Friday, 29 April 2022

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

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 Here's to some news that is actually relevant rather than months out of date!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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 April 2022

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

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

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

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

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

Monday, 25 April 2022

Psycho Storm Chaser (2021) - Horror Film Review

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's Music News Anthology 24th April 2022

Earlier this week the news was all film focussed and now the Ying to that Yang this one shall be all about music news. On a side note, it is not yet midday on Sunday as I write this, and this being the final blog post I am writing this weekend means I have the whole day to do with as I wish.

Feast of Bats is the new album from Californian deathrock band, Black Heroin Gallery. This is the follow up to the groups' 2016 debut album The Dreadful Dead of Hoop Snake Hollow. The press release states 'Highly theatrical and overtly gothic...ranges from sprawling, labyrinthine, gloom laden epics and snaking dirges; to neo-tribal deathrock and snarling dark punk'.

Gothic group, Black Angel have released their fourth studio album titled The Black Rose. The nine track album takes inspiration from eighties bands such as The Cult and The Mission while adding their own flavour, with the press release stating a 'slightly more sinister, edgy feel to the tracks'.

Gothic rock band Cathedral In Flames have released a cover of Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld's The Weeping Song in support of the people of Ukraine. The band have announced that all royalties and proceeds from their Hang Me High And Bury Me Deep record will go to the country, specifically going towards Nexta, an independant news channel operating in the area.

Saturday, 23 April 2022

Clock's Watch III: Alpdruck! (2021) by Michael Reyes - Horror Book Review

Clock's Watch III: Alpdruck!
is the latest horror from Michael Reyes (The Cursed Diary of a Brooklyn Dog Walker, The Black Veldt) and like those, it too is set in New York, specifically in this case Coney Island. Having not read the first two entries I was a little bit concerned I would be in over my head with no real idea of what has come before. Some light research revealed the first two books appeared to be anthologies, a course that Alpdruck! also follows. I knew then that I would be in for a good time, firstly because I sure love anthologies, and secondly because I enjoy the style of Reyes' writing.

Some of these details may be wrong, but from what I gather, Clock is a chaos mage, a coonskin cap wearing dwarf who protects his territory of Coney Island from supernatural invasion via the use of protective wards, a crossbow and his trusty magical blade Typhon. Up until recently Clock's identity had been kept a secret from his enemies, but an event had occurred that revealed this and so now not only does Clock have to deal with frequent supernatural events, but he also has to guard himself against the many foes who have a grudge against him.

Things got off to a great start despite me somehow accidentally beginning the book with the seventh story (The Bibliomancer which takes place in 1909 with a former protector of Coney Island). Thanks to the anthology format this wasn't much of an issue. Most of the stories follow on in a chronological order, but I had a vibe of Conan the Barbarian in that these stories feel like snapshots from Clock's life, not a literal follow on from one to the next. It is never clear how far apart any of these are which makes many of them perfect as stories that are both self contained and part of a greater whole. There are several here which are main storyline (such as the duo of The Funeral and Zen Bright which close out the book and set up cliffhangers for future entries), but more that felt self contained.

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Room 203 (2022) - Horror Film Review

Room 203
is an adaptation of a Japanese horror novel by Nanami Kamon that was directed and co-written by Ben Jagger (Corbin Nash). That this film follows a tried and tested horror formula I could excuse, as this felt like less mainstream horror than these typical types of film (The Bye Bye Man springs to mind as one such example). One thing I couldn't excuse however was the terrible lack of lighting that made a huge chunk of the film nigh impossible to make out.

Best friends Kim (Francesca Xuereb) and Izzy (Viktoria Vinyarska) move into a city based apartment block under renovation, specifically into the titular room 203. Kim is due to begin a course in journalism at the nearby university, while Izzy has vain hopes of making it big as an actress, something that she may struggle to do as she is drinking heavily and struggling to get over both her mother's untimely death, and her own suicide attempt. Upon moving in, they notice a strange hole in a wall that a foul odour is coming out of, Izzy's curiosity leads to her discovering an old necklace within the hole that she puts on. From the prologue (in which the girlfriend of a renovator also finds the necklace and promptly slits her own neck open) it is obvious that this isn't a good move. As the days pass, Izzy begins to exhibit more and more strange behaviour, becoming withdrawn and sleepwalking, Kim, concerned for her friends increasingly erratic behaviour decides to research the apartment to see if there is any rational explanation for her friends derailment.

