THE GREY (2012) Review

Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

When the credits finally rolled on THE GREY I will admit I was feeling more than a little disappointed. I’d been prepared (thanks to the misleading trailer) to see a horror/suspense movie with Liam Neeson battling it out with a pack of killer wolves in the Alaskan wilderness. Well I was partly right, Liam Neeson was there, the wolves were there and the wilderness was there, but this was more of a suspensful drama than a horror / action film.  After mulling it over in my head for a few days though I have decided that I actually really enjoyed the movie, I was just a bit pissed off at how much the trailer mislead me.

Liam Neeson’s character Ottway is not in a good place. We are introduced to him somewhere in the middle of Alaska working as a sniper keeping wild animals away from oilfield workers, and after a bit of a lengthy monologue we see him placing the barrel of his gun in his mouth and preparing to blow his own brains out all over the snow. Obviously he doesn’t though. Instead he jumps on a plane with some of the other workers headed to Anchorage. But the plane never makes it to Anchorage. In one of the best ‘plane-ripping-itself-apart-in-in-the-air’ scenes I’ve seen on film, the plane (and most of the passengers) ends up in pieces scattered around the snow in the middle of nowhere. The remaining survivors gather and after realizing that they are deep in wolf territory they decide that they really need to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.

Now you might think that the wolves are the film’s main focal point, but they’re not. This movie is about so much more. Central to its themes is death. It’s everywhere. It’s also a look at the human’s will to survive and to overcome the odds. It’s also about finding something worth fighting for and never giving up. It is also a very depressing movie. The death scenes are not put in purely for entertainment, they are genuinely unsettling. There is almost no hope here as these men come to their individual deaths not just by the wolves but also by nature itself. Also important is the incredible change Ottway undergoes, from being completely prepared to kill himself at the beginning to fighting for his life through to the end. And speaking of the end, it’s an ending that will divide viewers. At first I thought of it as a total disappointment, but now I can see that in fact in a way it was the perfect ending and a very poignant one too.

Neeson’s acting is top notch as always, the cinematography is incredibly good, the plot and script leave a lot to be desired though. This is definitely not a very realistic movie. And the CGI wolves were a bit offputting, not all of the time but most of the time. But apart from the lame premise and the even lamer digital effects THE GREY is a really emotional and enjoyable film. If you're looking for a fast paced thriller with Liam Neeson punching wolves, or a bloody man vs wolf finale (as the trailer leads you to believe) then you're barking up the wrong tree. Instead you will find a beautifully bleak suspenseful drama which may not be written extremely well but plays out perfectly nonetheless.



When I first played FINAL FANTASY XIII I have to say I was a little disappointed. It was so linear, it didn’t let you loose to explore until right near the end. There were no towns in which to interact with other characters and visit item shops. There wasn’t even a world map.  It seemed that half of the things which I loved about the FF games previously had been taken away. But after playing for over 80 hours I actually realized how much I loved it. It may be terribly linear but it had a kickass battle system, an amazing soundtrack, great characters and voice acting and of course an epic sweeping storyline. And graphically it was the best looking game in the franchise so far.  So rather than being annoyed or disappointed that Square Enix were bringing out a direct sequel I was actually pretty fucking excited. In fact I was so excited that I spent the extra money and pre-ordered the Crystal Edition. I will admit that I still had a bit of an uneasy feeling though because of course the last direct sequel was the piece of crap FFX-2.  Earlier this month the game arrived and it was time to see if my excitement was justified, or if this was a repeat of the FFX-2 incident.

I guess a lot of people’s first question is “is it better than FFXIII?” and I will answer that right now. Yes. It is 100% better. They’ve basically taken all of the good points from XIII and added even more good shit.
As I said earlier I ordered the Crystal Edition, so it is the one I will be reviewing. Not that it matters much, the game is exactly the same it just comes with some extra goodies.

