Friday, 31 December 2021

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

Another strange elongated year is about to draw to a close. I don't think back in January I thought we would still be in such a bizarro world, but here we are, at least in the UK things are better than they were twelve months ago. The only thing that has changed with regards to my blog is that I no longer have a cinema card and so barely ever go to one. When I went to see Halloween Kills back in October it was a bit of a chaotic free for all, it made me realise how much I really hate being in crowds of people nowadays, not that I ever did enjoy that, being an introvert as I am. Anyway, enough rambling, onto the news!

Erica Summers' Obsidian came to VOD on September 3rd from Midnight Releasing. This horror stars Henry Frost, Olivia Peck, Frank R. Wilson and Hick Cheramie and is about the demonic side effects of a revolutionary tissue regeneration drug during clinical trials.

Hart D. Fisher's Bill the Bull: Omnibus released in November from Boneyard Press. This includes 325 pages of 'pulse-pounding, knuckle-cracking vintage 90s outlaw comics'. The collection includes art by Duncan Rouleau (The Nightmarist), John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men, Captain America), George Perez (Wonder Woman, New Teen Titans), Frank Forte (Warlash, Vampire Verses), John Lucas (Dark Horse), John Herbert (Marvel), Rick Veitch (Brat Pack), Kyle Hotz (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse) and more.

Cassondra Windwalker's new book, Hold My Place is due for release on January 25th, 2022 from Black Spot Books. This is about a woman named Sigrun who falls for a married man. After the man's wife dies suddenly Sigrun discovers that every previous partner of the man's have also died of sudden illnesses, something that may have to do with dark magic and the dead inhabiting the bodies of the living.
I actually have a copy of this to read for review, though it is the fourth or fifth in an ever growing list. 

October saw the release of Anthony M. Caro's book Universal Monsters & Neurotics: Creatures of the Night and Their Hang-Ups. This does as the title suggests with a deep look into the various Universal monsters to explore their psychological issues.

Kane Hodder and Stacey Dixon star in Old Habits Die Hard which came to DVD on October 26th from Bayview Entertainment. A young woman hopes to leave her family and their business; the Hollis Mortuary behind, the only problem is her mother who will do all she can to not let that happen.

JustWatch is an international streaming guide with apparently more than 20 million users across 74 countries. They have released their list of the top 10 movies and top 10 TV shows streamed in the UK in 2021. Not all of these entries are relevant to my blog but I told them I would mention a couple. Perhaps unsurprisingly the Netflix sensation Squid Game is in the top half, here it is in at number 2, it was cool to see my personally favourite show The Walking Dead feature in the charts, at number 10. Elsewhere on the film side of things we have A Quiet Place Part II taking the top spot, with Godzilla vs. Kong in second place. 

Texas based darkwave band Sevit have released a new single and video for their song It Can't Rain All The Time. This song was inspired by James O'Barr's comic and the movie The Crow, in particular protagonist Eric Draven's fictional band, Hangman's Joke. Jackie Lego (vocals/guitar) says of the track "I wanted to revisit my hearts emotional vault and I wanted the words to belong to the film's character, Eric Draven, who I imagined to be dark, poetic, theatrical, daring, passionate and beautiful."

Arrow Video US have revealed their January 2022 releases. Coming on January 18th is Mario Bava's Shock. This stars Daria Nicolodi as Dora, a woman who moves into her old home with her young son and husband after going through electroshock treatment. Here she finds herself haunted by memories of her deceased first husband. This is a new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and the film was Bava's final movie before his untimely passing in 1980.
Also out on the 18th is Yasuzo Masumura's Red Angel, this is a war movie that takes place on the front lines in China during the second Sino-Japanese war.
Final release is the German horror Sleep. I gave this a grand eight out of ten rotting heads in my review, and I said of this '...slowly got better as it went along, and thanks to its visual style, the directing and the wonderful soundtrack was something that I had a good time with...'

Darkwave actor and actor Eric Oberto has released a new single, Darkness Never Lies. The song is 'about the lies people tell and the fears that rule their lives. It's a warning to live honestly, intently, and urgently. In your final darkness, all untold truths become your last regrets'. The single featured on the movie Amityville Cult, the video features as an extra on the DVD/Blu-ray national Walmart release that came out on November 16th.

Now to be honest I have had two huge cups of coffee today and some tea, so am suffering a queasy caffeine overdose currently, so this next bit will be my final bit of news for 2021...

Scottish film company Hex Studios announced its publishing wing, Hex Arcana last year and released a hardback short story anthology The Book of Beastly Creatures. Next for the publisher are pulp horror paperbacks, starting with the 1952 novel The Sound of His Horn by Sarban. This novel looks at a world in which the Nazis won the war and in which people are now hunted for sport. Horror critic and scholar Kim Newman provides a new foreword to the book. I hope everyone has a fantastic 2022!

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Trick or Treat (2021) - Short Horror Film Review

Trick or Treat is a short eight and a bit minute film that was based on the book of the same name by Lindy Ryan. It features illustrations by Timea Gazdag and was narrated by Sam Shearon, with animation by Dan Walters. This was the winner of the Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Film at the Cult Critic Movie Awards 2021.

Alistair Grey is a young boy who is disillusioned by his school's trick or treat event. While he is dressed as a mummy he is disappointed that many of his classmates haven't dressed as scary monsters. He decides to head outside in search of real monsters, and along the way learns the true meaning of Halloween.

There wasn't much to dislike here, the short is made up of rhyming couplets, and geared for children it obviously wasn't designed to be frightening. It was interesting that the explanation for Halloween was actually informative, providing such explanations such as the purpose of lit pumpkins and the reason for treats. The illustrations are sparsely animated but they looked nice, obviously inspired by Tim Burton's style, as well as Lemony Snicket's The Dark (that later one something I'm not familiar with) while I thought the simple tune that plays throughout was effective, quite fairy tale like. All in all, aside from a few moments where I couldn't quite understand what lines were being said, this wasn't bad.


Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Squid Game (2021) - Horror TV Show Review

You would have to have been living under a rock to not of heard of Netflix's astonishingly successful Squid Game. This South Korean show was created by Hwang Dong-hyuk and was based on an idea he originally had ten years previously. The show came out towards the start of 2021 so it may seem like it has taken me awhile to get through it, and it has indeed taken me a good few months to watch the whole thing. That wasn't down to lack of interest on my part, more that I was so invested in the characters here that I often found it a traumatic and anxiety inducing experience as I wanted all my favourites to survive, when it seemed very much like there would only be one survivor.

Seong Gi-hun (Lee Jung-jae) is a waster of a man. He has no job, still lives with his mother, owes vast amounts of money to both the bank and a loan shark, and has let down his ten year old daughter so much that she takes it as a given that he will continue to do so. One day a smartly dressed man approaches him with an offer, play a children's game with him and should he win he will be given some money. Eventually Gi-hun succeeds and is rewarded with both the money and a mysterious business card with a phone number on the back. Calling the number he is asked if he wants to participate in a special tournament in which the winners will gain vast sums of cash, to which Gi-hun readily agrees. He is taken to a large facility on a remote island where he finds himself one of 456 desperate contestants. Things start off fun but that turns to horror when the contestants realise that if they fail whichever game they happen to be playing they will be murdered. The survivors of the game are then given the choice to either continue the deadly games or return back to their lives, back in the real world however they realise how badly this money is needed and so return, complete in the knowledge that if they fail death will await them.

Squid Game takes place over nine episodes, each of which is roughly an hour long. With six different games taken place it makes sense that not each episode would contain a game, though these are very much the centrepiece of the series as a whole. I admit to being a bit impatient for the game to begin, due to this I found myself wishing things would speed up in first episode Red Light, Green Light. This introduction was needed though as it really displays protagonists Gi-hun life in an important way. He doesn't get given the best first impression, I thought he was a real idiot. Over the course of the show though it really comes out how much of a good person he actually is. He may have many faults, but he is a genuinely nice guy who goes out of his way to be kind to those around him. The episode really improves with the introduction of the first game, this made me eager to see the rest. While some of the games were not as exciting as others (notably the second game was the dullest of the lot), in general they were fantastic. I loved the cliffhanger finale of Stick to the Team, while the drama going on during the heart wrenching Gganbu changed what could have been boring to something that was powerful.
The plot managed to have plenty of unexpected twists, some of which worked better than others, the biggest twist was something that did surprise me. Squid Game is a self contained story, but it leaves enough dangling plot threads for the announced second season to capitalise on.

Tuesday, 28 December 2021

Silent Night (2012) - Horror Film Review

After watching the classic Christmas slasher Silent Night, Deadly Night I got a hankering to see the rest in the series. I didn't get too far with that due to there only being the first two entries on Shudder, but what I did find was the Steven C. Miller directed 2012 remake with the snappier title of Silent Night. Remakes really can be hit and miss, but upon noticing that one of my favourite genre actors, the legendary Malcolm McDowell was in it, I just had to give it a watch. Whether the best or worst film ever made it doesn't matter, for McDowell never fails to put in a spirited performance whatever the role, and here he certainly doesn't disappoint. 

It is Christmas Eve in the sleepy American town of Cryer and there is a serial killer on the loose dressed like Santa. Due to nothing exciting ever usually happening, the local sheriff, Cooper (McDowell - Rob Zombie's Halloween, A Clockwork Orange) relishes the chance to prove himself by hunting the man down, but one of his subordinates, Aubrey (Jaime King - My Bloody Valentine, Sin City) is determined to take things more cautiously. As the body count ramps up it becomes apparent that the crazed killer is targeting people seen to have sinned, and it becomes a race against time for Aubrey to find and stop the maniac before those she holds most dear are taken from her.

I can't say Silent Night started off good, the first kill, that takes place during the prologue was inventive (a man tied to an electric chair covered in Christmas tree lights) yet tame, and the same could be said the the next kill that shortly follows. With that and the style that felt very much from the early 2010s I was prepared to be watching a bit of a dull trainwreck. I needn't have worried though as it wasn't long before a woman was being fed feet first into a wood chipper! The kills come thick and fast after this and while none quite match that brutal way to die I was still invested to see what would follow. 

Sunday, 26 December 2021

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987) - Horror Film Review

Having enjoyed watching Silent Night, Deadly Night on Shudder the other day I was pleased to see that the first sequel, Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 was also on there. This film was directed in part by Lee Harry, I say in part for this sequel is half made up of reused footage from the first film, it is only in the second half when anything truly new makes an appearance.

The film mainly takes place as a series of flashbacks in which psychiatric patient Ricky (Eric Freeman) talks to psychiatrist Dr. Henry Bloom (James Newman - The X Files 'Two Fathers') about his past. Being the brother of Billy (the killer from the first movie) much of this is him re-telling the story of the night his brother went on a rampage. It is around forty minutes into the movie when Ricky begins to talk about the things he has done, in particular his very own rampage that resulted in him getting locked up.

I actually knew beforehand that a lot of footage from the first film was used and so this didn't come as an unwelcome shock. Mainly it is a truncated version of the story, all the kills are there (albeit edited in many parts to reduce the on screen violence), but none of the parts that didn't implicitly involve Billy. Not that it really makes that much sense seeing as the character of Ricky spent that whole film in the orphanage so didn't actually witness the vast majority of that particular story. Much like the format of what came before this jumps around in time, after the summing up of Silent Night, Deadly Night we then see Ricky as he gets adopted by a couple as a child, and the key events in his life that shaped him into the psychotic killer he became. What was interesting to me was the different type of crazy he was. Billy seemed to really believe he was Santa and that what he was doing was the right thing. Ricky isn't as deluded, he appears to be triggered by the colour red, and he does punish people he sees as being 'naughty', but he is more typically insane.

Friday, 24 December 2021

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) - Horror Film Review

I've discovered in the past year that I have a real soft spot for eighties slashers, that really was a golden age for the genre, full of trashy films with fun kills and plenty of blood. Christmas horror films have a genre all to themselves brilliantly, it is a great time of year to set a horror, the juxtaposition of all things happy and light alongside darkness and insanity. Silent Night, Deadly Night came from director Charles E. Sellier Jr in his feature length directorial debut. It features a great killer, but the pacing means there is too much down time in the middle.

