Friday, November 30, 2007


Purportedly the first zombie film from Greece, EVIL (a 2005 release from writer/director Yorgos Noussias) shows a definite love for all things undead. Though it draws its inspiration from numerous zombie films, the only real novelty the film has to offer is subtitled Greek dialogue.

Using 28 DAYS LATER as its primary influence, the story kicks off with a trio of workers in an underground cave who discover . . . evil, I guess, since this brief prologue cuts away before establishing little more than three men in a cave discovering something. Before long Athens is overrun with the upgraded, hyper-speed zombies of recent years, who waste no time in slathering the city in blood, brains, and entrails (I'd be willing to bet Noussias has seen his share of Romero and Fulci movies). A band of survivors--including a lascivious cab driver, a teenage girl, and a bitchy drama queen--come together, searching for some type of sanctuary among the growing legion of the undead.

Though it unleashes its zombies early on, EVIL takes a while to become truly engaging. The characters are a little hard to warm up to, but that may be due to the lackluster dialogue that makes up a good portion of the first act (which, being subtitled, makes it a tad more difficult to invest in). While we wait for the story to find its footing, Noussias demonstrates some real visual flair, using rapid-fire editing, frequently kinetic camerawork, and the occasional 24-inspired multi-frame format (which more often than not works as a gimmick rather than a storytelling device). The first real setpiece occurs roughly at the film's mid-point when our heroes fight off a sudden zombie assault inside a restaurant, and it's here that Noussias loses his audiences' confidence. The action is fast and the gore plentiful in this sequence, yet Noussias tries too hard to make the scene memorable, and the result is far-fetched and ludicrous. Several times the characters kill zombies in ways that, although they are cool, are rather tough to believe (until this point the movie has maintained a plausible suspension of disbelief), and Noussias reveals the bitchy drama girl to suddenly be a karate babe (an attempt to curry the favor of drooling fanboys, to be sure, but a completely unestablished trait nonetheless). The picture soon gets back on track after this scene, leading to a somewhat disappointing but inevitable finale (the aerial shot that ends the film is quite impressive).

Though you're not going to find anything here you haven't seen before, EVIL works as one of those by-fans-for-fans entries that make up a fair portion of the subgenre, and at least has a better visual style than most of its ilk. I'd be interested to see what Noussias can do with a tighter script and a little more moola.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


In Wes Craven's career there were few bright spots between the peaks of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM. 1988's THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is one of them, and though it's not Craven's finest hour, it still beats DEADLY FRIEND by a country mile.

Based on Wade Davis's factual account, SERPENT deals with Bill Pullman (years before he became a leading man in bland romantic comedies) investigating Haitian voodoo rituals on behalf of a pharmaceutical corporation; they believe the zombie power used in these ceremonies would make for a revolutionary new anesthetic (personally, I'd be a little freaked if my doctor used Zombinol during my procedure, but that's just me). Pullman's research comes across the radar of Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae, in a great sinister turn), an officer in Papa Doc Duvalier's regime who has some rather persuasive methods to ensure that Haiti's secrets remain that way.

Since the film's true focus is on mystery and intrigue, Craven (most likely at the behest of studio executives) squeezes in a few scare-laden dream sequences to maintain a "horror" element. Though the perception-skewering approach Craven uses here is done with a sharper visual flair than the similar tactics in ELM STREET--nor are they as disruptive as those in SHOCKER--these scenes undermine the story and threaten to reduce it to a mere shock show. The serious and dramatic aspects of the tale disintegrate completely into a carnival funhouse during the climactic showdown crammed with laughably-rendered visual effects (which feel like last-minute additions "suggested" by helpful test screenings).

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW could've been a successful meditation on the connection between the scientific and spiritual worlds. Craven's reputation as a horror director may have been its ultimate undoing, since certain expectations on either side--a filmmaker who wants to create a serious, adult film, and a studio wanting something that would draw the profitable teen crowd--would have been tough to bring together. It's still a fascinating glimpse into a world that's frequently misunderstood, and worth at least a look.


When I started this project, I made an effort not to compare one movie to another; sure, I may point out if a film tries gamely, but doesn't quite reach a RE-ANIMATOR or DAWN OF THE DEAD level, but I try to take each entry on its own merits (or lack thereof). I've decided, though, to change all that. From now on, when determining just how bad a movie may be, I'll ask myself, "Is it as shitty as ZOMBIE CAMPOUT?"

The flick in question (I won't even deign to call it a movie) is a shot-on-video travesty from 2002, a horror-comedy from writer-director Joshua D. Smith that's neither scary nor funny. (That Smith's name appears 25 times in the end credits is either another example of the lame, unfunny humor that defines this turd, or Mr. Smith has got a grossly disproportinate sense of self-worth as an auteur.)

The plot-in-name-only concerns two young couples who embark on the dullest camping excursion in cinematic history. Everybody knows that the teen-party scenario is just an excuse to showcase drunken excesses and lots of skin, but Smith must've missed the memo. Aside from a little tentative kissing and watching a meteor shower (I'll go on a limb and say the effects probably weren't done by Industrial Light and Magic), these party animals do absolutely nothing. Hell, they even go to bed early so they can be sure and rent a boat in the morning. What responsible young individuals! Seriously, watching someone's actual vacation videos would be vastly more entertaining than this dreck, and that's including the zombie assault (which occurs when the radioactive meteors crash in the nearby cemetery). Also, and at the risk of sounding like a Neanderthal, why would you go through the trouble of having a scene in which the girls change into their bikinis and not show a little T&A? There's nothing else of value in the scene, so why have the girls awkwardly shove their swimsuits under their clothes as they discuss nothing at all?

That's another thing. There's a lot of dialogue in this movie, but Smith apparently also didn't get the memo that the purpose of dialogue is to convey information to the audience, build character, and advance the plot, not to replicate the boring, pointless banter that comprises regular human interaction. (And maybe it's just an unfortunate result of post-production editing, but I hated the lull that floated in between characters' lines, which destroyed any flow the dialogue may have had.) The aimless jabbering doesn't end once the zombies start attacking, either; every scene has at least one meaningless conversation. Even the "climax" (though in this case "the 80-minute mark" would be a more apt description) is bogged down with talk as the surviving members of the cast, trapped inside an SUV surrounded by zombies, debate committee-style what to do instead of actually doing something. Worse yet, it takes TEN FUCKING MINUTES to do it, until they discover that the keys were under the sun visor all along. Who would've thought of that!

Who, besides of course Smith, would find this shit watchable? As much as I hated DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS! (and God, did I hate it), it at least possessed a frenetic, unrelenting energy to its stupidity. ZOMBIE CAMPOUT is inert and lifeless, going for easy, unimaginative jokes instead of finding genuine humor within his story and characters. Only one bit--in which a zombie is repulsed by the prosthetic limb of one of her victims--had an iota of comedic potential, but Smith breezes past it in favor of self-referential, "ironic" humor, such people who know their fate because they've already read the script, or remarks like "This is just like a bad horror movie." There's a fair amount of gore on display, handled with the same skill as the jokes, for those who like seeing people slathered in Karo syrup.

A movie so wretched I literally got a headache watching it, ZOMBIE CAMPOUT makes the crap in the $5.50 bin at Wal-Mart seem like the work of Orson Welles. Avoid it.


I know that this 1971 release from director David Durston doesn't technically count as a zombie film, but I'm including it here because the film is clearly inspired by the success of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and Durston hews very close to that movie's style. (I also happen to think it's great.) What it lacks it social and political commentary, though, it more than makes up for it in sheer exploitive outrageousness.

A cult of Manson Family-inspired hippies, led by Indian dancer Bhaskar in a sublimely over-the-top performance, crash at a soon-to-be ghost town in upstate New York. When a local girl witnesses one of their LSD-fueled Satanic rituals, she's raped and beaten (sorry, deviants, it happens offscreen). This sets up an unlikely but oh-so entertaining revenge scenario as the girl's shotgun-toting grandpa heads out to settle the score, only to be handed a beating of his own (and also getting dosed with acid by the cult's resident skank). So it then falls to his grandson Pete (sort of a grindhouse Dennis the Menace) to avenge both grandpa and big sis; following reasoning only a schlock horror film can comprehend, Pete kills a rabid dog and injects its blood into a fresh batch of meat pies, which he then sells to the hippies the following morning for breakfast (you may wonder why anyone would eat something given to them by a person they've just victimized, but Durston sure doesn't).

Still with me? The hippies are then transformed into rabid, zombie-like creatures who froth at the mouth while committing various atrocities (and although the town is practically deserted, there's still plenty of victims on hand to mutilate, as well as a handy construction crew to spread their infection to). Sleaze fans will find plenty to feast upon here, with all the severed limbs, self-impalings, and spilled intestines on display, not to mention the gangbang of a rabid girl that causes the construction workers' infection (be sure to track down the original 83-minute cut that retains all the nasty goodness).

Despite its multiple liabilities--from the improbable script with its howl-inducing dialogue to its overwrought acting--I DRINK YOUR BLOOD operated by its own demented logic to be a singularly enjoyable experience. Somehow Durston has created his own universe where he can determine his own rules, kind of a low-rent David Lynch (yeah, I just compared Lynch to a movie called I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, wanna fight about it?) eager to please exploitation audiences, aided immeasurably by the stock sound effects and Clay Pitts's bizarre score.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD probably doesn't qualify as a "good" movie, but I'd take it over THE GODFATHER or RAGING BULL anyday.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Following the success of their WHITE ZOMBIE, I'm sure Victor and Edward Halperin were eager to produce another living dead picture. Released in 1936 and directed by big brother Victor, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES may have been a crowd-pleasing second helping back in the day, but it sure hasn't held up against the rigors of time.

