Monday, 31 August 2020

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

This weekend I really have been quite lazy when it comes to my blog, I have not been sleeping grand lately so I put it down to that. My neglected inbox seems full so I imagine this monthly news round-up may be a big one...

Lady Destiny Productions are currently working on a horror film called Christmas Slasher. Actress, director, and owner of the company, Destiny Soria is set to star in, and direct the movie. The film hopes to blend several horror subgenres together, including psychological and the supernatural. Soria plays the lead role of Alita Claus, who along with her friends head to an old childhood hangout for a weekend of partying. Things go quite wrong with the arrival of a killer zombie reindeer, as well as the angry duo of Mr. and Mrs. Claus who have put Alita and her friends on their naughty list. Christmas Slasher is also set to feature Nicholas Brendon and Felissa Rose, and the film is due for release before Christmas 2021.

Mind bending clone-fest Dead Dicks is now out to stream or buy. It can be brought on Amazon, Artsploitation Films and Kino Lorber, while it can be rented on Prime Video, Apple TV and Vimeo. I quite liked this film, time loop stuff always appeals to me. Also from Artsploitation Films comes the news that Happy Times has been acquired for North America. This is a horror comedy about a Shabbat dinner party that spirals out of control. It is slated for a film festival run this autumn, with VOD and DVD to follow.

The official trailer of Italian horror, Caleb is now online. This film by L/D Productions is about a battle between good and evil that unfolds in a small remote town.

Deadly Night Out is due to start filming in September. This is due to be filmed in South Florida, the film aims to be a psychological thriller 'that takes us on a suspenseful journey of a fragile relationship during a difficult time'. It was created by Dominic Giannetti.

Horror comedy Gym of the Dead has released a new poster and announced a cast. The film is to feature Dani Thompson (My Bloody Banjo), Megan Lockhurst (Jurassic Predator), Eve Kathryn Oliver (Edge of Extinction), Jack Hunter (Paranoia Tapes), Robert Bess (Clown Motel 2), Heather Rotten (The Embalmers), Amy Ellen Holbrook (Strix), Pamela Sutch (Trakked), Renee Graham (Backwoods Bubba), Tina Vasile (Day of the Undead), Tamara Jones (Z Dead End), Cayt Feinics (Naked Cannibal Campers) and Monica Hayes (The Gift). The film is going to be a blend of everything eighties and also include zombies. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign running to get funds, that can be found here.

Award-winning filmmaker Scott Lyus has teamed up with actress Natalie Martins (Cruel Summer) and writer/director James L Perkins to produce horror short The Veil of Isolation. This has recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign. The film tackles a current theme, that of lockdown, and this follows a woman who shares her increasingly dark thoughts with the world in the form of a video diary.

Jeff Payne has released a teaser trailer for the third chapter of his The Pale Faced Lady series. The short film, titled In Darkness I Wait is set to be released in September. Payne hopes this will be the payoff for the series. It is to be 25 minutes long, which is more than the first two (The Pale Faced Lady and She Will Return).

Faces of Fear is a horror anthology that is due out on September 29th and will feature Kim Sonderholm (Little Big Boy), Luc Bernier (Home Videos 3, Jason Figgis (Children of a Darker Dawn) and Martin Sonntag (Escaping the Dead) among many others. The anthology is due to include the following short films, Harvest, Facing Face, See Attachment, The Ties That Bind, Cooking with Human Blood, Red Rubber, Callous and Dream. A trailer can be seen here.

Mario Cerrito and Michael Joy have partnered up to make horror film, The House in the Pines. The film is said to be 'an 80's slasher film that is nothing like an 80's slasher film'. The screenplay is complete with casting announcements due to be made in the coming weeks.

On 29th August, Sequanda Films launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the production of The Sawyer Massacre. This is a feature length Texas Chainsaw Massacre fan film that is set several years before the original and aims to give a deeper insight into the murderous family. The campaign is set to run for two months and will feature the usual assortment of perks for donors.

The dual format release of Melancholic has been announced by Third Window Films. This is an award winning Japanese comedic crime thriller that is about a graduate forced to take a job at the local bathhouse, which happens to be used by the yakuza as a place for execution and corpse disposal. This comes out on September 7th and will also be out on various video on demand platforms.

HNN Presents is set to release two new horror films in time for Halloween. Fabula is about a former detective who suffers from a fear of the dark and finds himself hunting a serial killer. Profondo is about a disillusioned man who heads to a small seaside village in search of the mythical 'Red Devil' marine animal. These both release on October 13th and come from Bayview Entertainment.

Denver auteur filmmaker Dakota Ray (The Dark Days of Demetrius, The Acid Sorcerer) has revealed details of his seventh film. Titled Sebastian's Unholy Flesh. A demonic being named Sebastian (Ray) manifests in order to obtain Lucifer's ancient unholy book. However, also in search of the book are shamen/serial killer, The White Spider, and a demon named Nezaah (Nick Benning). Ray's films always have a cool style to them, and I like the synopsis for this one.

Quartz Vein will be the 15th feature film by award-winning director, Jared Masters. In this one a prospector in the year 2047 helps rescue three sisters that are captive of a race of gold injecting vampires. The script has been completed, and the film aims to release Fall 2021. For more details check out the Indiegogo campaign page here.

It wouldn't be a news post without mentioning Terror Films and the end of July has seen the launch of their merchandise store. This includes backpacks, leggings, t-shirts, cups and more, and will feature demons from their original productions: Trace (2015), The Chosen (2015) and Hell House LLC (2015). The shop can be found here. Also from Terror Films comes the critics choice horror anthology 10/31: A Halloween Horror Anthology. This premiered on Kings of Horror YouTube Channel on August 28th. The film will be on there exclusively until October 9th where it will then release on a variety of digital platforms.

