Friday, 31 July 2020

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

Another month into this dreadful year and added to my list of woes is a bad back I seem unable to fully recover from, and the more surreal incident of the phantom attic rats. I have a week off work in a weeks time, it will be my first proper time off since February (I had 4 days off at the end of May, but that was due to my mother dying so wasn't exactly a happy relaxing period). I am looking forward to getting some rest and relaxation as am currently feeling quite burnt out from this draining year! Video game update for July...I was quite deep into Control, but then something newer and shiner came along (Ghost of Tsushima) so I have briefly shelved that. I have also been playing more Dead by Daylight recently, it's one of those weird games where I feel I will never be at a stage where I can comfortably put up a measured review.

A bit late as I received the email about this at the end of June! Arrow Video Channel's July lineup included undead comedy Zombie for Sale, as well as Gamera: The Complete Collection which brings together all 12 films (the collection is also coming out on Blu-ray on the 17th August (UK) and 18th August (NA)). These films went live on the channel in the US and UK from 1st July and are joined by Creepshow 2, Bloodstone and Black Rainbow
Hand in hand with this news is the Arrow Video Blu-ray releases for July. Zombie for Sale, Black Rainbow, and Inferno of Torture came out on 7th July, Hiroshima on the 14th, and Bloodstone and Life is a Long Quiet River coming out on 21st July.
Lake Michigan Monster, a 'black-and-white nautical nightmare' will be available on the Arrow Video Channel and Digital HD on 3rd August in the US and UK. This comes from writer/director/actor Ryland Brickson Cole Tews and is about a bizarre sea captain on a quest to kill the sea monster that killed his father. The film is also enjoying a 24 hour virtual premiere on 31st July, though I am not sure this blog post will be up in time for you to see that. Still, try the link if you want to try and get a late ticket!
Finally, the Arrow Video Channel releases for August sees alongside Lake Michigan Monster, classics Tenebrae and Children of the Corn joining the platform, as well as The Untamed, Inferno of Torture, The Comic, The Case of the Scorpion's Tale, The Black Report, and Black Test Car.

Terror Films have formed a new partnership with Playnow Media. They are a leader in niche-specific, long-tail VOD/OTT channels across a variety of streaming services. Titles, including The Taking of Deborah Logan and Hell House LLC are now on the channel.

MVD Entertainment and Rue Morgue Magazine have launched Midnight Movie Unchained. This is an offshoot of the SVOD service Midnight Movie Society and is a free channel exclusively at Roku. It is designed to offer more traditional horror. The titles are from the MVD film catalog, from underground horror to cult classics.

Summer Hill Films have recently released ultra-low budget horror The Luring on Amazon, YouTube Movies, Google Play, iTunes and other streaming platforms. The film is about a man named Garret who tries to recover the memories from his tenth birthday. He is unaware that he lost them due to a horrific event that occurred there. This surreal psychological thriller was filmed at director/producer, Christopher Wells old family home in Vermont a week before it was sold.

Lection, the post-apocalyptic political drama from David Axe (SHED) is out now thanks to Gravitas Ventures, I will leave it up to the press release to sum up this unique film: 'The world ended. Then they had an election. The apocalypse wasn't loud. They forgot how to make things. They forgot how to run things. They even to talk to each other. Now in the aftermath, do the residents of an isolated village entrust their ruined society to the victims of its collapse? Or do they ask those who wrecked it to try to make it right again? Who's in charge? How do they even decide?'

Me and the Devil is to be released on 1st September under the HNN Presents banner of Bayview Entertainment. This comes from Italian filmmaker Dario Almerighi and is about the unravelling of Mario (played by Antonio De Nitto) after his fiancee dies in strange circumstances during a holiday. The film shares its release date with Master Pieces.

A crowdfunder campaign has started for the female driven psychological thriller Callback which comes from HorrorScreams VideoVault and FoxTrot Productions. It is about a struggling actress Sonia (Jennifer Nangle - The Last Roommate) who snaps when her successful friend Jessica (Jackie Falcon - Lockdown) gets the role she wanted, and ends up kidnapping her. The Indiegogo campaign can be found here.

A new clip has been release for upcoming horror anthology Realm of Shadows. This anthology promises that all its stories are based on real events, and is to feature such notable horror icons as Tony Todd (Candyman franchise), Michael Berryman (Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes) and Tamara Glynn (Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers). The clip is from the segment Dreamlady

Radar Pictures are in development of an auditory horror film called Unseen, with Jen and Sylvia Soska set to write and direct this. It is based on BlindSide, an audio-only mobile adventure game. The film is about a couple who wake up blind in a nightmarish world. It sounds like it will join the growing sub-genre of horror about sensory deprivation (Bird Box, A Quiet Place, Creature in the Dark)

Polestar Studio's Evergreen Is the Blood was due to be filmed in July and is based on a screenplay written by award-winning filmmaker John Reign (who also directs and stars in this) and William Long. The film is about a man who is living as a recluse after the death of his family. It turns out a lair of vampires are living in the woods around his secluded home. 

The next episode in the paranormal show We Want To Believe is now out. The title is a bit of a mouthful; Episode 3: The Demon Jar Part Three. This episode sees the team continue their investigation at an apparently haunted hotel. Check it out for yourself via YouTube

Evil Dead documentary Hail to the Deadites is to have its world premiere in August at the Fantasia International Film Festival. This documentary is about the fans of the iconic franchise and includes interviews with the cast, crew, collectors, fans and more. Of course, with the ongoing pandemic the film festival has been revamped as a virtual festival. The documentary should be up to watch on the Fantasia online platform from August 20th to September 2nd. It's 'geo-blocked' to Canadian audiences only for some reason.

The trailer for season 6 of The Walking Dead spin-off show, Fear the Walking Dead has dropped. I've only ever seen one and a half seasons of this show so it is about high time I get around to catching up with events. The new season premieres on Monday 12th October at 9pm on AMC.


