Sunday, 31 January 2021

The Maze (2010) - Horror Film Review

Back in 2016 I reviewed Nocturne, a fantastic supernatural horror directed by Stephen Shimek. I think it is a good thing that I didn't discover The Maze was also directed by Shimek until after I had seen it as otherwise I may have been disappointed with this mostly bland horror. A cornfield sounds good as a location for a slasher film to be set at, yet it soon becomes clear the setting is actually kinda dull. A mid film twist arrives to save us all from this boredom thankfully, but that twist I can't go into detail about for fear of spoilers.

Five friends have travelled out of the city for an outing to their county's largest corn maze. These friends, who include among them Jordan (Shalaina Castle - Slashdance), Cole (Brandon Sean Pearson - Natures Plague), Alison (Clare Niederpruem - Nocturne), Will (Kyle Paul - Gotham) and Collin (Tye Nelson - Terror Island) arrive after closing time due to getting lost. Despite the maze being closed for the day they decide to head into it, and then decide to play a game of tag. Unknown to them however there is a sixth person hiding out in the cornfields, someone whose version of tag is a lot more deadly than the others...

At the halfway mark of The Maze I was finally interested in what was happening. This follows the tropes of the slasher genre enough that not only has a character gotten the equivalent of a twisted ankle by this point, but they are the 'final girl'. With forty five minutes to go and the cornfield location spent I was intrigued where this would head. If the whole film had followed the route of the first half then this would have been looking at a much lower score, likely around a two or a three out of ten. The friends are a dull bunch and seemed far too old to be playing a game of tag. One sole good idea here was that The Maze begins with a prologue of a mortician examining a badly burnt corpse that is wearing a necklace. It is later revealed that whoever is 'it' in the game of tag has to wear that self same necklace, placing the prologue in the future. It seemed like who the identity of the corpse was would become important and much is made of this necklace constantly swapping characters, heck, even the killer ends up wearing it for a time. Not much really comes of this though, it felt like a bit of a wild goose chase with this petering out and having no impact on anything.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for January 2021

It's a new year and not much has changed with the world. Currently in the UK we are in our third national lock-down and this one for some reason seems more draining than the others. I think it is due to the current pandemic that so few films are getting released, and so I am receiving less screeners for review. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it means I get to dig into my Shudder and Netflix queues, as well as my DVDs to pick out horrors for viewing.
When this post comes out I will have finally been successful in acquiring a Xbox Series X console. Mainly I am excited for this so that I can play some older Xbox games again. It also means I will get to try The Medium, an Xbox Series X/S console exclusive. In other gaming news I am still getting through the P.T Demo inspired horror game Visage, I'm currently 18 videos in, my playlist for this can be found here.

Paul Mormando (Bound by Debt) has joined the cast of zombie film Z Dead End. This film features among its cast George Lazenby (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), Robert Lasardo (The Mule), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Robert Allen Mukes (House of 1000 Corpses) and Roger Corman.
Z Dead End is a post apocalyptic horror that seems to be about a group of soldiers battling the undead, new zombie films are always welcome on this site so here's to hoping this one is good.

Jared Master's fifteenth feature film has wrapped principal photography and the first trailer has been released. Quartz Vein takes place in 2047 and sees a prospector rescue a girl who has been captured by a mutant race of gold injecting vampires. Elizabeth Rath plays Stealthia with Masters as Eon Pax.
Also out by Masters is Lukewarm Surprise, which is a new wave album. The press release states 'The horror guru of Hollywood has composed and recorded thirteen original tracks using a vintage Roland JX-3P synthesizer, Wurlitzer electric piano and Dr. Rhythm drum machines. His unique vocals and singing style is at the forefront of this dark, yet joyous musical experience as well'. Lukewarm Surprise is out now on CD and Cassette and many of the tracks will also feature on Quartz Vein.

The House in The Pines has release an official teaser trailer. This is a horror with an eighties slasher style and a dollop of the paranormal. A group of high school friends visit the NJ Pine Barrens for a summer vacation. There they encounter revenge, gangsters, ghosts and flames. This is directed by Mich Strawn and Jeremy Brown, produced by John DiRenzo, Michael Joy and Mario Cerrito III, with FX specialist Nick Benson.


As I said, film news is quiet at the moment, so onto music news! Deathgaze duo Vazum have released a music video for Carol of the Witch, taken off their new Christmas themed E.P, Vazumnacht. This track is an interpretation of the Christmas carol, Carol of the Bells redone with original sinister lyrics.

Texas goth-rock band In A Darkened Room have released a new video for their song Final Vows. This is the third single off their debut album which is due for release later this year. The song was written about a love lost and how strong emotions leave an imprint on the world.

Electronic musician Vexillary has a new video, The Geneticist. This song is the closing track of latest E.P, SurViolence. Both song and video explore the link between science and spirituality. The video 'presents us with a sci-fi dream sequence that plays like techno hypnotism'.

Gothic/Industrial artist Night Terror has announced their new full-length album, Freak On The Inside. They say of the album "From the depression, addiction, and love to disgust with male chauvinists and the human virus that plagues the world. Everything I had went into this album, but it is only the beginning." The new album can be brought/streamed from all major music services, check out the video for track Wreck It below.

Multi-genre artist SINthetik Messiah has released The Other LA collaboration track and ATR cover. In My Dreams is a split collaboration with The Other LA who approached Bug Gigabyte to change their 2016 track and take it 'on a more twisted, electronic journey'. Destroy 2000 Years of Culture is a cover of Atari Teenage Riot's 1997 track.

