Friday, 26 April 2013

Dead Island Zombie Riptide Wedding [EVENT]


Undearly beloved, please rise for an unholy matrimony...


  
As reported earlier in the week, real-life couple Jenny Jones and Rob Blackmore joined in unholy matrimony at the ‘UK’s first zombie wedding’ on Tuesday evening to become the undead wedded Mr and Mrs Blackmore. To celebrate the release of the second instalment of the Dead Island franchise, Dead Island Riptide, the game’s publishers Deep Silver launched a Facebook competition in pursuit for the most fanatic Dead Island duo and horror-obsessed enthusiasts to be married in a zombie themed matrimony. Jenny and Rob were the lucky Liverpudlian winners and the couple took to the alter in their most monstrous attire and were hitched with their faces stitched.

Publicity stunts come in all shapes and sizes, but this extravagant ghoulish lovers affair, which attracted widespread appeal among gamers and horror genre lovers alike, will be a tough act to follow. Having gained national recognition and even further widespread coverage in the wake of Liverpool’s Suarez’ chomping behaviour, over 250 people flocked to One Mayfair for the uniquely entertaining event. Family and friends from Liverpool crawled down to London for the wedding and a number of press were added to the deadlist to make up the numbers for a truly monumental Mayfair apocalypse.

This wasn’t a reimagining of the ceremonial acts in [Rec]3. People didn’t turn up to wish the bride and groom a ‘happy’ orthodox wedding, and the infectious party didn’t start with a dodgy soup. Upon walking into the tall standing open doors of the impressive historic venue, the familiar Caribbean beach theme of the Dead Island game provided an instant reminder of why this occasion was so highly anticipated. Deep Silver went all out with Hawaiin-style furnishings, biter-size beach-style canap├ęs and ‘Riptide’ cocktails to keep the ravenous flesheaters at bay. The free bar may not have cost a dime at the time, but the consumption of those deadly concoctions was a costly price to pay the following morning. You could say that I didn’t leave my zombie act in Soho.

Guests threw themselves into the theme with zombified costumes and you’d sometimes stumble upon the odd figure in a Hawaiian shirt who resembled the poor animated holiday-goer that you hit around the head with a wooden plank only nights before on the Playstation. The venue may not have mirrored the eery feeling of isolation and helplessness that the game envisages, and you certainly didn’t feel the need to pick up cautionary shock mod machetes and nailed baseball bats, but the walking dead were certainly present. With professional make-up artists turning fresh faces into torn up wrecks worthy of Romero replicas, a distant call loomed for a scouser version sequel to Cockneys vs Zombies. Meh, who knows.

The focal part of the evening was, of course, the ceremony. Presenter Sarah Chapman readied the rowdy crowd and introduced the vicar was dead dressed to impress. Zombie bride Jenny stole the show and shuffled down the aisle to the sorrowful music composition played over the new game’s trailer. After some twisted nuptials by which the couple agreed to love each other “in sickness and in rotting” and to “grab and to hold” one another, and which was entertainingly read by Rob in his well practised demonic voice, the night erupted into the normal trappings of a traditional wedding with a zombie twist. Hoards drooled over the blood-dripping, brain topped tower cake and the live music from the Mariachi Mexteca Mexican (who entranced with an appropriate rendition of ‘Monster’) band crowded the dance floor with the congregating corpses until little before midnight. The party never suffered from soullessness and the deadly trappings of well-rehearsed family dances sequences to ‘Thriller’ kept the necrotic living dead flailing their arms rather than baring their teeth.

Congratulations to the happy couple- til’ death do them part.

Dead Island Riptide is out to buy today for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC.

 
(Visit www.horrortalk.com for more of my published work, and for horror news, reviews, comment, reports & competitions)


Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Stone Tapes

THE STONE TAPES  ***1/2

Instantly granted an outstanding reputation and work of brilliance since its original broadcast on Christmas night 1972, it’s no surprise that 101 Films has re-released Nigel Kneale’s critically-acclaimed BBC television ghost story, The Stone Tapes.


A scientific research team for an electronic technology company relocate to a renovated Victorian gothic mansion. When computer programmer Jill (Jane Asher) sees a ghost in a locked-up store room at the back of the house, the rest of the team also begin to see the apparition and hear its loud screams. Manager Peter (Michael Bryant) launches an investigation into the phenomena, believing it to be a supernatural impression of past events trapped in the room’s stone wall, which he dubs the ‘stone tape’. For Peter, “it’s a mass of data… waiting for the correct interpretation.” But when the researchers try to unlock the mysterious recording in an attempt to prove a scientific breakthrough in the recording medium, they unleash an evil, malevolent force that has been buried in the house’s dark history for decades.

