Wednesday, 28 July 2021

The Inheritance (2021) - Horror Film Review

The Inheritance
is a Ukraine based supernatural horror that was co-written and co-directed by Chad Barager and Kevin Speckmaier (The Dead Zone TV series). Despite the modern day setting this had a bit of a Gothic horror vibe to it, a simple enough story that is let down a bit by being at times far too much of a slow burn.

After her father dies, American based Sasha (Natalia Ryumina - Soliders of the Damned) finds out she has been left an old townhouse in Kyiv, Ukraine. Before agreeing to sell the property she decides to go visit it, along with her boyfriend Peter (Nick Wittman - Terminator: Dark Fate). It is while she is staying there that she begins to experience strange goings on, mysterious voices, doors opening and closing on their own, and hallucinations. This leads her to investigate a dark secret from her family's past. Peter meanwhile is getting more and more insistent that Sasha sells the property, something that may be due to the very shady lawyer and heavies hanging around the house, that are impatiently waiting for her to sign the property over to their powerful boss.

Right from the very start I couldn't stand the character of Peter, somehow over the course of the movie he gets more and more odious. I understand he was meant to be a weasel of a man but it wasn't a good first impression to have him front and centre with Sasha. Thankfully their relationship already seems to be rocky. One thing I did think was stupid was at one point he heads out, supposedly for a couple of hours, yet he is gone days. This has caused friction between the couple yet when he does eventually randomly turn back up there is no questioning from Sasha just where he had been, which felt a tad unrealistic. On the surface level Sasha is a better character except when she is present during the supernatural moments, more on that later. In general the plot wasn't bad, I liked how the part about the ghostly happenings seemed unrelated to the creepy men hanging around the house so that you had two plots happening simultaneously but separate to each other.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Stay (2021) - Short Zombie Horror Film Review

is a short seven minute horror film that takes place within the universe of the horror video game The Last of Us. This was directed, written and produced by Joshua Toonen who is quick to state this is a not for profit fan film that is no way endorsed by Naughty Dog (the developers of the game). Sometimes fan films can conjure up cringe worthy images of low budget theatricals, however this one felt like a perfect fit into the extremely dour world of The Last of Us: Part II.

Inspired by the fan art of two corpses embracing, that was created by Santiago Betancur in 2015, Stay via a montage that flips backwards and forwards in time charts the path of an ordinary young couple trying their best to survive in a world overrun by zombie creatures. Bookended by The Last of Us' Ellie (Paige Bourne) playing a guitar, we follow Sean (Seth K. Hale) and Emily (Ana Beckman) on their quest to visit the Santa Monica pier. The past has them deeply in love and happy, their final days shows them on the run, hunted at every turn by mutated former humans.

For a fan made film this felt like an authentic piece of The Last of Us fiction, you could easily imagine this having taken place in that game world. The deeply bleak world is represented well, and all the sounds and noises you would expect of the zombies and clickers is implemented. The scenes with the undead are the highlight here giving me some 28 Weeks Later vibes to sections of this. Being a montage there isn't so much a focus on dialogue, maybe good seeing as the sound quality at times isn't Stay's strongest element. There were occasions I inferred what was being said rather than able to actually make out the lines. The clickers fungus growths occasionally didn't hold up to close scrutiny, but to be honest this is all nit-picking and both the elements I mentioned are a much higher quality than you would expect. The story about average people rather than super powered heroes was a good call and in terms of emotion this is designed to elicit feelings of sadness, helped of course by the downbeat story, as well as the use of a morose acoustic version of Creedance Clearwater Revival's Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

For a seven minute short this tells a competent story though I am a sucker for time jumps, especially when they have such a nice juxtaposition as they do here. If you are a fan of The Last of Us, or zombies in general then check out the emotional Stay, it can currently be found on YouTube.


Monday, 26 July 2021

Man Under Table (2021) - Dystopian Comedy Film Review

Where to start with Man Under Table? It is definitely the strangest movie I have seen this year, something that seems to make an art scene out of being unable and unwilling to decide what it wants to be. This indie film that was written, directed and stars Noel David Taylor is about writing and the process of doing so but it is also about nothing and it uses a variety of meta techniques along the way to hammer this home.

