear to hear and the three tracks compliment each other well. For more details, and to pick up this album for yourself head over to the Bandcamp page and have a look.


Sunday, 15 December 2019

Black Mirror: Series 4 (2017) - Horror TV Show Review

My Netflix queue has over 300 different films and series waiting to be watched, I don't see as nearly as much as I really should do. After discovering my dad in the time since I saw the third series of Black Mirror had watched every single episode I felt shamed into going back to it and continuing my path. For those who somehow don't know, Black Mirror is kind of like a modern day take on The Twilight Zone, but with a focus on plausible future technology and the possible horrific implications this tech could have on society as a whole.

Keeping in line with series three, this fourth series again has six episodes. There is not a bad episode to be found here, but there is a subtle shift towards more positive outcomes, with the harrowing trauma that older ones such as series two's White Bear and the third's Shut Up and Dance caused mostly absent. It manages this shift by usually featuring at least a couple of main characters, rather than just the one. They are usually set up with a bad character who gets a typical Black Mirror fate, while a good character has an ending more like the happiness found in San Junipero. As I said, there isn't a bad episode here, but I do think the show is at its finest when it delivers a soul wrenching sucker punch of a twist. With technological ideas that have already appeared in previous episodes showing up here I got the impression that maybe Charlie Brooker is running out of ideas for future tech, either that or he saw the potential of exploring other ideas he has previously had in new ways.

We start with the fantastic USS Callister which just may be the best episode in this season. Here we follow a computer programmer, Robert Daley (Jesse Plemons - Breaking Bad) who in his free time is the captain of a Star Trek type spaceship in a VR game he has created. This homage to Star Trek is unmissable here, and I loved how it starts off looking like the way that show was filmed, before switching to a more typical look. I figured the twist would be that the sci-fi world wasn't real, but that much is obvious from the start. Featuring some interesting misdirection, and a stellar supporting cast that includes Jimmi Simpson (Westworld, House of Cards) this is one to watch. If you have ever read I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison you will know what to expect here as they share similar ideas.

Friday, 13 December 2019

The Spirit Gallery (1995) - Horror Film Review

The Spirit Gallery is a horror that was written and directed by John Strysik (who wrote a Stuart Gordon film called Struck and has been a director on Tales from the Darkside, Monsters and the 90's version of Land of the Lost). Watching The Spirit Gallery I loved how it perfectly captured the feeling of the 90's, everything from the clothes characters wore to the low-fi quality of the shot on video look. Well if I had paid more attention to the email I received about this I would have realised the fact it looks like a 90's film is that it is a 90's film! This was first released in 1995 and was rarely seen, but now it has been gifted a DVD release.

Devoutly religious Gwendolyn (Holly Riddle) has been obsessed with the legendary and reclusive artist B.A Catch (Jim Burkhart) her whole life despite not having ever seen any of his work. In fact barely anyone saw his work before he disappeared from the limelight, but Gwendolyn heard rumours of how his work is so powerful at showing the goodness in people that viewers get drawn deeply into it. She wants to experience this, thinking it to be a gift from God. The film starts with the woman close to finally meeting this enigmatic master...

This ninety minute bizarro dreamscape of a film only really features three main characters. Gwendolyn is the protagonist and it is by following her that you get the sense of something really missing from her life. Obsessed with Jesus and God this character is shown to be determined with what she wants, yet quite a meek person as well. Leonard Parnell plays the art dealer Gideon who acts as the go between for the girl and the artist. His character is very old school with how he operates, and is much more assertive. The dynamic of these two alone really create a deep sense of the 90's, this is before the time of '#metoo', there is something wonderfully dated about everything shown in The Spirit Gallery. Burkhart plays the part of the tortured artist with everything you would expect from that character type (difficult, and with constant mood swings), yet his character is the most complex of the three with a lot of him being wrapped up in mysteries. I thought all the main characters were compelling, even Gwendolyn as the heroine character has her moments, such as when she is shown at one point to angrily drown a crucifix in a bathtub during a minor meltdown.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Marvel Zombies 5 (2010) - Zombie Graphic Novel Review

It had to happen eventually, and with Marvel Zombies 5 it finally has. This series has gone off the rails, but thankfully in a way that I happened to love. Gone is the attempts at horror that previous books in the series have tried, and here there is instead plenty of humour, crazy ideas and dimension shifting.

