Sunday, 31 May 2020

Shadow (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

Shadow is a short horror film that was designed as a proof of concept. It was directed/produced by Benjamin Howdeshell and premiered on Crypt TV's YouTube channel on 15th May. I did like the look of the film, but it falls into the very familiar pitfall of short horrors with a predictable jump scare ending.

The synopsis of the film gives far more detail than the actual film itself provides, so I will ignore the synopsis and just go by what I could tell. Late at night a mother (Valeska Miller) hears strange noises in her house. Assuming it is her child (Nathaniel Howdeshell) she goes to investigate. Her journey leads her into the basement where things really start to go wrong...

There was good use of light and shadow here, though it was questionable why the mother would use a torch to explore her house. Maybe it would have benefited by a brief shot of her finding out the house had had a power cut. The video alleges to be based on true events, but no idea what aspect of this was meant to have happened. This felt like the proof of concept it set out to be, rather than feel like a self contained film. Still, as a whole it really wasn't that bad, I would be interested to see how this would be handled in a longer medium. My only proper complaint here is the tired jump scare ending, by now it is more of a shock if short horrors don't end on that tired trope.

While Shadow didn't have much in the way of fear I did like how it was all put together, some decent directing here. It also introduced me to the Crypt TV YouTube channel, so I have subscribed to that now. The film is free to watch there, and at under 4 minutes long it is something everyone should spare some time for.


Saturday, 30 May 2020

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

For a few months now I have been trying to get to a stage where I can get rid of my monthly news posts, instead releasing the news in a timely fashion on my Twitter and Facebook pages. This turned out not to be the best month to implement that, my mother sadly passed away last Wednesday after a year long battle with cancer. It really sucks, but she wont be forgotten, after all, to quote Norman Bates; "a boy's best friend is his mother". It was her who predicted my future passion for all things horror. I was kind of a cowardly kid, but I always remember her telling me she thought I would love horror films when I got older, and it turns out she was very right about that!
In happier news a couple of weeks back saw my blog get to its 12 year anniversary, it both doesn't seem that long since I started this up, but at the same time it is hard to remember a time when I wasn't blogging here.

Until this year I had never heard of BayView Entertainment, but this past half year I have been sent plenty of screeners from that company, many of which are pretty darn good. Well, its Widowmaker Films division have teamed up with to create a new horror video distribution label named 'HNN Presents'. This label promises to utilise 'the insider knowledge of the horror field from with the distribution experience of BayView Entertainment'. Titles will be available to streaming and physical media platforms, and is due to start Summer 2020.
BayView have also teamed up with Mongol Films to release a lot of their catalog in U.S markets.
Now available on DVD from BayView Entertainment are Odd Perspective and Resort Parasio. The former is about a synergist with the ability to see patterns in reality. He returns to his home town to find out the cause of his father's death. That one I have a screener of, with a review due in the first week of June. Resort Parasio is about two squaters at an isolated resort who find themselves pursued by a security guard, I assume he doesn't take kindly to intruders.

The official trailer for drug fueled horror Habitual has been released. This film stars Chris 'CT' Tamburello (MTV's The Challenge) and is directed and written by Johnny Hickey (Oxy Morons). In this, a group of drug taking friends find themselves stalked by a relentless evil at a rave held at an abandoned asylum, and their grasp of reality begins to unravel.

An Indiegogo campaign is currently running for horror comedy The True Tale of Ole Spitfoot VS. The Lesbian Warrior Nuns of the Great White North. An announcement video labelled NSFW has been released, this video features producers Ash Hamilton and Ben Harl. For more details about the campaign head on over to the Indiegogo page here.

May's Double Feature DVD's from Frolic Pictures have been announced, with a theme of the Post-Apocalypse. As always there are far too many to list, but I will include the titles of some of them at random. Having experienced one of these double features in the past I will add I was impressed with what I saw. Titles released this month include, Search and Destroy/The Final Comedown, Carnage/Funeral Home, Madhouse/Touch of Death, and Graveyard Disturbance/Blood Tide. As always these can be purchased from the Frolic Pictures website.

I have mentioned the upcoming horror anthology Realm of Shadows in previous news posts, and now it has been confirmed that horror legend Michael Berryman (Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes, Rob Zombie's The Devils Rejects) has joined the cast, that already includes Tony Todd (the Candyman franchise), Jimmy Drain (The Initiation) and Vida Ghaffari (The Mindy Project). This anthology was due to go into production before the pandemic, but is now waiting to resume once the US lockdown ends.

Social thriller anthology Tales from Da Ville is now available to watch for free on YouTube. This anthology has a count tell three stories that deal with 'horrific social issues'. The idea behind this was gained after watching Jordan Peele's Get Out and realising horror could be used to reflect real world racism. The anthology is in three parts, part one can be found here. I shall be putting a review up of this at some point in June.

Final film news this month is that The Evil Rises worldwide digital distribution rights have been acquired by Terror Films. This horror stars Bailey La Flam (ANiMUS), Joe Paulson (Pieces and Parts), as well as Michael Glauser, Julian De La Mora, Alec Lobato and Edward Hollingsworth. A group of friends discover an ancient statue that unleashes an evil spirit, they become enslaved by the spirit and forced to collect human blood for it. Currently available exclusively on TUBI TV, this film is due to be released across multiple digital platforms later this year.


