Thursday, 26 May 2022

The Thing That Ate the Birds (2021) - Short Horror Film Review


From the title alone I really wanted The Thing That Ate the Birds to be a good short horror. Thankfully, this eleven minute film from Dan Gitsham and Sophie Mair (who co-directed Bill) mostly hit the spot, fitting in some striking images, as well as a subplot into this mini movie.

Grace (Rebecca Palmer) has nearly reached the end of her tether with her gamekeeper husband, Abel's (Eoin Slattery) drinking problem. Meanwhile, he is out on the moors, trying to discover just what is killing all his grouse.

My plot summary makes this sound terrible, it really wasn't. Starting off with no end of headless birds discovered on his land, Abel along with a young farmhand, Jake (Lewis Mackinnon) encounter a creature really quite early. Usually showing less is more, but the tense way this scene plays out, with Abel slowly arming his shotgun as the creature stares on was lovely. This tenseness again is used to great effect later in the short when a character slowly walks towards a blood smeared door. The design of the creature was good enough that it didn't look out of place, and it was a brave move to have it appear in daylight, even if it was obscured.

It isn't usual for short films to have a subplot, and so I enjoyed the one shown here, even if it was the less developed of the two. While it seems all the horror that goes on does actually happen, it was easy to see it as an analogy for Abel's drinking problem, especially for one moment when the creature appears by the man's side, making me think of the saying 'a devil on your shoulder'. To say too much more would ruin the fun, needless to say it seemed obvious that the early action in the short wasn't the end of the horror, so there was anticipation for more to follow.

With a suspenseful soundtrack, lots of slow tension, and a chilling final shot, there wasn't much here that wasn't done right. It might have felt slightly obvious where this would end up but that's a small complaint with a film of this quality. The Thing That Ate the Birds can be seen on Alter's YouTube channel, and I would definitely recommend a watch.

SCORE:



Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Adéla (2021) - Short Horror Film Review


The review today of the Philip Martin (The Road) written and directed Adéla is the first of three short films I have watched for review this week. This premiered on the Dark Matters' YouTube channel back in April and takes a familiar subject and tweaks it into something different in feel.

The six minute short begins and ends with narration in Polish from the titular character (Julia Rogers - Back From the Dead), she speaks of her brother Jacek (Ged Purvis - Teens Vs. Vampires) who she says is a bad man, but she views as her saviour. A talkative young man (Chris Iddon - The Shadow over Whitby)  meets Jacek with the aim of buying some drugs off of him, they end up going back to Jacek's house where he tells the man the drugs are kept.

I liked the framing of this short, it feels like it is wrapped neatly thanks to the opening and closing dialogue from Adéla. I liked also how the horror was presented here, a lot coming from a character's silent expression of horror as they come to realise the danger they are in. Using a chilled and calm soundtrack over what becomes a very bloody scene was also a choice I really liked.

Neatly framed, well edited and with some good vocal performances, Adéla was a solid little horror that took a familiar idea in a slightly different direction. Good stuff and well worth a watch.

SCORE:



Monday, 23 May 2022

All About Evil (2010) - Horror Film Review


The Joshua Grannell (better known as his drag persona, Peaches Christ) written and directed comedy splatfest that is All About Evil is something that I can see not appealing to everyone. Apparently this film only had a limited theatrical run upon its release in 2010 and since then it has been very hard to find. That has all changed with a Blu-ray release coming on June 10th from Severin Films and a North American streaming release on Shudder arriving June 13th.

Deborah Tennis (Natasha Lyonne - Russian Doll) has taken over the ownership of her father's beloved but unsuccessful indie cinema after he passes away. With its closure threatened by her nasty stepmother, Deborah ends up killing her in cold blood, the incident recorded on the cinemas CCTV system. Due to a series of errors she ends up accidentally playing the CCTV footage of the murder to the patrons waiting for a film to start in the theatre, and unexpectedly they lap it up, figuring it to be an experimental short horror. Deborah relishes this new found fame and sets out to make more horror films featuring real victims rather than actors. As her fame increases, she hires several helpers, including the old projectionist Mr. Twigs (Jack Donner - Stigmata), a criminal psycho, as well as twin sisters recently released from a psychiatric home (Jade and Nikita Ramsey - A Haunting at Silver Falls). Together they set out to make bigger and more violent films, until a young teenage fan, Steven (Thomas Dekker - A Nightmare on Elm Street) begins to get concerned about the amount of missing people whose last known whereabouts was the old cinema.

This is comedic but not in the sense of telling lots of jokes. Instead it is comedic due to the larger than life personalities of many of the cast. The villains are comically evil and delight in the murders they cause. It can be quite fun when the antagonists are all together, each with their own things going on, from the silent twins doing the usual The Shining style trope of acting as one, to the creepy old man Mr. Twigs, and Deborah herself who sees herself as a serious actress and so dresses up in various costumes for her snuff films. Countering all this is the protagonist Steven who really was a bit of a bland character. Being a horror movie fan he is seen as weird by many of his peers, his teacher in particular thinks he is a high school killer in waiting. It is his love of the genre that is used as a weapon in the films later sections. My favourite performance went to Steven's mother, played by Cassandra Peterson (best known as Elvira).

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Todd Sullivan Presents: The Vampire Connoisseur (2020) - Horror Anthology Book Review


You would think it would be pretty obvious what the theme of an anthology book titled The Vampire Connoisseur would be. Maybe lacking some brain cells it took me a couple of stories for that startlingly obvious link to be made. All I can say is I blame reading this on my Kindle that I managed to not notice that title and put two and two together. Anyway, as I never seem to get tired of saying, I sure love me an anthology.