UK based dark cinematic rock artist Brocarde has released the official music video for World Upside Down. This self-directed video features Ray Luzier (KoRn) on drums, and the song is taken from new EP, Love Me Till I'm Beautiful that came out on 19th July.

Continuing the pandemic theme, darkwave act Thrillsville has put out a new video for song Lockdown. It made its premiere on ReGen Magazine. Rani Sharone from the group stated "This song was directly inspired by the unrelenting restlessness of being 'stuck on lock-down'. In essence it's a romantic song about longing for a normal night on the town."


Horror board game Slice & Dice will be available for pre-order from 11th August. This is a deck building strategy game from Horror-Fix creator Ash Hamilton. The blurb for this says 'In a dash to either kill or save the game's victims, players will have to not only defeat the victims themselves, but other players in combat as well. Ever wondered if Chucky could go head to toe against Leatherface? Well, Slice & Dice looks to answer that question and more.' This will be on Kickstarter for pre-sale.

Final news is with David Moody (author of the phenomenal Autumn series of zombie novels). After suffering a heart attack earlier this year (another nail in the coffin of 2020) he is now thankfully recovered and set to release a new book. The Bleed: Rupture is the first in a three book series that he is writing with Chris Philbrook (Adrian's Undead Diary) and Mark Tufo (Zombie Fallout). The book is out now in paperback, ebook and as an Audible exclusive audiobook.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Smiling Woman (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

It is very rarely that I abandon a movie I've been sent for review, but today, 40 minutes into one I did just that. To be fair it wasn't a horror, and while I wont shame it by giving away its title it concerned copious drug use, hookers, and movie moguls and was really very dull. So, I needed a movie to fill the gap in my schedule, thankfully, YouTube is a veritable treasure trove of short horrors and at random I chose Alex Magaña's Smiling Woman.

It is 1am at a desolate train station and a girl (Ariel Fullinwider) is sat waiting for a train. It isn't before long before a strange woman (Merlynda Sol) catches her attention. This woman, wearing a bright yellow dress keeps showing up in different places, always with a strange smile on her lips.

Smiling Woman was a well made short that covers a lot of ground in its 2 minute 44 second run time. There was perhaps too much going on. The woman standing around smiling would have been effective enough, instead there is also the inclusion of texts from an unknown person added into the mix which just detracted from the more visual horror. The woman was creepy, though the best part is ruined in the image for the short that shows the very end of it. People smiling for no reason always come across as sinister, and the sheer isolation of the setting worked here. The soundtrack was far too dramatic for what was going on. Usually music doesn't get in the way of films too much, yet here it is so over blown that it seemed overwhelming and drowning out the atmosphere.

There is nothing particularly surprising about Smiling Woman, but it is well made and effective in the parts that it does do right. With a tighter focus on the titular lady, rather than branching out into the generic and often used text message idea this could have been something special. Regardless, it isn't bad, worth a watch if you have a few minutes spare.



Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Star Wars - Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead (1997) by John Whitman - Children's Horror Book Review

Star Wars - Galaxy of Fear was a most surprising series of books in that they were basically the Goosebumps of Star Wars. This 12 book collection were written with children in mind and mainly centered around the young siblings, Tash and Zak, who get into a series of misadventures while travelling around the galaxy with their secretive Uncle Hoole. City of the Dead is the second book in the series, and takes place chronologically three years after the events of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, and just a few days after the first Galaxy of Fear book, Eaten Alive (which apparently was to do with an evil sentient planet). Of course all expanded universe lore has since been ruled non-canon, after reading this one that is probably a good thing! I chose City of the Dead to read as it is a story about the undead.

Hoole, Tash, and Zak hitched a ride on the Millenium Falcon (of course) to the mysterious planet Necropolis, in order to secure a new starship. The inhabitants of Necropolis are a superstitious bunch and hold a special regard for the dead, believing an ancient legend that not to do so will unleash a zombie plague. Zak makes some new friends, and they dare him to enter the Necropolitan cemetery at midnight. Doing so he is more than shocked when he discovers the dead rising up from their graves. While all this is going on the legendary bounty hunter, Boba Fett has arrived on the planet, searching for a wanted mad scientist.   

Star Wars: Death Troopers which came out 2009 was a much better Star Wars zombie story, which wasn't too hard. To be fair, that book was intended for adults and so the horror could be a lot more extreme. Even so, as good as that book was the author just could not resist including some of the popular characters from the films. Their inclusion was quite jarring and so, when City of the Dead immediately has the main characters on board the Millennium Falcon I felt very dubious as to how good this book would be. This book worships the ground Boba Fett walks on, he is stuffed into far too much of the 144 page novel and is always treated as if he is the coolest person ever to exist. If it wasn't for him this would have been a much better story, as it is, like Death Troopers that came much later the presence of film characters ruins events.

Monday, 27 July 2020

Heartbeat (2020) - Horror Film Review

Heartbeat is a giallo inspired thriller that was directed by Gregory Hatanaka. It was actually filmed at the same time as Choke, a film of his I reviewed at the start of the month. Due to this it features many of the same actors. Also like Choke this is one strange film, its stylistic choices certainly made it stand out, but I'm not sure it was entirely to my liking.

Jennifer (Nicole D'Angelo - Choke, and who also co-wrote this with Hatanaka and Chris Spinelli) is a reporter whose latest story, concerning the dodgy dealings of a company, has resulted in a slowly growing number of murders. The victims all happened to work for the company. She teams up with, and gets involved with Detective Santoro (Spinelli - Choke) and together they search for the answers into who the killer could be.

