Fallen (1998)

AUGUST 31, 2008

GENRE: POSSESSION, SERIAL KILLER
SOURCE: CABLE (HDNET)

Mention Fallen to anyone, and they will have two responses: they will sing “Time... is on my side...” or they will say “That Shocker ripoff?” (variant responses include The First Power or House III/Horror Show). I guess a third option (“What?”) is possible, but screw those ignoramuses. But what no one will mention is how goddamn long and needlessly talky that Fallen is. For a movie about a serial killer, you’d think the body count would be at least 10 or so, but it’s much less (and one is so off-screen it’s almost distracting, since it’s a major character).

Again, I don’t think "high body count" necessarily equals "exciting movie", but when you’re dealing with something as silly as an executed killer’s soul possessing anyone he comes into contact with, why not have a little fun with it? Denzel can bring the hammy when he wants (Virtuosity, Deja Vu, hell, even John Q), so it’s not completely out of the question. Plus the supporting cast is like a who’s who of scenery chewing legends – Donald Sutherland, John Goodman, James Gandolfini, Elias Koteas... but no one is allowed to cut loose. Koteas gets a little bit, but his role should have been unbilled for its brevity (he is executed 5 minutes in and never appears again – at least Pileggi found a way to stick around in Shocker).

The soul possession thing is also way overused. There are a couple of scenes when he translates over like 20 times, sometimes only “taking over” someone for literally five seconds before moving on to the next person. It’s like the evil version of that feather in Forrest Gump. After a while it’s not really exciting a concept; it’s not that anyone COULD be the killer, it’s that everyone IS. Just about everyone in the movie is taken over at some point or another, and since the person is not affected in any negative fashion as a result, there’s little suspense about the whole thing. No one’s hurt or dying, and the killer doesn’t even seem to be interested in killing Denzel most of the time.

Like yesterday’s movie, it features someone having to solve a code that leads them to a particular Bible passage. If you’re going to provide a code, you obviously want your nemesis to know what it is, so why not save them some time? He doesn’t even make it much of a challenge – he writes APO, CAL, Y, and PSE, in order, on the chests of four victims. Come on, at least mix ‘em up a bit so he has to use his noggin.

This movie features an inordinate number of cast members from the movie Black Dog. Two, in fact; Gabriel Casseus and Graham Beckel, who is uncredited as one of the random street folks who are momentarily possessed. You might think two is hardly inordinate, but I ask you: Have you SEEN Black Dog? If so, would you want to ever be reminded of it twice in one otherwise unrelated movie? I think not.

Despite all that, it’s at least watchable. Denzel and Goodman have a great chemistry, and some of their dialogues together are the film’s best scenes. I also like how Denzel took care of his brother (Casseus) and tried to keep his nephew from thinking he was more awesome than his own father. And throughout the whole movie, Denzel is giving some really annoying narration, but at the end it’s actually kind of a twist, and it’s a pretty sweet one at that. I just wish it didn’t take so long to get to it.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Seventh Sign (1988)

AUGUST 30, 2008

GENRE: RELIGIOUS, THRILLER
SOURCE: CABLE (HDNET)

Ironically, someone asked me today if I plan my movies ahead, and I told him that I didn’t. Then I watched The Seventh Sign, the first of the three HD cable movies I recorded and planned ahead to watch over the long weekend to make sure my DVR had a lot of free space for the upcoming fall season (which kicks off on Monday with the return of the increasingly bad but still awesome Prison Break, wooo!). Sorry I sort of lied, guy who asked me. Otherwise though, no, I never plan ahead. Takes a lot of the fun out of it, if you ask me (no one has).

Anyway, Sign was OK. It’s very light on the horror elements, even compared to something like Rosemary’s Baby (which has a similar plot) which is known for the quality rather than the quantity of its scare scenes. It’s sort of like a biblical Terminator 2 (first 45 minutes), you get two guys who are obviously after Demi Moore’s baby, but you’re not sure at first which one means to save it and which one wants to go all wire hanger on its unborn ass. And some good casting here – Jurgen Prochnow is actually the GOOD guy (if I am understanding the ending correctly, he’s actually a reborn version of THE Good guy).

Also I really wish I watched this movie when I was like 11 and thought Demi Moore was the most beautiful woman in the whole wide world. Because she bares her breasts, something I wouldn’t see until I was 14 when Striptease came along. And this movie is nowhere near as awful. Nude scenes are always a bit more exciting when they are contained in a movie that’s watchable even when everyone is clothed.

The movie also has a completely unintentional (I think) laugh when Moore is channel surfing. All she is coming across is news about people dying, war, etc, and nestled in the middle of all this is a quick clip of a Wheel of Fortune style game show. To me, that suggests that brain-dead entertainment is just as horrible as genocide or whatever. Had she STOPPED on the show it would be different, but no, it gets lumped in with everything else. Awesome.

It’s also got a scene I don’t think I’ve ever seen before in any of these religious prophecy horror thrillers. A priest goes to investigate something, and when he is reporting his findings to the Jedi council of high priests, they’re like “are you SURE it’s not a miracle?” and he’s like “yep, it’s all B.S.” (not actual quotes, sadly). Usually, unless the movie is about a skeptical priest who regains his faith, this scene is ALWAYS played out the opposite way; the priest is all “Miracle!” and the elders will shoot him down. Way to play with uninteresting convention, Schultz.

Oh the director’s name is Carl Schultz.

The only thing about the movie that really annoyed me is when Moore asks Prochnow if that was him that she saw “the other day”, when it was like 2 months later. Where I live, “the other day” is a period of time stretching back no further than a week. Plus, the fucking guy lives with you, you never got around to asking him about it sooner?

Also the movie contains what I believe is the first movie murderer with downs syndrome. Certainly the first one in which said murderer is shot in the neck.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Long Hair Of Death (1964)

AUGUST 29, 2008

GENRE: ITALIAN, REVENGE, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: DVD (BUDGET PACK 4!!!)

Since Decrepit Crypt movies are not suitable for work (due to the seeming insistence on gratuitous nudity in every movie) and the Horror Classics set has been more or less exhausted, I picked up the Creek’s Tales Of Terror set, which is like a blend of the Horror and Chilling sets, with movies spanning from the 30s up to the 80s. There are a few duplicate titles, but that’s OK. At 40-50 cents a piece, I can’t really complain about what I get. Hopefully though, The Long Hair Of Death (Italian: I Lunghi Capelli Della Morte) is not representative of the set in terms of transfer or film quality.