For a 62-minute movie, the plot is surprisingly complicated. The film begins with the legend of Angkor, a lost city in Asia built by the living dead. An international expedition is sent to learn Angkor's secrets, including the use of telepathy to create and control zombies. This sets up an archaeological race between the American soldiers in the expedition and a shameless Lugosi wannabe (embodying here the Yellow Peril caricature of the era), but don't expect any RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK-style action, since the "race" is really two actors "wading" through a swamp set in front of a rear-projection screen. (One of two such hilarious scenes, the other being a ludicrously cut-rate battle sequence early in the film that bad movie fans will love.)

Dean Jagger is the all-American soldier who recovers the secret. A shy, soft-spoken fellow, Jagger learns to grow some cajones when he's jilted in a love triangle with fellow officer Robert Noland and Dorothy Stone. (Though Stone plays such a thoroughly unappealing woman, it's a wonder why Jagger cares at all; the scene in which she rebuffs his affections is priceless for its stilted, unnatural exchange--has anyone ever talked like this?) Jagger uses his newfound powers to not only mentally enslave every minority in the area--his will conveyed by superimposing Lugosi's eyes from WHITE ZOMBIE over the screen--but to win Stone's affections. Alas, true love can never be unless Jagger gives up his power, and so he does in a surprising return of his milquetoast behavior, setting up the revolt of the title (which is really more like a destructive temper tantrum with Jagger's death at the climax).

About that revolt. Can it really be considered a revolt when the zombies don't attack until after they've been released? And since they've been released, aren't they no longer zombies? (I think Linda Richman once posed a philosophical debate about this very subject.)

Confounding and dull, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES lacks the atmosphere and mystery that made WHITE ZOMBIE so enjoyable. Though it may amuse fans of the Poverty Row horrors (which do have their share of creaky charms), those weaned on the more visceral entries of the zombie cannon are going to be sorely disappointed. It wouldn't surprise me if a good number of you have seen this one; if you've ever bought one of those 50 Gazillion Movie DVD packs, you no doubt own this title.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


In the VHS glory days of the late 1980's, several low-budget video companies experimented with gimmick boxes to attract viewers' attention. Somewhere between the three-dimensional art for BLACK ROSES and FRANKENHOOKER'S talking sleeve was the box for THE DEAD PIT, which featured a 3-D image of Dr. Ramzi, the film's villain, whose eyes lit up when you pressed a button. That I remembered more about the video box than the film itself should tell you all you need to know.

Before pissing off Stephen King and Dean Koontz with mediocre adaptations of their work (THE LAWNMOWER MAN and HIDEAWAY, respectively), Brett Leonard directed this 1989 zombie variation on ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST. The festivities kick off with Dr. Ramzi (Danny Gochnauer), a brain surgeon conducting unorthodox experiments on the patients of the State Institution for the Mentally Ill. When Ramzi's colleague Dr. Swan (Jeremy Slate) discovers his subterranean lab, as well as the titular pit where the botched attempts are dumped, Swan caps him with a shot to the head and seals him and his cadavers away in his underground lair.

Flash forward twenty years, when a lovely young amnesiac (Cheryl Lawson) is sent to the Institution to help regain the memory of her identity (she refers to herself as Jane Doe). Before she can learn what trauma caused her memory loss, an earthquake rocks the hospital, awakening Ramzi and his subjects. Soon Ramzi is resuming his experiments, roaming the hospital corridors at night to recruit an unwitting nurse or patient, his eyes aglow when he attacks.

Filmed in the abandoned violent ward of a real hospital, THE DEAD PIT makes the most of its location, showing an excellent use of lighting to establish mood. But the ominous atmosphere can only carry the film so far before the weaknesses in the script start showing. The film's first hour is largely uneventful, consisting mostly of Jane Doe's nightmares of Ramzi (it seems as though Leonard's trying for an ELM STREET-style vibe here, playing these scenes with a sense of ambiguity that doesn't quite work, since we know the proceedings are actually happening). These sequences soon grow repetitive, feeling more like plot padding than advancement (that Lawson wears her hospital-issue panties and baby doll-tee combo helps make these scenes watchable).

Things do start to pick up once the zombies arrive, preying on patients and staff and spilling plenty of the red stuff (a fair amount of which was cut for an R rating). In an interesting twist, holy water is used to dispatch the dead rather than the traditional bullet to the head, but for some reason this detail doesn't quite fit; perhaps it's because the quasi-scientific foundation the film's been built on doesn't mesh with the Judeo-Christian elements of good-vs-evil. But even after the brains start rolling inertia soon sets in as the film chugs toward its conclusion, where it answers the questions of Lawson's past long after we the viewing audience have figured it out. (Oh, and if anyone can explain the movie's final shot to me, I'd be eternally grateful.)

While far from perfect, THE DEAD PIT would probably please non-discriminating zombie fans looking for something a little different. Though the film has yet to be officially released on DVD, it shouldn't be too hard to locate a copy on the collector's market.


After giving a high-class update to vampires, werewolves, mummies, and mad scientists, Hammer Studios turned to the living dead for this 1966 outing from director John Gilling. I'm sure it'll come as no surprise when I say the film is long on mood, short on thrills (visceral or otherwise).

Esteemed doctor Sir James Forbes (Andre Morell) and his daughter travel to the village of Cornwall to assist Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), a former pupil struggling to find a cure to a mysterious plague that's befallen the local populace. Because we've seen the opening sequence, we know that voodoo is to blame, yet the film insists on forging ahead as if it's all a mystery. (PLAGUE's pretty good at dispelling any air of suspense it creates by telegraphing information; for example, we know Squire Hamilton, with his voodoo-symboled ring and wicked sideburns, is behind it all the moment we see him.)

Typical Hammer fare, PLAGUE uses period trappings to add a classy veneer to an otherwise lackluster tale. We're forced to suffer through a series of stiff, interminable conversations until the film's mid-point, when Sir James learns the culprit is voodoo, an "absolutely disgusting" version of witchcraft practiced by the people of Hi-ee-tee. (That James considers voodoo a form of savage witchcraft is one of the film's understated racist details; another is that though the population of Cornwall is Caucasian, Hamilton manages to have a few blacks in tribal headgear beating drums for his voodoo ceremonies.)

Late in the game we learn that Hamilton has been harvesting zombies to use as slaves in his tin mine, though the undead are such ineffectual workers that you wonder why he bothered in the first place (surely finding a handful of day laborers would be easier than resurrecting a horde of corpses and whipping them until they finally obey). Herein lies the film's biggest flaw, in that aside from a dream sequence in a mist-laden cemetery, the zombies aren't particularly scary (though Roy Ashton's makeups are effective).

The best Hammer productions have always benefitted from the commanding presences of actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and without their charisma to compensate for the leaden pace, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES remains a limp, boring pseudo-mystery that could only charitably qualify as a horror film.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Also known as NIGHT SHADOWS, 1984's MUTANT is a dud under either title. This slow-moving and unengaging sci-fi/horror hybrid was directed by B-movie veteran John "Bud" Cardos (I've always been leery of directors with nicknames; there's a reason you never see movies by Martin "Skip" Scorsese, or David "Butch" Lynch).

Two vacationing brothers (one of whom is Wings Hauser) find themselves stranded in a tiny hick town in the midst of a flu epidemic. It seems the townspeople are being mutated by chemical waste into zombie-like creatures with caustic blood, who kill their victims via slits in the palms of their hands (the toxic steam that rises when the mutants make contact with their prey is a nice visual). When Hauser's brother goes missing, he learns that there's more to the town than just drunken redneck assholes.

Like a lot of horror films that rely on "scientific" explanations, the characters of MUTANT babble a lot about things, but explain very little. Also like several films of this stripe, although the mutants are caused by a nearby chemical plant, nobody bothers to consider a connection; hell, even the script dwells on this detail for a whole five minutes. The story does pick up the pace in the final act, but by that point it's hard to work up any concern for anyone. Hauser is creepy and loutish when he's supposed to be charming, and Jody Medford (playing a bartending teacher and love interest) portrays the kind of girl who resents being left out of dangerous situations just because she's female, yet shrieks and cowers at the slightest provocation. (We also get Bo Hopkins, playing your standard Southern sheriff.) The film does get surprisingly mercenary when it kills off the sole child actor in the cast, but even that scene lacks any real impact.

Though the movie does have some better than average production value (notably its cinematography and orchestral score), MUTANT is your garden variety monster pic, the kind of movie that passes slow Saturday afternoons when there's nothing better to be had. However, if you're the kind of person committed to watching every single '80s horror film you can find, you'll still get a nostalgic kick from this one.


Zombie films get the Penthouse Forum treatment in this 2005 release from writer/director Scott Phillips. Taking the apocalypse-survival scenario and turning it on its, um, ear, FLESH seems on the surface just another slice of sleaze and gore. But the more exploitive elements are simply a mask to a surprisingly serious look at the complexities of human relationships.

