Thursday, October 20, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead"

“Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead”
2008
U.S.
Stars: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sereboff, Robin L. Watkins, Joshua Olatunde, Caleb Emerson, , Rose Ghavami and Khalid Rivera
Writers: Gabriel Friedman, Daniel Bova, and Lloyd Kaufman
Dir: Lloyd Kaufman
83 minutes

Let’s just be honest with each other: If you are not familiar with Troma Films, you would lose any trivia game with a semblance of movie-geek trivia against me.
Troma studios have been unleashing tasteless independent classics such as “The Toxic Avenger,” “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” “Troma’s War” and countless others (which will, and have, appeared in this blog before) since way before 1983.
While lacking in a true, based-in-lore, zombie story, Troma does what it does best with “Poultrygeist” — Gut the mainstream.
Warning: If you are offended by redneck, religious, gay/lesbian insults or racial slurs/stereotypes, anti-Semitic jokes, or anything else that would offend absolutely anyone who is too uptight for the human race, just click out of here. Go to youtube and watch cute cat videos. If you have a sense of humor, read on.
So maybe you have seen “Fast Food Nation” or read the book. If you bought into it, you might be a moron (kidding…maybe…maybe not).
Look, we all know that eating fast-food is bad. We don’t need it pounded into our faces, right? We’re smart, right?
Apparently, Troma realized we are morons and decided to take it to the next level.
“Poultrygeist” starts out like many would not expect: A young go-getter, Arbie, is attempting to have sex with his high-school girlfriend, Wendy, (see? They are so subtle over at Troma) while the inhabitants of an Indian graveyard revolt against the thought that their once-peaceful resting place will soon become the site of a new Chicken Bunker — well, the revolt is more of a finger-in-the-ass, and Arbie and Wendy flee.
Fast-forward, and Arbie has done little with his life. He comes home from college, hungry for a job and finds his once-girlfriend, Wendy, joining in a protest against the new Chicken Bunker Restaurant — led by her newfound-college-lesbian-friend, who is heading the protest group called C.L.A.M. — College Lesbians Against Mega-Conglomerates.
In a musical fit of rage (yes, this film is a musical), Arbie decides to piss-off his one-time love by becoming an employee of the Chicken Bunker.
Folks, this is just the first 15 minutes.
What follows is this in a nutshell: A Muslim fry-cook figures out the “chickens have declared Jihad,” on the restaurant, Sloppy Jose’s talk to people, all the while violently spastic food-poisoning body transformation, fake lesbian make-out scenes, many more catchy dance numbers, riffs on films ranging from “Night of the Living Dead” to “Aliens” to “Assault on Precinct 13” take place. In a word, “BatshitCrazy.” But, later, the film hits it stride, welcoming a buttload of pissed-off chicken-faced zombies, who then begin to feast on the clientele. And bloody, gory, insane scenes ensue.
And, despite my open-mind and desire to rise above the apes, I can’t help but chuckle a shitload throughout this grotesque-fest of inappropriate humor.
If you want to offend absolutely everyone you know, show them “Poultrygeist.” If you lose friends, they weren’t friends to begin with.

Romero Rules Followed: Well, this time around, spoiled/rotten/(possessed?) eggs cause the outbreak, and nothing really applies here.
Gore factor: Bonkers. Blood flies more than a Sam Raimi test shoot.
Zombies or Wannabees? First-ever TIE
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: I could never call this P.O.S. a classic, but, you know what? It is damn fun, too much fun for a movie with an IQ level of 50. Sometimes, it is great to just shut off the brain and have fun. This is fun, and not for the thoughtful.
— ROB

Monday, October 3, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Zombieland"

“Zombieland”
2009
U.S.
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin
Writers: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
Dir: Ruben Fleischer
88 minutes

First and foremost, thanks for coming back. There was a (too-long) hiatus for this blog, but I plan to have at least two updates a week beginning with this week. As a promise, I will at least have one update per week, plus Twitter updates.
So, how better to re-launch the blog than to review a modern classic?
For the layperson who happened to miss this gem on initial release and henceforth online, on Blu-Ray, DVD or streaming/on-demand, stop reading this right now, and go watch it. I’ll wait. And you will thank me.
For those who know others uninitiated to the zombie-genre, this is how you bring them in: Show them “Zombieland.”
It has it all: great writing, great comedy, one of the best cameos ever in a film ever, superfluous gore, a simple story, and a cast of actors perfect for the film.
Jesse “Social Network” Eisenberg stars as the perfect, reclusive nerd who one day wakes up and finds himself thrust into an entire world filled with fast-moving gut-munchers. In order to survive, he writes a set of his own rules for survival (for the likeminded dorks, I have the ones listed in the film in order below), many of which are demonstrated repeatedly throughout the film. The hapless, goofy nerd meets up with testosterone-personified in “Tallahassee,” the name given to Harrelson’s character which is derived from Tallahassee’s ultimate destination (Tallahassee, upon picking up the young nerd, firmly states “No names,” as to not get unnecessarily attached to a stranger). The nerd then claims his name as “Columbus Ohio.”
Harrelson is clearly having a blast in this role, channeling his character Mickey Knox from “Natural Born Killers,” and putting a perfect deadpan comedic spin on the tough-as-nails character and making the blood-thirsty killer into a gleeful zombie-killing Twinkie-lover. Harrelson just chews-up nearly every scene he is in.
Columbus, wary of stepping outside of his rules, seems happy to have human contact and aids Tallahassee in his on-the-road quest for the golden Hostess treats, wherein they meet a cunning set of sisters, Wichita (Stone) and Little Rock (Breslin). Despite several back-stabbing moments, the girls become part of the fold, with Wichita becoming a love interest for Columbus, and Little Rock standing in for…let’s just say, a hole in Tallahassee’s life.
The sisters reveal they are heading to an amusement park, which they heard is zombie-free, Pacific Playland (a place where Little Rock can be a kid again), and the girls con the men into tagging along. As they head out of Texas and into California, a whole lot of hijinks, zombie killing, and the murder of Hollywood-royalty occurs.
And all of it is played for laughs, accompanied with extreme gore.

Romero Rules Followed: A handful, but these suckers are fast. But, for the most part, they are followed.
Gore factor: Extreme.
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies; I can’t keep the fast-movers out of the category.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: Just watch and enjoy. Oh, also, here are Columbus’s rules (the ones noted in the film):
Rule #1: Cardio
Rule #2: Double-tap
Rule #3: Beware of bathrooms
Rule #4: Seatbelts
Rule #7: Travel light
Rule #17: Don’t be a hero
Rule #18: Limber up
Rule #22: When in doubt, know your way out
Rule #31: Check the back seat
Rule #32: Enjoy the little things

— ROB
Follow the blog on twitter: @zom_blog

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Zombie or Wannabe: The Stuff in "The Stuff"

“The Stuff”

1985

U.S.

Stars: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino, Scott Bloom, Danny Aiello

Writer: Larry Cohen

Dir: Larry Cohen

93 minutes

There are many a film that date the 1980s as the time of indulgence, trends, and paranoia. Few capture it as well as “The Stuff.”

That is a bold statement, to be sure, but watch it. A new creamy, yogurt/ice cream dessert phenomenon has been drilled into the American culture, a dessert that seems to bubble out of the ground, have no calories, increase energy, and satisfy appetites. It is the Coca-Cola. It is Pepsi. It is a new titan on the market.

And there are ice cream and dessert companies who are fearing the new taste sensation will put them out of business, considering the new sensation, The Stuff, surpassed any FDA or any other food/government regulations, and is being distributed at will by a company.

Enter David “Mo” Rutherford (in a brilliant and having balls-out-fun performance by genre favorite Moriarty), an industrial espionage expert hired by the dessert companies to figure out how The Stuff is made and marketed and how they could compete with it. With his pretend dumb drawl, Mo asks his shady employers, “Do you know why they call me ‘Mo’? Because when I ask for something, I always want ‘Mo.’”

Yup, it’s the ’80s.

Switch to a young boy, Jason, whose midnight snack craving led him to see The Stuff “move” in his family’s refrigerator. Jason embarks on a skeptical and ultimately destructive attitude toward America’s “new taste sensation,” including attacking a grocery display, drawing Mo’s attention.

While Mo romances/influences the advertising director of The Stuff, Jason’s family ostracizes him, demanding he start to enjoy The Stuff, which they have begun eating exclusively. Jason attempts a rather humorous rouse to escape his family, meeting up at the right time with Mo, prompting Jason to explain his reasoning for puking in Mo’s car: “I just had to eat shaving cream!”

“Well, everyone has to … eat shaving cream once in their life,” Mo quips.

