Wednesday, 30 March 2022

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

Probably a smaller news round-up this month as I have spent most the weekend sorting out my front room after getting new carpet. Exciting stuff indeed but it did take up a large portion of these past few days (at the time of writing). I also have to add I am still addicted to Elden Ring, it really is a masterpiece, at eighty hours in I am still constantly being surprised and delighted at just how much content is stuff into that open world.

Horror author, Eve Lestrange's new book Blood Moon Over the Chesapeake can now be ordered on Amazon. It takes place in Baltimore in the 1920's, with the press release describing it as 'a sinister tale of an infamous house, a ghostly possession and a dark spirit hungry for power.'

Thief is the new double single from Detroit based deathgaze duo Vazum, it was released last Friday. The single features both a dark rock and an electronic version of the single, with the lyrics inspired by the notion of energy vampires. The track is sung in unison by Emily Sturm and Zach Pliska.

Fatal Rejuvenation is a new satire horror film directed by Ron Millkie and written/produced by Philip Pitta. Created as a tribute to B-movies of the 1950's, this stars Catherine Pearl, Philip Pitta, Joe Mack Gallina, Stephanie Londono and Nicholas M. Garofolo (Sweet Revenge). The trailer certainly brings a vibe the film is going for.

Paradox Obscur have released the video for their track Animal Reactor (directed by Sheng-Yang Su) taken from their 5th studio album, Morphogenesis. The album is due to be released on May 6th from Metropolis Records. I quite enjoyed the song, dark electronic vibes.

Industrial band Dread Risks have revealed their new full length LP, Automated Disappointment, which is going to be made up of nine original tracks. The press release states 'The mass accumulation of endless self-examination and loss, delivered via punishing assault, reminds the listener that the dark can be a comforting respite'.

That may be it from me, it is Mothers Day here in the UK (at the time of writing) so I have a meeting with a gravestone to make the other side of town. Hopefully I won't get chased by an odd acting gentlemen, stumble, hit my head and later resurrect as one of the living dead and hunt down my sister.

Monday, 28 March 2022

Haunted: The Audio Drama (2022) - Horror Audio Drama Review

A few weeks back I mentioned Haunted: The Audio Drama and now it has released. I'm thankful that the first release for this serialised horror story had two parts put out, rather than the one I expected. Originally envisioned as a traditional TV show this was changed into what it is now both due to budget constraints, and due to the creators discovering audio dramas as a result of the changing world during the height of the Covid pandemic. This review will be of the first two episodes, my experience of it so far so to speak.

The Signal is the title for the first six parts of this, I imagine there will be various different title headings further down the line (it seems there will be eight stories split across thirty two episodes). Part 1 is roughly a half hour long, entirely the length I expected, a decent length. So, the first episode then. This sets up the protagonists as well as begins the story, obviously as it would be strange if it didn't! Abigail Corbin (voiced by Isabella Barbieri) is a young woman who is obsessed with the paranormal, even hosting her own podcast on the subject. When she catches wind of a strange occurrence in her small hometown she seeks out her idol, the ex-paranormal investigator James Hunter (voiced by Jamie Evans who also helped create this). James is not the man he once was, an alcoholic and jaded with the world, but nonetheless he is intrigued by what Abigail tells him, and perhaps seeing in her the passion he once had.

The first episode sets up breadcrumbs for the rest of the story to follow and centres on a teenage boy who killed his parents and then himself in mysterious circumstances. While Abigail and James are the main characters the story doesn't always stick with them, the prologue for instance is set in the troubled boy's home. Most of this has characters conversing with each other, but sometimes with James you get a monologue where he provides his hidden thoughts. Abigail gets a similar thing with her narrations into a dictaphone she carries. It all leads up to a cliffhanger ending, which leads nicely into part 2.

Part 2 leaves the preamble and gets right into the story with our protagonists in the middle of an unfolding situation. Including grisly details of death, mutilation, as well as an illegal autopsy this second part was full of excitement and action, leading up to a great little cliffhanger. Whatever is going on with the mysterious radio signal that drives people mad I don't know, but I am a little hooked.

I expected I would enjoy Haunted: The Audio Drama and going by these first two episodes that is certainly the case. It is well paced, has mostly good voice acting and is an interesting story. This can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and Audible and is well worth a listen, especially as it is free.


Sunday, 27 March 2022

Midnight Scenes Ep.1: The Highway (2020) - Horror Video Game Review (Microsoft Windows)

I recently purchased a bundle of games on Itcho for a good cause. I was having a look through them looking for something to try out and Octavi Navarro's Midnight Scenes Ep.1: The Highway stood out. This micro-game was obviously heavily inspired by The Twilight Zone, and with its attractive, yet creepy pixel art style I was interested.

The game begins with a Twilight Zone introduction to our protagonist, a woman named Claire who is travelling in her car late one night, having gotten delayed due to a flat tyre. She is out in the middle of nowhere when she finds a telegraph pole has fallen down across the road. There is an emergency phone not too far past it, but first she has to find a way to stop the power to the wires on the pole. This diversion sends her into a place of terror that plays out... in the Midnight Scenes.