Kurly Tlapoyawa is Matool (given the subject matter, a dirty pun as much as a Fulci reference), a bespectacled badass who prefers a hands-on approach to killing zombies. He's taken to a ranch house in the New Mexico wasteland by Nathan (Ross Kelly), as a playmate for his wife Dexy (full-figured beauty Diva). You see, Nathan and Dexy practice an "alternative lifestyle," something that's been rather difficult to do with the world being overrun with the living dead. It seems like the perfect situation for everyone; days are spent killing zombies, while at night Nathan watches as Matool services Dexy (accompanied by Dexy's sister Sassy, who's got a Belial-like "twin" attached to her side). Everybody's happy, until a trio of soldiers show up, one of them infected by a zombie bite, looking for shelter. And though it's Christmas for Dexy with a couple of extra studs on hand, Nathan starts to experience the first pangs of jealousy.

THE STINK OF FLESH rises head and shoulders above the usual ultra-low-budget fare, thanks mostly to the skill of director Phillips (it doesn't hurt that he's had extensive film experience, his resume starting with RED DAWN). He presents Nathan and Dexy as real people, treating their relationship as an honest expression of human sexuality; he does an admirable job with all of his characters, in fact, allowing their interpersonal relationships to develop and drive the story (the only exception is Sassy, who really isn't defined beyond her deformity, and is poorly-acted to boot). And though Phillips refrains from making a cheap T&A gore picture, he does throw in a few gruesome elements (such as the naked zombie girl Nathan keeps chained in the barn) and raunchy humor (most of which is actually funny). My only real gripe is the ending which leaves a couple of issues unresolved, but doesn't really detract from the unsettling conclusion the story's been building up to.

In a market deluged with shitbombs like DEAD CLOWNS and DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS!, THE STINK OF FLESH stands out as a shining example that a movie doesn't have to be unrelentingly stupid just because it has no money. I'm looking forward to seeing Phillips's follow-up, GIMME SKELTER.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


When I wrote last week's review of DETAINED, a short zombie film from Ireland, I heard about a similair movie called DEAD MEAT, which is also a short zombie film from the Emerald Isle. A quick trip to YouTube yielded the following film, but I couldn't find any info on it--the movie has no copyright date, nor did IMDB give me any clues. So if this is the same DEAD MEAT, it'd be news to me. What I do know about the film is that its directors, Miles Roper and Tuesday Bassen, made a slight vignette that lacks an actual story.

DEAD MEAT attempts to endear itself early by playing some (unauthorized?) classic Misfits songs as its soundtrack (since the movie has no dialogue, Glenn Danzig's voice is the only one we hear). The plot, so to speak, is simple. A man tooling around in a van sees a zombie shambling on the side of the road. He gets out, shoots it, and wanders around for the next eight minutes, killing additional zombies and stockpiling them in the van.

That's it. Nothing else happens during the meager running time. And though a day in the life of a janitor-like zombie killer would probably make for an interesting movie, a little interaction with, I dunno, something would've made it actually watchable. There's no suspense or drama, since we know nothing about our hero (who would rather toss his shotgun into the weeds when out of shells rather than walk back to his van for more). A brief tussle on the ground with one of the zombies is as close to conflict as the movie gets. (Also, the undead on hand here are rather disappointing.)

During the end credits the filmmakers thank several people, including George Romero, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Akira Kurosawa, and Takashi Miike, yet not a single trace of any stylistic influence from these directors appears here. You'd think they'd have at least cribbed a couple of camera angles, or some dialogue . . . anything to help their movie resemble those of their idols'. Instead they gave us something that looks more like somebody's morbid home movie.


As we enter the holiday season many of you will undoubtedly be tuning in to watch the beloved film A CHRISTMAS STORY (most likely because the film's as hard to avoid as a tryptophene-induced coma), and some know-it-all will inform everyone that this delightful family movie was directed by the same guy who did PORKY'S. Well, if you really want to mess with your loved one's minds, after Ralphie shoots his eye out with his Red Ryder pop in this underappreciated 1972 gem, one of three low-budget horror films Bob Clark made to hone his movie-making skills.

Using NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as a template, this horror-comedy deals with a theatrical troupe (led by co-writer and make-up chief Alan Ormsby as the egotistical, tyrannical director Alan, in the loudest pair of pants ever put before a camera) traveling to a burial island off the Florida coast to take part in a vaguely-defined performance. (Most of the cast shares the same name as the character; either for convenience or a deliberate stylistic touch I don't know, but it does help build a sense of camaraderie among them, and makes them appear more real.) Said performance, though, involves digging up a corpse named Orville and using it as a centerpiece for a quasi-satanic ritual, as Alan hams it up for his underlings (exactly why he's compelled to do this is never explained; does he truly believe in what he's doing, or merely stroking his own ego?) . However, the dead take offense at the disrespect, and rise en masse to voice their disapproval.

Horror and humor can work well together, but it takes a skillful hand to play one against the other to achieve success. Usually, the laughs wind up contradicting the scares and the finished film doesn't work on either level. Clark doesn't fall prey to this trap, though it seems he may in the film's beginning, as the cast trades various quips and one-liners. Surprisingly, the jokes don't detract from the classic Gothic atmosphere--with its fog-swept cemeteries and decrepit buildings--Clark establishes in the opening scenes. Even more is impressive is how seamlessly the humor segues into horror, as zombies rise from the ground (a well-executed sequence in its own right) to close in on the cast, now spilling guts instead of busting them.

The build-up to the zombie attack is rather slow, but the performances and scare-promising mood keep the proceedings from being boring, though the story does feel a little too padded around the mid-point as Alan retreats from the graveyard to indulge in some rude, vaguely-necrophilic hijinx with Orville. Clark lets his story turn unexpectedly dark as the dead close in on the cast, borrowing liberally from Romero's playbook for the uncompromising climactic assault; he then caps it off with Orville's revenge, a quietly effective epilogue that grows stronger after repeat viewings.

Sadly, Bob Clark was killed earlier this year in a collision with a drunk driver. Among the projects he had in development was a remake of CHILDREN, and though I'm sick to death (sorry) of retreads these days, I must admit to be somewhat fascinated by the possibilities; though much of the movie's strength comes from the low-budget, home movie-like atmosphere, revisiting the material after the mainstream success of, say, A CHRISTMAS STORY would make for an interesting film (maybe one of the zombies can get their eye shot out with a BB gun?). I guess now we'll never know.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Most of you tuning into this blog should be well-familiar with the charms of RE-ANIMATOR, Stuart Gordon's raucous mix of gore n' guffaws from 1985 (and if you're not, why the hell are you here?). So instead of reviewing a film that just about everyone in my target audience has seen--a rather pointless exercise, anyway, since I can't find one bad thing to say about it--I'm going to do something a little different with today's entry and simply reminisce about one of my all-time favorites. (Oh, and for those of you who do read this and haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it; you'll love it.)

I first saw RE-ANIMATOR one lazy Sunday afternoon in early '91. I was a sophomore in high school then, and was just starting to catch up on all these great movies I was reading about in FANGORIA (horror flicks were taboo in my youth, at least anything that wasn't black-and-white, so I was eager to see what I'd been missing). My enabler was a young man named Kevin, who I'd met at church of all places, and he suffered through my viewing habits with a pleasant if not bemused humor.

(It just occurred to me as I write this that since the advent of the VCR it's rather difficult to tell an amusing anecdote about watching a film. Tales of drive-in frivolity or grindhouse adventures tend to overshadow "We sat on Kevin's couch and ate pizza" . . . though I must say watching with your Sunday School teacher as a severed head goes down on a naked girl was a rather memorable experience.)

Needless to say I enjoyed the film immensely, though I don't see how I couldn't have; at fifteen, my desired quota of blood and female nudity was easily met, so RE-ANIMATOR being a flat-out great movie was simply gravy. I do remember being quite enthusiastic about it for several days afterward, endlessly quoting the movie's best lines--"Who's going to believe a talking head? Get a job in a sideshow." was a particular fave--and telling anyone within earshot to SEE THIS MOVIE. (I may have even been on the obnoxious side doing it; Jim, you probably remember, was I?) Even now I get a distinct thrill springing this film onto friends, especially those not into horror flicks, who haven't seen it.

As I matured (so to speak) I was able to see what made RE-ANIMATOR work as well as it did. Starting with a story by H.P. Lovecraft doesn't hurt, but the filmmakers' smartest tactic was to treat the source material seriously, while still having fun with it. The uniformly excellent cast--including Jeffrey Combs in one of contemporary horror's best roles and the late David Gale as Dr. Hill--treats the subject matter with equal respect, taking a story that sounds hokey on paper and making it believable and three-dimensional.

RE-ANIMATOR remains in my top three favorite movies (when asked, I can never name just one, but I almost always drop this one), cinematic comfort food when I'm feeling down, and the perfect antidote to the deluge of shitty remakes Hollywood keeps foisting on us. Love, love love, this movie.


J.R. Bookwalter's THE DEAD NEXT DOOR made quite a splash among horror fans when it first came out in 1989. Although there had been regional do-it-yourselfers before (notably Don Coscarelli), Bookwalter was one of the first filmmakers to produce a flat-out love letter to the works of George Romero and Sam Raimi. And though it doesn't succeed entirely, the movie should delight those equally enamored with those directors.

