Movie Review: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

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anna and the apocalypse
Vertigo Releasing
2017
R

“Christmas is fast becoming my least favorite ‘C’ word.”

  • When the zombie apocalypse hits the sleepy town of Little Haven – at Christmas – teenager Anna and her high school friends have to fight, sing and dance to survive, with the undead horde all around them. Teaming up with her best friend John, Anna has to fight her way through zombified snowmen, Santas, elves and Christmas shoppers to get across town to the high school, where they’ll be safe. But they soon discover that being a teenager is just as difficult as staying alive, even at the end of the world.

For whoever it was out there that was watching Shaun Of The Dead and thought to themselves, “What this movie needs is High School Musical-style musical numbers,” well, your prayers have been answered. You sick, sick freak.

So, as per my Holiday Clusterbomb tradition, I was going through the list of Best Christmas Movies To Stream on Den Of Geek one day, and came across Anna And The Apocalypse. It was described as a kind of Shaun Of The Dead-style zombie apocalypse dark comedy that was also a musical. It was British, so I wonder if they happen to refer to dark comedies as just “comedies”. Also…a musical? As in, a Disney style, everyone breaks into song for no apparent reason kinda thing?

Yep. It totally is. Also, I enjoyed the ever-lovin’ hell out of Anna And The Apocalypse.

Oh, this is just wonderfully camp for all the right reasons. Anna is a teenager who has to deal with telling her widower father that she’s planning on taking a year to travel after school, instead of going to university, as well as dealing with the stress of helping plan the school’s Christmas pageant and staying out of the sights of the Vice Principal, who obviously patterned his teaching style after that school teacher in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Then one morning, while bopping and singing along to a jaunty tune on her earbuds, she and her friends notice that a zombie apocalypse has hit the town, and now they have to band together to make it back to the high school in one piece and hope for the promised extradition by the military. Only, the Vice Principal may have gone literally mad with power, in a Colonel Kurtz sort of way. All the while breaking out in song at key points in the film. Wacky.

I didn’t know what to expect going into watching Anna And The Apocalypse, but boy howdy did I have a great time watching this. I was by myself, so I couldn’t share the wackiness with anyone else, which could have enhanced the experience. As a Christmas movie, yeah, it’s set during Christmas, but that seems to be more an incidental thing. As is the zombie apocalypse, but any good zombie flick worth its brains isn’t really about the zombies, but the character development that happens during the conflict. And here it definitely does a great job making you care about the characters. And not everyone gets out unscathed, which made it hit all the harder. Or, maybe I’m getting all kinds of sentimental in my middle age, I don’t know. My favorite character, by far, was Vice Principal Arthur Savage, whose “I’ve just gone full nutter” song had shades of Rocky Horror Picture Show going.

Overall: Yeah, I’d say go and watch this, especially during the Christmas season of the holidays. The songs were pretty good, but really, it’s the character interaction and watching a teenage girl impale zombies with a giant fake candy cane that makes this my new family Christmas tradition.

Movies+Beer: DEAD 7

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dead 7 banner

James and Kari are back, this time tackling the movie that answers the question, “What do you do with washed-up boy bands from the late 20th and early 21st centuries?” You stick ’em in a post-apocalyptic zombie western, of course. Could Dead 7 be worse than Mandy The Haunted Doll? Listen in and find out…

::END TRANSMISSION::

Movies+Beer: ZOMBIELAND 2 Doubletap

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zombieland 2

Ten years after the first Zombieland hit theaters, we finally get the sequel they’ve been threatening to make. Join James and Exalted Geeks Brian, Sarah, Everett, Jessie and Jacob as we discuss what is basically America’s answer to Shaun Of The Dead, and whether double tapping the franchise was a good thing, or if they should have left the corpse lay…

Movie Review: CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD

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city of the living deadMedusa Distribution
1980
NR

“The city of the dead. The living dead. A cursed city where the gates of hell have been opened.”

The Seven Gates of Hell have been torn open, and in three days the dead shall rise and walk the earth. As a reporter and a psychic race to close the portals of the damned, they encounter a seething nightmare of unspeakable evil. The city is alive–with the horrors of the living dead!

I will have to double-check, but I’m pretty sure this is my first experience watching a Lucio Fulci movie. I know, I call myself a horror aficionado, and I haven’t been experienced with any of the Italian masters that everyone keeps recommending me to watch. Well, City Of The Living Dead has been sitting on my external hard drive for a number of years now, and here I am finally getting around to watching the first in a very loose unofficial “Gates of Hell” trilogy. And my initial reaction would be…”huh.”

