Tuesday, 30 June 2020

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

My inbox seems to be fit for over flowing with news this month and so I will shorten my usual pre-news ramble. Not much really to say other than I am loving The Last of Us II, a review of that will surely follow some point in July. Also, I have recently picked up the DLC killers for Dead by Daylight, is a shame no one ever seems to be playing it when I try to get in a match though! Finally, I picked up The Walking Dead VR game, is meant to be a good one..

The first teaser and stills for time loop slasher 6:45 are out. Hoping to save their troubled relationship Bobby Patterson takes his girlfriend, Jules away to an island resort...where they are promptly brutally murdered. Death is not the end though and the couple find themselves doomed to repeatedly awaken at 6:45 on the morning of their murder and forced to relive the days traumatic events over and over again. I love the idea of time loops and so this one really sounds like one for me. 6:45 is aiming for a release this Autumn.

The new distribution label from Bayview Entertainment and Horrornews.net. "HNN Presents" has announced its first acquisition, the comedy horror Master Pieces. I said of the film "is a movie you will either love or hate. It tries to be different and succeeds in this".
Sticking with Bayview is the announcement of two Italian horror features. The first is 42-66: The Origin of Evil. This one is about a patient who leaves a prison psychiatric clinic with the hope of restarting his life. Instead he ends up on a path of violence, led by a supernatural demon. The second release is L38: The Face of Evil and sounds more like a crime thriller. Four career criminals start up production of snuff films for their sinister boss. Both films are now out on DVD.

Terror Films have partnered with YouTube AVOD platform, Kings of Horror. This has been described as the 'most visited and subscribed channel for full-length horror movies on YouTube. The partnership begins with ten films added to the library. At a later date Terror Films will premiere four new films exclusively on Kings of Horror for a six week stint.

Indican Pictures are set to release The Transcendents on most major digital platforms on July 21st. This is about a man named Roger who is on the hunt for a defunct indie rock band (titular The Transcendents). This is described as 'a mysterious thriller set in a musical world'. Check out the trailer below.

Paralyzed with Fear has been released as an Amazon Exclusive. This stars Kane Hodder as a demon who goes after a house full of women who accidentally summoned him. This also stars Haidyn Harvey, Andrea Rabold, and Maya Grace, and is directed by Glenn Berggoetz. For more information head here.

A trailer and poster for Quarantine Girl has been released. This stars Nicole D'Angelo and Shane Ryan and is about a woman whose mental state deteriorates after she isolates herself during an epidemic. This film is due for release by months end by Cinema Epoch. It was apparently shot safely during the current pandemic.

A teaser trailer and poster has dropped for the Terry Ross directed social thriller Sweet Taste of Souls. The story here is that four struggling indie band members decide to stop for food at a remote roadside café. Things don't go according to plan as they find themselves trapped in the café owners art collection, facing a demonic force. The idea of being trapped inside art sounds pretty out there, so I hope this film turns out to be a good one!

Welcome to the Circle is a new horror film coming from Artsploitation Films soon. A father and daughter stumble into the realm of a madman worshipping cult while out camping. Also there is a professional cult deprogrammer and his two clients hoping to retrieve a particular cultist. All find themselves on a desperate mission to escape. This comes to DVD/Blu-ray and VOD/streaming later this year.

The Luring was released on digital and DVD on June 16th thanks to Summer Hill Entertainment. This is writer/director Christopher Wells feature debut, and stars Rick Irwin as a young man who returns to the place of his childhood in order to put the constant nightmares he has to rest.

Botox Fiction is the name of a mini series that French director Yoann Kimfoko is hoping to create. This takes place in a dystopian world where parents rear children in order to use their skin to remain forever young! Currently there is a crowdfunding campaign going for this, for more details check out their page here.

We Want to Believe is a new paranormal series and it has released The Demon Jar part 1 and 2. Even better, these episodes are free to watch. This is a reality show that follows writer/director/investigator Jason Hewlett and paranormal investigator Peter Renn and team as they investigate everything from UFO sightings to Bigfoot and hauntings. The show claims to be authentically made with no camera tricks or special effects. The free episodes can be viewed on YouTube or below.

Hex Studios have launched a new publishing wing, its first volume is titled The Book of Beastly Creatures. This is an anthology featuring 18 original stories, each based on original monsters from the Hex universe. Written by Sarah Daly, Thomas Staunton, and Lawrie Brewster, the hardback is also filled with 80's inspired artwork by James Olley as well as a full set of RPG rules for each creature. The book is available to buy from Kickstarter.
Also from Hex Studios - their new YouTube channel; Channel Hex have launched a retro horror talk show called Hex Talks. This features Lawrie Brewster as the host who holds a series of interviews with icons of the horror genre. The first episode has him chatting with Graham Skipper, best known for playing Herbert West in Stuart Gordon's Re-Animator The Musical. He has also starred in Almost Human and Beyond the Gates, as well as directed and starred in Sequence Break.

Puzzle Box Horror are going to be launching a new magazine titled 'Atlas of Lore'. The first issue, 'Oregon' is due for release late July. This will feature five original short stories all based on Oregon's haunted lore. Along with the stories are original art and photography. The five stories in issue 1 include Slice, When The Bandage Man Finds You, Anna Byrne Chronicles Chapters 1 and 2, The Haunting of The White Eagle and Rose. The magazine can be pre-ordered here.

In music news U.S psychedelic country western band Spindrift are due to have a film released on DVD and digital called Spindrift's Haunted West. The film chronicles the band over five weeks where they play exclusively at ghost towns and haunted locations. Indican Pictures will be releasing the documentary in July.