Oh, did I mention what seems to happen with hardcore Stuff eaters (later referred to as “Stuffies”)?

Starting with the mouth, The Stuff eats the head, the brain, and, ultimately the innards. And, during that time, it controls and consumes the consumer (subtle, right?). Mo and Jason meet up with Chocolate Chip Charlie (another hilarious turn by Morris, of a boatload of TV fame, including classic SNL), an industrialist also interested in how The Stuff has put him out of business.

When the crew meets up with Col. Spears (Sorvino), the movie takes, and embraces, the campy turn it had been speeding toward the entire time. And drives home the Reagan-era 1980s Cold War paranoia, the expense of consumerism, the price of excess, and the hopelessness of the American public to fight against corporate power.

So, bottom line: Why is this sucker here on the zomblog?

“The Stuff” expands, deftly, on what Romero introduced with “Dawn of the Dead.” In fact, Cohen’s take on the subject better encapsulated the pulse of the era. And it pains me to say that. Romero foreshadowed with “This is where we are heading.”; Cohen said “You know, you suckers, you were warned and didn’t care. And you still don’t, you sheep.”

Sadly, “The Stuff” has never been given its due. It is hardly a horror film, save for the few shots of mostly bloodless gore. It is satire first and foremost and handled better than Mr. Romero did in “Dawn.” While both directors were heavy-handed in their delivery, Cohen’s message was a sledge-hammer compared to Romero’s tack-hammer.

Zombies are of a collective mind: they all do what has been told to them via instinct: Eat and reproduce. By eating/biting us they create more of their kind.

Are we so different?

— ROB

Friday, July 22, 2011

On the wane, oversaturated, or on the rise?

The zombie popularity dilemma and the under appreciation of the undead

Q: “How many Vietnam veterans does it take to screw in a lightbulb?”
A: “YOU DON’T KNOW MAN, YOU WEREN’T THERE!”
A joke in poor taste, but if you chuckled a little, you’re my kind of person.
If you love the zombies, you probably have a bit of wit about you.
I can look back now on the scattered wastelands of the past 10 years and nod with a smirk, “F-ing A, my zombies had their day.”
From Romero coming back into the game, to one of the stars of “Zombieland” starring in an Oscar-winning film, to countless books, low- and big-budget films and remakes of classics suddenly becoming en vogue, one would think I am a happy camper who thinks, “Finally, the shamblers get their due.”
To a point, I am.
As I approach the meh age of 34, I look back at my childhood far more than I should. I wax nostalgic for a lot of media I once loved only to see it ruined, either by a lot of meddling (George Lucas), retreading (how many post-apocalyptic movies can we take?), and “gritty reboots” or “gritty remakes” (making something more gory is not always better, Hollywood).
Now that a pack of those who are about 10 to 15 years younger than I are clamoring for the recognition of discovering the undead hordes as their Holy Grail, I find myself more often annoyed than proud.
Why?
Call me a curmudgeon all you like, but I think it really is a matter of appreciating the groundwork that was laid prior to the discovery of something grand.
No one visits Egypt without the intention of visiting the pyramids. Yet, one truly has a far greater appreciation for them once they understand how much back-breaking work, scores of people, and limited technology of the time made those things rise from the sand and withstand time. Yeah, they are cool to look at and watch Michael Bay blow up, but, really, understanding that there is a structure, thousands of years old, settled in the middle of a desert, withstanding the test of time, weather, and human curiosity. That, considering mankind’s ability to find more efficient ways to destroy than to create, is beyond amazing.
That is a far-fetched metaphor, to be sure. Simple gut-muncher films are in no way on par with the creation of one the world’s greatest wonders.
But, as I see more and more zombie (and often sort-of) related zombie lore come out, I get upset when my zombies get tweaked, played with, or underappreciated. I’ve addressed the greatest debate before. I’ve tossed Romero’s salad shamelessly here over and over again.
Yet, I know more people who have seen the latest “Dawn of the Dead” and never knew it was a remake than those who actually knew it was.
I’ve met others who find shamblers boring and unthreatening.
I’ve met those who think zombies are kind of like vampires, but just dumb.
And I’ve met people who think “Twilight” needed to add zombies to make it even cooler. Why not? That series fucked the vampire and werewolf mythos in the eyesockets. Why not just go ahead and screw up zombies as well? (And, if Stephanie Meyer did fuck with zombies, don’t tell me. I just don’t want to know).
So, what is my point, you ask?
Have zombies had too good of a run as of late? They seem to be literal rock stars.
That is of which I am afraid. I grew up with these suckers. I’ve attempted several times through this blog to convert the new, to train their eyes on the old, to appreciate the pyramids built by Romero and Fulci, which have been assaulted or accented by modern sandstorms of idiocy or brilliance, and sprinkled with chaotic spice throughout the past 50 years.
Yet, I find myself digging my heels in, falling on deaf ears, and arguing with those who “weren’t there” when zombies really hit the scene. Hey, do the math: neither was I. But, like most people set in the ways of what they like, I “was there, man.” I grew up in the initial thick of it.
Lately, it appears there is an author, a director, a screenwriter, or a hack by any other name who seems to have the very basic idea of zombies in their head. Zombies suddenly blew up in the mid-2000s and have proceeded to “atomic bomb” the world with the success of “The Walking Dead” and others such as “28 Days Later.”
Yeah, I should be happy. I almost feel indifferent.
I guess I should be glad I am not a Bram Stoker turbo-fan. If I were, some snotty, hack, Mormon writer would be swinging from a tree right now.
Do yourself a favor if you enjoy modern zombies: explore their history. I have found myself immersed in a tome of zombie-lore recently, “Zombies: Encounters with the Living Dead,” by John Skipp, exploring the works of writers I love (Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman) and those I have never heard of (Leonid Andreyev, W.B. Seabrook) and I am loving it. Even this curmudgeon is enjoying old works featuring zombies. And if I can go back and find new pyramids, so can you.
Not everything new shines with the brilliance of found gold. But when you do find that nugget…
Oh, and speaking of new, follow this blog on twitter @zom_blog. I welcome friendly/aggressive banter/debate. And, should you be bored and need a recommendation for a good/awful zombie flick, tweet me there.
— Rob Perry

Friday, July 8, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "City of the Living Dead"

“City of the Living Dead”
1980
Italy
Stars: Christopher George, Katrina MacColl, Carlo De Mejo, Giovanni Radice
Writers: Lucio Fulci and Dardano Sacchetti
Dir: Lucio Fulci
93 minutes

Leave it to Lucio Fulci to deliver a classic, top-five-of-all-time entry into not only the horror, but zombie canon as well, with “Zombie,” and follow it up with this film reviewed here and then his arguable masterpiece, “The Beyond.”
It is tough for me to jump right into this one as greedily as I did with “Zombie” or “The Beyond.” I fondly remember visiting those old video stores in the early 1980s and seeing the bastardized, MPAA-gutted, white box with ominous zombie skull beckoning me to watch “The Gates of Hell” (the ominous zombie skull strangely resembled the absolute suckfest “Hell of the Living Dead” box art, or vice versa; either way, someone should get their balls kicked in for confusing my developing brain with a suckfest and a mindfuck).
“City of the Living Dead” is not purely a zombie film, although it has rotting pussheads aplenty. It is a mash-up of ghosts, demons, and our beloved shamblers tossed into a blender of doomed prophecy, religion, witchcraft, the supernatural, and blow-up dolls.
Yeah, it’s all over the place.
Yet, it follows a very linear plotline that is surprisingly easy to follow.
The sleepy town of Dunwich is completely screwed now that a priest has hung himself and set in motion the opening of the gates of hell. During a séance hundreds of miles away in New York, Mary (MacColl) drops dead at a vision of the impending doom of Dunwich and the twisting-in-the-wind priest.
Naturally, journalist Peter (George) investigates the strange death-by-séance, and, like any journalist worth their salt, hangs around a graveyard just long enough to hear Mary screaming and clawing her way out of her grave — alive and having only been temporarily comatose due to the séance.
Still with me? Good.
Together, Peter and Mary decide to investigate the ominous visions Mary saw in her séance vision. They head to Dunwich, where, as the viewer already knows, shit has just gotten real-real.
Strange windstorms are rushing in. Random minor earthquakes shatter mirrors and destroy cinderblock foundations. Oh, and a girl, who imagines (maybe?) seeing the dead priest suddenly “evacuates” her abdomen. That is to say, “Guts, yer outta here, via my mouth.”
Yup, a woman graphically vomits up her entire digestive system.
And, the paranoid townsfolk decide the strange happenings are the doings of local weirdo, and pervert, Bob (Radice); the townsfolk must have seen “Cannibal Ferox” and just assumed he was up to no good … I think about three people just got that joke.
Anyways, Bob is (sadly) hunted down, drilled about the strange events about town, and, well, Bob can’t be blamed anymore after his brief interrogation.
As Peter and Mary (Paul was nowhere to be found) continue their investigation, they learn the priest’s suicide set off a series of events that will cause the gates of hell to open, on All Saints Day, less than three days from now. Suddenly, it becomes a race against time, a shower of maggots, disappearing and reappearing undead to figure out how to prevent the Biblical/Book of Enoch predicted apocalypse.
Damn, this is a fun horror film.

