Wednesday, 29 September 2021

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

After re-watching The Matrix and experiencing an unexpected bittersweet feeling of remembering the 2000s I have decided to try and live in the moment more. After all, there will come a day at some point in the future in which I look back on the 2020s with as much a feel of loss and regret as I currently do for the eighties, nineties and two thousands. With that in mind onto the news for September.

New horror comedy The New Hands has its world premiere on 1st October at the Silicon Beach Film Festival held at Hollywood's Chinese Theater. This was written and directed by Brandon Scullion and based on his short film of the same name. It stars Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Sally Kirkland, Stephen Wu, Lexi Graboski and Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and is about a man who has it in his head that if he replaces his ruined hands with parts taken from people he has killed then he will be able to somehow win back his ex-girlfriend.

A teaser trailer came out in June for horror film Night of the Zomghouls. Directed by Will Collazo Jr. this stars James Duvall (Independence Day), Sadie Katz (The Amityville Harvest), Mike Ferguson (Animal Kingdom), Julie Ann Prescott (Teacher Shortage), and Shawn C Phillips (Dead Ant). The synopsis was set out like a line of dialogue from the film's killer, Jack Rogers. It reads like a mass murderer sacrifices himself to the devil and returns in the form of being able to possess animatronics at a children's birthday place. Sounds all very Five Nights at Freddy's to me.

The Green Sea stars Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) as an American writer based in remote Ireland. Past memories of hers start to mix together with the fantasy world of the novel she is writing and this causes a change in her life when she encounters Kid (Hazel Doupe - Float Like a Butterfly) who happened to also be the protagonist from her book. This was written and directed by Randal Plunkett and released on 13th July in North America. This indie film can be found on a variety of VOD and Digital platforms.

Psychedelic horror The Invisible Mother is due to have its Digital debut on October 12th in North America via Freestyle Digital Media. The film is about a lesbian stoner and her grandparents who are being haunted by the spirits of an old photo album. This eventually results in her grandfather being taken by an entity from a Victorian photograph and so the stoner must team up with a bunch of random people in order to try and stop him and everyone else by being taken by 'the invisible mother'. This crazy but cool sounding indie movie was written and directed by Jacob Gillman and Matthew Diebler and stars Fayelyn Bilodeau, Debra Wilson, Kiersten Warren, Richard Rhiele, Helen Slayton-Hughes and Kale Clauson.

Gothic rock band October Noir have released their new full-length release, Fate, Wine & Wisteria with the themes of the album being about lust, loss, love, pain and arrogance. Fittingly the album includes thirteen tracks, and features the recently released single, Windows. Having listened to the single I can confirm the band sound a lot like Type O Negative.

Another gothic rock band, this time in the form of Black Angel who earlier this year released their third studio album, Prince of Darkness. The concept of the album is to take the listener on a journey alongside the album's titular Prince as he rampages through 10th century England. The album offers traditional gothic rock alongside a tinge of 80's goth.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Nightbooks (2021) - Children's Horror Film Review

I chose Nightbooks for review knowing nothing about it. I have a habit on Netflix of adding almost anything to my Netflix queue, so much so there are hundreds and hundreds of films and shows on it. Nightbooks is a children's horror film directed by David Yarovesky (Brightburn) and based on the book by J.A White. It seems Neflix does like to make films out of books as this follows on from the Fear Street trilogy that was released earlier this year. While this may be aimed at children (having a PG rating), I think I would have been terrified watching this as a child!

After an unknown incident Alex (Winslow Fegley) angrily rips horror film posters off of his bedroom walls and throws them, along with a heap of horror story books he has written into a rucksack and sneaks out of his apartment, all this to the accompiment of his parents argue about how weird he is in the background. The boy gets in the elevator but it breaks down, opening up on a strange floor of the apartment block he lives in. While walking down a passageway he spies an open doorway, one of his favourite films The Lost Boys is playing on a TV, while there is a fresh slice of pumpkin pie on a plate next to it. Unable to resist Alex enters the apartment but after trying the food passes out. He awakens to discover he is a prisoner of an evil witch named Natacha (Krysten Ritter - Jessica Jones). He soon finds another child, Yasmin (Lidya Jewett) who is also trapped. Both the children are forced to work as slaves for the witch, but for Alex, upon learning he writes scary stories he is told he must tell Natacha a scary story every single night. With the threat of death should his stories not scare, Alex begins to try and find a way to escape the witches magical apartment.

