In A Stranger’s House is an Effective, Impressive Little Chiller [Review]

Wicked Horror is the author of In A Stranger’s House is an Effective, Impressive Little Chiller [Review]. Wicked Horror is the internet’s only horror fan site for free original horror movies, news, review & more.

Found footage has kind of had its day, but the format remains an easy option for anxious indie filmmakers eager to make something without the means necessary (or the financial support) to do so. Take Ireland’s own Richard Waters*, whose sophomore outing (following 2013 rom-com The O’Briens) In A Stranger’s House was shot in the family home.

In a Stranger’s House kicks off with the usual spiel about where the footage supposedly originated from, but with the added caveat that viewers of a sensitive disposition should steer clear. It’s a nice addition for a film set in the wilds of County Wicklow, of all places. Waters himself stars as the on-camera vlogger (it looks like a terrible vlog, it has to be said) tasked with house-sitting an isolated country abode by the camera-shy owner.

The score, by SL-88 (also Waters), is this fuzzy, off-kilter concoction that threads easily into the narrative. It’s utilised when things start getting creepy, as a plot-point, but threads so seamlessly into the narrative that it almost makes one question what’s really happening and what isn’t. The overall sound design is incredibly tight, too, with every tiny noise felt deep in the gut.

In A Stranger’s House‘s premise is even weirder considering this is Waters’ family home — creepy dolls, old-timey family photos and all. He takes an environment with which he is obviously very familiar and makes it seem alien. His naive vlogger wanders past a creepily open attic door, considers going up there, and then loudly decides not to, even though Waters himself has likely been up there a million times.

Also See: Found Footage Films: A Brief and Twisted History

The central performance (there are a few other actors credited on the film, but to say anything about them would be venturing into spoiler territory) is strong and vanity-free. We watch as Richard, the character, sits and reads through YouTube comments, most of which are spam (his reaction to someone claiming to make a ton of money sitting at home will be familiar to anybody who’s waded into the comments section before).

He bemoans, several times, that there aren’t enough people watching his videos and that those who are keep challenging their authenticity. During these exchanges, Waters plays with our expectations for creepy stuff happening in the background — the hallmark of found footage. He consistently draws our viewpoint behind him, leaving us wondering what will happen back there. He knows where we’ll be looking, and why.

Waters has previous, not just as a proud, lifelong horror fan, but via his work with Bloody Disgusting’s popular World of Death series, along with his shorts, Video Nasty and Life’s A Wish And Then You Die. He ensures his Richard cops something is up straight away, and that he reacts accordingly. Likewise, Richard offers up a reason to stay in the house — morbid human curiosity; he just wants to figure out what the deal is.

Related: Five Fierce Found Footage Flicks To Watch Now

The setting is super creepy, with any added set dressing not immediately obvious (apologies to Mrs. Waters). Waters shoots it like a maze of labyrinthine corridors, meaning he gets freaked out by his own shadow after spotting it around a darkened corner (been there). The writer-director-producer-editor-star creates a great sense of unease and mystery throughout, with the tension well-established and held tight.

The Blair Witch Project is a very clear influence here, which is only right considering it’s still the best example of a found footage movie, but In A Stranger’s House isn’t derivative or clichéd. A question, posed to camera (naturally), about whether the supernatural is scarier than a flesh-and-blood human being is a clever addition in an already smart script, which is utterly devoid of flab.

In A Stranger’s House is an effective, hugely impressive chiller whose low budget limitations are wisely used to its advantage. At just 70 minutes, it almost feels too fleeting but better to zip in, make an impression, and zip back out again rather than hang around waiting for the cracks to appear. There is a mythology present, even if it’s only hinted at.

Regardless, Waters has done a lot with very little here, further reiterating the oft-repeated point that what is seen is scarcely as frightening as what is imagined (though the sole money shot is a hell of a payoff), budget constrictions or otherwise. In A Stranger’s House may be slight, but it’s a rallying call to indie filmmakers everywhere to just get ‘er done.

* Full disclosure: Richard is a friend of the site and of mine personally but, I can assure you, I wouldn’t be reviewing his movie if it were terrible. I’d be avoiding him, while pretending my laptop was broken. And also my hands.

WICKED RATING: (8/10)
Director(s): Richard Waters
Writer(s): Richard Waters
Starring: Richard Waters, Theresa Bradley, Emily Kelly, Shawna Waters
Year: 2018
Release date: 31 October 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Weird Pretty Pictures
Language: English
Length: 71 minutes
Sub-Genre: Found footage

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Dark Moon Rising – USA, 2015

‘Pray for the sunrise’

Dark Moon Rising is a 2015 American supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Justin Price (Alien: Reign of ManThe 13th FridayThe ElfForsaken). The Pikchure Zero Entertainment production stars Anastasia Antonia, Eric Roberts, Khu and Billy Blanks.

Plot:

A group of shape-shifting werewolves appear in a small town in search of a mysterious girl who is re-born once every 2000 years. In order to save their kind from the brink of extinction, they must capture her before she becomes a fully-fledged Lycan and reclaim her place as the Alpha species.

