Thursday, 30 April 2020

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

It is my intention to eventually get rid of these monthly news posts I do, something I hoped to achieve this month, but alas it was not to be so. The reason I wish to do away with them is for two reasons. Firstly so that it frees up another day in the month to put up a review, and secondly so that instead of waiting till months end I can instead immediately put up any news I receive on my Facebook and Twitter pages. If you so wish you can go and follow me on those pages, only if you want to though.
The UK is now deep into its lock down and I am finding only leaving the house to go to work or do my weekly food shop a bit draining, but least this makes for memorable times. I am still three quarters of the way into Doom Eternal, to be honest...I'm not loving it as much as I thought I would! I still need to stick up a review of Resident Evil: Resistance, but to do that I have to give the game one last go, this is turning out to be quite the task though as I think the game is very dull. Onto the news!

Season 2 of NOS4A2 is due to premiere on AMC UK Tuesday 7th July at 09:00 PM GMT. This supernatural horror series stars Emmy-nominated actor and producer Zachary Quinto and Ashleigh Cummings. It is based on Joe Hill's best selling novel of the same name. I haven't actually heard of this show before getting the press release. Apparently this picks up eight years after the events of season one and has a man named Charlie on a path of revenge against someone named Vic.

Another month and another team-up that Terror Films has partook in. This time they have joined up with the AVOD YouTube Channel, Watch Movies Now! Terror Films entire library is coming, kicking off with The Bone Box that arrived on 4th April, followed by Dead Body, After Dark and The Chair. A new film from their catalogue is due to arrive weekly. The channel has over 142,000 subscribers, with more than 12 million views per month.

In time for the 40th anniversary of Friday the 13th comes "First Jason's 40" hot sauce from Gemini Crow/Demon Vegan. These companies have joined up with Ari Lehman (the original Jason Voorhees to release these. First Jason's 40 'is a majestic hybrid of sweet and heat. Peaches, Molasses & honey deceptively draw you in right before the heat grips your tongue and continues to rise, which can only be described as slightly less painful then a machete to a head.' Other hot sauces from Demon Vegan include Slasher Sauce and a red Habanero based sauce called Blood of the Lake. Head here if you want to get a hold of any of these.

The first ever 'virtual Phantasm horror convention', known as Phantasm-con 2020 is coming this May 1st and 2nd. The convention is raising funds for personal protection equipment for first responders and veterinarians during the COVID-19 crisis that has swept the globe. The virtual convention includes a live main stage featuring Q&As and interviews with celebrity guests and fans. An exhibit hall where visitors can click thru to popular online stores and sites for memorabilia. A film room with interactive watch parties that gives fans the opportunity to hang out with celebrities in real time during scheduled screenings. Autograph 'tables' and chat rooms where photos and posters will be available via online stores. Also included are art rooms, links to delivery food and drink sponsors, and contests and giveaways. Of course the legendary Reggie Bannister shall be in virtual attendance.
I have a lot of time for the Phantasm series, they are a great series of horror films, for more details about this virtual event head here.

Erotic horror The Last Roommate had its unrated DVD release on 14th April from SCS Entertainment. This film that stars Jenn Nangle, Julie Anne Prescott and Shawn C. Phillips is about a young woman who falls in love with her seductive new roommate, together they fall into an erotic tangle of violence and deadly obsession. The film can be purchased here.

Also from SCS Entertainment comes 5G Zombies, releasing on DVD and VOD 1st March. This takes place in a world overtaken by a recent virus pandemic (sound familiar?). All governments have conspired together to brainwash the remaining survivors using 5G technology, in order to create a new world order. This is a British/American anthology. Sadly there are plenty of utter morons in the real world who really do believe 5G is the root of all evil. Check out the world premiere trailer below.

MGI Films have announced the DVD release of their new horror film, The Devil's Fairground. It is out now at Amazon and Walmart in the U.S and Canada. In this lovely titled horror two competing paranormal TV shows converge on an abandoned haunted amusement park, which just happens to be the gateway to Hell. The Amazon link is here.

Horror-Fix Pictures are due to go into production this November on horror comedy The True Tale of Ole Splitfoot vs. the Lesbian Warrior Nuns of the Great White North. This is to be set in a remote Canadian town whose only industry is the local maple syrup processing plant. A group of lesbian warrior nuns, posing as strippers stand guard against the hordes of Satan. The film has been described as 'the most f*cked up horror-comedy ever made'. Veteran actors Michael Paré and Robert Lasardo are part of the cast.

It isn't often a press release makes me laugh, but the one for Dutch film We was one such one; "Artsploitation Films now realises that not changing the title (original title, Wij, is We in English) has made it challenging (ok, nearly impossible) for people to find it on the internet."They have provided links to the various sites it is able to be downloaded/streamed from. This includes Prime Video, VUDU, Apple TV, Google Play, Kino Now and Vimeo.

Horror comedy Murder Made Easy has had its soundtrack released on all digital platforms. The original motion picture soundtrack came from Sean Spillane (The Woman, Tales of Halloween, Jug Face). Spillane said of the soundtrack, "Writing, performing and recording the score for Murder Made Easy was an absolute blast. In such a character driven story I used various genres of music to further reflect each character's personality." Back when I reviewed this lovely Agatha Christie inspired horror I gave it a grand 8/10 rotting zombie heads and said of it, "I came to this with expectations of a dull murder mystery and left having really enjoyed what I had witnessed". I love a good soundtrack so added this one to my Apple Music collection.