As a child I was quite cowardly. I did love monsters and have memories of constantly getting my parents to rent out the VHS of The Monster Squad, but I think Nightbooks would have been too much for me. Rather than pander to a younger audience this instead relies a lot on the techniques that adult horror films use. Light and shadow, partially glimpsed figures and swiftly edited shots are all impressive in creating a feel of horror. Sure, there isn't much actual peril the children are in, threatened with being transformed into living statues did seem like a fate worse than death but nothing much happens to them. Natacha isn't designed to look scary, more she has the appearance of someone dressing up in a witch costume for Halloween, but she certainly doesn't come across as nice in the slightest. This comes to the detriment of her character. While later on towards the film's finale there is a backstory provided for her, for the most part she is a kid version of a bad guy, bad for the sake of being bad without any concrete motivation for being so. I guess looking deeper it could be a comment about how sometimes people who are abused end up becoming abusers themselves but this evil for evil's sake element left her feeling a bit one dimensional.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Dead Snow 2 (2014) - Comedy Zombie Horror Film Review

Tommy Wirkola's (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) Dead Snow stuck in the mind for a few reasons. The first was that its snowy setting led to plenty of lovely looking moments of the blood contrasted with the white of the snow. The second standout part were the Nazi zombies, there have been enough films like this over the years that the Nazi zombie is a definite subgenre of the zombie genre itself. I haven't seen Dead Snow since 2010 and so after a quick read of the Wikipedia plot guide I headed into this one. Spoilers for the first film will follow.

Despite it being five years in real life terms, within the context of the movie this picks up immediately after the cliff-hanger ending of the first. After his friends are slaughtered up in the mountains after inadvertently angering a group of cursed Nazi zombies, Martin (Vegar Hoel - Dead Snow) is the sole survivor, and after returning the gold him and his friends stole thinks the horror is all behind him. However it turns out he accidentally hadn't returned all the gold and the commander of the Nazi force, Herzog (Ørjan Gamst - Dead Snow) attacks him in his car as he makes his escape. Eventually Martin looses him, but passes out and crashes the car. Sometime later he wakes up in hospital where he is told he is under arrest for the murder of his friends, not only that but the doctors mistaking Herzog's severed arm for Martin's missing arm (that he lost in the first film) have attached it to him. As Martin struggles to control his undead and very powerful new appendage, Herzog is suddenly reminded of the last orders he received back when he was alive; to march on the nearby town of Talvik and kill all its inhabitants. Raising a new army of the undead he sets out to do just that.

The body count this time around is a lot higher, the amount of zombies is also a lot higher. That's what sequels often do after all, make everything bigger and more spectacular. You have that here in the form of a tank that the Nazi zombies are using, that and both Martin and Herzog gaining the ability to raise the dead. Leading of course to a big bloody showdown between the two sides. I remember the first film being bloody and here is no different. Poor Martin spends almost the entirety of Dead Snow 2 caked in blood. Civilians are killed all over the place and not just limited to adults. Death here is almost always played for comedic effect, and so dark humour such as some mothers pushing prams getting obliterated by a tank shell, a tank riding over some children playing in a sand pit, and the politically incorrect sight of a wheelchair bound woman's carer running off and leaving her to ineffectively attempt to escape are not as grim as they may sound. The humour goes all over the place being both physical and with the dialogue of the characters. Some of it works, such as the poor zombie man that Martin first resurrects constantly getting damaged (at one point he even puts him under the wheels of his car after it gets stuck in a snow drift in order to get traction). Elsewhere, most notably with some of the dialogue this doesn't fare as well. There are a trio of American characters who are geek caricatures, one whose dialogue mostly revolved around Star Wars lines was a bit grating. I must mention the comedic highlight of the movie, Martin has gone to a World War II museum to get help from the museum clerk when they find out the Nazi zombies are there. In a scene taken straight out of Scooby-Doo, the two decide the best thing they can do is disguise themselves as part the exhibit. This leads to a wonderful scene of the two standing still like statues, the museum clerk for some reason having chosen the awkward pose of crouching down with a shocked expression on his face, while pointing his finger out!

Friday, 24 September 2021

The Well (2021) - Horror Video Game Review

The Well
is a micro game coming from indie game maker Yames, his previous work including Water Womb World and Discover My Body. The Well is based on a sonnet from H.P Lovecraft's Fungi from Yuggoth and the whole experience lasts roughly twenty minutes.

In the game, a father and son go mad after digging a well on their property. The son ends up murdering his father and is put in an asylum. You and another man have been hired to clear the property so that it can be sold. Curiosity getting the better of you both, you decide to look for rumoured 'pagan gold' that was said to be hidden in the well, and so the both of you work on lowering a rope into the hole to see what you can find.

I've read the sonnet and this is quite faithful. In it everything is the same up to when the people examining the bricked up well seal it up in horror after dropping something in to hear where the bottom is and realising it is terrifyingly deep. Instead the game has you and your colleague alternatively lowering the rope and lifting it up when it gets caught on something. The only control is the Z button on the keyboard, this is used to go through the dialogue as well as to be held down to use the rope. There is a cat also in the game and by tapping Z you can stroke it.

Obviously this wasn't ever designed to be a game in the traditional sense. The biggest draw for me were the retro old computer graphics, everything looks so sinister and basic that you can't help but feel some anxiety from the visuals. Sound wise this was also pretty good, each time the guy in charge of the rope shouts out the distance it has been lowered it is accompanied by what sounded like a loud gun shot. Initially this made me jump in fright but I got used to it. The big draw was each time the rope snagged and you had to pull it up to see what was caught on it. The ramping up of this evil sounding noise made these moments the most tense yet they never really led into anything too exciting.

