Wednesday, 30 June 2021

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

I've been teasing it for ages now but I'm really going to have to start putting out more than one news post a month as my inbox is just getting larger and larger. A few weeks back I had a hosting issue with the site address my blog pointed to, as such there are a whole bunch of dead links, most notably in my site index. I am slowly working my way through the back end of my blog to fix this, but with over 2,500 posts that is going to take a heck of a long time to fix! Onto the news...

Baphomet came to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Formats on June 9th. This horror from Cleopatra Entertainment stars Dani Filth (lead singer of Cradle of Filth, one of my all time favourite bands). The film is directed and written by Matthan Harris and also stars Colin Ward, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (The Omen, City of the Living Dead) and Nick Principe. The film is about an American family whose ranch is visited by a Satanic cult leader who wants to buy it. When the family refuse things go south and they find themselves in a deadly battle between good and evil. Filth said of the film "I really liked the idea of it. The script was good. It seemed genuinely interesting, esoteric. The premise is great, and I quite liked the idea of the character I was playing..." The soundtrack for Baphomet also released in May.

Vork and the Beast is out now on DVD and Digital from Bayview Entertainment. This sounds like it is an anthology based around the idea of a realm haunted by a bloodthirsty beast. A lord of a castle is concerned with the survival of his people, two brothers share a dark secret that finally gets revealed, and a mysterious warrior is on a quest to defeat the beast. The film can be brought here.
Also out now from Bayview is French film Blondie Maxwell Never Loses which describes itself as a 'future anticipation thriller' that 'explores the consequences of unreasonable use of technology and artificial intelligence while addressing concepts of the ultra uncountable of society and the privatisation of justice'.  

The prolific creator Andrea Ricca has released trailers for his upcoming films Sharkarantuala VS Snakeorpion, Double Shark, and Sharkenscorpion. The trailers for these greatly titled films can be seen on his website.
Joe Leone's horror suspense thriller Death Sentences came out on 4th May from Midnight Releasing. In this one a young author heads to a remote cabin her family owns. There she encounters the ghost of her cousin who promises in return for tracking down his killer the ghost will finish her novel she is struggling with.
Staying with sharks is Apex Predators which released on 11th May from Wild Eye Releasing. This stars Brinke Stevens (The Slumberparty Massacre), Mel Novak (Bruce Lee's Game of Death), Dawna Lee Heising, Maria Olsen (Paranormal Activity 3), Julie Anne Prescott and Vida Ghaffari. The film comes from Dustin Ferguson (Amityville Clownhouse) and is about a rogue shark ruining the grand opening of a new beachside resort.

To celebrate the 10th year anniversary of J.J. Abram's Super 8 it has come to 4K Ultra HD for the first time. Released on 24th May this new release (also on Blu-ray) includes more than two hours of previously released bonus content.

Thunderbird Releasing have announced their spring/summer Digital line-up. On 31st May Elyse came out, this stars Anthony Hopkins as a psychiatrist trying to help a troubled woman after a catastrophic accident. Safe Inside is about two young lovers, Tom and Ana trapped at the estate of a man with a powerful and controlling mind, it stars Andrea Tivadar (Killing Eve) and Joanna Kulig (Cold War) and came out on 7th June. 14th June saw the release of Agony, a giallo inspired work about a New Yorker who travels to Tuscany to take care of her estranged mothers will. It features Asia Argento (Mother of Tears), Jonathan Caoette, Franco Nera (Django) and Rade Serbedzija (Eyes Wide Shut). Finally, on 28th June Tyger Tyger came out. Described as a 'deliriously energetic post-apocalyptic-style pandemic romance' it is about a trio who head out to distribute essential medication they have stolen from a pharmacy, they find themselves stuck at a lawless psychedelic city. 

Finishing on some book news is Hounded,the first book in a three part thriller series that comes from author Ellie Douglas. This is zombie apocalypse with a difference, dogs are the ones who have transformed into the flesh hungry undead. This is out now and can be found on Amazon.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Death Ranch (2020) - Horror Film Review

Death Ranch
is a homage to the blaxploitation films of the 1970s but dressed up in a way that means the actual film making doesn't try and replicate entirely the quality of footage from that era. This was written and directed by Charlie Steeds (An English Haunting, Escape from Cannibal Farm) and while it may be light on plot, it isn't light on extreme over the top violence against people most deserving.

It is the late 70s and Brandon (Deiondre Teagle - Painted in Blood) has recently escaped from prison. His brother Clarance (Travis Cutner - Spooked) and sister Angela (Faith Monique - Spider-Man: Homecoming) pick him up, with a plan to head to a remote ranch that their parents used to own, in order to hide out. There is just one tiny flaw in their plan however, in the intervening years a cannibalistic chapter of the Ku Klux Klan has taken over the ranch, and so the three siblings find themselves surrounded on all sides, being hunted by a group of redneck racists who want nothing more than to see them all dead.