Bookwalter bases his zombie outbreak in Akron, OH (where most of the movie was shot), the result of an undetermined scientific project, establishing an undead backdrop much like DAWN OF THE DEAD's; Bookwalter takes advantage of his low-tech approach to replicate the same foreboding, apocalyptic tone of that classic, even mounting an ambitious assault on Washington DC (with zombies on the White House lawn and lurching beneath the Washington Memorial).

The film tells the story of a unit of the Zombie Squad (headed by Pete Ferry, his voice dubbed by Bruce Campbell) who roves the Virginia countryside wiping out any undead they encounter. Assisted by Dr. Moulsson (Bogdan Pecic, strolling around his laboratory in a lab coat and trucker's cap), the Zombie Squad travels to the Buckeye State searching for a serum that will stop the zombie virus. Along the way they cross paths with a doomsday cult--led by the Reverend Jones (groan), a messianic preacher who wears cataract glasses and chews scenery without mercy--who offers human sacrifices for no apparent reason than to spill more of the red stuff.

For all its strengths, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR is repeatedly hampered by its many flaws. Though striving for an epic feel, Bookwalter's script feels frustratingly shallow, moving from one gory setpiece to another without really exploring the story. The screenplay's also peppered with inane dialogue, with several feeble stabs at humor that fall flat; nor does it help that the cast (no doubt amateur friends of the director) is largely ineffective (though Ferry, in a comic book-hero role, escapes unscathed). And though I applaud a filmmaker so unabashedly in love with Raimi and Romero, Bookwalter ultimately mishandles his homages as well. He creates a universe in which zombies rent DAWN OF THE DEAD and people watch THE EVIL DEAD to hone their zombie-killing skills, then sprinkles in-joke character names like Savini, Romero, King, etc.; by trying to have it both ways, he winds up contradicting both aspects of his millieu. It doesn't affect the film as a whole, but both homage and in-joke ring false as a result.

Where THE DEAD NEXT DOOR excels is its almost constant use of gore as blood, brains, and entrails are splattered about in nearly every scene; a few fake heads aside, the film's effects, both the bloodshed and the zombie makeups, are pulled off with little concession to the film's limited budget (financed, by the way, by Sam Raimi's salary for EVIL DEAD II).

Most horror fans, particularly those of the zombified persuasion, will easily overlook these shortcomings and let themselves get caught up in the film's low-fi charm. It's just a shame that Bookwalter didn't use THE DEAD NEXT DOOR as a stepping stone to bigger projects (like Coscarelli did with PHANTASM), instead going on to produce shot-on-video dreck like ROBOT NINJA and CHICKBOXER.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Bad-movie fans will often tell you that there are certain films that, although boring or predictable, maybe riddled with lousy production values and amateurish acting, possess a certain quality, an aura if you will, that makes them compellingly watchable. THE SWAMP OF THE RAVENS, a 1973 Spanish production shot in Ecuador, comes close to being such a film, but by not really exploring the exploitive potential of its premise, becomes simply slow-moving swill.

Hack director Manuel Cano, hiding here behind the Americanized pseudonym Michael Cannon, trots out that perennial horror film conceit, the scientist determined to prove death is reversible. Raymond Oliver plays the good doctor this time out, experimenting on fresh cadavers in his secluded laboratory. Each botched subject winds up--some whole, others in pieces--dumped in the nearby swamp, where flocks of ravens wait to snack on these remains.

Trouble brews at home when the Doc's girlfriend Simone (Marcia Bichette) leaves him for a sleazy, talent-barren lounge singer. (Simone's an interesting gal, someone who leaves behind a life-like mannequin of herself as a way of breaking things off.) Determined not to lose her, the Doc kidnaps Simone, intending to incorporate her into the experiment (not that he really needs to, since there's always a suicidal leper or gullible hooker around to use).

For a film about a mad scientist, Cano spends precious little time in the laboratory, deciding to focus on the Doctor's domestic life (a thrill-a-second, to be sure) as well as the police investigation, headed by Fernando Sancho as what has to be the stupidest detective of all time. The fog-enshrouded swamp does make for a particularly chilling location, with its bare trees festooned with ravens, but Cano prefers to abuse his zoom lens than create any real dread.

The third act shows a little promise as the baser elements of the story start to develop (especially as the Doc indulges in a bit of necrophilia on the operating table with Simone, or convinces his zombie-like manservant to immolate himself with gasoline). Unfortunately, the big zombie finale the film's been leading up to fizzles before it ever gets started, as the reanimated subjects do nothing more than poke their heads out of the swamp--a shame, since the zombies have a great deal of creepy potential. Instead Cano treats us to a limp denouement as Sancho, wonder-cop that he is, foils the Doc's latest pick-up.

Quoth the Raven, never again.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Fans of vintage Saturday-matinee spook shows will get a kick out of THE ZOMBIES OF MORA-TAU, a slight but fun 1957 release from Columbia Pictures (who were apparently trying to ape the B-movie success of American-International), directed by workhorse Edward L. Cahn.

A motley crew of stock character types (including B-veterans Morris Ankrum and 50-Foot Woman Allson Hayes) travel to the village of Mora-Tau on the African coast on a diving mission. Their goal, recover the cache of diamonds in the shipwrecked remains of the Susan B. It won't be easy, though, as the titular zombies protect the sunken loot, killing anyone who attempts to steal the diamonds (the zombies are so good at what they do that when our characters arrive ashore they find their graves have been dug in advance).

Like most B pictures of the 1950's, the film is good for quite a few unintended laughs, notably in the acting and dialogue departments (Hayes is the exception here, playing against type as the icy wife of George Harrison (?)); Cahn gives the proceedings a rich shadow-cloaked atmosphere that makes up for these flaws. The zombies are wide-eyed automatons reminiscent of the slave workers of WHITE ZOMBIE, and despite the goofy expression here and there, they're largely effective, particularly in the underwater sequences.

Those times underwater, when rugged hero Gregg Palmer dons a bulky old-fashioned diving suit to recover the diamonds and ends up fighting off zombies, are the real highlight of the picture. Though obviously working against the constraints of money and location, these scenes provide the goods as the zombies lurch across the seabed, intent on defending their loot. It isn't until the actual fighting commences that they lose their power; by simulating underwater movement, the action ends up being slow and awkward, generating little excitement. (While watching these scenes I couldn't help but think back to LAND OF THE DEAD, which included zombies walking underwater and chose to show most of it offscreen; with the technology available it would've been easy to update a sequence like that, and probably woukd've been damned creepy to boot.)

While far from a classic film, zombie or otherwise, THE ZOMBIES OF MORA-TAU at least manages to entertain during its scant 68-minute running time (though the action does lag a bit by mid-point). It also helps to have a taste for old-fashioned cheese.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


GARDEN OF THE DEAD, a 1972 offering from director John Hayes, is a grungy slice of schlock that pretty much screams drive-in second feature (which it is, batting clean-up for Hayes's GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE on its original release). The film exists in two versions: a truncated sixty-minute cut (the version reviewed here), and another running feature length (which I recall seeing in high school, but it's been so long and the movie's so unmemorable there's no way I could compare both editions). Even clocking in at just under an hour, the movie drags enough that watching a longer cut is practically unthinkable.

GARDEN takes place at a decidedly low-rent prison camp (basically a dirt lot surrounded by 2x4's strung together with chicken wire). When they're not rolling 55-gallon drums across the ground, the inmates gather around to furtively get high on formaldehyde and plot their escape. These early scenes, with the prisoners lolling around blissfully as a long phallic hose is dangled in their face, have a strange, vaguely homoerotic feel to them; had the film maintained this kind of bizarre subtextual aura, it may have had a legitimate shot at cult film status, instead of being sentenced to obscurity.

Of course, when the time comes to make a break for it, things don't go as planned and the inmates are gunned down by the warden and his crew. The warden--who thinks he's Strother Martin from COOL HAND LUKE, but is really a megalomanical mid-level manager--orders the dead prisoners buried in shallow graves, in soil that's been saturated by chemicals during the escape attempt. Big surprise, the prisoners rise from the dead, slathered in white makeup, and return to the camp for some penny-ante NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-inspired shenanigans.

In addition to the snail-like pace, GARDEN OF THE DEAD bears little in the way of excitement. When the zombies do attack, it's generally offscreen, and the action Hayes does show is staged poorly with a minimum of impact. The only true entertainment value comes from the hilariously overdone acting across the board (at times it seems the warden and the wife of one of the prisoners are having a bad-acting contest) that should yield quite a few chuckles from those who watch movies MST3K-style.

The most astounding fact about GARDEN is that director Hayes was nominated for an Academy Award (no, not here, for the 1958 live-action short THE KISS). A glance at his resume shows that Hayes was more concerned with making a buck on the drive-in circuit than creating art, and while I'd never begrudge a filmmaker who'd prefer to make a comfortable living, it would've been nice if Hayes could've brought his award-nominated sensibility to all of his work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The 1990's had to have been tough for George Romero. While the Godfather of Ghouls spent the decade working on various projects that languished in development hell, a generation of filmmakers influenced by the DEAD trilogy produced an onslaught of homages, rip-offs, and outright steals (I've always been curious what Romero thought of John Russo's 30th Anniversary "Special Edition" of NIGHT that incorporated newly-shot footage into the original). When zombies became hot again in the new millennium, Romero finally got the chance to produce his long-awaited fourth installment of his classic series, bringing his dead into the post-9/11 landscape with mixed results.

