Friday, February 29, 2008


Yet another contestant in the DIARY OF THE DEAD short film competition, and the first to make me realize this contest wasn't the godsend I first thought. DANCE, DEAD BOY, DANCE is a comedic take--I think so; it's not funny, but I can't image these guys were serious--on the material. What you get is a "documentary" about a pair of survivors who teach a zombie to play the Dance Dance Revolution video game, a premise so utterly stupid that Charles E. Cullen is probably snickering. Obnoxious, overly self-indulgent, and nowhere near as funny as the uncredited chuckleheads think it is, I was tempted to not include the link and spare you the misery. But then, I'd also deprive you the chance of voting this one down.



Another entry in the DIARY OF THE DEAD contest (oh, how I thank the gods for this; now I don't have to sweat finding 365 of these damn things--at the rate they're going, I could probably devote the entire project to these videos), GEORGE A. ROMERO'S DEAD is simple: a police detective interrogates a murder suspect about his past deeds, only to find the subject is the reanimated corpse of the great director. While it's not the surprise ending the video description claims--hint, don't reveal your twist in the title--I did like the concept, and I'm surprised it hasn't been done before. The uncredited actor who plays the cop isn't convincing, but the filmmaker(s), also anonymous, compensate with some nice visual touches, namely some decent editing that cribs from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and a few interesting zombies.

All in all, not a bad little film.



A short film by Mike Lombardo of Reel Splatter Productions, DEMONSTRATION OF THE DEAD is an entry in the DIARY OF THE DEAD contest, in which contestants submit their own media-bites of the zombie outbreak. DEMONSTRATION was the first clip I viewed, and still remains my favorite.

Shot as an on-location news segment about a living-dead rights group, the short's premise isn't exactly fresh, but is played with a clever sense of humor and affection for the genre (I love the protesters' chant, "Hey, hey, George A., how many undead you kill today?"). Fans of written zombies will get a kick out of the "celebrity" cameo by author Brian Keene, who vainly tries to deflect the reporter's accusations. It's a great little bit. (Keene may not be the greatest actor in the world, but he does show some comedic flair--though his reaction to the ending of THE RISING is, shall we say, rather genuine.)

Because it's part of an ongoing competition, I won't include the video here (as is the case with any entries I review, at least until the contest's over), but you can follow the link below and vote Booyah to this well-made short.



Director Peter Jackson found himself in a strange position with DEAD ALIVE (the clumsy, Trimark-inflicted title of what was originally called BRAINDEAD). Th 1992 film had catapaulted him from relative obscurity, but he was still several years away from the groundbreaking LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, beginning what could be dubbed his fan-boy period--a period, I'm sure, many wish he'd never emerged from.

We're all familiar with the movie, so I'll skip the usual synopsis. The film still holds up well as a slapstick splatter film (splatstick?) but I found it interesting viewing it after Jackson realized his dream of remaking KING KONG. In many ways DEAD ALIVE is a dry-run for that Hollywood epic, not only the references to Skull Island and its racially-insensitive depiction of its natives (not calling Jackson a racist, he was simply mimicking a movie he loved), but it was here that Jackson took his first tentative steps away from the frenetic, Raimi-esque camerawork that marked BAD TASTE to a more in-depth and developed style of filmmaking. It's kind of odd to say, given the movie features a farting pile of guts that moves of its own accord, but DEAD ALIVE's a turning point in Jackson's maturity as a director.

We see it early on, as Jackson establishes a fairy tale-like framework for his story, one that appears to be about predestined love before revealing the most dysfunctional mother-son relationship since Norman and Mrs. Bates. Jackson employs quite a few newfound flourishes--one of my favorites is when Lionel's Mum suffers the effects of the Rat Monkey's bite as he loses his virginity, a bit of thematic symbolism the film will return to later--before doing what he does best: setting in motion a series of splattery but undeniably funny sequences as Lionel deals with his snowballing zombie problem, ratcheting up the tension (on both a character and dramatic level) while carefully raising the outrageousness until reaching its legendary, balls-to-the-wall slaughterfest climax.

As he would go on to do quite famously (or, rather, infamously) in KONG, Jackson allows his climactic assault to go on longer than necessary, dulling the edge of much of its effect; at times during the 30+ minute-long setpiece it feels as though the first two acts were an excuse to stage a wanton, gleefully unrelenting parade of disembowelments, beheadings, and other juicy activities, though as a fan of horror and gore it's hard to hate a sequence which makes the bloodbath Bruce Campbell endured at the end of THE EVIL DEAD look like a refreshing shower. Jackson earned it with his characterization and plot, even if he does get a little self-indulgent.

The culmination of this sequence includes a mutated, oversized version of Mum that also brings to mind Jackson's KONG. The sometimes-awkward but effective puppet serves as not only another homage to the original film, but does an excellent job of embodying the conflict of her relationship with Lionel, best illustrated when Mum intones, "no one will ever love you like your mother," as her womb opens to trap him.

While not exactly cerebral--though it's got plenty of brains, ha-ha--DEAD ALIVE is a curious animal: an intelligent and often tender gore film. Many fans cried foul when Jackson moved on to the more mainstream terrain of HEAVENLY CREATURES, but after pushing the splatter envelope to its (il)logical extreme, the progression was inevitable.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


1998's NIGHT OF THE BUMS, a steaming pile of Virginia-lensed horse crap, is the first "film" I've encountered by writer/director Charles E. Cullen, a filmmaker of such miniscule talent and astonishing incoherency that good ol' Ed Wood would've sneered in derision at this flick. I've built up a fair tolerance for lousy directors over the years, but Cullen's "technique" feels so intentionally wrongheaded--not in a sense that he's breaking the rules on purpose, but that he's extraordinarily clueless on how to make a movie--that BUMS goes beyond annoying to downright mind-boggling.

Alice Cooper-lookalike Cullen introduces the film in a pointless, meandering segment (I don't recall ever seeing Welles or Kubrick set the scene for their films--hell, even that soulless hack Michael Bay stays out of the picture), before thrusting the viewer into his lunacy. I'll be damned if I can recall the plot--damned if I can remember if there is one--but it has to do with a trio of witches who, for one reason or another, leave bottles of poisoned hooch around town for the local homeless population to consume. Once they drink the stuff, the homeless--or "bums," to use the title's oh-so-sensitive term--become flesh-hungry zombies (they also adopt the ability to teleport, inexplicably shifting from a city locale to the woods to feed on their victims). Such an intricate tale obviously needs as narrator, but instead of sticking to a simple voice-over, Cullen repeatedly cuts from the "action" to a dimestore-decorated set as a whiskey-swilling geriatric fills in the gaps.

Brain-dead storyline notwithstanding, BUMS is really nothing more than series of unrelated vignettes--and a staggeringly dull series at that--alternating between color and black-and-white for no reason, strung together with shitty gore (gotta love the shoddy rubber bat with an extra-long tail on visible wires). Cullen even adds particularly vile segment involving a disemboweled baby, but when a barely-articulate puppet shows up spewing exposition, you realize that Cullen is a certifiable madman (note: NOT A COMPLIMENT!) who's got no fucking idea what he's doing. Then again, you'll figure that out once Cullen subtitles perfectly understandable English.