While Room 203 does follow a formula, this being an indie film helps, as does the more dark story going on. From the first act of the two behaving as you would expect young adults would do in a movie (partying and dancing) this soon becomes a lot darker. Unfortunately, as I already mentioned, this literally gets darker as well. I understand they wanted to make the apartment have atmosphere, but making it near pitch black even in daytime was not the right move. This somehow gets worse over the course of the film, leading to a third act finale in which I was desperately struggling to decipher what was happening. There are a few lovely looking shots of characters bathed in the dark, but these are fleeting, all too often I was frustrated and willing any light source whatsoever to appear. It doesn't help that the arrival of the evil force also results in any lights in the vicinity flickering out. The darkness was a real obstacle to my enjoyment, moments such as when two different characters react in horror to what has fallen out of the ominous apartment hole that were lost on me as I simply could not make out what on Earth they were looking at.

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for 20th April 2022

Today's post will focus on film news, and so without further ado onto that news. The poster for upcoming horror/thriller Beneath Us All has been revealed. The film is about a foster child who discovers something buried in the woods. This sounds like it is a vampire film, but one that the press release states 'begins as an epic Viking tale before it settles in todays Maine'. The film is in the late stages of post production with the film intended to be completed by the end of April.

The Boo Hag is a horror that aims to bring Gullah Geechee (descendants of Africans who were brought to America as slaves) culture to film. Coming from Film Deco and starring Basil Wallace and Lance Nichols this is inspired by the Gullah Geechee folktale of the titular Boo Hag; a demon that in daytime appears to be a beautiful woman, while at night she is a creature of nightmares. This is due for a release later on in the year during the Halloween month of October.

If I Can't Have You is a new thriller that comes from directors Matt Santia and Peter Poulos. This stars Tennille Taraszkiewicz, Todd Calvin De Pew, Santia, Brian Boynton, Mandy Logsdon and Harley Wallen and is about a psychologist who finds themselves the unrequited attention of a model, an ex convict and an overprotective sister. This out now now via Midnight Releasing.

Next for today is a clip from Matt Leal's ShadowMarsh which stars Mike Ferguson, Ellen Woomer, Piper Tomlin, Jacob Tomlin, Lew Temple, Dave Sheraton and Felissa Rose. This one is about a man and his niece who return to their hometown and discover a secret about an ancient evil in the nearby forest. The film is available here.

The Nightgown will be Jared Masters' 17th feature film and reportedly his final one. While little has been revealed about the story, it is set to take place in the mid 1970s with three girls from a finishing school seeking out a haunted cabin. The film has so far announced Elizabeth Rath (Quartz Vein), and Randy Masters among the cast and is due for an October 2023 release. There is currently an Indiegogo campaign running which can be found here. The press release states '(it)...will be a cinematic movement like non other, a pulsating neon night terror simmering with ghouls, girls and a mischievous groundsman'.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Choose or Die (2022) - Horror Film Review

Choose or Die
is a Netflix original film that marks the feature length directorial debut of Toby Meakins (Lot254), who also co-wrote this alongside Simon Allen and Matthew James Wilkinson. The only thing I had heard said about this horror was that it was surprising it wasn't a choose your own adventure film, due to Netflix having dabbled with those in the past. The idea of a cursed video game from the eighties appealed to me, I have fond memories of my Acorn Electron from when I was a child and so was happy to see some retro based horror.

Kayla (Lola Evans - The 100 TV series) is a young woman really struggling with life. She is in threat of being evicted from the apartment she shares with her mentally unwell mother in a poor crime ridden neighbourhood. While she is a computer programmer, she is unable to find a place that will accept her, so she is forced to work as a cleaner. While at her nerdy friends place one day (Isaac, played by Asa Butterfield - The Wolfman) she discovers an old video game that the box its in states has a huge cash prize for whoever should beat it. Figuring that it can't hurt to try she decides to give it a go. This turns out to be a bad move as Kayla soon finds herself forced into a brutal text adventure, one where she is made to select choices that lead to real life violent consequences for those around her. With each level of the game taking place at the same time each day, her and Isaac in the downtime seek a way to find the origins of the game and how to successfully escape its curse.

