Tuesday, 29 September 2020

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

There are a few changes I have noticed during this pandemic of a year when it comes to my blog. First is that I am getting nowhere near the amount of screeners I would usually get. That isn't a bad thing at all as it has meant I can watch films of my own choosing. The second thing I've noticed this year is that I am getting a lot more news sent to my inbox, it has been so full these past few months that I am contemplating on splitting my usual monthly round-up blog post in half. If I could I would dedicate each item of news to its own post, but I just don't have the free time for that. If I ever win the lottery and can do my blog full time then that is the path I would take!

I didn't expect it, but it turns out a new Scream film is going to be made. Neve Campbell is going to be returning to the franchise to reprise her role as Sidney Prescott. The series has had a checkered past for me, I loved the first one, the second started good but fell apart, the third was ok, and the fourth completely forgettable. Also returning are David Arquette and Courtney Cox, new cast members include Jack Quaid (The Boys), Melissa Barrera (In The Heights), and Jenna Ortega (You). The film is due to release in January 2022. The film is to be directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett of the filmmaking group Radio Silence (Ready or Not, V/H/S) from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac, The Amazing Spider-Man).

Tri Coast Worldwide have acquired Sweet Taste of Souls. This is about four struggling band members who find themselves imprisoned in a deranged cafe owners art collection. I have a screener of this one, and so closer to Halloween I shall be checking this out to see if the film lives up to its crazed synopsis. Meanwhile, check out the trailer.

HNN Presents horrors Master Pieces and Me and the Devil are now available on DVD from Bayview Entertainment. The very strange Master Pieces is a comedy slasher about a deranged artist, I said in my review it is a film you will either hate or love, and regardless is something different to the norm. Me and the Devil comes from Dario Almerighi (42-66: The Origin of Evil) and features 'a dark story of madness, pain and love'. Both can be purchased from Amazon.
Also from HNN Presents are Psycho Therapy and Keeping Rosy. The former is about a therapist who turns into a killer, the later is a British psycho-thriller about a business executive whose life spirals into violence. Both films are due out on DVD on October 20th.

Previously mentioned Last American Horror Show Vol II has released a new trailer. This anthology stars among others Mel Novak (Bruce Lee's Game of Death), Helene Udy (Mrs. Claus) and Maria Olsen (Paranormal Activity 3). The synopsis has a child murderer on death row who gets befriended by a man called Moses (Novak). The man decides to read the killer a few stories from his favourite book.

I believe I mentioned this also in a previous news post, Christmas Slasher currently has a Indiegogo campaign running to get funds for its creation. The film features an undead reindeer and a killer Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the hunt for a bunch of college kids. This is the creation of Destiny Soria, someone who in my personal experience seemed to be infectiously enthusiastic about horror. The film is going to include Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Lloyd Kaufman (The Toxic Avenger), Nicholas Brendon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), Carlos Ramirez (The Human Centipede 3), and Shaw C. Phillips (a trillion different indie films) among its cast. The campaign at the time of writing has been a success but is still running for a further 32 days, so head here to find out more.

Ebola Rex is now available on VOD and DVD. This dinosaur horror stars Mel Novak as is about a T-Rex that escapes from a lab after being injected with the Ebola Virus at a 'Dino Lives Matter' protest. Check out the trailer.

FoxTrot Productions have announced a crowdfunder campaign for Casting Couch Slaughter. This is a feature length comedy horror from directors Emir Skalonja and Krystal Shenk. The synopsis is that two porn directors hoping to make the greatest porno ever get their plans ruined by a drill wielding maniac who invades the set. The film is hoped to be finished in time for Halloween, the Indiegogo campaign is to get funds to give the film a final edit, and production of DVDs and other stuff. There is 47 days left on the campaign but it is currently at 96% of the goal, so it seems this will be successful. Check out the campaign page here for more details.

Dystopian Films are launching an anthology made up of 50 different shorts, titled The United States of Horror. The ambitious remit is that each of the shorts will be made in a different American state. A Indiegogo campaign is currently running mainly to raise awareness rather than raise funds. The DVD can also be pre-ordered on the page (here).

Onto music news now and Chaoseum have released their new music video for their track 'Stick Under my Skin'. The Swiss band are made up of four friends. The band 'delivers an electric and energetic punch of metalcore, with powerful vocals, strong characterisation through theatrical performance, and an eye-catching band image'. On 25th September Chaoseum's second album, Second Life was released, and the band will be back touring in October 2021 in Europe.

Gothic singer Elle Noir has revealed the new video for her track 'The Day I Died'. The song is a metaphor for emotional death 'it tells of a world where nothing has value anymore, which is also an inner world given by mental states like depression'.