As a child, Billy witnessed his parents getting murdered by a criminal dressed up as Santa Claus. Understandably this led to him having a lifelong fear of the fictional man, who he believes has the right to severely punish those who haven't been good. With the help of a nun from the orphanage where he grew up, Billy (Robert Brian Wilson) now eighteen, gets a job at a local toy store. All is going well until Christmas comes around, Billy gets triggered by all the festive decorations, things are made worse when the store owner, Mr. Sims (Britt Leach - Weird Science) gets the boy to dress up as Santa for visitors to the store. His final bit of sanity is lost when during a Christmas Eve after party at the store he witnesses a colleague in the midst of getting raped. This begins a night of terror as Billy rampages around the small town, convinced he is Santa, and determined to punish everyone he judges as having been naughty.

Parts of this felt like a Christmas themed Halloween, both Michael Myers and Billy had a childhood event that changed their life, both brought up in institutions, both obviously killing during a yearly event, and both even have someone who knows them better than anyone else trying to track them down, in this case the only nun at the orphanage that showed Billy any kindness. Where this is different is that we get to see plenty of the troubled teen before he snaps. The film opens with him as a child witnessing his parents murder, before leaping forward a few years to show his experiences as an orphan. Then we get a jolly little segment that includes a montage of him working at the toy store. Anyone could have seen that that was not the best place to put a boy with severe psychological troubles associated with Christmas! Due to all this the killer's identity is always known, but to all the many children he meets along the way they firmly believe him to be Father Christmas and so constantly go out their way to help him and interact with him.

Thursday, 23 December 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Round-up December 23rd

It is nearly Christmas Eve and a miracle has occurred. For the first time in around four years I don't actually have to work on that day, looking forward to having a lazy day watching such Christmas greats as Home Alone and Batman Returns. Onto the news.

I had a reminder on my phone titled 'Dark Matters'. I was baffled as to the meaning before I realised this was relating to Dark Matter Films. They have re-launched their YouTube channel as Dark Matters. This channel includes the 4 million view short zombie film Still (well worth a watch). They are currently looking for new content, with the hope they can act as a publishing platform for horror filmmakers worldwide. Starting in January will be new shorts coming every week, as well as originals from Dark Matters, such as the award-winning post-apocalyptic thriller Off Grid (starring Game of Thrones' James Cosmo). Before that there is the festive horror Santa Baby (directed by Jonathan Zaurin). Filmmakers can contact the channel at

The news for the new Scream keeps on coming, in recent weeks there have been a slew of posters and now a featurette is out. The is a minute and a half and introduces the cast of the new movie. Again, for those not in the know this latest one takes place 25 years after the events of the first film and once again reunites all the old familiar characters.

Finally. Breaking Glass are set to release Gonzalo Calzada's double bill Nocturna this January. This is made up of Nocturna: Side A - The Great Old Man's Night and Nocturna: Side B - Where the Elephants Go to Die. Side A is about an elderly man on his last day on earth as he attempts to redeem a life of grave misdeeds. Side B is the same story, but with 'an aesthetically opposite experimental twist'. Side A gained the Best Actor and Best Actress awards at Brazil's Fantaspoa 2021, was screened at FrightFest Film Festival and at the 24th Shanghai Film Festival, and it won Best Feature at the 20th Macabro Film Festival. It also won a variety of awards at Screamfest Film Festival 2021. Nocturna releases on DVD and Digital on January 18th.

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

Typo (2021) - Drama Film Review

is a drama that was directed by Antony Meadley (Witch Hunt). I actually knew the synopsis going in as I have previously mentioned this in a news post back in October. The core topic Typo is made up of deals with domestic abuse, there isn't any fictional portrayal of horror, I wouldn't even call this a thriller, more a straight up drama. It can be said though that real life domestic abuse is an awful thing, a real world horror and so with that slim escape clause this gets featured on my blog.

In present day, Abbie (Melissa Hollett - As A Prelude to Fear) talks to her apparently comatose husband, Tim (Guy Barnes - Rock Band Vs Vampires) who lays silently in bed. Her one sided conversation leads to her reminiscing about the past, first about the early days when the couple first met, and then the gradual decline in their relationship to the point where Tim is regularly beating her.

If I had a Woody style pull string on my back one of the quotes I would say is that I love films that begin in the present day and then head back in time to show how events came to be. Such is the case with Typo, the core dangling thread is just how Abbie came to be the one in control, and just what has happened to the off camera Tim. Things start off well enough with scenes featuring when the two first met, the early happy memories they have. It is about the second act onwards when things take a nosedive. 

Monday, 20 December 2021

Winterskin (2018) - Horror Film Review

is the third horror film I have seen from writer/director Charlie Steeds (Death Ranch, An English Haunting). It may also be the one with the lowest budget as nearly the entire movie takes place in one small cabin with just the two characters. What starts off with an interesting premise turns into something quite different by the end of the film, and despite some dodgy attempts at American accents this English made horror tells an effective enough story.

While out hunting with his father in the woods, Billy (David Lenik - An English Haunting) discovers a secluded cabin and is promptly shot by the owner, an old woman named Agnes (Rowena Bentley - The House of Violent Desire). He wakes up in her house, the lady apologises for his injury and explains that she has been haunted by a strange skinless monster for the past few weeks. Billy plans to stay at the cabin until he is well enough to travel back to town and puts down the lady's tall tales as her being a little crazy. As time passes it seems that Agnes really is being stalked by something, yet despite this apparent truth Billy begins to suspect he may be better off elsewhere due to Agnes' increasingly unbalanced behaviour.

This all begins with a blood soaked prologue in which a family of four are killed by an intruder to their home, setting up the idea of some sort of monster whether human or otherwise loose in the area. Throughout the first two acts there are peppered clues that what Agnes says is actually true. It led to a good contrast between the evil without and the evil within, I couldn't help but get a Misery type vibe off the old woman, afterall she is constantly referring to herself in the third person which is just one alarm bell that she isn't quite all there. With most the film dealing with the two characters of Billy and Agnes we do get the occasional scene change, following Billy's dad and other townsfolk who are in the area searching for Billy. That at least some of these scenes intercut with the main story don't actually take place chronologically as at first appears led to some fun payoff later.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Silencio (2018) - Thriller Film Review

was certainly a different film to what I had in my head it would be. Maybe somewhat foolishly for someone who blogs about films I really don't like watching trailers or even read any synopsis for films I am going to review. So, I figured from title alone that the Lorena Villarreal (Las Lloronas) written and directed Silencio was going to be about a serial killer. I was utterly wrong, instead this low budget thriller/drama deals with time travel of all things.

