Sunday, November 16, 2008


First of all, I would like to thank a few people:

Michael Anthony, Dustin Stewart, and especially Donna Williams for providing copies of many of the films reviewed here.

Filmmakers Mike Lombardo of Reel Splatter Productions, John Demars, Marshaa Robinson, Srguijarro Srguijarro, Matthew Hatchard, and Marius Penczner for their feedback, support, and enthusiasm.

Dave Marks at Blog of the Living Dead, Trioxin, and the Zombie Notes Newsgroup for spreading the love. Not to mention a shout-out to Myrrym Davies for her continued support for the cause.

Of course all of you who took the time to read a review, post a comment, or tell a friend about the blog. 365 Days took up a good chunk of the past year--more than I'd anticipated--and it was quite a relief knowing that somebody was making it worth the effort.

But most importantly I'd like to thank my patient, understanding, and supporting wife Kathleen for encouraging me, enabling me, and not holding it against me when I spent more time with shitty DVDs than with her. I love you, sweetie!

Sunday, November 9, 2008


Although the films have watched and all the reviews posted--sniff, sniff--stay tuned in the days to come, as I'll be posting some follow-up notes for the completion of 365 Days of the Dead.

Thanks to all who've been reading.


And so we bring 365 Days of the Dead to a close with, ironically enough, the very first zombie film (or at least the first to use the word "zombie" in its title), the 1932 semi-classic WHITE ZOMBIE. Directed by Victor Halpern, this film offers little significance aside from being first, and stands today as a curio at best. Or maybe a treat for Bela Lugosi fans.

Rewatching the movie I surprised to discover how steadily WHITE ZOMBIE comes close to being great yet never does. I'm sure that can be ascribed to Halpern, who was making a Poverty Row quickie to capitalize on the box-office of FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA; it takes only a casual glance to realize that the film's strongest visuals are aping James Whale and Tod Browning. (One exception, of course, is the establishing scene in the sugar mill as the zombies toil into the night, unmindful as one of their own falls into the machinery; had there been more eerie set-pieces like this, it might've claimed a spot in the same league as those other terror titans.)

Though the films' considerable atmosphere still holds up well, even in the poorly-restored public domain prints available today, the same cannot be said for its story, which falls squarely into rickety melodrama. It's up to Lugosi with his Mephistophelean countenance and cadre of living dead to carry the picture, and the former doesn't exactly pull his fair share (then again, he was making $800 for a starring role, do you blame him?). And Halpern's direction is enough to make one a zombie, with his somnambulant pacing and long gaps between lines; even at 66 minutes, this thing could've been compressed by a third and not lost a thing.

Still, as low-budget films from the '30s go, it's not that bad. Perhaps anathema to today's zombie fans weaned on Romero's gut-chomping ghouls, it's an essential entry to the living dead cannon, and those who haven't seen it yet should check it out.


An adventure-horror hybrid from 1973, Amando de Ossorio's NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS boils down to a jungle-bound version of his famous BLIND DEAD series, replacing the monk-robed Knights Templar with bikini-clad panther women. It's an intriguing idea, though the execution leaves a little to be desired.

An African expedition studying the disappearance of local elephants (headed by Eurofave Jack Taylor) discovers a voodoo cult that raises zombies and has a habit of turning white ladies into the aforementioned panther women (not sure how chopping off their heads causes the transformation--and although they're ostensibly shape-shifters, they tend to appear mostly in fur bikinis, not that I'm complaining). Did I mention the panther women were also vampires? And that they never bite anyone on the neck, but like to stab and drown people?

Okay, so logic never was de Ossorio's strong suit, but when it comes to lurid thrills he usually delivers (as he does in the film's prologue, a racially insensitive bit in which the dark-skinned tribe ravages and sacrifices a Caucasian woman). There's some goofy violence to be found, not to mention a plethora of bare female flesh, but SORCERERS never really hits its mark, as though de Ossorio was uncomfortable with the material.

The director employs the same slow pace that he used in the BLIND DEAD films, though without the Gothic trappings and eerie chanting soundtrack the tempo feels dull instead of atmospheric. De Ossorio also uses the slow-motion techniques for the predatory panther women that he worked to great effect with the Templars, but whereas the latter benefited from that trick, it just looks silly in SORCERERS (looking at times like a bad BAYWATCH parody). Even the rising of the dead--always a highlight in the BLIND DEAD series--looks cheap and cobbled together, without the accoutrements that made the earlier sequences so effective.