Russian horror comedy Why Don't You Just Die! is out now on Blu-ray and Digital HD and will be there to watch on the Arrow Video Channel on 4th May. I said of this "an always interesting and often amusingly chaotic story" and gave it a solid 8/10 rotted zombie heads when I reviewed it earlier this month. Check out a clip below.

Jeff Payne has released some stills from the next installment of his 'The Pale Faced Lady' series, titled In Darkness I Wait. Payne says for this one "I'm going full terror...tense atmospheres, dread, and goal is to scare my mom on this one haha!". This follows on from The Pale Faced Lady and She Will Return. This third part in the short film trilogy is due to arrive soon.

Power-rock group MF Ruckus have released the third chapter of their post-apocalyptic comic book The Front Lines of Good Times. This follows the band as they 'attempt to survive and thrive in the post apocalyptic hellscape of the year 2040'. The third chapter is titled Acropolis Now! and sees the band arriving at Scrappertown where they put on a gig at a local speakeasy, The Acropolis. This is written by vocalist Aaron Howell and illustrated by This is Heavy Metal creator Jake Fairly. This third chapter is available as a high quality PDF, and best of all, it is free for download from the bands website, check it out for yourself via this link.

New episodes of Death Squad are currently available on RUKU, Amazon, and Stirr on the Popstar! app or streaming. The show is about five ex-military zombie killers sent to an off-line bio lab. This was filmed in Yerevan Armenia.

Finally, turn based strategy/RPG video game 1971 Project Helios is due to release on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox-One and Nintendo Switch on 9th June thanks to RecoTechnology. This takes place in a dystopian world that is scarce in resources, and also covered in a thick layer of ice. The turn based combat pits you against three different factions as you try and locate a key scientist.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Without a Body (2017) - Horror Film Review

Without a Body (also known as Asmatous) is a supernatural horror that was directed by Harvey Lowry (A Deadly Dance). The general idea behind this one brought to mind both Sinister and The Conjuring, but in an indie package. There were some good ideas here, but there was also a whole load of them and the amount of things going on led to some of these ideas getting diluted.

Alex (Jack Campbell - Gabriel) has recently moved into a run down property along with his two daughters, Rachel (Whitney Rose Pynn - Aquarius TV series) and Sophie (Isabella Kai - Pretty Little Liars TV series). Alex is a published author whose topic of work is debunking alleged haunted places, in fact the very reason he has moved into a new home is to be at the location where a murder suicide took place. The property is said to be haunted and so he wants his next book to be about showing why it isn't. The only problem, as his two daughters quickly realise, is that the house is of course very haunted, both by twin ghostly boys, and a terrifying old lady (Rena Owen - Sirens TV series) who seem to want him and his family to join them.

I've gotten to the stage today where I feel I could watch a movie about a static block of cheese and still find it a solid piece of escapism. Without a Body is not a fantastic movie, I have seen its ideas in plenty of places before, and I felt like there wasn't enough screen time given to really explore the things it brings up, but still, it was a distraction. The general set up may be familiar to Sinister but there are no real scares to be had here. The fact that Alex is there to write a book kind of fades into the background a bit, the first two thirds of the film revolve around him and his interactions with his daughters. A tragedy killed his wife in the recent past and so the older of the two sisters, Rachel has taken it upon herself to become a motherly figure to her younger sister. I felt that far too much time was dedicated to this part of the film as when things get crazy in the last half hour there is too much going on to satisfyingly bring the film to an effective conclusion. By the end there is plot twist after plot twist, each coming so hot on the heels of the other that there isn't enough time to properly integrate them. It became dizzying and almost farcical with the speed characters are having to react to changing situations.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Lurker (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Lurker is a modern day slasher that takes its inspirations from the classics of the eighties, this much can be seen at a glance at the high school this takes place in being called 'Crystal Lake High'. It was directed by Eric Liberacki (Anti-body) and stars Scout Taylor-Compton in a role that felt really unsuited to her. I loved her in Rob Zombie's Halloween reboot series but here it is a bit much to be expected to believe she is a high school student when she obviously looks a heck of a lot closer to thirty (as of 2019 when this movie came out she would have been turning thirty). Now I'm not age shaming her or anything, thirty is not an old age, however it is an old age to be playing an underage student, it lent new meaning to the title of The Lurker.

It is the last year of high school and Taylor (Taylor-Compton) and her drama friends are putting on the final show of Romeo and Juliet. There is a rumour going around school about her and despite her best attempts it just seems to be spreading. That turns out to be the least of her worries though as there is also a crazed psycho going around school butchering students and teachers alike, and who it seems has a special interest in Taylor...

It is a shame that the very best part of The Lurker is the first five minutes. We get a nice early kill; death by umbrella, and then a suitably eighties intro credit sequence replete with synth music. Problems soon turn up when a heck of a lot of the students look really quite old for high schoolers. When students look a similar age to some of the teachers you know there's a problem. One of my biggest issues was not with that though, it was with how completely unlikeable the vast majority of the characters are. Taylor appears to hate her friends, her friends appear to hate her, her teachers seem to hate her, in fact the only character outside of her mum (Domenica Cameron-Scorsese - Cape Fear) is the obvious red herring that is the janitor (Eddie Huchro). It makes for an unpleasant experience with there being no one to root for, in fact the majority of the characters I was more than happy to see killed off, Taylor included, they are all so mean spirited and horrible. This all plays to an incident in the past that is constantly being hinted at via brief confusing flashback sequences. Rather than be intriguing as to what happened it was instead made frustrating as this event served as the key motivation for nearly all the characters, and so by this not being shown to the viewer everyone's meanness was hard to understand.