James (John Noble - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) and his research partner, Peter are two scientists who happen to discover a fragment of a meteorite while investigating a crash in the 'zone of silence' (a real life urban myth is that this zone, located in the Mexican desert is a place where radio waves are unable to penetrate). They inadvertently activate the stone's latent power and James is shocked to see they have travelled back in time and space to the exact location where his entire family were killed in a freak accident some years previously. With knowledge of what is to come, James is able to alert his family, but it is only his granddaughter Ana he is able to save. Some years later and Ana (Melina Matthews - Mama) is now grown up, with a child of her own, while James suffering dementia lives with her. A young thug (Hoze Meléndez) one day forces his way into their home, desperate to retrieve the stone for his client, this sets into motion a tragic chain of events, as well as Ana's realisation that she will be able to prevent all the trauma that has happened should she find and use the stone for herself.

I am a huge sucker for time travel in films, especially when it is done correctly. With Silencio there are parts that work and parts that make no sense whatsoever, with the viewer having to trust in what characters believe in order to accept these ideas. Obviously, a time travelling stone is a bizarre thing in itself, but then you have all the weird rules the characters make up for it. Like you can only activate the stone at exactly 03:33 in the morning, or that if you use it to save a life then someone else you know will die in order to correct the balance. These rules didn't appear to have much evidence to back them up regardless of if they are true or not, and that last one the film really stretches the credibility of. As if this wasn't enough there is also a supernatural element stuck into a subplot, about a man who is able to commune with the dead and whose ability to do so is the event that really kicks the film into gear.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Your Heart Belongs to Me (2008) by Dean Koontz - Horror Book Review

Back in June of this year I had just finished reading Dean Koontz' 1980 novel The Voice of the Night. I didn't think it was that amazing and wondered with some fear that the rest of the books of his I had, but which had never gotten around to reading, would turn out to also not be great. Thankfully then, I've just finished reading his 2008 novel Your Heart Belongs to Me and can report I thought it was a real page turner.

Ryan Perry has everything, an extremely wealthy internet entrepreneur with a beautiful girlfriend, his life seems perfect. That is until he learns he has developed a problem with his heart, and that unless he gets a replacement within a year he will likely die. A year later and a miracle has happened, with Ryan having received a heart transplant, things look like they can only get better going forward. But then he begins to be stalked by a malignant presence, someone who seems determined to ruin his life, and in particular really desires his new heart...

To begin with I didn't like the novel, the first few chapters having to deal with a person whose life was so wonderful and magical that it didn't feel remotely realistic. With soft hammer blows this life is deconstructed in such a way that I couldn't but help come to like the character of Ryan, especially when events happen that all can relate to. The book is split into three parts, the first being roughly the first half of the entire novel. What was strange about this was that the synopsis for the story only mentioned things post-Ryan getting a heart transplant, yet this all takes place before this. It almost serves as one gigantic red herring, Ryan increasingly getting paranoid that the cause of his illness is something that has been inflicted upon himself by others, and his search for this. I haven't read too many books of Koontz' but typically he deals with more realistic human enemies, on occasion he has had aliens or A.I but nothing I had read ever had supernatural elements. Here there is that suggestion, yet it is so swirled together with other ideas that it never seemed odd. The mystery of what is happening to Ryan, and the promise of malice to come kept me hooked and my mind contemplating endless reasons.
The length of part one did lead to some complications with my enjoyment of the rest, especially considering that part two is where a lot of the horror comes into play, yet being made up of 80 or so pages this all felt a bit rushed. From Ryan discovering someone has found a way to effortlessly bypass his home's security systems things very swiftly speed-up to the point where he is being physically attacked. It did feel like this should have had more time to really ramp up the events. The same can almost be said of part three, in which the story is obviously resolved, this time around 90 pages. It goes to a place that was unexpected in tone, and it perfectly made sense, especially with the revelations that follow the clues being solved, but I had hoped for something more dramatic.

There is a quote on the back of the book I have from the Independent on Sunday in which it states the book was "a read-in-one-go novel". Usually I wouldn't agree with such broad statements but I confess that is almost what happened with me. I only read on my lunch breaks in my day job, and when I do I balance my reading between magazines, physical books and ebooks. Yet the day after I started reading Your Heart Belongs to Me I found I was so invested in the story that this become my sole book. I did feel guilt at times with how easily written this was, it felt like I was reading the popcorn version of horror books, easy to read and with not too much depth into its story. I was a sucker for the simplicity of the writing, but it did make me stop and think at times, especially with something one character says "No, it's true. Human beings are such knotted desperate pieces of work - it's a rare thing to know one completely, to the core, and still love him, or her.", that really resonated with me.

Disposable, appeal to the masses fiction, or something with a deeper meaning to tell; either way, the speed with which I read Your Heart Belongs to Me was testament to how involved with it all I was. Sure it almost misses the landing, but by that point I was into this enough to have came away happy with what I had read, and with new hope that there may be plenty more gems in Koontz' back catalogue.


Thursday, 16 December 2021

The Walking Dead: Season 11 Part 1 (2021) - Zombie Horror TV Show Review

I have often threatened to do so in the past, but it really does make sense to put up reviews of each segment of The Walking Dead, seeing as how the seasons are often split into parts. With season 11 being the final one I've finally gotten in a place to be able to do that. There is an increased episode count of twenty four, this time around the season is split into three segments. The first eight episodes have been and gone, with the remaining coming in 2022. Obviously spoilers for previous seasons to follow.