Finally some zombie book news. Seeds of the Dead is a zombie apocalypse novel that takes place in small-town America. After scientist Peter Malik discovers the company he works for is working on a new strain of genetically modified food with shady side effects he threatens to let the world know. In retaliation the company contaminates Peter's hometown, turning the populace into flesh hungry ghouls. It is up to Peter to try try to save his town, the people he loves, and to warn the rest of the world what has happened. Seeds of the Dead is written by Andy Kumpon and Gary Malick and can be purchased from Amazon. I shall be giving this a read soon, so a review will drop at some point this side of Christmas.

Just in time for  release comes some late news items. Firstly, there is a Kickstarter going for supernatural mockumentary Ghost Crew. This is going to be the feature debut of Tom Staunton (who previously directed two shorts for Hex Studio's portmanteau film For We Are Many). This film is to be set in the 1990's and is about two filmmakers who head to an abandoned children's hospital that is rumoured to curse anyone who dares enter. Staunton and Michael Brewster are going to be in the starring roles which makes things a bit meta. The press release states 'On the surface, the film is Nightcrawler meets Paranormal Activity...inspired by independent horrors that get under the skin, like Ring, Lake Mungo, Noroi: The Curse and Candyman.' For more details check out the Kickstarter page here.

Finally (for real this time) is news that Paramount's satirical comedy Spontaneous is due to be released on 12th October. This bizarre coming of age love story takes place at a high school where students begin inexplicably exploding! This stars Katherine Langford (Cursed, 13 Reasons Why) as Mara, and Charlie Plummer (Looking for Alaska) as Dylan, two students who 'struggle in a world where each moment may be their last'. This also features Yvonne Orji (Insecure), Hayley Law (Riverdale), Rob Huebel (Transparent) and Piper Perabo (Penny Dreadful: City of Angels). This will be available on a variety of digital platforms.

Sunday, 27 September 2020

Eli Roth's History of Horror Season 2 (2020) - Horror TV Show Review

I had never heard of Eli Roth's History of Horror before getting an email detailing the release of a second series on AMC this November here in the UK. I have now had the chance to watch this second season and can happily report I am pleased with what I watched. History of Horror is a look back at iconic horror films from a variety of different sub-genres of horror. It is made up for the most part by talking heads; directors, actors, and notable horror icons, with Eli Roth providing the narration. At a glance I assumed this would be a watered down glance at the genre, and would look at the most obvious and mainstream movies. I also expected the clips used would be violence free. I was very happy to see that not only are some of the more gory moments from the many films looked at are used, but that some of these films covered are more deepcut than you might expect. Rather than be full of information I had heard so many times before I actually found that I learned from this.

Season 2 is made up of six episodes, each forty minutes in length, and each one focussing on a different subgenre of horror. Episode 1 is Houses of Hell. This episode explored how houses have been used throughout horror and look at both houses as the location for horror to occur in, such as Misery and Sinister, while also seeing houses as places for both evil people to live in (House of 1000 Corpses), and as a malevolent thing in their own right (The Amityville Horror). Sinister is one of my favourite horror films of modern times so I was very pleased to see that included here. This was a great introduction to the format of History of Horror, not only was it fun revisiting scenes from these movies, or even seeing scenes from them for the first time (I own Misery on VHS yet have never gotten around to watching it). I also liked that the talking heads used are actually people whose input is interesting. Season regular Stephen King gives his take on the movies that were influenced by his work, while Rob Zombie is there to talk about his reasoning behind his movie.

Friday, 25 September 2020

LX 2048 (2020) - Sci-fi Film Review

LX 2048 (written and directed by Guy Moshe)  has got to be one of the strangest films I have seen this year. It's a sci-fi that combines elements of thriller, drama, comedy and more. It also manages to not have a central story to it, each side plot seemingly just as important as the last, which means the film is constantly going off into new directions and leaving old storylines behind as it looks to the next topic. Starting off at almost Black Mirror levels of technology created dystopia this becomes more and more surreal with a key theme seeming to be just what is it to be a human.

This takes place in a dystopian future in which the rays of the sun have become so harmful that most people choose not to leave their houses in daytime, instead conducting their business inside a virtual realm accessed by wearing VR goggles. Adam Bird (James D'Arcy - Avengers: Endgame, Exorcist: The Beginning), a broker, is one of the few who still does go outside, he despairs at what has become of humanity who choose to spend nearly every waking moment in the virtual realm. After learning he is dying he becomes concerned with what will become of his family who he is separated from, and so sets out to find a way for his soul to live on once his body has passed.