So being a micro game the whole experience was over in roughly ten minutes. You control Claire via clicking on objects in the environments to get her to move over and interact with them, and there is a slight point and click style puzzle element needed for her to succeed. The game is in black and white and despite the pixel look this was a bit creepy. First off is the wonderful music that plays which builds up atmosphere, then there is world building going on, with first the discovery of what appears to be 'missing' posters for a young boy, and then the discovery of a crashed truck covered in blood. As the game plays out the horror gets stronger, and there were some cool moments that occured, such as walking into a bathroom and appearing to see a dead body for a split second before the bathroom light goes out. By the end of the game a story had been told, near entirely just by piecing together clues you encounter in the four or five screens. It then all ends on a prologue told via text.

As the 'Ep.1' part would indicate, this is the first in a planned series of bite size horror stories, and going from this I'm all for more of them. It seems there are a lot least two more so far (The Goodbye Note and The Nanny) It was impressive how such a vibe of The Twilight Zone was created from what is pretty simple. I enjoyed my brief time with this, certainly worth ten minutes of anyone's time.


Saturday, 26 March 2022

Unwelcome Guest - Short Horror Film Review

Today is a review of another horror film that can be found on Dark Matters' YouTube channel. If the title alone wasn't clue enough, Unwelcome Guest is a home invasion short, something that is established really early on with some apparent real life facts about this type of crime. Directed by John Sabatine (Brew House) and produced and written by Vincent Yanni, this bleak horror manages to break out a little from the formula I had come to expect.

Sheila (Wendy Wygant) is home alone in her remote home one evening listening to the radio, specifically a local news story is being spoken of about a notorious serial killer who has escaped from a local prison. She ends up turning off the radio, though maybe she should have paid more attention as it isn't long before she is disturbed by the sounds of breaking glass, and the arrival of a masked figure (Keri Jenzer)...

The short takes place over thirteen minutes and I thought it was well paced. The initial opening establishes the remote location and the character of Sheila until three minutes in when the horror begins. I liked that this was (with the exception of the radio report) completely dialogue free, both the attacker and the defender never say a single word. The desperation of the protagonist can be seen with Wygant's physical acting. The killer wasn't a hulking brute as you may expect, instead it was more of a lean looking person, that was all fine. Hardly the fault of the film, but the killer's red hoodie reminded me far too much of the lame antagonist from The Maze who was similarly attired and slimly built. The white expressionless mask they wore was functional, though I have seen that used in other horror films.

Onto the special effects and the pacing of the thing then. This was at times more violent than expected, though mostly this is indicated by sound effects rather than actually seeing the violence being done. That said there was one particularly nasty looking moment that made me wince, always a good sign when it comes to special effects. The constant back and forth battle between the two was well choreographed, and the short as a whole was split into various moments where things naturally fade to black, leaving a few seconds of darkness to then start it all up again (such as one early moment where Shiela turns off a light switch). Credit also goes to how this finishes, I've been trained over the years to expect some kind of lame jump scare ending, especially when it comes to short films, thankfully that isn't the case here.

Outside of the actual look of the killer I didn't have many complaints here. The camera work is good at building up paranoia and hidden threat, such as a few voyeuristic looking shots and a nice one taken from the floor next to a prone person, and there is a good flow to the story. Unwelcome Guest can be viewed on the Dark Matters' YouTube channel, where it premiered on 18th February.


Friday, 25 March 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology - Friday 25th March

I wasn't planning on doing a news post this week, I had intended to review the first two episodes of the new audio drama, Haunted: The Audio Drama. I couldn't get the link to work unfortunately, but with the release of the show this past weekend I will just delay my review of that by a week.

I mention this mainly because of the cool poster art, but Josh Funk's short horror film The Fuzzies won Best Horror Short at the Astoria Film Festival last year. This is about a man who wakes up in a strange bathroom where something is hiding behind the walls. Funk said his inspiration for this was filmmakers who blend puppetry and stop-motion.

On December 7th The Reenactment had its North American digital debut via Freestyle Digital Media. This comedic horror movie is about a film crew who get into trouble when the abandoned house they have chosen to shoot at turns out not to be quite so abandoned after all.

Finally for today, dark alternative band, Amulet released a video for their song, Last Ditch in October. The song comes from their album, House of Black + White and is about only being able to deal with so much tragedy before you reach breaking point.

Thursday, 24 March 2022

Alone (2020) - Horror Film Review

, also known as Captors, is an American thriller that features just the one actor for the vast majority of the ninety five minute run time. Directed by James Cullen Bressack (Pernicious) and written by Philip Daay (Fear the Invisible Man), this suffers from a deficit of interesting characters and a plot that just felt like it was going around and around in circles.

Alys (Yulia Klass - Death Rider in the House of Vampires) is a troubled woman who suffers from a variety of mental health issues, not least extreme PTSD. This is due to spending time when she was younger as a captive of a depraved serial killer and rapist (Bruce Davison - X-Men), before one day managing to escape from her imprisonment in circumstances she can no longer remember. Living in poverty, and unable to function in the world due to her troubles, she thinks her problems are solved when a distant relative dies and leaves her his house in his will. She is dropped off at the property, which is deep in the wilderness, but soon makes an alarming discovery. The person who left her the house wasn't a distant relative at all, but the very same man who kept her imprisoned for all those years. Unable to leave due to the remote location, and with the food supplies all laced with LSD and full of pins and razorblades(!), Alys instead has to confront her past, exploring the house to find out more about her repressed memories, while aware that she might not be as alone as it may appear.