Kissing Candice have released their track Ghosted on all streaming platforms, which is the first time this has been available to stream. This track has never been put on an album and apparently fans saw it as a lost track. The band say this was something to give to the fans as they await the release of their new album.

Finally, and after months of mentioning it on my news post the dystopian turn-based strategy/RPG video game 1971 Project Helios has been released. It has came out on PS4, X-Box One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and GOG.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Gothic Harvest (2019) - Horror Film Review

Appearances can be deceptive, that is both a theme running through Ashley Hamilton's Gothic Harvest (that marks his directorial debut) and a critique of the film itself. With a bunch of familiar faces, and faces that also happen to be good actors I expected something special here, however no amount of good actors can save what is ultimately a film that seemed to lose focus the more it went on.

It is Mardi Gras in New Orleans and four college friends have gone there to party. One night, one of the four, Hope (Abbie Gayle - Scream: The TV Series, Scream Queens) hooks up with a handsome stranger, Gar (Hamilton) and heads off to his house. The remaining friends, who include among them the sensible Benay (Ashton Leigh - Frankenstein vs. the Mummy), Katie (Tanyell Waivers - Ma), and Tina (Mary Alice Risener - Scream Queens) become concerned when they are unable to contact their friend. Eventually the three team up with local cop, Detective Hollis (Bill Moseley - The Devil's Rejects, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and a local man, Lafitte (Yohance Myles - Containment) in order to find her. It turns out Hope really is in serious trouble, as she has become the latest 'guest' of a family from the 1800's who are cursed to never age, and who require blood to retain their vitality.

The general idea behind this was a decent enough one, but the way the film goes about telling the story is where it falls down. It felt like it didn't really know who it wanted the focus to be on. The story of Hope's abduction should have been the centre of this, yet this falls to the wayside a bit as the immortal family begin to take more and more screen time. They come across as a more civilised version of the Firefly family from House of 1000 Corpses and have a whole bunch of character to their eccentric personalities. They include among them Lin Shaye (the Insidious series) and she is usually great in everything she turns up in, but even she cannot save this one. There are subplots going on with this family but they not only added nothing but they led to dead ends. In particular there is quite a large story going on with the daughter, Amelia (Sofia Mattsson) who has headed out to the city for a night of pleasure. This whole part felt pointless and had nothing to do with the main story. It is finished with in such an abrupt manner that I wondered why it was even included. None of the family have any interesting things going on for them, though I thought Thomas Francis Murphy (The Walking Dead) was wonderfully cast as the father, Justice.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

A Drunk Scorpion Will Sting Itself to Death (2020) - Crime Film Review

I'm a sucker for agreeing to review films that I personally like the look of, even if it is a bit of a stretch to say they really belong on this blog. Such was the case with Denton True's crime drama, A Drunk Scorpion Will Sting Itself to Death. The title alone took my interest and so here I am some 76 minutes later writing a review of it. Thankfully, while it isn't horror it is a good film.

True stars as Dean, a homeless crack addict whose near brush with death after an overdose leads to him wanting to get clean. Luckily for him his path crosses with that of Maria (Chanel Mack). She happens to be a vigilante who murders drug dealers, and in return for Dean using his knowledge of dealers in order for her to hunt them down she offers him a place to stay, as well as the promise to help him achieve his dream of getting clean. However, it may be true that a leopard can't change its spots...

This had a bit of an exploitation grindhouse feel to it, the locations and characters met along the way are all degenerates for the most part. Dean is a character who makes for a flawed protagonist, while he has the best intentions his addiction means it is hard for him to fight against his own nature. Maria on the other hand is more of a mystery in terms of her character. When she is first met she has already been killing people for a while and so she is calm and collected with little background to say why she is doing what she is, or how she has gotten so good at it. The only other characters who get a decent amount of screen time are Dean's homeless girlfriend Diana (Ewa Maria Wojcik) and his homeless friend. Diana serves as the temptress archetype, representing both Dean's past, as well as a mirror to the type of person he once was. Maria on the other hand serves as a role model for Dean, something to aspire to be like (outside of killing people obviously).

Friday, 26 June 2020

Evil Under the Skin (2019) - Horror Film Review

Evil Under the Skin is an odd film to watch. It seemed at first to be trying to be two different genres thrown on top of each other. There would be long scenes of mother and daughter bonding time in brightly lit sunny locations. Then there would be the swiftly edited sequences of horror which appeared totally unrelated and out of place. Thankfully this film gets better as it goes along, and while the obvious twist does come to pass, it is a lot better handled than it initially looked like it would be.

Sophie (Helene Udy - Mrs. Claus, My Bloody Valentine) has gone on vacation with her daughter, Roselee (Angela Barajas) to a lake side house. They are spending time with each other to re-bond as they had had a split in the past. On the surface things are going great, however Sophie is experiencing painful headaches and having recurring hallucinations of strange horrors. While out walking one day she meets a woman, Carla (Donna Hamblin - Hellcat's Revenge) and her brother, Matt (Tim O'Hearn - Johnny Gruesome, Killer Rack) who befriend her, but who may have ulterior motives. She is also visited by the local sheriff, Roy (Carl Bailey - Misfortune) and the local park ranger, Jenny (Pamela Sutch - Paranormal Captivity) who are investigating reports of strange loud noises in the area a few nights back.