There is a certain rhythm to the death scenes here, and while they were certainly interesting to watch they were also a bit strange. In giallo fashion we have the killer's perspective as he approaches his victims. All we see of him (or her) is their black leather gloves, and a nice little tidbit of the new victims initial reaction to seeing this person. The kills, either by strangulation or by cut-throat razor are only partly shown, and this is what makes this feel so different. The initial part of the kill plays out in a traditional format, but then the camera freezes on a close-up of the victims face before cutting to a shot of the person now lying on the floor dead. It gives a weird dispassionate feel to these killings and worked well, but with such a huge amount of victims it would have been nice for some variation. The prologue murder was a very bloody affair, so it was a shame that nothing that comes after matches this.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Dead Dicks (2019) - Horror Film Review

When I received the email about Dead Dicks the idea behind it really stood out for me. I love anything to do with time loops and while what happens is slightly different here it still involved loops. The story here is a crazy one but it still goes into a realistic look at suicide and mental health, and the effect that has on loved ones who are trying to help someone going through that. This was co-directed and co-written by Chris Bavota (Minutes Past Midnight) and Lee Paula Springer in what was her directorial debut.

After receiving a concerning phone call from her suicidal brother Richie (Heston Horwin - A Zombie Love Story) one night, his sister Becca (Jillian Harris) rushes around to his apartment. To her shock she discovers him dead in the bathtub, but is even more shocked when her brother then walks into the room. He explains to her that for some unknown reason he is unable to die, or rather that he can die but when he does an exact copy is birthed in his bedroom via a huge growth of what appears to be mould on the wall there. What begins as already surreal takes a darker turn over the night as Becca not only has to deal with her brothers strange condition, but also with a nosy neighbour, Matt (Matt Keyes - X-Men: Dark Phoenix), and the fact that despite her brother constantly being 're-born' he doesn't actually want to live anymore.

There is a feeling of David Cronenberg to this movie which isn't a hard feeling to discover. The fleshy growth on the wall is the most obvious sign of this, but also how the darkly surreal becomes normal. This starts out as almost a comedy with both the dialogue and the editing contributing to this. Richie has become blasé about dying, and his sisters reactions at all that is going on often initially seems funny, helped by moments such as a quick montage of Richie's deaths. The central idea was out there, and a lot of the mystery you would think would be exactly how any of this is happening. This is almost relegated to the background though and becomes more an intimate look at one man's mental health troubles. What at first seems to be a huge gift for Richie becomes a curse over the course of the film. No matter how many times he is brought back it doesn't change the fact that he doesn't want to live. Dead Dicks never tries to fix the character of Richie, there is no clear cut happy ending here, instead it is more for his character to put into words the reasons behind his depression and try to explain as best he can to the person who loves him most.

Friday, 24 July 2020

Genevieve (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

Nicholas Michael Jacobs 2019 anthology film Urban Fears featured a segment that was about a grotesque supernaturally possessed doll named Genevieve. Now the director has released a spin-off from Urban Fears, and from the title, Genevieve it is obviously all about that particular doll.

A thief (Nicholas Michael Jacobs) has heard about the notorious, supposedly possessed doll that is kept in the basement of Ted Morris's house, he suspects that the doll will fetch a lot of money from the right buyer. With Ted at his son's funeral the thief decides to break in and steal it. Unfortunately for him, he is ill prepared when he finds out for himself that the rumours about this creation are all too true...

Genevieve is as predictable as can be, yet, like all of the directors films there is just an indie charm here that many others fail to conjure up. The best part for me was the black and white prologue that plays after a sound bite. It was all so atmospheric and mysterious. I'm not too sure how much this plays into the segment from Urban Fears, the doll itself stuck in my mind, but not so much the story that revolved around it. Like in that film, here the doll is only ever shown at extreme close up, or in the distance, done so to get around the trouble of making it appear to move on its own.

The meat of the short is kind of a found footage, but it seemed more like what we were seeing was literally from the thief's perspective, rather than being anything recorded. It was fun going back to that basement, and the doll remains as hideous as ever, which is a good thing I might add. I may be misremembering, but I recall it being wise cracking and vulgar, here we just hear the doll giggle a lot.

Despite the predictability of the short, and the general lack of any sort of violence I really enjoyed it. It was nice revisiting what is an effectively designed doll, and the filmmaker is getting better and better at the creation process of his films. Genevieve is free to watch on YouTube, so check it out for yourself.


Thursday, 23 July 2020

The Arrangement (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Arrangement is a thriller that at first glance doesn't seem to be that much to do with horror. It has quite an interesting story to its creation. The script was originally written by Andrew Hunsicker (an actor from Epidemic) when his son was just 6 years old. His son, Jake Hunsicker then grew up to become a writer/director, and together they reworked the original script. It is this reworked version that Jake has directed here. Andrew's other children, Jessica, Melissa and Nick also had key roles in the production of The Arrangement.

Newly made detective, Jessica (Jennifer M. Kay) and her partner, Harry (Danny Donnelly) are called out to investigate the apparent suicide of a businesswoman. The woman died holding a polaroid in her hand which has the woman with a man who Harry identifies as an adult filmmaker. It isn't too long before this man is also discovered dead. With both victims dying at around the same time one day apart Jessica begins to suspect that a serial killer is on the loose. More evidence of this is that the photo the detectives found at the scene of the original crime keeps seeming to get replaced with an updated photo that reveals the identity of the next victim. With corruption in the force and the trail of victims getting closer to home the two detectives must race to try and protect those still alive, from a killer who seems able to strike no matter where their target happens to be...