In a different direction Alone could have been an interesting film. It falls down at the first hurdle with an antagonist who just wasn't that captivating. I kept thinking back to Saw and how interesting the mastermind, John Kramer was. Here, this killer tries to be as cerebral but he didn't have much personality to him. It was an interesting idea that he had essentially tricked Alys into entering his psychological torture chamber from beyond the grave, yet I didn't rate him at all. It is always difficult to balance a film where it is just the one character for so much of the time, and with Alys my interest wasn't captured. It didn't help that every single character here was so unlikeable, even the woman's therapist who is viewed as an almost angelic figure, comes across as miserable and uncaring. The world is such a bleak place that at some point I almost thought this was some type of Hell dimension and Alys was already dead.

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

The Free Fall (2021) - Horror Film Review

The Free Fall
is going to be a hard horror film to talk about, this is because what I most enjoyed about it was the big third act twist. Directed by Adam Stilwell (The Triangle), and written by Kent Harper, this slow burn horror peaks early with a wonderfully twisted prologue, then dips with the following two acts becoming almost dull.

Sara (Andrea Londo - Narcos TV show) arrives at the home of her wealthy parents to witness a disturbing scene. Her mother, wearing a wedding dress, is in the process of stabbing her father to death, upon Sara's entrance to the room she then kills herself. The young woman then wakes up sometime later to find herself in bed and with no recent memory. Her husband, Nick (Shawn Ashmore - X-Men film series) informs her that she recently tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists, and that the trauma has led her to forget her past. While she doesn't remember Nick, she does feel a connection to him, and with his assistance she starts to try to get back to normal. However, Nick's strange intensity, the creepy maid Rose (Jane Badler - V TV series), hallucinations and horrific nightmares all culminate to make Sara feel that something really is not right.

I loved the prologue, it was suitably messed up and made me really interested to see what direction the film would take. It was a shame then that the majority of the film was so slow burning, something that only makes sense having watched the entire movie. I think this would be one example of a film that would be more enjoyable on a second watch, as these first two acts are full of clues as to what is really going on. One thing The Free Fall does right is keeping you guessing. At first I figured Nick was a home invader who was pretending to be Sara's husband, but then the arrival of various different characters dispelled this as none of them seemed alarmed by his presence. Regardless, I didn't trust this character from the off, the way he looks at Sara and the way he speaks to her gave me a strong feeling that she was being gaslighted. That was really the only hook for most the film sadly, I liked the frequent nightmare/flashback scenes of a naked Sara with her wrists cut open crawling along the bathroom floor. The character of Sara herself was more a vessel for the viewer, as having no memories she didn't really exhibit much of a personality. I did enjoy most the supporting cast of characters, in particular Michael Berry Jr. (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) who played the part of a mysterious, softly spoken stranger who keeps appearing at the house Sarah is recuperating at.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

Scary Movie 3 (2003) - Comedy Horror Film Review

I had to work at my day job this morning (being a Saturday as I write) and so I wanted something easy to watch for review as I was feeling a bit tired. After flicking through my dauntingly large Netflix queue I noticed that the horror parody movie Scary Movie 3 was due to be leaving the streaming platform at the end of March so figured I would give it a watch. As a teenager I saw both Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2 at the cinema. Then, like now, the sex and gross jokes didn't appeal to me, but I did like how they parodied popular horror films. It all started as a joke version of Scream, while I recall the second film was to do with a haunted house. Having now seen the third film, it feels a product of its time, many of the jokes aren't that great, but it weirdly did a decent job plot wise of combining two different films.

Cindy (Anna Faris reprising her role from the first two films) works as a journalist, and sick of the same old stories her station runs she takes interest in news of the appearance of a strange crop circle at the home of Tom (Charlie Sheen - Two and a Half Men TV show) and his wannabe rapper brother George (Simon Rex - Scary Movie 4). Elsewhere, there is a creepy VHS tape that local legend says kills whoever watches it seven days after they do so. After Cindy and her nephew Cody (Drew Mikuska - Scary Movie 4) end up watching the tape she finds herself in a race against time to break the curse, and discovers it has something to do with the possible arrival of aliens.

So from the synopsis it is clear the main two films parodied here are The Ring and Signs. I admit I did actually appreciate how these two films were merged. I also liked how the film replicates some of the cool effects from The Ring, such as a scene where a creepy girl crawls out of the TV, and a scene where a fly on the TV screen becomes real. Other films referenced were not horrors but there had been a precedent for this series not only taking inspiration from horror films. Most notably, you have a brief 8 Mile subplot at the film's start which doesn't really go anywhere, it did however introduce the characters of Mahalik (Anthony Anderson - Transformers) and CJ (Kevin Hart - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). There are also plenty of ill fitting The Matrix: Reloaded scenes, this makes sense as the film would have been out roughly around the same point.
On the subject of actors, I was surprised to see so many big names here, I had figured by this point the series was direct to video but apparently not. Other notable names included in the cast are Pamela Anderson (Barb Wire), Denise Richards (Starship Troopers), Queen Latifah, Leslie Nielsen (The Naked Gun series), George Carlin (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), even Simon Cowell has a guest appearance.

