Thursday, May 17, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "Aaah! Zombies!!"

“Aaah! Zombies!!”
Stars: Matthew Davis, Julianna Robinson, Michael Grant Terry, Betsy Buetler, Colby French, Jack Orend, Richard Riehle, Tracey Walter
Writers: Matthew and Sean Kohnen
Dir: Matthew Kohnen
90 minutes

As the zombie genre continues to become overly saturated with attempts at homages, remakes, and retreads, it is welcoming to see something different come along. Different, in this case, does not mean “great.” It means “pretty good.”
I did not know what to expect with “Aaah! Zombies!!” because the title itself is awful. I read that it had won a couple of small festival awards, but reading the synopsis, I found it to be uninteresting and quite possibly a waste of time. While I was not entirely wrong, I will say this: It was original to a point.
So, stop me if you heard this one before: A military experiment goes wrong and the government tries to cover it up. At the start, the audience is shown black and white footage of an Army recruit accepting a serum (serum that is glowing green a la the “Re-Animator” reagent) that is supposed make him a “super soldier.” After a matter of seconds, the soldier dies and reanimates as a powerful zombie. The clip ends, and the creator of the experiment, Dr. Richter, is shown placing baby formula labels over barrels of what the audience knows to be the undeadly reagent. The barrels are loaded onto a truck and shipped out of the military compound, the truck followed by a mysterious biker. While the two truck drivers argue over directions, they nearly run over the motorcyclist, and barrels of the reagent fall off the truck and roll through a California town.
A barrel stops and decides to dump its contents on a box of soft-serve ice cream mixture that just so happened to be waiting outside of a bowling alley. The mixture is brought inside and immediately dumped into the soft-serve machine.
That’s a lot of set up for the first five minutes of any film. In this case, it is needed to set up not only the rest of the film, but also this review.
So enters our cast of characters: Tim, the dorky, insecure bowling alley worker, his misfit, goofy best friend Mike, the ditzy object of Tim’s unrequited affections, Cindy, and Mike’s plucky ex-girlfriend, Vanessa, all hanging out alone in the bowling alley before league night. Tim unknowingly dumps the reagent-laden soft-serve mix into the machine while Mike gets the great idea to mix beer into the soft-serve machine, and then serves it up to his friends as a taste test.
Here is where the premise of the movie took hold. Up until this point, the only color allowed by the filmmakers was of the glowing green serum (and then the soft-serve ice cream). After consuming the ice cream, the tasters appear to turn into the undead — but then, everything is in color and they appear to be normal, save some gastrointestinal discomfort. They talk to each other, they discuss what they are feeling inside, (Mike is damn hungry for something but can’t figure out what), and decide to head to an emergency clinic for help. It is when they are hopping into the car that animal-loving Cindy accidentally kills a cat, one she picked up hoping to keep it from being run over — and it explodes. The foursome heads toward the clinic, where they then run into a man, claiming to be a soldier who informs them that the populace has been infected by a military experiment, giving up some plot points as to what is going on, until the main characters realize he has half of a motorcycle handlebar protruding from his stomach. Yup, he is the mysterious biker, apparently not suffering any pain from being creamed in a motorcycle accident. With a few unfortunate circumstances happening to the motley crew of friends along the way, they realize they are actually the infected and try to find a way to avoid not only capture, but certain death at the hands of the descending military.
And, yes, some of this is rather funny.

Romero Rules Followed:  Get bitten, become one; the hunger for brains is there; and one of the crew mentions that zombies cannot run. Some points for that.
Gore factor: Hardly any, despite a few limbs falling or being hacked off.
Zombies or Wannabees? Zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: Again, while the filmmakers decided to take the story from the point of view of the zombies, and inject comedy, that does not make it a great film. It is just OK. There were several gags that I noticed paid homage to other flicks (the dismembered self-sufficient hand screamed “Evil Dead II,” and the toxin-filled barrels were an obvious “Return of the Living Dead” reference), but, I’ve seen these too many times now. If filmmakers could stop with simply paying respect to stone-cold classics and find more ingenious ways to inject life into the genre, it would be appreciated. Telling the story from the zombie point of view was a step in the right direction, and I know it would be difficult to do so in a serious manner. But it has been done, yet no one has got it right yet. Come on, guys. Try harder.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

ZomBlog Review: "Fido"

Stars: K’sun Ray, Billy Connelly, Carrie-Anne Moss, Dylan Baker, Henry Czerny
Writers: Robert Chomiak, Andrew Currie, and Dennis Heaton (based on an original story by Dennis Heaton)
Dir: Andrew Currie
93 minutes

It’s the middle 1950s and you need to have a servant if you are anyone of status. The times and a cosmic radiation cloud have presented you with a great fortune: a zombie butler.
So begins the premise of “Fido,” where we, the audience, are presented with a very sympathetic, mindless form to satisfy indentured servitude. Despite that overly written, drastic damnation, “Fido” is far more a condemnation of servitude as a whole rather than a commentary on slavery. And, past that, it is more of a condemnation of complacency, distance, and, moreso, a very well-handled parody of the 1950s idea of a perfect family.
Timmy Robinson is a normal kid living in a post-apocalyptic world. Zombies arose and were, for the most part, defeated. What was left of the great “zombie war,” was a company, ZomCom, and a bunch of smart guys took over. They found a way to domesticate the zombies through a controlling shock collar, eliminating the zombie desire to devour the living and, therefore, turning them into mindless servants of the living.
Ellen Robinson (Moss) , realizing her family is the last on the street to not own a zombie servant, purchases a zombie, much to the dismay of her zombie-fearing husband, Bill (apparently, he had to kill his zombie dad, and it is a very, very touchy subject).
Timmy initially hates the new, bumbling, non-verbal servant, until said servant interjects into what could have been a tragic beating/shooting by a couple of bullies. The zombie servant therein earns a name, Fido, and begins a friendship with Timmy and his mother — but not Timmy’s evasive, obscure, and distant father.
After an unfortunate accident involving Fido and a neighbor (well, Fido went all bitey on a nosey old woman), Timmy fights to protect Fido’s “life,” and what ensues is simply ludicrous. And very entertaining, if you like your horror mixed with satire and gratuitous references to obvious films/TV shows.

Romero rules followed: Nearly all, considering Fido was almost a tribute to Bub in “Day of the Dead”
Gore factor: Fairly moderate until the penultimate ending.
Zombies or wannabees?: Zombies aplenty
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Fine
Additional comments: I dare anyone I know to be handed a script and take Connelly’s role as Fido, and do more with it. Here is the description: You are a zombie. You do not say a word. GO! Connelly invokes far more emotion and evocations with a limited role than many Juilliard-trained actors do. He displays more emotion in seconds than many do with bloated, monologue-driven grasps at greatness.
 — ROB