Friday, 28 August 2015

The Hallow (2015) - Horror Film News and Trailer

I have finally gotten my internet sorted out (I think) and so to celebrate here is a news post about an upcoming horror that certainly sounds interesting. The Hallow is an Irish based horror that is the directorial debut of Corin Hardy and has already received critical acclaim at the Sundance and Edinburgh International Film Festivals.

A London based conservationist is sent on assignment to Ireland to survey an ancient forest, and so heads there along with his wife and baby. However he is met with some resistance in the form of superstitious locals who believe the woods are the hallowed ground of magical creatures. Despite their protests he carries on with his job only to unwittingly disturb a horde of strange beings and so the terror begins for both him and his family...

Joseph Mawle stars as the conservationist Adam Hitchens, while Bojana Novakovic plays his wife Clare. I was also pleased to see Michael Smiley in the trailer (The World's End, Spaced). I like the idea of fairy tales such as...well fairies being put into a horror setting and the Irish setting is also interesting as not too many horrors are filmed there (Boy Eats Girl the only one springing to mind).

The Hallow has it's first showing on the 29th August at Frightfest and so if your lucky enough to be going to that then maybe check this out if you like what you see in the trailer below. For those of us not going The Hallow is due for release in the UK on Friday 13th November. So first the trailer:

Also for your viewing pleasure is a short clip from the film which may be the first signs of the horror to come for the unlucky family:

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Sinister 2 (2015) - Horror Film Review

For a while now there has been near nothing but bad news when it comes to horror sequels, off the top of my head Insidious 2, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, Annabelle and The Last Exorcism: Part II all failed to impress and so news of a sequel to Sinister which frankly is one of the most scary films in recent years I have witnessed filled me with apprehension. I was prepared to be disappointed to put it lightly. Spoilers if you haven't yet seen Sinister.

Following on from the events of Sinister and the Deputy Sheriff (James Ransone) who was involved in the events is now a P.I who travels America burning down any properties related to the goings on of demonic entity Bughuul. One such house he arrives at however has a family already there (Courtney Collins and her two twin boys) and already experiencing supernatural goings on, and so he gets caught up in events once again as he does his best to stop the cycle.

A lot of the scares from the first film came from not having a clue as to what was going on, here however the mystery is already all gone, you know Bughuul acts through children and so the film actually shows this side a lot more with it being more the perspective of the child being visited by child ghosts and their attempts to brain wash the victim into murder. 

Ransone as the lead does an admirable job of filling Ethan Hawke's shoes. His role is entertaining, portraying a man who really does not want to involved at all but feeling a moral obligation to do so. This creates moments of humour as he is all too aware of the situation, is haunted by Bughuul but also knows he can't be hurt as long as the rules are followed. He is different from Hawke in that his character is designed to be likeable and for the watcher to identify and root for him.

The most striking part of Sinister were the sinister super 8 home videos that Hawke's character stumbled across. They are built into the story again here and a whole new batch shown, I feel these were included due to the great reaction they got, and that the whole reason a different group of ghost kids was shown was purely so viewers didn't see the same old again. Saying that they are still creepy as ever with some messed up scenes such as a family being buried into their heads in snow to die of exposure and another family who are eaten alive by rats!

There are a lot more daylight scenes included here, and a large sub plot involving an abusive husband of Collins. This character comes across as too over the top at being an awful human, a bit too unbelievable he would be free to do what he does, no matter how powerful he is supposed to be. The child actors are a mixed bunch, a few of the ghost kids are not bad, a few terrible, while the two brothers are irritating but don't ruin the movie. I also thought it was a bit too convenient that one of the twins was basically evil, while the other was pure.

Burguul in a way is effective due to his very limited screen time but on the other hand it really comes across how impotent he actually is here, a few scenes of terror have a big build up just to end on a flat note due to him not really having any physical powers. There are some scenes of dread here but due to familiarity just are not as sustainable, the ending in particular I felt went on a few seconds too many with a silly end shot that screams sequel. The first film seemed to suggest the victim was possessed by the demon, yet here it seems the child is much more implicit in their actions and willing to do bad things of their own accord, this was a weird change of tone which maybe had to do with the fact that this was intended as a homage to the Children of the Corn films.

