Posts Tagged ‘Horror’

In 1968, George A. Romero and co-writer John Russo made a black and white film on a small budget, it became one of the most successful independent films of all-time. It was Night of the Living Dead.

I won’t dig up old stories about copyright woes, remakes or go through his career and the like, there are plenty of documentaries, books and websites about his zombie films before zombie films (became let’s just say) mainstream, he revolutionised horror creating a whole sub genre of horror. Yes, Romero did make other films and TV shows, but Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead had a personal and lasting impact on me. Also without Romero there would be no 28 Days Later, Return of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie Land, Shaun of the Dead, World War Z and certainly no Walking Dead to name a few, heck there’d be no zombie genre. His influence is so wide, it’s amazing how much money, flashy big-budget films and shows have been made off his back.

I digress, so big George – filmmaker, writer and editor, his touch stretched over to the UK in form of a tubed TV and touched a young Esmonde sometime during the 1980s. I don’t recall the specific years, a late night showing of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then at some point Day of the Dead on a VHS. I was hooked to his gore-filled and satirical horrors. He inspired an epidemic of imitators (myself included). In 2010 my own novel Dead Pulse was published (based my 2007 erroneously published short) and without Romero, this tribute pulp would never have existed. While George was busy with his adoring fans I remember talking to his wife Suzanne, she kindly took a copy to give to George, I didn’t want to give it to him directly, because I didn’t want him to get the impression that I wished him read it (I’d be embarrassed if he ever did, maybe he used it as tinder on a cold Canadian night) but I gave it to her to give to him at a later time out of respect because I wanted him to know what an influence he’d had on my writing and film-making work. “It’s debatably not my best one,” I’d said. We shared a laugh and had a conversation, Suzanne was every bit as pleasant as George himself saying that he’d be touched and she was every bit sincerer.

People say something like – ‘avoid meeting your heroes, you may be disappointed’, I’ve met two of mine and on both occasions they have been everything I hoped, both are now sadly no longer with us. George is one of them. Two years ago I got to spend sometime with George and basically thank him, I can truly say that and I was not disappointed, as well as a great talent he was a kind and gentle giant, full of humour, modest to the core and a down to earth gentleman. My thoughts are with his wife and family.

He a left behind a terrific legacy to be enjoyed. He will be missed.

The spirit of a witch reeks havoc on two siblings and their partners when she is summoned to their cottage.

As the genre is close to my heart I couldn’t pass an opportunity to view Sweden’s filmmaker Jarno Lee Vinsencius latest offering Svarta Madam. Opening with a creepy exposition card harking back to the good old days of horror we’re treated to glimpse of a 1633 burning at the stake. Moving forward to 1995 oozing atmosphere as two children, Emma and Alex, go about summoning a spirit (unavoidably echoing Bernard Rose’s Candy Man and the Bloody Mary legend) it then jumps to 22 years later at a birthday dinner where the siblings are reunited with their grandmother’s mirror. Director, writer Vinsencius packs every frame of The Madame in Black with a flavour of eerie ambiance. With a few jump scares courteous of an injection of effective sound design and music he then amps up the horror suspense with creaky floor boards, disembodied whispers and shrieks in the dark.

As the body count increases even with severed fingers, dreams within dreams, the script rings true, adding some much needed credibility to the underdog genre. It contains all the creepy staples of a good horror, even floating camera work in a forest reminiscent of Evil Dead but like the recent Spanish horror revival this is also fittingly played straight with an on location backdrop enhanced with naturalist lighting. The cast are on fine form, as with Vinsencius’ Darkness Falls this offering benefits from some strong performances courtesy of Ida Gyllenstan and the notable Demis Tzivis.

The moonlit night is seemingly CGI free and the makeup effects by Ellinor Rosander are used sparingly. When Madame in Black appears it encompasses all the best of practical horrors, a simple effective shrouded figure (also played by Rosander) channelling Exorcist III. But where Vinsencius excels is in his cinematography, creating a cinematic feel, even throwing in some aerial shots that put DTV horror and some bigger budget films with longer running times to shame. It’s clear that Vinsencius gives 110% to his craft and there’s no wonder why this Swedish chiller has won handfuls of awards.