There are basically three different storylines going on in this first chapter of season 11, some of which were far more interesting than others. With Alexandra running out of food hard decisions have to be made. With that in mind, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) proposes a suicide mission, to return to her settlement that had been obliterated by a deadly group of soldiers known as the Reapers and retrieve hidden food stores. The people joining her on her mission include Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) as well as a bunch of others. Elsewhere, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Princess (Paola Lázaro) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) finding themselves captives of the Commonwealth since the bonus episodes of season 10 and interrogated as to their motivations. Back at Alexandra the rest of the cast, including Carol (Melissa McBride), Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) desperately search closer to home for any sort of provisions.

Out of the three storylines going on it was Maggie's mission that was the most action packed. With a neat callback to season 4's Terminus storyline, her team soon find themselves separated after an attack by the Reapers (Hunted), the rest of part one of the season sees the separated characters all having their own little mini adventures as they work to meet back up with one another. Most interesting of these adventures is Daryl, ever reliable to fit in with the bad guys he soon manages to join them as their newest member! His perspective from the inside makes some great moments as he is forced to do some nasty things to prove his loyalty. It is with him that we get a good look at latest antagonist, the psychotic and intense Pope (Ritchie Coster). The character himself is fantastic, he steals every scene he is in coming across as a real threat. The problem with him is that he is used in a similar way that season villains were back in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The actor is brilliant, it's just he never gets to do anything, episode after episode he is just hanging around the Reaper's headquarters acting mean but not really doing much, it's a shame as such a powerful presence just felt wasted. Better was the Reapers backstory, with the reveal that they are all former soldiers who banded together once the world fell apart.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology - December 15th

Let's throw some news together from my pot and see what gets cooked up. It is nearing Christmas, on the home front I am planning to get some festive horrors lined up to watch in the run-up to that day.

The bizarre sci-fi drama Twenty Twenty won Best Psychedelic Fantasy Short Film at the Retro Garde Film Festival and has been screened at the Buenos Aires International Film Festival and the Afterlife Film Festival. It has been picked up by Lloyd Kaufman's Troma. The film was directed, written, produced by Dave Sweeney with cinematography, editing and music by Marc Fratto and stars Nicholas M. Garofolo (Deranged Foxhole) as Dave Slade.
A follow up to the film titled Blood Fear has recently finished post production and was filmed in Coney Island, Brooklyn. A trailer for that can be viewed here.

Alaska's premiere dark punk/death rock duo, Cliff and Ivy released a new EP titled Bring Us the Night back in August. The four track EP is available on limited edition 7" vinyl and digital formats, the tracks are Bring Us The Night, Chasing Blood, Dominion and Parasite.

Finally for this micro-news, back in July, Pennsyvania-based industrial band Malice Machine released their new full-length album titled Chemical Violence. The band say of the album "...started as a continuation of our first album, Digital Scars, but quickly evolved into a more electronic driven, rhythmic industrial project with guitar being a lesser element. There are several dance heavy tracks but we also return to brooding flavors to satisfy our darker nature."

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

The Unhealer (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Unhealer
felt to me like a modern day retelling of Carrie, but with a boy rather than a girl as the tragic protagonist, as well as a kind of dark superhero vibe in the vein of Chronicle. This was directed by Martin Guigui and co-written by Kevin E. Moore and J. Shawn Harris, while an enjoyable enough film, it was let down by a town populated by characters who all react extremely unrealistically to death.

The film opens with Pflueger, a charlatan (Lance Henriksen - Near Dark, Aliens) stealing a strange power from a Native American gravesite. With his new found power he plans to use his faith healing to actually heal people rather than pretend, the less than noble reason being so he can get rich. He is warned against using the power by Red Elk (Branscombe Richmond - The Scorpion King), who implores him to return it, but Pflueger pays him no heed. The town's most bullied teenager, Kelly (Elijah Nelson) is having an awful time meanwhile, the many school bullies torment him endlessly, resulting in him having a multitude of psychiatric problems such as an eating disorder. His mother,  Bernice (Natasha Henstridge - Species) hires Pflueger in hopes of curing these problems, the man is successful but at the cost of his own life. Now Kelly finds that he has inherited the power and soon discovers he is unable to come to any harm, any violence inflicted on him is returned back to the person who caused it. This new ability of his is at first seen as a good thing by him, his mum and his love interest Dominique (Kayla Carlson), but the old adage of 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' starts to come true with Kelly determined to get his revenge on those who have caused him pain in the past.

It was a delight to see Henriksen in this, at first I assumed he was going to be the antagonist so it was a shock to see him killed off very early into the film's first act. The mantle then passes to Kelly as the central character but his descent passes slowly. To be fair, sure he does some terrible things, but most of what actually occurs with him and the bodycount he slowly racks up is all down to the scum that seem to be the majority of the population of the town the film takes place in. If it wasn't for Kelly's accidental power he would have been killed several times over by the film's conclusion down to no fault of his own. The bullies of The Unhealer are so over the top. On the surface they are the typical meathead jocks, but they appear to have no remorse at all whenever one of them dies. This concept is often used in movies, after all if characters behaved realistically to loss then nothing would ever get done, they would sit around moping. Here though it is dialed all the way up. There was a scene towards the end of the second act when someone has died, the characters friends act so unconcerned about this that until the character is shown being put in a bodybag I had assumed that maybe he hadn't been killed after all. This is the same for nearly every death and mutilation that occurs, no one seems to care at all which gives everything a weird feel.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Beginning of the End (2021) by G.J Stevens - Zombie Horror Novella Review

It was July of this year when author G.J Stevens contacted me to let me know that if I joined his mailing list I would be entitled to receive a few examples of his work for free. I did so of course, yet it took me until now to get around to reading one of his books. That book was the novella Beginning of the End which takes place in his 'In the End' universe. After an unsure start I began to really get into this, loving how this story so perfectly fitted a shorter format.

The protagonist of this is sixteen year old Jordan, who one day gets unexpectedly caught up in an unfolding nightmare in his sleepy Cornish village. After his elder brother gets caught up in a violent altercation outside his house events escalate to the point where his mother screams at Jordan to run away just before she gets attacked also. Before long the boy figures out that there is something wrong with the majority of the villagers, and so with the arrival of the army he thinks salvation has arrived. It quickly becomes clear that the army have no intention of helping out any survivors, instead they are hell bent on killing everyone they see, whilst also installing a large concrete wall around the village to stop anyone escaping. Teaming up with a young boy, Jordan, ill prepared for such a task, sets out to find a way to escape.

