Monday, 23 February 2015

Open Water (2003) - Horror Film Review

The problem with most horror is that it is not really 'feel good' stuff to watch. I decided to watch Open Water which turns out isn't really horror and is more of a survival/disaster film but also was not 'feel good'.

Daniel (Daniel Travis) and his girlfriend Susan (Blanchard Ryan) head to the Caribbean on holiday to do some scuba diving. They head out to the middle of the ocean with a scuba group. Due to an incorrect head count the couple are accidentally left behind, they come to the surface to find the boat gone and their troubles only go down hill from there.

The basic plot for Open Water is actually based on a real life event that took place in Australia. The reason for being abandoned and a bit later on in the film use what actually happened as reference points. I don't know why but I figured there would be more of a horror slant to this. The quote on the front of the DVD box reads "Blair Witch meets Jaws' which made me figure some sort of supernatural type goings on. Meanwhile the blurb on the back of the box makes it seem like the two are at the mercy of nefarious people who are purposely playing with them. The truth is far more mundane.

The problem with having a film mostly shot in the middle of the ocean is that there is not a lot to look at. Even at a 77 minute run time I was done with it all ages before the end credits roll. It doesn't help that due to not actually being able to leave the actors all alone the shots used are all quite close up and you never really get the impression there is not a boat a few metres out of shot (which there would have been for the actors safety). The part of the sea they are in is quite busy so there always seems to be boats just out of reach and planes flying over to keep making the characters have hope.

Once the couple find themselves stranded the film seems to loose steam. Lots of things happen to the hapless duo to keep things interesting but it seems like a check list of problems is being crossed off. Jellyfish sting them, they get attacked by sharks, they fall asleep and drift off from each other, they argue with each other but these events all unnaturally flow together. You know things are not great when a mid film highlight is a character puking up.

Lots annoyed me about Open Water. Susan doesn't realise sea water is not a wise thing to drink for one; really? That completely baffled me and seems like it was put in as the script writer thought the audience would be imbeciles and so wouldn't understand why the two were dehydrated with all the water around. A lot of the scenes have something happening underwater and so one of the characters would have to wet their goggles, put them on, swim down, see the problem and come back up to explain to the other character. That got tiring fast and must have happened at least seven or eight times. On the subject of pointless things early on there is an aborted sex scene which I am certain was just put there to show Ryan's flesh off for some lazy titillation, this was just not needed,

The plot is unavoidably thin, it irritated me that no one would realise the two were missing but I guess as that was the part of Open Water that was based on true events it is hard to complain about. If I was given the film and asked to make a more streamlined version then I reckon I could easily cut it down to 10 minutes. The camera quality was also not the best, a lot of it, especially the land based sequences look like they were filmed on hand cameras, at least the special effects were all real and not CGI based.

When it comes down to it, no matter how awful being in that situation would be in real life, watching two annoying people floating around being miserable for an hour does not make for great entertainment. In the end it all seemed just a bit pointless.


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Generation of Z: Apocalypse (2015) - Zombie Interactive Theatre Experience News

After sell out shows in New Zealand and at the Edinburgh Fringe The Generation of Z: Apocalypse is heading to London. Tickets go on sale for this on Friday 20th February but I have been provided with a code that will allow you to buy tickets for this event at a special price tomorrow (Thursday 19th February). More on that later.

The storyline for the show is that in 2015 zombie apocalypse has swept London in the form of the Z virus. With society collapsing humanity is in for a fight. The show is immersive and puts the audience into the story, Your choices can effect the shows narrative and outcome.

The show is to take place in a purpose built venue in Whitechapel and spans over a 25,000 square foot bunker. It is described as "a thrilling 75 minutes of high velocity storytelling that will terrify even the hardiest of thrill seekers" and is not suitable for those under the age of 16 as it features shock, tension, and realistic depictions of gore and violence.

To get early tickets for this cool sounding event head on other to and enter the code EXTINCTIONISNOW tomorrow (Thursday 19th). You are also able to get the £25 preview rate on standard tickets and early bird access tickets on Thursday also. Performances start on 4th April and run till 5th July.