My synopsis is at least what LX 2048 initially seems to be about, but I'm not even sure that was actually what was going on. Of all the future dystopias I always though living in a VR world would be the coolest, but here with barely anyone actually 'living' it is shown to be a bit of a nightmare. Many films would have taken this idea and been content to create a story around it, but here that is just one aspect. This is also a world in which clones exist and where technically death is no longer a barrier. People have clones set up so that if they die they will come back in an altered form. These clones have all the memories of they people they are of, yet have been augmented to be the ideal form of that person,an unrealistic version. That isn't even all of it though, there is also an exploration into A.I and what constitutes a free will. In particular this is brought up with Adam whose marriage dissolved due to him having an 'affair' with an A.I construct he created, with some of the one hour forty run time dedicated to his attempts to somehow bring this A.I into the real world. The film is all over the place, but it was always fascinating, whichever aspect it happened to be exploring.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Extra Ordinary (2019) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Extra Ordinary is an Irish horror comedy that for the most part is sweet and innocent, yet has the occasional moment of high violence and gore. Directed by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, this films humour is never overtly funny, but at the same time doesn't do anything to offend. The simple story told in a mostly family friendly way, again, aside from the moments of high violence.

Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) is a kind and lonely driving instructor in a small Irish town, who also has the gift of being able to contact the dead. Initially Martin Martin (Barry Ward) contacts her in order to help him exorcise the spirit of his dead wife, who is causing him no end of trouble at home. However, after his teenage daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman) is found comatose and floating above her bed, Martin instead begs Rose to help return her to normal. The girl has been chosen as part of a demonic sacrifice, that washed up one-hit wonder rock star, Christian Winter (Will Forte - Gravity Falls) is intending to perform in order to make a comeback. To counter this Rose and Martin team up in order to collect ectoplasm from seven different ghosts, which is said to be the only way to return the girl to normal.

While there are a whole host of side characters it felt like a lot of the film rested on the shoulders of Higgins, Ward, and Forte. It's a good job that all were perfectly cast, especially Forte's wonderfully over the top Christian Winter who was dramatic, flamboyant and cheesy in every scene he appeared in. All three characters get flashbacks at one point or another, Winter's was the best, his one-hit wonder song shown as part of this. With Rose, her father was a local exorcist who made plenty of instructional videos, such as how to deal with 'Gloating' (floating goats), these are intercut throughout the movie and are made to look like eighties VHS tapes, complete with low quality footage, and slightly distorted audio. All of those moments were wonderful.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Slashening: The Final Beginning (2020) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Way back in 2016 I did a news post about an Indiegogo campaign running to raise funds to make a sequel to the comedy horror film The Slashening. Well some four years later and the film has been finished. Slashening: The Final Beginning is once again written and directed by Brandon Bassham (The Slashening, Fear Town, USA) and sticks with the type of humour his previous movies shared. There will be unavoidable spoilers for the first film to follow.

Five years after the events of The Slashening, in which a house full of girls (and a whole stream of pizza delivery guys) were murdered by a sack mask wearing maniac, and Madison (Addie Weyrich) has moved to Brooklyn after the suicide of her father. She has joined a support group for people affected by murder, and she reveals that her father was plagued with depression after holding himself responsible for the death of all his pizza restaurant staff at the hands of the sack mask wearing killer. The group is led by Pat (Patrick Foy - The Slashening, Fear Town, USA) who himself survived that horrific event. Her appearance at the group starts a chain of disappearances, unbeknown to Madison a new sack mask wearing killer has appeared, and for some reason has chosen the members of the support group as its targets...

I feel it would have been far easier to choose the final girl of the first film as the focus for this one. To instead make the connection via the pizza guy montage sequence (by far one of the highlights of that first film) was such a cool decision. To have a throwaway scene mean so much to the main character here worked wonderfully. Of course there is Pat as well, Foy reprising this character yet again, and he was as good as he always is. Madison didn't really have much to her character, she appears throughout but she never feels centre stage and just faded into the background a bit. The prologue to the movie features a completely different cast of characters, and was something which had been shown during the initial campaign to raise funds. This sequence still manages to fit in well, and has a great standout character in the form of Greg (Carl Foreman Jr.) whose bright chatty persona works at summing up the entirety of the first film.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) - Comedy Horror Film Review

2017's The Babysitter was such a gem to me. Often comedy horrors never seem to get the comedy aspect right for me, yet with its cast of interesting and eclectic characters I found it to be frequently laugh out loud with the funny script and silly moments of extreme horror. I was very excited then when I heard a sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen was due for release. This sequel features pretty much the entire cast of characters returning, and all the same actors reprising their roles. Also, McG (The Babysitter, Terminator: Salvation) returns to direct this. This is a sequel in every sense of the word, and it doesn't really try to stray too far from the formula of the first film. As such, if you didn't like that one then you really won't like this one.

