horror

READ THE WORLD – Scotland: The Open Door, and the Portrait by Margaret Oliphant

The Open Door, and the Portrait: Stories of the Seen and the Unseen are two short spooky stories.

The Open Door is from the perspective of Mortimer a father who’s brought his family to live in an old Scottish manor but when his son is taken ill, having apparently heard a lost spirit, Mortimer promises to solve the mystery and help the lost soul. The Portrait is about Philip, a man who returns home to his elderly father and becomes enchanted by the portrait of his dead mother who he never knew.

Both stories are eerie and are set in old, manor houses that hide their secrets and have male leads that like to believe they are sound of mind but maybe that’s not the case.

Out of the two stories I preferred The Open Door. It was a creepy ghost story that made full use of its setting in the wilds of Scotland, owls hooting, characters not wanting to believe the stories and a child that has seen things that can’t be explained. I also liked that when Mortimer was investigating his sons claims and talked to people who worked for the house, the way it was written you could clearly see the thick Scottish accent. It was another thing that helped pull me into the story.

The Portrait was more of a mystery than a horror story. There were hints at supernatural goings on but it was Phillip and his relationship with his father that was the main focus of the story. Also, while obviously a lot happens in a short space of time in a short story, I found the ending of The Portrait felt quite rushed and not that satisfying.

Still, I did enjoy reading The Open Door, and the Portrait: Stories of the Seen and the Unseen. I haven’t read any Victorian fiction out of choice before (definitely read some during my school life) and these short stories were a nice way to dip my toes in as it were.

I want to say thank you to Bex over at NinjaBookBox as it was this post that made me aware of Margaret Oliphant. I will be checking out the other books and authors mentioned in the post.

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REVIEW: My Friend Dahmer (2017)

Jeffrey Dahmer (Ross Lynch) struggles with a difficult family life with a manic mother (Anne Heche) and a father (Dallas Roberts) who doesn’t understand him. As he tries to navigate high school and his teenage years, it solely becomes clear he doesn’t fit in with his peers.

My Friend Dahmer is a study of the teenage Jeffrey Dahmer, before he became one of America’s most notorious serial killers. Lynch gives a great performance as the shy yet unnerving young Dahmer. From his mannerisms to how he moves, everything about him seems not quite right. Add his fascination with disintegrating roadkill with acid and poor social skills it’s a captivating yet unsettling performance.

Dahmer is a loner and doesn’t have any friends until Derf (Alex Wolff), Mike (Harrison Holzer) and Neil (Tommy Nelson) start to include him and make a Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club. Though can they really be called friends when they seem to manipulate him and like the infamy of being associated with him brings rather than who he is? With his so called friends and his parents who don’t take a real interest in him, the film offers a kind of nature vs nurture debate.

My Friend Dahmer blends the weird, creepy and darkly comedic incredibly well. It’s unsettling as you see Dahmer become more and more distant and angry as he tries to deal with his life, but then there’s sudden moments of humour, with situations that you probably really shouldn’t be laughing at.

My Friend Dahmer is a chilling insight into the life of a young killer. Lynch gives a captivating performance and with its blend of dark humour and suspense, it is definitely worth watching. 4/5.

Thoughts on… the Resident Evil films

Last month I finished watching the Resident Evil film series for the first time. I watched the first film back in May on Netflix and then when I saw a cheap deal on a box set of all the films I decided to get them and slowly make my way through them all.

The films are apparently very loosely based on video games with the same name. The films follow Alice (Milla Jovovich), someone who was once a security operative for the Umbrella Corporation, a bioengineering pharmaceutical company that develops bioweapons, as she fights against the corporation and the undead monsters it created with its bio weapons.

They are not particularly great films and the early ones haven’t aged particularly well in regards to the special effects but generally there’s something somewhat enjoyable/good to be found in each one. There’s often a lot of quick editing, making it hard to follow or appreciate action sequences and the dialogue isn’t always that great either. there’s a lot of heavy-handed exposition dumps throughout the film-series, especially in Resident Evil: Retribution. The later films were obviously shot/converted into 3D as there’s so many shots of bullets or knives flying towards the screen. It’s this sort of thing that might have looked cool or added something to the film if you were watching it in 3D in the cinema but now, watching it on the TV it’s just a gimmick.