There’s so much in this game that it’s hard to know where to start, but I guess I will start with the characters. In FFXIII there were a total of 6 playable characters which were for most of the game arranged into two parties. But with FFXIII-2 they’ve decided to go with something a little different. First of all I have to admit that I haven’t actually finished the game yet, but I can tell that I’m near the end so I have  pretty good overview of the game. As far as I can tell there are only two playable characters in the entire game. Serah from XIII and a newcomer named Noel Kreiss. It sounds bad doesn’t it? I thought so too at first but when I realized what the other characters were being replaced with I thought it was an awesome idea. Monsters. That’s right, monsters. When you fight monsters you have a chance of taming them. It’s like FINAL FANTASY meets Pokemon. You gather monster crystals and you can then use any of these captured monsters in your party. But that’s not all. If you’ve played FFXIII then you’ll know all about the paradigm system, if you haven’t then you can go look it up because I can’t be bothered explaining it. Anyway, the monsters you tame all have their own particular role. For example a Behemoth will be a COM, a Cait Sith will be a MED, a Bunker Beast will be a SEN and so on. Although you keep all of the monster crystals, you can only set a maximum of three active monsters at a time. These three monsters will take the place of your third character when you shift paradigms.  Your two main characters however can learn all six roles. So if you want to use the Cerberus Paradigm (COM, COM, COM) you will need one of the three active monsters to be a COM. If you don’t have one then you won’t be able to use that paradigm. And to make things even better you can actually level up your monster companions. You will collect monster materials throughout the game which can be used in the Crystarium to level up and upgrade your monsters.
There will also be plenty of monsters and characters available as dlc in the near future. These will be able to be fought in a special Coliseum level and used in the game in the same way as the regular monsters. One of bonuses which came with the Crystal Edition was some exclusive dlc which included two extra character outfits and also the opportunity to fight the legendary Omega Weapon in the Coliseum. Defeating it gives you a chance to tame it and use it in your party. At the moment the only other dlc characters are Lightning and Amodar but I’m sure there will be more soon.

I will also talk briefly of the game’s storyline. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave most of it for you to find out for yourselves, but will talk about the basics. First of all you don’t need to play FFXIII before you play this sequel, but I would suggest it if you really want to understand what’s going on. Basically after the whole saving Coccoon incident at the end of XIII Fang and Vanille have been trapped inside the crystal pillar which is now holding up Coccoon. Lightning has somehow ended up trapped in Valhallah, Snow has left on a journey to go find her and Sazh is also gone. Serah is convinced that Lightning is still alive even though nobody else does and when Noel Kreiss suddenly arrives and tells her that Lightning sent him she follows him through time in a quest to find her. Follows her through time? You may ask. Yes that’s right, this whole game revolves around time travel. How awesome is that? As I said I don’t want to give too much away, but essentially you will find yourself travelling to different locations in different time periods. On the way you will meet some old friends and also a new enemy in the form of Caius Ballad. Soon you’ll find that not only do you need to save Lightning but you will also need to save the future.

Once again there is no world map but in its place there is what’s called the Historia Crux. It’s a kind of grid or timeline which contains all of the locations you have visited and have yet to visit. It also contains different time periods of the same locations. To unlock these new locations and time periods you will need to fulfill certain requirements. This will usually involve finishing a level/location, defeating a boss character or simply finding a specific artifact. Artifacts are the keys to opens gates to different periods and locations, and there are specific artifacts for specific gates. Not all of the locations will need to be unlocked in order to finish the game but if you want to unlock all of the trophies / achievements then you will need to find every artifact and location.

One thing a lot of people complained about (including me) with FFXIII was the lack of quests or minigames. Well you can rest assured that there are plenty on offer in XII-2. Across the entire game there are 160 ‘fragments’ which can be collected and most of these are found through quests. Most of them are simple ‘go from point A to point B, bring back item A’ type of quests but once you add in the whole time travel aspect then things get a little more difficult. For example you may travel to a certain location like say Yaschas Massif in the year 100AF but in order to complete a quest you may need to then travel to Yaschas Massif in the year 110AF as certain key items are only available in certain time periods.
Apart from these fragment quests there are also a bunch of mini-games. In certain levels you will find ‘anomalies’ which need to be solved in order for you to proceed further. To solve these anomalies you will need to step into them and complete a few puzzles. There are three types of puzzles. One where you need to make your way across disappearing tiles while collecting crystals, another where you need to link crystals to make a kind of constellation image, and then the frustrating hands of time puzzles which involve clearing all of the numbers of a clock face.
There is also a location in FFXIII-2 called Serendipity which is basically a casino. You can race Chocobos, play slot machines and soon with dlc there will be card games available. You can also trade in your acquired fragments for certain fragment abilities which will help you along in the game.