This is a must see short horror film, watch with the sound up and the lights off.

Alien: Covenant Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On the far side of the galaxy the colony spaceship USCSS Covenant takes a detour and discovers horrors on an uncharted planet.

Opening with a flashback of David being activated by Peter Weyland we are treated to an Alien-style title sequence. After a shocking neutrino burst opening we are then introduced to the characters brought abruptly out of hyper-sleep by Walter a synthetic model. Soon the crew land on a planet and after a series of hostile events meet David, a survivor of the Prometheus mission. David and Walter (Michael Fassbender in dual roles) are put centre stage. To Ridley Scott’s special effects team credit the androids are exceptional and you never question the illusion of the two characters being on screen at once.

Whereas Prometheus felt somewhat innovative and charted a different direction to the Alien series if you are a fan be warned, Covenant takes a step back with the Engineers and Shaw’s story thread ending abruptly. Aside from Guy Pearce’s Weyland’s cameo, ties from Prometheus are broken and even Noomi Rapace’s Shaw who appeared in Covenant’s promotions is substantially cut in the final film. This is in place of a standard three act Alien affair, without the suspense of Alien but all the brashness of Aliens, still director Scott’s moody, thoughtful style shines here. Naturally the aesthetics, cinematography, production design are of Scott’s high standards and Covenant moves at breakneck speed, from ship, to planet, back to ship à la Alien format borrowing also from Aliens and his own Prometheus and even a line from Blade Runner. In addition, Jed Kurzel’s soundtrack takes all the best cues from Jerry Goldsmith’s 1979 Alien score and hones a reminiscent hybrid of sorts.

Lead Katherine Waterston’s Daniels (terrible hair cut aside), does her best with what she’s given. James Franco appears briefly and like Rapace his part aside from body and video footage is left promo material hell. Waterston offers enough emotion to keep Franco’s Branson spirit alive throughout and you buy into her loss. Logical straight talking Callie Hernandez’s Upworth is notable along with Billy Crudup’s to the book Oram and Demián Bichir’s tough solider Lope is memorable. Fassbender’s dual performance is excellent. However, he unjustly steals the show and his position of prominence takes away what made (certainly David) so interesting as a secondary character in Covenant’s predecessor.

The various looking aliens on display are highly aggressive from the outset. The Alien effects are first rate and the introduction to a H. R. Giger style creepy white Neomorph alien (born from spores that grow inside you into a Neomorph Bloodburster) gives Pan’s Labyrinth chills. Nevertheless, there’s not enough suspense or stalking from the aliens, but plenty of running around. It felt like too many CGI beast shots and not enough practical effects. However, when the Neomorph stood upright in front of David it was quite impressive. When the traditional albeit upgraded version of the Alien turns up it’s a joy. There’s a missed opportunity to face off the old Xenomorphs Alien with the new Neomorph. Or even solely focus on the Neomorph as there is some interesting communication between David and the Aliens that is never fully explored. There’s also the thread that David may or may not have gone stir crazy due to his humanistic characterisations. (Incidentally, the novelisation through various passages and additional dialogue fill in the blanks, e.g. why they leave the landing ship without helmets, what happens to the other Neomorph, Shaw’s cross necklace and many more, it’s a shame these moments were either not filmed or cut.)

When things go pear shaped there’s plenty of blood and gore, the alien eggs, Chestburster and Facehuggers are finely tuned for screen, Scott also throws in fighting androids and Aliens-like shoot outs – there’s plenty to like about Covenant. Waterston along with Danny McBride’s pilot Tennessee look comfortable going head to head with the pesky Alien, even if it all feels somewhat rehashed and rushed. However, die-hard Alien fan’s will have to buy into facehugger embryos (?!), David creating eggs and incubation times. This is topped of by handful of writers who offer a frustrating ending which teases another follow up.

Overall, Scott plays it safe and delivers a sci-fi horror with a typical series of action setups that is basically there to appease action fans rather than create suspense which was the originals finest quality.

The Void Movie Poster

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A group of people become trapped in a hospital by a gathering of hooded cultists and discover that the hospital has been taken over by grotesque creatures with a sinister agenda.