Taylor stars as an unhappy young man in a dystopian future L.A in which a toxic green smog has led to people living their lives indoors. To anyone who asks he tells them he is a writer and that he wants to make a movie, however he seems to have zero passion for this. Getting caught up in other people's projects he eventually teams up with an older man named Gerald (John Edmund Parcher - My Name Is Earl) to help Gerald write the screenplay for his own film.

In terms of this being about writing I don't have anything to add, I don't know much about the industry. There is the recurring gag of creating a film that deals with both identity politics and fracking, though no one really seems to know what this would entail. It feels like a soulless endeavour leaving your desires in order to make something that would get you rich and famous. What I enjoyed about this was how strange it was and the complete lack of enthusiasm characters, especially the main lead (a nameless man referred to as Guy by others). I liked the film's refusal to create a plot. Scenes follow scenes with not much linking them, the possibility of a story is constantly stonewalled, such as characters refusing to acknowledge pertinent questions they have been asked, or events that should be dramatic but very downplayed. On some level it appears to be about how trying to appeal to everyone you end up with a product that appeals to no one. This can be seen with the ever present 'Nothin' but Lyle', seemingly the only TV program in this future world, starring an influencer (Robert Manion) who talks and talks but with nothing to say. A lot of the cast here fill up their scenes with dialogue that moves around in circles like a holding pattern.
My favourite parts come from the scenes that Guy and Gerald share together, within the film they are discussing the film they are working on but it in a meta way it is obviously Man Under Table itself that they are discussing, down to Gerald describing the main characters as themselves. It leads to some of the best lines of the film that poke fun at the actual movie as a whole such as Guy's line "This isn't a movie, it's just a bunch of random scenes about some guy." and "Everyone is going to hate this because it's not anything." In a way Taylor is playing an exaggerated version of himself just to add another meta layer to the film. 

Friday, 23 July 2021

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War - Mauer der Toten (2021) - Zombie Video Game News and First Impressions

Finally, finally there has been a new traditional Zombies map released for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Having additional maps become free rather than locked behind a paywall is a double edged sword as it means a slower roll out. As much as I like the Outbreak mode of the game I can't help but feel it has stolen away time from making proper maps. Mauer der Toten is the third map to be released for the game and after a play of it I shall put down my first impressions.

Story wise who knows what is going on. There are no longer cutscenes explaining what is occurring, I think that is mainly confined to actually being able to complete the Easter eggs in previous maps, as well as collecting intel hidden around the levels in the form of audio recordings and files. From what characters are saying on radio chatter it seems a member of your group has betrayed you. It also sounds like someone has been kidnapped, and so you have gone to zombie infested Berlin in order to do something or other in order to free your kidnapped squad mate.

Mauer der Toten continues the trend of having levels far more grounded in reality in terms of visual style. My very first impressions was that this felt a lot like The Shadowed Throne from Call of Duty: World War II, both are set during the night time in a destroyed Berlin during a zombie invasion. I also got feeling of Call of Duty: Black Ops III's Gorod Krovi map for similar reasons that it's a ruined city at night. Starting off on the rooftops I felt that this might be a more vertical map but after playing this that doesn't so much appear to be the case. What is different is that there are plenty of ziplines and ropes to rappel up and down from. Things like this are always neat for quickly getting away from danger, while a small cool down timer means you can't abuse these traversal options. There's a bit of rooftop to explore, various different buildings to walk around on, though all these areas aren't huge. Most the game is spent either on street level or down below in the Berlin subway. The subway area is notable for featuring still running metro trains that can take out player and undead alike.

Like always this is a round based mode, each round seeing you battling more zombies and stronger ones at that. Added to the fray are the hulking cyborg and electrical zombie sub bosses who first made their appearance in Outbreak earlier in the year. New to the game are these floating zombie beings, they appear to be able to power up any undead near them, as well as being able to siphon off your life bar should you get too close. It seems that every now and again you get around against special enemies. In this map these take the form of red crystal like undead who explode upon death. Mule Kick is the new tonic that joins the rest of them. This classic power up has the use of letting you carry three weapons at a time rather than two. The game guides you to unlocking pack-a-punch then after this point you are left to your own devices.