Unknown to them, however, lurks yet another of her kind secretly living in the same small town. If they can capture both, then they would have the power to control a new species of werewolves and enslave the human race…

Reviews:

“There was way too much background noise and music that made the lines/dialog hard to hear. The acting is atrocious, the screenplay is a disaster zone, editing is terrible, werewolves were a dreadful mess, shots did not transition well, terrible music, horrendous CGI, and cheesy everything.” Florita A., Hell Horror

“It maintains a steady hold on those watching but can definitely loosen the grip a little to pave way for some quippy one-liners and covers all the bases of a werewolf franchise in the making. A good, solid story with quintessential special effects that add finishing touches to an otherwise pretty good movie. ” The Movie Sleuth

” …fatally, for all its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, Dark Moon Rising forgoes that vital quality that made all those classic werewolf films before it so memorable; namely, the human heart that beats beneath the bloody pelt of the beast. Not quite beware the moon, but Dark Moon Rising nonetheless stops just short of being something to truly howl about.” Benjamin Poole, The Movie Waffler

“Many of the character interactions are nonsense. Most of the time, it feels like the characters are reading from different scripts as more than half of the things they say to each other don’t seem related. The actors also have a bad habit of mumbling their lines, making the dialogue hard to hear. Complicating this problem is poor sound editing. Many times, the dialogue is drowned out by music or background noises.” Rachel Willis, Screen Relish

Buy DVD: Amazon.co.uk

” …it features rather odd jumps in time, leaves out important passages, leaves things half-explained and also changes between its characters’ fantasy and their reality without warning. Oddly enough then, all of this hardly spoils the movie’s enjoyability, as the whole thing is very well structured and paced, features cool set-pieces aplenty, and is carried by interesting (and well-played) characters.” Mike Haberfelner, Search My Trash

“The film is rife with terrible CGI effects used for everything from fire, to blood, to x-ray vision (don’t ask- I can’t explain it). In fact the film opens with a CGI tanker truck on (CGI) fire followed by a CGI werewolf. The werewolves inexplicably all have super powers. One of them named Gecko (no I’m not kidding) has a poison breath attack…” Che Gilson, UK Horror Scene

Cast and characters:

  • Anastasia Antonia … Dawn [as Stasi Esper]
  • Eric Roberts … Henrick
  • Khu … Kaio
  • Billy Blanks … Sheriff Tom
  • Justin Price … Sin
  • Cameron White … Chace
  • Lisa May … Feighn
  • Matthew Simmons … Gecko
  • Timea Saghy … Danse
  • Jared Allman … James
  • Emily Bedford … Lisa (voice)
  • Deanna Grace Congo … Amy
  • Michele Gourdine … Lisa
  • Sasha Higgins … Dominique
  • Katie Lee Mayo … College Student [as Katie Mayo]

Release:

In the US, released on digital and DVD on August 4, 2015, by Uncork’d Entertainment.

Trivia:

Not to be confused with the 2009 werewolf movie of the same name.

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Lasso is Sporadically Entertaining and Gory AF [Review]

Wicked Horror is the author of Lasso is Sporadically Entertaining and Gory AF [Review]. Wicked Horror is the internet’s only horror fan site for free original horror movies, news, review & more.

Lasso takes place somewhere no horror movie in recent memory has dared set foot: the rodeo. It begins, somewhat disconcertingly, with a young woman waking up to find herself chained to a radiator. Bottles of the horse tranquilizer Ketamine (the “Special K” of which Placebo so memorably sang) are scattered all around. So, we’re definitely not in the old west then…

The bad fake tattoos klaxon soon sounds as the story switches focus to a group of active elderlies being shepherded to the rodeo by an odd couple of sorts, Kit (The 100‘s Lindsey Morgan) and Simon (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ Andrew Jacobs), he of the bad tattoos — for readers across the pond, one of them appears to say “Frankie & Benny’s” suggesting he’s a fan of low-priced spag bol and endless Pepsi refills.

Kit is the responsible one, because she’s the woman, and Simon is the screw-up, because he’s the man. She tells him to shape up and, in response, he attempts to win something for her in one of those dick-measuring strongman carnie game things, run by the most obviously evil rodeo bloke. Texas Pexas, as I’ll be calling him, doesn’t blink the entire time. Later, he will gurn. He will gurn so hard.

Although Kit and Simon are ostensibly the leads of Lasso, the film soon separates them as the lady we met at the beginning returns, running for her life as she’s pursued by a black-clad guy on a horse, with the titular weapon in his hand. Things soon get gory AF, but in a way that involves chunks of skin being ripped off and random characters dying as a result. Kit flees with the older folk on their bus, leaving Simon to perish.

Lasso is director Evan Cecil’s feature debut, following a lengthy and varied career in TV. Likewise, his cohort, Roberto Marinas, is tackling his first script. The concept is strong, and the two of them come up with a variety of surprisingly gruesome ways for people to die at this here rodeo, but the makeup and FX aren’t hugely impressive, and the movie isn’t as much fun as the subject matter suggests it would be.