The Arrangement is played seriously, and the majority of its characters seem realistic. It's a shame then that one of the main actors appears to be playing a comedic role. Harry bumbles and stumbles around all the scenes he is present in and became a big distraction from the story going on. The stuttering way he talks, even the way he runs, with arms flapping everywhere, I just couldn't take him seriously. He came across like a child trapped in an adults body. His character is the films heart, and while he was very attention stealing he was at least memorable even if he never failed to break the tension. Jessica was the straight woman to his bumbling and she was far more of a subdued character, but also something of a mystery. Near the movie's start for instance it is implied that she gets raped, but aside from a quick scene in a bathroom afterwards she then appears perfectly fine, even with her apparent rapist. The main core cast of characters were all interesting in their own right, each of the victims having their own strong personalities.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space - Horror Film News

I don't really do news posts for individual items anymore on my blog, but made an exception for Toxic Alien Babes From Outer Space as the creator, David Black asked me nicely! Black is an Australian director whose works usually take the form of short horror films, often comedic ones at that. Despite being in lock-down due to the obvious he has still managed to release 5 films over the past 3 months. These include Babble On, Babylon, Quest of Questions, Blargenfloof and the Seventh Golden Shamrock, Sinister Symbiosis and Klink, Klunk, Klonk. His latest film is a little different as it is to be a feature length one.

He has teamed up with Gerado Chierchia for this latest film, and it is Chierchia who is going to be directing and editing it. They face some challenges in that Melbourne, where they are based, is currently back in lock-down. To deal with some of these challenges, green screen, sfx, and some currently secret methods are going to be used to help create what is intended to be a pro level film.

The film has already had some actors confirmed, these confirmations include Vixey Teh who will be starring as the titular Toxic Alien Zombie Babe, Melanie Kuhn as Sgt. Harper, Natasha Mace as a 'concerned mother', and Glen Cook. All of these actors have previously worked with Black, either in front of, or behind the scenes on his previous films.

The intention of the movie is to pay homage to cult classics from the past, ones such as War of the Worlds, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and Attack of the 50 Foot Women. From the title alone this is obviously inspired by that golden age of B-movies. The original idea was to have plenty of guest appearances from B-movie stars, but they all turned down the offer. Chierchia says of this movie:
"I'm sure the film will be interesting...this period will be a time we will never forget...what better way to put ourselves on the inside, of our memories by making a film for us and for the future."
For more information about this head to the film's Facebook page, here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Stained (2019) - Horror Film Review

Stained (also known as The Letter Red) is a horror that came from director Joston Theney (director of the Axeman series). I don't know if it was due to being hungover today (got drunk for the first time since pre-pandemic the night before I wrote this) but I really struggled to make head or tail of what on Earth was going on. It was two thirds into the run time that it all clicked and I finally understood what the film was actually about.

John Macbeth (Edward Gusts - Alien Expedition) is distraught when he learns the long promised for pay rise at his job is not going to materialise. During an argument with his boss, Gregory Duncan (Theney) he kills him, and ends up dumping the body in a nearby river. Returning home to his wife, Jane (Arielle Brachfeld) she is delighted with what he has done to secure their future, and uses his new murderous streak to her advantage. John becomes the new boss of his company, but as things begin to unravel he has to take more and more drastic actions to stop the police from discovering his many crimes.

My mind just could not understand the film at all to begin with. Characters seemed to be extremely over acting, so much so that it felt like they were aliens inhabiting the skins of humans and trying their best to seem normal. It was also bizarre how John and Jane seemed to both independently go insane at the same time. It made for an intense killer couple, but also seemed to make little sense. Once I got past the 80 minute mark I suddenly realised that Stained, rather than an original story, was actually a very loose modern day remake of Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth! In school I studied The Merchant of Venice, King Lear, and Hamlet, but not Macbeth. Due to this I had no idea what the original story was all about and so much of this movie was lost on me. It sure retroactively made sense why some of the characters seemed so insane. The three women fawning over Macbeth constantly were obviously the three witches, and after a quick summary of the plot of the old play it became clear many characters shared similar names and roles in both the play and this reimagining. It was only once I deciphered the films intent that I began to enjoy it, but that could only go some way to repairing the films first two acts.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Never Without the Pentagram (2020) by Hvile I Kaos/Emerson Sinclair - Music EP Review

I rarely do music reviews and with good reason, I am at best ill informed when it comes to music, I certainly have no place critiquing it. At the end of last year I wrote a review of the latest album from Hvile I Kaos, which is the personal project of prolific California-based cellist and composer Kakophonix. Now he has teamed up with Emerson Sinclair with a pretty neat split EP titled Never Without the Pentagram.

This EP is made up of 7 tracks, Hvile I Kaos opens and closes this, with Sinclair contributing the middle tunes. Opener is Rise, Engulf, Envenom which even at 11 minutes long was a genuinely good track. Like the previous EP I reviewed this sounded like 'rustic horror', all strings, again evoking The Witcher series of games. Second track, Intro is where things begin to change, and the journey that I didn't even expect begins to move along. This 2 minute track introduces the vocals of Sinclair which I was not expecting, while keeping the rustic sound.
Graphite is a continuation of the transformation in style of sound. Starting off with Medieval sounding female chanting this changes into something that I can only describe as making the demonic sound sacred and holy. Fourth track, Mother brings with it the introduction of industrial sounding music, and continues the unexpected with the addition of barking dogs who in their own way close out the track. This leads into Singularity that becomes even more industrial, with added synth, the sound reminded me a bit of NIN. The song felt light and optimistic despite the lyrics sounding like they were coming from the perspective of an occult or demonic being.
Penultimate track, Closing brings back the strings, and like Intro is a short interlude. It leads to final track, the 6 and a half minute Cleanse, Dispel, Disperse that begins with the typical old style sound but becomes something that sounds a lot more modern as it goes on.

I like the sound of Hvile I Kaos, so I knew that part was going to be good. I wasn't expecting how varied and unexpected the places this went to. Each track felt like an exciting new present to open, with it always managing to surprise. Kakophonix has said that the EP "flow as a continuous work of ceremonial magick", and that "stylistically it's best described as occult neoclassical with elements of black metal and electronic music". I may not know much when it comes to music, but I know this was a joyous ride from start to finish. Never Without the Pentagram was released on 10th July by Metal Assault.