Friday, 18 March 2022

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) - Horror Film Review

A month or so back there was a bit of buzz around the latest entry in the messy The Texas Chain Saw Massacre series. This sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not to be confused with the original, the remake; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or indeed Texas Chainsaw 3D)  directed by David Blue Garcia (Tejano) was picked up by Netflix after some misfortunes, including very negative test screenings. I try not to review films based on a single criteria, I say that as while this may not be a good sequel and it may not be an intelligent piece with anything to say, it is some dumb entertainment that reminded me of horror films from the early 2000s, which hit the spot for some lazy Sunday morning viewing.

This sets itself up as a direct sequel to the original 1974 classic. It states that after Sally, the sole survivor escaped the deadly cannibal family, no trace of Leatherface could be found. Now in modern day and that crime has turned into local legend. A group of young influencers enter the area, with aspirations to turn a Texan ghost town into a commune for like minded positive influencers. However, it turns out one of the properties isn't as abandoned as imagined, the occupant, an elderly woman and her hulking ward (of course Leatherface, here played by Mark Burnham) are turfed out by the local police, an event that causes the woman to suffer a heart attack. On route to hospital the lady dies, and Leatherface in his sorrow lashes out at the officers, causing the police wagon to crash, and freeing the madman to begin his trek back to the ghost town to get revenge on those he deemed responsible.

The film begins by introducing the cast of young adults, but it is only really two of them who play much of a role in the movie. Near enough the rest of the cast exist just as fodder for Leatherface to slice his way through. Sisters, Melody (Sarah Yarkin - Happy Death Day 2U) and Lila (Elsie Fisher - The Addams Family) are the dual protagonists which at least felt vaguely different. The characters were fine, Lila is the survivor of a high school shooting so she has emotional baggage to deal with. Another key character is Sally, the survivor of the original film. It felt like this subplot of the film was trying to do the same as the 2018 Halloween sequel, heck, at a similar age to Laurie, and with her long white hair, and having lived her life in preparation for confronting her biggest fear she seemed almost a twin of that character. Sadly the original actress passed away in 2014, so Olwen Fouéré (Mandy) takes on the role. To be fair she doesn't really get to do too much so I can't fault her, I just wish this character had been used more however. As for Leatherface himself, he is hulking and violent and effective at being an imposing force, plus he gets to do his iconic chainsaw dance at one point.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology - 17th March 2022

Yo-ho Ahoy again for another small news round-up. My office is currently full of boxes so it isn't that comfortable to write in here so I will likely just stick to the three news stories for today. As an aside, I continue to be addicted to the almighty Elden Ring, for someone who has never really got on with the 'Soulsbourne' genre of punishing video games, this one is a revelation.

Haunted: The Audio Drama is surprisingly enough an audio drama, that is set to premier on 20th March on Spotify, Audible and iTunes. The press release states that the pitch for this was 'Doctor Who meets The X-Files'. This is a serialised horror adventure story created by Jamie Evans, it is voiced by a full cast, and has been produced in a sound studio provided by FreeSprite Media. The drama is about a young podcaster who teams up with an alcoholic author to investigate the strange events occurring in the podcaster's hometown. The central peril is a mysterious radio signal that turns anyone who hears it insane. The press release states 'HAUNTED: The Audio Drama offers mystery, plot twists, suspense and even some laughs as our unlikely heroes race to discover the source of the mysterious signal'.

Some older news now, LA based theatrical metal band Raven Black have put out a cover of the opening song from The Nightmare Before Christmas. This is Halloween is the song of course and the press release states the band 'infuses the DANNY ELFMAN composed anthem with crunchy guitars and explosive, exuberant vocals from the diminutive front-woman'.
Raven Black are due to release their 4th album and 3rd comic book issue in early 2022.

Finally, Freak is a horror from Bianca Crespo and stars scream queen Debbie Rochon alongside Amelia Duncombe and Shelby Hightower. The film is being released by Bayview Entertainment and is about a writer who retreats to a remote cabin in the woods after something bad happens to her in LA. The longer she stays at the cabin however, the more she starts to realise she may have made a terrible mistake.

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Dorm of the Dead (2012) - Zombie Horror Film Review

There is something about trashy low budget zombie films that no other genre of horror film can match. In the zombie world quantity is always better than quality, and here you have some pretty terrible looking makeup. The Tobias Canto Jr. (Knock Knock) and Tyrel Good directed Dorm of the Dead takes place in a fitting location, as the extreme low budget here had me thinking that this could have genuinely been shot on location at the cast and crews actual college campus.

You will have to excuse me as I didn't catch many of the characters names. Basically, Cory (Ryan DeLuca) arrives at the college campus of his elder brother as their parents had gone away on holiday. His arrival unfortunately coincides with an undead outbreak, and soon Cory and a bunch of other students find themselves having to team up to survive. After seeing a broadcast from the college TV station, the group decide they must make their way across campus and use the station to broadcast a message for help to the outside world.