Music news now, first up gothic metal/theatrical post-hardcore female fronted band Once Upon A Flatline have released a lyric video for their third single 'Hang Hymn High' from their EP The Theatre Lucy. The song is said to be 'the story of murder, right and wrong'.


Swedish melodic death metal band Curse of Eibon have released the lyric video to their single Seek To Destroy. Their songs are said to be 'very' inspired by H.P Lovecraft and the occult.


Russian metal band Tardigrade Inferno have premiered a new NSFW music video for their single Execution is Fun! This song is a gloomy story about a fictional advertisement of executions. It is out now on Spotify.

I will end this months news round-up with a trailer for upcoming turn based strategy game 1971 Project Helios. The game is due for release on all current platforms on June 9th.


This year hasn't been a good one for most involved, let's hope that as we get nearer to the second half that things begin to improve, and this downward spiral starts heading up.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Bill (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

One of the very few good things about a close family member passing away recently is that I was finally able to get some time off my day job, and so I have a few days in which I plan to go some way towards getting my blog not so backlogged. Bill is a three minute long horror, and is a reminder to me not to head towards the dark arts to help deal with my loss (not that I actually intended to do that!).

A grieving widow (Roxana Vilk) has turned towards the occult in order to see her deceased husband, Bill (Hugo Stanbury) one last time. However the potion she has concocted doesn't work quite as intended...

Bill was a DIY self funded short that was co-written and directed by Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair. The background to this horror is perhaps more chilling than the short itself, as the idea for this was inspired by their two young sons who in real life would talk to a ghost they said they could see in the ceiling, a ghost they named Bill. This horror was partially created as part of a challenge to film a short film in their own home, using their own props, and filmed in just 1 day. I shouldn't generalise, but typically short horror films always end the same way, a sudden jump scare and cut to credits. Bill finishes on a note that is a little different, no jump scares to be found here thankfully.

The build-up for this had some great suspense, and I really loved what they did with the photo in the photo frame, it really was quite creepy, as well as a neat idea. Make-up effects for the final part of this were also good, but it was the photo frame part I enjoyed the most. The editing, directing and acting were all good for the story being told. I guess if I had any complaints it would be the ending, what happens felt a little bit removed from everything else that occured.

Bill is a competently made and atmospheric short that is a good indicator of the skills of these directors. Best of all, the short is available to watch for free online via Film Shortage.


Thursday, 28 May 2020

The Forsaken (2015) - Horror Film Review

There are few things better than when a film you have zero expectations for blows you away with its quality. Such was the case with Yolanda Torres's The Forsaken (the director of The Odd Perspective, and co-director of The Afterglow). I was hooked from the very first shot of the movie, all the way to the end credits, I just could not look away.

A band of criminals that include among them, Mr. Bodie (Ian Breed - The Afterglow), Mr. Quartermass (Paco Perez), Mr. Blake (Pol Ferraris), Mrs. Peel (Sarah Tyler Shaw - The Afterglow), and Number Two (Alberto Esparza - Anunnaki The Fallen of the Sky) arrive at an abandoned house deep in the the Spanish countryside. They have very recently kidnapped the daughter of a wealthy businessman (Sara, played by Claudio Trujillo) and the house has been chosen by their boss as a place to lay low until the ransom is paid. It is not too long into their stay when they begin to notice strange things occurring, names written in blood mysteriously appear, strange noises can be heard coming from the locked basement, and not one of them is able to make a conscious effort to exit the house. The door to the property is unlocked, but each person is strangely unwilling to leave. It soon becomes apparent there is something evil lurking in the house, something that can see into the soul of a person and see the true ugliness lurking there.

I loved this movie, I'm so glad it remained consistently atmospheric and thrilling throughout. As it got towards the end I was praying that it wouldn't drop the ball, and indeed it doesn't. The singular location, along with the survivors of a botched crime, and their hostage of course, was a similar concept to that used in Reservoir Dogs. Add in a stunning soundtrack that felt like a lost John Carpenter classic (most resembling the theme tune to The Thing with added sinister whistling) and a cast of characters who just about managed to stay the right side of cliche and you have a slow boiling horror show that constantly had me wondering what was going to happen next. The opening of a camera zooming in on the house, and then slowly sweeping around the rooms added atmosphere before things even started, this brought to mind the beginning of The Evil Dead. Then for the films finale there is a sequence that reminded me a lot of the ending of Return of the Blind Dead, no bad thing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Beyond the Shadows (2020) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Beyond the Shadows is a found footage style faux documentary that follows a bunch of ghost hunters filming a live show. It was written and directed by David James Gustafson (High Note). The coolest thing about it is that it is free to watch on YouTube. There are moments of greatness to be found here, and some fantastic casting choices, but the slow pace of this meant I was ready for the credits long before they rolled around.