Dark ambient act Withering of Light have released their new full-length album, Reliquary. Now available on digital and CD formats with a vinyl release due for February. Todd Janeczek says that the concept "became how each of the words that are the titles took me out of the mundane everyday and put my mind in somewhat of a different state.

September Mourning have released an official music video for their new single Wake the Dead. This is the band's first release partnered with Legend Recordings and INgrooves. They band say of the track " written from the point of view of our main character in the graphic novel, September, as she observes the world of the living in which she consistently takes souls from".

And that is it for a music-centric monthly news round-up. Now, I'm off to play some more retro 8-bit platformer Cyber Shadow... really making the most of the power of the new Xbox!

Friday, 29 January 2021

Mandao Returns (2020) - Comedy Horror Film Review

When I was approached about checking out the sequel to the 2018 indie comedy horror film Mandao of the Dead I admit I could barely remember having seen that one, it just didn't seem to have stuck around in my mind. That is until a re-read of my review refreshed things. Mandao Returns is the new film in the series and once again comes from director/writer/actor Scott Dunn and features the same cast of actors reprising their roles. What this film does is very similar to the first one, it tells a fully formed story, but one that just feels chilled and low stakes, making it strangely comforting to watch.

Jay Mandao (Scott Dunn) has a special gift, he is able to effortlessly astral project, and with this he is even able to time travel. Since his nephew Jackson (Sean McBride) burnt down his apartment while trying to make 'popcorn soup' they have moved into the house of Cousin Andy (Sean Liang - American Horror Story). It is here that Jay comes to be contacted by the spirit of famous actress Aura Garcia (Jenny Lorenzo). She knows of his powers of time travel and wants to hire him to travel back in time to prevent her recent accidental death by drug overdose. However as people usually find out, changing the past is never simple and it is never clear just what the ramifications of doing so will be...

There are a good cast of characters here and I found it nicer than I thought it would be to be reunited with these. Reading my review of the first movie I mentioned how irritating I found Jackson to be. This time around I found him to be a lot more bearable. Out of all the characters he is the most comedic in that he is quite dense. It was nice to see Liang have a much larger role than previously, he is integral to the unfolding plot. Elsewhere Gina Gomez reprises her role as Fer and Alexandre Chen comes back as the spirit of Jay's father. Lorenzo and Jim O'Doherty round out the small cast and both these actors fit in well to the weird vibe of the film world.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

WTNY Bienvenida a Nueva York - Official Trailer Released

Critically acclaimed short film WTNY Bienvenida a Nueva York has had an official trailer, poster and stills released for it. This was directed by Marta Márquez and won Winners of Audience Award at the Astoria Film Festival, Best Crime Short at Cult Critic Movie Awards, and Best Suspense Horror at Creepy Tree Film Festival.

In the film a young woman arrives in NYC from Colombia and is unlucky enough to immediately witness a crime. This leads to her fleeing frantically through a city that not only does she not know, but in which she also doesn't speak the language. Sounds like a nightmare transported to film!

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Deadcon (2019) - Horror Film Review

Deadcon has an average IMDB rating of just 2.8/10 and while I think that is harsh I can understand why. This is a movie that has great ideas and terrible ideas in equal measure, as I was watching this I was also thinking about just what I would change and twist to let this seed of a good idea become something potentially quite special. This was directed by Caryn Waechter and written by Scotty Landes and general story is probably better than the other Landes written horror I have seen, Ma.

A huge meet and greet event is taking place at a large hotel, and so a whole host of social influencers have headed there for a weekend of meeting fans. One of these is Ashley (Lauren Elizabeth - Bad Night) who discovers her hotel room was double booked. Against the protests of other staff members the hotel manager decides to put her in the top floor penthouse suite, a room that has a bad history associated with it. Staying next door to her is another influencer, Megan (Claudia Sulewski - A Christmas Carol + Zombies) who is having an affair with online gaming star Dave (Keith Machekanyanga). All these characters soon come to learn there is something indeed wrong with this floor of the hotel, and it might have something to do with an incident involving a young boy named Bobby back in 1984...

I enjoyed Deadcon a lot more than I thought I would but there were elements that frustrated and got in the way of what could have been a solid paranormal horror. First and foremost is the whole set up of the characters all being social influencers. I can only think this was decided to try and appeal to teens but this part of the film was a big waste of time. Absolutely nothing of note happens in the convention setting and mainly takes the form of a few montages of meet and greets and a bizarre and frequent cutaway scene of the same kids running up to the same doors and cherry-door knocking them (knocking and then running away before the door is answered). The ghost (not a spoiler as this is heavily insinuated in the prologue) seems to want attention and so that is the only thread that ties it to social influencers. Despite this these characters could have been anyone and could have been at that hotel for any reason. Much of the horror takes place within the hotel rooms of a handful of characters and so everything outside of this was meaningless and a waste of film.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

I Want to Believe: One Man's Journey into the Paranormal - New Book News

I Want to Believe: One Man's Journey into the Paranormal comes from paranormal investigators Peter Renn and Jason Hewlett. The book is a collection of the most frightening cases Peter has encountered over his twenty seven years in the job.
The book includes 'psychic encounters at a community theatre, confrontations with shadow beings and other negative spirits, and even a case of possible demonic possession'.