A brief glance at Cullen's filmography shows another zombie film, THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN. Please, I'm begging you, somebody send me 255 zombie-film titles so I don't have to watch it. My sanity may depend upon it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


One of the many shot-on-video duds produced by J.R. Bookwalter in the early '90s (presumably to squander the goodwill he earned with THE DEAD NEXT DOOR), 1991's ZOMBIE COP is a simplistic, one-note bore that tries to mine fresh ground in the zombie field, but doesn't have the necessary script or money to pull it off.

Michael Kemper stars as Gill, a blond-mulleted supercop cursed to undeath during a ridiculously feeble standoff with a voodoo-practicing serial killer (must be a tight city budget, since only two cops get sent to a hostage situation). The killer is named Dr. Death who not only sports the worst Caribbean accent ever attempted--I c'n do betta dan dat, mon--also keeps snacked-upon body parts in his freezer, a detail no doubt inspired by the then-current Jeffrey Dahmer case. Once returned as a zombie, Gill and his partner try to track down Death in as dry and uneventful manner as possible.

Even if ZOMBIE COP wasn't shot on a budget that couldn't get a family of four into Disney World, I could overlook that, but Bookwalter (hiding under the alias Lance Randas) lets so many problems slip through that a lack of funds is the least of his worries. The actors are predictably limp--pay special attention to Bill Morrison as Buddy, the worst actor out of the last 109 films reviewed here thus far--which is at least consistent with the flat, Point-A-to-Point-B storyline; at least DEAD HEAT attempted a little mystery.

Bookwalter also throws in some extremely boneheaded touches, like swathing Gill in bandages, Invisible Man-style (to keep him inconspicuous, no less), and the crappiest convenience store hold-up ever shot (complete with a hideously phony and offensive Hindi clerk), before heading to the woods for a climactic car chase about as removed from BULLITT as you can get. If you like watching community theater washouts hamming it up on the roof of a car as the background slowly lumbers by, ZOMBIE COP will be a little bit of heaven (actually, you'll probably hate this crude, boring mess as much as the rest of us).


Don't let the title fool you; this greasy slice of Spanish exploitation has nothing to do with exorcism, but it was a horror flick released in 1973, which meant somebody was going to cram that lucrative word in somewhere. No, director Manuel Cano--who made an appearance on this blog with his subsequent effort THE SWAMP OF THE RAVENS--riffs off THE MUMMY in this mostly bloodless affair.

What promises to be a gleefully sleazy romp (in a decidedly un-P.C. prologue, two Caucasian actors playing "natives" in black makeup are punished for adultery in a voodoo ritual light on coherency, but heavy on jiggling indigenous titty) soon devolves into a leaden, dialogue-heavy melodrama about a mummified voodoo priest and his search for the reincarnation of his long-lost love (yawn). It's all been done before, and several times since, usually with a greater demonstration of skill.

Here's a more watchable version courtesy of Gangrene Widescreen:

Monday, February 25, 2008


It wasn't under the best of circumstances that I saw DEVIL HUNTER, Jess Franco's 1980 grungy attempt to cash in on the burgeoning jungle/cannibal genre. The print that I viewed was not only edited, with the copious frontal nudity pixellated out (what, are we in Japan all of a sudden?) and an unfortunate "letterboxed" transfer consisting of a troublesome black matte across the lower third of the picture. So it's no surprise I didn't enjoy it, though with such a tedious and lackluster movie, I doubt a pristine Criterion Collection presentation would've fared much better.

After a brief introductory scene DEVIL HUNTER morphs into a silent, almost surreal montage of images and distorted electronic music that, as it's used for padding rather than artistic purposes, ends with no payoff; in fact, the film is largely made up of quick, repetitive shots (of bloody breasts, a close-up of teeth chewing flesh, endless tribal dances) without context that make it hard to determine just what the hell is going on. The wafer-thin plot concerns an actress (Ursula Fellner) on location in the African jungle who gets kidnapped and the Vietnam veteran (ZOMBIE's Al Cliver) who rescues her; but the real "star," if that's the right word, is the bug-eyed cannibal-zombie-whatsit who roams the scenery, chomping on the hearts of sacrificial victims.

For much of its running time, DEVIL HUNTER plays like a softcore version of Joe D'Amato's PORNO HOLOCAUST. Only instead of unattractive Italians humping each other's brains out we're treated to drawn-out but ultimately tame scenes of sexual sadism as Fellner is tormented by her captors. It's a long, slow ride, the kind of film that feels as if half an hour's elapsed when in reality it's been only five minutes; a lot of Franco's movies are uneventful, but they usually cast a stylish hypnotic spell that makes up for a lack of action--here, we get Franco at his hackiest, so no such luck.

The only real action occurs at the climax, when Cliver battles the cannibal-zombie dude (who belongs more in an alien-invasion flick with his red-rimmed golfball-eyes) at the top of a cliff, though thanks to the miniscule budget it fails to convey much immediacy. We simply see Cliver fighting the zombie--the latter's pixellated member wagging away, until Franco cuts to the bottom on the cliff, the creature lying in a tiny pool of blood.

If you really must see this, exert a little effort into tracking down an uncut print; the movie still won't be great, but at least you can see more of what's going on (such as Franco's lecherous camera angles--hey, if he's gonna linger on female genitalia, we might as well be able to see it). Insomniacs, your version awaits you via Netflix.


Shelley Long's decision to leave CHEERS at the height of its popularity to pursue a film career ranks as one of the biggest career gaffs in recent history, a move so misguided that even David Caruso makes fun of her for it. And although Long's post-CHEERS resume is peppered with clunkers, it's a sure bet that this 1987 alleged romantic comedy clunks more than the others.

On the surface it would seem the movie'd have a shot at least at mediocrity, given a screenplay by COMPROMISING POSITIONS author Susan Isaacs and a cast that not only includes Long (who, in the rare chances this film gives her, retains some of the effervescence that made her a TV star), Gabriel Byrne, Sela Ward, and Corbin Bernsen, all of whom are capable of carrying scripts beneath their talents. (Most surprising to me was the DAY OF THE DEAD's executive producer Salah M. Hassanein filling the same role here; even CREEPSHOW's Carrie Nye has a brief turn as a gossipy socialite). But the movie lies inert throughout its entire running time, so much that it'd be more interesting to watch outtakes of these actors interacting between takes.

The basic premise--Long, the accident-prone wife of ambitious plastic surgeon Bernsen, chokes to death and returns one year later to find her family, save for the her wacky New Age sister who brought her back, has moved on--is problematic but serviceable. Working against the film is Long's character, a klutzy housewife with such low self-esteem she belongs on Dr. Phil's show rather than the arm of a seven-figure spouse. It's hard to wring laughs out of a scene in which such a person, or anyone for that matter, chokes to death on a chicken ball, but with the right comedic touch it could at least play on a broad, slapstick level. Director Frank Perry doesn't even try, who style is merely slapping together a series of scenes that, in correct chronological order, presents a semi-coherent idea. Once Long comes back from the dead, she finds that not only is her son a happy businessman and husband, but that her gold-digging friend Ward has moved in on Bernsen. This brings up the movie's second biggest flaw--we're supposed to feel sorry for Long's family, even though they're clearly happier now that she's gone, and it's supposed to be a tragedy that Bernsen's no longer in love with her; but hey, he's a career-minded douchebag that married his wife's best friend before she was cold in the ground! Long's just as better off without him as he is her! Yet we're supposed to give a shit!