Now that I’ve gone over most of the new additions I’ll also talk about the things which have stayed the same and also the things which are no longer present. First of all is the battle system which is identical to the one in FFXIII. The same ATB system which lets you queue attacks and switch paradigms is back and I think that it’s great. The Crystarium as also back but it is slightly different. It still uses the same CP to upgrade the same roles but it has been refined into a single tree for each character which makes levelling up a lot quicker and easier. You can also level up monsters with monster materials.

The weapon upgrading system from XIII however is thankfully gone. I fucking hated it. In XIII-2 you will find better weapons as you progress through the game. You will also be able to construct special weapons if you have the right materials. But that’s all you need, you don’t need to spend a shitload of gil buying components and upgrading for hours. And speaking of weapons I have to mention Serah’s Bowblade. Not only is it a weapon but when she is not using it transforms into the little Moogle companion named Mog. Mog is a very important part of the game. Not only does he seem to have a great understanding of the whole time travel thing, but he can also be used to find hidden items and artifacts. Later in the game you can actually get the ability to throw him around so that he can fetch distant treasures for you.

This review is getting way too long so I’ll have to wrap it up here with a bit of a brief overview. Basically this game is FINAL FANTASY XIII but better. If you didn’t enjoy XIII then you probably won’t like this, but if you liked XIII then you will love XIII-2. The ability to collect and use monsters like Pokemon is awesome. The addition of quests and mini-games is great and the ability to move between locations and time periods whenever you want is a fantastic way to get rid of the linearity that the previous game had. Once again the voice acting is top notch, the soundtrack is amazing (a four disc CD soundtrack was one of the bonuses with the Crystal Edition) and the graphics are perfect. Even though I think VIII will always be my favorite, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that FINAL FANTASY XIII-2 is one of the best in the franchise so far. A lot of ‘traditional’ FF fans may not like it because it’s so different but I urge you to give it a chance, you may be pleasantly surprised.


Poster and Synopsis For ANIMALS

I've just today heard about this upcoming Australian zombie film ANIMALS. With a script which has been described as "Mad Max meets Romper Stomper" I am definitely intrigued. Below you can find the first poster and the synopsis courtesy of Horror-movies.ca

ANIMALS is directed by Edward Drake and stars Dave Lamb, Sweeney Young, Melissa Howard, Reg Corman and Scott Brennan.

Synopsis: “Animals is a bold and ambitious project about Marcus Young, a shaken young man trying to find his place in the world in the wake of a global pandemic. When Marcus learns that the love of his life, Sarah Finch, a woman he hasn’t seen in almost two years, is trapped in a massive reserve known as the Red Zone, Marcus launches a suicidal bid to save her from forces conspiring to stop her uncovering a laboratory abandoned at the height of the plague. But when Marcus enters the Red Zone, with the help of his estranged and tormented brother, he must confront the demons from his past and learn to move on.”

For more information visit the official website and Facebook page

Upcoming Horror Short - THE PROSPECTOR'S CURSE

I've just received the press release for an upcoming western-themed horror short which sounds like it could turn out great.
THE PROSPECTOR'S CURSE has just wrapped production near the town of Ponty Pool, Ontario. It's described as a darkly comedic short and was written and directed by Josh Heisie and produced by Bruno Marino. It stars David Roberts, Johnny Quinn, Amanda Ives and Robert Nolan. Nolan as you may know starred in WORM and FAMILIAR, both shorts from Fatal Pictures which I've heard great things about.
I suggest you keep an eye out for this film.