With a zombie virus now present in the main Marvel universe, Morbius has found a way to maybe find a cure. A planestorm event is occuring over five different realities (planestorm being 'permutations of highly unusual incident manifesting across multiple alterniverses'), and this particular event happens to feature five different zombie outbreaks occurring at the same time over five different realities. It is hoped by sending Machine Man and Howard the Duck to these different places they will be able to collect a sample of each zombie type in order to create a antidote. So this unlikely duo find themselves over the course of five issues in a Wild West world, a world where H.G Wells War of the Worlds actually took place, a medieval world, a cyberpunk one, and a reality identical to our own.

Monday, 9 December 2019

Ghost in the Graveyard (2019) - Horror Film Review

Ghost in the Graveyard is a horror that was the directorial debut of Charlie Comparetto who also wrote this. Initially it seemed like a typical teen horror, though one that was light on anything really happening at all. Around the midway mark it crashes into a different type of movie altogether, and while I lost the threads of the plot it at least become a lot more interesting to see.

As a child Sally (Kelli Berglund - Now Apocalypse TV series) witnessed the death of a young girl, Martha (Shiloh Verrico) while playing in the graveyard in the town of St. Moriah with some friends. After this she moved away, and now as a teen she has returned, living with her father Charlie (Jake Busey - Stranger Things TV series, The Predator), her brother, and a random baby. Returning to the town though she starts to glimpse sightings of the ghost of Martha, and before she knows it she is caught up in a struggle against the forces of darkness that includes secret societies, witches, and demonic possession...

For about half this film I felt like I knew what was going on. It was very slow going, and the script was pretty dull, but it seemed the story revolved around finding out just who Martha was. Then the little side plot elements come centre stage and the story goes bananas in a way that was enjoyable, but also ridiculous with how it all comes to pass. If it had stayed at the sedate pace of the first half this wouldn't be getting any sort of recommendation. After around forty five minutes a character has somehow been beaten to death with a baseball, and the creepy ghost girl has been glimpsed a few times and that is it. The second half includes among its crazy path a stolen ambulance, a shotgun rampage at a graveyard, unstoppable possessed people, and a plan to bring about the end of the world. I found myself enjoying this a lot more when I stopped struggling to understand what was going on and just watched the spectacle of it all, but I think it was a complaint of the writing that the story was so hard to follow.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

The Devil in My Heart (2021) - Horror Film Review

As I began to watch director Romane Simon's psychological horror The Devil in My Heart I realised I had seen the trailer for it a few years back. Having recently watched Hybristophilia, that was also directed by Simon, and written by Rhonnie Fordham I was interested to see how this one would turn out. Thematically this is similar in that it deals with the effect of early life abuse, but this one follows more of a drama led path rather than going down a more traditional slasher route.

Emily Killian (The Chosen) stars as Vikki, a troubled young woman whose mental health issues flare back up around the time that her lawyer husband, Marshall (Matthew Ashford - Species) goes missing. Her mum and stepdad decide to move in with her, and they bring with them an old high school friend of Vikki, who is now a psychiatrist. Vikki keeps having recurring nightmares of a masked figure attacking her in her home, as well as hallucinating a mysterious little girl, and so her friend hopes to help her work through her troubles and regain her life.

While there are similar themes and a similar style of filmmaking going on here I found this more intimate story to be a more involving one. The film revolves around Vikki and her struggles with her craziness which was portrayed well. Despite all the confusion of what was going on I thought Killian's portrayal of a woman losing her mind was a good performance, I liked how she reacted to the world around her. With the focus on her it does make other characters fade into the background a bit, her parents for instance were in the film for such a small amount of time that it felt like they were almost surplus to what was going on. The psychiatrist was a good character though, and I liked how he never comes across as that good at his profession, which is reflected in what happens throughout the movie.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

(R)eliving the (E)xecution of (M)yself (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

I recently had the pleasure of being the judge for the 'Best Stories' category in this years 15 Second Horror Film Challenge. One of the 15 films I chose for my unranked selection was Armando Jimenz's topical Solar Deity, and now I have received another short film of his for review, (R)eliving the (E)xecution of (M)yself.