Drexler Faust (Tyler Roy Roberts - Z Nation) and his friends, that include among them Sam Olive (High Note) as Jonathon Coxman, are the stars of a hit online ghost hunting show. A lot of their popularity is down to their slickly produced and edited videos, and they are not without their detractors, their main one being Dr. Calvin Harding (Cameron Lee Price - Vengeance), who sees them as fraudsters. It is soon established the team do indeed fake their videos, but they jump at the chance to do a live video of their latest haunt, in which Calvin and his team, as well as some super fans are going to be in attendance. Drexler feels that it will be great publicity for them if they can manage to convince the Dr. that what they do is legitimate, while also relishing the challenge of faking things live, rather than by editing afterwards. The location chosen is an old lodge, said to contain the spirits of Native Americans slaughtered in the area in the 1800's. Unluckily for all involved though it turns out there may be no need to fake the footage, as the place seems to be actually haunted...

I felt like I was waiting the majority of Beyond the Shadows for things to get moving. The horror part of this horror comedy began around fifty minutes into the hour and a half run time, but even from this point events are slow to occur. Finally, with ten minutes left the film finally got to a point where I was really enjoying it. There was a fantastically edited sequence of events that was set to this great and haunting piano music. Everything about that segment was wonderful. Prior to this a lot of set up. Initially we follow Drexler and his friends at a previous ghost haunt. This part was good at establishing the characters, I found both Roberts and Olive to be strong and easy on the eye protagonists. After this we are slowly introduced to the rest of the cast that featured some real gems among them.

Ty Boice (High Note) plays Monty, the manager of the lodge the characters are staying at. He had a real screen presence to him, and at certain times was the best character. However many of the comedic moments feature him in bizarre compromising situations, such as him dry humping a mattress, or shaving his privates, these scenes really added nothing at all to the film as well as not being funny. It is the more serious moments in which this obviously good actor got to shine, sometimes the weird persona he brought to the camera really did work in an involving way. Another highlight in terms of the actors was Gabrielle Malate as the spirit medium Phantasma. Her character worked as she wasn't given anything silly to do, and she carried an air of mystery about her. Sadly she was sparsely used, but the couple of scenes she appeared in were some of the most captivating ones to be found here. There is a late scene in which her and Monty have a conversation by a bathtub that I found so special that I had to skip back to watch it again immediately afterwards.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Blood Quantum (2019) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I was shocked to discover the other day that the horror streaming app Shudder was charging me £50 annually to renew my membership. I say shocked because I came to the realisation that over the past two years I had only seen two films on that, so each film was £50 a pop! I love Shudder despite never using it, and so decided that as I had cancelled my Cineworld card (who knows when cinemas are going to return in a form that I am comfortable with!) I would instead watch a Shudder film each Sunday evening, using a term I called 'Shudder Sunday'. It recently came to my attention that phrase was already one in general use! Anyway, I started off with Blood Quantum, a newly released zombie film, written and directed by Jeff Barnaby, which was a no brainer due to zombies being my favourite genre of horror. The idea behind this one sounded like it was going to do something a little bit different, sadly though it was just a little bit different, and was a lot that was very similar.

It is 1981 and a fisherman (Stonehorse Lone Goeman) from the Mi'gmaq community in Canada is shocked to discover the fish he has just gutted are still seemingly alive and kicking. It soon becomes clear something apocalyptic is happening, with infected animals and people turning up everywhere. These zombies (for that is what they are) exist to feast on human flesh. In a twist it is discovered this plague only affects white humans, the native people are somehow immune to the virus. Fast forward six months and a group of survivors live in a fortified compound on Mi'gmaq land. The place is run by former sheriff, Traylor (Michael Greyeyes) and contains within its cargo container walls a mix of native people and white skinned people. Taylor's two sons have very different views on how the world should be run now. Joseph (Forrest Goodluck) spends his days outside the walls searching for survivors to bring back into the camp, his brother, Lysol (Kiowa Gordon) however, harbours an intense hatred for the white folk and sees them as nothing but a potentially dangerous drain on resources.

What drew me to this film was the notion of only white people being able to be changed into zombies from a bite. In a way this stands as a contrast to the bloody origins of the country as it is now, the native people trying to do their best to survive, but being under assault from the overwhelming invaders. Where this began to fall down for me was with the character of Lysol, I just did not understand this character at all. He is so full of hatred that he would rather everyone dies than co-exist with other people. He was the driving force in the films story unfolding but I never once could see things from his point of view. I get that he mistrusted white people due to them being able to become the undead, but I never got his desire to try and kill everyone, as if to make some kind of point. Everything around the native people and their history and customs was interesting, but Blood Quantum devolved into a typical zombie film that did not have many surprises.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Doggo and the Shotguns Choir (2018) - Film Review

Doggo and the Shotguns Choir is a surreal Italian film that was an abrasive mix-up between two different styles of film. Directed and co-written by Paolo Treviso (Crappy Toilet) this was a hard film to follow, though admittedly mainly due to the fact the screener I watched for review featured no English subtitles. I had to try and piece together the intent from the acting, and what was shown on screen. I have seen non subtitled Turkish horrors before (Baskin), and non subtitled Spanish horrors before (Omnivores), but this was my first Italian one. The plot summary is pieced together from what I gathered was going on.