If your still unsure then check out the frankly awesome trailer below...


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Silently Within Your Shadow (2015) - Horror Film News

Scott Lyus (the director of short horror Order of the Ram) has another film he is currently working on. It is another short horror but this time about a ventriloquist's dummy and has a big name attached to the project. Personally puppets for some reason I find real freaky.

Silently Within Your Shadow is described as "a dark, twisted love story that explores the idea of jealousy; and the struggle between choosing passion for art or romantic love". I am guessing that Hugo; the dummy of Lucette does a Chucky (from Child's Play) and becomes murderous once it looks like his owner is going to abandon her job for a love interest.

Lucette is played by Sophie Tergeist, but the better news is that legendary horror actor Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects, Exit Humanity) is to be the voice of Hugo! This short film has a Kickstarter campaign to get the funding needed to be created. It currently has £320 of its £6,000 goal and has 34 days left to go. If your interested in funding this, or to find out more the Kickstarter is here.

Check out the concept trailer below...

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bodom (2014) - Horror Film Review

Bodom is Hungary's first ever feature length found footage film and also the first Hungarian film I have ever reviewed. Here at The Rotting Zombie HQ found footage don't always get a warm welcome as it seems a genre bereft of any new ideas.

In 1960 at Lake Bodom in Finland four youngsters camping there were attacked in the middle of the night with only one survivor. The attacker has never been caught. In 2009 two students; Annikki and Pietari head to the lake to do a thesis about the strange murders but their trip ends with horrific consequences.

Bodom is set out like a documentary rather than just a collection of pieced together camera work. This actually made a decent change to the usual formula. Picture The Blair Witch Project but with later interviews with the friends and family of the missing people inter cut. This works in not only splitting up the shaky cam footage that can often get tiring but also works in that there is a legitimate reason for the footage to be around. There is nothing worse than a found footage film where the found footage of the piece makes no sense for existing neatly edited together. Also appreciated was the ending in which the documentary attempts to explain the events and reveals some decent information. Characters in the interviews display foreshadowing of events to come that really help create a sense of mystery.

Now it is hard to judge the acting ability as it is not in English but to me it seemed to be good, it certainly never seemed like these were fake characters. The subtitles for the most part are decent, a few slight errors (such as the decision to subtitle sound effects at some points). The majority of the film has just the two characters of Annikki and her acquaintance Pietari who really do not seem to like each other even before anything sinister happens. Any conversation they have seems to dissolve into arguments and your left wondering why they even decided to go out to remote Lake Bodom together, especially when it appears that there may be a reason from their past why they really should not be together. These arguments make them seem more real.

At 65 minutes in length Bodom does not have time to get boring or stale. The usual format for these things takes place with around the first 45 minutes nothing sinister really happening at all. There is a slow build to the terror which suddenly occurs. The plot and reasoning behind what happens is drip fed and is never fully explained and on some levels makes no sense but I felt leaving questions behind made for a more atmospheric story regardless. For once it seems that the reason for the madness may not be supernatural in origin that I felt was a good decision. This is certainly from the 'people lost in woods' side of found footage and not the 'demonic possession in rich peoples house' type. The flip side to this build up is that there isn't really enough time for the pure horror part of the film to shine in full and some plot elements seem a bit tacked on.

I liked the documentary format of the film, I liked the overall plot and the playing with audience expectations. Bodom looks crisp when it needs to, looks rough when it needs to be (I love how an explanation for abrupt camera cuts is given), and the fact that the Bodom murder from 1960 the students are researching actually happened in real life was a nice touch. This film is not going to keep you up at night with fear, nor can it be said to be completely original (lots of shaky cam and night vision for instance) but it is competent and enjoyable regardless and so is worth a watch.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Call of the Dead (2011) - Zombie Map Discussion

With the Call of Duty map packs once again going on sale I saw an opportunity to pick up one of the remaining zombie maps I don't own for Call of Duty: Black Ops. I got five maps in total, four normal and one zombie map, it was only the zombie map Call of the Dead that I was interested in.