The story didn't lead to as scary a place as I had hoped but it was still fun and appropriately Lovecraftian. I did like how the rope pulling is used for a different context towards the end. The Well has a dirt cheap price and so it is worth seeing for yourself, like most things based on Lovecraft it doesn't manage to get to his levels of fear, but was an interesting and different experience.


Thursday, 23 September 2021

Death's Door (2021) - Fantasy Video Game Review (XBox Series X)

My best friend was the one who pointed me in the direction of Death's Door, and it was a TikTok video of all things that made her aware of the game. Published by the indie powerhouse that is Devolver Digital, this Zelda like adventure game looks and sounds like a dream, but perhaps a little too frustrating for my mindset.

In Death's Door you play as a crow, one of the reapers of death. Working for the mysterious Lord of Doors, you are tasked with collecting souls and it is one such soul that begins your adventure. Tasked with reaping the soul of a huge monster, you are successful, but not before a mysterious old crow steals the soul you were due to collect. Unable to return without the soul, you end up forced to work with the old crow, both your soul and the soul he was meant to reap are trapped behind a gigantic magical door. To open this door you must travel to three different corners of the stagnant world in order to reap the souls of monsters big enough to have the power to break open the door, thus allowing you to finish your mission and return back to base.

The game looks beautiful, that and the wonderfully mournful soundtrack were a definite highlight for me. The isometric world has you in a slight overhead viewpoint exploring in a way that Link would be proud of. The game takes place over one overworld that is split into four different sections. To progress you complete simple puzzles, battle monsters, pull switches, and gain new abilities. This is an indie game at a reduced price (I think it cost me around £16) and so the game never felt like it needed to be bigger than it was. Each of the four main areas are different in look. The central hub is set in an old graveyard, while the first new area takes place in and around a witches mansion and has you fighting various pot related enemies. The second of the offshoot areas is set in a flooded castle in the middle of a forest, while the third and final one takes place on a huge snowy mountain.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology 10 - September 22nd 2021

It's that news time again, the usual mutterings about my inbox being jammed to the rafters with news waiting to be put out there by me. Onto the news!

October is obviously the most important month of the year for horror and that seems to be something that the Arrow streaming subscription service is aware of as there are plenty of great horrors being added to the service. Chad Crawford Kinkle's follow up to Jug Face (The Pit) emerged in the form of Dementer. A film with a chilling vibe and a great soundtrack that I recently gave a strong 7/10. This comes to the service on October 1st and joining it that day is Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth that is pegged to be the definite documentary about that classic. On October 2nd one of the all time great vampire films, Nosferatu arrives in a 'definitive restored' edition.
Deep south thriller The Neighbour is out on October 4th, then on the eighth comes a bunch of films including true crime film The Manson Family, Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War as well as 100 Monsters, Along with Ghosts and Spook Warfare. On October 11th Lucio Fulci's Demonia and Vampyr arrive and October 18th sees Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice and Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (I love that series). The last new addition is restored 80's horror Death Screams that drops October 22nd.
New seasons on the service include The Shocktober 31 that has thirty one of the best horrors streaming throughout the month. Then there is Shocktober Essentials that is made up of twelve must see collections. Finally there is Monster Mash which is a selection of Japanese monster movies. As well as the usual place to find the service it has now also been added to Xbox.

A new horror (possibly anthology) film has been announced. Campfire is written by John Lohmann and will feature six ghost stories told around the titular campfire. The cast so far includes Lisa Wilcox (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child), Chester Rushing (Stranger Things), Matty Cardarople (Stranger Things), Daniel Roebuck (The Fugitive), Josh Sussman (Glee), Eva Hamilton (Death Kiss), Faithe Herman (Shazam!), Ira Heiden (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors), Corinna Jones (Rat Race), John Tague (American Horror Story) and James Stokes (Stranger Things).

Finally, earlier this year in July, Jeff Payne (The Pale Faced Lady) began work on his latest short horror, titled The Whisper in the Woods. It is said to be inspired by the works of David Lynch and is about two backpackers who have gone on a camping trip. Accidentally wandering off the trail they encounter a blind witch and her den of horrors. Payne says of this new film "This will be another horror piece guided by themes of sadness and regret. To me, horror is scarier when you can relate with the characters and the real life experiences that people go through."

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Pit (2013) - Horror Film Review

I recently saw Chad Crawford Kinkle's latest horror film Dementer and realised he was also responsible for another cult based horror, the excellently titled Jug Face. I had heard of that and having enjoyed Dementer knew I had to see it. Well since I first heard of it, it had changed its title to the much less intriguing The Pit, but my interest was already taken and so here are my thoughts on it.

The film takes place within the woodland commune of a cult whose members worship the entity that resides within a pit, one which in exchange for the occasional sacrifice offers the group the cure to all their maladies. The next sacrifice is always chosen by the potter, simple Dawai (Sean Bridgers - The Woman). He receives a vision and then creates a (formally titular) jug that bears the face of the chosen. When Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter - The Woman), having recently discovered she's pregnant at the hands of her brother, Jessaby (Daniel Manche - The Girl Next Door) learns she is the next to be chosen she secretly hides her jug in the woods. This sets up a chain of events that threatens to destroy the commune she is a part of.