Also See: Seven Horror Films With Effects Better Than the Movie, Itself

The thing is nasty but not mean-spirited. There’s no sexual violence or racism but, considering the villains are hicks, Lasso almost feels toned-down in how it portrays them as roided-up psychos intent on…what? Killing for sport? Certain descriptions of the movie (but not, it must be said, the official one on IMDb) suggest there’s an occult element, but it certainly didn’t present itself to me while watching.

The stranded bus angle (because obviously the elderlies and Kit do not escape) recalls The Windmill Massacre, which was a better concept, and established more coherently where the characters were in relation to their assailants. Here, it’s not clear how far the bus is from the rodeo or how vast the surrounding woods are. Still, at the very least it’s nice to see older actors in roles more traditionally occupied by nubile teens.

Both Morgan and Jacobs do fine, but Simon is gifted the more interesting trajectory as a loser who has to rise to the occasion. The standout performer, however, is naturally the great Sean Patrick Flannery as a one-armed man (with his own arm very obviously tied behind his back) who has more lives than Jason Voorhees and somehow has to save the day in spite of his disability.

There’s definitely an argument to be made for casting an actual disabled person, as Fury Road so memorably did in several key roles, but Flannery is such a likeable screen presence (and he carries most of the action, to be fair to him) that it can be mostly forgiven here. After all, in a movie that showcases its villains shooting up anabolic horse steroids, surely sensitivity to the realities of the world isn’t high up on the agenda.

Weirdly, the lad in black who shows up brandishing the actual lasso of the title isn’t in the movie that much. It’s unclear whether he’s the Big Bad or just another cog in the murderous machine, but considering how big his introduction is, the fact he barely features in the story afterwards is jarring. It’s hard enough keeping track of all these characters without worrying what happened to the leader of the other team.

Lasso isn’t completely terrible, nor is it without a selection of enjoyable, individual moments of stomach-twisting gore or all-out lunacy.​ The stranded bus element makes it feel slightly more disjointed than if all of the action took place solely at the rodeo, but it was presumably added to widen the scope. Still, Flannery is a joy to watch as always, and the premise is better mined for content than the execrable Funhouse Massacre, which was in a similar vein.

WICKED RATING: (5/10)
Director(s): Evan Cecil
Writer(s): Roberto Marinas
Stars: Sean Patrick Flannery, Lindsey Morgan, Andrew Jacobs, Karen Grassle
Year: 2018
Release date: November 13, 2018
Studio/ Production Co: Dragonfly Films
Language: English
Length: 97 minutes
Sub-Genre: Slasher

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The Awakening – UK, 2011

The Awakening is a 2011 British supernatural horror feature film directed Nick Murphy (The Mist TV series; Dracula TV series) from a screenplay co-written with Stephen Volk (The Guardian; The Kiss; Gothic). The movie stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton and Isaac Hempstead-Wright.

Plot:

In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Cinematographer Eduard Grau maintains a healthy, overcast atmosphere throughout, even when things go indoors, helping give the ghosts, in all their forms, an expectedly welcome place to manifest themselves within.  Everything feels like a nice British chamber Guignol, mildly stodgy and claustrophobic…” Kyle Saubert, Allusions of Grandeur

” … a ghost story with a nice kick and deeply felt emotions. The surface details suggest a banal return to a formulaic haunting, yet The Awakening, while imperfect, captures an intensity of gradually eroding conviction that carries the iffy material all the way to the intriguing head-scratcher of an ending.” Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com

The Awakening unfolds in a purposely calculated manner that matches the supernatural literature of its setting’s post-Victorian era. Some call that boring; I call it a slow ratcheting of suspense, and the lovely, headstrong Hall serves as a terrific guide through the good ol’ ghost story.” Rod Lott, Flick Attack

“I found the final, colossal revelation to be contrived, but there are some nicely creepy moments, and director and co-writer Nick Murphy interestingly dramatises some of the neuroses feeding the appetite for ghostly phenomena…” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Some of the creepiest stuff actually happens outside of the ghost hunting and what you don’t see.  It’s not a scare-fest, but it’s intense and well-written. It’s absolutely stunning to look at in that gloomy, foggy, muted colors way you want your British ghost stories to be.” Horror Honeys

” …the film has a strong and well-written series of themes that run throughout about fear, loneliness and the guilts of the past. Perhaps the least satisfying section of the film is when it feels the need to have to throw in a M. Night Shyamalan-esque conceptual spin…” Richard Scheib, Moria

“The trouble was, there was a very decent ghost story that could have been drawn from this groundwork, it’s just that the filmmakers chose to plump for sensation (loud music courtesy of Daniel Pemberton overemphasising every fright) over a nice, creepy atmosphere.” Graeme Clark, The Spinning Image

“Rarely does a horror film make the back of your neck tingle with the calibre of its performances as well as its jumps and jolts – but The Awakening, a beautifully mounted ghost story in the style of The Turn of the Screw, provides chills of both kinds.” Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