Some AMC announcements now. First up, Eli Roth's History of Horror Season Two premieres Tuesday 10th November at 9pm. This new season 'explores the dark power and wicked fun of scary movies, the craft that went into making them, and the ways that horror films reflect the anxieties of their times'. Fear the Walking Dead Season Six premieres Monday 12th October at 9pm. This new season explores what has happened to the unlikely family after being dispersed across Virginia (Colby Minifie) and her Pioneers far-reaching settlements. Also check out the news posts header image for some lovely official key art for season 6. Preacher season 4 continues Mondays at 21:00 until 5th October. Based on the popular comic book franchise of the same name, this final season brings God's endgame for the universe into place. I have some screeners of some of the episodes so shall be covering that in a different blog post. Finally, NOS4A2 Season 2 continues Sundays at 21:00 until the finale on 8th September.

Finally, ending on some music news, Fatality have a new music video for their single Juggernaut. This was filmed and edited by Talon Payne of Gallow Wood Media and it was recorded and produced at Card Trick Music in Essex, UK. Fatality's vocalist Josh says of the song "is about standing tall, getting up when you've been knocked down and giving it your all no matter what you're aiming for in life".

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Vivarium (2019) - Horror Film Review

As a member of the Fright Meter Awards committee I was in a group chat discussing what films should be up for nomination and someone mentioned Vivarium. After a little look into this I was quite intrigued about the set-up and so felt I needed to check it out. According to the trivia section on IMDB, Vivarium is Latin for 'place of life' and also refers to a simulated habitat for plants or animals, both of which fit in with the creepy story unfolding here. This was directed by Lorcan Finnegan who co-wrote the story with Garret Shanley, their previous film, Without Name I quite enjoyed.

Gemma (Imogen Poots - Green Room, 28 Weeks Later) and her boyfriend, Tom (Jesse Eisenberg - Zombieland, Zombieland: Double Tap) are looking for a house to move into together and so they decide to check out a local estate agents. The weird agent working there (Jonathan Aris - Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) insists they follow him to a brand new housing estate which he promises them will be where they will find their perfect home. They follow him deep into the development, which is a series of streets of identical looking houses, and are soon given a house to look around in. While their attention is elsewhere the man vanishes, and chalking it up to just an odd experience they go to leave. Bizarrely they are unable to find their way out of the estate, their every attempt resulting in them back at the house, eventually the petrol in their car runs out and they are forced to spend the night in the house. After many days spent trying to escape they come to realise they are trapped. It is not long after that they discover a box in the street outside their home, which appears to contain a newborn baby inside. With no way to leave, the couple are forced to live at the house, kept alive by mysterious food parcels which keep turning up, while caring for a child whose rapid aging suggests a species that is not human...

On first reading up about this it sounded like a suburban version of In the Tall Grass, with the fields of grass replaced with the labyrinthian like housing estate. For the film's first act that is an apt comparison, yet the arrival of the child changes things up. The child (mainly played by Senan Jennings - Brute) is both annoying and sinister. It is clear from the films opener of a baby cuckoo being reared by a different species of bird that a similar thing is going on with the couple. The boy always appears to be imitating what he thinks a human should be acting like, the most creepy moments come when he nearly perfectly imitates Gemma and Tom's voices and conversations. This middle act of the film nearly outstayed its welcome, the mystery of why they are trapped fades into the background. As Gemma becomes more and more caring towards the child, Tom becomes obsessed with digging a hole, convinced he will discover answers by what he finds at the bottom. Both actors give a good impression of just what being trapped in such a situation would be like. As the film progresses both characters get more and more depressed and haggard looking, the monotony of their situation grinding them down.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Yummy (2019) - Comedy Zombie Horror Film Review

It feels so good to mostly be up to date on my blog. It means that I get to choose the films I watch for review, at least for the time being until a backlog starts to form again. I had my eye for a while on Belgian zombie horror comedy, Lars Damoiseaux's Yummy, and as it is on Shudder I decided to check it out.

Michael (Bart Hollanders) is taking his girlfriend, Alison (Maaike Neuville) and her mother, Sylvia (Annick Christiaens) to a Eastern European hospital so that they can get some cosmetic surgery done. Sylvia is obsessed with trying to stay young, but Alison is there for a breast reduction, fed up of the back pain being large chested has caused her, and sick of the never ending unwanted attention her chest size has gotten her. Michael is worried about the operation being done correctly and ends up causing a scene, so to distract him, the clinic assistant, Daniel (Benjamin Ramon) takes him off on the pretence of giving him a tour of the facility. In actuality Daniel is a junkie who is looking for drugs. His search takes them to a restricted wing of the clinic where Michael stumbles across a bound woman seeming to be in distress, he helps to free her, realising too late there is something very wrong with the woman. It isn't long before the zombie (for that is what she is) has escaped the wing and started to infect the staff and patients. Soon, with the hospital under lockdown, Michael, Alison, Sylvia, Daniel, as well as head physician, Dr. K (Eric Godon) and his assistant, Janja (Clara Cleymans) team up together in order to find a way out of the now zombie infested clinic...

Rather than have a critical look at the folly of unneeded plastic surgery Yummy instead makes little to no comment on it. The female protagonist might want to not be objectified, yet that is exactly what the movie does on many occasions, not only with her, but with quite a few of the other females in the film, there's more than one female zombie stumbling around half naked for instance. While this is a comedic horror it doesn't dial down on the horror part. Truth be told, as the film goes on the comedy gets reduced somewhat, by the films final act the only comedy on show is jet black and Yummy is a lot better for it. This is a nasty film with regards to the treatment of the protagonists, but often that is exactly what you need with a zombie film. On more than one occasion I was really wincing at what was unfolding on screen, from a character whose arm gets jammed in a paper shredder, to someone who has their fingers crushed under a manhole cover (subsequently having to have their fingers sliced off to free them) this is some splatterstick stuff on show (I don't know if that is an actual term, but I mean slapstick with added blood and gore).

