Saturday, 29 February 2020

Jack in the Dark (1993) - Horror Video Game Review (PC)

Jack in the Dark is a weird beast of a game in that it is a very short experience that was created during development of Alone in the Dark 2 as a promotional tool. The game takes place in two different rooms and can be finished in under ten minutes.

It is Halloween and the child Grace Saunders finds herself trapped inside a haunted toy shop. There she discovers Santa locked up in a cage, and toys which have come to life, seemingly with a creepy jack-in-the-box as the cause of all the evil.

The tone here is kind of weird, it is very Christmas focussed despite taking place during Halloween. The puzzles you encounter all revolve around distracting the various toys blocking your way. One example is playing a toy drum to make some toys march into a toy box. The music is jolly, and aside from the evil jack-in-the-box there isn't much of a horror vibe. Also, judging by  how this one ends it really isn't canonical. Apparently the girl you play as is the girl who has been kidnapped in Alone in the Dark 2. To cement the fact this is a promotional game it ends with a series of screenshots from that second game.

This was a fun little experience, however it really isn't essential to play, as a curio it does its job. Even better is that it doesn't cost anything, it was an extra with Alone in the Dark. So if you are after a bite size bit of horror gaming then check it out.


Friday, 28 February 2020

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for February 2020

It is another news post, it really doesn't seem that long ago I was writing January's edition. A short month, but a good one seeing as it was my birthday, though approaching 40, which isn't something I am looking forward to! It's midday on a bright Saturday as I write this, I need to get to the local shop as I have no food at all in this house, so without further ado onto the news.

Stage 32, Trick Candle Productions, and Glass House Distribution have launched a microbudget horror competition with the winner receiving a $5,000 option, mentorship from a producing team, and will be eligible for a greenlit $100,000 production. The contest "is open to all horror/thriller writing teams around the world with microbudget screenplays that can be filmed for up to $100,000. Stage 32, Trick Candle, and Glass House are looking for unique ideas and original voices...all concepts are welcome". For more details check out here.

Scumdance Film Festival 2020 is looking for horror submissions. This is a one day event taking place on 11th July and is said to feature amazing selections in horror, grindhouse, splatter, exploitation, punk, rock&roll, hot-rod, biker and, underground. Films can be submitted via Film Freeway (here), and the deadline is 31st March.

Terror Films and Global Digital Releasing have teamed up with Cinedigm to put content on the ad-based platforms CONtv and Docurama. The initial launch will include 15 movies from the two labels, including The Taking of Deborah Logan (I have always wanted to see that one), Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, and the documentary Unearthed & Untold - The Path to Pet Sematary.

Mad Sin Cinema have announced two new projects from director Shane Ryan (My Name is 'A' by Anonymous, American Virus). Throwaway Girl is due to begin production this Spring, while Video Star will begin in Summer. Both will star Kade Tabin. Anyone wanting to invest in either of these movies should head on over to here.
Ryan has also finished production as an actor in two new films from director Gregory Hatanaka (Samurai Cop 2). These are Choke, which features Ryan as a serial killer, and the giallo styled Heartbeat. Finally for Mad Sin Cinema news this month The Ted Bundy Had a Son trilogy is due to finish production this Spring with Wild Eye Releasing distributing.

Slightly late to the party, but I have the February release schedule for Arrow Video US. Coming to Blu-ray on 25th February are a couple of titles. One Missed Call trilogy brings together the three films of Takashi Miike series that include One Missed Call, One Missed Call 2, and One Missed Call: The Final Call. That is actually something I would be interested in checking out, firstly, I didn't even know it had been made into a trilogy, and secondly, I have never seen the Japanese original, only ever saw the pretty bland American remake.
Also releasing is José Ramón Larraz's slasher Deadly Manor (also known as Savage Lust). This one follows a group of teens who decide to spend the night in an abandoned manor, unaware it is home to a lunatic killer. Both releases feature a bunch of extras.

Released as a deluxe limited edition Blu-ray on 10th February was Jack Cardiff's The Freakmaker. This is about a crazed scientist who wants to create his own genetically engineered mutants. To do so he enlists the help of members of a local freakshow to kidnap students from a local college for his tests. This stars Donald Pleasence (Halloween), Tom Baker (Dr Who), Brad Harris (Kommissar X) and Michael Dunn (Ship of Fools). This Blu-ray is a restored archival 35mm print and contains a host of extras.

