Monday, 31 January 2022

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

It is a new year and the pandemic is still a thing. On a personal note I decided to finally head back to the gym after a two year absence. It is cliché joining a gym in January, but I haven't associated it with any new year resolutions so think I will be ok. Onwards as usual to the news. As I put up a music focussed post last week I will leave off the music news for this months post.

 A new film is out on Dark Matters YouTube channel. Off Fleek, directed by Steven Norrington, is an award winning dark comedy that looks at the impact of cyber bullying.

There is currently a Kickstarter running to get funds to make a board game based on the Marvel Zombies licence. Frankly, the game looks amazing, but the high cost of it has priced me out. The base game is $130 (around £96), but to get that plus all expansions (X-Men Resistance, Galactus the Devourer, Fantastic 4: Under Siege, Hydra Resurrection and Guardians of the Galaxy Set) would cost $550 (around £410). Still, you should definitely check out the Kickstarter, if only to see how cool all the zombified versions of the heroes and villains look.

More people have been announced to join the upcoming anthology sounding horror film Campfire. These include Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead, The Devil's Rejects), Denise Crosby (Pet Semetary, Deep Impact), Martin Klebba (Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic World), Gavin White (Artik), Tre Ryan (Black Adam), and Jackson Kelly (Splinters). Also joining the film crew are F/X artists Kenneth Calhoun (Jurassic World, X-Men Apocalypse) and Alan Carnes (The Black Tape) as well as makeup department head Claire Amadea (Pig), and Klebba who as well as acting in this, will be the film's stunt coordinator.

The February releases for the Arrow streaming subscription service have been announced. Bizarre sci-fi comedy Laguna Ave arrives February 1st (a review for that will be dropping later on in the week). A season of films by Michael Haneke, the making of Dune and 'B-movie gems from the world of Vinegar Syndrome'. Other notable releases includes Kaboom, Don't go in the House, Amateur, Another Wolfcop and Dan Curtis' Dracula.

Arrow Films have acquired rights in the UK, Eire and US (and home entertainment for Canada) for the festival circuit hit The Righteous. This was the first feature film from director/actor/writer Mark O'Brien and is described as a dark thriller about '...a burdened man who feels the wrath of a vengeful God, after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.' This will release this summer on digital in the UK, US and Eire, with a collector's edition Blu-ray releasing in the UK, US, CA and Eire under its Arrow Video brand.

Black Spot Books and Crystal Lake Publishing have announced an anthology titled Classic Monsters Unleashed. As the title may suggest this is made up of short stories based around the classic monsters, such as Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and The Invisible Man. The twenty nine stories includes entries from authors including Joe Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, Linda Addison and Dacre Stoker. The book is coming out in paperback, hardback and ebook formats on July 12th later this year.

Marooned Awakening is a dramatic thriller that was filmed on the Island of Guernsey. It follows a young journalist named Alex (Cameron Ashplant - Gentleman Jack) who has aspirations to leave his island home. His journey takes him 'through distorted memories of his mourning father, loving girlfriend and a recent accident. The film hopes to push the barriers of slow cinema and question our perceptions of reality, particularly in a changing world." Also in the cast are Murray McArthur (Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, Outlander), Tilly Keeper (Eastenders), West End performer Brian Webster, as well as Jenet Le Lacheur (Cinderella). This is due to have its premiere this September.

I'm a week behind, but I have been given the stats from JustWatch for the most streamed shows and films in the UK for the week leading up to 24th January. I always get sent these on Monday evenings so I fear I will always be behind! Relevant films in the top 10 include Ghostbusters: Afterlife at the top spot, Scream at number four, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage at number nine. In the streaming chart for show Dexter is at the number six spot, I really need to get around to watching that new series of that.

Horror film Rust Belt Driller comes to DVD on March 22nd from Bayview Entertainment. This is about a seemingly good guy, Renn Maxwell who has everything. A darkness that has followed him his whole life has finally caught up with him.

A newly restored high-definition Blu-ray of 1987's  Surf Nazis Must Die releases on February 8th from Troma. This bonkers sounding movie has a group of neo-nazis who seize control of the California beaches are a massive earthquake strikes. After her son is killed by them while out jogging, "Mama" Washington (Gail Neely) breaks out of her retirement home to get her revenge. This new release includes a whole host of extras.

Finally, a special clip has been released from Hellblazers. This new Tubi Original horror film takes place in the late 1980s and is about a Satanic cult seeking to unleash literal Hell on Earth. This was written and directed by Justin Lee (Badland, Final Kill) and includes among its cast Tony Todd (Candyman), Adrienne Barbeau (Escape from New York), Meg Foster (They Live), and Mike Ferguson (Amityville Uprising). 

Saturday, 29 January 2022

Last Ones Out (2015) - Zombie Horror Film Review

You can tell that writer and director Howard Fyvie was heavily inspired by 28 Days Later when coming up with his South African zombie film Last Ones Out. Everything by the fast moving infected 'zombies' to the up close and shaky camera footage during action scenes, even to the protagonist waking up alone in hospital. The only problem with this one however is the distinct lack of infected and some dumb and annoying characters.