My complaint with Mauer der Toten is the same as my complaint for Firebase Z, namely that by having a map that goes for realism in level design rather than memorable makes for something that just isn't as exciting as it could be. There's a reason why the Call of Duty: Infinite War Zombies maps remain some of my favourite, they are all so darn unique (with the exception of The Beast from Beyond of course). I've since played the map a few times and it has grown on me, while I'm not the hugest fan of these more realistic feeling maps it has great lighting, a pretty nice design and areas that are open enough to make getting trapped not so common an occurrence.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky (2021) - UFO Documentary Review

Aliens are quite possibly the first kind of monster that I ever got into. I remember as a child my dad had quite the collection of books on the subjects of UFOs and I would spend hours flicking through them, mainly to look at the pictures admittedly. On the Trails of UFOs: Dark Sky is the latest documentary from Seth Breedlove (The Mark of the Bell WitchTerror in the Skies). This is a follow up to the 2020 episodic series, On the Trail of UFOs. For this documentary paranormal researcher Shannon LeGro takes centre stage as she heads around mainly West Virginia in order to record a series of first hand accounts from witnesses of UFO phenomena.

This is a beautiful part of America so this has plenty of lovely looking scenery which is an immediate plus. It also happens to be quite an interesting documentary, the reason I brought up my childhood memories of looking through my father's books is that this doc touches on subjects that I hadn't really read too much about since then. Any fear that a multitude of witness testimonies would lead to boredom were also ill founded. I don't know if it is due to the lazy Sunday I am having but the mostly low thrills accounts of strange lights and objects being viewed in the dark skies was interesting see. None of the people interviewed seemed like they were crack pots and the questions being asked by LeGro were not sensationalist. Sure the documentary as a whole goes partly in this direction with recreations both in the form of drawings and CG recreations but it even goes as far to say just because these are UFOs people are seeing it doesn't necessarily indicate the presence of aliens. It may err towards the paranormal but there is a more rounded look than expected such as one part that focusses on the possibility of there being secret government test bases in the area of reported sightings.

As well as interviewing people there are also a couple of sight visits, one actually has the surprise of LeGro and her crew actually spotting their very own legitimate UFO sighting that they also manage to capture on camera which felt like something quite cool. Another visit to a cavern system seemed a bit pointless, I never really understood why they went there to conduct an interview even if it made for a change of location. There was a good pacing here I felt. Throughout the interviewer questions the witnesses as to whether there are any nearby mines in the area, the reasons behind this are left mysterious until the final part of this where it is suggested the UFOs could be originating from inside the Earth, not necessarily about the hollow Earth theory (extremely briefly touched upon) but more that there could be hidden bases in the area. The most interesting topic for me was the men in black part. This has been muddied in recent years thanks to the popular sci-fi films but these real accounts led to some of the more creepy moments of Dark Sky.

There is so much supernatural and paranormal incidents in America that I don't think Seth Breedlove will ever run out of topics to explore. A UFO documentary that only involves sightings in one state of America is testament to the amount on the subjects that exists in modern day USA. There may not be too much here that would surprise people with at least a rudimentary knowledge of UFOs but it is all presented in a way that is interesting, informative and most importantly entertaining to watch. On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky comes to VOD on August 3rd.


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology Round-Up No.2

I'm going to try and turn this three story news anthology into a weekly feature, at least until I manage to catch up with the news fit to bursting in my inbox at least. The format I am going for here is that of a news sandwich, sounds weird but it keeps me off the streets and out of trouble.

Belgium based industrial group Super Dragon Punch!! have released a new album titled Feral. They have a new video out for their track Sutura which is taken from the album. Feral is comprised of 12 tracks of 'highly effective techno-infused body music inspired by retro 80s video game soundtracks'. The press release says about the new album: '...continues on the path of the cold, somber and haunting tracks from SDP!!s debut EP while continuing to expand its musical horizons. Feral contains complex, detail filled, fast tempo anthems or dark ballads alternating between futurepop or more anarchic industrial synthpunk tracks with numerous sound effects and elements that are harmoniously integrated in the music.' Check out the video for Sutura below.

Erratum 2037 is a sci-fi film from Bayview Entertainment that released on June 8th (you can kind of tell I'm behind in my news). In the film two teens receive a message on their computer which results in them becoming 'wide-eyed heroes in a world at the mercy of time paradoxes'. It may not be horror but I'm a sucker for anything involving messing with time so had to mention this here. Erratum 2037 came out on digital and DVD and can be purchased here.

