Monday, 30 July 2018

Ross's Game Reviews: Alien Isolation

It's been a while since I reviewed any games but I thought I'd get back into it considering I love games just as much as movies. This doesn't mean I won't be covering the movies, just alternating between the two now and again. I'm mainly going to be focusing on games with a horror or sci-fi aspect, mainly for the Facebook page Chew Bubblegum and Kick Ass (highly recommended)

Any game recommendations are always welcome.

Seeing as I'm soon going to go back to the Alien franchise at some point in the near future, I figured I'd go with the most acclaimed game in the series: Alien Isolation.

This game was released in 2014 and came across as an apology for the horrifically bad Aliens: Colonial Marines that came out the year before (I'm sure I'll come across that dumpster fire at some point in the future).

Before I get started, I should say that I have completed the game on both Xbox One and PS4, and I would definitely recommend the PS4 version over the Xbox version if you have the choice as I found that the Xbox version had some framerate issues and occasional glitches whereas I never noticed any issues on PS4. And these are just the standard consoles I have so make of that what you will.

The story takes place 15 years after the events of the first movie (this game assumes that the other movies never happened) as we play as Nostromo survivor Ellen Ripley's daughter Amanda. Amanda has been informed that the flight recorder from the Nostromo has been recovered on the space station known as Sevastopol, and in the hopes of finding out what happened to her long lost mother, she heads out with the Weyland-Yutani company to find out what's on the recorder.

Once you reach the station, something seems wrong as communications are down and there's debris all around. After crash landing with a Synthetic called Samuels and lawyer from the company, you find that the station has turned into hell.

There's dead bodies all over the place, the station is falling apart, human survivors are willing to kill anything they see move, the Synthetics have turned against the humans and will hunt you mercilessly. If all that wasn't enough, there's also an Alien creature on board that cannot be stopped.

This whole game is like a love letter is like an homage to the original 1979 movie as everything from the environment to the sounds of the ship to the soundtrack sounds like it's pulled straight from it and as a huge fan of that film, I absolutely loved it. We've had so many games that just try to be shooters and make the Aliens out to be jokes, but this is the first proper time we've seen the Alien as an unstoppable threat. The only defence you have against it is a flame thrower you find later on and even then the ammo for it is scarce and only fends off the Alien for a short enough time for you to move on or hide.

I almost guarantee that the first time you will be killed by the Alien you will need to turn the game off to recover from the shock. My first death came when I was hiding in a locker. It was silent and I thought it was safe to come out, at which point the Alien decided it would be a fun idea to tear off the door and eat my face. I needed a change of underpants after that one.

The Alien is just a AI marvel as after a couple of playthroughs I can confirm that it doesn't act the same way twice which can make for some of the tensest gameplay you've ever had and it forces you to improvise whether that be from the routes you take to the items you use for distraction.

Speaking of the items you eventually end up with a ton to use from weapons like the Revolver and Shotgun (warning using these as ammo is really scarce) from makeshift items like the Molotov and the Pipe Bomb. There's also distraction devices like the Noisemaker and the Flashbang. These can be used in a number of situations with the different enemy types and it does keep the gameplay from going stale.

The human enemies aren't too bad and can be dealt with by making noise and setting the Alien on them, although that then means that you need to deal with the Alien so it's probably better just to sneak around and hope for the best.

I freaking hate the synthetic enemies though as they have some of the hardest sections in the game, especially at one point when you lose all your weapons. They are quite slow and so you can break the line of sight and hide from them which is your best bet as the Alien doesn't go after them (no idea why) and they are bullet sponges. If you have enough rounds in your stun baton you can use that and then just beat them to death which is the method I used most of the time. However any combat can summon the Alien so you need to be very careful.

One part of the game that usually has a bit of discussion is the save system which some people love and some people hate as there is a quite a large gap between save points and being killed can put back around 30 minutes worth of progression. I'm personally a fan of this system as it makes the threat of death even more terrifying, and the fact that the save systems take a few seconds to load is both evil and genius to really keep that tension ramping up.

There some sections towards the end of the game I would like to mention but it would be major spoilers for anyone that hasn't played it yet, but I can say that Alien fans will squeal with joy before screaming in terror.