A young American man, Henry (Greg Kriek - Maze Runner: The Death Cure) had been in South Africa to keep his fianceé company while she was working in the country. Due to needing to have his appendix removed he was in a rural hospital, and so when a mysterious new virus sweeps the continent and turns those infected into flesh hungry maniacs he finds himself in a bad situation. After the hospital is overrun, Henry is rescued by Sunet (Christia Visser), a nurse and together they team up with a doctor, Siseko (Tshamano Sebe) and a man named Vincent (Vukile Zuma). Henry manages to get in contact with his fianceé, but she tells him the unfolding disaster has made her contemplate her life choices and that she no longer wants to be with him! However, she does offer him (and him only) a place on the convoy that she has arranged to evacuate herself and her team. With the false promise that all four of them will be able to join the convoy, Henry and the others set out into the wilderness of Africa to get to the rendezvous point.

Things don't start off well and that is mainly the path of the whole film. The first biggest problem is Henry, this character is self centered, bossy and downright rude. Being in a strange country, and seeing the outbreak as nothing to do with him he just wants to leave, happy to trick his companions in his selfish desire to save himself. This is all designed I guess to give him a redemptive arc, and that is what is attempted with the character. I couldn't look past his earlier actions though, and where early in the film he had been trying to assert himself as the leader (even right at the start when he was still drugged up and barely able to move he is barking out orders!), this arc gives him the opportunity to become the leader he so desperately wanted to be. It sucks that he was made the central hero when I would say Sunet is much more of that. She is the one who rescued him, she is the one who carries on with the plan even when everything looks dire, yet she is made to play second fiddle to the arrogant Henry.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Marvel Zombies Destroy! (2012) - Zombie Graphic Novel Review

There is currently a Kickstarter running to get funds to make a Zombicide board game based on the Marvel Zombies property. It looks amazing, but alas, the price is too steep for me. Currently, to get everything, which includes the base game, the X-Men Resistance, Galactus the Devourer, Fantastic 4: Under Siege, Guardians of the Galaxy Set and Hydra Resurrection expansions would cost $550 (around £410). So, sad news for me not being able to stomach that cost, but it did remind me that I was still part way through my reading of all the Marvel Zombies graphic novels. There were five main graphic novels and since then a series of seemingly unrelated goes at bringing everyone's favourite (and more obscure) heroes into the rotting world of the undead. The last one I read was Marvel Zombies Supreme back before the pandemic struck, and now I have read Marvel Zombies Destroy!

Howard the Duck, working for A.R.M.O.R has recruited a whole bunch of heroes for a very dangerous mission. It turns out there is an alternate reality in which the Nazis won the second world war by unleashing a zombie virus that changed their soldiers all into zombies. Having completely conquered their world, they now seek to create a device that will allow them to invade other realities. Leading the team of heroes, alongside Howard, is Dum Dum Dugan, a former Howling Commando. Their plan is to travel to the zombie reality and destroy the Nazis stronghold. An already impossible mission is made harder by the realisation that the Nazis have already turned a whole bunch of former superheroes into the undead, as well as the entire population of Asgard led by a zombified Thor.

The story was action heavy and full of twists and turns along the way. If things had been played seriously I think Destroy! could have worked out a lot better. There is a bodycount that racks up and up throughout with many of the initial team of twelve meeting their ends in various bloody and gruesome ways. This could have felt daunting and horrific if played right. Unfortunately then the writing is often played for laughs, this felt at odds with the serious situation going on, it couldn't help but bring down the tone when in-between well known (and not so well known) heroes meeting their ends there is corny dialogue and terrible one-liners all over the place. The twelve core members of the team are made up of Howard the Duck, Dum Dum Dugan, Battlestar, Red Raven, Eternal Brain, Gur, Dragoon, Dynaman, Taxi Taylor, Flexo, Blazing Skull and Breeze Barton. Out of all those I had heard of just two before reading this. Some more recognisable ones do appear, including Loki, Bucky and Red Skull.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Bae Wolf (2022) - Comedy Fantasy Horror Film Review

The films of David Axe may be low in budget, but at least with the ones I have seen they are high in ideas. It shows how weird these past few years have gotten in that it feels like much longer than 2019 when I first watched one of his movies, the excellent horror Shed, then it was only later that same year when I saw another of his creations, this time an indie dive into the post apocalypse with the intriguing and political Lection. Now he is back, and with another slight genre shift, as while Bae Wolf has horror elements, it is mainly a fantasy. Axe wrote, directed, shot, edited, mixed and produced the film, as always an impressive accomplishment. 

Loosely based on the Old English epic poem Beowolf, Bae Wolf takes place around the year 500 A.D. In the Queendom of Heorot a monster named Grendel (Josh Kern - House Monster) is causing havoc, repeatedly attacking the mead house and killing everyone there. In desperation the Queen's teenage daughter, Freawaru (Morgan Shaley Renew - Bad Girls, House Monster) hires a wandering hero, Beowolf (Jennifer Hill - House Monster, Lection) to slay the monster, but it turns out this hero has secrets of her own.