However, one thing about this transfer is admirable: it’s widescreen! I believe that is the first for a Mill Creek movie. I’m all for a non-cropped image (indeed, I was going to watch a different movie on the disc called The Night Evelyn Came Out Of The Grave, until learning that it was a 2.35 scope film, and was a US edit that ran 20 minutes shorter to boot; I’ll be getting the stand-alone release for that one), so that was a nice bonus. Unfortunately, the transfer was otherwise terrible: washed out image, blurry to the point of incoherency (there’s some sort of object that keeps passing hands, and is apparently important, but I have no idea what the fuck it is. It looks like a mushroom with a lugnut attached to the side.), and with muffled audio to boot. Since the movie is pretty talky, having good audio would be kind of nice. Also, the Creek now apparently puts their logo on the film every 20 minutes or so, like they were Turner Classic or something. Not only is it annoying, it also gives a nice reference to just how poor the image of the film itself is, as the sharp, colorful logo overlays something that could be a person or a coat rack.

Sorry, Mr (Mrs?) Rafferty, your first name isn’t important.

Plus the movie itself isn’t all that great. I like some of these old Italian witch movies, most of which seemingly star Barbara Steele in two roles, but this one is just way too long. Nothing much happens, and if you’ve seen any of these movies before, you know it’ll all come down to a fire, a ghost who isn’t really a ghost, etc, so they really should get a move on and get us there by the 75 minute mark or so. This one goes damn near 100 minutes, which means you get a lot of interminable waiting for the good stuff. At one point we see what seems like 15 straight minutes of folks sneaking around a castle watching other people sneak around the castle. Come on, throw in a dead butler or something for us!

Other than that it’s not too bad. With some editing, this could be a pretty good movie. The revenge/ghost/witch plot is always watchable, and there’s some plague subplotting (it takes place in the 15th century) that is always appreciated. Plus the movie is more or less about a guy who wants to kill his wife so he can be with her sister, so that’s hot. And the weird “Wicker Man” style thing that the bad guy is burned alive in at the end of the film is pretty awesome:

Hahahaha I want that thing in my room. If not available, I will accept Barbara Steele (I bet she’s still hot). Also, this movie offered a “corpse becoming re-fleshed” scene, something I hadn’t seen in almost 48 hours (Return of the Living Dead offered a similar, and far superior, sequence). The two are so similar I wonder if the ROTLD guys used it as a guide of some sort. “How can we do this better, now that it’s 20 years later and people know how to use latex for something besides condoms?”

Anyway, I look forward to going through my new budget pack. Horror Classics was pretty disappointing overall; for every gem there were like 10 movies that were seemingly written on the same template. I’m hoping this one is more like the Chilling set, which had at least one great movie on every disc.

What say you?

Note - The "trailer" is actually a sort of Cliff's notes of the entire movie. Also it's in Italian.

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Victim (2006)

AUGUST 28, 2008

GENRE: ASIAN, GHOST, POSSESSION
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

I was pretty bummed to hear that Tartan US would be more or less shutting down; they have been a great source of Eastern horror films such as The Victim (aka Phii Khon Pen in its native Thailand); not only are they more widely available, but the transfers and extras are above average compared to imported glorified VCDs that some folks recommend. Luckily, they have a lot of films already released, and the discs aren’t going anywhere, so it’ll probably be a while before I have trouble finding something new to watch from the other side of the world.

The Victim (recommended by HMAD reader Cam1020) is a curious entry in the never-ending series of Asian horror films revolving around vengeful spirits. To explain why will require spoilers, so if you don’t want the twist that occurs at the film’s halfway point to be spoiled, I urge you to stop reading now.

(Stop reading this review I mean. Not reading in general. That’s something you should always try to do, especially on the internet.)

The first half of the film revolves around a girl who portrays the victim in crime scene re-enactments for the police/press investigations. I can’t quite figure out the purpose of such a tradition, but apparently it’s something that is really done over there. After a few of these “jobs”, she gets a “breakthrough” role, portraying a murdered beauty queen. But as is often the case in horror movies, she gets “too close” and begins trying to solve the murder herself, and pretty much does. But then, BAM! Someone yells “Cut!” and we realize that everything we have watched so far has been a movie... about an actress working for the police.

And this is where it gets needlessly convoluted, as you realize that our heroine is a girl named May, who is playing a girl named Ting, an actress who is playing Meen (the beauty queen) in a movie. We are watching a movie about the making of a movie that is about an actress. What the fuck? I kept hearing Robert Downey yell “I’m the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude!” as my head struggled to wrap itself around just exactly who the “real” character was. Not since Bewitched has a movie become so needlessly overwrapped in realities.

The rest of the movie involves the actual murdered beauty queen killing off everyone involved with the filming of a particular scene. Why this scene pissed her off so much I’m not entirely sure. Like the crime scene re-enactments, a lot of this movie is seemingly based on the idea that the audience knows a lot about Thailand customs. Which is fine; I’m not of the opinion that every movie made has to consider its idiot American audience. But still, even Thai audiences were probably a bit confused by the ramifications of the mid-way twist (in terms of who are the actors, who are the real people, etc), so you can imagine how doubly confusing it is for me. I was baffled from the start because of the crime scene stuff, and by the time the twist came around my head damn near exploded. But the motive stuff – no idea. It’s got something to do with a dance.

That said, it’s still pretty entertaining. Some of the early scares are effectively creepy (ghosts appear to us, but not to her, so their appearances are subtle), and the cast is great, especially Pitchanart Sakakorn, who is essentially playing three roles. I also really love the score, the piece that plays over the flashback that sort of explains that we have been watching a movie so far is fantastic. Also, I love that the editing system they use in the traditional “look, I have footage of a ghost” scene is a legit program (Final Cut, in fact) instead of some made up movie shit that usually gets used.

Also I think this is the first movie produced by a radio station.

The only extra on the disc is a 20 minute look at the real ghosts that haunted the production. At this point I was getting pretty sick of the multiple levels of reality. So real ghosts haunted the set of the movie that was about the ghosts haunting the set of a movie about an actress making movies? What? For once, I would actually prefer an EPK with all the actors talking about how much they love working together.

However, while it may be too confusing for its own good, its still preferable to the umpteenth “Ghost haunts a piece of technology” movie from the East. Good to see they are thinking outside the box.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

AUGUST 27, 2008

GENRE: COMEDIC, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

I recall starting to watch Return Of The Living Dead when I was about 15. I fell asleep, and for whatever reason I didn’t watch the rest the next day. Then in 2002 I bought the DVD, hoping to watch it that night or the next, and didn’t get around to it (I just took the shrinkwrap off today to watch the extras for this review). So now, 13 years after my first attempt, I finally sat down and watched the damn thing. And I have Clu Gulager to thank.

Clu stars in the film as Bert (not Burt, Rotten!) Wilson, owner of the Uneeda Medical Supply (say it out loud). But Clu is also a staple at my beloved New Beverly Cinema, and thus the owners are giving him his due with a Clu Gulager Festival, where they would show a handful of films in which he appears, and since he would be in the crowd anyway, the legend would give introductions to the film and have his co-stars and crew come on down to talk as well. Indeed, the panel for ROTLD is the largest I have ever seen at the Bev – 12 cast and crew members, plus director Jeff Burr as a moderator.