As a sequel this wasn't bad at all, I enjoyed the continuation of the plot rather than just a retread of the first film, while the focus on the children rather than the adults was unexpected. There are some elements that make me think the next one in the series may be a prequel due to some throwaway scenes but even if it is a sequel I'm more inclined to think it might be something worth watching


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Zombicide (2012) - Zombie Board Game Review

Zombicide is a board game in which you try to survive a zombie apocalypse while completing missions playing as one of six characters. I was given this game for free to review but funnily enough it was only a few months back I had actually been considering getting it of my own accord.

This game is designed for co-op play and all the missions are geared around working together with up to six people able to play at once, what I immediately loved was that this is actually even playable on your lonesome, something which Zombies!!! (the only other undead based board game I own) lacked and led to it gathering dust on my shelf. The characters you can choose from each have different special abilities that are at least initially exclusive to them. Phil the cop starts with a pistol, Josh the thug is able to move normally through squares occupied by the walking dead, Doug the office worker automatically gains duel weapons if he picks up a weapon with the duel symbol, Amy the goth has one free move action per turn, Ned the doomsday prepper has one free search action per turn, finally Wanda the waitress is able to move two spaces for every turn rather than one thanks to the roller skates she wears.

The board is comprised of large hard cardboard squares that have a partial layout of buildings and streets on them and are double sided. The mission section of the instructions shows how these are laid out, so these are not randomised, and you are able to see the entire board from the start. Interior locations on the board need to be entered via a door which itself needs to be broken open with an appropriate weapon (such as a crowbar or chainsaw), these areas can be searched which involves the player taking a card off the equipment deck. Exterior locations cannot be searched, however some missions include vehicles which can actually be driven around the board! In the many games I played I did not actually get the opportunity to try this so I don't know how well that works.

So each of the ten missions included have a specific mission goal, Mission 7 'Grindhouse' for example requires you to neutralise the two zombie spawn zones (more on that later) while Mission 4 'Drive-By Shooting' requires you to travel around the board collecting objective tokens before making it to a spawn zone. These missions all have a little introduction story giving you reason for your actions. Just ten missions may not sound a lot but there is plenty of replay to be had, and a quick search online leads to a lot of official free additional missions to play.

Included with the game are 71 minis which are small plastic figurines. Six of these are of course the player characters, identified by different colours, the rest of the pieces are of course zombies. Zombies comes in four different types. There are the walkers; the traditional slow moving undead, these come in four flavours, both male and female. Next are the runners, these as the name suggests take a more modern spin on the moving corpses and as such move twice as fast as the walkers. Thirdly are the fattys, these zombies are giant and while they do the same amount of damage as any other corpse they require a weapon that deals two damage to be killed, if that is not enough they also spawn with two walkers. The last zombie is the dreaded Abomination of which there is just the one figure. This monster requires a weapon that deals three damage, in all the games I played this one only appeared once and never actually got to attack any of the humans thankfully.

The basic rules for Zombicide are pretty simple despite a slightly daunting amount of instructions. Each character has three actions per turn, these include movement, searching, attacking a zombie, swapping an item with another character, arranging their own deck (there are a maximum of five items a character can hold, only two of which can be in the primary slots), or even making noise. After all characters have moved it is the zombies turn. Each zombie on the board heads towards the biggest area of noise. Without getting into too much details a lot of actions characters do cause noise, zombies always head towards the loudest noise source unless they have eye contact with a survivor in which case they will head towards them. If a zombie is on the same square as a human then they attack and automatically hit one of them. Characters are only able to get hit twice before they are permanently dead. Also in the zombies turn a zombie card is pulled out for each of the spawn points on the map which governs how many undead turn up on the spawn point. When a door to an interior is opened for the first time a zombie card is pulled out for each room in the building. After the zombies go it is back to the characters.

This is co-operative in the truest sense of the word, lone wolves will die. An early example is a game I had with a friend where I went off and opened a door without anyone else being near me. This lack of teamwork meant the character who opened said door quickly got surrounded and killed. This was an early lesson not only in the importance of working together but also the realisation that Zombicide can be a deeply tactical game. Players control the zombies and who they attack so deciding amongst yourselves which character takes a hit for the team in an interesting concept. Many times during my game I played there would be long discussions on plans of attack and routes we should take, it makes for a more involving game and gets you a lot more invested than if you were on a set route.