The Pit has the feeling of a Shakespearean tragedy to it, with the way that many of the events of the story are directly caused by the actions of the protagonist. Ada is hard to really root for, if incest isn't enough to damage her character you then have the multitude of deaths that occur as a result of her actions. The cult in Dementer had been left far behind, there was always a question if there was anything supernatural at all going on in this one. With The Pit there is unquestionably supernatural elements. The pit itself is just shown to bubble occasionally, but Ada is cursed with seeing through the entities eyes when it kills, something that is always shown in first person perspective. Being an indie horror I think that was the right choice to make. Throughout the special effects are practical based and look good. From contact lenses to make eyes look milky white, to some throat slashings, is all fitting with the vibe.

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Little Miseries (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

Little Miseries
is a short eighteen minute zombie film directed and co-written by Dia Taylor (Blue.). It takes place in the wilderness of Australia and the setting is well established with plenty of attractive looking drone shots. The plot was one I had seen before but was paced well, for me it was the quality of the characters that brought this down a bit.

It is three or so years since a kind of zombie apocalypse swept the globe. One day apparently one third of the world's population mysteriously became undead and before events were brought under control they had eaten roughly another third of the population. Since that time Ashlyn (Brooke Moss) has been roaming remote Australia with her husband, Cole (Kristian Hilton). Perhaps the reason for her backroads rambling is that her husband is a zombie, kept in check with a chain and regular feeds on whatever poor victim they happen across.

This short seems to be either be a remake of an earlier one (Hungry, Cole?) or at least set in the same universe as feature the same character of Ashlyn. As a stand alone short it achieves a lot in its runtime. Starting with a (hard to hear) radio broadcast that sets up the post apocalyptic world, the viewer is brought up to speed quickly. It is quickly established that Ashlyn isn't deluded into thinking her husband is still alive, but her motives for keeping him around aren't clear to begin with. Via a flashback sequence this plot thread gets revealed, and the motivation is made clear.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Pentagram (2019) - Horror Film Review

Having two weeks off my day job currently I thought I would store up some film reviews for a rainy day. While browsing through Netflix I came across Steve Lawson's Pentagram. Earlier this year I saw another of his films, Ripper Untold, and while it had its problems, most notably a very low budget, it wasn't that bad. The same can be said for Pentagram, it is again a low budget indie horror, this had the potential for greatness but a lack of ideas and some stupid plot faults let this down.

A gang of four people are making their way across the backroads of America, with the aim of robbing enough places along the way to make it to L.A for a hoped for brighter future. These four are made up of career criminal Max (Alexis Rodney - Guardians of the Galaxy), Lauren (Rachel Warren - Eve), Luke (Charlie Woodward - Pennyworth), and his drug addicted sister, Holly (Chloe Farnworth - Eve) who is suffering severe withdrawal symptoms. After the latest diner they rob results in the angry waitress shooting a hole in their car engine they soon find themselves broken down in the middle of nowhere. They decide to head to an abandoned house they spotted and it is there that they come across a very strange sight. Holly discovers an odd British man, Oliver (Michael McKell from UK soaps Emmerdale and Doctors in a scene stealing role) standing in the middle of a pentagram drawn onto the floor. The man calmly explains to the four that he was performing a demonic sacrifice but it went quite wrong and now he finds himself trapped within the circle. Should he leave, he explains, the demon that has been summoned will kill him. With Holly managing to get taken hostage by the man the three others enter the circle to intervene and find themselves branded with a pentagram mark, which the man tells them means they are now cursed also. Should they leave the circle the demon will kill them, and should any of the five candles placed around the pentagram go out, then that will allow the demon to enter and kill them.

After the first ten minutes or so (including a lengthy and dull credit sequence) this becomes a single room horror, not a bad genre to be a part of. I think more than anything this was done for budgetary reasons. Single room horror films work if the characterisation is strong, and if there are enough ideas going to keep the film entertaining to watch. Beyond its decent set-up Pentagram starts to fade. The biggest error by far in my opinion was the decision to show the demonic creature that the group were threatened by. Rather than give half glimpses, or even just off camera suggestions, the demon is shown in full view at the culmination of the first act. I get that something drastic had to happen for the characters to believe the far fetched situation they were in, but I don't believe the viewer needed to see it. The demon appears to the accompiment of some low-fi flame effects, the demon itself looks as generic as you could imagine, and looks super imposed onto the screen. All this combines to make this evil force seem totally unthreatening and kind of lame. If I was allowed to make one single change to this movie it would be to edit out the shots that show the demon, it had that strong an effect of reducing my enjoyment out of being able to get any kind of fear here.     

Thursday, 16 September 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology 9 - September 16th 2021

I'm getting towards the end of my blissful two weeks off of work. Well, I have to go in and do three hours on Saturday then I'm properly back on Tuesday. If I ever won the lottery I think I would do what I had been doing while off perfectly happy! Anyway, onto the news.