The synopsis provided is about as deep as the story ever gets, and Death Ranch doesn't waste much time getting into the core survival storyline. It soon becomes clear that the white robes of the KKK are perfect for showing blood and gore, and with such a hateful group it is fun seeing all the violence inflicted upon them. This violence is the main meal of the film with a lot of the eighty minute run time dedicated to mainly Brandon and Angela battling them. The special effects are fun, there are plenty of decapitations, body trauma, lost appendages and more, with bullets and axes all used to do this. Everything is trashy and over the top and so you get unrealistic, yet amusing moments such as a head being taken off with a crowbar, an eyeball being bitten out of someone's face and someone being fed their own intestines. This is a bloody film, but the horror is so over the top that it becomes enjoyable to watch. The only noticeably poor prop came from a severed arm that really didn't look remotely realistic.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Malefice - A True Story of a Demonic Haunting (2021) - Horror Documentary Review

It isn't often a horror documentary comes my way but I'm always open to them, it makes a change from reviewing horror films. Malefice - A True Story of a Demonic Haunting had a great synopsis to it. I've seen a few paranormal investigation shows before but they always feel light on excitement even when I would assume those aspects are amplified to make events seem more thrilling. With Malefice you have a great set-up, and whether any of it was real or not it made for an entertaining 90 minutes. My synopsis will be based on this all being true, so that I don't keep having to include disclaimers about what I'm writing.

In 2015 paranormal investigator/demonologist Sean Austin (lead investigator on the Travel Channel show Ghost Loop) was investigating a property which was said to be where illegal abortions at the turn of the 20th century were performed. While there he prayed for any trapped souls in order for them to be able to ascend to peace. Thinking this was the end of it Austin went back to his daily life but soon discovered someone or something was angry at his actions. With this being Hell bent on getting revenge, Austin realised he needed to return to the property to confront his demons head on. In January 2021 he heads back to the property, along with fellow paranormal investigators Dave Spinks and Eric Connor, and with mentor Ralph Sarchie (a Catholic demonology expert who was the inspiration for the 2014 film Deliver us From Evil) on standby to offer support. His intention is to perform an exorcism in order to cleanse the place of evil, while removing the blight that has plagued him for five years.

This all starts with footage and accounts from the initial visit to the house back in 2015. This helps in creating anticipation for the return. The way this was all set-up made it feel like it would work perfectly as an actual horror film. A man having to live with the consequences of his actions, forced for his own peace of mind to return to a dark place would be cool to see as a movie, and surprisingly as a documentary it also works quite well. When it comes to real life ghosts and demons I'm firmly in the sceptical category, I would like to believe but I don't. Even so I found this all interesting to watch. The return is filmed over four nights and features all sorts of strange goings on. The meat of Malefice is the three investigators trying to speak with the demon they believe is there. This is mainly carried out using a spirit box. I'm not too hot on all the technology they are using but it looks cool in a D.I.Y way. I also don't know how much of this is spruced up in post production but it all creates an interesting narrative. The house being the site of abortions, and the revelation that the demon they are encountering is Moloch (who was quite fond of child sacrifices it turns out) leads to back and forths between the investigators and the alleged haunting.

Thursday, 24 June 2021

Gears Tactics (2020) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (Xbox Series X Enhanced)

A month or so back I decided to play through all the games in the Gears of War series. I didn't actually intend to play the turn based strategy spin-off game Gears Tactics but figured as I had played the rest I might as well finish with that one. I haven't played many turn based tactical games in my time but I still recognised the elements that were all on display here. Initially I found this fun, however game breaking bugs and plenty of repetition soon brought by playthrough to a cataclysmically anticlimactic end.

Tactics serves as a prequel to most of the series, though I believe it takes place after the events of Gears of War: Judgement. The main character is Gabriel Diaz (the future father of Kait from Gears of War 4 and Gears 5). His mission with Sid Redburn has him discovering the existence of a twisted Locust geneticist named Ukkon. Going AWOL from the COG, Diaz heads to the outlands where he recruits a group of soldiers with the sole aim of hunting Ukkon down and ending his experiments.

Tactics is split into three different chapters. Chapter 1 takes place within former human towns, chapter 2 takes place out in the desert, while the third chapter is still in the desert but is based around fortified enemy bases. On paper this would be fine, the first chapter is made up of six missions, while the second and third both contain eight story missions. Artificially stretching out the length of the game however are the mandatory side missions. Every two or so main missions these side quests pop up and each chapter you are forced to do more of them before you can carry on with the main story. Initially you just have to do one, but the second chapter makes you do two each time they pop up, while the last chapter forces you to do three of them. This wouldn't be such an issue if they were interesting, instead you get a generic reason for having to do them, they add nothing at all to the story, and due to the limited amount of different game styles they just ramp up the exhausting repetitive nature of the experience.

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Genevieve (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

For the past year everything for director/writer/actor Nicholas Michael Jacobs has been Genevieve. This unique looking doll first appeared in his 2019 anthology film Urban Fears and subsequently went on to star in a series of short films over the past year that includes Genevieve, Genevieve Wrecks Havoc and Camo vs. Genevieve, as well as appearing in a segment in Two Twisted Tales. A comment I often had was how these all felt like they were going to lead up to something, they were all short enough to feel like steps along the way to something greater. That has resulted in a new film, Genevieve, which at forty five minutes in length is a vast increase in size over Jacobs' other short films which often came in at under five minutes.