Let me clarify: City Of The Living Dead has something of a reputation as a legendary movie that’s full of really insane and gory moments, where even those who haven’t seen this yet know of its existence as almost an urban legend. You know the type of movie, where it’s hyped up so much in your head, by the time you get around to watching it, it kind of doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Don’t get me wrong, here; City Of The Living Dead certainly earns its reputation as a completely nuts and insane zombie flick, heavy on the gore and violence effects. Where the movie excels greatly is the establishment of atmosphere, with the settings and pace, and especially the music score. Also, the zombies are less the shambling Romero style undead, and have more of a Lovecraft feel to their menace. However, where the movie falls short is the plot. I realize that, when it comes to Italian horror movies like this, it’s mostly all about the atmosphere and visceral horror than the story itself. I get movies like that. However, City Of The Living Dead really could have benefited from a good tightening of the plot itself, keeping certain points from being forgotten about and especially giving it an ending that didn’t feel like it just ran out of gas and stopped, leaving you thinking, “Wha…huh?”

Overall, I would say that City Of The Living Dead is one of the required viewing type horror movies for anyone serious about the genre. The caveat being that, this isn’t really an undisputed masterpiece, rather an excellent movie that is also rather frustrating to watch. Highly recommended, regardless.

Movie Review: The DARK POWER

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dark power, theNew Visions Productions, LTD
1985
NR

“Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!”

The Dark Power was the first movie that Western movie legend and bullwhip enthusiast Lash LaRue did with low-budget movie maker Phil Smoot. The second one was, of course, Alien Outlaw, which I reviewed first due simply to having watched that movie first.

Lo and behold, The Dark Power was available for free streamin’. So, let’s see what we have, shall we?

A group of unsuspecting college coeds move into the house on Totem Hill, a cursed place where four Tolee Sorcerers buried themselves hundreds of years ago…alive! On the coming of the Evil Days, the ancient demons arise to feed on the living. Now, only one old Ranger with a whip–fashioned out of materials from the four quarters of the world–stands between the girls and the mystical zombies from the past.

Well, at least I can’t complain that Lash LaRue never used his whip skills to good effect. And by that, I mean the script utilizes every excuse for him to use said whip, whether it made logical sense for the story or not. This is something covered by it being described as a mystical whip, having been given to him by the Native Americans of Non Descript. Because Native Americans are MAGIC! don’t’cha know. Which comes in handy, as he’s going up against Native American zombies!

Yeah, The Dark Power is a pugnant cheeseball of a low-budget flick. The plot plays fast and lose with piecemeal Native American lore. Or just makes it up as they go. The acting is unintentionally hilarious, and the parts that were supposed to be funny fell flat at best, and made me cringe at worst. And the zombies…my my my, the zombies. Not the worst makeup costume effects I’ve seen, but still rather goofy.

Overall, The Dark Power isn’t’ as much as a “so-bad-it’s-good” movie as Alien Outlaw was. Still, there’s some prime riffing material here, and you and your friends might have more fun than intended with this.

Movie Review: ANTISOCIAL 2

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antisocial 2Breakthrough Entertainment
2015
NR

Hey, look. It’s a sequel to one of the more mediocre Millennial horror movies I’ve had the displeasure of watching. What were the changes of there being one? I’m not certain why, but we have a sequel. And by some twisted masochistic logic that only I can understand, I was compelled to watch Antisocial 2: Antisocial Harder.

Gads, I’m already using bad humor as a coping mechanism. This is not a good sign.