In Call of the Dead you play as one of four real life actors; Danny Trejo (Rise of the Zombies), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street), and Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead). It takes place on a remote Siberian island where the four are filming a zombie flick with George Romero directing. However the fake scene is invaded by real life zombies who attack and kill Romero before anyone realises what is happening.

Call of the Dead is different to other zombie maps in that you have the persistent threat of the George Romero zombie. He is a giant and carries with him a large stage light that is electrified, he will slowly walk towards you where ever you go. Should you make the error of attacking him he will change into a more zombie like monster and charge after you, eventually calming down after a set time has passed.

I realise I am going into far too much detail for what is just one map so will wrap things up. The level is split into three sections. The middle part where you start is a small island with water on one side, the longer you stay in the ice cold water the more you start to freeze which results in your screen being obscured with ice. In a cool touch (literally cool) zombies can turn into blocks of ice should they spend too much time in the sea. The left part of the level features a huge tanker locked into the ice. From the engine room of here the power can be turned on, though I admit I have no idea what this does. The right side of the level features a giant lighthouse, the top of it features a dead end as a warning.

As always the game consists of rounds, each round featuring more zombies, and more health for them. There are windows to keep boarded up, weapons avaliable to purchase with points you get for undead slaying, and additional doors and walkways to open up. You play until you die, there is no end.

While even the reduced price of £8.23 is an extortionate amount for someone only interested in 1/5 of the maps I do feel Call of the Dead is a solid and well designed level and imagine I will have lots of fun with it in the future.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Swords of Insurgency (2015) - Horror Web Series News and Trailer

Swords of Insurgency is a post apocalyptic web series filmed in Virginia that has just had it's first official trailer out. Details on this seem pretty scarce but from the trailer it looks like its about a woman who manages to escape from a brutal high security prison into a world where ninjas, cowboys and bandits all fight each other with samurai swords, mallets and other types of deadly weaponry. Something to do with rebels fighting a harsh controlling regime according to the website.

It looks the part with some sharp images and interesting use of camera angles, while it also seems to have plenty of blood even if it did look like it was mostly computer generated. May well be one to watch out for. Check out the trailer below..

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Unseen Evil (2001) - Horror Film Review

The folks at The Movie and Music Network have a whole bunch of films available to watch online for cheap prices, but in a neat move they also have a film available to watch for free each day. Today's free film is Unseen Evil (also known as The Unbelievable apparently) and so I felt a review was in order.

A bunch of hikers including Dr. Peter Jensen (Richard Hatch), Kate an archaeologist, and a couple of men have hired a native guide to take them into the American wilderness in search of an ancient Indian burial mound. Not long in to the trip and it is revealed that the not so good Dr intends to rob the mound of its treasures and that the two men with him are actually also robbers. Finally arriving they indeed find vast treasures but as soon as they remove the loot from the cave system the trouble really begins. An invisible deadly creature starts to hunt the group and one by one they get picked off. The survivors have to find a way to stop the nightmare creature.

This is an amazing film; amazingly terrible that is! Obviously low budget in nature everything about this is pretty awful, but thankfully it fits neatly into the 'so bad it's good' category of film making. First off the props are not the best ever, the gold treasure in particular looks like it is made out of plastic while most the sound effects sound like they have been taken straight out of the public domain library. The creature being invisible is a blessing in literal disguise as it obviously saves on budget a lot, though more pressingly the creature when you do see it is abysmal. It is CGI straight out of the early 1990's and looks very fake and unrealistic.

The characters are one dimensional and while the acting can not be complained about (it is passable) they fall into the common trap of acting unrealistically. The cast spend too much of the film pointing guns at each other and fighting to be 'in control' as they put it, the amount of times this happens is farcical though Kate does mention this at one point. The bad guys are idiots it has to be said. You have the token angry black man who causes more trouble than he's worth, while Jensen does his best to be the films bad guy but is not the least bit threatening. They are not dull characters at least and their plight is fun to watch.