To begin with this is literally more the same, the first part of the movie incorporates the three standalone Genevieve films of the past year as part of an anthology format. A writer (Jacobs) is trying to create a horror screenplay, his first attempt is shown on screen as the first two shorts from last year, which were about a thief (Jacobs again) attempting to steal the titular doll. His second attempt has a masked killer (also Jacobs) getting in a lethal battle with the doll. His third attempt is something new, the owner of the doll, the mysterious Ted Morris (yup, Jacobs), attempting to send his creation back to Hell via the use of a flesh bound book which I have to say was a very cool looking prop.
The whole idea of a struggling writer's ideas presented as mini films first popped up in the Sam Hooper (1998-2018) segment in last year's Tales from Six Feet Under anthology so it was interesting to see it reused here. Any worries this might invalidate all that has come before by revealing them to be works of fiction is rectified by the second part of the film that takes things in an interesting direction when the writer receives a knock at his door.

It was nice to get a new longer film from Jacobs, I enjoyed his bitesize creations but it did always leave me wanting more. He creates very indie horror films, but low budget doesn't mean low quality, there is a charm to these that is often lacking in much larger scale films. Maybe there is a little too much of the writer slowly wandering around his home in the dark but I still found myself enjoying this. The doll is as freaky looking as ever, and this time around its giggling and moans are provided in part by Alan Maxson who has appeared in such films as Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Blade: The Iron Cross. The doll's movements are very basic as ever but I wouldn't expect anything more by this point. For a mostly inanimate object it manages to have a lot of personality to it and it is good there is always a comedic element at work.

Whether this relatively feature length dive into the world of the twisted doll is a final swan song or if there are more to follow I don't know, but despite a cliff-hanger ending this felt like a fine farewell if it should turn out to be so. Jacobs has an indie style all of his own to his films, whatever comes next will be interesting to see. Genevieve releases on Vimeo on 13th August and can be pre-ordered here.


Sunday, 20 June 2021

Outbreak: Endless Nightmares (2021) - Zombie Horror Video Game First Impressions (Xbox Series X Enhanced)

I've played a few of the Outbreak games now and while they have their issues in terms of quality they are also fun to play. For all their obvious inspirations they are also not afraid to change up the formula. Back in 2017, Outbreak was a top down 2D survival horror game whose clunky control scheme made it a bit of a chore to manage your inventory. This was swiftly followed by a 3D sequel which eventually shuffled onto consoles in 2020. Outbreak: The New Nightmare had some issues for sure, but it felt even more like a classic survival horror and had plenty of different game modes. Outbreak: Endless Nightmares is the latest and really switches up the style I had come to expect.

As always the story of Outbreak is told via on screen text. I have to say the writing quality really seems to have improved. I loved reading this, with it feeding into the repeating cycles of the levels. Playing as one of six characters (I played as a female detective), in the post apocalyptic landscape of Outbreak you have suffered an injury that has placed you into a coma. You awake in a nightmare world which is either a creation from your mind of all the evils you have been forced to face, or it is in fact a supernatural reality, a limbo between life and death. 

You are based at the Hub, this is a dream version of the Arzt Memorial Hospital that is populated by neutral shades. These shades both offer you advice as well as sell you items needed for your explorations. Anomalies are the games levels. Starting off with just one available, these are a series of roguelike semi-procedural levels based around a theme. The first anomaly you access is set in a large mansion, each of the levels is a small series of rooms that are laden with supplies, enemies and traps. The aim is to get through these, collecting items, weapons, journals, and most importantly, tokens. The journals reveal fascinating horror stories, the first set I collected spoke about a detective arriving at a house where the family living there were discovered to be cannibals. The tokens meanwhile are needed to unlock new areas at the Hub, these include sealed off rooms containing more items, as well as unlocking access to more anomalies. It is insinuated the tokens are the way to escape your endless nightmare by paying a ferryman to bring you out of your half-life and into the real world. Should you die in an anomaly you will respawn back at the Hub. After each set of levels you are given the option to either play a new, tougher set, or to return to the Hub with all that you have retrieved from your run.

Friday, 18 June 2021

Ashes Fallen - A Fleeting Melody out of a Fading Dream (2021) - Goth Rock Album Review

The impact of the pandemic was always going to hit this blog at some point and that time is now. Usually I'm too wrapped up in watching films for review to really branch out and look at other things. With currently zero screeners awaiting review I can instead once again turn my rotted eyes to music. I literally always say the same thing when confronting a music album for review and that is I know nothing! With Ashes Fallen's sophomore album, A Fleeting Melody Out of a Fading Dream I can say one thing for sure, and that is the music is great throughout.

Ashes Fallen formed in early 2019 and are comprised of husband and wife, James (lead vocals, guitar) and Michelle Perry (keyboard, percussion, backing vocals), along with friend and former bandmate of James', Jason Shaw (guitar). They fall into the genre of gothic rock, a genre I know little about so my references will be to what I'm familiar with. Opening track is Stand Your Ground, a powerful opener that was very eighties synth in sound, it closes out with the introduction of Michelle's backing vocals. Next is We Belong Nowhere, a dark pessimistic track whose sound brought to mind the music of Manic Street Preachers 'Holy Bible' era songs. That one was originally released as a single in August of last year. Track three is Bear Witness, a track I described in my notes as 'a Eurovision song but meant in a good way', this was about being around to see the decline of society.