Thursday, 27 August 2020

Control: The Foundation (2020) - Horror Video Game Expansion Review (Playstation 4)

The Foundation is the first of two planned expansions for the horror video game, Control. Having only completed Control yesterday (at the time of writing) it should be clear that this first expansion isn't a gigantic addition to the new game. However, it is still a decent size that features a brand new area and sheds some light on just some of the mysteries left unexplained. Because of this I found it to be a nice accompaniment. I will try not to include many spoilers from the main game.

With the Hiss threat contained, Jesse Faden (now the Director of FDC) receives a Hot Line communication from the mysterious entity known as The Board. It instructs her to head down to the base of the Old House where she discovers an entrance to a hidden network of caves which she comes to learn is the foundation from which the Old House originated from. She discovers an ancient stone structure known as 'The Nail' and learns it has been split into four pieces. Jesse is instructed to search the foundation area for these four missing pieces, as without the Nail complete the Astral Plane has started to bleed into her reality.

When I heard negative things about the first expansion I assumed that would mean it would both be short and take place in areas already seen in the main game. It was a great start then to find a whole new area. This area is roughly on par with the other four areas you explore in the game and took me roughly five to six hours to play through. The majority of the time you are in beautiful caverns with blood red sand, but you also go to the Astral Plane for parts of this, as well as get to explore a missing area of the Old House which has somehow materialised here. The main quest here may be simple but I had a lot of fun going through it, there are also three side quests, one of which was forgettable but the other two feature Objects of Power (ordinary looking objects that cause various effects around themselves) . Unlike the majority of the main game's encounters with these objects, that often just led to a dull and hard boss fight you get to do some fun things that felt a little different. One of these, Found Footage has you escaping from a deep chasm while carrying a TV set whose light is able to hypnotise enemies. The other one, a camera, transports you to a wonderful action packed adventure on a tram cart, replete with fantastic cheesy eighties music playing.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

The Beach House (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Beach House is a horror that marks the feature length directorial debut of Jeffrey A. Brown, who also wrote the story for this. It's a contagion horror which is a cousin to the zombie sub genre of horror, and one that initially appears to be a little slow but abruptly falls deeply into events.

Randall (Noah Le Gros - Depraved) has taken his girlfriend, Emily (Liana Liberato) to his father's beachside property with the hopes of repairing their strained relationship. They soon find out they are not the only ones there, Mitch (Jake Weber - Dawn of the Dead) and his wife, Jane (Maryann Nagel), who are friends of Randall's father were invited to go there as well. As there is room in the house both couples decide to stay. They have a night of drinking and drugs and it is during this misty night that things start to go wrong. Emily thinks it is down to the strong edibles they had taken but the next day both Mitch and Jane begin to act very strangely. At the beach Emily stumbles across some aquatic parasitic life forms that have washed up on the beach, and soon starts to realise that the mist they had all seen the previous night may not actually have been mist at all, and that they may be in the midst of a contagion caused by microbes coming from the ocean.

Roughly half of the movie occurs before the characters are aware of any danger, I liked how it all arrives with the onset of them having taken drugs. It leads to some trippy sequences of colours blurring and sound distortion that adds to the increasingly surreal evening, There are only the four proper characters for the film's duration, best of which was Weber as Mitch who came across as likeable. As for Randall and Emily I must be feeling my age, as these fresh faced adults came across as naive, and with Emily too earnest. It is easy to see why the characters are having difficulties with their relationship, though with Emily happening to be doing a degree into aquatic microbes it seemed a tiny bit that a small part of her characters inclusion was to explain what was going on with that side of the story.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Genevieve Wreaks Havoc (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

Genevieve Wrecks Havoc is Nicholas Michael Jacobs follow up to the short film, Genevieve that released back in July, which itself was a spin-off from horror anthology, Urban Fears. I had heard the director had intended to create a series of short films revolving around the titular possessed doll and so was happy to see a new one was to be released so swiftly after the first. Spoilers for the first short are to follow so if you are yet to see that then head on over to YouTube where it can be viewed for free.

This picks up immediately after the events of Genevieve, with the burglar (Jacobs) falling prey to the very doll he had intended to steal. While that is going on we see the text messages from his accomplice informing him that the house owner, Ted (Shawn C. Phillips - Urban Fears, Tooth Fairy) has returned home...

The first short was four minutes not including the credits, and this sequel is even shorter at around three and a half minutes. With regards to the filmmaking there has been no change, this is nicely filmed and edited together and so is pleasing to watch. I guess my complaint here would be it is very much the middle part of a story, as a stand alone movie it wouldn't make much sense as it fairly enough expects you to know what has gone on before. The doll effects are as charmingly basic as ever, and the story is entertaining enough, I was just left with a feeling of wanting more. On the one hand this is can be seen as a good thing, the films are obviously decent enough that I am invested in the story unfolding.

If you watched and enjoyed Genevieve then Genevieve Wrecks Havoc is essential viewing, I am interested to see what unfolds in the next chapter of the short film series. The film will be released on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video on October 1st.


Monday, 24 August 2020

Red Letters (2019) - Horror Film Review

While zombie films are my favourite sub genre of horror to watch I also have a real liking for anything involving demonic possession and so I was please to see Red Letters appeared to fit that bill. It was also nice to recognise a few faces here, this was directed, written by and starred Jim Klock (The Hunt, 6.66 PM, Massacre on Aisle 12). The film also featured a couple of other actors who have appeared in films with him previously, Chad Ridgely, Mike Capozzi (both 6:66 PM and Massacre on Aisle 12) and Robin F. Baker (6:66 PM also). I have only ever seen those actors in comedy horrors before so I was intrigued to see how they would come across as in a serious horror.

