Thursday, August 27, 2015

After Dark Horrorfest 2015


After Dark Horrorfest is returning this October after a 5-year hiatus. Also known as "8 Films to Die For", Horrorfest was an annual film festival that began in 2006 and featured eight independent horror films (sometimes with a secret bonus film).


This year, After Dark Films has teamed up with 20th Century Fox to bring Horrorfest back. Here's the line-up for the return of 8 Films to Die For: 


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Red Band Trailer: Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Yes, popular culture is saturated with tons of zombie-related media. Yes, I'm still a sucker for zombie movies regardless. This looks like it's going to be a ton of fun and it drops the day before Halloween! What else could you possibly ask for?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Screambox vs. Shudder

At a glance:

Screambox

  • Price – Uncut, unlimited, and commercial-free for $3.99/month.
  • Promotions – 30 day free trial at sign up
  • Content – A wide range of mainstream and indie horror movies including a bunch of Tartan Asia Extreme films, Masters of Horror, Classics, Cult favorites, and some SyFy reject/Asylum level direct-to-video movies
  • Navigation – Movies are divided up into categories, much like Netflix's setup, also has a queue for movies. Related movies are listed under video player
  • Platform – Flash video player that supports up to 1080p video, although some movies are only available in 480p
  • Subtitles – Aren't an option on the player, they're hardsubbed into the movie
  • Supported Devices – Desktop, tablets, iOS, Android devices, Roku, Amazon FireTV, and Samsung Smart TVs. Support for Google Chromecast, Xbox (360/One), and PlayStation (3/4) coming soon
  • Community – Mostly just ratings for the movies and not as many comments, discussions, etc.

Shudder

  • Price – $4.99/month, $ 49.99/year
  • Promotions – 60 day free trial at sign up
  • Content – Not as big of a selection as Screambox, yet. The movies that are available are typically of a higher quality. Also has a feed called ShudderTV that airs a continuous loop of horror movies
  • Navigation – Broken down into many specific categories, so movies are easy to find. Also offers a master list of all movies, which makes it easier to browse all available content
  • Platform – Powered by the DramaFever platform which seems to work great. Movies look great whether in the normal window or full screen. Needs some kind of volume stabilizer though.
  • Subtitles – Plenty of options. Choice of track, font, size, white, yellow, white on black, yellow on black, etc. Sometimes these options don't affect the subs as not all movies are subbed and some are hardsubbed
  • Supported Devices – Desktop, Roku, iOS, Android. No mention of Xbox or PlayStation support yet
  • Community – Seems like users are more active, commenting and reviewing movies instead of just rating them


Head-to-Head:

PriceScreambox is a dollar cheaper if you're paying per month but if you sign up for the full year with Shudder, the difference becomes even more insignificant.

Promotions – 60 days vs. 30 days, Shudder definitely takes this one. With more content on Screambox, users would benefit from a longer trial period.

Content – Here's what it really boils down to as content is king. Shudder touts that their selection of movies is curated by "leading industry experts" which might actually be the case since news broke that Samuel Zimmerman, Managing Editor of Shock Till You Drop, was joining Shudder's team as a curator. Backed by AMC and curated by a team of experts, I have no doubt that we'll be seeing a ton of top quality content coming in the future. We might even get to see The Walking Dead and/or Fear the Walking Dead on ShudderTV

As of right now though, Screambox does offer more variety and a seemingly larger selection of movies. While Shudder's current selection offers more popular content, I can find a lot of the same movies on Netflix. As a die hard fan of horror movies myself, there are some titles on Screambox that I couldn't find on either Netflix or Shudder. Both services offer a great selection but I have to give this one to Screambox for variety.

Navigation – Both Shudder and Screambox organize their movies into categories, which makes it easy to find whatever you're in the mood to watch. Shudder has a master list of all their movies, which makes browsing a lot easier.

Screambox, however, has a queue and I find that much more useful for keeping track of movies I want to watch. Unfortunately, they could stand to learn a thing or two from Netflix because you cannot arrange the order of your queue after adding movies. The queue seems to be arranged in a random order and sometimes a sequel will be separated from the rest of the films in a franchise. I can see this becoming a problem as your queue grows larger.

Platform – Shudder uses the DramaFever platform, which seems to work fine. DramaFever has been around since 2009 and they specialize in streaming video, so I would expect their platform to be solid. Although they need to implement some sort of volume stabilizer because some of the movies are hard to hear and others will blow out your eardrums. That's probably the only problem I've had with their platform.