It made for such a nice change not to be glued to a TV or computer, I have never been one for board games but this was a lot of fun, I played it with various people and even my Dad admitted that it was not a bad game. I tried it alone as well to see how that fared and again I found it an enjoyable and absorbing game to play. For a board game it carries a lot of video game tropes. Characters earn experience points from killing zombies and completing objectives that leads to them levelling up. Levelling up results in gaining new abilities you get to choose from for your character but on the flip side it results in the danger level going up. Starting off blue it goes to yellow, orange, then finally red, each level results in an increasing number of zombies turning up when zombie cards are pulled. Also the game contains a tutorial mission which again felt like a video game type thing. I loved this melding, it worked fantastically.

So the negatives then? First of all mention must be made of the price. The RRP is £70 which is a heck of a lot of money, it seems to generally sell for £60 new. Everything about this game is luxurious though, everything from the box design to the playing pieces, tiles and cards are sheer quality, nothing is flimsy. In my preparation for this review I carted the game all over town (even half way across the country to Wales) and it led to no wear and tear. There is immense replay value for this though and I can say honestly that this is something I am going to continue playing as it is such an entertaining product. There are a lot of rules to remember, each time I play I realise a rule I had forgotten about the game previous, controlling multiple characters can lead to confusion and forgetting characters specific abilities. The last real minor issue is that Phil is a dark grey playing piece, zombies are light grey and so quite a few times he would get mixed up with these, is a shame his character piece wasn't a different colour as the rest are bright and easy to spot (red,purple, green, orange and blue).

Overall I really enjoyed Zombicide, far more than I expected to, I had worried it would be too complicated and maybe even boring but it is neither of these things. There for sure are a lot of rules to get your head around, this is not something you could play while intoxicated. I was blown away by the quality of the board and its pieces, there is so much attention to detail even down to character bios on the side of the box. Impressive stuff and something I would readily recommend.


Zombicide can be purchased online or if you wish to buy it in the physical world then the store locator (here) can be used to find your nearest stockist.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Exo Zombies Map 3 'Carrier' (2015) - Video Game Map Impressions (Playstation 4)

Warm on the heels of last weeks impressions of the second Exo Zombies map for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare comes my views on the third map Carrier that came with the Supremacy map pack. This time the action takes place on an aircraft carrier .

The introduction cut scene shows Caption Lennox (Bruce Campbell) executing Oz (John Malkovich) before getting his soldiers to knock out the remaining three; Lilith (Rose McGowan), Kahn (Bill Paxton), and Decker (Jon Bernthal). His Sentinel soldiers then launch an assault on an Atlas aircraft carrier but Oz in the meantime has reanimated as a zombie and the madness starts once again. So this time around Campbell joins the playable survivors which is a great thing!

I love the design of Carrier, it is quite large but the way it is set out means it is not a difficult map to learn with it being almost symmetrical in its layout. You start the map in one of two locations, both of which lead out to an armoury where weapons, a 3D printer, and an upgrade machine are located. The map features two decontamination chambers and plenty of quite large rooms, largest of which is the hanger where the Exo-suits are located. There is some fun level details such as live sharks in tanks, zombie dogs and zombies in vats, as well as medical rooms displaying Oz's stats.

Zombie wise there are the usual growing assortment, zombie dogs now have their own round back to themselves, while teleporting zombies join the fray. Each map has it's own special round and this time around you get a round where you have a time limit to find and disarm a bomb, this is made harder by human enemies who guard the bomb, thankfully their weapons do not do much damage.

There are some great new weapons and power ups, one shaped like a star makes your characters able to instantly kill any zombies they touch, while the other new power up gives your weapons unlimited ammo without the need to reload for a set time, both of these are great. There is a new Exo-suit ability called Stockpile, I never actually gained it but I assume it makes your ammo holding abilities a lot better. Perks which drop from the sky include a turret that sends out a pulse that slows attacking zombies down, while my favourite summons an assault squad of three friendly soldiers, darn useful! A flying saucer pops up every now again that holds a random power up, while triggering the defense mechanisms summons a cleaner robot that mashes up any zombies it crosses paths with.