I think if Evil Under the Skin had remained as floaty as it first appeared I would not have liked this at all. The first third I thought was weird in a bad way. The horror sequences felt so awkwardly inserted into the plot that they felt abrasive. I know now that that was completely intentional. These moments of horror are meant to feel out of place, and go against the perfect getaway vibe that Sophie and Roselee are having.It was interesting what was going on with some of the side characters. Carla and Matt, the incestuous siblings are very suspicious characters, I didn't trust them one bit. The same almost goes to the sheriff who doesn't seem to be the most trustworthy person. These side character subplots play out almost separately to the main story going on and include one or two red herrings.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

NOS4A2: Season 2 (2020) - Horror TV Show Preview

Until I covered news of the upcoming second season of NOS4A2 I have to admit I had never heard of it. I figured from the title it would be something about vampires, but that is only half right, it is something a little bit different. The show is based on the 2013 book of the same name by Joe Hill (Stephen King's son). Having only read a plot summary of the first season on Wikipedia I went into this new season pretty much blind, and while some of the particulars were a little confusing I quickly picked up where all the characters were now at. Currently I have only seen the first four episodes and so rather than be a full review this will be my thoughts on those. Unavoidable spoilers for that first season will follow.

Season 2 picks up eight years after the events of the first season, in which the supernaturally gifted Vic (Ashleigh Cummings) managed to finally defeat the child soul eating Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto). The seemingly immortal Manx has been in a coma ever since his defeat, but with the help of his lackey, serial killer Bing Partidge (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) Manx has returned, thirsty for revenge.

It didn't take too long to get into the swing of things with season 2. It is quickly established that this is very much a story about a battle between two unlikely foes. Vic and Manx both share the screen time almost equally. Picking things up for myself it seems that Vic's power is that she is able to locate any missing person or object by riding through a certain bridge near her home. This bridge acts as a kind of teleporter taking her instantly to whatever thing she is seeking. This is a problem for Manx as he is a man who doesn't want to be found. I found both characters to be really interesting. With Vic, in the intervening years she has suffered PTSD, obsessed with Manx, and an alcoholic she tries to balance the burden of being the only person able to stop the child killer, as well as care for her young son, Wayne. I expected Quinto to be good here as he is a strong actor, and he seems to relish playing the smooth talking Manx. His character's very life force seems to be tied to the supernaturally charged Wraith that he drives around in, and which allows him to feed on the souls of children. He also has somehow created a unique alternate dimension, a place he calls 'Christmasland'. In this place he leaves his victims, children now altered into a more monstrous form, there they are looked after by his daughter, Millie.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Awesomely Righteous & Radical (2020) - Anthology Horror Film Review

Awesomely Righteous & Radical is an eighties inspired anthology created by Shane Ryan (Autopilot, My Name is 'A' by Anonymous) that brings together an eclectic collection of short films that also includes trailers and archival footage. Many of the ten shorts are horror but being based on the eighties there are also a few more action focused ones. I say this each and every time I review an anthology but I will say it again now, I sure do love anthology films.

The whole anthology is designed to look like an old VHS tape that has had various programs recorded on it and it starts off with a warning about the dangers of crack cocaine using archival footage of Clint Eastwood. A fitting warning as many of the following shorts are very out there in terms of the vibes they create. It starts off with Swamp Buck (written and directed by Jason Ewert) that plays out like a comedy horror. An old man tells a story around a campfire about a hunting trip he went on as a child. It was a decent blend of styles whose silliness almost won me over.
Next was Shane Ryan's Guerrilla, a short which I reviewed back in 2017. This post-apocalyptic film follows a boy in an eighties America which has been contaminated with an air based virus that turns its victims hyper aggressive. The lack of dialogue and the filming techniques make this come across as a music video, especially with the intro montage of everything from that era.
Wallet is the third in the initial trilogy of horror shorts, this was directed by Luc Bernier. Here, a woman staying at a remote motel discovers a wallet full of cash. Despite it containing an address to return it to if it is found the woman decides to keep the money. This turns out to be a very bad mistake. I liked the general idea behind this one, but I didn't feel its execution worked satisfactorily as it ends on a bit of a limp note.

Los Angeles Connection is the first action short here. A man returns home to find his wife murdered. After a classic eighties style training montage the man sets out to get revenge against those responsible. This was directed by Dustin Ferguson and certainly looked like it had been ripped out of the time frame it was aping, but not too much of note really happens here.
Party Like It's 1984 is a comedy from Oliver Jolliffe and was in two parts. The first section has an out of shape bodyguard at a psychiatrist session where he claims to be no longer using drugs. The second part has him waking up in woodland after a drug binge and soon discovers the woman whose bodyguard he is, and a colleague. This was energetic and the characters were a likeable bunch, however it felt a bit unfocused, like the lines and story were being improvised on the spot. Regardless, it still had charm.

Monday, 22 June 2020

Intruder (1989) - Horror Film Review

I had never heard of 80's slasher Intruder until it popped up randomly on the 'Shudder TV' section of Shudder. The brief clip I saw looked so great that I immediately decided that would be the film to watch that evening. Directed by Scott Spiegal (Hostel: Part III, Dusk Till Dawn 2: Blood Money). I was excited to see that not only do Sam Raimi (director of The Evil Dead series and Spider-Man series) playing a character here, but also his brother, Ted (who had roles in everything Evil Dead related), and even the legend Bruce Campbell turns up in a small role here.