The crowd was also pretty packed (yay!) which meant that the movie itself was even more of a blast. Even if some of the humor is dated, you still can’t help but laugh and cheer all the same. Not for nothing, but it’s a bit of a slow film at times (the zombies don’t really begin their siege on Culager and co. until the one hour mark), yet it’s impossible to be bored when everyone is having such a great time.

And when it’s going, it goes great. The zombie makeup is some of the best seen; the decomposed bodies move and look incredible, putting recent CGI efforts to shame despite being over 20 years old at this point. Ironically, my two favorite parts of the movie don’t even have zombies. One is of an Army asshole coming home and being a complete dick to his wife (it’s a lot like that scene in The Ape that I loved so much) before retreating to his real love: booze (his other scene is a gem too, as he nonchalantly takes down details from Clu, then essentially kills him). The other is just an odd bit where Don Calfa (Scarface from Foul Play!) stops a scene cold in order to cut a torn part of his pants off, something he takes his time with while the rest of the cast patiently waits for the scene to resume.

Plus, it’s got one of the most likable casts in a zombie movie ever. By wisely avoiding the usual sort of “the real enemy is each other” scenarios, you get a bunch of folks you want to see survive, and working together to keep the zombies at bay (the sight of Clu boarding up a window with two “punk” kids is just bliss) rather than yell at each other the whole time like in the same year's Day of the Dead.

Speaking of the cast, there’s an assload of genre notables here. Besides Clu, we get James Karen from Poltergeist, B-movie staple Linnea Quigley, Raw Force’s Jewel Shepard (my biggest disappointment of the night was not getting a chance to talk to her), and two Friday the 13th vets, part V’s Miguel Nunez (“Goddamn these enchiladas!”) and Tommy Jarvis the 3rd, Thom Matthews.

The music is also great. There’s a lot of punk and 80s rock, but the score is also amazing; whoever sat behind me probably got sick of me bobbing and swaying my head around to the beat. Apparently, the DVD has different music in a lot of the scenes due to some right issues, but I couldn’t tell because I had the commentary on, so Dan O’Bannon and William Stout drowned it out.

The commentary is pretty good, both men have good memories and lots of good anecdotes. O’Bannon discusses things he would have done differently, which is always interesting. The only other extra on the disc is a 13 minute retrospective with the same two guys, which is mostly filler and covers some of the stuff on the commentary anyway. Another, more special edition was released last year, with another commentary and some other making of stuff; if you don’t own it yet, you’d probably want that one (this commentary and making of are ported over, rendering this one pretty much obsolete).

Like I said, it’s a bit slow at times, and also the ending is pretty abrupt, but it’s definitely on better end of the zombie movie spectrum. And if anyone else wants to bitch about Snyder/Gunn using fast zombies, take a look back at this one, co-written by John Russo, who invented zombie movies as we know them with George Romero. I think he’s earned the right to change the rules (for the record, I prefer slow myself, but fast ones are fine).

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Masters Of Horror: Right To Die

AUGUST 27, 2008

GENRE: GHOST
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

Some folks might balk at the idea of giving Rob Schmidt a slot among the “Masters of Horror”, since he only has one film (the original Wrong Turn), but either way, he’s certainly made one of the better episodes with Right To Die. Essentially a gory version of the Terry Schiavo case (and some Scott Peterson for good measure), it’s not perfect, but it’s the rare modern horror story that actually has social commentary blended in with the bloody stuff, something that used to be the norm and is now all but completely abandoned.

It’s also got one of the better casts. Martin Donovan is always fun to watch, and it’s great to see Corbin Bernsen back in full on Arnie Becker mode. Plus, uber-hot Robin Sydney spends almost every minute of her screentime in some stage of undress; hardly a bad idea. However, there actually might be a bit too much nudity; in addition to Sydney, Donovan’s equally hot wife (Julia Anderson) has a nude scene herself. I’m not against excessive nudity, but since the story is actually pretty interesting, it could have done without, as it becomes a bit distracting.

I also loved the ending, silly as it may be. The moral of the story is, when you think about it, when you get married you’re pretty much doomed. Even after she dies, Donovan is under the control of his wife, destined for a life of groveling and endless requests for forgiveness (he was fucking Sydney’s character). The final shot is just perfect; Donovan wipes his feet on the mat and sulks inside as his wife (ghost or not, not sure) shuts the door behind him, giving him the evil eye the entire time. Let it be a lesson to all you unhappily married folks who are considering letting their spouse die so that they can rake in some dough and fuck their assistant without consequences.

Also I am almost positive this is the first horror movie in which our hero drives one of those ugly ass “Smart Cars”. I’m all for saving the environment, using alternatives to oil, all that stuff, but CHRIST those fucking things are ugly. I swear that Big Oil pays off the makers of these things to ensure that they will never be fully embraced by the public, because the average person wouldn’t be able to stop laughing at the sight of the thing long enough to sign the paperwork.

The only thing about the episode that really bothered me was how Schmidt staged an early scene that is missing crucial information. It’s sort of a cheat – it’s not like doing a flashback that takes on new meaning with new information that the film has given you, that’s OK. What Schmidt does is actually edit things out throughout the scene, and then play the “whole” thing later. As a result, both scenes are pretty awkward, and I wish they had spent some time reworking the scene(s) so that it would feel less forced. There’s also a ridiculous bit where Donovan walks around a hospital with a leaking cooler. Uh... where would the leak be coming from? It’s a goddamn cooler! Plus, no one seems to mind much that this citizen is carrying a bloody object around and leaving a trail of blood wherever he goes. The whole movie is kind of silly, but you got to ground it in reality for it to work properly.

The makeup effect for the burned up wife is amazing. Apparently, they simply hired a smaller actress than Anderson so the makeup could be applied and yet still give the idea that the woman is smaller as a result of her injuries (think about it – if you got no skin, you’re like 20 lbs lighter, yet in most movies, the actor will look BIGGER because of the prosthetics applied to his/her normal body). Say what you will about MoH, but KNB’s effects are just as good as their feature film work, something even more impressive when you consider the compressed time and budget they had to work with.

As usual, there’s a pair of featurettes (good stuff) and a commentary. Schmidt is OK to listen to; like on Wrong Turn, he’s kind of awkward, but provides some good trivia and discusses technical and creative things in equal measures, which is appreciated. He also discusses the “cheat” I mentioned earlier, and seems to think that the first time we saw the scene, it felt complete, something that’s not the case. Still, worth a listen (if you liked the movie anyway).