This is actually maybe my favourite map of the lot, perhaps more fun even than Outbreakit is very well designed, introduces some fun new abilities and the defuse the bomb round is actually doable compared to the very hard rescue round of Infection, plus exchanging Malkovich for Campbell was a great choice, leaving only Paxton as the character no one wants to be! Incidental dialogue reveals more of the over arching plot while again the map is chock full of Easter eggs that lead up to yet another ending cut scene I am destined never to see.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Killer is Dead (2013) - Horror Video Game Review (Playstation 3)

Killer is Dead is another game from the talented genius Suda51 (Killer7, Lollipop Chainsaw, Shadows of the Damned) whose games are know for their distinctive style and coolness. I have a real soft spot for these types of games.

In Killer is Dead you play as an assassin; Mondo Zappa who works for the Byron Execution Firm. This company is tasked with taking out dangerous criminals and assassins from around the world. With all your marks seeming to be possessed by a substance called Dark Matter, Mondo soon learns that a mysterious man named David is responsible for the spread of this evil and so sets out to stop him.

As with all Suda51 this game is very stylish and distinctive that despite it's linear style comes across as something special. I love his games, and this is no different but this time around there seems to be less meat on the bones than what I am used to. For the most part Killer is Dead reminded me most of a scrolling beat em up, Mondo is armed with a katana as his primary weapon, though also has an artificial arm that can shoot bullets and ice bullets as well as transform into a giant drill. Levels consist of you going location to location battling 'Wires' which are humanoid looking monsters. Defeating these creatures results in experience for your blood and health meters as well as points dropped that can be used to upgrade your skill set (such as recharging health quicker or unlocking now moves for use in battle). Your blood meter governs your secondary weapons power as well as can be used to one hit kill enemies, in fact the larger enemies and bosses can only be defeated via a one hit kill ability and so it is important never to totally run out of blood.

There are twelve main missions which all follow a similar format. You get an introduction cut scene followed by a simply designed level in which you fight wires, it always ends with a fun (yet easy) boss fight against your target followed by an ending cut scene. Each finished chapter usually results in a few side missions unlocking which set you tasks in the level you have just done. Rather than be boring though there is always something new to do with interesting gameplay mechanics coming into play. One level for instance has you riding an elevator to the top floor of a factory, but with a weight limit of just two wires you have to quickly defeat any enemies who appear. Another side mission had an evil doll that was constantly sapping your health, your tasked with lighting eight torches hidden around the level before collecting the doll. These missions while simple sounding were all a lot of fun and really showed some inventiveness that the main missions actually lacked somewhat.

The look of the game is really quite weird, the colour is all out and looks odd, but this was the look gone for, it reminded me a bit of the way the Sin City comic books looked but with darker colours instead, the shadows on your character and the areas you travel to are all murky and sometimes it can be hard to pick out Mondo from the surroundings. This is built into the levels though, it is no accident. One level in a vampire's castle has you needing to light torches just so you can pick out the surroundings. Locations are varied and it was always a joy to see where you would be going next. After a weak few initial levels (one essentially a tutorial, one just consisting of one big room pretty much) you travel to some eclectic locations such as Area 151 complete with rampaging giant, a Yakuza's Japanese garden, and even the dark side of the moon.

The normal enemy types have a uniform look to them, they kind of resemble robots, they come in various sizes and armed with a host of weapons including guns, swords and clubs. Bosses are where the game really steps up a gear as they are a lot of fun to fight and all vastly different from each other. There are also many different stages to them with you gradually mutilating them until with a held down R1 you finishing them off by beheadment. They are a memorable bunch with personal highlights being a fight against a possessed steam train and a battle against a man whose tattoos help him fight.

Somethings about the game left me a little more cold though. The plot is really quite simple but thanks to the way it is told it seems more complicated than it actually is. Now that I don't mind but there are a few chapters that consist entirely of dream sequences, the first of these in particular was quite boring due to the inability to do anything but slowly walk around. The plot twists that you get from these levels were nothing special at all, not a single twist really got me affected. On top of the missions and side quests there are also bizarre dating mini games. These mini games have you trying to win the heart of a particular woman, you do this by perving at her body and offering her gifts, you have Gigolo glasses that when used let you see through the woman's clothes. I found these mini games to be unnecessary, it's not even so much that I disapprove of this sexism, more that they are kinda dull to do and feel too removed from the rest of the game even if you do unlock new weapons for doing them.