” …familiar goings-on featuring the requisite dank shadowy halls and dead children mouthing CGI-stretched Edvard Munch screams. Nick Murphy’s big screen directorial debut has good atmospherics that only go so far to prop up a mystery whose overdue explanation is convoluted and underwhelming.” Dennis Harvey, Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Rebecca Hall … Florence Cathcart
  • Dominic West … Robert Mallory
  • Imelda Staunton … Maud Hill
  • Isaac Hempstead Wright … Tom Hill
  • Shaun Dooley … Malcolm McNair
  • Joseph Mawle … Edward Judd
  • Diana Kent … Harriet Cathcart
  • Richard Durden … Alexander Cathcart
  • John Shrapnel … Reverend Hugh Purslow
  • Cal MacAninch … Freddie Strickland
  • Lucy Cohu … Constance Strickland
  • Anastasia Hille … Dorothy Vandermeer
  • Andrew Havill … George Vandermeer
  • Tilly Vosburgh … Vera Flood
  • Ian Hanmore … Albert Flood
  • Steven Cree … Sergeant Evans
  • Alfie Field … Victor Parry
  • Felix Soper … Julian Dowden
  • Sidney Johnston … John Franklin

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[Review] “Deadwax” Has An Eerie Atmosphere And Killer Sound

On paper, Shudder’s new original series Deadwax (premiering Nov. 15) sounds like The Ring but just with a different object that kills its user. While that isn’t untrue, the series expands that initial premise with intriguing world-building and lore. And of course, the music is great, otherwise what is the point?

The opening scene shows a man meticulously taking out a plain red vinyl record, treating it like a mythical thing of sinister beauty, like the music version of the Lament Configuration. He places the record on a turntable, as the needle slowly goes down, looking more like a guillotine about to chop off a head. He sits down and smiles as the record begins to play, the camera closing in on his face. Then a quick and horrible sound interrupts the man as the screen goes black and then reveals the same man, dead, with his skin gray and mummified, his eye sockets empty and black as the void of space.

It’s an eye-opening start to what accounts for about two hours of TV. If you are the type to complain about shows and films being too long, then Deadwax’s 15-minute-long episodes should be right up your alley. Graham Reznick uses his extensive background as a sound designer, which includes The House of the Devil, and In a Valley of Violence, to craft a show where sound is essential. While good sound design is important in horror (look at this year’s A Quiet Place), there’s usually not a lot of experimenting with it. Reznic bases his entire premise on the idea of sound as a beautiful yet menacing thing, capable of horrible damage. The electric 70s giallo-inspired music, the eerie burst of static noise in the background and the audio cues before the jump scares elevate this beyond its comparisons to The Ring.

In the span of eight episodes, Deadwax follows Etta (Hannah Gross) a vinyl collector and hunter hired by rich people to track down rare records. She will do anything to get her hands on the rarest of the rare, even breaking into people’s houses at night. Her latest score includes a unique record from legendary sound engineer Lyle M. Lytton, part of a series and one of only three pressings in existence. This leads her to hearing about one of the other two records, one with weird markings on its deadwax (the space between the grooves and the label), said to be haunted. Meanwhile, a police officer while investigating the death of our mummy guy from the beginning will get more than he gambled for when he comes across the record.

Inspired by the concept of backmasking – hidden messages in vinyl records that can be discovered when playing backwards – and the Satanic Panic of the 70s, Deadwax treats its acetate subjects as mythical, almost magical objects. Reznick constantly uses close-ups and lingers on the turntable, the needle, and the turning of the vinyl as if it was otherworldly. Those who collect vinyl are portrayed not as hipsters or tinfoil-hat-wearing nutjobs, but as protectors of a sort of ancient art that the rest of the world doesn’t know about. Most of episode 4 is devoted to a college DJ alone in his booth talking about how special the format is. The show manages to also expand the lore of its universe without the need to show everything, as little pieces get added to the mystery and the mythology of Lytton’s killer record, specially around the idea of frequency resonance manipulation, and the notion that sound waves can make the human body react in invisible and sometimes deadly ways.

In the four episodes of Deadwax I saw, the series managed to create an eerie atmosphere that doesn’t shy away from gory and practical deaths like the mummified body or exploding heads. The mythology of the show is intriguing, and the characters have enough development to make you care, but the real winner is the short episode runtimes, which are laser-focused and will leave you wanting to binge the whole thing in one sitting.

Blu-ray Review: The Vestron Video Release of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is the Ultimate Celebration of an ’80s Cult Classic

As someone who has loved Stephen King’s Maximum Overdrive for more than 30 years now (I wrote about it HERE a few years back), the recent Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray for what I consider to be the ultimate cult film of the 1980s is an absolute treasure trove of awesomeness for fans and newcomers alike. The special features dive into literally everything you could want (minus an interview with King and Maximum Overdrive star Emilio Estevez), from the casting to the effects to how producers Dino De Laurentiis and Martha Schumacher (De Laurentiis) helped establish “Hollywood East” in Wilmington, North Carolina, and even follows the story of how the Green Goblin head came to be restored back in 2011.