Sunday, 19 July 2020

The Music Box (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Music Box (Il Carillon to give it it's native title) is an English language Italian horror that was directed and co-written by John Real (Feel the Dead). The story being told here is one that was very familiar, and due to a lack of thrills was also one that became quite tedious to watch.

Annabelle (Rachel Daigh) and her newly orphaned niece, Sophie (Cearl Pepper) have moved into an old Victorian house. Buried in the garden they discover an old box that contained an antique music box. Sophie becomes obsessed with this music box and takes it with her everywhere she goes. Strange things start to occur around Sophie though, objects moving on their own, lights switching on and off, and a ghostly little girl who keeps appearing. Unable to get rid of the box, Annabelle seeks out help to deal with what is becoming apparently clear is a possessed item.

This was quite a dull film and that is down to several factors. Firstly, creepy child films have been done to death so many times before, and this one brings with it nothing original. It all played out so safely that it felt like it was following a formula rather than trying to stand out as a unique horror. Nothing much really happens here from beginning to end. There is a gradual ramping up of the horror, but even by the films finale there isn't really much going on. The ghostly girl appears every now and again but doesn't do much other than standing around before abruptly vanishing. Sophie, who is mute for much of the film had no personality to her character and so I found it hard to care about what happened to her. Annabelle also was a bit of a bland character. The lack of personality from any character here surely helped to keep events boring.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Morbid Colors (2020) - Horror Film Review

Morbid Colors is the latest film from writer/director Matthew Packman (Margo) which at its heart is like a character study of two sisters, wrapped up as a road movie. The horror aspect that forms the core of this is only ever suggested with no actual evidence to support the claims of the main character. Whether the affliction is real or imagined though this was still an authentic feeling, gritty and grimy picture that was consistent in its style from beginning to end.

Myca (Kara Gray) has returned to her small hometown after running away to the city some time previously. She's a former drug addict and a waster, yet has a firm friend in the form of her younger adopted sister, Devin (Lanae Hyneman). She also happens to have a whole new problem to deal with, as she believes she has an affliction that requires her to drink blood to survive, and holds a woman she met in the city as the one responsible for causing this. Together the two sisters head out on a road trip in order to hunt down the woman Myca sees as ruining her life.

Road movie films are often quite enjoyable in the way they flow, and that is true of Morbid Colors. The travelling across the country leads to various little mini stories playing out. Both the protagonists are messed up in their own right. Myca is self serving, bullying and nasty, unable to accept responsibility for the problems in her life. With an alcoholic mother and an abusive childhood she feels she never got a chance in life to be a good person. Devin is far more mild mannered when it comes to the siblings relationship with each other, and while she is shown to be able to really stick up for herself, when it comes to Myca she would follow her to the ends of the Earth. Both actresses were great in their roles, managing to be captivating leads without being nice or relatable ones. The rest of the cast are mostly fine, there were a couple in minor roles whose acting I didn't think was the best, but they only get small screen time.

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Legend of the Muse (2020) - Horror Film Review

Legend of the Muse (originally released in 2017 under the name Muse) is the directorial debut from John Burr who also wrote this. The title is fitting as it happens to star Elle Evans, who in real life is married to Muse front man, Matt Bellamy. While the film looks like a dream it is let down slightly by a general lack of thrills.

Adam (Riley Egan) is a struggling artist that is unable to find his perfect muse, the person who will inspire him to produce great art. One dark night he is convinced by a local thug, Hector (Max Decker) to give him a lift out of the city. It is there that Adam encounters a strange and beautiful woman (Evans) who somehow follows the artist back home. This mute woman is the exact inspiration that he needed, and soon he finds his work gaining more and more success. An art colleague jokes that Adam has found a Leannán Si; a mythical creature from Celtic lore who grants divine inspiration to artists in exchange for undying love, little realising that this is indeed what it appears Adam has stumbled across...

This was quite a slow moving horror which was most certainly its design. At its core this is a love story of sorts, and also a film about all consuming obsession. Evans's character is a walking metaphor for the singular drive that is needed to be successful. Her character was a highlight here, which is odd considering she is the one character who never utters a word. The talking cast members never manage to achieve as much of an impact. It makes sense that Adam is socially awkward and shy, yet there is no real development for his character over the course of the movie. From start to finish he is mild mannered and timid, yet it felt there should have been more of a transition. I felt it would have been better suited if he had started to become more of a monster, at the very least show some real backbone. Even when he is doing things that are far from innocent he never breaks out of his quietly spoken ways. At times there are some interesting ideas presented, the best of which lasts for all of one scene before the idea is resolutely shown to be false. Mental illness being the root cause of all Adam's troubles rather than a tangible being could have been a good idea to properly explore.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Keep Your Distance (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

Back in April we were deep into lock down here in the UK, one of the best things to come from this time was the short UK horror anthology film, The Isolation Horrors which featured films from five different directors, all based around the type of horror that could occur while trapped inside. Keep Your Distance is a horror that was put together by three of the contributors to the anthology. It feels kind of like a spiritual successor, or an epilogue to that collection. With restrictions now lifted in the country quite a bit, the horror moves out of the home and onto the streets where the perils of ignoring social distancing becomes the topic.

The short takes place in London where a man (John Whitaker) not only ignores social distancing rules, but also coughs in the proximity of a mask wearing stranger (M.W Daniels). In anger at this the masked man starts to follow the cougher...

This black and white film was shot (on an iphone), edited and directed by Nicolai Kornum, with music by 1i2c (Whitaker). The central idea behind this was simple with the majority of the film being the walking pursuit, the thudding soundtrack a perfect accompaniment for this. It leads up to a finish that made me laugh out loud, I thought it would be ridiculous if it did what it appeared it would do, and so it was funny to see it actually go there. I love how some people have been able to get inspired from what has been happening this bad year. With Keep Your Distance you have a film that works both as a surreal bit of horror, but also with a relevant message underneath the madness.