There are sixteen short stories here from sixteen different authors and as is to be expected there is variety. There are action heavy ones, comedic ones, dark ones, and ones that don't feature your typical vampire protagonist. Things start off on an emotional note with Lisa Hario's The Red Angel. This takes place in a children's hospice where a dying girl befriends a mysterious young girl who only appears at night. I thought that melancholic may be the vibe the anthology was going for, but that is soon put to bed with the very next tale, Gordon Linzner's A Visit from Saint Vic, this comedic story featuring two vampires who dress up as Santa and his helper in order to trick young children into allowing them entry to their homes on Christmas Eve, with things not going according to plan. The concept of having to be given permission to enter someone's home is again brought up with The Solution by Michael S. Collins, another humorous one, though this time it is a vampire trying to get access to a student dormitory. Finally, with overt comedy comes A Fiend Indeed. Written by Nicholas Stella, this concerns a very work shy salesman who is slow to notice that anyone called into the dark office of his new boss is never seen from again.
Going back to the more sombre variety of story there is one other, Poem of the Riverbank by Gary Robbe, the way this was written had a feel of poetry to it fittingly enough and features an unlikely friendship between a kind lonely man and someone he meets.

Friday, 20 May 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology 20th May 2022


Howdy, I have a week off of work this week, not doing much other than chilling at home and playing lots of games. I'm currently torn on what my fifth blog post should be for the week, maybe a first impression post on Evil Dead: The Game as I've noticed a lot of the big sites have yet to even mention the thing (that is indeed what the fifth blog post became).

A new trailer has come out for Feeding on the Living which is the third chapter in the Dave Slade film series. The film is to feature Nicholas M. Garofolo reprising his role as Slade and will be joined by Arina Ozerova, Warren Chao and Dave Sweeney, the trailer makes it seem like it may have something to do with vampires. This has been written and produced by Garofolo with Sweeney directing. The trailer can be seen here.

Black Spot Books have announced a new women-in-horror anthology titled Into the Forest. The theme for this anthology (I love a good theme) is the stories will be inspired by the Baba Yaga (not John Wick, though that would be cool, this is about the witch in the woods from Slavic folklore). There will be twenty three original stories here from both bestselling female authors and new authors. Included are Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley (Beautiful Sorrows), Monique Snyman, Donna Lynch, Lisa Quigley and R.J Joseph.

Blood Lust comes to DVD on 31st May from Bayview Entertainment. This stars C. Thomas Howell (The Hitcher, The Outsiders) and is about two friends, one of which seeks a relationship with a mysterious woman who partly owns a guest house.


Also out on 31st May, again from Bayview Entertainment, is Back From Hell. In this one, six former classmates go on holiday to a manor house in the countryside where they begin to experience paranormal events.


Finally, some music news. Eternal Frequency have released the second chapter in their cinematic sci-fi series, A.I. The Harrisburg, PA based heavy rock band say of this 'A.I. brings up the unavoidable challenge that every artist will eventually face and that is someone who is not part of your camp telling you what they think is best for you. It is about not conforming to anyone's preconceived notion about you and refusing to be controlled by the system. This is our message to be who you are in your image alone.'

Thursday, 19 May 2022

The Nail That Sticks Out (2018) - Short Horror Film Review


The Nail That Sticks Out
is an award winning short British horror film that was directed by Jordan Dean (The Inner Demon) and written by Rebekah Whelan in her writing debut. The perils of a struggling artist are often used for horror, everything from Legend of the Muse to The Spirit Gallery and Rust Belt Driller, the tortured artist trope works well in this context. This fifteen minute short adds to this idea with a tortured artist all of its own.

Japanese Aiko (Natsumi Kuroda) is a UK based artist who is feeling the pressure to produce work that betters what she has already put out. Meanwhile, her girlfriend and muse, Elisabeth (Laura Peterson - Coven of Evil) has aspirations of becoming a successful actress. One fateful day sets Aiko on the path to her artistic salvation, though at a great cost.

I always enjoy these types of ideas, I enviously look upon all manner of creators and only on occasion feel even the slightest aspect of what drives them. With Aiko you have a protagonist whose erratic behaviour seemed to come somewhat out of nowhere. An initial spark of creativity, one troubled almost arthouse style nightmare and there is a descent into nightmare. The core of the film, outside of her art, is the relationship between the two characters and the opposite paths their lives are trying to head.
In terms of set decoration and effects, the art is decent enough to seem authentic for the character, and the special effects while sparsely used sell what they are trying to sell.

The Nail That Sticks Out was a decent short horror, one that might have benefited from more time to chart the downward spiral of Aiko, or at least present more of her internal thoughts to the viewer. Despite that, another Dark Matters short horror that was well worth sticking around to the twisted end of. This can currently be seen on the Dark Matters' YouTube channel.

SCORE:



Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Evil Dead: The Game (2022) - Horror Video Game First Impressions (Playstation 5)


Evil Dead: The Game
released last Friday, and I wasn't intending on buying it as it is an asymmetrical multiplayer game. However, seeing it was not as expensive as I thought it would be (£35 here in the UK) I decided on impulse to get it. I haven't played nearly enough of it to be able to write a review, but I have played enough that I feel confident in at least giving my first impressions.

