Tuesday, 30 November 2021

The Last Matinee (2020) - Horror Film Review

There are few things better when it comes to watching films for review to realise you have come across something a little special. Such was the case with the Uruguayan The Last Matinee (also known as Bloody Matinee, original title Al morir la matinee), a gruesome love letter to the giallo genre of horror/thriller films that was directed by Maximaliano Contenti, who also came up with the idea for it. As the title somewhat suggests, this takes place entirely within the confines of a cinema, to my knowledge the only other horror film I have personally seen with that concept is the brilliant Demons, maybe coincidentally one by director (Lamberto Bava) who himself has directed giallo movies. Sure being a homage it can't be seen as truly original, and it might have a little too much style over substance, but I do love a bit of style.

It is a dark and rainy night and Ana (Luciana Grasso) has arrived at the inner city cinema her father works at in order to cover his shift in the projectionist booth. The last film of the day is a horror film (specifically Frankenstein: Day of the Beast that was directed by Ricardo Islas who plays this movie's antagonist) and it is playing to a dead crowd that is made up of a young boy who has snuck into the theatre, a homeless man, a couple on their first date, a lone girl, and a trio of teenage friends. Unknown to them all there is a secret extra person hidden away, an eye obsessed, glove wearing maniac dressed all in black (Islas). He has barricaded the exit, and as the movie plays out he silently starts to kill the attendees one by one.

What I know about the giallo genre of films is that they feature a gloved man dressed in black whose motif is to get up close and personal with his kills. That much The Last Matinee gets right, this film also takes a side step into the slasher genre, which adds to the melting pot a variety of unique kills that kept things involving. Right away you could see the style that this film had to it, a lovely opener of the mysterious killer entering the cinema, a slow motion shot of people from the previous film walking down the exit stairs. An extra nice shot of a young boy dropping a bag of gobstoppers that bounce down the stairs, the killer stopping to pick one up and hand it back to the boy. That scene in particular had a wonderful call back right towards the end of the film. The first act of this plays out without any kind of horror really happening. Instead it serves to introduce the various characters who make up the small cast. Some characters had more to them than others, I thought the teenage friends were the best of the lot mainly due to the chemistry they had between themselves. Other characters didn't fare as well, sadly that also applied to final girl Ana. Sure she redeemed herself but she was an unknown quantity for much of the film due to not displaying much personality.

Monday, 29 November 2021

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

Another month closer to 2022 and my news inbox isn't getting any smaller, in fact I now have over two hundred emails waiting to be sifted through. I will try my best to include as much as I can this month. As always time is at a premium so I guess that will have an impact.

Gothic/post-punk band Cyborg Amok have released a new video fro their song Burden Away which appears on the band's self titled album. Greg Bullock (synth/vocals) says of the song "...was one of those songs that came together start to finish in a few hours one afternoon...We felt that "Burden Away" best represented the direction Cyborg Amok is going in."

Sci-fi film Vortex: The Dawn of Sovereignty won five awards at the Cannes World Film Festival; 'Best Mystic/Spiritual Movie', 'Best Sci-fi Movie', 'Best Realtor of the Future', 'Best Director of a First Long Film' and 'Best Sound Band' and is now available from Bayview Entertainment. The film takes place in 2047, a future in which all humans are tracked by large surveillance and censorship networks. A small group have created an encrypted network, including a teenage girl, Serena, who has developed special glasses that reveal doorways to other dimensions.

The Arrow streaming subscription service platform has released its December sizzle reel. Highlights coming in December includes the exclusive premiere of the stylish The Last Matinee, films from the prolific director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, martial-arts films from the Shaw Brothers and a history of giallo films.

Darkwave band Tigercide have released a new single, I Of Tiger. The press release states '...taps the soul, a reminder to be aware of the chaos of one's external and internal world. It's a song of discernment and following one's true path regardless of the way the world moves'.

On August 24th George Romero and Dario Argento's classic horror film Two Evil Eyes came to 4K UHD and Blu-Ray in a two disc set. This anthology film brings together Romero's The Facts In The Case of Mr. Valdemar and Argento's The Black Cat. This new release includes a whole host of extras.

Texas based industrial metal group Daedric have joined the FiXT Radium label as their first female fronted group. Daedric released a music video fro their track Wretched in August. The press release states 'Drawing from a wide variety of genres including metal, electronic and industrial, "Wretched" establishes the project as a musical force to be reckoned with...'

Jared Masters post-apocalyptic vampire horror film Quartz Vein is now available to rent or own on Google Play and Comcast with more platforms coming soon. The DVD of the film is also out. Another film taking place in 2047, this is about a gold miner, Eon Pax who goes up against a mutant race of gold-injecting vampires.

The Pit came to VOD in August and can be seen on iTunes, Vudu and Vimeo from Midnight Releasing. This is about two men who fall into a huge pit while hiking. As the days turn to weeks these former friends become willing to do anything to survive.

Finally, during lockdown Nicholas M. Garofolo created Insomniac Frightmare Killers. Each scene was limited to a maximum of three people for filming. In the film a disturbed loner suffering insomnia experiences a spell of bad luck. In his sleep his nightmares appear to become reality. The cast includes Garofolo, Lauren Collier, Taryn Danielle, Virginia Bell, Meredith Binder, Emmeline Prior, Mat Drinkwater, Steven Wishman, Dave Sweeney and Drew Samuelsen. The film screened at the Free Independent Film Weekend back in October.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Resident Evil Village (2021) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 5)

I really loved Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. I loved the shift to first person, I loved the return to a more survival horror focussed game, I loved the change up in the type of horror game it was, and I especially loved that it was playable in VR. That last part was something that stopped me immediately buying the follow up, Resident Evil Village as this one doesn't exist in a VR format. Having finally managed to get a hold of a Playstation 5, and seeing this on sale I decided to bite the bullet.