So far, of the 5-6 episodes of Season 2 I’ve watched, it’s a vast improvement over the first. With the exception of Carpenter, everyone that came back did a better episode, and the newcomers (Schmidt, Brad Anderson) contributed worthy movies as well. I don’t know why the show gets a bum rap among fans; sure none of the episodes are exactly classics (except for Joe Dante’s Homecoming from Season 1; I haven’t seen his 2nd season film yet), but they are rarely downright terrible, and since a lot of the directors never do horror anymore (John Landis), or films at all (Carpenter), I kind of like that the series gave them an opportunity to do something different and relatively unrestrained.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Raw Force (1982)

AUGUST 26, 2008

GENRE: WEIRD, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

If you read my Doctor Butcher review, you’d know I was a bit on the un-sober side of things for Grindhouse night at the New Bev, but even if I had nothing stronger than ginger ale in my system, I don’t think I’d be able to make heads or tails of what the fuck was going on at any point of Raw Force (aka Kung Fu Cannibals). My buddy Larry told me before the screening that it was “the most "Grindhouse" movie ever”, and by God he was right. After we watched this masterpiece of incoherency, another buddy said that the film seemed like it was shot specifically for the peculiar breed of audience who attends these things 20 years later.

There are three words that pretty much sum up how awesome this movie is: “Burbank Karate Club”. Now, it’s a funny thing anyway, but it endeared to me SPECIFICALLY because of my odd and completely unmotivated disdain of this Los Angeles suburb. Home to my employer (NBC), Warner Brothers, and one of the most poorly staffed Best Buys on the planet, there’s just something about the place I find fascinating and hilarious. It gets mentioned about 4 times in the movie, and the audience provided 10x as many of its own references, and it made me laugh like DeNiro in Cape Fear every single time. Plus it got me to start rattling off other LA town-based martial arts clubs: The Sherman Oaks Judo Range, the Studio City Tae Kwon Do-Jo...

Plus the movie just doesn’t make a lick of sense. I mean, there’s a plot of some sort, but damned if I could tell you who was on who’s side or what their actual objective was. It’s got something to do with drugs and something called Jasper Jade, and an island where one (or maybe both) can be found. But no one seems to care about the story; the film’s real focus is mainly on people doing odd things for no reason. A perfect example is a scene about midway through the film, after the boat with all of our characters is sunk. Like in Friday the 13th VIII, our heroes get on the lifeboat, and all the other people on the ship are left for dead. So they are floating around in the ocean, and then a plane appears. So Cameron Mitchell (who else?) does the only logical thing: he shoots at it. But it turns out to have our bad guys! Did Mitchell know that? The plane appears to be about 2 miles away so I doubt he could see who was flying it. But does it matter?

The horror angle comes in from some zombie type things that show up near the end. They appear to be under the influence of a cult of some sort (the guys in the cult look like giant Jawas), but again, couldn’t tell you what they were actually trying to accomplish. And like the rest of the movie, they are a peculiarly non-violent group; I think the total body count in this movie is four. There’s like 10 people in the “good guy” group and I’m pretty sure all but one of them is alive at the end. Then again, a sequel was planned; it ends with “To Be Continued”, which prompted the crowd (already delirious from the 90 minutes of nonstop “Whaaaa?” they had just experienced) to cheer and provide a standing ovation. Maybe they were saving the kills for part 2.

It’s funny too; since I couldn’t tell what was happening most of the time, I had no real way to gauge how much time had passed or how much of the movie was left. Like, if you’re watching Friday the 13th part whatever, and everyone but the girl and maybe her boyfriend is dead, there’s only 15 minutes of the movie left, tops. But with Raw Force, I had no idea. The point where it ended could have just as easily been the halfway point.

Somehow this one is so obscure that it doesn’t even have a trailer on Youtube. The only DVD release is in a multipack, with a transfer taken from a VHS, so that’s hardly enticing. Still, if you love this type of movie, you really owe it to yourself to check it out at your earliest convenience.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Doctor Butcher, M.D. (1980)

AUGUST 26, 2008

GENRE: CANNIBAL, MAD SCIENTIST, ZOMBIE
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

There’s a sort of caveat to seeing a movie at the New Beverly, particularly on Grindhouse night, and using it for my daily Horror Movie A Day entry: I’m usually buzzed if not slightly drunk by the time it starts, and then I spend most of the movie laughing and cheering at the ridiculousness on screen. As a result, when it comes time to write a review for a movie like Doctor Butcher M.D. (aka Zombie Holocaust), I’m hard-pressed to remember any details. Maybe HMAD reader and fellow Grindhouse loyalist Joe can help me out if I skip anything important.

Like a lot of cannibal movies, this one starts in New York. It’s not as inexplicable as the NY intro of Cannibal Ferox, however, and it actually contains some cannibalism right from the start. But otherwise it’s essentially a remake of Fulci’s Zombi: we meet our guys and gals, and then its off to the island, where some folks are killed, weird shit goes down, and a church (the same one, I think) is burned down. Except this one also has cannibals. It was like there were too many cannibal movies, and too many zombie movies, so the only chance director Marino Girolami and writer/producer Fabrizio De Angelis had to make a name for themselves was to combine the two.

As a result, it’s neither as graphic nor violent as the landmark zombie/cannibal films that were released around the same time (Cannibal Holocaust, Zombi, etc), but it’s still an ass-ton of fun. Five minutes into the movie, a guy dives out a 10th story window, and as he hits the ground, his arm flies off. This is because it’s obviously a mannequin, and then when they cut to a closeup of the (real) guy on the ground, his arm has been restored. If you see something like that, and you don’t cheer... you might as well just get the fuck out of the cinema.

Zombi’s Ian McCulloch also appears in this one, and he’s a riot. Constantly dressed in a large tan trenchoat, he doesn’t really do much in the movie except bark orders at people (“Bury him!”) and devise ineffectual plans, such as bringing a stick to a machete fight (in a sequence that looks like it was shot in the Pine Barrens, not the island of Kito like the rest of the movie). Later in the film he is captured, and his escape is extraordinary. Using a helpfully close-by scalpel, he cuts his binds and then waits for the right moment. His captors never seem to notice the fact that his hand and neck are no longer restrained (the neck straps are just laying there across his chest). But he manages to bungle the whole thing anyway, almost instantly being re-subdued after making his move.

One interesting tidbit is that Roy Frumkes, best known for Document of the Dead, was brought in to shoot a new title sequence for the US version (which I guess is what we had, though the print seemed to be assembled from a couple of sources). He also did himself a solid; the film’s director is buried in the middle of the credits, while Frumkes’ name is given the last slot typically reserve for said director. A douche move, but an awesome one all the same.