There isn't a story to speak of, instead each game features the same objectives that take place within a small handful of maps. You play as either a survivor or as a demon and these take in monsters and characters from not only the three Evil Dead films (The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness) but also the Ash vs Evil Dead TV show. Having all these different bits of media together was a delight to see. On the survivor side you have four different versions of Ash, Kelly and Pablo from the show, as well as plenty of other characters from the films, even having two knights from Army of Darkness making an appearance. These survivors fall into one of four categories, Leaders who are immune to fear, Warriors who are good with melee weapons, Hunters whose strong point are ranged weapons, and Support who are able to heal other players.
On the demon side you have a choice of three, The Warlord (Henrietta from the first two films), The Puppeteer (Eligos from the TV show), and The Necromancer (Evil Ash from Army of Darkness). These different demons have different abilities which you can probably guess from their names, but they also have different deadites under their control. Henrietta can boost deadites strength when she is around them, these enemies are the traditional type. The Puppeteer can more easily possess characters, his deadites are ones that explode upon death. The Necromancer controls a skeleton army and can resurrect them when they have been defeated.

Playing as the survivors in third person, you must work together to first collect pieces of a map. Once this is done then the location of the Necronomicon and the Kandarian Dagger are revealed, and once these are collected the players must race to a gateway and banish the Dark Ones, thus winning the game. Players have a fear metre and this fills up both by being in the dark, being attacked by enemies, triggering traps, and being away from the group. Should your metre get too full then the demon player will be able to briefly possess you, able to both attack other players and move you out of the group. While the demon player is the main foe there are plenty of random deadites spawned around the level. Playing this felt like a mix between Left 4 Dead, World War Z and Dead by Daylight. There are nowhere near as many enemies as you would get in those first two, but being able to use weapons (both melee and guns) means that there is a lot of time spent battling deadites. The pitfalls of being a multiplayer experience means unless you are playing with friends you can never predict how things will turn out. Sometimes I played and had a wonderful time, the four of us working together and really helping each other out as a team. Then there are other times when the game starts and the other survivors all run off in random directions. Needless to say, that is not a good idea and each and every time that happened we were all dead within five minutes of starting.

Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Graphic Designs (2022) - Thriller Film Review


I have to say before starting this review that the Andy Edwards directed and written Graphic Designs is an erotic thriller, something that I didn't know before I sat down to watch this. The thriller part I was all on board with, and to be fair it went in some interesting directions, the erotic part however wasn't really for me.

Franklin (David Wayman - Little Devil) is a work-at-home graphic designer who appears to really resent his relationship with long term girlfriend Candida (Sian Altman - T H E M) and also happens to be really into watching cam-girls on his laptop. One evening his best friend, Brandon (Ocean M Harris) tells him about a new dating app he was designing, which is the place to go for casual flings. With Candida away on business, Brandon decides to give it a go, hooks up with a girl he meets (May Kelly) and ends up sleeping with her, filming their hook-up. Becoming obsessed with this girl, and with her dating profile deleted from the app, Brandon starts to try and search out her location, convinced that something terrible has happened to the girl. Meanwhile, having been asked to assist in tracking her down by using his knowledge of the dating app, Brandon reveals all of this to Candida, who is upset, but unable to confront Franklin as her and Brandon are having an affair of their own! On her own, Candida sets out to find the girl and confront her over her boyfriend's cheating.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Pursuit Of A Jigsaw (2020) - Short Horror Film Review


Pursuit Of A Jigsaw
is a short horror/satire film that was written and directed by Sam Mizrahi-Powell. They state they think of this as 'a horror experience for people with commitment issues'. Now, this isn't a traditional horror film, instead it blends the superemly normal with the supremely subnormal, making for a short that I admit I struggled to follow, yet also appreciated its craft, especially with some of the effects used. 

Jamie Roy (Your Boyfriend is Mine) stars as Ben, an office worker who is soon to be married to his fianceé Donna (Caitlin Thorburn - Good Omens). The problem is however that it seems he really doesn't want to be, and as it gets closer to the date his sense of self begins to evaporate as he begins a physical transformation into those around him.

This twelve minute short covers a lot of ground, held in place by the pivotal character of Ben. A lot of the imagery relates to his impending marriage which has him concerned he will no longer be able to enjoy being the individual he wants to be. The ocean is repeatedly shown as Ben's safe space, during a work meeting for instance he is able to zone out by looking at a photo of the sea. Even this solitary aspect of his becomes threatened with his wife wanting to go to the beach with him. Within he is a man under assault, without he puts on a forced smile and false pleasantries. This comes to a head in the films most striking moment in which Ben is swimming in the ocean when a mirror ocean descends from on high, eventually leading to him drowning in the middle of the vast water (the standout shot of the film).

Friday, 13 May 2022

The Righteous (2021) - Horror Film Review


The Righteous
is a character drama that carries with it a definite vibe of horror. Written, directed and co-starring Mark O'Brien (actor in Ready or Not), this is a film whose story is fixated on religion and was very much a slow burn. However, this falls very much on the right side of slow burn with a tense character focussed story that explores the issue of sin and penance in an intense and interesting way.

Henry Czerny (Ready or Not, Mission: Impossible) plays Frederic,  a former priest who left the priesthood some decades back in order to marry widower Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk - Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments TV show). The film begins with the grieving couple at the funeral of their young adopted daughter, then days later, with the couple deep in mourning, a strange young man (O'Brien) arrives injured at their remote home. The man remains enigmatic about where he has come from and how he came to be injured, but gives his name as Aaron Smith. At first Ethel and Frederic are suspicious of the man, but they come to find themselves enjoying his company. It is then that Aaron reveals his true intentions to Frederic, and gives him a dark proposal that has the former priest forced to confront his relationship with God and reflect on his past mistakes.

This works so well as a slow burn due to the laser focus on mainly just the two characters. The character of Ethel, while ever present, does become almost a side character, it is the many conversations that Frederic and Aaron share that make up the meat of this drama. There are a handful of actors and all of them were well chosen for their roles, in particular these main two whose long conversations became so captivating. Aaron was the more fascinating due to the mystery that comes from his sudden appearance. Over the course of the film his half truths and made up stories reveal themself to me something more personal. There is the hint of the supernatural here with Aaron saying things that he couldn't possibly know, and a few incidences of impossible things occuring on screen. With it stated that Frederic is prone to blackouts and possibly hallucinations, it was never clear exactly what was real and what wasn't. Many of the heated passionate conversations between the two men for instance take place in the middle of the night, they often end with Frederic suddenly opening his eyes to discover he is in bed.