And without that same element of fun and ambience, NIGHT OF THE SORCERERS fails to justify its existence, especially when the threadbare plot has so little going for it. Fans of Eurotrash will undoubtedly enjoy it--and make no mistake, it's not a total waste--but if you could never get into TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD or GHOST GALLEON, you are not going to like this.


Gregg Bishop's 2008 high school zombie movie DANCE OF THE DEAD (part of the Ghost House collective) was supposedly written ten years prior, before the recent undead boom. Maybe that's why it feels so tired and familiar, because I know I've seen this plot before.

In a concept we've seen in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORKS and BOY EATS GIRL (with the same results), the living dead have risen to feed upon high school students at the prom. And wouldn't you know, the only ones who can save the day are the unpopular geeks that couldn't get a date--had this happened to me when I was in school, I'd have let the zombies eat the motherfuckers, but I'm an anti-social sort. And while I liked the semi-twist of having the phys ed instructor helping the boys, the plot still reeks of desperate wish-fulfillment.

Bishop's directorial style is superficial gloss and flash, but it's never strong or distinctive enough to distract from the well-worn storyline--though there might be enough gore to keep people interested. Instead of trying too hard to be funny, Bishop should've focused on a sense of anarchy, a balls-to-the-wall mentality that would've complemented this picture so much better.

Occupying that gray area between not-bad and not-good, DANCE OF THE DEAD is the type of high-school tripe where you know upfront exactly who'll live and who'll die. Maybe if I'd encountered this earlier in the project I might've been a little more charitable, but by this point I'm simply tired of seeing this plot.

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 was scarier.


Like many of you who read this blog, I'm a sucker for a bad movies (otherwise I'd have sucked the business end of a shotgun sometime around February), but I appreciate it when a movie lets me know up front that it's going to be a stinker; say what you will about MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, but you know from frame one what you're in for. But when a movie appears at first glance to be decent and then turns sour--like Jeremy Kasten's 2005 thriller ALL SOULS DAY--I feel like the victim of a cinematic game of three-card monty.

It starts out like a better-than-average horror film with a '50s-set flashback as a vacationing family--led by Jeffrey Combs, clearly having a ball playing against type--encounters supernatural goings-on in a mysterious Mexican hotel. But just as it really starts to grow on you, Kasten flash-forwards to the present for the story proper, which isn't nearly as atmospheric, intriguing, or interesting as what came before it. (There's also a matter of a double prologue, as the film sets up its central backstory fifty or so years before Combs and family show up, causing the viewer to reinvest interest each time.)

The meat of the story, in which the dead return during the annual Day of the Dead celebration to exact their revenge (and prey on any handy tourists), might not've been too bad, even with the Romero-esque approach. But the protagonists are so bland and unappealing, including a male lead as hyperactive and annoying as a sugar-addled child, and flat, no-frills direction dampen any fun that may be had. Characters act with a vague humor that may be intentional (I wouldn't be surprised if many of the actors knew they were in a dud and decided to have some fun with it), and there's plenty of dead air throughout the plot as the cast muddles from one familiar situation to another. It's almost as if the Combs prologue was from a different film altogether, as none of the mood or ambience finds its way into the rest of the picture.

If ALL SOULS DAY had stuck with that opening sequence it could've been a so-so but enjoyable film, but instead it shovels out more of the same, giving us a mediocre would-be thriller involving whitebread schmucks in peril. Just what I needed.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


The gods be praised, this is the last micro-budget shot-on-video hack-job I'll have to review for this project. Hopefully, it'll be the last one I'll ever see, but that's probably too much to ask. Regardless, this 2005 feature from director William Victor Schotten--who also delivered the slightly better SABBATH--is the same uninspired, unoriginal schlock we've seen time and again, complete with muffled audio and murky, snuff-flick quality videography.

Like a lot of these movies, DEAD LIFE chronicles the boring small-town life of a group of slackers (a thuddingly appropriate illustration of "Write what you know") whose world gets shaken up when yet another virus-borne zombie rampage hits their community. And while others have taken this same tired premise and juiced it up, DEAD LIFE opts to intercut long, aimless scenes of wandering zombies with one pointless conversation after another.

Sloppily edited with clumsy direction (even a scene involving a bitten-off dick registers no impact) and a meaningless, redundant death metal soundtrack, DEAD LIFE is a home movie masquerading as a feature. There's some decent gore to be found, as well as some black-and-white nightmare footage that's a desperate stylistic ploy, but it's just as poorly handled as the rest, and you have to wade through the snail-paced "story" to get to it.

Lacking energy, skill, or rhythm, DEAD LIFE is not worth the trouble. At least Schotten showed a little improvement with his follow-up; perhaps by movie #5 he can show some real strength.