It has been two years since the events of The Babysitter in which Cole (Judah Lewis) survived a night where his babysitter, Bee (Samara Weaving) and her friends, John (Andrew Bachelor), Max (Robbie Amell), Allison (Bella Thorne), and Sonya (Hana Mae Lee) tried to kill him as part of a Satanic ritual. He is now at high school, and quite the loner. Despite all he went through there was no evidence any of what he experienced happened, with all the bodies mysteriously vanishing. As such he is seen as a nutcase by all except for his best friend, Melanie (Emily Alyn Lind). Even his parents think he imagined the whole incident. It is when he learns they intend to send him away to a special psychiatric school that Cole accepts an invite from Melanie to head away to the lake for a weekend of partying. However, his weekend plans are ruined with the sudden reemergence of the Satanic cult, returned from Hell, once again planning to use him as part of their ritual to achieve immortality. Cole teams up with new girl, Phoebe (Jenna Ortega - Insidious: Chapter 2) in order to survive to dawn, at which point the demented cult will be forced to return back to the afterlife.

I spent most the first act eagerly anticipating the arrival of the cult, and that scene really doesn't disappoint. I love the characters here and it was great to see much of the humour is just as literally laugh out loud as before. Amell's Max is the highlight once again, I think every single line he says in the film at least made me smile. Much like with the first movie it is just so funny how much Max likes Cole, despite doing his best to earnestly kill him. That character really gets all the best lines. Some of the bad guys got killed early on previously, so it was nice to see the actors get more time in their roles. This becomes fourth wall breaking at times, most seen with token black character John who comments that he was the first to die last time, but that he is glad to see changes in a post Jordan Peele world. This is the type of sequel where if you hadn't seen the first not much at all would really make sense. The film expects you to know these characters and what they have gone through. While there are brief flashback sequences using clips from The Babysitter they serve more as a gentle reminder than a way for new viewers to catch up.

Friday, 18 September 2020

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

AWE is the second expansion for the horror video game Control and one that I was really looking forward to playing. This was both because the first expansion, The Foundation was so enjoyable, and also because it was a crossover with Alan Wake. In anticipation I had played through both that game, as well as its sequel/spinoff, Alan Wake's American Nightmare. I have to say I was a mite bit disappointed with what was given here, my overall impressions being that it was merely just ok.

Jesse Faden, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control receives a strange message from the infamous missing author, Alan Wake. Via the form of narration of a story she is told to head to the elevator where she discovers she now has access to a previously unreachable floor, the Investigations Sector. This floor had been purposely sealed off some years previously after Dr. Hartman (a key character from Alan Wake), who was being kept there due to being infected with the Darkness (the evil force of that game) managed to escape his confinement. Now the Hiss has managed to also infect him, and the two different possessing forms have made him into even more of a threat. Jesse is, in a roundabout way tasked by Wake to find a way to stop the monster escaping the Investigations Sector.

The Foundation was so enjoyable as it was a completely new looking area. With AWE (which stands for 'altered world event') though the floor it takes place on look identical to th look to the rest of Control. It is made up of grey sterile office areas, engineering areas and large lifeless rooms. The Investigations Sector is split into three areas, each one dedicated to the investigation into a different AWE. In each of these you have to find the Dr. Hartman monster and using battery puzzles turn on the power in whatever pitch black arena he happens to be in, in order to get him to flee to the next area. Being possessed by the Darkness he can only thrive in dark environments. For this new expansion you get access to a new weapon form, essentially sticky grenades, this was a decent addition. Weirdly though, the power-ups you get are low level, which is strange when the power-ups you got during The Foundation were new higher levelled ones, as such I didn't see any need to use these new weaker power-ups. Also strange is the miserly amount of new upgrade points you get, barely any in fact.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Alive (2018) - Horror Film Review

The award winning Alive has been on the festival circuit for the past few years, and has now been released online. Directed by Rob Grant (Yesterday) and written by Chuck McCue and Jules Vincent, this bloody horror features mainly just three characters, culminating in a sucker punch of an ending that I didn't remotely see coming.

A man (Thomas Cocquerel - the upcoming Escape Room 2) wakes up severely injured in a seemingly deserted hospital. He soon finds out that he is being looked after by a middle aged man (Angus Macfadyen - Saw III), who is also treating a woman (Camille Stopps) there at the same time. Neither of the two patients have any memory of who they are, or what has happened to them, and it soon become clear that their rescuer is a little bit crazy. Using increasingly sadistic methods he slowly nurses the two back to health, realising how unhinged the man is they begin to plot their escape...