Though Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie’s writing/directing offering takes reminiscent cues from The Thing, Halloween and Hellraiser to name a few it has enough kicks and story beats to stand on its own two tentacles. With a page of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu The Void befits from convincing practical effects, old school film making and filmatic aesthetics which harks back to the high-end days of horror.

After a shooting a woman is mysteriously set ablaze, Deputy Daniel Carter picks up an injured man in the road and akin to Halloween 2 and Assault on Precinct 13 a group hold up in a remote hospital after encountering creepy, white sheet covered figures offering Wicker Man and The Fog chills. There we become acquainted with the players and things go pear shaped with killings, mistrust shenanigans and gross out mutations. Kostanski and Gillespie effectively couple this with sporadic modernised Fulci visuals (City of the Living Dead) thrown in for good measure, it has its surreal moments. Yes, it oozes John Carpenter in the first half and Clive Barker with a bit of Polanski in the second but that’s not a bad thing, it’s one of the films strengths as it plays as a homage of sorts.

The acting is first rate, with the edge of De Niro Aaron Poole (Forsaken, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) as Carter simply shines as the out of his depth officer is thrown into a maze of blood and gore with its darkened corridors and basements. Although Kathleen Munroe’s (Survival of the Dead) screen time is limited, she puts in a solid performance as Allison. Notable is Stellan Skarsgård looking Daniel Fathers as the hot head parent who wants to destroy the mysterious cult, pealed skin antagonist and his monsters. Kenneth Welsh (also of Survival of the dead fame) knocks it out of the park as Dr. Richard Powell. Like the supporting actors including Ellen Wong and James Millington, both Munroe and Poole set up a good emotional character rapport and you buy into their plight.

With some twists and as the story takes place over one night it gives it an intense ride feel with a score that adds to the on screen tension. Kostanski and Gillespie give The Void enough symbolism as to not spoon feed the viewer and top it off with some surrealism. It’s not some sub-par cheap looking digital addition to the genre, they offer serious suspense with excellent staging and full on displayed visceral practical effects as the characters try to survive the night from the weird shrouded cult and icky biological monsters.

Overall it’s a must see sci-fi horror hybrid, The Void is for old school effect house horror fans as well as new comers.

Image result for Ibiza Undead impawardsIn a world where zombies are rumoured and known, a group of youngest head to uninfected Ibiza for the holiday of a lifetime – only it’s not as zombie free as they thought.

A low budget comedy yarn, with sex, partying and zombies. It’s not in the league of productions values as The Rezort or the likes of Cockney Vs Zombies. Writer/director Andy Edwards offers a watchable rough round the edges undead romp.

Some of the lines are funny but without Ed Kear as wise cracking Big Jim this would have completely fallen flat. Dealer Karl played by Richard Brake, Rhys Ifans-like Matt King is notable and plays a good psycho, but he’s too good compared to the rest of the cast and feels out of place. Also UK’s Alex Zane cameos as a Club Host in amongst the rubbery makeup and fake blooded zombie extras.

It’s not Shaun of the Dead, as a gauge picture a low budget The Inbetweeners Movie (2011) mixed with Kevin & Perry Go Large (2000) versus zombies. With limited production values and a sod’s law twist at the end it has its limitations but to Edwards credit, you can’t fault his effort as he works with what he has and makes the most of the sun, sea and location.

Teens who want to see some bikinis and a pair of boobs should enjoy but everyone else, well…