After a deputy goes missing in strange circumstances in a small town the sheriff contacts private investigator, Jim Knowles (Klock). The F.B.I believe the deputy has faked his own disappearance, the sheriff not believing this wants Jim to do his own investigation. Jim has a friend that he often brings with him on cases, Mike Gaston (Capozzi), Mike has a special ability to sense the fate of people by holding a photo of them and Jim hopes this will allow him to find out what has happened to the missing person. The deputy vanished in a notorious local hotspot that local rumours say is a place of evil. Being an atheist Jim hopes that Mike, who is deeply religious will also help to decipher some of these legends about the place.

Red Letters does a heck of a lot with very little. Despite the story that is grand in scope the film only features a handful of characters, with Jim and Mike appearing in nearly every scene, and often it is just the two of them talking to each other. It was interesting to see how an indie film was able to tell what in other films would be a special effects laden, and populated storyline. You can see some of the concessions to the budget straight away. At the films onset Jim and Mike are sat in a nondescript room talking about their new case, the whole reason for them being there told as a backstory rather than shown to the viewer (aside from the found footage style prologue). At times this way of filling in events with dialogue impacts on the movie in a slightly negative way, in particular with a case the crime solving duo teamed up on in the past. This case, that featured a Satanic cult named 'Legion' sounded really quite exciting and is spoke about often. I found myself wishing the film was showing that story rather than the far more subdued and mostly uneventful one the characters find themselves involved with in the present day.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Control (2019) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

Control is a video game that passed me by when it was first released, though hearing about it afterwards I did wonder why that was the case. It was made by Remedy who were responsible for the great survival horror game Alan Wake on the previous generation's consoles. In fact, Alan Wake was the reason I decided I had to play this game, as despite being a different genre of game (far more a third person action game than survival horror) I learnt that it not only takes place in the same universe, but that there are also references to the events of that game hidden here. I have heard that the unreleased second DLC for the game, AWE (unreleased at the time of writing, it is due out within the week) is a pure crossover with that series.

You play as Jesse Faden (voiced by Courtney Hope who also lends her likeness to the protagonist), a woman with a secret. During a supernatural incident in which the entire adult population of her town mysteriously vanished when she was a child she encountered an entity that latched itself onto her consciousness, Jesse named this entity 'Polaris'. Now grown up, this silent entity has reawakened and guided Jesse to 'the Old House', which is the New York HQ of a shady government agency named the 'Federal Bureau of Control' (FBC), here she hopes to find her brother, Dylan, who was captured by government agents back in that same childhood incident. However, Jesse soon discovers the building is under complete lockdown, and is in the midst of an invasion by a paranormal resonance (nicknamed the Hiss) that has possessed the majority of the workforce, She discovers the Director of the FBC, Zachariah Trench, dead in his office by apparent suicide. By picking up his gun she is transported to the Astral Plane where she is judged worthy by a mysterious force called 'the Board' and named as the new Director. Discovering this job title brings with it a whole host of new powers and abilities Jesse heads out into the labyrinthian HQ of the Old House to not only find her brother, but also to stop the Hiss invasion along the way...

It turns out I was playing this game slightly too early as Control has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. I won't go too much into that other than to say that basically, anyone who already owns Control will have to buy the game again if they want to be able to upgrade it to the upcoming Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X versions, while anyone who buys what is essentially a GOTY version that is upcoming (for a much cheaper price than the original version) will have that upgrade for free. That is terrible business practice, but I don't think this is a game I will really feel the need to play again personally. Control feels like a video game from the early 2000's in how it plays. Were it not for the female protagonist I wouldn't be too surprised if I had learnt that a PS4 development kit had been somehow sent back through time and space and given to a team of original Xbox developers. The gameplay at times feels very archaic, and with a difficulty that is harder than a lot of games nowadays it can sometimes feel punishingly unfair. If you don't have your wits about you, you can quickly succumb to enemy attacks in a bewilderingly short amount of time, add in miserly checkpoints and long load times and on occasion things can get pretty frustrating (more checkpoints are apparently going to be patched in).

Saturday, 22 August 2020

One Cut of the Dead (2017) - Comedy Zombie Horror Film Review

I had been wanting to watch Shin'ichiro Ueda's One Cut of the Dead (original title Kamera wo tomeruna!, meaning 'Don't Stop Shooting!') for quite some time now, having heard nothing but good things about it. With all I had heard I was surprised that some big twists and turns within the plot had not been spoiled for me, and so I wasn't prepared for the direction this found footage zombie horror comedy went in.

Takayuki Hamatsu stars as Director Higurashi, a passionate film director who is in the middle of shooting a zombie movie at a disused warehouse. He is frustrated with his stars, at the lack of believability they are bringing to their roles, especially with leading lady, Chinatsu (Yuzuki Akiyama). Luckily for the director, but unluckily for everyone else an actual zombie outbreak somehow occurs. Despite the unfolding horror the director insists that the cameraman keeps rolling. As cast and crew alike flee from the undead, as well as fall victim to them, Higurashi is in his element, convinced this will be the most realistic horror film ever created.

The first 37 minutes of One Cut of the Dead does exactly what it describes, a single unbroken shot that hints at a masterclass of behind the scenes action. Unlike other examples of this that use clever techniques to secretly break shot this one is constant (apparently it took four tries to perfect). This includes all the practical special effects, such as characters being swapped out for fake bodies. At one point the camera itself gets blood on it, and is wiped away in reality rather than an effect added in post production. As a movie fan I thought this was so cleverly done. Sure, there are moments where scenes play out in a fashion that appears a little dragged out, but is understandable when you imagine what the hectic behind the scenes must have been like.