Monday, 13 July 2020

The Incantation (2018) - Horror Film Review

As I've got older I've came to understand that I often like style over substance when it comes to movies, especially when the substance is made up of stories that can be hard to decipher. Such is the case with The Incantation, a film that was both written and directed by Jude S. Walko in his feature length directorial debut. Walko also features in a key role here. The film is shot in beautiful locations, features memorable characters, and is only really let down by some dodgy acting in the more minor roles.

Lucy Bellerose (Sam Valentine - Followed) is an American girl who has travelled to a castle in southern France in order to attend a distant uncles funeral. There she encounters a bunch of strange characters. She is welcomed by the ever serious Vicar of Borley (Walko), and attended to by the emotionless chambermaid, Mary (Beatrice Orro). Not long after she encounters a travelling insurance salesman, Abel Baddon (Dean Cain - The New Adventures of Superman), as well as the local gravedigger, J.P (Dylan Kellogg). Her ancestor's castle has an ominous history to it, with the superstitious locals speaking of witchcraft and devil worship, and the longer Lucy stays at the place, the more she begins to realise there may be some truth to the dark rumours surrounding it.

There is nothing worse than having bland and dull characters in films, you want people who are going to stick in the mind. With The Incantation you are given some wonderful characters, people who don't come across as believable, yet are each unique in their own way. This is best seen with the Vicar who remains a mystery throughout despite playing a pivotal role. Abel was another great character who had a real look about him. Cain was a standout actor here, really managing to breath life into this person. It was also good that Valentine made Lucy into a protagonist who was really likeable, a defining characteristic of hers was her spirited independence that made her easy to root for. The acting is uneven though, while the main characters were all great in their own ways a lot of the smaller roles featured some pretty abysmal acting. I don't know if it was due to French actors using English rather than their native tongue but they butchered a lot of their lines. J.P's mum and a local flower seller both stood out for all the wrong reasons. Being set in France I would not have minded French with subtitles. Instead you have weird situations where French people are alone talking to each other, yet still speaking in English, which made zero sense. Some of the actors speak in such thick accents that I could barely understand what they were saying, this could have been improved a lot if the film had had the confidence to put some subtitles in rather than assume English was what was wanted by any viewers of the picture.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Lake Artifact (2019) - Horror Film Review

Bruce Wemple's Lake Artifact is a time loop movie that due to the subject matter never takes itself too seriously. It seems Wemple, who both wrote and directed this, has a thing for time based themes as his back catalogue features such films as Mia and the Vase and Altered Hours which both dabbled in time travel. I love time loops and the many inventive ideas they bring with it and so it was a joy to discover this comedy horror used the concept heavily.

Five friends have gone away for the weekend to a cabin by the shores of Lake Paradox. The group, who include among them Tommy (Thomas Brazzle - Monstrous; an upcoming horror also from Wemple), Kip (Chris Cimperman), Grace (Catharine Daddario - also Monstrous), and Megan (Anna Shields - Monstrous, Mia and the Vase) run into car trouble, but are saved by a mysterious hitchhiker, Thomas (Dylan Grunn - you guessed it, Monstrous). As thanks they invite him to join them for a night of partying. Things seem to be going well until the next day. Kip vanishes after heading out to pick up more booze, the group discovers bizarre photographs of themselves by the lake, but ones which they all have no memory of taking, and they discover there is someone else in the area secretly watching them. This is just the start of the madness as they begin to realise they are stuck in some sort of time loop, and that to break the loop there can only be one of them left alive...

The idea behind this was brilliant, but its execution not so much. The core rules surrounding the loop are mainly revealed by a seemingly unrelated sub plot that takes the form of a series of interviews. These interviews are inter-cut throughout the movie, a local historian, as well as a member of a religious sect are the main people being questioned. It is in these moments that the history of the lake and of the house itself is revealed. Centring mainly on a cult that resided in the area in the 1950's, and a writer from the 1970's who built the house, but later killed himself in strange circumstances. These parts were wonderful and added a lot of lore to the events, it was only through these parts that I became to understand the bigger picture. Yet, the characters in the film seemingly get fully on board with all this knowledge without any way for them to have done so. They are stuck in a loop but there is little going on to suggest they could possibly be aware of this, or aware of the fact that only one of them can escape.

Thursday, 9 July 2020

Devil's Junction: Handy Dandy's Revenge (2019) - Horror Film Review

Devil's Junction: Handy Dandy's Revenge (directed by Jeff Broadstreet) had an interesting premise to it. Having a load of puppets running rampant brought to mind the classic Puppet Master series, the addition of horror icons Bill Oberst Jr. (3 from Hell, Age of the Living Dead) and Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects, Repo! The Genetic Opera) meant I just had to check this one out. It didn't live up to my expectations sadly, that is mainly down to the uninspired script and some very bad CG effects.

Steffen (Jake Red - The Right Eye 2) has brought his friends to a creepy old building his rich father, Richard (Moseley) had recently purchased. He has dreams of turning the place into an exclusive club and hopes his friends will both donate money, as well as bring their friends to the place. His friends include among them womaniser Rick (Arthur Marroquin - Santa Jaws) and his model girlfriend Abby, nerdy Doc (Danni Spring - Dr. Horrible's Unofficial Sing-Along Sequel), sporty Rosie (Kyle Anderson), and Josie (KateLynn E. Newberry). It used to be home to a popular children's TV puppet show that took place in the 60's, unknown to the group the host of that show, Mr. Jolly (Oberst Jr.) is still living there. The man not only has ties to Richard, but he also happens to be a legitimate magician, able to control peoples movements, and also able to give life to puppets...