Unusual for a Grindhouse night, there were no special guests, BUT I did “win” the raffle for once; Grindhouse guru Brian Quinn gave me his signed poster of Bobbie Bresee from the time she was there for a screening of Mausoleum (which was one of the first GH nights I attended!). Since the poster was made out to “Brian”, he asked if anyone in the crowd had that name, and I was the first to respond. What’s in a name, indeed. The poster is now proudly displayed in the backseat of my car next to some napkins, the AC charger for my cell, and an issue of Fangoria. Thanks BQ!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Phantasm: Oblivion (1998)

AUGUST 25, 2008

GENRE: ALIEN, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

My memory must be worse than I thought. I could have SWORN I saw Phantasm OblIVion in high school, circa 1996 or 1997, but by all accounts, the film hit VHS in the fall of 1998, when I was already in college. What the hell? I even recall talking about it with a buddy who I am pretty sure I haven’t spoken to since high school. Whatever.

And while I couldn’t remember a damn thing about the movie itself either, I did remember correctly that it was a rather underwhelming “finale”, with more confusion than necessary and a way too obvious low budget. It’s still a good movie, but I think I’d feel better about it if I knew that Phantasm V, with a big budget and all the resources Coscarelli needed, was in the can or at least in serious pre-production. The next to last "Dark Tower" book is also kind of weak on its own, but when you read the next one right after, it’s hardly an issue.

One thing that bummed me out is that, for the first time, the film doesn’t really attempt to pick up right where the last one ended. The character of Tim (the kid) was taken out the window at the end of III, a la Mike in the original, but Reggie doesn’t even utter his name here. Reggie is also completely out of character at first; he’s more concerned about his car than his best friend. He acts like a character might if it were ten years after, not ten minutes. Instead, it starts with Mike wordlessly “narrating” the events of the previous films, then The Tall Man inexplicably lets Reggie live a few minutes later. Later, the always horny Reggie sees a beautiful girl on the side of the road and doesn’t even wave hello (to be fair, she returns later and then he hits on her). Despite the fact that the time between production of the two films was shorter than ever, and they didn’t have to work around a different actor in the role of Mike, this one just doesn’t have that sort of connective tissue that has always been appreciated (and truly rare in horror franchises).

Coscarelli also relies way too much on old, unused footage from the first film. Granted, it’s a really unique idea (and a great way to save some dough on film), but for every really good use of the old stuff (the final scene), there are twice as many baffling ones. For example, Mike begins reminiscing about his “last perfect day”, before The Tall Man entered his world. This leads to 2-3 minutes of young Mike stealing an ice cream from Reggie’s truck. It doesn’t say much about our hero that his idea of a perfect memory is stealing from his best friend. Later, he tries to hang himself, and he remembers when he and Jody hung The Tall Man from a tree, then Mike cut him down after his arch-nemesis promised not to bother him anymore. Isn’t that something he might have mentioned (or at least though about) before? It’s kind of useful information, don’t you think? Once a scene is deleted, it becomes non-canon, and while using it again later isn’t “against movie law”, something that important being brought into the fold is just jarring.

Now, one thing about the lower budget that works in its favor is the limited cast. Really, only our four guys are in the movie. The only other two cast members are the traditional Reggie Girl (Heidi Marnhout, also the hottest RG in the series) and a glorified stunt guy playing a demon cop for about 3-4 minutes. Marnhout doesn’t last long either, which means the focus is on the people who are important (as opposed to the previous two films, in which characters that never appeared in another Phantasm film took up large chunks of screen time). I like that; it’s sort of like coming full circle. Reggie even puts his ice cream man suit on for the film’s final act, for some reason.

This one attempts to reveal more about The Tall Man, and while it’s still not crystal clear, I like that he has a less annoying name to type (Jebediah Morningside). We also learn a bit more about that photo from the first movie, so that was a nice touch. I also loved the bit where Mike turns a car engine into a weapon to use against ol’ Jeb (I just wish it was the Hemicuda’s engine instead, since it’s sort of like the 5th character in the series). And the ending, while a bit low key for a finale, has a nice sort of cyclical (or spherical!) nature to it that again reminded me of "The Dark Tower".

This one also has a bit more of the dream logic that has mostly eluded the series since the original, which was nice. It would be easy to have a film with just answers and action (especially considering it may be the last one) but thankfully, Coscarelli retained some of the oddball nature of the 1979 original. It’s not always as successful, but that may be due to the fact that after the last two films, I am sort of used to the sequels sticking to coherency.

Like III, for extras we get behind the scenes stuff (it seems to be a pretty tense set; everyone seems pissed off) and a commentary. Coscarelli and Bannister return, and Scrimm is there, but Baldwin is absent (another tradition; someone is always missing). It’s mostly a nuts and bolts track – shooting locations, names of crew members, etc. By now you should be used to it. I don’t know why, but Coscarelli never really delves into the storytelling aspect of the films. He wrote all of the scripts, yet he never has much, if anything, to say about plot elements, character motivations, etc. But hey, you’ll know the name of the key grips and where they shot the mausoleum stuff, so it evens out.

Supposedly, a script for a 5th film has been written, and the cast read it and everyone seemed to enjoy it. But as usual, money is an issue. Now that Anchor Bay owns the rights to the entire series (save for part 2, which Universal still owns, at least in the US), and have been distributing original films for the past couple years, I hope they can pony up maybe 2-3 million (about the budget of III) for the guys to make their film before the series’ villain is too old to make it (Scrimm is hardly a spring chicken). If it never comes to be, maybe they can make it into a graphic novel or something. I know there is still another story to tell, and while the sequels may not live up to the original, the tight bond between films (as opposed to the continuity be damned approach of most horror franchises) means that one film could give the others new meaning.

Also I like seeing folks get their goddamn heads taken off by flying silver balls.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Gate (1987)

AUGUST 24, 2008

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (REVIVAL SCREENING)

Since The Gate was one of those movies that I never quite saw in its entirety when I was a kid, I was determined not to miss any of it at the midnight screening at the New Beverly. Thus I drank an iced coffee, a large coke at the movies beforehand (Tropic Thunder), a regular coffee on the way to the Bev, and then another coke for the movie itself. And still dozed off. I guess caffeine is simply no match for my rampant narcolepsy.

But I saw enough to know that this movie is actually a lot better than you might expect of a PG-13 horror movie aimed at kids. It’s fun, it’s scary, it’s well made and acted, and it features a young Stephen Dorff calling his sister’s would-be boyfriend a “fag” for no real reason. What’s not to love?

It’s essentially a melding of Evil Dead and The Goonies, what with the three kids fighting demons and such that they were pretty much responsible for unleashing in the first place. And even though no one actually dies in the movie, it still has quite a bit of action (more than I expected at any rate); the last half hour or so is pretty much nonstop makeup and running and yelling and effects.