Thursday, 20 August 2020

War of the Dead (2011) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I don't quite know why Nazis and zombies go so well together. I guess with that group being a universally agreed upon real life villain from history (agreed upon by sane people at least), and with their record of performing horrific experiments on prisoners it isn't a big leap to have them in a fictional setting creating the living dead. Writer and director, Marko Makilaakso's (It Came from the Desert) War of the Dead has all the required elements to create a fun zombie horror, yet there is something missing from this to cement it as a classic of the genre.

It is 1941 and the world is at war. Captain Martin Stone (Andrew Tiernan - 300, 300: Rise of an Empire) is in command of a platoon of American soldiers who have teamed up with a platoon of Finnish soldiers in order to locate and destroy a secret German bunker hidden deep in a Russian forest. After encountering and killing a group of Nazi soldiers they think their troubles are over for the time being. However, they are shocked to find their enemies didn't stay dead for long, returning as near unstoppable walking corpses. With the majority of their respective platoons decimated, the only two survivors, Captain Stone and Lieutenant Laakso (Mikko Leppilampi), along with a Russian soldier they stumble across (Samuel Vauramo), and a scared civilian woman decide to press on and try to finish their objective, pursued by the reanimated dead from both sides.

After a prologue showing a prisoner being experimented on the film opens with a black screen of text filling in some context. It then wastes no time in throwing the viewer straight into the action. Because of this there wasn't any time given to develop characters and I spent the entire first third of the movie not only struggling to make out characters from each other, but also finding it hard to determine which side was which due to the clothing everyone was wearing looking the same. Due to this I found my attention wondering away more than once and I admit because of this I missed the key aim of the soldiers in the story. This is a murky film that mostly takes place at night, and with grey and brown locations everything started to bleed into one. It was only really in the third act set in the German bunker itself that I finally began to be able to tell the different characters apart.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

No Way Out (2020) - Horror Film Review

No Way Out is the directorial debut of Joe Hamilton (production designer on The Frankenstein Theory), the story for this film done by Chris Levine, who also plays one of the main leads. The film tries to tell its story in a way that the viewer mostly only really ever experiences what the characters are witnessing. While this makes what happens creepy, it also makes the lack of any real explanation a tiny bit frustrating.

Kyle (Christopher McGahan - Virus of the Dead, segment 'Life') and his girlfriend Norah (Jennifer Karraz) have gone away on a camping trip to Alaska with their friends, Blake (Levine) and his girlfriend, Jessica (Johanna Rae - Apocalypse Rising, The Amityville Harvest). Kyle wants to go as he secretly plans to propose to Norah, Blake on the other hand openly hates camping, but feels it will do his struggling relationship some good. As a child his family lived in remote Alaska, something terrible involving his father happened back then, so this is the first time he has returned since moving to the city. Their first night in the wilderness they encounter an angry man wearing a gas mask, then after the second night they awake to discover their tents have been attacked. This is just the very start of the friends troubles...

By having the focus on what characters were witnessing themselves a lot of the horror happens behind the scenes. This led to a bit of a disconnect with characters seeming to act a lot more freaked out than I felt. Mainly I was confused as I was never sure if the group where actually being stalked or if it was in their heads. It uses a similar idea to The Blair Witch Project in that the camera rarely picks up on the horror, instead the suspense occurs due to such things as characters who vanish into thin air overnight and them picking up on cues that I (possibly being dense) didn't notice. It also sometimes slips into first person perspectives of the apparent gas mask man still haunting the group. By No Way Out's conclusion I really was a bit lost, the general story beats were there but I was full of questions that hadn't been satisfactorily answered (again, this could be me being dense!). I have to admit that coming back to this review after a day away from the film I have now kinda pieced together my own explanation for what went on.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Serena Waits (2018) - Horror Film Review

Serena Waits is a revenge horror with a difference, mainly that the focus of the movie is on the perpetrators of a crime rather than the victim. It was directed by Hunter Johnson (Irrational Fear) and I was pleased to see a few actors I recognised and whose performances I had previously enjoyed. There were some elements here that I didn't think worked as well as others, but this was still an entertaining movie that felt suited to the '#metoo' era.

Frat boys, Miles (David Wesley Marlowe - For Jennifer) and Jack (Colton Wheeler - Ugly Sweater Party) are on their way home one dark summer night when they bump into a very drunk girl, Serena (Brialynn Massie). Taking advantage of her state they convince her to come back to their house. Once there things quickly get out of control and in the heat of the moment it seems Jack has killed the girl. They call for their friend, Scott (Charles Chudabala - Irrational Fear, Ugly Sweater Party) and without asking too many questions he agrees to help the duo dump the body. A few months pass and the three friends are trying their best to get on with their lives and put that event behind them. All of them are plagued by nightmares, which comes to a head one fateful night when justice comes looking for them...

First off, as fun as it was to see Gregory Blair (Garden Party Massacre) in a small role here in the movies prologue sequence I did think this part of the film wasn't needed. His dance instructor appearance is short lived when he gets killed in a traditional slasher style manner. What I didn't like about this part was how clearly it spelt out the direction the film was going to go in. Later suggestions in Serena Waits don't really pick up any traction due to this prologue existing, and it was by far the most film like part. Revenge horrors usually keep the focus on the victim, but with Serena here apparently dead (despite no reports of a body being found) a large portion of the movie centres on the three friends with not much horror happening at all. There was always the anticipation of that coming at some point and so I liked the anticipation.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Attack of the Unknown (2020) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review

Attack of the Unknown is a sci-fi action horror that gets around its budget by having a huge alien invasion occur, but then has the focus on a small group of characters as they try their best to survive. This was directed by Brandon Slagle (The Dawn, Area 51 Confidential) who also wrote the screenplay based on a story developed by Michael and Sonny Mahal (producers who also came up with the stories for Art of the Dead and Party Bus to Hell).