Friday, 24 April 2020

An English Haunting (2020) - Horror Film Review

An English Haunting is a Gothic horror that was written and directed by Charlie Steeds (The House of Violent Desire, Winterskin). Initially I didn't think this was going to be much good, in fact I would almost say I was bored for the first thirty minutes, however this really picked up in the subsequent two acts and while it did become predictable at times I still thought it had some really strong moments.

In the 1960's Blake (David Lenik - Robert Reborn, Winterskin) and his alcoholic mother, Margot (Tessa Wood - Ghostware) are forced to relocate to the countryside mansion of Margot's bedridden father Aubrey (Barrington De La Roche - Winterskin, The House of Violent Desire) in order to look after him. Margot is bitter at having to be there as she never had a good relationship with her father, Blake is more compassionate though as he has fond memories of spending time with Aubrey when he was a child. He begins to experience odd happenings at the mansion, such as spotting a strange woman outside the house, while inside he witnesses doors and chairs moving of their own accord, and begins to have recurring nightmares about a heavily deformed figure. Eventually Margot too begins to witness these strange goings on and they come to believe there is more to Aubrey's illness than meets the eye.

I wouldn't have guessed from the dull opening how much An English Haunting would improve. Initially I wasn't impressed, I found the acting style to be a bit dramatic and over the top, and the sights of things moving on their own felt so generic and typical. However the Gothic atmosphere really got built up, a lot of this feeling was created with how the plot came to be told, while the cinematography I noticed stayed strong throughout. This is a house that is full of secrets, hidden objects and bricked up rooms. The exploration of just what happened in the past is revealed in a video game fashion by audio diaries Blake discovers. These were narrated by Aubrey and were quite fascinating in what they were saying. It made a difference to the usual type of flashback sequence you might expect. At times, with the story that was being told this felt like an indie version of Hereditary.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

The Isolation Horrors (2020) - Short Horror Anthology Film Review

The Isolation Horrors is a very topical anthology, so much so that I bumped it up my list of films to watch so that a review could go out as soon as possible. It is low in budget but for the best of reasons. This short horror anthology was produced in March and April of this year. Each of the five shorts here were made by five different filmmakers from their own homes, an idea that came from multi-award winning filmmaker Nicolai Kornum (Undertaker, Umbilichord). The idea was that it could entertain horror fans during the lockdown so many of us are facing. This anthology becomes all the more impressive when you consider each one was filmed using phones, and with limited resources. I also liked that each of the five directors star in their shorts, playing a fictionalised version of themselves.

The wraparound story is The Bloody Face Mask, written and directed by Kornum. While outside one dark night Kornum discovers a bloody face mask in the street. Concerned that it might have belonged to one of his neighbours he decides to video call them one by one. This forms the pathways into the individual shorts. Initially there didn't seem much to this wraparound story, it seemed merely to introduce the other directors rather than tell its own story. However this one got better as it went along, leading to an excellent finish, and becoming my second favourite of the films here.

Goryõ is the first proper short and was written and directed by Emma Dark (Seize the Night). Emma receives a message on her laptop purporting to show the death of a Japanese idol, along with a warning not to click on the link. She does so anyway and soon begins to regret her decision. This was the shortest of the films here, the idea was one I had seen used plenty of times before, though with a topical spin to it.

Next up was Across The Landing which was written and directed by Richard Markworth (Carrigan Wakes). This one takes place as a series of video diaries recorded by Markworth in his isolation. As the days go by he starts to appear more and more paranoid and desperate. This was a simple idea but I loved the format of various days passing, especially with the English flag in the background that gets more and more decrepit in appearance as time goes on, a visual indicator of the fictional Markworth's deteriorating condition. It was just the other day that a delivery driver at my work told me a story he had heard that played out almost identically to what happens here, giving this one a greater feeling of realism despite the comically exaggerated persona of the protagonist.

The penultimate short was John Whitaker's Anomalous (as composer 1i2c his music has been woven essentially into such trippy horrors as Zombie and Bed of Nails). Shot in black and white this follows Whitaker after he has returned from shopping with a stockpile of toilet rolls. This comedic horror was my favourite of the shorts, what I loved here was how he managed to make a simple toilet roll become something creepy!

Finally is Ghosting Isolation by M.W Daniels. The time spent alone begins to affect his mental state resulting in some The Shining style hallucinations. I wasn't entirely sure what was going on here but it wasn't bad.

At around 25 minutes long this was a joy to watch, but then I have a lot of time for anthology films. You could say that some of these appear quite basic, but then that is the point, these are filmed and produced in isolation and so the look backs up the authenticity they legitimately have. The editing and visual effects these had was impressive, my score for this reflects my appreciation for the constraints the various directors had. The Isolation Horrors will be available to watch as a YouTube scheduled premiere on Friday 24th April at 9pm GMT at this link.



Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Bill Oberst Jr's Gothic Goodnight - Horror Podcast Review

Bill Oberst Jr. (3 from Hell, DIS) is one of my favourite cult actors and so when I learned he had started up a horror podcast I knew I had to check it out. When he contacted me about Bill Oberst Jr's Gothic Goodnight towards the end of March there were just two episodes out, now there are five so it seems like the podcast will be a regular thing. He states this was a 'corona-virus-cabin-fever inspired podcast'.