Thursday, 12 May 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for 12th May 2022


Now for a news round-up, it still feels so refreshing to be mostly up to date with my inbox, even if to get here I had to purge quite a lot of older news stories. As has been the case for most my activities of the past few weeks, I shall be writing this post with Rammstein's great new album Zeit playing in the background.

The Frenzy Moon is a practical effects werewolf movie that currently has an Indiegogo campaign running to raise funds for the effects team to work on sculpting. This is going to come from director and author Gregory Lamberson and is a spin-off of his novels The Frenzy Way, The Frenzy War and The Frenzy Wolves. The set-up for the movie has six college students and a mysterious stranger battling a pack of werewolves at a secluded cabin. While werewolves are one my least favourite movie monsters I can't deny the enthusiasm Lamberson talks with on the Indiegogo page. For details, including the usual assortment of perks check out the campaign page here


Due out on May 17th in the US is Girls Nite Out (originally released as The Scaremaker). This is about a group of college students whose night time scavenger hunt is interrupted by a killer dressed up in a bear costume! The brand-new 2K restoration is due for release by Arrow and will include new interviews with the stars among other extras.

The Zombies Walking is a new single from New Zealand based System Corporation. While the track was written before the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine it retroactively becomes relevant to those things as the song is about being led astray by those in power. Singer/lyricist Scott Newth says of this "Somehow, it's become way too easy to be misled by, what seems to me anyway, crazy ideas and theories. All this unease, it never seems to transition to real change in any way." While I admit including this news purely for the song title, it isn't a bad track, I liked the thudding drums.


Finally for today, Showtown American Pictures and Cineview Studios have released the trailer for another upcoming werewolf movie, The Beast Comes At Midnight. In this film an outcast teenager seeks out the help of four popular kids after he discovers one of them is being tracked by a werewolf. This is due to come to theatres Summer 2022 and stars Michael Pare, Michael McKeever, Madelyn Chimento, Kyle Oifer, Samantha O'Donnell, Dylan Intriago and Eric Roberts.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

Towards the Nameless Darkness (2022) by Grave Gnosis/Hvile I Kaos - Split EP Music Review


Towards the Nameless Darkness
is a split EP that features four tracks, two from Grave Gnosis and two from Hvile I Kaos. This is designed to be a teaser of both bands' upcoming full length albums, Pestilence Crowned from the former, and Lower Order Manifestations from the later. The press release states that this 'is a collaboration of magickal exploration through music, expressing the nature of parallel spiritual forces, focusing on aspects of the Sun and its Shadow, as seen through the lens of Vedantic Nihilism'. I can't say I understand much of that, and I also say as usual I really have no business reviewing music.

The first half of the split EP features the two Grave Gnosis tracks. Opening with Carnivorous Darkness. To be honest at first this sounded like a wall of noise to me, but a second listen with headphones on allowed me to really hear the different instruments that make up this track. Mixed into the background are scratchy vocals that sound like both a whisper and a shout, sounding like some sort of incantation is being said. This was all held together by a slightly mournful sounding guitar up to the end of the first third when an increasingly slower guitar riff plays out and all other sound cuts out. The repetitive cycles of the sound give the feel of an increasing downward spiral leading to a strong finish.
Second track, Vultures is another roughly six minute track and starts off with a great guitar riff. Musically this followed the same feel of a doom laden downward spiral but with its own spin to make it somehow distinct to first track. During my second listen to this one I was out in my back garden shovelling bits of a very dismembered pigeon I had discovered there into a bin bag, was an audible distraction to that gnarly task.

The second half of the EP is Hvile I Kaos and with that comes a much more peaceful sound. My Hatred is Just features Kakophonix's cello predominantly. The rustic vibe was a good compliment to the more harsh sounds of Grave Gnosis though despite the change in music style both felt like different interpretations on a similar theme. While more peaceful the track is tinged with a slight feel of darkness, my enjoyment of this was helped by me walking around a local wood during my first listen.
Closing out the EP is Locusts which starts with screeching strings with an ominous tone which builds up over two minutes into an even better sounding segment. This track had a bit of a repetition to it that echoed the relentless feel of Grave Gnosis's tracks. It culminates in the beautiful final minute of the track.

While I would certainly say I enjoyed the second half of this more than the first, the two different styles work surprisingly well together. The highlight being the switch between Vultures to My Hatred is Just which shows the contrasting difference. Both styles contrast nicely against each other leading to a twenty five minutes of music that works very well as a whole. Towards the Nameless Darkness is due for a digital music release on June 21st, check out the Bandcamp page for more details.

SCORE:

Monday, 9 May 2022

Night Caller (2022) - Horror Film Review


Night Caller
is an award winning indie horror that was written and directed by Chad Ferrin (The Deep Ones, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet). As I often do, I declined to read up on this movie before viewing it, and so I was surprised with the direction it went in. This has a nice vibe of a seventies grindhouse movie, yet visually it is a lot sharper whilst keeping the story in that zone.

Clementine (Susan Priver - Serving Up Richard, Space: Above and Beyond TV series) is a telephone psychic who one dark night receives a call from a strange man calling himself James Smith (Steve Railsback - Ed Gein, Lifeforce). Having actual psychic abilities she is given a vision into the man's future and realises with horror that he is just about to murder someone, but is powerless to convince him from going ahead with the act. After several more call ins from the killer, Clementine realises it is up to her to try and stop him, figuring the police won't take her seriously. The more she investigates, the closer the killer gets to finding her, and it soon becomes clear that they both share a common bond from their distant past.