I did have fun playing Killer is Dead, I never got completely hooked but the actual gameplay is a load of fun and very bloody and satisfying, while the boss fights as with all Suda51's game are very inventive, special mention also must go to the fantastic soundtrack! For me I just did not find the plot that engaging, when it was all finished I did not feel too bad that there was nothing else to do. It took me just over nine hours to complete but did seem to fly by, I played on normal difficulty but found the game to be very easy so I would recommend doing it on hard mode. Despite my complaints this was not bad and certainly if you like the style of Suda51 then you will need to play this.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

American Horror Story: Asylum (2012-13) - Horror TV Show Review

Right off the bat I need to say I really don't know how this review is going to pan out, It has taken me the best part of a year to watch the whole second season of horror show American Horror Story and so my memory of much of it will be lost to the mists of time, Still I will try my best as it is horror (the clues in the title) and so deserves a place on this blog.

Each season as far as I can tell is a stand alone story with no links to any other season, so the first one set in a haunted house in modern day has no relationship to Asylum which for the most part takes place in the 1960's in Briarcliff Manor; a mental institution owned by the Catholic church. There are many interweaving stories going on, one of which features reporter Lana Winters (Saran Paulson) who is discovered when sneaking into the mental home to do an expose on the appalling conditions there and is held against her will by the sadistic manager Sister Jude (Jessica Lange). Others include Kit Walker (Evan Peters) who is an inmate there after being accused of being 'Bloody Face' a notorious serial killer, a possible ex Nazi in the form of Dr Arden who is performing inhumane experiments on the patients, and even a supernatural storyline with one of the Sisters apparently becoming possessed by a demon.

The plots all interweave and many times things that seem unrelated become so. For season two the horror is a lot more real than the ghosts of season one. With serial killers, corrupt staff, and sins of the past this goes down a different track. That is not to say it is all more human horror as along with the demonic possession storyline there is also one involving apparent alien abductions. That last plot in particular ran the risk of turning into farce due to it's unbelievable nature but the show just about manages to keep things grounded. Previously around half the show was set in modern day and half was set in the past, here roughly 90% takes place in the past. There are brief snippets set in present day, mostly revolving around a killer who is murdering people who break into the abandoned Briarcliff Manor. These modern day parts help to create questions in the minds of the viewer due to things characters say, and visual clues as to the fate of the institution. There is a lot of misdirection here which is very clever and makes you think things are going to play out differently to how they actually do.

The show is split into 13 episodes and there does not seem to be any filler at all, there is even a Christmas episode neatly inserted, again similar to series one this isn't actually a scary show, but that is not to take away from the sheer quality. Briarcliff is a dank and dark place but thanks to the focus on drama rather than horror you settle in nicely. Some nice throwaway sequences (such as a dance number!) help to provide variety, while towards the end time starts zooming forward years at a time to show the long term changes to the cast which was a nice way to end the show (a great final episode). There is a large amount of great acting here, I was pleased to see at least six returning actors from the original series, here playing different roles, a few bit characters from that are now in leading roles, while a couple of the main characters are now secondary ones. It was a delight to pick out these actors and gave a sense of continuity despite being an unrelated story.

The special effects and direction is again quite strong, when there is violence it is usually quite bloody with an initial statement being someone losing an arm within the first part of the very first episode. There are some sick storylines here and a fair number of twists, some of which really blew me away, the whole Bloody Face storyline in particular serving up some real thrills.

Another quality season of this fantastic show and while I think I did prefer the first one this is still a damn good show and well worth a watch if your after some quality horror that doesn't feature the walking dead.


Friday, 14 August 2015

The Entity (2015) - Horror Film Review

The Entity (or La Entidad as it is also known) is a Spanish found footage horror. My face dropped when I realised this was found footage and I started the film fully expecting to hate it, especially after a confusing mess of a start which may have been down to badly translated subtitles maybe.

Four friends; Carla (Daniella Mendoza), Jacob, Benjamin and Lucas need to make a project for their film class at uni, Carla suggests that they look at reaction videos to try and work out what people are reacting to in these videos (or something). The first one they watch has three people watching a video off screen that leads them to scream and cry at what they are witnessing, Carla realising she knows one of the trio suggests they go to his house to ask him what he had seen. Upon arriving they find out that him and his two friends from the footage recently died in a horrific fashion. This sets up a series of nightmare events for the group as their investigation leads them to the film the three watched, it seems whoever watches the video is destined to die a terrible death...