Frolic Pictures are currently celebrating their 10 year anniversary. They are a full-service film and video production company founded by Jared Masters, and located in Hollywood whose films include among them Ballet of Blood, Agalmatophilia and Psychedelic Nudes AKA Adorable Emo Babes in Ecstasy. As well as having made 14 feature films and written 5 books, Jared has also turned Frolic Pictures to distribution with a huge load of Grindhouse Double Feature DVDs (such as the excellent The Vindicator/The Stepfather).
Talking of those Double Feature DVDs a load more have been announced. There are too many to name but some choice ones include The Video Dead/ The Laughing Dead, The Incredible Melting Man/ The Intruder Within, Blood Tracks/ Psycho Scarecrow and, The Cloning of Clifford Swimmer/ The Spook Who Sat by the Door. For a complete list, and to buy these head on over to Frolic Pictures website here.

There is a new trailer and art for The Mothman Legacy, this is the latest release from cryptid documentarian Seth Breedlove. This is the final documentary in Breedlove's Mothman trilogy which includes the stories of dozens of sightings of the titular legendary being. The trailer can be seen below, and the header image for this post is the new art released.

The first photos from Lovecraftian thriller The Deep Ones have debuted online. This is filmmaker Chad Ferrin's (The Ghouls, Someone's Knocking at the Door) eighth film and is about a married couple who rent a beachside property only to find themselves surrounded by strange neighbours and strange happenings. The two soon find they are the target of a mysterious cult who worship an ancient sea god. The Deep Ones is due to emerge sometime this year.

Trailer and stills for Sunset on the River Styx have came out online. This film is Aaron Pagiano's debut feature film and is about two lovers whose relationship becomes threatened by 'their pasts, their futures, their perception of time, and a vampire death cult'. This will premiere at the 2020 Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival later this year.

Video game news now, the turn based strategy game 1971 Helios is due for release in the second quarter of this year on PS4, X-Box One, Nintendo Switch, PC Steam and GOG. This game is set on a frozen planet where eight people are on a mission to find a missing doctor. The tactical combat takes place across various locations including military enclaves and medieval dungeons, with you going up against three different factions.

Staying with consoles, the online streaming platform American Horrors can now be accessed on any gaming platform with a web browser, and has been upgraded to improve the content, making it stutter free.

Finally surreal fighting game Kung Fu Jesus has a new trailer/music video out for it. The game is a story driven RPG beat 'em up that has three interlocking story paths. Rock, Paper, Shotgun described it as "Streets of Rage on mescaline". You play as a madman with a deteriorating mental state. The game certainly sounds bonkers, and the trailer/music video is no different. It will be released on Steam, Playstation 4, and X-Box One later this year.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Cripta (2019) - Teen Horror Film Review

Being slightly hungover on a Sunday I sat down to watch Marco Lui's Cripta, which I had assumed was a horror film. By the zany style and very low stakes it soon become clear this was something aimed at teens, and that to be honest it isn't horror. This is edutainment dressed up as a film, it is also a religious film, while not preachy at all, it does assume that the teachings of Christianity are true.

Cripta centres around six teen archaeology students who study their topic via web cam sessions with their professor. One day they sit down to do their class as usual but are instead met with a stranger. He informs the teens that their professor has been kidnapped and that if they want to free him they must play a game. So far so Saw. The intruder displays his powers by hypnotising the boys and manipulating the emotions of the girls, then he warns them if they fail the game they will die. The game is based on religious dogma, and centres mainly on the idea of baptism.

I guess it was good timing that I ended up watching a religious film on a Sunday. This is in Italian with English subtitles. Due to the subject matter it was quite hard to keep up with what was being spoken about, even in English that would have been hard to follow. The subtitles are ok, though on many occasions the subtitles seemed slightly wrong, and so I had to rearrange words and spellings in my head for them to make sense. I seem to remember one example being 'flash and bones' rather than 'flesh and bones'. This was nostalgic in a fashion as it reminded me of being back at school watching those programs that try and make the learning fun, as I said in my intro; edutainment.