I won’t really dive into the story of Maximum Overdrive, because chances are, if you’re reading this site, you are probably already pretty familiar with King’s tale of killer trucks that terrorize a truck stop in the south after a comet triggers an event that causes all the machinery in the world to come to life. Starring the aforementioned Estevez (who was in peak “Brat Pack” mode at the time), as well as Laura Harrington, Pat Hingle, Yeardley Smith, and John Short, Maximum Overdrive marks King’s one-and-only time at the helm of a feature film. And yeah, I know he gets a lot of crap for that cocky video teaser where he says, “If you want something done right, you ought to do it yourself,” especially considering the fact that this is after we’ve already seen some incredible King cinematic adaptations come out over the years (Carrie, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, and Christine, just to name a few), but considering the film he was making and his approach, it feels in line with everything we see in the film, for better and for worse.

One thing you can never accuse Maximum Overdrive of being is subtle; it has about as much subtlety as a semi rolling through a nitroglycerine plant, but that’s what I love about it. It’s bold, it’s brash, it has swagger—amplified by the various AC/DC tunes pumping throughout the film’s iconic soundtrack—and it even calls its own director an asshole in his opening scene cameo and also haphazardly tosses a watermelon at Marla Maples during the chaotic bridge scene. And sometimes, as a fan of the genre, you want to drink champagne, and sometimes you just wanna get sloppy drunk and chug some Old Milwaukee’s Best. And Maximum Overdrive is like the horror genre’s equivalent of Old Milwaukee’s Best. It ain’t pretty, but it sure as hell gets the job done.

So, say what you will about Maximum Overdrive, because the movie does have its fair share of issues, but it’s never boring, it never pretends to be anything that it isn’t, and at the end of the day, it offers up an endless barrage of movie magic tricks that I still think are rad and hold up to this very day. I’m grateful that those of us who have grown up loving this odd duck of a cult classic can finally celebrate Maximum Overdrive properly, courtesy of the new Vestron Video Collector’s Series release. The film itself looks incredible, as I’ve been watching it on DVD for decades now, so I really love how much this HD version really makes this feel like a new movie (I picked up so many details in just the production design elements to Maximum Overdrive in these first three viewings of this Blu-ray that I am so excited to be able to go back and dig in again and again).

As far as the special features go, similar to the film it’s celebrating, there is A LOT going on here. We get two Maximum Overdrive commentaries, and admittedly, I only have had time to give the one with Jonah Ray and Ryan Turek a go so far, but their enthusiasm for MO is palpable and entertaining to listen to. In “Truck Stop Tales,” Martha De Laurentiis is interviewed about her involvement in the film and how the project came together with Stephen King at the helm. She gives a great interview, but I noticed a few random black screens during this doc, but overall, it’s really great. A fun tidbit she shares in this is how King had AC/DC songs written into the script, proving he knew from the very beginning he wanted the powerhouse group to be involved with Maximum Overdrive, so it’s a good thing for all of us that it all worked out. And as Martha points out, Stephen made movies for the audience, and that’s exactly what King does with the film that he has gone on to dub a “moron movie” (I’d beg to differ on that title, but that’s an entirely different conversation right there).

For “Rage Against the Machines,” we catch up with Laura Harrington, who came down to Wilmington from New York, and she shares some stories about working with Stephen and Emilio, including how one day she went boogey boarding with Emilio and Tom Cruise. She also talks about the Italian film crew that worked on Maximum Overdrive that didn’t really know about how American filming went, and so because most of their films were dubbed at the time, they would just speak over scenes because they didn’t realize how that would affect things. In “Honeymoon Horrors,” both Yeardley Smith and John Short talk about their involvement with the movie, both just coming of off Broadway. Their affection for their time spent on Maximum Overdrive is evident, and I must say, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard Lisa Simpson say, “F–k yeah!” Both actors also talked about the uncomfortable conditions of the MO shoot, but how everyone still came together to make the best of it, which was just lovely to hear.

“A Kid in King’s Court” focuses on Holter Graham, who plays the plucky and lucky baseballer Deke, whose dad falls victim to one of the killer trucks at the Dixie Boy. He reminisces on how it was an audition tape he had made for Silver Bullet (another De Laurentiis production) that led to him coming aboard Maximum Overdrive, and shared his memories from the surreal first meeting he had with Dino, where the famed producer was sitting on a throne. Graham also shares a fun factoid about the soda cans from the scene where the machine goes crazy at the baseball field, discussing how they were made of foam. Something else that was really cool was that apparently during production, Graham got to go to a midnight showing of Repo Man with Emilio, which is something I am supremely jealous of.

“Maximum Carnage” celebrates the work of Dean Gates, the special effects wizard behind all of Maximum Overdrive’s ambitious gore and blood gags. He talks about how he had been working on Invasion USA with Tom Savini when he got Maximum Overdrive, and that it was the first time he was the guy in charge of everything. Gates also discusses MO’s overly juicy squib hits, and how he had wanted to take the guy in the backyard with the chainsaw gag even further, but wasn’t allowed to. Effects fans will really enjoy hearing a lot of what Gates has to say here, as he also digs into the infamous steamroller scene, and how in one take the dummy head popped so it looked like brains went flying everywhere, and on another take, they loaded the dummy with blood bags for a gnarly result. He also reveals that the coach’s head gag used a technique from Dick Smith, and how if you watch very closely, you can see in one of the frames of Maximum Overdrive the mirror trick that they used for the truck hit stunt. This is easily one of the best segments on this release.