Dorm of the Dead is a terrible film, but thankfully when it comes to the zombie genre that doesn't mean a death knell. I was a bit hesitant seeing just how indie this was as it isn't a rare occurrence for young indie directors to get carried away and make huge overblown and fatally boring movies. Here though, this fits in at around ninety minutes so doesn't really outstay its welcome. The cast of characters vary in their acting ability but as they all play various stereotypes this doesn't become too much of an issue. Each of the group match a different type of student, so you have the rich girl, the sporty girl, the geek, the goth, the jock as well as a few others. Much of the plot has them running around the campus on random fetch quests that just seemed to exist to move the characters around. Early on for instance they all head to the library where the rich girl said her father was going to be to pick them up, then later they head to the studio to rescue someone's boyfriend to not much success. These plot points were very basic and I do wish there had been more of a coherent story. As it is, that doesn't really come until the films third act when an actual semblance of a plot comes to fruition.

Monday, 14 March 2022

Knocking (2021) - Horror Film Review

is a Swedish horror film that comes from director Frida Kempff. It's a film that deals with mental illness and follows this path right from the start. I'm always on the fence when it comes to films that could be considered 'slow burns', and Knocking certainly fits the criteria for such a film, but I found that the intriguing story, as well as a wonderful performance from the primary actress made for something fresh feeling.

Cecilia Milocco (The Circle) stars as Molly, a woman who at films start is leaving a psychiatric institute after having suffered some kind of mental breakdown. She moves into an apartment complex but right away things begin to go wrong for her. Molly becomes convinced she can hear a knocking sound coming from the apartment above, she confronts the tenant who lives there but he responds confused. Eventually she comes to think the knocking is some sort of morse code, and that there is a woman being held upstairs against her will. However, it seems she still has some problems as she displays clear signs of still suffering from mental illness, such as hallucinations both visual and audible. With her sanity beginning to unravel, is the knocking real, or another part of her damaged mind?

Knocking establishes early on to take what is being presented with a grain of salt. The film centres on Molly and it is her perspective we are being shown events from. It isn't long before it becomes clear she really is hallucinating events, such as a scene where she witnesses a woman in the apartment block opposite plunging to her death, yet when Molly races to the scene she is surprised to see no sign whatsoever that what she had seen actually took place. Milocco is fantastic in this central role, she gives a believable performance as a troubled woman and never exaggerates her characters troubles. The actress brings an uncomfortable realness to this character, she seems like someone at war with her own mind, but losing the battle. While she is alone for much of the film, it is when she is around other characters that you can see how unbalanced the character is, and that is down in part to the style of filming. One early scene that has her out shopping manages to create a claustrophobic and bewildering feel, creating a feel of anxiety from the shots used. A key scene around the end of the second act has the actress wearing a body cam to give a dizzying perspective of her actions, this body cam mainly has the view of her face, but also included a bit showing the back of her head.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Anna and the Apocalypse (2017) - Comedy Zombie Horror Film Review

Anna and the Apocalypse
is a film I have been aware of for quite some time, I even almost saw it at the very last UK Festival of Zombie Culture (R.I.P) as it was one of the multiple choices the audience could vote to see. As it happened it didn't win the vote, and the event organiser commented that we were not really missing out on much. With a screener I had planned to watch not working I was free to choose my own film to watch, and seeing this on Shudder I thought it was about time to give it a try. Directed by John McPhail, the hook with this comedy zombie horror is that it is a musical, and were it not for that unique hook this really wouldn't have stood out.

It is the festive season in the small British town of Little Haven and unknown to all, in the background a zombie outbreak is brewing. Anna (Ella Hunt - Cold Feet TV series) has recently broken the news to her dad (Mark Benton - Catterick TV series), the school janitor, that she plans to go travelling once she leaves school the next year, something that her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) has supported her with. That night, during the performance of the school Christmas show, the zombie outbreak happens. At the behest of the tyrannical head teacher, Arthur Savage (Paul Raye), the performers and the audience are convinced to holdout at the school, awaiting rescue by the army. The next day, Anna and John meet, oblivious to the chaos unfolding all around them. Eventually they do notice, and it isn't long before they have teamed up with a few other school friends. These include American transfer student Steph (Sarah Swire), shy Chris (Christopher Leveaux), and Nick (Ben Wiggins - The Witcher) , the leader of the school jocks. Their plan is to battle their way across town in order to get to the school where they hope to meet up with their missing family and friends, due to the place being designated as an evacuation point.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the songs and it was with a little trepidation that I awaited the first one to begin. While I haven't seen it, I imagine the songs are maybe like something from High School Musical. Characters sing and dance around whatever location they happen to be in, full of sometimes embarrassing to watch choreography and exaggerated scripted movements. Some songs work better than others and unsurprisingly it is the ones that incorporate the undead that I enjoyed more. Anna sings a positive and uplifting song about new beginnings as she obliviously dances through chaotic scenes of zombies attacking survivors, which felt very similar to how Shaun doesn't notice the same thing in the classic Shaun of the Dead. Later on, when the character of Nick is introduced he gets his own action packed song about how much he and his friends are enjoying the new zombie filled world. Then you have the primary antagonist, the ever more twisted Savage who groans and gripes his way through a couple of bitter tunes about how he needs to rule the survivors. All of these never felt too off, but there were not really any that I felt were worthy of a second listen. 