A man (Ivan Orozco) awakens from a nightmare to hear a knocking at his apartment door, opening it he finds two people there who are quite angry at him. While that doesn't sound like much for plot this is really something that is more abstract than completely story driven. This manages to be so without feeling arthouse in style. While the short is four and a half minutes in length the film itself ends at the three minute mark, with a long end credit sequence that managed to be nearly the best part of this, due to the on screen image accompanied by the sound of dripping water.

(R)eliving features both strong imagery and sound design. It opens to a corpse on a bed, blood running out of its eyes, I loved the framing of this shot. The rest of the short maintains an oppressive atmosphere, helped along by red and blue tints, and a variety of visual effects that include 24 style screen splitting, blurring, and facial distortion. A lot of the dialogue is also distorted, and I struggled to make out some of what was being said (quite possibly David Lynch style backwards speaking going on). Not being able to understand lines of dialogue just added to the atmosphere for me.

I had no expectations for just what (R)eliving the (E)xecution of (M)yself would be like, but I was pleasantly surprised. It isn't often I will watch a short more than once, but for this one I gave it multiple views, there was an addictive quality to it. The picture quality may not be the sharpest, and it might possibly be a bit of style over substance, yet this was a lovely piece of filmmaking that is worth a watch.


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Hybristophilia (2018) - Horror Film Review

Hybristophilia is a paraphilia in which sexual arousal is gained from being with a partner known to have committed an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder and robbery. It is also a horror film from director Romane Simon (Blood Runs Thick, The Dawn of Zombie Apocalypse), that has a story written by Rhonnie Fordham (Blood Runs Thick). It aims to get inside the mind of a notorious serial killer and explore just what it is that made them kill.

Reporter Mary Lee (Jenna Willis - American Crime Story TV series) and her crew, consisting of cameraman Tommy (Quinton Aaron - The Blindside) and her sound engineer Brian have closely been following the exploits of the notorious serial killer known as the Sleepy Stalker (Lilian Lev - Blood Runs Thick, Tales of Frankenstein). She receives an email from the killer who has been following her work and wants to give an exclusive interview, so her, her crew, and pregnant psychologist Celeste (Sadie Katz  - Bus Party to Hell) head to the spot that the killer has chosen with the hopes that it will make their careers. However upon arriving they all get drugged, and wake to find themselves tied up. Despite these restraints the interview goes ahead, with the killer willing to tell her story of what made her into the person she is.

This all started off pretty well with a montage of news reports and murders to show the impact the killer has been having. By the time the crew get tied up I was expecting some sort of torture porn film along the lines of Truth or Dare but this turns into something quite different. With everything being filmed by the cameraman on screen this could have easily been a found footage and shown events from Tommy's perspective. Instead this plays out as a more traditional movie with the killer showing the others around the house she grew up in, while diving in to moments of her life that shaped her. This takes the form of a series of flashbacks, such as when she was a child living with her parents, to being a teenager living with her abusive uncle, and all the way to the point of her first kill.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Black Moon (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Black Moon is a short eight minute horror that was directed by Ryan Graff (who also came up with the story). Apparently a 'black moon' is what occurs when there are two new moons in the same month, and is meant to be when supernatural occurrences become more common.

A young mother (Fabienne Tournet) is walking home one evening when she hears crying coming from a tunnel under a road. She sees a young girl crouched down sobbing, and so decides to go and see if she can help. This simple act of kindness takes her on a path straight into her worst nightmare...

First off I loved the atmosphere here. The night time setting, along with the empty streets means that I was on board to be scared here. While I did enjoy this, the camera mostly stays firmly centered on the woman, who reacts to things occuring off screen. I am sure this was done with the old adage that what is created in your mind can be more frightening than anything shown (as well as to save on budget). This is a short film with just a few tricks. When the main one is a woman looking scared as a camera keeps swooshing past her, then despite the short length I began to wonder if there would be anything more to this.

That isn't to say I didn't like this, the ending was predictable but fun, there are decent horror elements, and I did like Tournet's acting. One part where her mobile phone loses battery and turns off mid call she says "oh no" in a disappointed voice, but the weird way she says it made it seem like a natural response rather than just acting. Black Moon started off strong, and it ends decently enough, I just wish there had been more going on in the middle section.

This short horror had atmosphere in spades, a good performance from someone who didn't have much to work with, and some strong camerawork. For me personally I would have liked more to happen in the middle section, but overall it was a decent film. Black Moon had its premiere at the Morbido Film Festival in Mexico on November 2nd.