Thursday, May 29, 2014

Top Ten Modern Monsters - GUEST POST


This week we've got a great guest post from John over at Vile Reviews. It's a list of the "Top Ten Modern Monsters of Horror". This is a great read so get ready for some famous freaks after the jump!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Now Screaming: 'Warm Bodies' (Movie Review)


If you’re like me, you dismissed this flick in theaters as standard Summit schlock. Frankly, I’d probably never gotten around to it even with the convenience of streaming. However, it’s a perfect horror adjacent film that can entertain the spouse (or in my case, the daughter) while not boring you.

I mean...it has zombies. It can’t be that bad.

Once you get past the freshman-creative-writing-course cleverness (OMG they’re like Romeo and Juliet but their names are “Julie” and “R”), there is quite a bit to like here. John Malkovich and Rob Corddry are woefully underused, but it’s nice to have their talents rounding out the supporting cast.
Taking a story from the perspective of the zombie is rarely done, and even rarer that it's done well. Warm Bodies succeeds where something like Aaah! Zombies!! fails because of its love of the genre and desire to expand it, rather than poke fun at it. I won’t spoil this film’s answer to why zombies eat brains, but I thought it was brilliant and macabre.

The funny parts were amusing and sometimes even delightfully aware, allowing pretentious assholes like myself to laugh at obvious jokes without feeling pandered to. Sadly, Corddry is never really allowed to be as funny as we know he’s capable of, but that’s really only a problem if you’re aware of his body of work.

I know this movie’s main aim isn't terror, but it would have been nice if they put in a little more effort. The bad zombies, called “boneys”, won’t be scaring anyone other than my seven year old any time soon. They’re serviceable enough CGI, I guess, but I’d much rather see low budget practical-effect zombies than George Romero's screensaver any day.

Ultimately, what stymies any mass audience aimed Romeo and Juliet romp in the modern era is the ending. The brilliance of John Malkovich as the Lord Capulet stand-in makes you think that the film just might have some balls and go even more tragic than the original play. Again, I’ll avoid the spoiler, but leave it saying I was satisfied but a little disappointed. Sometimes I just wish that American audiences could put their big boy pants on.

All said and done, it’s a passable flick and not a bad way to spend an evening, especially with a significant other that isn't the biggest horror fan. Just don’t tell anyone I enjoyed it, lest I lose my cred. Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to practice my terrible John Malkovich impression in the shower.

Grade: B
Now Streaming On: HBO GO

Editors Note: "Now Screaming" is a new series of review articles written by Jeff where he'll critique horror (and horror adjacent) movies that are available on your favorite streaming services. The title is an awful play on words that we thought up where we replaced the word "Streaming" with "Screaming". Get it? Great!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Dark Souls Movie Would Work


It's no secret that over at Terrorphoria we are fans of Dark Souls. If there is one fantasy RPG game that evokes elements of horror and survival horror, the Souls franchise is it. That sense of utter despair and isolation is unmatched by any other modern video game. As I was grinding away on a play through of Dark Souls yesterday I thought to myself, "this could make a cool movie".

I would be really excited if it got the full Hollywood big budget treatment similar to a Resident Evil, but I think there is plenty of room for a lower budget release or even a high quality fan-made film. Maybe something akin to that cool Fallout: Nuka Break series, only darker.

 Setting:

Each of the franchise's games takes place in a different world (and arguably time) and that's a huge plus for anyone who would attempt a translation to film. Sure you could base a flick in Lordran or Drangleic, but you wouldn't have to. It could be an entirely new world with its own characters and stories that cleverly tie together as we've seen the lore in Dark Souls and Dark Souls II do. These games feature incredible environments from lush forests to huge castles and dungeons. I'm sure a call to Peter Jackson's site scout could turn up some pretty cool locations in New Zealand. Plus, the armor and costume design is rooted in historical reality, although there are obviously some crazy creative liberties taken here and there.

Characters:

The Souls games have such a vast amount of complex lore that a film adaptation should have plenty of interesting stories to draw from. A character like Orstein for instance. He's got a great back story, and a well choreographed battle scene featuring him would be totally bad ass. Outside of the insane creature design and epic battles, I think there are so many interesting and cryptic character interactions with the few non-hostile NPC's, that there's an opportunity for some cool Ingmar Bergman style moments (watch The Seventh Seal if you don't know who that is) and you could even incorporate the Covenants into the mix since they all have their own history as well.

Concepts:

Death is always a popular concept in horror and fantasy films. I think the mechanisms of "undeath" and how warriors in Dark Souls seemingly travel between parallel universes and times could be an amazing platform for the right script. It opens up a lot of possibilities (or maybe plot holes) but with the right director at the helm.

A Dark Souls movie could totally work. The key is that it needs to be handled with respect, and marketed as a horror or dark fantasy film similar to Black Death or Legend and not a "video game movie" as we've seen so many other franchises (cough, Silent Hill, cough) succumb to.