Busanhaeng Movie Poster A group of terrified passengers fight their way through a viral outbreak while trapped on a bullet train ride to Busan.
Train to Busan is a blood-drenched South Korean zombie/virus horror, director Yeon Sang-ho and writer Park Joo-suk offer a serious zombie apocalypse yarn. Interestingly most of the bloody, milky eyed and black vein thrilled story is set in the daytime. Joo-suk offers a novel take on the infected, which cannot see in the dark, this makes for some interesting viewing during the more tense scenes especially as the train travels through darkened tunnels.
Sang-ho’s twitchy infected are a fast moving reminiscent of 28 Days Later and WWZ at one point there are piles of clambering dead hanging from the locomotive. In addition, this is a decent looking film, not a straight to video, DTV offering, the production values are high and the special effects are impressive. The locations are grounded which adds to the tension and you buy into the characters plight along with the punchy surprise deaths synonymous with the genre. With mistrust between the players there’s a social commentary about the division of class and its pecking order, its only apt it’s set on a train.
There are some action packed segments in stations and some subtler moments in tunnels and the city as the survivors encounter the army and contaminated. Surprisingly there’s plenty of emotion especially between workaholic Seok-woo played by Gong Yoo and his young daughter, Soo- an, delightfully played by Kim Su-an who wants to see her mother. Notable is Ma Dong-seok who plays Sang-hwa, a tough, working-class man. Dong-seok delivers some memorable zombie head bashing moments.
Sang-ho balances the intense infected action and drama perfectly. Highly recommended virus film.

darkest-moons-promoWell I’m ecstatic. Darkest Moons is now available on paperback and Kindle! A gothic mansion, hidden secrets, crypts, beasts and mysteries. With a never seen before creature that spawned legends. What is real and what is not in a seemingly perfect community? Present day set ‘Darkest Moons’, incorporates flashbacks throughout a Welsh village’s history packed with elusive characters.

Darkest Moons is available as an e-book, readers who want the traditional paperback will get the e-book free. Order your copy from here or any good bookstore.

From the press release.

A 1878 a mining community came to terms with the existence of a terrifying horror.

Over 130 years later a troubled London police officer, Alex Caine, is transferred to the sleepy village of Red Meadows. Her country life and the investments to rejuvenate the valley are put in jeopardy when a World War II bomb is unearthed triggering a chain of disturbing events.

A series of grisly mutilations follow but what is causing this mayhem, a wild animal or a serial killer hell-bent on destruction? With limited resource, battling local politics and with help from an unlikely ally, legends from the Garloupmira to Sasquatch are probed. Caine’s well-being, sanity and beliefs are tested as she desperately strives to solve her case.

As the moon rises the curse begins!

darkest_moons_cover_for_kindle

Watch the Darkest Moons Teaser Trailer: https://youtu.be/5qYX7Sal0k4

Image result for Rezort  imp awardsAfter humanity wins a war against zombies, tourists are able to kill zombies for sport at the Rezort.

Director Steve Barker who debuted with Outpost (2008) offers a zombie flick which echoes

Westworld (1973)and Jurassic Park (1993) premise. While Rezort isn’t as tight as Outpost, quite choppy in fact the zombie resort idea is a winning formula. Despite some dubious casting and dialogue this modest budget horror has plenty of great zombie action. Its Island setting gives it an throw back feel to Fulci’s Zombie (1979) and Fear the Walking Dead (in which Dougray Scott also appeared) rather than Romero’s ‘of the Dead’ films and/or The Walking Dead series.

To writers Paul Gerstenberger’s credit there is an interesting novel aspect as guest Melanie, played glowingly by Jessica Elise De Gouw who wants to conquer her psychological issues caused by the zombie war. This take is clearly what brought Barker and Scott’s talent to the table. That said, it feel rushed in places especially when the park’s security begins to unravel. The on location shoot works in its favour and Gerstenberger comes up trumps with a social commentary of sorts around refugees and class reminiscent of The Dead (2010), The Dead 2 (2013) and WWZ (2013) to name a few.

As forgettable sub characters get picked off one by one Martin McCann is notable as Lewis, but Dougray Scott effortlessly steals any sort of screen presence from the rest of cast excluding De Gouw of course who plays the trouble everyday girl in a horrific situation well. There’s no lack of effort in the makeup department either, the effects are finely executed from the most part, rapid head shots, zombie bites, all the zombie staples are there. But technically there’s some short comings in the editing and staging notable when the group try to pass through a fence damaged by a jeep it loses its lustre and logic.

With Resident Evil (2002) Hive like rooms and an impending countdown to doom. Its far from a DTV or SYFY film. The issue with Rezort is not that its derivative, it’s just not slick enough or able to focus on a potential bleak tone or its unique and interesting aspects making it feel more like the entertaining Cockney Versus Zombies (2012) without the comedy rather than the Day of the Dead it should be.