The press release for this makes much of the fact that this is a queer film, but I would say that is only incidental within the context of the story. There is a gay subplot going on but it is just that, a subplot that doesn't really have anything to do with the main story. Instead this is much more a film about attempting to end cycles of hate, and how appearances can be deceiving. Grendel is portrayed initially as a monster with no redeeming qualities, Beowolf as a fearsome battle experienced warrior, while the town drunk, and Freawaru's best friend Unferth (Aaron Blomberg - Lection, Shed) has secret aspirations of becoming the hero that he believes the town needs. This deceptiveness also applies to the main story itself , I read a synopsis of the original poem so had certain expectations which this then subverts.
A key part of Lection was the devolved society, so reduced that characters could barely converse. With Bae Wolf there is a return to dialogue, and it was occasionally surprisingly deep and meaningful. The writing was a hidden highlight of the film and was when Bae Wolf was at its most fascinating, combined with the soundtrack that had some wonderful synth tracks, led to some special moments. I wasn't surprised to see Matt Akers and Gauge Santiago had also composed the music for Shed as this shared many similarities.

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

The Rotting Zombie's Music News Round-up - January 26/01/22

I have found myself with an unexpected four days of annual leave I was required to take by the end of January so will try and put that to good use. I often complain about my fit to bursting email inbox and so today I will try and expel some of the music news, however old it may now be. 

Back in September electro-pop artist Eva X released a video for their track, Machine. This was directed, shot and edited by Erik Gustafson (Grendel/Adoration Destroyed). This track was the first look at her album, I Dream Of A Reality (due out this year) and is about "...what being beautiful in the alternative community looks and feels like, and how far we go for aesthetics...a video that captured both the sexiness I wanted and the reality of cutting and injecting ourselves for it."

Then towards the end of last year came her second single taken from the upcoming album, this one titled Whipping Girl and was the first to be directed and shot by the singer. She says of this track " of my favourite songs from the upcoming album. It's kind of the resident breakup song. It's about looking someone in the eye and telling them you won't take their bad treatment any longer."

October 1st saw the release of Vazum's single Frankenstein Gurl. This electronic dance track was taken from their album, Unrated V. The song 'tells the story of a genetically engineered human who questions their existence'. For more details check out their Bandcamp page.
Talking of Unrated V, that released on October 22nd. It is made up of twelve electronic tracks 'inspired by classic horror tales and ghoulish characters'. This album is the electronic counterpart to 2020's Rated V.
The final bit of Vazum news is that new double single, Gallows was released on the 31st December. This includes both a version of the song performed in deathgaze fashion, the second is an electronic, dancy version titled Lost Forest Mix.

Chicago based Bullet To The Heart released a music video for their track Heathen in October. The track is about the decision between fighting your demons or joining them. The track can be streamed on Spotify and follows on from Tortured Pleasure and Birth Of A Tragedy.

Sticking with the Halloween month, this saw the release of Lore, the new LP from darkwave band The Blue Hour. The press release says of the EP; 'Lore is a journey through struggle, transcendence and love. Dreamlike, each song tells a true story imbued with nature and fantastic worlds.'

Goth/post-punk band The Funeral March released Flood in October, this was their sixth release. The concept for the EP was created in the same sessions as Useless. The aim with this EP was to create something different to what they had done before, it also includes a remix of song Flood by Hide Tepes from Carrion.

Finally, Thomas Crane is apparently best known as a music video director and the head of killDevil Films and back in October (again) he released the official music video for his new track Monsters Walk Among Us. This award winning video has Crane playing the part of 'The Gemini Killer'; a 'ruthless but flamboyant serial killer'

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2020) - Comedy Sci-fi Film Review

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes
 (directed by Junta Yamaguchi in his sole feature film role, with a story written by Makoto Ueda) is the time travel genre's response to zombie film One Cut of the Dead, both of these are Japanese films, both purport to be shot entirely in one single take, and both feature a cast of very earnest and likeable characters. At a glance maybe you could say this shouldn't be featured on a horror site, but I have a fond love for anything involving time travel, and this uses a unique idea in plenty of inventive ways, selling its story despite an obvious low budget.

Cafe owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) returns to his apartment one evening and is surprised to see himself on his TV. This person tells Kato that he has somehow time travelled into the future and that he needs Kato to come downstairs to the cafe where a second TV is located, in order to inform his past self about this. It eventually becomes apparent that for whatever reason the TV located in Kato's apartment has the ability to see exactly two minutes into the future, while the TV located in the cafe has the ability to see exactly two minutes into the past. By communicating via the downstairs TV, people are able to impart future knowledge to their counterparts in the past. It isn't long before a whole bunch of Kato's friends have gotten involved, all of them fascinated at being able to communicate with themselves. At first content to perform simple tricks to amaze their past selves, soon thoughts turn about how to utilise this wormhole in order to make money, and that's when things begin to make a darker turn.