There’s another mini-doc called “The Wilmington Factor” that dives into the history of this sleepy town in North Carolina that became known as “Hollywood East,” which was largely due to the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (Firestarter came first, then Maximum Overdrive, and more just followed suit from there). We get interviews from several crew members as well as reporter Ben Steelman, so for anyone curious in production history, this one is a good watch. With “Who Made Who?”, author Murray Engleheart delves into AC/DC’s involvement in the soundtrack for Maximum Overdrive. As someone who grew up listening to AC/DC, and am still pretty sure that the only reason my mom agreed to take me to see this movie in theaters is because of the band being front and center, I do feel like some of this material could have been included elsewhere, as it’s a pretty brief discussion overall.

The final featurette included on this release is “Goblin Resurrectus,” which is centered around film fan Tim Shockey, who restored the Green Goblin to all its glory and now tours with his repurposed masterpiece to shows all over the US (I had the distinct pleasure of seeing it for myself first-hand at Flashback Weekend in 2013). He talks about how he was running a video store at the time, and how his brother saw an ad in the paper about the Green Goblin head, and he encouraged Tim to buy it. The thing was in rough shape, so in 2011, he decided it was time to restore it. He spent two years getting it back in shape, and the results are glorious. I’m glad we have guys like Tim around who realize the importance in preserving horror history, so it’s cool to see his efforts lauded here.

As a whole, if you love Maximum Overdrive, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better celebration of this sweaty slice of trucksploitation than what we get in this Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray. It’s a gorgeous presentation of the film, and the special features are thoroughly entertaining (again, I would have loved to see something from Estevez or King, but that’s just me being a bit nitpicky). I know it’s a release I’m going to spend a lot of time enjoying in the future, and I think it’s been lovingly put together precisely for all of us who grew up embracing Maximum Overdrive’s wacky, over-the-top shenanigans since the 1980s (plus, it makes for a helluva introduction for newcomers to boot)—just a really excellent Blu-ray all-around.

Movie Score: 3.5/5, Disc Score: 5/5

The post Blu-ray Review: The Vestron Video Release of MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE is the Ultimate Celebration of an ’80s Cult Classic appeared first on Daily Dead.

THE WARDROBE Review – A Hilarious And Heartbreaking Adventure

Developed by C.I.N.I.C. Games

Published by Adventure Productions

Available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Switch

Rated M for Mature


As someone who hasn’t played a whole lot of point and click adventure games, I have to say that The Wardrobe certainly made me want to play more. I even wanted to play through it again after I reached the end credits, which should tell you how strongly The Wardrobe represents the genre as a whole.

From an aesthetic standpoint, The Wardrobe was a truly beautiful game in every sense of the word. One of the key elements which drew me to playing it in the first place was the gorgeous hand drawn animation, which is presented in glorious HD. Replicating the style of old school 2D animation with a slick and modern twist, you will quickly discover that each individual frame on display tells its own story, and it’s no exaggeration to say that you’ll find yourself staring at the screen for extended periods to try to uncover any hidden details within the lush and detailed environments. Even if point and click games aren’t really your thing, The Wardrobe still has a great deal to offer in the visual department.

After a brief intro, in which we learn that a young boy named Skinny died after eating a plum whist out on a picnic with his best friend Ronald, we are instantly transported to five years later, where Skinny, who was reduced to a skeleton, has been secretly living in Ronald’s wardrobe as a kind of guardian angel. Once that’s over, you’ll probably be relieved to learn that the gameplay mechanics are simple and easy to learn, so even those who aren’t terribly familiar with the point and click genre will instantly get stuck in and find themselves having a good time, even though the story itself isn’t particularly on the lengthy side.
Despite Skinny’s skeletal appearance, he can freely move around the world of the living on account of most of the story taking place on Halloween night, with people assuming he’s wearing a costume, so you don’t need to worry about having to stick to the shadows.

Having said that, however, some of the tasks you’ll need to perform will no doubt leave to scratching your head, so don’t expect to reach the end credits without looking at an online tutorial or two. For instance, I would never have guessed that you need to use a blow torch on the bedpost to gain access to the metal screw inside, which you’ll then need to use to cure the toothache of the alligator in the sewer. The game itself gives to player very few hints about what they should do, so if you become stuck (and you will, believe me), then online tutorials are the way to go. Whilst some players will probably be frustrated by the fact that The Wardrobe does not hold your hand and tell you exactly what you need to do, but I was actually relieved to finally play something which left me to figure things out on my own. That way, when I did eventually progress, I felt a real sense of achievement, because it seemed as though I’d earned the right to move forward on my own rather than being guided to take baby steps in the right direction. And when I finally got to the end, well, let’s just say that I can’t remember the last time a video game made me cry, but The Wardrobe came pretty damn close.

