Monday, 22 October 2012

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


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)


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)



Michael J. Gallagher


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, 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)


Bradley Parker


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


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.