The whole of Beyond was apparently filmed on an iPhone and the whole film has a simulated look to appear as if it was all filmed in a single take. Obviously there would be breaks as filming an entire seventy minute film would be nigh on impossible in a single take, but it is impressive and never becomes obvious when a shot has changed. I found this more impressive than One Cut of the Dead as that changed into something far different later on, but here, this notion of one single take is stuck with all the way to the end. The flow of the story has Kato and friends constantly walking up and down the stairs in order to both speak to their future selves, and then go and act out their future selves talking back to the past. By necessity this caused a lot of repetition, but it was so clever, especially when things don't always turn out as expected. An early example is when future Kato is told by his older self to go and ask out the neighbour he fancies. He had always been too scared of rejection to do this, but is given confidence by his future self, only to do so and get rejected. Not wanting to disrupt the time flow he then pretends to his younger self that he was successful. This becomes one of the more interesting aspects of Beyond with characters being compelled to parrot their interactions out of a feeling of not wanting to cause a time paradox, rather than having an actual desire to do so, bringing up the idea of free will, or a lack of one.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Don't Smell The Flowers! They Want To Steal Your Bones! (2020) by Duncan P. Bradshaw - Comedy Horror Book Review

Duncan P. Bradshaw is a comedy horror author whose output gets increasingly weirder and weirder with each subsequent release. I figured he had reached the heights of this stupidity with the fantastic Mr Sucky, but the frequently fourth wall breaking Don't Smell The Flowers! They Want To Steal Your Bones! takes this to an intense new level.

In the village of Charlton something strange is occuring, the residents are being discovered with strange flowers attached to their faces which have rendered them unconcious. In desperation the authorities call in loose cannon Harry, a potentially psychotic and definitely barely dressed detective whose methods may win him no friends, but who always manages to get the job done. He intends to find the person responsible for unleashing these bone stealing flowers and stop him violently. With the help of a possibly magical man named Barnaby, Harry sets out (along with his trusty trebuchet) to save the day the only way he knows how.

It sounds strange to say this as a compliment, but this is exhaustingly full of stupidity, each line is crammed full of jokes, insults, puerile humour and nonsense that it often came difficult to follow the story that was going on. That didn't detract much from the story however as it was bananas, the revelation of just what is going on was as ridiculous as the rest of the plot. The novel becomes something far different than the crime mystery it started off as for much of the second half. This read like Robert Rankin but with added nonsense. A key part of what I loved so much about this was that the characters are aware they are in a book, that their roles are being written by an unseen author. This is another layer of silliness that added so much charm. to quote the book during a random example: "Harry went to roll his sleeves up before remembering that he hadn't had any during the entire story." This fourth wall breaking is constant over the course of the whole novel, even taking time to address criticisms of Bradshaw's previous novel Cannibal Nuns from Outer Space! at one point.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Triangle (2009) - Horror Film Review

I have wanted to see Triangle for over a decade now, and that desire couldn't have been too strong as I have owned it on DVD for much of that. This was written and directed by Christopher Smith (Severance, Creep) and I feel it was ahead of its time. At the moment the concept of a time loop is very much in vogue, back then, with the exception of a few outliers such as Groundhog Day, not so much. The biggest reason I wanted to see this was that my local cinema heavily advertised this in trailers for months leading up to its release, but subsequently didn't actually bother to end up showing it, so finally, today some thirteen years later, I have managed to finally give it a view.

A group of friends have arranged to go out on a yacht for a day trip. These friends include Downey (Henry Nixon) and his wife Sally (Rachael Carpani), Greg (Michael Dorman - Daybreakers), his friend Victor (Liam Hemsworth - The Avengers), as well as Jess (Melissa George - 30 Days of Night) who has been struggling with caring for her autistic son. They soon run into trouble when a bizarre storm appears out of nowhere, it ends up capsizing their yacht, but luckily they happen to get the attention of a passing ocean liner and are rescued. They are puzzled to find the boat appears to be deserted, and during their search for any sign of life they run into trouble with the appearance of a masked gunman who seems determined to kill them all.

Writing about this it is really hard to work out how much of a spoiler to give, I think I will stop with what I have already said, that this is a time loop film. Jess is the film's protagonist and it is her journey that we follow, making sense as she becomes the only character to realise they are trapped in a time loop and the only one to experience multiple loops. What was clever here was that this isn't a loop that exists on its own, instead the loop is happening in the exact same place, so if someone is killed in an earlier loop their corpse will still be there to see when time repeats. Much is made of this concept and I have to say I was impressed with how involved this was. It is rare I would recommend a rewatch of a movie but there is much here that would give an entirely new light on a subsequent watch. You have clues dotted throughout that are not obvious at all when they appear, only with later knowledge do events become a lot more obvious. There are even scenes that play out, and then later on these scenes are extended in both directions to create an entirely different feel. The power of editing is evident throughout Triangle.

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Nocturna: Side B - Where the Elephants Go to Die (2021) - Horror Film Review

Nocturna: Side B - Where the Elephants Go to Die
is a companion piece to the brilliant Nocturna: Side A - The Great Old Man's Night, both of which were written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada (Luciferina). I had heard this part of the double bill was more experimental, but I wasn't prepared for just how experimental this turned out to be. Was this arty? Sure, but for me personally, was it interesting? Not so much.

Side A focussed on the elderly Ulises (Pepe Soriano), this second part instead focuses on his wife, Dalia (Marilú Marini). This is vaguely a retelling of that first movie, in so much that key parts of that story are represented here. More than anything though this is a monologue from Dalia as she tries to explain her mindset of the world, and how hard it is to let go.