Monday, 24 February 2020

By Day's End (2020) - Zombie Horror Film Review

By Day's End is a found footage zombie film that was directed and co-written by Michael Souder (Hunger) in his feature length directorial debut. It is always a treat to review a zombie film on this blog, after all zombie films were originally going to be the only genre of horror I reviewed here. It is also the first zombie film released in 2020 that I have seen. Found footage can be a tricky genre to get right, and here, while it plays to the strengths of the indie budget by having this be quite low key, it also falls into many of the old tropes of found footage which are best left in the past, as well as tell a zombie story that is lacking in surprises.

Carly (Lyndsey Lantz - Lore) and her girlfriend Rina (Andrea Nelson - I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu) are both currently in between jobs and have been left with no choice but to move into a motel while they look for new sources of income. In Europe a deadly virus had broken out, but the inhabitants of the motel are not really concerned about it. That is until the virus turns up on their doorstep. The infected die, but then come back to life as flesh hungry creatures, and soon all the inhabitants of the motel have been turned, all that is except for Carly, Rina, and their friend Wyatt (Joshua Keller Katz - Code Black TV series). The trio must work together in order to defend themselves against the infected, and find a way to escape the overrun motel...

By Day's End sure starts on a funny note. The found footage style used here mainly comes in two different forms. The first is a series of security cameras that are dotted around the motel. For the first two or three minutes we are shown the various camera angles, all in complete silence. So before this even properly began I was thinking I had accidentally muted the film and so was skipping ahead to see if it was muted or not. Later there appeared to be audio with the footage from these cameras, so no idea if that was a stylistic choice chosen for the beginning. The other style of filming is the more traditional hand held camera, this is brought into being because Carly has handily enough just purchased a camera, hoping to become a videographer. Initially she is filming to get some practice with using the device, later, her and others use the camera as a way to film their thoughts, and to explain their actions in the event they don't survive. It seems maybe there were other cameras also being used, as occasionally, especially inside one of the motel rooms there seemed to be multiple camera angles used.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Resonance (2018) - Horror Film Review

Resonance had a simple idea behind it, and one which I felt would work perfectly as a low budget indie horror. Directed and written by Siar Sedig (The Collector) this uses the simple location of a forest, a very small cast of just two, and a reliance on suggestions rather than showing any kind of peril. The question is, would this movie resonate with me?

Max (Max Croes - Rocketman) and his girlfriend Elena (Nastassia Firestone - The Collector) have gone on holiday to a remote cottage in the middle of a giant forest. While out for a walk the couple both get nose bleeds, not long after they start to hear a strange industrial hum resonating from deep in the forest. As well as this mystery, the two keep finding their bungalow door wide open, but always with no evidence anyone has been inside.

The idea behind this movie was so simple, and it works surprisingly well. The strange noise the couple hear that causes them all sorts of problems appears to be incorporated into the films soundtrack. On a few occasions the dronning noise worked both as an accompaniment to what was going on visually, the hum giving a feeling of something not quite right, but then is also acknowledged by the characters. I found this duel use of the sound to be quite clever. With sound being the threat it means visually there isn't much need for any sort of flashy special effects. Outside of the constant nose and ear bleeds the two characters get there are no special effects. The door constantly being open is another aspect that worked nearly as well. Just the sight of the door ominously hanging open always led to the anticipation of something really messed up about to happen.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Exit 0 (2019) - Horror Film Review

The brief synopsis I read for E.B Hughes (Turnabout) Exit 0 made it sound quite interesting, and so I was hoping for a good film to pass the time with. Sometimes leaving a story ambiguous can really help make it stick in the mind as something clever, but sometimes it makes for a movie that feels at its worst a bit of an undecided muddle.

Billy (Gabe Fazio - A Star is Born) and his girlfriend Lisa (Augie Duke - Bad Kids Go to Hell) have gone away on a weekend vacation to a hotel that Billy had fond memories of visiting as a child. The night they arrive he discovers a VHS cassette tape under their bed, and playing it he is shocked to see it appears to show filmed footage of a couple being killed in the very same room him and Lisa are staying in. Not wanting to alarm her, he decides to keep this to himself.

