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ZMMM Dailies: 6/17/2009 – Nightmare City

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 18 - 2009

NightmareCityAh, Nightmare City, you have restored my faith in Italy. Actually, it’s an Italian/Spanish co-production, but whatever. This movie had its faults — a pretty bad script, craptacular zombie makeup, ridiculous ending — but wow, was it ever fun to watch. A plane comes down full of zombies, who run out, start shooting (yes, shooting — these are smart zombies!) and stabbing the living shit out of everyone in sight and head out to take over the city. Along the way, they eat (well, drink the blood of, technically) an aerobics/disco show, tear off a lot of chicks’ clothing (gratuitous nudity is a staple of these spaghetti dead flicks), crack open an elevator like a nut to get the tasty treats (i.e. people) inside, kill and get killed in some very entertaining and graphic ways. This is also one of the first movies (if not the first) with fast zombies, and one of the few with smart zombies — apart from being burnt-looking and lacking the ability to speak, they have pretty much the normal capabilities of their non-zombie victims. The last third drags a little bit and the ending is definitely lame, but this is still a really fun, if really stupid, zombie flick.

Next up, Lucio Fulci’s hallucinatory opus Zombie. Free public showing in Denver! Hopefully lots of people show up.

ZMMM Volume 6 progress report part V

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 18 - 2013
Scooby Doo + zombies

Scooby Doo + zombies

We’ve crossed the halfway line. Still going strong. That’s always been a good sign in years past, and I have some decent stuff lined up for the back half, so I am feeling good. Now, on to the films!

Portrait of a Zombie

This was an interesting little film. It’s a faux-documentary-ish effort about patient zero in a zombie apocalypse. We get a look at how it affects the family — who try to keep the bitey bastard locked up in his old room — the neighbors, the local crime lords… It’s not bad, but it’s a little confusing early on, and muddled throughout. And the makeup and effects are a shit show. But still worth a look, if only because the acting is streets ahead of what you usually find in low-budget zombie movies.

Insanitarium

I wrote a fairly lengthy review of Insanitarium after I first watched it, so you can refer to that if you like. I’ll just say this time I didn’t quite enjoy it as much, which has been a frequent occurrence with decent B-movies. I like the the first time, then like them less on subsequent viewings. I guess the low expectations theme mentioned in my earlier Zombie Movie Marathon Month report is a big part of why.

Scooby Doo on Zombie Island

As long as I am doing kids’ zombie movies this month, I figured why not do them all? Or at least all the ones I could easily lay hands on, and this one is easy to pick up. As an old-school Scooby Doo fan, it was a little disappointing. All new voices? Or maybe they just sounded wrong after all these years… The animation was typically shitty Hanna Barbera quality. There were lots of musical interludes, in true Scooby Doo fashion, but now it was all shitty ’90s alt-rock instead of shitty ’70s MOR. In this one, the monsters are real, in a weird inversion of Scooby Doo lore. They play that aspect up, of course. It was okay. I mean, I didn’t hate it. You could do worse for a kids’ zombie movie.

Nightmare City

It’s become something of a tradition to watch Nightmare City for my zombie movie marathon months, because fuck yeah, Nightmare City! It’s a tremendously entertaining piece of total shit. Umberto Lenzi tries to get all serious and deep, but alas, he is still Lenzi. There’s a lot of gruesome misogyny and gratuitous nudity, a molotov television (dude throws a TV at some zombies and it explodes in a giant fireball because, hey, TVs do that), and the zombies — who are just dudes that have faces smeared with what looks like a mixture of shit and kitty litter — run around shooting and stabbing people. It is awful and it is awesome. Those two words have the same root, you know? And this movie will help you understand why that is the case. You can read more about Nightmare City  from the past times I watched it, especially this previous year’s Nightmare City ZMMM daily report.

Zombie Movie Marathon 5: Five things we’ve learned so far

Posted by Cory Casciato On October - 17 - 2012
Mindy Clarke is one sexy zombie

Return of the Living Dead 3

Yesterday marked the halfway point of the fifth annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month, so it seemed like a good time to check in. For those of you who haven’t been reading since last time, ZMMM is my annual month-long zombie-a-day film fest: one zombie movie a day, every day, for an entire month. For those who have been reading a while, you may be wondering why the hell this is happening now, rather than in June as it has in years past. My reasons are twofold:

1) My wife has long petitioned for me to move the marathon to a fall/winter month, arguing (rightly) that we have too much going on in summer — camping, travel, friends visiting — to give up time every day in June to watch a zombie movie. This might have been reason enough but then something came along to seal the deal…

2) We had a baby May 29, two days before I would have ostensibly started the marathon. Let me tell you, having a newborn in the house makes it pretty hard to get something like this done. It’s been hard enough now, and she’s almost five month old! Bottom line is, June was out, so October is in! And let’s face it, October is a more fitting month anyway.

Okay, on to this year!

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Zombie Movie Marathon Month 3.0

Posted by Cory Casciato On May - 6 - 2010

Hark! The third annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month approaches! June is just a few short weeks away and that means it’s almost time for my annual thirty-day, thirty-film zombie marathon. If you’re not familiar with the tradition, you can read last year’s introductory post, orlast year’s wrap up post or even the whole batch of posts tagged with Zombie Movie Marathon Month to get up to speed. Or just keep reading this and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what is going on by the end.

Seeing as how the initial ZMMM was more or less responsible for the birth of this site, it’s kind of a big deal to me. But what does it mean to you?

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List: 5 almost (or barely) zombie movies

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 17 - 2010

Is this a zombie movie?

I saw The Crazies this weekend. I liked it pretty well. It wasn’t a zombie movie. It did contain some very zombie-movie like themes and ideas, and the infected were somewhat zombie-like, but it wasn’t a zombie movie. Director Breck Eisner does a good job of explaining why in this interview. Here’s the key point, for my money:

They don’t lose their personalities and persona completely. It just lets loose this monster within and it does it differently with each person. That’s what makes it different from a zombie movie.

Now, arguably the same could be said about certain Romero works, especially Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, but even in those movies, the creatures were zombie first (eat the flesh of the living above all else), remaining persona second. The Crazies had some of its infected do nothing more than just mill about aimlessly, while others actively sought revenge on those they perceived to have wronged them. Some worked as a team, some drove cars — does that sound very zombie-like to you? Compare that to other “infected” movies that, to me at least, are zombie movies, such as 28 Days Later. The infected in 28DL act like zombies — they seek out and attack the uninfected. They have lost all vestige of their previous personality, mind or soul. They can’t open a door, much less drive a car or operate a firearm. That’s a zombie.

Time will tell whether Eisner’s The Crazies is considered a zombie movie or not, despite his explanations and intentions. Ultimately, it’s the film’s audience and history that decides how a film is classified (never forget, Romero never considered his creatures zombies until audiences classified them as such and he went with it!). And that definition can be fairly arbitrary. For reference, here’s a look at five movies that utilize zombie-like ideas and creatures, yet alter the zombie mythos in fundamental ways. Some are considered zombie films, some are not.

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Review: Evil

Posted by Cory Casciato On January - 7 - 2010

It’s not often you see a movie that is both better and worse than you expect it to be, but that is exactly what happened with the Greek zombie apocalypse movie Evil, known  as To Kako in its original language. The little I’d heard about it suggested it was a pretty mediocre, run-of-the-mill low-budget foreign knockoff. The truth is the majority of it never rose to the level of mediocre, but the best bits were pretty goddamn awesome.

Let’s start with the cookie-cutter story. The premise is three workers uncover ancient evil in a cave, lose time, return home confused and then turn into ravenous zombies a few hours later, much to the dismay of their families, dates and friends. That is, by far, the most original part of the movie. The rest of the plot follows the usual group of survivors thrown together by circumstance as their personalities clash and zombies run rampant, until the ambiguous but ominous ending. Sound familiar? If you’re reading this, of course it does.

There are a few other problems. The leads lack charisma. They can’t act. The wisecracking funny guy is not funny. The insane soldier, easily the best character, comes in late then disappears for most of the movie. The writing is terrible and the translation is crap. The directors strangely chose to use a lot of gimmicks, including an unforgivable amount of split screen shots. The zombies act inconsistently. They are totally mindless one second, then sneaking up on people and pausing for dramatic effect the next. A lot of terrible CGI is used in the backgrounds.  It’s shot on video and it looks and sounds like crap.