Thankfully this wasn't too long of a film, running at just over an hour long. To me it felt like it was a lot longer and found myself frequently clock watching or even worse subconsciously picking up my phone and starting to browse various websites. Of course, this is an insult to the director but while I appreciated this I could not get into it. I think part of the problem is the subtitles, dubbing is the very worst thing in my opinion, I always listen to foreign language films in their native tongue, but with Part B at times there is so much dialogue being spoken that I found my eyes glued to the bottom of the screen reading it, missing out on the various images that are meant to combine with the words. There is a lot of repetition here, both in what is being said and what is being shown, so eventually this became less of an issue, especially after the very fast editing that makes up the prologue to the movie.

Monday, 17 January 2022

Nocturna: Side A - The Great Old Man's Night (2021) - Horror Film Review

As the title may well suggest, the Gonzalo Calzada (Luciferina) written and directed Nocturna: Side A - The Great Old Man's Night has been designed as a double bill, its sister being Nocturna: Side B - Where the Elephants Go to Die. I thought the poster for this film was great, and it is a rare occurrence where the quality of the film matches up to the quality of the poster. Despite being in Spanish I found this to be a really affecting film, one that I admit reduced me to tears by the end of its one hour forty five minute run time.

Ulises (Pepe Soriano) is an old man approaching his hundreds who is steadily becoming senile. He lives in an apartment with his wife Dalia (Marilú Marini) and both live in fear of being evicted from their home due to their advanced years becoming an issue with the patient building superintendent, Daniel (Lautaro Delgado Tymru). The film takes place over the course of one long night, a night in which a neighbour from upstairs plummets to her death in the couple's courtyard, yet after this mysteriously keeps appearing at their door pleading to be let in. This and other events causes Ulises to reflect back over his long life and become mindful of his biggest regrets and mistakes that he hopes to somehow atone for before his own death.

First off special mention has to go to the acting here. Sure, I don't understand Spanish, but no character seemed to be a poor actor, Soriano in particular was a real highlight. Despite not understanding the language, he brought a tremendous believability to his role with his actions and expressions bringing over way more than just words ever could. The vast majority of the film rests on his shoulders, to my knowledge he is in almost every single scene and not once does he give anything other than a powerful performance. His senile moments feel real, and his role was such a bittersweet sad one. When Ulises and Dalia are scared it feels authentic, the way they act around each other with almost resentment between the two, yet a shared love brought about by spending most their lives together. Ulises was not a happy character, there is so much in his life that hasn't gone as he would have liked, with a son who barely visits, to an estranged daughter, the sadness and sorrow is reflected so deeply on him, especially in the moments where his failing memory upsets him. 

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Sam Was Here (2016) - Horror Film Review

I have intended for 2022 to be the year that I spend more time watching films of my choosing rather than solely watching horrors sent to me for review. I found the Christophe Deroo written and directed Sam Was Here towards the back end of my Shudder queue and I admit I chose to watch it based on its short running time of seventy five minutes. This remains Deroo's only feature length movie he has created and it stands apart as a very mysterious film, style over substance, but that is one of the things that I really appreciate in films.

Sam (Rusty Joiner - Resident Evil: Extinction) is a travelling salesman who is travelling through the Mojave Desert back roads of California in order to get home to his wife and young daughter. After his car breaks down he is baffled to find everywhere he visits deserted, yet with signs of people having recently been there. He also finds he is unable to contact anyone on telephones, either receiving dead ringtones or answer phone messages. The only bit of normality he does find is a local radio station hosted by a man called Eddy. The radio show is talking about a killer on the loose and the more Sam listens the more he begins to realise that the person being talked about is himself. Soon he finds himself hunted by the inhabitants of a rural community who want the confused man dead.

I had read beforehand that this film was like an episode of Black Mirror if it had been directed by David Lynch, I can kind of get that. While not as surreally nasty as Lynch's work can feel, this had its weird moments that really did give off a vibe such as that. For one thing you have a strange red light constantly showing up, both far off in the sky, and closer to home. Then you have the story that is a slow burn of limited reveals. I fully expected the film to loop around on itself like Lost Highway, it had a similar kind of vibe at times, I also expected maybe this was a Twilight Zone style hellish afterlife in which a bad person is forced to face endless persecution. Instead the film ends with nothing explained which I can see frustrating some people. There is plenty of suggestions throughout but nothing concrete or definite is ever given. Apparently Deroo said of the film that the only part of Sam Was Here intended to be understood was the atmosphere, and the paranoid desperate journey of Sam's, punctuated with moments of brutality certainly maintains a cruel atmosphere all the way to its finale.

Friday, 14 January 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology - 14th January 2022

I got away without doing a fifth blog post last week, I probably should though, as long as I got one day out of my three day weekend to not do any kind of work I am happy. With that in mind here's a lightning quick news post with the top two emails and the very bottom one from my digital news sack.