Peter has travelled the world with his specialization in negative (demonic) cases. He is skeptical and so always looks for logical explanations first. In 2020 he formed the Canadian Paranormal Foundation with Jason Hewlett.
Hewlett is a journalist, broadcaster and podcaster. He is the co-host of the prime time radio show/podcast From The Basement, the writer, creator and director of the paranormal reality series We Want to Believe, and narrator of The UFO Show.

I Want to Believe: One Man's Journey into the Paranormal is out now and available from, and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, 25 January 2021

Dark Whispers: Volume 1 (2019) - Horror Anthology Film Review

Any long time visitors to The Rotting Zombie will know that I have a real soft spot for anthologies. With Dark Whispers: Volume 1 you have one that is themed around short horror films directed by Australian female directors. I will add my own theme to this, the theme of shorts that seem to end kind of abruptly. That isn't to say they end badly, more that it feels like it cuts away before the story is properly told.

The Book of Dark Whispers is written and directed by Megan Riakos (Crushed) and is the wraparound story that is revisited after each of the ten shorts. Andrea Demetriades plays Clara, a woman who has inherited a strange book that used to belong to her mother. The book is full of strange stories and Clara is frightened  to discover that reading each story seems to result in a bit of it coming into the real world (reminded me of Jumanji). She becomes determined to finish the book. Much like many of the shorts here I enjoyed this, but I felt it wasn't satisfactorily resolved, it was cool how after each short film there is an element that then bleeds over into the real world.

The first proper short is the Angie Black (The Five Provocations) directed 2008 film Birthday Girl. As an elevator descends a little girl questions her mother (Sarah Bollenberg) about what they did for each of her birthdays. I will be honest and say I didn't sleep well the night previous to watching this anthology, I got around three and a half hours sleep and so as an entry point to Dark Whispers I was groggy and didn't really get this one.
2016's The Man Who Caught a Mermaid followed this and was directed by Kaitlin Tinker in her directorial and writing debut. An old man (Roy Barker - Lone Wolf) ridiculed for his obsession with mermaids is delighted to one day capture one. This had almost no dialogue but told a story that had some unexpected twists to it. With good makeup effects, and a good story this was one of the better shorts in this anthology, let down (as become standard) by a weak ending that left the story open.
The third short was Gloomy Valentine and really was something different. This was a 2006 stop-motion film from Isabel Peppard (Butterflies), who directed and co-wrote this. A depressed girl in a Tim Burton esque world laments her lost love. This was a silent short that had a great soundtrack to it and really stood out for obvious reasons.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Seasons Releases New Music Single/Video for Killing Season - Music News

Seasons are a metalcore band who formed in 2017 with five musicians. They are influenced by Wage War and Attila and are said to be known for their 'in your face' stage presence. Their latest single is Killing Season and is to be featured on the soundtrack for upcoming fan film Friday the 13th: Vengeance 2 which is due to come out in Autumn 2021.

Killing Season is written from the perspective of Jason Voorhees and is full of references to different aspects of this character and events he has been through. For more details check out the Apple Music page here.

Saturday, 23 January 2021

WNUF Halloween Special (2013) - Comedy Horror Film Review

WNUF Halloween Special
is a found footage comedy horror co-directed and co-written by Chris LaMartina (What Happens Next Will Scare You, President's Day) that leans in hard to its premise with the film not once breaking the illusion of being the contents of a VHS tape. There is no typical intro blurb on a black screen, there are no end credits, instead this tries to give an authentic feeling of eighties TV exaggerated for comedic effect.

In 1987 WNUF TV put out a Halloween Special. News anchor Frank Stewart (Paul Fahrenkopf - President's Day) was reporting live from a house in which two parents were murdered by their child some twenty years previously. His intention was to explore the house, alongside a priest (Robert Long II - Malice: Origin) and two psychic investigators, Louis (Brian St. August - Zombie Doomsday) and Claire (Helenmary Ball - What Happens Next Will Scare You). Over eighty five minutes this investigation is shown, around plenty of ad breaks and news reports.

Due to sticking to the format of a pre-recorded broadcast this found footage is full of adverts, those coming here purely for the main storyline may be disappointed to find that only really constitutes about fifteen to twenty minutes of the whole piece. It's a good ten minutes before we are even first introduced to Frank Stewart. I think it may have been designed to be one of the soft humour ideas here but most of the horror that occurs takes place during ad breaks. On a few occasions it comes back to the house to reveal things had happened while we were stuck watching adverts. I appreciate sticking so rigidly to its authenticity but did lead to a stop and start approach to the main plot. Whenever things started to get moving they would then get railroaded with yet more adverts.

Friday, 22 January 2021

Midnight Releasing - January 2021 Film Releases

A few January releases from Midnight Releasing. The Spiritualist is out now on VOD from Midnight Releasing. A woman living at a family mansion comes to believe that she is being haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased mother, either that or she is going insane. Her friend hires a spiritualist to come to the property to hold a seance. I said in my 2017 review of this "There are some great parts of this movie, mainly in the double whammy of both Julie T. Wallace and Caroline Burns Cook". The best thing about this movie though is that it is directed by Carl Medland who would go on to make the entertaining and meta Paranormal Farm trilogy.
This is now out on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, Xbox Video, Vimeo, Hoopla, TerrorTV, ShiverTV, Flix Fling, Tubi, and The Cult Movie Network.