So Beginning of the End is a zombie story, but one in which the infected take a back seat to the horrors of the callous army. Over the seventy five page novella the infected rarely feature at all, so little do they appear that Jordan's actions initially felt a little bit over the top. He goes into full on survival mode without much really occurring to warrant this, the arrival of the armed forces really improved the tale though. The army here reminded me more than anything else of the soldiers from George Romero's classic film The Crazies. These faceless characters shoot first and ask questions later, leading up to some great parts where Jordan is stealthing around his village, the only advantage he has is knowing the layout of the place, as wearing just pyjamas and slippers and without any kind of weapon he is powerless against the soldiers.

Having a teenager as the protagonist is nothing new of course, but adding in an even younger person for him to look after was a great idea. The story was satisfying, I had an idea where it would be headed but it remained tightly paced with a clear goal in mind for the protagonist. There is a good sense of place going on, the descriptions of the soldiers house clearing in the background was well written, it added to the tension. It all leads up to an exciting finale and an ending that is both open ended and also wraps up this particular story. An an introduction to Stevens' In the End series it has made me want to read more, just with my terribly slow reading habits I can't say when I will get around to that. If you want to check this out for yourself then join Stevens' mailing list here to find out more details.


Friday, 10 December 2021

Spiral: From the Book of Saw (2021) - Horror Film Review

I was bored last night (at the time of writing this), a rare occurrence, but in this state I was browsing Amazon Prime Video and saw that Spiral: From the Book of Saw was on there to watch. I like the Saw series, I wouldn't say I'm the biggest fan as I've only seen just over half of all the entries, but I've never actively disliked any of them. Spiral is a canonical reboot of the series, but having suffered through this I really hope this isn't the direction any future entries will take.

When corrupt police officers from his precinct start showing up dead, Detective Zeke Banks (Chris Rock - Madagascar) gets caught up in the deadly games of a new Jigsaw copycat killer. This killer's ire is solely directed at bent cops and they have chosen Banks as the man to communicate with, due to his public exposing of corruption in his force some years back. Teaming up with his new rookie partner William Schenk (Max Minghella), the two set out to try and catch this new threat, a job made harder due to the officers they work with all bearing their own personal grudges against Banks.

Spiral has perhaps the most glaring miscasting I have seen in a film for some time. Rock is atrocious as the protagonist. It's not that he is more known for comedy that was off putting, more that a good 95% of his lines he shouts. It made the character seem larger than life in all the worst ways, it was hard to take him seriously. It doesn't help that perhaps wanting to keep pace with him a good proportion of the other actors also shout their lines constantly. The way the camera follows Rock around, and his attention stealing delivery of his lines made it feel like this character was the most important person in the world of Spiral. I guess in terms of the story he was, but everything revolved around him. Then you have Samuel L. Jackson playing the role of his father. Of course that actor is legendary, but here because of the recognition I had for him he stood out like a sore thumb. He felt like he wasn't playing a character, more that he was playing a stereotypical version of himself, constantly 'motherf*cking' all over the place. 

Thursday, 9 December 2021

Call of Duty: Vanguard - Thoughts on the Zombies Mode

The main reason I buy Call of Duty each year is for the Zombies mode. Sure multiplayer can be fun but it is the horror I'm there for. Call of Duty: Vanguard released at the start of November, and it had just the one Zombies map in the form of Der Anfang. My first impressions were very negative, but, while currently extremely limited it has improved with time.

Eschewing the traditional round based survival of previous Zombies modes, this time around you instead must complete objectives, each of which takes place in its set level and accessed via a low threat hub area. Don't expect Der Anfang to have any original components to its map design as it is a Frankenstein's monster of cobbled together pre-existing maps. The hub area uses the mutliplayer map Red Star. From this map you teleport to one of three other maps. Hotel Royal is another multiplayer map, Operation Tonga is taken from the single player campaign, while Shi No Numa is a remake of a classic Zombies map. Making these even worse is that they are only partially used. Red Star uses just the central square area, Hotel Royal uses just the rooftop section of the map, the one saving grace you think would be the Shi No Numa remake. This is a straight up remake, there is nothing done to it to make it stand out, in fact it is the opposite with only a third of the original map making its transition into the game.

Adding to the barebones feel of this mode is that the aim of the game is to teleport off to mini areas to complete objectives. Der Anfang launched with a measly three objectives. You have Blitz in which you have to survive against the undead against a small time limit, Harvest in which you must collect glyphs from fallen zombies to feed into a machine, and Transmit in which you must follow a marker around the map until it reaches its goal. Based on its launch state this is easily the most disappointing Zombies map, the only saving grace is the potential it will have. I really hope that over time more maps and more objectives get added, with at least double the variation this could be a neat little experience, as it stands it is very limited. I hope that future Zombies maps will appear as proper wave based ones and not just be recycled maps tacked onto Der Anfang, a mix of the two styles would be preferable.

Stick with Der Anfang and it does improve, the gameplay loop is fun albeit limited, and there is plenty of exposition from the various characters and demons talking to you over the radio. Time will tell if this experiment has been a complete failure or if Activision can turn things around, I'm quietly optimistic for the later.

Update: Well, they have released details of the Zombies content coming in the next month or so...its not good. Instead of a new map we are going to be treated to a Elsewhere there is going to be just the one new objective to take it up to a whopping four. To have any chance of pulling this around they really need to be doubling the map and objective numbers, this mode at the moment is near enough pointless.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Nebenkörper (2021) by Vlimmer - Music Album Review

I'm never that comfortable at writing music reviews on this blog. This is mainly due to the fact I do not know the first thing about music, I like what I like, but can't put to words why I do, or have any idea about how music is created. Nebenkörper (secondary body in English) is the debut album from Berlin based Vlimmer and was #1 in goth and #1 in industrial on Bandcamp in the past.