Wait, I'm forgetting the kicker: unless Long finds true love before the next full moon, she'll become dead again. And despite clear indications that this is a good thing, the script force-feeds us a clumsy, labored "romance" with hunky doctor Byrne that never for a split-second generates anything resembling chemistry.

What purpose does this movie have to exist? The story itself has no conflict, no specific problem that needs resolved, and its execution creates drama that isn't there rather than letting it evolve naturally. Comedy comes in the form of Long's repeated pratfalls, which wear out their welcome somewhere around the ten-minute mark and show no signs of disappearing, even though they're increasingly annoying. Even the climax (I'm being charitable here, though with such a shallow excuse for a plot it's hard for the end to be anything but climactic) is as improbable as it is cutsey-poo, a suitably pat denouement for such a non-story.

You know what would make for better viewing? ANYTHING.

Don't believe me? See for yourself:



Due to the multitude of cinematic sins perpetrated by DAYBREAK, a 2007 short film from Will Turner, I've devised this list of things to keep in mind (because I'm tired of seeing the same shit over and over). So before you and your friends take the camcorder to the backyard, remember:

--Make sure the music you place over action sequences is appropriate. I like ska as much as the next guy, but it doesn't exactly convey the proper mood of a zombie film (unless your story takes place at a Reel Big Fish concert). If it's all you have available, do without. If it's part of your "aesthetic," get over yourself.

--Having a roomful of obnoxious gaming nerds sitting around talking about zombie-related what-ifs does not count as either characterization or foreshadowing. And for the obligatory screenshot of an established horror classic, always use the original version of DAWN.

--Slow zombies or fast zombies. Choose one or the other.

--Zombies are the soulless, sentient husks of the dead. Therefore, they should not cry out in pain when you hit them.

--Shaky hand-held camerawork is a tired and overdone technique. It sucks when done properly by professionals, Done by amateurs, it's nausea-inducing.

--Zombies in red gym shorts are scary, but not in the way they're supposed to be.

--Just because you really, really like zombie movies doesn't mean you're qualified to make one. A film, even one that runs fifteen minutes, tells a story, and let's-run-from-the-zombies-until-we-die or zombies-have-taken-over-the-world-and-I'm-all-that's-left isn't a story. This is especially frustrating when you assemble scenes that show a considerable amount of potential then fizzle without any payoff.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled bitchfest.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Often considered the nadir of the zombie subgenre, ZOMBIE LAKE is undeniable bad, and up until a few months ago was an easy contender for my All-Time Worst List. However, after this most recent viewing I couldn't help but detect a glint of . . . is craftsmanship too generous a word? Four months of embarrassing amateur productions has wreaked havoc on my perspective.

This 1980 Spanish-French co-production is frequently miscredited to Jess Franco (who was considered for the project, but dropped out over concerns of the low budget--a telling statement if there ever was one), but in actuality directorial duties were handled by Spaniard Julian de Laserna and French auteur Jean Rollin under the shared pseudonym J.A. Lazer. (Rollin also makes a brief appearance as a detective.) Given the film's obvious lack of funds and abbreviated shooting schedule--Rollin allegedly started with only two days' prep--it's a wonder it's even watchable, though having Rollin behind the camera helps immeasurably (I realize I may not be giving de Laserna his due, but ZOMBIE LAKE's best moments are consistent with Rollin's work).

Bad-movie buffs have a soft spot for ZOMBIE LAKE not for its story (lightweight tripe involving dead WWII soldiers emerging from the titular lake and preying on the inhabitants of an idyllic French village), but for its sheer incompetence; marvel at the opening sequence in which a nude sunbathing beauty (one of many--one thing the film's good at is padding) is attacked by zombies when she finally goes for a dip. Continuity errors aside, how can you not love a scene where undead soldiers lurch around the bottom of a pool, complete with strands of seaweed floating past a distinct exit sign. Evidently the filmmakers loved it too, since they repeat this scene at the movie's midpoint, upping the fleshy ante with a busload of teenage volleyball players. (I wouldn't be surprised if watching this bit with its opportunistic angles of splayed pubescent crotch lands you on some FBI list).

ZOMBIE LAKE is filled to the brim with unintentionally amusing bits that're entertaining in their own right--the eyesore design of Howard Vernon's mayoral office, gloriously low-rent battle sequences, the cheap green zombie makeup that rubs off onto their victims when they "feed"--but one notable aspect is a heartfelt subplot between a young girl and her zombified father. While no one's going to mistake it for something out of TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, it's apparent that Rollin was trying to elevate the film beyond mere hackwork, even if he wasn't entirely successful. He did, however, sow the thematic seeds that's he'd explore to much greater effect in the subsequent LIVING DEAD GIRL.

Add to the mix the placid pastoral atmosphere often found in Rollin's films and a recycled Daniel White score (rehashed from THE AWFUL DR. ORLOFF and FEMALE VAMPIRE), and you've got a tasty Eurotrash cocktail that won't win any awards but goes down easy and satisfying.


DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, an early horror offering from Florida schlock-peddler William Grefe, treads some pretty well-known ground: a long-dead Native American (Seminole? I don't think the film specifies, since one character simply refers to himself as "an Indian") rises from the dead when his final resting place is disturbed, a concept I'm pretty sure was old hat even in 1966.

After a neat gag involving the opening credits (in which they're presented on parchment found in Tartu's crypt--a money-saving move that gobbles all of Grefe's creativity) we're introduced to a scenario that'll become all-too-familiar: a gaggle of photogenic but personality-bereft teens head to a remote location--in this case, the party capital of the Florida Everglades--for a good time and run afoul of the titular menace. Crap-film aficionados may be previously inoculated for TARTU's stall tactics (such as long stretches of dialogue, extended "stalk" sequences that are light on suspense but heavy on the lulz, and gratuitous musical numbers--I still refuse to believe people once danced like that) before getting to the murderous fun. Those looking for a wall-to-wall bloodbath will be sorely disappointed, as Grefe barely pushes the parameters of a PG-rating, but what it's missing in the red stuff it compensates with knee-slapping hilarity (check out the early scene in which an anaconda "devours" its victim, as the actor wraps the snake around himself while emoting like a mofo).

Though his kill scenes are bad-movie gold, from the painfully fake rattlesnake attack to the annoying redhead who gets her arm gnawed off by an alligator, Tartu makes for a poor zombie. He doesn't do much more than open the lid of his coffin, preferring to take the form of "wild beasts" to spread his curse. He does climb out of his grave for the final ten minutes, though he inexplicable transforms from a skeletal zombie to a flesh-and-blood warrior for a weak showdown with the lead (before buying the farm in a pool of quicksand).

Fans of awful cinema might get a charge out of DEATH CURSE OF TARTU, but even they might need the assistance of Joel and the 'bots to make it through. The morbidly curious may want to give it a go, but I gotta tell you: I've seen cold molasses move quicker than this.