If you had stopped watching around the halfway mark then you would probably leave this thinking it wasn't good at all. This is one of those films that gets better as it goes along, by the end it has gotten suitably messed up. I wish the first half had been as inventive as it felt like just another teen horror film up to the midway point. It starts in an interesting fashion in that after a short prologue in which a middle aged man begins the game (a wonderful stand-out performance by Eddie Marsan - Feedback, The World's End), the rest of the prologue takes places as text during the intro credit sequence. The initial problem for me was how sketchy the game is, it seemed each time Kayla played the rules were completely different. The very first challenge she gets takes place entirely in the real world, in this case she accidentally causes a waitress to start force feeding herself broken glass. Later on though the ideas get more inventive. There was one part in which a victim is appearing as a character on a computer screen, both playing out in real time and as the game. Another moment has a victim appearing as if they are on VHS, Kayla able to fast forward and rewind their actions. That part in particular looked really cool. It leads up to a third act that was actually great, both calling back to an earlier moment in the film and being quite disturbing.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Elden Ring (2022) - Horror Fantasy Video Game Review (Playstation 5)

I have always appreciated from afar the 'Souls-bourne' style of games that FromSoftware is a master of, yet the few times I have dipped by toe into Dark Souls I have found it a stressful and daunting experience. I did manage to complete Bloodbourne, but my memory of that is fuzzy. With Elden Ring, FromSoftware has taken all that they are good at and pulled it into an open world setting. I was hesitant to head into this, but boy am I glad I did, as without a doubt Elden Ring is a modern masterpiece.

The story presented here is obtuse, it is up to the player to decipher the game world via descriptions for items found, as well as the spare story drip fed by the various characters you meet. As such, this synopsis is very likely wrong, but it is my limited interpretation. Elden Ring takes place in the Lands Between, a place that was once ruled over by a Goddess known as Queen Marika the Eternal via the power of the titular Elden Ring. An event occurred long ago known as 'the Shattering' in which the Elden Ring was destroyed, with the offspring of Marika battling over the powerful shards left behind. Now the Lands Between is a desolate wasteland, in which the now mutated and corrupted demigods hold onto their shards. You play as a 'tarnished', an exile who has been summoned back to the lands by the Ring's grace. Your aim is to locate and defeat all the demigods in order to collect their shards, so that you can restore the Elden Ring and become the next Elden Lord.

The reason I have never really gotten on with the Dark Souls games is due to their high difficulty, and the way that experience works. Defeating enemies gives you experience points, but should you die you will drop these at the place of your death. Should you die before you are able to retrieve the points then they will be lost forever. The many many sites of grace dotted around the game world are where you are able to spend those experience points to level up your character, as well as carry out various other functions like equipping great runes, allocating mana and health to the flasks you collect, as well as assigning magic spells. Each time you level up the bar gets higher, meaning you need to collect more experience until you can do it again. By the time I finished playing (for the moment), I was requiring around 285,000 experience to level up. On that note, I didn't actually complete Elden Ring, I did however see virtually all the game had to offer. I sunk one hundred and eleven hours into this, making it all the way to the final boss, and having cleared nearly all the secret areas. I feel happy to review this as I have seen so much of the game.

Friday, 15 April 2022

You Might Be the Killer (2018) - Comedy Horror Film Review

Directed and co-written by Brett Simmons (Animal, Husk), You Might Be the Killer is a comedy slasher in the vein of The Final Girls. A similar idea is used in that at least some of the characters are aware of the typical rules for a slasher film, such as the killer being defeated by the final girl. What sets this apart is that the protagonist realises he is actually the killer himself.

Sam (Fran Kranz - The Village, The Cabin in the Woods) is a camp counselor who phones his best friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan - Buffy the Vampire Slayer) late one night in a panic. He tells her that there is a masked killer on the loose in his campsite, and that nearly all the other counselors have been murdered. It isn't long until Chuck has realised that it is Sam himself who is the killer, and that it appears to be the work of a cursed wooden mask that he found and which subsequently possessed him. What follows is a back and forth in time as Sam thinks back to what has occured, in order to figure out which of his former friends are still alive, and for a way to end the night without being killed at the hands of whoever the final girl turns out to be.