That’s the “worse” part. What redeems the film is the completely over-the-top and utterly ridiculous gore and violence. It’s just a step below something like Dead Alive in both quality and quantity. In essence, anytime the zombies catch up to the survivors, it’s wacky time. Limbs are severed — and then used as bludgeons. Zombies get sliced, diced and cut in half, heads are squashed, blood spurts by the gallon and a good time is had by all.

During these numerous and zany action sequences, the leads magically transform from hapless city folk to something like urban ninjas. They bust out some sweet martial arts moves, throw knives like professionals, jump over shit, punch through zombies’ heads, etc. Suspension of disbelief is out of the question, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun. It’s also worth noting that the movie moves at a brisk pace, with very few dull or slow spots.

Despite the movie’s issues, these elements make it hard to not enjoy it. Sure, it would be a lot better if it wasn’t laboring under the weight of terrible acting, gimmicky direction and editing, poor writing, half-assed subtitles and ridiculous CGI. It would be a better movie if it didn’t play like a rip-off of 28 Days Later spiced up with the mood of Dead Alive. All true. But being what it is, it deserves a spot alongside other such ridiculous, shoddy trash gems such as Nightmare City and Burial Ground in the “so off it’s on” category. Go in expecting to very little but a few laughs and WTF? moments and you won’t be disappointed.

Evil/Greece/2005

Zombie Movie Marathon Month 2009 wrap up

Posted by Cory Casciato On August - 13 - 2009
zmmm2009

Just a few of the movies I viewed

Hard to believe, but it was almost six weeks ago that I wrapped up my second annual Zombie Movie Marathon Month. At the time I promised a wrap-up report “soon.” I guess I meant “in about six weeks.” For those unfamiliar, the ZMMM is my annual tradition of watching thirty zombie movies in thirty days, at the rate of one a night. It happens in June, and, as mentioned, this is year two. Why do I do this? Because I really, really like zombie movies. There are other benefits a well, but essentially that’s what it boils down to.

Watching that many movies in such close proximity is interesting. It was the first such marathon that transformed me from zombie enthusiast to zombie fanatic – the existence of this website is essentially a direct result of that first marathon. This year, the results weren’t quite as dramatic – I couldn’t be much more of a fan than I already am – but it did refresh my love of the genre and put a solid dent in my ungodly pile of movies I need to watch.

I saw twenty-four new movies during the month, plus six I had seen before at some point. Almost half of them I watched with my teenage daughter, the rest I watched alone except for Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, which I did as a public showing at a small bar/theater in town. The turnout was low, but those that made it appreciated the film – except for my girlfriend, who was thoroughly unimpressed (she is not a zombie fan).

Some oddball themes appeared. Early on, turgid melodrama was everywhere. I Walked with a Zombie, Zombie Honeymoon, even Dead Set were predicated on sudsy, schlocky relationship drama, and several other movies had some elements of it, too (even no-brainer action-fest Resident Evil!). During my Italian and Japanese mini-marathons, sleaze made a strong showing – and the Japanese are just as depraved as the Italians. One different thing, though – the Japanese really like to cast women as the heroine, Italians just like to torture them.

I realized that Resident Evil was actually pretty decent, for a popcorn zombie movie – compared to some of the dreck I sat through, it was fucking art (looking at you, Redneck Zombies and Hell of the Living Dead). Hell, watch enough zombie movies and simple competence at putting a movie together seems to be a rare gift. I added Shanks to my list of “too insane to be believed” zombie movies. I realized I need to buy a region-free DVD player so I can own Dead Set, which is awesome. And I only fell asleep during a movie once, after drinking a lot before watching Tokyo Zombie (re-watched it the next night, it was awesome). There were some pleasant surprises, such as the clever mockumentary American Zombie, and some not-so-pleasant (you do not want to watch Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead with your kids. Trust me.). I learned that planning (as I did this year) results in a much better experience than not planning (last year). I added about six movies to my collection and am looking to add at least two or three more, if they are ever released domestically. Would I do it again? Hell yeah, next year. Feel free to join me. After the break, see the full list of movies I watched.