A SWAT team transporting a high ranking cartel member, Hades (Robert LaSardo - The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence), In Hell) to a detention centre in Los Angeles get their plans interrupted by a sudden UFO invasion. With the city swiftly invaded by near indestructible aliens the team, that includes among them, Vernon (Richard Grieco - Art of the Dead), and Hannah (Jolene Andersen - voice of Ada Wong in the Resident Evil 2 video game remake) take refuge, but soon find themselves up against the deadly blood drinking Earth invaders...

From the location alone I was reminded quite heavily of Battle: Los Angeles, but this film does things a little differently. I thought the idea of following this SWAT team who were just trying to survive, rather than soldiers directly battling the alien threat was a neat one. The story wasn't concerned with some Independence Day style war to repel the invaders, that was all occurring elsewhere. Instead this was an intimate look at just some of the people in the city that day. The opening act of Attack of the Unknown played out like a cop drama, with an assault on a criminals hideout. It was a wild turn then when the aliens show-up. The groups SWAT training meant they were better prepared than most. While I didn't catch the names of most of the team, Vernon and Hannah stuck in the mind, as did the comedy character who joins them in the form of a video game obsessed blogger. Despite not knowing most of the names I did enjoy the camaraderie of the SWAT team, and the enjoyment of wondering which of them would be next to fall prey to the villains and aliens they are up against. 

Thursday, 13 August 2020

We Die Alone (2019) - Short Horror Film Review

Glass Cabin Film's We Die Alone is an award winning short horror film that was directed by Marc Cartwright (Savor, Sloven), he also came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay along with Cassie Keet. This deals with the topic of finding love in the modern age, as well as how being socially awkward can impede this search for happiness.

Baker Chase Powell (Irrational Fear) stars as Aidan, a man in a desperate search for love. He is so preoccupied with this that he is oblivious to the attention of his thrift store co-worker, Elaine (Ashley Jones - True Blood). In fact his pursuit has almost become an obsession for him, so much so that he even has a creepy mannequin with which he practices his dinner dates technique on. A chance meeting with new neighbour, Chelsea (Samantha Boscarino - The Clique) makes Aidan believe she may be the one...

I have a low tolerance for awkward situations in films and TV, so much so that there are particular shows I have had to give up on due to not being able to get through uncomfortable scenes. While I did get through We Die Alone (not exactly hard as it was excellently made) there were two scenes in particular where I just had to pause the short and whisper admoninations at Aidan, before taking a deep breath and continuing. Despite the Norman Bates style vibes I was getting off his character there were some elements to him that were easy to identify with. I think a film has been successful when you find yourself wanting to take a particular person to one side and just set their wonky perspective on life straight! While Aidan is certainly the main lead I enjoyed how all the other characters are given enough development to show they are more or less just as flawed as he is. Elaine giving advice that she herself doesn't follow, Chelsea forever on the move, not wanting commitment. The actors were all perfectly cast, which really helped with selling the story. The plot was not as predictable as it first appeared it would be, which was a nice surprise.

We Die Alone was filmed in an attractive fashion. The editing helps create tense moments, and there was some great cinematography going on. There isn't much wrong with this short, the 23 minute run time flew by. We Die Alone is being released on 21st August on Amazon Prime and on Gunpowder & Sky's Alter this Halloween.


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Killer Raccoons 2: Dark Christmas in the Dark (2020) - Comedy Action Film Review

You might wonder what a comedy action film is doing getting reviewed on this blog when it doesn't really have much to do with horror. Well, it is the sequel to Travis Irvine's 2005 comedy horror film Coons! Night of the Bandits of the Night. The humour is very low brow, the effects terrible, and the acting questionable, yet there is some charm with this, and it actually works very well as a sequel.

It is ten years since the events of the first film in which a weekend of partying at a camping ground turned into terror for a group of college kids when they were attacked by a pack of rabid raccoons. Since that time, one of the only survivors, Ty Smallwood (Yang Miller - Arcadia) has been locked up in prison for underage drinking. Upon his release he agrees to meet up with the sister of his deceased girlfriend, to tell her exactly how her sister died during the raccoon incident. They meet up and get on a train out of town, but it just so happens to be the target of a group of terrorists. The terrorists are made up of highly trained raccoons and led by Ranger Danger (Mitch Rose) and a group of other men who were all believed to have been killed during the climactic battle in the first movie. They want revenge not only for the government cover up which led to them having to fend for themselves, but also because the local Mayor at the time teamed up with the government in order to turn the campsite into a training ground for the vicious raccoons discovered there. Ranger Danger has hijacked the secret weapons satellite known as PEN15 and intends to use it to destroy Colorado where the former Mayor is now stationed...

I had never heard of the first film in the series, and due to the title being completely different it took a while to find details of it. Killer Raccoons 2 works very well as a sequel, it features many returning characters (even if only a few of them are actually played by the original actors) and plays off of the things that occurred there. I particularly liked the idea of people presumed dead back as bad guys, angry at being forgotten. All of the non-raccoon bad guys are covered in scars, and each one has an eye patch giving them a unified look. While much of the comedy wasn't to my liking I did enjoy each time one of these men were killed that as they die they gurgle "I'm dead, for real!". This is a film where you would get so much more from this if you had seen the first one. As for me, I read a few different reviews of that to piece together the story, and paused this one on quite a few occasions to check IMDB to see if not only characters had returned or not, but also to check the actor names to see if they were reprising their roles or not.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Fido (2006) - Zombie Comedy Horror Film Review

Fido was a zombie film that I had heard mentioned plenty of times over the years, yet it wasn't something I ever really felt an urge to watch. Mainly I think due to not really being too keen on Billy Connolly (who plays the titular role). I was so out of the loop on this one that I thought it was first released in the early 1990's and so was quite surprised to find out this was released in 2006, two years after Shaun of the Dead. Fido was directed and co-written by Andrew Currie who had some slight previous experience of zombie movies with his 1997 short, Night of the Living.