It's fitting that Macfadyen has previously worked on a Saw film as this one fits nicely into the torture porn genre of body horror. From the bloody start to the finish the two patients are nearly always covered in blood, whether their own or others. As you may expect characters suffer a lot and get tortured a lot, though here their captor rather than trying to hurt them in his own way believes he is caring for them. All three main actors were great in their roles, especially Macfadyen who felt like an even more crazy version of John Goodman's Howard from 10 Cloverfield Lane. The dynamic of the three is what keeps the film flowing and leads to three separate feeling acts in which the stakes get raised higher and higher.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Alan Wake's American Nightmare (2012) - Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

With how good Alan Wake is it was criminal that it never received a sequel, especially considering the game ended on a bit of a cliff-hanger. Thankfully it was never abandoned in total, the second expansion for Control is a crossover, and back in 2012 a downloadable quasi-sequel/spin-off for Alan Wake was released on the X-Box 360, titled Alan Wake's American Nightmare. At the time of release I brought it, but it is only now some eight years later that I have gotten around to playing it, all in preparation for the newly released crossover. As a warning there will be spoilers for the end of Alan Wake and its expansions.

The original game ended with the titular author trapped in an alternate nightmare realm dubbed the 'Dark Place'. The expansions had him battle for control of his fractured mind, and culminated in him achieving this, with the promise that he was going to find a way to write his way out of there. American Nightmare picks up two years later, and in a way Wake has been successful. He once wrote for a Twilight Zone style show called Night Springs, and using the backbone of an episode he had written (about a doppelganger) he has found a way that he is able to leave the Dark Place for brief periods of time, but only at points in reality where other worldly events are happening. An evil version of Wake named Mr. Scratch has invaded the real world, determined to ruin Alan's reputation and kill those he holds dear, and so Alan has followed him. He hopes to be able to defeat Mr. Scratch and maybe even find a way to return to the real world forever, but his evil alter-ego realising this has trapped him in a time-loop, forcing him to relive the same night over and over again.

This came out at a time when downloadable games were recognised as micro-experiences rather than fully fledged games. As such there is plenty here that is limited, but the time-loop mechanic gives a way for that to work in the games favour. American Nightmare is split into three different areas, all taking place over one night. The whole game takes place in the deserts of Arizona, with the first area, a dusty motel, being the biggest of the three. The second area is an observatory, with the final area being a drive-in theatre. In each area you have a specific set of objectives to complete to trigger world altering events. The motel section for instance has you setting up events to make a space satellite crash to Earth (to the tune of a Kasabian track) in order to destroy an oil derrick from which enemies are spawning. Each area also contains manuscript pages, these not only provide plenty of backstory for what exactly is going on, and how Wake came to be in the real world, but they also act as a type of currency to open weapon caches in each area. Each area also has its own radio show transmission. These transmissions provide information on what other characters have been up to over the past two years. Best of all are the TVs which contain a live action broadcast from Mr. Scratch taunting Alan. Being a time-loop game you visit these areas multiple times, each time giving different rewards.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Preacher: Season 4 (2019) - Horror TV Show Preview

The fourth of final season of Preacher is currently running on AMC, and so I checked out the first few episodes to give my take on what it is like. Before joining in season 4 the only experience I had ever had of Preacher was reading some of the graphic novels (that the show is adapted from) as a teen. My memories are hazy but I remember it being weird and violent, while I never really understood it that well I thought it was pretty cool. Despite not having seen any of the previous seasons I'm sure there will be unavoidable spoilers in my preview. Have patience if some of my summary is incorrect, it is all based on my first impressions.

The vampire, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun - The Last Witch Hunter) has been captured by the violently benevolent forces of Herr Starr (Pip Torrens - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, Tomorrow Never Dies) and kept captive at their religious base. Episode 1, Masada has the Preacher, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper - Agent Carter) and his love interest, Tulip (Ruth Negga - World War Z) attempt to break him out. This was a good first impression, while it is violent and nasty at times there is also a rich vein of black humour running throughout. There was plenty of action, but also dream sequences and it all looked fantastic. Some of the effects were quite fun, such as a poor henchwoman who ends up squished between a huge door. The core story was easy to follow, and while the focus is very much on Jesse and Tulip there were various other threads that were dipped into occasionally. However brief these other scenes were it did a good job of showing where all the various characters were, and what they were up to.

Second episode, Last Supper sees Custer on his way to locate a strange rock he saw in a vision, meanwhile Tulip has her own mission she is intent on completing. This second episode brought out some of the more surreal moments that I assume the show is littered with. Most notably being a prologue that shows God (Mark Harelik - Jurassic Park III) hanging out with a stop motion dinosaur, with the real explanation for their extinction revealed. The show continues its dark humour, such as when a man is made to kill himself with a hand grenade and his last words asking for his browsing history to be deleted off his computer. Despite a large cast of characters the focus is mainly split between Tulip, Cassidy, and Custer, with just a few scenes that feature Herr Starr, and his main henchwoman, Lara Featherstone (Julie Ann Emery - Better Call Saul).