Fourth track is Thy Will Be Done, another single that came out last year (in May). This had a good beat and the repeating key line of "God won't save us from ourselves". The middle track of the album is Human Condition is Terminal which is a much slower song, it seemed to be about how life is what you make it, not going to lie, I often skip this one when I listen to the album. Just Let Go is the most experimental track on the album in that it begins with a ringing phone which is then incorporated into the beat of the song. This had an ever so slight Radiohead 'Paranoid Android' style musical riff going on. Vampira - The Ballad of Maila was a tribute to Maila Nurmi, the woman behind 1950's scream queen, Vampira. This track had a cool electric guitar sound and pounding drums and is the band's latest single.

Into the last three track of the album now with Forever?, a moody track that features a great instrumental coming in at two minutes 56 seconds. Penultimate song is All Shall Fall which must be my favourite track on the album as I immediately re-played it again when it ended. This was bleak with a fast paced drum beat. The final track on the album is Requiem, the album's second slower song.

I'm always surprised when I enjoy an album I've been sent for review, and with A Fleeting Melody out of a Fading Dream I had a decent time listening to it. I think I maybe enjoyed the actual music more than the singing and lyrics but aside from the more slower tracks there was not much here I didn't enjoy even if it is not particularly feel good. Ashes Fallen's A Fleeting Melody out of a Fading Dream released on 4th June, check out the video for Vampira - The Ballad of Maila below.


Thursday, 17 June 2021

The Voice of the Night (1980) by Dean Koontz - Horror Book Review

There always seems to be a 50/50 chance that when I read a Dean Koontz horror novel I may actually not really like it all that much. Koontz has been writing since the late 1960's and is still admirably writing up to present day. The Voice of the Night was released in 1980 under his pseudonym Brian Coffey and tells the tale of a psychopath. Reading a book from that time period it is hard to understand exactly what was known and not known at the time. Nowadays everyone knows what a psychopath is due to the sheer amount in media, it is hard to know if this would have been more surprising at the time even with the existence of such books and films such as Psycho.

Nerdy introvert Colin Jacobs has moved with his mother, Wheezy, to Santa Leona, California. Colin has spent his life without any friends due to him being shy and awkward so is delighted when he meets a similarly aged boy, Roy. Despite being very popular and personality wise the opposite of Colin, Roy has chosen Colin as his new best friend, something the boy is extremely grateful for. Often times Roy would indicate that he had a dark secret within him, he eventually reveals he fantasises about killing people and that he has done so before. Colin is utterly convinced his new friend is just teasing him and doesn't mean what he says, but one night it becomes clear that what he says is true. With no one in the town ready to believe there could be anything evil about such a wonderful boy Colin finds himself alone, having to find a way to not only stop Roy from taking his revenge at the rejection his secret caused, but also to figure out a way that the world can see Roy for the monster he really is.

The Voice of the Night is split into three parts, it is unfortunate the part 1 was so dull and slow to get going and that at 232 pages is by far the longest section of the novel. In comparison part 2 is around 40 pages in length, with the final part made up of around 60 pages. Part 1 felt to me like it was going around in circles, with Colin taking far longer to clock onto the fact his best friend is a psychopath than the reader. I mean sure, the reader had more ability to see this seeing as they were reading a horror novel, but even so the story follows a repeating circle. Roy will indicate his viewpoint of the world is twisted, Colin will think he is joking and then everything gets reset over and over again. Part 1 closes out in thrilling style however and while the next parts only made up up a third of the book the excitement and thrills never lessoned. So much so that I have to admit I skipped ahead to the end to make sure the characters I liked were all fine!

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Gears 5 (2019) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (Xbox Series X Enhanced)

After a week of playing through the Gears of Wars series I finally finished the latest mainline one, Gears 5. I really enjoyed Gears of War 4, indeed one of my main complaints with it was the unlikeable protagonist, J.D (voiced by Liam McIntyre), but other than that the game was mostly a joy. Whether it was due to fan feedback, or whether it was the intention all along I don't know, but I was relieved to see the vast majority of Gears 5 has you playing as the character of Kait (voiced by Laura Bailey - The Last of Us: Part II) instead. There will be spoilers for the end of the previous game in this review.

Unlike all the other entries in the series this one is split into just four different chapters, rather than the traditional five. Chapter 1 takes place a few months after the end of the previous game and has the returning characters of J.D, Marcus (John DiMaggio), Kait and Del (Eugene Byrd) now all enlisted as COG soldiers trying their best to defend against the Swarm (the reborn Locust monsters) who are appearing in ever greater numbers. Since having to kill her mutated mother, Kait has been having strange nightmares and visions, while she is troubled by her mother's amulet which has Locust designs on it. Marcus tells her of a secret facility in the northern mountains that might help provide answers to her mysterious link to the creatures.

Gears 5 is the Empire Strikes Back of the Gears games. It is easily the most bleak, ending on an even bigger unresolved plot than the fourth game did. It was so nice not to have to play as J.D after the first chapter. Saying that though they did a lot with his character, or at least character reactions to him. There becomes a feeling that he is doing his annoying Nathan Drake style shenanigans in order to live up to the legend that has father has, and that all comes crashing down in one of the games gut punching moments. With the first new game being all about Kait I can see why the decision was made to put the focus on her, this time around more so than the first this is her story, even if that kind of changes after the halfway point. Gears has been emotional before, but this has the most devastating moments, moments that make you feel bad in a way that The Last of Us Part II also managed to achieve.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Banshee Chapter (2013) - Horror Film Review

I've had the intention to watch Banshee Chapter for a while now, discovering its existence while reading a list of the scariest horror film to be inspired by the works of H.P Lovecraft. With zero screeners currently waiting to be watched for reviewed I decide to finally check it out. This was the directorial debut of Blair Erickson who also wrote this, based off a story created by Daniel J. Healy. Despite a reliance on jump scares this was a pretty decent horror.