So, trying to translate my notes I made while given this album a listen. It all begins with Farbenmüde, a short minute long interlude which goes into second track Fensteraus. This one features vocals that have an almost chant like sound making a backdrop to a tune that felt like the moody atmospherics of a Hell based video game level. Following this is Mutem that reminded me of a slow downed version of the type of music that would play during an Attack on Titan battle sequence. Next comes Restfall that was more mellow and had more of a tune to it, not that what came before wasn't musical in sound. I had expected atmospheric dreamscapes and instead these all felt like actual songs, albeit ones that have been translated and brought to our realm from a bizzaro alternate dimension. Fittingly this is what fifth track Meter encapsulated. Sixth track at the halfway point is Minusgesicht which sounded like music playing through a broken cassette tape speel, I described it in my notes as 'Robert Smith fell into a blender'. None of these words are criticisms by the way, the music sounded alien to me but not in a bad way.

The second part of the album opens with I.P.A. of which the music video can be viewed above. To my ill trained ears this was like the Knight Rider theme, lots of synth and mutates into drum and bass sounds. This in itself feeds into Ad Astra that was quite industrial, the sound made me think of early Marilyn Manson. Wangendruck has a great title and was atmospheric, but it was the next track after that, Kartenwarten that was my favourite, a Hotline Miami dreamlike eighties synth that remained somewhat melancholy in sound. Kron was pretty wild, a heavy pumping track that fades into a sort of devil horned sound before coming back for the final minute that was like a last deathly musical scream. Closing out the album is Nebenbei, a comparatively chilled finish. 

While this is Vlimmer's first album it comes off the back of an eighteen EP series created between 2015-2020. It was far more musical than I expected, but also not like much else I personally have heard. The German lyrics add to the alien feel as do the tribal style pounding drums that ends up (to steal from the press release but which is true) 'creating a vibrant, dystopic industrial atmosphere'. Nebenkörper is out now from Blackjack Illuminist Records.


Monday, 6 December 2021

Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story (2021) - Horror Film Review

It was just last month when I reviewed the found footage horror The Alien Report that I stated found footage films that deal with aliens is quite a rare thing. Well, one month later and I have just finished watching Holes in the Sky: The Sean Miller Story, another alien focussed found footage horror, so perhaps they aren't so rare after all. This one, directed, written by and starring Ash Hamilton (associate producer for Camp Death III in 2D!) is in the form of a mocumentary and has some interesting ideas, but the central hook wasn't enough to really get me biting.

Holes in the Sky takes the form of a fake documentary that explores the events that led up to a 911 call to the police by a frantic woman alleging that a group of unknown people were trying to get into her house. Most of the footage used was that taken by director Ash Hamilton (Hamilton playing himself) and his crew, that includes cameraman Brett as well as his wife Chanell (Chanell Hamilton playing herself). They had been planning on creating a documentary exploring what happened to a man named Sean Miller (Sean Ed) who vanished for four days in mysterious circumstances in the past, and so they had gotten permission to stay with him and his wife at their remote property for five days to get interviews. The longer the crew stay the more they begin to experience unexplainable phenomena, and they begin to fear that the events that led to Miller going missing all those years ago are once again repeating themselves.

As a hook to get the viewer involved I didn't feel the 911 call was the best choice, or at least the parts that open up the mockumentary. It didn't leave me with a burning desire to find out what was happening even if perversely that 911 call in its entirety makes up the best scene of the movie. The documentary we are watching isn't the one that Ash is making, I admit for the longest time I was confused about this fact, but this confusion was helped in part by the flow of Holes in the Sky. For the first fifty minutes or so we follow Ash and his crew as they explain their motivations for heading to see Sean Miller. Going by what they say there wasn't much motivation. It is established early on Miller went missing for four days and was then found over a hundred miles away but that is it, there are no other details given and so for Ash's doc within a doc I wasn't that interested. Other than to provide motivation for the characters being where they are this didn't add much of anything to the story of what the 911 call was all about, certainly not important enough to take up a sizeable chunk of the movie.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Monsters (2021) by Barry Windsor-Smith - Horror Graphic Novel Review

Earlier this year my best friend brought me a graphic novel that was recommended to her by someone at a comic book store. That novel was Monsters which was created by Barry Windsor-Smith (who has worked on Avengers, Daredevil, Conan, as well as wrote and drew the Wolverine origin story 'Weapon X') and was his first book in sixteen years. It apparently originally started life as a 23 page Hulk story in the mid eighties. I was warned that this wasn't a happy story, but that also meant it would fit right at home on The Rotting Zombie.

The novel takes place over a variety of different time periods and actually occurs in a similar fashion to an idea I once had for a short story. That is that Monsters almost takes place in reverse order. After a wild prologue set in 1949 we skip forward to 1964 where a young homeless man, Bobby Bailey is trying to join the army. The recruiter, Sergeant McFarland knows the boy isn't fit to serve but had special instructions to contact a man working on a top secret project codenamed 'Prometheus' should someone meeting certain criteria apply to join. The boy is taken away, where he soon becomes a test subject in a project that had been devised by the Nazis to create a super soldier, this leads to quite a nasty outcome for Bailey. McFarland meanwhile having a power similar to the 'Shining', begins to get supernatural visions about Bailey's fate, with guilt eating him up he sets out to right the wrong he thinks he may have caused. This leads to a story that falls back in time, at first heading back to the late forties when Bobby's father Tom returns back from World War II a changed man, then to the end of the war when Bobby's mother, Janet, anxiously awaited her husband's return, and then even earlier to show the moment that changed Tom during his war time experiences.

Things start off on a dark footing and this is a vibe that persists throughout the 365 page novel. I was surprised to find the style of leaping back through time, after the first section the majority of the book takes place in the past before returning to the present for the final part. It is obvious the 'Monsters' in the books title only tangentially refer to Bobby's horrific transformation. There is an 's' on the end of that title for a reason as a lot of characters here fit that term very easily. From the cold army officers happy to let the twisted experiments occur, to the ex-Nazi scientist working for them, all the way to Bobby's nasty father, a man who beats his wife and child. All fit that title. The time skips are put to good use, with each jump backwards more and more pieces of the puzzle come together, and you find two very different families unknowingly intertwined with each other throughout the years. I loved how parts of the story are mentioned but it is only later on that their purpose becomes clear, even going as far as to show the same scene but changed to fit whichever character is remembering it.