Also out is Capture Kill Release. This is a found footage, but it is of the new breed, one which follows the perpetrators rather than the victims of a horrific act. A depraved couple plan to murder a stranger just for the fun of it. Back in 2017 in my review I said "I am surprised by how much I actually did enjoy Capture Kill Release". Check here for more details on that one.

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Happy Times (2019) - Comedy Horror Film Review

The Michael Mayer directed and co-written horror comedy Happy Times takes the concept of a family gathering gone wrong and ramps everything up to eleven. It is funny, farcical, but also bloody with a feel of comedy slapstick with real world consequences.

A Jewish family are having a Shabbat dinner at the mansion of Sigal (Liraz Chamami) and her husband Yossi (Ido Mor - Iron Man) in the Hollywood Hills. It is a typical set-up of various family members all holding their own grudges and grievances with each other. Over the course of the meal things start to escalate until finally with the onset of violence the dysfunctional group implode and over the course of a few hours tear themselves apart.

Families having terrible gatherings has been done so many times in all manner of genre types over the years. Here the mix of humour and horror works well. This may be a comedy, and is indeed laugh out loud funny at times, but Happy Times doesn't shy away from showing some quite brutal looking scenes. An overall criticism I guess is that this is a one trick pony when it comes to the flow of the movie. Once this settles into a rhythm it stays there all the way to its inevitable conclusion. The moment to moment action though remained engaging throughout, seeing the various family members forming shaky alliances with each other and it never being exactly clear which character is going to end up as the next victim. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Bayview Entertainment - Latest Film Releases January 2021

Another month and film releases from Bayview Entertainment keep on coming, some of these sound pretty neat. Centipede! is about a man named David and his friends who go on an expedition deep within the dangerous Shankali Caverns in India. Not having the best of luck the friends manage to trap themselves in a breeding den of giant black centipedes. From the trailer this looks like it will be cheesy in a hopefully fun way.

Nobody is a movie that sounds more up my street as it involves time travel of a sort. An assassin kills his latest target but then finds himself under attack from an assailant who can predict his every move. Things get even stranger when he later discovers the man he definitely killed is somehow alive and well. This is just the start of time based madness which includes such moments as killing a man whose corpse he had discovered hours previously, chasing his own double, and discovering wounds he has received have vanished

Brain Dead is a zombie film and is about six characters trapped in a deserted fishing lodge under assault from alien-infected, mutant amoeba-controlled undead.
The Sleeper meanwhile is about a CIA group known as Sleepers. These are special agents who have the ability to enter people's dreams. A former Sleeper discovers a rogue operative is hunting down and killing all the original agents.

This films are all out on DVD and VOD, for DVD that's Amazon, Walmart, FYE, TCM Shop, Deep Discount,, Import CDs, Vintage Vinyl and more. For VOD that's Amazon Prime, Vimeo, iTunes, Tubi, Roku, and MX Player.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

A Saga of Sadness (2020) - Short Horror Film Review

A Saga of Sadness
is a short horror film from Jeff Payne and is made up of two different shorts he has created in his The Pale Faced Lady trilogy. To me he will be most fondly remembered for his part in the phenomenal short horror septeMber, and for his editing skills. This new short is made up of She Will Return and In Darkness I Wait, skipping out on the first film in the series. I can understand not including that one as it felt of a different style to the later entries.

This is split into two chapters. First chapter titled Sadness is the story of She Will Return. In this part a grieving father regrets his actions that led to his daughter (Rachel Taylor) killing herself quite violently with a sickle. Part two is titled Curse and follows the events of In Darkness I Wait in which the nephew of the father (Sam Love) arrives at the now abandoned house with his girlfriend (Hannah Swayze) in order to burn it down. Both these I had seen before so there is not much more to add other than Payne feels this is the most cohesive way to watch them.

Rather than simply pasting two different shorts together Payne reshot a few scenes, cleaned up the audio and made some adjustments to the overall film. This was done in such a way that I couldn't even tell there were reshot scenes. The best thing about A Saga of Sadness, and of the trilogy as a whole is Taylor as the ghostly lady. Ghosts are often inserted inconspicuously in the background of scenes and is just so darn effective. This figure is definitely creepy and the idea to have this person never ever move or change their expression was a genius one.

As for the combined larger short (clocking in at nearly thirty five minutes), I still found the In Darkness I Wait segment to be the most effective, and with flashbacks to the first chapter it still almost felt like that part wasn't needed. It's hard to get tired of the lovely editing and cinematography so at the least it's cool to get more of that. This ends on the same ending shot as the third short did, very thankful for that as it still remains one of my favourite endings to a short film I think I have ever seen.

If you have seen the original trilogy then maybe there isn't much call to rewatch what is essentially two films taped together. If you have yet to see them though this is the perfect way to do so. Stylistically and thematically the two shorts are very similar and so they fit together well. Check it out for yourself below.


Monday, 18 January 2021

The Medium - Horror Video Game News

A new live-action trailer has been released for upcoming psychological horror video game The Medium. The game is being made by Bloober Team whose previous work includes Blair Witch, The Observer and Layers of Fear. I have to admit I had never heard of this latest game, but each of their previous releases have had their strong points to them (The Observer in particular was actually quite excellent).