Forming the bottom layer of this news bap is news that 'sleaze-dustrial' band Handsome Abominations have released their debut album, Embrace the Condemnation via Cleopatra Records. The band formed in 2020 and their debut includes covers of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax and The Dazz Band's Let It Whip. Their track Slave taken from the album can be heard below.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Fear Street Part Three: 1666 (2021) - Horror Film Review

The Leigh Janiak directed horror film trilogy that started less than a month ago with Fear Street Part One: 1994 is complete. I can't think of another example of sequels to films coming out so hard and fast and as an experiment I think it has worked. Fear Street Part Two: 1978 fittingly took place within the 1970s and so with a film titled Fear Street Part Three: 1666 I expected this to follow a similar pattern using its time period. This is the least self contained film of the trilogy, something that becomes apparent the further you get into it. It serves as a fitting end to a fun trilogy but at the cost of some pacing. Again, I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum for the previous films but some are sure to slip in. Take it as a given that any actors I mention here have also appeared in the previous two films.

Following on from the ending of 1978 and Deena (Kiana Madeira) finds herself plunging through time all the way back to 1666 and the origin of the witches curse that has plagued Shadyside for centuries. It is here where she briefly realises she has become the legendary witch, Sarah Fier before that persona takes over, with Sarah experiencing everything that happened as a silent observer unable to change events. In 1666 Sarah's secret dalliances with best friend Hannah (Olivia Scott Welch) gets discovered, swiftly following on from this the village of Union, with which they live falls to an apparent curse. The food becomes rotten, the animals die, and the town pastor (Michael Chandler) turns mad and kills all the village's children. Needing someone to blame, the religious village folk see Sarah and Hannah's 'unnatural' pairing as the root cause, it isn't long before both are accused of being witches, Hannah is captured, while Sarah goes on the run, vowing to become the witch her neighbours have already accused her of being in order to get her revenge...

At just over an hour into 1666 there is a huge shift. Without going into too much detail this is almost like two films in one, the second half even has its own title card. This perhaps explains why parts of the story felt so rushed. The film starts and everything seems idyllic. Characters last seen getting killed in 1994 are alive and well, and all is happiness and joy. Within less than a quarter of an hour things have substantially changed for the worse. Watching this it felt a bit abrasive how fast things were moving, it didn't feel like there had been enough time given to establish characters. Knowing now this is a film of two halves explains away why this choice was made, but the rushed beginning and rushed end of this part of the story was still noticeable. The second half is good in its own right and puts a lid on everything but I did feel it came to the detriment of what was a different feeling period piece.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology Round-Up No.1

I keep threatening to do more news post to clear my back log and now here I am. With less films sent to me for review at the moment it seemed the perfect time. So, a new smaller news post I titled The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology that will have an anthology format of unrelated posts combined into one.

A new teaser has been released for the horror anthology film Realm of Shadows. In this Tony Todd (Candyman franchise) plays Fr. Dudley, a Catholic priest. This character is set to continue in the upcoming Dead Rose film trilogy. Vida Ghaffari (The Mindy Project) plays Cassandra, the mysterious owner of a haunted vault who serves as the anthologies narrator. Production for Realm of Shadows is currently underway by ThunderKnight Entertainment LTD in Denver, Colorado.

'Dungeon synth pioneer', Mortiis has announced the release of Transmissions from The Western Walls of Time. This is a live recording from 1997, specifically from November 12th at the Transmission Theatre in San Francisco. Released both as a black vinyl (including an A2 poster) and on Digipack CD this brings together seven tracks, Intro, Reisene til Grotter og Odemarker (excerpt), Battles on Ice, Ferden og Kallet, En Sirkel av Kosmisk Kaos, Under Tarnet's Skygge and Outro.

Finally in this mini-anthology comes news of a follow up in the works for 2015's claustrophobic horror Crawl or Die. I haven't seen the original but for the sequel Nicole Alonso (Screen) is reprising her role as the mohawk sporting Tank, and the film is to be written and directed by Oklahoma Ward. Details of the plot are scant other than Tank 'will finally come face-to-face with the Creature and this time -- IT'S WAR!'. A Kickstarter had been launched to help cover the costs of post production.

Friday, 16 July 2021

Fear Street Part Two: 1978 (2021) - Horror Film Review

It turns out I'm more current than I thought I was. Netflix's Fear Street is a trilogy of horror films based on the R.L Stine teen horror books of the 90s, the big hook being that this trilogy is all being released within a short three week time frame. Having enjoyed Fear Street Part One: 1994 I jumped on board Fear Street Part Two: 1978 not even realising it only came out on 9th July, a week ago. I will try and keep spoilers from the first movie to a minimum.

Picking up directly after the events of the first film, the survivors have arrived at the house of a woman who back in 1978 survived both a massacre by an axe wielding maniac, and an encounter with the fabled witch of Shadyside. The survivors want to know her story to see if it will help them finally find a way to end the curse that has plagued their town for centuries. The rest of the film takes place as the form of a flashback.
It is summer 1978 and the teens of Shadyside and nearby Sunnyvale are at summer camp. One of these teens is wild child Ziggy (Sadie Sink - Stranger Things) whose antics nearly get her thrown out of camp, much to the annoyance of her prim and proper older sister Cindy (Emily Rudd). Both sisters have strange dealings with the camp nurse, who in a fit tries to kill Cindy's sweet boyfriend Tommy (McCabe Slye - Fear Street Part 1: 1994) as she fears he is going to become a killer. In her belongings an old journal is discovered, with it becoming clear the nurse believed the witches curse (that is local legend) is in fact real. Against her better wishes Cindy and Tommy end up following her former best friend, Alice (Ryan Simpkins) and her boyfriend to a location on a map in the journal, which turns out to be quite supernatural. Here is where Tommy becomes possessed, turning into the previously mentioned axe wielding maniac. Trapped underground, Cindy and Alice must find a way to return back to the camp site and warn the others, meanwhile Ziggy and the other campers must try and survive against the murderous new killer...

I wondered how a sequel that is set in the past would actually work, of course having the majority of the film framed as a flashback was the way to go. There is perhaps five or so minutes at the start and end that bookend this flashback. It is that part alone that really tells you this is not intended as a stand alone movie. This is something that I enjoyed more simply for having known roughly what happens via little bits of lore dropped throughout 1994. It leads to a strange feeling in that you know from the start that Ziggy will survive, that her sister will die, and that the killer is stopped. None of this is spoilers for the reason it is implicitly stated at the beginning. Again directed by Leigh Janiak, this follows a similar format by appropriating a time period, having characters dressed up in era appropriate clothing and then using a whole bunch of the most iconic music from that time period. To be honest I didn't realise how much cool music there is, like 1994 it is what you would expect, (Don't Fear) The Reaper by the Blue Oyster Cult, David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World and other go-to classics. Unlike the 90s which felt like a pastiche of 90s culture this felt more authentic. Of course I am saying that as someone who wasn't even alive in the 70s and so I'm sure it suffers just as much as 1994 did with an off feeling. There was also the slightly odd re-use of some of these songs multiple times, I don't know if that was due to not being able to get licences to create a more varied soundtrack.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Fear Street Part One: 1994 (2021) - Horror Film Review

The joys of being mostly up to date with my blog means I get the pleasure of choosing which films to watch for review for a time, rather than going entirely by what I have been sent. I was intrigued by the Leigh Janiak directed Fear Street for a couple of reasons. First, it was based on a series of horror books for young adults that was created and written by R.L Stine. I was a Point Horror fan myself growing up but I was interested to see what a film adaptation of this series would be like. Secondly, Fear Street appears as a trilogy of interconnected films released over the course of just three weeks. Each film in the series rather than proceed forward in time actually goes in the reverse. Starting with Fear Street Part One: 1994 you then get Fear Street Part Two: 1978 and Fear Street Part Three: 1666