With a title like VAMPIRES VS. ZOMBIES you'd expect a battle royale of the living dead, the kind of monster-rally picture they don't make anymore. At the very least you can imagine a movie in which both vampires and zombies occupy a significant amount of the plot (or the screen) together. I'm guessing writer/director Vince D'Amato conjured a different scenario, since his 2004 film is a tepid vampire melodrama that attempts to be ambiguous and mysterious, but is simply confusing (or would be, if anyone gave a shit).

The movie kicks off with a WTF-inducing based-on-a-story credit by J. Sheridan LeFanu (note to D'Amato: just because your main character is a lesbian vampire named Carmilla doesn't entitle you to some royalty-free prestige; it does, however, make you look a clueless oaf) and progresses without the restraints of logic and cohesion. If D'Amato was interested in making a tamer echo of the myriad softcore girl-on-girl vampire flicks that'd be one thing, but by trying to "deepen" his film with a zombie subplot he accomplishes a whole lot of head scratchin' and not much else. Is this a pending-apocalypse set-up? From the precious little background D'Amato provides, it seems that only one radio station is aware of any zombie threat, and even they aren't exactly nonplussed. The zombie scenes themselves are brief clips arbitrarily shoehorned throughout the plot, feeling like an afterthought when somebody remembered the living dead were hot.

But even the limp vampire storyline suffers from an overall dearth of passion and conviction, as if no one involves in the production really cared (even the obligatory lesbian sex scenes lack spark). And if the director couldn't be concerned with his story and characters, why should we?


Tim Ritter, the videotape era's answer to Herschell Gordon Lewis and best known for TRUTH OR DARE: A CRITICAL MADNESS, followed up that slice of shot-on-video dementia with this 1987 tale of jealousy and revenge. Now, it's been a long time since I've seen TRUTH OR DARE, but even with the unreliable nature of memory it's hard to believe both features were made by the same person. Short on ingenuity but unrelentingly long on tedium and wasted opportunity, KILLING SPREE manages to cram an entire half-iota of story into 85 minutes.

Asbestos Felt--love that name--stars as Tom, an average schmo undergoing a little marital strife (though Felt's not a completely abysmal actor, he resembles more a roadie for the Allman Brothers Band than your typical everyman). See, Tom's a wee bit on the insecure side; not only does he not like the idea of his wife having a life outside the home, he tends to get insanely jealous--literally--when it comes to other men. When Tom finds his wife's diary, filled to bursting with purple-prosed descriptions of her fantasies of every male in the neighborhood, he finally snaps and embarks on the titular spree, setting up a dry, by-the-numbers series of increasingly asinine murders complete with buckets of cut-rate gore.

Formulaic plot aside, Felt's character is so hollow and one-dimensional that it's impossible to muster any concern ot sympathy. He's pushed into madness with no real motivation other than plot necessity, leaving his actions without emotion or impact (nor does it help that Tom's "tortured" voice-overs are too overwrought to be anything but mockable). Throw in some lengthy, pointless conversations, a couple of idiotic dream sequences, and some so-called comic relief (in the form of a constipated old lady who steals Tom's Fangorias) and you've got youtself one seriously interminable yawnfest.

And zombies? Yeah, they're here, appearing about fifteen minutes from the end as Tom's victims return from the dead to exact their predictable revenge, spouting inane puns and posing as a gimmicky plot contrivance.

If your cinematic tastes run toward the home movies of the criminally depraved, you might be able to tolerate KILLING SPREE. Those more attached to their wits will want to look elsewhere.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Remember a couple of days ago, when I complained about the difficulty of writing reviews of popular/classic movies? Well, I've got to admit, I'm utterly blank at the prospect of writing about not only one of the greatest films of all time--notice I didn't say "zombie" films, or "horror" films--but a landmark of the genre as well; when one thinks of a cinematic zombie today, chances are it's Romero's version that springs to mind. What am I gonna do?

Because I'll level with you: I honestly don't know what I can say that would bring anything fresh and new to the table. (I can, however, recommend Kim Paffenroth's GOSPELS OF THE LIVING DEAD: GEORGE ROMERO'S VISIONS OF HELL ON EARTH, a Bram Stoker Award-winning look at the series.) I don't think any horror film released in the last forty years has generated the same amount of academic study as NIGHT has, and I'm not sure I'm the man for that particular task, anyway; what am I going to do, tell you Romero's choice to cast an African-American in the lead--a practical decision, incidentally, than an artistic one--gained potency following the assassination of Martin Luther King? Well, duh.

In times like this I tend to go the autobiographical route, maybe giving a little insight into how these films impacted my life. But despite the film's legendary status, and the fact that it was filmed roughly an hour and a half from where I grew up, I didn't see it until I was probably sixteen or so, a fact that I'm rather ashamed to admit. I believe it was at an all-night horror fest with Joe Sidor (see THE EVIL DEAD's entry), where I also saw THE EXORCIST and the first two TEXAS CHAINSAWs for the the first time (in case you're wondering, yes, I didn't get a late start on the horror genre; it's a long, ugly story I'll probably share eventually, but not today). Liked the film a lot then, learned to love in the ensuing years. I'm willing to bet my experience was no different from a lot of my readers'.

So, if you catch me at a con sometime, or swing by the Movies when I'm working, ask me and I'll happily discuss the movie's merits with you. I just think our time with this blog is better spent with lesser known works. But before I go to shit on somebody else's hard work, I want to mention three things:

1. The movie is great. I wouldn't call it flawless, but it holds up well and I don't think time has done anything to dampen its effectiveness.

2. This blog, and others like it, wouldn't be here without it.

3. I'd personally like to invite Matt Groening to kiss my ass for declaring this movie "lame" on the Season 4 TREEHOUSE OF HORROR DVD commentary. Groening, who's milked the dessicated carcass of THE SIMPSONS for nigh on fifteen years now with the dispassionate avarice of a millionaire's great-nephew, is certainly entitled to his opinion, but the arrogant and disrespectful way his dismissed NIGHT on that track REALLY pissed me off.

Romero's been in the press lately, thanks to the impending release of his latest zombie film, DIARY OF THE DEAD. If you want a little further insight into how the man ticks, I've included links below. There is a little overlap of information, but both are must-reads for zombie fans.

The New York Times article is here.

The AV Club article is here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


TOXIC ZOMBIES--perhaps better known under the far cooler title BLOODEATERS or in its Video Nasty incarnation as FOREST OF FEAR--is the sole cinematic contribution of writer/producer/director Charles McCrann. This 1980 effort attempts to cover the same territory as George Romero, both thematically (well, it has zombies, anyway) and geographically, having been shot in western Pennsylvania. As someone who's grown up in the same region, I've always been fond of movies that've been filmed there, even if they're not particularly successful (case in point: John Russo's MIDNIGHT, which didn't work much as a horror film, except where it captured the bleak serenity of the area). But despite the familiar terrain, TOXIC ZOMBIES did little to engage or sustain my interest, thanks to an unbelievably amateurish cast and a general lack of filmmaking savvy.