Are you a Souls fan who would like to see it made into a film? What storylines would you want to see included? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Welcome Jeff Conolly


I'd like to formally welcome Jeff Conolly aboard the good ship Terrorphoria as our newest staff writer! Jeff is an educator, sometimes stand-up comic, and "pop culture analyst" (I made that up just to sound official) who has written and created content for various gaming and media outlets.

I'm glad to have him helping me with this rapidly growing little blog, and hope you folks all enjoy his unique and humorous take on horror media.

So lets all give Jeff a warm welcome by flaming the hell out of his debut review of Godzilla in the comments section!

'Godzilla' (Movie Review)


There was a time when horror movies were synonymous with “giant stuff.” Sometimes it was giant ants. Sometimes it was giant blobs. The king of these, always, was Godzilla. Horror really evolved after its “just like this thing you know, only gigantic” phase into darker toned, more personal fears. The genre became less concerned with what a raw force of nature could do to an entire civilization, and instead focused on stories that traumatized small tribes of individuals.

This evolution of a genre made myself and others who grew up on kaiju cinema think that a giant lizard could never again be scary. Then Steven Spielberg proved us wrong by putting a cup a water on top of a guitar to make what was probably the most memorable special effect of the 90's. Suddenly two things were true: I was irrationally afraid of T-Rex's and couldn’t wait until a modern Godzilla movie gave our favorite movie monster this sort of treatment. Cue 1998, Matthew Broderick, that guy who made Independence Day, and a mountain of fish and disappointment. Not even the kick ass Jean Reno could save it.

Now, sixteen years later, the new Godzilla trailer promised a movie that finally lives up to that hope I had when I watched Jurassic Park. Godzilla would be horror again. Kaiju horror for a modern age. Better yet, it stars Bryan Cranston. That dude from Breaking Bad was totally was totally going to be in the new awesome horror Godzilla that we’ve craved for twenty years.

First disappointment: Cranston is barely in it. I get why they lied to us in the trailers. They wanted my money. I get it, but don’t short me Walter White. Second disappointment: The movie is terrible. It’s broken at a script level. Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), the only character that is worth watching, is superfluous. The military doesn’t seem to operate logically (for instance following third in line behind skyscraper-sized, civilization-bound monsters rather than utilizing their resources to, I don’t know, barricade the monsters to protect the American shore or something).

The actual main human character is so boring that I found differentiating my popcorn more entertaining.  At one point, he randomly ends up with a kid separated from his parents.  One action scene later, the kid is returned. Neither character is changed and we never see or hear from the kid again. Like so much else, it’s just pointless. Our titular character doesn’t show up until late in the film, and not in that cool, Jaws, kind of way.  Jaws is brilliant and cleverly written, and engaging whether a shark is on screen or not.  This film does not have that luxury.  Admittedly, some of the monster fighting is cool (Godzilla giving what is basically the Cloverfield monster a fire-breathing, porno finale is fantastic) but there is far too little of it.

Perhaps one day I’ll get my horror film that makes a giant lizard terrorizing civilization scary again. Until then, I’ll have to watch the last fifteen minutes of Lost World where a T-rex makes it to the mainland.


Grade: D+
Reviewed by Jeff Conolly in theater
 

Friday, May 16, 2014

'Zombicide' (Game Review)


Board games are hot right now. No, I'm not talking about Monopoly or Connect Four. I'm talking about complex "tabletop" board games. The kind that take all the annoying things you don't like about video games (like inventory management) and turn them into complex rule sets with cards and plastic tokens. Sound like fun? Sometimes it is! I was looking for a horror board game, but I heard through the grapevine you need a PhD in Cthulu-ology to even look at Arkham Horror so I decided to grab Zombicide by Guillotine Games because it was less expensive, had lots of minis, and also zombie apocalypse. Lets check it out!


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

'Demon Resurrection' (Movie Review)


One of the best things about the low budget and "no budget" indie horror scene is that when you watch a movie it relies on the merits of its story and execution since it can't hide behind special effects or any number of other gimmicks of big Hollywood releases. I recently received a copy of Demon Resurrection to review, and although it's a bit rough around the edges I was pleasantly surprised!

Demon Resurrection tells the story of a group of friends who stage an intervention for their friend Grace. She was kidnapped by an evil cult, and their best plan was to kidnap her back and hide her in a cabin. I couldn't help but notice the similarities between this and the revised plot for the Evil Dead reboot (although Demon Resurrection came out in 2008) and I have to wonder if the cast and crew were flattered or thought "What the WHAT?!" when they saw a similar idea on big screens in 2013.