There are two different stories playing out over Doggo and the Shotguns Choir, initially these seem very unrelated but as both the plots play out they begin to show certain similarities in the themes present. In modern day, and shot in black and white, a freak show attraction known as 'Doggo' escapes his cruel captors and heads to the nearby city where he becomes befriended by a blind woman seeking companionship. Elsewhere, and in colour, seemingly in Wild West times, a lone cowboy goes on a bloody path of vengeance to get revenge for the woman he loved.

This was a movie of two halves, with the two very distinct stories playing out over the top of each other. If this had purely been the Western story I would have loved this I feel. This part of the movie gave me real nostalgia for the classics, and most keenly a yearning to go back and watch El Mariachi. That may not be set in olden times like this part of the film seemed to be, yet both shared a similar feel in how the story basically plays out. Much of this story features the lone gunman walking through a gully, encountering various people who I imagine were hallucinations. There was a light art house feel that could be seen through characters whose clothing changes between shots. My favourite parts of this were the gun duels, all the classic Western tropes like close ups of characters eyes, and their twitching hands as they go for their guns. In particular the finale here was excellent, taking place by a sunflower field, and featuring an element that was very unexpected (and which I loved). The camera work here was lovely to see.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore (2014) - Horror Anthology Film Review

Creepy Tales of Pizza and Gore is an Italian horror anthology from director Lorenzo Fassina. All good anthologies, whether they be written or on film, require a decent concept to tie the stories together, and with this one you have a couple. The biggest one is that there is not a single line of dialogue to be found here. Each of the five short films play out with no speech, the only noises characters make being screams, groans or growls. Due to this it can be enjoyed universally as the shorts are shown in a way that are very easy to understand. Also joining these together is the punk like attitude, the shorts all share a visual style and sound that brought that whole ethic to life.

There is vaguely a wraparound story for these five films, before each one starts a demonic creature growls a couple of lines of dialogue. I'm assuming what it is saying was a made up language, I guess it could have been Italian, but the screener didn't have the option of subtitles, and going by the fact none of the shorts have any speaking I'm assuming it wasn't saying anything intelligible. 

The first proper short is Screaming Ghost. In this one a man browsing his laptop receives a message telling him to listen to an audio file. He does so and hears just screaming, but alarmed by the static image for the file seeming to move he quickly turns it off. Later that night a ghostly figure leaves the file and starts to haunt the man. I liked the effects used for the ghost in this one, it looked effective and cool. I also liked the facial expressions of the ghost, he really seemed to be in to his performance. With the cartoon like text titling this, and the over the top gore effects used this set a precedent for what to was to come.

Devil of the Night was the second film, and this one was my least favourite. Here a skateboarder finds himself kidnapped by a serial killer, the killer appears to want to sacrifice the man as part of some sort of Satanic ritual. The gore was in full effect again here, and were some nice moments. My problem with this one is that there wasn't much of a story at all, so it felt a bit aimless, fizzling out rather than doing much else.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Cry Havoc (2020) - Horror Film Review


Cry Havoc is the latest horror from writer/director Rene Perez and appears to be a follow up from his Playing with Dolls slasher trilogy, which included, Playing with Dolls, Playing with Dolls: Bloodlust, and Playing with Dolls: Havoc. I'm not sure if it is a continuation of the story told there, or if it is a quasi-sequel, but at the very least it follows the continuing escapades of the hulking brute known as Havoc.

Emily Sweet (The Final Level: Escaping Rancala) stars as a reporter who has managed to secure an exclusive interview with a wanted fugitive. The man, known only by his moniker 'The Voyeur' (Richard Tyson - Black Hawk Down), is on the F.B.I's most wanted list. This is due to his passion being to make snuff films, films that star a cold blooded killer he has dubbed 'Havoc'. In order to conduct the interview the reporter is taken to a secure location, her thirst for the fame her story will bring dulls her to the danger she may be in. Meanwhile, a mysterious man (Robert Bronzi - Once Upon a Time in Deadwood) has followed the woman to the compound, and soon he opens an all out assault on the place...

I get the strongest impression watching this that it was part of a much larger collection of films, didn't exactly take a lot to realise this. This felt very much like the middle part of a much larger story. There are plenty of deaths here, but a lot of them are shown in such a way as to suggest they have taken place in the past, I'm not sure for certain but I assume a lot of these death scenes used footage from previous films. Cry Havoc also ends abruptly, there is no conclusion, instead the credits roll when key characters are still in motion. Sure this worked in making me want to find out what happens next, but there isn't really much of an ending. There is a suitably dramatic 'end of movie' fight sequence but it doesn't involve much to it. The story, as it was I did enjoy. I liked how this felt like a cross between Saw and Friday the 13th. It was interesting to have characters trapped in a hellish sort of game, but at the same time being hunted by an eighties style silent slayer.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Tooth Fairy 2 (2020) - Horror Film Review

Tooth Fairy was one of the worst horror films I have seen this year. I never imagined at the time I saw it a few weeks back that I would not only be sat here writing a review for its sequel, Tooth Fairy 2, but that I would be saying it was actually quite darn enjoyable. Take a look at all the classic horror film franchises, Saw, Hellraiser, The Evil Dead, Friday the 13th, Halloween etc. What do they all have in common? For me personally I see the first entry in each of these series as the very best, after that it is a slowly declining drop in quality with each new installment. Tooth Fairy was not a good film, yet its sequel breaks the mould by being at worst twice as good as the first movie. There will be unavoidable spoilers for the first film as a warning.