Still the Michael Crichton themes with robots and dinosaur replaced for zombies makes Rezort worth watching just for the living dead hell of it.

Split Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

Three girls are kidnapped by a man and must try and escape before a frightful personality The Beast comes to get them.

With hints Red Dragon (2002) and echoes of Sybil (1976/2007) with a touch of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director, writer M. Night Shyamalan offers an interesting thriller. James McAvoy delivers a performance of a life time as Kevin who has 23 distinct personalities and one additional one, that all play off against each other, even imitating each other at one point. After kidnapping three girls and keeping them locked up in a cellar, surprisingly it is the edgy visits to his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, wonderfully played by Betty Buckley that provides the most tension as you never know when he is going to snap.

The slow undercurrent build up is Split’s strength as the girls attempt to escape and we get to know many of Kevin’s personas, Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / The Beast / Kevin Wendell Crumb / Barry / Orwell / Jade. While McAvoy’s 9 year old doesn’t ring as true as the other characters he encompasses, the distinction between each is impressive. Especially the 24th personality which builds up like a High Noon (1952) showdown. Anya Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke has a developed character and poignant story arc but always feel second to McAvoy.

The worn on location feel works, a cellar, long corridors, city apartments and a zoo, Shyamalan’s realistic setting has become a staple of his work, which helps draw you into the story. Two of the kidnapped girls feel under developed but possibly Shyamalan purposely does this for the viewer to focus on the third and in bid for you to sympathise with her and Kevin.

With a Bruce Willis cameo, the post story twist of sorts will be lost on anyone who hasn’t seen one particular film of Shyamalan. And to be honest unless you love this particular film or have a great memory, it will probably annoy rather than entice. That said, all that comes before draws the viewer in. Right down to Dr. Fletcher assessment of what advantage split personalities can have and its application. Fletcher concludes that ‘they’ may something more.

Although a mash-up of other films, thanks to McAvoy and Buckley it stands out from most in the genre. Shyamalan’s atmosphere and attention to detail gives it some gravitas. Overall, worth watching for McAvoy’s performance(s) alone.

*** This review may contain T-Virus spoilers ***

Humanity is on its last legs and Alice after being betrayed by Wesker has one last chance to end the Umbrella Corporation’s plan of world domination.

With writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson again helming the chair, the alleged sixth and final chapter never manages to recreate the pace, horror hi-jinx or atmosphere of 2002’s Resident Evil, yet, tonally The Final Chapter comes closer than any of the meandering stylised sequels.

Anderson (arguably wisely) sidesteps the teased epic fantasy war setting of its predecessor with this instalment set in the aftermath of Retribution. The full-blown war is dropped in favour to feature on a few remaining monsters and focus on the impending infected zombie horde. Anderson borrows George Romero’s Dead Reckoning-like vehicle under Dr Isaac’s (Iain Glen) control and Alice (Milla Jovovich) must get back to The Hive to release an antivirus and stop the outbreak with help from The Red Queen played notably by Milla/Anderson’s very own daughter Ever.

The Final Chapter will appease fans who loved the action orientated sequels but it also goes some way satisfying those who enjoyed the first film. Anderson offers littered Event Horizon and the original Resident Evil’s jump scares in the ominous moments. In amongst the edited (faster than the Bourne Identity series put together) imaginative action there’s a little character development. Paul Haslinger’s pumping synth score is fitting and enhances the action as well as the few and far between quieter moments.

While it’s a pity actors Colin Salmon, Michelle Rodriguez and others couldn’t return given the stories clone themed story line, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Ali Larter’s Claire Redfield return from previous entries. Both Roberts and Larter both look more at ease here in the mostly darkly lit well crafted sets.

With usual strong screen presence Jovovich is on fine form and the fights are fantastic if a little too frantically paced. Although some aged makeup is below par and the CGI is ropey at times Anderson offers a genuinely surprising twist which delivers a fitting close to the Alice character.

That said, the maker leaves enough room for another horror orientated follow up or overblown 3D actioner – hopefully the latter. Either way it ends the series on a high more rounded note.