Despite the average acting of the main young cast I started off with high hopes for this. The set-up was perfectly fine. The characters were completely one dimensional stereotypes but for a slasher I didn't think that would be too much of a problem. However it is the script itself that is the worst part here, some characters in particular feel like they didn't really have a strong role in mind for them. Best of the actors here was Oberst Jr. He is someone who seems to get better and better the more lines of dialogue he is given, his voice is made for acting. Luckily, and one thing Devil's Junction does get right is that he has by far the biggest speaking part in the movie. Moseley is truly wasted here, he spends much of the film sat in a chair and his lines sound like they were added as an afterthought. His character hardly gets to do anything other than react to the situation around him. There's only so many times you can have a character protest or exclaim without it starting to feel like there was hardly even a need to have them there due to adding so little.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Choke (2020) - Horror Film Review

Choke is a horror film that comes from director Gregory Hatanaka (Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance). The way the film flows, and the blurring between fiction and reality led to me not entirely 'getting' this movie. It seemed to me like it was over before it had really started, even if it does some interesting things. Things such as having duel protagonists who get equal amounts of screen time yet never meet, united by a girl they both know.

Brandon (Shane Ryan - the Amateur Porn Star Killer series of films) is a serial killer whose method of killing is by strangulation. He is quite a tortured man and seems unable to control himself. One day he meets a 17 year old girl, Jeanie (Sarah Brine - Heartbeat) on a train and forms an immediate connection to her. He sees her as an innocent, someone he is able to be himself around.  Meanwhile, a troubled detective named Robert (Scott Butler - Zombie Night) who has a penchant for teenage girls begins a relationship with Jeanie, and in doing so corrupts her.

I spent much of my time watching Choke wondering how on earth I was going to be able to write a review about it. It is narrated by the character of Jeanie and establishes straight away that Brandon is a killer. You are never shown his serial killer moments as full scenes, instead there are montages of him strangling various girls that pop-up over the course of the film. At times I wasn't sure if any of these were actually real, or just in Brandon's mind as there are plenty of moments of him strangling Jeanie to death when she is obviously very much still alive. Robert, while not a killer is also a very flawed character. He is shown to be obsessed with an ex of his, and constantly contemplates suicide, then of course his strange relationship with a teenage girl. Both these protagonists share abstract dream sequences that have them chasing down people on a beach while naked. Didn't quite understand that part!

Monday, 6 July 2020

The Last of Us Part II (2020) - Zombie Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

The Last of Us is one of my favourite horror video games of all time. It had a mature story, featured some top notch acting, looked and sounded stunning, and of course featured the undead. Many people, me included felt it ended perfectly, that a sequel featuring the same characters could only ever fail. When I heard The Last of Us Part II was in development I took a decision to not read or look at anything about it at all. I saw the teaser trailer many years back, but after that I didn't so much as even look at a screenshot. That has served me very well here as things play out very differently to what I expected, my expectations were surpassed on many occasions. There were even moments during this when I felt for sure it was going to get the top 10/10 score from me. As it was, this is indisputably a stunning game, which has just a few things that stopped it from reaching that top score. Needless to say, there will be spoilers for The Last of Us here, as well as that game's DLC chapter, Left Behind. If you have yet to play that game I implore you to. I will also state that if you have any intention of playing The Last of Us Part II then maybe stop reading here. I don't intend to give any story spoilers away, but I can't write about this without taking away a little bit of what makes playing this so great with virgin eyes.

The game takes place in post-apocalyptic America in which a mutant Cordyceps fungus has mutated much of humanity into violent zombie like creatures. This takes place mainly 5 years after the events of the first game, which itself took place 20 years after the end of civilisation as it was known. Ellie (voiced by Ashley Johnson) and Joel (voiced by Troy Baker) are now living in the settlement of Jackson. One night a group of WLF militia (Washington Liberation Front) infiltrate the defence lines with a singular mission to achieve. They are successful, and their success results in Ellie, as well as a few others heading to the WLF's place of origin, the city of Seattle, to get revenge.
Arriving at the city, Ellie discovers the WLF are deep in the middle of a war with a cult nicknamed the 'Scars'. With her singular mission to achieve, she sets out to kill all those she holds responsible for the atrocity committed at Jackson...

It shouldn't be too much of a surprise, but boy, this is one bleak game! The games opening few hours lull you into a sense of false security. This part of the game had me feeling multiple emotions minute to minute. It even made me laugh out loud at one point. The original game worked well to achieve a balance between the horror of the world and friendship bonding. Ellie and Joel's journey brought with it a legitimate feeling of trust building and respect. Here characters are already established, and with revenge being such a large theme of the game there are not as many simple moments of curiosity and discovery. That first game saw you play as the middle aged Joel for the vast majority of the game, you only got to play as Ellie on a couple of occasions. It was due to that, that I didn't mind this time around Ellie is the main focus. That first game was Joel's, this one is very much Ellie's. The game does a breathtaking job of forcing you to see events from the antagonists point of view, sometimes even complicit in their actions (it isn't much a spoiler to say that nearly immediately you are put in the shoes of the main antagonist during the games opening chapter for a time). These bad guys have hopes and aspirations, they have story-lines going on outside of Ellie and company's quest for retribution. The main plot may be serious and bleak but there are still moments of levity dotted throughout the game, even if these mainly take the form of flashbacks that show what Ellie and Joel had been up to in the five years since the end of The Last of Us.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Watcher 2 (2020) - Horror Film Preview

To begin with, I'm not exactly sure what the correct title of this slasher is. I was sent the screener under the name Awakening the Nun, the film itself has The Bad Nun 2 as the title card, but the film's IMDB page has it listed as The Watcher 2. Elsewhere the image used on IMDB for it has it called Bad Nun: Deadly Vows. What I do know for sure is that this was co-directed by Rebecca Matthews (Witches of Amityville Academy) and Scott Jeffrey (The Watcher) and that the screener I received wasn't a complete version of the movie. It appeared that all that was really missing here were visual effects, sound effects and some music, but due to the absence of these I have decided to treat this as a preview. Spoilers of The Watcher to follow.