Corey (Jake Watkins) was one of the only survivors of a night of terror fifteen years back, in which him and his family were terrorised by a demon with an obsession for teeth. Due to his traumatic experience he has suffered severe PTSD his entire life, and still experiences vivid hallucinations. Some years after leaving college, Corey gets an invite to a reunion for him and his ex dorm mates that is to take place at a farmland property. One of his ex dorm mates, Paul (A J Blackwell) has an ulterior motive for the meet-up. As a child, his cousin was murdered by the tooth fairy (who was explained in the media as being a serial killer), Paul has ever since been suspicious of Corey being one of the only survivors of the attacks, and intends to pull a cruel prank on him, in order to finally pull out the tooth (sorry, I mean pull out the truth) of what happened all those years ago.

Tooth Fairy 2 really feels like it is far more comfortable in what it wants to be. The first film got so bogged down in mediocre drama that at times it seemed it had forgotten it was supposed to be a horror. The scenes of horror in that first film had a comedic edge to them, something that jarred violently against the rest of the films serious tone. I expected a sequel would double down on this silliness, but I was surprised that this entry removes the comedic aspect and plays everything super seriously. I mentioned in my earlier review that the tooth fairy didn't look very good as a movie monster, it was obviously someone wearing a unrealistic mask. This has not changed for the sequel, one shot in particular was a close up of the monster, in which you could clearly see the wire gauze that makes up the black eye sockets of the monsters face. Just what or who the antagonist is this time around is far more up in the air. On the one hand you have Paul, he has hired a friend to dress up like the titular monster in order to terrify Corey. Then there is the fact that the film never hard confirms just what the creature is. There is much evidence that Corey himself may be insane and doing all the killings, but then there is just as much to point to the fact that, yes, this is a demon from Hell. You come to distrust the camera's perspective, this is shot in a way that you could argue we are being shown the film from an unreliable narrator's point of view, rather than what actually happened. This even casts shade on the events of the first film, maybe that was really a serial killer in a mask rather than a monster? It is to Tooth Fairy 2's credit that these questions are never answered.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

A Knight's Tour (2018) - Post Apocalyptic Film Review

It's been a while since I last saw a post apocalyptic film and so was eager to check out A Knight's Tour (the title a reference to a famous Chess puzzle). This film, written and directed by Marvin Choi is very low key, not a lot happens, and there are just the two characters. It is this feeling of isolation though that really creates a feeling of mistrust and paranoia. Ideas are presented to the viewer, yet there is never a firm answer and so it really is left up to the viewer to come to their own conclusions.

At the films start, post apocalyptic wanderer, J.D (Darnel Powell) stumbles across the remote mountain home of middle aged Henry (Joseph Price). Not trusting the stranger, J.D is initially chained up, but as the days go on the two men begin to form a bond. Henry is fearful of the outside world and has never left his home since the unnamed cataclysm occurred, J.D on the other hand is constantly travelling. As the weeks pass Henry begins to suspect that his visitors motivations may not be as benign as he alleges...

By not committing to a firmly set story A Knight's Tour succeeds in making something that is captivating as well as mysterious. I loved how open the plot was, there are plenty of indicators that J.D may not be the good guy he claims to be, but his character is presented in such a way that taken at face value there is nothing to back up these suggestions. J.D from start to finish comes across as friendly, Powell's acting backing up this assertion. Henry is a paranoid character, having lived alone for so long this is understandable, and so the evidence he brings up against J.D can easily be seen as paranoia, and the things he thinks he sees could be, as J.D suggests PTSD. A Knight's Tour balances these two ideas perfectly and so when the credits roll (after a potentially chilling final shot) it is left to the viewer whether they come to an optimistic or pessimistic conclusion, I don't think there is a right or wrong answer, both conclusions exist side by side equally.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Clown Motel: Spirits Arise (2019) - Horror Film Review

I never understand the fear many people suggest they have of clowns. Obviously they are well represented in horror, everything from the It series to Terrifier and Clown, but on the few occasions I have encountered them in real life I have found them to be funny. Still, in Joseph Kelly's (Bloody Island) Clown Motel: Spirits Arise the clowns are certainly creepy enough. This was based on a short of the same name that Kelly released in 2016, and was partly funded via Kickstarter. There has recently been a new and successful campaign to raise funds for a sequel.

Brooke (Elinor Price - In the Shadow of the Moon) is travelling home through the desert, along with her three best friends, after going to Las Vegas for a Hen's night outing. While driving they notice a run-down looking Clown themed motel, and are unnerved when it keeps appearing on the horizon despite them seemingly being on a straight road. Eventually, assuming they are lost they head to the motel to try and get directions. Meanwhile a trio of friends who make online videos about ghost hunts have also ended up at the motel, thinking it would make for a great new video. With the place seemingly deserted the two groups meet up and decide to spend the night together partying in a room. The next day they wake up to discover a message written on the window in blood, and that is just the start of their nightmare...