Each episode is roughly thirty minutes long and mainly comprise of excerpts from classic Gothic literary work. Oberst Jr. presents himself in the persona of the keeper of an ancient library stylied on such icons as Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, who also did dark radio readings. The thing with Bill is that he has a voice made for speaking (I definitely do not have a voice for speaking!) and so anything he says just sounds amazing. He brings such inflection and gravitas to what he says that you can't help but be hypnotised. What works so well here is that he may be playing into a bit of a persona but he gives his own thoughts on the works he speaks about, not only that but he melds them into relevance for the current situation most of us are living in.

The podcast is designed to be listened to late at night, midnight specifically, and so he says even if you are listening in the day time to darken the room you were in. I admit when I first put this on to listen to my heart sank a bit to see there were now five episodes and not two to get through. That was before I had listened to any of it though. This was based on previous podcasts from people I admire, such as the comedian Bill Burr. Sure he is funny but his podcast in which he just talks about his life was not for me. Here though I was hooked, I listened to four of the five available episodes of Gothic Goodnight one after the other unable to stop. It was only because I wanted to experience an episode at night that I saved the fifth one. That was quite an experience, episode five has him reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's short horror story The Minister's Black Veil, which was first published in 1832. As I was listening to this, laid in bed in the dark of night (coincidentally at midnight) I started to drift in and out of sleep, my mind ripping me out of it each time I started to fade away so that I could hear the tale to its haunting conclusion. Bill speaks in such a quiet and intimate way that it feels like he is speaking to you directly, something which voice notes other listeners have left also attest to.

There is something comforting in these podcasts despite the Gothic excerpts, poems and short stories he reads. All the episodes feature this format, with some having a particular theme to them. Episode 2 for instance; 'Speak Of The Devil' explains itself, there an excerpt from Robert Louis Stevenson's 1884 story Markheim is read out, Episode 3, 'A Whole World Dying Tonight' is about sleep, specifically the sleep of death, while episode 4 titled 'Poe Boy Sandwich' features several works of Edgar Allan Poe, including my favourite story/essay of the whole podcast series so far, the amazing The Imp Of The Perverse, which was originally published in 1845 and which talks about something that is still relevant today in modern times. The choices for what are read out are perfect, at least to me who has never heard them before. To my shame I even own a huge compilation of Poe stories that I have yet to read. At the time I received it many decades back I had just started getting into the works of H.P Lovecraft, and that addiction had caused that other collection to fade from memory.

All this is to say that Bill Oberst Jr's Gothic Goodnight is my new favourite podcast, and the best thing about it is its free, available from a whole variety of places (I downloaded it from the iTunes podcast section). Check it out, and see for yourself, and check out the site for it also (here). I will sign off this review using the closing line to each of his episodes - It's always midnight somewhere...and in someone's soul...goodnight.

SCORE (based on the first five):

Monday, 20 April 2020

High Moon (2019) - Horror Film Review

High Moon (also known as Howlers) is an action horror that was directed and written by Josh Ridgway - The Sector). Werewolves are one of my least favourite movie monsters, I just find them so bland and unexciting and so the prospect of watching a film with them as the enemy wasn't one I found that appealing. However, while it is a small pool High Moon might just be the most entertaining werewolf film I have yet to see. High Moon is basically Demolition Man crossed with Near Dark.

In the 19th Century, gunslinger Colt (Chad Michael Collins - Creepshow TV series story 'Skincrawlers', Lake Placid 2) is a monster hunter. In a Wild West town he has a final showdown with a gang of werewolves, led by the notorious outlaw Willie Price (Tom Zembrod - Silhouette, Knucklebones) and he manages to kill them all with the aid of an ancient sceptre, before being killed himself. In modern day Colt awakens to find himself mysteriously resurrected, and soon learns the gang of werewolves have also somehow been brought back to life. Teaming up with the woman who discovers him, Lucy Andrews (Chelsea Edmundson - Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt), as well as the sheriff of the town he finds himself in, Ethan (Matthew Tompkins - The Harrowing, Sicario) he sets out to once again defeat his old foes.

I said in my introduction that this felt like a couple of different films combined, and that is one of the most compelling parts of High Moon. Demolition Man had two longtime foes transported from modern times to the future, and making the most of the future technology to continue their fight. Here you have the same but it is from the Wild West to modern times. For Colt this means he learns how to drive a car, and gets access to far better weaponry. For Willie and his gang they upgrade from riding horses to riding motorbikes, an early scene having them brutally taking out a local biker gang to steal their stuff in The Terminator fashion. Being a fish out of water there are many fun moments of Colt being confused and amazed by new technology. His character may be a warrior but he is friendly to all he meets, and so became a protagonist that I liked. Willie and his gang sadly take a little bit of a backseat to the story, they are the antagonists but mainly only appear in action sequences. There is only one moment of dialogue between the bad guys outside of fighting, it would have been nicer to see more of them as Zembrod made for an interesting bad guy. The rest of the cast were surprisingly pretty decent, and was nice to see Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints) in a bit part as a corrupt Mayor.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

She's Allergic to Cats (2016) - Horror Film Review

I figured the one good thing about this pandemic would be the amount of free time I would have to work on my blog. Instead it is the opposite, ended up not only still working full time, but the added bonus of all holiday being cancelled and so I'm not going to get a chance anytime soon to catch up on my outstanding posts. I'm currently fit to bursting with movies to watch for review and so I need to be a bit more picky. Director/writer Michael Reich's She's Allergic to Cats didn't sound like horror in the traditional sense, but it sure sounded unique and so I knew despite my new found pickiness I had to check it out.

