Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Darkest Moons is out now, a horror comes to Wales

darkest-moons-promoWell I'm ecstatic. Darkest Moons is now available on paperback and Kindle! A gothic mansion, hidden secrets, crypts, beasts and mysteries. With a never seen before creature that spawned legends. What is real and what is not in a seemingly perfect community? Present day set 'Darkest Moons', incorporates flashbacks throughout a Welsh village’s history packed with elusive characters.

Darkest Moons is available as an e-book, readers who want the traditional paperback will get the e-book free. Order your copy from here or any good bookstore.

From the press release:

A 1878 a mining community came to terms with the existence of a terrifying horror.

Over 130 years later a troubled London police officer, Alex Caine, is transferred to the sleepy village of Red Meadows. Her country life and the investments to rejuvenate the valley are put in jeopardy when a World War II bomb is unearthed triggering a chain of disturbing events.

A series of grisly mutilations follow but what is causing this mayhem, a wild animal or a serial killer hell-bent on destruction? With limited resource, battling local politics and with help from an unlikely ally, legends from the Garloupmira to Sasquatch are probed. Caine’s well-being, sanity and beliefs are tested as she desperately strives to solve her case.

As the moon rises the curse begins!

darkest_moons_cover_for_kindle

Watch the Darkest Moons Teaser Trailer: https://youtu.be/5qYX7Sal0k4

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Rezort (2015) Review

Image result for Rezort  imp awardsAfter humanity wins a war against zombies, tourists are able to kill zombies for sport at the Rezort.

Director Steve Barker who debuted with Outpost (2008) offers a zombie flick which echoes

Westworld (1973)and Jurassic Park (1993) premise. While Rezort isn't as tight as Outpost, quite choppy in fact the zombie resort idea is a winning formula. Despite some dubious casting and dialogue this modest budget horror has plenty of great zombie action. Its Island setting gives it an throw back feel to Fulci's Zombie (1979) and Fear the Walking Dead (in which Dougray Scott also appeared) rather than Romero's 'of the Dead' films and/or The Walking Dead series.

To writers Paul Gerstenberger's credit there is an interesting novel aspect as guest Melanie, played glowingly by Jessica Elise De Gouw who wants to conquer her psychological issues caused by the zombie war. This take is clearly what brought Barker and Scott's talent to the table. That said, it feel rushed in places especially when the park's security begins to unravel. The on location shoot works in its favour and Gerstenberger comes up trumps with a social commentary of sorts around refugees and class reminiscent of The Dead (2010), The Dead 2 (2013) and WWZ (2013) to name a few.

As forgettable sub characters get picked off one by one Martin McCann is notable as Lewis, but Dougray Scott effortlessly steals any sort of screen presence from the rest of cast excluding De Gouw of course who plays the trouble everyday girl in a horrific situation well. There's no lack of effort in the makeup department either, the effects are finely executed from the most part, rapid head shots, zombie bites, all the zombie staples are there. But technically there's some short comings in the editing and staging notable when the group try to pass through a fence damaged by a jeep it loses its lustre and logic.

With Resident Evil (2002) Hive like rooms and an impending countdown to doom. Its far from a DTV or SYFY film. The issue with Rezort is not that its derivative, it's just not slick enough or able to focus on a potential bleak tone or its unique and interesting aspects making it feel more like the entertaining Cockney Versus Zombies (2012) without the comedy rather than the Day of the Dead it should be.

Still the Michael Crichton themes with robots and dinosaur replaced for zombies makes Rezort worth watching just for the living dead hell of it.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Split (2016) Review

Split Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

Three girls are kidnapped by a man and must try and escape before a frightful personality The Beast comes to get them.

With hints Red Dragon (2002) and echoes of Sybil (1976/2007) with a touch of 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) director, writer M. Night Shyamalan offers an interesting thriller. James McAvoy delivers a performance of a life time as Kevin who has 23 distinct personalities and one additional one, that all play off against each other, even imitating each other at one point. After kidnapping three girls and keeping them locked up in a cellar, surprisingly it is the edgy visits to his therapist, Dr. Karen Fletcher, wonderfully played by Betty Buckley that provides the most tension as you never know when he is going to snap.

The slow undercurrent build up is Split's strength as the girls attempt to escape and we get to know many of Kevin's personas, Dennis / Patricia / Hedwig / The Beast / Kevin Wendell Crumb / Barry / Orwell / Jade. While McAvoy's 9 year old doesn't ring as true as the other characters he encompasses, the distinction between each is impressive. Especially the 24th personality which builds up like a High Noon (1952) showdown. Anya Taylor-Joy's Casey Cooke has a developed character and poignant story arc but always feel second to McAvoy.