The Medium's atmosphere and artstyle is inspired by the paintings of Zdislaw Beksinski which can only be a good thing. The game has you as a medium exploring both the real world and the spirit world at the same time. You use your psychic powers to solve puzzles and survive encounters with the games antagonist - The Maw. Most interesting to me is that the soundtrack is co-composed by Arkadiusz Reikowski and the legendary Akira Yamaoka (the composer of Silent Hill).
The live-action trailer was directed by Pawel Maslona with Tomasz Baginski as writer and creative producer (he has previously directed cinematics for The Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077).
The Medium is due for release on 28th January on XBox Series X/S, Epic Store and Steam.

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Circle (2015) - Horror Film Review

has been on my Netflix queue for a while now so decided to check it out finally. It was co-directed and co-written by Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione who both worked on TV series The Vault and both seem to share some common similarities. There have been plenty of horror films that feature just the one mysterious location, it was only a few months back I reviewed The Odds which has a similar set-up. It dawned on me as I began watching Circle that a movie in which not a single character moves from the spot they are standing in could make for something quite difficult to review.

Fifty strangers awake in a dark room, each of them standing on a red glowing circle on the floor. Before too long they figure out that they are stuck inside of some sort of game, every few minutes they are supposed to vote on someone to get killed. This results in electricity shooting out an orb in the centre of the room and zapping the loser instantly dead. They come to the realisation that at the end of the game it is likely there will only be one survivor...

To put Circle in the worst light you could just say it was Cube but with all the action and excitement sucked out of it. These characters don't know how they got to be there, but a lot of mystery is removed by these characters all being on board to the idea that they have been abducted by aliens. This is explained very early on by one of the characters who remembers being part of a mass panic to flee a city when he was abducted. Whether that is true or not doesn't matter, the characters believe this and so it isn't a question of who has captured them, but more about guessing the motivations of the captors. Nearly the whole film takes place in the dark room, the only visibility being the red lit structure and the characters bathed in light. This brings the focus squarely onto the characters but did mean everything looked a bit samey.

Friday, 15 January 2021

The Ninth Passenger (2018) - Horror Film Review

The Ninth Passenger
is a creature feature from the executive producer of It Follows - Corey Large in his debut directorial role, and who also co-wrote this as well as co-starred. The film suffers from a slow first act, an uninspiring story, and bland forgettable characters, but at least in the few milliseconds you get to see the creature it looked cool.

By a series of various misadventures a bunch of eight relative strangers all end up on a yacht out at sea together. These people include Marty (David Hennessey) whose business man father owns the boat, as well as his slimebag best friend Lance (Tom Maden - Scream: The TV Series). Also on board is Jess (Alexia Fast - Jack Reacher) and her best friend, Marty's ex, Christy (Veronica Dunne), the ship's cook, Malcolm (Large), his date, and a mysterious man who claims to be there to fix the engine (Brady, played by Jesse Metcalfe from Dead Rising: Watchtower). Anyway, while at sea the boat loses all power and so a bunch of the passengers decide to head to a nearby island to find a radio to call for help. Soon both those who remained on the boat and those on the island come under attack from some sort of deadly humanoid creature.

For a simple story it sure took a while to get going. The film is about eighty minutes long yet it is a whole forty five minutes into the film that anything remotely horror like begins to happen. The lengthy peril-free beginning is just used to establish how all these characters came to be stranded at sea, I really don't know why so much time was spent with this dull part of the film. When the horror does finally arrive it would be nice to say there was a sudden huge improvement, instead it is let down by lacklustre kills that mainly see characters suddenly whisked off camera to the sound of a loud distorted bass sound that previously I had only heard on 'dank meme' compilation videos on YouTube.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

ZCREW - Horror Video Game News

is a new top down horror shooter that was developed by Emotion Studio and Snail Games. This supports up to four players and includes both co-op play and a single-player campaign. In the game an alien virus has turned large populations of Earth into mad zombies. To battle these, genetically modified human clones are dispatched to not only defeat the undead, but also battle mutant insects and other creatures.

The Early Access release includes two environments (Ruined City and Lost Desert), 30 levels, 4 character classes and 5 weapons. These levels include day and night variations as well as various weather conditions. The developers plan to update the game throughout 2021 based on player feedback. ZCREW can be purchased on Steam for $9.99.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Sleepaway Camp (1983) - Horror Film Review

Sleepaway Camp
is such a cult film that despite never having seen it I was well aware of the twist ending reveal of who the killer was. Due to this it was really hard to put myself in the mindset of someone who had never heard of this twist. Even so, I was really interested to see how this character would be handled, and if the film in general was at all memorable outside of its notorious shock finish.

As a child, Angela (Felissa Rose - Camp Twilight) was involved in a terrible boating accident that saw her twin brother and her dad killed before her eyes. Now 13 she lives with her eccentric aunt and her protective cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten - Return to Sleepaway Camp). During summer, Ricky and Angela are sent away to a summer camp, with the shy and practically mute Angela getting bullied there. As the weeks pass people keep showing up severely injured or dead. At first it is thought to be down to accidents, but as the bodies pile up it starts to seem like there is a killer on the loose.