Anne (Katia Winter - Sleepy Hollow TV series, Dexter) is an investigative journalist who discovers an old university friend has vanished in mysterious circumstances, and so she decides to try and find out what happened. Her friend had managed to get hold of a top secret government created drug that been used in their illegal MK Ultra experiments in the 1970s. He had decided to film himself while on it as part of the research he was carrying out. The recorded footage showed him increasingly paranoid that someone was trying to get into his house, and then alarmed when a strange broadcast started playing on his radio. He vanished after this, and his friend who had been filming him and who had been suspected of murdering the man disappeared a few days later himself. Anne's investigation leads her to a counter-culture author, Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Shutter Island) and after they both take the drug (her being tricked into doing so) they begin to experience the same nightmare visions that her friend seemed to have had right before he vanished.

To begin with it felt like Banshee Chapter might be a found footage, instead it is more traditionally shot for the most part but does feature elements from that genre. Early on in the movie Anne discovers an old beta-max cassette tape that had recordings of the governments experiments. This grainy black and white footage is interspersed throughout the movie, even popping up directly after the film's ending. This had some of the more freaky moments. As for Anne and Thomas the horror there is more often than not jump scares. Usually Anne will be at a freaky location (abandoned house, underground bunker etc) and will suddenly see a grotesque figure looming out the darkness, accompanied by a loud screech. It was effective but was a bit one note as this seemed to be the exclamation point that always preceded the characters moving on to a new location.
The camera work was a bit strange, while this settle down into a more traditionally shot movie the camera is still constantly swaying around as if it is being held by someone. This gave a voyeuristic feel at times which worked quite well in the context of the protagonists convinced they are being followed by something unseen. 

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Gears of War 4 (2016) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (XBox One)

Continuing my relentless playthrough of the entire Gears series I have recently beaten Gears of War 4. Not including the remaster of the original game this was the first to come out on a newer generation console and it sure does show, the game is beautiful. With the original storyline coming to a definite end with Gears of War 3 I was intrigued to see where things would go, and by using a timeskip I was overall impressed even if there were some dud characters.

This fourth entry takes place 25 years after the Locust and Lambent where both finally defeated. In that time deadly windstorms dubbed 'Windflares' have begun. As a defensive measure the COG (Coalition of Ordered Governments) have created walled cities which the surviving human population mainly reside in, though others nicknamed 'Outsiders' choose to live outside of COG rule. J.D Fenix (voiced by Liam McIntyre) is a former COG soldier and son of Marcus (John DiMaggio). He, along with wisecracking best friend Del (Eugene Byrd) have recently abandoned the COG due to the strictness of the regime, they joined a group of Outsiders and befriended the chief's daughter, Kait (Laura Bailey - the voice of Abby in The Last of Us: Part II).
One day while stealing from a COG construction site they are set upon by the robotic COG army at the behest of First Minister Jinn (Angel Desai), she accuses them of kidnapping her people, much to the confusion of everyone. The following evening the Outsider village is attacked by unknown monsters. Fearing that the Locust have somehow returned J.D seeks out his estranged fathers help.

The very worst part of Gears of War 4 was the god awful irritating protagonist you are forced to spend the whole game playing as. He is a lazy Nathan Drake knockoff, the kind of arrogant smart mouthed idiot who always seems to win despite always feeling like he is way out of his depth. I loved playing as Marcus in the original trilogy, he was a meathead but that made him all the more endearing. He was someone with muscles wider than his head, and someone whose permanent anger resulted in him heading headfirst into danger at every opportunity. Not so with J.D, I couldn't stand this character so it was good that the three supporting characters were much better. Kait was a bit moody and miserable, understandable as her mother had been kidnapped by the new monsters (named 'The Swarm' by J.D and co). To begin with I hated Del also, but he has a lot of genuinely laugh out loud moments, my favourite was an exchange between him and Marcus which went something like... "Everybody better stock up on ammo" "Why? Do you think we will need it?" "Yes, unless your Lancer runs on smartass" "Well it seems to have been able to do that so far". As for Marcus it was a lot of fun to have him be so much older, though often felt weird when cutscenes ended and I realised I wouldn't be controlling him. In his old age he has surprisingly mellowed out, despite being lumped with a trio of people barely out of their teens. What the four did have was great banter, I loved how they named each new enemy type they discovered, and I loved the whole ongoing conversation about 'jinxing' things. That last one led up to some humorous playing around with the classic guitar riff that plays when all enemies are supposedly defeated in an area.

Friday, 11 June 2021

Plasmata - Portraits of Pain (2021) - Horror Music EP Review

Whenever I decide to tackle a music review I feel obliged to first say I don't know much about music at all, so it is not something I am particularly good at writing about. With that out the way I have recently listened to Plasmata's new EP, Portraits of Pain. Plasmata are a Chicago based band, their bio describing them as 'a dramatic and electrifying fusion of hard-hitting alternative rock and dark electronica: part goth-industrial/electro-industrial, part Hollywood glam metal and L.A deathrock, all wrapped up in theatrical "Glampire" asthetics'. This new EP is comprised of five tracks over twenty one minutes and was produced by 'goth rock/deathrock legend' William Faith. This is the band's first release since frontman, Trent Jeffries suffered a lengthy illness in 2012, it was created during lockdown in the second half of 2020.