The film takes place entirely at a local supermarket and follows the night shift over the course of one night. Cashier, Jennifer (Elizabeth Cox - Night of the Creeps) gets an unexpected visit from an ex-boyfriend, the creepy Craig Peterson (David Byrnes - Witchcraft IX: Bitter Flesh, Witchcraft 7: Judgement Hour). He is obsessed with the girl and says he is determined to do anything to get her back. This leads to an altercation that involves nearly all of the staff and results in Craig getting thrown out the supermarket. Soon after it is revealed by the shops owners, Danny (Eugene Robert Glazer) and Bill (Dan Hicks - Evil Dead II) that they have sold the business and it is going to be closing the very next day. It is to this backdrop that a night of terror begins, one by one the staff begin to get picked off by a crazed killer hiding in the shop...

I loved how of its time this slasher felt. Coming in at the late end of the eighties this nonetheless is a prime example of the style that decade is known for. Over the top death scenes, spirited performances and wonderful practical effects combine to make a horror that at its core is very silly, but it sure does know this. I found the start of this to be the most interesting as it has every character in the same scene, all of them getting in a fight with Craig. I found the contrast between this out in the open fist fight in a brightly lit room and the later dark traditional isolated slayings to be kind of cool. It made a change to have the killer be a known quantity. The acting was never the strongest here, but with a story that never takes itself seriously it works well. Knowing Bruce Campbell was in this I did get a bit distracted waiting for his character to appear, and while his appearance is very brief (I think he gets about two lines) it was still lovely to see him. It was also fun seeing Sam and Ted, both in fun roles.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Tales from Da Ville (2018) - Horror Anthology Show Review

Social thriller anthology Tales from Da Ville is now available to watch for free on YouTube. Originally created in 2018 the three episodes that make up season one were remastered in 2019. The hope was that this would be to horror anthology shows what Get Out was to horror films. Each episode tackles racism in a different way. The third episode especially is very relevant with all that is going on in the world at the moment. The message in each of these episodes is very heavy handed and simplified, but maybe that is what some people need. All three episodes was directed by Christopher Dandre Williams and Mo Rabbani.

Each episode is hosted by Brooklyn rapper, Bam Vito. He plays the count of Brownsville Brooklyn, and it is during his regular visits to three modern day witches that he tells different cautionary tales. The first of these is Unwoke. Odysseus Bailer plays Carl, a black man who has nothing but disdain for his own race, aspiring to be just like a white man. One night he is visited by the spirit of his ancestor, (played by Byron C. Saunders) and given exactly what he wants. Saunders was the highlight of this episode, his demented performance was a joy to watch.

The second episode is Revenge. In this one a black woman is attacked and left for dead by three white supremacist friends. She is then approached by an unlikely source to return to life and pay back those responsible. This had the most blood and gore of the three, and made good use of the limitations of the budget, such as slight blurring effects to hide props that may not have looked as effective in focus.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Agramon's Gate (2019) - Horror Film Review

Agramon's Gate is a film about demonic possession that was written and directed by Harley Wallen, he also plays one of the main characters in it. I usually love me some demonic possession but for whatever reason I found this particular tale to be inexplicably dull.

A spirit medium, Vesna  (Aphrodite Nikolovski - Love Immortal) is invited to a party a group of friends are having, it is hoped she will bring some entertainment to the evening. Richie (Kris Reilly - Enigma) is very sceptical about her, but is shocked when while trying to contact the dead the medium appears to become possessed. As a child Richie was forced to kill his father, Carter (Yan Birch - The People Under the Stairs) who was himself attempting to kill Richie's mum. Now it appears the evil spirit of his father has returned, but Vesna's own research with her friend, Zeb (Wallen) leads them to believe that it is actually the demon, Agramon who has appeared. With all who took part in the séance at risk they must band together to try and find a way to stop this demonic evil.

Initially things looked promising, the film had barely even begun when the séance is held and the horror begins. What follows is nearly two hours of meandering and uneventful pottering around in which it felt like absolutely nothing of note was happening. I can't quite understand just what was so boring about the movie, but dull it was. This is a real shame as a lot of the other things in this film were good. Of special note were the make-up effects. Sure the demonic eyes you see looked a bit cartoon like, but the actual make-up for characters looked really good. The acting also was not bad at all, Vesna and her friends were an interesting bunch, her and Zeb in particular got a lot of screen time. Richie and his friends though were such non characters that I struggled to feel much for them. They were not nasty people, they were not nice people, they just came across as very normal and so there was a lack of personality to any of them outside of Richie and his wife.

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

All the Wrong Friends (2016) - Horror Film Review

All the Wrong Friends is a thriller that was co-directed by Ryan Hawkins and Mark Kerins in what was both their feature length directorial debut. Having a look at the credits on IMDB it appears that the story was put together by a whopping 10 different people. Too many cooks spoil the broth? Maybe, but this fits neatly into the tiny sub genre of horror that looks at how people react upon finding a dead body.

A group of former high school friends are on their way to a music festival a year after graduating. Along the way one of the group, Logan (Sean O'Connor) asks for them to visit the remote home of a friend of his, in order to get something off of him. Logan's friend isn't there, but he is so insistent about waiting for him to return that he convinces everyone to stay the night. Both alcohol and drugs are soon found and the friends begin a night of partying. That is until they discover Logan's friend, murdered in one of the upstairs rooms. Due to the illicit partying they take the drastic move of trying to cover their tracks, planning to spend the night and then contact the police about the body in the morning (for some reason no one owns a mobile phone). Not much later there is a knock at the door, two hikers looking for assistance. This begins a night of paranoia and mistrust and an ever rising body count, for it turns out that for these clowns they really did have...All the Wrong Friends.