Friday, 11 March 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Update for Friday 11th March

A second news post for this week, I'm determined to get up to date with my inbox so included here will be the surviving news from October of last year, everything else I've had to relegate to the email graveyard.

Horror-electro act, Cucurbitophobia (means a fear of pumpkins after having looked it up) released a haunted house themed full length album, Four Doors Of Your Deepest Fears. This is a concept album about a much feared haunted house attraction at an amusement park. The press releases states '...represents the experience, the journey, and the darkest thoughts of one individual who has made it through the house 'till the very end'. That resonates with me, I recall being in a harrowing one at an amusement park in Morecambe as a kid, there was one part where it puts you out onto a balcony and I recall wishing I didn't have to re-enter the place.

Horror-thriller Sanzaru had its digital debut in North American VOD platforms on November 16th last year. This comes from Freestyle Digital Media and is about a nurse who has been hired to care for an old lady who discovers a shocking secret. She starts to believe there may be an evil supernatural in the house. This was written and directed by Xia Magnus and stars Aina Dumlao, Justin Arnold, Jayne Taini and Jon Viktor Corpuz.

Night of the Devil is a short film from Anthony Calvitti based around Halloween. Set in 1978, four teens head into the woods and encounter the devil. The short includes Hammer Films actress Veronica Carlson and music from 1970s hard rock bands, Cactus and Iron Claw.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

The Beta Test (2021) - Comedy Thriller Film Review

During my news round-up for last month I mentioned some of the new releases that were heading to the Arrow streaming subscription service in March. One of those was The Beta Test. This comedic thriller was co-directed and co-written by Jim Cummings (The Wolf of Snow Hollow) and P.J McCabe, and fittingly they play best friends in the film itself, with Cummings taking on the role of protagonist. I admit I wasn't that interested in seeing this, but after being given the opportunity to review it I thought I may as well, to see what the fuss was about that made this the premiere March title heading to the service.

Cummings plays Jordan Hines, a Hollywood agent for a company that is rapidly getting outdated in an evolving digital world. His salesman, larger than life persona has gotten a little out of control, with himself not really being able to tell what is real with him and what isn't. One day he receives a mysterious hand delivered letter in the post, the letter is an invitation for him to have completely anonymous sex with someone else, all he has to do is state his preferences and return the letter. Despite being engaged to his fianceé Caroline (Virginia Newcomb - The Walking Dead TV show), Jordan is unable to resist the temptation and agrees to the meet-up. However, once he has done that, and unable to find out the identity of the person he met, and unsure of who contacted him in the first place, he begins to fall into a downward spiral of paranoia and an increasing slipping of his sanity.

Any worries that this wouldn't be a thrilling film were washed away in the prologue, in which a woman confesses to her husband that she cheated on him and that it was a life changing time (all thanks to a mysterious letter she received in the post), before he promptly brutally stabs her to death. That was an element that interested me of course. Part of the story here is about how everyone exists online, how the wrong person could target anyone and build up a strong picture of the type of person they are based on their large digital footprint. The antagonist (if they can be called that), has made it their life to bring together unknown soul mates determined by mining these details. Much of the darker part of The Beta Test comes from people getting murdered by their significant others when the adultery is discovered, while the thriller element mainly comes from Jordan and his drastic methods used to hunt down why he was targeted.

Wednesday, 9 March 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology - 9th March Edition

For today's news post I will be starting to cover all the backlogged news sitting in my inbox from September and October of last year, a time where bizarrely it was golden, at least compared to the horrors of the present time!

On October 1st Deranged Foxhole Deduction became available on Troma Now. In this bizarre short film, a man kills his roommate and a few others before a detective arrives to investigate. In my review of Deranged Foxhole (which was one part of the whole film) I was first introduced to Nicholas M. Garofolo who really made an impression. Also added will/has been another short film in a similar vein, the surreal Twenty Twenty.

KyN is author Christopher M. Fink's latest horror novel and concerns werewolves. Set in the present, lycans now live in secret among the humans they used to rule. Darrus is one such lycan, but he has to contend with Clay, a fellow lycan who is determined to have the creatures rise to the top of the world order once again. KyN is available on Amazon.

On October 19th Arrow Video US released Yokai Monsters Collection. This limited edition 3-disc Blu-ray set is made up of the Japanese monster and ghost films 100 Monsters, Spook Warfare and Along With Ghosts that are on the format for the first time. Also included is 2005 film The Great Yokai War from cult director Takashi Miike.
October 26th saw the release of Dario Argento's classic Deep Red on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, said to be one of the most iconic Italian films ever created. This includes both the 127 minute original Italian version, as well as the 105 minute export version. This release comes with a collector's booklet, double-sided foldout poster, six lobby cards and more.
He Came from the Swamp: The William Grefe Collection also released on October 26th. This 4 disc-set includes seven different films from the director, all restored using the remaining film elements.

