Monday, 28 February 2022

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

I turned 40 this month and it was a baptism by fire thanks to a series of misfortunes that plagued me over that first week of being so. Putting that all behind me and moving into the future with my monthly news round-up.

Los Angeles based industrial metal band Dawn of Ashes have revealed the third single to be taken off their upcoming new EP, Scars of the Broken, the track sharing the same name. Continuing the themes of depression and mental illness, this track according to band member Kristof Bathory is "...dedicated to those who feel damaged or have dealt with sensitive issues that make it hard for them to move forward in life." The new EP is due for release on March 18th from Artoffact Records.

On March 15th Arrow Video US will release a limited edition 4K UHD version of An American Werewolf in London. This new release includes a brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative, while extras include documentaries, audio commentaries, interviews, as well as a 60-page perfect-bound book.

New progressive rock band Temple of Shadows have released their second single, The Hanged Man. The band is fronted by Justin 'JD' deBlieck (Ex-Ice Nine Kills) and Joel DeMartino (Moonwalker) who provide dueling vocals over their music. As the title hints at, The Hanged Man is a song from their tarot-themed series of releases, following from first single, The Hermit. The songs are said to be full of hidden meanings.

In Utero releases on March 22nd from Bayview Entertainment. This comes from Royce Freeman and I'm not entirely sure what it is about. The press release synopsis states 'Hardened by a childhood accident, Zoe seeks to fill in the void in her blackened soul. Skylar, an expectant mother, is ready to protect her unborn child at all costs. Raven, caught in the middle, faces her greatest challenge to follow her heart no matter the consequences'.

Shatter is a horror film that came from Midnight Releasing. Taking place in a small town, a detective is forced to follow the cryptic clues of an escaped psychiatric patient in order to solve a bizarre murder. In the process of doing this however, the man discovers a revelation even more strange than the crime itself. This was produced in 2020, with Chris Schwartz as director and co-writer (alongside Donovan Schwartz). Shatter can be viewed online or video on demand in a variety of places including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vimeo, and YouTube.

Unsheltered is a horror film that is distributed by Buffalo 8. Directed by Marcus Small, this one is about five college students out in nature who are forced to seek shelter, apparently resulting in them never being seen alive again. Unsheltered can be viewed on iTunes.

Los Angeles based Sparke Films have gained the right to Primitive War: Opiate Undertow, which was the debut novel of Ethan Pettus and appears to be a historical sci-fi horror that combines the Vietnam war with dinosaurs. The film will be written and directed by Luke Sparke.

The subscription streaming service Arrow has announced its March releases. Heading it up is the premiere of The Beta Test. This takes place in the world of Hollywood agents, the protagonist is not having the happiest life, so after receiving an anonymous invitation in the post he finds himself going into a place of anonymous infidelity.
Also coming in March is the Fritz Lang Collection that includes Metropolis, Dr Mabuse the Gambler, and The Testament of Dr Mabuse. The Jess Franco Collection includes Oasis of the Living Dead, The Awful Dr Orlof, and Nightmares Come at Night. Those last ones I own on DVD, looking through the list there were a bunch of other horrors I also own, definitely from a certain time. They include among them A Virgin Among the Living Dead, Demoniac, and Female Vampire.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Game of Groans (2022) - Short Comedy Horror Film Review

Game of Groans
is the latest short film from the prolific David Black (Sinister Symbiosis, Badass Bunyip), this one with a script by Black and directed by Gerado Chierchia (Toxic Alien Zombie Babes from Outer Space, Time Goddess). As the title should suggest, this is a comedy, and as always, features humour that doesn't really appeal to my tastes.

Black reprises his role as the nerdy Darvis (last seen in Time Goddess), and is at his clubhouse playing monopoly with his equally nerdy friends Kenobe (Glen Cook - Badass Bunyip, Little Miseries) and Kelvin (Brett Sixtysix - Toxic Alien Zombie Babes from Outer Space, Badass Bunyip). Without warning the clubhouse is invaded by Lucifer's Ladies, a three strong, all female gang made up of Annabashya (Anastasia C. Kouloukas - Badass Bunyip, Sinister Symbiosis), Melcontent (Melanie Kuhn - Dark Ditties from Down Under, The Last Hope) and Graceless (Grace Liu - Cahya, Colony). The gang assault the three men before suggesting they all play a game. Darvis agrees to this as he hopes to get something good out of it should he and his friends somehow win, but they may get something quite different to what they expected.