A family, that includes Pamela (Nicola Wright - Witches of Amityville Academy), her daughter Mandy (Stephanie Lodge - Witches of the Water), and her daughter's daughter Catherine (Sarah T. Cohen - Witches of Amityville Academy also) move into an old farmhouse out in the country to start afresh. It is not long however before they begin to be hassled by a mysterious figure who claims to be a nun. At first this nun leaves threatening messages, but it isn't before long until she starts to resort to murder. Could it be related to a similar situation that took place in the area 4 years previously, or is there a far closer connection to the family's past?

This begins in familiar slasher sequel fashion with the final girl from The Watcher being murdered in the pre-credits intro sequence. Despite not having seen the first film I don't feel like I missed out on much. A couple of characters relate the events of that movie, a policeman in particular goes in depth as to who the killer was, what he did, and why it couldn't possibly be him this time around (during the events of the film he is residing in prison). With the heroine of that movie dead there are no loose ends and so this can tell its own story. The killer looks the part, obviously dressed up as a nun, with a black mask covering their face, and hulking in size. The killers weapon of choice is a large pair of scissors. Reminding me a bit of Scream, as the killer also talks quite a lot. I'm not sure if the voice used in the copy I received is going to be the one in the completed release but it sounded like that of a young woman. By the way the killer speaks she sounds like she sees her victims as sinners, people deserving of death.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Curse of the Blind Dead (2020) - Zombie Horror Film Preview

I originally intended for this to be a review of Curse of the Blind Dead, however the screener I received was a very rough cut. It contained no music, no sound effects, no audio balancing and no VFX. If it were not for the fact that this was both a zombie film and a new entry in the Blind Dead series I would have skipped this. I couldn't in good conscience treat what I saw as something ready for review and so instead I will treat this as a preview. Amando de Ossorio's 1970's series of Italian films are something quite special. Starting off with Tombs of the Blind Dead, we then got Return of the Blind Dead, The Ghost Galleon and finally Night of the Seagulls. While I am not sure how official this new entry is, it still follows many of the rules that the 70's films had.

It is medieval times and a rogue branch of the Knights Templar are planning on sacrificing a baby to a dark entity. They believe the end of the world is coming, and see the sacrifice as the only thing able to stop that from coming to pass. Before they are able to carry out their plan however they get attacked by an angry mob from a nearby village. The knights are blinded and then burned alive. A long time into the future and an unknown apocalypse has decimated the world. A man (Aaron Stielstra - Age of the Dead) and his heavily pregnant daughter are braving the hostile wasteland in order to reach a thriving settlement they heard about on the radio. However before they reach their destination they are attacked by bandits. They end up saved by a religious sect and taken to their compound. The joy of their rescue is short lived as the sect intend to sacrifice the girl's unborn child to the same entity those Templar's tired to all those hundreds and hundreds of years ago. To facilitate this process those same long dead Knights have risen. They are the blind dead, and they will stop at nothing to achieve their masters goal...

First off, despite my hopes, this was so uncompleted that it became hard to follow at times. I thought inserting these zombies into the apocalypse was a great idea. Undead and the apocalypse are natural bed-fellows, but the blind dead are not your typical modern day walking corpses. The blind dead have always looked medieval. They set themselves apart by wielding swords, riding on horseback, wearing medieval hooded robes, and of course being blind. Also, among their weaknesses is sunlight. The original series had them frozen in place when daylight appears, here they evaporate into nothingness. Not a spoiler if you are familiar with the originals as they may be gone, but it is only ever a temporary thing. What was really great about this version of the dead is that they have a supernatural element that makes them near indestructible.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Witches of Amityville Academy (2020) - Horror Film Review

Witches of Amityville Academy is an indie horror that was written by Tom Jolliffe (Party Like It's 1984) and directed by Rebecca Matthews (The Candy Witch). Despite having only seen the first episode of the third season of American Horror Story (American Horror Story: Coven) I felt many similarities with that one. There are good moments, and it was refreshing to see a mainly all female cast yet there wasn't the budget to really sell the story being told.

Jessica (Sarah T. Cohen - Cupid, ClownDoll) has received an invitation to join an exclusive academy run by Dominque (Amanda-Jade Tyler - The Watcher 2), and so the girl jumps at the chance. On her first night there, her and another new arrival are tied up by the other students and Jessica is horrified to see the other newcomer murdered in front of her. It turns out that everyone at the academy are secretly witches, they intend to sacrifice Jessica in order to summon a powerful demon named Botis (Toby Wynn-Davies - Escape from Cannibal Farm, Dogged) to the world. However, before they are able to do so Jessica is able to use some latent magical powers to escape, aided by three friendly witches who include among them Sam (Kira Reed Lorsch - Acts of Desperation) and Lucy (Donna Spangler - American Poltergeist). They decide to teach Jessica how to use her hidden powers, but in the meantime Dominique is intent on recapturing the girl for her sacrifice.

This really was quite an inoffensive movie, and that is a double side comment on it. On the one hand this was very easy to watch, for all that was happening it was a mellow experience with not much peril or danger to it, and with leads who were a likeable bunch. On the other hand though by the time the end credits rolled I had a few tears of boredom literally running down my face. The general idea here is a solid one, sure summoning a demon is hardly an original story line but it is serviceable to build a film around. This falls down with the low budget which meant the magical effects were not only used sparingly, but they also didn't look fantastic. There are some Harry Potter style battles where the two sides have magic-offs with each other, Dominique with evil green lighting coming out her hands, the good witches a more pink lighting. Other than that you get a few floating objects, and quite a few moments where the two sides stand facing each other with the battle seemingly taking place within the mind. The CG might not be the best but some of the practical effects here are actually cool. In particular there are a few nice looking throat slits, that included spurting blood from the wound. I also thought the make-up effects on the demon were fairly decent.