It also has the most brutal dog death in movie history. Not his actual death (he just dies, or is hugged to death by Dorff’s pal, I’m not quite sure), but they just milk it for the entire movie. After he dies Dorff looks at the dog’s dish, filled with food never to be eaten (aww!). Then he looks at photos of the dog (AWWW!) and finally the dog’s corpse is mutilated by the monsters, resulting in an already distraught Dorff seeing the dog’s head thrown about (oh COME ON!). Not since What Dreams May Come have I seen a film so determined to make its audience cry over the death of a pooch. Luckily the dog is resurrected (inexplicably, but welcomely so!) so that’s good.

Speaking of Dorff’s pal, he’s fantastic. He’s like an 80s version of McLovin’, and the highlight of the film has to be when he starts rocking out in his bedroom to the Maiden-esque spoken word intro to a metal song. Then, amazingly, the album has clues to the source of the monsters in Dorff’s backyard! How awesome is that? If I ever come home and some little pint sized monsters are running around, I am totally digging out my copy of "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" and getting some goddamn answers.

Another pretty awesome thing about the movie is that even though the dog and his friends miraculously come back to life unharmed, his house is still totally destroyed (and no, “Frisbee!” won’t explain it). The parents are gone for the weekend, and when they come home, they will find their unscathed children inside a house with no roof and a pit to hell in the middle of the living room. Luckily, it’s the goddamn ugliest house I’ve ever seen in my life, so they can use it as an excuse to move. I hear Cuesta Verde has some open houses.

Director Tibor Tak√°cs and screenwriter Michael Nankin showed up for a Q&A, which was pretty interesting. The best bit was when they discussed how the studio was afraid that a PG-13 horror movie wouldn’t be marketable! Indeed, I remember even when I was a kid, part of why I never really went out of my way to see it (I saw the end like five times) was that I figured since it wasn’t R, it would be lame. Such is life when you’re 8 years old and have already gotten to see Texas Chain Saw Massacre and most of the Friday the 13ths.

Horror fans would be sort of happy to know that the boring woman from Candyman 2, Kelly Rowan, plays one of Dorff’s sister’s friends in this. Since the demon needs the oddly small number of two sacrifices, I thought she (and the other friend) would be a goner for sure, but they just sort of leave the house at the end of the second act. Bummer.

The DVD is out of print, and it sucked to begin with (full frame transfer), and I'm pretty sure the sequel, which focuses on Dorff’s nerdy pal, doesn't even have that much. And that is a damn shame, but hopefully unlike me you were smart enough to watch it back in the day. I will never doubt a PG-13 horror movie again!!

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Phantasm III (1994)

AUGUST 23, 2008

GENRE: ALIEN, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

Most fans consider it the worst sequel, but I actually think Phantasm III is the best followup to the (unmatched) original. After watching all four back to back, it seems that III, while not without its problems, is the one that Coscarelli had the best of both worlds: the resources of II and the freedom to do what he wanted in IV.

For starters, A. Michael Baldwin is back as Mike. Not that there was anything wrong with Le Gros (he’s certainly a better actor), but it just puts III on the right track almost from the start. Bill Thornbury also returns as Jody, another highlight (his character was entirely absent in II). But in fact, neither of them have much screentime; this movie is almost 100% Reggie Bannister. There are only 2-3 scenes in the entire film in which he doesn’t appear, and he really comes into his own here. The script even helpfully returns his four barrel shotgun to him, despite the fact that he left it in the mausoleum basement at the end of II.

Another highlight is the fact that the spheres actually commit some badass murders in this. Instead of the usual drilling/yellow goo stuff, we get a great bit where the sphere begins rotating around, twisting the victim’s head right off. And later, a sphere merely forces itself through someone’s head, leaving a Looney Tunes style hole in the broad’s noggin. We also get to learn a bit more about what the spheres are, and there are more of them to boot. It’s probably the most iconic image of the entire series, and yet in the first two films they barely appear. III finally gives them their due.

LOL

Then there are a lot of little moments I like. One is when the kid goes into a walk-in freezer, and the door shuts behind him. For the first time in horror movie history, I think, this doesn’t mean he is trapped inside. When the time comes for him to leave, he opens the door easy peasy. Speaking of the kid, he’s not annoying at all. He helps Reggie on a few occasions, and since Mike is MIA for most of the movie, it’s nice to have that sort of father/son bond again. The traditional “seamless” continuation from the previous film is also improved over the original’s; Reggie hasn’t noticeably aged this time, and even though Le Gros’ footage needed to be obfuscated or reshot entirely, it’s definitely a quality attempt to keep continuity.

Some other stuff is not as successful. The humor isn’t as bad as others seem to think (all four movies have their share of unfunny comic bits), but it’s still a bit much at times. And the inconsistency is a bit jarring here; since when do dead folks become full sized zombies instead of little jawa goblins? Some of the smaller budget limitations are a bit too obvious as well; a major villain is blown away and we don’t even see the corpse hitting on the floor.

And people may want to know why the Tall Man does what he does or whatever, but I only have one question: where the hell does Reggie get all his money? He dropped like a grand in the last movie, and he pulls out another wad of cash in this one when he tries to ditch the kid at an orphanage (Tall Man was kind enough to leave a bunch of kids alive in the last couple towns he wiped out I guess). Not to mention the costs of constantly repairing his Hemicuda. The guy’s an unemployed ice cream man for Christ’s sake, yet he seems to be operating on a bigger budget than the film itself.

Like usual, there is a commentary track, although neither Don Coscarelli or Reggie Bannister are involved. It’s just Baldwin and Angus Scrimm, even though they are offscreen for about 75% of the film. Most of the track is just the two of them singing the praises of every single crew member, and occasional technical details. Scrimm in particular seemingly has a photographic memory; in addition to remembering every single person’s name, he also recalls their other roles/jobs. He’s also possibly the most positive and gentleman-ly actor in Hollywood; he never has a single negative thing to say. Even when Baldwin mocks his own performance, Scrimm will reply how wonderful it is.

The other extras are a bit slim; in addition to a wordless behind the scenes piece (just a bunch of random footage), there is a deleted scene that takes longer to load than to watch. It’s nine seconds of The Tall Man walking down a corridor of some sort, and even though I had only finished the film a few minutes before, I couldn’t even tell where it would take place in the film. Plus there is no explanation of why it was cut or any other sort of information, which means it’s pretty much entirely worthless.

Luckily the film is fun and has a sizable amount of action, and again, seeing Reggie go into full blown Ash mode is great. Coscarelli’s absence is a bit puzzling (and lamented; this is an uncut version, which means he obviously would have something to say about the changes), but oh well. Still worth a purchase.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Phantasm II (1988)

AUGUST 22, 2008

GENRE: ALIEN, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: DVD (BORROWED)

I'm sure it's legal crap, but I have no idea why Phantasm II has never hit DVD in region 1 (as of this Tuesday, all of the other Phantasm movies will be on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay). As a result, I had to borrow the region 2 disc from a pal and hook up my all region player, which was replaced with an HD DVD player (go ahead and laugh - the discs still work and look just as good as Blu-Ray, except now I get them for a fraction of the cost). My only other option was to find the VHS copy I made when I was like 14, so F that noise.