The movie's premise is simple: a band of hippies gets doused in pesticide when their marijuana crop is dusted by a vaguely-defined federal agency (led by MARTIN's John Amplas, who's wasted here in a generic bad guy role). Turned into zombie-like maniacs, the toxic hippies roam the wilderness of the Keystone State looking for victims, which the screenplay is all too happy to provide. What promises to be a backyard version of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD never gets a chance to materialize; McCrann never gives us an opportunity to get to know the hippies, sketching them in the same broad strokes as your average slasher-film fodder, lessening any impact of their transformation (BLOOD at least tried to wring some tragedy, albeit exploitive, out of its situation). Once the hippies have started hunting humans, they're rendered as one-dimensional as possible, a vehicle to set up shallow scenes of gore. The victims, intended and otherwise, don't fare much better, as they're either unlikable (like the husband and father who dashes into the woods at the first glimpse of a zombie attack, leaving his wife behind) or just not credible as real human beings, due to a mixture of poor dialogue and equally subpar acting.

And although McCrann manages to work in a few gruesome scenes, the movie trudges along at too slowly a pace for them to have much of an effect. There's no energy, no tension, either within the story or between characters, so there's nothing that really propels the film other than the numbers in the corners of the screenplay's pages. Most viewers will probably fast-forward through most of the ennui to get to those one or two interesting gore scenes, if not shut it off altogether.

From what I could gather about McCrann, he was a financial executive and film buff who made TOXIC ZOMBIES presumably for his own amusement. Since he never made another film, it's hard to say if he hadn't enjoyed the experience, or felt the film was a failure (from a business end I don't think so, since it had a healthy run on cable), or had simply achieved his dream and that was that. Sadly, McCrann perished during the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th, so we'll never know if his directorial chops ever got the chance to develop.


I think this one's going to be tough, gang.

If previous entries are any indication, the hardest reviews to write so far have been movies that are either extremely well-known (I feel kinda stupid telling you guys about movies you're familiar with) or that are really good (I can't explain it, but it's much harder for me to sing praise--not that it's harder for me to enjoy a movie, but I find it incredibly challenging to extol a film without sounding like sycophantic, sound bite-generating critics like Gene Shalit). So given that today's entry--Sam Raimi's 1981 cult classic THE EVIL DEAD--matches both criteria, I'm afraid this review's going be pretty tough going. We'll at least be able to skip the standard plot synopsis.

Like a lot of genre fans, THE EVIL DEAD made quite an impression upon me the ifrst time I saw it. I was over at my good friend Kevin's--astute readers may remember him from the RE-ANIMATOR review--and I recall thinking the first half-hour was extraordinarily slow . . . but I also had a feeling that the impending payoff was going to be well worth the investment. Well, we all know how that one turned out, and I must say the combination of unrelenting grue and kinetic camerawork reduced me to a happy li'l puddle of jelly. (Kevin, on the other hand, had unexpected company drop in just after the infamous "tree scene"--much to his relief, I'm sure--and the memory of their bemused, slightly uncomfortable reaction was just as much fun as the film itself. Not as much fun as watching BLUE VELVET with my grandparents, but fun nonetheless.) A year or two later, this would be the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, my buddy Joe Sidor had lent me his VHS copy and I must've played that sucker thirty times, memorizing every single detail. It was easily among my three favorite horror flicks, coming on the heels of the aforementioned RE-ANIMATOR and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

But--and I'm afraid of losing any genre cred I may have earned with you people with this--I'm finding that the movie doesn't hold up as well as those other two. Even the sequel, which is really just a remake with more meat on its bones, seems to affect me less and less on subsequent viewings.

I'm not sure why that is. I don't really think it's the film itself--there's an almost palpable energy running throughout the proceedings, an unmistakable passion for the act of filmmaking that overrides any deficits in craft, and even those are minimal. The godawful climactic stop-motion effects aside, Raimi demonstrates a remarkable amount of skill in his debut feature; it's not much of a stretch to imagine him helming the most expensive movie of all time some twenty-five years later.

Or perhaps it's the so-called geek contingent. I'm not knocking anyone who loves the movie or its follow-ups, but THE EVIL DEAD has achieved a certain amount of ubiquity in horror circles. Thanks to Raimi's transition into a blockbuster director and Bruce Campbell's ascension to the top of the cult-film heroes list, even people that don't consider themselves hardcore horror fans (or people who think the genre began with HALLOWEEN back in 1978) love this flick. Hell, you can find a chainsaw-handed Ash on T-shirts at Wal-Mart, fer chrissakes. Is that my problem, then? That THE EVIL DEAD has emerged from beyond mere geekdom into mainstream culture? (Maybe not mainstream, but Bruce Campbell is doing Old Spice commercials, and I'm sure his history as Ash, or at least his SPIDERMAN cameos, are responsible for his landing the gig.) The surge of bile that rockets up my throat whenever I think of the upcoming remake tells me I might be on the right track.

Regardless of how I feel, or will feel in the future, THE EVIL DEAD is what it is. I'm sure as hell not going to convince the readership of this blog that it's not one of the ass-kickingest movies of all time. It is, I really believe that. I've just lost much of my initial enthusiasm, and I think that adrenaline rush is what makes the movie so damn fun. I suppose thirty viewings in three months can do that to any film, be it cult classic, cinematic masterpiece, or plain ol' guilty pleasure.

There. That wasn't so hard.

(YouTube wouldn't let me embed the trailer, so how 'bout Joe Bob Briggs hosting its cable television premiere?)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Mark Goldblatt, a well-renowned film editor who's worked on everything from PIRANHA to SHOWGIRLS, made his directorial debut with this 1988 release. Taking the premise of the noir classic D.O.A. to its (il)logical extreme, DEAD HEAT also added a darkly humorous twist to the burgeoning buddy-cop genre (no surprise, given that screenwriter Terry Black's brother is LETHAL WEAPON scribe Shane Black). I'd never bothered to see this one, considering its ghastly reputation as being both unfunny and unscary (non-scary? whatever), so when I finally did check it out a few years ago--and only because it was part of a six-disc set of zombie films from Anchor Bay I'd picked up--I went in with zero expectations.

My initial reaction, I was pleasantly surprised. Yet subsequent viewings proved that ultimately it's a mediocre endeavor with a few inspired bursts.

Treat Williams (as Roger Mortis, ho-ho, in a dry, understated performance that probably would've worked better in a straight action vehicle) and Joe Piscopo (as obnoxious as you'd expect, but intolerably so) are a pair of L.A. detectives investigating a ring of armed robberies perpetrated by thieves apparently impervious to bullets. While following up a lead, Williams in killed by an unknown assailant and is brought back to life thanks to an oversized contraption in the research facility they're looking into. Can Williams solve his own murder before he rots away?

The biggest obstacle DEAD HEAT faces is a hole-ridden storyline--the apparatus that revives Williams is never really explained, and most of the villains' motivations are vaguely defined at best--that comes up a few degrees shy of engaging. The B-level budget can be felt all too plainly in most of the action sequences (the exception being the scene in which Williams and Piscopo square off in a Chinese restaurant against a horde of reanimated entrees, including a ambulatory liver and a rampaging side of beef, which makes up in originality what it sorely lacks in logic). All too often the humor is forced, most often in the form of Piscopo's tired, '80s-sitcom gags.

Still, with a supporting cast that includes such genre favorites as Robert Picardo, Darren McGavin, and Vincent Price, it's hard to be completely turned off. Steve Johnson sneaks in a few interesting FX moments, and at 85 minutes at least has the decency to be brief.

If you prefer the likes of Joel Silver and Richard Donner over George Romero, you'll probably enjoy this.