September Mourning revealed their new music video for track Dirty, exclusively on ZORA NFT platform. This single (the first since Falling Awake) is only available via front-woman Emily Lazar's NFT Media Box Monster Rehab collaboration, September's Monsters. I didn't anticipate how much into the public consciousness NFT related things would come, but its been creeping into everything from art to video games to music. Lazar says of this decision "If you want a one of a kind piece of merch, there will only be one of these. Making it more special, this music video I wrote and conceptualized is my directorial debut..."

Small town crime thriller Harvey arrived on VOD platforms on January 7th thanks to Midnight Releasing. This is about the titular Harvey who awakens after a night of heavy drinking to discover he just may have murdered a man during the missing hours that he blacked out. In my review I said of this "...Harvey improved steadily...I found myself getting more into the small town vibe..." VOD platforms include iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, Xbox Video, Vimeo, YouTube, Fandango, and Direct TV.

Finally for this week, some music news from September (the month this time, not the band) last year. UK industrial/metal one-man project Raze the Altar released their self-titled track from their new album Cataclysm Eden that came out in October of last year. Dylan said of the track "Everybody deserves better, and nobody should be struck down for the sake of another. Stand up for yourself and know your worth, don't be a sacrifice, raze that altar that you've been placed on".

Thursday, 13 January 2022

All Hallows Eve: The Reaping (2015) - Horror Anthology Film Review

As part of the films I watched for Halloween last year I took a look at the deliciously dark and twisted anthology horror All Hallow's Eve that featured three shorts and a meaty wraparound segment all directed by Damien Leone (Terrifier). I noticed there was a sequel on Prime Video, All Hallow's Eve: The Reaping, and so watched it without really looking into it. I was disappointed that outside of the general idea this was unrelated, it may feature an increased amount of short films over its ninety minute runtime but Leone didn't appear to be involved in this at all, and it began to feel a little bit of quantity over quality.

The wraparound story features a young woman who discovers a VHS tape left outside the door to her apartment. Watching it she finds a series of different horror films. The first anthology had a lengthy wraparound that had its own story going on, this time around there is barely anything, it's like an inferior re-run, except with a man in a subpar looking pumpkin mask rather than the supremely creepy Art the Clown.
Making up most of the film then are the eight different short films, starting with Bryan Norton and Antonio Padovan's Jack Attack. In this, a young boy and his babysitter carve a pumpkin together, but it is when they go to eat the seeds that the horror begins. This featured some great special effects of vines swirling around, and went to a dark place. It was as gory as I expected for a sequel to a very gory anthology. This was maybe The Reaping showing its hand too early though as none of the other short films matched this in terms of gore.

Up next was Marc Roussel's The Last Halloween. This had a cool spin on a traditional Halloween horror by having it take place in a post-apocalyptic world. Four children are still determined to go trick or treating and all is going well until they come across the fortified home of a survivalist who does not seem inclined to give them a treat. I thought this was a clever idea, a cautionary tale that featured a fun guest appearance from Julian Richings (Blood Hunters, The Witch: A New England Folktale), let down only by some dodgy looking CG flames.
This is when the Halloween theme is mostly abandoned with only one other short seeming to take place at that season. The Offering is from Ryan Patch and succeeds by showing absolutely nothing but suggesting everything. In this one, a father and son are on a drive out to a remote location in order to give an offering to...something, before midnight comes. The understatement may typically disappoint but I loved that nothing at all was shown, the horror coming from your own imagination.

Wednesday, 12 January 2022

The Witcher: Season 2 (2021) - Fantasy Horror TV Show Review

The Witcher
was a video game series that I enjoyed playing through a few years back (The Witcher, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt). At least that was my introduction to this dark fantasy world. The games were actually based on the Polish books by Andrzej Sapkowski, which the Netflix show also uses as a base. In my review of the first season of The Witcher I didn't say much as for some reason I declined to review it. A very quick review would be that it was good enough that my non-fantasy liking friend was fully on board, though perhaps wouldn't have been if not for Henry Cavill (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). Mild spoilers for the first season to follow.

With the Witcher Geralt (Cavill) finally having located the girl he had sworn to protect, Ciri (Freya Allan), he decides to take her to the safest place he can think of, the secluded Witcher stronghold of Kaer Morhen. Meanwhile, the sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), believed to have died at the battle of  Sodden instead survived, and finds herself a prisoner of the invading Nilfgaardian army. Elsewhere, a powerful witch sets plans in motion to escape the confines of the magical prison from which she had been sealed in centuries earlier by a group of Witchers.

A complaint people had with the first season of this show was how confusing it became with all the leaping around in time. Personally I thought that was quite a clever concept, one that was able to happen due to the principal main characters who don't age as normal humans do. Maybe taking that criticism in mind, season two follows a far more traditional route through its eight episodes run. The first season at times felt like each episode was a separate self contained story, which makes sense seeing as many of the The Witcher books were in fact written as a collection of short stories. Things start off similar here with A Grain of Truth, this taken from the first Witcher book, The Last Wish. It was an excellent start to the new season, showing the morally grey world where good and evil are forever shaded. Flipping all the way to final episode, Family I have to say how much better this worked than season ones finale. There you had what was essentially a flashback episode as Geralt lay severely injured and reflected back on his childhood, while this finale is a culmination of a grand overarching story.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Girl Next (2021) - Horror Film Review

Before I begin this review I will say that I really didn't get what Girl Next was going for, I found it to be mostly an unpleasant experience despite how well made it was put together. This was directed by Larry Wade Carrell (Jacob) with a story written by Zeph E. Daniel (Society) and Michael Muscal and has won a lot of awards.