The game is surprisingly long as well which you don't really get with a lot of modern games as the main campaign can take anywhere from 15-20 hours to complete depending on how well you play the game, and this isn't even including looking for all the hidden secrets and ship logs that add more to the story.

I only have a couple of issues with the game, starting with the ending. Again no spoilers, but I just found it to be anticlimactic for everything that Amanda has been put through up to that point. There's also a couple of sections that really slow the game down which I'm fine with as it gives you a short break from the more tense sections, but there is a space walk section that just feels like it's there to pad out the game and doesn't really add anything to the atmosphere.

Other than that though, this game is an absolute joy for horror fans and Alien fans alike as we get a proper sequel to the original and some of the most heart-pounding gameplay since Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Definitely check it out and please can we get a sequel soon?!

Rating: 9/10

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Ross's Reviews - Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Yes I'm continuing with this series and at this point I'm pretty sure I've watched all the good ones so I wish myself good luck. Also I'm pretty sure this is the unrated version I watched but we'll get to that a little later.

This movie came out in 2006 as a prequel to the 2003 remake after it made a surprising amount of money at the box office. This one aims to show how the demented Hewitt family got their start in terrorising anyone they came across.

I was interested in this one as, just like the 2003 remake, I've seen a few people praise it and yet it's one I watched years ago and can't remember anything about it. So let's take a look and see how well this prequel holds up.

No major spoilers.

By the way, I'm an admin for the Facebook page Chew Bubblegum and Kick Ass where all my reviews go and you can also find awesome podcasts and movie news with a particular focus to horror. Check it out.

The story starts off in a meat factory in 1939 as a pregnant woman suddenly starts going into labour on the factory floor and gives birth to our favourite psychopath: Leatherface. Tragically his mother dies in childbirth (in a pretty grotesque scene may I add) and the thoughtless factory owner just decides to toss the baby into the trash.

In there, he's found by Luda Mae Hewitt, who takes him back to part of the Hewitt family. Around 30 years pass and everyone has left this part of the country as the work has dried up with the slaughterhouse closing for business and leaving only a few people left. It turns out Thomas Hewitt (Leatherface) works at the slaughterhouse his mother died in and doesn't take the news of his mother dying too well.

Thankfully we have R. Lee Ermey returning as Sheriff Hoyt and once again he steals the show from everyone else as he's just so sadistic and crazy that you can't help but love him. He's also in this movie way more than he was in the previous one and the experience is all the better for it.

In fact every cast member that played a part of the Hewitt family returns here and they're all pretty great at what they do, including Andrew Bryniarski as Leatherface. After this, I think he's my favourite Leatherface as he's just such a hulking figure, he just has a presence to him. In this movie they do try and humanise him a bit more, coming across as an outcast misunderstood and bullied by society that has been led astray by his adopted family into killing relentlessly.

While this goes on we also have our group of victims who are a much bigger improvement on the victims in the previous movie as I actually liked them and didn't want to see them get hurt which is a major change. There's a more interesting dynamic as we have two brothers on their way to be drafted for the war in Vietnam with their girlfriends in tow.

The only problem with this is that the younger brother, Dean, doesn't agree with the war and doesn't want to go and instead plans to run off to Mexico with his girl, Bailey. He's just trying to find a way to tell his older brother, Eric, who believes it's their family destiny to fight for their country. We also have Jordana Brewster of Fast and Furious fame, as Chrissie.

The great thing is, no one here is annoying. They just seem like four regular people having to deal with an issue before they unfortunately end up in hell. There are two biker characters that show up but to be honest they didn't really add much for me and just felt like a bit of filler for the main story. Thankfully they don't hang around too long.

The gore here has definitely ramped up from the 2003 remake and I'll admit, I loved it. Lets just say there's one scene in particular that'll have you looking away. Skin peeling is not fun at all.

From this point, it's Chrissie trying to rescue her friends from the clutches of the demented Hewitt family leading to some very tense scenes and moments as you really do hope they can pull it off and escape.

For a horror movie it isn't really all that scary. It tries for the usual tropes with jumpscares but it mainly intends to use the activities of the family and the gore to make you more disturbed than scared and it does work pretty well. Only one scene made me jump and I'll admit that it was pretty effective, if a little nonsensical. I won't say due to spoilers but if you watched it you'll know what I mean.

Overall I was surprised with just how much I enjoyed this movie as I wasn't expecting to like it at all especially with how disappointing I found the 2003 effort. Why the hell has this only got 12% on rotten tomatoes? I think it's definitely worth a watch for a spooky night in, and if you're a horror fan or a fan of this series, you owe to yourself to check it out. I feel like opinions will definitely differ, but for myself, I'm a fan.

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Ross's Reviews: Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

So after the experience that was the original movie, I wanted to continue writing about other movies in the series and couldn't decide between Part 2 or the remake. I decided to plop for the remake to see how it compared to the original.

Plus I haven't actually watched it since I was a young teenager and I'd heard a few people saying that it was actually pretty good and one of the better horror remakes out. So does it hold up 15 years after release? Let's find out.

No major spoilers.

I have no idea why they decided to remake this in the first place, probably because of the terrible original sequels, but I'm sure I'll get to them at some point. This actually made quite a bit of money, explaining why we've had another three movies since with two prequels and one (kind of) sequel. I'm sure I'll get to them at some point too aside from 2017's Leatherface which I really didn't enjoy.

So the movie starts off in a similar fashion to the original with five friends on a road trip except this time there's no one in a wheelchair and instead of visiting an old homestead, they're on their way to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.

They also make the unfortunate decision of picking up a hitchhiker except this time it isn't some creepy weirdo. Instead it's a teenage girl who looks like she's been through hell. She promptly decides to end her own life to really start the story.

This leads the group to try and find a local sheriff to take care of the body so they can be on their way. And this is where the fun begins. They've found that they've ended up in a backwards part of the country where nothing is as it should be. Eventually they find the Hewitt residence (changed from the Sawyer's in the original) where the sinister Leatherface awaits.

It also turns out that the sheriff is very corrupted and weirdly enough is the best part of the film and completely steals the show from everyone else. He's played by R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket fame and you can just tell that he is having a blast playing this character. He's just so demented and terrifying in his own way to the point where I really want to see him get his own movie.

I actually think I prefer the Leatherface in this movie to the original. He's just a hulking figure that you can't escape from and there's no whimpering from him like the original. This is just a creature that aims to kill you and doesn't mind rubbing salt in the wound (literally).

This movie definitely does have a lot more gore than the original but it's not to the point of it being excessive and I think they used just enough to get their point across. And it's only really one or two characters that have the gory scenes so it's not that bad.

The movie is a bit slow to start and I feel like it's designed like that to give you a chance to get to know the characters and get you emotionally attached. The only problem with that is that the characters aren't really interesting at all. The only memorable ones are Jessica Biel as Erin as she is the main character in the group, and Morgan, played by Jonathan Tucker, mainly because he's a pain in the ass and doesn't shut up.

To be honest outside of any of the scenes involving Leatherface and the sheriff, I didn't find too much of this interesting. It was filled with the usual 2000s horror cliches you would expect like cheap jumpscares and the ending was very anti-climatic for everything that had came before.

It just can't match up with the disturbing realism of the original and just comes across as an average horror movie. I mean I didn't even find any of it scary and none of it really stuck with me afterwards outside a couple of gory scenes.

They didn't even do a dinner scene! How can you do a remake without even trying the most disturbing part of the original story? The worst part is that they even tease it and then just do not deliver at all. I mean I can't really knock the movie for it but as a horror fan that was pretty disappointing.

Still, all in all I'd say this is a decent enough slasher and isn't too bad. Just by the numbers outside of a few shining lights.

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Ross's Reviews: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

After the crapfest that was Leatherface, I really wanted to go back and check out some of the original movies to remind myself of why it has such a legacy and why some of them are still talked about today.

I haven't actually watched the original since I was in high school so I definitely needed a refresher. I don't remember being scared by it but it did disturb me. I figured now that I'm older I would be able to handle it a little better. Was I right? Does this classic still have an impact? Let's take a look.

There may be some slight spoilers but it's a 44 year old movie so I think we're good. For streaming the movie you can find it free on Shudder (highly recommended streaming service for horror fans).

So the movie follows five friends on their way to visit an old homestead when they end up sidetracked due to a lack of gas for their minivan and end up at the mercy of a very screwed up family.

This film just has a really unsettling feeling to it and that never goes away during its full runtime. It even starts off this way in its very first shot where the camera slowly pulls away from a rotting corpse that has recently been dug up from a grave while we hear a radio broadcast in the background giving a warning on graverobbers. While this plot thread doesn't really appear again, it was the perfect way to start and make the audience feel as uneasy as possible.

At one point, the gang picks up a hitchhiker and why they didn't throw him out after seeing how clearly insane he was after cutting his own hand with a pocketknife, I'll never know. I don't know if the guy playing the hitchhiker was an actor or just a crazy redneck the studio picked up because he was so convincing in what he was doing, from his twitchy mannerisms to the clear glee in his voice when talking about slaughtering animals. Thankfully it wasn't the last time we see him.

Eventually the minivan runs out of gas but they're able to make it to their destination. Two of the group decide to try to find some gas at a farm not far from the house and that's where the fun really begins. Without any warning one of them enters the house and encounters our old friend Leatherface for the first time in a shocking moment and what must have been a pretty effective jumpscare at the time.

There's no finesse in the way Leatherface handles his victims. He isn't like Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers, stalking his victims slowly while trying for a memorable kill. He will simply hit you in the head with a hammer until you stop moving or grab you with the intent to hang you on a chain like a piece of meat still breathing. He won't slowly walk towards you while you try to run away, he will chase you non-stop while wielding his infamous chainsaw and nothing will stop him. It's easy to see why he became such an icon after this.

Probably the most memorable part of the movie is the dinner scene which is just insanely uncomfortable as you almost feel like you're in the room with them. I won't spoil it for anyone that hasn't seen it but you won't look at a family dinner the same again. It's like watching a car crash, you want to look away but you just can't and need to see what happens next.

For a movie with 'Massacre' in the name, there really isn't that much gore here. Don't get me wrong it has its moments, but this movie did not need it at all. This movie aims to stick with you long after it finishes and it definitely succeeds at that. Depending on your squeamishness this movie may even make you sick and I totally love it for that reason.

If you're a horror fan and haven't seen this, you're doing yourself a disservice and need to see it immediately. Even if you have, stick it on again and relive it one more time if you dare. Even if you're not into horror, give it a try one night and who knows, maybe you'll be converted. Either that or you'll be put off for good.

Rating: 9/10

Monday, 9 July 2018

Ross's Reviews: Clown (2016)

So I was browsing Amazon Prime Video the other day looking for something new to watch when I came across this little hidden gem. I recognised it from the movie synopsis as a viral trailer from a couple of years ago when that weird killer clown phase was taking over the world. It always interested me but I never got a chance to watch it until now.

Of course nowadays whenever anyone is going to think of a killer clown they're going to go straight to Pennywise from IT as he's quite clearly stolen the spotlight from the rest of the group. Not that there's really that many. So does this one do enough to stand out for all you coulrophobics (totally didn't google that) or is it just a pretender? Let's find out.

As usual, no spoilers and if this sounds like something you fancy, you can find it on Prime Video as stated above (not advertising, I just want to find the most accessible ways for people to watch)

First off I quite surprised to see that Eli Roth was a producer for this. I mean he isn't the biggest name and hasn't made that many movies I liked (I found Cabin Fever overrated) but he's definitely recognisable.

The movie follows Kent McCoy, a realtor with a loving wife and son. It doesn't waste any time in starting off as Kent's son, Jack, has a birthday party but unfortunately, the clown that they booked has cancelled. Kent happens to find a clown outfit in a house he's working in and proceeds to save the day. Or so it would seem.

The next day Kent finds that the suit isn't willing to come off (think the black suit from Spider-Man) as he finds that the white make up doesn't stay off for long, he can't pull the red nose off his face, and the suit is so tough that it can break an electric saw quite easily.

Through some research of his own he finds that the suit has an evil history and he needs to try everything to take it off before it's too late.

I have to give the movie credit for making an almost ridiculous premise quite interesting with a fun backstory and a great performance from lead actor Andy Powers who goes from easy going dad to a man struggling with keeping his sanity in the reality of his situation. The only actor I didn't like was the little boy that plays Jack as there's a few times when he should definitely be scared and fearing for his life but his facial expressions just make it look like he doesn't give a shit.

I love the use of practical effects here too. Horror movies should always try for it unless absolutely necessary in my opinion. There isn't one bit of CGI here and it's all the better for it. The creature design as well is splendid and is something that will stick with you in your nightmares especially if your hate clowns.

I've seen a few comments about the movie saying that it's too slow to get to the good stuff, but that actually works here as it just builds and builds as Kent slowly loses his mind and starts acting out of the ordinary. My only real drawbacks are that it is a bit overlong for what it's going for and a couple of scenes towards the end didn't really go anywhere.

I'd also say that the ending is slightly anti-climatic for all the buildup but it wasn't bad and didn't ruin the movie.

If you're not comfortable with violence towards kids in movies then this definitely isn't for you as this does turn into a gorefest at times and can be a total gross out at times. Even a scene where Kent tries to pull off his rubber nose is one that'll have you covering your eyes. I was even getting phantom pains on my own nose. Some scenes in this make IT seem like a Scooby Doo movie in comparison.

Overall I'd recommend this if you're a fan of horror or want to face your fear of clowns as I had fun with this. I'm not sure why there's so many negative reviews as it's an original story with a crazy premise. It's definitely one I'd watch again and would make for good Halloween viewing. It has it's issues of course, but nothing to really drag it down.

Send in the clowns.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Ross's Reviews: Leatherface (2017)

Man, horror icons really aren't doing well nowadays are they? With the exception of maybe 2017's IT and 2013's Evil Dead, they've kind of died out quite a bit. Attempts to bring back big names like Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th have died a death, pardon the pun. Hopefully this year's Halloween can make Michael Myers in the terrifying Shape again.

Back in 2017, we had yet another attempt to make the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise popular again, and this time they even had original director the late, great Tobe Hooper on board as a producer. So with a seeming advantage, did they manage to pull it off? Let's take a look.

No spoilers here and if you want to watch, you can also find it on Netflix.

It's hard to describe this movie as it really doesn't know what it wants to be quite honestly. You would think as part of the Chainsaw franchise it would be designated as a straight up horror movie, but there isn't much horror to be had here outside of a couple of lazy jumpscares.

The movie follows some escaped inmates from Gorman asylum as they attempt to head to the Mexican border to start a new life. Did I say this was a Chainsaw movie? Good, because I'm making sure that didn't make sense to anyone and I haven't jumped into a completely different film.

One detail to mention is that one of the boys in the asylum is the son of Verna Sawyer, seemingly the matriarch of the depraved, murderously family from the original series. It seems like the movie is trying to go for a dramatic twist by not revealing who the son is, as the events of the movie take place 10 years after he is sent away as a child. It's so predictable though as I guessed who it was 10 minutes in.

The only time it actually feels like a Chainsaw movie is in the last 10 minutes, which I won't spoil but it's the only part of the movie I actually enjoyed and had me interested in what was happening. Unfortunately 10 minutes of fun doesn't make up for 100 of boredom. Everyone aside from a couple of crazy redneck characters is just so boring and forgettable. Don't get me wrong the acting was.....decent but no one stands out here at all.

I'm not a particularly big fan of the series as I have only seen 3 of them, but if I was a fan I would definitely be disappointed here. This isn't the Leatherface we know and love and isn't the kind of movie the movie we should expect. Even if you're coming in as a new fan you'd be confused as well as it's just comes across as a movie without a proper story.

It definitely has the gore factor I'll give it that, but gore doesn't equal scares or just general interest. In terms of the chainsaw franchise, stick to the original for sure (which I may take a look at).

I know this is a short review but there's not much here to go on to be honest. If it sounds like your thing, go for it you might enjoy it. But if you are into the Chainsaw movies there's nothing to be had but disappointment and lost potential.

Rating: 3/10