Described as a 'serial killer thriller', Taxi 121 was released on DVD and Digital on 29th July via Bayview Entertainment. This film purports to be based on real events that occurred in Czechoslovakia in 2014 had an alleged serial killer who went after three taxi drivers in Prague. The film builds on this with the threat of the killer not yet lessoned.

Also from Bayview Entertainment is Death Breed, this will be out in time for Halloween. I already like the sound of this as it is an anthology made up of three short films. First is Wolfsbayne that features Lloyd Kaufman (owner of Troma Films) and Linnea Quigly (Night of the Demons, The Return of the Living Dead). This is followed by Shudder that includes actors from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Gunnar Hansen, Edwin Neal and John Dugan). Finally is Old Habits Die Hard, and this one features Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th series). I love anthologies as a rule, but one with so many notable names makes this sound like it will be worth a watch.

Thomas Walton and Jared Safier (Room 9) have announced their next horror film, it is to be called Camp of Terror. The tag line is " They say... "You cross paths with at least 20 killers in your lifetime and don't even know it" Well, this time you will..." and so far Shawn C. Phillips and Lauren Francesca are signed on.

Finally for this small news post is Miranda Veil which is now out on Digital and On Demand from Lionsgate. The synopsis has a wannabe serial killer who discovers his first victim, the titular Miranda, is unable to die, much to both their surprise. Directed by Levin Garbisch (I Shall Never Return), this stars Annabel Barrett (Detachment), Zach Steffey (Mindhunter), Kelton Jones (The Passion of the Christ) and Vida Ghaffari (The Mindy Project).

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Lake Mungo (2008) - Horror Film Review

Back at the start of 2018 I had the pleasure of interviewing horror director Andrew J.D Robinson, and when I questioned him about his favourite horrors he mentioned the Australian mocumentary Lake Mungo. This was once again brought to my attention a week or so back when it came up on a list of the most scary films you shouldn't watch alone, especially at night. Well, I wanted a good scare and so I decided to watch this alone and at night. It's easy to see this was a big inspiration on Robinson's mockumentary We Are the Missing, and while this did create a creepy atmosphere it sadly didn't haunt my dreams.

The mockumentary explores the strange events that were put into motion when teenager Alice Palmer (Talia Zucker) drowned in a lake while swimming with her brother Mathew (Martin Sharpe) on a family day trip in 2005. Her death was a huge blow for the family, especially for mother June (Rosie Taynor). Things began to get strange for the family when some photos and videos later taken by both the family and other people in the local community were found to contain an image of what appeared to be a girl matching Alice's appearance. Despite father Russell (David Pledger) having identified his daughters body, the Palmer family began to hope that maybe there had been a mistake and Alice was somehow still alive.

A necessary element of the mocumentary here is the talking heads sections, this includes friends and other family members of the Palmers, but mainly consists of Mathew, June and Russell. Due to this my expectations were tempered. As scary as the film was said to be, the main cast were not going to end up dead or even that traumatised, as they wouldn't be appearing on the fake doc if they were. The meat of this are the photos and video tapes that emerge after the death. Lake Mungo does a good job of drip feeding these to the viewer, they get more and more messed up as the film progresses, obviously with the best saved till last. An aspect I enjoyed is that the early photos are revealed to have more clues in them than is first suggested. Attention is drawn to what the filmmakers want you to see, so elements of the pictures that give greater clues are there for the world to see but unless you were looking for them they would pass you by.

Monday, 13 September 2021

Spookware (2021) - Horror Video Game Review (Microsoft Windows)

is a horror themed comedic adventure game that's whole model is most keenly inspired by the WarioWare games. These were micro sized mini games that can often be completed within a matter of seconds. It took me a little while to really get into the spirit of what Spookware was going for, but once I was there I had a fun time.

Lefti, Midi, and Righti are three teenage skeletons in a world that is populated exclusively by skeletons. The core game features the first episode that includes within it 60 micro games to experience. The rest of the game which brings together episodes two, three, and four are planned to come later on as downloadable content and will bring around 200 more micro games. The prologue has the three friends in their crypt based home watching horror films on their VHS player. This straight away had you playing multiple mini games in a row and I feared the whole game would just be this. Instead the game is far more of an adventure game, think a point and click with the puzzles replaced with mini games. Each chapter felt wildly different in styles of what you were doing thankfully. The first chapter took place on a school campus and had you trying to recruit members of a school band. All the mini games here were rhythm action style ones. This first chapter didn't give me much of a good impression. I found the location a bit confusing to get around, while I didn't really enjoy the style of mini games.

The second chapter was where I really began to enjoy the silly and mostly light-hearted world of Spookware. This had you investigating a murder on a cruise ship, it was here I saw how varied the game could become. You had almost Phoenix Wright style mini games where people would be speaking and you would have to object and present proof if you thought they were lying. The final chapter again switched up the format, this time it had a restaurant simulation in which you had to manually seat diners at tables before doing mini games in order to make their meal. I loved the variation and I loved how low key the story was. Each chapter is self contained within its ten or so screens. You move around using the number pad, return or the spacebar is all you need to interact with characters and travel between areas. The adventure feel of this game really reminded me of the types of PC games you would get in the nineties, in particular I was reminded of a great Beavis and Butthead adventure game from that period. The story is so chilled and enjoyable in the relatively mundane settings the characters find themselves in. By the time the game wraps up things really are not resolved, it all ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, so it will be interesting to see how much is charged for this additional DLC as it seems most the game will be in that format. It's roughly an hour per chapter with my final run time just over that, so I guess it is up to you if you think the asking price is worth it.