For me this started off well, an intro sequence that features a car revving in a carpark. I also liked the introduction of the gang, complete with their own credit sequence. The humour was quite puerile and gross, such as Darvis being tricked into drinking urine, and some purposely fake looking genitalia on show, so none of that appealed to me. What was obvious was that the cast appeared to be having fun in their roles, all of them putting a lot of energy which created a feeling of cohesive unity,. It ends on a slight twist that was expected, but was a fun way to end this. The humour means that what could have been an unpleasant story came across as more cartoony, which worked in its favour, especially during a key fight sequence.

While the comedy here didn't appeal to me, I still thought this fifteen minute short was enjoyable to watch. There is a consistent style going on and was less rough around the edges than I expected it to be. Game of Groans can be seen on YouTube, here.


Friday, 25 February 2022

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (2021) - Sci-fi Video Game Review (Xbox Series X)

Mass Effect
is one of my favourite series of video games despite fair criticisms drew against some of the entries. I have previously reviewed each of the games in the Mass Effect Legendary Edition separately, this being made up of Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3. Due to that I won't give an involved insight into each of the games, more speak about how they hold up in modern day.

While some didn't enjoy the first game in this sci-fi action RPG series, I always loved it. It had some clunky parts to it but for me I thought the story and world building was amazing and so could overcome these small issues. For the remaster it has been brought more in line with later entries, some parts made easier (such as the Noveria boss fight against an Asari squad) and the gameplay made smoother. The much hated Mako parts have also been improved, mainly thanks to a neat new boost button. This has obviously dated the most, the locations are very similar in look with the same tile set often being reused, but the story still holds up. One part that is missing here is the Pinnacle Station DLC. It is a shame that this wasn't able to be included, but truth be told, as much of a shame as it is, that was by far the worst DLC, essentially just a training mode that was a bit dull to play through.

Mass Effect 2 has always been the gem in the crown of the original trilogy, and remains one of my favourite video games of all time. I love that the Shepherd in this one is a rogue, forced to team up with the villainous Cerberus group in order to stop the mysterious Collectors from abducting the populations of human colonies. Again, this has dated a little, but I find it hard to fault this game, some of the smaller side missions may be a little pointless, but the loyalty missions, as well as the characters themselves are what make this entry so special to me, plus the music is sublime.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

This Game's Called Murder (2021) - Comedy Crime Film Review

I was in two minds whether to watch the Adam Sherman (Dead Doll) written and directed comedy crime film This Game's Called Murder. I decided to in the end as it featured some notable names, plus I liked the psychedelic colours of the poster. Often I find myself on the side of style over substance, but not so much here, thanks mainly to the cast of very unlikeable characters that made it hard for me to care about any of them.

Jennifer (Vanessa Marano - Dexter TV series) is the privileged daughter of a world famous shoe designer, Mr. Wallendorf (Ron Perlman - Hellboy) and his wife (Natasha Henstridge - The Unhealer, Species). In a rebellious phase she has started dating bad boy Cane (James Lastovic) who lives in an underground commune of criminals. Her family are murderous and evil, while her new found friends are also just as murderous. Not really fitting in either place, revelations make her start to look for a way out.

If either of the two sides in the film had been vaguely likeable then I would have enjoyed this more. Instead, protagonist included there isn't a single character in the whole hundred and five minute movie who I could stand, except maybe Jennifer's silent and masked chauffeur. There is a Tim Burton-esque vibe the film tries to build up, and it does this by throwing scenes of craziness at the viewer and hoping it will delight. Instead there seemed to be no soul to the film, I didn't understand character's motivations or reactions to events and I was left looking at what were certainly attractively shot scenes but ones lacking enough substance for me. The prologue is a case in point, a male model wearing high heeled shoes is murdered by Mr. Wallendorf as part of an elaborate photo shoot involving shoe firing cannons. It all looks good and sets up the notion that Wallendorf is cold blooded but it didn't really add anything. I guess Mrs. Wallendorf is handled better visually, a crazy woman whose mirror reflection talks to her while bathed in different coloured lights. As to Jennifer, she felt to me like Lydia from Beetlejuice, the character trying her best to be painfully kooky and different but who had motivations that were a bit stupid.