Perhaps it's the inclusion of digital effects--never as effective here as the practical ones, and in the case of the fliptop-headed zombie priest, pretty damned stupid--or a plot that places emphasis on action over horror, but LAND OF THE DEAD feels more like a film inspired by Romero than a continuation of his zombie saga. This imitative feeling hangs over nearly aspect of the film; in getting a big-budget studio sheen and a name cast, Romero loses the gritty, apocalyptic feel of the previous movies.

Even the story's through-line--essentially, billionaire Dennis Hopper hires renegade zombie-killer Simon Baker to reclaim Dead Reckoning, a tank-like transport stolen by John Leguizamo--feels more like ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK crossed with a post-nuke MAD MAX rip-off, adding a Carpenter-esque score in lieu Donald Rubenstein's more resonant offering from DAY. Romero short-changes his cast as well, populating the script with one-dimensional supporting characters while giving little in the way of depth to his leads (particularly Asia Argento, who's introduced as a potentially interesting protagonist, but serves mostly as eye candy).

It may be minor, but there is one quibble I would like to point out: the majority of characters' motivations, primarily Hopper's and John Leguizamo's Cholo, is fueled by greed. I realize that each of the DEAD films has been satirical in some way, but wasn't it established in DAWN that cash was virtually worthless in a zombified world? Either Romero overlooked this detail, or chose to contradict it in favor of making a statement. (Or perhaps I'm just too analytical.)

Many fans voiced their displeasure over the upgrade Romero gives his undead this time out, giving them the ability to think, reason, and communicate, but it's clear from the previous films that Romero has intended his zombies to evolve. These cause-and-effect-conscious zombies are a direct extension of DAY OF THE DEAD's Bub.

Though easily the most lightweight of Romero's films, LAND at least makes for some breezy entertainment. The gore is plentiful, and after a slow first act the movie rolls along at a nice pace. There are a couple of amusing cameos to be found (SHAUN OF THE DEAD's Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright show up as zombies, as does Tom Savini in a bit that recalls his role in DAWN), and the full-scale zombie assault is often impressive, utilizing concepts that were left behind when DAY's budget was slashed.

LAND OF THE DEAD ranks as a disappointment, but it at least got Romero behind the camera again. Perhaps his upcoming DIARY OF THE DEAD will allow him to focus on the more cerebral aspects of this series that have made it such a classic.

(Special thanks to Dustin Stewart for his help in preparing this blog.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Jason Tammemagi's DETAINED, a 2004 short film from Ireland, is a compact, often entertaining homage to the classic zombie film (Tammemagi even names his movie A Zombies Don't Run Production). Though far from perfect, one gets the impression that this is intended to be a promotional reel used to raise money for a bigger, more polished feature, a la SAW.

Told in flashback, DETAINED's premise is straight and to the point: Tommy Doyle (Ciaran O'Brien) is stuck in detention when a lumbering zombie staggers into class and munches upon the teacher. Tommy must then escape his school, which is quickly overflowing with the undead.

Tammemagi could comfortably work this material into feature length, even if only to answer the myriad questions that pop up during its 15-minute running time. We know this is Tommy's first day of detention, so he's not a problem student like the others apparently are, why did he get detention in the first place? And though it's not neccesary to explain why the dead are coming back to life, it would've been nice to at least see how the first student came to be infected.

Also, as the flashback nears its end Tommy defiantly cries "I'm not like you!" to the horde of zombies--an outcry that, given is high school millieu, sounds at first like simple adolescent non-conformity (if we knew why it was so important Tommy be different, or perhaps knew the circumstances of his being in detention, there could've been a chance to explore class conflicts, the nature of cliques, etc.). When we return to the frame story to find a grown Tommy now a corporate drone in an office staffed with zombies, it becomes a statement of alienation--though I've got to say, as working class metaphors are concerned, it's a pretty weak and overdone idea.

Despite a slow start, DETAINED works up a suitably creepy atmosphere. Its dimly-lit halls help set a fun, spookhouse tone while underplaying the splattery moments (and there are a few, done with admirable restraint). With some character development and a more complicated storyline (not to mention the deeper pockets of a studio producer), Tammemagi could very well bring us a zombie film on the level of SHAUN OF THE DEAD or 28 DAYS LATER.

Are you listening, Lionsgate?

Monday, November 12, 2007


I know it's considered poor taste these days to use the word "retarded," especially in the pejorative, but when it comes to incompetent filmmaking, the word works beautifully as a description. In the case of the 2005 shitburger DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS!, "retarded" merely scratches the tip of the imbecilic iceberg.

Director Caleb Emerson--no relation, though I'd never admit it if there was--desperately wants his movie to be a cult classic with the same punk-rock anarchy of a Troma film, but instead manages the shrill obnoxiousness of a bunch of screaming brats at the local Wal-Mart. Confoundingly, Emerson cut his cinematic teeth on TOXIC AVENGER IV, yet never bothered to learn what made those films so uniquely entertaining (judging from the leering way he aims his camera on his actresses' nether regions, I'd say he was too busy ogling Tromettes to pick up any movie-making techniques).

The movie's chaotic plot defies a simple synopsis, since it tosses out a new premise roughly every fifteen seconds, but the central storyline concerns Red, a scythe-wielding white trash serial killer played by Tim Gerstmar in what has to be the single worst performance ever captured on camera (seriously, Tim, I want you to promise never to act again--ever). When his beloved Violet is kidnapped by the alien Baron Nefarious (Geoff Mosher, who might've also been a candidate for Worst Actor Ever if I could've understood a word he said), Red dons his superhero costume made of human skin (complete with flopping phallus, just one of the unending dick references this move makes) and embarks on a frenetically meandering quest to save his girl.

To say the plot makes several digressions would be charitable (a more accurate way would be that it makes HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES look focused and streamlined). Red journeys from Sweden to West Virginia, encountering everyone from the late rockabilly singer Hasil Adkins to porn legend Jamie Gillis, in a series of vignettes with all the subtlety and nuance of a frathouse initiation. With its cheesy special effects and allusions to various monsters, it's clear Emerson wanted to pay homage to the schlock sci-fi films of yesteryear, and he would've pulled it off if, say, Ed Wood was a mentally-challenged 10-year-old obsessed with nekkid titties. (And speaking of obsessions, why does every creature in this movie--from the stop-motion Kraken to the rubber-suited fishman--have a monstrously oversized penis? Maybe I wouldn't have minded if it was done to some degree of comedic effect, but this detail, um, pops up so frequently I can't help but think ol' Caleb's as hung as a stick of Juicy Fruit.)

Oh, and the zombie bastards mentioned in the title? They're in there somewhere, normal humans turned slaves by Nefarious's zombie ray-gun, but with so many balls in the air--literally, at times--Emerson never really gets a chance to give them much screen time.

Loud, crass, and juvenile, DIE YOU ZOMBIE BASTARDS! should only be inflicted upon masochists, insomniacs, and immediate family of the cast. Let's hope that Emerson refrains from delivering the follow-up installment threatened at the end of the film.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


I find it slightly amusing that yesterday's entry, Naoyuki Tomomatsu's STACY, blended elements of horror, comedy, and romance to create a surreal, original experience, while today's movie--the 1993 release MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK--blends horror, comedy, and romance to create an 85-minute time-killer.

A quick perusal of the crew offers at least a glimmer of hope, with Sean S. Cunningham as producer (whose genre resume is somewhat shaky, but has at least given us a couple of hits), Mac Ahlberg as cinematographer (who's got the zombie classic RE-ANIMATOR under his belt), a screenplay by Dean Lorey (he wrote JASON GOES TO HELL the same year), and Bob Balaban as director (who brought us the quirky suburban black comedy PARENTS). Throw in a colorful supporting cast that includes Paul Dooley, Austin Pendleton, and Cloris Leachman--not to mention a brief appearance by TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE's Edwin Neal--and you should have at least a fairly interesting horror-comedy. Too bad the movie plays it far too safe to achieve either laughs or scares.

This saccharine teen comedy begins in well-tread territory with Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery), an unfortunately-named but lovable doofus who's pined for the pretty, popular Missy McCloud (Traci Lind) since the first grade. Johnny dreams of taking
Missy to the prom--as well as banging her in the gym in front of the entire student body, in one of the movie's feebler attempts at humor--but alas, Missy's already going with Buck, a personality-barren stock jock out of the Teen Movie Stereotype catalogue. Things get even worse for Johnny when he's shot trying to protect Missy in a convenience store hold-up, and get even worser when he returns from the grave as a zombie, eager to hold Missy to her deathbed promise to accompany him to the prom.

Here's where the movie starts to fall apart. Johnny's resurrection is treated with little more than a surprised scream by his parents; otherwise, it's just something new to make him an outcast by his classmates (apparently, this has happened before, so no one's really taken aback by it). The script tries to generate conflict as Johnny continues to think he's taking Missy to the prom, even though she's still going with Buck; you see, Johnny really, really wants to take Missy to the prom, a plot point repeated ad nauseum until we realize "take Missy to the prom" is just a euphemism for "get into Missy's pants." Johnny may not get the chance, though, as his body starts to deteriorate, a condition that'll only worsen unless he eats human flesh, and he's not ready to cross that particular line.