Mike Pinkney stars as Mike, a dog groomer in Hollywood with aspirations to make films. As a hobby he makes video art, and his big dream is to re-make his favourite horror movie Carrie, but with cats playing all the parts. One day at his day job he meets the mysterious Cora (Sonja Kinski - Holidays segment "Mothers Day") and instantly they form a connection. They agree to a date, a date that will tragically change their lives forever...

She's Allergic to Cats is a really bizarre film, and that aspect is what drew me to it. It straddles several different genres, it is both horror, romance, and comedy wrapped up in an art house bow. Art house can be a tough style of filmmaking to love, I sometimes feel the abstract nature of it can hide deficiencies in the storytelling. Here it is pure art house at times, my unofficial criteria of this genre includes nightmare sequences, non sexulised nudity and a general unraveling of cohesiveness. This had the feel of a more indie Garden State, helped by the fact that Pinkney really reminded me in look of Zach Braff, and how the main characters of that film were also oddballs like Mike and Cora were.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Why Don't You Just Die! (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Why Don't You Just Die! (original title Papa, sdokhni) is a darkly comic Russian horror that was written and directed by Kirill Sokolov in his feature length directorial debut. It is also by far the bloodiest film I have seen in a long time, by the films conclusion the small apartment it is based in is drenched in blood on almost every surface, no bad thing! While it is in Russian the subtitles are perfectly fine.

Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) turns up at the door of detective Andrey Gennadievitch (Vitaliy Khaev) with the intention of murdering him on behalf of his daughter, Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde). However it is fair to say things don't exactly to plan and soon he finds himself chained up in the bathroom. This is just the first in a series of events that brings mayhem and bloodshed to all involved in an ever increasing chain of double crosses and insanity...

This gets into things straight away with the film opening with Matvey just about to knock on his girlfriend's Dad's door. Motivations and explanations for all that occurs takes place as a series of flashbacks. Eventually we get brought up to speed on the mostly silent protagonists reasons. It was like the unlocking of a big puzzle, with each flashback more context is given, which impacts on future scenes. Sometimes the story plays out in an unreliable way, an early example being Matvey managing to pick the lock on his handcuffs and fleeing the flat. Then more information is provided and we go back in time to show Matvey in fact unable to pick the lock. Each character in the film is there for a specific reason and acts as part of the overall puzzle. Each subsequent visitor to the apartment adds on to the very farcical nature of what is unfolding.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Island Zero (2018) - Horror Film Review

Sometimes a film just comes out of nowhere and smacks the hell out of you with how enjoyable it is. Such was the case with Island Zero which funnily enough I had zero expectations for. This was director Josh Gerritsen's directorial debut, and it was written by his mother, Tess Gerritsen. It starts off like a typical sea based creature feature, the underwhelming prologue brought to mind the dreadful Creatures of the Abyss, however this soon turned into something really quite special.

This takes place on a remote Maine island whose inhabitants one day find themselves cut off from the outside world. The electricity and phone lines have stopped working, and the weekly ferry fails to show. Days pass and eventually the generators run out of fuel, a few boats head out to make the 40 mile trek to the mainland but are never heard from again. The remaining survivors that include among them marine biologist Sam (Adam Wade McLaughlin) and his family, local doctor Maggie (Laila Robins - Homeland TV series), and visiting author Titus (Matthew Wilkas - The Mummy) soon find themselves being hunted by some sort of creature from the sea.

There is a gradual shifting in gears of the horror that is unfolding. Initially this plays out with the focus on the residents and their dwindling supplies, scenes such as one set out a general store in which the shelves are empty, and shoppers are fighting over supplies brought back memories of the stock piling mass panic that seemed to sweep the globe at the start of this damn epidemic we are facing. To bring up the urgency this first act plays out as a series of segmented days, each day bringing with it more and more hardships. The second act deals more with the unseen threat from the sea, and as the story progresses this threat becomes more and more prevalent. This condenses the scope of the danger, leading upto the third act in which characters literally have no option but to make a stand. The feeling of unknown danger is the backbone of Island Zero, characters spend most the film reacting to unfolding situations rather than the usual sort of ridiculous plans protagonists often dream up. I got the strangest sense of both The Mist, and The Thing while watching this, I think it was to do with a handful of characters being trapped in an isolated location, hunted by a mysterious entity. This feeling prevailed all the way up to the ambiguous ending that gave off a tiny sliver of hope even if a lot of awful events had occurred, and with the cast of characters dramatically dwindled down from the movies start.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Erl King (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

The Erl King is a twelve minute short that was directed and co-written by Callum Windsor. It had a strong folklore vibe to it and so I wasn't too surprised to discover it was inspired by an 18th Century poem Erlkönig by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, which was about a young boy haunted by a supernatural being known as the Elf King who eventually kills the child.

Lewis Hyman co-stars as Alfie, a young boy whose father recently died in a car accident that occurred when he was trying to steal the boy away from his mother, Julia (Louise Elliker). Alfie is nearly recovered from the physical injuries he suffered, but Julia is struggling to form a connection to him. The boy is convinced he can still see his father (Simon Victor), and his delusions comes to a head during a visit to a fair when he runs off and is found in some nearby woods clutching an old book that he swears the 'Erl King' gave him.