The film takes place during an alternate 1950's America in which some years previously there had been a zombie apocalypse. A solution to this problem was found with the creation of large impenetrable walls around the towns and cities, as well as the invention of a special collar which in effect domesticates the undead and allows them to perform menial jobs. The film starts when Bill Robinson (Dylan Baker - Trick 'r Treat) and his wife, Helen (Carrie-Anne Moss - The Matrix trilogy) get their first zombie helper (Connolly), a ghoul who their young son, Timmy (Kesun Loder) takes an instant liking to. Due to a malfunctioning collar Fido ends up killing a neighbour, this begins a chain of events that leads to a local zombie outbreak, and Timmy's desperate attempts to hide Fido's slip up.

This is basically the idea presented at the end of Shaun of the Dead (zombies domesticated) and fleshed out into a feature length movie. While I'm not keen on Connolly I was also put off by watching this for so long due to all the quotes stating how funny it was. I had a feeling the comedy wouldn't be the kind I like and I was pretty much correct. A lot of the humour revolves around how stereotypically 1950's small town America this is, juxtaposed with rotting corpses walking around everywhere. In a way it shares a feeling with the Fallout games. Families are made up of stern fathers, mothers who cook and clean, and children who play baseball, all set in the roles you would expect for the time period. The zombies add in a curve ball, and it was amusing how little concern for death and destruction people have. The middle act of the film has Timmy trying his best to cover up Fido's kills, yet him, and those around him don't treat any of this as much more than business as usual. There is a macabre underbelly to Fido, a darkness that lurks around the corners but never stains the genial facade of the movie world. Things are mentioned in passing that show how twisted this all is, such as the fact that there are no prisons anymore, instead people who commit crimes are thrown out of the walled towns and cities to fend for themselves in the 'wild lands'.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Sinful (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Coronavirus pandemic has ruined pretty much everyone's year, yet it is good to see how creative types have gotten around the various restrictions in place. UK short anthology, The Isolation Horrors had various filmmakers creating their own little movies. With director/writer, Rich Mallery's Sinful you have a film where the protagonists are not able to leave the house they find themselves in. Whether this idea had already been in development prior to this year I don't know, but it is one which lends itself well to self isolation, and one which was shot during California's stay-at-home Order.

Salem (Nicole D'Angelo - Heartbeat) and her girlfriend, Remy (Christina Lo - Choke) are hiding out in an uninhabited house after having committed some type of crime. Tyler; an acquaintance of Salem, had told them to wait there while he sorted them out some fake I.Ds, but it has been two days and they are starting to get nervous. As the days drag on both start to get increasingly paranoid and anxious, Remy begins to start seeing a masked figure (Chris Spinelli - Choke, Heartbeat) appearing around the house, while both experience vivid nightmares. Could all their problems be down to the stress of the situation and the amount of alcohol and drugs they are taking, or is something far more sinister going on?

I loved the concept of two characters sat around waiting for someone to turn up, kind of like a horror version of Waiting for Godot. With no way to contact the outside world it sets up a good reason for why, despite all that is going on, neither of them ever attempts to leave. With the duo presumably wanted for whatever crime they took part in the paranoia and mistrust feels natural, and so as the horror ramps up over the 75 minute run time it seemed to be heading to a particular conclusion. I expected with just the two characters that Sinful might start to get a little dull, yet this was tense and thrilling in equal measure, admittedly by the hour mark things were getting a tiny bit stale. There is always new information thrown into the mix that really helps keep your attention. Things, such as a previously locked room revealing some curve balls, plenty of sequences that then turn out to be nightmares, and quite a few scenes or instances that only make sense after some context appears later in the films run time.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

The Dead Undead (2010) - Zombie Horror Film Review

I have my first time off my day job since February and it came to me on Friday evening that I should use my holiday time to get through some of my zombie films and books I have yet to experience. This blog, as the title may suggest, was created to celebrate everything undead. Over time this has spread to include all horror, so it is always nice to dip my toes back into the sub-genre that I so love. With zombie films you hope for one of two things, either that the film is great, or that the film is terrible, anything else usually results complete boredom, but which would The Dead Undead fall into? 

A bunch of annoying stereotypical teens pull up at a remote lakeside motel for a weekend of partying, however they soon find themselves assaulted by scores of strange creatures. Luckily for them a team of heavily armed people show up. This group, led by Jack (Luke Goss - Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Blade II), and including among them, Viper ( Matthew R. Anderson, who also co-directed), Doc (Edward Conna, the other co-director, as well as writer of this) and Gabrielle (Spice Williams-Crosby - Star Trek V: The Final Frontier) do their best to save the teens, and while they are only partly successful the survivors are thankful enough. Their saviours quickly explain that these creatures are actually vampires who got infected by drinking the blood of mad cow disease afflicted cattle. Due to this the creatures cannot survive in sunlight, and Jack just happens to know the location of their daytime hiding spot.