It is three years after the events of Biohazard and Ethan Winters and his wife Mia have, with Chris Redfield's help, moved to Europe in order to start a new life. In that time they have had a baby girl named Rose and things are almost perfect. One dark snowy night their peaceful existence is shattered when a group of soldiers, led by Redfield burst into the family home. They gun down Mia in cold blood and then kidnap both Ethan and Rose for reasons unknown. After being knocked out Ethan awakens to find himself in the middle of nowhere, a burning truck and corpses of soldiers nearby. He heads through a blizzard to a nearby village where he hopes he will be able to find help. Instead he discovers the place in ruins, the surviving villagers holed up in a barricaded building, with what appears to be werewolves prowling around outside. It isn't long before Ethan has been captured, this time by a woman known as 'Mother Maria' who the locals worship as a living God. Her, and her four 'children' are revealed to have Rose in their possession, so Ethan, escaping his captors, heads out in search of his missing child.

Resident Evil Village looks fantastic, that was my first impression of the game. It must be the power of the new generation of consoles as the lighting in particular was darn impressive. Heading from the bright and snowy outdoors to darkened interiors was a joy, due to the gradual change from light to dark. Character models and enemies also looked good, but then that was also true of the previous game. I feared I would lose a lot by not being in VR but that wasn't the case. Village has a lot more combat than the core game in Biohazard, too much so in fact by the games finale. For three quarters of the game however the balance between combat and exploration is spot on, is just a shame it devolves into a very linear action packed final act that did eat away at my overall enjoyment.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard 'End of Zoe' (2017) - Horror Video Game DLC Review (Playstation 4)

After finishing the enjoyable Not A Hero DLC story for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard I had high hopes for End of Zoe. This one wasn't free after all so I imagined it would be bigger and better than Chris's campaign. Sadly though this may have some good moments but for the most part it is an exercise in supreme frustration.

Several months after the events of the game and hillbilly Joe, the brother of Jack, arrives at the swamp the main game took place at. He discovers his niece Zoe now in a monstrous form and assumes the nearby soldiers are the cause of this (they are actually there to help, arriving along with Chris Redfield at the end of the main game's story). He takes them captive and learns that there is a vaccine that may return Zoe to normal. Setting out into the swamp in search of this cure he discovers that there are plenty of monsters around, and also finds himself pursued by a powerful swamp creature who may just have a link to his past.

Going into this I knew that the combat for End of Zoe was all melee focussed with no guns to be found. I imagined somewhat foolishly that this meant I would be a powerful character. That isn't the case, a good eighty percent of this was stealth based misery. The game isn't built for stealth and so most of my two hour run time was spent repeating the same sections over and over again. It doesn't help that while crouched or while in the swamp you move at the speed of a snail. Repeatedly dying and having to slowly repeat the process over and over was not fun at all. Even worse are the alligator enemies. These are set up like puzzles, you have limited resources (a crafted single use spear is the only weapon capable of killing them) and should you kill the wrong one at the wrong time it will mean it isn't possible to proceed due to a lack of weapons. I wish the spears respawned, as doing a five minute section only to realise it is impossible to proceed was zero fun, it doesn't help that the targeting reticule for the spears lies to you, what seems like a sure fire attack will see your spear sailing off into the distance.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One (2012) - Horror Graphic Novel Review

This past weekend I haven't had much chance to work on my blog, actually real life stuff happening for once! This has resulted in me dipping into my 'break glass for emergency' blog posts. Needing to fill that out I have finally gotten around to reviewing Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One. I finished reading this a month or so ago so I can't imagine this will be the best review, certainly as I'm not too used to reviewing graphic novels. Saga of the Swamp Thing is made up of the stories that Northampton based legend Alan Moore wrote. Book One is made up of issues 20-27, originally published as The Saga of The Swamp Thing back in 1984.

Now I'm not sure how much influence Moore had in changing the direction and motivations of the titular character here but this begins with quite a change. The first issue of the book, Loose Ends has the army hunting down Swamp Thing and eventually 'killing' him. It was a bit of a dizzying way to start and had a variety of characters who I had no idea about. As Moore took up writing duties mid-way through an ongoing story this explains why things begin already in progress. It is second issue, The Anatomy Lesson where things begin to change with the revelation that Swamp Thing isn't a former human somehow transformed into a plant creature, but instead a plant creature that took on the memories of a dying human. This brings an identity crisis that is only resolved when Dr. Woodrue, a man obsessed with becoming a plant, initiates a disaster that could spell the end for humanity. This begins in Swamped and continues over Another Green World eventually getting resolved in Roots. The second half of book one is about a demonic entity that is after a deadly monster that has latched itself onto a young orphan boy. This takes place over the remaining issues of The Sleep of Reason..., ...A Time of Running... and ...By Demons Driven! 

As a teen I picked up a bunch of random Swamp Thing comics that had him travelling through time. It was a wonderful series of stories and I admit my main hope for getting Saga of the Swamp Thing was that I would be able to locate that arc. Despite that not happening yet I still really enjoyed my time with this. I always thought this character was like the Captain Planet of comic book heroes, all his stories to do with saving the environment and not much more. I liked all the horror elements that this graphic novel brought. Both with the murderous villains and the style of the stories. The Anatomy Lesson felt like proper horror, Swamp Thing taking on the role of a silent antagonist hunting down his captor, the whole issue narrated by someone at that point not directly involved. The later demon influenced series of stories had some clever writing, in particular the sinister man (quite possibly a devil) who is able to see the grim fates of the people he meets, reminded me of Leland Gaunt from Needful Things, preceding it as that character didn't emerge until the early nineties. 