The art throughout the book is fantastic, this is all black and white with intricately detailed panels. Characters are full of emotion yet drawn realistically, the whole novel looked like a work of art. It is often dialogue fed with each new panel transitioned using flowing speech. One tiny issue I had was in the middle where a lot of pages are made up of Janet's personal diary entries, the writing joined up was occasionally a little hard to read, yet like a magic eye picture I could always make sense of what initially seemed like a mass of jumbled letters. As to the story though I had no complaints, I enjoyed how everything was linked to each other. I would say by the end when we return to the present day of the mid sixties I had almost forgotten who the characters here were, and what their fates had been, that was a small thing though. The war had an effect on humanity that persisted throughout generations, it was interesting to see that explored here with a slight supernatural angle to it, it made for a maturely told story that couldn't ever get dull. Despite the more action packed moments at its heart this is an exploration into one family's turmoil with the horror coming from the situation rather than any outside force.

I wouldn't say I enjoyed Monsters in the sense it was a happy and fun read. I did think it was a very effective story, one that used the medium of art to tell its story in a satisfying way. It's been quite the week for getting to the end of good books, Barry Windsor-Smith's Monsters was well worth a read.


Friday, 3 December 2021

Mr Sucky (2018) by Duncan P. Bradshaw - Comedy Horror Book Review

I went onto horror author Duncan P. Bradshaw's website in search of his latest book, a choose your own adventure comedy horror that sounded quite neat. I didn't find it there, I did however re-discover an earlier book of his, Mr Sucky and so I happily purchased that. I have an annoying habit of buying books but taking decades to get around to ever reading them, but as soon as this arrived in my letterbox I knew it needed to be read straight away. It isn't often I will mention a design of a book in a review, but I must here as it was so striking and such a cool idea. I was initially confused opening my package as I appeared to have been randomly sent an instruction manual for a hoover, it took me slightly longer than I would care to admit to realise that it was the novel (possibly novella) of Mr Sucky. That was such a cool idea for a book which turned out to be the most enjoyable story I have yet read of Bradshaws.

Serial killer Clive Beauchamp isn't having the best of days, finding himself killed by his potential new victim even before breakfast is over at the hotel he was staying at and dumped in a broom closet. Things start to look up when a disciple of a demonic entity known as 'Keith' resurrects him, but due to an incident with an air conditioning unit the disciple mistakenly thought the plan was for Clive to come back as a vacuum cleaner rather than into the body of a powerful killer, and not just any cleaner, but one of those ones with the smiley face. Luckily it turns out he has a whole host of supernatural powers with which he will be able to carry out his plan of not only killing his murderer, but also dispatching the staff and other guests who passively looked on as it happened. The biggest danger for this agent of the devil it turns out is not any external threat, but the deranged other personality of Clive's who has gotten sick and tired of being relegated to the shadows of his mind...

Bradshaw is an expert of blending horror with utter nonsense and here he is on top form. The world of the book is a ridiculous place full of idiots and morons, one in which a killer hoover doesn't feel as outlandish as it otherwise would. The format of the storytelling was an early highlight for me. Much of the nineteen chapters is told from the perspective of Clive, but not even with him recounting events in a past tense, instead it is him in the moment experiencing things at the same rate as the reader. It is here that the split personality idea really comes to fruition as Clive and his other side hate each other. While Clive is the one in control, his other personality is always interjecting, typically with a whole host of insults and put-downs. It's quite possible this could have gotten a bit exhausting but then the format changes up and down. You have chapters set before Mr Sucky's start, you have chapters set in the future that recount the events as they happened. My favourite chapter was one that told the story of what happened to a group of golfers staying at the hotel, due to them checking in with comedic fake names their story is told with the characters being referred to by those names. So, you get a harrowing story about the fate that befell Captain Wangstain, Bonzo Bangana, Petey Beef-Curtains and Zargon Thirstbladder. This kind of infantile humour doesn't usually appeal, but it is so thick throughout Mr Sucky that I couldn't help but get on board.

Another part that typically I wouldn't enjoy as much is the intense description of all the bloodshed that is inflicted on characters. Here, with all the old ultra violence being carried out by a hoover it was made a lot more fun, and it always impressed with how inventive and deadly the methods were. From the hoover supernaturally powered to suck in all manner of body parts, to a lethal plug wire that is able to easily sever through limbs, this was all both super gross and amusing.

Mr Sucky was a very simple idea that worked extremely well due to Bradshaw's off kilter sense of humour and the way the story is laid out to the reader. From the wonderful book design to the attention to detail this was an enjoyable story from cover to cover.


Thursday, 2 December 2021

Autumn Road (2021) - Horror Film Review

Autumn Road
is a Halloween themed horror that was both written and directed by Riley Cusick, who also starred in two of the leading roles (due to him playing twin brothers). There were certain elements to this that left me a little more confused than anything, the frayed edges were for me a little distracting.

On Halloween a young girl goes missing, with it heavily implied that she was accidentally killed by mild Charlie and the body disposed of by his possibly psychopathic twin brother Vincent. Ten years later and after the sudden death of her best friend, Laura (Lorelei Linklater), the sister of the missing girl returns to her hometown. The twin brothers (both played by Cusick) now run the local haunted house attraction and are much as they always have been, Charlie still meek and mild, his brother Vincent aggravating and intense. As Laura begins to get close to Charlie due to their shared memories of her sister, Vincent's antisocial behaviour starts to increase to dangerous levels.

There was a strange dream like quality to a lot of Autumn Road that made it hard to really understand what was real and what was not. I didn't even realise Cusick was playing both the roles of the twin brothers so in that respect he did a great job. Until the end credits I was convinced it was two different actors. However, due to the way the film is shown I spent the whole movie expecting a twist that Vincent and Charlie were one and the same. Vincent is just such an odd character who didn't feel like a real person. Throughout the film he carries out a series of increasingly crazy crimes yet there is barely any repercussions and certainly the police don't appear to be involved at any point. This is despite Vincent making only the tiniest effort to disguise himself while he commits these crimes. That was one of the abrasive edges that got in the way of being able to be fully involved. Outside of a nasty looking curb stomp scene there seems no repercussions for anything that Vincent did.