I really enjoyed this twisted dark horror. Visually this hasn't a crisp clean look to it, film grain and the dark lighting made it look a little like it was a VHS tape I was watching. This was no faux attempt at recreating the look of old films though, this felt like more than just a tribute to old films. One part I liked a lot about Night Caller was the cast of actors, with the exception of the flashback sequences there are not any young ones here, it felt refreshing that the protagonist was played by an older woman, that the antagonist himself was also older. Priver was a good choice of leading lady, she is fleshed out enough to be someone worth rooting for, something which was achieved mainly with her interactions with her invalid father, the excellent Charles Carter (Get Gone, Donnie Brasco) who did a great turn as the horror film obsessed bed bound ex-detective. The antagonist was also interesting, a cross-dressing killer who never once speaks in a normal voice, either almost a growling whisper, or a more high pitched voice when wearing the hair and face of his victims. The film does wonders with keeping this character in darkness, while the disguise he wears means even when he is fully on view you can't really see anything about him. In one possibly hallucinatory scene, the killer speaks to his father, this features a near stand out performance by Lew Temple (The Devil's Rejects), and shows Night Caller's more darkly comedic side in what was a wonderful scene.
As good as many of the performances were, there were some characters who I didn't get on so well with or were otherwise underutilised. I liked the sub plot of Clementine's abusive separated husband but it felt like it had a little more potential than what we got. Then there is the character of Jade (Bai Ling - Crank 2: High Voltage, The Crow), Clementine's psychic hotline boss who was pretty much a pure comic relief character, someone that became a bit irritating due to their high energy.

Sunday, 8 May 2022

Halloween Girl - Issue 1 and Issue 2 (2020-22) - Horror Comic Review


Last week on April 30th the second volume of the Mad Shelley ComicsHalloween Girl was released. Now, I hadn't actually heard of this but apparently it is based on characters that appeared in the film The Halloween Girl and its sister web-series Under the Flowers. The star of this is an eighteen year old ghost named Charlotte, who, along with her supernatural friend Poe do their best to protect Charlotte's hometown of Crystal Springs from an evil secret society known as The Hollow.

Starting with issue 1 (VOL.1: Secret to Keep, Chapter 1: Candy From Strangers), this had a story written by Richard T. Wilson, with art by Stephen Mullan. While I wasn't a hundred percent clear on any of the backstory the story itself was easy to follow. After a trip into the 'In-Between', Charlotte is provided clues as to what she should be doing in order to protect her town. In this case it is a Halloween bucket in which a giant spider was dwelling. Back in the real world she spots a young boy wearing a spider costume being bullied and so makes herself corporal in order to intervene.
The art is in black and white and was crisp and simple. Panels were not deeply detailed but I liked the cleaness this created. A lot of the issue revolved around conversations but the panels remained interesting by utilising plenty of different angles so that instead of a static feel the panels felt dynamic, like the characters were actually moving around. The horror slowly introduces itself leading up to a cliffhanger finale that made me glad I also had the second issue to read!

Issue 2 (Charlotte's Web) wraps up this particular story and was more action packed then the first. Again at thirtish pages this was something I breezed through. This two issues almost reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in how they were paced out. A 'villain of the week' type situation that nonetheless ties into a greater tale. These first two issues worked at establishing Charlotte as the protagonist she needs to be, discovering powers she didn't know she had.

Halloween Girl was an enjoyable read, the clear art allowed characters to show their emotions on their faces, while the story was easy to follow. For me personally I would have preferred a darker story, but it certainly headed in that direction after its non threatening beginning. While the ongoing story didn't dig its claws into me there is potential for this to become greater. Vol. 1 is set to be comprised of seven issues, issue 2 is out now via Kindle Comics (Amazon), with a third one due out later this year.

SCORE:

Friday, 6 May 2022

The Last Supper (2020) - Short Horror Film Review


The Last Supper
(original title La Última Cena) is a Mexican short horror film that had a lot of promise to it. This has recently headed to the Dark Matters' YouTube channel, this is still the best place I know of on YouTube to watch an always interesting mix of different short horror films. Directed by León Landázuri and co-written by him and Isaac Basulto, this effectively shot horror only frustrated due to its confusing open end.

Altar boy Carlitos (Kike Coria) and his friend Tania (Azul Vargas) are one day led deep into a convent by a young Spanish nun (Sandra Zellweger). Following the woman they get deeper and deeper until they stumble across an unholy scene.

I loved the set-up fro this, there was a feeling this would become something demonic in nature. After a brief start the main part of The Last Supper follows Carlitos. During his journey there are CG effects used to suggest that something is night right. Notably, a shadow that lingers long after the person causing it has walked off, and a statue whose eyes move position when the young boy walks past. It culminates in a scene that includes full frontal female nudity (at a distance). The convent was a great looking and atmospheric location, full of long stone hallways and dilapidated rooms.
At ten minutes long (the final two minutes the credits) I liked how quickly this got the story moving with little build up to the beginning of the horror. It ramps up nicely leading to the final scene that visually was satisfying. What I didn't enjoy so much was how this ended. A character appears and says something intelligible and then the film ends. I'm not sure if the character was speaking Spanish and for some reason the lines weren't translated, or if the words weren't meant to be understood, but either way this being the final part of the film meant I was left wanting more. 