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Black Mirror: Series 5 (2019) - Horror TV Show Review

I have long loved the dark anthology show Black Mirror, in my opinion the fourth season was quite possibly the best in terms of consistency. For this fifth and at the moment final season, the show has gone back to a three episode season length. The show is still good, yet this, compared to previous seasons, is far more mellow, and the stories not as dark and disturbing.

Starting off with Striking Vipers which explores just what it means to actually cheat on someone. Danny (Anthony Mackie - Avengers: Endgame) and his best friend, Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II - Aquaman) have got a hold of a revolutionary new VR fighting game, the titular Fighting Vipers. When the two discover the intensely realistic virtual setting allows them to have virtual sex with each other it threatens to ruin the somewhat stagnant relationship Danny has with his wife, Theo (Nicole Beharie - Sleepy Hollow TV series). Much of this episode made me cringe in a bad way with how awkward it all was. So much so that it took me a good six months to pick my way through it. A look at technology that hasn't been done before in the show, yet it wasn't one of the darkest episodes out there and didn't really have much past its central idea.

The middle episode is Smithereens in which a desperate man, Chris (Andrew Scott - Sherlock), takes hostage a young intern from a Facebook like social media company (Damson Idris - The Twilight Zone TV series). This one was far more grounded in reality and explores today's societies obsession with social media, how people live within the internet rather than appreciate the world around them. This was my favourite of the season with a good performance from Scott that leads up to an ending that slightly confused me until I read up on just why it ended that way.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Flee The Light (2021) - Horror Film Review

Flee The Light
is an award winning demonic possession film that was the directorial debut of Alexandra Senza, with a story written by Jennifer Mancini in her first writing credit. Due to a terrible week I only managed to watch this in small bursts of about twenty minutes at a time. I appreciate that will affect my feel for the movie, but even if that hadn't happened I don't think I would have really understood the story being told.

Delfi (Ariana Marquis - Worms) has suffered apparent mental health issues her whole life, and when she once again begins to see and hear things that aren't there, her sister Andra (Annie Tuma - Wasteland) gets her to visit a psychiatrist. The man suspects however that Delfi's issues may be supernatural in nature and is unable to help. It seems there is a dark entity that has plagued Delfi her whole life, and Andra's attempts to help her sister may result in the entity turning its attention onto her.

Thanks to a prologue set hundreds of years in the past, we know that the trouble with Delfi isn't down to something explainable, though it takes her sister a whole lot longer to realise this. Maybe it was due to the fragmented way I watched this but I was a bit confused by the plot. At some point the focus switches from Delfi to Andra and I'm not sure exactly why this happened. Out of the two Marquis was the better at acting manic and crazy as their seemed a frailty to her, the character of Andra was a lot more angry and generically insane. Then there was the character of Sid (Jamar Adams Thompson - Kubric), he appeared at the halfway point and didn't seem to serve too much of a purpose. He did during the final act, but there was so little to his character, not helped by the fact he only appeared in around three scenes. That was a problem with the characters in general, they were never fleshed out enough to make me as a viewer care about them.

Friday, 18 February 2022

Rusty Lake Hotel (2015) - Horror Video Game Review (iOS)

I have had a bad week full of bad luck and as such I have been unable to keep to my usual schedule of blog posts. It has led to me spending more time than usual in my bedroom, it was there I looked into what decent iPhone games there are. I learnt of an interconnected series of slight horror games that take place in a shared universe based around the mystery of Rusty Lake. Many of these games were included in the free to play Cube Escape Collection. Rusty Lake Hotel was the first 'premium' game, meaning I had to pay for it, but at around £1.50 (I believe), it was well worth the price. 

