Movie Review: V/H/S/2

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1-27 - Movie Review: VHS2Magnolia Home Entertainment
2013
R

Inside a darkened house looms a column of TVs littered with VHS tapes, a pagan shrine to forgotten analog gods. The screens crackle and pop endlessly with monochrome vistas of static-white noise permeating the brain and fogging concentration. But you must fight the urge to relax: this is no mere movie night. Those obsolete spools contain more than just magnetic tape. They are imprinted with the very soul of evil. From the demented minds that brought you last year’s V/H/S comes V/H/S/2, an all-new anthology of dread, madness, and gore. This follow-up ventures even further down the demented path blazed by its predecessor, discovering new and terrifying territory in the genre. This is modern horror at its most inventive, shrewdly subverting our expectations about viral videos in ways that are just as satisfying as they are sadistic. The result is the rarest of all tapes–a second generation with no loss of quality.

The second anthology film of found footage style horror shorts after the surprisingly good first one, continues on in the style of wrap-around story while watching original shorts that the first movie did. Why mess with a proven formula? Here, it works just as well, if not a bit better. Let me give you the run-down:

With a wrap-around story called “Tape 49”, involving a couple of private investigators checking out the disappearance of a college kid, who seems to have a rather odd videotape producing obsession; one goes to find the kid, while the other checks out the video tapes. It doesn’t end well by the end of things, as you may have surmised by now. In between the wackiness, we’re treated to four short films in the kid’s collection…

“Phase I Clinical Trials”
A young man receives an experimental cybernetic implant to replace his right eye that he damaged after a car accident. That night, he notices one of the “glitches” the doctor warned him about: he can now see dead people in his apartment. The next day, a red-haired lady shows up, claiming that she had the same kind of experimental implant for her ear to restore her hearing, and that she can hear dead people. And the dead don’t like the idea of being noticed by living people. Wackiness ensues.

“A Ride In The Park”
A cycling enthusiast is riding his bike one lovely day through a state park, when he’s attacked and bitten by a zombie. He reanimates and begins a delightful romp through the suburbs, all the while capturing everything on his Go Pro. Wackiness ensues.

“Safe Haven”
Four members of a news crew are filming a documentary with a mysterious Indonesian cult, when the “time of reckoning” arrives. Wackiness ensues.

“Slumber Party Alien Abduction”
Um, a bunch of kids having a slumber party are abducted by aliens. It’s there in the title.

Overall, I think between the first one and this one, they run neck-and-neck to how much I enjoyed them, but I would have to concede that as far as stick-in-your-brain quality, V/H/S/2 has the slightly better collection. “Safe Haven” is hands-down the best one on the list, followed closely by “Phase I Clinical Trials” for a good effective supernatural ghost story. “A Ride In The Park” is a fun take on the somewhat-exhausted zombie genre. And “Slumber Party Alien Abduction”…well, it didn’t falsly advertise. It didn’t suck, it’s just kinda…eh, whatever. Regardless, I would definitely recommend checking this one out, along with the others in the series.

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Movie Review: DAY OF THE DEAD (1985)

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1-5 - Movie Review: DAY OF THE DEADAnchor Bay Entertainment
1985
NR

“Your ignorance is exceeded only by your charm, Captain. How can we expect them to behave if we act barbarically ourselves?”

In this third and final shocker in the legendary trilogy from writer/director George A. Romero, a small group of scientists and soldiers have taken refuge in an underground missile silo where they struggle to control the flesh-eating horror that walks the earth above. But will the final battle for the future of the human race be fought among the living or have they forever unleashed the hunger of the dead?

I find that, with a lot of my reviews that deal with beloved classics, they usually turn out shorter than a lot of my standard reviews. That has to do with the fact that everything that can be said about them has already been said, and usually better written as well. This doesn’t stop me from writing a review, mind you. Gotta throw in my two cents and all.

Such it is with Day Of The Dead, the original 1985 third part of the so-called …Of The Dead trilogy that started with Night Of The Living Dead in 1967, and continued with Dawn Of The Dead in 1978. All beloved classics in the zombie genre. All been discussed ad nausium. And now it’s time for Uncle NecRo’s humble entry into the pantheon. Here goes.

When it was originally released in 1985, Day Of The Dead didn’t really do as well as expected. This may have had something to do with the generally bleak and darker tone of the movie, when compared to the more upbeat releases of that year. It was competing with the surprise juggernaut that was Back To The Future, which was released only a couple of weeks prior to this one. But, fortunately the movie gained steam with the subsequent VHS home video release, and ultimately cemented itself as the classic it really deserved.

After watching it for the first time years ago, and with subsequent viewings since then, I have to say that this original Day Of The Dead is one of the better zombie flicks ever to have graced my DVD player. It does have a slow pace, but that only highlights the claustrophobic sense of dread and gradual decent into madness that the survivors of the zombie plague experience. The tension is built until finally it breaks at the seams. Sure, the movie does end on a more hopeful note, but they all can’t be nihilistic, can they?