This is not high brow entertainment but I did find it to be quite entertaining. It helps that every character in this film is an idiot, I couldn't care less about any of them, in fact the opposite, I was happy for them to rip themselves apart. The moronic leader, Logan was a complete bully, hardly surprising his attire is a wife beater vest. Then there is his bitchy girlfriend,  Adam (Tom Gelo - Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) who is a whiny drug addict loser, gormless Simon (Dexter Hostetter - Zombie Love), and Drew (Ricco Fajardo) and his girlfriend Nani (Krishna Smitha). Those last two are given the role of protagonists and are the most level headed of the bunch, however, their willingness to follow the totally moronic plans of the others means they are no better in my eyes. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Salient Minus Ten (2017) - Short Horror Film Review

Salient Minus Ten is a sci-fi horror short that was written and directed by Emma Dark (Seize the Night). After a successful festival run, this film has now come to DVD and digital, with its digital release back on 27th May.

Alan Austen (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back) stars as an every man - Adam, who one day on his way to work is pulled into a demented game. Transported through time and space he finds himself in woodland, along with some other commuters also caught up in the mysterious goings on. The man has a device on his wrist, and a message on his phone telling him he has 'ten minutes to save the world'...

I like time travel in films, that is alluded to here, which is a big plus. The majority of the short has Adam bewildered and forced to participate in deadly games with which he has no clue what he is meant to be doing. Austen portrays the confusion and fear well. I thought the effects on the 'altered' people he comes across to be pretty cool. Events are kept mysterious enough that it isn't clear exactly what is going on. There is very little dialogue, the characters of Adam, and a mysterious woman (Dark) are the only two in the small cast who speak. It ends much as it began on an unclear note. I got a vibe of The Twilight Zone in bitesize form watching this, would have been great to have a Rod Serling style intro and outro for this.

With a 12 minute run time this remains engaging throughout, the resolution left me with more questions than answers, but this was a solid little sci-fi short. Salient Minus Ten was released on DVD, a double pack that also includes Seize the Night. That can be purchased here. The short can also be viewed on Dark's YouTube channel.


Monday, 15 June 2020

We Are the Missing (2020) - Horror Film Review

We Are the Missing is a mockumentary horror film that was directed by Andrew J.D Robinson (Making Faces, The Becky Carmichael Fan Club) in his feature length directorial debut. This came across like a visual transcript, a series of interviews and investigations that come together to form a cohesive whole.

Basically, it all starts with a young woman named Riley Madison vanishing in mysterious circumstances. It goes along like a typical series of interviews until the people the reporter is interviewing also disappear one day without a trace. A snowball effect begins to occur with more and more people in the city of D'Arcadia going missing, with no explanation for just what is going on. The documentary charts the unfolding of this strange terror.

Even with much of the world being in lock-down during the time the film was being made this is full of different characters. The format meant that phone video messages, and audio soundbites are the order of the day. I don't know if this had been mostly completed before the pandemic but it doesn't seem like something that that would cause an issue in terms of getting footage. On the subject of the pandemic, this mocumentary at times brings big contrasts between itself and real world events. Especially towards the films later half when lots of people have locked themselves away from the rest of the world, descriptions of empty streets, of how people are not going to take things for granted again, this all seemed so prescient.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

The Sinking City (2019) - Horror Video Game Review (PS4)

The Silent Hill series of games are some of my all time favourites, and they share some story elements with the literary works of H.P Lovecraft. So hearing there was a third person adventure game based entirely on his works, called The Sinking City my interest was piqued. Coming from a mid-tier games studio (Ukrainian based Frogwares) I expected this to be a tad under polished, and it was, a clunky control scheme, average graphics, and obvious reuse of character models and location assets. Despite these flaws though I found myself deeply absorbed into the atmosphere of this 15 to 20 hour adventure.

The Sinking City takes place in the secluded fishing town of Oakmont, Massachusetts in the 1920s. At some point in the recent past the city suffered a terrible flood, with huge chunks of the city now underwater. Due to its remote location, as well as the strange fact it doesn't appear on many maps, the citizens of Oakmont have been left to fend for themselves. Former U.S Navy sailor Charles Reed (now a private investigator) has been suffering horrific hallucinations and nightmares since an incident back in his Navy days. His investigations into these visions has led to him discovering that not only is his affliction one that plenty of other people in Massachusetts also have, but that Oakmont appears to be the origin point from where the nightmares and visions are spreading from. Not long after arriving at the city you are hired by Robert Throgmorton (one of Oakmont's leading families) to investigate the disappearance of a team of scientists who had headed out to sea believing they had located the exact location of the madness.

This is an open city adventure game that for me felt like a combination of Silent Hill and L.A Noire. After the first chapter the city is open to explore. With many streets flooded a lot of your travel has to be done by motor boat. Unlike the Silent Hill games, this ruined city is still vastly populated, the inhabitants, as well as outsiders (coined 'newcomers' by the locals) wander the streets. Every now and again you will stumble across a boarded off section of streets, which is where the monsters are contained. Combat against these monsters is just one half of the overall whole of The Sinking City, not even that, you spend roughly 30% of the game fighting things. Thankfully there is plenty of world building lore explaining just why these creatures are everywhere, and some side missions you get even go as far to say the exact particulars of how they came to be. There isn't a huge amount of variation to these creatures, with about four or five main types, that have slight variations among them. They are all corrupted humanoid looking things, such as the weakest grunts which resemble a kind of lanky hand crawling about. Others including child like things walking around on legs which shoot projectile bile from their split stomachs, half torso like crawling creatures, and a hulking brute who can easily kill you in just a few hits. Dotted throughout the game also are a few boss monsters, and on occasion there are also human enemies armed with guns to battle against, including the local chapter of the K.K.K.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

The Odd Perspective (2020) - Thriller Film Review

The Odd Perspective is the third film I have seen of Spanish director, Yolanda Torres (The Afterglow, The Forsaken) in the past few weeks. Having enjoyed his previous films I was pretty sure I would also get on well with this thriller. I will readily admit I struggled to make out much of what was going on, but I sure enjoyed the ride.