This takes place in the fictional American town of Shadyside, a town with a dark history. There has been a bizarrely high number of massacres throughout the town's history, the latest one taking place at a mall by a guy wearing a skeleton mask (this part serves as the film's prologue). Deena (Kiana Madeira - The Night Before Halloween) has gone to the nearby affluent town of Sunnyside in order to attend a school vigil for the victims of the mall massacre, though the real reason is to have a face to face with her ex-girlfriend Sam (Olivia Scott Welch) who moved to the town not long after they broke up. An accident occurs on Deena's way home which results in a car Sam is a passenger in crashing in some woods. After bleeding onto some bones near the crash site, Sam sees visions of a witch from Shadyside's distant past. This results in the perpetrators of previous massacres from the town's dark history somehow coming back to life with the goal of killing Sam. Deena, along with her best friends, Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger), as well as her younger brother, Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) must find a way both to protect Sam, as well as find a way to end the curse she seems to have gotten caught up in.

While I don't know exactly how much of this was based on actual Fear Street books it did give me a vibe of a more adult orientated Goosebumps. Both based on books by R.L Stine and both featuring monsters magically brought to life and hunting the main cast. While based on young adult horror series this has an 18 rating, frequent swearing and some joyously bloody deaths, such as the highlight of 'death by bread slicer'. The main adversaries here are made up of the skeleton masked killer from the prologue, as well as a Jason Vorhees style hulking axe wielding maniac and a razor blade toting suicide victim. The fact that they are invincible lessoned their impact on the movie. They were a constant threat throughout yet they always seemed easily escapable even if in an It Follows fashion they were able to relentlessly pursue their prey wherever they went. There was a body count but it wasn't evenly paced, there were fits and bursts of massacres but then nearly the entirety of the second act there wasn't a single death. As fun as the third act kills were, they came in such quick succession that you didn't really have time to appreciate them.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness (2021) - Animated Zombie Horror TV Show Review

Growing up from my teens into adulthood I was hugely into Resident Evil. This wasn't just the video games I loved, I even branched out into the novels, comics, live action films and into trying to write fan fiction. Even I could never get into the animated films though, as much as I tried I just couldn't get on with them. They expected you to have a demented level of knowledge about the wider Resident Evil universe, they wanted you to be fully on board with the po-faced seriousness they tried to convey, and they hoped against hope you would turn a blind eye to the sometimes janky CG effects as well as the cringe inducing over the top moments.
Netflix commissioned a couple of shows based on the franchise, the first to come out was the four episode anime mini-series, Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness. Would this be as awkward and humiliating to watch as the CG films or have they finally redeemed that faze?

The show takes place in 2006, within the Resident Evil video game timeline this is after the events of Resident Evil 4 and before the events of the fifth game. Much like the animated films this is considered canonical. After the White House computer systems are hacked and data relating to China is stolen, specialists are brought in to help investigate, with it feared that a war could be brewing between the two super powers. The specialists include Leon S. Kennedy (in the English dub voiced by Nick Apostolides), this character previously survived a zombie outbreak in Raccoon City as well as succeeded in a dangerous mission to rescue the American President's daughter. He gets tasked to go on a secret mission to a research facility in China, along with Shen May (Jona Xiao) and Jason (Ray Chase). Meanwhile, Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello), an aid worker who also survived Raccoon City discovers evidence of a cover-up of a zombie outbreak back in 2000 and so starts to investigate.

Each episode is roughly twenty five minutes long and with just four episodes that doesn't make for a meaty season. The story is typical animated Resident Evil for better or worse, but one benefit of being a series means the histrionics of the feature films are reduced. I recall watching Resident Evil: Damnation last year and getting so bored at the convoluted never ending fights against boss type monsters. With Infinite Darkness the ratio between action and dialogue is a little more measured. The story isn't amazing, neither in the actual specifics of what happens or with the writing, but at least there is a great title sequence opening each episode, and the soundtrack feels suitably Resident Evil and so gets a thumbs up from me. 

Friday, 9 July 2021

Piece it all Back Together (2021) by Feind Gottes - Horror Book Review

I always use my three day weekend off my day job to write the blog posts for the next week but this past weekend had been different. Unexpected plans, and some darn humidity that has been affecting my sleep has meant I've done nothing blog related this weekend. Thankfully, last week I finished reading Feind Gottes horror/crime novel Piece it all Back Together and so that can make up one of the sole blog posts for this week.