I felt that there were enough threads of plot here to make what is happening unite into something thrilling. However these plot threads never really ever come together. There is a vain attempt to do so, yet this only occurs with less than ten minutes of film time left, and so fails. As well as the tape Billy discovers, there are also possible supernatural goings on at the hotel, with it being suggested by a local that it is haunted. There is also the suggestion that there is a plot by the locals to harass and threaten Billy, either to kill him like the people on the tape, or to scare him out of town. There is also the suggestion that Billy is mentally unwell, with his girlfriend admitting to a detective that he takes medication, but doesn't reveal what it is for. All these plot points would have been grand if something had come of any of them. As it is, there just isn't enough revealed about anything to make these into anything. The film finished and I was none the wiser if much at all had actually happened, there didn't seem to be any clues to point to any type of a resolution.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Let's Talk About 'It' (2017) - Horror Film Review

The award winning Let's Talk About 'It' is a low budget Indian horror film that was directed, co-written and co-produced by Kshitij Sharma, who also plays a supporting character here. With limited sets and a mostly uneventful story this is pretty no thrills, however the actual idea behind it really wasn't that bad.

Kavita (Deeya Dey, who co-wrote the screenplay as well as did the costumes and makeup) is a psychiatrist who one day gets a new patient, a scared man named Virat (Sharma). The man says he has been unable to sleep recently due to the appearance of a figure in his home who watches him. She arranges to see Virat in a few days time to see how the medication she has prescribed him is going, but the man turns up in even more of a state. Soon Kavita starts to experience strange events in her own home, and it begins to seem to her that what is plaguing her patient may be something that medical knowledge cannot fix.

This is a no thrills horror that looks to create a feeling of tension and fear through psychological means, rather than having a lot of visual events happening. The eighty minutes is split almost evenly between Kavita's sparse and small clinic, and her larger home. Her conversations with Virat are the most rich moments of the movie, as outside of this, other than speaking to her receptionist, a Skype call, and talking to her mum over the phone she has no other interaction with anyone. It was interesting how Kavita seems to get infected by the ideas her patient has. The thought that everything happening could all be in the characters minds rather than real was mostly set out well, but a later plot twist seemed to come out of nowhere. The last eight minutes take a far different turn that I didn't see coming, but which I also felt side stepped the point of the main story.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Vindicator (1986) / The Stepfather (1987) - Horror Film Review

This review is something a little different as rather than write about an individual film I am instead reviewing a DVD double feature that contains eighties classics The Vindicator and The Stepfather. I have often mentioned Frolic Pictures latest releases and I have liked the idea behind them. They aim to replicate the experience of going to a drive-in of old by having two classics on the one disc. Rather than that be it though the features are bookended by trailers, notifications, and even the odd cartoon to really amp up the old school experience. So, after a short Superman cartoon, and a couple of trailers it is into the first feature; Jean-Claude Lord's The Vindicator.

David McIlwraith (Vampire High TV series) stars as Carl, a scientist working for a research and development company's special weapon project. After a disagreement on how the funds are being used he is killed on the orders of his boss Alex Whyte (Richard Cox). To add insult to injury Alex decides Carl's body will be used as a test subject for a new type of super soldier. The experiment is kind of a success, Carl awakens to find his brain implanted in a robot. However, before the scientists are able to attach the device that would allow them to control him, he breaks out of confinement and flees the lab. Knowing he was murdered by Whyte, and unable to be near anyone due to his suit's automatic response that makes him kill anyone who touches him, the reborn man sets out on a path of ...vindication.

I had never heard of The Vindicator before watching it for review, but found it to be a great eighties action film. It is full of cheesy moments, and some classic tropes of the action genre, such as a vehicle immediately exploding in a ball of flame after it crashes off a cliff. This came out a year before Robocop did, yet this follows a similar style story. The biggest difference being that Carl is designed to be a tool for evil, rather than as a cop. There are plenty of great moments here, such as a sewer stealth scene, moments where Carl converses with his pregnant wife via a synthesiser, and a great showdown when Carl finally returns to the lab he was born in. Sometimes I struggled to make out what the robotic voice of the protagonist was saying, but mostly the story doesn't really matter. Some great death scenes here, including a biker getting his helmet crushed into his head, and one awesome bit where Carl crushes a man into the car he was trying to mow Carl down with! With wild eyes and a weird black suit this isn't really a character you can identify with, but has lots of stupid, yet fun moments. This made for a fun first half to the DVD double feature.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Cardio (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Cardio is a short three minute Czech horror that comes from director Petr Cerny. Over the course of its short run it takes in a few different styles, including animation. There was a lot stuffed into this one.