The first British horror film of the sound era, 1933's THE GHOUL was no doubt inspired by the returns on Universal's early fright films, in particular 1932's THE MUMMY, which shares a similar theme. Long thought to be lost, this film from director T. Hayes Hunter was recently released on DVD in a gorgeous pristine print; fans of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN, etc. will undoubtedly want to check this one out (the film feels very much like an unearthed Universal feature), but even they will probably be disappointed when all is said and done.

Boris Karloff stars as a millionaire Egyptologist obsessed with the notion of an afterlife. The film begins with him on his deathbed, making the final arrangements of his immortality with his faithful manservant (Ernest Thesiger) and rejecting any Christian practices, lest his devotion to Anubis be compromised (this must've struck '30s audiences as incredible blasphemous; perhaps that's why Theisger pays a little lip service to the virtues of Christianity, espousing the "proper" views on religion--I doubt this scenario would've stood a chance with the Hays Code). Karloff insists on dying with the Eternal Light, a jewel stolen from an ancient Egyptian tomb that will grant everlasting life when offered to Anubis--which, conveniently enough, Karloff has a full-size statue of in his bedchamber--and will rise from the dead and take vengeance on anyone foolish enough to steal it. Fortunately for us viewers, everyone within a fifty-mile radius of him has an avaricious streak, so the jewel does turn up missing and Karloff arises as promised.

THE GHOUL does an excellent job of establishing mood with its use of shadow, and could carry a film on its atmosphere alone; too bad the story moves along too slowly, shifting into THE OLD DARK HOUSE mode as various characters move about, either searching for the jewel or trying to steal it back. Heavy on dialogue, these scenes do little to maintain--or generate, for that matter--any feeling of tension and wind up bogging down the film. There are a couple of points of interest that make up for such flaws, such as the ritual to Anubis in which Karloff carves ancient symbols into his chest as part of his offering (a somewhat shocking detail, given the time period) as well as Karloff himself, in a mute, expressive performance easily his best at that point, and maybe one of his best all around.

There is, however, the matter of the ending. I won't spoil it here, but I will say that if you're at all familiar in the SCOOBY-DOO tradition of plot resolution you won't be surprised. What bugged me most about the final moments of the film is that it contradicted all the supernatural elements of the story; I realize that the Ghoul of the title isn't Karloff but the one who stole the jewel, and it may have been added to offset some of the more sacrilegious elements of the story, but c'mon--if you're going to make a monster movie, let the damned monster be real.

Still, from a historical or film-scholar perspective, THE GHOUL remains a worthwhile entry.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Probably going to keep this one short, since John Elias Michalakis's I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE (a 1987 teen-comedy wannabe masquerading as a horror flick) is a mostly one-note affair devoid of any laughs, shivers, and whatever emotion teen romances are supposed to elicit. I remember catching this one year ago, when I was a teenage zombie myself, and hitting the Stop button after half an hour or so, far from impressed by its feeble attempts at humor. And while lately I've surprised myself by being disproportionately kind to movies of my youth, the only nostalgia I had rewatching ZOMBIE was when I remembered the spot where I initially called it quits.

Our heroes are a band of chuckleheads straight out of the 1980's Teen Comedies home catalog, including the requisite jock, nerd, sensitive guy, bad-boy, and sub-Belushi slob. But despite being from different cliques, they're all great pals, goofing off in class (like jumping out a window during study hall, woo-hoo!) and hanging out over milkshakes at the malt shop (a real pack of party animals, they are). When they buy a bag of weed off Mussolini, the local dope dealer (the late Ignacio F. Iquino, in a performance not competent enough to be good, nor broad enough to be funny) they make the major faux pas of asking for a refund when the "product" turns out to be up to snuff. Now, I'm not a connoisseur of the herb, but I'm pretty sure "all sales final" is implied in most transactions, and Mussolini seems to agree. He attacks the boys, who accidentally kill him and dump his body into a river polluted with toxic waste, thus setting the story proper in motion as the zombified Mussolini terrorizes the boys.

You may be wondering--my wife certainly was, before bailing for more constructive endeavors like playing The Sims--about the TEENAGE portion of the title, since Iquino clearly left puberty 'round the Kennedy assassination. Well, he eventually gets one of the boys--nice-guy jock Dan, who cleaned his clock earlier with a baseball bat--so his friends naturally dump him in the same river to reanimate him. (I'd like to take a moment to tell my friends: if I'm ever killed by a zombie drug dealer, please don't bring me back as the same; just kick the dude's ass, okay?)

Slow, boring, and painfully devoid of anything resembling entertainment, I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE skimps on the gore as much as the humor; though, with a budget that probably wouldn't have Supersized an extra value meal, I doubt there wasn't a lot in the FX department they could've done. The cast is uniformly bland, though the actor who played Dan (Michael Rubin) kinda resembles a young DeNiro, if Bobby lacked any dramatic chops, anyway. I'd suggest passing on this one, though it may be of interest if you enjoyed stuff like Greg Lamberson's SLIME CITY (Lamberson served as production manager on this one) or the output--I can't really call 'em films--of Tim Kincaid; the late-eighties marked the end of the 16mm era of NYC-lensed horror films, and I WAS A TEENAGE ZOMBIE was probably played a part in its demise.

(No trailer, but you can enjoy the movie's rape scene--I don't know about you, but it's not a teen-horror-comedy without violent rape.)


Fairy tales have always been good fodder for horror films. With their extensive catalogue of atrocities committed by diabolical characters, it usually doesn't take much to transform a simple bedtime story into a bloodbath. Director Timothy Friend presents this 2007 zombified twist on the Cinderella tale, though so much of the original's premise goes undeveloped that the whole concept is little more than a gimmick.

Friend keeps the concept of a young girl named Cinder (Goth babe Megan Goddard) living with her stepmother--this time around, a stripper her father met on a business trip--and two stepsisters, but jettisons most of the rest. Her stepmom (Kieran Hunter, in one of four equally annoying roles) is a grating pain in the ass, but never forces Cinder into indentured servitude, nor does Cinder have any relationship to her stepsisters; Friend has a potentially unnerving pair of characters, two odd, mute girls who haven't aged since the prologue, but lets them go pretty much ignored. Cinder also has a couple of guys in her life, her parapalegic friend-with-benefits Justin, and Cash, a bad-boy biker type she lusts after, who's not only shagging her stepmom, but will be the one to kill her. (Let me take a moment to point out that Justin is a sweet, ingratiating character and really the only likable person in the cast, while Cash way too laughable to be the hard-ass the script needs him to be, with a crappy blond wig that makes him look like a male hustler. I mention this only because both roles were played by Ryan Seymour; how can an actor be good in one performance and thoroughly suck in the other? At least Hunter was consistently awful in all four of her parts. I'm guessing Seymour is simply just like Justin in real life.)

Goddard may be easy on the eyes, but she plays Cinder as such a selfish bitch that it's really difficult to care what happens to her. Thanks to a little occultic experimentation she meets up with the skull-faced Baron Samedi, her version of a fairy godmother, described as a combination of "Hugh Hefner, Satan, and a used car salesman," though lacking the various charisma of any, and it's his magic that will being Cinder back as a vengeance-hungry zombie. Played with a booming glee by Santiago Vasquez, Samedi has plenty of promise but brings little to the table other than a great maniacal laugh.