The book ends with the main stories resolved but with plenty of loose plot threads left open to take the story in interesting directions, I'm especially interested to see what happens to Swamp Thing's human best friend Abbey's boyfriend. The art throughout this felt very eighties in style, in my opinion the art throughout that decade in comic books was excellent, they really don't make things as detailed as that era anymore sadly, at least with the big heroes. I did struggle at times to follow the story in that it was quite obtuse in how it all plays out, on occasion some of Moore's words seemed a bit melodramatic, such as when he relates the rain as if 'someone had taken a razor blade to the sky' or something similar. Still, I have Book Two ready to go and having enjoyed this one a lot I am excited to see where else this dark journey takes me.


Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard 'Not A Hero' (2017) - Horror Video Game DLC Review (Playstation 4)

My time with the DLC for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was a strange one. Despite loving the core game I just never felt in the mood to play the DLC, even after a second playthrough a few years later I only marginally dipped my rotted toes into the 'Banned Footage' part of it, which was a series of small mini-games that were actually canonical. To be honest I had totally forgotten about this extra content for the game, it was only after buying Resident Evil Village that I realised I now had to play it so that I was up to date with the story. Not A Hero was actually free so it will be hard to be too harsh on this.

This takes place immediately after the main campaign finishes. With Ethan airlifted out of the estate Chris Redfield is able to carry out his intended mission, that is to capture or kill Lucas Baker due to his connections to a black market bioweapon group known as The Connection. Your team identify his location as the Abercrombie Salt Mine. You find Lucas but things don't go to plan, with Chris ending up with an explosive device attached to his wrist. Warned to stop chasing him, Chris instead decides to head onwards, attempting to rescue various members of his team, who have been captured, along the way.

I had heard Not A Hero was far more action orientated than the main game and this was right. Weirdly you only have access to a shotgun and a pistol throughout the ninety minute story. I would have thought with the amount of enemies around you would have gotten more weapons than that. Ammo is also very scarce, so scarce that it can be possible to fail sections due to entirely running out of the stuff. Luckily Chris has an ace up his sleeve, if you stun an enemy you can then follow up with a swinging punch that knocks any enemy off their feet (Chris of course infamously once punched a giant boulder to death), and of course you have access to grenades, flame grenades and stun grenades.

Monday, 22 November 2021

An Intrusion (2021) - Thriller Film Review

I'll start off with my whole spiel about how I never really look too deeply into films sent my way for review. I much prefer being surprised than going into a movie having a solid idea what it is about. Nicholas Holland's An Intrusion (directed, written and edited by him) I thought was going to be a home invasion thriller, instead it uses the home invasion idea as a leaping off point for one man forced to confront the demons from his past. This featured an unlikeable protagonist but as the story progresses it becomes obvious that this was the point.

It is the run up to Christmas and one dark night teenage Rebecca (Angelina Danielle Cama - Agramon's Gate) encounters an intruder in her home, her screams scaring the figure off. The next day, her father Sam (Dustin Prince - Last Call) receives an email that reveals the intruder was linked to him, and that this person knows that Sam has been cheating on his wife, Joyce (Erika Hoveland - Blood Immortal, Before I Wake). With Sam's increasingly erratic behaviour, and the disappearance of Rebecca's teenage boyfriend (who Sam had disliked) the police begin to suspect that he may be the person responsible for all the troubles. Wanting to keep his secrets safe Sam decides to try and deal with the mystery intruder himself, while trying to also deal with the police's increasing suspicion of his activities.

The biggest obstacle I had with An Intrusion was that Sam was the central character the film followed around. It was quickly established he was more than a bit of a jerk, and I was also put off with how easily he was able to lie and hide his actions from all around him. This actually was quite the point of Sam, his affair with another woman establishes that this ability to lie isn't a new thing, so becomes much less of an issue. The way the story plays out eventually explains away this deficit to his character in a way that was very interesting. In other films of this type it would have been the daughter or maybe even the wife who would have been the protagonist, so with them relegated to side roles it changed things up slightly. Joyce gets her own chance to reveal her innermost thoughts, but sadly Rebecca doesn't have that opportunity. This was strange, especially when her boyfriend goes missing relatively early into the film and yet she seems to show little to no reaction for the duration. Come to think of it nor do any of the other characters. This plot point helps in making detective Savannah Simpson (Scout Taylor-Compton - The Lurker, Cynthia) become suspicious of Sam, but that seems to be the only result, the movie ends with this part never resolved which felt a little odd.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Sleep (2020) - Horror Film Review

(original title Schlaf) is a German horror film that was directed and co-written by Michael Venus in his feature length directorial debut, Thomas Friedrich making up the other half of the writing duties. Slow burning horror films sometimes struggle to maintain a good balance resulting in them feeling over long or short on much of anything happening. Thankfully Sleep straddles that line very well.

Marlene (Sandra Hüller) has suffered horrific recurring nightmares her whole life, but after seeing the exact same hotel that features in these dreams on an airline flier, she sees it as vindication that she isn't crazy. Without telling her daughter Mona (Gro Swantje Kohlhof) of her intentions she decides to head to the hotel, Sunny Hill that is located in a remote German village. Once there she promptly has a mental breakdown, it is only after Mona receives a call from a hospital close to the village that she discovers what has happened to her mother. Mona decides to go and stay at the hotel, in order to both be close to where her mother (now in a catatonic state) is being looked after, but also to try and see if there is any truth to her insistence that what she dreams about has actually happened. It isn't long until Mona begins to see eerie similarities between the places and people her mother had previously sketched out and the real life hotel and people from the village's past. As the lines between dreams and reality begin to blur Mona begins to worry that her mother's apparent insanity may be hereditary.

I liked Sleep quite a lot, it wouldn't be truthful to say I was hooked right away but even in the first act I was appreciative of the style and direction of the film. The story is a mystery that unfolds over the course of the hundred minute run time. The main events having occurred many years in the past, it is up to Mona to piece together what has happened, and what link it has to her family, by analysing her mum's cryptic drawings and words. Helping her is the hotel owner, the prideful Otto (August Schmölzer) who has high hopes for Sunny Hill. The small cast of characters have a lot going on, with the intentions of a few of the more key characters hidden from the viewer. Scenes play out rather confusingly later in the film, due to the motivations occurring off film, leading to some surreal moments. Mona herself doesn't have much to her, but I loved this about the character, she is a fresh face in a small village full of secrets so she almost serves as a proxy for the viewer. Despite her lack of emotion for most of Sleep I came to enjoy her, she was strangely likeable.