A man is working alone at a warehouse on his birthday, and has arranged to meet his friend after work. After finishing the call he notices there is a figure dressed all in black. Each time before he can properly see who the intruder is the lights all go out. he discovers there are two masked figures who keep moving around him each time the lights go out. Despite being quite unfit the man decides to try and run away from the two.

The first forty seconds of this are the strangest, with a phone conversation that plays out over a yellow smiley face. It was a strange start but sets up the fact the protagonist gets irritated by people who fall for fake news. What follows is slightly more traditional section where the man is toyed with by the intruders which begins his flight from them. The best part is the end, I really enjoyed how the last third plays out, and how it ends on a beat that merges the real into the cartoonish with the animated end credits. This was edited really well, both with how the music feeds into the editing, and the fast paced stitching together of disparate shots and inserts.

While I did feel the middle part of Cardio bit uneventful it all makes sense by the end, once everything is explained I felt the need to re-watch this several times. That ending is something I kept going back to, really was some neat stylistic choices there.



Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Underwater (2020) - Horror Film Review

I wasn't even sure going in to watch Underwater if it was a horror or a disaster movie, it was hard to tell from the trailer. I was expecting something along the lines of Deep Blue Sea thinking maybe the threat here would be some type of animal, instead this falls firmly into the genre of horror. Some people say it is lazy to draw comparisons, but I feel if you have the knowledge of horror media why not put it to good use by sending out things that have similar styles and influences. So, for Underwater it shares elements with Gravity and, Aliens, video games Soma and Dead Space, as well as the works of a certain H.P Lovecraft.

Norah (Kristen Stewart - The Twilight Saga) is an engineer on a deep sea mining facility nearly seven miles under water. Some type of earthquake occurs which inflicts devastating damage. With the structural integrity at around 30% and all the escape pods destroyed or gone, her and a handful of other survivors, that include among them Paul (T.J Miller - Deadpool, Cloverfield), Emily (Jessica Henwick - Game of Thrones, Iron Fist), Smith (John Gallagher Jr. - 10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush), Rodrigo (Mamoudou Athie), and the Captain (Vincent Cassel - Westworld Season 3, Black Swan) must don deep sea suits and walk across the seabed to the next nearest facility, in the hopes of finding working escape pods. But, as the group soon learn, they may have far more to fear than just the impending destruction of the mining facility...

This really doesn't take any time at all to get going, within literal minutes of the film starting the base has started to fall apart. From the trailer I had imagined this would be along the lines of a disaster film, with the majority taking place inside, instead, after around ten to fifteen minutes the group have vacated the premises to begin their nightmarish (and very dark) adventure. I was actually impressed events started happening right away, I felt it was a bit of a brave move to give no time at all for character development, instead you kind of pick up the types of characters each one is as the movie progresses. I liked the actors here, and it was nice how many of them I recognised. I even didn't mind the token comedy character that Miller plays, putting aside the real life controversies he has been associated with in recent years I found his character to be inoffensive rather than annoying. It makes a change when the comedy character is actually a useful member of the team! There wasn't a character here that I didn't like, which made a change, usually you would have some sort of tension within the group. Here though I guess characters don't really have time for that, they have an objective and set out to do it working together.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Ballet of Blood (2015) - Horror Film Review

Ballet of Blood is an exploitation horror throwback film from director Jared Masters (Amethyst, Slink). The budget is low, the special effects minor and the plot mostly barebones but then that does appear to be the intention. It helps create a modern day movie that displays the film making sensibilities of decades past.

This takes place mostly in and around a ballet school and follows a group of ballerinas after an attack by an uzi toting ex-pupil; Nisa (Sydney Ray - Lake Fear 2: The Swamp). These students include among them bookish Maren (Marla Martinez) who decides to write a novel based on the incident. Wanting to keep the attack hidden away from the media, the school's owner gets the girl who is suspected of supplying the gun to Nisa; Ria (Jesse Aaron) put in a psychiatric hospital. Eventually Ria teams up with Nisa in order to get revenge on those they see as wronging them...