The first half of Demon Resurrection is dialogue heavy. This slow burn harkens back to the era of 1970's and early 80's horror. While there is some admittedly cheesy dialogue here and there, I have to give a special nod to Will McDonald who plays the cult leader "Toth". He totally steals the show in every scene he's in with an acting style reminiscent of Ernest Borgnine in The Devil's Rain. It's as if Mr. Rogers wore a white turtleneck and also commanded an unholy army of the night; totally awesome. I also want to give kudos to Chad Kessler (Mike) for playing the entertaining character who doesn't really belong in the situation for any particular reason, but still swears a lot and acts like a jerk to everybody.


After the stage is set via some rituals, gymnastics in a tree, and a sexy flashback we get to the real meat and potatoes; DEMONS! The effects and creature design are really solid considering the film's budget. They used a mix of practical effects makeup along with slow motion and a CGI "fog" technique to create a creepy blurring effect that works well. Especially fun is the resurrection scene where Toth summons the demons and everything looks like an old 1960's psychedelic acid trip music video. At that point everything kicks into high gear, and the demons make their persistent march towards the house to retrieve Grace and kill everyone in their path. I noticed the demons really enjoy pulling people through broken windows and that leads to some great gross out moments. Belly button glass shard impalement is never fun.

I don't want to spoil the plot, so I'll summarize the rest of the movie in a vague haiku.

"Undead magic stick
Antichrist lizard Muppet
Cultist comeuppance"

Demon Resurrection is a fun movie. Does it have faults? Absolutely. There is some goofy writing, intermittent audio volume spikes, and deadpan acting that is expected in this type of movie. However, it's totally obvious that everyone involved in making this movie (especially the second act) was really passionate about making a horror movie and it totally shines through. This leads me back to my opening statement where ultra low budget movies live or die on the merit of their writing and execution. If you look past its issues, there is an honest, entertaining, and worthwhile indie movie waiting to be found. If you're interested, you can find out more at the Demon Resurrection website. Oh, and Joe Zaso the evil limo driver? That dude has been in a TON of movies!

Grade: B-

Reviewed on DVD via official screener copy


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mutant League Football Retrospective



1993 was a pretty great year. Steely Dan reunited, and a young Meg Ryan's performance stole America's heart in Sleepless in Seattle. The Sega Genesis (or "Mega Drive" for our friends across the pond) was also in its prime and a little company named Electronic Arts was taking a lot of chances with new and interesting IP's. Among them was Mutant League Football; the brainchild of Mike Mendheim and his team. Mutant League Football (MLF from here) was a horror parody of the National Football League, and also incredible. It took the basic concepts of "arcade" style football games like Cyberball and said "what if we mixed trolls and toxic waste pits and terrible puns in here?" The basic premise is that a nuclear apocalypse combined with an alien invasion has decimated the Earth and mutated a large portion of the remaining human population. This destruction didn't diminish everyone's love of football, so we end up with professional teams trolls, robots, mutant supermen, and an army of the undead.

What I love so dearly about MLF is the balance it struck between sports games like Madden, and violent games like The Immortal and Splatterhouse. It brought them together in a way that was accessible, funny, and way more affordable than finding a copy of Blood Bowl. At the time, my teenage self only cared about how cool it was to control a team of giant skeletons, but revisiting the game decades later I have new found respect for a number of reasons.


First, the amount of time and energy put into the parody and terrible jokes was huge. "Bones Jackson" and the "Midway Monsters" were just a few of the on-point jokes peppered liberally into the game. Unlike so many other arcade football games like Cyberball or even NFL Blitz the designers created this entire ridiculous world around the game's concept. They put enough effort into it that a cartoon series was spun off and ran for two seasons. If you get the chance to find any episodes, watch them. It was strange, violent, and totally not appropriate for its target audience.

Second, MLF was actually a decent football game. It pared your team down to seven players on field, but still allowed enough strategy to formulate real plays and execute audibles. The "nasty audibles" were things like jet packs, rigging the ball with explosives, or simply a full blitz assault attempting to murder the other team's QB. Leveraging the engine from Madden '93 gave MLF a leg up on titles like Blood Bowl and the oddly endorsed Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl. Their AI and ruleset was just pitiful in comparison to the players and coaches you'd face off against in the Mutant League. The violent horror elements also added a new layer of strategy, because in career mode you risked losing key players to brutal deaths on your way to win the championship. That, and you couldn't actively bribe or murder the referees in either of those other games!


Mutant League Football is a wonderful relic. It's an anomaly from the time when video games hit their stride in terms of creativity, and were totally IN YOUR FACE TO THE EXTREME because it was the 1990's. It was clearly made with a unique vision, much passion, and careful use of parody law to avoid litigation from the NFL. There was talk of a Kickstarter project funding a remake which I'd love to see, but may not happen. Either way, if you're a fan of horror and the gridiron you absolutely need to track down a copy of this game and give it a spin. Maybe you'll win the Mutant Bowl and get inducted into the "Hole of Flame"!

ShareThis