As always, I did enjoy this, and I continue to enjoy how much variation Dark Matters' get with their films, it would be all too easy to stuff the channel full of identical looking shorts with the almost stereotypical jump scare ending, instead it seems to go out its way to get more unique films. With The Last Supper I was pleasantly surprised to see what felt like an old film was actually only made a few years ago. Despite my frustrations with how this ended I did like the short up to that point so would say it is worth a watch.

SCORE:

Thursday, 5 May 2022

The Suffering: Ties That Bind (2005) - Horror Video Game Review (Xbox)


After a recent playthrough I can confirm The Suffering is still a fantastic video game, in fact I would put it in my top 10 games of all time. Back in 2005 I was beyond excited to see a sequel to that game; The Suffering: Ties That Bind, had been made, but my excitement turned to sadness when I found the game to be a shadow of its former self story wise, while the gameplay had been changed up to make it all so much more frustrating to play. Finally, some seventeen years later I have returned, would the game be as bad as I recalled, or would the distance of time have improved this?

The game picks up immediately after the end of the first one. Escaped convict Torque had survived the demonic horrors of Carnate island and escaped on a boat to the mainland. Arriving at the docks in Baltimore however he gets surrounded by a group of private soldiers from a shadowy organisation called The Foundation and taken into their custody. Their leader, a woman named Jordan, informs Torque that the demonic forces on Carnate were 'her life's work' and that he has been termed 'The Prime' whatever that means. Before he is given any more information there is a power blackout, and it is quickly revealed that the demonic forces from Carnate have followed Torque to Baltimore. Remembering that a mysterious man known only as 'Blackmore' has been orchestrating all the misfortunes in his life, Torque sets out into the demon infested city in order to hunt him down and finally get some answers. 

It must have been that I was playing The Suffering backwards compatible on the Xbox 360 that it looked so much better than Ties That Bind. This game (played on the native Xbox) looks extremely ugly, all blocky polygons for the characters, while the whole game looks like it has had Vaseline smothered over it. When you turn left or right there is a pronounced blurring effect, and the environments are blurry. It really brought to mind a Playstation game, though I'm sure it's not quite as bad. Having been impressed with how well the first game had held up it was bizarre to play its sequel and discover it looks so much worse graphically. An admission now, for two thirds of my playthrough of this I had the brightness setting turned down really low. All the levels seemed to be made up of just black and grey with it really hard to even see enemies. The game, unlike the first, has a real grindhouse feel to it, cutscenes have black splodges popping up all the the place, the game even ends as if a film reel has burned up. This all combined to make me believe the game was intentionally meant to be this murky, and so I came to appreciate this very dark look. Of course I then discovered the brightness setting and turned it all the way up. It made the locations actually have colour to them, but it didn't improve the poor graphics.

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for 4th May 2022


May the fourth be with you! I definitely wouldn't class myself as a huge Star Wars fan though I do enjoy the movies. That franchise has been something I've covered before on this site, notably with Joe Schreiber's 2009 zombie novel Star Wars: Death Troopers and the 1997 children's horror book Star Wars - Galaxy of Fear: City of the Dead. I'm going to lead off the news this week with something that just missed out on getting into my April news round-up last week.

We Put the World to Sleep has finally wrapped principal photography, with the indie film having been seven years in the making. The film was shot in over thirteen cities and villages over Turkey, Romania and Ukraine (before the awful invasion). What makes this film exciting to me is that it comes from Adrian Tofei, the man behind the wonderful found footage horror Be My Cat: A Film for Anne in which he played the very real feeling main character. This film is about a couple (played by Tofei and his real life partner Duru Yücel-Tofei) who are playing characters in an apocalyptic movie, but get so into their roles that they secretly set out to end the world for real. Tofei has described the partially improvised film as "the most difficult and ambitious project he ever did", while the press release states 'The multiple film-within-a-film meta layers, coupled with a screenlife approach blur the lines between what's real and what's not, resulting in a mind-bending and challenging movie'.

Apichatpong Weerasethakul's metaphysical-drama Memoria comes to digital platforms from 20th June, and on a special collector's edition Blu-ray on 25th July. The award winning film (Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival) stars Tilda Swinton as a woman who is awakened by a loud bang that only she could hear. This becomes a 'meditative exploration of memory and the human condition' as she sets out into the city in search of an explanation for this sound.

Some highlights now for the May releases on the Arrow streaming service. The most interesting thing from my viewpoint is the arrival of all the Puppet Master films, if you have yet to see these I suggest you do, being about a collection of living dolls designed to butcher and maim their victims (including one with blades for hands and one that has a drill for a head). Vinegar Syndrome Collection: Vol IV brings more underground gems, including prisonsploitation Fugitive Girls, Sweet Trash and Runaway Nightmare. There are also films from exploitation director Norman J. Warren, Spanish genre filmmaker José Ramón Larraz and The Bronx Warriors Trilogy from Italian director Enzo G. Castellari.
On June 19th Mark O'Brien's The Righteous hits the service. This is a dark chiller about a man who is struggling with his faith. One night a mysterious stranger arrives at the home of him and his wife and claims to have been lost in the woods. Soon it becomes clear he isn't who he seems.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Clowns in the Woods (2021) - Horror Film Review


Clowns in the Woods
was a horror film that had the intention to change the way people with disabilities are seen in horror movies. This was written and directed by Adrian Esposito and Curt Markham, Esposito himself is autistic and so hoped to bring with him a fresh perspective. This was also inspired by the 2016 USA clown sightings craze, which it is thought, initially actually originated back in 2013 in my UK home town of Northampton.