I will admit to not having seen a gigantic amount of 80s slashers but I'm pretty sure that usually it is older teens (typically played by adults) who are the victims of the killers wrath, here though the age range is on the whole a lot lower with the majority of the victims being young teenagers. While there was a large body count by the films conclusion this was slow to really get going. I think by the halfway point there had only been two attacks. I say attacks, as also different is that not all the victims of the killer die, just horrifically maimed! The Friday the 13th films have to have been an influence, at least with the location of a lake side camp mainly ran by young adults. I really don't rate that series at all, the lack of any kind of story in any of the entries really make them quite dull. It was nice that here there is more of a story with both Ricky and Angela getting character development. Angela in particular changed over the course of the film, initially she doesn't even speak but as she befriends Ricky's best friend she slowly comes out of her shell.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

The Dark (1980) by James Herbert - Horror Book Review

Despite loving horror films it was a long time coming before I started reading horror books, and it took me a while to realise who I liked to read and who I didn't. To my surprise I found Stephen King (so far) to be mainly very overrated. Thankfully there are some good horror writers out there. Obviously David Moody (the Autumn series) and Duncan P. Bradshaw (Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space!) have zombies and comedy horror covered, and for more broad horror you have authors like Sean E. Britten (Tik), hit and miss Dean Koontz (Intensity) and James Herbert ('48). The Dark is a 1980s horror novel from Herbert and continues the common trend I've noticed in his books of both being a good read, and featuring an enemy that uses some aspects of the zombie genre.

I read this over the course of about eight months and so my memory of the earlier parts may be a little fuzzy, unavoidable spoilers to follow. Basically, there is a house of evil that exists on a street in London. Years previously a crazed cult leader and his followers committed ritualistic suicide there and it's now said to be haunted. Chris Bishop is a debunker of supposed supernatural events and he has been hired to prove there is nothing wrong with the house. He also just so happens to be the man who discovered the aftermath of the cult suicides a year or so previously. He teams up with a psychic named Edith, as well as a blind paranormal expert, Jacob Kulek and his daughter Jessica. All along the street where the house resides people have been going insane and committing senseless crimes, after the investigation the decision is made to destroy the house, not realising that this releases an evil force known as 'The Dark' which slowly spreads its corrupting influence over the surrounding city.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Hacksaw - Horror Film News

Anthony Leone's Hacksaw arrived on streaming services and video-on-demand on 5th January from Midnight Releasing. This won the Best Slasher Film at the Monster of Horror Film Festival. In this 70 minute slasher a young couple on a road trip take a detour to the site where a notorious killer nicknamed Hacksaw was said said to have been killed. They soon discover this legend may not be as dead as had been assumed. Hacksaw stars Amy Cay, Brian Patrick Butler, Cortney Palm and Sadie Katz.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Valentine (2001) - Horror Film Review

Valentine is a slasher from director Jaime Blanks (Urban Legend) that felt very much of the 90s despite coming out in 2001. Initially I thought it was from that earlier decade, but the mention of the internet, and various characters having flip phones made me suspect it was more earlier 21st Century. This was recommended to me a couple of years ago by a London based friend I briefly had, and while this does have some good kills, overall it was lacking somewhat.

At a school Valentines disco in 1988 an awkward boy was looking for a girl to dance with but kept getting rejected. Eventually one agrees, but after they are discovered kissing by some bullies, the girl embarrassed claims he had instead forced himself onto her. This resulted in the innocent boy getting expelled from the school. Fast forward to 2001 and the girls from that party are still friends and in various stages of looking for love. One by one they begin to receive disturbing Valentine's Day cards and one by one they begin to get killed off by a cherub mask wearing killer. It seems the rejected boy has returned to get his revenge on those he holds responsible for ruining his life.

This has dated quite poorly, but that in itself gives Valentine a certain charm to it. This is a sexist world where male and females alike all seem to just exist to objectify each other. I can't think of a single interaction between the sexes that wasn't full of lustful looks and suspect dialogue. Even the detective investigating the murders (Fulvio Cecere - Resident Evil: Afterlife) isn't exempt, featuring in a scene played for laughs in which he sexually harasses one of the girls, Paige (Denise Richards -  The World is Not Enough, Starship Troopers). Out of all the protagonists it is Paige who is the most confident and self reliant. The other heroines are played by Marley Shelton (Planet Terror, Death Proof), Jessica Cauffiel (Grey's Anatomy), Jessica Cauffiel (Urban Legends: Final Cut) and Katherine Heigl (Grey's Anatomy) so there were a lot of familiar faces even if they all play bland character types who seemed to blur into one. The main male protagonist is Adam, played by David Boreanaz (Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer). His character was dark and brooding  and so didn't feel much different to Angel, aside from being an alcoholic here.

Friday, 8 January 2021

Vazumnacht (2020) by Vazum - Music EP News

Detroit deathgaze duo Vazum released a new EP over the Christmas period, being behind on my news I have only just came across this, so my bad. Inspired by the legend of Krampus the duo have transformed three Christmas carols into gothic deathrock songs. The EP is Vazumnacht and the tracks are Carol of the Witch, Unholy Nite and Bark the Hellhounds and combine industrial dance with post-punk and goth elements, as well as adding their own original lyrics.
This EP was released on 4th December exclusively on their Bandcamp page where a variety of other merch can also be found.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Behind the Trees (2019) - Horror Film Review

Behind the Trees is a horror directed and co-written by Vikram Jayakumar, that uses the concept of characters who are in a foreign location getting caught up in local customs which they don't have much understanding of. It was a bit of a slow burn but throughout this there were some suitably creepy moments, even if stripped to basics it doesn't really have much of a story to tell.