When action does happen it is swift and violent, each of the kills in Unseen Evil is fun to see, the creature has deadly claws and there is plenty of blood and even a decapitation at one point. The moral of the film seems to be if your a good and humble character then you will end up dead sooner rather than later, while the more darker characters mostly fall prey to their own hubris. There are lots of shots of the invisible creature interacting with the environment, such as smashing into a car, while the first person perspective of it as it chases the group reminded me a lot of the evil spirit from The Evil Dead.

The plot is simple, but made sillier by the ridiculous decisions characters make and it is this silliness that saves the film from being boring. This is in no way a good film, but it is not a boring film either, instead I had a lot of fun watching it and shouting at the characters as they go out their way to ruin things. All in all an enjoyable 90 minutes and I must confess...knowing there is a sequel has gotten me pretty excited!


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Chicken Pi: Twisted Tales by S. Lawrence Parrish (2013) - Horror Audiobook Series Review

Chicken Pi: Twisted Tales is a collection of fifteen short horror stories written and spoken by S. Lawrence Parish (he of Where Evil Grows and Yog-Sothoth's Box fame), each one roughly twenty minutes in length. His previous audio books have been straight up narrations and featured him doing a variety of voices. The stories contained in Chicken Pi all have sound effects and music added which really gives them some added flavour.

Parrish gives all his audio work away for free and this is no exception and so the only aspect to look at is are these stories any good, and are they worth the listen? The resounding answer would be yes. I was very impressed with the variety and quality of these tales with only a few coming across as anything but excellent. While all the stories are different there are several themes that he keeps coming back to. A few of the stories concern demons and vampires while a fair few of them are post apocalyptic in nature. It is the apocalyptic ones in particular that had a real power of dread behind them.

Not all the stories in Chicken Pi were amazing, in particular I did not enjoy Givin' the Dog a Bone which was about an old man and woman trying to survive nuclear fallout, it was depressing from the start and ended a bit strangely. The other one which I did not think was as good as the others was final story Kitty Kitty about a witch and a very hard to kill cat. For that one I just straight up got confused as to what happened. That is not to say these are badly written, far from it, Parrish never disappoints with his style of writing and he is skilled at coming up with different voices for the characters in that particular unique voice of his.

On the other end of the spectrum the best tale by far is Current Events that brings real horror of nuclear Armageddon into play, it is harrowing throughout and ends in such an amazing and descriptive way that I got goose bumps hearing it, something very special there. The two parter The Prophet was also another stand out story. That one concerned a feudal based civilisation who are approaching end times and had a sense of urgency and frustration and again ended on such a blinder of an ending.

Most of the stories here finish badly for the characters being followed, it almost come to be expected that everything would go wrong and so I came to look forward to getting the ironic or deserved end to these people. A few curve balls are thrown also with the best oddity being A Fistful of Rubber that seems to be a post apocalyptic based yarn about the day after a wild party. The story is narrated by Stumpy who speaks in a very A Clockwork Orange way with his own little language that was fun to hear.

With stories set hundreds of years in the past and future, demons that crawl into people via their bottoms, aliens who can take over your mind with just a touch, Scanner style head explosions and exploding babies the variety is always consistent leading you to never know what is going to be next. This is essential listening if you are a fan of short horror stories, I cannot recommend it enough.


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tower Block (2012) - Horror Film Review

Tower Block was a film I decided to watch on the spur of the moment, the brief description for the film on Netflix caught my interest. It is a British thriller set in a tower block (as the title would suggest).

A tower block is set to be demolished but first all the council tenants in the building need to be re-housed. As such all but the top floor of this building is deserted of people. In the intro sequence a terrified young man is chased by two masked men into this place, his attempts to get assistance are met with silence by the inhabitants who don't want any trouble (with one failed exception) and he ends up being murdered by the two men. An unknown amount of time later (months at least) and the people of the block suddenly all get fired on by a deadly accurate sniper. The survivors of this initial attack make it out into the corridor but soon learn that any attempt to leave the building results in the sniper opening fire. Even worse is that many of the escape routes have been booby trapped and the exits sealed up. It seems someone is determined that everyone there is to die...