As with all really good zombie movies, the zombies themselves are merely incidental; the real meat of this lies in the drama of the survivors, how they handle things as the days pass with no visible light at the end of the tunnel, where not even death is a reliable way to escape the horror surrounding you. The conflict here comes in the form of a clash between the two ideologies as to how to deal with the zombie outbreak: The Scientists, who want to study and use their brains and logic, and The Soldiers, who want to use their brawn and fight off the horde of undead. Also, Bub the Zombie. I need to find an old Walkman and cosplay as him some year.

Anyway, all that said, I have to say that Day Of The Dead is the perfect capper to the so-called Dead Trilogy that Romero had no idea he was making. It’s also one of those movies that are required to be featured in one’s collection if identify yourself as a horror fan. Forget the remake, or that so-called “sequel” that was released in 2005; you only need to own this one. Highly recommended.

Book Review: ZOMBIES: Encounters With The Hungry Dead

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zombies encounters with the hungry deadJohn Skipp
Black Dog & Leventhal
2009

Christmas of 2009. One of the gifts that I received was a gift card to the local Hasting’s store. This was back when the shop was in a larger location, and featured more books than they do now at their smaller, mall-front location now. And, as you may have guessed, I spent a good majority of that gift card on this massive anthology of zombie tales compiled by splaterpunk author John Skipp.

The thing that differentiates this collection from other standard short story horror collections is, this thing is massive. Not just in physical stature, but also in scope. John Skipp put much effort into compiling this, breaking the stories down into two categories: Zombies of the Old School, and Post Emancipation. The stories under the Zombies of the Old School heading feature stories of zombies that are the dead brought back by magic, science, or…magical science, where the dead don’t want to eat human flesh (mostly) and they have some cognitive reasoning going on. The Post Emancipation section features the zombies most are familiar with, the mindless flesh eating variety that George A. Romero gave us back in 1968, and had been the popular go-to zombie type since.

The authors represented in this collection have selections from the usual suspects I know and love: Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Neil Gaiman, Robert R. McCammon, Max Brooks, and Jack Ketchum, as well as a couple of stories I remember reading in previous collections but enjoyed re-reading them again: “On The Far Side of the Cadillac Desert With Dead Folks” by Joe R. Lansdale, and “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite.

What makes this collection one to look into, though, wasn’t the familiar faces contained, but the quality of the ones that I wasn’t familiar with. All of the stories contained are of good quality, and not some hastily slapped-together bunch of new fiction scribbled out to cash in on the resurgence of the popularity of zombies in pop culture. The first couple of stories included were written in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and give a good cross-section of the type of stories to be found in horror and Gothic literature; from the old to more modern styles, there’s not a lame one in the bunch. Which is something, considering there are over 30 stories contained in this tome, not counting the introduction by John Skipp, and two essays at the end.

If you were to only get one collection of zombie stories in your lifetime, I would strongly suggest picking up Zombies: Encounters With The Hungry Dead to keep you up at night.

Movie Review: ZOMBEAVERS

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zombeaversUniversal
2014
R

We cannot turn against each other right now. That’s exactly what the beavers would want.”

A group of college kids staying at a riverside cabin are menaced by a swarm of deadly zombie beavers. A weekend of sex and debauchery soon turns gruesome as the beavers close in on the kids. Riding the line between scary, sey and funy, the kids are soon fighting for their lives in a desperate attempt to fend off the hoard of beavers that attack them in and around their cabin.

Yep. This is a movie called Zombeavers. Yep, it’s about zombie beavers. And yep, it’s just as mindless as you would think a movie entitled “Zombeavers” would be. How mindless, you ask? Well…think a Troma movie as filtered through a Full Moon Productions flick.

So, we start this little cheesefest with a couple of truck drivers loosing a canister of something iridescent green and liquid-y after hitting a deer, immediately contaminating a dam of beavers. We then join three young twenty-something girls driving out to a lakeside cabin in a remote rural community to have some Girls Only time away from their boyfriends. Which lasts about a few hours, when said boyfriends show up unannounced. Your standard Young Adults In Remote Lake House shenanigans ensue, until one of the now-zombified beavers crash the party. They think they’ve taken care of the thing, when the next day they’re swarmed by a whatever-the-word-for-a-group-of-beavers-is, which they narrowly escape by chucking the lap dog of one of the girls at them for a distraction, but not after one of them gets their leg gnawed off. Your standard Night of the Living Dead Beavers standoff happens, when they discover that anyone that was bitten became a living human beaver, complete with a flat tail and giant buck teeth. Oh, and hack ’em up all you want, they’re not dying. Only one survives the night and makes it out alive and not infected…only to be run down by the two truck drivers from the beginning of the flick. Ah, the circle of stupid…

Look, I’ll be blunt about this: Zombeavers is the kind of movie that sets out to revel in its B-Horror Movie badness, and does so with gusto. Mindlessly entertaining, not at all painful to watch, and you can tell they put some loving effort into the process of making this. Not too many people will get this, but I do, and that’s what matters. Check this one out for a good Bad Movie Night selection with your friends some time.

Book Review: The WALKING

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bentley little the walkingBentley Little
Signet
2000

It begins in a small Southwestern town. Then it spreads. Across the country a series of strange deaths have overtaken the living. And a stranger compulsion has overtaken the dead. In a travesty of life they drift with bizarre purpose toward an unknown destination. The walkers have become an obsession for investigator Miles Huerdeen. His father is one of them. Now, lured into the shadow of the restless dead, Miles is a step closer to a secret as old as time…to a reality as dark as hell. For Miles is following them into the deep end of an unfathomable nightmare.

It had been a while since I’ve read a good Bentley Little yarn. He’s always good for a chilling tale of supernatural shenanigans. I’ve had this particular title of his, The Walking, seemed like your standard zombie tale–the dead somehow getting up and walking about, and all. And in a way, it is…only, it’s not the standard modern zombie story that most would assume it would be.

Because, let’s face it: ever since George A. Romero hit us all with his classic Night Of The Living Dead back in 1968, whenever we think of zombies, we think of flesh eating ghouls. But the zombies here in The Walking are of the classic pre-Romero era of zombie lore; the undead are reanimated by way of black magicks and controlled by whoever’s pulling the supernatural strings. In this case, it’s an ancient witch with strong succubus tendencies who put a curse on a settlement of witches in an Arizona town in the mid-1800s. This results in the decedents of the settlement to develop a tendency to just get up and walk off after they’re declared Living Impaired, much to the consternation of their family and loved ones. Seems, after all this time, and despite being trisected and having her pieces left inside a cave, the ancient succu-witch is still kickin’, and has plans for total and complete Armageddon. Gotta admire the ambition, there.

The Walking flashes back and forth between two eras–the modern day era, which focuses mainly on main character Miles Huerdeen and the odd occurrences that are happening with certain dead folk suddenly wanting to work on their cardio, and the mid-19th Century founding of a community of witches that became the epicenter of all the modern-day wackiness.

For the most part, The Walking was not what I was expecting by merely reading the back-cover blurb, and this is a good thing. I was expecting your standard zombie apocalypse type yarn…or if not an apocalypse, then at least a contained localized event. This is more of a supernatural noir-ish tale, which I found rather entertaining. It has Little’s signature quirkiness, and kept me engaged from page one to the end of the thing. Check it out for sometime.

Movie Review: SPECIAL DEAD

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Special Dead DVD CoverLazy Ghost Films
2006
NR

“Ya ever ride a zombie horse, boy? I have, and it ain’t no fun.”

When a zombie plague infects Camp Special Dude, a dude ranch for the mentally handicapped, a ragtag band of campers and counselors struggles to survive the night. Led by the indifferent, nunchuck-wielding head counselor, Mae Stone, and his wheelchair-bound sister Dale, the unlikely heroes fight their way off the mountain as, one by one, they’re picked off and join the ranks of the walking dead. It’s a campy stampede of blood, boobs and gore as some “very special” people show that they can kick some serious undead ass.

You know, I may not be going to Hell when I die, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be receiving some pretty stern looks when this thing comes up in my Afterlife Performance Review. Special Dead is just…wrong. On so many levels. Never mind the fact this this is another in a glut of shoddily made no-budget horror movies. I’ve seen plenty of those, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing plenty more in the future, on account of I hate myself. No, this one not only hits all of the halmarks–the bad makeup jobs, the horrible acting, the cheesecloth-thin story, the gratuitous exploitation–but the biggest thing that I’m pretty sure gets massive frowny points is the mentally handicapped angle. It’s more of an uncomfortable because bad actors are pretending to be mentally handicapped than anything else. So, basically, you have your standard pain from watching a bad no-budget zombie flick, but then as an added bonus you throw in an angle that even Lloyd Kaufman would think was crossing the line.

So basically, I just took a bullet of shame for everyone by watching this, so you don’t have to. Pass this one up. Just by the title alone, you should know this, but just in case you need some reinforcement of the notion, here it is. Pass.

Movie Review: DORM OF THE DEAD

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Dorm Of The DeadStratosphere Entertainment
2006
R

Oh, boy, was this a horrible film to have to sit through. It was only an hour and seventeen minutes, and it still felt like an eternity. Look, I’m no stranger to the whole shot-on-video, no-budget and no-talent horror movies. They hold a special place in my darkened heart, really. But Dorm Of The Dead is such a badly executed derivative piece of dreck that I found myself cringing much, much more than giggling at any unintentional humor this may have given me. If you must know about the plot itself, it follows a college professor that develops a zombie serum to deal with a student he was having an affair with, and then things get out of control. This is as far as I’m willing to go, lest I once again go into convulsions from the flashback memories that ensue.

Horrible non-acting, less-than-amateur-level filming and editing, a story that has more padding than Weird Al’s costume in the “Fat” video, and nudity so gratuitous you would almost suspect some kind of ulterior motive to making a zombie flick in the first place.

There. I watched the movie. Now you don’t have to. Pass this one up.

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