CADAVERELLA plays way too slow, plagued with horrid sound quality and lousy digital effects. Friend even takes time out of the film's meager 70 minutes to squeeze out a couple of unfunny TV parodies of soap operas and redneck used car lots. In short, he spends way too much time on crap he doesn't need, and squanders what little interesting tidbits he does find; before he takes her to the woods where he'll kill her, Cash takes Cinder to a rinky-dink bar that reminded me of Jacques's place in TWIN PEAKS. The sequence is nothing but special, but at one moment Cinder accidentally wanders into a room where a snuff movie is going to be shot, and is almost recruited into the shoot before Cash saves her (so he can off her himself, I guess). The moment is brief, but it showed flashes of sickening dread, and makes one wish that Friend had utilized it more.

When Cinder finally returns from her grave, she exacts her revenge in a predictably gory manner, including a killing spree on the bar patrons. The bloodshed is over-the-top, but Friend glosses over it in such a perfunctory manner you wonder why he'd bothered; the gorehounds who were patiently waiting are going to feel ripped off. And why does Cinder graphically dispatch a room full of total strangers, yet saves the least interesting death for the guy who knocked her off? Friend may have an answer, but I'd already shrugged this piece of junk off at the twenty-minute mark.

I never thought I'd say this, but you'd be better off with the classic Disney version. Or at least dig up a copy of the original tale, which offers far more dark enjoyment that this shitfest.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE (aka 5 TOMBE PER UN MEDIUM) is an Italian production from 1965. Directed by Massimo Pupillo (who, unhappy with the final product, deferred credit to producer Ralph Zucker), it was no doubt instigated by AIP's success with their Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, as the Bard of Baltimore gets an "inspired by" title card. Not exactly sure what story actually "inspired" the film, but hey, Poe's dead so who's he to say anything?

Set in an unspecified period milieu, indicated by references to new-fangled inventions like cars and telephones, the threadbare story concerns an attorney (Walter Brandi, whose dialogue is dubbed with the same booming authority as Powdered Toast Man) settling the estate of a recently-deceased medium. At the dead man's castle he meets the medium's wife (Barbara Steele), who informs Brandi of her husband's ability to summon and communicate with the souls of ancient plague victims, and whose spirit still roams the castle.

Atmospheric in the soft, dream-like way that only cheap black-and-white films can be, TERROR CREATURES possesses a few creepy moments but for much of its length it remains talky and more than a little dull. Patient viewers will be rewarded, though, towards the end, as the film presents quite a few unexpectedly gruesome bits, such as the self-impalement of a wheelchair-bound man or the pustule-covered face of a returning plague victim. Zombie fans might be a little disappointed, since the returning medium prefers to wreak havoc in spirit form; the closest we get to the undead is a hand reaching out from a grave, and a scene in which a row of severed hands and jars full of human organs come to life.

Not a bad picture by any means, I'd recommend this mainly for fans of Steele (who has a tantalizingly discreet bathtub scene) and the aforementioned Corman/Poe films.

Monday, February 4, 2008


Terence Fisher, who directed many classic films for Hammer Studios, such as CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF and THE HORROR OF DRACULA, helmed this 1965 science fiction-oriented production, which often times feels like I AM LEGEND by way of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

A space pilot (Willard Parker) returns home to find that mysterious forces have wreaked havoc on Earth. Investigating a deserted English hamlet he finds a few survivors, as well as an army of extraterrestrial robots bent on invading the planet. These robots use electromagnetic waves to resurrect the recently dead to use as slaves in their diabolical scheme. Parker and the other survivors--including Dennis Price, who'd go on to star in several Jess Franco pictures--take shelter as they fend off the invading robots, trying to determine a proper course of action.

Fisher gives the proceedings a pervasive feeling of doom, particularly in the film's opening scenes as Parker explores the abandoned village; you almost expect to see Rod Serling popping out from behind a tree, such is the effectiveness of its stark, isolated prologue. However, like a lot of British sci-fi from the sixties, the action quickly gets bogged down in scene after scene of conversation, as characters alternate between establishing backstory and bickering about what to do. Fisher also keeps the "zombies" offscreen until just past the halfway mark, though when they do make their appearance they're quite creepy with their blank gray eyes (they're a lot scarier than the robots, who supposedly pose the greater threat but resemble a bunch of sentient refrigerators).

Fans of vintage horror/sci-fi might get a kick out of THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, though its sensational title promises a lot more thrills than it delivers. It's also interesting to see parallels between this and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, which bears a resemblance. The film's available easily enough on DVD, though you can also find it broken into fragments on YouTube; below is the first (and best) one to get you started.


CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON, a 2006 spoof from director Chris Diani, comes as the world's first gay-oriented zombie film, and while it quickly becomes apparent that it's more concerned with eliciting mild chuckles from a homosexual audience than delivering the chills, it's still a fun little romp that never takes itself seriously.

Shot in black-and-white for a "vintage" look (though on video it simply comes across as looking cheap), the movie uses a gay soap opera backdrop as a group of friends gather for a birthday party (and like all good zombie flicks, they arm themselves with an African-American leader). What normally would play as mere melodrama--will birthday-boy Phillip realize his new boyfriend's nothing but a philandering jerk? Can sensitive Joseph overcome his shyness and reveal his true feelings for Phillip?--gets turned on its ear as the living dead descend upon the boys' beach house. (Diani and co-writer Basil Harris set themselves up with a needlessly complicated explanation for the zombies, a virus spread by contaminated mosquitoes which were mutated by the nearby Chemical Plant; it doesn't play much of a role in the story, but still feels awkward in getting the ball rolling.)

Don't expect too many homages to Fulci or Romero, zombie fans, since the film prefers to poke fun at the tropes of gay subculture--rest stops, show tunes, Judy Garland--though Diani throws in a smattering of gore near the film's end. The humor, while far from laugh-out-loud hilarious, is at least funnier than a WILL AND GRACE rerun, but it would've been nice to see the script go for more than the easy jokes.

Acting-wise the cast is likably average, with Phillip D. Clark standing out as a bitchy queen. Diani's direction is largely flat through most of the film, such as the zombies' dance number that never really generates much energy, though budgetary restrictions may have played a part; Diani does sneak in a couple of novel touches, like revealing what was in PULP FICTION's glowing briefcase, and (my favorite) the zombies' pink-tinted POV shots.

CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON is breezily entertaining (oh, by the way, fellas, there's some fairly heavy man-on-man affection going on here, though if you're that uptight that you can't stand to see two bare-chested dudes making out you probably won't come within a mile of this) with an abbreviated running time so it doesn't wear out its welcome. It's a nice change of pace when you need a break from the usual throat-ripping and brain-munching--though do any of us really need a break from that?

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Where has this movie been all my life?

Watching HARD ROCK ZOMBIES--a 1985 effort from Krishna Shah, or "Kirshna Shah" as he's called in the closing credits; you gotta love a flick that misspells the director's name--transported me to bad-movie nirvana. A skull-fucking melange of horrific music, cut-rate special effects, and plot twists so asinine it borders on the surreal, this flick has me at its opening scene, in which a sexy blonde hitchhiker seduces a pair of male motorists before slaughtering them as her husband and "children" (a pair of little actors that may or may not be portraying kids, one of them the great Phil Fondacaro) look on, capped off with some cheesy gore and a groan-inducing pun. Love it!