Christopher Hunter (The 12) stars as Aleix Martin, a synergist with the gift of being able to see patterns in reality. He returns to his home city after some years away, this is due to the recent death of his father, who was a supreme court judge. It isn't long before he has gotten himself involved in the search for a serial killer, Aleix's brother (Arne Gottschling - Suicide Club) is a detective in charge of the case and hopes his brothers unique skill set will help him catch the killer.

I don't know what a synergist is and I was none the wiser by the films end. From what I could tell, Aleix is a troubled genius whose special ability to see numbers and patterns in everything is almost like a curse to him. He spends vast chunks of the film distressed, pacing back and forth repeating phrases and sequences over and over. At times it seems he has a 'mind palace' which is displayed as a swiftly edited series of images and movements, usually while a line a character has previously said plays over and over on repeat. Occasionally the numbers Aleix sees literally appear on screen as floating images. I didn't understand any of this, but then I am not the smartest person out there. Regardless I still found myself caught up in events. From humble beginnings the story opens itself up into something far grander, so that by the films conclusion it felt like this story had only been half told. I'm not sure if a sequel to this was planned, or leaving the story so relatively unresolved was purposeful.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Luz (2018) - Horror Film Review

German horror Luz just might be the best damn horror I have seen all year. I love a good soundtrack, I love memorable visuals, and I love me some demonic possession, so this film which combines all three to glorious effect was exactly my type of movie.

Luz (Luana Velis), a young cabdriver turns up one dark night at a Police station. She is bruised and confused and not making a lot of sense. An Officer there, Bertillon (Nadja Stübiger) calls for a psychiatrist, and soon after Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) arrives on the scene, his intention to put the girl into a hypnotic state so that she can act out the events that led to her arriving at the station. Unknown however to all involved, the psychiatrist has recently had an encounter with a strange woman (Julia Riedler) at a nearby bar, and that he might actually be under the control of a demonic entity...

By the film's conclusion you might be under the impression the story told here was pretty simple. Despite this the film makes you work for this story. Events start off at around the middle mark. Rather than have a traditional flashback sequence take place to show what happened to Luz this is instead acted out within the film itself. Under hypnosis Luz is convinced she is back in her cab, so while she is shown to the viewer to be sat on a chair in a conference room, her actions, as well as her interactions are as if she wasn't. To help sell this illusion all sound effects, and dialogue play out with authentic sounds. So, you might hear music playing on an imaginary radio, and Luz dancing in her seat to it, but then the camera will cut to show the officers, and Dr. Rossini watching her dancing to silence. Characters who Luz has spoken with in the past then also show up on screen to interact with her, they are physically there for the viewers benefit, but again in reality she is alone. This takes up a huge chunk of the films run time and was so dreamlike, a layer of acting was required to sell this and all the actors just shone.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Autopilot (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

It can't be denied that 2020 has been a terrible year for pretty much everyone, there are silver linings though. One of these is the Corman Quarantine Film Festival. This was created by the prolific film director and producer, Roger Corman. The rules for participating were that the film had to be under two minutes in length, the cast must be from family, or whoever you live with, and that directors are asked to use their mobile phone camera and lighting available from around the house. Autopilot is the entry from Shane Ryan (My name Is 'A' by Anonymous, Oni-gokko) and Kade Tabin.

The story is abstract and plays out in silence with no dialogue or sound effects, just a dramatic score playing over the top of it. From what I could gather this shows a girl alone in lock down, going through repetitive motions of life trapped inside, on autopilot so to speak. As the monotonous days go on and on her mind begins to unravel.

I liked how a story was told without any need for explanation, and for some of the striking images here. The best one, and one the short kept going back to, was the girl, wearing a face mask laying in red water, as the short goes on the girl appears more and more bloody. There is good use of repetition here, the girl going to her freezer, the girl drawing, the girl lying expressionless on her side. There was also great lighting here, a sort of wave effect over many of the images.

Autopilot was a clever use of the time provided and was a short that I found myself watching several times in a row to really soak in the flavour of it. Check it out for yourself below.


Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Child Eater (2016) - Horror Film Review

Child Eater is based on the 2012 short horror film of the same name. When I reviewed that a few years back (here) I commented that I hoped the feature length version would improve upon the lore built up in it. Like the original short, this one too is directed and written by Erlingur Thoroddsen, and this one also stars Cait Bliss who reprises her role as the babysitter, Helen.

A quarter of a century before the events of the film there was an old man named Robert Bowery who lived in the woods near a small town. This man had failing eyesight and believed by consuming the eyeballs of children he would be able to get his sight restored. After a little girl manages to escape from him he is finally caught and believed killed. In present day, Helen (Bliss) is asked by her father to babysit a young boy, Lucas (Colin Critchley). The boy complains of a monster hiding in his cupboard, Helen humours him but when she looks there is nothing there. Later that night she hears a strange noise coming from Lucas's room, she goes there to find he has vanished. She decides to head out into the nearby woods to search for him, unaware that Robert Bowery (Jason Martin - Gotham) has returned in a new supernatural form to once again kidnap children...