The worn on location feel works, a cellar, long corridors, city apartments and a zoo, Shyamalan's realistic setting has become a staple of his work, which helps draw you into the story. Two of the kidnapped girls feel under developed but possibly Shyamalan purposely does this for the viewer to focus on the third and in bid for you to sympathise with her and Kevin.

With a Bruce Willis cameo, the post story twist of sorts will be lost on anyone who hasn't seen one particular film of Shyamalan. And to be honest unless you love this particular film or have a great memory, it will probably annoy rather than entice. That said, all that comes before draws the viewer in. Right down to Dr. Fletcher's assessment of what advantage split personalities can have and its application. Fletcher concludes that 'they' may something more.

Although a mash-up of other films, thanks to McAvoy and Buckley it stands out from most in the genre. Shyamalan's atmosphere and attention to detail gives it some gravitas. Overall, worth watching for McAvoy's performance(s) alone.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

*** This review may contain T-Virus spoilers ***

Humanity is on its last legs and Alice after being betrayed by Wesker has one last chance to end the Umbrella Corporation's plan of world domination.

With writer/director Paul W. S. Anderson again helming the chair, the alleged sixth and final chapter never manages to recreate the pace, horror hi-jinx or atmosphere of 2002's Resident Evil, yet, tonally The Final Chapter comes closer than any of the meandering stylised sequels. 

Anderson (arguably wisely) sidesteps the teased epic fantasy war setting of its predecessor with this instalment set in the aftermath of Retribution. The full-blown war is dropped in favour to feature on a few remaining monsters and focus on the impending infected zombie horde. Anderson borrows George Romero's Dead Reckoning-like vehicle under Dr Isaac's (Iain Glen) control and Alice (Milla Jovovich) must get back to The Hive to release an antivirus and stop the outbreak with help from The Red Queen played notably by Milla/Anderson's very own daughter Ever.

The Final Chapter will appease fans who loved the action orientated sequels but it also goes some way satisfying those who enjoyed the first film. Anderson offers littered Event Horizon and the original Resident Evil's jump scares in the ominous moments. In amongst the edited (faster than the Bourne Identity series put together) imaginative action there's a little character development. Paul Haslinger's pumping synth score is fitting and enhances the action as well as the few and far between quieter moments.

While it's a pity actors Colin Salmon, Michelle Rodriguez and others couldn't return given the stories clone themed story line, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) and Ali Larter's Claire Redfield return from previous entries. Both Roberts and Larter both look more at ease here in the mostly darkly lit well crafted sets.

With usual strong screen presence Jovovich is on fine form and the fights are fantastic if a little too frantically paced. Although some aged makeup is below par and the CGI is ropey at times Anderson offers a genuinely surprising twist which delivers a fitting close to the Alice character. 

That said, the maker leaves enough room for another horror orientated follow up or overblown 3D actioner - hopefully the latter. Either way it ends the series on a high more rounded note.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

*** This review contains galactic spoilers ***

An unlikely group of freedom fighters team up to steal the Death Star schematics.

An interesting mix of exciting heroic and tragic characters. Director Gareth Edwards Monsters, Godzilla) and team are careful not to take anything away from the iconic 1977 classic Star Wars and successfully add to it, i.e the Death Star here doesn't blow up planets in this instalment not to take any impact away from its destructive powers in A New Hope. Still it shows it's immense firepower as Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso goes about finding her father in a sea of defectors, rebels and insurgents including Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). With great Star Wars action setups and battle scenes, that one could only have dreamed of recreating with toys as child this Star Wars story has plenty of thrills.

Loaded with nods to the series and standing on its on two feet. The costumes effects and sets are fantastic and it captures the feel of the originals and bridges the prequels, Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) adds to this. Michael Giacchino's music complements John Williams' previous scores. Edwards creates a sense of urgency here which helps reinforce Episode IV stakes including the famous first '77 on screen appearance of Darth Vader. It's also co-written by John Knoll, who joined Lucas Industrial Light & Magic 30 years ago and worked on Willow (1988). J.J. Abrams' The Force Awakens captured the original trilogy's spirit holistically, but Edwards manages to conjurer up the feel of the 1977 Star Wars Magic.

The CGI characters of dead and favourites while not technically perfect are executed well enough too excite fans, namely the appearance of Tarkin (a resurrection of the great Peter Cushing's character) and a pivotal female favourite who appears in the closing. Some X- Wing pilots, Red and Gold Leader have clever cameos. As well as an array of droids, littered throughout are the likes of the Cantina's Ponda Babba and Dr. Evazan, R2D2 and C3PO. Extended purposeful meatier character appearances included General Dodonna, Mon Mothma, Vader himself (in three important scenes) who does not disappoint.