It isn't much of a spoiler to say Sam is the one responsible as it is very early on this is revealed. The film mainly takes place in the past, and it doesn't even follow a linear path. Instead the film reverts back to various points in the night, sometimes heading back to particular kills, sometimes heading back further. For the film's third act events finally follow a cohesive path in the present, but I thought the idea of constant flashbacks worked well. A lot of the counselors didn't have much personality at all to them, but this made some of them more fun. In particular there was one named Steve, and nearly every single time the character is mentioned his moniker of 'Steve the Kayak King' is said in full, even when his body is discovered. That was one of the more fun running gags. The problem I had with Chuck is that she is so far removed from the events of the main story that it didn't really feel like she was even in the same film. While Sam is in a dark and dingy woodland camp, Chuck is in a brightly lit comic book store separated entirely from the other characters. I wondered if this was due to Hannigan being a bigger name and so her character was utilised in such a way as this in order for her pay to not be too high (apparently she filmed all her scenes within two days). Keith David (The Thing, They Live) is also featured in a similar way, his appearance just a voice on the end of a phone, but that role felt more smoothly implemented.

Thursday, 14 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology 14th April 2022

Another small news post for this week. On a personal note I have finally moved on from Elden Ring so I may have more motivation to do more work on my blog. There is a load of admin I need doing on the site as I have far too many links pointing to someone else's domain (due to them snatching up my old domain name when I was too slow to renew it last year).

The latest Scream film is now available on digital to download and keep, and has also came out on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray Steelbook, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD. I haven't actually seen the film yet so can't comment on its quality, I certainly do want to check it out though as I have enjoyed most of the series. The release comes with a host of extras including filmmaker commentary, interviews with cast old and new, a look back on the work of Wes Craven, as well as deleted scenes. The synopsis for this Scream is that twenty five years after the events of the original film, a new killer has emerged.

The Colorado Festival of Horror returns this year on September 9th-11th. Special guests announced include Thomas Walton (Room 9, Camp of Terror), Damien Leone (Terrifier 2), David Howard Thornton (Terrifier 2), and Lynn Lowry (I Drink Your Blood, The Crazies). For more details check out the website here.

The first trailer for Mary C. Russell's The Otherkind has been released. This film is about a mountain lake town which begins to implode after many of the residents begin to change. Russell has stated this was inspired by the Irish folklore of the selkie. The Otherkind is due to debut on the festival circuit later this year.

Slightly late, but the April releases for the Arrow streaming subscription service have been announced. They include the darkly comedic Spanish film, The Sacred Spirit (a must see). Other releases include among them sci-fi body swap movie, Rest in Pieces: The Passing, The Battle for the Lost Planet, Mutant War, possession slasher sequel Beyond the Door 3, and Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Riven (2015) -Short Horror Film Review

is a short nine minute award winning Norwegian horror film which was directed by Sjoerd de Bont. The flow of this felt almost formulaic but was different enough to what I figured that I was left pleased. This has recently headed to the Dark Matters' YouTube channel.

Sara (Maike Boerdam) is a barmaid who has gone into the dusty attic of her bar in order to find some wine glasses. Once up there however she discovers an old full length mirror covered up, wiping the dust off its surface she is startled to see in the reflection a white door which isn't there. It is her subsequent exploration of where this door could be and what is on the other side that brings in the horror.

There are three actors in this short (Raymond Kurvers as Sara's partner, Willem, and Katarina Justic rounding out the small cast. The character of Sara takes centrestage and after a brief intro she is up in the atmospherically dusty attic, which was a great looking location. The stuff with the reflection being different to what is actually there I have seen before, and even seen done better. That isn't to say Riven wasn't good, I enjoyed it despite heavy use of CG to simulate a particular effect. I for one was happy it didn't end on a jumpscare ending, it had a little bit more of a sinister feel to how this wraps up. The film is in Dutch with English subtitles, but there is only really dialogue at the beginning and end with most the short playing out with Sara on her own.

At under ten minutes Riven is another short that is worth a watch. It makes effective use of a good choice of location, and while it may not feel especially new, this nonetheless  ticked a few of the right boxes.


