Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween 2014

It is Halloween and every horror fans fondest horror-day. With this post I have completed my aim in Shocktober to do one blog post for every day of the month. I am happy I succeeded and may well bring it back for next October, but some days my blog posts were poorly written due to tiredness so is not something I will continue doing.

My inbox has steadily been filling up this past week so I certainly have plenty to be getting on with, and there are three horrors coming out today at my local cinema (Mr Babadook, Ouija, and Horns) so will try and check them out for review in the coming week. I have been struggling a lot with e-books this year, I have upwards of thirty awaiting review but I just cannot get my e-book reader to display them properly to read so may have to just draw a line and state I cannot review e-books.

There has been more news for the UK Festival of Zombie Culture 2014 that is taking place in just over two weeks time on the 15th November. Awesome zombie author David Moody is once again going to be there, and two new films have been announced to be shown there; Australian film 'Theatre of the Dead' in which a group of survivors of a zombie invasion barricade themselves in an old theatre, an 'Juan of the Dead' which is quite a few years old now and one I actually own on DVD (though yet to watch).

Anyway so Happy Halloween to all you ghoulsters out there, I am filled with joy on this grand day! I went Tesco earlier to get a severed foot and some chicken and saw that already over half the Halloween display has been replaced with Christmas stuff already, gone are the days when all their cool things went on sale after the 31st, now they don't even bother to wait to the end of the day before chucking it all away. Ho Ho Ho indeed!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Where Evil Grows (2013) by S.Lawrence Parrish - Audio Book Review

I was contacted back in April of last year about reviewing an audio book by Stephen Parrish and it has actually taken me until last night to get through the whole thing due to having many podcasts also on my listening list. Where Evil Grows was my first example of an audio book.

It takes place in 1976 and centres on a bunch of teenagers and their daily lives. Justin Foley, Jerry, Matt and others are obsessed with the band Kiss and also are slowly entering into the world of drugs and alcohol. Meanwhile strange things are happening to the school they attend, a malevolent force has appeared, taking form in a legion of rats that are building up in the floors and walls of the property. This force is able to affect the minds of the young and soon lead the pupils to worse and worse acts.

Parrish himself reads the book and he has a unique sounding voice. I do not mean that in a negative way, I found the way he spoke almost hypnotic and he adds the right inflections and does a variety of voices for the different characters. I was unused to how long an audio book actually would be, certainly longer to hear a book than to read one, I estimate this story to be roughly twelve hours in length split into podcasts equalling on average 40 minutes in length each. The chapters and sides seem random for the start of each podcast and I found it fun to shout out my own guess at the side or chapter each time I went to listen to one.

When it comes to the horror I much prefer things of a scary nature to things of a gruesome or disgusting nature and for the most part Where Evil Grows falls into the later aspect. Rats infest the school and while they themselves are not supernatural in nature their actions lead to a lot of grossness, especially in a grim finale that left me feeling a bit queasy! The evil force affects people in different ways, and while the students get more and more depraved and violent it never built up to a state that was too menacing.

I actually far preferred the non horror parts to the horror bits. I loved following around the main cast of characters and I loved how for the most part they completely avoid the evil going on around them (they are too old for the force to affect them much). Having them miming to Kiss and starting to learn instruments, hanging out and doing drugs and drinking I felt like I was a silent observer and came to really like these characters. In that respect I came to fear for their well being, after all the book would not focus on these people if the horror wasn't going to catch up to them at some point and so when it came I just hoped and prayed at least some would come out smiling.

The story is well told and actually is nicely planned out with some nice little twists appearing now and again and an awesome final sequence that was so exciting to hear. It all ends with an epilogue that is crazy in it's scope and I did love it but it felt a bit rushed to be condensed into six minutes. Some H.P Lovecraft references are squeezed in in the most unlikely and clever of places which is not a bad thing as his books are some of the most unsettling ever written.

On some levels Where Evil Grows could be seen as a comment on underage sex and underage drinking, as well as the perils and pitfalls of recreational drug use with a lot of the horror involving these situations. At times I felt it was a bit too graphic with it's intimate description of certain acts, while at other times it just became too gruesome rather than creepy (a long description about Guinea Pigs eating each other was not pleasant to hear).

While a lot of the horror portion of this audiobook were not to my tastes I still got a lot of enjoyment out of this being as it is well told and with fleshed out characters who you come to like, Where Evil Grows is free for download on i-Tunes and Podiobooks so check it out if it sounds like your thing (also available to purchase as an e-book).


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wasted - Zombie Comedy Show News

There is a competition running at the moment; The CBC ComedyCoup Challenge in which the winning project gets awarded a prime time special on the CBC Network which I think is some Canadian TV thing. I received an email from one of the hopeful contestants who want their show Wasted to be the winning one.