The desolate location brought to mind The Hills Have Eyes remakes, while the motivation for the ghostly clowns felt far more 2001 Maniacs. This was filmed on location at an actual Clown themed motel in Tonopah, a setting that serves as the inspiration for everything that transpires here. With the motel itself being obviously sinister in look, it also happens to have a graveyard right across the street, and a graffiti strewn networks of caves round-out the small checklist of places you most definitely wouldn't want to be. I liked how much world building was set up here, the motel and its ghostly residents have an interesting backstory that almost, but not quite creates a degree of sympathy for all the characters and ghosts. There were supernatural elements about how the protagonists get trapped in a bubble almost, that I would be interested to see explored in the sequel, especially due to how this all ends.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Powerbomb (2020) - Horror Film Review

Pre lockdown here in the UK I would usually get drunk with a friend every two weeks on a Saturday, working our way through the WWE Network back catalogue of PPV's chronologically as we did so (I believe we are currently in 1991). Hearing there was a new horror out that melded wrestling and horror together I was interested to see how it would work. Things start off well with co-directors, R. Zachary Shildwachter and B.J Colangelo's Powerbomb, it starts off with a cool wrestling match, but the pace soon significantly changes into something far more talky than I expected.

Matt Cross (played by Matt Capiccioni who wrestled under the name Matt Cross himself) is a competent and experienced wrestler who despite being much loved has yet to make it out of small time independent events. This may well be down to his degenerate money stealing manager, Solomon (Aaron Sechrist) who is deep in debt, something he blames on Matt's wife, Amy (Roni Jonah - a wrestler herself I believe) who left the business in order to look after her and Matt's young son, Cash (Cash K. Allen). One night after a match Matt is ambushed and kidnapped by Paul (Wes Allen, who also wrote the story). Matt awakens to find himself chained up in Paul's basement. His abductor reveals himself to be a superfan, and that he has captured his idol in order to train him up to superstardom by any means necessary...

Powerbomb was a bit of a strange movie. This was due to how talky this was, and how little action there is compared to what I expected. Cross may be the protagonist here but it is Paul who seemed to be the real heart of this movie. Much of the film, a good chunk of the middle section in particular was almost like a video essay. There is scene after scene of Paul monologuing about the essence of what wrestling is, why it appeals to fans, the empowering it provides. It comes across as very preachy, but in a way I found kind of fascinating, Allen must be a real life wrestling fan to frame wrestling like he does. Paul is 37, overweight, and still lives with his mother, spending his wages on Japanese porn and wrestling memorabilia. While he appears quite insane, especially with regards to Matt, who he sees kind of like a performing monkey rather than an actual person. There are scenes however where he reveals that he really doesn't like himself. Perhaps one of the best scenes in the movie has Paul looking into a mirror, doing a fake wrestling promo, while he holds a hand puppet who berates him for all his real failings in life. He made for a good adversary as he is almost the opposite of Matt. Matt is in good shape, he has a loving family, and good friends. Paul on the other hand isn't in good shape, hates his family, and is all alone in the world. Capiccioni wasn't bad in his role, it was just that Allen was a much more captivating character due to being more layered. The most we get out of Cross is a very interesting monologue about his childhood, but then this is later revealed to be false. As much as Paul is twisted at least he is realistic about his failings.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Slain: Back from Hell (2016) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

I have gotten to the stage where both my hard drive and external hard drive on my Playstation 4 are totally full up. I had been dipping my toes into various games I owned to see if they felt like ones I could easily get through. Upon playing Slain: Back from Hell I soon realised I was totally addicted it, eventually I played through the whole thing in around four different play sessions.

The game takes place in a dark fantasy world in which the all powerful Lord Vroll has conquered the lands with his army of monsters. The world has been completely consumed by evil with nothing but darkness and death around every corner. An angel like being resurrects an ancient hero and tasks him with setting forth from his tomb and defeating Lord Vroll.

The first noticeable thing about Slain: Back from Hell is how damn beautiful it is. This is a 2D hack and slash adventure game that is displayed in gorgeous pixel art. The levels appear as living locations, they are layered in so much detail, from blood rain sweeping across the sky, to undulating slime. Horror rarely looks this attractive. Playing this I was reminded of the early Castlevania games. You sword wielding character is about the same size as the characters in those games, and action plays out in a similar fashion. It also bizarrely reminded me of Hotline Miami. This is a game in which you will die a lot, a heck of a lot, and so when everything comes together and you finally get through a tough area, avoiding all the traps, killing all the enemies it feels really quite satisfying.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Tooth Fairy (2019) - Horror Film Review

Released at the start of 2019, Tooth Fairy was directed by Louisa Warren (Curse of the Scarecrow), she also provides the voice of the titular antagonist force, and this seemed to be filmed on the same property as that earlier film of hers. There were parts of this that were legitimately entertaining, however while this should have blatantly been played as a comedic slasher in the way the Leprechaun films are it is instead mostly played very straight and serious and suffers as a result.