Synopsis: Theodore “Tubby” Ellsworth and Jack smith are two criminals on the run, lost in the
untamed wilderness. When they stumble across a mutilated Prospector, dying on Indian
ground, they promise to give him a Christian burial. The fugitives break their oath and
steal the old man’s gold…but that night, the Prospector’s corpse returns to make them

For more information check out the film's Facebook page and stay tuned as hopefully I will have a review up as soon as possible.



So you might have heard that Robert Rodriguez's MACHETE is set to become a trilogy. Well it looks like things are rolling along smoothly and thanks to ComingSoon we have a synopsis and some poster art for the first sequel titled MACHETE KILLS. Danny Trejo will reprise his lead role and the movie should start filming in April.
After this first sequel you can then look forward to the third instalment which will be titled MACHETE KILLS AGAIN... IN SPACE!

Synopsis: "MACHETE KILLS finds Machete recruited by the U.S. Government for a mission which would be impossible for any mortal man. Machete must battle his way through Mexico to take down a madman cartel leader and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war across the planet with a weapon in space. Machete takes on an army in an effort to dismantle a plan for global anarchy."

SKEW (2011) Review

Directed by: Sevé Schelenz
Starring: Rob Scattergood, Amber Lewis, Richard Olak

Reviewing an independent film is always a little different from reviewing a big budget Hollywood film. I usually tend to be a little lenient and take into consideration all of the financial and time constraints etc. But at the same time  I try not to be too soft, because since indie filmmakers are usually just starting out I think it's important that they are made aware of any weak points in their films which can be improved upon. These days anybody with a video camera and a bunch of friends can make their own film. The majority are absolute shit, but every now and then you stumble upon one which is just as entertaining and clever as any big budget blockbuster. After watching SKEW I think I can honestly say that it falls firmly in the second category.

SKEW is an independent psychological horror film from Canadian director Sevé Schelenz and it is his feature length directorial debut. It is shot in a POV / found-footage style and concerns three friends who on a road trip which turns bad. I know that found footage type movies have been popping up all over the place over the last few years and a lot of people are probably sick of them, but don't let that put you off. This entire movie is shown through the lens of a handheld camera but rather than just being a portal into the film, the video camera is actually an integral part of the storyline.

Simon, Eva and Richard are three friends who embark on what is apparently a long-awaited road trip. Richard (Olak) and Eva (Lewis) are obviously in a relationship while Simon (Scattergood) seems to be the third wheel as his girlfriend has refused to come on the trip with them. This is our first hint that there is trouble brewing. The trio travel the roads and highways, stopping at offbeat tourist attractions like the 'world's biggest chair' and 'world's biggest Viking head' and so on. Tho whole time Simon is videotaping absolutely everything. It turns out that Simon has a very personal reason for documenting everything but I'll leave that for you to find out yourself.  His constant filming however starts to get on Richard and Eva's nerves and things begin to get tense between the three friends. Things escalate even more when Simon realizes a terrible and fatal truth about the video camera. Simon's grip on reality seems to be slipping and the friends' relationship begins to decay further until finally ending in the brutal and shocking conclusion.

POV / found footage films have been done to death in recent years. Paranormal Activity, REC, Cloverfield, Apollo 18, The Devil Inside are just a few and there are a ton more in the pipeline. An interesting fact about SKEW though is that it was filmed in 2005, so it actually predates all of the movies I've just mentioned. While it's still not one of the originals of this sub-genre, at least it cannot be accused of trying to capitalize on the recent success of movies like PA and The Devil Inside. And it's a very original spin on the tired sub-genre. 
The acting is great, especially for a bunch of amateurs with hardly any other credits on their resumes. At times it was a little awkward but it's not distracting or annoying, and it definitely didn't detract from the movie overall.  The effects both practical and CGI are used sparingly and to good effect, although they do display the small budget fairly clearly.  As a horror film SKEW isn't really as scary as it is unsettling. There are only a couple of cheap jump-scares which are effective but as it is a psychological horror the movie does depend mostly on atmosphere and tension, both of which it does well.