Romero Rules Followed: Fulci gave the rules the finger with this one.
Gore factor: Girl puking up her guts? Check. Table-drill through the head? Check. Lots of Fulci-designed gore? Double check.
Zombies or Wannabees? It’s a toughie, but, too many liberties are taken here. Wannabees abound.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic, as a gore/horrorfest.
Additional comments: I know I had a little fun with this one. Hell, watch the movie: It is fun. Fulci was having a blast. “The Beyond” was taken a tad more seriously. “The House by the Cemetery” was even more serious (it’ll be up here soon, no worries). In my worthlessly expert opinion, Fulci wanted to branch out from the Romero formula and inject a little variety into the zombie genre (by 1980, nearly 20 knock-offs of “Dawn of the Dead” had been unleashed around the world, each more terrible than the last; yet, “Zombie” landed firmly on its feet as an unofficial, and highly-regarded in horrordom, sequel to “Dawn,” six years prior to Romero’s “Day of the Dead”). Yes, Fulci threw some religious hodge-podge and new-age bullshit into the mix, but he made up for a lot of the “what the fuck is going on” with solid performances from stalwarts George and MacColl and “holy-shit, did-you-see-that?” sequences of graphic gore.
I’m not a huge gorehound. But, if I was, I think I would covet Fulci’s films above several others to get my fix.
The final verdict: It’s not canon, but it is a very, very fun flick to enjoy and just watch unfold.

— ROB

Friday, June 24, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Masters of Horror: Homecoming"

“Masters of Horror: Homecoming”
2009
U.S.
Stars: John Tenney, Thea Gill, Robert Picardo
Writer: Based on the short story “Death & Suffrage” by Dale Bailey; Teleplay by Sam Hamm
Dir: Joe Dante
58 minutes

I really wished the “Masters of Horror” series had a group of executives with balls backing it up. It gave a group of directors, mostly known in horror circles, a chance to take the “Tales From The Crypt,” “Outer Limits,” “Twilight Zone” approach to risqué material. Of all of the episodes of the two, short-lived seasons, I had a handful of favorites: Takashi Miike’s “Imprint,” “Don Coscarelli’s “An Incident On and Off a Mountain Road,” among others, and, absolutely Joe Dante’s “Homecoming.”
Before you think me a hippie, elitist, liberal, soldier-hater, enemy sympathizer, etc., I purely looked at this (at first) as an entertaining take on the zombie mythos — what if zombies came back and had a purpose, other than to eradicate the “living disease?”
What if they happened to be soldiers of a current war conflict? What about soldiers of conflicts decades ago? What if all they wanted to do was express one of the most valued rights and expressions of democracy: To vote.
That, as a concept, is fascinating.
Put it in the hands of Joe “Gremlins” Dante, you have a few chances at making fun of the establishment.
For you young bloods, Dante skewered the consumer culture of the 1980s (without many of rich and privileged even realizing it) right in the middle of the craze with “Gremlins” in 1985 (take a look at that film with that idea in mind).
So, to take on “Homecoming,” written to address the current, heavy issue of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Dante churned out an hour of something that should have drawn a shitload of debatable heat.
So, here it is: A war is going on. A sitting president is facing massive ridicule regarding an ongoing war, a war that is increasingly becoming unpopular. When David Murch (Tenney), a pundit for the sitting president, makes an off-the-cuff wish on a cable news show for his dead brother, killed in (or around) Vietnam, and other dead veterans to return and tell the world how proud they were to die for their country, the dead veterans begin to arrive at polling places. While an Ann Coulter-clone (Gill) attempts to capitalize on the pundit’s call, the president’s re-election team soon learns the dead veterans might not be too happy to have gone to war “for a lie.” After they “speak” at the polls, the dead drop dead, but, for the sitting president, it may be the end of the line, unless his pundit and the newly-groomed talking-head can find a way to spin the exit polls, demonize the dead voters, and make it all palatable to the American public — all in an effort to win re-election.
But, you can’t keep a good soldier down, especially an American one.
Romero Rules Followed: None; these zombies arise simply to have a purpose, and they have no need for eating humans. In fact, the only violence they display is if their honor is questioned (great scene).
Gore factor: Moderate
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies, but in a very different category.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: I really, really enjoyed “Homecoming,” but I could not enjoy it as much as I think I should have. For one, I know a few vets from the current war. They are not exactly a fan of thinking they went and fought for nothing. And, sadly, the scars of how Vietnam veterans were treated are still mending. I would feel more comfortable in praising “Homecoming” if some honest servicemen/women could watch it, without reservation, and tell me “I have no regrets for what I was sent to do.”
I would be an incredible asshole to even think I could predict/give an opinion as to how any veteran of any war/conflict would/should react should they survive/be killed in battle.
While “Homecoming” was an over-the-top parody/political commentary that (slightly) flinches at really driving the point home, I enjoyed it, and would encourage everyone, conservative, liberal, green, anarchist, hippie, etc. to watch it, put aside your personal ideals, and then, only then, decide how you feel about “Homecoming.”
I can’t.

— ROB

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ZomBlog Review: 'Zombie'

“Zombie”
1979
Italy
Stars: Tisa Farrow, Ian McCullough, Richard Johnson, Al Clives, Auretta Gay, Stephania D’Amario, Olga Karlatos
Writer: Elisa Briganti
Dir: Lucio Fulci
91 minutes

Where, oh where, do I begin with this one? Aside from poor English dubbing, this could possibly the best zombie film aside from “Night of the Living Dead.” Yes, that is a bold statement. And I will stand by it without flinching.
Lucio Fulci, may he rest with the (currently) peacefully sleeping dead, saw the sensation brought about by George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead.” Dario Argento, famed giallo maestro of Italy, made a “European Cut” of Romero’s “Dawn” and unleashed it upon Europe and most of the rest of the non-U.S.A. world. It was simply titled “Zombi.”
Fulci felt Italy needed to answer. So, unofficially, he made this tiny film, known in Italy and most of Europe as “Zombi 2.”
While I will go down swinging saying that Romero’s “Dawn” is a superior film overall, Fulci made a far superior zombie film here.
Yes, I just wrote that.
“Zombie” kept simple what us gorehound and zombie fans wanted: basic plot, extreme zombie carnage, likeable characters, and, for the most part, Romero’s rules were left intact. And, he added some visual touches and startling, burn-into-your-brain moments that only Fulci could deliver.
I’m already praising this gem without telling the noobs what it entails. So, for the unfamiliar…
The film opens with a handgun firing a single shot into a rising white sheet, wrapped in rope, in the form of a person. An off-screen voice says, “The boat can leave now. Tell the crew.”
So begins “Zombie.” Said boat seems to have wandered (maybe?) off course and wound up in the New York harbor. As the harbor patrol investigates, they encounter a rather portly man with a taste for neck flesh. As one of the officers empties his gun into the chubster, the fat man falls into the water…
Cut to a “newspaper newsroom,” where ace reporter Peter West (McCullough, an great yet oft-overlooked British character actor) is given an assignment to look into the strange adrift vessel (an assignment he gets from an obvious Italian-speaking Fulci himself). Upon checking out the dock, West encounters Ann (Farrow), from whom he learns the boat belonged to her father. Her father had left for the island of Matool (somewhere in the Caribbean, the best we can tell) and he lost touch with his daughter, aside from a note they find aboard. West and Ann set sail to Matool, aboard a boat chartered by “American” explorers of the deep, Susan and Brian (who are dubbed, at times poorly).
It is shortly after this rendezvous that one of the films first iconic moments occurs: Zombie Vs. Shark. Yes: ZOMBIE VS. SHARK. Susan decides to take an impromptu SCUBA dive and finds herself confronted by both a member of the undead and a member of one of cinema’s other unrelenting predators. I won’t spoil that encounter any further other than to say, again, ZOMBIE VS. SHARK.
Our pleasant protagonists arrive at Matool, the boat suffering a bit of damage from the ZOMBIE VS. SHARK incident earlier. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Dr. Menard (Johnson) and his fed-up-to-her-gills-with-his-obsession-with-the-dead wife, Olga (Karlatos). Menard is trying to figure out why the natives of Matool suspect voodoo in bringing some of the recently deceased back to life, while his gorgeous-eyed wife simply wants to get away from it all (her eyes…her gorgeous, green eyes…so often focused on…sigh).
We learn Menard is simply not willing to walk away from trying to figure out a scientific explanation to the recently dead returning to life (sidenote: the voodoo concept has been derided by some critics of this film. I am sure I am not the first to mention it was prominently brought up as a theory by Ken Foree in “Dawn of the Dead,” leading to a very famous catchphrase from that film).
As our travelers from the U.S.A. meet up with Menard, they learn the fate of Ann’s father, and Menard asks the travelers to check on his wife, whom, after a heated (and abusive argument) had been left home alone without a watchful eye over her (oh, if only she had a watchful eye).
If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll get that sad attempt at a joke later.
Upon finding Menard’s wife dispatched, the team attempts to reach the hospital and crashes along the way, conveniently into what appears to be a graveyard left by Spanish conquistadors. And, here, yet another iconic (one of about 16 in this film) moment occurs. Can’t spoil that sucker either, but you’ll know it when it happens.
The survivors haul ass back to the hospital with Menard and then wage a standoff the likes Romero wished he could have staged at the Monroeville Mall. Tons of fire, Molotov cocktails, gunfire, blood splatters, surprises, and carnage ensues. But, it doesn’t end there. But there is where it ends here.