Within the novel there are several different subplots going on but they all feed back into the main story. Jamie Windstein is an alcoholic small time private investigator who gets hired one day by a dying millionaire, Thomas Combs. He wants her to locate the whereabouts of a long lost friend, a man named Jimmy. When they were young they were both at an orphanage that was run by some very abusive people, and now with Thomas dying he wants to reunite with Jimmy to let him know just how much he saved him back during those dark days. Things take a more strange turn when Jamie discovers two severed heads on her kitchen table with a cryptic message carved into them. Not one for coincidences she starts to suspect it is related to her new client. Meanwhile, the policeman husband of Jaime's best friend and receptionist gets offered the opportunity of a lifetime when he gets brought on board by a gruff detective to join him in the search for a local serial killer who is known for removing the heads from their victims...

When reading books for review I make it a point to read at least one chapter a day. As I got more and more into Piece it all Back Together I found myself reading more and more each day. There are elements of this novel that felt very familiar, there were parts that felt a tad unbelievable, but there were parts of this novel that were simply fantastic moments of fiction. Swap around a few characters and you would essentially have a Dexter novel. I've never actually read any of them but the general storyline to me felt very similar to the TV show's first season plot line, so much so that I correctly guessed a lot of the twists early on due to the sheer similarity of some plot points. This couldn't help but loose some marks just for this feeling of having seen it all before, regardless of how entertaining this was all to read. My other slight nit-pick was that the mysterious serial killer haunting the town is said to be so clever as to never leave a single speck of evidence. It helps that the headless corpses are never found at the scene of the crime, but the way the novel operates (by having different chapters follow different characters) shows things occasionally from the killers perspective. The killer is shown to have a very short fuse and prone to outbursts of uncontrolled violence that can't be conductive to leaving spotless crime scenes. Going back to Dexter though you have to assume the authorities are incompetent for the killer to be getting away with what they are doing, which almost rings true when such a tiny taskforce are working on the case (for fear of causing a panic should the knowledge of a killer operating in the area get out).  

Despite my complaints this is a novel that got more and more exciting and horrific as it went on. The pure highlight of the novel was when Jamie arrives at the dilapidated home of a former orphanage worker. The man has become a hoarder of rubbish and her slow ascent through his home is described in disgusting detail. The descriptions were so vivid that I could see all this in my mind like I was watching a film. I don't usually like disgusting moments, but this one chapter was a masterclass in it, culminating in something truly awful. The book can be pretty extreme at times with what happens, there are a lot of dark moments, the most terrible part taking the form of one of the many flashbacks to the 1980's involving a baseball bat. As derivative as some of the ideas may be I did love reading this, I loved how these flashback chapters revealed lots of core information that then feeds back into the present day sections, and I loved that occasionally we get chapters from the antagonist's perspective that manages to not really reveal much while still being compelling. When the first twist occurs early on into the novel I was delighted, it turned into something different to my expectations.

I've spoken a lot about the similarities I felt reading this novel, but I have to stress again how enjoyable this was to read. There are some great ideas here, a good sense of pacing and enough going on with the characters that I would happily read a follow up. Piece it all Back Together is out now via Hellbound Books.


Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Time Goddess (2021) - Short Comedy Horror Film Review

Time Goddess
is a short twelve minute comedy horror film that was directed by Gerado Chierchia (Toxic Alien Zombie Babes from Outer Space, Badass Bunyip) and was written by and co-stars prolific David Black (Klink, Klunk, Klonk, Sinister Symbiosis). 

Nerdy Darvis (Black) is out on a car ride with his selfie obsessed girlfriend Bambi (Héléne Tardiff - Elevator Story) and is increasingly concerned about her dangerous driving due to her penchant for taking pictures of herself. The worst happens and the car crashes off the road, rather than lead to a violent death it instead somehow leads to a hole being ripped up in the fabric of time and space. Darvis and the car end up safe and sound, however, Bambi finds herself in prehistoric times where her love for being the centre of attention leads to her downfall...

The general outline of the plot, and the cautionary tale aspect of it gave Time Goddess a rough Twilight Zone feel to it. I didn't find a lot of the comedy style here to my liking. Saying that, the car crash, complete with constant freeze frame images of the two co-stars in various states did get a smile out of me, the definite highlight. The special effects on display here are quite terrible, but purposely so which makes them of course pretty great. The car crash itself with its silly effects, as well as the dinosaurs that appear to be children's toys both added to the comedic feel. Plot wise there were all sorts of inconsistencies, all of which can be excused due to the silly nature of the short. Just when you think things have gotten as ridiculous as they could get there is a slight curve ball thrown with a genuine horror element getting added to Time Goddess' finale.