Friday, 19 November 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for November 2021

With an increase in reviews this month this shall be my sole mini-news round-up, and mostly based on promises I made to a couple of people. First up though, a bit of late news as I had planned to put it into a proper post but instead decided to incorporate it here. The final Zombies map released for Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War a couple of months back. It was titled 'Forsaken' and had you fighting waves of zombies at the antagonists HQ. I have to admit I've only played it twice, I was more than disappointed to see that rather than a new location they instead very lazily reused a map from the campaign. It has some changes to it but mostly it felt far too familiar. It's old news anyway as Call of Duty: Vanguard recently released with its own new style of Zombies.

Secret Cinema in collaboration with Sony have announced Ghostbusters: The Gates of Gozer. This is a live experience that is set one year after the events of Ghostbusters. This live event is online rather than in a physical location. In it you compete alongside teammates that may be friends, family, or complete strangers. You all take place in an interactive experience in which you talk to live actors as you undertake missions and visit iconic locations. The synopsis has you as a new student at the Paranormal Institute being trained by the Ghostbusters in how to battle ghosts. I will let the press release sum it up: 'People will enroll to explore the haunted realms of New York in teams of six and they will have the chance to meet new and familiar faces during the show while they get trained in key skills including parapsychology, and science and technology. Once in live paranormal scenarios students must use quick wits, live improvisation, and a range of gadgets to hunt the trickiest or most malevolent of spooks as they work their way through the experience'. General tickets to this event went on sale on November 1st, for more details head to the Secret Cinema website, here.

Comedy crime horror The Killing Death has recently been added to the streaming service Tubi, with the post apocalyptic sequel, Cybernetic Showdown also heading there soon. There is also due to be a double feature DVD being released at some point in the near future.

The Romane Simon directed The Devil In My Heart arrived on all major VOD platforms on November 9th. This stars Emily Killian, Tom Sizemore and daytime soap stars Judi Evans and Matthew Ashford. This is about a woman who is on the search for her missing husband after surviving a violent home invasion.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Mimicry Freaks (2019) - Horror Film Review

You have to love a bit of Asian body horror, and that is what you get with Mimicry Freaks. This was written and directed by Shugo Fujii (Living Hell) and is quite messed up. Unfortunately the screener I watched only had subtitles using the 'closed caption' feature and so I had to translate in my head a lot of the garbled English subtitles I was being provided with. That isn't a fault of the film itself so I will try not to let that part of this affect my review.

In a secret lab in the middle of a vast Japanese forest a young deranged child has escaped, this child has the ability to take on the form of any other human it comes into contact with. Meanwhile, a wedding planner, a young man, his girlfriend and her father are on their way to a wedding rehearsal when the car they are travelling in breaks down. They head to a house they spot in the nearby forest, but on the way are attacked by a hulking figure dressed up like a mythological Japanese monster.

Mimicry Freaks doesn't try and tell its story in a linear fashion, instead it hops around a bit in time every now and again. It felt like it was designed to feel like a nightmare and incorporates into the picture physical manifestations of various character's hallucinations. This all adds up to it never being completely clear exactly what is going on. The core story is about Ren, the small boy, and the scientists who are trying to recapture him. The wedding planner story is a subplot that brings with it its own horror, the giant masked man and the way he carries himself reminded me a lot of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That may be fitting as IMDB states the tagline for this movie is 'The America style horror that can only be made in Japan'. I think the style gone for here was to recreate an American feeling horror but with a Japanese twist as that suggests. That can surely be seen with the amount of body horror going on.

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Zombie Date Night (2021) - Horror Comic Review

Zombie Date Night
is a 32 page comic book that was written by Steve Urena (Slow Pokes),drawn by Sergi Doménech, edited by Allegra Calderaro, lettered by Anthony Rella and coloured by Josh Jensen. One look at the hyper stylised artwork and it should be no surprise this particular zombie outbreak is of the comedic kind. Earlier this year it enjoyed a successful Kickstarter in which it raised $6,071 of its $3,000 goal.

Nerdy Jack has managed to hook a date with a girl he had been speaking to on a dating app, he chooses the local mall as the place to meet, a place that is full of friends and family, including his grandma Abuelita, and his best friend Blake. The girl, Ginger, turns out not to be entirely like Jack expected her to be, but then nor is he to her (thanks to some photoshopped images he put of himself on the app). With a bad start their date goes from bad to worse with it seeming increasingly unlikely the two will be a match. Perversely it is the sudden zombie outbreak that occurs in the mall that finally starts to unite them. Teaming up with Jack's family and friends they all start to battle their way to the mall's rooftop where they hope they will be able to get help.

This felt very modern, I'm used to reading comic books that feel trapped in time with it never really clear what decade it is meant to be set. Here, things such as lockdowns and anti-vax conspiracy theories both get a mention, while the set-up of the two protagonists meeting on a dating app also felt quite present day. The characters here were all irritating in their own way, Jack in particular is a really flawed one with his flaws continuing well past the initial discovery of the undead invasion. Perpetually furious Ginger is no better, their initial zero chemistry is obviously one of the comedic elements but I did wonder how they ever decided to meet up when they seem to have nothing in common. Shoutout goes to the war veteran character who at some point in the story behind the scenes changes her false leg to a chainsaw attachment!

I thought the artwork fitted the comedic vibe well, each panel was full of life, with characters wearing their emotions visibly on their faces. I think my favourite part about the art was the colouring, there are lots of vibrant, yet muted colour schemes going on, which even applies to the undead and their bright green tongues, visually attractive stuff. The story is mainly action focussed once things start happening so there wasn't a whole tonne of character development outside of the two leads, still there were some unexpected moments throughout the story, and I liked how there are unanswered questions as to how these undead operate.

