Wednesday, 17 September 2014
A few years back I was gifted The Omen box set on DVD and have finally gotten around to watching the fourth film in the series after The Omen. Damien: Omen II and Omen III: The Final Conflict. With Anti-Christ Damien Thorn (spoiler) dead I assumed Omen IV would not be very good...
Karen and Gene York adopt a newborn baby from an orphanage and decide to call her Delia. Over the years strange events occur around the child leading others to be fearful of the weird girl. Now eight years old and Karen begins to suspect something is terribly wrong with her adopted child. Delia has no friends, has an intense hatred of anything resembling religion, and bad things happen to anyone whom she takes a disliking to. Could she be the new Anti-Christ?
For the first two thirds of The Awakening I have to say I was pretty bored. It wasn't that nothing was happening it's just that what did happen was not very exciting. There are plenty of deaths to be seen here but for the most part they occur just off screen, or it jumps to the next scene before you get the pay off. An early example is a man who gets decapitated by a digger, the camera cuts away at the pivotal point to show a balloon with a clown face on it rolling across the ground (symbolism for the act of course). Talking of clowns they are everywhere in this film! I have no idea why but they pop up in at least six or seven different scenes.
The Awakening travels old ground and it felt very much like a reboot of The Omen. Delia is followed around by a large protective dog, she ends up with an obviously evil nanny and she does her best to act evil. Unfortunately Delia comes across as irritating, looking at times smug as hell, while other times her scowl is ridiculous. There is no fear to be had here. Far too many times reveals of upside down crucifixes are used in the scenery, this got old after the first sixty or seventy shock reveals.
With the dubious highlight of the first third of the film being Delia causing chaos at a new age fair it is up to the final third to redeem things. Thankfully it does but in an accidentally silly way. Near Christmas and a guy looking at a toy nativity scene is shocked to see the baby Jesus in the crib is now a zombie doll. In shock he stumbles into a back alley where choir singers he had seen moments earlier now appear as ghouls and start singing a demonic song; I actually laughed out loud at this, by far the highlight of the film! With revelations that nicely tie The Awakening into the overall series of films (I was sure this was unrelated up to this point) and some cool twists it actually becomes quite enjoyable. Sadly too little too late.
Being a 15 there is a blatant lack of any gore, this and the mostly off screen or censored deaths bleed out a lot of the energy The Awakening should have had. As it is there is enjoyment to be had here but it takes a fair while to get there and steals too many moments already used in previous films. If there had been more new ideas and a better cast (with the exception of the P.I and the family doctor no one really stood out) this would have been all the better.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
I finally relented and brought a PS4 yesterday after coming into some money. Now the reason I really wanted one was not for any particular game but actually for a demo I saw on YouTube. That demo was for P.T which as it quickly turned out (spoiler) was actually made as a reveal for the next Silent Hill game; Silent Hills that is to star Norman Reedus and his likeness as the main character.
P.T (abbreviated from Playable Teaser) is played in first person and has you awakening in a dark featureless room. Opening a door you step out into a corridor of a house. A clock shows the time is 23:59 while a news story plays on a radio talking about a husband who murdered his wife and child. You walk through the deserted building until you get to basement steps. Going down these you open the basement door to find yourself once again at the start of the corridor and this is where the terror begins...
Despite having watched a complete play through of P.T I still was frightened enough at several point to shout out loud, once I even teared up with fright, while another time I was close to falling off my chair in surprise. While there is a sense of creeping dread the fear actually came from un-telegraphed jump scares, some of which were not at a fixed point. You don't actually have much interaction with the location you find yourself in, for the most part you are walking around unable to interact with the environment except for a few choice moments, even so the puzzles in this teaser can be surprisingly tough and require a good deal of observation.
Being first person this feels more like Silent Hill 4 than anything else, purely because that too had sections were you walked around a fixed location in first person, and also was about the only Silent Hill game to feature ghosts. The radios and altered realities as well as the saving emblem all point to this being connected to Silent Hill. The fact that Hideo Kojima and Gullimero del Toro are both working on this game could be a great thing.
So what does this mean for Silent Hills? I cannot imagine it will be anything other than 3rd person as it must have cost money to get Norman Reedus for the game. I imagine if anything the first person sections will appear but only as set points in the game. P.T was a really interesting way to announce a game and was a broad combination of fear and then boredom (I got stuck on the puzzles a lot!). You should definitely check it out.
Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Around this time last year I reviewed the short Italian zombie film Anger of the Dead. I said at the time that apart from some slightly confusingly translated subtitles (the film being in Italian) it was a solid fifteen minutes of zombie action. I had a quick look back over it today and it still looks fantastic, the camera work and music is of a high standard.
After being shown at a variety of film festivals in which it won awards such as Best Short Film (Tohorror Film Fest) and Best Director (Interiora Horror Fest) it has now gone online where it can be watched for free. It has actually been picked up by infamous director and producer Uwe Boll (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark) to be made into a full length film that is due for release in 2015.
Check out the full short below and see what you think, it shows promise, especially considering it was made with next to no budget.
Monday, 8 September 2014
Another day and another film to spread some news about. Today I look at the horror House of Many Sorrows; an American based film due for release in 2015.
Details on the plot are scarce but the gist of it is that a young man takes over his mother's bed and breakfast business. Soon after this happens strange things start occurring with people disappearing and dying in likely odd circumstances.
House Of Many Sorrows is written, produced, and directed by Barry J.Gillis. The film stars Tom Malloy and Kim Sonderholm (Sinister Visions, Little Big Boy). Also recently announced is the inclusion of Ginger Lynn Allen (apparently a famous adult film star) who has previously appeared in The Devil's Rejects.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
I mentioned Brutal before (here) where the official trailer was also shown. I now have some further details on this upcoming martial arts horror.
Brutal stars Morgan Benoit as Trevor; someone who is abducted by aliens when he was fifteen and forced to fight never ending fights against other abductees in a strange fighting arena. Two decades later and he has become transformed into a brutal warrior. It is said to be an allegory about man's violent nature.
The sci-fi element was unexpected but adds an interesting angle to what I expected would be about underground cage fights. The press release says it will have elements from both The Prisoner and The Twilight Zone which is kinda cool as those shows are very good.
Brutal is due to premiere at the Beverly Hills Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on November 5th this year. Looks to be ultra brutal!
Saturday, 6 September 2014
In the early 1970's thirty people were discovered dead at an Oklahoma drive in. On the 40th anniversary of that event in 2012 history repeats with a whole bunch more people found dead in the exact same mysterious circumstances. 24 hours earlier and Lola (Nicole Alonso) a young woman is persuaded to go to a party at a drive in by her old high school friend Carrie (Leslie Andrews) who has recently gotten back in contact via Facebook. As they drive the 300 miles to the party Carrie slowly reveals the true nature of the trip; her grandfather was one of the many people who died in the drive in massacre and so she wants to see the place with her own eyes as well as interview the only survivor of that fateful day. The night of the party arrives and horror ensues...
Screen is filmed in a really weird voyeuristic way where even when static shots are employed there is a sense of unease of being watched. Carrie films her life daily for a weird blog she keeps so a lot of the footage is shown from the perspective of her camera, but more traditional shots are not done with a stedi-cam either which creates an unsettling feeling that the characters are unknowingly never alone. It creates a sense of paranoia that in this modern day where everyone has access to cameras that nowhere can you really be alone. Even in a motel room the characters joke that they are being watched in a 2 way mirror and during a sex scene the camera pulls back to show even that is being filmed.
Screen is split into three distinct parts with a title screen for each one. The Road Trip is the first chapter that has Lola and Carrie en route to the ill fated drive in. Even here there is a sense of unease as Carrie's slow reveal of secret information and her odd actions make you wonder if this character can be trusted. The middle part is titled The Drive In and has the duo arriving at the site of the party where they interview local people to see if they know anything about the massacre that occured in the 1970's. The final part titled The Party is where the creeping dread sets in with the anticipation of this deadly event ever on your mind leaving you unable to relax, This is not helped by the bad vibe that is given off during the party (expertly captured is the feeling that something bad is going to happen at any moment).
What Screen does well is gives plenty of explanations for what exactly happened. There are numerous theories passed around, everything from paranormal activity to suicide cults and serial killers. I loved that no explanation is actually ever given, instead you the viewer are left to decide in your own head what has happened. The music used is very good, creepy and more traditional than the usual variety of dull rock songs used in horror films of this type nowadays. David Paul Baker does a great job of directing, I loved the retro style to Screen while the acting is very good at least for the main characters.
At just over an hour long there is not really enough time for things to drag but I still felt the actual party part went on slightly too long, a sub plot involving some creepy guys in gas masks got mixed up for me with the main plot. I also feel it would have been better to not even have the intro scene in which the F.B.I discover the corpses of the party goers as it took away the mystery of what was going to happen. My last criticism is that it all ends a bit too abruptly.