Director Edwards doesn't get hung up on on these cameos of sorts and keeps his eye on creating a wonderfully crafted grittier Star Wars film. The acting arguably surpasses its predecessors with too many actors to mention. Hardened rebel Andor played by Diego Luna cements a place in Star Wars history but Donnie Yen's Chirrut Îmwe steals scenes as a blind warrior. There's plenty of heart courteous of Mads Mikkelsen and lead Jones' Erso. Notable is Alan Tudyk's K-2SO who provides some great one liners as well as a memorable emotional moment. The star though is debatably Ben Mendelsohn as villain Orson Krennic, with the bureaucratic gravitas and emotional depth to leave a lasting impression.

What it comes down to is that Edwards like Lucas manages to put on screen a Shakespeare-like tragedy mixed with Flash Gordon wonder that has all the familiar simple themes which makes stories great.

Solid Star Wars entertainment all the way.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Forsaken (2015) Review

Forsaken Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1872 Wyoming, a former gunslinger and his estranged father encounter a ruthless businessman and his posse of thugs.

Director Jon Cassar's Forsaken is very much a paint by numbers Western, however, the draw (no pun indented) is having father and son Donald and Kiefer Sutherland share the screen. In addition, the supporting cast elevate Brad Mirman's screenplay with the likes of Demi Moore, Brian Cox and Michael Wincott. Wincott's Dave Turner, a dangerous principled gun for hire is particularly notable aiming for the heights of Tombstone's (1993) Kilmer Doc Holiday and underrated Aaron Poole shines as thug Frank Tillman, both actors leave an impression.

Along with Jonathan Goldsmith's score Cassar's low-key Western captures the essence of the classics including Shane (1953). And while it's not a novel as the recent Bone Tomahawk (2015) or as broodingly fun as In a Valley of Violence (2016) it ticks all the American West boxes. Kiefer Sutherland's John Henry Clayton like Ethan Hawke in the aforementioned film is haunted by the war, Here writer Mirman doesn't really offer anything new, however, thanks to Kiefer's simmering cowboy performance he sells the heartache and torment of a repressed killer. The love triangle between Moore's Mary, her husband and John adds some drama in amongst Cassar's well staged fights and shoots out as people are force to sell of their land.

Donald Sutherland's Reverend William Clayton only gets one scene with Cox (who sadly isn't given much to do) an unscrupulous business man James McCurdy. But the Sutherland's father and son relationship tensions offer some weighty telling scenes with tragic accidents, war, mother and brother back-story dynamics which hold interest. The preceding peak in the showdown closing act and Winacott and Kiefer cement their gun slinging positions in a satisfying close.

Overall, it doesn't shake the genre up but is worth watching if only for the Sutherlands, Winacott and Poole's performance.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Bone Tomahawk (2015) Review

Bone Tomahawk Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

A posse embark on a rescue mission into the wilderness of the Wild West but bandits are the least of their problems when faced with the cannibalistic captors.

Director/Writer S. Craig Zahler crafts an enjoyable mature low key Western romp with graphics scenes (including dismemberment, disembowelment stabbings and gunfights) lettered throughout especially in the closing.

The cast on fine form as a sheriff (Kurt Russell), his deputy (Richard Jenkins), a gun slinger (Matthew Fox) go about rescuing a cowboy's (Patrick Wilson) wife from - in a twist of sorts Neanderthal troglodytes. Russell is perfectly cast, with his look, straight talking gruff tones fitting a role he can do in his sleep, here though there's something heroically poignant drenched in his character. Similarly, Brooder, Fox well dressed in white cowboy has a back-story which pulls no punches and is intriguing. Its character driven with some candid dialogue that cements your care for the characters, Jenkins particularly shines as the aged widowed deputy, Russell and especially Fox are memorable.

Zahler offers a novel twist on John Ford's The Searchers. There's a sense of scale and a lived in feel in his vision. The genuine attention to period detail reinforces the narrative. It's dusty, picturesque (with cinematography from Benji Bakshi) but it also offers a over shadowing sense of impending doom and violence as the unlikely group of men go on a journey of survival and danger. The special effects are finely executed, wince inducing and leave an impact. Like producer/director Jack Heller 2011's of Dark Was the Night the whole thing is low key and even with the characters having dynamite at the ready Zahler doubling duties as writer satisfyingly avoids the Hollywood explosive clichés.

Bone Tomahawk's slow-burning story complements the gripping performances and as a smart horror Western its highly recommended.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016) Review

Ouija 2 Movie Poster*** This review contains spoilers ***

A widowed fortune teller who decides to incorporate a Ouija board into her fake routine soon meets real evil when the board starts calling to her daughter, uncovering a horrific secret.

Director Mike Flanagan's 1967 setting gives it a different feel to many of its contemporary rivals. In its eerie effective first 40 minutes Ouija's cast shine, it's only in the special effects driven latter half the character build up which Flanagan and co skilfully created is unnecessarily thrown out. Elizabeth Reaser's Alice Zander who believes they've contacted her dead husband is sadly side lined in favour of digital spectacle. Child star actor now an adult Henry Thomas is particularly notable, his priest Hogan character with a past is played out well. Young actress Annalise Basso as Lina and even younger Lulu Wilson as Doris are memorable, the two sisters feel real enough.

