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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

White Zombie (2014) - Zombie Horror Film Review


It is what I have lazily termed Shocktober; a month where I intend to do a blog post every single day to celebrate this great spooky month. Starting off is a review of White Zombie which is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name.

Madeline White (Scarlett Sheppard) and Neil Bellamy arrive on a mysterious island to get married. On the boat ride over they befriend a local plantation owner Gilles Beaumonde who falls in love with White. Once on the island he enlists the help of evil voodoo magician Severin Deveraux to help him get her for himself. Deveraux has a small army of zombies and provides the plantation owner with a special potion that will make White appear to die so that the duo can later 'resurrect' her.

I saw the original White Zombie many years ago and as one of the first ever zombie films I can't say I was that impressed. The voodoo magician of that version was named Murder Legendre and played by legend Bela Lugosi but Deveraux is played with relish by Eric Vasbinder who does a great job of hamming up the role, truly a dispicable character. For some bizarre reason many of the cast appear to have had their voices dubbed over with special effects used, sadly Deveraux has such a deep booming artificial voice that it always sounds like he should be doing voice overs for film trailers and doesn't appear realistic. At one point a character says he looks like he has the fires of hell dancing in his eyes and to his credit Vasbinder really does look like a man possessed!

White Zombie while not having the biggest budget still works as a period piece with characters dressed in old fashioned clothes and getting around via horses. I loved the effort put in to make this seem like it was happening in the 1930's and a lot of the cast do great jobs, sure many of them vastly over act but they put effort in. Sadly the main male lead; Bellamy is played by someone who has zero screen presence and appears to stumble a lot with his lines of dialogue. It is hard to feel anything for this pathetic character and he just manages to fade into the background even in scenes where he is the only person on camera!


More in line with old zombie films voodoo is the cause of these undead ghouls. There is a supernatural vein running through White Zombie, the zombies appear to be authentic rather than just people under a spell but don't do anything threatening, they are just made to work (using zombies in place of horses to pull a cart in one scene is pretty funny as it would have been quicker for the passenger to simply walk). Unlike the original there are a lot of good voodoo practitioners too, they themselves resolve the plot rather than Bellamy who serves no real purpose. The rhyming lines they have can get quite cheesy but the costume design is good and I loved the eyes painted onto their eyelids.

At two hours long this does drag a bit, I found myself getting quite bored on more than one occasion and it is not scary at all, a traditional story that doesn't surprise but is mostly entertaining enough. You can tell effort was made to make White Zombie, it shows in the set design, and the enthusiastic acting of much of the cast. Far better than I expected it to be.

SCORE:

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Destiny (2014) - Sci-fi Videogame Review (PS4)


Destiny came bundled with my PS4 I picked up a few weeks back and so was my first experience of this current generation of console games. My desire for this game was not too strong seeing as it is made by Bungie the guys behind Halo. I have never really gotten on well with the Halo games, they bore me, I hoped that Destiny would be a better game.

Destiny is a sci-fi shooter set 700 years in our future. An alien being; a gigantic orb known as 'the Traveller' arrived in our solar system and ushered in a golden age of technological advancements in which humans gained the ability to leave Earth and colonise other planets. This golden age continues for hundreds of years but one day legions of hostile alien races arrive and lay waste to humanity, conquering planet after planet. It seems the Traveller for unknown reasons was being hunted by these beings. Eventually what remains of the human race exists in just one massive city on Earth, a city protected by the Traveller. Ghosts (small A.I) have the ability to resurrect the dead to help fight the fight, these newly awakened humans are called Guardians and lead the fight against the alien menace. Destiny starts with a Ghost bringing your character back to life.


Starting the game you get to design your character and choose from one of three classes. The Hunter class are agile and can fight from a distance (the class I chose). The Warlock class can use magic, while the Titan class are powerful up close. Rather than a straight FPS Destiny like Borderlands involves gaining XP to level up as well as featuring plenty of loot to upgrade and change your weapons, and change various parts of armour you are wearing.