Amy (Vanessa Curry) and her Indian boyfriend Jay (Sahil Shroff) have gone away from their home in L.A for a romantic getaway to the Indian wilderness. The resort they are staying at is near a local village, and it is while they are out walking one day that they witness a strange exorcism the villagers are performing on a young girl (Tvisha Seema). This exorcism culminates in the villagers locking the girl in a purpose made chamber that resides in the middle of a vast cornfield. Fearing she has been left to die Amy and Jay secretly free her and bring her back to their apartment. The girl is in shock but slowly opens up to Amy, eventually revealing her name is Asha and that she just wants to go back to her parents. Things are not as straightforward as they first appear, and while Jay heads back to the village to try and find some answers Asha begins to talk about a strange woman who she says keeps appearing before her.

There is a lot that Behind the Trees gets right and the whole local superstition part of this was tremendous. Being in a strange place and not understanding what everyone else does can't help but create some unsettling feelings. Working as the bridge between these two worlds is Navin (Subrat Dutta) who works at the resort but comes from the nearby village. This bizarre and off kilter character was a highlight and he shares some of the best scenes. Ones such as when him and Jay are walking through some woods and he explains why he wears a creepy mask of a man on the back of his head while walking there (to confuse tigers is the answer). As to Amy and Jay, I never really felt a chemistry between these two people, it never felt believable that they were meant to be deeply in love. This is mostly down to the character of Amy who didn't really seem to have much depth to her. There was a slight feeling of a 'white saviour' with her, she decides she knows what is going on and puts no stock in local beliefs, determined to rescue the girl when no one had asked her to. Asha was purposely mysterious but avoids the typical creepy child vibe by not talking like she is an adult (which for some reason often happens in horrors). Her little stories about meeting a strange woman in the woods were effective, and these moments represented by possible flashbacks worked well.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Portraits From The Woods - The Walking Dead Photography Book by Norman Reedus

Available now as a hardcover as well as a special collector's edition (that includes a clothbound clamshell box that has both the book and a signed archival photograph) is Portraits From The Woods that features the photography of Norman Reedus. This captures behind the scenes moments from The Walking Dead, I didn't know it but apparently Reedus is never without his camera.

It includes characters and zombies alongside portraits of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Hideo Kojima, Lena Dunham, Diane Kruger, Dave Chapelle and many more. The press release states 'Norman has an indelible way of capturing the beauty and mystery in others. His photographs are beautiful and terrifying, macabre and provoking, alternately dark and sublime'.

Portraits From The Woods is 144 pages, 9.5" x 12" and can be purchased from Reedus' website, Big Bald Gallery for $75. Proceeds from sales are being donated to the COVID-19 Response Fund. For more details check out the site here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Peninsula (2020) - Zombie Horror Film Review

The 2016 South Korean zombie horror film Train to Busan was a superb movie. It was thrilling, urgent and had undead who really didn't look or act like much else out there. The same year the animated prequel Seoul Station was released and that paled in comparison. It was perfectly adequate but hardly something I had any urge to return to. Peninsula is the latest film in the series, again co-written and directed by Sang-ho Yeon, I had heard that it was nowhere near as good as Train and so my expectations were measured. I hoped it would at least be as good as Seoul Station and so was pleased to discover this was actually a whole lot better than that.

It is four years since a biological agent leaked out of a factory in South Korea, turning those it infected into mindless zombies. There were attempts to evacuate the country but in the end these plans were abandoned and the whole peninsula sealed off from the outside world. Jung Seok (Dong-won Gang) was a soldier who was one of the last to escape, and who has been living as a refugee in Hong Kong ever since. Him and other survivors are treated badly by the locals who see them as unclean and so when he is given an opportunity by a local crime boss to make some money, he realises to ever get any respect he will have to agree. Jung and a small group of survivors are tasked with heading back to South Korea in order to collect a truck laden with money that had been abandoned there during the initial evacuation. Each of the group are promised a cut of the money upon their return back. Despite the undead roving the city they are taken to, things seem to be going well, that is until they come under attack from a rogue militia unit, the 631. This unit got stranded in the city during the evacuation and in the intervening years have formed themselves into a gang of bandits preying on the weak.

I feared this would simply be an inferior retread of the first movie's urgent escape storyline, and while the story can be said to be generic all the pieces worked together in a satisfying way. The characters this time around were not as overly likeable as in the first film but there were some great highlights. Previously it was about a man trying to protect his daughter, and children again play a big part in the film here. Separated from his team Jung soon joins up with a small family who include among them a young teenager and her younger sister who have adapted very well to the new world. Especially the teen who turns out to be demonically good at driving. The story turns into a plot to infiltrate the HQ of the 631 and steal back the truck and make it to a contact point at the port. Meanwhile at the HQ itself we are introduced to a variety of characters, including Sergeant Hwang (Min-Jae Kim) who serves as the film's antagonist. He reminded me heavily of Captain Rhodes from Day of the Dead, with bits of Negan from The Walking Dead to him. He made for a fun bad guy who it was nice to see wasn't a coward, holding his own when need be.

Monday, 4 January 2021

HNN Presents - December DVD & VOD Releases

Sure, I'm a month late with this news but when all four of Bayview Entertainment's new HNN Presents releases for December were ones I had previously covered on this blog I felt they needed to be mentioned. 