Monday, 11 April 2022

The Sacred Spirit (2021) - Comedy Drama Review

One of the many films joining the Arrow streaming subscription service in March is the Spanish comedy/drama/sci-fi film The Sacred Spirit (original title Espíritu sagrado). Written and directed by Chema García Ibarra this surreal movie plays its comedy with a super straight face and was all the better for it.

The film begins with Charo's daughter Vanessa (and twin sister of Verónica, played by Llum Arques) having recently gone missing with the story all over the local news. Elsewhere, Julio (José Angel Asensio), the head of a small group of ufology enthusiasts made up of misfits has recently died, he left his belongings to José (Nacho Fernández), who just so happens to be Charo's brother. Unknown to the rest of the group, who believe the aim for them is to be taken by aliens, Julio and José had a secret plan, one that involves bringing an ancient spirit into the world, using a young child as the vessel.

The Sacred Spirit takes place in a bizarre world, but one that within its context feels completely normal. The humour here is deadpan and comes from the many characters. I would say it kind of shares similarities with Napoleon Dynamite in the way the comedy plays out. There is nothing laugh out loud funny here, instead it is the dialogue that is said, and the way it is spoken by the deeply earnest characters. It seemed to begin with that Charo was going to be the protagonist, but this instead falls on José. This man, obsessed with Egyptian mythology (his apartment that he shares with his Alzheimer's afflicted mother is full of gaudy and tacky Egypt themed knick knacks) was strangely likeable despite the film hinting at a darkness that he may be involved in. He genuinely believes that an ancient spirit is going to return to the world, and that he alone is the one who can get this done, there is almost a sadness with José and despite everything I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. That comes with many of the characters who while extremely weird had an innocence to them that made them endearing. The UFO group for instance have share a strong bond.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Caducea (2018) - Short Horror Film Review

(also known as Caducea - The Man with the Bark Face) is an award winning French language short Gothic horror that was written and directed by Christophe Mavroudis, and which has recently headed to the Dark Matters YouTube channel. It was something different, certainly Gothic, and with a fairytale feel, this may not have been scary, but it was interesting.

The twenty five minute short is about Alain (Guillaume Alexandre), the son of rich countess Catherine (Marie-Jeanne Malague) who as a child had an adopted older brother in the form of the heavily disfigured Tom (Vincent Delré). While in constant pain, this brother amused himself by making intricate masks out of wood and bark. The short takes place both in the past and in the present, with it frequently switching back and forth, the past sections featuring different actors playing the main trio. One day, when Alain was a young man, his brother Tom decided to leave the safety of Catherine's mansion, heading out into the wider world. Now, some years later Tom has returned in order to reveal the dark secrets Catherine had been hiding from them both all their lives.

I liked how much the two stories went in and out of each other, sometimes even in the same scene. You have Alain in the woods at night in present day trying to find Tom, this then switches to daylight in the past and back again. This created a nice contrast between the far more monstrous present day Tom and his slightly less creepy, and more flamboyant past self. The short relies a lot on these flashbacks with probably around two thirds of the run time set in the past. I liked where the story went, if not so much the characters, I found the older version of Catherine in particular to be a bit weird as a character, just standing around not really doing much of anything, while the older version of Alain had some strange behaviour that wasn't explained that well.
The costume design for Tom were fantastic, the masks in particular where a highlight, and some of the lighting used really gave him the feel of a fairytale monster. The location of the mansion helped with the Gothic atmosphere.

I liked Caducea, it did something different and so was quite memorable. Me being me, as always I wished for deeper horror, but what was here was at least interesting, not bad at all. Caducea premiered February 25th on the Dark Matters YouTube channel, still my favourite channel there for quality short horror films.


Friday, 8 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for 8th April 2022

I didn't expect to be, but here I am with a second small news anthology for this week. I blame it a lot on me being lazy and wanting to play yet more Elden Ring than watch a film for review. How are energy prices treating you? I'm trying not to heat my decrepit abode as much as before so have infested (I meant to type 'invested' but shall leave that error as is) in some hoodies to wear around the place.
I have been brutal with my news box, slicing and dicing it down from over three hundred emails to a lean twenty nine. Here's to keeping more up to date with that hallowed place.