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou (2021) - Horror Documentary Review

Skinwalker: The Howl of the Rougarou is the latest documentary from prolific director Seth Breedlove (On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky, On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey). For those who don't know (which had also been me prior to watching this), the Rougarou is a version of the werewolf, one that is primarily spoken about in the American south. I've come to expect a layer of quality with Breedlove's documentaries and in that respect this is a success. As I have said before though, I just don't know what it is about werewolves, I just don't find the subject very interesting, and so even with a relatively lean run time of seventy minutes I found my attention waning as this went on.

Beginning with a native American myth about the origins of the Rougarou that was very interesting, the documentary then heads right onto the subject with an opening witness account. Throughout the documentary there are many such accounts, many of which come across more like fables than real stories. I'm not doubting what people allege to have seen, more that, having been brought up on such tales I can't see it as too much of a stretch that these people would project these stories onto unexplainable situations they found themselves in. You have stories such as a man encountering his uncle in wolf form, a girl who was visited by a Rougarou after taking some relics from a native American burial site. Then you have another about a boy who went hunting on a sacred day and encountered the creature as a result. All of these accounts sound unlikely, but that doesn't affect the plausibility. The documentary features a variety of talking heads, one of which, the founder of an annual festival in honour of the creature speaks frankly about the likelihood of such things existing, but also goes on to explain how keeping the stories and traditions alive respects the people of the past.

While the Rougarou is the main topic there are several other variations of it discussed. The most interesting to me was the side-line into ghostly hitchhikers, something I had read about before. With the Rougarou said to also be able to shapeshift into the form of a human dressed in white it led to a neat little unexpected diversion about accounts of ghostly figures seen on a notoriously deadly part of the Louisiana roadway system. This part while brief gave some variation to a topic that as I said in my prologue isn't that fascinating to me. It eventually all loops back around, but the epilogue to me seemed to take a while to really wrap up.

Friday, 10 September 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology 8 - September

Hooray for me, I have two weeks off work finally (currently near the end of week one), I intend to work on my blog a bit, both in storing up some reviews in squirrel fashion for the future and also going back through my old posts to remove the three thousand broken links I have (now pointing to a spam website) and to add in new links and tidy up the spelling, images and grammar. Been doing that on and off for a few months now and am only halfway through 'A' in my index!

Blood Punch is now available on VOD from Midnight Releasing. This horror from Madellaine Paxton stars Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet, Ari Boyland, and Adelaide Kane. The story for this is that a young man has broken out of rehab in order to get some drugs off a mysterious woman. Heading to a remote cabin with the girl and her crazy boyfriend he gets caught up in unexpected supernatural events.

On 30th July this year the acclaimed Spanish psychological thriller The Offering was released in the UK, including on VOD. The synopsis has an obsessed man named Jan trying to reunite with his ex, Violeta. The trouble for him however is that in the twenty years that have passed since they split she has gotten her own family. Described as an 'erotic, intense and revealing adult thriller' that is said to explore the human psyche The Offering comes from director/writer Ventura Durall and was released via Sovereign

Finally, Ashburn Waters is an Australian horror that is coming to DVD on October 19th from Bayview Entertainment. Directed by David Pether, this stars Kyal Scott, Jade Prechelt and Maia Rose Michaels, and is about a high school reunion camping trip. It appears the wrong campsite was chosen however it had previously been closed due to a series of unexplained murders and now it seems history is repeating itself.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Dementer (2019) - Horror Film Review

is a horror film that was written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle (Jug Face). I had heard of Jug Face previously, if only for the memorable name, and now having seen the director's latest film I am definitely going to check it out. Dementer is a horror film with a difference, that difference is that the majority of the film takes place around real life special needs adults, specifically Kinkle's own sister, Stephanie who has Down syndrome. Kinkle says of her inclusion "[it] gave me the opportunity to bring my sister into my world while I explored hers. As I edited the film, I realised that I had created a movie experience that I'd never seen before.

Katie (Katie Groshong - Jug Face) has in the recent past escaped from a remote backwoods cult and is now trying to get her life back on track. She gets a job working with special needs adults and is determined to do a good job. When Stephanie (Stephanie Kinkle) one of the people under her care starts to get mysteriously sick, Katie resorts to the rituals she was taught when in the cult in order to try and save her.