Zombie Date Night was a fast moving story with a cool art style, the up to date setting and the mainly younger cast may have made me feel a bit old but I appreciated this as a slice in time snapshot, something that not many zombie stories try to achieve. From the open ending I expect there will be more to come from this new undead series.


Tuesday, 16 November 2021

C.A.M (2013) - Found Footage Horror Film Review

is a found footage horror written and co-directed by Steph Du Melo (As A Prelude to Fear) along with Larry Downing. I was surprised to see this was released in 2013 as it felt strangely prescient to what the world has gone through in the past couple of years. Here you have a contagious virus spread via airborne particles, with the infected exhibiting flu like symptoms. This would also be an anti-vaxxers wet dream as this very much plays along the lines of any kind of vaccine for a viral outbreak perhaps having sinister side effects.

The film is set out as a mockumentary about a viral outbreak at a remote meat packing plant that was covered up by the government. The host, titled as Alt Media Interviewer has managed to get hold of an exclusive interview with a medical worker (Michael Swatton) who was on the scene. Intercut with this interview the found footage from a camera crew and special forces police squad has been pieced together to show the real events of what happened. The two camera operators, Jo (Charlotte Curwood) and Kyle (Tom Ware) had been hired to follow the special forces squad into the containment zone in order to make it look to any outsiders like it was just a training exercise that was going on. It soon becomes clear that something terrible is unfolding, the squad encounter extremely aggressive infected people who attack them on sight. With radio contact to outside the quarantine zone cut off, the squad must find a way to escape the madness.

There some elements of C.A.M that I really liked and some parts that I wish in a modern day setting to remain confined to the old style of found footage horrors. There is lots and lots of shaky hand cam footage here that legitimately made me feel queasy, I had just drank a strong cup of coffee when watching this so that added to my sick feeling. Thankfully the shaky hand cam only makes up around a quarter of the film as a whole, but whenever Jo or Kyle became the people the film was following I had to frequently look away from it. What worked much much better was the police squad's helmet cam. This footage looked fantastic, for one thing it was a whole lot less shaky, but it also brought you into the story a whole lot more than camera operators. I kind of got to wishing that Jo and Kyle had been cut out completely as the police squad were great characters, I got a vague feel for the team from the original Resident Evil movie. Characters such as 'Princess' (Jamie Langlands - As A Prelude to Fear) and 'Maggot' (Daniel Jeary), as well as their commanding officer with the ever pixelated out face were fun to follow around. I love their initial hesitance to use firearms on the defenceless infected civilians, often resorting to their batons to beat people back, I also loved how they slowly begin to lose their cool as the events of the film progress.

Sunday, 14 November 2021

Mute (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

A good many years ago I read a Stephen King book that was made up of many short stories he had written. Leaving that I was convinced he was straight up not good at a reduced format. Mute is a new short horror film, directed by and with a screenplay by Kyle Dunbar, the story was an adaptation of a King short of the same name written in 2008. I'm happy to report that this exceeded my expectations.

Monette (Andrew Bee - Suicide Squad), a middle aged travelling salesman, arrives at the church of a Catholic priest (Christian Tribuzio) one day, wanting to confess his sins. This is something he hasn't done since he was a child, but he fears he may have possibly committed a terrible sin. Monette then recounts a chilling tale that all started when he picked up a deaf and mute hitchhiker (Alexandre Stoupenkov - Terminator: Tech-Com) one dark night while travelling on the road.

I loved this film, the story was a perfect fit for its twenty two minute run time. Firstly I do love the plot device of a character in the present talking about a past event that then becomes the main part of the movie. I always find this really hooks me in, and with the intriguing angle of a man unsure whether he had done something terrible or not I needed to know how everything would all turn out. The majority of the film has Monette travelling in his car as he complains about his cheating wife to the hitchhiker who appears unable to hear him. He finds it soothing to be able to speak aloud all his troubles to someone, even if they can't actually hear his words. Every now and again the film goes back to the present, these were made humorous due to the priest having a dinner date planned and so wants Monette to hurry up with his recollection. Of course Mute finishes in the present, leading up to a fantastic ending shot.

The story is mainly shown with the camera on Bee as he speaks, the dialogue was interesting enough that it didn't matter there was no deeper visual context to the things he speaks about, outside of one part where a walk in closet is shown when he mentions it. Despite just being speaking I found myself a little bit chilled with the revelation that comes at Mute's end.

With a perfectly chosen cast and a story that would only ever work in a short format, Mute was a great film, a reminder that it is not good to speak too much, especially if it is to complete strangers. Mute had its world premiere at the London Rocks Film Festival on October 20th.


Friday, 12 November 2021

Dark Ditties Presents: Dad (2021) - Horror Episode/Film Review

Dark Ditties Presents 
describes itself as '...a very British dark, comedy-horror anthology series'. Each episode brings returning actors playing different roles in a similar style to American Horror Story, and all seem to at least somewhat be tangentially related to each other. Previous episodes include The Offer, Mrs. Wiltshire, Finders Keepers, and The Witching Hour, with Dad being the fifth one. Dad is a zombie story based in England, which I noticed in the end credits was part filmed in Northampton. It was cool to see something about the undead had been partly created in my hometown!

Zombie apocalypse has swept the globe, seemingly as a result of a popular cultish new religion. David (Corin Silva - Dark Ditties Presents: The Witching Hour) has been not only trying his best to survive, but also doing his best to take care of his dementia suffering father, Terry (Game of Thrones). His Dad doesn't understand that the world has fallen to ruin, he doesn't even recognise David, who he assumes to be his carer. After meeting up with some other survivors, crooks Jerry (Bruce Jones) and Steve (Neil Cole), as well as the cowardly Keith (Simon Bamford - Hellraiser), they are all attacked by zombies and end up fleeing to a large country house they spot. This home is where the Reverend Alistair O'Brian (Mark Wingett - Dead Again) and his daughter, Elizabeth (Jamila Wingett) live. As is often the case, while the survivors think they are safe now they have escaped the undead the real threat may come from the living.