For a found footage this actually isn't bad, the initial part of the film featured heavy use of shaky cam, terrible stuff which really made me not want to continue, but I'm glad I did as it settled down into what is mostly steady camera work. The film quality throughout is quality stuff, there seems to have been some good cameras used for the filming which made for a nice change. Rather than be set in the one location there is a bit of variation with the worst parts actually being in what should be the creepiest location; that of a huge grave yard. There is a lot filmed in the characters bedrooms also, these bits worked better as having horror invade the home and via the use of technology was an interesting choice. In fact much of these home scenes actually reminded me a lot of Unfriended with characters sat on their own communicating via Skype as they try to analyse the footage they filmed at the grave yard to make sense of what they had witnessed (a similar plot device used in Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2).

By tying technology into proceedings, mixed in with religion and the whole internet culture the film manged to straddle a thin line quite well, at times feeling like Silent Hill, other times The Blair Witch Project this did enough to never be boring. The English subtitles are clear and well translated it seemed, and while the characters don't really ever say anything too interesting at least a few of them get to actually show personalities.

The plot actually gained my interest, I wanted to find out what was on the cursed tape to elicit such over the top reactions, and I wanted to find out just what was killing people. The death sequences are all quite cool, there is plenty of blood spilt and the make up effects on the characters looks pretty great. Early on for example in the background you see someone plummet out the sky, was neat. The effects for the scenery are all pretty great, a scene in a library was unsettling with gears all suddenly spinning, while later statues seem to move thanks to subtle CGI. There was one scene where the camera is on a character sat at his computer, a split second before the scene changes I swear a demonic arm appeared in the background, it was so brief that I doubted myself that I even saw anything. These sneaky little effects inserted into the film I loved. There are a few floating people later into The Entity, they did kind of outstay their welcome as I'm pretty sure they were suspended by wires.

It is not all good though, the actors seem to be good at their jobs but the actress who plays Carla seems to struggle with showing any emotion, a scene where she is meant to break down after learning of someones death was ruined by her struggling to show sadness! At times the film is padded out with lots of characters driving around to various places for no real reason, one bit in particular felt really tacked on. There is a big plot twist at the end which makes not much sense at all, it left me with more questions than answers and even a clever black and white recap that showed the evidence for this twist hidden throughout the film couldn't save things as it led to massive plot holes everywhere with motivations making zero sense at all.

As a found footage the need to constantly have the film crackle and glitch was not resisted, I already know it is supposed to be found footage; you don't need to keep inserting these annoyances in to remind me it is one, the same goes for the sound loss, several points the dialogue is all muffled while the camera adjusts. At several points the picture goes entirely only to come back on to what is obviously characters standing in place ready to act out the next scene.

The Entity is of a much higher quality than I ever expected, it is a good horror though it is flawed in lots of places. I was impressed with the special effects, thankful the CGI effects were sparsely used, and the plot while simple and not making much cohesive sense (at all) was still enjoyable to follow. For a genre I pretty much detest I could not stop watching, so that shows this movie does at least a few things right. This isn't a great film but it is dumb fun. The Entity is out on DVD and Digital on 12th October 2015.


Thursday, 13 August 2015

Rotter Nation by Scott M.Baker (2015) - Zombie Book Review

Rotter Nation is the sequel to Rotter World released back in 2012. For me that book took a while to get going, though by the end I was hooked as it had a thrilling final third reminiscent of Day of the Dead. The Rotter series takes place in a world over run with zombies, but in a twist there are also vampires in this world, albeit only a handful left. There are bound to be spoilers for Rotter World here as a warning.

Rotter Nation takes place exactly where World ended with the group of humans and vampires returning to their base after having successfully (though at no small cost) gained a working vaccine against the undead virus. However upon arriving home they discover the base in ruins and the vast majority of the people who stayed behind murdered at the hands of a brutal gang. On discovering that one of their people; a young woman named Windows was kidnapped by the gang, Robson (now the defacto leader) decides he is going to attempt a rescue. The Angels; a bunch of female soldiers led by Robson's new love Natalie meanwhile are given an important task, they are to transport the zombie vaccine across America to the government in exile said to be based in Omaha.

This is a hell of a good book, from the get go it had my attention managing to carry on the momentum of the ending of World and just building upon that. The plot is more focused this time around, less world changing but more intimately important and it works. Nation is split up into three different story lines. The first following Robson and his group as they try to discover what has happened to Windows.