I really enjoyed Tower Block, it had a real sense of constant threat and fear that continued all the way up to the ending. It is not without its flaws though. One small annoyance is that there was no indication the prologue took place in the past, it was at least 45 minutes into the film that someone casually mentions that event in the distant past tense. A wide spectrum of poor people stereotypes all happen to live in the building. There are a pair of drug dealers, an arguing husband and wife, a single mother who abuses her children, an alcoholic, a nasty little chav and a fair few others. These initially all seem so one dimensional and also all so unlikeable that you don't really feel any worry for their well being and I found myself wishing the more annoying ones would get killed off. Sheridan Smith as Becky is the one truly likable character which is good seeing as she is the main one. As the film progresses though the survivors (there is a high body count here) really come into their own and show layers that initially they did not have. Kurtis (Jack O'Connell) as an example starts off as an angry bullying thug but as the bond with the survivors form he manages to become far more well balanced and offers some humour into what is otherwise quite a dark film.

With around 98% of the film set inside a mostly windowless building it is no surprise that the films set design is quite dank and gloomy, but it feels natural and I got flash backs to The Cube at times with such a small location used and the theme of strangers having to work together. The place is full of odd smiley face symbols that it seems the sniper has placed which made the dirty setting even more ominous (how no one noticed someone going around stencilling these things everywhere I do not know!). As mentioned before there is a high body count which even includes teens and children. With a large number of characters it keeps you on your toes trying to work out who you reckon will survive as death comes so swiftly by the sniper master (my friend pointed out it seemed a bit weird how the sniper could immediately kill anyone who shows their face regardless of where they appeared). The violence looks good and feels quite visceral, so no complaints with the special effects department.

The plot sang to me here, just wanting to find out just who the sniper was and why they were trying to kill everyone kept me glued to the edge of my seat waiting for the reveal. Without going too much into spoilers I feel it would have been better to have the prologue removed as I did feel that made the reason seem far too obvious. While the plot was quite simple the film managed to avoid becoming stale and did not outlast it's 90 minute running time. There was always something new happening and perfectly fitted into the time given. Any longer and I do feel my interest would have started to fade. Sometimes with thrillers and horrors it all ends with a dramatic, over the top finale, I was pleased to see this was not the case here though maybe it was a bit too understated (a great pay-off though).

While not without its flaws such as stereotypes and stupid blips (such as a teen who is able to identify the exact type of rifle used by the killer, as well as it's street value based purely on his experience with videogames!) I nonetheless found Tower Block to be a thrilling and addictive film and one I would certainly recommend.


Monday, 26 January 2015

Escaping the Dead (2015) - Zombie Horror Film News and 2015 Trailer

Escaping the Dead is a Danish zombie film that has been influenced by the real life drug Krokodil (previously mentioned here). For those who don't know this particular drug has the nasty as heck side effect of rotting the skin off of the users, it is the closest thing we will probably ever get to real life zombies.

In the film a new street drug is released that has the very bad side effect of turning its users into actual undead zombies. Stoner drug dealer David and his friend Ahmir get a hold of this new drug and mistaking it for cocaine they sell it at a concert with deadly effect. The film follows David as he attempts to escape the city that is quickly becoming over run.

A new trailer is included below, it looks quite low budget with some dodgy effects but who knows, it could be so bad it's good, and with zombie films you never need the biggest budget to create an enjoyable film. I was pleased to see Kim Sonderholm in the trailer; that man just gets everywhere. Also it was good to hear Troma legend Lloyd Kaufman has a cameo in the film. The whole 'drugs turn people into zombies' set up has been done quite a fair bit before (Go Goa Gone and Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave spring to mind) but as I always say, it can be pretty damn hard to make a zombie film that isn't somewhat entertaining. Escaping the Dead is due to be finished at the end of this year.