I did have some problems with Screambox's video player initially. Whenever I full screened or shrunk the player, the video would freeze. Sometimes the video would skip or my stream would die. After going into the Settings and disabling the hardware acceleration, everything has been running smoothly. Their video player supports up to 1080p for certain movies where available but a few of the movies I saw were only available in 480p.

The only movie I compared the video quality of was A Tale of Two Sisters and it looked just a little better on Shudder.

Subtitles – While subtitles on foreign language films seem to be hardsubbed on both services (at least as far as I've seen) Shudder offers more options for customizing subs. You can select the track (so I assume they might be offering subs in different languages in the future), what font you want the subs in, how big or small, and what color you want the text. White text, yellow text, white text on a black background, yellow text on a black background. Shudder even offers subs on some of their English language films.

Screambox doesn't offer any options for subtitles, only non-English films are hardsubbed.

Supported Devices – Screambox is available on Desktop (PC/Mac), tablets, iOS and Android devices, Roku, Amazon FireTV, and Samsung Smart TVs. Support for Google Chromecast, Xbox (360/One), and PlayStation (3/4) are in development.

Shudder is currently available on Desktop, iOS, Android and Roku. There isn't even any mention of Xbox or PlayStation support. That could possibly change in the future as they're still in the early stages of beta testing but I stream Netflix through my PS3 while I'm on the computer. I think it's important to consider that people use their gaming consoles as an all-in-one media device nowadays.

Community – Shudder seems to have a more active community of users who are wiling to comment or review movies. While this might not be a big deal for some, there are a lot of people who like to read reviews before deciding on a movie to watch. On Shudder, you're limited to one review per movie that you can edit and resubmit. This gives everyone a chance to voice their opinions on a movie but doesn't allow for any actual discussion.

Screambox has a comments section where you can upload images, like other people's comments, and have an actual discussion with fellow horror fans. Although most users are still just posting single comments right now, I think Screambox has the potential for better discussions once the community becomes more active. They should definitely add a reply function that allows you to reply directly to a particular comment. Here's a bit of info on how to edit the text in your comments:

*bold* (single word)
_italics_
> quoted
`monospaced`
[title](link)
---
code, language guessed

A little dialog box pops up with that info when you first click the comments section but I haven't been able to get it to come up again. I definitely prefer Screambox's comments section, though I wish both services provided a forum.

Final Thoughts – As of right now, both services are pretty even in terms of value. Both offer a fantastic selection of movies at a lower cost than Netflix. Whichever one is worth signing up for depends more on the user.

If you're a casual viewer, Shudder has a curated collection of some of the best classic, contemporary, and foreign films. Shudder seems to favor Euro Horror, particularly the works of Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci. If you're like me though, you've probably seen a lot of the more popular titles and you're looking for something different. Screambox offers a wider variety of movies and more obscure titles than Shudder. Screambox also favors Asian Horror with a bigger selection of K-Horror and J-Horror.

Also, if you're a snob about video quality, you may want to consider sticking with Shudder. I'm not sure what resolution the movies run at but video quality seems to be consistent across the site. Screambox has some movies at 480p, which might be a problem for those who are planning to watch on larger HD screens.

Other than that, both services are pretty comparable at this time. I would probably give the edge to Screambox over Shudder because of their selection. Though Shudder is backed by AMC, which may give them an advantage in the future, their current collection is a little smaller and much of their content can also be found on Netflix. With Halloween right around the corner, I recommend everyone try both these services out for themselves. Between a 60-day and 30-day trial, there's plenty to explore and enjoy!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Screambox


Back in June, I wrote about a new horror streaming service called Shudder that was aiming to be the Netflix for horror movies. While Netflix competes with Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, it looks like Shudder isn't the only horror streaming game in town.

Screambox is a company that's actually been around since 2014 and promises to deliver uncut horror movies the way they were meant to be consumed: "no filters, no restrictions, and no distractions." While both services claim to be the new home of horror, Screambox has a brash in-your-face attitude that's apparent even in their own description. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Trailers and Updates

I know this will probably sound like a shameless plug or just me asking for more followers but sometimes I post things directly to social media when I don't feel like writing an entire post about them. (Like a trailer or a single picture for example) I didn't even realize about how much readers were missing, so I will try to do more summary posts like this one. But if you don't want to miss anything, please follow Z-portal on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

[Warning: My Twitter is a shared account that I also use for my Retrospective Geek blog, so there will be some comic book, video game, tokusatsu, and pro wrestling stuff mixed in. I haven't felt the need to start a separate Twitter account specifically for this stuff... yet!]

Ash vs. Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi are teaming with STARZ to bring us new original series set 30 years after Army of Darkness. The new series is set to premier on Halloween and it looks GROOVY!



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