What makes Dementer so persistently chilling is the fantastic soundtrack by Sean Spillane, this sinister music has simple rhythm at its core and makes all the scenes ooze with hidden malice. Katie's story is never presented to the viewer in a clear and concise way, instead through Dementer there are almost arthouse style flashback sequences that show her dark past. We see her naked running through a field pursued by a truck, stood in the dark around a burning fire, and most pointedly being taught by the cult leader (Larry Fessenden - Wendigo). It is his voice who opens the film with his creepy counting to thirteen, it is his voice that haunts Katie, his whisperings and lines of dialogue are inserted throughout the movie. Katie may have left the cult but its influence has certainly not left her.

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Answer Your Phone (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

Answer Your Phone
is a short horror film that clocks in at just under six minutes. It was written and directed by Benji Wragg (The Ballad of Captain Vengeance) and uses the format of horror to look at real world horrors. I was only made aware of this one yesterday, benefit of being off work in my day job meant I could jump straight on checking it out.

Greg (Oliver Midson) is an awkward looking young man who late one night is heading home after visiting the library. After receiving concerned text messages as to his whereabouts he starts to hurry, and begins to think that someone or something is following him, 

This short is an obvious analogy for being in an abuse relationship, a conclusion that I came to before the confirmation in the synopsis that stated as much. While Answer Your Phone has all the trappings of a horror film this horror can be seen as all imagined within the mind of the stressed out protagonist, with time discrepancies showing on the protagonists phone it could even be inferred the whole short took place within a nightmare. The plot is simple but follows a natural progression. Thankfully the final ending shot wasn't a darn jump scare, I always think it is lazy filmmaking to end a short that way. There is instead a quickly edited sequence that worked a lot better.

What I liked about Answer Your Phone was its commitment to horror, you have sweeping almost Evil Dead style pursuing camera movements, a lovely score that is forever working at building up anticipation, a decent choice of locations and some effective editing. Answer Your Phone can currently be seen on YouTube.


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

The Influencer (2021) - Comedy Thriller Film Review

The Influencer
didn't sound like a typical horror film, sometimes though a synopsis grabs you and so I was happy to check it out for review. Written and directed by Meghan Weinstein this comedic thriller takes a look at the world of social influencing and offers an exaggerated view while also giving some valid points, and on the side it also dips its toes into toxic masculinity.

Abbie Rose (played by real life social influencer and comedian Kasia Szarek) has it all, she is seemingly the most popular social influencer on the planet and tightly rules over her empire, every action she does going towards the brand she has worked so hard to create. One night her home is invaded by a gang that include among them geeky Two (Janeva Zentz), aggressive Three (Shantell Yasmine Abeydeera - DemonHuntr), psychotic Four (Victoria D. Wells) and the sole male member, Five (Ian Richard Jones). They take her hostage and promise if she puts out a series of videos using a script they have written that they will let her go. After an admirer of hers, the walking anti-feminist Justin (Mark Valeriano) is also taken hostage, and badly beaten in the process things start to look like they are going to take a darker turn.

Starting with a neatly edited intro sequence that plays out the credits as if they are different windows on a PC we get into the film with the first act establishing just who Abbie is in this world. With over worked interns, fake friends and her forever obsessed with getting the perfect photos and videos this felt like an exaggerated version of the real world. One area that The Influencer really impressed me was how such a caricature of a social influencer over the course of the movie slowly revealed a real person hiding within. Moments when Abbie defends her life, saying how much hard work she has had to put in to get to the position she is in, and how she recognises the people who make up her social circles are all as fake as she is humanises her from the cartoon character she began as, Szarek was surprisingly well cast. The same can almost be said for the film's antagonist, the leader of the gang, One. I can't spoil who that character is, but the film tries to make the character somewhat less one dimensional. For the other characters I thought Valeriano was great as Justin, there is never any attempt whatsoever to give him layers, instead every word he says and every action he performs is all from the stereotype of a sex obsessed, misogynistic idiot, but he became the funniest character in The Influencer due to this.
As likeable as the main leads where it was a shame that I could never get on board with the gang. As noble as they insist their cause is they were all characters I did not like in the slightest, they were all weird in the wrong ways and I was waiting for their comeuppance, or at least a reason for them to no longer be in the film. 

Sunday, 5 September 2021

The Curse of La Llorona (2019) - Horror Film Review

The Curse of La Llorona
is the feature length directorial debut of Michael Chaves and is a film set in the Conjuring shared universe of horror films. While the film was the worst performing of the connected series to date (currently sitting on a 5.3/10 on IMDB) there must have been some faith in Chaves as he is the director for the upcoming The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It. If you had never seen this type of horror before you might be impressed by what is on offer, however if that's not the case it is all too easy to see the very familiar path the story takes.

Anna (Linda Cardellini - Scooby-Doo) is a widowed social worker. One day, investigating a case of possible child neglect she enters the apartment of Patricia Alvarez, inside she discovers her two children locked in a small room with strange symbols drawn on it. Ignoring Patricia she tries to get into the room and is attacked by the woman. Patricia is arrested and the children taken into care, but later that night they are found dead, drowned in a nearby river. At the crime scene Patricia screams at Anna that this is her fault. It turns out the woman and her children had been the subject of a curse in which an evil spirit were haunting them. In her grief at losing her children she has now cursed Anna and her two children, Chris (Roman Christou) and Sam (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) to suffer the same fate. They are being haunted by the evil spirit of a woman from the 1700's who murdered her own children after her husband cheated on her, and then took her own life. She now goes after other families in order to take away their children to replace the ones she killed. With no option but to accept all this is actually occurring Anna seeks the help of a local priest (Tony Amendola - Annabelle), who puts her in contact with a rogue former priest, the eccentric Rafael (Raymond Cruz - Breaking Bad, Alien Resurrection).