In the grand order of the Rusty Lake series this is actually the seventh game and so some of the story around the edges here will not make much sense unless you have played the other games. Rusty Lake Hotel takes place in 1893 in the titular hotel. This hotel, owned by Mr. Owl, and run by Mr. Crow, has invited five guests to stay for five nights, they are Mr. Deer, Mr. Rabbit, Mrs. Pigeon, Ms. Pheasant, and Mr. Boar. Each day they will be treated to a new meal, one in which you have to collect the ingredients for. The darkness is revealed in the recipes themselves, each one is a meat dish, the meat coming from one of the guests...

Like all the other games in the series this one is an escape room game. Instead of escaping however, each of the five rooms takes place in one of the hotel guests' rooms, the goal is not to escape, but to find a means to kill the guests. Each of the rooms is full of simple puzzles to solve. Clues for these puzzles are dotted around the room in pictures and notes, often the prize for solving these will be keys used to unlock cupboards that in turn reveal either more puzzles, or items used to progress. Most the rooms have a theme to them, Mr. Rabbit for example is a magician, so his room is full of magic tricks, Ms. Pheasant wants you to take photos of her, and so her room is set up for a photo shoot.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Resurrectionist (2022) by Resurrectionist - Music Album Review

Resurrectionist is a new symphonic black metal project that comes from Chris Cozzi, a film composer whose past work has included scoring indie horror films. Resurrectionist is also the name of the debut album from this project. I always preface my reviews my stating I really don't know what I'm writing about when it comes to music, if I ever win the lottery I shall hire someone who does know to write these reviews. Some feedback received for the last album I reviewed, Vlimmer's Nebenkörper was that my compliments sounded almost passive aggressive so I will try and avoid doing that this time around!

This is a concept album, something I guessed at, though if I had read the album's bio beforehand I would have had that confirmed. I don't profess to having gotten the story being told, but basically this is a story about a doctor who thinks he has discovered the secret to eternal life. With an ill child and a terminally ill wife, the man decides to abandon traditional medicine and instead use the occult to aid. This plays out over eight tracks at seventy minutes. Several of the tracks feature Kakophonix from Hville I Kaos (Never Without the Pentagram, Black Morning, Winter Green) providing cello.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Dying Light: The Following (2016) - Horror Video Game DLC Review (Playstation 4)

I really enjoyed playing Dying Light and so when a sizeable expansion was released (titled The Following) I happily snapped it up. Fast forward some six years later and that DLC was still sat unplayed on my Playstation 4. With Dying Light 2 coming out I thought it was about time I returned to to the original to finish things off, but after playing this ill suited expansion I almost wish I hadn't bothered.

A mortally wounded stranger appears in the zombie infested city of Harran and before he dies he speaks of a cure that has been discovered in the area surrounding the city. With map in hand, the protagonist Kyle Crane (voiced by Roger Craig Smith - Batman: Arkham Origins) heads into the nearby countryside in search of this cure, as the supplies of the virus suppression drug Antizin has almost ran out at the HQ of the main survivors in the city. It is not long before Crane learns there indeed is an apparent cure, a strange cult named 'The Children of the Sun' are said to be immune to the undead, as are its followers, and with this knowledge in hand, Crane sets out to infiltrate the cult and discover the secret to their thriving in an undead world.

The Following is around a ten to twenty hour experience that takes place in an open world setting that is bigger than the base game's two maps combined. Much of this setting is open countryside, while there are a few small towns dotted about the place. To make up for this huge area you get provided with a buggy, this buggy provides you with a new skill tree, points are earned for this skill tree by doing stunts and running over zombies. The buggy, while a neat idea on paper, is what really ruins this DLC. There is only the one vehicle in the entire game, it requires constant repairing of five different key parts, as well as fuel to keep running. Should you accidentally flip over the buggy then there is no way to put it right again, the only option is to slowly traverse the giant world on foot until you can get to a safe house and respawn the vehicle. That wouldn't be such an issue if the buggy wasn't so notoriously difficult not to flip, I literally lost count of the amount of times I was in absolute nowhere and my buggy either got jammed on a bit of the scenery or got knocked over. This made traversal a real headache, add in to this equation of misery a complete lack of a fast travel option and frustration station was the place I spent far too much of the playthrough at. Dying Light wasn't designed to be an open world game with a vehicle, try as they might the antiquities of the base game meant the developers really didn't think things through. It's made even more annoying that quests typically bounce you from one extreme of the map to the other.