In the early eighties three traumatised children, that include among them Jen, lock a demonic creature (Will Dodd - The Mummy Reborn) in a barn stall, along with their mother and then set it ablaze. In modern day, Jen (Claudine-Helene Aumord - Bride of Scarecrow) is still suffering the effects of that traumatic time, and so has formed a bad relationship with her daughter, Carla (Claire-Maria Fox - Suicide Club). Her daughter visits the farm where her mother lives in order to get a birth certificate that is kept there, but her visit coincides with the return of the sugar fearing monster, that wants to claim the nearest and dearest of the three people who stopped it all those years back.

There is some amazing miscasting here which I just could not look past. I don't know if it just wasn't possible to hire older actors, but you have young adults playing characters much older than they obviously are. The most glaring example is Father Ruben (also played by Dodd). Dodd was around 22 years old when this film was released, however as much as I could infer Father Ruben is meant to be in his sixties, and so Dodd talks and moves in a ridiculous way that made it seem like he was a character from a 90's comedy sketch show. I just could not take him seriously. More miscasting comes with Jen, her daughter looks a lot older than she is and so there was a huge tonal disconnect each time Carla refers to Jen as 'mum'. If this had been played as a horror comedy this would have worked, but there just isn't enough evidence to suggest this is meant to be a comedy. That isn't to say there are not comedic elements, the Tooth Fairy sections are overtly silly, but they gel so badly with the cutprice Eastenders style drama going on.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Union Bridge (2019) - Thriller Film Review

Union Bridge is a hard film to put into a solid genre. This is most certainly a drama, yet it also blurs the line into horror, and even into the historical genre a little bit. For the most part the story is grounded in reality, yet at the edges of this story there are elements of the supernatural. These elements eventually become the leading force in bringing the movie to its conclusion. This was written and directed by Brian Levin in his directorial debut.

Will Shipe (Scott Friend - The Dark End of the Street) returns to the sleepy town he grew up in many years after he left. He had been living in the city and had found some success, however the fast paced life was burning him out. His mother, Jeanie (Elisabeth Noone - voice work on Fallout 4, The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles) realising this has called him back home to get some rest. Will discovers that in the time since he has been gone, his childhood best friend, Nick (Alex Breaux - Depraved) has developed mental health issues. Night after night Nick heads out into the fields urgently digging for something, something which he said had been shown to him in visions.

This was a very slow burn of a film, there are countless long lingering shots of scenery, of streets, of fields, and of the industrial plant that seemed to be the life blood of the town. The film is so slow in fact that it wasn't until the second half that I could even decipher a story from all this. There are elements of a love story here, Nick growing closer to Nick's cousin, Mary (Emma Duncan - Chicago Med TV series). This also felt like a coming of age story, Will may be in his thirties but you get the impression he is a bit lost in life. Interspersed throughout Union Bridge are short flashback sequences that take place during the American Civil War in the 19th Century. These set up the idea that there may indeed be something buried, and also that Will's family may hold a dark secret in their past. It seemed that the ancestor of Will is actually played by Friend also. This actually becomes a plot point used in attempting to blend the fantastical with the mostly grounded in reality present day sections.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Yokai (2014) - Horror Film Review

Everyone knows films that are so bad that they are good. The ones you can watch and admire for their sheer badness. With Cristobal Echevensko's Yokai you have a film that is created in such a demented way that it could easily be argued to either be a work of complete genius, or to be a huge mess. I wouldn't go so far as to say this is a good movie, but it is a darn intriguing one that had me delighted with every aspect of how this was put together and plotted.

Lydia (Francisca Sfeir) has a sick sister and needs money desperately in order to help her get better. She also has a friend who has a lot of debts, so together they come up with a plan to get money quickly. Lydia works at a jewellers, for Mr. Yokai (Diego Suazo), a sinister and stern Japanese man who she knows for a fact owns a huge diamond that he keeps in his lightly secured house. She convinces her friend to break in and steal the diamond, but things don't go according to plan, for it turns out Mr. Yokai is a serial killer..

I expected this might play out a little like The People Under The Stairs or Don't Breathe, in that the entire film would take place during the attempted robbery, with the protagonists trapped in the house. Instead I was surprised to see this part was just the first act. It began the surreal nature of Yokai as the characters don't change anything on account of finding out the guy whose house they are stealing from is a sadistic killer. They don't call the police, or even discuss doing so, and they insist on using the most inconspicuous orange car whenever they go to Mr. Yokai's residence. Even better is the fact that the killer knows exactly who the thieves are, and where they live, yet he too is content to play out this bizarre game. Both protagonist and antagonist become complicit in making the film really weird.

Monday, 4 May 2020

The Zombinator (2012) - Zombie Horror Film Review

The Zombinator is a zombie film that came out during the very peak of terrible found footage movies. Directed and written by Sergio Myers this falls into every pitfall that the worst of these types of movies seemed to revel in. Terrible camera work, shoddy effects, an abysmal story and exaggerated acting makes for an 82 minutes of near pure tedium. I am 'cool' enough to have participated in a live action zombie roleplaying experience and it is no lie to say I think both the story and acting was way better with that than what is demonstrated here. There are some parts here which are good, and I felt it was up to me to sift through the mud in order to find the few parts that did work.