This film shows once again that short films doesn't need to equate to a low budget look. This looks good and has a fantastic score that both felt fairytale like, but was also mournful in its tone. At its heart this is an exploration into grief, mainly with the mother, Julia who despairs at the thought that Alfie seems even closer to his father than ever before. It is suggested the father was not a good man, which makes the child's distance from his mother all the more painful. The whole mythos of this elf like being (also played by Victor) made for the most compelling parts of the movie. There is a scene involving a haunted nutcracker in the shorts middle that was the most horror based segment. It was well put together and vaguely creepy but it felt a bit seperate to everything else that was going on. There is a section of the poem narrated by Hyman at the films conclusion which was atmospheric, but I did have to rewatch it with the subtitles on to make out what was being said.

What I enjoyed most about The Erl King were the scenes involving the two characters, and I thought the idea of the titular being was handled well. The music is what brought this all together for me, and while I am not entirely sure what the plot was all about this was an atmospheric and haunting enough. Check it out for yourself below.


Friday, 10 April 2020

The Shadow Walkers (2006) - Horror Film Review

The Shadow Walkers is a very B movie feeling horror that is exactly what it at first appears to be. Directed by Mark Steven Grove (The Black Hole) this tells a tale that is traditional in every sense of the word. It is a film of no thrills and no surprises, bad acting and basic storytelling, yet it is because of these that it became something hard to be too down on. It knows it is a shoddily made genre film and never tries to pretend it's not.

A group of scientists and soldiers awaken in an underground research facility with little memory of how they got there. They soon discover the place is full of genetically altered mutants and so seek a way to escape. Unknown to them, they are being watched and studied by an ominous military force who seem to want to use their struggle as combat data to perfect the mutants.

The general outline of the story made brought up similarities between this and Resident Evil, but the low budget of this one means a more fitting comparison is to the sci-fi horror Xtro 2. Locations are dimly lit, effects are minimal and characters seem to delight in dramatic over the top reactions to everything. Right from the start you can tell this isn't going to be anything cerebral with a bunch of shocked scientists getting butchered by a unit of soldiers. There is nothing wrong with brain dead movies, they can be decent escapism, but The Shadow Walkers falls into the trap of also managing to be quite dull at times. The mutant creatures reminded me a lot of zombies, they even have the ability to infect people they bite. Much of the films subplot revolves around one of the survivors who has been bitten and is slowly transforming. This aspect I quite liked, there are a bunch of flashbacks to show the jobs and roles the various characters had before their amnesia, with the insight that the characters were not the most noble of people.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Resident Evil 3 (2020) - Zombie Horror Video Game Review (PS4)

It is a good time to be a Resident Evil fan, last year saw the remake of Resident Evil 2, and now hot on its heels is the Resident Evil 3: Nemesis remake. The second game in the series is one of my all time favourite horror games and its remake could not live up to the legacy, so I looked at this latest remake with a critical eye. Last years game was undoubtedly fantastic, yet the reduction in changes between the A and B playthroughs, and key enemies and locations missing irked me. Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was the weakest of the original three games, and so I was more inclined to enjoy the way things have been changed up, and boy have they been changed up! Something that can be seen immediately. I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum but some things happen so early on that it would be impossible not to mention them. Also, as this is a remake I think it is fair game to mention enemies and locations that feature in both this and the original, after all it is over twenty years old.

Former S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine tried to expose the Umbrella Company after her and her team found a secret bioweapons lab of theirs hidden in the Arklay mountains (the events of the very first game). However, Umbrella's hold over Raccoon City was so strong that her report was suppressed, and she was kicked out of the Police. A few months after this happens there is an outbreak, the same virus that transformed the staff at the secret lab into flesh eating zombies has now spread across the city. Jill's plans to escape Raccoon are brought forward with the arrival of a hulking great bioweapon codenamed Nemesis that is on a mission to kill her and all remaining S.T.A.R.S members. With the creature forever in hot pursuit, Jill teams up with an Umbrella mercenary named Carlos in order to both try and rescue the surviving civilians, as well as find a way to escape the doomed city...

I had heard from early reviews that Resident Evil 3 was a heck of a short game, and then someone on Facebook gave the news that his initial playthrough only took him four and a half hours. For a full priced game that is in no way value for money. Thankfully, my initial playthrough took me nearly seven hours, that includes roughly fifty minutes of retries (I died nine times over the course of the game). My second playthrough did actually take me just four and a half hours and I reckon I could shave at least an hour off that time. I had a hell of a blast playing this, it is not all perfect but the first two thirds of the game in particular were some of the most fun video game times I have had in recent memory. It isn't a lie to say on many occasions I was grinning ear to ear. With the original game so fresh in my mind it was an absolute joy to see how they have changed up locations, objectives, motivations and characters. After a fantastic live action intro (that I was not expecting!) you get thrown right into the thick of it, the Nemesis monster appears much earlier than I had expected. My final problem with the game is the boss battles, there are only four in the game, two of which play out almost identically to each other.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Savage Island (2004) - Horror Film Review

Savage Island is a nostalgic time capsule from when all indie films seemed to suffer technology limits and so had a certain 'look' to them. It was the first film from writer/director Jeffery Scott Lando, and going by the vibe of this one I'm not surprised to see his future film credits include Alien Incursion and Roboshark. This is low budget, and at the nasty side of horror, yet the script is so bad, and the performances often so off that this became something that was hilarious at times. Seeing as how the director went on to make actual comedy horrors I can only think this was done purposely.