The third episode, Deviant has Jesse Custer making a side stop to rescue a young boy from a house of perverts. The episode also dedicates a good chunk to the continuing misadventures of Arseface (Ian Colletti) and The Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish - The Hobbit trilogy) as they hunt for the Preacher. I remember Arseface from the comics I read as a teen so it was fun to see his character. There was a long corridor fight at one point in this episode, with a lot of it done in one take. It gave me real Daredevil vibes and was well choreographed. I like that Jesse's almighty power is always shown to have a negative side to it, he has the power to make anyone do anything but it never seems to go according to plan when he uses it on others, unless it is for petty things like having him able to smoke in an airport lounge. The first three episodes have played with time, by showing Jesse in the future and present, so it was nice to see these two timelines finally met up.

Despite not knowing anything about the show I enjoyed my brief time with it, and shows that even missing out on three seasons I felt mostly confident that I knew a lot of what was going on. It helps the show looks quality, with great special effects and a large cast of talented actors. Preacher continues on AMC Mondays at 21:00 until 5th October, so check it out!

Sunday, 13 September 2020

To Your Last Death (2019) - Horror Film Review

The award winning To Your Last Death purports to be the first ever U.S made 2D animated horror movie. Directed by Jason Axinn, this horror immediately caught my eye due to the animation style that is very similar to the look of the animated comedy, Archer. Despite this being an animation it is very bloody and dark, at times so much so that it did feel it was trying too hard to be 'edgy'.

The film begins with a bloodied and beaten Miriam (voiced by Dani Lennon - The Love Witch, Dracula: Reborn) emerging from her father's company HQ. She is swiftly arrested for the murders of her brothers, Ethan (Damien C. Haas) and Collin (Benjamin Siemon), as well as her sister, Kelsey (Florence Hartigan).  She tells the detective that it was actually her father, Cyrus DeKalb (Ray Wise- Batman: The Killing Joke, Twin Peaks) who killed them, and who also tried to kill her. With Cyrus being an influential figure, and with her having a history of mental illness things don't look good for Miriam. That is when she is visited by a strange woman (the Gamemaster) who only she can see. The Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin - Deadpool, Gotham) tells her that she can be given a unique opportunity to correct the past. The woman has the ability to send Miriam back in time to the start of the evening of mayhem and bloodshed, and that with the knowledge of what is to occur she will be able to change fate by saving her siblings. With no real alternative Miriam agrees, but it soon becomes clear things are going to be a lot harder than she anticipated. The Gamemaster is very much a neutral in the situation and belongs to a group of mysterious entities who are playing a game, placing bets on whether Miriam will be successful at changing her past or not. The Gamemaster at her own discretion has chosen to influence events, to make them more interesting for the entities twisted enjoyment.

Boiling it right down this is Groundhog Day if it was mixed in a pot with Saw. Death isn't the end here and so characters can suffer all sort of really quite nasty deaths only for time to be rewound and them to be fine. On occasion this works in the characters favour, one part sees Miriam suddenly stabbed to death, then when time is reset she is able to avoid this. It isn't a perfect time loop as the film plays out more or less in a continuing order, each reset puts characters back a matter of moments. What made this feel more different was how the motivations of the characters can be changed based on the Gamemaster's participation. She is most keenly shown being able to change Cyrus's thoughts, such as altering the order in which the siblings are to be killed in the Saw style traps, she can also change other characters actions, and this can make a reset where things are a lot different to how they had originally played out.

Friday, 11 September 2020

The Dead Ones (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Dead Ones
is a horror that comes from director Jeremy Kasten and writer Zach Chassler (The Wizard of Gore, The Thirst). It explores the topic of high school shootings, but does so in a way different to usual. The whole movie is very centered on the supernatural and from the offset feels like it is all one large nightmare sequence. The central idea that holds this all together is one I have seen in plenty of movies before (Dark Corners is one such example). It manages to pull this all off in just 72 minutes, though it feels longer than the run time would suggest.

Four high school friends, who include among them Mouse (Sarah Rose Harper), Scottie (Brandon Thane Wilson - Wonder Woman 1984), Emily (Katie Foster), and her boyfriend Louis (Torey Garza) are brought back to their high school at night by their teacher Ms. Persephone (Clare Kramer - Buffy the Vampire Slayer). As punishment for the friends wrecking the school during some unspecified incident they are being made to clean it all up over long night. However, not soon after they arrive another group turn up, these new arrivals are dressed up as the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and quickly go about setting up traps and locking all exits to the school, targeting the friends for reasons unknown...