The show creators describe Wasted as a Zombie Stoner Geek Comedy and say it is like The Walking Dead meets Pineapple Express. A bunch of losers drink and smoke their way though the end of the world with frequent flashbacks to show what they were like before the zombies rose up.

The creators hope this is a unique type of show, even for the crowded zombie genre. Check out their page on the Comedy Coup website where their project can also be voted for. Comedy is a hard thing to get right, there were a couple of fun parts in their pitch (that can also be viewed on the site). Reminds me a bit of the web series BumBloods which had a similar idea of idiots surviving in Zombie Armageddon. Anyway I wish them all the best there can never be too much zombie stuff around!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Class of the Killer Clowns - Creepy Clown Infographic

I tend to ignore Infographic emails nowadays, they are sometimes well made but are always done just to get a link to a website. In this case the link is for Fly 53 which appears to be a clothing website. It just so happens I received this email at the optimal time as I had just sat down to try and figure what to blog about for my post today. 

I didn't actually know about a lot of these horror clowns, Pennywise from IT and Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects were the only ones I had heard of (and of course the clown zombie from Zombieland but he is not really a character). I dedicate this blog post to the memory of the Northampton Clown.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Evil Within (2014) - Survival Horror Videogame Review (PS4)

The Evil Within was one of the reasons I decided to finally get the new generation of consoles. Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil) directs the game and so was quite excited to finally play it. It is a traditional third person survival horror that incorporates a whole selection of the best and worst the genre has to offer.

You play as Detective Sebastian Castellanos who responds to a call about a mass murder at a mental hospital . Arriving there with your partner Joseph Oda as well as rookie detective Julie Kidman you start to investigate but are suddenly assaulted by a strange hooded man. Awakening tied up in the hospital basement by a maniac you make your escape, Soon a series of earthquakes decimate the area, and after a thrilling escape from a rapidly sinking city you find yourself all alone in a world that has gone..odd.

The Evil Within feels like an amalgamation of several different survival horrors of the last fifteen years. The amount of enemies and relatively realistic locations brought a nostalgic feeling of Alan Wake. The 'Haunted' which are the zombie type creatures you face in the game feel very similar to the crazies of that one. These Haunted are very susceptible to fire and limited matches you find can be used to burn their bodies to instantly kill them, similar to using light to kill the enemies in Alan Wake. It also reminded me quite a bit of Resident Evil 4 in the sheer amount of enemies you face which wasn't always a good thing, especially when you are stuck in arena type areas and unable to move on until a set amount of enemies have been killed. It also felt at times like a more combat focused Silent Hill, you have what I would call 'Nightmare' sections of the game but there isn't such a divide here between normal and nightmare worlds.

Some of the enemy design is fantastic, some poor and others merely average. The main enemy type of the Haunted are ok but not particularly imaginative though the fact you can shoot half their head off and they keep coming is awesome! Others include freaky looking giant spider ladies who scream at you, very unsettling. There are a tonne of 'super' enemies including a chainsaw wielding mad man right out of Resident Evil 4 and even a creature that resembled Pyramid Head from the Silent Hill games. Bosses on the most part are gigantic cancerous masses all multi limbed and organic. These bosses all melded into one a bit for me, I think this comes down to Japans love of body horror. Some of the bosses are pretty fun. One which chases you as you travel in a school bus was fantastic, but others are not so great. A fight in an underground car park was very frustrating as at that point in the game I had not upgraded my sprint ability and so just could not avoid it's attacks.

The Evil Within doesn't get off to a good start, the initial few chapters gently bring you into the world but did not leave a great impression. I was expecting a graphical leap and hadn't realised it was a cross generation game and so wasn't prepared for some pretty average graphics at times. The lighting looks amazing it must be said. Anyway pretty early into the game Sebastian falls into a tank of blood which was cool but not so great was when you climb out and his clothes are dry and perfect; ripped me out of the experience. This game is quite a mixed bag, when it is good it is fantastic and at the top of it's game, but when it is bad it is pretty frustrating. Thankfully there are plenty of great bits.

This really is a survival horror game and no point did I feel like I was over powered with health and ammo for your weapons constantly being low. For hours at a time I would feel like I was barely scrapping by, constantly near death and having to really make every shot count. I don't mind it being like this in the traditional old school sections but when you are dumped in an arena and made to battle never ending enemies with hardly any weapons it becomes not that fun. There are a lot of instant kills, at one point in the game it seemed every single enemy I faced had the ability to one hit kill me that led to a bit of cursing. In total I died 78 times throughout the 15 hour game so was quite a lot!