Marcus (Dalton Letta) is a young man with learning difficulties who is constantly harassed by a local group of bullies. On Marcus' birthday after one such encounter, the man ends up running out into a road and getting knocked down and killed by a passing car. In the afterlife he encounters a group of clowns (including Esposito as head clown, Rosco) who offer him the chance to get his revenge on those who wronged him. Marcus' next door neighbour Amy (Roselyn Kasmire - Rust Belt Driller) and his brother James (Biz LaChance) begin to get alarmed when the people indirectly responsible for killing Marcus begin to turn up dead, murdered at the hands of unknown assailants. Soon, with glimpses of creepy clowns around town, they begin to investigate the history of who these people could be. It turns out that the murderous clowns won't be satisfied with just helping Marcus, as they need their special book back (the source of their power), and it happens to be in the possession of Amy and James.

This film tells a story of revenge in a simple manner. The film ticks all the right boxes but does feel a bit 'horror film by numbers' with all the elements you would expect. There is a large body count but many of these death scenes lack impact due to a reliance on CG effects, especially when it comes to victims who are set on fire. There are also practical effects that while not looking realistic are fun to see. Moments such as a hatchet wound on a hand that includes lots and lots of spurting blood, and an early decapitation are fun to watch. People running around with digital flame effects on them not so much. This also felt better when the kills were clown related, such as one knife attack whose handle was made out of candyfloss. An area where Clowns in the Woods really excels is the creepy design of the clowns. Aside from Rosco you have Jingles,a mallet wielding large clown with a high pitched voice (played wonderfully by Arlowe Price),  the grotesque mask wearing Jekko, and the mute Jester who carries on his hand a puppet (voiced by John Karyus) that does all the talking for him. These clowns all looked effectively creepy and were full of one liners for each time they killed a victim.

Sunday, 1 May 2022

Hold My Place (2022) by Cassondra Windwalker - Horror Book Review


Hold My Place
by Cassondra Windwalker is a horror novel which really does a lot to hide that fact. By the time I had read a quarter of this 256 page novel I found myself having to go off and have a read of the synopsis just to make sure it actually fitted the criteria for this blog. While not the largest book, it is perhaps testament to my enjoyment of this that I read it in under a week which is high praise from someone who is typically so slow at reading that nations rise and fall as I work my way through novels.

Sigrun is a Goth librarian in her early thirties who falls head over heels for a cook named Edgar. They form an immediate connection despite Edgar being married, but after his beloved wife Octavia dies due to Covid it isn't long until the two start a whirlwind romance with the two not long after married. It is then that Sigrun learns that Edgar has been in three intense relationships before, each of his three previous partners have ended up in early death, with him reaping the benefit of their life insurance policies. Despite this however, Sigrun cannot see any evidence of malice in Edgar, who presents himself as the perfect and most loving man, and wanting to love him as much is humanly possible, she, with Edgar's blessing, starts to delve into the lives of his former partners and in doing so starts to take on some of their traits.

Right from the start there is a hint of future darkness to come. It was actually something I had forgotten about, but the short prologue ends with Sigrun (at some future point in time) stabbing Edgar. The majority of the book then charts the events that led up to that drastic moment, the whole novel is told from the perspective of Sigrun. The first person perspective is utilised well, you come to know Sigrun's thoughts and feelings, while early warning signs flash bright red, but from the biased perspective of the person telling the story, she doesn't spot these signs or dismisses them. There is an implied supernatural element to the novel that only becomes more apparent later on, but there is enough wiggle room that you could argue that there isn't anything actually supernatural here at all. This helps with how Sigrun acts, something that felt very real. 

Friday, 29 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's Round-up of Horror News for April 2022


Ragnarok must surely be coming for my inbox is pretty much up to date when it comes to news. Here's to some news that is actually relevant rather than months out of date! On a personal note, I am finished with Ghostwire: Tokyo, this spook-em-up had a review earlier in the week.

Arrow Films are to release Quentin Dupieux's surreal comedy Incredible But True in the UK, US, and Canada. This is about a husband and wife who move into the house of their dreams only to discover a life changing secret within the basement. While not a horror, this is said to feature time travel, a concept that I love. Incredible But True is aiming for a release this Autumn.

Releasing on May 31st from Bayview Entertainment on DVD is Kieron Hawkes' Piggy, a movie I reviewed on this site some ten years ago. The film is about a young man who after the murder of his brother meets up with a violent man named only as 'Piggy' who purports to have been a friend of his brothers. With Piggy's assistance, the young man is put on a dark path towards justice.


Not so much horror news, but interesting nonetheless, JustWatch have released a performance review of streaming platforms in the UK. As expected (currently at least), Netflix remains the largest platform, though is closely followed by Amazon Prime. Disney + had the most gains in the first quarter, while I was surprised to see Apple TV+ having 6% of the market share when there is barely anything really on it. I miss the days of just a few streaming platforms as the increase in these sites splits up the content in way that isn't good for people when it comes to cost, though it does increase competition which is hopefully a good thing here.


Dark Night of the Scarecrow 2 is coming to Blu-ray and DVD on May 10th from VCI Entertainment. This is a sequel to the made for TV feature film from way back in 1981. Apparently the first movie is what led to the 'evil scarecrow' subgenre of horror. In this sequel, a single mother, Chris (played by Amber Wedding) and her son, Jeremy (Aiden Shurr), move to a small rural town. One day Chris spots an old scarecrow and accidentally reawakens a long dormant evil. This was written and directed by J.D. Feigelson, the writer of the original film.

May 31st sees the DVD arrival of Elevator via Bayview Entertainment. In this film nine strangers become trapped in a Wall Street elevator where bad things begin to happen. This sounds similar to Devil but no idea if this one has a supernatural element to it or not.