A fashion blogger has hired a film crew as she wants to make a documentary. The film crew, along with some friends head out to a local bar in the nearby town in order to speak to people she meets about fashion. Her trip coincides with a zombie outbreak, and soon her, and an assortment of other random characters find themselves fleeing from the flesh hungry ghouls. They are soon rescued by a zombie slayer, the titular Zombinator (Joseph Aviel - Wolfenstein: Liberation of London) who is on a mission to find the originator of the outbreak, his old army Colonel (Patrick Kilpatrick - Minority Report, Death Warrant) and stop his evil antics.

Here is my strongest thought on The Zombinator; this shouldn't have been a found footage horror. I think this would have succeeded far more if there wasn't the annoying shaky blurred first person perspective footage. There is a semblance of a plot going on yet it takes a backseat due to the protagonists not having anything to do with this story. The majority of the film sees the cameraman fleeing away from the undead whenever they appear, this means instead of lots of cool zombie action we instead gets far too much footage of over acting characters shouting over each other in bland zombie-less rooms. Apparently the whole movie was shot in under five days, and without a script. That is very believable, the actors for the most part feel like they are not only making up their lines on the spot, but they don't really have anything interesting to say so just keep repeating the same line over and over again. For at least the first half of The Zombinator at any one time there seemed to be around six more characters on screen then there actually needed to be. This results in 'Tower of Babel' style scenes of characters all shouting at the same time unintelligibly while the camera man swings his camera around like he's a drunk man on roller skates.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Alien: Resurrection (1997) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review (2003 Special Edition)

Alien: Resurrection is the last of the proper Alien films and is one I hadn't seen for decades. Technically I still haven't seen it for decades as for this review I watched the '2003 Special Edition' which includes a new opening and closing scene. Apparently out of all the special editions for the Alien films this is the only one where story elements are not changed up. This adds around four minutes of additional footage, as well as removes some parts that were originally included. It opens with an intro from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, The City of Lost Children) who explains somewhat grudgingly that the new version of the film isn't the directors cut, he states the original theatrical version was his directors cut as it had everything he wanted in it.

This takes place 200 years after the end of Alien3, in which Ripley (Sigourney Weaver - Alien series, Ghostbusters) killed herself in order to stop the evil Weyland Yutani corporation from getting their hands on the alien growing inside her. That company has long ceased to exist, however a shadowy branch of the military has managed to clone both her, and the alien inside her on a secret military space vessel. They plan to breed an army of aliens to use as weapons but are unaware of how dangerous this plan is. A group of space bandits, that include among them Call (Winona Ryder - Stranger Things) and Johner (Ron Perlman - Hellboy) arrive on the vessel not long before the resurrected and fully grown alien Queen escapes from confinement, along with a whole bunch of new, more intelligent aliens. Now these bandits must team up with a couple of soldiers, as well as the Ripley clone (that has alien type abilities) in order to escape the doomed vessel.

In my mind Alien: Resurrection was not a great film, I recalled enjoying it but felt that at the time too much time had passed between this and the third film. In reality it wasn't so long. Sure it was five years, but then the gap between Alien and Aliens was seven years, and the gap between that and Alien3 was again another seven years. Getting past the slightly dodgy way Ripley is once again alive and kicking (apparently she was cloned by a blood sample that was retrieved from the prison complex in Alien3) this was a fun film that tries to be an amalgamation of past ones. The horror and suspense is almost non existent, so this has more in common with Aliens, though a much more low key adventure. The aliens are not in huge abundance and usually only appear in ones and twos, or to kill or attack characters from off camera. Along the way you get both facehuggers, the typical aliens, the alien Queen, as well as a new human/alien hybrid who becomes the third acts monster antagonist.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Stomach (2019) - Horror Film Review

Stomach is an Italian body horror that comes from Alex Visani (The Pyramid, Mindcreep) who both wrote, directed and did a lot of other jobs here. I'm not usually one for body horrors, and this one tells a story that for much of the running time was a bit abstract and hard to get my head around, however it was well made and I liked where this went.

Alex (Fabio Carlani) is a loner who hides a terrible secret. There is something not right with his stomach, and certainly not a normal medical condition. When his darkest emotions get too much for him they physically manifest in the form of a demonic stomach creature (Carlani also). Alex keeps himself to himself and works small menial jobs, however an incident at his work place results in the demon once again manifesting. Alex finds himself on a desperate race against time to stop his monster before it gets to the objects of his desires, a woman he works with named Anna (Ingrid Monacelli).

Stomach is a bloody reimagining of the classic Jekyll and Hyde story. Alex himself is meek and timid, but instead of turning into a monster his ugly side manifests to commit the deeds he would not dream of. Due to this duality of the two beings there was an almost arthouse style contrast between their actions. While the demon is out killing and raping, Alex is shown to be at home, writhing around in agony. The way the character acts makes for a protagonist who isn't that likeable, but with such an odd story he needed to be odd himself. The story is very low key in that it takes place over the course of a few days and is restricted to just a handful of characters. Stomach can be quite a nasty film, and this is shown with such things as multiple rape scenes, one of which was particularly nasty to watch. There are no strong female characters here, all of them are shown to be either subservient to the male figures in their lives, or to be dominated physically by the male characters. To be fair though there are also no good male characters here, a variety of abusive and mean spirited ones populate Stomach.