Julia (Kristina Copeland - Alien Incursion) and her husband Steven (Steven Man - Alien Babes) have travelled to the remote Savage Island along with their baby, in order to spend some time with Julia's family who live there, which includes Don S. Davis (Twin PeaksStargate SG-1) as Keith, her father. Also living on the island are the Savages; a family of rednecks who are squatting on the land. During a drive from the shore to the family home, Julia's brother, Peter (Brendan Beiser - The Boys, The X Files) accidentally hits and kills the squatters youngest son. The Ma and Pa of the group demand the visiting couples baby as payment for the death. Obviously this offer is refused and so begins a night of bloodshed and mayhem as the rednecks do all they can to claim what they see as rightfully theirs...

I don't know if it was the particular screener I received for review but the picture quality in this film was terrible, it was grainy and murky often with colours appearing desaturated. The night scenes in particular took a hit on quality, and as far as I can tell, all outdoor night scenes were filmed in black and white for some reason. This poor quality actually improved the picture I think, there was a strange dream like feel, not like a calm collected dream, but more like an off kilter nightmare in which anything can happen. The horror here is nasty, the family reminded me a bit of the one from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and they are certainly a sadistic bunch. There is a fair bit of violence dished out, highlights include a character getting their tongue cut out, a wooden stake thrown like a javelin into the belly of a character, and someone else at one point getting an axe embedded in their back. Due to the low quality footage this all looked pretty good. Not as much blood as you would expect but it all looked dirty and raw.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999) - Zombie Horror Video Game Review (Playstation)

Last year when the remake of Resident Evil 2 was released I decided to replay the original one to see what the difference was. This year it is the turn of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis to be remade, and so again I found myself travelling back in time to play the original, which was released way back in 1999. Of the original trilogy the third game was the one that I enjoyed the least, despite that it was the one that actually had the most replay value. Each time you completed the game there was an additional epilogue unlocked, I think there was around ten of these in total, due to this it meant I played this one repeatedly until all were unlocked. I hadn't played the game since getting that final epilogue, and so was interested to see how it holds up nowadays. Due to this being kinda old I'm not going to hold back from spoilers for the purpose of this review.

The game takes place in Raccoon City and its first half takes place 24 hours before the events of Resident Evil 2. The city is in chaos, with the undead absolutely everywhere. Unable to delay it any longer, former S.T.A.R.S member Jill Valentine decides it is time she must escape the doomed city. During her escape attempt she discovers that the evil Umbrella company have sent in the Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service (U.B.C.S) on the pretence of rescuing civilians from the unfolding disaster. This group were made up of mercenaries and were totally unprepared for what was happening, as such nearly all of them have been wiped out. Jill stumbles across the survivors of this group; Carlos Oliveira, Mikhail Victor, and Nikolai Zinoviev and decides to team up with them in order to make it to their designated evacuation spot. However, there is a nightmare hunting down Jill, a hulking, seemingly indestructible monstrous creation of Umbrella codenamed Nemesis who will stop at nothing to wipe out her, and the other remaining S.T.A.R.S members...

Initially this game was supposed to be a spin-off of the main series and it does show in its design. Where before you had tightly designed singular locations (such as the mansion in Resident Evil, and the Police station and secret lab of Resident Evil 2) here you have a variety of much smaller locations which never come close to matching the complexity of previous ones. On paper the idea of exploring a huge city instead of a single location does sound fantastic. In actuality you get to explore a series of claustrophobic alleyways, and smaller underwhelming buildings. These new locations are all fun to play through, don't get me wrong, it is just that I wish they had all been bigger than they were. The clock tower, the hospital, and the dead factory were all wonderful locations, it is just the reduction in size means there isn't so much in the way of puzzles and secrets to be found.

Monday, 6 April 2020

The Bone Box (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Bone Box is a dramatic horror that was written and directed by Luke Genton in his directorial debut. Outside of the intro the entire film takes place in a small house, and due to the way it plays out it felt very much like a stage play. Because of this it is a very talky film, a lot of the hour and a half run time events proceed at a sedate pace, though technically a lot is happening.

Gambling addict Tom (Gareth Koorzen) owes a lot of money to local thug Benji (Aaron Schwartz - Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2) and in his desperation he has gone grave robbing in the cemetery that is next to his recently widowed Aunt Florence's (Maria Olsen - By Day's EndThe Daughters of Virtue) house he is staying in. Tom begins to start seeing things around the house, things that seem to relate to the people whose graves he robbed. Has his guilt over his crime gotten to him, or is there something far more supernatural going on?

I wasn't prepared for how slow The Bone Box was going to be, but once I realised the type of horror this was I got more on board. The general plot reminded me quite a lot of Edgar Allan Poe's short story The Tell-Tale Heart. By all accounts Tom has gotten away with his crimes, yet his insistence that he is being haunted by the spirits of those he has wronged is what propels the story to its tragic conclusion. This is all subtle, and much of what he is hearing and seeing takes place around other characters who are not experiencing the same things. One of his victims was a young boy who got killed in a hit and run while on his tricycle, and with this one for example Tom keeps hearing the ringing of a bicycle bell. The horror is constant but it is never over the top. It slowly bubbles, and shows itself in moment to moment glimpses of shadowy figures that are there one moment, gone the next. The Poe feeling comes mainly from the box in which Tom keeps his stolen trinkets, he keeps finding himself drawn back to it, to check the contents are safe, and to look for new places to hide it.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Tales from Six Feet Under (2020) - Horror Anthology Film Review

Tales from Six Feet Under is the latest horror film from Nicholas Michael Jacobs (Night), and like his previous movie; Urban Fearsit is also an anthology. At forty five minutes this one is shorter than his previous films, but it also is the most well made one. Again, like with Urban Fears, the short films included here all take place in an urban setting, but here it is all shot in black and white. This also coincidentally is the second anthology I've seen in the past month that features a graveyard as the jumping off point for the various shorts, the other one being the great Nécrologies.