Thursday, 28 April 2022

Ghostwire: Tokyo (2022) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 5)


I preordered Ghostwire: Tokyo long before I realised it was a first person game. I needn't have been concerned as despite that perspective this was a pretty laid back game. Closer to release I have to say I was very relieved to find out this wasn't a long game, as a child I always wanted a game that would last forever, but in this modern age of games being needlessly long a twenty five hour experience was a nice appetiser. Despite the relatively short length however this felt almost fit to bursting with padding, which even for someone who loves collecting things and doing inane side quests in an open world setting began to drag before I reached its climax.

Tokyo falls victim to a supernatural attack in which the spirit world and the real world are pulled together. For nearly the entire population of the city this is a disaster, the mystical fog that appears separates their souls from their bodies. Seemingly only a young man named Akito is sparred, and this is due to his body getting semi-possessed by a former spiritual detective named KK. They soon learn that a mysterious figure wearing a Hannya mask is behind it, with his grand plan being to unite the world of the living and that of the dead so that he can be with his deceased wife and child once again. Granted special powers due to KK's possession, and discovering Hannya (to abbreviate the antagonists name) has kidnapped his younger sister from the local hospital where she had been in a coma for many years, Akita sets out to defeat the insane man, in order to both rescue his sister, and hopefully restore Tokyo back to normal.

If you were expecting a horror game then you may well feel a bit deflated by Ghostwire: Tokyo, to me it felt like Yakuza if instead of fighting gangsters you were instead battling evil spirits. The game takes place entirely in Tokyo, I don't know how accurate a depiction it is but there were plenty of landmarks that even I recognised. The game as a whole looks pretty attractive, I wouldn't say the graphics were stunning but they were decent. The incremental rain that falls utilises the Playstation 5 controllers rumble function by simulating raindrops falling, a nice touch, as was KK's voice which comes out the speaker in the controller, as opposed to Akito's which comes out the TV speakers. Split into five chapters, the main game didn't feel like it had much to it. I finished the game after around twenty six hours and that included doing all side quests and gathering all the collectibles. Towards the end of the game I realised what a pointless task that all was. The side quests were interesting enough (more on that later), but the hundreds of Japanese themed items I was collecting (in order to sell to the magical cat shopkeepers) was the real meat of the game. The city felt varied enough in its design, the main shopping areas, more suburban type locales, as well as a large woodland. It is also full to the brim of lost souls, one of your powers being to gather these souls, which can then be deposited at any of the hundreds of telephone booths in order to exchange them for experience points.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

The Suffering (2004) - Horror Video Game Review (Xbox)


The Suffering
has long stood in my mind as one of my favourite video games of all time. I fondly remember one rainy Sunday afternoon a decade and a bit back when I played the entire game from beginning to end in one sitting, having a whale of a time. I was reminded of it recently and so decided to dig out my Xbox 360 so that I could play the original Xbox version of the game I owned. My fear was that it just wouldn't hold up in current times. Thankfully that didn't come to pass, there were however more bugs with it than I remembered.

Torque has been transported to a notorious correctional facility on Carnate island where he has been placed on death row, having been convicted for murdering his wife and children. Due to blacking out during the time of the murder, Torque isn't sure of what actually happened. Not long after his arrival at his cell there is an earthquake which brings with it the arrival of Hellish monsters. Carnate has had a long and sinister past, and now it seems all the evils that have been committed there have manifested as these creatures. Freed from his cell, Torque must now find a way to not only escape the prison, but also search for a way off of the cursed island.

I love this game, even some eighteen years after its release it is still ridiculously fun, despite some sore spots. While this is level based, the design of the whole game feels natural, all locations feel like living breathing places, having a cohesive layout and naturally progressing the character from place to place. There is also lots of variation in where you get to travel, made all the better by entries written by in game characters, these get unlocked and shed background on these places (as well as musings on the different enemies). The island has a very dark history, from an army officer killing some of his subordinates during World War II due to baseless accusations, to witch burnings, a cave-in at a mine, even a slave ship which once crashed on the shore, the slave owners leaving the slaves to be eaten alive by rats while trapped in the hold. The island feels evil in a way which is represented so well. There is never a moment in the game that feels safe, with danger all around, from fire and electric obstacles to the enemies who constantly hound you.

Monday, 25 April 2022

Psycho Storm Chaser (2021) - Horror Film Review


I'm happy to report that Psycho Storm Chaser does exactly what it says on the box. Sure, the film may be dumb and ridiculous, but this Buz Wallick (Twinsanity) directed and Jay Black (Psycho Yoga Instructor) written thriller entertains due a lot to the very spirited performance by Rib Hillis (Jurassic Wars: Sharktopus vs Pteracuda) as the storm obsessed killer.

Carl (Hillis) is a semi-famous storm chaser who has regular shows on the TV about his exploits. Unknown to all however, the man has a dark secret, not only does he chase storms, but he also a serial killer, one who only targets those who choose to ignore storm warning evacuation orders and remain in their homes. His latest target is a nurse named Abby (Tara Erickson - The Twisted Nanny) who has chosen to ignore one such evacuation order so that she can take care of a patient in a coma at the home of her employer, Ella (Mary O'Neil - Psycho Granny).

Despite a small cast the film still manages to include an annoying comedy character whose wide eyed facial expressions and joking manner was quite irritating (Ali Zahiri as Tony). Thankfully he doesn't really do too much, so that wasn't as bad as it could have been. While the character of Carl is over the top, it isn't like the rest of the cast are playing their roles without zest either. These are the sort of characters who will try and say a snappy one liner whenever they can, not portrayed as realistic people but exaggerated film versions. The sort of film where no one really seems to take much time at all to get over the death of a supposed friend. Rounding out the supporting cast is Abby's ex-boyfriend, detective Jack (Ivan Djurovic - Zoombies) who was the blandest character here, not leaving much of an impression thanks to the stereotypical character type.