The co-directors of The Dead Undead are both stuntmen. This was the directorial debut of both men and this can kind of be seen with the quality. The film is not a good movie, but it never tries to come across as one. Instead the directors seemed very aware of their limitations and set out to make something that was undeniably fun entertainment. The whole set-up of mad cow disease infected vampires is ridiculous and is an idea that can't be taken seriously. I loved that there was a switch and bait early on with the main leads, all but one of what appears to be the main cast (the irritating teens) are gone before the movie's first act is even over. This is a good as they made the first ten minutes or so the worst part of the film. The armed group are a lot better. It's a slight spoiler to say that it is revealed very early on that they are secretly vampires, but these are the nicest vampires I think I have ever seen. Because they are vampires we are treated to some wonderfully cheesy flashback moments to show how each member of the group first got turned. This includes a trip back to Viking times, the Vietnam War and the Wild West. The inclusion of these zombie-less flashback sequences really added to the stupidity of the movie and were a most welcome inclusion. The Viking scene the best as not only did the costumes there look terrible, but characters still spoke with American accents!

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Irrational Fear (2017) - Horror Film Review

When I first read the synopsis for the Hunter Johnson (Virus of the Dead) directed and co-written horror film, Irrational Fear it gave me a nostalgic feeling that I could not place at the time. It was only while watching it that that feeling clicked. From the title all the way down to the content this felt to me like a Point Horror book come to life (a collection of horror books geared towards teens). That may sound like a slight, yet there was something nicely uncomplicated about the story told here.

Doctor Sanders (Charles Chudabala - Ugly Sweater Party) is a psychologist who has arranged a weekend outing for six people who all suffer from irrational fears. These include Taylor (Leah Wiseman - Dismembering Christmas) who suffers from a fear of being touched, Kelly (Jennifer Nangle - Ugly Sweater Party also) with a fear of drowning, Jake who has a fear of germs, his father who has a fear of dentists, a woman who is afraid of looking ugly, a guy afraid of choking (Hunter Johnson), and Sanders' assistant, and former best friend of Taylor, Zach (Baker Chase Powell - Little Dead Rotting Hood) who used to have a fear of ghosts. The weekend session takes place at a remote cabin by a lake, initially it appears things are going to go well. It is not long however before people start to go missing. It seems that someone, or something is forcing the phobics to confront their fears, with a high penalty for failure...

First up with the acting. There are some people here who are much better actors than others, thankfully most of these are relegated to bit parts. With the style of this film though great acting isn't specifically required. Characters are not really designed to be layered, fully dimensional beings, instead they play into their roles well, their phobias making up a lot of their outward personality. I would say the only real exception is Kelly who does transform over the course of the picture. To begin with she just seemed downright nasty, yet as the film goes on she becomes a lot more likeable. The best character was Doctor Sanders, and this is down to Chudabala's extremely spirited performance as a somewhat manic person. Get past the fact that he is meant to be an established Dr, yet looks like the youngest person in the film and you have someone who comes across as desperately earnest, suspiciously so in fact. He reminded me a bit of Hugo Strange from Gotham, I love what they did with this memorable character, and the pure energy that Chudabala brought to the role.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Unidentified (2020) - UFO Documentary Review

Every know and again I get sent a documentary for review and it is always a nice change. Unidentified's goal is to inform about 'What the Government REALLY knows about UFOs'. I imagined this would be the American government but it does actually branch out to also include the UK in one chapter. This covers a lot of ground in its hour run time, some of which is the obvious, such as Roswell, but it also goes to some places I hadn't heard about before.

The documentary is split up into around 8 chapters, each covering a different aspect. In addition to Roswell we get Project Blue Book, we even have a chapter dedicated to the apparent sightings of UFO on the moon during the original moon landings. There are a lot of reconstructions used, static images of obviously fake UFO images, and people getting interviewed. There are also genuine recordings made by army personnel and astronauts, as well as images of official documents, and photos of the various people being talked about.

Usually you would expect a whole bunch of 'talking heads', people who are experts in the field. Here we get just the one guy, Gary Heseltine (I believe) who is very much of the belief that not only are UFOs real, but that this has purposely been covered up in various ways over the years by governments. He was a likeable guy, seemed like he was going to burst into a smile at any moment. Still, it would have been nice to get some variation and have a couple of other people talking. Unidentified doesn't sit on the fence, it is clearly designed to bring the viewer to the conclusion that there has been huge cover-ups since the 1940's all the way up to present day. It didn't convince me though, as much as I want to believe I just feel if they were real there would have been undeniable proof in this day and age where everything is recorded.

As an introduction to UFO government cover-ups this worked well. It doesn't go too much into depth with any of the subjects covered due to the span of time investigated. Still, it was interesting enough and something easy to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Unidentified is due for release thanks to High Fliers Films.


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

The Last Request (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Last Request is a low budget indie horror that was written by and stars Dallas Ryan and Ryan Vania, with Dallas also directing. This was an odd film that became quite experimental at times. While it is a bit rough around the edges the general idea behind it was decent enough.

John (Ryan) and his brother, Michael (Vania) wake up in a strange house with no recollection of how they got there. John soon discovers a letter which informs the siblings  that Michael's daughter has been kidnapped, and that unless they play a series of cruel games she will be killed. They are also told that any attempt to leave the house will also result in the girl's death. Bizarrely, they have also been given a small dog which they are instructed they must take care of.

This is a low-fi movie in which everything is suggested and barely anything is actually shown. The brothers are on board to do what the letter instructs without any real evidence to support the claims. It starts off innocently enough with them told a watch they find has been fitted with a bomb. As the day goes on the two get told to do more and more sadistic things to each other. All of this occurs off camera, when trauma does happen this too is all just suggested with no blood or anything. This is working to the limitations of the budget but it also created a feeling of low stakes. The fact that their kidnapper chose to speak to them via printed letters hidden around the house fits this weird low stakes situation.