Tales from Six Feet Under is made up of three different short films, and a very brief wraparound segment. A ghoulish figure named The Visitor (Jacobs) visits the graves of three different people who died in horrific circumstances. The first short is Joe Roth (2000-2017). In this one the titular Joe (Brian Jacobs - Urban Fears) is asked by his dad to clean the basement. While tidying it up he comes across a Ouija board and despite his father's warning text to leave it alone he decides to give it a go. Out of the three shorts this was the least interesting one, purely because it felt like the least original, and I didn't feel the monster design looked that good (the monster played by Gianna Jacobs from Night). This started the trend of referencing past films, something Jacobs always does well. Showing a box set of Tales from the Crypt at one point is a clear reference point to Jacobs inspirations for this anthology (along with Creepshow), and seeing a poster from the Ash vs Evil Dead series was another cool moment. Later shorts in this anthology feature references to both Night and Urban Fears, while there is even a comic titled 'Tales from Six Feet Under' a character is seen reading. While Joe Roth was the weakest it is also the shortest so it was quickly time to move onto the second short.

Sam Hooper (1998-2018) was a clever short that was also quite meta. In this one Jacobs plays a fictionalized version of himself who is sat a home trying to think of what his latest horror film should be. There are a series of false starts with different genres of horror being shown up to a certain point until the footage pauses and you are brought back to the filmmaker character sitting in his kitchen. Genres covered include disaster, slasher, and found footage, with that last genre in particular it seemed maybe Jacobs was making fun of his previous work when he comments something along the lines of it seeming a bit dull (the found footage segment in Urban Fears didn't get off to the most exciting start). This short got more ridiculous as it went along, but in a good way. Set to the background plot of a killer on the loose in the area the two stories eventually meet up to give a fun and stupid conclusion.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Rutabaga (2018) - Horror Film Review

Rutabaga is a French horror that was written and directed by Julien Botzanowski, who also stars as the main character. I at first assumed 'rutabaga' was a French word, but as it is revealed in the movie it is actually the name of some sort of turnip hybrid. This was an odd one to watch, not much at all happens, yet this wasn't a slow film, there is always things going on. The story is purposely vague, open to interpretation and often to a fault.

After an argument with his girlfriend, journalist Adrien (Botzanowski) is given an assignment deep in rural France. He has been asked to go to a newly opened remote guest house in order to write a promotional article. He is greeted by one of the owners, Mademoiselle Agathe (Anouchka Csernakova), and spends the next few days there, his article facing some difficulties due to no electronics seeming to work in the area. When he is due to leave the owners insist he stay a little while longer, but the more time Adrien stays at the guest house the more he begins to suspect that something really is not right with the place.

At seventy minutes in length it is no small wonder that this felt like it raced along at breakneck speed. Usually if not much happens in a film you would feel like it is a slow burn, here there is a whole lot of nothing, but this nothing maintains some solid atmosphere. This could be accused of being a bit tame in terms of what is shown, but for me the mystery was just about worth it. There are times where characters see things off screen and react to them, but the viewer never does get to see what they have seen. There is a bunch of exposition thrown in towards the finale, but it is said in such a way that the character speaking assumes prior knowledge and so it was never clear exactly what was going on.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Beetlejuice (1988) - Comedy Horror Film Review

I was never taken with Beetlejuice when I saw it as a teen. At the time Tim Burton was my favourite director, Batman Returns remains one of my favourite films of all time, but for me there was something a little off about Beetlejuice. It shares plenty of elements with the horror genre but I never felt it went far enough. With its recent appearance on Netflix I decided to give it another chance, but it turns out this is one of the few times where my adult self and my childhood self have pretty much the exact same thoughts.

Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara (Geena Davis - The Exorcist TV series) are happily married, and live an idyllic life in their sprawling house by a sleepy village. One day they get in a car accident which results in their deaths, a fact which they soon become aware of when they return home to discover quite some time has passed, with their house sold and a strange new family moving in. The family is made up of tasteless designer Delia (Catherine O'Hara - Home Alone, Frankenweenie), her long suffering husband Charles (Jeffrey Jones - Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), and their goth daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder - Edward Scissorhands, Stranger Things). Adam and Barbara are distraught at all the changes the family are making so come up with a plan to scare them away, but in the process unwisely call on the services of a ghoul named Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton - Spider-Man: Homecoming, Batman) who specialises in getting rid of unwanted pests.

While it is not one of my favourites it doesn't take more than a few moments before it is clear this is traditional Burton in every sense of the word, usually a good thing. There is the typical Danny Elfman theme tune, while the monster designs are very familiar, I wouldn't be surprised if some of this design served as inspiration for the look of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Things such as the black and white pattern that appears throughout, and the gothic looking architecture. I can't recall what I thought of the effects at the time, but now they have dated a bit. That is not me saying it looks bad, practical special effects stand up a whole lot better than the truly atrocious CG of the early 2000s, but the stop animation worm for example do not look the best, nor does the super imposing of characters onto the desert hellscape that occasionally pops up. This is inventive though, parts like the couple visiting the afterlife waiting room are real highlights, including sights like a delivery man who is being moved around via a noose around his neck attached to a metal frame, and the explorer with the shrunken head. The moments where Adam and Barbara change their faces into monstrous visages also look fantastic still.