Lorien (Lacey Cofran) is a young woman who is abducted one day and taken to the mansion of pseudo scientist Heinrich (Marcus Jean Pirae - Bulletproof Monk) and his sadistic wife Misha (Paula Marcenaro Solinger). Heinrich is in the business of creating 'Sofia' dolls; brainwashed victims who become pliant and willing sex objects for his perverted rich clients. Lorien becomes his latest subject, and while on the surface she has lost all self control, on the inside she is on a hallucinatory journey to rediscover just who she is.

I expected Girl Next to follow the typical format of a revenge thriller. That terrible things would happen to the protagonist, but eventually she would escape in order to turn the tables on her captors. The crib notes I assume would say exactly that, but with the girl brainwashed at the end of the first act a lot of the film then falls onto the shoulders of Pirae and Solinger. Nothing with my criticisms falls onto their acting ability, I had no issues, except maybe the stereotypical portrayal of insanity of the character of Charlotte (Rachel Alig - The Cleaning Lady) and Cofran's character. Both of these were for very obvious reasons, the former had a lot more to her than at first appeared, while Lorien was brainwashed so obviously wasn't going to be full of personality. Elsewhere you had Larry Wade Carrell (Jacob) who played a one-note villain, but gave a fun performance, a despicable character who wouldn't be out of place in a Rob Zombie movie.

Sunday, 9 January 2022

Escape Room (2017) - Horror Film Review

Escape Room
(not to be confused with Escape Room that came out in 2017 also, or indeed Escape Room) is a horror film from Will Wernick (Follow Me) that was directed by him and co-written alongside Noah Dorsey. At the time there apparently hadn't been a horror film set in one of these places, but since then there have been at least ten different horrors using the same idea. The film was interesting, though lacking somewhat in the horror stakes.

For Tyler's birthday (Tyler played by Evan Williams), his girlfriend, Christen (Elisabeth Hower) has arranged for him and his friends to take part in an exclusive escape room experience. The couple, along with Tyler's sister Tabby (Kelly Delson - Follow Me) and her boyfriend Conrad (John Lerardi - also Follow Me) as well as Anderson (Dan J. Johnson) and Natasha (Annabelle Stephenson - Home and Away TV show) are taken to a hidden location and blindfolded. Removing their blindfolds they find they have been put in a series of escape rooms that they soon discover are interconnected. Working together the group begin to start the process of solving the clues to escape, but their fun time turns to horror when they discover that there are fatal consequences for any mistakes they make.

The film doesn't start off great, a murky prologue that shows a victim meeting his end, followed by a bizarre audio conversation of someone being tortured for failing to solve riddles, all set to different shots of city streets at night. Following this we are introduced to the characters, all of which appear to be young and rich, and all of which do not seem like good people. Eventually after a lengthy first act the escape rooms make an appearance and the film improves. For a horror film though this really takes a good while to get going. Ignoring the prologue sequence it is an entire hour into the movie before anything bad happens, an hour before the characters even realise they are in any kind of peril. This leaves just half an hour for the horror to unfold. It's a good thing then that the process of the characters solving little clues was interesting to watch. The set design is basic but effective, not remotely reaching the heights of the wonderful set design of the much more popular 2019 horror, but it was fun seeing the puzzles slowly get solved. Special effects are minimal, being rated 15 there isn't too much violence, it is always more implied than shown, except for one or two scenes.

Friday, 7 January 2022

The Return (2020) - Horror Film Review

The Return
is going to be a hard film to review, namely that mid film it completely shifts genres, but to say how and why would ruin the surprise. Directed and co-written by BJ Verot (After the Rain) in his feature length directorial debut this horror uses one of my favourite ideas and becomes quite mind bending.

After his father dies of a heart attack, Rodger (Richard Harmon - The 100 TV series, Bates Motel TV series) returns to his childhood home in order to get his affairs in order. Along for the trip is his girlfriend Beth (Sara Thompson - also The 100 TV series) and his life long best friend, Jordan (Echo Andersson). Soon Rodger begins to see a ghostly smoky black figure around the house and after some investigating discovers it may be linked to a similar occurrence he had back when he was a child, something that may have led to the death of his sister at the time.

First things first, the smoky black ghost is obviously a CG creation, it never quite fits the environments it appears in with an artificial look to it. Get past this though and The Return becomes an enjoyable mystery that while at first cliché and predictable goes into riviting territory due to the shift in genres at the midway point. It seems strange to say, but with a film with quite a small cast there were still one too many characters, namely Beth. This character adds absolutely zero to the story, her inclusion as Rodgers girlfriend seemed to be there just to create some mild conflict, due to Jordan appearing to be secretly in love with Rodger. She does pretty much nothing before just walking out the film halfway through and never returning. It seemed it was only after this point that The Return really found its feet, bringing the wonderful friendship to the forefront, mostly comfortable just to leave it as exactly that, a friendship. While Rodger is made out to be very intelligent, the two share a bond both from being friends for so long, but also with the same type of sarcastic humour they share, something that before Beth's inglorious exit, bothered her.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

The Wrong Sarah (2021) - Thriller Film Review

The Wrong Sarah
is a crime thriller that follows an F.B.I agent's hunt for a serial killer. Written and directed by Jason Toler (who also stars in this), this somehow retained a chilled vibe despite the subject matter, while the relatively short length (at just over an hour) made this easy to get through.