With the first book in the series the sheer amount of characters you get introduced to initially was bewildering, the fact that so many are removed really helps the story flow better. I never imagined Baker would kill off so many characters in such a cruel fashion. My second issue with the initial book was getting my head around the notion of vampires in a zombie filled world, their inclusion seemed mostly silly to me and I rolled my eyes at a few parts of the vamps in action. With only two blood suckers left now their inclusion is much less jarring, they take almost a back seat with even the main characters seemingly forgetting about them for a time. There is only the one action sequence involving these two but when it comes it is all the better for it, this more realistic world (as realistic as you can get in a book about a reanimating virus) should make Nation more generic but it does enough with the inventiveness of the plot to stay well above the median line.

The second storyline involves Windows and her treatment at the hands of the gang she has been captured by, unfortunately rape is a key part of the gangs ethos and her and many other woman are sickeningly used. These parts of the book were very unpleasant to read, World featured a bit too explicit a sex scene but at least that involved love, here the rape scenes go in to enough detail to let your imagination fill in the blanks, it even made me feel sick on a few occasions. On the plus side this really does set up these criminals as the books antagonists, especially with their sadistic leader Price. These people make the governor of The Walking Dead fame seem like a saint.

The final storyline follows the Angels on their mission to deliver the vaccine. This part of the book was a lot more brief than the others seeming much more like a sub plot. I enjoyed Bakers decision to have the events of the end of World destroy the morale of this unit, that was something I found to be quite interesting. These sections are all pretty great but deciding to end the book with what is essentially a sub plot when there had already been a thrilling resolution for the other two story lines seemed an odd choice.

With a reduced cast there was still some issues for me of certain characters not being fleshed out, I confess towards the end when a couple of Robson's people may or may not be killed I struggled for a moment to even work out who they were, the central cast are given all the limelight with side characters just really being names on a page to me for all I actually knew about them. The same goes for the Angels, it is only really Natalie who has any character, the rest just seemed to be a series of names and so when any of them died I didn't really feel anything at all. The bad guys though are fantastic, all given personalities and made memorable. Meat, Price, Carter all conjure up images in my mind, makes the plot more satisfying.

The same trick of short snappy paragraphs is used to make the action seem all the more exciting towards the finales, both of these were very exciting to read, thanks to the visuals created by Baker's descriptions of the events happening. Hordes of undead, gunfights, explosions and car chases all hit the mark, his descriptions of the shambling dead also delight once again with lots of close range zombie attacks as well as desperate situations occurring, even a few plot twists that I did not see coming.

I loved Rotter Nation, it was a huge step up from Rotter World and rather than be merely interested in what happens next I am excited for it. A great use of set pieces mean there is never a dull moment here, a very solid zombie book.


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Exo Zombies Map 2 'Infection' - Video Game Map Impressions (Playstation 4)

I want to start by stating I am in no ways an expert at Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Exo Zombies mode, nor have I found any of the secrets or easter eggs hidden in Infection, after a few months of playing it I feel I have the experience to give a proper impression. Infection is the second Exo Zombies map and is included in the Ascendance DLC pack.

The introduction cinematic shows the four playable survivors of the zombie outbreak; Kahn (Bill Paxton), Lilith (Rose McGowan), Oz (John Malkovich), and Decker (Jon Bernthal) still fighting the undead at the Atlas facility when they are rescued by an Atlas gunship. The four are taken away by medical staff and transported to an Atlas camp in a nearby town. The four are unconscious and when they awake they find the camp evacuated and the whole town over run with the undead.

Out of the three maps I have played so far Infection is by far the weakest.The facility in Outbreak was well designed but here while there is mostly a circular route there are some parts that seem surplus, maybe I just haven't figured out their uses yet. Initially you start in a warehouse, not a bad little area to start in but you will soon be wanting to head out one of the two doors. One side leads to a petrol station, the other to the Atlas camp, both of these areas lead into sewers.

The sewer is where you will find the Exo Suit station which is always a useful thing to get but due to the small corridors it is actually pretty hard to actually make any use of the suit here. The decontamination room is also located in the sewers, in a tucked away area, I found this to be quite clever as during the infection round you are forced to make your way here where in Outbreak the decontamination unit was in the main area anyway.