Freestyle Digital Media have acquired the horror-thriller Follower, since 29th March this has been available to rent and own on global digital HD internet and satellite platforms. The film is based on an alleged true story that occured in Northern Nevada in 2018, it is about a social media influencer and her two friends who became the targets of a violent killer while on a hiking trail. The killer live-streamed himself as he hunted down the girls and anyone else who got in his way. In a unique spin, Follower has an interactive element which 'allows the viewer the opportunity to follow the characters in real life' whatever that means. This was based on a story by Serena Kamlani, James Rich and Zachary Hersh and directed by James Rich. 

Mastiff announced a partnership with Actual Nerds to publish dark fantasy 2D RPG, The Tarnishing of Juxtia back in March. The game is due for a PC release this Summer and looks quite attractive with a graphical style that reminded me of Blasphemous. It is described in the press release as a '2D love letter to 'Souls' games', with players taking on the role of a nameless hero who has been created by a dying God in order to get revenge against the beings responsible for a devastating supernatural plague. The game is to include fifteen environments, fourteen boss battles and plenty of secrets and sidequests in the twenty + hour experience.

The last bit of news for today is that of Born Dead which comes out on April 26th from Bayview Entertainment. The story is about a young embalmer named Luna who one day stumbles across two bodies out in the wood, one dead, and one barely clinging onto life. This 'gory and blood-soaked tale' comes from Alex Visani (The Pyramid).

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Life After: The Arising (2013) by Bryan Way - Zombie Horror Book Review

Life After: The Arising
is a book I've been reading for quite some time. As always, I am slow at reading books, mainly due to only reading them on my half hour lunch breaks in my day job. This was written by Bryan Way and is the first in his Life After series. I currently also have a trio of short stories set in the same world which I will be looking at after a short break to read a couple of other novels.

University student Jeff Grey has travelled to his former high school in order to watch his younger girlfriend Julia participate in a multi-school battle of the marching bands. During the event however disaster strikes with the sudden arrival of a horde of flesh eating zombies. In the panic and confusion many of the attendees are killed or escape in vehicles, but a few survivors, led by Grey seek refuge in a rooftop greenhouse. Eventually this small group are joined by an old friend of Grey's; Anderson, who is a member of the national guard, whose military knowhow proves to be invaluable, Rich, a homeless man who used to drive school buses, as well as Julia, a nurse. With the world gone to ruin, and with seemingly no help on its way to assist, the small group set out to gather supplies and find somewhere safe to hunker down.

I'm not going to lie, to begin with I was really unsure about this novel, the first act made it feel like it really wasn't going anywhere, while with the protagonist you can't really argue that he isn't a bit of a fool. What I began to realise The Arising does so well however is that it felt like a boring portrayal of a zombie apocalypse. Maybe I could use a better word, but I don't mean boring as a slight against the novel or indeed the writing. The story wasn't dull at all, nor was it written badly, instead I mean boring in that the group of characters presented here have a lot of luck and good fortune (in terms of a world ending undead outbreak), meaning their struggles are not too great. At times it felt like this group were going about their day to day business, while far more traditional zombie survival excitement and escapades where happening with a group of characters that we never even heard of. There are a couple of moments where other survivors are fleetingly seen, I liked to think these would have been the protagonists of another book. While our group sit around discussing the concept of religion and of evolution for pages at a time, I imagined this other group doing no end of the type of high stakes events typically found in a zombie story.
Of course this theory loses some traction in some of the more high threat moments, but this is the zombie apocalypse, even people who manage to do nearly exactly the correct things are going to find themselves in peril every now and again.

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology April 6th 2022

Hey there, another small news post to round out my weeks five blog posts. In February nu-metal band Above Snakes released their horror focussed video for track The Broken Ones, which is the follow up to their track Nothing to Lose. The track, which is designed as an anthem for society's outcasts is horror themed, filmed at the Haunted Overload in Lee, NH, and directed by lead singer Johnny Skulls and guitarist Dax Dabs.

On March 22nd The Wilderness Hotel came to DVD from Bayview Entertainment. This was directed by Dawei Lee, stars Xiao Xi Wang and Ge Ling Gao, and is about a strange creature from the Earth's interior who arrives at a remote hotel in order to infect the staff and guests there. The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles.