Time Goddess gets away with its sometimes low quality by being a film that sets out to be entertaining and succeeds. From the illustrated intro sequence up to the unexpectedly dark end this remained fun despite the humour not being much to my taste. Time Goddess is free to view on YouTube, so go check it out. 


Friday, 2 July 2021

Paranormal Prison (2021) - Horror Film Review

The title for the Brian Jagger directed found footage horror Paranormal Prison brought to mind the lovely found footage horror trilogy Paranormal Farm and so going into this I was open to having a fun time. It soon become clear my optimistic wishes this would actually be a sequel to that series would not come to pass, but this had kind of a similar vibe, set in a world of characters that don't really take themselves all that seriously.

An online paranormal investigation show titled The Sceptic and The Scientist is facing its end due to low viewership. The show was funded by narcissistic Matthew (Todd Haberkorn - voicework on Resident Evil 3 remake) using his trust fund and unless he can come up with a viral hit there will be no money left to continue. His team, that includes himself, amateur scientist Sara (Paris Warner - Zombies vs Snowboarders), sound technician Ashley (Corynn Treadwell) and cameraman Jacob (Brian Telestai - Malice) and they have been granted permission to spend the night at a former prison in Idaho that has a grisly past. With the prison set to be demolished and turned into condos the group hope to be able to be the ones able to finally gain real evidence of supernatural happenings there. Acting as a guide for them is Park Ranger Shtog (Easton Lay) who is able to give history to the various locations at the prison they visit.

The characters here were all likeable, even Matthew, a character designed to be annoying is endearing due to his recognition of his bad traits, and his crews acceptance of these traits. While they don't bow down to his commands they do realise this is all only possible because of him and so there is a grudging respect there. The first act serves as a history tour of the prison, I found the tales Shtog told to be really good storytelling, adding atmosphere to the already atmospheric location of a real former prison. There is a comedic element at play here with some silly lines that just work. An early example has Shtog warning the group they should get their filming done before dark, the group question him as to what happens after dark, to which he replies something along the lines of " gets dark, it makes it harder to film". So silly, but that sort of dialogue appealed to me. Sara, Ashley and Jacob all get moments where they give emotional backstories to why they are working on the show. One of these was bad enough (sad music playing and a character full of tears) but to have this same idea used a few times made them feel more corny than they would otherwise have been.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Steam (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

is a short fifteen minute gay horror film. It isn't the kind of film that appeals to me, but it also isn't the kind of film that was designed with me in mind. What I'm not going to do is criticise this for its content, but I will say that I really hoped the gay to horror balance would be more 50/50 than it actually was. This was directed by Joao Dall'Stella who stated he wanted Steam to be "a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community" that he himself is part of.

Gay couple Thomas (Steven Eich) and Juan (Andrew DiConcetto) gone to a bathhouse for a 'cheat night'. While Juan is much more into the experience (it was his idea after all), Thomas seems like a fish out of water, something the receptionist (Trent Walker) easily picks up on. His awkwardness turns to horror when he discovers hidden within the steam there is a killer on the prowl.

What attracted me to this film was the idea of a killer whose actions are being covered up by the steam of the bathhouse. This part of the movie took a good while to get going however with the first ten minutes being about Thomas' bewilderment at the situation he is in. When the horror does start the majority of it is off screen, there is one fun on kill involving a glory hole you do get to see. I felt there could have been a better splitting of time here, I got the deal with Thomas long before this turns to horror and so I didn't see the need to keep following him around with nothing untoward really hinted at. It ended in a way which wasn't totally bad, with the decision to have the killer addressing the camera directly in a fourth wall breaking moment to explain their actions to the viewer.

Obviously there were large elements that were never designed to appeal to me but I would have liked more horror, perhaps an extra on screen death scene. As it was Steam was decent enough, it just wasn't particularly exciting. In celebration of Pride Month this month past, Steam is currently showing on YouTube for free.