A lazy way to sum this up would be to imagine 28 Days Later if the group had arrived at the mansion right away rather than at film's end, and if instead of a squad of soldiers there was a crazed God fearing priest. Much of the film is heavy on dialogue with the undead relegated to a few key scenes. A lot of this conversation is around people having lost loved ones, such as Keith's admittance of what happened with his family, to David talking about bad past encounters he has had with other humans. The heart of the episode comes with David's interactions with his father. Searching my memory I don't think I have ever seen a piece of zombie media in which there is a character suffering debilitating dementia. There was a believable rapport between the two, the cruel disease  has made David's survival so much harder due to having to constantly be watching over his Dad, who as far as he is concerned has just gone off on a trip. Terry could have been an annoyance but instead he worked to really show the heartache that David is going through.

It was no great surprise to learn that Alistair was the human antagonist of the episode. It was a cool touch that this character appears in the prologue in which 'patient zero', in this case a priest from the new religious group, kills himself on live TV during a debate with Alistair, seemingly to usher in a sudden undead uprising. Wingett plays the role in an over the top way, but an enjoyable portrayal that made him into a fun bad guy. Much of the episode takes place within the mansion, with the undead trapped outside, but things of course begin to fall apart. There are slight clichés, such as David getting infected early on and trying to conceal his injuries, but things like this are given a new breath of air in that David is very concerned what will happen to his father. His aim starts to become trying to find a way that his dad will be looked after once he has gone. I haven't seen other episodes, but this one fits the bill of being dark, though this was not a comedy horror, this was drama mixed with horror. One element that worked surprisingly well was that whenever David is knocked out or sleeping he finds himself in the office of a creepy psychiatrist, Dr, Edward Brunner. This character's therapy sessions with David reveals hidden information about him, as well as provides a clean way for his inner thoughts to be expressed on film. This could have came across as silly, but I enjoyed them. It felt similar to a concept used in both the Silent Hill: Shattered Memories and Until Dawn videogames. It was these parts that I think most shared ideas that other episodes have featured, especially with the constant referral to a possibly demonic figure.

Watching Dad as a standalone film, rather than taking it as part of an ongoing series I still found this to be very enjoyable. The acting was all of a high standard and I loved the new ideas that were brought to the genre. Despite some lack lustre make-up effects on the undead this was impressive stuff indeed and well worth a watch. Dark Ditties Presents is available to watch on both Amazon Prime and Vimeo.


Thursday, 11 November 2021

The Rotting Zombie Interviews Jin Chan Yum Wai (creative director of the Undying video game)

is a new zombie game that comes from developer Vamimals. Rather than be a generic and mindless shooter like so many other games out there this instead is trying to do something that not too many games do. The game has you as a mother who has recently been bitten by a zombie during a zombie apocalypse. Realising that she is soon to join the ranks of the rotten walkers she decides she must train her young son how to survive on his own. Undying is a survival sim that takes place over a series of days. As well as defending against zombies you must also forage for food and supplies, with everything you do assisting in training your child. I was able to interview the game's creative director, Jin Chan Yum Wai about his game. 

How would you sum up Undying in a short paragraph?

Undying is a survival game where you play as an infected mother, whose time is limited. She must teach her son how to survive before she completely turns.

What were your inspirations behind Undying and what made you decide to go down a more emotional path rather than a typical mindless shooter?

Our previous game before this was an action heavy VR title, so we wanted to change it up a bit. As for the emotional path in the zombie genre, I think it was just something that was more appealing to us, there are games like "The Last of Us" and Telltale's "The Walking Dead" which are both excellent, but there is nothing quite like what we are trying to do with more "open" gameplay.

How difficult was it to create an A.I character that the player would want to care for (outside of that being a core goal of the game)?

It's very difficult! And it's something we are tweaking nearly every day. The balance we need to strike with Cody is vulnerability and usefulness. He needs to act like a child enough that you feel compelled to want to protect him, but he also needs to be useful enough so that you don't feel like he's always getting in the way. Hopefully we have been able to get the balance right.

What do you hope players will get out of your game?

We hope that people experience an intimate and emotional journey about a mother and her son, where you really feel their connection. There are many zombie games with a "parent figure" and a child but none where it's the actual parent. We hope players can feel that difference.

Finally, what is your favourite zombie movie?

Oh, it's definitely a toss up between Shaun of the Dead and 28 Weeks Later.

Undying acquired over 110,000 wishlists on Steam and has recently launched into Early Access. For more details and to purchase the game or try out the demo then head to its Steam page here.

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

As A Prelude to Fear (2021) - Thriller Film Review

There is something about British indie films that make them seem all the more indie, I think I put it down to the regional accents that I am so used to hearing on soaps on TV that makes these films seem cheesier. The Steph Du Melo (C.A.M) directed and co-written As A Prelude to Fear is one such example, maybe it was due to me having low hopes, but I found this to be pretty decent, and I soon found myself fully on board looking forward to how it would all play out.

Eve (Lara Lemon) is a young woman who has arranged to get cello lessons with a new tutor, after the last one, Giles Corcoran (Roger Wyatt - C.A.M) drove her away due to his nasty personality. She chose the wrong person though as when she arrives at the remote location she was told to head to, she is drugged and kidnapped. She wakes up in a basement dungeon where another girl in a similar situation tells her that she must obey the rules of her captor if she wants to survive. Meanwhile, Eve's worried boyfriend Jaime (Jamie Langlands) has contacted the police, and after D.S Dobson (Lucy Drive - Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead) hears of this she notices similarities with an older case and contacts her superior, DCS Barnbrook (Francis Magee - The Witcher, Game of Thrones). This man is obsessed with a suspected serial killer the media dubbed The Pied Piper, so much so that it almost destroyed his career in the past due to his dogged harassment of the sole suspect, none other than Corcoran. Now Barnbrook once again convinced of the man's guilt sets out to right the wrongs of the past and finally bring justice to the suspected killer.