As this review has already stated, The Wardrobe was not incredibly long, but at the same time, the story was so humorous and engaging that it was still more than worth it’s asking price, which is in no small part due to the cast of colorful and bizarre characters you’ll meet throughout your journey. You’ll encounter a flamboyant zombie, a talking bear rug, a guitar playing dragon, a literal dusk monster, an alien DJ, the ghost of a kind old lady, and even Jesus Christ himself, each with their own unique quirks and idiosyncrasies. If you’re a media junkie, you might also be amused by the fact that the writers crammed in a ton of humorous popular culture references, poking fun at everything from Star Wars to Angry Birds

The voice acting was also some of the best I’ve heard so far this year, with Skinny’s witty and sarcastic vocalization making me laugh so hard I even needed to pause the game at times. All the other performers did fine jobs too, bringing each of their characters to life in their own unique way. The talking bear rug, for instance, sounds exactly like you would expect a talking bear rug to sound, with his delivery bound to leave you in stitches (no pun intended).

Although it clearly didn’t have a AAA budget, the level of care and dedication which clearly went into the development of The Wardrobe deserves to be commended. C.I.N.I.C. Games have created what might just be one of the best point and click titles of the year, and whilst bigger releases like Red Dead Redemption 2 will no doubt generate more revenue and publicity, gamers looking to experience less mainstream fare will do well to open their wardrobe doors to this unique adventure.

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[Review] ‘This War of Mine: The Last Broadcast’ is Emotionally Resonant and Oppressively Grim

A new impactful story of survival builds on the base game’s subtle handling of the horrors of war. Read all about it in our This War of Mine The Last Broadcast review.

Though This War of Mine stands tall amongst its genre peers on the substantial merit of its robust survival mechanics alone, it’s arguably the very human stories, trials and tribulations that serve as the beating heart for what is ostensibly 11-Bit Studios magnum opus.

With a narrative scribed by Meg Jayanth, whose keen penship drove Inkle’s 80 Days globetrotting adventures to such superlative heights, the second Stories expansion The Last Broadcast deftly weaves a story that not only encapsulates the survivalist struggles of the base game, but also one that examines the value and role of truth in a time of war.

Immediately the setup for The Last Broadcast is interesting. Revolving around crippled radio operator Malik and his wife, Esma, the former struggles to impart life-saving wisdom to the survivors of the Grazni Civil War, while the latter ventures out into the outside world to scavenge for supplies and obtain the news that her husband so desperately needs to broadcast.

this war of mine the last broadcast review

The news that you can broadcast can come from multiple sources too. Though mostly uncovered through Esma’s journey into the wider world, the visitors who knock on your door can also now be quizzed for the latest developments, with such news allowing you to do everything from taking advantage of supply and demand for certain resources in favorable trade negotiations, to providing ample notice regarding troop movements.

With the attainment of news comes the notion of responsibility – do you impart the news to Malik, allowing him to broadcast out this new information, or, do you withhold it? Depending on how you handle information, certain characters might react to you differently (or not appear at all), while the balance of your choices are brilliantly brought to bear in one of The Last Broadcast’s multiple endings.

The fact that The Last Broadcast begins with not just two survivors, but whereupon only one of them is able-bodied lends the proceedings quite the unexpected dynamic. As the sole scavenger in the group, the physical demands that are put onto Esma are far beyond that which would be normal.

As such, The Last Broadcast forces long-time This War of Mine players to think much differently than they otherwise would do. Because Esma is the only individual capable of scavenging, she cannot rest at home at night and so instead must catch up on her snoozes during the day – a problem which is compounded by the fact that if she indulges in any strenuous physical activity, as this makes her rest all the more important.

this war of mine the last broadcast review 01
On the other side of the coin, Malik’s crippling disability is debilitating to that point that he can only roam around a single level in the house. Without the ability to move up or down floors, he must also be fed, treated and entertained by Esma – something which not only exacerbates the tremendous strain that already exists on her time.

Fortunately though, unlike the base game, The Last Broadcast begins with our survivors in a considerably large house that already has a lot of amenities, utilities, and loot to collect. Though this house also presents a unique challenge in the form of a rockfall which prevents immediate access to a pre-prepared herb garden; a conundrum that is soon remedied by fashioning a pickaxe to clear the way.

As a result, not only does the unique situation of Malik and Esma lend itself to refreshing play and a reorganization of the traditional This War of Mine mindset, but so too do the digs that couple inhabit present a meaningful challenge that deftly compliments what The Last Broadcast has wrought elsewhere in its design.

In addition to emphasizing the human element that has defined This War of Mine, The Last Broadcast also packs in a bunch of new base content. Certainly, the much larger scope when compared to the previous DLC, A Father’s Promise, makes The Last Broadcast feel like much more akin to a banquet, rather than the mouldering scraps one might expect to find in one of the game’s long-abandoned shelters.

Beyond the weight of The Last Broadcast’s narrative and the new features, Pogoren, the city that served as the backdrop to The Grazni Civil War in the base game, has also been enlarged with new locations to explore and a range of new characters to interact with. A tense cover to cover sprint through a park under the watchful eye of a sniper proves to be a particular highlight that doubles down on This War of Mine’s penchant for getting the blood pumping, as Esma puts her life on the line to scavenge both resources and news alike. Celebrating the fourth anniversary of This War of Mine with this expansion, 11-Bit Studios has managed to both properly honor the spirit of the base game, and meaningfully iterate upon it with this latest DLC offering. Emotionally resonant, oppressively grim and generously stuffed with emergent possibility and multiple endings, The Last Broadcast widens the scope of The Grazni Civil War and is essential for both owners of This War of Mine and fans of supremely well-written survival narratives.