Finally, and back onto music news, goth rock band Metamorph released their track Love in the Wreckage, which was released in time for Valentine's day a couple of months back. The song is about 'a story of life in today's chaotic world. It's a transmutation of the world's chaos into love; a tale of light in the dark'.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

On the Trail of UFOs: Night Visitors (2022) - Documentary Review

On the Trail of UFOs: Night Visitors
is the latest documentary from Small Town Monsters (Momo: The Missouri Monster, Terror in the Skies), and from the title it should be super obvious this is part of their UFO series. This one, the press release states, 'takes viewers into the most disturbing aspect of UFOlogy'. I would perhaps say one of the most typical aspects, that of cattle mutilations. As I began to watch this however, I realised that despite that long being associated with UFOs, I didn't actually know that much about it. With Small Town Monsters never failing to make interesting documentaries I was happy to explore the topic.

Directed by Seth Breedlove, investigator Shannon LeGro (On the Trail of UFOs: Dark Sky) once again takes on the lead role. The eighty minute doc was filmed in Colorado and is made up primarily with various interviews with eye witness accounts who have been involved in some way either with seeing unexplained sightings in the sky, or having owned cattle that has then been found mutilated. It starts with a brief history of cattle mutilations, something it later returns to with a segment about the very first recorded cattle mutilation (was actually a horse nicknamed Snippy). There are various subjects covered here outside of that particular event, as well as lights in the sky, there are parts about people who have been apparently abducted by UFOs in the area, the notion of secret underground military facilities inside hollow mountains, even a part about the mysterious silent black helicopters that are linked to the subject matter.

To add spice to what is being discussed there are the usual assortment of both artwork and simple CG effects used to simulate UFOs in real world settings, nothing too amazing was shown with these but they added flavour. One part that I didn't think worked as well was a glitching effect used with the editing, usually when switching between various photos of dead animals. Still, the interviews themselves feature a bunch of eclectic people, from farm owners, to a particularly haunted looking man talking about his abduction experience, to the owner of a UFO based tourist trap who says she has had many unexplained sightings over the years of being based in the area (and who owns the skeletal remains of the previously mentioned Snippy). Intercut are many wide scenery shots, and shots of LeGro gazing out at various locations. Again set in America, I never get tired of seeing the countryside, the flat plains of Colorado lending themselves well to the idea that so many sightings could have happened here. As to the explanations, there isn't anything concrete concluded, with an admission that with so many more knowledgeable people exploring this and not finding answers, that they too couldn't really pinpoint the actual cause. Being firm believers, or at least very open minded to the idea of UFOs, there is no challenging of peoples accounts, but I didn't expect there to be, and am kind of glad there wasn't as many of the people being spoken to seemed genuine.

I didn't think the subject matter quite fitted the press release, but regardless, there was plenty here that I hadn't really ever looked into before and so it was interesting to watch and listen. Maybe not the most exciting of documentaries but I enjoyed my time with this, with Small Town Monsters documentaries there is a rhythm to them that I always find quite chilled and this was no exception. On the Trail of UFOs: Night Visitors debuts on major streaming platforms on April 5th, from 1091 Pictures.


Monday, 4 April 2022

Sunset Skull (2022) by Assassun - Music Album Review

I'm back with another ill-judged music review to do. I think the first thing I will do if I ever win the lottery is hire someone who actually knows about the medium to do these as my vocabulary and knowledge is somewhat lacking. Sure I like music, but that interest peaked around the early 2000s so most of what I listen to nowadays is kind of old. Sunset Skull is an album by Assassun, this is a new incarnation of the Berlin based musician Alexander Leonard Donat who last year released Nebonkörper under his Vlimmer moniker. A criticism I had from that review was that my compliments sounded almost passive aggressive, something I didn't intend, so I will try better this time around! While I was given a download code for this, I actually listened to it on Apple Music without using the code.