The Evil Within tries to straddle the line between old and new survival horror. There are plenty of times when you are slowly walking around atmospheric locations; one chapter that saw you exploring an old mansion reminded me heavily of Resident Evil and was a real highlight. The more focused chapters are far better designed than the ones that try and take you to many different places. New horror comes in the form of the amount of enemies you face, it is a ridiculous number (I had a kill count of over 400 by the game end)  and usually when you get to a more open area you just know it is time to be attacked in mass.

Where you go in the game is very varied but also really quite confusing. The plot gives wiggle room for why you are constantly in new places (are you actually in someone else's nightmare?) and in that respect it makes sense I just wish there was more of a natural progression. At times I felt like I wasn't really doing much, more like playing a series of unconnected games. A recap each time you start a new chapter would have been a lot of help as I usually started a new chapter having totally forgotten how I got to the new location I found myself in. Some places are really good such as the mansion I mentioned, as well as a subway, a church and a beautiful Sunflower field, but others are bland as anything. There are quite a few chapters set in a very grey looking city that reused assets to the degree that there seemed to be at least nine or ten identical coffee shops within a few blocks of each other and the last chapter feels very artificial and game like in where you go and what you do.

You get access to a pistol, magnum, shotgun and sniper rifle as you progress but the most unique weapon is a crossbow named the Agony Crossbow that can hold a variety of different bolts that can explode, freeze enemies, stun enemies, poison them, set them on fire and a few other types which made for quite a bit of variety. All your weapons and many other facets of your character can be upgraded in the many save rooms by using a green gel that enemies drop and can be found in the environment. It is not impossible to upgrade everything in one play though so was nice to see there is a 'new game plus' option that carries over all your upgrades you make. Also levels are riddled with traps; from bear traps to trip wires and acid vats. All of these can be either dismantled to give you ammo for your crossbow or can also be used on enemies if you trick them into the traps.

The story is quite weak and while it eventually makes sense it is nothing special with all the twists and turns unexciting. The characters including Sebastian himself are all bland and feel very artificial. No one seems to be bothered at the horror they find themselves in and just are not very fleshed out at all. The antagonist of the game is badly designed (a guy wearing a hood) and was not a scary presence in the slightest.

Just like Resident Evil 6 there is always something new to do, late into the game new mechanics are still being introduced to keep things fresh. Stealth sections, gun turrets, enemy arenas, environmental puzzles and chase sequences these and many more devices are used to successfully spice things up (a boss fight in a meat locker for example). This is not really a scary game |(it has it's moments) but there are large amounts of blood and gore to keep things fun

I have spoken a lot of bad things about The Evil Within and yet I still found myself liking it despite its many faults. When it is on a roll this is a really neat game, some of the level designs are awesome, it is not ashamed to be a game rather than rely on realistic design; a meat factory sequence filled with traps is a case in point. I love the unique save room and there is no faulting the music either and there is plenty of game for your money. Cumbersome animation (unable to move at all if you run out of stamina was very frustrating!), some occasionally sub par graphics and a mediocre story, as well as far too much combat all bring it down from being a great game to just a good game which is a shame.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Biohazard 2 (1998) - Japanese Videogame Trailer

I was reminded of this a few days back and so thought I would do a small post on it. The Resident Evil series of videogames are heavily based on the films of George Romero and so when he was hired to make a trailer for the Japanese release of Biohazard 2 (what the series is called in Japan) it kind of made sense.

The trailer is low budget but has some decent moments in its 30 second run time featuring main characters Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield as well as a bunch of zombies in a Police Station. I have included this trailer below, is worth a look, after all Resident Evil 2 is the best in the series.

Interestingly Romero was later hired to write a script for a Resident Evil movie. To prepare he had an aide play though the first game while he took notes. The film was to be based around the idea of the first game. However Romero was fired as it was felt his script didn't really fit what a Resident Evil film was envisioned to be. I seem to recall reading at the time that his script was for a much more zombie focused piece than Capcom were looking for. Judging by the terrible Land of the Dead (sorry Lucinda, no matter what you say this film sucks!) and average Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead then maybe the right choice was made.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Mega Bloks: Call of Duty 'Mob of the Dead' - Zombie Construction Set Review

I recently did a blog post about the Call of Duty: Black Ops II zombie maps so it was good fortune that I then received an email asking if I wanted to review a Mega Bloks construction set based on the map 'Mob of the Dead' from that game. It seems strange to base this on a map which itself is only available as DLC but I am pleased it exists.

Now I do not get on with building things in general so when I saw this consisted of 277 separate pieces my heart sank a little, but setting aside some time and with the new Slipknot album on to accompany me I took to construction. It took me around two hours to build (with an album change halfway through to Surgeon Marta) and it really was not that much of a chore. It comes with large instructions taking you on a step by step pictured guide and while I did go wrong a few times in general it was satisfying and simple to make.