Kneale’s play is a classic example of fine genre television, blending conventional fiction storytelling with cross-generic sci-fi, drama and horror mechanisms. Today, it remains one of Kneale’s most congratulated works outside his Quatermass movie and mini-series, serving his fervent interest in the conflict of science and the supernatural which has influenced further acclaimed literary works and scientific conjecture. Remaining an exemplary product in the traditional haunted house genre, it interestingly combines supernatural theory, historical investigation and a thought-provoking scientific hypothesis in the exploration of the building’s fabric.

Director Peter Sasdy has certainly created a very looky and feely film, cruelly attacking the senses with a profusion of colourful effects against the house’s dim-lit backdrop, coupled with a noisy trip of shrills, whirring and sirens. If it’s not the chaotic sound of the paranormal activity in heavy footsteps and strident cries, it’s the whirring of mid-20th century technology or the ear-piercing screams from one of the crew. It’s certainly crucial to the busyness and the sinister mood of The Stone Tapes, but it does require you to keep your TV volume button close to hand.

Though the effects are (as you’d expect) considerably outdated, rendering a supernatural presence with strobe lighting, coloured smoke and flickering projections, it rejoices in an abundance of eery silences that infuses a lasting trepidation.

The acting is very hit and miss with amateur performances across the cast that are more theatrical than suited for the screen, but they still manage to deliver a few thrills. Asher personifies the typical helpless heroine and victim of the ghost who is misunderstood and devalued by her male colleagues, spending most of her time onscreen screaming, tripping over, burying her head in her hands and covering her ears in shock. It’s a memorable performance- though not a great one- that is enhanced by Sasdy’s excessive use of zooming and panning, providing dramatic close-ups that are now largely inattentive in horror’s modern cinematography.

It certainly invades the senses both audibly and viscerally. Close your eyes and you may be able to picture yourself on the set of a 1950’s Doctor Who set. Its sound effects are tinny, raucous and hard to bear for ninety minutes - but that’s the point. And thankfully this is enhanced by a clear, vibrant picture that will no doubt keep this masterpiece on people’s screens for years to come.
 
 

VERDICT: It ends righteously with gloom, doom and death - and one loud scream! This is a tape you will be glad to have witnessed, and is well deserved of scrutiny from a modern perspective.
 
 
(Visit www.horrortalk.com for more of my published work, and for horror news, reviews, comment, reports & competitions)



 

 

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The Lords Of Salem

THE LORDS OF SALEM *

 
Rob Zombie brings a lot of noise but not much rhythm in this backward satanic venture, The Lords of Salem.

Heidi Hawthorne (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a dread-headed rock chick who DJs at her local radio station in small town Salem, Massachusetts. When she receives a vinyl record by an unknown band called ‘The Lords’ from an anonymous sender, Heidi and her colleagues Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree) become intrigued with its ominous, aberrant sound. But when Whitey plays the band’s track on the radio, dubbing them ‘The Lords of Salem’, Heidi is tormented with flashbacks to her past traumas. The mysterious message hidden within its repetitive bars tell of a much darker pastime of infamous witch trials, and unleash a reawakened evil she is forced to confront behind the door of apartment 5.

Zombie certainly stays true to his practice. The narrative spurts mere moments of cohesion, and after thirty minutes its logic is hopelessly lost in an abhorrence of disjointed, nonsensical religious cult imagery. Any initial stir of classic storytelling is forgotten and instead it stumbles its way through sacrilegious carnage. It’s all face-less priests and hocus pocus witches practicing the damning rituals of folklore to avenge their hunters and seek Satan’s chosen one on their path to rebirth.

It may be shocking to see the righteousness of a newborn judged by the tasting of its skin soaked in bloody juices, but here it’s nothing but a random, meaningless sequence to squint at. Lords of Salem throws down a ridiculous rampage of flabby, six-nippled, wrinkly witches that hide in the corners of the kitchen; neon-lit symbols of Christ just to fire up the modern rock ‘n’ roll ambience; and a fair amount of bizarre tumour demons and goat worshipping. “Why a goat?” someone asks. Other than as a piece of livestock for Moon to ride on, I have no idea.