Finally for today, Skylark Vision has been filming its first feature film Witch. This is a medieval horror fantasy film that takes place in England in 1575. In this, William must prove the innocence of his wife Twyla who is accused of being a witch. This was directed and produced by Craig Hinde and Marc Zammit and features Russell Shaw, Sarah Alexandra Marks, Ryan Spong, Fabrizio Santino, Mims Burton, Anto Sharp, Daniel Jordan, and Neil Bailey among its cast. The film is due to be completed by Spring 2022 for a global release.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Gates of Darkness (2019) - Horror Film Review

I will preface this by saying my head is not really in a good place at the moment. Even with that in mind however I don't think the Don E. FauntLeRoy (Anaconda 3: Offspring) directed demonic possession film Gates of Darkness could be described as anything more than subpar. While it takes a look at a real world issue (in this case the historic abuse of priests in the Catholic church), it is done in such a weird and unenjoyable way that it left me feeling more cold than than the characters in their supernaturally chilled dwelling were complaining to be.

Very awkward Goth teenager Stephen (Randy Shelly - A Gothic Tale) is becoming more and more distanced from his on the surface happy family, much to the worry of his mother and to the annoyance of his step-father (Elimu Nelson - The Summoning). Meanwhile, Stephen's devoutly religious twin sister, Michelle (Mary Mouser - Cobra Kai TV series) begins to experience sudden flashes of memory from her brother that hints he may be suffering from a real darkness from his past. Oh, and also Stephen may be possessed by a demon.

It felt at times that Gates of Darkness only grudgingly wanted to be a horror film. The many quickly edited flashbacks that Stephen/Michelle has hints at an obvious root cause for Stephen's current sullenness. It is only after the halfway point that a visible supernatural element is introduced, but even then, with objects moving around on their own the family still think the boy is just mentally ill. Much of the film follows Stephen in all hs dark and brooding phases, such as refusing to come out of his room, listening to loud music at night, and not helping with chores. To be fair to the character, he wasn't irritating, he definitely looked goofy with his dyed black emo hair and constantly wearing a spiked neckband but there wasn't any real malice to him. Other characters were both bland and bizarre. Towards the end of the first act for instance a character who had been acting weird in all their scenes suddenly, and very publicly kills themself, and then there is Father Dumal (Brandon Beemer - Damn Sea Vampires!) who stands around in the background giving piercing looks at various other characters but not actually doing anything until the story calls for it. The one saving grace Gates of Darkness has is Tobin Bell (the Saw franchise) who plays Monsignor Canell, he, by proxy stole all his scenes as he didn't have much competition. While he tries to do all the heavy lifting to make the movie somewhat watchable, it was a bit too much for just the one actor to achieve.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Hoodman (2021) - Horror Film Review

is described in its press release as 'ultra-low budget', if that is the case then it certainly looks the part in terms of film quality. Written and directed by Mark W. Curran (Abandoned Dead), this middle of the road American paranormal horror doesn't take any chances, with a format that felt familiar, and an antagonist who felt like a copy of the villian from the dull The Bye Bye Man.

Ariana (Madison Spear - A Deal With The Devil) is driving late one night when she is distracted by her six month year old daughter, causing her to take her eyes off the road. When she looks back she is shocked to see a hooded figure standing in the middle of the road, and so she swerves to avoid him. Waking up in hospital she is told that sadly her daughter didn't survive the crash, but in denial about this being possible, Ariana instead convinces herself that a local urban legend about a hooded child stealing spirit is actually real, and so sets out to try and find a way to bring her child back from it.

I guess you can say Ariana is different to a traditional protagonist as she inserts herself into the paranormal events. If she had accepted the news of her child's death than maybe what little did occur wouldn't have done so. Unluckily for her she gets the attention of the Hoodman who is all too real. He only targets those who believe in it, and not being able to face the truth, that makes Ariana one such person. This follows the very traditional route of American paranormal horrors at times seeming like it is crossing off a checklist. You have sudden sightings of the hooded spirit who has then vanished upon a second glance, the protagonist suffers nightmares, she meets a previous victim of the antagonist force, and she finds time to have a little 'research' montage in the middle of the movie. It leads up to a finale that was as sadly underwhelming as it was sudden. That part in particular really drew The Bye Bye Man comparisons with me.

Friday, 4 March 2022

Werewolf Castle (2021) - Horror Film Review

Out of all the movie monsters I would probably rate the werewolf somewhere near the bottom. I don't know why, but I just do not get excited by them, even the very best of the genre, such as An American Werewolf in London, The Howling, and Dog Soldiers I thought were merely ok. Due to this I can't say I had much excitement in my heart when I sat down to watch Werewolf Castle. This horror film, written, directed and co-edited by Charlie Steeds (Death Ranch, An English Haunting) I'm please to say, broke the mould and was pretty darn great considering its indie status.

It's Dark Ages England, or perhaps a fantasy world, but either way, a pack of werewolves is plaguing the land, wiping out village after village in their savage attacks. After his own village is attacked, a young timid man, Thorfinn (Peter Lofsgard - Vampire Virus, The Mummy) teams up with a roving band of knights. Their goal, to travel to the castle of the local King in order to seek his help in stopping the attacks. However, every step of the way the group are under attack by the werewolves, and with the groups numbers ever dwindling it may well fall to the weakest member to complete the mission.