Friday, 11 February 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Round-up for Friday 11th February 2022

Zombie video game Dying Light 2 arrived on my doorstep yesterday (writing this last Saturday) so this weekend sees me somewhat dialing in my posts. That video game sure is good so far, a big improvement on Dying Light whose gameplay mechanics feel a little dated nowadays.

Looking through my inbox I noticed that Your Flesh, Your Curse is getting a March 22nd release via Bayview Entertainment. This arthouse movie follows a troubled girl whose death at the hands of a stranger starts her on a surreal journey in limbo. I said of the film in my review "...was a beautiful looking film...I had something audibly, and visually interesting to appreciate."

This next one is some music news, and having a look it doesn't look like the best fit on my blog. Still, I had put it up on my whiteboard to write about so here goes. Sokojo are a new Los Angeles hard rock/alternative band whose debut EP More was released on February 4th, as well as their music video for a song that is also called More. The press release states 'Drawing influences from the '70s, '80s and '90s rock scenes, yet honing an original sound that feels at home in the 2020s, their songs hold meaningful messages, feel radio-ready, and have their unique set of fingerprints.'

Unexpectedly came the news that Radar Pictures are in development of a new TV series based on American McGee's Alice and it's sequel Alice: Madness Returns. In this dark take on the classic story, after Alice returns from her trip through the Looking-Glass her home burns down, with her parents dying in the fire. After trying to kill herself, Alice finds herself in a mental institution where she is called back to Wonderland. This Wonderland, reflecting her dark spirit has gone rotten, she hopes by curing it of its corruption she will be able to learn revelations about her past and restore her peace of mind. The show will be a collaboration between Radar Pictures, Abandon Entertainment and writer-producer David Hayter (X2, Watchmen, Netflix's Warrior Nun).

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Anonymous Animals (2020) - Horror Film Review

Anonymous Animals
is a French horror film written and directed by Baptiste Rouveure that tackles the topic of animal cruelty as well as the whole meat industry in a unique way (possibly 2018's The Farm did something similar but I haven't seen that personally). Despite being French made, the film can be perfectly understood in any language as there is zero dialogue here.

The movie takes place in a nightmarish world where anthropomorphic animals rule. There isn't really a story here to follow, instead there are a variety of different situations shown. A chained bearded man out in the woods gets captured and taken to a variety of different farm locations, at each one he is chained up and treated like an animal by his captors. Another section features a group of scared humans kept in an electrified pen in a large cattle shed, their captor, a bull headed creature using a stun gun on them.

It became quite clear early on that this is designed to show the horror of how some animals are treated by humans. By reversing the roles a strong horror vibe is created. The various humanoid animals have blank, expressionless faces, the noises they make are relevant to whichever animal they happen to be. The stag out hunting with a shotgun, the bear, the bull, the pack of dogs and more all have their own natural sounds that make them all pretty terrifying. Mostly these animal heads on the actors don't move, they don't blink or for the majority have any type of movement but this adds to the creepy factor. Early on I wondered if these were all humans wearing masks, but as the film played out it became apparent this was a nightmare world of humanoid animals.

Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Autumn: Inferno (2022) by David Moody - Zombie Horror Book Review

was one of the first ever zombie novels I read and that series has remained my absolute favourite ever since. There was something about the ever present crowds of dead that just made my introverted self shudder. I'm going to try not to go over too much of what I said in my review of last year's Autumn: Dawn other than to say it is still so cool that a new trilogy of books set in this universe were being written. Even more cool was seeing that I was quoted in this second book, Autumn: Inferno! Off topic somewhat, but I read two thirds of this on a Kindle, the last third from a book proper, it confirmed that it really is more satisfying to read a physical rather than digital format. As a warning, there will be unavoidable spoilers from Dawn to follow.