All in all SKEW is a very entertaining and engaging film. It does have its flaws which include the beginning dragging on a bit slow, some awkward acting, a few scenes going on perhaps a little longer than they should and less than perfect effects but in the end most of these are easy to overlook, especially after you see the final scenes and ambiguous ending. SKEW is definitely worth your time.



Directed by: George A. Romero
Starring: Alan Van Sprang, Kenneth Walsh, Richard Fitzpatrick

After the terrible LAND OF THE DEAD and then the abysmal DIARY OF THE DEAD I guess you could say I was a little worried going in to watch George Romero's latest zombie offering. It turns out I had good reason to worry.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD concerns itself with Plum Island and the residents which have lived upon it for generations. Two families which have inhabited the island since forever (the O'Flynns and the Muldoons) can't seem to see eye to eye on what to do about the recent zombie outbreak. Patrick O'Flynn (Walsh) gathers up a posse and decides to go around putting the dead to rest or 'extending the island's cemetery' as he puts it. Seamus Muldoon (Fitzpatrick) however is against the idea and wants to keep the zombies around until they show signs of improvement or until somebody comes up with a 'cure'. Since the Muldoons outnumber the O'Flynns this disagreement ends with Patrick being forced to leave the island at gunpoint.

At the beginning of the movie we are introduced to Sarge 'Nicotine' Crockett who you may remember from his brief appearance in DIARY OF THE DEAD. It seems he and a few of his soldier pals have decided to go AWOL and fend for themselves. To survive they become highwaymen, stealing from anybody they come across. After a shootout they come across the young character known only as 'Boy' and he tags along with them. He shows them a video broadcast of a man calling himself Captain Courageous who announces that people looking for a safe haven should make their way to Plum Island. Even though it is most likely a trap the soldiers decide that at this point anything is worth a try so they head to the location given by Captain Courageous (who is actually Patrick O'Flynn), but upon their arrival they discover that if they want a boat to Plum Island they will have to trade everything they own. Another shootout leaves O'Flynn and the soldiers on a ferry making their way to the island. After they arrive O'Flynn and Muldoon resume their bitter rivalry but this time they are determined to end it once and for all.

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD isn't really a zombie movie, let me just get that out of the way first. The zombies are really just background noise, something added in perhaps to help the movie fit in with the rest of the DEAD franchise. The main focus of the film is upon the rivalry between the two island dwelling families, so much in fact that you almost forget that the movie even has zombies in it at all. At no point are the zombies presented as a serious threat like they were in Romero's previous movies. And the notion that killing zombies has become some kind of moral dilemma is laughable, and only makes the movie seem less serious and more ridiculous. Romero combined the undead with social commentary perfectly in his original trilogy but lately he seems to have been taking shots in the dark and missing every time.
The acting in SURVIVAL is pretty average across the board and the characters are all too one-dimensional to even care about. The pace is all over the place but mostly slow, and serious scenes shift into horribly out of place slapstick comedy. And don't get me started on the CGI. The practical effects look great so why add the CGI? It looks horrible.

George A. Romero is and always will be a legend when it comes to horror cinema. He perfected the modern zombie film, but honestly I think after DAY OF THE DEAD was released he should have just put the franchise to rest and tried his hand at something different. Its easy to forget that he used to make movies without zombies in them. The Dark Half, Martin, Monkey Shines and Creepshow are all fine movies and a hell of a lot better than his last few DEAD offerings. Hell, I'd even prefer to watch Bruiser than see SURVIVAL again. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.


Name The New CALABRESE CD Contest

I don't know about you, but I'm a huge fucking fan of Calabrese and excited as hell to hear that they have a new CD coming out soon. If you haven't heard these guys yet then hurry up and get right on it, in fact I'll save you the trouble and include a couple of their songs in this post.
As usual the Calabrese brothers are giving leaving it up to the fans to name their upcoming CD. Below is the artwork for the new album for inspiration.
All you have to do is email your suggestions to:


You have until Friday April 13th to submit your three best suggestions for your chance to get your name published in the liner notes, and to receive a free signed copy of the new album.
For more info on the band head to www.calabreserock.com