So story wise I thought it was very obvious who the killer's identity turned out to be. It was however a fun choice and so I really didn't mind that it didn't take too much brain power to deduct. There were two stand out actors here and one of those was Wyatt. He plays such a despicable character so well, I hated this guy and thought to myself even if it turned out he wasn't responsible he still deserved any bad thing that came his way. That was the desired effect so it is good that the role was played exactly right. Another stand out actor here was Magee, I loved his Barnbrook character. He is as cliché as they come, even having a typical talk with Dobson about not letting the job take over her life. His whole countenance was excellent, he really did look like every jaded detective you have ever seen in a film or show. That wasn't a bad thing though as he stole all his scenes. Other characters were not all as strong and that is down at times to what I assume is budget constraints and how the story plays out.

Monday, 8 November 2021

Dante's Shadow of Sin (2021) - Horror Film Review

It is another year and another film from Denver based indie filmmaker Dakota Ray (Sebastian's Unholy Flesh, The Dark Days of Demetrius). That is no bad thing as Ray's films really have a unique style to them that sets them apart from nearly anything else. Dante's Shadow of Sin is the eighth film. While again it features Ray in a starring role as a depraved serial killer, this time around the story is a lot more focussed and a little less abstract.

Dante (Ray) is a man who for the past two years has been strangely haunted by his murder of a young woman. When he gets a letter out of the blue from an old acquaintance, Mahoganny (Fred Epstein -  American Scumbags, The Acid Sorcerer), with an invite to the property that happens to be where the woman's corpse was buried, Dante sees this as a sign. Determined to confront his past, he decides to meet up with his buddy, planning to kill him off in order to finally put those events to rest. Unknown to him however is that Mahoganny likewise intends to murder Dante. Over the course of one drug fuelled night the two both start to enact their sinister plans.

There is usually a colour tint to the whole of Ray's movies and this is no exception. This time around everything is an electric blue colour. As well as giving it a unique look this also creates a strange atmosphere. From start to finish this has the feel of a pervading nightmare which even feeds into the flow of the story. Despite Dante and Mahoganny being at the house to have a wild night together they actually rarely are in the same place at the same time, both off doing their own thing. Over time these films have gone from a more grounded nihilistic look at a depraved world into one that has more supernatural overtones. Here it is never implied what is real and what isn't, but you have various totems speaking to the two characters, revealing secrets about their lives. The cursed doll that Dante receives in the post, and a demonic figurine both speak to him, while the corpse of a white rabbit reveals to Mahoganny secrets about his friend's real intentions. 

Saturday, 6 November 2021

The Alien Report (2021) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review

The Alien Report
is a found footage sci-fi horror that purports to recreate actual witness testimony from people who think they have been abducted by aliens. It has some great make-up effects on the one hand, but a very unlikeable protagonist and not much of a plot. Still, there aren't many found footage films to my knowledge that deal with a topic like this, so should be commended for that.

Braxton Hale plays a troubled young man whose life has been made even harder than it already was due to frequently being abducted by aliens. In desperation to get the truth out there he chronicles his daily life using a variety of secret cameras built into his clothing, his bike, and his hearing aid. There is no splash screen to say where the footage we are being shown is put together from, but it follows a somewhat linear path. Two thirds of the film has the character in his day to day paranoid existence, spouting 'Trenchcoat Mafia' style musings as to the nature of life, albeit with a laser point focus on his abduction experiences. Spotted throughout is the other third of the film which takes place aboard a UFO, with the character in a passive state as his camera picks up on all the activity around him.

Where The Alien Report first falls down for me is with the central protagonist. I understand he is a serious person, but his obsession with aliens made him into a bland personality vacuum. He complains about constantly being taken, but I had to feel sorry for the poor aliens constantly having to deal with this killjoy. That is not to say that Hale gives a bad performance, he is believable in the role, helped by the long time he is on camera in-between scenes. There are several sped up long shots of him riding around on the subway while he stares into the camera, there are several chase scenes where he literally runs a few blocks in one constant recording. Aside from a few others he is the only face on screen with a voice. He attempts to explain what is going on and what the alien's motivations are, but this is all self important and a lot of guess work.

Friday, 5 November 2021

The Untaken by Bekki Pate (2020) - Horror Book Review

One of the benefits exclusive to eBooks is that you can't tell how big a novel is going to be unless you specifically search that out. Bekki Pate's The Untaken is 418 pages so was longer than most recent novels I have read. I have a habit of not wanting to really know much about any film or book I consume, with a novel such as this it really made the experience a whole lot better as this is a morphing, evolving story that skirts across several different genres.

The first act of the book was The Untaken at its most horror like, I had a real feeling of James Herbert's The Dark reading this. Taking place entirely within the household of a family that includes Mitch, his brother Jacob, their mother, Clara, as well as Jacob's wife Sophie and their new-born child Ava, things are not right. Everyone is behaving strangely, Jacob is drinking heavily but unable to notice he is doing so, Clara is similar in that she is smoking very heavily but insisting she isn't. Mitch meanwhile is having troubling nightmares. This first act worked so darn well due to the claustrophobia that Pate brings. The whole situation is made sinister both due to all the stuff going on, and that the reader has been dumped right in the middle with no context for it all. I would have been happy should this have been the entire novel, in particular Mitch having feelings for his brother's wife all read as so believable. It was a shock then that the second act not only takes place a number of years later, but that there is a new cast of characters introduced with their own seemingly unrelated story going on. So unrelated that it is even a different type of horror.