Like the first one, I didn't recall much about the movie other than that Mike was played by a different actor and at some point Reggie made a four barrel shotgun. Watching it now, I can see why so little was retained in my head - the movie is kind of half-assed all the way through. Apparently, Universal put up some good money for the movie (more than any other Phantasm movie anyway) but only under the condition that it, well, make sense. No dream sequences, no loopy narratives, and certainly no "Let's play a song so we can introduce tuning fork foreshadowing" scenes. As a result, it's just a sort of generic chase movie, with Reggie and James Le Gros-Mike hunting the Tall Man around the country.

In one of the sequel's best ideas, we see that the Tall Man and his army of midgets and guys who resemble Boy from Little Monsters are now pretty much wiping out entire towns. The film's best scene shows Reggie and Mike driving through a small town that has been totally wiped out; complete with overturned cars and tumbleweeds. It's an eerie visual, and I would like to think that even if he got a huge budget, Don Coscarelli wouldn't have shown the actual carnage, only the aftermath.

Unfortunately, right after that the movie takes an odd detour. Reggie and Mike disappear for close to a half hour as the movie focuses on some blond girl with a psychic link to Mike, and a priest. Not that the scene(s) are bad, but after 9 years (though the movie keeps saying 7), we want our guys front and center! The Tall Man also barely appears in large chunks of the film. And since the priest is killed and never referenced again, this portion of the film seems like the result of a film clocking in way too short to be considered a feature, so a new character/sequence was produced to pad the running time.

It's also strangely short on action. Even with the bigger budget, the movie has just about as much action/gore as the original. The oddness was a big part of why the original worked; if they are going to remove it, they could at least add more action to help us forget it. Granted, there are three explosions in the movie (has to be a record for a horror movie) and the sphere scenes are more frenetic (love the smashing doors bit), but it still feels more like a retread at times than the "bigger and better" sort of approach most sequels attempt. Indeed, the car chase is shot exactly like the one in the original, same angles and everything (only this time it's Reggie chasing the Tall Man, a nice little twist); this is an area where they really should have gone all out.

That said, it's still very much Phantasm, and thus very fun. This film begins the tradition of Reggie's cock getting him into trouble, and the scene where they raid the hardware store is a blast (and inspired the "Butch picks a weapon" scene in Pulp Fiction, according to the commentary). The improved sphere work translates into messier kills, and the new "Sphere Vision" is an improvement as well. And while I hate re-casting a role, Le Gros does a damn good job here, and it's funny to see him in a studio horror movie, since he's the king of indie drama/comedies.

The commentary is pretty much the only real extra on the disc. It's interesting enough, but I wish Coscarelli had discussed the studio limitations more. It's not even a Universal release (Anchor Bay UK handled the region 2 release) so he'd have no one to stop him if he wanted to piss and moan for our pleasure. There's a lot of great technical info and some clever editing is pointed out (there are really only two explosions, not three; one of them was merely shot from two angles), so it's definitely worth a listen. The only other extra besides a trailer and TV spots is the same Fangoria Convention footage that was on the first movie's disc.

With a meatier storyline and maybe a little more freedom from the studio, this could have been the series' best entry. As it stands, it's entertaining, and it's good to see everyone again, but the movie as a whole just seems to be treading water more often than not.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

The Ape (1940)

AUGUST 21, 2008

GENRE: PREDATOR, MAD SCIENTIST
SOURCE: DVD (BUDGET PACK 2!!!)

I don’t know why, but someone at Mill Creek must really hate The Ape. For starters, the plot description on the sleeve describes not The Ape, but in fact Nightmare Castle, which appeared on the Chilling Classics set. I spent about 2/3 of the movie wondering when Boris Karloff was going to start torturing his wife (or when his character would even be married, for that matter) until I finally realized the error. But making matters worse, this is hands down the absolute worst transfer they’ve ever given a film; a full SIX minutes are lost to bad film splices and jump cuts, to the point where I couldn’t even tell what the hell was going on at times.

Not that it’s a particularly good movie anyway. Karloff is a scientist trying to cure polio, and when the actual killer ape destroys his samples for the cure, he does the only logical thing: cuts off the ape’s head and skin, dresses up like him, and kills townsfolk to obtain more samples. It’s kind of awesome in theory (remake this, stat!) but the movie itself is just a dreadful bore. Karl-Ape barely even gets going when he is put down, and the actual Ape didn’t really do much either. There are more scenes of Karloff trying to get his patient to walk than there are of the Ape (real one or not) killing folks, and in an hour long movie, that’s just not proper.

There is some occasional fun to be had though. Karloff resembles Christopher Lloyd, which is pretty funny, and I loved how much of a downer the Polio woman was in the early parts of the film. Her boyfriend takes her to the circus, and she says things like “look at those acrobats... must be nice to be able to control your whole body.” Way to bring the room down, Debbie.

The best scene is also the most extraneous in the entire film. There’s a character named Mason who is rather inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but the movie stops cold(er) to have him go home and talk to his wife for a few minutes before walking back out again. This guy has to be the biggest dickhead in all of motion picture history. His wife cooks him a nice meal, he tells her he doesn’t like it. She asks if he’s going out, he basically tells her to go fuck herself. Even when she tells him she doesn’t mind that he’s having an affair, he’s a condescending bastard in response. Finally, he tells her to just leave him, and she asks (rather politely) where she could go. “There’s always the river!” he snarls as he walks out the door. Holy shit! I think the fact that the scene is so unnecessary makes it all the more amazing; it’s like they had a test screening and decided that the movie needed a scene where a guy psychologically abuses his wife, so they shot one without ever really having it fit into the movie.

The script is by Curt Siodmak (I know this because it’s one of the few opening credits to survive the butcher job by Mill Creek; the director, producer, etc are all left to the IMDbagination), which is surprising since he wrote some really good stuff like The Wolf Man and at least one sequel in each of the big Universal Monster franchises. I guess everyone’s allowed a stinker.

If you want to watch the film, I advise you do so HERE at the Archive.org site, and not the Horror Classics version. It’s a much cleaner print, and a complete version as well. Plus it has the correct plot synopsis.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Side Sho (2007)

AUGUST 20, 2008

GENRE: BREAKDOWN, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

A friend of mine recently pointed out that I’ve been particularly vicious towards Lionsgate recently (and for good reason! Fuckers!), but I got nothing but good things to say about them concerning the DVD of Side Sho. In addition to being a rare anamorphic release for one of their pickups, it’s also possibly the first of their indie releases in which the cover of the DVD accurately reflects the film itself. The name of the movie was chosen by the filmmakers and actually appears in the film, the guy on the cover is actually in the movie, and the stuff behind him is more or less accurate as well (there’s a Ferris Wheel in there for some reason, but whatever). Way to go, LG!