This film follows all the usual tropes of a supernatural haunting, it even copies from earlier films in the same series. You have a woman trying to protect her children, initially not understanding of what is going on, eventually seeking the help of a professional well versed in the supernatural, who then befriends the family and stops the evil. That could be the synopsis for any type of films and really shows why The Curse wasn't one of the better received entries. As I said in my prologue, taken on its own this would have been good. It is well shot, there are some occasional nice ideas, and the overall design of the evil spirit isn't terrible. Having seen countless versions of this film it was all so predictable and generic feeling. There was an over reliance early on with jump scares. The most striking moments came when the woman wasn't suddenly thrown on screen, but instead allowed to be in long shots as she slowly advances, her wedding dress making it seem like she was floating.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: Season 1 (2016) - Zombie Horror Anime Review

It's been a while since I watched any anime, mainly because I'm always forgetting my Crunchyroll password! Well, I reset it yet again and decided to check out the zombie anime Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress. The show shares many similarities with Attack on Titan, both with the apocalyptic vision of the world as well as a mistrusted main protagonist. I watched the original Japanese version rather than the one with English dubbing.

The show takes place in a post apocalyptic steampunk version of feudal Japan. While it is not told in the show the synopsis says that at the onset of the industrial revolution a zombie outbreak suddenly occurred. These zombies, in the show called 'Kabane' soon overrun the entirety of Japan. The human survivors exist within towns and cities that are ringed by huge insurmountable iron walls, and they travel between these settlements on large armoured trains. One day the Kabane manage to invade the settlement of Aragane Station, in the process a young inventor named Ikoma is bitten and infected. He somehow manages to stop the spread of the infection by a device he straps to his body. The survivors flee the doomed station aboard the Kotetsujyo. It is here that Ikoma discovers he is now a Kabernari - half human/half zombie and that another person, the young Mumei also is one. Mistrusted by the other passengers and the crew of the train they all travel onwards to the capital city. As is always the case it soon becomes clear that there is more to fear than the Kabane...

The anime is made up of twelve episodes, the majority of them take place on or around the train (the titular iron fortress I guess). It is neatly split into half, the first six episodes have humans versus the zombie creatures. It culminates in the excellent two parter of Inescapable Darkness and Gathering Light. The second half of the season picks up on the familiar trope of other humans being the most dangerous thing in a zombie infested world. A villain emerges whose motive is that weak people deserve to die, and it is only the strong who have a right to live. I won't spoil who this villain is, but it wasn't that much of a surprise as the reveal happens within half an episode of this character first appearing.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The Ascent (2021) - Cyberpunk Video Game Review (X-Box Series X)

Whatever you may think of Cyberpunk 2077 (personally I'm quite enjoying it despite its faults) it can't really be argued it has pulled the whole cyberpunk genre closer to the mainstream. I hadn't really had much to do with that genre outside of Blade Runner but I really got a thirst for it and so had to try Neon Giant's new action RPG game The Ascent. As always for people who don't know, I happily class any kind of dystopian future as worthy of writing about on this blog, it sits close to the post apocalyptic genre after all.

The game takes place within an arcology on the futuristic dystopian world of Veles. People who have travelled to that world with promises of a bright future instead find themselves indentured to the corporations based there, often for life, in order to pay off the cost of their travel. You play as one such person, indentured to The Ascent Group. One day the corporation's all powerful A.I mysteriously goes offline, essentially putting it into administration. Initially working for stack boss Poone (voiced by Joplin Sibtain), who is attempting to consolidate power in order to stop rival corporations from taking over the archology, you eventually end up working for a rival group who are very interested in discovering just what happened to cause such a powerful corporation such as The Ascent Group to shut down.

The Ascent is an isometric overhead twin stick shooter with RPG elements to it. So many times nowadays games seem to just never know when to end, it was refreshing to reach the end credits here within around twenty hours or so, having done nearly all the side quests. The game takes place within the archology that consists of four levels to it. Three of these floors are huge and include no end of smaller areas within them. The archology feels like a real living world, much of the game's locations are made up of shopping districts and housing complexes. In a real breath of fresh air there are civilians absolutely everywhere, gun fights break out and they go fleeing for cover but always inevitably get caught in the gunfire. Thankfully you don't get penalised for killing innocents outside of some annoyed radio chatter, as there are so many running around that you can't help but clip some of them. I loved how lived in the world felt, add in a sublime soundtrack by composer Pawel Blaszczak and the cyberpunk feel is amazing. The music was key to my enjoyment, and the way it goes from downtime beats to suddenly bursting into pulsing electro synth sounds was always wonderful.