From the very start of this movie it was quite clear something was not quite right. For one thing the school looks like a bomb had hit it, damaged lights flicker on and off, books and paper are strewn about the hallways and classrooms and blood and bullet holes are seen all over. The world the film takes place in felt very Silent Hill in vibe, like a twisted version of the real world. This created a strange contrast, with the four friends not appearing to find any of this strange. An early question I had was if this was some sort of dystopian future. Over the course of the film things become a lot clearer, especially with the masked intruders whose scenes often blend seamlessly between the present and an event at the school that took place in the past.

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Occurrence at Mills Creek (2020) - Horror Film Review

Occurrence at Mills Creek
originally came out in the form of a short film back in 2019. As far as I'm aware this short film was always intended to be a part of a larger story, and was made up of footage from the opening act of an upcoming feature film. Truth be told I wasn't that taken with it, I thought it was confusing, and I thought it didn't work that well as a stand alone piece. Having now seen the feature length version of Occurrence at Mills Creek I can affirm with context it all works so much better. Despite not really understanding the story I thought this movie was fantastic, and by far the best film I have personally seen from Don Swanson (director of the short, as well as A Wish for Giants and What Was Lost).

Ava Psoras (reprising her role from the short film) stars as Clara, a young woman suffering from a deep depression. When she was still a teen her mum died, then one tragic day an event happened at the titular Mills Creek that saw Clara accidentally kill her younger sister, Cassandra (Alexa Mechling - the original short, A Wish for Giants). Unable to bear the guilt of her actions she tried to commit suicide, and now regularly sees a psychiatrist, and gets by with the support of her best friend. After her father, Victor (Joe Fishel - again, the original short, The Dark Knight Rises, Jack Reacher) passes away, his step sister, Cecilia (Mary Sack - Camp Blood 666) gets in contact and it seems Clara's support bubble is growing. However, she is haunted by visions of her deceased mum and sister and fears she is losing her sanity. Could everything she is experiencing be down to mental trauma, or is there a more supernatural explanation?

The very thing I complained about in the short is the part that I most enjoyed about Occurrence. We follow Clara through her eyes and so are given an unreliable view of the world. There are plenty of dream sequences throughout the film, and often they are so integrated well enough that what appears to be a normal scene will suddenly change into an obvious nightmare. It led to a story that was hard to follow, and I curse my own low intelligence that I often wasn't quite sure what was happening, regardless I was enthralled. Towards the films final third I was really hoping it wouldn't drop the ball and turn bad, thankfully it never did. A lot of the time there is a fine balance between events being the result of mental health issues and events actually happening. Things such as doors opening on their own and the visions Clara sees of her relatives are never resolved. What is clear is that Clara is a troubled soul who has suffered a lot. In the films I have seen of Swanson there is always a grounded feel, that outside of the horror these are real characters flawed as normal people are. Due to this even up to the halfway mark I couldn't quite decide if this was even a horror, or just a drama. It didn't need to do so, but this definitely leans into the horror side of things more and more as the film progresses.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Outbreak: The New Nightmare (2017-20) - Zombie Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

Back in 2017 I gave a first impressions preview of top down 2D zombie horror survival game, Outbreak. The game, from Drop Dead Studios really wanted to create the feel of an old school survival horror game. Since then a 3D sequel titled Outbreak: The New Nightmare was released on Steam, and now an updated version has arrived on the Playstation 4.

Outbreak: The New Nightmare takes place during the same time period that Outbreak occurred in, this time leaving the confines of the Arzt Memorial Hospital to follow another group of survivors as they also try to survive the zombie apocalypse. Thinking it would be the safest place around they take refuge at Kraus Shipping Industries, but learn too late that that too is overrun with the undead. With each of the five levels unlocked from the start it isn't much of a spoiler to say that from the offices (Outbreak) you take to the streets (Urban), before making it out to the countryside (Faith). From there you head to an old asylum (Cure) and discover the secret lab underneath it (Shelter) where it seems the nightmare has originated from.

This is old school survival horror that is older and more school than the original Resident Evil games this is influenced by. More specifically this is influenced by the tough as nails Resident Evil: Outbreak games. Each of the six characters have their own attributes, Lydia the cop (who I played as) has a greater resistance to damage and starts with a pistol for instance. It pays to stay with the one character as there is a lovely XP system in place that as you level up gives you access to different perks, such as weapons doing more damage, and starting with more health. Much like with the first game you have limited inventory space and so you are constantly having to micro manage to ensure you have both space for weapons as well as essential items such as tool kits and wires that are needed to fix environmental obstacles. The levels are dotted with ammo as well as discarded weapons, and as each weapon comes with a full clip it makes sense to regularly discard weapons in order to use newer ones. Guns range from pistols to a grenade launcher, shotgun, assault rifle and magnum. All typical weapons and work as intended even if they are a bit unexciting.