(I should note the standard collection of trailers is disappointing; two for movies released quite some time ago, and a pair of action flicks. No new horror trailers!).

The movie itself ain’t too bad either. Nothing particularly original happens, but some of the kill scenes are pretty ridiculous/unique, such as a guy who gets a glass casing (with a snake inside) smashed over his head, which lets the snake bite him to death. Also a turtle is used. Plus, a small kid is shotgunned to hell, something always appreciated.

Also, instead of the usual collection of jobless backwoods inbreds, they are all ex-carnies. Our hero family is doing a book on remote tourist trap attractions (they will have the market cornered since Bill Hudley’s book obviously never got published), so we have a barker, a strongman, etc. It’s a bit refreshing. Also, even more refreshing for one of these no-name indies, it’s pretty fast paced. There are like 10 carnies, so you’re never more than a couple minutes away from another action bit once it gets going (about a half hour in).

Plus it’s pretty brutal. The family has inexplicably brought the daughter’s friend along on their vacation, so you know she’s a goner, but the parents actually get wasted too, leaving only a 16 year old girl and a kid of about 10 behind to fend for themselves (but not for long, the ending suggests they’re goners too). Awesome. Also, worth noting that the friend, the only “sure thing” victim, more or less kills herself due to horror movie stupidity. I’d kind of like to see a breakdown movie where everyone dies on their own accord, as the nearby inbred mutant cannibals are all otherwise engaged.

Some stuff pissed me off or at least irritated me, however. For starters, the score. It’s fucking terrible. There’s no real theme or anything, and it’s almost never appropriate to the scene. It’s rare I even notice a score as being bad, but this one is particularly terrible. Also, I really could have done without the moment where the dad, who already resembles Bruce Campbell anyway once he’s covered in blood, yells “Groovy!” after grabbing a weapon from a tool shed. Weak.

With his glasses on, however, he looks like Stephen Colbert.

There’s also an odd scene where our hero kid has a nice chat with the resident “non evil” mutant kid. The mutie likes comics, and the kids discuss a couple of made up characters. Then the kid offers him some, and right on the top is "Sleepwalker", Marvel’s comic from the 90s. It may be the issue where a guy named Rick dives off a ship to get a ring, I’m not sure, but it bugs me when they combine made up shit with real stuff. One way or the other, guys.

The DVD has some decent extras, including a making of that is about 15 minutes long, 5 of which are devoted to footage of the crew (and cast) trying to get the damn boat started for one sequence (oddly, the piece includes some music that is far superior to anything in the film). There’s also a blooper reel (zzz) and a commentary, which is pretty lively as they discuss problems shooting (apparently their original FX guy was a complete dipshit, but they won’t name names, dammit), stuff they had to change, and point out some goofs. Not exactly essential, but definitely enjoyable. All in all, a nice little package for an above average LG indie release.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Zombies Anonymous (2006)

AUGUST 19, 2008

GENRE: ZOMBIE
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

Why is it every high concept “re-invention” horror movie eventually just becomes the same type of movie it tried to circumvent? Behind The Mask eventually became a slasher, but that was at least part of the joke. And now, on the heels of Fido, we have Zombies Anonymous (aka Last Rites Of The Dead), which has a unique first hour, and then turns into another zombie bloodbath, complete with evil zombies (instead of the evil humans that usually turn up at the end of regular zombie movies, since in this one, zombies are the ‘good guys’).

However, unlike Fido, it’s actually funny and consistently interesting in that first hour. Instead of the obvious gags like the ones in that film, ZA deals with more random and minute issues. The parallels to both racial segregation and homophobia are pretty obvious; some humans care about and help zombies, others fear and oppress them. And since in this world, zombies are allowed to live and hold jobs and all that, we have things like the titular meeting group, where the zombies bemoan how they lost their parking privileges and discuss the best way to hide their zombie wounds/skin (a mixture that looks suspiciously like peanut butter seems to be the answer). Clever use of mundane life details is far more interesting than obvious satire, at least to me.

I also like that this is the “real world”, in that our beloved Romero zombie movies (and all that followed) exist. One guy announces his desire to be like Ben in the original NOTLD, and a woman who tries to hide her zombie nature is scoffed at for being bland. “I hate a zombie with no personality!” her tormenter announces. “So Fulci!”. The opening theme is also quite good, as is the sequence under it: a series of news reports explaining the zombie plague and how its being dealt with (mostly ignored), cross cut with the events that lead to our heroine becoming a zombie in the first place.

But then it all falls apart. Our hero zombies are captured by some evil humans, then some zombies come rescue them, only to bring them to a compound run by a religious zealot type zombie. The last 10 minutes is just an endless and dull series of gore gags and low budget fighting, to the point where I was just yelling “End!” at the screen. I’m not opposed to some action, but the satire and “zombies are people too” angle is entirely absent from this section of the film, leaving you only with a regular zombie, albeit a cheap one.

Yes, this one is VERY indie. It seems to have been shot on consumer video at times (much better than the Decrepit Crypt stuff, but certainly not the quality HD that is used in a lot of recent stuff, such as Wizard Of Gore, which was finally released on DVD this past week*), and the actors are pretty bland (though the lead chick is cute, like a young Holly Hunter). Some of the zombie makeups are impressive, but the gore gags are usually pretty lame, and the blood looks like paint. I should note, however, that none of this bothered me until the movie became just another zombie movie. Once again – keep me engaged in the story and all other flaws are forgivable, if noticed at all. Turn generic, and you need technical savvy and high production value to maintain my interest.

The DVD only has a single extra, a collection of deleted scenes. I would have liked a commentary or some making of, but alas. I am curious if the ending was a decision to make the film more marketable or simply misguided intent, because it honestly seems grafted in from a different movie at times. Bummer. I should note that the deleted scenes, none of which are necessary viewing, do include a text explanation of why they were cut, so there’s something. Also, I later learned on IMDb that 17 minutes were cut from this DVD, so maybe that's why they aren't really involved with it. Bummer squared.

What say you?

*Someone posted a comment on my review for that film last week, accusing me of bootlegging a DVD, even though it clearly states that the film was seen at a film festival. It even includes an anecdote about how I had to go see it again (same festival) because I slept through it the first time. Folks - when accusing me of things I abhor (such as bootlegging movies), please make sure to pay the fuck attention first and make sure your claims could at least hold SOME water.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Movie & TV Show Preview Widget

Google