With some help from The Newton Brothers' score the Ouija board scenes and planchette usage gives some chills as they talk to an entity who they think is their father. It becomes noticeably derivative in the last act, borrowing The Matrix's Neo's closed mouth effect, The Exorcist with possessions and the Exorcist III where Doris skitters across ceilings to name a few, there's enough jump scares and creepy faces to retain interest with its World War Two connection twist. The stretched face look is over used and to Wilson's credit her performance can be spooky enough without it. The dark shadows darting in the corn of the eye are particularly well executed and more effective than the big stunt set ups.

As a prequel to the 2014 film Ouija it arguably surpasses its predecessor, but in a sea of horrors it's another addition that simply can't compete with the classics or more recently The Conjuring films and Exorcist TV series, but Flanagan and writer Jeff Howard thanks to the good small cast ensemble have a solid stab at it.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Man Vs. (2015) Review (with spoilers)

Man Vs. Movie Poster*** This review contains major spoilers ***

A survival documentary filmmaker runs into trouble when he comes up against more that just the local animal life.

With a major spoiler from the outset, imagine and episode of Bear Grylls mixed with the Predator (1987) and an alien design reminiscent of District 9 (2009) and you'll sort of get feel of Man Vs. Half of the fun of director Adam Massey's offering is guessing for the first half what is the main character up against.

Man Vs. echoes the likes of Exists, Blackfoot Trail, Bigfoot County (2012) Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes (2012) Willow Creek (2013), The Hunted (2013) while not a found footage film per say, thankfully it's a mix of presenter Doug's camera views, go-pro POVs and a traditionally shot film perspective (similar to REC 3 (2012) and The Pyramid (2014).

In terms of execution Massey's film surpasses genre expectations due to traditional shot segments and well executed practical and 'monster' special effects in the last quarter. It has a very small cast ensemble. Thanks to a great performance from Chris Diamantopoulos as Doug, channelling Grylls, he single handily keeps Man Vs. interesting while he does his TV show bits for the majority of the film and believes he's being hunted by a bear, wolf or even a crazy fan of his show.

The Canadian natural forest setting framed by Miroslaw Baszak sells Massey's story. Writer Thomas Michael leaves enough clues - skinned bodies, chess boards, black goo, dead fish to keep you guessing what Doug is up against but if you've seen 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) you'll see the twist coming. That said, Michael and Massey successfully create a small scale paranoia tale on the backdrop peripheral of something larger going on. John Rowley's score is effective throughout, but especially in the closing where realisation hits Doug and rescue by his team and acquaintance are skewed.

While the genre is worn, if you like the aforementioned movies you'll get a kick out of Massey's addition to the genre. Three quarters survival show and a quarter sci-fi. Recommended.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Darkest Moons - Halloween and beyond release

Hello ghosts and ghouls. Finally (phew) and aptly this Halloween my new book entitled Darkest Moons is released on paperback and Kindle. If you would like a chance to win a free electronic copy share this post on Twitter or Facebook @amesmonde! Read on for more Darkest Moons' details.

From the press release:

darkest_moons_cover_for_kindleDarkest Moons

In 1878 a mining community came to terms with the existence of a terrifying horror.

Over 130 years later a troubled London police officer, Alex Caine, is transferred to the sleepy village of Red Meadows. Her country life and the investments to rejuvenate the valley are put in jeopardy when a World War II bomb is unearthed triggering a chain of disturbing events.

A series of grisly mutilations follow but what is causing this mayhem, a wild animal or a serial killer hell-bent on destruction? With limited resource, battling local politics and with help from an unlikely ally, legends from the Garloupmira to Sasquatch are probed. Caine’s well-being, sanity and beliefs are tested as she desperately strives to solve her case.

As the moon rises the curse begins!

Darkest Moons

By A. M. Esmonde

An AM to PM Publishing Book

Publication Date October 31st 2016

Paperback ISBN 1508567700

e-book ASIN B01MDSP46K 

202 Pages

Ask in your favourite bookstore or order from Amazon

Link T.B.C

Watch the Darkest Moons Teaser Trailer: https://youtu.be/5qYX7Sal0k4

A. M. Esmonde, “A gothic mansion, hidden secrets, crypts, beasts and mysteries. With a never seen before creature that spawned legends. What is real and what is not in a seemingly perfect community? Present day set 'Darkest Moons', incorporates flashbacks throughout a Welsh village’s history packed with elusive characters. Darkest Moons will be available as an e-book, readers who want the traditional paperback will get the e-book free and can also enjoy the revelation connections to my all my other novels."

As with any first editions, if there are any niggling little errors please let me know and we'll get it correct for the second run. Thanks