Here’s hoping that the third, and as yet unannounced story expansion for This War of Mine follows much more rigidly in the footsteps of the game’s sophomoric DLC offering, rather than its inaugural venture into the Stories format.

This War of Mine The Last Broadcast review code provided by the publisher.

This War of Mine The Last Broadcast is available on PC from November 14.

Crucible of the Vampire – UK, 2017

‘An ancient blood curse finds a new beginning’

Crucible of the Vampire is a 2017 British supernatural horror film directed by Iain Ross-McNamee (I Saw Black CloudsThe Singing Bird Will Come) from a screenplay co-written with Darren Lake and John Wolskel (I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle). The movie stars Neil Morrissey, Katie Goldfinch, Brian Croucher, Florence Cady and Larry Rew.

Plot:

An ancient, cursed artefact draws a young, university researcher (Katie Goldfinch) to an old house which holds a dark and terrible secret. The young woman discovers the truth within the grim, foreboding walls of the house, but once in the clutches of its malevolent occupants, will she be able to leave with her life?

Reviews:

“Florence Cady, as Scarlet Scott-Morton, exudes the same kind of dangerous female sexuality that made Linda Hayden’s performances in Blood on Satan’s Claw and Exposé so compelling. Meanwhile Katie Goldfinch embodies that same, strong-willed heroine that you see in films like Suspiria and Rosemary’s Baby – women trying their damnedest to fight against the rising tide of evil…” Phil Wheat, Nerdly

“Taking elements of classics such as The Wicker Man and the spirit of M. R. James, it’s a film that is very easy to like, despite the occasional beats that don’t quite hit. The tone is pitch-perfect, and will certainly appeal to fans of parlour horror stories and moody old dark house flicks.” Martin Unsworth, Starburst

Screenbound Pictures is releasing Crucible of the Vampire in the UK on HD DVD on 4 February 2019.

Cast and characters:

  • Neil Morrissey … Robert – I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle
  • Brian Croucher … Ezekiel
  • Aaron Jeffcoate … Tom
  • Charles O’Neill … Jeremiah
  • Katie Goldfinch … Isabelle
  • Babette Barat … Evelyn
  • Larry Rew … Karl
  • Florence Cady … Scarlet
  • Lisa Martin … Lydia
  • Richard Oliver … Taxi Driver
  • Phil Hemming … Professor Edwards
  • John Stirling … Stearne
  • Angela Carter … Veronica
  • Peter Rowlinson … Soldier
  • Jeremy Taylor … Soldier
  • Darren Lake … Hooded Figure
  • Michael Molcher … The Captain
  • Graham Langhorne … Soldier
  • David Rowlinson … Soldier

 

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Blood Cult – USA, 1985

‘The first movie made for the home video market… Might just scare you to death!’

Blood Cult is a 1985 American slasher horror feature film directed by Christopher Lewis from a screenplay by Stuart Rosenthal, with additional dialogue by James Vance.

The movie stars Juli Andelman (The Silent Scream), Charles Ellis, James Vance, Bennie Lee McGowan, Peter Hart, David Stice, Fred Graves and Bob Duffield.

Director Christopher Lewis followed this shot-on-video production with The Ripper (starring Tom Savini) the same year, and then a sequel, the imaginatively-titled Revenge, in 1986.

Plot:

A secret society gather to worship the god “Canis” and offer the occasional human sacrifice, but they are eventually challenged by a bookish heroine…

Reviews:

“Utilizing a nine day shooting schedule, director Christopher Lewis tells a by-the-number stalk and slash tale with requisite nods to Halloween and Psycho, but with some gore thrown in for good measure … he’s a bland if capable director who gets some reasonable mileage out of his slasher scenes, but pads out his running time interminably with scenes of characters sitting around and talking.” Doug Tilley, Daily Grindhouse

“To the film’s credit, there are a few atmospheric scenes, largely because Oklahoma is a naturally atmospheric state. But, for the most part, Blood Cult has a “Grandpa Picked Up a Video Camera And Made A Horror Film” look and feel to it.” Lisa Marie Bowman, HorrorCritic.com

“The opening house sets were great – all lit up perfectly to give off a suburban horror mood … Cheap, but fun. From here onward the acting just takes a dive, and makes room for some of the ugliest people I have ever seen in a horror film. You can only scream so long before we start to realize that your ‘acting’ career starts and ends with Blood Cult.” Josh G, Oh, the Horror!

Blood Cult never really manages to find its groove, frankly because it doesn’t even seem to be trying to. It’s almost as if Lewis and company were more concerned with just getting the damn thing made and out there than actually producing something remotely worth watching.” Trash Film Guru

“For the bad sound, sucky plotline, crappy acting and misogyny, there’s some cheesy recompense: the killer uses the decapitated head of one victim to beat her roommate with; severed fingers are found in a salad, and they had the audacity to call the sorority house where the first murder occurs Chi Omega!” Vegan Voorhees

Filming locations:

Tahlequah and Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA

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