I assumed a feature length film would find time to build on the lore and the characters that the original short didn't have time to do. However this seemed far more content to stretch that original short into a feature length with minimal added of any consequence. After a tiny sliver of character development the film soon gets to the original place the short started. Nearly the entire movie takes place over the night Lucas vanishes, and from what my memory told me this goes along in a very similar fashion to the original. I found Lucas to be an annoying character, and there was a bit of a throwback in feel to the early 2000's in how he acts. There was a weird stretch of time in the past where it seemed children were being given scripts for adult characters. This led to child characters speaking and acting with a maturity that came across as creepy rather than realistic. Such is the case with Lucas who the film would lead you to believe is a lot more articulate, rational and intelligent than all the adults around him. This just makes for a creepy character, and so I wasn't that fussed what the titular child eater would do to him. There are a bunch of other characters but there is so little development with any of them that I couldn't care less about them. Bliss was fine as the babysitter but I didn't really understand why she felt the need to rescue Lucas after a certain point in the movie.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Among the Shadows (2019) - Horror Film Review

Why is it that vampires and werewolves are always the main choices when it comes to monsters secretly living amongst humanity? The Tiago Mesquita directed Among the Shadows is a political drama that bizarrely decides to include these creatures woven into its incoherent story. I really was trying my best to follow this, but as the end credits rolled I realised I really didn't have much idea about what I had seen at all. My plot summary will be based on what I assumed the film was about.

Taking place in a city in Belgium - after her uncle (John Flanders) is murdered, P.I Kristy Wolfe (Charlotte Beckett - The Demon Headmaster TV series) sets out on a path of revenge to get those responsible. Both Kristy and her uncle were werewolves, and it is soon revealed that both wolves and vampires live secretly among the humans. Kristy ends up getting hired to look into the murder by the United States of Europe President's vampire wife, Patricia Sherman (Lindsay Lohan - Mean Girls) as the uncle had been working with the President on his upcoming campaign.

I really don't know why the movie even bothered having characters be a mix of vampires and werewolves. As far as I could make out both monster types had the exact same abilities and appearance. People don't turn into wolves, instead they can grow fangs, have the ability to read minds, and have glowing eyes. It seemed the sole difference between the vampires and werewolves was that the vampires eyes didn't glow. This is no Underworld though I'm sure it wants to be. Personally I disliked that series of films so having a budget version didn't fill me with joy. You might expect some decent fight scenes at least, Kristy is a capable fighter. Unfortunately whenever the action begins the editing suddenly increases dramatically. The camerawork in general is fine, but as soon as the fighting starts camera angles start to change at the rate of a few a second, making for really hard to follow and unsatisfying fights. Add in close up shaky hand cam footage, slow-mo, and silly over the top noises and you get a bit of a mess.

Friday, 5 June 2020

Creature in the Dark (2020) - Horror Film Review

Creature in the Dark is the latest film from director/writer Jacob Perrett. His previous films, 2018's Weird Fiction, and 2019's Spine Chiller were both horror anthologies and so I just kind of assumed this one would also fall into that category. Instead this is a straight up apocalypse horror, with the playfulness that would sometimes be present in those previous films missing. One thing is certain, each new film from Perrett brings with it a whole new layer of quality.

This film takes place in a world where one day the sun simply vanished. There was no real chance to really look into exactly what happened as less than 24 hours after this world changing event the creatures arrived. These creatures are attracted to light and before this was understood many people had been killed. Survivors live in isolated settings, with looters a common problem. One such survivor is River (Taylor Rhoades), he has long given up on life after his wife, Emma (Danielle Rhoades) vanished during the start of the apocalypse some six months or so back, but he keeps on going for his daughter, Mya's sake (Mya Rhoades).

At first glance this could be seen as an indie version of A Quiet Place, especially when you see that like with that film, the husband and wife couple here are also married in real life. I see this film instead as falling into a growing sub genre of horror. A Quiet Place had sound being the bringer of destruction, Bird Box had sight being the big no no, and with Creature in the Dark you have light being the thing to avoid. Obviously not having much light means the movie is going to be dark, and that is the case here. The entire film takes place in River's home and so visually there is not much going on. Despite the darkness there are ever present illuminations, such as the lamps and torches River uses, and the ever present glare from the TV with which Mya is kept entertained. This is a slow paced movie, it isn't full of loud dramatic moments, instead events are kept squarely on River, and how he is coping with this dark new world.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Lake Bodom (2016) - Horror Film Review

Lake Bodom is a location that has appeared in many different horrors over the years. The place is infamous due to the brutal murder of three campers in the 1960's. There were many different theories as to who the killer was, but no one was ever charged. Confusingly, in Finland this was released under the title Bodom, which also happens to be the name of a Hungarian found footage horror from 2014 that has a very similar story (my review of that one can be found here). I have started watching horrors from Shudder on Sundays, this was my second pick after skipping the Sunday previously.

In 2016 four teenage friends head to Lake Bodom with various motivations for doing so. Nora (Mimosa Willamo) and Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) have been tricked into thinking there is going to be a cabin party there. In reality, Atte (Santeri Helinheimo Mantyla) has told them that so they would agree to go to the isolated lake with him and his best friend, Elias (Mikael Gabriel). Atte is obsessed with the 1960's murders that took place there and hopes he can get the girls to help him recreate the police crime scene photos, while Elias is hoping he can get lucky with one of them. However, nothing works out for any of the four teens, as their camping trip is rudely interrupted by a killer...