F.B.I agent Jack (Toler) is in charge of the investigation into the 'black rose' serial killer, so called for leaving a black rose at the scene of his crimes. The man targets young females named Sarah, apparently seeking out one in particular due to his habit of writing 'wrong Sarah' near every victim's corpse. After Jack gets a clue as to the identity of the killer's next potential victim, he races to L.A in order to protect a young woman named Sarah Thomas (Elliott Woods - Amityville Cop).

There were a bunch of familiar faces in The Wrong Sarah, so it was fun spotting all the actors I recognised from previous films they have worked on. Sarah's mum is played by Lisa London, a fellow agent of Jacks is played by Chris Spinelli, Sarah Brine makes an appearance as an earlier victim of the killer, while Shane Ryan-Reid also features, these I have all seen previously in Heartbeat and Choke among various other films. Elsewhere some of the casting choices seemed slightly odd, especially during the first F.B.I scene in which one of the team members looked to be about fifteen years of age, so was a bit distracting.

Monday, 3 January 2022

Stay Out Stay Alive (2019) - Horror Film Review

Stay Out Stay Alive
was written, produced, and directed by Dean Yurke, a first for himself in all those roles. This didn't get off to a great start, some dodgy acting and a strange pace, as well as a really silly story all combined to make me have some trepidation. I was almost shocked to discover just how enjoyable a horror this actually turned out to be in the end. 

Donna (Sage Mears - voice work on DmC: Devil May Cry), her sister Bridget (Brie Mattson - Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D TV series) and her boyfriend Reese (Brandon Wardle - Bumblebee), as well as Kyle (William Romano-Pugh) and his girlfriend Amy (Christina July-Kim - Office of the Dead) have all gone on a camping trip in the redwood forest. On the first night Donna goes missing, the next day her friends discover her at the bottom of a hidden mine at the bottom of a ravine. She had fallen in and in the process managed to get her foot wedged under a large boulder. Initially the friends all decide to go and get help from the forest ranger, Susanna (Barbara Crampton - We Are Still Here, You're Next) but the discovery of a large amount of gold in the mine halts these plans. The friends, with Donna's blessing, decide to instead spend a few days gathering as much gold as possible, and only then going to get help for the trapped (and also I will add, pregnant) girl. As time passes the friends begin to change, becoming obsessed with getting as much gold as possible, and in their pursuit of this goal go to drastic lengths from which there is no returning.

The biggest hurdle I had to get over while watching this was the ridiculous concept that the friends would much rather steal gold than help out their trapped friend. This was made even more stupid in that Donna was perfectly happy to remain trapped for days on end for this to occur. Later in the film there becomes a supernatural element, a curse on the land is slowly changing the characters behaviours so that they become crazed with greed, but initially this isn't the case. This marred my enjoyment of the first act but things do become a whole lot better. The story does not take long to get going, in fact, within around ten minutes the heart of the film has been established. I liked that the horror here was an insidious one, there are ghostly figures to be seen but only fleetingly, instead it is the characters changing behaviour which carries a lot of the horror. Things got quite dark here with lines crossed that can't be uncrossed, I was surprised just how events played out, and I liked the rustic low-key music that played out over many of these scenes of darkness.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Hotel Poseidon (2021) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Hotel Poseidon
is a Belgian darkly comedic fantasy/horror film that was written and directed by Stefan Lernous in his feature length directorial debut. It is a hard film to describe as it follows a near nonsensical meandering format with the only real constant being the central protagonist, and a story that is nearly non-existent.

Dave (Tom Vermeir) is the owner of a very dilapidated run down hotel that has seen much better days than the trash filled dive it has become. He discovers that his elderly Aunt has died, a problem as it is her pension that was paying for the hotel to remain in a somewhat working order. Meanwhile, two men hoping to hold a bizarre private function plan for the evening.

It is quite alright to ignore that synopsis as that is only tangentially what this very strange film is going for. With the whole film taking place within the walls of the hotel, and the random and often nightmarish situations that unfold within I got a real feeling of Mother! though I would add I appreciated this a lot more than that one. This similar feel is no more apparent than during my very favourite scene of the movie, a disorientating ten to fifteen minute section that takes place during the private function. This scene if it had been on its own as a short film would have scored very highly with me. In it, Dave bounces from group to group in the packed room, many characters speaking utter nonsense, and with a hostile atmosphere, such as a man that Dave keeps accidentally bumping into, a prolonged sequence of Dave crawling on the floor, and the finale for this section in which the patrons all turn on Dave. All of this set to the accompiment of some great music being played by a band in the room, and features some great direction, best of which were several long single shot sequences that had the man interacting with a whole host of characters in his dizzying journey around the room.