When it comes to music I never really branch out and listen to much new, I'm happy to listen to commercial pop off the radio as well as all the bands I enjoyed as a teenager. I did like Portraits of Pain though, having listened to it two or three times now I still enjoy it. It begins with Leviathan which is also the lead single off the EP. This had a good beat to it and was heavy sounding, and I found it a song that improves with each listen, gave me Therapy? vibes. Also, there are few things better than a well placed soundbite and here there was a great extract from Doug Bradley's Pinhead character from the Hellraiser films. Soundbites are something that appear in most the tracks on this EP.
Next up is The Vanishing, this was the track Jeffries first sent to Faith. This felt more slow rock (this style always reminds me of the Road Rash video game soundtrack), again with a good beat and featuring even more soundbites. There is a long monologue from Ben Kingsley's character in the film Sexy Beast that was quite entertaining to hear.

The third track is Ten Bells which is possibly about Jack the Ripper, elements of the music occasionally reminded me of Nine Inch Nails, but with more hard rock taken up much of the sound, and a nice little part with piano. Potentially this was a bit cheesy lyric wise but had perhaps the best music in the whole EP.
Penultimate track is The Enlightenment which appeared to be about the hypocrisy of consumerist religion. The format for this was one had the singer taken on a more slow measured pace, coming across like a evangelical preacher.
Final track is Death of Hope which at five and a half minutes is the longest track here with the lyrics not kicking in until after a minute has passed. I got a slight Depeche Mode/Marilyn Manson feel to this one. The slow pace made it more plodding than the others but its inclusion at the end was the perfect place for it to close out this EP.

I'm in an odd place as a blogger who reviews things as I like to jump in blind rather than do any kind of research. With films that means I try and avoid reading press releases or watching trailers of whatever I'm due to review, with music this means I don't even really know the genre. I was expecting something cheesy in a european sense, instead I found this was a good EP, I could see myself listening to this again in the future, I love a good beat and I love well used soundbites in music and Portraits of Pain have both in plentiful supply. Plasmata's Portraits of Pain is due to be released on 14th June. Check out the video for lead track Leviathan below.


Thursday, 10 June 2021

A Deadly Legend (2020) - Horror Film Review

A Deadly Legend
was the directorial debut of Pamela Moriarty, and it also featured Eric Wolf in his first credited writing role (Wolf also plays one of the more memorable characters here). To begin with this just seemed like another generic low budget indie horror, and while it is certainly cheesy at times there are moments that made this a whole lot more memorable than first impressions would indicate.

Joan (Kristen Anne Ferraro) is a real estate developer who has finally gotten approval to begin work at an old summer camp her business purchased. As a celebration she has gone to the area with her family and friends for a weekend of fun. These include her business partner Raj (Shravan Amin) and his wife Eva (Jean Chung - Iron Fist), her employee Sam (Dwayne A. Thomas - 21 Bridges) and his family, and her teenage daughter, Krissy (Andee Buccheri - Village of the Damned TV series). If they had listened to local crazy man Carl (Judd Hirsch - Independence Day) they would have realised digging up the ground in the area was a bad idea. It is the secret location of a collection of ritualistic stones, that every 50 years becomes the central battleground between supernatural forces who want to open a gateway to the world of the dead and the supernatural forces who want to keep that gateway closed. Their battle sees them possess and kill anyone nearby in order to achieve their goals, so soon the body count begins to rise.

I think one of the problems that stops this indie horror from becoming great is that there are just far too many characters. It led to moments of confusion with so many different groups of people all off doing their own thing. On the flipside however it leads to plenty of fun death scenes. It didn't help that many of these characters felt like they existed only to be killed off, and that a few of them were either irritating or dull. Irritating personified with Wanda (Lori Petty - Tank Girl) the beer obsessed girlfriend of possessed construction worker Mike (Wolf) who was a onenote walking annoyance, and dull summed up with Eli (Samuel Blustein), an important character but one who had the charisma of a plank of wood. Even Joan, arguably the main protagonist suffered from being an uninteresting character. Thankfully there are a fair few more entertaining characters, especially with Mike who was a character that was at one both possessed, and displaying occasional moments of tortured awareness of his lack of self control. He shares some of the best scenes of the movie with his boss Sam. 

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Badass Bunyip (2021) - Comedy Horror Film News

Badass Bunyip is an upcoming Australian comedy horror feature film that comes from director Gerado Chierchia and like his other film, Toxic Alien Zombie Babes from Outer Space was written by David Black (Klink, Klunk, Klonk, Sinister Symbiosis). The film stars Black as dim-witted Dazza and Anastasia C. Kouloukas as his girlfriend, Shazza.

The synopsis for the movie sees Dazza taking Shazza out on Christmas Day for a picnic, the hope for him being that a secluded location will lead to more happening between the two. He chooses a tiny patch of native bushland, the only remaining bit of nature in the inner city suburb of St Kilda. Unknown to the two however is an unknown horror of a past world, the titular deadly Bunyip. The press release states 'This is a movie with things you have never before seen, from the risen spectre of the Kadaicha man to Mimi spirits, the ghost of a long dead convict and of course, a Bunyip! Caught up in the mayhem are countless innocent victims who otherwise might have gone on to live happy and productive lives if only Dazza and Shazza had not blundered into an Aboriginal sacred site.'

Badass Bunyip is releasing online in July, and it is going to be free to watch. Check out the bloody trailer for this below.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Gears of War 3 (2011) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (XBox 360)

Continuing my run through the Gears of War series I have now finished Gears of War 3 which ended the original trilogy. Having never played it before I was hoping for a great finish to the trilogy. While it was indeed fun and ties up the story it wasn't quite as good as the more darker Gears of War 2. There will be spoilers for the previous games here.

This takes place around two years since the last human stronghold, Jacinto City was purposely destroyed in order to both flood the Locust's underground main base of operations (the Locust being an invading army of monsters from below the ground) and drown the Lambent (Locust soldiers who had been infected with the explosive 'Imulsion', the infection has them mutated by the substance). Since that time things have not been going well for the human survivors. The COG army is a shadow of its former self since its leader, Chairman Prescott abandoned his forces, and it turns out trying to drown the Lambent was a terrible idea as now huge tentacled monsters roam the seas of Sera, becoming a bigger threat than even the Locust were. When COG soldier Marcus Fenix (voiced by John DiMaggio) learns from a returning Prescott that his father Adam is not only still alive, but that he has also developed a weapon to destroy both the Lambent and Locust for good he sets off on a globe spanning adventure to find him. Along the way he is joined by a variety of COG soldiers, the main ones being his best friend Dom (Carlos Ferro), Anya (Nan McNamara), Sam (Claudia Black) and Jace (Michael B. Jordan - Black Panther, Creed).

Being a much bigger game both in a design point of view and a story way meant it did lose some of the tightness of design it had previously. There are the variety of set-pieces I have come to expect from this series, the whole first excellent chapter takes place aboard a sinking warship for instance. Then there are moments that really stand out due to both environmental details and the introduction of new enemies. There is one level that takes place in a bombed out city, the streets are full of ash figures of the previous inhabitants frozen in the position they were in when the city was destroyed, including women and children this was unsettling. Another memorable change up came with a visit to a beachside town that seemed deserted. That is until the introduction of human Lambent enemies who are essentially the rage induced running zombies from 28 Days Later. This whole set of levels felt like a zombie survival game so was a cool diversion. Driving sections are back but not as fun this time around, especially a dull as dishwater first person perspective submarine level that felt like it went on forever.
At points levels really do feel like levels, each medium sized section broken up by the same animation of Marcus and his team opening doors up. This felt no more apparent than the levels set in the desert, weirdly sectioned off behind metal doors built into the rocks. Previously the games had been designed for two player co-op, here that number was extended to four. The larger arenas in this context sounds sensible, and I didn't really mind hanging around with more characters, I just wish they had been the right ones.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

AM1200 (2008) - Short Horror Film Review

A few months back I stumbled across a list of the best films to watch that were inspired by the works of that master of horror H.P Lovecraft (nowadays it has to also be stated he was also a master of racism). I made a note of the films on that list and have slowly been trying to watch them all. I found this list after viewing Resolution and it's spiritual sequel 
The Endless, and wanting more movies of that type. AM1200 is one of the films from that list and is a short forty minute horror that was written, produced and directed by David Prior, someone who is best known for making video documentaries.

Eric Lange (Fear, Inc., Lost) is Sam, a businessman on the run after having committed a crime against the company he worked for. While travelling down a lone highway he tries to tune his car radio and picks up a broadcast from a radio station on frequency AM1200. The broadcast is from a man who is begging for assistance from anyone who happens to hear his message. With the station relatively nearby Sam decides to check it out. By the time he gets to the remote station night has fallen, but with the place looking to be in a state of disrepair he decides not to investigate. Fate intervenes after his car breaks down, with the radio station the only building around for miles Same decides to go check it out after all.

I was very impressed with an early shot in this film. The camera pans over to a map of America, and as it centres on a particular road on the map the shot smoothly transitions into an aerial drone shot of Sam riding in his car. This was such a cool way to present the journey the protagonist had started on. To be truthful aside from this cool shot the intro didn't really initially get my attention. It was a bit confusing as to what was going on, there was more an insinuation of a crime having happened than anything being shown. The most notable bit from this prologue was a fun guest appearance from Ray Wise (Dead End, Twin Peaks).

Friday, 4 June 2021

Gears of War 2 (2008) - Sci-fi Horror Video Game Review (X-Box 360)

Having loved the first Gears of War video game I eagerly snapped up Gears of War 2 as soon as it was released back in 2008 and hated every second of it. I played through the game just the once and shelved it. I had no desire to ever return to it and over the years my memory of that experience faded so much that the only two bits of the game I could recall where being frustrated while trapped inside a giant worm, and the death of a key character. Memory is such a weird beast, playing through the game again not only did I have an absolutely fantastic time, but nothing felt familiar, it was like I was playing it for the first time. Gears of War was a great game, Gears of War 2 is a stunning game.