My favourites out of the six-film series is the first Resident Evil film and Resident Evil: Extinction. The first film because it’s really quite a tense film that combines mystery and horror well. Being in The Hive (the underground research facility), such an enclosed space with only a small group of characters who are learning about the undead at the same pace you are is interesting. Plus, the deadly artificial intelligence offers an extra layer of threat because it has control of the whole place. The characters themselves all follow pretty typical military-esque stereotypes with strong, in control leader James Shade (Colin Salmon) and the lone-badass girl in the team Rain (Michelle Rodriguez).

I like Resident Evil: Extinction because it really feels like a post-apocalyptic world. It’s set in the desert states of America, Alice’s outfit is the most practical out of all her various outfits she wears across the films, and it’s got a lot of interesting characters like Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr) who is really cool and capable and I loved his relationship with Alice, and Claire (Ali Larter) the leader of this ragtag group of survivors you follow. All the other character you see in this group of survivors are obviously somewhat smart and capable to have survived so long and when Alice comes into their lives, you get to really see how her abilities have developed.

Both films feature the zombie dogs which are my favourite scary creatures in the series. I think it’s because you see monster-humans a lot in media but you don’t really see the animals become undead or evil. The sequences with undead dogs and crows are some of my favourite, they’re instantly more tense and scary in my mind.

The Resident Evil franchise is not the best thing ever but in my mind, it’s not the worst either. I think Resident Evil: The Final Chapter did a good job at wrapping everything up, especially as the films seemed to get more convoluted as they went on. There was the various clones, characters who didn’t stay dead and the Umbrella Corporation’s over the top evil plans, it all got a bit confusing and unnecessary at times. I don’t feel I’ve wasted my time on them, they were mostly entertaining, easy-watches – though I didn’t really like Resident Evil: Afterlife, I found it kind of boring.

Have you watched the Resident Evil films? What do you think of them?

REVIEW: Europa Report (2013)

An international crew of astronauts set off on a mission to see if there is any life on Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa.

Europa Report is a tense and claustrophobic film. This is in part to how 99% of the film is set on the space craft heading to Europa and all of this was filmed using cameras that were a part of the ship and the crews gear. In many ways it feels like you’re spying on the crew and it makes their lives seem very confined and limited. The reason there’s all these cameras on the craft is because the footage is being monitored and sent straight back to Earth so the whole world knows how the mission is going. So when there’s a probably with the uplink, the cameras are still recording but the footage isn’t being beamed back to Earth.

The surface of Europa looks beautiful and the whole film is well-shot. The found footage style filming, which sometimes includes some shaky-cam when taken from an astronaut’s helmet, is never hard to follow.

Europa Report is an intelligent science-fiction film. The way the characters deliver the technical jargon and the way the space craft looks makes the whole mission feel more real and plausible. This in turn makes any dangers the crew faces more threatening and unsettling.

The whole cast is great and all feel like intrepid explorers who want to achieve their mission to find life outside of Earth. However they also feel like real people who have become close after such a long time in confinement with one another.

Europa Report is a great film. It slowly racks up the tension as you learn what the crew has gone through in order to try and achieve their mission. It’s a film that’s an almost perfect blend of science-fiction, horror and thriller – an underappreciated gem. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Russia: Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky

It’s 2033, the world is ruined and humanity is almost extinct. Possibly the last of the worlds survivors live in Moscow’s Metro system. There they’re safe from radiation in the city above and societies have formed across the metro system and its many stations. Artyom lives in VDNKh, the north most inhabited station on its line, life there is good, until the station becomes endangered by outside forces. Artyom is given the task to traverse the complex metro system to search for help and to warn every one of the new threat bearing down on his native station, and the whole Metro.

Metro 2033 is an interesting story. It’s quite slow to start with as there is a lot of world-building to do. Each of the different train stations in the Metro have become their own mini society, some have become Communist, some are Fascist while many others have their own capitalist democracy. It’s interesting to see what life’s like underground and how it differs from station to station. It wasn’t till I was about halfway through the book and I felt that I had a fairly good understanding that the story picked up speed.