Zombie comedies aren't successful by being subtle. Their very premise requires a grand guignol sensibility to push the material over the top, to reach for new heights of outrageousness (David Gale giving head, anyone?). Unfortunately, Lorey's script never takes a chance to explore the ghoulishly comedic potential of the story (though I'm sure Disney's involvement had more to do with that than any shortsightedness on Lorey's part). We get a glimpse of what could've been with Johnny's mom (Mary Beth Hurt), a June Cleaver clone so supportive of her son's ailment that she brings home a toddler in case Johnny wants a snack. Also on hand is a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman (minus the Seymour here) scrambling to pay the rent as Chuck, a monosyllabic goon with a murderous bent. However, the teen comedy formula prevents any of these concepts from really taking off (this is of course before the days when semen consumption was standard procedure in teen comedies). Instead we're treated to snickering dream sequences where Johnny's dingle falls off during a nighttime romp with Missy, and "daring" double entendre as Missy implores, "Eat me, Johnny, eat me!" (The producers also feel the need to cram an anti-prejudice message into the plot, as various townsfolk come to hate Johnny just because he's dead.)

Since the film's first two acts are horribly mishandled, it's no surprise that third one is, too. It seems Johnny's condition is the result of some bureaucratic bungling in Heaven; so, to set things straight, Johnny gets sent back in time as a normal guy to foil the robbery (with a sugary-sweet touch for good measure), get his prom date with Missy, and presumably get into her pants afterward.

That MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK is utter dreck should be apparent the moment that Touchstone logo hits the screen (which might as well be accompanied by a crawl that says WARNING! PG-13 PABLUM AHEAD!). The only reason anyone would want to subject themselves to this is if they're . . . I dunno, say, watching a zombie movie a day for an entire year.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


A life-affirming zombie movie? Though it sounds like an improbable concept, Naoyuki Tomomatsu's STACY manages an unlikely feat, creating a splatter movie you can watch on a first date. Equal parts love story and gorefest, 2001's STACY blends these strange bedfellows into one unforgettable experience.

In the near future girls all across the globe ages 15 to 17 are inexplicably dying, only to revive themselves as flesh-hungry zombies (dubbed "Stacies"), a phenomenon threatening to bring about the apocalypse. In order to properly dispose of a Stacy is to cut the body into exactly 165 pieces, a process known as a Repeat Kill. There's even a commando team dedicated to wiping out the Stacies, the Romero Repeat Kill Squad (just one of the many homages the film has on hand).

Tomomatsu manages to pack a lot into this surprisingly dense 80-minute film. In addition to the Romero Squad, we're introduced to a puppeteer named Shibukawa who meets a Stacy-to-be named Eiko. Eiko is in the grips of Near Death Happiness, an all-consuming euphoria that overtakes the girls before they die. Eiko urges Shibukawa to promise to kill her once she returns as a Stacy, setting up the central storyline of the film. (Did I mention the renegade Repeat Kill Squad made up of young girls who emulate Drew Barrymore?)

What follows is a beautifully-crafted combination of horror, romance, and comedy, and Tomomatsu assuredly handles each element with style. The movie works itself toward classic status simply with its unabashed fanboy affection for the films of George Romero; check out the underground lab where a crazed scientist, reminiscent of DAY OF THE DEAD's Dr. Logan, conducts his experiments (in fact, one of the soldiers bringing in Stacies pauses to ask if this is DAWN OF THE DEAD or DAY OF THE DEAD). Or how about the infomercial for Bruce Campbell's Right Hand 2, a special chainsaw attachment you can slip over your wrist for convenient Stacy-slicing.

Though for all its gleeful bursts of gore (which call to mind the early works of Peter Jackson), STACY has a permeating melancholy tone. This of course is best exemplified in the Shibukawa/Eiko storyline, as they fall in love despite Eiko's inevitable death. The state of Near Death Happiness works perfectly as a counterpoint to our fears of death, and is especially poignant as an all-loving and forgiving Eiko teaches a Romero Repeat Kill Squad how to deal with the epidemic. Live for today, Tomomatsu tells us, embrace those who bring you happiness.

If there's any justice in the world, STACY will go on to be revered as one of the new century's best zombie films, deserving to stand alongside the likes of DELLAMORTE, DELLAMORE and Romero's original trilogy. A thoroughly enjoyable movie, STACY holds the dubious honor of being the only zombie movie--yeah, I'll go on a limb here and admit it--to bring me to tears. But, as Eiko tells us, it's okay to cry until you feel better.

Highly, highly recommended.


Despite their tendency to clone just about every successful American film, Italian horror film producers of the '70s and '80s were surprisingly reticent when it came to sequels. Though many rush-job productions were slapped with a 2 or 3 after their titles to mislead undiscriminating viewers, very few Italian horror films begat a legitimate sequel. 1988's ZOMBI 3 stands as a strong indicator on why that may be.

Fans of Lucio Fulci's ZOMBI 2 (itself masquerading as a follow-up to Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, which of course went by ZOMBI in Pastaland) slavered for a sequel throughout the 1980's to no avail. When the moment finally arrived, anticipation quickly soured into disappointment. The final product fared so poorly it never even garnered a straight-to-video release, circulating stateside on the bootleg circuit before it garnered a legit DVD label.

A number of factors contributed to the film's failure, not the least of which was that the Italian film industry had changed (as any horror fan will tell you, Italian films took a nosedive into Sucksville near the late-eighties). Adding to the problem was Fulci's poor health, exacerbated by the grueling conditions of shooting in the Phillipines, which made filming unusually difficult. When Fulci's final cut ran short, hack director extraordinaire Bruno Mattei was brought in to pad the film to an acceptable running time. Of course, the fact that the movie used a script by Claudio Fragasso (the man responsible for bringing TROLL 2 into the world) as its starting point probably doomed the project from the get-go.

The zombies of ZOMBI 3 are brought about by Death One, a scientifically-engineered formula with no discernable purpose but to raise the dead. When one of those contaminated by Death One are incinerated, the ashes are spread into the air, quickly infecting the surrounding area and producing more zombies (a plot point I'm sure Dan O'Bannon would find awfully familiar). The military and their scientists scramble to find a cure and contain the outbreak, while we follow the exploits of an RV full of party-minded teens who encounter the zombies.

To no one's surprise, the many hands involved with ZOMBI 3 ensure that the finished movie resembles nothing remotely like Fulci, let alone the previous movie. The film lacks the dark, moody atmosphere on ZOMBI 2, with a cast comprised on bland, indistinguishable ciphers, none of whom possess the (albeit limited) presence of, say, Ian McCullough or Tisa Farrow. Nor does the movie have any memorable sequences; here there's no equivalent to the zombie-vs-shark or eye-skewering scenes that made the original a grungy classic (though the self-propelled severed head is good for a laugh). We do get a run-in with a machete-wielding zombie at a gas station--a scene that would've been great if Fulci had let it run more than a minute and a half--and a zombie birth (though the oversized claw that bursts forth at the climax of this scene renders it unbelievably stupid), but neither of these setpieces can compete with anything from the first film. And let's not forget the heavy-handed ecological message shoehorned in between zombie scenes, narrated by a jive-talking DJ.

I guess if one must find something positive about ZOMBI 3, it'd be that it saves you the trouble of having to watch THE CRAZIES, HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD, and AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH in separate viewings by cramming them into one convenient package.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE hails from the twilight years of the drive-in era (1984, to be exact), and in the grand tradition of drive-in flicks, the title promises far more than the actual film delivers. Zombies? No, not really. Island? You know, I'm not really sure. Massacre? That's debatable.

A group of tourists (including former Playboy centerfold and disgraced Congressional spouse Rita Jenrette) embark on a Caribbean island vacation, with a sightseeing package that includes the performance of zombie-raising voodoo rituals. (Don't call your travel agent just yet, folks; the aforementioned zombie-raising is little more than watching the dead person's fingernails grow.) When the tour guide and bus driver mysteriously disappear, the turistas are forced to make their way through the jungle to find shelter, while an unseen figure (or figures) picks them off, TEN LITTLE INDIANS-style.

The zombie elements are pretty much forgotten once the actual plot gets underway, opting instead to cash in on the then-lucrative slasher genre (indicated by the bland Henry Manfredini score) with uninspired stalk-and-kill scenes. Too bad director John N. Carter films these scenes in such a perfunctory manner that it's impossible to wring even a cheap thrill out of them. Less convincing than its special effects is its jungle backdrop, resembling more the producer's backyard than the imposing green hell the cast thinks it is.

The most irritating thing about ZOMBIE ISLAND MASSACRE (at least, in terms of this blog) is that the zombies are merely a gimmick, window dressing for what is ultimately nothing but an inane, convoluted cocaine deal (I'd explain further, but thanks to the atrocious sound quality and amateur-night performances I couldn't really follow along, though by that point, I frankly didn't care).

Scooby-Doo saw more action on his trip to Zombie Island. I'd recommend that dog over this one.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


This movie had me at zombie clowns. Seriously, when I first heard about this flick my reaction was that it was sort of like pizza--with sure-fire ingredients, even the poorest execution would yield at least a half-decent product.

Well, all I'll say is that if director Steve Sessions invites you over for pizza, make sure he's ordering from Domino's.

