Movie Review: MUTANT

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MUTANT
Film Ventures International
1984
R

“Nothing human can have this in its veins and live.”

  • When two brothers — Josh and Mike — go to a small southern town or a vacation, they find most of the residents either dead or missing. When Mike himself goes missing, Josh teams up with the local Sheriff and an attractive school teacher to find him, until Josh discovers that the whole town and most of its people have been infected by a form of toxic waste, and they have all turned into toxic vampires who prowl the streets at night for human blood.

So, here we have a movie that was directed by the same guy who directed the Shatner-riffic Kingdom Of The Spiders. Ooooh boy, with that kind of pedigree, we’re in for some fun, here.

Mutant was another one of those movies that was included on the collection of low-budget C-grade horror flicks I got from Walmart one afternoon, 50 for $20. I’m a sucker for those. Apparently, it originally started life as Pestilence, but then released to theaters in 1984 as Night Shadows, but was given the current title when it was released on video. As to why, I couldn’t tell you. More to the point of the plot? We’ll go with that.

So, we begin Mutant with a couple of brothers that are on vacation together, traveling in the American South. And because you can’t have a road trip in the American South without encountering a bunch of rowdy rednecks in a pick’em-up truck, they eventually get run off the road by the unwashed locals. They find themselves stranded in the nearby small town while their car is getting fixed. This is when they start to discover that the locals are acting a bit odd. Well, of course they are, as they’re strangers in a small Southern town. Duh. There’s that, yes, but also the locals are turning into diseased vampire zombies. Bodies start piling up, several other people start disappearing, one of the brothers dies (whom the other brother creepily refers to as “cute” to someone while trying to find him, which just raises questions that never get answered), the surviving brother meets up with a local school teacher, and they both go around investigating what’s going on to cause the townsfolk to, you know, go all Night Of The Living Dead like that. Turns out, a local company dumping toxic waste is the cause of all the locals turning an interesting shade of blue with dark circles under their eyes, like they’re all cosplaying the 1961 version of Carnival Of Souls, and sucking out everyone’s blood by way of hand vaginas, like with the 1990s animated Spider-Man version of Morbius. Only, that was done a good ten years before that show, but I refuse to believe my beloved Spider-Man cartoon was inspired by this movie. Anyway, chases ensue, things go boom, and mercifully the movie ends.

Given the pedigree, Mutants plays like one of those 1950s-style B Movies that were kind of prevalent in the 1980s. Low budget, cheep effects and middling acting are par for the course, but there’s admittedly a certain enthusiasm here that keeps this from becoming just a painful waste of time. The style starts off as a general Southern Gothic, then shifts to a standard horror movie, and finally ending as an action horror. There’s a lot of exposition in here, and the music score is surprisingly top-notch for something like this.

I would be remiss not to mention that Mutant was probably the main reason why the distributor, Film Ventures International, went under. Let’s just say that the movie theaters were as desolate as the small town depicted in this movie. The studio was floundering at that time to begin with, but Mutants was pretty much the final nail in their coffin. That, and the CEO’s pending divorce, which resulted in him grabbing $1 million from FVI and vanishing, rumored to have fled to Mexico. Really, the story behind FVI deserves its own movie in and of itself.

Overall, Mutants was one of the titles that I remember seeing at the local video store back in the 80s gathering dust on its horror shelf. And, depending on your experiences with some of the other low budget horror and sci-fi movies in Film Ventures International’s stead (which includes Pod People, Day Of The Animals and the classic Jaws rip-off Grizzly), Mutants is either a mildly enjoyable low-budget monster horror romp, or a complete waste of time. For me, this lands more in the former than the later.

Book Review: AMISH WEREWOLVES OF SPACE (Peril in Plain Space #3)

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amish werewolves of space
Kerry Nietz
Freeheads Publishing
2019

“Can’t drive a hover, or fly a ship,” Greels said aloud. “But the Amish sure can bake.” He noticed a package of noodles was in danger of falling and paused to adjust it. “Bread and noodles. Noodles and bread.”

  • Some say death comes in threes. For the Amish community of Alabaster, it seems to. They’ve maintained an uneasy alliance with the vamperkinder, the altered humans that rescued them from the zombies seven years ago. But after several vicious attacks–nighttime slaughters that could only have bee perpetrated by the kinder–the union of the two peoples is shattered. Meanwhile, a resurgent zombie horde and mysterious nightly howls signal doom, not only for the Amish, but for the entire galaxy. As more and more planets fall, the Raven survivors hunt for a solution. Can they restore the peace? Escape the horde? Save the galaxy? Or is it already too late?

Oh, hey, look! My prayers have been answered! There’s been another Peril in Plain Space series book published this past year (2019), and on Halloween, appropriately enough. And in keeping with the classic monster terrorized space Amish motif, this time around it involves werewolves. Eh, not exactly my favorite classic monster, but really the logical way to go with a series like this. I can’t wait to see if the the good people of Miller’s Resolve will have to tangle with the likes of the mummy, a Frankenstein’s monster, or even some Lovecraftian elder god aliens. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a look at this third tome in this delightfully entertaining series, shall we?

It’s been several years–seven, if you read the above blurb–since Miller’s Resolve was invaded by the nanobites that turned every living thing it touched into undead zombies. The genetically-altered “Vampire Children” have been blending in with the Alabaster Amish community, a couple of the children having been adopted by one family as well. Everyone’s favorite ex-Amish couple, Jeb and Sarah, have opened up a shop in the nearby town, and even Greers seems to have settled in, having opened up a a general goods store himself. Everything seems just peachy…until some of the livestock gets slaughtered at night by what seems to be a vicious beast, and the Amish community begin pointing the fingers at the vamp kids. Meanwhile, on a busy metropolitan planet, another one of those bone-shaped spacecrafts seen in the previous novel crash-lands and send out its nanotech infestation, turning every living thing into the living dead again. And this is happening on many other planets as well. So now, it’s a race against time to get to the source of the nanotech attacks and stop the genetic mutations once and for all…before the population in Alabaster rise up against the Vamperkinder and the discovery of a werewolf in an adjoining community brings in the gov’ment taking over…

Just like the others in the so-called Peril In Plain Space series, Amish Werewolf of Space is a well-written, well planned out and just overall fun sci-fi action adventure that just happens to have the Amish in there. All of the key players get some further character development, some ending up not the same as they were when this story began, for the good. It’s satisfying how far everyone has come since beginning this fun series, and if there’s only going to be these three titles and no more, I’m satisfied with how this ties everything up. Well done, again. Highly recommended, especially if you’ve read the other two books.

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.

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