Screen despite sharing similarities with John Carpenter's Masters of Horror episode 'Cigarette Burns' feels original and proves you don't need lashings of violence and blood when the mere threat of this happening is enough to keep the fear simmering. A unique looking and interesting film indeed.
Thursday, 4 September 2014
First off, yes this is film belongs to the 'found footage' genre but don't stop reading yet. This much maligned genre has had it tough as it has it's fair share of trash. This isn't even the first film of it's type to be set underground, Australian The Tunnel springs to mind while the ideas of this film also seemed to share a lot with the Russian based After....
Perdita Weeks stars as Scarlett; a British Lara Croft alike archaeologist and explorer. Following in her father's footsteps she has been searching for the Philosopher's Stone, a gem that is said to grant immortality as well as turn base metal into gold. Her journey brings her to Paris where she believes the gem is hidden in the middle of a series of catacombs that run under the city. Enlisting the help of a group of urban explorers she descends into the dark underground where the terror and madness begins...
Here the found footage aspect makes sense in a way. Scarlett is being filmed for a documentary she is having made about her quest, so her and her fellow explorers have been fitted with needle cameras on their head lamps. As Above, So Below is a very claustrophobic film, the tunnels are very small and confined, the cameras being on the characters heads really makes you feel like there is no room as there is lots of extreme close ups with people and the surrounding area that I found myself wishing desperately to get some air.
This is a scary film, there is a pervasive sense of creeping dread as well as a variety of jump scares. Usually I cannot abide jump scares, here they are well sign posted yet each and every time I nearly fell backwards off my chair due to the totally messed up payoffs. It is not all perfect though, shadowy figures moving around in the back ground are ineffective and not creepy, while mysterious chanting and demonic noises sound like something you would find on a Halloween sound effect tape.
The location of the catacombs is a character in it's own right. There are messages scrawled everywhere, secret tunnels and traps right out of Tomb Raider and a mid film twist that screamed Silent Hill to me and was actually quite clever. I was constantly confused as to what was going on, it remained purposely vague and sometimes this fails. Straight tunnels that nonetheless seem to loop around on themselves, doorways that vanish once walked though, the somehow chilling discovery of a piano inexplicably discovered in the middle of far too narrow corridors; there is a lot of both hit and miss moments exemplified by the discovery of 'the mole'; a friend of the Parisian explorers who went missing years previously and yet pops up fine and well deep underground.
The special effects are sometimes great and sometimes not so much. Trauma on the characters looks fantastic and there are some quite brutal scenes and fun death scenes but then other more dare I say it supernatural elements look a bit cheesy. I think the main problem is that As Above, So Below gets to a point and then just doesn't go any further, the last third was fun to watch in a 'will they survive? wont they?' kind of way, yet the escalation of terror just doesn't ramp up to the levels I was hoping for.
I don't think I am ever going to go underground, certainly not in Paris, so the film was effective in some ways.It can be scary, and is quite messed up in what occurs and the possible unspoken explanation for the events of the film are quite something. Overall there is a lack of cohesion to the whole thing that makes you question if the film makers themselves knew what was actually going on.
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
Zombie Casserole directed, produced, and edited by John Iwasz and Sanj Surati is an indie zombie short that has been shown at a variety of film festivals (next appearing in San Diego this October). It attempts to do something different with the genre that we all know and love by infusing a mix of good natured humour into the preceedings.
It takes place in America post zombie apocalypse. In this world zombies while vilified by the media as such are actually not killers. They exist as a minority group who hold frequent rallies and protests to try and get the same equal rights as everyone else. Zombie hater and jerk Wally (Andrew Prokurat) is having a dinner party and invites over his brother and sister and their partners. Unknown to him however his sisters husband Chuck has recently died and come back as an undead ghoul. When Chuck turns up on the doorstep holding a casserole a series of bizarre events unfold that changes Wally's life forever.
The film is light hearted and doesn't offend but much of the humour for me just didn't stick, I wouldn't say I found any of it funny but at the same time I quite enjoyed the tone. The soundtrack again I did not think was great but it went well with the vibe. In this world the undead are referred to in a derogatory way as 'rotters' while them themselves prefer to be known as 'Undead Americans'. The zombies can talk but not in an understandable way so frequent subtitles appear to show what they are saying. They have basic motor functions and seem to be less intelligent than the living, and while they have a hankering for living flesh they have little to no desire to attack the living.