Where do I begin with what's hopelessly wrong with this misfire? How about with the fact that Sessions could've made his undead zombie janitors, or zombie meter maids, or zombie used car salesman and still made the exact same movie. He should've borrowed a page from the Chiodo brothers; when they made KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, not only did they embrace the ridiculousness of their premise, but they incorporated the iconography of clowns and circuses, turning them on their ear for horrifically comedic possibilities. Sessions lets every single opportunity to utilize those same images wither on the vine, ignored, opting to go only as far as putting orange wigs on skull-faced zombies.

The film's central premise deals with the coastal town of Port Emmett, a sleepy little burg in the path of an impending hurricane. As various residents (including classic scream queen Brinke Stevens and her heir apparent Debbie Rochon) batten down their various hatches, we learn that Port Emmett has a dark stain in its past--namely, the circus train that derailed off a bridge, killing the passengers on board, whose bodies still remain at the bottom of the river. Stevens gives us this history lesson in the film's very first conversation (kicking off your tale with a clunky backstory is a BAD IDEA, Steve). A simple flashback/prologue--and despite your meager budget, one still could've been feasible--would've done a far better job of establishing the film's mood, as well as being infinitely less boring. (Even worse, Sessions has two different characters go over almost the exact same exposition midway through the movie; there's a dictum in writing classes, Steve, that I suggest you learn: show, don't tell.)

The zombies, miffed that their bodies were never retrieved nor were their deaths memorialized, rise from their watery graves and exact their revenge, descending upon the townsfolk to slaughter and eat them. Session never bothers to explain why they've waited until now to do this, or why they're compelled to eat their victims if their motivation is vengeance.

This blend of John Carpenter's THE FOG and Amando de Ossorio's BLIND DEAD series might've worked if we were given the opportunity to know our characters. In the first 30 minutes we're introduced to 8 people, and all we learn of them are: one's in a wheelchair, Brinke Stevens used to live in Port Emmett and has a personal connection to the tragedy, one's a coke-snorting security guard, and that two of them are on the lam after killing a priest.

(Let me stop for a second here to address that latter pair. Sessions serves up a Mickey and Mallory-type couple on a presumed cross-country crime spree--indicated by Mallory's observation, "This is some stark weather," the closest this movie ever gets to being clever--yet even these two aren't given the chance to develop into anything more than cardboard cut-outs. It also doesn't help that they're played by the two shittiest actors in the cast.)

What Sessions intends to be the plot is really nothing more than flitting between a series of unrelated vignettes that have no real payoff other than the characters' demise. He doesn't seem to grasp the fact that mere external trappings of horror films--and there are quite a few potentially frightening sequences here, accented by Sessions's Carpenter-esque synthesizer score--have zero impact if we have no connection to the flesh-and-blood people in the story.

Even going by the one-dimensional standards of most cheapjack horror flicks, DEAD CLOWNS makes no attempt to make its characters human. The majority of the protagonists spend their time alone with no interaction with anything save the zombies. Not only does this not illuminate them, but it creates not a whit of tension or conflict. And while we're on the subject, why in God's name would you hire someone like Debbie Rochon, an actress whose presence has salvaged many a B-movie, and give her absolutely no dialogue?

But Sessions doesn't limit his mistakes to characterization. Practically every single sequence fails in one way or another, whether it's the inconsistent use of calliope music that heralds the zombies' arrival (a touch that could've been effective in the right hands), or the placement of hilariously inappropriate details; a good example of this is when Sessions attempts an homage to ZOMBIE's infamous eye-gouging scene that not only substitutes a turkey timer for a ten-inch splinter, but builds up to it with (I kid you not) a drumroll. Though Sessions does manage to sneak a few good shots in--particularly the initial rising of the zombies, marred mostly by its brevity--he missteps more often than not, resulting in a movie that'll have you checking your watch almost instantly.

Oh, and let's not forget the ending. Honestly, as boneheaded and repeatedly off-the-mark as DEAD CLOWNS is, I'd recommend it for the sole pleasure of witnessing the most side-splittingly stupid resolution I've ever seen. How stupid? Let's just say that if your life depends on you making a sign, you may want to consider using permanent ink.

The fact that Lionsgate picked this up should give hope to all fledgling filmmakers out there, that no matter how wretched your end result is, somebody will distribute it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Upon its release, Danny Boyle's 28 DAYS LATER was praised by critics for revolutionizing the zombie genre--not only did it never use the "Z" word, but its "zombies" were fast-moving humans that were the result of science gone awry--but stalwart horror fans knew this had all been done before in Umberto Lenzi's NIGHTMARE CITY, a movie which never uses the "Z" word and features fast-moving "zombies" that were the result of science gone awry. (Though I think we can all agree Boyle did it with far more finesse.)

Instead of a virus, the creatures in this 1980 Italian release are people mutated from exposure to atomic radiation, with superhuman strength and a need for fresh human blood (Lenzi also throws in some pseudo-scientific babble that says the only way to kill them is a shot to the head). They first make their appearance at a metropolitan airport, disgorging from an unmarked plane to initiate an all-out slaughter (this early scene, with the zombies slashing throats and burying axes into skulls, is the first of many gory setpieces the film has to offer). Soon the infection spreads--though it's never made clear who the infection spreads to, since the zombies mutilate pretty much everyone who crosses their paths--threatening to contaminate the entire populace. The plot switches between parallel story lines, one involving a reporter (Hugo Stiglitz, about as lackluster a hero as you can find) and his wife who attempt to flee the outbreak, the other involving an ineffectual military trying to contain it (and worrying ceaselessly about a state of emergency being declared).

Lenzi has prided himself on the fact that NIGHTMARE CITY is a message film, warning the public of the dangers of nuclear power and its catastrophic consequences. Lenzi also adds a subplot criticizing the media for withholding facts and manipulating the truth, but neither of the arguments ring true, lacking any real conviction behind them. The movie is much more interested in delivering cheap thrills as extras in gloppy makeup rush from one scene to another, carving prosthetic breasts and slurping Karo syrup with gleeful abandon. But the film's greatest misstep is its circular non-ending, which reveals Stiglitz has dreamed the whole thing. He of course proceeds to the airport as an unmarked plane makes its landing and (as the closing crawl intones) THE NIGHTMARE BECOMES REALITY . . . (Has anyone ever thought this type of ending works? Even if you don't know how to close your story, even the stupidest, most contrived twist is favorable to this.)

For all its considerable flaws, NIGHTMARE CITY still makes for an entertaining 92 minutes. Lenzi keeps the action moving at a rapid clip (though not fast enough to forget just how moronic it all is), and never skimps of the red stuff. A sprinkle of nudity should please prurient viewers, though most of the breasts on display don't stay attached very long. In short, it provides what fans of Italian zombie/gore flicks watch them for.

Monday, November 5, 2007


When I first announced this blog, several people asked me if I'd be including any films involving Jesus Christ; after all, they'd say, Jesus was the original zombie. A brief search on the internet yielded very little in the way of movies centered on the O.Z., though it appears that a few independent filmmakers have started picking up the zombie/cannibalistic aspects of the story of Christ. (I think it's safe to say that this is one premise that will stay in the indie domain; I can't imagine any producer greenlighting a significant budget to a project that would be greeted with a guaranteed shitstorm of controversy.)

CORPUS DELECTI was one of the first discoveries of that search. This seven-minute short from writer-producer-director Ian Hunter doesn't shy away from the taboo elements of his premise; rather, given the movie's URL of, it strives to be the most sacrilegious film ever made. And if bad filmmaking really is a sin, then Hunter is on the right track.

Filmed in one continuous shot, the movie kicks off with Jesus returning to life after three days on the cross (the conversion to zombiedom represented by a quick flash of negative film). A trio of apostles, among them Judas Iscariot, help him to the ground and attempt to nourish him with bread and wine; but it turns out that this new Jesus is more interested with their flesh and makes of fast snack of them (Judas's entrails, Jesus tells us, taste of betrayal) before reviving them as his undead minions. A Roman Centurian happens upon the blasphemy, but is no match for the zombies and is swiftly consumed. Satan caps off the proceedings by showing up to either laugh maniacally, or start a belching contest, I couldn't tell.

With its sepia-tinted photography and ominous synthesizer score, Hunter had the means to make a serious, disturbing film, but by choosing to go over-the-top and "hardcore," his end result is unintentionally hilarious and trite. The minimal performances, conveyed in poorly-rendered voiceovers, are especially weak, but the worst offender is Jesus himself, who delivers his lines in the Cookie Monster growl of a death metal vocalist. The dialogue alternates between overwrought and downright ludicrous, such as when Christ tells the Centurion, "Rome wasn't eaten in a day!"

The film did go on to win the Scrapshots Film Competition, so perhaps is barebones style was a neccesary evil. Maybe if Hunter gave his material another go-round, focusing on the implications of the son of God returning as the living dead rather then mashing Lucio Fulci into a Scandinavian black metal video, his film might get a more deserving chance.

(Special thanks to Michael Chase for bringing this movie to my attention.)

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Only recently has Spain been acknowledged for its accomplishments in horror cinema, having quietly produced several bona fide classics in the genre for almost 40 years. Probably no one is better known for his contribution to Spanish horror films than Paul Naschy; though best known for his lycanthropic anti-hero Waldemar Daninsky, he took a break from werewolves in 1973 to film this undead offering for director Leon Klimovsky.