The last place is Burger Town which is a fast food restaurant, when you gain access to this area zombies start showing up dressed as Burger Town employees which is a nice touch but you can only access this area from one place, it doesn't lead to anywhere else and so always seemed to be a bit of a dead end to me.

With a different level comes different enemy types, the most noticable of the normal zombie types are ones covered in spikes, when you attack them they cause damage to anyone nearby due to the spikes being released. All the status effecting zombies make a reappearance (such as electrified zombies who knock out your Exo Suit abilities and ones which poison you). The best new one is a hulking great zombie that usually turns up around round ten, this giant beast has an electric attack, is fast, and is protected by a stupidly large SWAT shield, I have only ever actually encountered him twice, both times he swiftly obliterated me.

There are also a few different round types, the dog round now has dogs mingled in with zombies rather than just them on their own, the giant zombie as I just mentioned of course and a round in which a survivor spawns randomly in the level. If you safely escort the survivor back to the starting room and protect him long enough a copter will appear and rescue him which levels up whatever weapon you happen to be carrying, if you fail then you are not able to use any abilities or get any guns for a fair amount of time. The survivor round is actually pretty tough and I have only successfully rescued a survivor once.

Infection is not a bad map, it has certainly grown on me over time but compared to Outbreak and Carrier (which I will cover in a future post) it pales in comparison due to some weird level layout and a less cohesive design.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Gift (2015) - Horror Film Review

The Gift is a thriller and as such only just about qualifies for a review at The Rotting Zombie. As always I hate trailers and the one for this was no better than any others, especially as it actually gives a false impression of what this movie is actually about.

Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) have moved to California to make a new start. The two haven't been in the city long when Simon has a chance encounter with a former class mate; Gordon (Joel Edgerton who also writes and directs). After this meeting Gordon starts leaving expensive gifts at their house and keeps turning up when Simon is at work. Becoming uncomfortable with this intrusion and with the reveal that Gordon has always been a strange person he is warned to stay out of their lives. Not long after strange things start occurring around the couples house, something that happened in Simon's past is coming back to haunt him, and that he may not be quite as innocent as at first appears.

I didn't enjoy The Gift, it was only a few days back when reviewing Julia when I stated that you don't have to enjoy a film to think it's good, however I don't think this was an amazing film, despite that it has a lot that is right with it. There are three distinct phases to this film, fittingly they slot into a beginning, a middle, and of course an end. The first part concerns itself with the stalking of the couple by Gordo the weirdo (as Simon calls him), the trailer insinuated that this would be the meat and bones and yet a lot of the film this creepy character is not even in it. There are a couple of jump scares, one of which was very effective but more the suspense is built up from the expectation of something happening. I thought this was a great way to start, but my sister who I went to the cinema with thought it was too slow of a build up.

The second part of the film feels a lot more generic with it focusing on troubled Robyn and her search for answers as to what happened in Simon's past. This was where a few issues with the choice of actors hit me. Bateman will always be best known to me for the comedy Arrested Development, he plays a serious role here but sometimes I just couldn't help imaging he was the same character from that show and so his lines lost their impact. Another character who only briefly pops up but who has a huge effect on the plot then appears, the only thing I had seen him in previously was The Office (of course another comedy) so again I struggled to take him too seriously.

Thankfully after all this the final third really does what I imagined the whole film was going to be. It was suspensful and thilling and I had my heart in my mouth, tense with a chocking type of fear. The writing was shown to be really clever and there was some really interesting twists and a neatly tied up theme. I loved this whole sequence, reminding me a bit of Seven. Edgerton's portrayal is spot on with his character really having a sense of creepiness to him. Batemans character was really interesting in the way he at first seems innocent but as more and more layers get stripped away you see what sort of a person he really is. Just who the bad guy of the film is gets blurred, but either way Robyn is in the middle suffering the most. Her character seems to share more similarities with Gordo than Simon which was an interesting aspect.

There is some great misdirection here; dream sequences, a shared sense of paranoia and well thougt out themes of lies and your past coming back to haunt you. The couple house full of huge windows is almost a contrast to the web of lies Simon has built around his perfect life while the mystery of what once happened did keep me engaged.

The Gift has a lot of good acting, a lot of drama and a decent amount of thrills but it didn't really get engaging until that last third. If that same amount of tension and mystery could have been sustained for the whole film rather than just the final part then this would have been something really special. A decent enough film which does make you think but doesn't do enough to be called essential viewing.