It is now seventy two days since the world essentially came to an end, with 99.9% of the world's population dead, the majority of them resurrected as walking corpses. Once again the setting is London, with the three hundred strong group centered around the Tower of London now in a desperate battle for survival. It becomes clear that the downside of having such a large group of people is that they require a lot of food. The plan is to find enough supplies to make it through winter, with it hoped that by the time spring comes around much of the undead will have rotted away. To get more supplies the group need to claim back more land from the unending horde, but to do that creates a lot of noise, and noise brings with it the attention of the dead...

A lot of Dawn had survivors out in the zombie infested streets, so this becomes almost the opposite, with much of the story taking place within the fragile safety of the area around the Tower of London. This means technically the stakes are lower, though it becomes increasingly clear that perhaps having such a large and noisy group of people in one area of a silent city is not a great idea. Reading Inferno brought to mind the contrast between this and the old style of Autumn novels. The first book had just a trio of characters deep in the countryside trying to be quiet, here, the falsely placed confidence of the group means many of them couldn't care less about the noise they are making. It was interesting to get an opposite take on survival and the reasoning behind character's actions. One thing Dawn didn't have was as hateable an antagonist as the sadistic teenager Webb, here that is righted somewhat. To me Piotr always had potential to take that place, the muscle to Dominic's brain, this man seemed like what Webb might have been like if he had been older. It was interesting to have an antagonist but still within the context of a semi-civilised group, with the divide between dictatorship and democracy becoming apparent, both Dominic and Piotr almost getting drunk with power rather than really thinking about the consequences of their actions. 

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (1989) - Comedy Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 4)

I have always been a huge fan of the Splatterhouse series of video games, it was Splatterhouse 2 in fact which was one of the key stepping stones that got me into horror films. While I have played all the more serious entries, including the flawed Splatterhouse 3 and the much maligned 2010 re-boot Splatterhouse, there was one game that until now had escaped my grasp, and that was the 1989 parody game Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti. This was not only the first in the series to be released on a home console (the NES) but had also been Japan exclusive prior to recently.

The game begins with Jennifer mourning at her boyfriend Rick's grave one dark night. Lightning strikes the grave and the hockey mask wearing Rick is miraculously resurrected. The first thing Rick sees however is lightning also striking the grave next to his, this resurrects the Pumpkin King, whose first order of business is to kidnap Jennifer. Rick must battle his way through eight levels of horror parodies in order to rescue her, but is everything as it seems?

This was the second game in the overall series and quite a departure in terms of the super deformed graphics. Playing through this I was surprised just how much fun it was. The levels are very varied and forever throwing new enemies and situations your way while remaining distinctly Splatterhouse in style. Most the levels are split into smaller sections, with Rick in a variety of locations. Starting off in a graveyard, Rick's journey has him going through suburbs, through mansions, woodland, a lake, and even visits an Egyptian pyramid at one point. 

Friday, 4 February 2022

Jekyll and Hyde (2021) - Horror Film Review

I was very unsurprised after watching Jekyll and Hyde to discover that the writer and director, Steve Lawson (Pentagram), was also responsible for Ripper Untold. Both take place in roughly the same time period, both are takes on popular subjects (this case an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde), both feature low thrill, low budget and sedate stories, both have the same use of exterior and interior locations to try and conjure an image of the late 19th Century, and both even have nearly identical covers!

Nearly everyone is aware of the classic story this film is based on, but here things are handled a little differently. Dr Jekyll (Michael McKell - Pentagram), a close family friend to lawyer Gabriel Utterson (Tom Hendryk - The Haunting of Alcatraz) is found dead by apparent self inflicted gunshot wound. On his person is a confession stating that he was responsible for a number of recent murders of prostitutes. His letter states that he created a potion that changed him into someone full of evil urges that compelled him to kill. Gabriel is convinced his friend could not have committed these crimes and so sets out to discover what really occurred. The more Gabriel investigates however, the more it seems that Jekyll really may have been the man responsible, something Inspector Newcombe (Mark Topping - Bram Stoker's Van Helsing) is all too keen to point out.