So, anyway, after a voice-over recap of the first Antisocial, we find the final girl from the first movie — Sam — emerge from the trunk of a beat up car, having spent the night there to be safe from any attacks from those feral humans that were fully zombified from the Red Room virus referred to as “users”. It’s evident that, sometime between the end of the first movie and now, she managed to get preggers, as Sam is clearly in the third trimester. She then drives off in the car, which is when we realize that Antisocial 2 is going to be a Post-Apocalyptic Road Trip movie. She gives birth to her baby in an abandoned building, where the kid is immediately taken by a crazy (but uninfected) lady spouting off religious end times gobblety-gook and Sam is left to die, but of course she survives and takes off to find her kid and drive around some more. Somehow, three years go by, and while trying to score some munitions Sam runs afoul of users, who are turned away by a precarious preteen who has figured out how to hack the Users to do her dark bidding get them safely out of the way. Seems the Read Room social media chat room is still alive and well, making more and more infected Users, causing them to become kind of a hive-mind collective. It’s convoluted, yes, but let’s just go with it. Seems the preteen kid is the daughter of a crazy military scientist who ran away due to…well, he’s a crazy military scientist. Seems he’s doing experiments on not only the Users, but also the ones that are normal because they had the DIY tumor removal that was done in the previous movie, of which Sam is one of them. Of course, the two are captured by the military that the kid’s dad works for, and is brought back to the base, where it appears that Sam’s three-year-old is at. This kid, because he was in-utero during the infection, has some wicked psychic abilities, because of course he does. The military science guy does a bunch of SCIENCE! things, Sam discovers her son is alive and well an in the facility, yadda-yadda, they escape only to have things end on one of those frustrating sequel baits.

Well, I’ll give Antisocial 2 this — at least it didn’t insult my intelligence by just rehashing the same story beats and tropes as the original movie. No, instead Antisocial 2 insulted my intelligence by copying and pasting ideas and tropes from far better horror and sci-fi movies. You know the ones: Day Of The Dead (the original, as no other versions exist in my reality), I Am Legend, Zombieland (without the humor), Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, and Children Of The Damned, to name a few. I did find the concept of the Red Room virus turning the infected into a kind of hive-mind organism intriguing, and wished they explored that a bit more than what they did with the story. Overall, though, I found Antisocial 2 to be mediocre for the most part, while picking up a bit at the very end. I don’t hate myself for watching this unnecessary sequel, but I’m not clamoring for another one. I wasn’t clamoring for this one after watching the first one, but here we are.

Movie Review: FREAKS OF NATURE

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freaks of natureColumbia Pictures
2015
R

“I think I’m having brain withdrawals.”

In Freaks of Nature, we welcome you to Dillford, where three days ago, everything was peaceful and business as usual: the vampires were at the top of the social order, the zombies were at the bottom, and the humans were getting along in the middle. But this delicate balance was ripped apart when the alien apocalypse arrived in Dillford and put an end to all the harmony. Now it’s humans vs. vampires vs. zombies in all-out, blood-sucking, brain-eating, vamp-staking mortal combat – and all of them are on the run from the aliens. It is up to three teenagers – one human, one vampire, and one zombie – to team up, figure out how to get rid of the interplanetary visitors, and try to restore order to this “normal” little town.

Freaks Of Nature was apparently released to theaters on the same day that another so-called “horror comedy” going by the name of Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse was released. Only, Freaks Of Nature was only in 100 or so theaters on October 30th, 2015. I don’t remember seeing this in any of the local Omaha theaters at the time; each one, though, had a showing of the Scout’s Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse. Which I still haven’t watched. For reasons.

The original script to Freaks Of Nature started life under the title “Kitchen Sink”, something I vaguely remember being reported on back in 2011. It was evidently so memorable I promptly forgot about it until I was doing the usual background investigation on this for the review purposes. Huh. It was filmed in 2013, but was held back by Sony until it was just dumped with little to no fanfare on the previously mentioned date, then slipping into DVD/VOD relative obscurity. Which isn’t necessarily a death sentence, but the question remains: is Freaks Of Nature worth checking out?

Since I’m big on using food-related analogies, I would compare Freaks Of Nature to a good plate of goulash. And in case you were wondering (or aren’t very familiar with the concept of “goulash”), I’m talking about the American Midwest version that really only has the name and maybe the inclusion of beef as the only connection to the original Hungarian dish. It consists mainly of ground beef and macaroni in tomato sauce, and depending on the recipe can include corn, onions and garlic, diced stewed tomatoes, with the option of cheese to be added for taste.

And like goulash, Freaks Of Nature turned out to be a hot mess, but a surprisingly tasty hot mess that was made better with cheese. And if you go back to the original script’s title, you kind of get the idea that the creators of this were in on that fact. The base of this movie feels more like a John Hughes coming-of-age rom com that also features vampires and zombies dwelling together because…reasons. Then aliens invade, and a human, a vampire and a zombie from the local high school have to set aside their prejudices and band together to figure out what the aliens want. Which turns out to be a chemical compound found in the town’s Riblet factory.

For the most part, Freaks Of Nature was enjoyable on a certain level. It’s a movie that’s in desperate need of a focus, but for the most part, I enjoyed it. It’s certainly way better than Vampires Suck. Worth a look-see.

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