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ZMMM Dailies: 6/19/2009 – Zombie 3

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 20 - 2009

zombie3The idiocy of Zombie 3 left me almost speechless. In all honesty, this was probably the worst movie of Italy week, and probably the worst movie of the festival so far — only Hell of the Living Dead is close, which is, not surprisingly, another Bruno Mattei movie. Yes, Mattei did this, even though it claims to be a Lucio Fulci film, it’s pretty well established he had to leave this for health reasons and Mattei took over. Based on what made it in the movie, Fulci’s involvement was minimal, at best.

Zombie 3 is the story of Death-1, a compound that mutates into a virus (what?) and turns a whole city into zombies. Really stupid-looking zombies that look like a cross between Nightmare City‘s crap-encrusted, radiation-burnt creatures and more traditional grey-face undead. Some of the pulsating, oozing pustules on the zombies were impressive — the rest of the makeup and effects were ridiculous. Also ridiculous were the numerous, extended fight scenes between the zombies and commandos; the near-constant use of dry-ice fog; the severed head in a refrigerator that leaps out and bites a dude (okay, that was awesome and ridiculous);  and the elements blatantly ripped off from Return of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead: Mattei, you are a fucking thief! And an incompetent.

So Italy week was fun. We got to see some of the best and worst of Italian cinema, and at least one that was both (Burial Ground: Nights of Terror). Up next is the mockumentary American Zombie. Monday we start five days of Japanese zombie cinema — we’ll see how they compare with the Italians.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/16/2009 – Hell of the Living Dead

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 17 - 2009

helldeadThere seems to be an inverse square law of sorts when it comes to movies released under multiple names — the more aliases a movie is released under, the worse it is. This 1980 Spanish/Italian co-production was released under at least ten titles in various countries and languages and it is god awful. Director Bruno Mattei is bad — this fucking guy could give Uwe Boll a run for his money. The story is ridiculous (a plot to reduce population goes wrong — or right? hard to say — and creates a fuckload of flesh-hungry zombies) and contains more holes than actual development. Acting: terrible. Effects and makeup: inconsistent, but generally bad. Use of stock footage: excessive, bordering on slapstick. Gratuitous nudity: appealing, but brief. Score: stolen! Yeah, this is a mess all right.

There are a few cool moments. The zombie rat that kicks off the madness is worth a laugh. There’s a zombie kid that is seriously awesome. And toward the end, a cat jumps out of a woman’s stomach cavity. A highlight reel of those would be great — sitting through the rest of this to get there? Not so much. The other moments of levity and amusement are slight and few; the padding and endless, pointless scenes are many. Cut down to about 75 minutes, this could be fun, if ultimately pointless. At its actual run time of just over a hundred minutes, it’s more like a punishing test of endurance.

Next up is Nightmare City, a contemporary of this work of art. God help us all.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/5/2009

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 6 - 2009
marcelmarceau

Marcel Marceau, the world's greatest mime, playing a zombie master and pedophile? Sold!

A while back, I praised the queer zombie film Otto for simply being completely original in the zombie milieu. By the same token, I have to tip my hat to Shanks. The world’s greatest mime playing a naive puppeteer who becomes a zombie master? And he’s also in love with a thirteen-year-old girl, who thinks he’s just swell? And it’s all presented as some sort of whimsical fairy tale, until a gang of bikers randomly appear and rape and murder his Lolita girlfriend and are murdered in turn by his zombies? How was this not a hit?

If you aren’t sold yet, there’s an appearance by a young Don Calfa, who’s also appeared in the zombie classics Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town and Return of the Living Dead (his greatest role, where he played  a Nazi mortician). Still not convinced? How about a guy pecked to death by a zombie chicken? Again, how was this not a hit?

Admittedly, it is deadly slow and wholly nonsensical, not to mention a little disturbing (was borderline pedophilia really that acceptable in 1974?), but I can’t help but make a place for it amongst the movies recommended for the fact of their batshit insanity.

This year’s theme is turning out to be “whacko” which I am down with. Tomorrow night is Zombie Honeymoon. In case you missed it (I see people Googling for it) I am posting the complete list after the break.

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