I was expecting a typical re-telling of the story and so was surprised to see Jekyll dead within the first ten minutes. When Gabriel finds the confession and upon reading it a flashback begins, I expected this would make up the rest of the film, and would be a way for the story I expected to come forth on screen. I was then double surprised to see this flashback made up only a tiny part of the movie. The main plot of the film is Gabriel trying to prove his friend's innocence. He does this by flitting around a couple of dimly candle lit rooms, speaking to various characters. Like Ripper Untold before it, this is a low budget film that features lot of talking and not too much else. Victorian England is represented by nearly entirely these dim lit rooms, the only outside moments are shown as brief establishing shots, either close up images of buildings, or a horse drawn carriage turning up at Jekyll's mansion. I almost expected Newcombe to be the same character from Ripper Untold, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this re-uses the same sets from that film. There is a disconnect between the bright and well lit outdoors shots and the perpetually dark interior shots, they didn't seem to fit together cohesively. 

Thursday, 3 February 2022

Marvel Zombies: Battleworld (2015) - Zombie Graphic Novel Review

It was just last week when reviewing Marvel Zombies Destroy! that I stated I felt like it was a series of diminishing returns for each new entry in the Marvel Zombies series. I began to wonder if the problem were the books themselves, or if I was just jaded with it all. Now I have read Marvel Zombies: Battleworld I can confirm it was the former, as this one was a real return to form.

This takes place within the context of the Secret Wars arc. No idea about any of that but at least this begins with a page of text explaining things. Basically the multiverse has been destroyed and Dr. Doom was somehow able to create one giant world made up of different realities put together. Elsa Bloodstone is a member of S.H.I.E.L.D who spends her days on the Wall. This huge construct is what separates the zombie infested Deadlands from the rest of the world. One night she gets in a fight with a zombified Red Terror, she defeats him but not before he teleports them both over two hundred miles into the Deadlands. It is there she encounters a young amnesiac child, and with a horde of zombies in between her and the path back to the Wall, she instead decides to go with the young child's gut feeling that they need to head in the opposite direction, further into the unknown of the Deadlands.

While not perfect I did really enjoy reading Battleworld, and with Elsa you have a strong willed protagonist. Before I have criticised the amount of humour stuck into a serious story, here though that humour fits in with Elsa's jaded outlook on life, and her grudging mission to keep the mystery child safe. Her journey is punctuated with frequent flashbacks to the harsh treatment she endured at the hands of her father, the immortal Ulysses Bloodstone. The flashbacks intercut the main story going on as well as her father's words appearing as speech bubbles. She is in constant battle with herself to ignore the teachings he gave her, she frequently has to go against her deep seated instinct to instead become her own person. The main plot may be her and the child's journey but Elsa's past experiences shape a lot of the story, especially towards the end with some unexpected and cool revelations.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Laguna Ave (2021) - Sci-fi Horror Film Review

Laguna Ave
is a hell of a weird film. Directed by David Buchanan and written by Paul Papadeas (in his sole writing credit), this low-fi indie sci-fi comedy horror mashup is a strange beast, but one that had a lot going for it.

Russell (Russell Steinberg - Adventureland) is an out of work slacker whose negative attitude is causing a strain on his relationship with girlfriend Rita (Stephanie Brait). After she goes away on business for a few weeks, Russell ends up getting involved with his mysterious new neighbour, Gary (James Markham Hall Jr. - The Rage: Carrie 2). This paranoid man shockingly reveals himself to be an apparent cyborg, and that he is being persecuted by a secretive global group that he reveals Rita to be a key member of. After Russell is given an implant and a new cybernetic hand (having previously lost his actual hand in an accident years prior), he becomes to believe that there may be some truth to Gary's words.

The whole film is in black and white and has a low tech vibe to the editing and the special effects, all purposeful. This has been described as a cross between Clerks, Pi, and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, I would also add The Matrix to that melting pot. Gary (with a scene stealing performance from Markham Hall Jr.) felt like a low budget stand-in for Morpheus, someone who reveals to the protagonist of the secret conspiracy behind the facadé of real life as well as offering an 'in' to the truth. The exaggerated way the actor played this character was a lot of fun to watch, this actor alone made Laguna Ave so much better than it may sound on paper. The cast all complimented each other, and were all suitably weird in their own ways, such as Russell's neighbours Pierre (Dan Crane) and Dusty (Jeff Hilliard - Frankenstein).