Saturday, 5 September 2020

We Got a Monkey's Paw (2018) - Short Comedy Horror Film Review

The award winning We Got a Monkey's Paw is a short comedy horror film that was directed by Aaron Pagniano (Dog City), who also co-wrote the story with Zack Ogle. Everyone knows about the monkey's paw idea, an object that grants the holder three wishes, but always manages to twist the wish into something awful.

Jakki (Jacqueline Jendrell - Sunset on the River Styx) is studying at home when her housemate and best friend, Zack (Ogle - Polterghost) invites her to join him in playing with a Ouija board. Zack has a deep love for everything haunted and cursed and has managed to build up quite the collection over the years. Jakki has no interest in stopping her studies for him, but an errant wish for Jakki to show some interest, made just as Zack happens to be holding a monkey's paw sends the duo on a hellish night of misfortune and mayhem, that takes in time travel, zombies, possessed dolls and a whole lot more..

I would describe the comedy here as zany, something which I can usually deal with in small doses. Zack is the more crazy one balanced against Jakki, who is far more rational and collected. Over the course of eight minutes a lot happens and it did get better the longer this went on. I enjoyed the second half a lot more, and also found the end scene to be very enjoyable. The horror never over powers the humour and even when things seem to be at their worst everything is still bright and colourful. The script was well written and while the characters don't seem to have too much to them I still finished this thinking how great this would have worked as a show, each episode bringing the two to a different type of horror.

There was little to dislike about We Got a Monkey's Paw, once this gets going it was a breezy eight minutes of bad choices and ill judged words, held together by a good script and some fantastic set design. It may be a comedy, but you can see the love for horror here. 


Thursday, 3 September 2020

Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space - Sci-fi/Horror Film News

A new teaser trailer for upcoming sci-fi/horror comedy Toxic Alien Zombie Babes From Outer Space has been released. I don't often do individual news post much any more, but I am hoping to be able to at least include a few during the month as my monthly news roundup is becoming quite large lately! Created by David Black and Gerad Chierchia, this film is working around the various lockdowns going on around the world by getting people from across the globe to submit their own clips online, which will then be edited and added to. For details of how to get involved in that head here.

Joel D. Wynkoop is set to feature in one of the starring roles in the movie, and he will be playing the same character, Parsons Cooper, that he plays in his upcoming feature The Craiglon Incident, which is a crossover with this one. Also set to feature in the film will be Destiny Soria, and she currently has an Indiegogo campaign running to get funds for her own horror, Christmas Slasher. Details of that campaign can be found here

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Blinders (2020) - Horror Film Review

Blinders had its world premiere at Arrow Video FrightFest Digital Edition 2020 last night. This horror from director Tyler Savage (Inheritance), who also co-wrote it along with Dash Hawkins follows a familiar idea (such as with dark comedy The Cable Guy and the mediocre The Gift) but brings it right up to modern day, while also excelling with the casting choices.

Andy (Vincent Van Horn - Inheritance) has recently moved to L.A to start himself a new life after a messy breakup with his girlfriend. Drinking in a bar one night he happens across Sam (Christine Ko) and the two make an immediate connection. With things going well Sam orders a share drive taxi and they head back to her place. The next day Andy happens to bump into the driver of the taxi, a man named Roger (Michael Lee Joplin - #Slaughterhouse) and due to being new in town he agrees to Roger's request to hang out sometime. The two meet up but Roger's intense persona puts off Andy a bit, which is then compounded by Roger constantly texting Andy wanting to meet back up afterwards. With things going so well with Sam he decides to cut Roger out of his life. Angry at being rejected Roger makes it his aim to ruin Andy's life, with identity theft just the beginning of his twisted plans...

Blinders was a bit of a nasty film, which is surprising as it doesn't start off that way. I'm not actually a fan of this sort of horror, peoples lives getting ruined by a maniac, while no one believes them doesn't make for a lot of fun. This movie though was so well made that I was still able to appreciate it despite my misgivings with the story. The directing and editing here was often pleasing, some scenes feature some great lighting, and combination of all the various moving parts. A scene that sees Andy unknowingly turn up at the house of a drug addict was one such example where everything comes together perfectly. There is a gradual ramping up with the events over the course of the 86 minute film, and while the general story is familiar this works due to the main characters.