The movie concerns a really, really bad hair metal band (whose get-ups are so lame they make Manowar look like GQ material) who visit the sleepy hick town of Grand Guignol, despite the warnings of a mysterious groupie. With a name like that, you'd think the band wouldn't need a warning, but this is a group that has to be forced to mingle with adoring female fans and think they have any kind of future with their brain-softening "music," so logic isn't their strong suit. Once there, they partake in cringe-inducing music montages--seriously, even The Monkees were above this kind of stupidity on their show--and dabble in songs that'll raise the dead before picking up the same sexy hitchhiker from the beginning and taking her home. The band accepts her invitation to stay the night, even though a bald guy is decapitating chickens for no apparent reason in the front yard, but hey, we've established these guys aren't rocket scientists so at least there's some thematic consistency. But things get even worse when they discover the old couple living in the house are actually Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun (the latter also a knife-wielding werewolf!), and kill the band members in various ways during the night.

That's enough insanity for two movies, but HARD ROCK's just getting started, since the portentious groupie (who the lead singer composes a song for, declaring his eternal love, five minutes after they meet) plays the tune that resurrects the band. Now shuffling zombies--was there a THRILLER parody in there somewhere, or just additional bad acting?--the band returns to not only seek revenge on the Hitler clan, but the town of rock-hating rednecks as well (I wonder if this was in response to the then-new PMRC) before playing their big gig in front of a sleazy record promoter.

I LOVED THIS MOVIE! Rarely do films achieve this level of ineptitude while being so unrelentingly entertaining. Chock full of intended comedy that falls flat on its face, it more than makes up for it with unintended humor at the expense of its cast, plot, you name it. The gore isn't exactly excessive, but there are a couple of gruesome bits, including a running joke in which one of the "children" (this one a mutated freak) eats himself with a knife and fork in the film's closing reel. And let's not forget the gratuitous nudity, which completes its crap-80's film requirements.

Really, mere words won't do the film justice. You need to watch it for yourself, and as soon as possible. HARD ROCK ZOMBIES provides the same bad-movie bliss as MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE or TROLL 2, but be forewarned: those songs will haunt your dreams for days.

(I've included the trailer as usual, but I wanted to also add a clip that would illustrate just how stupid this movie is, so as an extra bonus we have a scene in which the band entertains a crowd outside the local Bank of America branch.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008


Doing something a little different this time around, since this "film" is really just a young girl messing around on her computer. Since it's intended more as a YouTube clip than a legitimate cinematic effort, I'm going to cut the creator (a young girl who simply calls herself Lex Zombie) some slack. I'm including here because as slight as it is, I still kinda liked it.

This three-and-a-half-minute clip consists of a series of still photos, tied together by a voice-over narration describing an apocalypse-survival scenario. Despite the homemade "production," there's a stark, minimalist atmosphere to the opening that I actually found quite intriguing.* I wouldn't have minded a much longer story in this style, but Lex opts instead to string together pictures of various zombie films to a pop-punk song. Disappointing, sure, but like I said, I think she was just killing a slow evening.

*(It wasn't until a couple of days after I watched this that I realized why I enjoyed those opening "scenes." When I was a kid Golden Books released a series of videos that employed a similarly low-tech approach: essentially panning a camera over the illustrations of previously published books, along with hollow narration. Even as a child I knew what a cheap technique this was, yet in spite of that--maybe because of it--I was still captivated by the stories. I think Lex's video brought back a subconscious recollection of those days. Or not. I'm rambling now.)

Hey Lex, how 'bout a whole movie next time?


An interesting offering for today's entry, a 2006 amateur-made film set to the music of the indie band Laconic Zero. And while their brand of hypnotic, electronic metal wasn't my cup of tea, writer/editor/director Dag Solvberg shows a decent visual flair, even if the end result isn't completely enthralling.

The premise of this short is simple: a picnicking couple breaks out their Laconic Zero record and kick-starts a mini-outbreak of the undead. Utilizing black-and-white photography to largely successful effect, Solvberg creates a permeating aura of dread that doesn't quite mesh with the overbearing soundtrack (the short would've worked much better with a subtler musical selection, or possibly no music at all); he also accentuates his monochromatic color scheme by adding splashes of red during the zombie attacks, a technique that's grown a bit tired of late (not to mention it's used inconsistently here).

There's also some interesting frame-within-a-frame work going on near the end, which would've come off better without the cheap digital effects added in. A little more of this, or maybe some split-screen action, would've made the drawn-out climax a little less boring.

As fan-oriented projects go, this wasn't half-bad. Perhaps when Solvberg creates his next tribute his filmmaking chops will have improved.


This is it, the granddaddy of Italian zombie cinema. Easily in my personal Top 10 zombie movies--and if I bothered to, I could probably find room for it in my all-time Top 10--Lucio Fulci's 1979 classic serves as a reminder of a time when exploitation pictures cared about being just as good as "serious" films.

Everyone knows by now the film initially went under the ZOMBI 2 moniker because DAWN OF THE DEAD was released in Europe as ZOMBI, but Fulci's version was in the works before Romero's film came out; intended to be an action-oriented horror flick, the only portion of ZOMBIE that was directly inspired by DAWN are the New York-based segments that bookend the film (how much influence Tom Savini's FX had on ZOMBIE's gore quotient I don't know, but I bet it played at least a minimal role). Again, I won't reiterate plot details for this one, but on the surface ZOMBIE has all the earmarks of your standard crap movie: the characterization could charitably be labeled shallow, adding to that a dub-job that gives the performances just the right shade of indifference. The story is a straightforward Point A to Point B affair, culminating in a batten-down-the-hatches finale straight out of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and the overall production value lacks not only the slickness of an average-budgeted movie, but also the rough craftsmanship of DAWN.

And yet . . . yet . . .

ZOMBIE also has plenty of its own goodies to offer, such as the zombie-vs-shark sequence that walks that's either awesome or ludicrous, depending on who you ask (personally I think the scene drops into both repeatedly, that's what makes it so unique), the discovery of the Fat Zombie early in the film, and of course the infamous splinter scene, one of the most notorious shock moments of the last thirty years. (Even as just as simple gore flick, ZOMBIE goes above and beyond.) Running throughout all of this is a spirit of fun, that although the film delves into some fairly grim territory it's still entertainment, and the point is to have a good time.

ZOMBIE kicked off what is informally known as Fulci's "gore period," where he followed up with the equally-revered THE GATES OF HELL, THE BEYOND--considered by most to be Fulci's masterwork, but I never cared for it as much as I do ZOMBIE--and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY. (THE NEW YORK RIPPER came along not long after, but it never garnered the same praise as the others--blame the quacking killer.) Everyone's got their favorite, but for me ZOMBIE stands as Fulci's best; it doesn't have the dream-like quality of THE BEYOND or the imaginative setpieces of THE GATES OF HELL, but it does have a stronger narrative thrust and sense of cohesiveness.

We could debate forever on which is best--and we should, it's fun--but when it comes to Pastaland zombies, there is no equal.