Sunday, 25 November 2012

Review : The Walking Dead Season 3 - Episode 6 - Hounded

(BEWARE, HERE BE SPOILERS....There will only be spoilers regarding the episode. This review is based solely on the show. Hope you enjoy - Kyle )

After five blistering episodes on the trot that dealt with internal and external rot, both of characters and of civil and moral direction, we finally arrive at the crossroads. This episode is may admirably juggle a whole slew of plotlines,(never dropping the ball once), but at the end of the day, its all about the beginnings of convergence.

So far, this season has been pretty damn merciless in putting its characters through an emotional and ethical wringer, and just when we figured we had the chance to come up for some clean air, unpolluted by the dead and the dying, we're thrust right into the story proper.

the characters are all established, the cards are mostly on the table, and the chessboard is set up for some wonderfully contrast and comparison between our two groups. One one side, we have our long-time companions, Rik and gang, and on the other, of course, we have the ever-festering core of the Woodbury apple. Its been a long time coming, not that we noticed, but an unstoppable force is about to encounter and immovable object, and its gonna be great.

We're not there yet, though.

No, this week is all about setup, and what a setup it is. Any questions regarding the ease of Michonne's departure from Phillips all-American deathtrap is settled immediately, with a tense, satisfyingly violent and even funny sequence which shows that our Katana wielding bad-girl is every bit as at home slicing and dicing the more mobile scum and villainy that pepper the apocalypse as she is the shuffling dead. Her wordless punchline to Merle's cynical comment to his nervous group is a perfect crowd-pleaser moment, and once again, the building if this character takes place not with words, but with actions. Michonne remains something of a mystery, but through her manoeuvres, her smarts and her well-honed killing skills, we're slowly coming to understand who this gal is. By the end of the episode, we've learnt she's not above asking for help, even if she will never say it out loud. Like all of our survivors, from Phillip to Rik, and from Daryl to Merle, theres a human being deep down under the hardened shell, scared to show itself for fear of the pack.

Well, maybe not Merle...

The big guy has been far more reserved this season than in the first, and it's a wise move to go this route. Sure, the racist sonofabitch was on crack or some shit when we met him, and wasn't exactly in a contemplative mood, but to keep the character at that level would have hurt the story being told. For one thing, Phillip would have put the fucker down on sight.

His cruelty and devious nature is still there in full force, though, as displayed by his cold-blooded solution to the 'Michonne' problem. Killing that kid may cover your tracks for now, Merle, but you can bet its gonna come back and bite you in the ass big time when your boss learns of your lie. We still haven't really seen what The Gov in truly capable of, but we have seen you do your thing, and if a supreme badass like yourself is scared of this guy, then frankly, so am I.


Speaking of the Gov, his true nature continues to surprise and confound. He's two parts gentle, intelligent leader and one part rage-fuelled, simmering psychosis, and is so well-versed at hiding his more base nature, that its easy to see how one would follow such a person. More and more, Phillip is calling to mind a perfect storm of cultish appeal and political savvy.

Rik's descent continues this week with a dark night of the soul following Lori's death. The scenes by that ringing phone managed to keep us guessing right until the conclusion. What begins as a dark, frightening look at a man breaking down, ends up becoming a tender passage of redemption. If last week we shed tears of despair in the wake of the most recent losses, this week, mercifully, we shed some tears of happiness. Seeing Rik with his kid is a beautiful moment. we know its going to be short-lived, but in a tale this bleak, these little glimmers of light sure do satisfy.

I mentioned way back at the beginning of this review, that HOUNDED is dealing with convergence, and its in the final scenes that we begin to reach our inevitable destination as Rik and crew's fate draws ever nearer. The groups are beginning to merge, with Glen and Maggie on one side, and Michonne on the other. Whats to come remains anyone's guess, but we can be sure of one thing....there will be blood.

Now that all the pieces are in place, it looks like we're all set for one hell of a showdown. HOUNDED lays the much necessary groundwork for future episodes, while maintaining the chaos, tension, heart and heartache that we all expect from the show.

Daryl finding Carol, and Rik finding himself may tempt us to hope, but the sight of a desperate Michonne standing among walkers at the prison gate heralds the coming of much worse, much more human danger. Hang in there, Glen and Maggie, I think I see your friends coming, riding many miles.

No score required. THE WALKING DEAD abides....

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Review : Hellgate (2011)

 

Director:

John Penney

Writer:

John Penney

Stars:

Liz Burnette, Cary Elwes and John Henbest

This is a real shame..

I only learned about HELLGATE two days prior to its VOD release and I know they say you should never judge a book by it's cover;but that's exactly what I did with this one. Not just its cover, mind you, but its title. I'm a sucker for all things hellbound, and the artwork led me to believe that this would be the sort of film that comes along all to rarely, a hell-set horror with some real bite. Once again...I'm let down by my none-to-unrealistic expectations.

I've never understood why it seems so difficult to portray a valid hellscape onscreen. Its been portrayed with amazing vision and detail in many ways by many writers, (perhaps the most visionary being that of Edward Lee in his INFERNAL series(. There have been a few cinematic exceptions, of course...HELLRAISER and its sequel spring immediatly to mind, but for every film that proffers us a glimpse of Satan's crib, there's ten that promise so much but never bring the goods. Look at the otherwise excellent THE NINTH GATE. I waited two hours to catch a peek at the goods and all I got was bright light. How about DRAG ME TO HELL, which teased us with demonic imagery but never let us see the actual 'dragging' per-se, (and no...three seconds of bad CG doesn't count). Even CONSTANTINE, which portrays a very christian hellscape, only spends a few minutes there. Its not fair, man. I want me some hell to chew on.

HELLGATE doesnt even bother trying to depict any kind of hell at all, although on viewing, it becomes clear that there's no real reason to. The title is very misleading, you see, (it was originally titled SHADOWS, which while pretty poor, is far more accurate). Nope, HELLGATE is, for two thirds of its plat-time, a run-of-the-mill ghost story told, sadly, with little-to-no panache, creative zeal or verve. Its not a terrible film by any means...it's just so devoid of any real creative energy.

The plot revolves around some fella (Cary Elwes) who barely survives a terrible car crash in which his kid and his sexy Taiwanese wife are killed to bits. As he undergoes his recovery, (with help from an equally hot Taiwanese nurse...I really need to visit this place), he begins to experience visions...from beyond the grave!!! Stop me if you've heard this before. The premise here is mildly spiced up by adding some ritualistic silliness (by way of a severely slumming William Hurt), that may or may not have a basis in the regions traditional spiritualism, and the final thirty minutes does pick up visually and creatively, but its not enough to elevate this story from the mire. Its just too familiar, guys. Sorry.

I wont lie, Im a very easy scare when its comes to ghosts, apparitions and the paranormal, but HELLGATE couldn't muster one chill from me. For any genre fan, every scare will be old-hat, and every annoying jump-scare will be telegraphed way ahead of time, (seemingly on purpose by use of a grating, droning sound). The characters are very flat, the script is bare bones, and we never care one iota for the fates of these guys and girls. Elwes is a horror staple thanks to the SAW series, but he's not an actor with enough gravitas to pull something meaningful out of so little. I like the guy, and I believed him in SAW, but I'm never convinced by his performance here. Hurt fares better simply by being Hurt, but he too has nothing to work with. He convinces with ease, but there's nothing for the audience to hold onto.

Instead of character dynamics and intellect, we get fast-cut jump scares, some loud bangs, and a great deal of that shaky-head thing that JACOBS LADDER done so well, and that every other film has botched ever since. It just doesn't cut it. I really do believe that all involved tried to make a frightening film, but it never grips.

There are a few positives though...the film looks beautiful, (not least in its lead actress), and features some stunning scenery from the locations in and around Bangkok, and the ritualistic nature of certain scenes as the film moves from Bustling Bangkok to its jungle bound finale is mildly diverting, but that's about it, folks.

Theres really not much more to say about HELLGATE. It's really something of a non-entity. It doesn't insult and it may contain a few scares for the younger teen audience, but its a pretty hard work to slog through if your in any way horror-centric. I hate to say it, and I wish all the goodwill in the world to its creators, but I have to admit that it commits the most cardinal sin in the realm of horror...it's boring.

(And if you wanna check out some finer entries in our genre, head over to LOVEFILM, where you can watch movies online, anytime and as often as you wish, just skip this one).
 
3.5 Shaker-makers out of 10 


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 5 - Say the Word



Here be SPOILERS. Watch the episode before reading, guys.

Its five for five from THE WALKING DEAD so far, as the shows third season continues to startle, stun, shock and surprise. SAY THE WORD is yet another winner of the highest calibre.

After our opening scene, which ranks amongst the most disturbing and heartbreaking of the entire series, we're immediately thrust into the now dangerously fractured mind of one Rik Grimes; and the man isn't doing so good...

The episode begins almost as soon as last weeks KILLER WITHIN ended, with Rik suffering from shell shock after the death of his wife. Most startling about this opening scene is that Rik's pained vocalising of last week has rapidly been replaced with dead silence. The man says nothing at all this week as he goes about the business of violently externalising his agony. His one word comes at the very end, (and it's couldn't come at a better time), but his actions speak volumes as he sets off into the prison on a vengeful rampage, essentially mowing down all the walkers he sets eyes on. This is Rik as we've never seen him before...completely, frighteningly fucked up. Whether his insanity is temporary remains to be seen, but whats surely a certainty is that the trust that his group has put in him is going to be severely tested in the future, especially for Glen. Rik's morality and civility is crumbling before our very eyes now. Strangely, while all the fans clamoured for this level of darkness in the show, (and in Rik), is damned depressing to watch the leader of the group disintegrate this way.

Rik's been on a very dark path since way back. It could be argued that his descent began when he chose to step up and pull the trigger on Sofia, but I believe it was with the murder of his best friend that the rot truly started to settle in his bones. I have no doubt that he's still a good man inside, but he's fast losing all that he fought to hold onto...as murder and death become an everyday occurrence, his sense of right and wrong, and the vast grey areas in between, are tearing him apart. Add to this the loss of someone so dear to him, (and one of his only real anchors to hope, despite his recent coldness toward her), and its becoming clear that the once stoic and trusted leader may be becoming the most dangerous thing in the prison. I hope he can pull himself back from the abyss.

Rik's outwardly feral rampage this week is smartly contrasted with the events in Woodbury, as the Gov and his people are preparing for a special night of partying and celebrating their small victories over the encroaching apocalypse. Andrea and Michonne, (who shows some much needed character depth here), are still at loggerheads over just what this community truly represents, and it all comes to a head this week, as Michonne does some amateur investigatory work, and finds herself some zombie-pens, and a pointedly strange journal in the office of the big guy himself. Its all great stuff and once again, David Morrissey is brilliant as The Gov, (especially in the moments when he wrongly suspects Michonne knows of his daughter), but the real meat is this episode is an intellectual one, as the lines are being surprisingly blurred between Rik and the man who will surely become his nemesis.

Both men have many striking similarities...they are both family men, who have both lost too much to bare. They both appear willing to do anything to keep their families, (and their people) alive, including the killing of practically anyone who may, (and the key word is 'may', here), be a threat. Both men are driven by demons that seem too powerful to defeat, and both are born leaders.

The differences are as sublime as the parallels...Rik wears his emotions on his sleeve for all the world to see. The Gov hides it behind a winning smile and a charming demeanour. Rik struggles to continue to do what he believes is the right thing, (even though it most likely caused the death of his wife), whereas The Gov has accepted the moral decay that this new world demands, and is using his rage to conquer at any cost. Both men have a deep desire to look after their people, but they're motivations and methods appear to be eons apart.

The real crux of these characters and their dynamics is that neither man is entirely good, or entirely bad. The Gov may simply just be a little father down the line than Rik. After all, we know whats become of his firstborn...

SAY THE WORD throws up some pretty unexpected questions for the viewer...not least of which being, 'Who would I rather stand with? Rik or Phillip?'

Its a question I never expected to be asking myself, and as yet I'm unsure of the answer. I cant blame The Governor's reaction to his beloved daughter's condition at all. His 'entertainment' this week was initially pretty shocking, but his justification of it rang very true to me. If I had lost my loved ones to the undead, I would want my blood-lust, and my fear, to be satiated. The manner in which The Gov calculates his mastery of the walkers/biters is no more brutal that Rik's axe-swinging carnage. Both are forms of catharsis, both are disgusting, but one of them may actually serve to lift the community from the fear that has paralysed it since the plague began, and that one ain't Rik's.

It's a clear example of a deeply troubled man using his wits and his cunning to overcome the seemingly impossible, and it makes for great leadership. Phillip is clearly a very dangerous individual, and I think we're going to learn just how dangerous very soon. Michonne may have walked free, but for Andrea, it may be too late. There;s much more going on with this charismatic bastard than we're seeing.

If the whole episode is essentially played out as some very exciting and tense food for thought, the final scene is the icing on the cake, and manages to take the show to even more grim depths than before...

As Rik finds a spent casing, and a puddle of his wife's brains, on the floor where she died, he hears moaning and comes across what we quickly realise is a very well-fed zombie. The hair caught in its teeth give away the game....this walker has been feasting on the still warm corpse of his dead wife, and has had quite the bellyful. Rik's actions in these closing moments speak volumes as he not only stares into its dead eyes as he kills it, but he stabs its gut repeatedly. It seems that the Rik who felt sympathy for the first walker he encountered way back in the pilot, is long gone. He's not only seeing these poor creatures as obstacles here...this is deeply personal. Worse still, did anyone else notice the voice that whispers , 'Murder them' just as Rik spots the walker? You may have missed it, but it's there, and if this is Riks inner voice, who is it referring to? The undead, or the people he may hold responsible for his wifes demise. Its very telling that he stabs the zombie is the stomach repeatedly, and the stomach very much resembles a pregnancy. Does he blame the child for Lori's death?

Other scenes in SAY THE WORD point at brief glimmers of light, as we see Darryl step up in Rik's absence. He looks every inch the leader the group needs at this point, and his scenes with the newborn baby are very touching, as is his journey with Maggie through the primary school, where a certain childish decoration opens some old wounds. We still have no word on Carol's whereabouts, though the group believe her dead, and its anyone guess where this thing is going to go next week, but for now, THE WALKING DEAD remains king of the hill.
 
SAY THE WORD may be a less frenetic episode than last weeks heart-stopper, but its every bit as riveting. Makeup legend Nicoterro directs with real flair, and the script is drum-tight. We continue to go from strength to strength in this none-more-bleak epic.  Fight the dead, Fear the living. Indeed....

Oh, and now we finally know what gets Michonne's rocks off. Good play.


You know the score...don't make me write it.


Review : Paranorman (2012)

 

Directors:

Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Writer:

Chris Butler

Stars:

Kodi Smit-McPhee, Anna Kendrick and Christopher Mintz-Plasse

A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse.

Now, I don't pretend to know a great deal about the intricacies of stop-motion, but I sure as hell know what I like, and I'll take stop-motion over CG any day of the week.

Nothing against CG artists...they do an incredible job, but for this old rodeo rider, there's very few things in the world of cinema that can captivate and charm like a solid, traditional animated tale. I grew up with Ray Harryhausen's cavalcade of creatures, and I still return to those magical films regularly...they never fail to resurrect the monster-mad kid that lives in my time-weathered soul. Its even more impressive to view a full film created in stop motion, and few horror fans will proclaim anything but love for A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS and MAD MONSTER PARTY, and its into this very small, but very much loved family that PARANORMAN belongs.

The most obvious and striking thing here is, of course, the visuals. The world in which the tale takes place is simply beautiful to behold.Its pretty hard to grasp the imagination its creators must possess to give such vivid life to these characters and their environments. Normals town is simply brimming with vibrant, ghoulish life. His world is one that's both delightful on the eye, yet strangely warped. Like all good family horror, PARANORMAN implements all the staples of the genre that we often subconsciously love; from ghouls and ghosts, to Ghost-House-luminescent green lighting, fog and gnarled forestry. Its a world peppered with genre in-jokes and a shamelessly geeky understanding of genre cinema. All is shot with an autumnal palette that really gives the film that 'Halloween' flavor.

In short...its a horror fans wet dream, and is sure to elicit gasps of joy from audiences of all ages as we travel deeper into this truly authentic and engrossing world. This ole' geek has no words to describe the admiration I feel for the artists, which makes it all the more saddening that there are so few of these old school movies released these days. If nothing else grabs you in this film, the stop-motion universe sure will suck you into its majesty, and you'll willingly succumb. In recent memory, only TRICK 'R' TREAT has so perfectly encapsulated what makes horror so beloved.

Now, onto the story..

PARANORMAN comes across like a twisted, Gothic fairy tale that melds retro cinema magic with a more cynical, modern bite. In the character of Norman, many horror fans will find real kinship. His bedroom is garbed with all manner of horror memorabilia, and he's something of an outcast in his school life and at home due to his love for all things macabre...who does that remind you of? He even has the HALLOWEEN them as his ringtone.

Okay, so most of us don't communicate with ghosts on a daily basis, but we can all relate to a slightly quirky kid who's tastes flow more easily to the dark side of life. Hes a great lead character, and a surprisingly deep and layered one for an animated family film. There's real warmth and humanity put into these once inanimate models. Take one look at the actors involved, (see above), and as you would imagine, the voice cast are stellar, with the mighty John Goodman stealing the show even in limited capacity as Norman's estranged, and strange, uncle, (who shares Normans gift of communing with the deceased).


And its funny too, in a quirky, slightly queasy way. The jokes are often tinged with black humor, but often hit the mark as Normans world becomes ever more strange. For example, one early scene features the ghost of a family pet that has been sliced in half...the front half trots around behind the back half to sniff its own ass. Some would say its dark, or even distasteful, but I can see kids being delighted by this stuff. Kids are far less fragile than we think, and the many horror/adult elements that the film boasts should be plain sailing for most children. Haunted woods, spooky green witches and the living dead are all, well...kids stuff. The more adult themes, (which are central to the story) of familial acceptance, persecution, grief and injustice are deftly handled and with a real warmth. Our young ones can take it, at least when portrayed in such a gentle manner as they are here.

Don't get me wrong, the film does contain some freakishly tense moments, (for kids, I mean); I'm just saying that that is no bad thing. We all grew up with this sort of stuff. It shaped who we are. We'd be some unbelievable bastards if we didn't allow our little ones the same pleasures. When I think of horror in my head, I don't think of MARTYRS, or I SAW THE DEVIL. As great as those more adult works of horror are, I think of the glorious Technicolor terrors of the classic Hammer Films, or the fog-enshrouded forests of THE WOLFMAN. Childhood is the place where our love of the macabre takes root, and PARANORMAN fits perfectly into that mold. The constantly eerie visuals...the dark humor...the genuine love for horror past and present...the heartfelt message behind the tale...all these things conspire to make this a dead-cert future Halloween classic.

My daughter has only been on this planet for just over a year, and when watching PARANORMAN, only two things kept crossing my mind...1/ This is fucking awesome, and 2/ I can't wait to watch this with my baby girl. You cant really ask for more than that.

The story isn't exactly original, but that's besides the point here. this isn't about originality for all of us. For the kids, sure, but for the adults its all about familiarity and wistful memory. the balance is near perfect. There's also a timely and thoughtful message behind the tale which is easy to grasp for children without being in any way inauthentic. What we got here is a lovely blend of genre excess and emotional subtlety that holds up with the very best family films out there.

PARANORMAN will appeal to all ages. Its charm and wit will win over non-horror fans, and its ghoulish visual pizzazz will have old school fans salivating. Kids will adore and relate to the central character and his offbeat friends,(Mintz-Plasse is particularly hilarious), and the cinephiles will have a confidently crafted, stylishly directed and beautifully scored slice of offbeat cinema to chew on.

If, like myself, you a cineaste, an old school horror fan and a kid, (inside your heart),...well, you just found yourself a new Halloween tradition that just begs to be passed down to the younger generation. PARANORMAN is a fun, bittersweet tale that will captivate and touch audiences of all ages.

9 Witch-Hunters out of 10

Horror Hotel Cinema : 100 Scariest Moments (2003)

Hi folks...Hotel Management here with a long overdue return to the Horror Hotel Cinema...

Tonight, we're going for something a little different. In place of the usual B-Movies, J-Horror and Cult Classics; tonights show will consist of what, if I remember correctly, was a two-part TV show that aired around nine years ago in the UK.

At that time, a vote was taken to try and discover what Britain considered the scariest moments in television and cinema history. The results were often surprising, hugely nostalgic, and served to remind many viewers, (myself included), of some of the moments that chilled our souls as kids in the 80's and beyond. For many, I'm sure it was an educational experience also. I personally have the entire QUATERMASS series sat proudly atop my DVD collection, and I'm not sure it would be there were I to have missed this thing. It ranks among my fave box-sets, and I had never even heard about this legendary, (and still terrifying), BBC serial until I slapped my eyeballs on what you'll find below.

So, settle back for a long, fun-filled trip down memory lane with a look at the 100 SCARIEST MOMENTS, as voted for by the UK. Your in for a real treat, and you'll be meeting a whole host of familiar fiends, including Myers, Kruger, Mrs Voorhees, Sadako, Pinhead and many more. Not to mention it'll make for brilliant debate fodder among you and your more geekish buddies.

Your welcome!


Monday, 12 November 2012

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 4 - Killer Within



Spoilers - Watch the episode before reading on!

We're four episodes into the stellar third season of AMC's THE WALKING DEAD, and the show continues to go from strength to strength with what must surely be the most emotionally impactful episode so far.

Tonight's chapter showed off the shows new-found enormous set of balls in all their glory, by pulling the rug from under us with not one but two completely unexpected deaths. One of which will have real repercussions for the character's foreseeable futures. Not only was tonight's finale a heart-breaker; it was just about as dark and nihilistic as anything I can ever remember witnessing on television.

Lori's devastating farewell to Carl was, no matter where you stand on her character, a true tearjerker. Brutal and tender in equal measure. The woman may have done more wrong than right since the dead began to walk, but damn if I wasn't starting to sympathise with her. It was very sad to her go for a number of reasons. Not least in that her last interaction with her soul mate was a longing look through a jailhouse fence from a distance. No words were spoken, no one got to make amends. Love was not rekindled. The small moment between the two hinted at a possible reunion of the family that will now never be. Rik will never have a chance to make amends, the new born baby has been robbed of a mother, (and maybe a father), and lets not forget Carl...

Its been said before by many involved, that TWD is Carl's story, and with the events of KILLER WITHIN, its very much starting to feel that way. Like Lori, Carl is morphing from vastly annoying to genuinely likable, and as a father, its damn hard not to shed a tear thinking of a child having to kill his own mother. Living in the world he's in; if this kid doesn't grow up to be a psychopath, I'll eat my own sheriff's hat. No kid should have to bear this sort of weight. The use of a flashback during this scene really seals the deal....this boys innocence is gone forever. There wont be any more playing in the sun, or exploring for the sheer joy of it. Nope, it's all business now. He's no longer a kid, (or rather, he's no longer allowed to be a kid). In fact, he's making choices I'm not sure his father could make. The young actor who's playing Carl pulls off the performance too, (no easy feat), and coupled with Lori's final words to the son she loves, and has failed, the scene is a kick in the gut. That said, what then came only got worse.

Rik's reaction to Lori's death, and his realisation that his first born son had put her down, was tender, human and very authentic. Normally in my home country of Scotland, men only ever cry over spilt beer, but if Lori's death didn't completely reduce grown men to bubbling wrecks, this scene was sure to finish the job. Its hard to see where Rik can go from here, other than deeper and deeper into madness. At the moment, I don't see a way for the big guy to fight through this and maintain his spirit. And what in God's name is gonna happen to that poor baby!?

We also lost T-Dog tonight, and while his death was felt far less than Lori's, it still smarted. The big guy was beginning to come into his own this season. I would have liked to get to know him better, (and perhaps that's the effect Mazzara and crew were going for - make the man's death matter more, through the knowledge of what could have been).

While the prison is fraught with terror and chaos in tonight's episode, the scenes in Woodbury play out in sharp contrast, as we get to know the Governor a little better, and spend more time within his seemingly idyllic community. As with previous scenes in this dead-free wonderland, there is a constant undercurrent of darkness and deceit. Its to the creators credit that the town setting actually manages to feel less safe than the prison. TWD is benefiting greatly from these expansions to its mythos. Nowhere feels safe. Even as Andrea and The Gov practically eye-fuck each over over drinks, the sense of dread and ever-deteriorating morality is always present.  If up until tonight this season has been growing steadily more dark'; the lights have now officially gone all the way out.

Even as Woodbury's citizens wander vacantly through their post-apocalyptic paradise, the truth is slowly beginning to the surface, via the ever-resilient fan fave, Michonne. Her character hasn't had a great deal of time to develop up till this point, (I'm sure we'll see that in the near-future), but as far as Woodbury is concerned, she's our eyes and ears. If Andrea is our hope for a better future, Michonne is our cynical paranoid side....the side that usually keeps us safe. This surface-simple burb is teeming with questions, and Michonne is the only one who's asking them. If I were her, I'd be a little less open in expressing my doubts.....if we've learnt anything, its that the Gov is not a man with whom to fuck, (although try telling that to Andrea).

And as for questions...they just keep mounting. Something that's playing on my mind is just who exactly led the dead into the prison yard. We're to believe it was Andrew, but if he was acting alone, then who the hell was watching Carol in the previous episode? And where is Carol anyway?

KILLER WITHIN, as with the rest of this season so far, finds a spot-on balance between intrigue, mystery, building dread and outright horror. This is as bleak as the show has ever been, (even topping Sofia's death), and its just as it should be. I'm gonna have to stop rating this season episode by episode, as its gonna become rather predictable. Yep...its full marks again for the best damn show on television, and the finest zombie epic of all time, bar none. I just hope Rik can hold onto himself in the coming days and weeks, but on THE WALKING DEAD, no one seems safe.

10 Bullet-holes out of 10

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Review : The Walking Dead Season 3 Episode 3 - Walk With Me



After two enthralling weeks spent inside the progressively desperate minds of Officer Rik Grimes and his motley crew of survivors; THE WALKING DEAD takes a bold, first-time venture,( and a risky one at that) By casting its gaze far from the wonderfully bleak prison setting and our long-suffering gang for an entire episode, and focusing on opening up the world in which the tale is set; the risk pays off in dividends. This is one of the very best episodes since the shows debut.

While its initially strange to realise that the only anchors to familiarity in 'Walk With Me', will be Andrea, and to some degree her new best buddy, and fan-favorite, Michonne; we soon settle into this fresh, unfolding story, and it's every bit as engaging as the prison.

We pick up where we left of in the season premier with Michonne and Andrea struggling day to day to keep breathing. Andrae is dangerously ill, and no place feels safe. When they spot a downed helicopter and investigate, they find they are not teh only souls out there in the rot and ruin who are curious about the crash. Two cars pull up, and out step a group of well armed, healthy looking and potentially deadly men. Its a thrilling opening.

Not least because, finally, we meet the man himself....The Governor.

Its been a long time coming. Fans have been salivating for this most infamous of villains for quite some time now, and he doesn't disappoint. Needless to say, he's portrayed with perfect poise and predatory menace by David Morrisey. What we have here is perhaps the shows most complex and layered character so far. This is no black and white bad guy. He's all shades of grey...equal parts charming and dedicated politico and cold-hearted psychopathic bastard. A very hard man to read.

In fact, for most of the episode, those unaware of just who this guy is, will most likely find him perfectly likable, even admirable. Some of you may still feel the same way come the episodes chilling and surprising finale. Getting a bead on this guy is like catching mist in the palm of your hand. Where the character will go is unknown, but its a tantalizing prospect having this particular leader bump heads with Rik

After all, we soon learn that somehow, this particular community leader has managed to reclaim a small slice of cicilisation. He has created a well-gaurded community with no less than seventy three members, including women, children and even family pets. He has electricty up and running. Fresh water. A medical team. A well-trained and well armed team of guards, (including a familiar face to long-time viewers), and a safe and idyllic way of life awaiting those he chooses to bring into the fold.

Alternativly, Rik has a filthy prison block, very little food, ten or so survivors, no direction, a rapidly deteriorating sense of civility and for a medical outfit, he has a one-legged, half-dead veterinarian and a grieving mother who performs caesarian sections on zombies. Its easy to choose which team you may wanna play for, given the opportunity....

Though things are not what they seem in the picture perfect town on Woodbury. Safety and comfort come at a cost, as we come to realize in a shocking and powerful scene that, in effect, re-introduces this mysterious 'Governor' in a more true form. This is a man who's willing to do anything to protect his people, or is that to protect his power?

Thats the beauty of such a character...we have no idea, (unless we're readers of the comics, of course. And that aint no gaurentee, either), of where this guy is going. So far, he's a moral conundrum. Dedicated and driven, but by what? Hints at a past tragedy suggest this may be a damaged soul looking to do some good in this brave new world, but we all now how power corrupts, and in a town where the hierarchy goes unquestioned; tyranny can easily find a dark place to nestle.

The episode ends on some chilling imagery that poses more questions than it answers about this enigmatic, imposing man, and it leaves us breathless to know more.

Throw into the mix a creepy scientist, a susceptible Andrea, and the first real scenes of character development for the fierce Michonne, and you have a stone cold winner that points to a very bright and emotionally and intellectually engaging future for the show.

There is very little zombie action in 'Walk With Me', and its a good thing. The first two episodes were action heavy, and while its a blast, we want to know these people. This one is all character and story. If the pace is slowed down, the sense of dread and trepidation is sped up, and our understanding of whats at stake living in this nightmare world, is deepened.

THE WALKING DEAD season three continues its stellar run and has found the seemingly perfect balance of action and suspense, and is only growing more thrilling, and dark, with each progressive episode. The show has hit its stride and then some. With the world opening up to endless possibilities for moral and physical conflict, and with Rik's first truly formidable opponent looming large over proceedings, the show can only go from strength to strength.

Fight the dead by all means, but for Gods sake, fear the living...

All hail The Governor.

10 Aquariums out of 10

Review : The Bay (2012)


Director:

Barry Levinson

Stars:

Kristen Connolly, Jane McNeill and Christopher Denham
 
Those among you looking for an antidote to the tired and tiresome onslaught of inept. ambition-free found footage horror totally squanders the sub-genres inherent ability to disquiet; need look no further. THE BAY is by far the most disturbing, unpleasant, gripping and downright horrific found footage film in many a moon, perhaps ever.

Playing out as a documentary, created and compiled from a huge number of video sources, THE BAY takes the faux-documentary sub-genre and combines it with large scale outbreak movies such as last years brilliant CONTAGION, to create an almost unbearably convincing slice of ecological horror. This is the sort of film that will turn many off. Its repulsive in its unflinching depiction of a viral outbreak spreading throughout an idyllic community, and is relentless in its desire to terrorise the viewer. Yet this is what true horror is aiming for. Its all too realistic, and it may destroy your appetite for the foreseeable future, but its an endurance test worth taking, to witness just how effective found footage horror can be when done right.

THE BAY opens, somewhat disconcertingly, with real-life media footage from a few years back. Some of you may remember a couple of years ago, there was an unexplainable phenomena occurred in the US, as thousands of birds simply dropped from the skies dead. The government handed out some ludicrous explanations, and the public, or at least those who were less well-informed, bought the bullshit. To this day, there has never been a solid, or believable explanation for the avian deaths, at least not from the 'authorities'.

Review : Paranormal Lack of Activity 4 (2012)



Authors Note : First of all, lemme just say HAPPY HALLOWEEN to everyone!

Sorry it's so belated, but my Internet was down for an extended period of time, and unfortunately, it happened just as our fave time of year came calling. So be it, gotta take the rough with the smooth, man. I did manage to watch a ridiculous amount of Horror during the season, as is my duty and my passion, and have a tidy little backlog of films to set about reviewing, (including, of course, THE WALKING DEAD S3E3). Bear with me folks. Now, onto the first of this months reviews....

Oh, and this review/rant will feature some spoilers, as its impossible to detail the films myriad flaws without exploring some of the plots more ridiculous twists. I'll keep the spoilers to a minimum, guys, although there's really nothing to spoil.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, should you not already be aware of this, is a full-tilt  disaster. I'll just throw that out there right off the bat for anyone who may be about to make the dire mistake of paying to see this nonsense. I'll give my reasons why its such a mess in due time, but in the slim chance your glancing at this review just as your putting on your jacket and heading for the door; mark my words.....do NOT pay to see this thing.

Buy something nice for your better half. Buy some Scotch and drink yourself good-looking. Hell, give your money to that homeless fella with the winning smile outside your local cornershop. I guarantee you'll feel better about yourself for doing it, and he deserves it a fuck-sight more than the makers of this franchise killer, even if he is sniffing bath-salts.

Speaking of the franchise; I'm a fan, by the way...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 2 -Sick




!POSSIBLE SPOILERS!

Rik and the gang has successfully cleared out C-Block, but a new problem arises as they discover they're not alone in the Prison...

Any doubts regarding the huge leap in quality this season should be put to bed with this, the second episode. It made sense that last weeks debut would be a relentless thrill-ride, but no one expected the quality of the writing to ascend so high so quickly. As great as the opener was, for many, worries still lingered. Could the pace be kept up, could the tension be maintained, could the characters continue with this new found sense of purpose? The answer is yes. Shame on all you doubters. It ain't all zombies, but it sure as hell is all tension.

After leaving us on one hell of a cliffhanger last week in seasons 3's opening episode, THE WALKING DEAD returns and gives no quarter in its new found merciless mission to kill by suspense. After Hershell got himself chewed on, (which messed with my head very badly, as he's my fave member of the group), and Rik lopped off the better part of his leg, we were quickly introduced to the remaining prisoners, and straight away we're thrust back into the moment, full-tilt-boogie.

It's okay, you can admit it...many of you assumed that what we would have here would be a moral dilemma that would take perhaps three or four episodes to conclude. Much like the fence kid in Season 2, you figured Rik would spend days or weeks ruminating on the spiritual implications of 'survival of the fittest'. Hell, I adore this show, but I sorta expected it myself. Not happening, though...THE WALKING DEAD is no longer treading water.

Nope, this particularly tension-fuelled situation is resolved by the end of the episode, in the most satisfying and brutal fashion imaginable. If there were any of us left in any doubt about Rik's continuing rise to the position of badass leader, this should put that shit back in the bag. Most of the episode deals with how Rik will handle the problem of living beside some potentially dangerous criminals. and this time, he handles it like a boss. as we cheer him on, our hearts break for him as his humanity starts to truly dwindle. This ain't the upstanding cop of yesteryear, and the toll of this new world is really starting to show. It's making for riveting viewing.

The suspense in these scenes is incredible as the viewer shares a palpable sense of uncertainty with Rik and the boys. The spectre of sudden violence looms large throughout the episode, and when the levee breaks, it's hugely satisfying.

In contrast to these hyper-tense scenes, we had the situation with my man, Hershell, as the group battle desperately to save his life. There are some deeply affecting moments here. One in particular, wherein Maggie urges her father to find his peace while her heart quietly breaks, is truly a four-tissue- problem, and the conclusion to this story strand is as heartwarming and gentle as the prisoner subplot is vicious and cold. All in all, it's quite the roller-coaster.

Lori continues her transformation into something resembling a compassionate human, and has some of the very best moments this episode, but the real treat here is Carol, who has gone from depressive mouse to authoritative, determined and pro-active. She's one of the groups most positive members now. I feel like I'm living in Homer J Simpson's 'Opposite Land', and I don't wanna fucking leave.

Its official now...I'm calling it. THE WALKING DEAD has found its true footing. The blend of action, terror and drama is pitch perfect. This episode was fast and furious, yet lost none of the character nuance and depth that we've come to love and expect from the show. The dialogue is sharper, the violence hits harder and the surprises just keep coming. No cliffhanger this week, just a quiet, touching moment between Rik and his estranged wife, wherein his actions speak volumes and his emotional isolation becomes very clear.

One thing though....who is that watching Carol from the woods, as she works on the walker? I gotta know, dammit!

Is next week here yet?

10 Z-Sections out of 10

Friday, 19 October 2012

Review : Wrong Turn 5 (2012)



WRONG TURN 5?

Did I miss the memo or something?

Last time I looked there was a WRONG TURN 2. I had no idea there was a Part 3 or a Part 4, or if I did, come across them, I may have blanked out the memory. Some shit is too painful to carry around in this world, so perhaps I'm suffering from some post traumatic head-fuck. Who knows.

Hell, maybe their worthwhile slasher films. The second one sure was. Plenty of fun to be had in that low-budget romp through the backwoods. In fact, in many ways it rose above the original. It lacked the tension that WRONG TURN boasted, but in taking itself way less seriously, it made for perfectly demented fun. A six-beer movie, best enjoyed while baked and with equally immature buddies.

Perhaps three and four follow suite. I'll need to look into it.

The law of diminishing returns dictates that each sequel will more than likely be a paired down version of what worked previously. Seems unlikely the second ones creativity could carry through to two more movies, never mind three. Such was my thinking...and that brings us to this installment.

In WRONG TURN 5, we find ourselves joining the revelers at the 'Mountain Man Festival', a music festival that we are informed is rivaling Lollopalooza in terms of size and crowd. Its held at Halloween, and the partygoers tend to dress up in fancy costumes, often as inbred redneck hillbillies. Meanwhile, deep in the surrounding woods, a trio of cannibals in badly designed inbred make-up are being raised by a relative and patriarch, (played by Pinhead, himself, if you can believe that shit). When some of the festival kids find themelves arrested alongside dear old Daddy, his boys come valiantly to his rescue. As the ugly bastards go about their jailbreak, the two parties clash in seriously violent fashion...


WRONG TURN 5 was nowhere near as awful as I assumed it would be. Perhaps my low expectations helped in swallowing this junk-food in one bite, but it really wasn't too painful an experience at all. Its cheesy as hell with some atrocious acting, (though not always) and is about as scary as STUART LITTLE, but it does relish in the violence, and at least tries to do something original with its worn down characters.

Speaking of which, I'm a little confused. Are these the same hillbilly face-chewers from the first and second film, because one of them looks just like the rat-faced mutant from part one? I'm guessing its simply a case of designing with familiarity in mind, but I can't say for sure. Again, I have to mention the makeup on these bozo's. THE WALKING DEAD this ain't. These mutant chaps look like their wearing cheap Halloween masks fashioned on the monster designs from the previous films. In short, they look like shit, but even this works in the films favor, as its very believable that these jokers could mingle with the costumed revelers without anyone believing their actually mutants. They fit in just fine with the festival folk, because they look every bit as shitty. Genius or ineptitude on the creators part? No idea...

There's very artistry on display here, and next to no tension, but the kills are vicious, often unexpected and the effects are handled pretty well, (with less reliance on cheap CG than many low-budget genre films these days). Call me a reprobate, but watching one of our mutants gutting a gal and feeding her her own intestines while a soft rock ballad plays in the background, is pretty damn entertaining. And a  scene featuring two trapped kids, a football field and a huge lawnmower is so way over the top its impossible not to laugh out loud. Very messy. Perhaps I was raised wrong.

Doug Bradley is great fun too...overacting like a hero, and spending most of the movie laughing his ass off 'evilly' and letting everyone know they're deader than disco when his clan comes to break him out of jail.  He's like a more pro-active harbinger. I always think of this cat as being very classy, and seeing him in a goofy-ass role like this is a blast.

The people who made WRONG TURN 5 knew what they were getting into. They know this ain't anything other than a good time. Kids will love it for the boobs and body parts, growth-stunted adults such as myself will enjoy it for the shameless sense of trashy fun. I found the whole thing hilarious. I mean, how often do you get to see a mutant cannibal hillbilly jailbreak?

Make no mistake, this is pure cheese. Nonsense of the lowest order, but its just dumb enough to be a riot if your in the right mood. It scores points for being the fifth film in a series and not sucking like a rent-boy. I'll maybe even go back and watch three and four now. Maybe.

And has anyone noticed how 'Rat-Mutants' insane giggling sounds just like the Jockey in LEFT 4 DEAD 2? Creepy....

6 Hair-lips out of 10

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Review : Smiley (2012)

 

Director:

Michael J. Gallagher

Stars:

Caitlin Gerard, Melanie Papalia and Shane Dawson

Theres an urban legend going around the college campus, wherein if your in a web-chat and type 'I did it for the lulz' three times, the person your chatting with will meet a grisly end at the hands of a masked figure known only as 'Smiley', who will appear behind them and fuck up their day. Two college gals, one a party gal and the other a good gal, decide to try it out, and come to wish they hadn't...

Theres been a good deal of excitement within the horror community regarding SMILEY; and its all been based on one sole component of the movie...the killers appearance. Masked slashers are ten a penny, good masked slashers are a far rarer breed, and the resident psycho in this here indie flick really does look the part. Which is good, because apart from one or two bright spots, his image is the only worthy thing this vastly disappointing film has going for it. Shame the suckers only on screen for somewhere around thirty seconds throughout the entire movie.

And SMILEY had so much potential too. It has a very clever concept at its centre, regarding an urban legend that's part A.I, part CANDYMAN. It has the techno-horror elements set in place, and its riding the zeitgeist of our Internet obsessed society, where every sort of darkness and depravity is a mouse-click away. It really should be a great time.

So what went so wrong?

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Review : The Barrens (2012)


A family man takes his wife and two kids on a camping trip into the wilds of New Jersey, with the intent to heal broken familial bonds and come to terms with the death of someone near and dear to him. No sooner has the fella and his tribe arrived, he starts seeing and hearing things, and comes to believe that the local legend of the 'Jersey Devil' may be much more than just a legend...

I felt a little guilty writing that synopsis. I really did. The reason why I felt so guilty is that THE BARRENS is not exactly a monster movie, and should never have been sold as one. A clearer and more accurate blurb for the film would be, 'one man goes shit-throwing crazy in the woods, while his family feel the fear'. This strange and uneven little horror tale is very much set in the genre of psychological thriller. I'm not spoiling anything for you guys, as its clear from ten minutes in that our lead is more than a little unhinged. Yes, they may or may not be a mythical beast involved, but this certainly isn't a film about said beastie. If you go in expecting the infamous Jersey Devil to be given its due, you'll be sorely dissapointed.

You have to hand it to director Bousman, (MOTHERS DAY, 11-11-11). He really does groove to his own tune. Despite flirting with the mainstream with SAW 3, he's since set out to make the movies and tell the stories that he wants to tell. It's admirable, if occasionally unsuccessful. His last film, 11-11-11, was cut off at the legs by some dreadful editing, but it it was clear that buried somewhere on the cutting room floor was a tense and original film. It shouldve been great, instead...it was a failure. THE BARRENS is certainly a good step up from that film, but we're once again faced with a work that is perhaps somewhat less than the sum of its parts.

I won't lie...when I heard about this film I envisioned a Laymonseque camping trip from hell, filled with old school violence, vicious maneaters, death by campfire and all round badassery. Thats just how my mind works. Its true that my disappointment may have colored my impression of the film, but I'm gonna try to leave this out of the equation and give this baby its dues on its own merits. Its a good film, and makes great use of a limited budget, but there are some problems...

The main problem with Bousman's latest lies in its storytelling.  It has some very accomplished performances, not least from its lead, and the entire family are interesting and likable, but something was lost in the writing. We know from the very start that the father is losing his grip on reality. Some poorly telegraphed dream sequences, ( I hate those damn things), give the game away right from the starting line, not to mention the mans propensity for looking alternately terror stricken or hate-filled, even when chilling with fellow campers and listening to some cool ghost stories. From the early scenes, we may not understand why this guy is where he is, but we see it clear as day, and it removes us from the story to find that his family seem, if not oblivious to his condition, then at least willfully blind to the severity of the poor bastards state. It seems a trite nonsensical that no one raises their arms early on in this film and procliams, 'Look man, lets just go fucking home already, and maybe fix Daddy up with a psychiatrist!'. This camping fiasco is doomed before the first sleeping bag is unrolled.

The pacing in the early scenes doesnt help either. Were it clear that this was a psychological study of dementia, then this wouldnt be a problem, but the chances are, most have come for some monster madness, and as its somewhere near forty five minutes before anything resembling real 'horror' occurs, it'll most likley leave a portion of genre viewers cold. Its a shame really, as if you stick with it, and if your aware of what your actually watching, THE BARRENS really starts to pick up in the second half. The fathers condition becomes clear and a true sense of threat enters the tale, perhaps from within the family, perhaps from without. You've come to care for this dysfunctional bunch quite a bit, and its in the finale that we get to the bloody heart of the matter. I wont say its too little too late, as the film is an accomplished work in many ways, its just that we aint getting what we paid for.


The locations that Bousman has chosen are stunning, and its in this one aspect that my expectations were fully met. I may not have gotten my cheap n cheerful Laymon style madness, but I sure as hell dug the woodland scenery. Its a truly beautiful film to look at. Despite its lack of real scares, the entire movie has the sort of killer atmosphere that you only seem to  find in 80's backwoods slashers, especially during a scene around a campfire, and the rain-soaked finale, both of which really shone. Bousman has the eye and the insight to create great horror, he just has to smooth out the editing, writing and pacing a little more.

As I write this, I'm coming to appreciate the film more for what it is. I'll be rating this one on a 'first veiwing' basis, but had my entrance to the film been of a different sort, I'm positive I would enjoy it a good deal more. In fact, I'm confident that this is a film that will be much more satisfying on second viewing than on first. Feel free to add an extra point to my rating for second viewing,

To summarize...THE BARRENS is a well told tale that simply makes the mistake of not setting its stall in the early scenes. It has bags of atmosphere, some creepy moments, great, (if occasionally overwrought), performances, and some nice twists along the way to keep you on your toes. Gore-hounds will find some kicks in the finale, and those who enjoy a good 'descent into lunacy' tale will find plenty to chew on. Is it a movie about man or monster? I ain't gonna divulge that information, but its in no way a proper look at the Jersey Devil. If you guys go in with the right attitude, you may come out pleasantly surprised. Go in with the wrong one and it may be a whole different story, much like THE BARRENS itself.

6 Gutted Deer out of 10 


Monday, 15 October 2012

Review : The Walking Dead - Season 3 Episode 1 -Seeds (2012)



It looks like the writers and creators of THE WALKING DEAD have been listening to the fan's concerns, and listening good...

I don't mean the haters or the trolls; those strange creatures will continue to pick apart anything and everything that the rest of us love about this phenomenal show. No, I'm talking about the real fan's... the people, and we are legion, who are critical without being ridiculous.

It's no secret that a lot of folk's out there were turned off to some degree by season 2 of the show. Myself, I loved it like I love my jerky, but I can admit that it had some pacing issues and some of the writing was a little uneven. I had no problem with the episodes that featured a sparsity of the munching dead, and I came to care for all the right characters and find frustration with all the wrong ones. Shane was a fascinating guy, as were Darryl and Rik. I had a few issues with Carl's worth, but lets face it, he was a kid; scared and untrained. Lori was the cat who caused the most scratches on the couch, and while I often couldn't abide her actions, I found it easy to go along with her uneven behaviour. After all, I've never been in a fucking zombie apocalypse, so who am I to judge?

Still, while my love and admiration for the show and the cast never diminished, (and I've yet to meet anyone outside of an Internet forum who feels any different), the show clearly had the potential to rise to even greater heights.

With the opening episode of season 3, it's looks like it's reached them.

Glen Mazzara and his team are now in full control of the show, and this, let it be said, is a very good thing. There was a notable increase it quality in the last season when these guys took over, and its clear that its continuing into this new chapter of our tale of survival, moral disintegration and death. The show feels entirely fresh, with a much more focused intent on character nuance, action and suspense. This time, it all just feels much more balanced.


Now, I know its only one episode into the season, but it's very heartening to see our characters all become far more likable than we've come to know them. Time has passed, in our absence, (a very wise move by the creators), and our desperate group of survivors have all grown while we waited. A harsh winter has passed, and everyone has found their inner strength. Lets just look at a few of the great changes this episode brought....

The women are no longer delegated to side characters or spare wheels. The washing of dishes has been replaced by determination, courage, ability and yes, even a sense of humour about their situation. A scene between Darryl and Carol is amongst the shows warmest and funniest in its entire run; now who would've thought that? Also, we have the much heralded entry of Michonne into the mix, who can only further the female empowerment the show is now portraying. While there will surely be time for cooking and cleaning, (and it looks like these poor bastards could all use a good wash), the girls of the group now know how to fend for themselves, and have much greater worth to the group. Its a very good sign of things to come.

And what about the two main gripes that were aimed at season 2 ad-nausea...Lori and Carl?

Well, in the months that have been endured in the land of the dead, Carl appears to have become the son Rik needs him to be. He's put aside childish things and is taking the right steps to becoming a man. And Lori....Lori, by some miracle, was sympathetic in this episode. The writers have used the negative attention towards her character to help push her story arc, (and that of her families) in new directions. She realizes she fucked up, and seems so much more humble, and human, now.

As for her long-suffering husband, and the shows 'dead center', Rik has grown much colder, much more capable and much more complex. His scenes with Lori hint at an inner anger having usurped his despair. His relationship with Carl is far more realistic, too, and its very clear to see that he's become the harsh leader we all knew he should, and could, become. There are a number of very telling scenes in which Rik merely glares at characters when questioned, and in the opening scenes, his actions as a starving Carl pries open a tin of cat food speak much louder than words would, as do the expression of his group. No-one is talking back. They all now know he's their only real hope for spiritual and physical survival, and they accept his authority without question, (so far). All the while Rik never loses his compassion, or his well honed moral compass. At least, not yet...

And what of the new prison setting? Its as imposing, claustrophobic and bleak as we all hoped it would be. There are some fantastic scenes that take place in its dark, foreboding corridors. The episode finale, in which the group navigate its labyrinthine, pitch-black corridors using only torches, is the most suspenseful moment in the show since a much less experienced Rik got his sorry ass stuck under that tank way back in the day. The prison is going to be a fantastic setting this season, and as we all know, it'll be contrasted by a certain, simple-living town run by a lovely guy who goes by the name of, 'the Governor'. There's much to look forward to, folks.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a much stronger balance here between action and drama, and the action scenes do not disappoint. There may be more zombie killing in this episode than all of season two combined, yet thanks to great writing, it never becomes overbearing. This never has been, and never will be, a mindless romp focused on constant action and gore, (thank heavens), but its truly exciting to see the group kick some serious undead ass. The violence here, which is through the roof, helps to build character, and that's the key to making this show work.

The effects are as great as ever, and it seems with the shows success they may be allowed to go a little further, as this one felt right up there with Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD. It was bloody as hell, with faces sliding off, rotten, half eaten corpses, too many, (and too varied), kills to count and a final scene that just kicks your teeth in, and leaves us on a brilliant cliffhanger. This is horror heaven, right here, troops, and we should all rejoice.

THE WALKING DEAD has been great from the beginning, and despite some flaws, its always had a very loyal, loving fan base. Its brought people to the genre that previously thought horror to be stale and thoughtless, and its upped the stakes in what we expect from horror, both on television and in theaters. We should raise a glass to Mazzara and his team; they've listened, they've cared, and they've acted accordingly, and we get to reap the fine rewards. I can't see anyone outside the forum trolls, being disappointed. Its as good as TV gets. Exciting, pulse-pounding, scary and dark as hell. This is what horror is all about. And we still have The Governor to look forward to....

High hopes indeed...bring on the next episode!!!

(Authors Note : I'll be reviewing the rest of the season as it airs, so stay tuned for more reviews, guys. Love, Kyle)

10 Owl-Burgers out of 10

Monday, 8 October 2012

Review : V-H-S (2012)



Now here's a fresh idea...

Get together some well known names in independent cinema/horror cinema together and set em to work on a horror anthology. Not just any horror anthology, but a found footage horror anthology. How bout them apples?

This premise has understandably got a lot of horror fans excited. Its trying something new, and the wealth of talent on display has to point to good things abounding. Not to mention VHS is getting great reviews from tit to top-hat, as all and sundry praise it as a 'gem', and one of the years best. I wasn't buying the hype then, and I'm not buying it now.

I'm in the minority, but I often feel that anthologies don't quite work as a whole, (other than the mighty TRICK 'R' TREAT and CREEPSHOW). While they can be fun, they feel more like fast food than a hearty meal, and almost always lack depth, character and balance. Not to mention your practically gaurenteed at least one weak-sauce short story in there. Its a given. So, you can see why my excitement levels were running pretty low for this one.

Review : Chernobyl Diaries (2012)

Director:

Bradley Parker

Writers:

Oren Peli (screenplay), Carey Van Dyke (screenplay), and 2 more credits »

Stars:

Jesse McCartney, Jonathan Sadowski and Olivia Dudley

If there has ever been a location that's tailor made for horror fiction, it's Chernobyl and the surrounding area, most notably the city of Prypyat. Its a location that send chills up the spine without any need for embellishment or enhancement. A real world place succumbed to a tragedy that disturbs and disquiets at our most base instinctual level. The awful accident that happened there is still ongoing, some twenty five years later, the countless lives destroyed, the unnatural births, the fight to keep that damned reactor from leaking....all downright freaky, (and saddening) shit.

The beautiful township of Prypyat, where the majority of the nuclear facilities workers lived, with their families in tow, has become legend. After days of exposure to high levels of radiation, the poor souls who lived there were eventually given the truth about the accident that happened only two miles from where they fed their kids. Evacuation was immediate, and within 40 or so hours, the once vibrant and beautiful city was nothing more than a ghost town; ready to be reclaimed by nature, and never to be filled with human life again. It remains to this day a testament to man's folly, and in case your unaware of the place, (shame on you), just go look it up. For me, its like peering through a looking glass into our inevitable future. One day, all cities will be like this. We're humans.We'lll fuck up again on a far grander scale, (remember Fukishima?). It's in our nature, and it gives me the shits.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Book Review : The Bighead by Edward Lee



Jesus, where to begin with a novel like THE BIGHEAD....

Anyone who's dabbled in the fetid, murky waters of author, 'Edward Lee' will generally know what to expect with this one.The man is not celebrated for his sense of restraint. In fact, of all the modern generation of underground horror writers, Lee is perhaps the most notorious. His deeply alarming imagination and total lack of respect for literary censorship has seen him produce some of the most disgusting and morally reprehensible works of all time; the sort of shit that would give Marquis De Sade a case of the flaccid Williams.

A brief history for the uninitiated...

Lee could be considered part of the second wave of horror that began in earnest with the late, great Richard Laymon and his pals. A form of literary horror that came to be termed, 'Splatterpunk'. In this most infamous of genres, nothing is left to the imagination. Theres an unspoken contract between writer and reader that the work will most probably be upsetting, will definitely be violent in content and graphic in the extreme, and on rare occasions, may leave you questioning your worth as a human being. You may come to regard yourself as something of a pervert for enjoying this stuff.

Without stroking my own chain, I must state that I have read a huge number of the books that have grown from this artistic ideal. Laymon, Keene, Ketchum, Smith, Little and many more have reshaped the way I think of horror fiction. Stephen King and the like seem like kids stuff these days. Literally. Their work feels like a rights of passage before you get to the really fun stuff. I love King, Koontz and chums, but I prefer a harder kind of horror.

Edward Lee is as hard as it gets. He's a man gifted with a rare sense of the grotesque, yet one bolstered by a vision that is often grandiose and epic in scope. In CITY INFERNAL and its sequels, he envisioned hell as a city; too vast to truly comprehend and filled with terrors and tortures that make the christian hell look like Disneyland. Also of note, he's a man with an undying love for the works of H.P.Lovecraft, and like many of his peers, he often dives headfirst into the mythos created by the great man, while taking it further...much, much further. These are fine tools to have in your armory if your heading out into the world as a horror author. Lee sits at the top of the pile.

I've read a great deal of his work, and going into THE BIGHEAD I thought I knew what to expect. But with this charming little tome, the man goes above and beyond anything I've ever come across in the genre, by far. THE BIGHEAD is the single most demented, disgusting and unforgivable piece of exploitation fiction to ever break free unrestrained from the human psyche. Suffice to say, I loved it.

It's the only novel I can recall with which I've stated to myself, that,  'I ain't reading one more page of this sickening filth!', only to throw the book down, stare at it in disgust for a few minutes, then pick the fucker back up and start reading again. When a piece of art can disgust and attract me simultaneously to its dark dementia, I have to hold it in respect.

I wont give away any of the countless scenes of unthinkable perversions in this book, but I will say that it is guaranteed to shock even the most hardened reader. Its balls are huge, the attention to detail is sick-bag-on-standby stuff, and the relentlessness of the darkness that pervades the tale is exhausting, but its just so damn well written that you cant let it go.

Herein ye shall find a giant mutated hillbilly/monster, (who's sexual and culinary habits are unspeakable even in this here Hotel), a pair of demonic Nun's sent from the pits of hell to habitually torture and rape, a helpless priest in the most vile ways ever written, a sex-addict who can't get enough junk in her trunk, two moonshine trading serial killers who know no limits, a self mutilator who goes to ridiculous extremes, and behind and surrounding it all, a dark, demonic mystery as to who the 'Bighead' is, and  how this disparate group of fuck-ups, psycho's and devils all relate. Its sheer brilliance.

The gore, of course, is often almost unbearable, and takes up a huge chunk of the narrative, but its all for a purpose which will not become clear lest the reader mans up and trudges along till the climax. Hell, Its not like the journey ain't fun. Its so sick and twisted that its often laugh out loud. Hopefully, your not taking this stuff too seriously. The explicit violence is smartly balanced with a sly, degenerate wit that manages to make the whole thing not only bearable, but hugely enjoyable. There are so many twists and turns here, in what seems to be a simple tale, that your left in no doubt by the novels heartless, darkly humorous finale, that what you just suffered through was a work of unmitigated genius. Were this nothing other than extreme gore and violence, it would simply lay claim to the most disgusting horror book ever written. A sort of 'Snuff Novel', if you will. But with Lee's precision storytelling, a deeply involving mystery, and some fascinating and perfectly realized characters, the whole thing becomes nothing less than a classic of its time.

Most wont be able to handle Edward Lee's THE BIGHEAD. Its his most repulsive work, after all, and that's no small feat considering the mans other tales. Though in many ways, its his most accomplished work also, and boasts his most memorable characters, and scenes, (oh, how I wish those scenes were less fucking memorable).

Those of you who take up the gauntlet and manage to read the damn thing will most likely feel ashamed of yourselves for doing so. Questions will arise in your soul as to what the fuck you were thinking. You may have to make some form of atonement for enjoying such a perverted work of the devil. You may pray for salvation for your rotten eternal spirit.

But when all is said and done, and you somehow convince yourself once again that your a good and moral person, the chances are you'll find yourself looking up at your bookshelf, seeing that damn disgusting book sat atop your pile, and without knowing, a smile will bloom on your face. You made it out in one piece.

Perhaps you'll make it out just fine the second time, too...

10 CRACKHEAD BLOWJOBS out of 10

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Review : Dark Shadows (2012)

Director:

Tim Burton

Writers:

Seth Grahame-Smith (screenplay), John August (story), and 2 more credits »

Stars:

Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eva Green

An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection. 

First of all...what the hell is it with Tim Burton and remakes?

The man used to knock out some interesting and original films. Sure, he's always had a problem from a storytelling point of view, but from a aesthetic standpoint, his films were the very definition of quirky. The stamp of his artistry was all over them, top to toe, and even when they fell flat in the plot department, the visual flair and the dedication to 'the weird' made them must see movies.

Compare EDWARD SCISSORHANDS to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY...there is no comparison. One is a unique and heartfelt take on isolation, filtered through a fairytale gothicism that's damned near irresistible, and the other is an overblown, rehash of a stone cold classic, which replaces the magic of its central character with a creepy as hell, Micheal Jackson mutation that's more likely to strike soul freezing terror into children than entrance them. Its like the man got so far in his career and decided, 'you know what, I'm tired of standing for something. I think I'll just remake/re-imagine every damn thing that comes my way'...

Review : Silent House (2011)

Directors:

Chris Kentis, Laura Lau

Writers:

Gustavo Hernández (film "La casa muda"), Laura Lau (screenplay)

Stars:

Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens
 
Trapped inside her family's lakeside retreat, a young woman finds she is unable to contact the outside world as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house

I never caught the original SILENT HOUSE, and in truth, I had no real desire to catch this American remake. For one thing, a remake so soon after the original always feels like an insult to audiences intelligence to me, (yes, we can read subtitles; just release the original work), and as the films whole 'hype', if you will, was based around the fact that it is filmed, or at least appears to be filmed, in one continuous take. In short, its a gimmick, and to be quite frank, i couldn't give a good fuck about gimmickry, in any form, (unless William Castle is behind it). I'm interested in story, plot development, atmosphere and character. Without those things all fitted in place, bravado camerawork and directorial flourish really doesn't appeal to me. The story is God, if you will. SILENT HOUSE, in concept, sounds, (and is), pretty familiar ground. At its core, its essentially a home invasion movie, with an undercurrent on supernatural mystery to sweeten the taste. I dig these films, but they have to bring something fresh to the table. MOTHERS DAY, INSIDE, IL'S/THEM......now those are home invasion movies.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Horror Hotel Cinema : The Maze (1953)


A slice of homegrown horror for you tonight...

Well, not quite, though this quaint and atmospheric little chiller is set in the remote Scottish Highlands, I'm purdy sure it wasn't filmed there. This is studio bound as they come, folks. And you all know what that means.....fog, great lighting, picturesque as hell, and Gothic as all get out. Good times, old chaps!

The plot revolves around a dashing Scotsman, played by the ever excellent Richard Carlson, (THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE), who is heir to a spooky Scottish castle, and breaks off his engagement to some hot 50's dame to return to the family estate after learning his uncle has went to the big caber-tossing competition in the sky. Said ladyfriend doesn;t hear from the fella in weeks, and decides to go investigate the situation for herself. Soon, she's up to her flapjacks in misty mountains, crumbling castles, aging actors and macabre mazes. And you, the audience, are in for a fun, old-timey ride.

Admittedly, its a little slow to get going, but Carlson holds the interest with a fine performance, and when the action does shift to my bonnie home-world, things pick up pretty quickly. Its a spooky, atmospheric work, and it has a very entertaining and worthwhile finale. And yes, that means its ridiculous and features a cheap, rubber beastie!

So, stop reading, and start viewing.

And stay the fuck away from Haggis....