Even horror’s honorary head witch, Dee Wallace, can’t save the concept. In fact, the trio of the ancient coven (Wallace, Patricia Quinn, Judy Geeson) are pretty pathetic and hardly have to lift a finger to get to Heidi; historian/researcher Francis (Bruce Davidson) goes out with a kitchen utensil blow to the head and Whitey is told to simply go away. Moon takes the helm alongside her co-creative partner and husband Zombie, but thankfully she has little to do other than to succumb to the hypnotising hex- subconsciously zombying her way through the latter half of the film- and make the most of her fancy-dress make up effects.
 

Zombie clearly has a bag of nutty ideas, but they are lost in translation. Appearing predominantly a product of self-celebration, it offers not a whole lot more than simply strong doses of disorientation and bafflement.

Nevertheless, it still offers one off-the-rails psychedelic trip that is sure to stun even those critical of its premise. It’s intriguing in its quieter moments and, if nothing else, the dialogue is tremendous entertainment- even if it is for all the wrong reasons. That alone is enough to illicit more laugh than scares and you can’t help but wonder how much Zombie is intentionally toying with us here.

The Lords’ droning track is hypnotising (you’d expect Zombie of all people to hit the nail on the head with this one) and if anything stays with you, it’s that… and perhaps the image of an entranced Moon battling for the grip of the umbilical cord of a giant, blood-soaked newborn. But Zombie must have been too busy crafting his eccentric sequences to give two thoughts about assisting these few bars with the rest of a soundtrack.

 
VERDICT: This is one vinyl you’d keep well away from your stylus. If there was a glimpse of hope for Zombie after his promising debut House of 1000 Corpses and its successor The Devil’s Reject, surely this has been too far cemented under his visions’ warped delivery and sloppy storytelling in his prevailing works.


(Visit www.horrortalk.com for more of my published work, and for horror news, reviews, comment, reports & competitions)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Entity


ENTITY **
 
Steve Stone gets a Fangoria distribution for his directorial debut supernatural horror, Entity. Not bad for your first stab at the film industry eh.
 
A camera crew for reality TV show ‘Darkest Secrets’, who visit places where unsolved crimes once took place, accompany a psychic to a remote Siberian forest where thirty-four dead bodies were mysteriously found ten years prior. Median Ruth (Dervla Kirwan) reaches out to the troubled, forgotten souls who convey to her the terrible circumstances of their deaths. But the forest is only the beginning. Hoping to shed some light on the cold case, the investigative team think they’ve hit gold when they are unexpectedly led to a shadowy, desolate building by the guiding presence of the spirits. It may be a decent discovery for TV, but when they receive a sinister warning that they shouldn’t be there, the crew begin to disappear one by one. This is the story of their encounter with the entity.  

It certainly creates an unnerving atmosphere from the get-go, as the crew walk cautiously around its dark and lifeless corridors. It uses the building’s bump-in-the-night elements as characters walk clumsily into clattering trolleys, and we enter a portal into the soul’s torturous past through the black and white blurred images that Ruth sees. The cursed, harmful memories trapped within its walls cause her to physically deteriorate, which throws a welcome curveball in the narrative and interestingly switches the pressure to the dishonest crew who each have their own hidden agenda.

But it’s not long before the tension collapses and it plummets deliriously out of control. It exercises cheap scares from then onwards and the feeble crew become easy pickings for this supernatural force. The acting is terrible, and the effects are even more so. The immortal images become too accessible and borderline silly, divulging in excessive sci-fi noises and a number of unconvincing monster, alien and ghost-type entities. What starts as a controlled supernatural spook show loses direction and gambles with three too many notions that are all disorderly and fragmented from one another. An hour in and it’s all over the place. A further half an hour on and the film ends midway through the mayhem without a trace of consistency.

The blatant similarities to Grave Encounters in terms of its plot are all too apparent and, as well as failing to surpass GE’s spookiness, it doesn’t come close to competing with its controlled use of night vision camerawork either.
 

Though found-footage in horror has been as significantly exhausted since the Paranormal Activity franchise spurred a fervent obsession with documentary and homemade recordings, refreshing spin-offs such as Trollhunter, V/H/S and The Bay are still (surprisingly) finding ways to expand the creative corners of the trend’s potential. There’s no doubt another found-footage masterpiece is, or soon will be, loitering in pre-production, and I’ll be readily awaiting its release. But when an appeasing gem comes tottering along, so comes another handful of drab, monotonous garbage to further scratch the record. Thus, the making of a heap more of shoddy ones is even more imminent and, unfortunately, Stone’s efforts mark the latest example of this. It may be unjustly to scrutinize Entity within this subgenre, as its commitment to the handheld camera is merely half-hearted. We are presented with the past happenings of the building through old CCTV recordings, and see some of the horrors through the lens of the crew’s equipment. But conventional camerawork takes precedence more in the latter stages as, well, the camera crew become less present. The switch is certainly annoying and the documentary principle that primarily generates interest instantly falls apart.

If you’d paid little attention to the synopsis or picked up this film as a quick grab-and-go, you may have thought this was a well kept secret remake of 1982 supernatural horror of (almost) the same name. This may well in fact be Stone’s ploy for his first work to attract attention. Unfortunately, no matter what pretention you watch this under, you’re most likely going to be disappointed either way.

 
VERDICT: Entity adopts a promising look-in from the outset, but fails to withhold sense or scares, thus leading itself astray in a baffling, senseless havoc. Watch the opening and closing scenes and you’ll be pleasantly scared shit-less, but deceptively hopeful about the intervening 80 minutes.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Repeaters

THE REPEATERS  **1/2

Carl Bessai breaks out of his romantic/comedy drama mould and delivers something more choppy, aggressive and exhilirating.




Mel Gibson gets electrocuted and can hear women’s thoughts; Uncle Fester gets an electrical shock and regains his memory; and a dead dog is reborn as Frankenweenie after being struck by lightening. These kids? They are forced to repeatedly relive the same day as the next refuses to dawn.

Meet the ‘repeaters’.
 
Kyle (Dustin Milligan), Sonia (Amanda Crew) and Michael (Richard De Klerk) are three twenty-something friends residing in a young offenders rehab rehabilitation, each struggling to suppress their angst over their own problems and troubled history. When the delinquents get an electrical shock during a storm and pass out, they awake the next morning to discover that they are reliving the preceding day. The only ones in the institution that are affected, the trio live the same day over and over again. With the event of the previous day forgotten, their slate is constantly wiped clean and each renewed day becomes more reckless as their lives spiral into a world of violence and crime.

Entering familiar Groundhog Day territory always allows room for a crafty narrative and multiple layers of complexity. Repeaters doesn’t capitalize on this opportunity but lets the supernatural reasoning form a loose, absurd framework. It doesn’t offer any further insights and it’s more reminiscent with the Freaky Friday ‘good-deed-ends-all’ nature.

Having explored animal impulses in her 2007 TV movie Hybrid, screenwriter Arne Olsen further examines behavioural instincts in a time capsule where justice is a temporal subsistence and the wrongdoers cannot be held accountable for their actions for more than a few hours. What dawns as a frivolous lash-out at society through giddy, youthful expression and a trivial abuse of power- robbing liquor stores and firing guns at lined-up coke cans- escalates into something far more menacing. Michael sees the prospects of the ‘gift’ and takes advantage of it, defying the group’s limit of petty crime and irrational, nonchalant fun.

De Klerk (who starred in director Carl Bessai’s Cole) embodies the rash, out of control villain whose energetic adventure and psychopathic impulses are by far the narrative’s most intense element. Milligan and Crew’s characters don’t have a great deal to do, helplessly trying to make amends with the friend that has turned on them and entering into a cringy romance which is neither intriguing nor worth the screen time. They carry the film along with ease but fail to be as interesting as their co-star.

A drug issue surfaces in its early stages and initiates an alluring theme of redemption. But this doesn’t really cultivate and becomes overshadowed by an emphasis on moral decision making. By juggling lots of ideas that are never fully seen through, we are left confused and unsure who and what to root for. Bessai raises too many philosophical questions about morality to tackle and doesn’t allow room for a deserved perception or exploration.

Nevertheless, Repeaters is fast-paced and aggressive in its more entertaining moments, and its trashy violence and string of disordered scenarios is surprisingly enjoyable to watch for the most part.


 
VERDICT: Ultimately, however, meddling with time is a risky notion which Bessai fails to sync into anything remotely sincere and thought-provoking. The concept is too gimmicky to take seriously, and by the time it reaches its bloody climax, it’s a tad too late to care whether they triumph in their battle with time.


(Visit www.horrortalk.com for more of my published work, and for horror news, reviews, comment, reports & competitions)