I have spent the past several days moving my furniture and belongings back into my front room after having a new carpet, so I have had plenty of time to listen to stuff. Despite listening to Sunset Skull twice in a row I actually have very limited notes on what I heard. The album is described as 'dark and raw electro-punk synth', I would agree with that. The album is made up of eleven tracks over thirty three minutes, each track from my memory feeds into the next, or at least follows a natural progression.
After opener Burial Shroud we head into Winter Is, the music here sounds to my mind like the type of music that would be playing if you went into a dark and dingy club in the mid 1980s, I love that decade so no slight there. The sound has a low-fi attractive quality to it (Devours Itself), that coupled with echoey voice effects and synth beats on tracks such as Over Again creates a unified feel to the vibe of the tracks. There is a slight off kilter edge to the sound, such as with Your Scheme? (with echoes of the Friday The 13th theme tune), and at times almost otherworldly, which can be seen in The World I Will Leave.
The second half of the album was where I really began to get into the music. There is the sinister sounding Janine with its thudding Industrial end, then after Another Hook To the Chin comes Achilles Tendon that sounded more electronic. This leads into penultimate track Light Coming Out with its Industrial ambient start, finally finishing out with I Need It Gone.

Sunset Skull isn't a happy record, the singing has a bitter tone to the words, and the music has a warped feel. This all combines into something good for the listener, I liked how each track has the same certain feel to it, yet musically is a lot different. Good enough that I listened to it twice back to back, and am in fact giving it a third go as I write this review.


Saturday, 2 April 2022

The Rotting Zombie's News Anthology for April 2nd 2022

Right, I have eleven minutes to write this before I must leave the house (as always at the time of writing this). Starting off with Kris Roselli's Hideout. This horror film is now available to stream in the U.K and Ireland on Amazon UK, following a November release in the U.S. This had its world premiere at the Salem Horror Fest in October of last year and is about some robbers who seek assistance at a remote farmhouse after one of them is shot. Things take a turn for the worse when the family realise who it is they are dealing with. While it sounds like a home invasion horror, it actually also contains supernatural elements.

Clementina was released in December of last year by Bayview Entertainment. The film is about a woman named Juana who begins to hear strange noises in her house following abuse from her boyfriend, as well as a recent miscarriage. This was directed by Jimena Monteoliva and stars Cecilia Cartasegna, Emiliano Carrazzone and Susana Varela. 

Finally, Death Breed is a horror anthology that features Kane Hodder, Gunnar Hansen, Linnea Quigley, Edwin Neal, Reggie Bannister and Debbie Rochon, it released by Bayview Entertainment on 14th December of last year. Following in the format of Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt, this features three different short stories, the werewolf themed Wolfsbayne, supernatural tale Shudder, and the darkly comedic Old Habits Die Hard, which is about a wholesome family of cannibals.

Friday, 1 April 2022

Rust Belt Driller (2022) - Horror Film Review

Rust Belt Driller
is one of those films that improves throughout its run time. It took awhile to acclimatise to the freakishly surreal world of the movie which goes pretty art house at times, but once I did I was fully on board. Occasionally I was repelled, more often than not I was bizarrely entranced. 

Renn Maxwell (Aaron Krygier, who also wrote this) is the very definition of a tortured artist. He is successful but at a cost, he feels he has never been true to what he is actually like. When the film begins he has reached his breaking point, and with a new burst of creativity comes increasing insanity. Haunted both by a vampiric muse only he can see, as well as a shadowy well dressed figure (Derek Powell), the artist resorts to murder by drill to feed his dark urges.

Co-directed by Tilke Hill and David R. Williams (Red Scream Vampyres) this low budget horror doesn't shy away from revealing the constraints. This mostly appears in the gory murder sequences that feature very fake looking body parts in such a way that I feel it had to have been purposely done. Due to the style of film this actually added another layer rather than took anything away in my opinion. Rather than be straight forward, these murder scenes near all share a unique way to the editing used. Frequently the shots will cut between the victim before they have been attacked, to being mid attacked in a flowing fashion that was really cool to see. The kills come courtesy of a comically large drill which is inferred Renn purchased from an infomercial. Those commercials pop up three or four times over the films length and play out in full. Andy Rich (Sojourn) is perfectly cast as the enthusiastic, yet bumbling host of these sections and are where Rust Belt Driller is at its most silly. These goofy adverts are full of bad acting, poor camera work and continuity errors and mostly worked really well. I did think the final one that went much more into horror wasn't as enjoyable, a bit gross for me.