This is a strange game in that while mostly single player there are always other players in your game world doing their own thing. This makes for some frankly awesome moments such as being on the brink of death only for a sniper randomly taking out your attacker and unknowingly saving you. The levels are huge and quite open so there are always a fair number of other players around making for some fun emergent game play. Much like Halo the various alien factions are all at war with each other so often you will encounter a group only to find they are already battling a different group.


It has to be said the actual plot of Destiny is pretty terrible, the back story is cool but what you actually do does not appear to have much impact on the games universe and just seems an excuse to get you visiting various planets. Always starting off in an open area your mission usually takes you to a more enclosed space where events become strictly single player. The weapons are meaty and have a real heft to them, an actual joy to use. You have two main weapons with a third that has far more limited ammo for it. In my case I spent much of the game with a powerful hand cannon and sniper rifle as my main, with a rocket launcher as my third.

The different alien races are well designed and look distinctly different from each other. The initial ones you fight reminded me a little too much of Halos foes but the addition of the fantastic Vex and Cabal races changed my view. Expertly designed, and introduced. The Cabal in particular had a powerful entrance. Fantastic music started playing followed by the surreal appearance of these huge beings gracefully hopping over the sand dunes in the distance towards my position.


So Destiny is not perfect. First off the competitive multiplayer leaves a lot to be desired. It is unlocked in a strange way in that you only get 'capture the base' to begin with, you have to do a match of this before team death match is unlocked, and then after that free for all is unlocked. I played two games but I wasn't feeling it. While everyone is set to the same level in competitive multiplayer you bring over the weapons you are currently using in the main game and so there can be unfair advantages depending on what you have equipped.

For what at times feels like a MMO there is not too much content, I reckon it took me about 15 hours to do all the missions. Also the various planets you travel to don't really feel that much different apart from different colours used. The graphics are great, crisp and sharp and has me excited for what will eventually be possible on these new consoles but I sometimes got the same feeling I got in Rage - that these stunning locations are there to look at but not to interact with. I love the hub city where you wander around in third person talking to shop keepers and dancing at other players (as an aside).


The best part of the game I have saved for last. There are a number of co-op only 'strike' missions in which you and two strangers take on a super hard mission that usually ends in a fight against a very powerful boss. I adored these strike missions, amazing fun (especially as there is no voice chat). Silently working together to take out enemies never gets boring.

I feel I saw most of what Destiny has to offer at the moment hence the review. There is a large amount of DLC planned to bring players back to the game world but I will wait to see what that is like before I choose to return. A much better game than Halo, and despite being shorter than I expected and having a frankly bare bones plot I had so much pure fun with this.

SCORE:

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 - Zombie Horror Videogame News (2015)


I noticed the other day that the sequel to Resident Evil: Revelations is going to be coming out early next year. Now I have not actually played Revelations but have always meant to. I heard the parts on the boat are good while the Chris Redfield parts are more 'new' Resident Evil style of too much action and not enough horror.

Check out the teaser trailer below, it doesn't actually contain any game footage but is not a bad little live action piece. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 is due to come out on X-Box One, X-Box 360, PS3, PS4, and PC. Interestingly enough I saw no mention of the 3DS which is where  the first game originally first appeared.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Omen IV: The Awakening (1991) - Horror Film Review


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.

SCORE:

Saturday, 13 September 2014

P.T - Horror Videogame News (PS4)


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

Anger of the Dead (2013) - Award winning short zombie film now available to view online


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

House Of Many Sorrows (2015) - Horror Film News


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

Brutal (2014) - Horror Film News


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

Screen (2013) - Horror Film Review


Screen is a film I discovered while surfing my Twitter feed one day. It seems to be heavily influenced by horror films of the 70's and has a bizarre style to it that is halfway between found footage and traditional film style.

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.

SCORE:

Thursday, 4 September 2014

As Above, So Below (2014) - Horror Film Review


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.

SCORE: