Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Review : Skew (2011)


Sevé Schelenz

When Simon, Rich, and Eva head out on an eagerly anticipated road trip, they bring along a video camera to record their journey. What starts out as a carefree adventure slowly becomes a descent into the ominous as unexplained events threaten to disrupt the balance between the three close friends. Each one of them must struggle with personal demons and paranoia as friendships are tested and gruesome realities are revealed...and recorded.

As the 'quick-of-wit' among you may have deduced from the above synopsis, SKEW is a hand-held/found footage film....

I just wanted to get that straight right away. Now, I make no secrets of having a love for the handheld sub-genre, even though around 90% of the outcome of such ventures results in shit. When it works, it makes for a brilliantly immersive experience. And SKEW works.

Before I get into what makes this film so unique among its peers, I should first point out that the film was complete in 2005, and was in production for a number of years before that. Its not part of the current trend that our genre is awash in. Director, Seve Schelenz, has stated that THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was an inspiration, but this is in no way yet another cheap cash-in. There is very little that could be labelled 'bandwagonesque' about this little slice of horror. While the influence of BLAIR WITCH is clear, the path that SKEW takes is very, very clever, and makes for a surprisingly tense experience to boot. Seve has clearly taken the time and the care to craft a film that stands completely on its own terms. He never sacrifices intellect for scares, and he uses his miniscule budget to enhance the work, not allow it to hinder it.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Art of Darkness 3 : Roger Koch

Your old pal Kyle recently joined a Facebook group page, ( I know, I know...Facebook is the tool of the devil, just hear me out on this one), called HAMMERMANIACS, (link here!), which, as you have most likely figured out, is a page devoted to the wonderful, elegant brand of horror that the British studio, Hammer, brought to the world in the fifties, sixties and seventies. It's a page I advise all classic horror fans to embrace as its populated by a great group of well informed, passionate souls who work hard to keep the memory of Hammer alive in minds and hearts, all over the globe.

I've only been a member myself for the past few days, and already I've discovered a treasure trove of absolutely beautiful, rare images from the Hammer archives, on-set images, cast portraits, foreign one-sheets and much more, all in one place. Its a pretty phenomenal little corner of the Internet, guys.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

News : Independent Short - The Prospectors Curse (2012)

Hi friends.

I'm always up for some new horror shorts, especially since the internet has reduced my attention span to that of a goldfish.

With this is mind, I wanted to take the opportunity to draw your attention to a new little number that will be coming our way very soon. This one sounds like a lot of fun. To be honest, I've only really discovered shorts these past few years, and have came to love them for what they are. In fact, they often surpass their full-length peers in both quality and content. Just look at DEUS IRAE to see how damned good the format can be.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Review : The Woman in Black (2012)


James Watkins


Susan Hill (novel), Jane Goldman (screenplay)

A young lawyer travels to a remote village where he discovers the vengeful ghost of a scorned woman is terrorizing the locals.

Walking into this, the second screen adaptation of Susan Hill's wonderful THE WOMAN IN BLACK, I was a roiling cocktail of mixed emotions. I love the 1989 TV version with a passion. I believe it to be one of the most chilling and effective ghost stories ever put to screen, and have rarely seen its equal, on the small screen or the large. So I was understandably worried about the very real threat of a big budget remake. Experience has taught me that when it comes to classic ghost stories, big budgets and subtlety rarely compliment each other.

On the other hand, this is the fourth release from the newly re-birthed Hammer Studios, and anyone who reads my incessant ramblings will know that I have a lifelong, and unquenchable love for Hammer. That film studio is the image and the soundtrack to my childhood nightmares, and has become a comfort to the older, slightly doddering version that stands before you now. Hammers early Horror output is much like a group of family members who's memory I just cant let go of. Nor do I want to.

So far, the re-emergence of Hammer has produced a mixed bag of goodies. Their first release, WAKE WOOD, inspired me to write my first ever review, (you can read the review here), and to build this here Horror Hotel, as it now exists, . WAKE WOOD was a refreshingly old school tale that managed in many ways to capture a number of staples of the Hammer classics, and bring them into a modern environ. It was a fine start, though it was still some distance from the lush grandeur of HORROR OF DRACULA, THE GORGON, CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN et all...

Monday, 20 February 2012

Editorial : A Brief History of Horror Gaming - Part 2



For many, Survival Horror's descent from prominence was the equal of its rise. After the tidal wave of hits that pushed gaming in such exciting new directions, came the inevitable calm. The purity of intent that led developers to embrace the influence of Horror remained, yet like in its cinematic counterparts, Horror gaming was to become a much less cerebral affair and take on a more action oriented guise. RESIDENT EVIL 4 (2005), ditched many of the elements that made its predecessors so powerful. Gone were the pre rendered back grounds and the sparse encounters with lurching zombies and while the game retained plenty of what fans cherished about the originals, (limited inventory, strong gore), its focus was moving more towards action rather than suspense. The game featured more weapons, a far more precise aiming system and, whereas the original saw the player take on one or two enemies at a time, RE4 featured large crowds of death dealing enemies at any given time. The game was praised for its visual design and its massive crossover appeal, yet remained divisive among the core Survival Horror fans. Today, RE4 represents, for many, the point where traditional Survival Horror morphed into some new, and just as SILENT HILL followed suite with the original RE's template, so would SILENT HILL : HOMECOMING follow in this new direction. It’s argued that the more action Horror based games featured, the more compromised the emphasis on terror and dread became. And although this is often a very easily defendable stance, there are games that have challenged this thought line.

FEAR (2005) combined the fast paced shootouts of the first person actioner, with the eerie discordance of J-Horror, to create a product both exciting and unsettling. Its depth of story and keenly felt Horror themes were perfectly balanced with tense gunplay, creating perhaps the first true hybrid of Horror and Action gaming. It was soon followed by Sega's CONDEMNED: CRIMINAL ORIGINS (2006), which launched on the shiny new X-BOX 360, and was an instant hit, worldwide. CONDEMNED followed the,‘FEAR’, template and put its own spin on things. As a homicide detective, the player was required to investigate scenes of murder, and the reliance on gunplay was replaced with melee combat, adding to the sense of threat that its dank, filthy environments elicited. Sure, there were guns, but ammo was extremely sparse, (the guns contents were all the ammo you could hold). The influence of Survival Horror was again very prominent. And very welcome.

Editorial : A Brief History of Horror Gaming - Part 1

A Brief History of Horror Gaming


As I write this, the second game in THE DARKNESS series is sat atop the shelves in stores worldwide. A game that utilises first person action, comic-book sensibilities and is blessed with a bucketful of glorious gore. Jimmy Stewart was right, life is indeed wonderful.

It’s been a long ride to get to where we are now in the gaming world, where old masters of the genre like Mr Carpenter come to spread their creative wings. It’s easy to sit back today with our Wide-screen TVs and our super powerful consoles and live the dream, but it was a long road.  Let's face it, we Horror fans are spoiled for choice when it comes to gaming, and that's cause for celebration, kids. In an ever changing world our love for horror is a constant, but our means of experiencing and enjoying fear and the macabre are making leaps and bounds forward, and its damned exciting. We can share the gaming experience with other fans the world over without moving from our couch, we can BE the guy behind the gun with only a few bullets left and a horde of the hungry undead hot on our heels. Hell, we can even play through the eyes of the undead ! We can band together and fight off mutants, and take on lank haired ghost girls in worlds so fully realised they make Main Street look like 24th Street, but It wasn't always this way....

As a card carrying 80's kid, I was lucky enough to have been there at the start.  I grew up with each consecutive gaming system, and watched the whole story unfold as games that today's generation would, rightly, deem so basic as to be laughable, filled our young heads with nightmares and fuelled our imaginations for endless hours. Put us in a dimly lit room with a twenty minute loading time, some monotone bleeps for a soundtrack to back up the unrecognisable graphics, and we were THERE, man!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Horror Hotel Cinema : Valentines Midnight Show - Shutter (2004)

It's Valentines Day. And what better gift for Hotel Management to give you lovebirds, than some old-school, ghostly goings on, that'll have you holding each other close in the small hours of the night? For tonight's midnight show, we would like to introduce, or at least re-acquaint you, with the pant-soilingly scary, and altogether excellent SHUTTER.

Before you start sending the hate mail, and hand your ticket, (and lube) back, let me take a moment to assure you that you are NOT about to suffer through some poorly scripted, terribly acted, artless, gormless and utterly shallow piece of celluloid trash that couldn't scare a fucking cat on acid. No....this is the original SHUTTER. You know, the good one, the one with potent themes of Karma, guilt and retribution? Yeah, that one. Not the bastardised-beyond-all-Thunderdome remake that burned eyes and minds in the states a few years later, and forever tarnished the originals legacy.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Review : Chronicle (2012)


Josh Trank


Max Landis (screenplay), Max Landis (story), and 1 more credit »

Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides.

CHRONICLE is a movie of minor miracles.

For one thing, its a low-budget Science Fiction piece that has far more impact, excitement and visual splendour than a the vast majority of Hollywood's, (or anywhere's), mega-budget output. Also, it has a tiny, eighty minute run-time, yet manages to fully develop its main characters and have the audience care deeply about their fates, while still finding plenty of time for eye-popping, heart-racing scenes of emotional and psychical struggle, that are as fulfilling as anything seen in the 'superhero' genre, at any time previously. And lets not forget that its an origin story that turns the concept on its head, and gives us not one, but two origins, both completely authentic (George Lucas couldn't manage a decent fall into darkness in three movies, kids), within said eighty minutes.

All this would be enough reason to recommend this film unequivocally, but theres so much more. The main miracle here, is that the sheer amount of depth and substance to be found in this bad-boy is damned near ridiculous...

Friday, 10 February 2012

Review : Saint (2010)




Dick Maas


Dick Maas
I've always thought of myself as quite a cultured soul. I take an active interest in other cultures, and the origins of their customs, but this one slipped me by...

I had no idea that in Denmark, instead of the traditional Coca-Cola sponsored corporate bullshit that we call, 'Santa Clause', our Danish pals have 'Saint Nicholas', and that instead of delivering presents to kids on Dec 25th, he'd rather show face on any Dec 5th which boasts a full moon, and kill the ever-loving shit out of as many people as possible, kids and adults alike. Cool. This is yet another reason I should move to Amsterdam...

SAINT boasts a festive undead fruitcake who rides a zombie horse across rooftops, wields a huge, razor sharp staff, and has a limitless army of undead slaves who do his bidding, which usually entails wholesale slaughter. This is my kinda Father Christmas.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review : Rosewood Lane (2011)



Victor Salva
When radio talk show psychiatrist, Dr. Sonny Blake, moves back to her hometown, she takes notice of her neighbourhood paper boy's unusual behaviour. She soon comes to realise the little bastard could be very dangerous, as he launches a campaign of terror against her...

I liked some of Victor Salva's output. I really did.....

I thought that CLOWNHOUSE was a really well made and genuinely frightening look at childhood fears, and I enjoyed JEEPERS CREEPERS' approach to old school monster-movie making. The guy was a good thing to have around in the genre. Sure JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 left a lot to be desired, but it was watchable, and its flaws weren't enough to quell my thirst for a third film.

Then I learnt all about Salva's unfortunate past...
Now, I understand that art and its creator often need to be separated, especially in my line of work, but Salva's abuse of young boys left a particularly sour taste in my mouth, especially as his more 'unsavoury' compulsions seem to infuse his films more often than not. For one thing, the young star of CLOWNHOUSE was being systematically abused during filming, and its impossible to watch it now and not feel heartbroken for the suffering that poor kid went through. Not to mention the fact that half the fucking film has half naked preteen boys running around. And how about JEEPERS CREEPERS? A predator that wants a part of a young boy, even going so far as to sniff his goddamn underwear. Or how about its sequel, in which we have to suffer through high-school boys having pissing contests while scantily dressed. I'm sorry kids, but that shit just doesn't sit right with me. How it sits with you, is your own issue.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Horror Hotel Cinema : The Veil - Jack The Ripper

Hi kids, it's Hotel Management here, with the return of the sometime dormant, in-house cinema. And in lieu of my recent review of WHITECHAPEL, today's little number is a real treat for any Jack the Ripper fans, (I'm loathe to call us 'fans', as its not like we cheer on the murder of prostitutes. Lets just call us Ripper Aficionados. Yeah, that'll do....).

This little ditty will also be of interest to anyone and everyone who has a taste for the grand Universal Classics that helped kick off our favourite genre, as it features the mighty Boris Karloff, as narrator. In fact, he narrated all ten episodes of this little known and delightfully old school Horror anthology. In a sense, old Boris was a blueprint for the crypt-keeper. Its worth watching for historical reasons alone, friendos! The short-lived show was titled, THE VEIL, and this episode goes by the name ready? JACK THE RIPPER. Shocking, I know, at least a little more thought went into the plot than the title.....

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Review : Whitechapel (2008)

A fast-tracked inspector, a hardened detective sergeant, and an expert in historical homicides investigate modern crimes with connections to the past in the Whitechapel district of London. 

I'm no 'Ripperologist', but I do boast a rather unhealthy obsession with the crimes, the myths and the madness that surround the infamous Jack the Ripper's killing spree.

At school, I performed a presentation on the circumstances of Mary Kelly's demise, in explicit detail, and was somewhat frowned upon by my bitch of an English teacher in the process. My parents received one of numerous letters pertaining to my 'strange fixations', (others included short Horror stories, a predilection for all things 'Stephen King' by age eleven, and the always present, 'Killers Casebook' which I bought monthly to study up on Dahmer, Gein, Manson and all the rest of those crazy fuckers.