Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios unleashes nightmare-fueled 22-minute short ‘Zygote’

Neill Blomkamp’s Oats Studios unleashes nightmare-fueled 22-minute short ‘Zygote’

What’s on the Menu…

Zygote beautifully utilizes one of our all-time favorite dramatic scenarios: An isolated group, faced with no choice but to fend for themselves, battles for survival against a seemingly insurmountable foe. As group members get picked off, one by one, the suspense comes from who dies next, and who, if anyone, survives. John Ford staged it in a desert with World War I soldiers in The Lost Patrol (1934). Ridley Scott placed his band of scrappy victims in deep space, battling an iconic extraterrestrial in 1979’s Alien. With Zygote, director and co-writer Neill Blomkamp borrows heavily from the latter, right down to the ceaseless warning beacons and mechanical PA announcements. It also cuts right to the chase, opening after most of the bloodshed has already occurred:

Stranded in an Arctic mine, two lone survivors are forced to fight for their lives, evading and hiding from a new kind of terror.


Zygote stars Blomkamp veteran Jose Pablo Cantillo (Elysium, Chappie) and Dakota Fanning. Cantillo is fine, although his terse, grunting speech – he’s in intense pain for every second he’s onscreen – can be a little hard to understand. But Fanning is incredible, absolutely inhabiting her character’s frazzled, go-for-broke gutsiness. And the film’s set acts as an indispensable third performer: the Diefenbunker, a sprawling, decommissioned Cold War-era fallout shelter originally built by the Canadian government in the small town of Carp, Ontario. It now serves as Canada’s Cold War Museum, and has been featured in The Sum of All Fears, among other films.

As one would expect from Blomkamp, the digital effects are impeccable. Zygote gifts sci-fi/horror fans with a unique and fearsome creature, unlike anything you’ve seen before. And it does not skimp on the gore or violence. If this were a feature, the MPAA would almost certainly slap an ‘R’ rating on it.

Blunders and Gaffes

The film spends just a little too much time in its first setting, the mining operation’s thoroughly trashed mess hall. It gets a little talky in parts. And a scene where the two protagonists must put on breathing masks becomes unintentionally funny when both of their masks instantly cloud up – a lot. Like, “I can’t see a damn thing” a lot.

Release Notes for Zygote

Oats Studios has released free versions of Zygote on its YouTube and Facebook pages, but a deluxe downloadable edition, complete with 3D assets, scripts and digital concept art booklet can be purchased for $4.99 on the Steam gaming platform.

Best of all, the short is billed as Volume 1, indicating an ongoing series. We’ll be anxiously awaiting the next installments.

Connect with Zygote

Red Band trailer for ‘Cult of Chucky’ offers no asylum from total insanity

Red Band trailer for ‘Cult of Chucky’ offers no asylum from total insanity

TAGLINE FOR CULT OF CHUCKY: “Friends till the end, remember?”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: A number of veterans of the Child’s Play franchise return for this straight-to-video release, once known as Child’s Play 7Brad Dourif again voices Chucky, Jennifer Tilly is back as the doll’s ex-wife (long story), and Alex Vincent returns, all grown up now, as the perennial victim of Chucky’s wrath. Fiona Dourif (Brad’s daughter) reprises her role as Nica from the last installment, 2013’s Curse of Chucky . It looks like some halfway decent CGI will liven up the stiff movements and facial expressions of the 1988 original.

Chucky returns to terrorize his human victim, Nica. Meanwhile, the killer doll has some scores to settle with his old enemies, with the help of his former wife.

Interestingly, there’s a fan campaign to coax Universal Pictures to grant Cult of Chucky a limited theatrical run, preferably in IMAX theaters. Not sure this makes a lot of sense, as the film was not shot with IMAX cameras. But hey, if you’re interested, you’ll find a link to the petition below. Cult of Chucky is slated for release on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital and On Demand on October 3, 2017.


SHORT: Latest ‘Scary Endings’ anthology entry, ‘Am I Beautiful?’ (2017), based on Japanese legend

SHORT: Latest ‘Scary Endings’ anthology entry, ‘Am I Beautiful?’ (2017), based on Japanese legend

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Online horror anthology series Scary Endings offers up another serving of short-form terror, Am I Beautiful?. This time around, writer/director John Fitzpatrick (Skypemare) and the Scary Endings team look to an ancient Japanese ghost story, Kuchisake-onna (‘Slit-Mouthed Woman’), for their inspiration:

May (Sarah Scott) and Zach (Abraham Martinez) are moving into their new home unbeknownst to the evil spirit haunting their bathroom mirror – the Slit-Mouthed Woman (Belinda Gosbee). She’ll ask you a question; answer correctly and she’ll spare your life but at a cost…

Interestingly, this episode is the first to be shot entirely on iPhone. To our eyes, cinematographer Nicholas Kaat‘s work looks professional as always, which speaks volumes about the potential quality of current smartphone videography. This should serve as a huge encouragement to all you budding horror filmmakers out there!


Eagerly anticipated first trailer for Stephen King’s ‘IT’ finally drops, in all its bone-chilling glory

Eagerly anticipated first trailer for Stephen King’s ‘IT’ finally drops, in all its bone-chilling glory

TAGLINE FOR IT: “You’ll float too.”

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: The film version of Stephen King’s beloved novel is directed by Andrés Muschietti, who did a fine job on 2013’s haunting MamaBill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise the sadistic, centuries-old clown – a role immortalized by Tim Curry in the 1990 TV miniseries. Especially intriguing is a credit for Javier Botet as “The Leper.” Botet towers over six and a half feet tall, with a singular skill for impossibly contorted figures. Muschietti exploited this skill to great advantage when Botet played the titular spirit in Mama. You may also know his work as the floor-scrabbling hell-creature in [REC] and the “Nightmare Character” in The Revenant. Finn Wolfhard continues polishing his genre credentials, following a memorable run in Season 1 of Netflix hit Stranger Things.

So that’s a pretty good pedigree. Some of us had reservations about Skarsgård, about the new look for Pennywise, about the wisdom of attempting to remake something that had already been done so indelibly. With this trailer, it seems safe to say those reservations have vanished.

In other words: We can’t wait for IT to hit US theaters on September 8th. Here’s the official synopsis:

When children begin to disappear in the town of Derry, Maine, a group of young kids are faced with their biggest fears when they square off against an evil clown named Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries.


SHORT: ‘Girls Night’ (2017) Halloween finds three girlfriends at a party gone wrong

SHORT: ‘Girls Night’ (2017) Halloween finds three girlfriends at a party gone wrong

WHAT’S ON THE MENU: Filmmaker David Teixeira wrote, directed, shot, and edited this modest short, which is in French but offers English subtitles. Here’s the official synopsis:

Girls Night is a short horror film that takes place in Halloween. Three girlfriends stay home for a slumber party that goes bloody wrong. Literally.”

It’s a variation on the venerable “Bloody Mary” legend. You’d think most folks would know better by now.

Teixeira leaned in to the inherent constraints of a shoestring budget, and came up with a mostly good-looking film that underdelivers in the scares department. There are some lingering shots that could be tightened up a bit. But the score is effective, the three main characters are colorful and engaging, and the central antagonist, in creepy mask and blonde wig, has an eerie menacing quality that makes this short worth a look.

So how can you take such a look at Girls Night? Currently, you can’t – but that will soon change. We touched base with Teixeira on the subject:

“It’s been submitted to 15 film festivals internationally. It will be online soon, still waiting to see how it goes with the film festivals and then I’ll put it online. Maybe in April.”

Stay tuned.