Romero Rules Followed: Slow, shifty, shambling, rotting messes of undead meat. Get bit, get dead. Yup, zombies.
Gore factor: One of the goriest of all zombie films.
Zombies or Wannabees? Are you kidding? You fricken better have zombies if you are bold enough to name the film “Zombie.”
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Concrete, unshakable, inarguable classic.
Additional comments: Want to introduce someone into the realm of the zombies? Look no further than this one. And, look, I know, there is a generation gap where if the mouths don’t match the words (it’s called dubbing, jerks), viewers will scream “this sucks!” If they scream that, they are not worth being your friends. Embrace this Italian-made jewel for what it is — a classic zombie entry, and one of the finest films the late, great Fulci ever made. And one of the best horror films ever made.

— ROB

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ZomBlog Review: Part 2 of "The Walking Dead"

“The Walking Dead”
Season One, Episodes 4-6
2010
U.S.
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yuen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Emma Bell, Iron E Singleton, Michael Rooker, and Noah Emmerich

Writers: Robert Kirkman, Glenn Mazzara, Adam Fiero, Frank Darabont
Directors: Johan Renck, Ernest R. Dickerson, Guy Ferland

It has been some time since the zombies have shown their sharp teeth on this tiny little blog. Both of your humble reviewers have been incredibly busy with, uh, real-life stuff. But, as we know, zombies never truly die. So, here we are; a return to the living dead with part 2 of a review of “The Walking Dead” season 1…

“Vatos”:
Rick has led a few of the survivors into the city to retrieve both Merle and the bag of weapons he dropped earlier. Upon arriving in the city, and discovering Merle found a way to his own escape, the focus shifts to the bag of guns. While executing a plan to grab the guns, Glenn is kidnapped by a gang of Hispanic thugs, while Daryl captures one of the “thugs’” own. After a brazen plan by Rick, the real noble purpose of “The Vatos” gang is revealed. Meanwhile, back at the camp, Jim is losing his mind, digging hole after hole atop a sun-baked hill, scaring the crap out of everyone, ultimately causing Shane to take action and settle him down. Rick and his crew learn their return vehicle has been taken, and as they race back to camp, they hear screams — screams of those at the camp, realizing they have just have been ambushed by the dead. Just in time, Rick and his newly armed troop arrive at the camp, taking out the remnants of the walking dead. At the same moment, everyone is beginning to realize the cost of the ambush, including a minor character.

“Wildfire”:
The zombie attack has subsided, and the camp is cleaning up the bodies, both of the former living and the walking dead. During the disposal of the bodies, Andrea keeps watch over her severely bitten sister, awaiting for her inevitable reanimation, and Jim is discovered to have been bitten by the infected during the attack. A recurring theme appears in the series — again: Daryl needs to be stopped multiple times from killing a living being. Jim is quarantined to Dale’s camper, while Rick begins devising a plan to head to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta as a last-ditch effort to rescue Jim and the camp — and find an answer — from/about the plague. After forming alliances with his wife and his estranged friend Shane, Rick convinces (almost) everyone to mount a caravan to the CDC. Along the way, Jim decides his place to die is alone in the woods, and, after too much debate, the caravan decides to leave him on the side of the road. Meanwhile, the audience is treated to a glimpse into the life of Dr. Jenner, a seemingly alone scientist who has settled into a daily routine of trying to find a cure for the plague … as well as seeing a tragic mistake that may have set Jenner back years. As the caravan reaches the CDC, night has landed and, aside from Rick, the caravan members are growing weary of the prediction that the CDC is the last place to go. While the undead converge on the caravan as it arrives at the CDC, Rick pleads to a watchful eye…and it seems to answer.

“TC-19”:
The episode begins with a plot-filler — Shane at the hospital with Rick, still in a coma. Shane witnesses the slaughter of both patients and the undead by the military while he tries to rescue Rick from his hospital bed. Ultimately, Shane flees.
Flash to the present, and the survivors are underground, getting drunk on wine, eating a hearty meal, while their host, Jenner, sits off to the side, quiet and slightly amused. As the guests begin to question their gracious host, they learn that the plague has no hope of a cure, and the best chance for survival donated herself to the cause. In a brilliantly filmed scene, the protagonists see what the infection does, how it changes a once normal person into a flesh-finding beast, and, ultimately, the only known cure for the undead. While Mrs. Grimes and Shane (drunkenly) fight off feelings for each other, Jenner’s acceptance of humanity’s fate is soon revealed. And the countdown to survival begins, with some deciding if life on the outside is worth a chance, or if incineration is a better option.

Romero Rules Followed: I saw a few quick little bastards in the zombie hordes, but these are, almost to a “T,” Romero zombies.
Gore factor: It grew in later episodes, especially the camp attack.
Zombies or Wannabees? Absolute zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: I can’t help but admit I was royally disappointed by the first two episodes of this series. I waited until it was all over (the whole six episodes) until I dived in. It has a few pitfalls (the most zombie-fueled episode came near the end, and the overly-emotional, although nearly touching, zombie transformation was dragged out far too long [not to mention foreshadowing was fist-pounded at the beginning of said episode], and Jenner was too interesting of a character to not have been introduced earlier; the writers could have decided to introduce him in the same way (a sprinkle of his diaries at the end of each episode would have added a tad bit of mystery and intrigue into his character, rather than simply shoe-horning him into the last two episodes — but that’s just me).
I cannot say “The Walking Dead” sucked. I simply expected more. Once again, I admit I have not delved into the graphic novels as of yet, but seeing numerous Facebook/Twitter/emails about it, I really expected a new generation’s “Night of the Living Dead.” “The Walking Dead,” as a TV series, doesn’t even come close. It has some great moments, but some moments are (majorly) overshadowed by some issues I cannot ignore (How did Rick have all the answers at the beginning, seemingly holding it all together, and suddenly forget how to form a logical thought by the end of the season? He looked completely lost by the end. And, please, if women are going to survive the apocalypse, they should not cry so much. Seriously. I think any woman who could survive a zombie apocalypse would not sit around crying all the time. Cut back on that, please. For some reason, I prefer to think of women as strong, not crying sissies).
All in all, these are minor complaints. “The Walking Dead” had a lot of high points. Despite my hurtful slings and arrows, we really were given a set of characters to which we could relate. We were given top-notch zombies (great work, KNB EFX; I have admired you since my youth). We were given a zombie story that felt mostly real. We were given characters and (some) situations we could relate. Not shabby for a basic cable channel. I now divert my focus onto the graphic novel (which, certainly will wind up here for praise/slaughter).
And, yes, without reservation, I gave this one a “Classic” rating. I’m not entirely stupid.

— ROB PERRY

Monday, March 28, 2011

ZomBlog Review: Part 1 of "The Walking Dead"

“The Walking Dead”
Season One, Episodes 1-3
2010
U.S.
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yuen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Emma Bell, IronE Singleton, Michael Rooker,
Writer: Frank Darabont, Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore
Director: Frank Darabont, Michelle Maxwell MacLaren , Gwyneth Horder-Payten

When Andrew and I started this blog, we knew this behemoth was on the horizon. And I cannot count the thirty or so inquiries asking if we knew about/had heard of/were going to review “The Walking Dead.”
With all honesty, we do not know everything about zombies or everything about zombie films/fiction. I know the most (probably). But, combined, we know a load. There was no way in zombie-infested hell that “The Walking Dead” could have lumbered below our radar. That being said, the comics DID fly under my radar (long, boring nerdy story). So, for the sake of argument, I will be examining the televised version of “The Walking Dead,” and nothing about the comic book series (for now).
So, here we go.
SPOILERS FOLLOW; DO NOT READ FUTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FIRST THREE EPISODES:

“Days Gone By”:
Rick Grimes (Lincoln), an injured deputy sheriff, awakens in a hospital from a coma to find everyone and everything is gone. In a desperate attempt to find his (nearly) estranged wife and child, he hauls ass home in his hospital gown to find a few peculiar pedestrians along the way and ultimately a father and son team of survivors who fill him in that, should he get bit, he will develop an uncontrollable fever, a fever that will kill him dead and later cause a return from death. They know — because the wife/mother of the Jones boys seems to return nightly to the house they have landed as a hideout; Mama comes home and wants to reunite, while father, eventually armed with a high-powered rifle, just can’t bring himself to blow mama’s brains out. Deputy Grimes heads toward Atlanta, Georgia, on horseback, hoping that the news of a heavily-fortified shelter are true. Rumors are unfounded. Rick finds his only shelter from a horde of the hungry undead is an abandoned Army tank. And from there, a friendly voice may be able to save him…

“Guts”:
Rick finds his savior is a smart-ass but fleet-of-foot Asian, Glenn, who guides him into a department store in the middle of besieged Atlanta. From there, Rick learns many others have survived the …well… hordes of the undead. The survivors he meets, he learns, are scavengers, looking for supplies, and, thanks to his boomy hello, are now drawing the attention of the surrounding undead, blocking their return to a camp in the middle of the Georgia wilderness. Speaking of the camp, the audience learns not only is Grimes’ wife and child are alive, but she is wantonly accepting the attention of his former police partner, Shane (which is fairly graphically represented in the opening credits). But, back to Rick, who has found himself inside a department store in the middle of Atlanta, realizing he has stranded the group of scavengers by firing off a full clip of bullets while hauling ass to cover. And he doesn’t get much help from a racist redneck, Merle Dickson (Rooker, aka Henry Lee Lucas; so glad to see you, sir). Upon meeting the scavengers, realizing their plight at the hands of now attentive zombies, Rick and Glenn devise a plan to transport the survivors inside a delivery truck — ultimately deciding the safest way to get to the truck is by walking through the horde of zombies using “creative camouflage.”

“Tell It To The Frogs”:
Upon reuniting with his family at a camp in the woods, Rick decides that leaving behind an incredible redneck/racist in Atlanta — handcuffed to a rooftop, mind you — might be against his moral code. After a brief discussion between the other scavengers and a difficult “Spartacus” like moment with the chained-man’s younger brother at the camp, Rick decides to take three men back to Atlanta to rescue Merle — and pick up a bag of guns he siphoned from the sheriff’s station but bailed on after seeking refuge in the tank. While all seems hunky-dory with his wife (Wayne Callies), her “I thought my husband was dead” replacement, Shane, is finding it difficult to see that Rick has rejoined his family and finds a way to still keep involved in the Grimes family dynamic. Rick, in the meantime, leads the team of four to Atlanta to rescue Merle, ultimately realizing they may be too late for a rescue.

Analysis: I know I am not the first person to point out that “anal” is the first part of “analysis,” which is probably why I wanted to find so many issues with “The Walking Dead” upon first viewing. Look, the show’s pilot showed balls with the first scene showing Rick blast the brains out of a little zombified child. That takes guts for a basic-cable channel to introduce a new show to a wide audience in that way (especially if the audience has only heard that the show featured zombies, and knew absolutely nothing else about it). Darabont is probably the reason that two out of three adapted Stephen King stories have reached dynamic critical (and Academy Award-nominated) acclaim. “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile” are phenomenal films, faithfully adapted from the source material. Darabont seems to understand the importance of strong character development in a drama/horror (he wrote the screenplay to “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,” the collective fan-favorite of the series [Sidenote: Hey, Andrew, where are the Academy Award-nominated writers from the ‘Friday the 13th’ series? Hello? Hello?]).
Darabont gets it. Or so I thought.
My biggest problem with the first three episodes is Mrs. Grimes and her quick dismissal of Shane upon learning Rick is still alive. It is nearly glossed over in a few lines of dialogue and, considering the introduction of Shane and his relationship with Rick in the first episode, it remains a tense element, but how it is handled in the third episode seems almost an afterthought (yeah, Shane beats a misogynist’s face in after being told to stay away, but still). Really, the “our relationship is over” talk is less than a minute of screentime. And, am I alone in thinking Lori Grimes might be a colossal bitch? She certainly was portrayed that way. I don’t want to sound like a soap opera watching house-frau, but the relationship with Shane/Rick and Lori is a glaring plot issue (which I had assumed would be addressed in more detail later).
Another issue? The blatant “I’ve seen this before” moments. You’ve read this blog before, right? Seen a guy wake up in a hospital after a zombie apocalypse with no idea it is happening? You might remember “28 Days Later.” Seen bodies of the slain undead wrapped and tied up in white sheets? You might have seen Lucio Fulci’s “Zombie.” Seen a group of people trapped in a department store? You might have seen “Dawn of the Dead.” Seen a sympathetic halved corpse? Yup, you saw her give detailed plot exposition in “The Return of the Living Dead.” Seen people shuffle through a horde of the undead by pretending to be one of them? “Shaun of the Dead” made it damn funny.
OK, I am picking nits. The real problems I have with the first season of “The Walking Dead” show up later.
So, after my curmudgeonly remarks, let me give the first three episodes the praise they indeed deserve.
First off, the pilot gets the audience sucked in right away. The zombie effects are top-notch (go figure, Greg Nicotero of the KNB Effects company is a producer). The acting is suitable for a cable-network show (although I seriously doubt any Emmy award nominations are headed hereto forth). But, again, it’s a drama series with zombies. If you are a zombie fan, you’ve suffered through many an atrocious attempt at acting. “The Walking Dead” succeeds on many levels of marrying heady-social issues with an undead apocalypse (Rick murdering [rescuing?] the aforementioned halved-corpse-lady in the park is a rather bizarre, yet touching, moment).
So, down to brass tacks…

Romero Rules Followed: I saw a few quick little bastards in the zombie hordes, but these are, almost to a “T,” Romero zombies…at this point.
Gore factor: Fairly mild, save for a couple feasting moments and the dismemberment-of-zombie-for-camouflage sequence.
Zombies or Wannabees? Absolute zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: I’ll save this spot for the final review of season 1.
— ROB

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gaming the System

Onechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad
Dir. Yohei Fukuda

2008

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a katana-wielding Japanese chick dressed in a bikini, feather boa and cowboy hat; Pinky Tuscadero’s slutty Asian twin; and a fat, bumbling bit of so-called comic relief go trekking through the zompocalyptic wasteland in search of revenge for the most clichéd of reasons. The multifarious problems with Onechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad, adapted from the hack and slash video games of the same name, are painfully apparent 15 minutes in when a promising zombie-slashing sequence grinds to a halt for a solid five minutes of uninterrupted, shoe-horned exposition. After that you know the whole plot and how this will inevitably end. The next hour is just shuffling lethargically toward the inevitable confrontation with the madman behind the zombie outbreak, his murderous minion and a horde of undead brain-munchers sporting identical hooded ponchos. Along the way, all of the trials are telegraphed well in advance and dealt with so perfunctorily that not even the cast has any investment in this flick. Because of that, none of the ham-fisted attempts to strike a dramatic, emotional beat ever ring true.




Zombology: Some time in the near future Sugita, a madman researcher at the D3 Corp. (producers of the game in an Easter egg) has figured out how to revive the dead. Predictably, the dead turn into virus-spreading shambling corpses. Undeterred by a world slowly depopulated by his creations, Sugita keeps working on his formula, needing only the blood of the heroine's family line (why? who knows?). While that all seems to comport with the Romero Rules, St. George would probably look askance at bullet proof kung fu zombies.

Though Onechanbara continues Japan’s tradition of women in swimwear facing off with the living dead, it is, put simply, not a good movie. It doesn’t even work as an 85 minute commercial for a game that debuted on the PS2 seven years ago. In fact, Onechanbara highlights the difference between gaming and watching movies. The lack of coherent plot and appreciable characterization (at one point we’re told the titular bikini-clad samurai can no longer emote after the death of her father) can be glossed over when you’re button mashing your way through a horde of pixilated zombies. In a movie, it’s just piss-poor filmmaking and a tedious waste of time. For proving Uwe Boll hasn’t cornered the market on half-assed video game adaptations, Onechanbara: Samurai Bikini Squad sucks its way to a 71 percent on the Hell of the Living Dead scale.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Frankenhooker"

“Frankenhooker”
1990
U.S.
Stars: James Lorinz, Patty Mullen, Charlotte Helmkamp, Louise Lasser, Jennifer Delora
Writer: Robert Martin and Frank Henenlotter
Dir: Frank Henenlotter
85 minutes

It is not often I can watch a movie I know is crap and still recommend it. Just about everything Frank Henenlotter has directed could be called a crappy film — but they each have just enough of the right elements to make them tolerable and, dare I say, fun.
I have been beaten down over and over again for loving “Brain Damage.” I have taken a lot of guff for enjoying “Basket Case.” And I’ve been kicked in the teeth for praising this terrible gem.
And, yes, it is bad — but so bad it is good.
I keep looking back at the past two months of reviews on this site and think, “The few readers/subscribers we have must check this blog and think to themselves, ‘When in the fuck are they going to talk about zombies again?’ ”
I promise, this is simply housecleaning.
I am a Facebook-rat. I admit, I get lonely and sometimes virtually reach-out to like-minded horror fans. I get about four to ten suggestions a month of, “Hey, have you checked this out?” Sometimes I simply say, “Yes, we reviewed it, here is the link, enjoy!” Other times I say, “Hmm, that might actually be interesting.”
Here is one of those latter instances.
I own “Frankenhooker” on DVD. I should be ashamed. I’m not. After Andrew did such respectable job examining the Frankenstein-undead/zombie inspiration, I pretty much disregarded anything Frankie-like.
But, you know, when an entire film is dedicated to an undead hooker, exploding crack-heads, and features a pre-porn career Heather Hunter, I have to dive in and argue it needs to appear here, even if it is only loosely married to zombie-lore.
“Frankenhooker” is itself a cult classic, something you would have expected to see Gilbert Gottfried and Rhonda Shear hosting on USA “Up All Night” in the early ’90s. I am sure it was featured at one point.
After gifting a self-propelled lawnmower to his fiancée’s father, which promptly runs over his hilariously “plump” lady, Jeffrey Franken (Lorinz), a nerdy and awkward inventor, sets his mind to bring back to life his severed bride. After Elizabeth Shelley’s (Mullen) accidental pre-nuptial death-by-lawn-utensil, Franken collects the salvageable pieces, including her head, and stores them in an icebox full of bubbling, electrified purple Kool-Aid. In the meantime, he goes searching for possible body parts, including using his life’s savings to rent a room full of New York hookers from a muscle-bound pimp in order to shop for the perfect parts. But when they discover he brought along his secret “re-agent,” a sparkling basketball-sized crystal of what they dub “super-crack,” all bets — and heads — are off. After a hilarious display of exploding hookers, Franken gathers up what he can salvage from Hookershima, and sets to rebuild his fiancée from the ’sploded parts. And, well, when he gets his girl back together, she greets him with a slew of the most familiar movie hooker pick-up lines — “Wanna date? Wanna go out? Got any money?” — with hilarious, robotic delivery. I must apologize, my friends, but when the newly minted Elizabeth shows up, and shows all her “quirks,” I can’t help but smile.
Oh, and Jeffrey must find a way to deal with/confine his new creation, even if she is going around New Your City and making Johns explode everywhere (no, that is not a euphemism.).
Beating “Bride of Re-Animator” by a couple months, and trailing the original premise of “Frankenstein” by nearly 60 years, “Frankenhooker” expands on the idea of collecting multiple body parts, each of those parts having an individual trait carried over from whence it came, and the composite of those parts struggling to find a collective identity. That might seem a bit heady and existential, but, nah, not for this movie. Henenlotter doesn’t go for deep meanings. He went for cheap laughs. And I was a sucker for them then and remain so now.
Looking back, it seems the “Frankenstein” grave had somewhat of a small robbery around 1990, with the Jeff Fahey/Brad Dourif starrer “Body Parts” also coming out around the same time and only a few short years later the Kenneth Branaugh/Robert DeNiro “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” (which, I, um, also kinda like). “Frankenhooker” is laughs first, gore second, and story third. It hangs together with loose stitches, but, hell, you weren’t expecting “The Godfather” with that title, were you?

Romero Rules Followed: Uh, none
Gore factor: Surprisingly little despite the amount of exploding bodies involved.
Zombies or Wannabees? The ending is open for argument, but, overall, wannabees.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine (on the overall cult-status scale, it is a classic)
Additional comments: Look, “Frankenhooker” is a guilty pleasure. I’m sorry. But, meet me back here next week for part one of an exhaustive analysis of Season 1 of “The Walking Dead.”
And, oh yeah, might have had an issue or two with that one...
— ROB

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Dawn of the Mummy"

“Dawn of the Mummy”
1981
Italy/U.S.
Stars: Brenda King, Barry Sattels, George Peck
Writer: Daria Price, Ronald Dobrin, and Frank Agrama
Dir: Frank Agrama
97 minutes

I think I stumbled onto a new zombie influence not yet discussed on this blog: Mummies.
And damn my eyes for not stumbling onto it with the Boris Karloff/Universal Studios classic, “The Mummy,” rather than this sad sack of an attempt at filmmaking.
Full disclosure: I remember looking at the TV schedule as a young, impressionable boy and seeing the option of spending a Sunday afternoon filled with “Wide World of Sports” or going deep into the channels and watching an afternoon of horror films on the local graveyard of borderline public domain fodder, Channel 50 in Washington, D.C. DC-50 is now a radio station owned by the CW/Paramount network (if I am assuming correctly) and is actually broadcasting original programming.
But it wasn’t always so. And so (getting past my swim in “Lake Me” for a moment), my nimble fingers click-click-clicked the channel dial to see one of my first introductions into flesh-eating undead.
Well, special effects didn’t really need to be that impressive for a child in the early 1980s. Nor did plot, dialogue, character development, and editing.
Holy shit, what a difference 25 years make.
The fact that I could remember the name “Dawn of the Mummy” nearly 25 years later would make one think “Damn, this must have been good to have left such an impression.”
For all the wrong reasons, it did. I had remembered the final 10 minutes of the film in great detail, where a fairly nimble group of undead mummies raid a wedding party to start helping themselves to the main course: the wedding patrons. The black-faced/grue-dripping/gauze-wrapped fiends did an impressive job at ripping guts and gore from the guests and promptly consuming them (again, it was impressive then; it’s just OK now).
Yes, I remembered the “pay-off.” I think even at a horror/gore hungry 8-years-old, I must have found some other way to occupy my attention span, probably with He-Man or G.I. Joe toys, rather than to have sat with my undivided attention at the first 80-plus minutes of this terrible, boring, disjointed romp. And, instead of boring you with the usual, long-winded detail I tend to plop down on this blog, I will simply give a few bullet points.
• A photographer and a group of models are sent to Cairo to do a photo shoot for, what a terrible voiceover tells the audience, is a very important client for a magazine; So, one would think they would wind up shooting at the pyramids. Nope. This photographer decides to shoot in the middle of a desert that could have been in the Mojave, or a back-lot at a studio for all one could tell. And, yeah, the film was actually shot in Cairo and shows the cast driving around the majestic pyramids. Opportunity (or filming permit) missed.
• An American “grave robber” and his bumbling, stereotyped Arabic assistants have invaded the tomb of well-known savage mummy, but can’t find his treasure. They overact the shit out of every scene they are in, and, for absolutely no reason, agree to allow the photographer and his crew to take over the tomb they had invaded to finish their photoshoot. Still with me?
• The heat of the lamps used to light the terribly choreographed photoshoot take several days to (Melt? Burn? Annoy?) awaken the mummy. The mummy (a name I would write here, but it is said no less than 15 different ways throughout the film) gets up, gets pissed, somehow raises his henchmen (who were buried with him in the tomb) out of the middle of the fricken desert at the suggestion of a crazy woman. Confused yet? I just attempted to describe the first 20 minutes.
This movie is a mess all over. My counterpart really needs to review this one. Aside from (overt) racism and stock footage montages, this movie might heavily compete with “Hell of the Living Dead” as the worst attempt at zombie/undead filmmaking I have yet seen.
That said, the SFX people did not do too shabby a job with the gut-munching end. I’m only referring to the glimpses and long shots of the feasting. The entire climax is also a mess, and a hurried one at that.

Romero Rules Followed: I could almost see some Romero influence. The mummies do not run, they are clearly dead, they eat the living, and they can be beaten down with blows/shots to the head. But, ultimately, not zombies.
Gore factor: Not much at all until the last 10 minutes.
Zombies or Wannabees? I’ll have to say very, very close to zombies. But, ultimately, no.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Waste of time, unless the MST3K guys have a commentary track and you have plenty of mind-altering substances on hand. Copious amounts of beer or Old Crow bourbon would be fitting.
Additional comments: I really think the director realized he had made a total piece of garbage once he hit the editing room. The excessive use of post-production voiceovers to attempt to fill in plotholes and dialogue miscues is a glaring problem that cannot be ignored. Who knows. The DVD copy I have does include a commentary. There might be a day where I attempt to sit through this again (if I want to really torture myself/punish myself for some transgression) and listen to the director either defend or destroy this film, Tommy Wiseau style. I can’t subject myself to it anytime soon, though. Remember, loyal readers, we do this so you don’t have to.

— ROB

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Zombie or Wannabe: Jason Voorhees

Rob and I are cinematically simpatico to a frightening degree for two 30-something heterosexual guys in committed relationships, but where we draw our respective battelines is at our preferred ’80s slasher cheezfests. While Rob mumbles excuses for the continued existence of the unfunny/unscary tedium that is the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, I could be found camping out at Crystal Lake.
Jason Voorhees is pretty much everything I ask for in a murderous cinematic maniac: yes, there’s a back story, but fortunately it’s not that important and takes a backseat to an endless parade of nubile camp counselors blundering blindly into machetes and spear guns after smoking a bowl and boinking a coed. Jason himself is an implacable force of bloodthirsty nature. There’s no bad one liners, no monologuing while the survivor girl comes up with a brilliant plan and he’s been resurrected more times than Aerosmith’s career.
And it’s that resurrection that leads me to ponder whether Mr. Voorhees should be invited to the zombie family reunion. So I turned my attention to Jason Lives, the sixth film in the Friday the 13th franchise, Jason’s fourth starring turn and the first appearance of the undead murderer that’s become ingrained in popular culture.

The case for: Things start off promisingly putridly enough as series staple Tommy Jarvis digs up Jason’s body to prove to himself the slasher is actually dead. The be-webbed, maggoty remains of Mssr. Voorhees pass the Fulci test gracefully. Jason’s reanimation, his first run as the undead and not just a backwoods retard with a bag on his head, comes courtesy of a bolt of lightning in cinematic Frankenstein fashion (the town general store is also named Karloff’s for extra Frankenstein-iness). We’ve previously dubbed Ol’ Frank a key root in the zombie family tree but decided he just doesn’t make the cut on his own. Jason's first shuffling steps out of the grave are certainly zombie worthy, but fairly quickly he's back to his traditional implacable stride as he mows through his victims. Speaking of the victims, Jason Voorhees is even smart enough to chop the phone lines to the camp when he comes a-callin’, which actually speaks to his zombie bona fides. Remember, Romero’s rambling dead were also smart enough to cripple the phones in Night of the Living Dead. But that does raise a question about ….

The case against: Jason is far more comfortable with tools than I generally expect from my undead assassins: the signature machete, a belt full of knives and even chucking an arrow. And pausing fresh from the grave to don his signature hockey mask is more sartorial acumen than any zombie has a right to claim. While Jason shrugs off bullet wounds like his zombie kin, a point blank shot to the head—a sovereign remedy for zombies—doesn’t halt him either, which is a serious breach of the Romero Rules. His prudish disapproval of promiscuous sex and recreational drug use also represents more moralizing than a zombie’s festering brain can handle.

The verdict: Not a zombie by reason of utility. Jason’s just too handy with his … umm … hands to take a place among the living dead. While writers continue to find flimsy excuses to dredge his carcass from the bottom of Crystal Lake for another killing spree and the accompanying box office receipts, Jason exhibits none of the botched science experiment/viral outbreak symptoms we’ve come to expect from a canon zombie. Combined with his intelligence, skill with weapons and single mindedness, Mama Voorhees’ little boy just doesn’t make the cut.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Unfunny

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead
Dir. Jordan Galland

2009

The only zombie to be found in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead is the shambling corpse that was once Ralph Macchio’s career. Now you may think it cruel to mock a man who’s life peaked 25 years ago and has since been auctioned off for vanity projects for Will Smith’s spawn, but watching a slumming former teen start waddle his Kennedy bloated visage through this incoherent, bloodless vampire farce is pretty much indicative of the world of suck we’re about to enter.
Vampires are not zombies. I wish Netflix knew the difference before I bumped this mislabeled shitfest up to the top of my queue on a lark. You owe me 82 excruciating minutes, Netflix!
Sad sack Julian (seriously, can I get a comedy/horror lead who isn’t a total loser?) is an unemployed 20-something theater director living in a back room at his doctor father’s office after breaking up with Anna (Devon Aoki, the model best known as the sword wielding Miho from Sin City).
Anna has moved on to possible mobster/failed business man/Ghost of Jersey Shore Yet to Come Macchio. Julian’s post-Anna life is a string of one night stands and moping with actor sidekick Vince. That all changes when Theo Horatio hires Julian to direct his avant garde production of Hamlet … with vampires. Soon Julian’s cast Vince as the dour Dane, Anna gets drafted as Ophelia and Theo starts eyeballing her pearly white neck.



ZombologyVampirology: The thoroughly incoherent plot revolves around Horatio and Hamlet (yes The Horatio and The Hamlet) who have somehow been transformed into vampires for reasons that involve the Holy Grail. I swear I was paying attention, taking notes even, but I have no idea what this movie is about. Vampire Horatio (who can walk in the sunlight, favors pancake makeup and detests garlic) has apparently spent the last 800 or so years putting on various vampiric productions of Hamlet and lunching on the cast – but the not the director. For some vague reason vampire law prevents him from noshing on the director until after the curtain falls. Unfortunately, that means Julian survives the bulk of the movie.

This movie is so awful it challenges my resolve as the ZomBlog’s self-designated Bad Cop.
Right from the title cards that break up sequences – Job Interview With a Vampire, Breakfast is Tiffany, Grave New World – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern just tries too damn hard and doesn’t deliver on either the gore or the giggles. In fact, this is the literary equivalent of Family Guy: instead of actual jokes, it just keeps tossing out endless cultural allusions and hoping those will distract you from the lack of humor, character or discernible plot. Given that damn near everybody in Hamlet dies in the end, I at least hoped the director would assuage our misery and off the entire cast horrifically, but alas and alack, most of these whiny fuckers survive. The movie never deviates an iota from the romcom template and you know exactly how this piece of shit will end. And vampires be-damned, it’s not bloodily. Imagine Twilight as written by Seth MacFarlane. This sucks 86 percent as bad as Hell of the Living Dead.

Monday, February 28, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Dead and Buried"

“Dead and Buried”
1981
U.S.
Stars: James Farentino, Melody Anderson, and Jack Albertson
Writer: Screenplay by Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon
Dir: Gary A. Sherman
94 minutes

Nothing pleases me more than to stumble onto something others had discovered and hailed as a classic before it wound up in my hands. While I must say at the outset that I knew this was not exactly zombie fodder, its reputation demanded I take a look.

And I am glad I did.

“Dead and Buried” is what I would call a great episode of “The Twilight Zone.” It plays out very much like that. The film opens with a photographer on a secluded beach (passing by a sign welcoming him to “Potter’s Bluff — A New Way of Living”), and finding a more than willing and attractive subject in a young blonde. Within a few moments, he is beset upon by a horde of old men and women, even the blonde herself. He’s strung up, tied to a pole, and burned alive. Later, a tow truck driver (Freddy fricken’ Krueger himself Robert Englund, prior to his “V” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” days) and Sheriff Dan Gillis (Farentino) examine a car wreck, where, they find none other than the torched photographer — very much alive and screaming.

The sheriff suspects that things are not what they seem and begins investigating the accident involving the out-of-towner, inquiring with the local coroner, Dobbs (a splendid performance by Albertson, who won an Oscar in 1968 for “The Subject Was Roses” but was probably better known as Grandpa Joe in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” or "The Man" in "Chico and The Man" TV series; his last big screen performance was this film). Albertson’s performance is low-key but incredibly charismatic and stands out above the others (even though all are very solid).

As the film moves forward, the audience starts noticing that some people appeared to have died — but are now walking around and working in the town as other people in different occupations.

As the sheriff delves deeper into a few other mysterious out-of-towner deaths, the secret of Potter’s Bluff is revealed and the film ends with a nice twist — not one that you don’t see coming, but a very satisfying one all the same.


Romero Rules Followed: None at all

Gore factor: Moderate, despite some real attempts

Zombies or Wannabees? Wannabees

Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic, but not in the zombie sense

Additional comments: While the film featured a lot of great performances (and included some early effects work by Stan Winston) and is a satisfying horror film, it does not belong in the zombie canon. It is closely married to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” And, it holds its own in that vein. I mean, come on, it was made by the same team that unleashed “Alien” onto the world, and later “The Return of the Living Dead.” It’s worth a look. Just don’t look for flesh-eating zombies.

— ROB

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dick Move

We here at the Zomblog will applaud and giggle through just about any form of dismemberment and disembowelment you can name, chowing down on a big plate of marinara in the process. That’s just the kinda guys we are. Sensitivity is not our strong point. But there’s one go-to gore move to which we feel compelled to object: dick biting. We understand it’s a time honored horror tradition as old as The Last House on the Left and as recent as the horrifying *shudder* Teeth. But now we have zombies turning on our sensitive nethers and this must stop, we say. Zombies are supposed to be our friends. Not cool, zombies.
He are four flicks that will have you grabbing your crotch in terror.

Deadgirl
If you’re about to get all mouth-rapey with a naked, chained up zombie sex slave, would it hurt you to make nice just a little? I’m not saying roses and poetry, but maybe a kind word or two. Compliment her red, enraged, zombified eyes. Dead chicks like that. Whatever you do, don’t tell her “C’mon, baby, it’s alright. It’s not gonna bite you.” That’s just an invitation to have your johnson gobbled. And not in a good way.

Zombie Strippers
Zombie Strippers’ central tenet seems to be that no matter how putrid and rotting the chick, there is some dude who is hard up enough to toddle off to the back room with a wad of twenties for a private dance from her. It’s not enough that the undead pole jockeys are munching on the clientele, but they start the feast with a cocktail weiner.

Yoroi: Samurai Zombie
In Yoroi, it’s not actually the zombies that commit the unthinkable. So allow me to offer all the murderous psychopaths of the world a word of advice. If the lovely hostage you just took suddenly stops quivering in terror and suddenly starts loving you up, keep it in your pants before it ends up twitching on the floor. Seriously, your creepy charisma just doesn’t work like that.

Tokyo Gore Police
In a world where genetically engineered criminals are roaming the streets in bloody rampages, maybe it’s not a great idea to hit up the S&M body modding club. But should the curiosity be irresistible, Mr. Yakuza Man, like with the Zombie Strippers, stay out of the back room. Nothing good came come from the back room. Deep down you know that already. Once the creepy lady with the crocodile jaws for legs bites off your wanger, it’s a little late to reconsider your life choices.

Monday, February 21, 2011

ZomBlog Review: "Day By Day Armageddon"


“Day By Day Armageddon”
2007
U.S.
Permuted Press/Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books
Writer: J.L. Bourne
300 pages

First-person narratives have a distinct rule: Find a voice and stick with it.

While I did enjoy J.L. Bourne’s first foray into the undead, I could not help but find myself taken in and out of the book by the lack of a distinct voice.

The book is meant to be a first-person journal written by a Texas Navy pilot (test pilot? Ensign?) who decides to stay barricaded in his home as news of a growing undead apocalypse unfolds. He goes through the steps any wise hunkered-down survivalist would go through: he steals MREs (meals ready-to-eat) from his Naval base, ensures plenty of clean water, ammo, and weaponry is in his basement, along with loads of batteries, etc. He luckily has a stone wall built around his home, allowing for a natural perimeter from the undead. He knows enough about military and CB radio communication to allow him to listen in as events unfold — the dead are coming back to life, the police are unable to dispatch the menace, and the government has now stepped in to manage the threat. As the impending military response looms, our unnamed narrator learns a neighbor across the way — who, luckily, happens to be an engineer — is still alive. After several days of communicating news back and forth (with Morse code and low-rent walkie-talkies, of course), the neighbor, John, and the narrator decide to haul arse to an airfield, abscond with a small plane, fill it with as much supplies and equipment as it will hold, and head to a less populated area, just in time to avoid a nuclear bomb drop.

The journal skips from day to day as the narrator and his new found friend (and a dog) head from location to location, in search of a place to escape the apocalypse, including an island. Along their way, they encounter a family — father, mother and daughter — and a lone young woman, all of whom the narrator decides to rescue from a horde of zombies, risking his life, and increasing his responsibility. The survivors eventually make their way to an underground bunker, where, finally, the story really begins to move. And, sadly, abruptly ends.

As mentioned above, the challenge with telling a story from a first-person perspective is the difficulty in finding a voice. A writer who decides to use this device must have a solid grasp on how his/her character conveys the story. A writer cannot go from commenting on how bad a writer they are (as the narrator admits a few entries into the journal) to describing events in very, very vivid detail — detail that could be only described as “overwriting” in some cases (if I was writing a journal describing my zombie-killing quests, I would not vividly describe killing one zombie on one page and simply say ‘I got rid of them’ on another), and an incestual connection to the source material in others (Bourne almost made me understand the start-up/pre-flight procedure of a Cessna at one point; he also gave a hell of a lot of detail in military protocol in dealing with a disaster scenario).

Romero Rules Followed: The undead here follow all the rules. No runners, but some seem to move a little faster than others, an insinuation that the nuclear fallout may have preserved the recently undead. The only way to dispatch them is to destroy the brain, or set them aflame.

Gore factor: Yeah, again, here is where the description becomes too much. Based on the journal-writer’s description, there is gore-aplenty.

Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies

Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine

Additional comments: Bourne’s writings were recommended to me by a man I interviewed, a one Chad Dukes, a man I highly respect when it comes to modern zombie lore, so, I sought out Mr. Bourne’s works. Dukes cited Bourne’s attention to real-world military detail. Bourne’s attention to detail in this aspect is something I can’t turn a blind eye to, even though I wouldn’t have a clue if he was accurate. I have to take the man at his prose (he does work in Washington, D.C., with the Department of Homeland Security, so he has a big leg up on me). While I have been fairly critical of Bourne’s first outing, I fully acknowledge I know “Armageddon” began as a blog and became a novel, a novel with sequential follow-ups. I plan to delve into the sequels, and they may appear here.

Hopefully Bourne’s narrator will find an identity.

— ROB

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dead Head

Deadgirl
Dirs. Marcel Sarmiento, Gadi Harel

2008
For all the on-screen dismemberment and mayhem I have imbibed in my life, very few films have ever really gotten under my skin in a creeptastic kind of way: watching The Exorcist at 12, the infamous rape scene in Irreversible, and large swaths of Antichrist. I’m not yet sure how I feel about Deadgirl, but I may have to add it to the list for its relentlessly amoral portrayal of horny male teens without a conscience.
JT, Ricky and Wheeler are just good American teens whose hobbies include truancy, cadging beers from indifferent, absentee parents and brutally raping zombie sex slaves.
Wait, what?
OK, so only JT and Wheeler decide to get down with the dead while Ricky has some rudimentary moral qualms about the whole set up that lead him to abstain, but Deadgirl does not mince screen time before the teens delve balls-first into unbridled depravity. While the film boasts a couple of classic jump cuts that actually manage to startle and some unsettling sound work, the real squick factor comes from the character development. Deadgirl keeps its lens squarely on childhood friends JT and Ricky as they delve the depths of their own morality.

Zombology: Skipping school after fire drill, Ricky and JT go wandering through the local abandoned “nuthouse” (where the lights are still on, I might observe). Down in the building’s creepy bowels, the delinquent duo find a naked girl chained to a table behind a door that must have rusted shut years before. What at first seems to be corpse, turns out to be a breathing, living (?) woman. How the friends react will ultimately sunder their friendship and force them to confront their own sketchy morals. JT immediately gets all rapey (dragging in Wheeler) while Ricky’s ill-defined sense of right is more conflicted. From a zombie standpoint, this is a fairly classic fare: get bitten, become a zombie. But the zombies are really a backdrop to the horror only teen males can conjure.

Though she’s naked and worldless for the entire film, Emily Spain as the titular girl manages to evoke an astonishing amount of pathos, imbuing her zombie with a festering core of humanity amid the gut munching. A few ill-timed comedic digressions aside, this is a film that is relentless in its pessimism and nihilistic view of humanity. Even Ricky, whose conflicted loyalty to his childhood friends and his fumbling attraction to the wholesome girl next door, comes closest to wearing a white hat in this movie, makes choices that are ultimately less than honorable and ultimately very human. As is JT’s desire to carve out a space in the Deadgirl’s dungeon where he exert some control over an indifferent world where he sees no future for himself. Deadgirl is not an easy film. It’s not a slight horror romp. It’s a film that asks some uncomfortable question and leaves you with unsatisfying answers. Deadgirl sucks only 10 percent as bad as Hell of the Living Dead.