The whole book is quite exposition heavy really and in some ways, it reminded me of American Gods by Neil Gaiman – both are quite slow reads, with a lot of world-building and main characters who seem to go from A to B without being an active participant in the situations they’re in. That being said, I felt Artyom was a character who actually reacted to the mad and dangerous situations he found himself in and, as the story progressed, he became more proactive and confident in his decision making and abilities.

The people Artyom meets on his journey are all very different. My favourites were those who are old enough to remember life outside the Metro, and everyday normal life in the cities. There memories were often rose-tinted but it was good to see Artyom compare it to what he knows as he was only a toddler when everyone had to hide out in the tunnels. It was those moments where you really got the dystopian aspect of the novel.

Metro 2033 also has horror and sci-fi elements as there’s rumours of creatures who have been mutated by the radiation, lurking on the surface and readying themselves to enter the tunnels. There are some passages on Metro 2033 that are generally creepy and unsettling as Artyom traverses the dark tunnel between stations. There’s some eerie stuff in Metro 2033 but it doesn’t always pay off which is regrettable.

This is the first book in a trilogy and it does leave things on a cliff-hanger. Unfortunately, there was no real build up to the “big reveal” so instead of a plot twist you could’ve figured out yourself, it’s more of a huge surprise. I think I will pick up the rest of the series at some point as I’m intrigued to see what happens next but Metro 2033 didn’t pull me in enough from the start to make me super eager to continue. 3/5.

REVIEW: Odd Thomas (2013)

odd thomas movie posterSmall town cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) isn’t exactly normal. He can see dead people and sense when something bad is about to happen. When he encounters a mysterious man (Shuler Hensley) with links to dark forces, Odd must do something before the whole town is under attack.

Odd Thomas is a supernatural, horror film but it also fun and full of surprises. While it’s got a lot of death and evil creatures, Odd Thomas is more of a mystery really as Odd tries to figure out what’s going to happen to the town and when. All the strands of the mystery are there; some are more obvious than others but it doesn’t take anything away from the twists and turns.

The CGI in Odd Thomas isn’t the greatest but it is used sparingly and as the focus is more on the characters than big action-set pieces, the dodgy CGI doesn’t pull you out of the film too much.

One of the highlights of Odd Thomas is the characters. They are all likeable and believable and they actually communicate with each other. The fact that Chief Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) knows about Odd’s supernatural gift means that Odd actually has help in catching bad guys and has someone to cover for him from the rest of the police department. Odd’s girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) also knows about Odd and supports and helps him when she can as well as being the voice of reason when he’s being reckless. So often in films about a guy with special abilities who must save the world, he keeps everything a secret from the people he’s closest too, causing unnecessary problems and conflict – Odd Thomas manages to avoid this cliché.

Odd Thomas is a fast-paced, mystery/horror film with likeable characters. It packs an emotional punch and is well-worth a watch. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

purge election yearYears after almost taking part in Purge night himself, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) has become the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) a Presidential candidate whose vow to end Purge night makes her a huge target.

The Purge: Election Year is grounded by solid performances from its central leads. Grillo and Mitchell have good chemistry and you can feel that their characters have had a solid relationship. The secondary characters who each try to survive Purge night but also end up helping Leo and Charlie along the way are pretty one-note but likeable enough. Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) is one of the more interesting characters as she’s a volunteer paramedic who offers her services while the regular paramedics don’t venture out on Purge night.

When it comes to the fight scenes they are often chaotic and hard to follow, you could say this is a stylistic choice or it could just be bad filmmaking. The film tends to get away with it whenever there’s a gun battle or a chase scene but when it’s a one-on-one fight that’s when things become confusing.

The Purge: Election Year tries to say a lot about socio-political themes that are very relevant to today while still having a lot of gore and violence. It doesn’t always work and it’s pretty heavy-handed at times but it is interesting.

The Purge: Election Year keeps the tension and surprises but it does feel very similar to but not as good as its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy. 3/5.