I have never heard of Mega Bloks but it is quite like Lego but in my opinion actually better as everything has a more realistic design and this set is less childish. The bricks and floor pieces have a cool grimy look to them and there are several pieces on the set that are movable. You can pull the switch on an electricity box while a ladder can be raised and lowered. The set features five cells whose doors can be opened and the light fixture and hanging chain can be moved from side to side. By far the most fun part is a trap door that can be opened to reveal a dark cell.

There are three miniature zombie figures that come with it; two normal zombies and a prison guard zombie that comes complete with a revolver. These zombies have movable arms and also movable heads so they can be displayed looking up or down.

While based on the Call of Duty zombie map it doesn't share too much with that games design. You get a golden floating skull that resembles the Instant Kill perk while the barbed wire,electricity box,and Cafeteria sign also reminded me of the level. It seems it was more based on the idea of a prison than that map in particular. At £29.99 I feel it is a bit expensive but having a look at similar products this does seem to be the norm for this type of thing and the amount of high quality pieces you get for your money can not be debated.

If your after something zombie based that is different then this is the thing for you, until I was contacted about this I didn't even realise things like this existed. There are also quite a few other sets based on Call of Duty including a few smaller zombie ones. The only real negative apart from the fact it doesn't have much to do with the game is that it is slightly on the expensive side. This does makes for a great talking point, oozes quality and looks pretty cool,


Friday, 24 October 2014

Ouija, Horns and, Mr Babadook - Horror Film Trailers October 2014

When I watched Annabelle recently there were three different horror film trailers shown before hand. Now Cineworld Northampton has a cruel habit of showing trailers for films that it has no intention of showing, horror films in general get ignored there (recent zombie romantic comedy Life After Beth being a prime example).

Ouija looks to be a teen based take on the demonic force haunting a house genre. The trailer annoys me with all it's 'drooooooomm' noises that seem to pop up in all trailers nowadays. A bunch of teens use a Ouija board to try and contact their dead friend but instead appear to have accidentally made contact with an evil force. Ouija is due out on 31st October in the UK.

Next up is Horns which is a film about a young man (Daniel Radcliffe) whose girlfriend is killed by an unknown assailant. Not only do the whole town think that he is responsible but also demonic horns have started growing out of his head! With the towns people going crazy around him and with him discovering new powers he sets out to find out who really killed the love of his life. This looks real weird but hopefully with a big a draw as Radcliffe (who I just can't see as anyone other than Harry Potter) this will get shown at my Cinema. Horns is out on 29th October in the UK.

Last up is Mr Babadook which looked the most interesting. A boy discovers a creepy pop up book in his bedroom about a sinister figure named Mr Babadook. It seems by reading the book this creature has come into being and starts to haunt the house. This film is out on 24th October here in the UK but is not being shown at my Cinema so again I ask; why show a damn trailer for a film that it is not being shown?

So there you have it; three trailers for horror films that I am probably not even going to get to see, hopefully you will get to. Good cheer and big fears for it is Halloween a week today!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Zombie by Jaime T - Zombie Music Video

When a song called Zombie came out I couldn't help but be interested to hear what it sounds like. As it is I cannot stand the song at all and have taken to muting the radio at work when it appears (which it does about twenty times a day it seems). The only good thing to come out of this song is that I hoped against hope the video would feature zombies and thankfully it did.

In the video Jaime T and his band are playing a gig at an empty pub and slowly throughout the video change into undead ghouls. At one point after losing a drum stick the drummer pulls the arm off the bassist and uses that instead while it all ends with a decapitation. Glad the video had zombies as made for a nice easy blog post, it is just a shame the song is irritating to the extreme (though it does talk about zombies in the lyrics). Anyway check out the song below...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Limited Edition 'Spooky' Shreddies - Cereal Review

This time of year you find many food items re-branding themselves to cash in on the best holiday of the year. I wish shops displayed horror items in their windows all year round. A selection of cakes was what I reviewed last year but this time is the turn of cereal.

Spooky Shreddies promise to dazzle me with a wicked cinnamon flavour but first up the box. A traditional spooky albeit cartoon style pumpkin which in a nice touch has individual Shreddies for teeth. The side of the box says 'For your wicked side', I guess by that it means the side that thinks it is a great idea to eat sugary food rather than fruit and or vegetables.

Onto the food itself. I expected razor blades, I expected satanic pendants and I expected pure fear but instead there was just the usual deal; a sealed bag that contains Shreddies. The Shreddies themselves are ok, they taste as described but I have to confess a lack of horror from eating them though the milk was a bit sweet and sickly from all the sugar.

Once again I have been lied to. There is nothing here whatsoever that could be considered spooky about this cereal apart from a slight incident when the packet was first opened and I got whisked around my house by some unseen malevolent force, but I'm sure the timing was just coincidental.