The more I go into the book the less I want to say about subsequent acts. The second act is more sci-fi horror. Here we follow air traffic control worker Charlie and her best friend, Ed. Both share a secret, that for many, many years they are constantly getting abducted by aliens and having experiments performed on them. These aliens are the classic large headed 'greys'. This part of the novel was just as good as the first act. For one I was really confused with how this at all related to act one, but that I knew the book would eventually reveal this to me. I liked the found footage idea that the duo are constantly filming themselves to try and get evidence of what is happening, and the nightmare recollections of their abductions. The third act again switches things up and takes things into a more action orientated direction that takes place in a different country entirely. There were parts to this that I didn't think worked as well, namely the introduction of an almost comedic character named Chris who felt like he came from a certain Greg Mottola directed film from 2011. The other part I'm not sure I was on board with was the suggestion of more story to come. The plot got to a natural stopping point where things could have been wrapped up, instead it leaves it all wide open for a follow up.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Discovery (2021) - Horror Documentary Review

Whenever a new documentary from Seth Breedlove (Momo: The Missouri Monster, Terror in the Skies) is released I am always interested in checking it out. He has covered a variety of subjects over the years, mainly zoological explorations, so to call this a horror documentary is a bit of a misnomer. One subject that he has repeatedly returned to is that of Bigfoot, so it must hold a fascination for him, that or it is the more popular of his documentaries. Following on from On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Journey that released earlier this year, comes On the Trail of Bigfoot: The Discovery that promises real evidence of the elusive sasquatch.

Where the previous documentary was also exploring just what it is like to make one during a global pandemic, this latest one is a lot more insular. It is set in the one location, the Olympic Peninsula in western Washington and has Breedlove and his small crew joining up with a group of Bigfoot searchers, members of the Olympic Project. A lot of the doc has them leading the crew around the various parts of the peninsula where there have been sightings. Along the way there are plenty of interviews conducted, with many of the groups members having had sightings at some point in their life. Whether it be accounts one had as a child, to more recent sightings, these were all interesting in their own way, often accompanied by some simple animated recreations. With a seventy five minute run time this felt it flowed better than the last one. Even here there are many many shots of people walking in slow motion through admittedly beautiful looking woodland environments.

The cherry on top this time around, as the title implies, is the promised discovery, and this appears in the form of ground nests. While the nests were not still around at the time of the documentary, Breedlove is taken to the spot they used to be and speaks to many of the group who were there when they were discovered. There is plenty of evidence provided by the group as to the nature of the nests, what they were built with, and how they were built. It isn't known for certain what built these, but the group think it couldn't have been any known creatures and if it was a hoax then it was a strange place to have created it due to the remote and hard to reach location.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Under Blood Lake by I.D Russell (2021) - Comedy Horror Book Review

A few years back I had the pleasure of watching Ian Russell's low budget comedy horror film The Killing Death. A stand out character from that film was Frank Malone, a no nonsense jaded super detective. Russell is also an author, and his novelisation of the film expanded on the story greatly. His latest novel, Under Blood Lake is a prequel of sorts, though unrelated to the actual story of The Killing Death it does have the wonderful Frank Malone character as the central protagonist.

It is the eighties and Detective Inspector Sergeant Frank Malone learns that his brother has died in the sleepy fishing town of Lakeshore under (blood lake) strange circumstances. His boss, maybe wanting to get Frank and his blunt way of performing his duties out of River City, gives the man a weeks leave to go and get his brothers affairs in order. Frank is convinced there is more to his brother's death than meets the eye, with it already being suspicious that he apparently died by accidentally driving his car into the lake while drunk, when it was known that he was a teetotaller. Lakeshore is a place that is not welcoming to outsiders and the more Frank tries to learn exactly what happened the more resistance he gets from the locals who just want him to leave.

Russell describes the book as a mix between H.P Lovecraft's Shadow Over Innsmouth and Dirty Harry. Both these inspirations are obvious to see. With the former you have the legend of fish people said to live in the lake, and the later is Frank's often wild way of performing his police work. Frank as a character reminds me more than anything of Leslie Nielsen's character Frank Drebin from Police Squad, it helps that Jeremy Dangerfield who excellently played Frank in The Killing Death has a similar look to that character. In that film and book Frank had a straight man to play off against. I had a mild fear that Frank unleashed on his own would become a bit exhausting due to his crazy ways. This doesn't really come to pass due to the assortment of characters Frank meets who are just as weird as he is. From the alcoholic Captain Jack to the sex crazed host at his Bed and Breakfast, there aren't many typically normal people to be found. Unlike Drebin, who often seemed to be successful in spite of his insanity, Frank is a great detective, so his journey and unfolding investigation plays out well. It could be said the story wraps up a bit too neatly in a whirlwind of a final act, but I loved this unleashed version of the character and how quickly he resolves everything, in comparison to a Frank trying his best to play by the rules.

Under Blood Lake is comedic but it also tells a horror story, these two elements blend together satisfyingly with neither over shadowing the other. There are plenty of ridiculous conversations with funny wordplay that was always entertaining. I also appreciated the melding of the real with the fantastical. Without going into details the Canadian folk singer Stan Rogers features heavily here. I assumed he was a fictional character but then there is an afterword by Russell who explains the inclusion of this singer into his story was done out of love for the artists work. Ideas such as this reminded me a lot of the far fetched fiction of Robert Rankin, a sub-genre that has always appealed. The story wasn't as light as I thought it would be, well as light as a story can be that starts with a man and his girlfriend getting decapitated. Some of the events of the book get dark, from murder all the way up to rape. It was a decent mix, maybe my favourite parts being Frank's frequent encounters with the bumbling goons of a local gangster.

Russell has a style of writing that just makes his novels so easy to read, Under Blood Lake was an enjoyable breeze to get though, the story may not have been too surprising taken as a whole, but there were definite moments I did not expect, and the character of Frank was always a central highlight.