I had heard many good things about Lake Bodom over the years but had never gotten around to watching it. I did enjoy my time with it but it requires a huge suspension of disbelief. It isn't too long into the movie before the friends are camped out at the lake and so the horror begins relatively quickly. There are many curve balls thrown by this pretty generic beginning, and while I was surprised with where this went I didn't think it worked that well. Maybe one twist would have worked out well but we don't get that here, off the top of my head I think over the course of the movie there are six big twists. These twists all alter the perception of events and characters, but it almost (but not quite) becomes farcical with how much is changing constantly. If this had all fallen away to reveal a The Cabin in the Woods style resolution I don't think I would have been surprised.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Master Pieces (2020) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Master Pieces is a comedy horror film that was co-directed and co-written by Geoffrey Ciani and Christian Twiste. These two also feature in the film, with Twiste playing the main lead. The horror elements are the moments where I most enjoyed this, however the comedy is very surreal and also something I just didn't get. Add in plenty of false story beats, and the movie shown from the protagonists perspective and you have something that mostly just made me confused, and not in a fun way.

Twiste stars as himself (or as a character named Himself, I wasn't really sure). This man has recently gotten married to a woman (Lisa Goulian) who nags at him constantly, both for not having a job, and for not having yet put up the Christmas tree. The man is obsessed with radio psychologist, Dr. Brenda Dobbs (Tesia Nicoli) and soon he has, whether coincidentally or on purpose racked up a body count of people who share the same name as her, or who look like her. With an inexperienced detective hot on his trail, the man is determined to create his own 'master piece' whatever that may be. Of course none of this may actually be happening at all, it may all be in the man's mind.

The moments of horror in Master Pieces are the one part that I really can say I got on board with. Even with the humour bleeding into these moments they felt authentic enough. I did like the exaggerated facial expressions of the victims in the seconds before they get killed. The majority of the third act is one prolonged chase sequence, with Twiste's character wearing a Phantom of the Opera style half mask. These scenes were really quite good, they felt like a homage to slashers of the eighties in the dramatic ways they both play out, and are shot. The music for these horror sections was also on point, the orchestral sounding score created some good moments. The special effects are decent enough, some moments here that actually made me wince despite the bright red looking blood. A knife in a characters foot, and plenty of blunt trauma all looked satisfying enough, close-up camera angles helping to sell the image.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Sinister Symbiosis (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

Sinister Symbiosis is the latest short horror film from Australian writer/director David Black, someone I most know for the comedy web based horror anthology show, Horror House. His latest film is a bit different to what I would normally expect from him, initially appearing to have no comedy aspect to it. While that isn't quite the case this was still a decent bit of body horror.

David Black co-stars as a man who has been chained to a chair by a sadistic woman (Anastasia C. Kouloukas), who it appears is planning to torture him. As the fifteen minutes unravel it becomes clear that things are not as black and white as they first appear, for captor and captive are actually incestuous brother and sister, as well as masochist and sadist. As this drastic sex game plays out though it seems one of the two may start to get a bit carried away...

This short starts off in style with a great little intro credit sequence that is a perfect blend of music, visuals and style. This then moves into the opening shot of Kouloukas's character applying make-up. This neat style with the film-making continues and can most keenly be seen with footnotes of text that pops up on screen and freezes the story whenever a character says a word requiring deeper explanation, such as 'sadism' 'cannibalism' and 'incest'. This, along with the mostly black setting the two characters are in creates an abstract feel to the goings on. The aura of seriousness and bleakness to this is dispelled somewhat when Black's character begins to speak. It turns into almost a contest between the siblings on whose preferred way of getting pleasure is better, with Black's character associating the pleasure and pain combination he feels to something akin to spiritualism. 

As the quarter of an hour short plays out the body horror comes into play, and while this is still relatively bloodless there are some gruesome moments here. I wasn't exactly sure how this would get wrapped up, but it manages to do so in a way that was consistent with the style that had been gone for, and also darkly humorous. Sinister Symbiosis was a fun little horror that had some decent ideas going for it, I especially thought the editing and design choices were top notch. This short premieres on The Grim and Bloody Theater YouTube channel on June 6th.


Monday, 1 June 2020

The Afterglow (2014) - Horror Film Review

After having seen and enjoyed Yolanda Torres's horror film The Forsaken I was interested to see how other films of his compare. The Afterglow is a horror he co-directed with Joan Álvarez Durán (who also wrote the story for this one), and it features a few of the same actors from Torres's other film.

After his brother dies of an unknown illness, Oliver (Paul Coster - Cyborg Invasion) discovers he had been living with a young woman, Laura (Claudia Trujillo - The Forsaken). This woman had apparently tried to kill herself after finding his brother dead, and while she survived her attempt she has lost all memories of who she once was. Oliver decides to help Laura recover, hoping she will regain her memories and be able to give more details of his siblings final days. The more time they spend together the more they begin to fall in love, but it seems the closer Oliver gets to Laura, the more sick he also begins to get...

The Afterglow is certainly not a fast paced horror, the story moves at a glacial pace and its story remains wrapped up in a mystery. This was a mournful film that has at its core a love story, but one that is draped in melancholy and loss. It keeps with it an ever present sorrowful piano score that occasionally seemed a little heavy handed but sure helps this keep its bittersweet edge to it. The film centres squarely on the two main characters, the older Oliver, a successful author who finds himself drawn to the mysterious, younger Laura. Then there is Laura herself, someone who is a blank slate due to having lost her memories. Just who she was, was a question that kept me drawn to this, whether she was malevolent or innocent kept me guessing. Don't expect any moments of thrilling horror though, outside of some nightmare sequences that features a reoccurring man speaking in riddles, and a flashback sequence showing Oliver as a child seeing a ghost, it is all just suggested.