Things didn't start off well, it pretty much opens on an awkward sex scene involving Thorfinn with a girl in a barn, which is thankfully cut short by the werewolves attacking. You can tell my initial lack of interest in the film in that I'm not one hundred percent sure what the aim of the group heading to the castle actually was. It may have been to seek the King's help, it may just as well have been that this was where it had been reported the werewolves had originated from. I admit I wasn't really paying attention. However, over the course of the film I began to really get into this. The first part I began to pay attention to was the locations used to film at. The location scout did a fantastic job, sure a lot of this is filmed in woodland, but it appears ancient and not just like any old wood was chosen. The same goes for the waterfall and cave locations, both looked very old and were used to the best of their abilities.The one part that lets this down a little bit is the titular castle, it is in complete ruins which didn't make the most sense, but the more jarring thing was the obviously modern additions such as the white painted metal handrail that is attached to the spiral staircase. Obviously they wouldn't have been able to remove these due to health and safety laws, but it did detract slightly from the atmosphere.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Dystopia St. (2011) - Short Horror Film Review

Dystopia St.
is a short ten minute film written and directed by David Cave (Girl and a Scar), and it has recently been added to the Dark Matters Youtube channel. It is described as having a David Lynch vibe to it, and I can't disagree as it certainly channels that master.

A man (Danny Shayler - The Banishing) awakens naked in an apartment to the sound of a phone ringing. A mysterious voice tells him "To find the answer, keep hold of the key". This begins a surreal and trippy nightmare in which the man searches for, and then attempts to hold onto a key.

The whole short appears to take place within an arthouse style Hell realm where nothing is as it seems. Objects disappear and change form, while a bald man with stitched up eyes taunts him. This includes one segment where the man is destroying a VHS tape that is playing on a TV regardless, and one part where he is holding a female's breast only for it to be revealed to belong to a large boned man instead, as well as various moments where an object turns into maggots. I did wonder where exactly this was heading as I couldn't quite grasp the point of it all. Where it does end was a satisfying way to finish the short, but I was still left unsure of what if any message Dystopia St. was trying to tell. In terms of the filmmaking I did appreciate the set dressing, and the way scene changes were handled was cool.

If you like your films weird and surreal with an arthouse vibe then this will be right up your (Dystopia) St. It had some neat moments to it but was maybe a little bit too obscure for me in terms of what was happening. Check it out for yourself on the Dark Matters channel.


Wednesday, 2 March 2022

The Ritual (2011) by Adam Nevill - Horror Book Review

Back in 2017 I saw horror film The Ritual at the cinema and really quite enjoyed it. When I learnt that it had been based on a book I soon purchased a copy. While both book and film follow a similar path, it became clear the film decided upon a divergence at some point. The Ritual felt like two different novellas, with it nearly split straight down the middle with two distinctive styles. I have to say I enjoyed what Nevill did a lot more than what happened in the movie, while at the same time understanding why the film did what it did. If that movie had been a straight up adaptation then I imagine it would have worked well as a nasty little indie film, I say that in a good way. The second half of the book descends into misery and darkness with a low-fi feel. I will try and keep spoilers to a minimum, though I'm sure I won't be able to resist some comments on differences between the two mediums.

Luke, Hutch, Phil and Dom are old uni friends now in their late thirties, who in the process of growing up and becoming adults have drifted apart. They decide to go on holiday, both as a means to reconnect, and a means to get away from the trials and tribulations of their daily lives. They decide to go on a hiking trip to the Scandinavian wilderness, but it becomes clear that Phil and Dom are both ill suited to such a trip, Dom in particular managing to twist his ankle not long into their adventure. Fearing how long it will take the friends to reach their destination, Hutch decides to lead them into deep uncharted woodland, figuring it will be a shortcut. Unprepared for just how wild the wood was, the four soon find themselves hopelessly lost and getting increasingly desperate. Then it starts to become obvious that something or someone is silently stalking them, they must somehow find a way to put aside their differences and work together to survive, something not made easy with the divisions and resentments between the four only getting worse with each passing hour...

The first half of the book (titled 'Beneath The Remains') was familiar territory, the four friends in a way that reminded me of The Blair Witch Project, stumbling through very hostile forest. Before I really knew it I was hooked, the awful uncultivated woodland is almost as hostile as the unknowable presence stalking the friends. In terms of the characters this felt different to the movie. This was due to the film version of Luke having been caught up in an armed robbery, that character both suffering PTSD as well as survivor's guilt, as Luke hid, rather than come to the defence of his friend who ended up being murdered. This caused conflict within the group as some of them blame Luke's inaction as directly causing the death of their friend. The book version of Luke still remains the protagonist, but here he is far less of a good character, a man prone to violent outbursts and full of hate for what his life has become. The friends may have squabbled in the movie, but here, Dom and Phil especially appear to outright detest Luke. It was hard to root for the man initially, especially when early on he viciously assaults Dom.