The zombie make up effects are actually pretty decent, all the limited cast look quite good as zombies so there is no complaints there. Sometimes the low budget can show itself in some of the props and set design, such as a shotgun that does not look real at all but the news reports featured are well made and the acting is not terrible either which is a big boon.
The contrast between zombies and the treatment of foreign inhabitants of America is plain to see with Wally at one point complaining that the rotters "won't even learn our language". For all the laid back nature of Zombie Casserole it does feature some entertaining action scenes, classic such scenes of the genre I would say that fitted in nicely.
Zombie Casserole was a nice little film that is a perfect length at roughly 30 minutes, I feel it would also work well as a stage play. Apart from a few niggles (such as a character choosing an impossible place to hide) this was not bad viewing and does enough different to not be stale and lack of any bad language whatsoever was refreshing.
Monday, 1 September 2014
Just over a year ago I reviewed Sinister Visions that was a compilation of lots of small horror tales. One of those was Succubus directed by prolific horror actor Kim Sonderholm. At the time I said I was left disappointed in that nothing was resolved. Succubus is now available to watch online.
In the 18 minute short Emma (Kat Herlo) accidentally breaks open a strange egg shaped device at an archaeological dig out in a desert. Retuning home she finds out she seems to have a demonic force living inside her body, compelling her to go and find men so she can drain their life force. Watching Succubus again I still mostly stand by what I said. The special effects are quite cool but there is not too much horror to speak of but the directing is quite good. If you want to check it out then head over to Ekko's Shortlist where it can be viewed for free if only to see some funky dancing in a night club (my favourite scene for some reason).
Monday, 25 August 2014
I met the author of Flu; Wayne Simmons at last years Leicester based Zombiefest and found him to be a really nice and friendly guy. I picked up this book whilst there and have finally gotten around to reading it. Flu is set in Northern Ireland, the only Irish zombie tale I knew of before this was the average Boy Eats Girl film.
A deadly new strain of flu swept Ireland that the government were struggling to contain due to it being airborne. The infected were quarantined but things rapidly devolved as the authorities went to more and more desperate methods to deal with the outbreak. The virus mutates again with the result being that the victims of the disease reanimate upon their deaths. Six weeks later and the survivors are few. A woman named Geri meets some thugs, meanwhile another woman finds herself under the protection of a middle aged man; Pat who used to be a gunrunner for the IRA. Elsewhere retired Major Connor Jackson is called back into service and whisked away to a secret Army base where bizarre experiments on the undead are being performed.
These three plot lines run concurrently and for the most part are entirely separate from each other and provide stories that have different feeling and emotions to them. The most interesting one was that of Geri and the people she ends up surviving with. Characters who initially seem to be bad get moulded via their actions into people to root for. Ones who appear to be good guys are revealed to be far more human. In general the events here feel much more real than the usual stereotypes, characters are shown to have a whole range of emotions and motives. Pat and Karen have a more insular dynamic going on with much of their time being in confinement from the outside world. Pat has regret for some of his shady past and sees this new world as a way to make amends almost. For Karen Flu charts the loss of her innocence whether for good or bad. Jackson's storyline is much more simple and has some traditional elements from the zombie genre but is interesting nonetheless.
The zombies of Flu are a mixed bag, they are able to hunt in packs and show limited signs of intelligence, feed on human flesh and are slow and lethargic. The flu virus makes the victim bleed out of every orifice, the results is that the zombies here are pretty much deaf meaning guns are at the forefront of the action. As grim as this world is I think it is preferable to the chocking suffocation of David Moody's Autumn series where any noise is sure to draw the attention of the undead.
Nothing much seems to happen during the book yet the characters were so interesting that I didn't mind at all, they are more fleshed out, in part due to flashbacks of events that happened before the apocalypse. It is a common problem in zombie books that people have no idea how to combat the living dead, here is no different with the idea of zombies seemingly unknown to the survivors until they are faced with them. An airborne virus being the root cause spices things up as any character at any time can suddenly contract the virus even if they are safe in hiding. this lends a more tense aspect.
All the troubles Northern Ireland has faced in the past contrast with the present, issues becoming less important when people must unite to survive but in the realistic way Simmons writes some things are hard to forget. His down to earth writing is what wins the book for me, sometimes bloody and violent, other times more sedate. Sometimes he travels down paths somewhat too predictable but is always well written and vivid.
Flu is well worth a read if your into your zombie fiction and due to the somewhat open ending I was pleased to see there is a sequel titled 'Fever', so will have to check that out!