Though the film was no doubt inspired by the international success of Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Naschy, who also wrote the screenplay, is more interested in the voodoo and occultic aspects of zombiedom. In fact, Naschy seems to believe voodoo and Satanism are synonymous, though that may have been intentional--this was 1973, after all, when a certain Devil-oriented movie was breaking box-office records.

Naschy begins his story in London (a London in which everyone speaks Spanish, including the local Hindi mystic). Elvire Irving (played by the single-monikered Rommy) receives word that her cousin Gloria has been murdered and travels to the town of Llangwell, another English community where the townsfolk no habla ingles, to comfort her family. And even though her remaining family members are soon murdered after her arrival, Elvire doesn't bother to cut her trip short; she's got the barrel-chested Indian swami Krisna (Naschy, in one of three roles) to help dry her eyes. He's such a caring person that Elvire doesn't even notice the fact that not only has Krisna purchased a home in Llangwell, where three murdered families have to ties to India--and that the murders were committed with ceremonial Hindi blades. I probably would've chalked it up to coincidence, myself. But there's more to Krisna--too much more, really--than one suspects.

Elvire also doesn't seem too terribly concerned that Gloria and the other female victims are returning from the grave as pasty-faced, bug-eyed zombies, resurrected in a voodoo rite by a fellow in giallo-killer garb and a collection of cheesy Halloween masks. The zombies are used as pawns of this mysterious figure's revenge (which, since he's not a zombie, technically makes the film's title a lie), who's got a painfully convoluted backstory which each victim's family.

VENGEANCE OF THE ZOMBIES has a good bit going for it--evocative day-for-night photography, eerie cemetery backdrops, and some well-executed setpieces. One in particular is a trippy dream sequence in which Elvire's sacrificed in a ritual to Baron Samedi, the movie's Satanic stand-in (a horned Naschy in freaky Devil makeup). The movie's lagging pace tends to dull the impact of these scenes, not to mention the horrendously inappropriate jazz soundtrack that destroys any chance to film has to be truly scary.

VENGEANCE is sure to please Naschy fans, or anyone else into oddball Eurohorror. Zombie freaks expecting some hardcore gut-munching will be disappointed, though there are a couple of messy decapitations and throat-skewerings, not to mention the death by lager can. And since the DVD uses the original Spanish-language track with subtitles, you can turn the volume and enjoy it without the worst film score ever recorded.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Richard Matheson's novel I AM LEGEND is the Rodney Dangerfield of horror stories--it gets no respect, at least when it comes to Hollywood. Whether it's the counterculture apocalypse of THE OMEGA MAN or the upcoming Will Smith suckfest, making Matheson's straightforward tale into a comparably excellent film is apparently beyond the means of most filmmakers.

But that nearly wasn't the case. Matheson sold the rights to LEGEND to Hammer in the mid-1950s, just as the studio was making a name for themselves with sci-fi/horror hybrids like THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT. Titled THE NIGHT CREATURES, Matheson's screenplay was deemed too horrific by the British censors, and the script (bearing Matheson's bottom-scraping pseudonym Logan Swanson) eventually wound up being shot in 1964 as an Italian-made cheapie, subsequently distributed by AIP. (This wasn't the last time the book came close to becoming a classic film; Ridley Scott was to have helmed a large-scaled version in the early nineties, but was scrapped due to its then-staggering $100-million budget.)

And though the film refers to its creatures as vampires, the undead of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH--wandering corpses the result of a widespread infection--were the prototype for what would become the modern zombie. George Romero has freely admitted using Matheson's novel as inspiration for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but I wouldn't be surprised if he glanced at this film once or twice for reference; the sequences in which the undead besiege Vincent Price in his home are clearly echoed at Romero's farmhouse. (My favorite detail is that the film takes place in the future of 1968, an ironic coincidence not only because of the release of DEAD but the tumultuous state of the nation then as well.)

As for the film itself, while it's not the potential masterpiece it may have been at Hammer, it's still a far cry from the debacle many have claimed it to be. Director Sidney Salkow does an adequate job of substituting Italian locations for American settings, and despite several lulls in the story, the film contains enough scares to keep the viewer interested (the scene in which Price's wife returns as the undead is a creepy highlight). Even the horrendous dubbing--used due to its international pedigree, no doubt--doesn't detract too much from the overall atmosphere; the only time it's really a deterrent is during Price's monologues, when it's often obvious or redundant. I would've much preferred a starker, more isolated version of Price going through his day-to-day activities without the narration.

Thanks to the film's public domain status just about every budget DVD label has released this, so it shouldn't be too hard to track down a copy. In the annals of horror film history, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is the corner zombies turned in transforming from voodoo-powered slaves to flesh-eating ghouls.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Marius Penczner's I WAS A ZOMBIE FOR THE FBI was a favorite in the early days of cable television, and it's not difficult to see why. This 1982 cult classic jams so many wild plot twists and sci-fi homages into its 75-minute running time that it's hard not to get swept up by its manic charm.

Structured like the classic Republic serials (complete with chapter breaks), ZOMBIE'S everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plot kicks off when a pair of Strangers (Anthony Isbell and Rick Crowe, a great pair of villains who deliver their lines in soft, eerie monologues) crash their UFO on the outskirts of Central City. They recruit a pair of human criminals as their henchmen, the Brazzo brothers (co-writer John Gillick and Laurence Hall), to help carry out their scheme--infiltrate the Uni-Cola soda company and doctor the formula of their famous Health Cola so that it turns its drinkers into mindless, slave-like zombies. Unfortunately for them, Federal Agents Rex Armstrong and Ace Evans (James Rasberry and Larry Rasberry, respectively) are on the case, and will stop at nothing to foil their fiendish plan.

From its opening scene, the movie rolls along at a brisk pace, delivering far more thrills and livelier dialogue than the serials that served as their inspiration. (One minor quibble: I would've loved a scene in which the fedora-wearing Feds mix it up with the aliens without losing their hats.) The story barely stops to rest as it hurls one gleefully kitschy turn after another, alternating between humor, action, and mild suspense.

Because of its subject matter, ZOMBIE has the ability to use its low budget and limited resources to its advantage. Several times primitive computer-generated effects are used to create backgrounds and embellish action sequences; these crude visuals help enhance the engagingly surreal feel of the picture. (The same can also be said of the climactic scene involving the ZBeast, a stop-motion minion of the Strangers that should please fans of Harryhausen-era FX).

Even if you're not familiar with the sci-fi and G-Men films of the 1950's, I WAS A ZOMBIE FOR THE FBI is a flat-out fun experience.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Gary Ugarek's DEADLANDS: THE RISING opens with a disclaimer, stating that the film has nothing to do with Pinnacle's video game or RPG, nor Brian Keene's novel THE RISING. And while I'm sure this is all to avoid any legal fallout, wouldn't it have been easier to just think of another title?

The 2006 movie is one of the many shot-on-video DIY zombie flicks that've proliferated over the past few years. Though it manages to sidestep many of the usual pitfalls that these types of productions face--particularly a non-professional cast and restrictive budget--it doesn't use what it has available to its advantage.

The movie begins in April 2009, with the survivor of a zombie apocalypse recounting the end of the living world. The story then backtracks to the previous October, when an unspecified terrorist attack in the Baltimore area inexplicably sets off an uprising of the undead.

Tackling an end-of-the-world scenario on a miniscule budget is a recipe for disaster, but Ugarek wisely focuses his attention on a single community and a handful of characters. Unfortunately, he doesn't do anything with these characters except provide them with flat, boring dialogue that neither illuminates them as people, nor advances the plot; which is a shame, since the majority of the leads (notably Dave Cooperman, Michelle Wright, and Ugarek himself) aren't bad actors. It would've been interesting to see what these talented amateurs would've done with a meatier script.

In fact, the lightweight screenplay (written by Ugarek) is the source of most of the movie's problems. The first act attempts to build a mounting feeling of dread as it leads to the outbreak that almost works, but would've been far more effective if we'd gotten to know the characters better. Even the initial appearance of the zombies--creeping out of the mist to descend on a cluster of gridlocked motorists--comes close to being an exciting setpiece, but lackluster action (save for a few munched necks and torn entrails) keeps it from really taking off. (Ugarek also can't seem to decide if his zombies are the classic slow-moving kind, or today's faster model, using whichever's convenient at the moment.)

What really damns the movie is that there's no real story here beyond the initial premise. Characters flee for safer ground, while others look for them--all without a hint of tension, conflict, or suspense. A group of secondary characters gather at a shelter set up by the National Guard (where all the subpar actors were apparently banished) for no other reason than to be served up as a zombie buffet--though we are shown a sole survivor of the attack, whose entire existence in the film has no payoff. The story wanders along on its own inertia until its closing scenes; six months after the outbreak, our core characters are holed up together amid dwindling supplies, wondering if they're the last people left. Then night falls and a sudden army of the undead appears to invade the house, just as the end credits begin to roll.

It turns out that THE RISING is the first part of an ongoing series. I'm sure Ugarek probably only had enough resources to shoot the first hour of his opus, but he would've been far better off saving his money until he could afford to make an entire movie. As it stands, DEADLANDS: THE RISING is little more than a slight prologue to a (presumably) bigger story that fails to whet the appetite of its audience for what's to come.