Deadly Virtues is about a couple whose house is invaded by a stranger. This man ties up the husband and tells the wife that if she acts like she's the invaders wife for the weekend then he will leave them alive and well. I said in my review " is well made and cohesive".
Meat is a Dutch surreal horror about a butcher's assistant who becomes a detective's main suspect when the butcher turns up dead. Weirdly though the detective is the spitting image of the deceased man. Of this one I said "This is different to most films out there".
Anatomy of Monsters was a compelling horror. In it a serial killer abducts a young woman only to discover that she too is a serial killer who swiftly turns the tables on him. I said in my review "I found this film to be very interesting, well edited, a great soundtrack and cohesive storytelling".
Finally is the fantastic German horror A Young Man with High Potential. A socially awkward student has one long night of horror after misreading the signs from a female student he befriends. Of this one I said "...isn't a fun film to watch, it is more a trial of endurance. What it really succeeds is really drawing the viewer in, I was locked in to the events unfolding and the real world faded away as I became completely involved with this".

All four of these were released on 1st December on both DVD and VOD.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

The Addams Family (2019) - Children's Horror Film Review

I've once again come to the conclusion that I need to branch out more in the movies I watch for review. 99% of what I watch are new films that have been sent my way, yet there are hundreds, if not thousands of horror films out there that I have never so much as glanced at. At random I picked a film from my infinite Netflix list and it happened to be the 2019 animated children's horror The Addams Family.

Thirteen years after moving to New Jersey the Addams Family discover a new bright and cheerful town called Assimilation has been built near to their mansion by TV host Margaux Needler (Allison Janney - The Help, Juno). She is horrified to discover their family house and has designs to change it so that it conforms to her idea of beauty. Meanwhile Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz - Susperia, Carrie) has begun to get tired of her family and becomes friends with Margaux's daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher - Despicable Me), who likewise is looking for change. While this is all happening, Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard - It, Stranger Things) is preparing for a rite of passage, but his inability to conform to the standards set by his father Gomez (Oscar Isaac - Ex Machina) is also causing problems.

From the synopsis there is a clear idea that the moral being told here is that non conformity and individuality is a good thing and it shouldn't be seen as something to be against. People should be free to be who they want to be without judgement being passed if they are seen as different. This is a heavy handed message in that it bleeds into all aspects of the various storylines being told, but it is a relevant one. Being an animation rather than live action means that the horror aspect of the characters and setting can be more visually represented. From a sentient tree, to the house itself which has a voice there are many monsters and much madness here. Characters are very unrealistic in that all sorts of cartoon peril can befall them and they are perfectly fine, as to be expected and not a criticism.

Saturday, 2 January 2021

The Evil Dead - Worldwide Virtual Watch Party

It's not often I receive news in my inbox that gets me actually excited for something, but this piece of news did that. The Evil Dead is one of my favourite films of all time, recently, having brought the Blu-ray box set I had been rewatching them once again, and so finding out about a virtual watch party that is going to feature live commentary from the legend that is Bruce Campbell was happening later on in January was good timing.

This is going to happen on January 23rd at 6 PM PST/9 PM EST (and for UK readers benefit, 2 AM GMT on the 24th). Campbell will provide his memories of working on the film, behind the scene stories, anecdotes, funny stories and he will also answer a few questions live from the chat. He has said of this "I'm excited about this project, it will be a great opportunity to safely connect with fans and allow them a closer look behind the scenes."

Tickets are on sale now at $25 per device and $50 VIP tickets that will also include a limited-edition poster that will be mailed. To purchase tickets head over to here. For me 2 AM is an ungodly hour, but I will still be there for certain!

Friday, 1 January 2021

The Devil's Machine (2019) - Horror Film Review

I first heard of Hex Studio's The Devil's Machine in 2018 when it was still under its original title Automata. It was directed by Lawrie Brewster and written by Sarah Daly who between them have created the excellent Lord of Tears, as well as The Unkindness of Ravens and The Black Gloves. I hadn't heard of its name change and so as I sat down to watch this I was delighted to see it came from a team with such a strong background.

Antique expert Brendon Cole (Jamie Scott Gordon - Lord of Tears, The Unkindness of Ravens, The Black Gloves) has been hired to authenticate a 300 year old lifesize clockwork doll (Alexandra Hulme - Lord of Tears). It had been thought to be the stuff of legends, but was discovered hidden in a secret room in a Scottish mansion. The legends around the doll say that everyone who came into contact with it ended up going insane, and that in mysterious circumstances the doll one day vanished into thin air. Brendon goes to the mansion along with his beautiful wife/daughter/assistant (I'm not sure exactly which of these she was), Rose (Victoria Lucie - Captivity). He is given a week to authenticate the doll, with a very high reward should he be able to prove it is in fact the item of legend. However, as the week goes on both Brendon and Rose start to experience vivid hallucinations, with it seeming the creation has the power to affect the minds of those around it...

I loved the set-up for the story here and initially it was everything I hoped it would be. The story to begin with has Brendon tasked with making the doll perform five 'miracles' that written notes from the time of its creation said it was able to do. Being an antiques expert I don't know why he couldn't have found a different way to find out if it was the real thing or not, but the idea of these five miracles was a decent hook. I fully expected each of these would be more and more creepy and that they would take up the majority of the movie. Instead this is far more a ghost story. As cool looking, and as genuinely creepy as the doll is it didn't really get a starring role. As The Devil's Machine goes on it becomes far less about this creation and far more about the power it seems to wield. The horror comes mainly from the powdered wig wearing ghosts of the past, as well as the uncontrollable bizarre behaviour the two start to exhibit.