This movie isn't going to be for everyone, and so going in to this expecting a traditional way of filmmaking and storytelling you may come away disappointed. I had a good idea of what this would be like and it actually wasn't as wild as I figured it would be. That isn't to say it failed to live up to my expectations, there is plenty of murder, and lots of blood. Roughly two thirds of this 98 minute film follows the various girls as they go about their daily lives at the ballet school. As vapid as some of these characters appear to be they all have hopes and aspirations even if they are mostly self obsessed and judgemental people. Maren is the innocent face in all this and so became the most identifiable character here. There was some nice moments with her story with the lines becoming blurred over if what is happening is reality, or if it is all part of the novel she is writing. This becomes more overt towards the end where she and other characters talk about the actions they should take based on what Maren has previously written.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Feedback (2019) - Horror Film Review

I am having a frankly terrible evening, I won't bore with the details, but it ended with me returning home to find my review of Feedback I had spent forty five minutes writing earlier in the day had straight up vanished, apparently it hadn't saved when I had clicked on the 'save' button. So this review is a re-write from memory. Luckily though I feel this review is a better written one than my first.
I liked the idea behind Pedro C. Alonso's Feedback, it sounded to me quite similar to Truth or Dare with the way a captured person was forced to reveal their darkest secrets at pain of torture (it reminds me far more of a film that was set on a small plane I reviewed many years back, can't for the life of me remember what that was called). I was also quite happy to see a few actors among the cast who never fail to make any film they are in immediately at least a bit better.

Jarvis (Eddie Marsan - The World's End) is a famous London based radio presenter who against his boss's wishes (Norman, played by Anthony Head - Repo! The Genetic Opera, Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series) is going to do an expose on outside interference into the Brexit referendum. He goes on air, but just as he is planning to do this things start to go wrong. Initially Jarvis suspects Norman is interfering but he soon finds out that the studio has been invaded by two masked men (one of which is played by Richard Brake - 31, 3 From Hell). The duo want Jarvis to carry on his radio show as normal, but to speak about exactly what they tell him to, with their aim seeming to be to get him to talk about an incident he was part of that took place some ten years previously...

While the story was enjoyable enough an idea on its own it really became a lot better due to the quality of the actors here. To be honest I don't think it is possible for Brake to put in a bad performance and here I really liked his acting. While one of the masked villains was all rage and aggression, Brake's character was far more measured, and even kind of reasonable. I enjoyed this shifting of expectations, and he gets some good moments. It was also nice to see Marsan in a leading role, having previously only seen him in The World's End. His character on the surface is a mild mannered, yet opinionated cockney but beneath the surface lies an aggressive and self centered streak that Marsan is great at showing. I did think this character wasn't treated the best in terms of the plot, there were some bits that felt a bit off towards the end. The film only has the seven characters, but thankfully nearly all of them were enjoyable, just one character who to me felt a bit cliché and unbelievable.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box One)

I have recently signed up to X-Box Game Pass and so far it has been very worth while. I had heard great things about the action-adventure horror stealth game A Plague Tale: Innocence, yet I had no intention to buy it, so seeing it newly arrived on Game Pass I decided to check it out, and I am sure glad I did.

This takes place in 1348 and mostly has you playing as Amicia de Rune (voiced by Charlotte McBurney), a daughter of a French nobleman. Her five year old brother Hugo (Logan Hannan) has been sick since birth, and so he has been kept locked away in the house along with her alchemist mother Beatrice (Katherine Pageon), who is working on a cure for him. One day the Inquisition turn up at the estate and start slaughtering everyone who lives there. Beatrice convinces Amicia to flee with her brother who it turns out is the objective of the Inquisition, she tells them to seek out Hugo's doctor, Laurentius. This begins the siblings journey into a France that is in the midst of being ravaged by a plague of almost supernatural killer rats.