This sequel picks up six months after the events of the first. The lightmass bomb detonated at the climax of that one had been hoped to destroy the Locust's main stronghold (the Locust being an invading army of monsters from within the planet the game takes place in). Rather than finish off their enemy the Locust assault only got delayed, they return seemingly more numerous and stronger than ever before. They are focussing their ire on the city of Jacinto, one of the last remaining strongholds of the COG army. In order to combat this threat the COG decide to bring the fight to the Locust, sending in an army to their main network of tunnels. The hope is to locate the Locust Queen, and with her death bring an end to the never ending war.

What a game this was, though initially at the outset I had a brief feeling my jaded memories would hold up. The game starts in a much larger scale than the first game. While you are in a squad of usually four characters you are battling alongside others and so the story felt less focused on singular characters than previously. It isn't too long when it starts to feel much more insular, the game always feels at its best when you are isolated from outside help. As with the first game Marcus Fenix (voiced by John DiMaggio) is the character you control, and like the first game he spends much of his time with his war buddy Dom (Carlos Ferro). The first game had Dom briefly mention he was looking for his missing wife, Maria, here that goal is brought to the forefront. Dom never had much personality to him before, this time he is constantly shown frustrated and desperately missing his Maria. This focus even includes several dream sequences that he has. It was a bit odd this transformation in his character, but by keeping it on Dom and not on Marcus the game gets away with this sentimental aspect. Along the way a variety of others join your squad, the best being again the amusing double act of Baird (Fred Tatasciore) and Cole (Lester Speight). Their inclusion was a joy, mainly as a lot of the game has them off doing other things, so the few times you get to spend time with them were highlights.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Family Splatters (2021) - Animated Comedy Horror Show Pilot Episode Review

Family Splatters is a new animated horror-comedy series that is due out this summer from KultKult Entertainment. The press release for this describes the show as focussing 'on Matthew Silverstein and Roddy Luger: two of the most notorious slasher movie stars of the 1980's. After a short stint in Hell starting in 1993, Roddy and Matthew are banished to the year 2021 as punishment. Unaware of ways that the world has changed since the 80's and early 90's, Roddy and Matthew have to adjust to new technologies, unfamiliar ideas, and new cultural norms around killing people."

The pilot episode runs at just under ten minutes and despite the opportunity to offend it didn't actually do that, which is a good thing I think. The leads seemed fine enough, when they kill it felt almost like habit to them so there was no maliciousness in their actions. The world they find themselves in seems to regard death as very cheap with no consequences for murder. As a pilot it didn't completely set up the world of the show effectively, I was confused if this takes place within a kind of shared movie universe, or if these were real life killers who just happened to also kill within films as well. If death is consequence free then I could see the later applying. The show is billed around Roddy and Matthew but the pilot also featured a third killer, Joe who worked a lot better than Matthew. This was due to Matthew representing the strong silent masked slasher type and so when he spoke it was in a way similar to Kenny from South Park, all unintelligible mumblings.

The animation style is very simple, it reminded me a bit of the old MTV shows you would get. This style is a genre all of its own nowadays, and is certainly intended. For me this animation was my favourite part, the simplicity of the backgrounds were consistent (at one point a crowd of people is represented as a series of stick figures) and kept the focus on the characters that mattered. I also liked the directing and editing, during one flashback scene in particular set at a strip club the music and repeated uses of close up images combined really well.

As a pilot Family Splatters was perfectly fine, I didn't find it particularly funny but nor did I find it distasteful (aside from maybe one moment). I could see myself watching more of this to see what direction they end up taking this. As a bite size slice of life horror animation this was entertaining to watch.


Wednesday, 2 June 2021

Amityville Poltergeist (2020) - Horror Film Review

I wanted to enjoy Amityville Poltergeist (directed and the screenplay written by Calvin Morie McCarthy) and I did try my very best to. I have a confession about the film though, I just could not make head or tails about what on earth was happening. I was confused about the flow of the story and felt the horror aspect was ill defined at best.

Jim (Parris Bates) is a young man who needs a job badly. One night while hanging out with his best friend, stoner Collin (Conor Austin) and his girlfriend Alyson (Sydney Winbush) he sees a local advertisement for a house sitter. Eunice (Rebecca Kimble) is an elderly woman who potentially is suffering early signs of dementia. She is convinced there is something evil in her house and so her son hires Jim to keep an eye on the property, while he takes his mother for treatment. Rather than be a product of her failing mind however it soon starts to feel like something really is wrong with the house.

I think (but am not sure) that the film takes place intermittently between two different timelines. It starts off well using a plot device I really like of having an event taking place in the present and then flicking back to the past to show how things came to be this way. In this case the son returns with his mother after their weekend away to discover Jim cowering in a cupboard under the stairs, before the film leaps back six days. The rest I was just confused about. It splits between Jim in the house at night time, occasionally he is on his own, sometimes Collin is visiting, sometimes Alyson, and sometimes both of them. I was getting a bit lost but it seemed to be many more nights than just a weekend, maybe it was a week he was there for? The horror comes mainly from the nightmares that Jim has about a ghostly figure of a girl walking around the house. The one cool sequence here had him repeatedly thinking he was awakening from his nightmare only to then discover he was in fact still sleeping.
The other half of the film takes place almost entirely during daylight, I think (but am not sure) that it occurs at the same house that Jim is at. Eunice complains of being unable to sleep, about recurring nightmares and how she just doesn't feel safe. We also get to see some scenes of her nightmares about a ghostly figure of a girl.