The Last of Us is said to be one of the influences on this game and it is quite apparent. Outside of the beautiful graphics the stealth action mechanics feel very familiar. You craft weapons and items on the fly, and the general flow of the game feels quite similar with you battling plenty of human adversaries, as well as more puzzle like sections where you have to infiltrate past the thousands of rats. This is split into seventeen chapters and clocks in at around ten hours (at a rough estimate). Each of the levels are vastly different from each other both in terms of locations as well as what you end up doing in them. A few of the early levels for instance include a plague infected town, a battlefield littered with hundreds of corpses and a monastery. All these locations look stunning which becomes more apparent when the use of light comes into play. The horror aspect comes both from the grisly sights you see play out in front of you, and by the thousands of swarming rats (getting killed by these makes for one of the more memorable horrific video game deaths I have seen in recent memory). Of course, there is also the odd nightmare sequence or two where the horror really can come to the front more.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Teacher Shortage (2020) - Horror Film Review

Before I start this review of Teacher Shortage I have to state something for the sake of transparency. I contributed to the Kickstarter that was raising funds for the creation of this, I even appear in the credits here under the 'Special Thanks' due to my contribution to the campaign. Another aspect is that while I don't know the director/writer Troy Escamilla (Party Night, Mrs. Claus) I am part of the Fright Meter Awards committee that he is in charge of. I decided this time around that unlike the other two films of Troy's I have reviewed I would actually give a score at the end of this one. I intend to be completely truthful in my assessment of Teacher Shortage, so as part of that truth felt I should lay those details out first.

The English Department of Prescott High School have arranged to meet at the house of one of the teachers in order to carry out an annual 'professional development session' which in actuality is more of an excuse to get together and drink. However the day they have decided to do this is also the day that a masked killer has appeared, and who seems to have quite the grudge against the teachers of Prescott High. Could this possibly be linked to the suicide of a bullied girl at the High School some years back?

I stated in my review of Mrs. Claus that it felt like Escamilla was developing as a director, but this latest effort blows both his previous films out of the water. I was surprised by just how darn enjoyable this slasher was. There are still moments that show the indie roots, but on the whole I was impressed with Teacher Shortage. In terms of the plot I did feel that the prologue of this was extremely similar to the prologue of Mrs. Claus, both featuring a bullied girl killing herself. But past that point, outside of the obvious similarities of these both being slashers these films went down different paths. Both the previous films featured young adults in the starring roles, here the age range has increased so that you get a bunch of older adults who on the whole I found to be enjoyable characters. It was nice to see Brinke Stevens (Slumber Party Massacre), Kaylee Williams, and Mel Heflin coming back from Mrs. Claus, carrying on the tradition of Escamilla using actors he has worked with before, while the new cast members were also mostly enjoyable. Highlights being Roger Conners (Mother Krampus 2: Slay Ride) as the school principal, and the womaniser character that Michael Tula expertly plays.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Blair Witch (2019) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box One)

Blair Witch is a first person survival horror game that takes place in the iconic Black Hills forest from the films. Back when The Blair Witch Project first came out there were a series of apparently terrible video games released, what I recall of them they had you fighting monsters made out of sticks. I wondered then how this latest game would fare any better, after all the frightening aspect of the films comes from not knowing what the threat actually is, so in a game setting that would also need to happen, but it wouldn't make for much of a captivating game. I had high hopes for Blair Witch having liked the trailer for it, but could it manage to create a layer of fear?

This takes place in 1996, two years after the events of the original film. You play as a former police officer and veteran called Ellis Lynch. Along with your dog Bullet you travel to the Black Hills forest to help with the search for a missing nine year old, Peter Shannon, who went missing in the area. The main search party have already headed in, so you decide to try and find them, but along the way Bullet picks up clues that the main search party missed, and so you head off alone to follow up on these clues. This begins a nightmare in which Ellis is forced to confront the demons from his past, as it seems some nefarious force is determined to stop you from finding the boy.

At times this felt more like a walking simulator than survival horror. A lot of the game has you, along with your dog walking around the forest, solving gentle puzzles as you go. This game takes a lot of its inspiration from the latest Blair Witch film. While that movie wasn't great it did have some decent ideas revolving around how the forest messes with your perception of time and space. Going with this a lot of the progress between 'scenes' involves time shifting around. You can, say look at an item on the ground in daylight, then look up to find it is now night time. The night time sections feature a lot more horror and danger as you would expect. This use of time also applies to objects you see within the game. For example stumbling across the rusted remains of a old truck you later return to see the truck now looking relatively new and in full working condition (this idea in the film series is first shown in the wonderful Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2) . Another example was one part of the game when you are in the same location as another character you are talking over the radio to, but seemingly at a different time, like what they did in the Silent Hill films.