Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

ZMMM Dailies: 6/24/2009 – Onechanbara

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 25 - 2009

onechanbara2So, Onechanbara. Yeah. Based on a video game, and if you somehow didn’t know that, I think you’d figure it out pretty damn quickly. You’ve got a wafer-thin plot (mad scientist creates zombies to take over the world, now with 70 percent more sibling rivalry subplot!), lots of bad acting, bad characterization and god-awful CGI. The lead character was a samurai chick in a bikini, with a fat, bumbling sidekick, a leather-clad hottie gunslinger as a quasi-partner and a rival/sister who is somehow fueling the creation of zombies. Yeah, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me either. Most of the fight scenes were sped up and it was hard to tell what was going on, and you could all but see the lead character’s special attack powering up. The zombies weren’t half bad looking though — nothing special, but not terrible.They dissolved into spurts of blood when they got killed by our hero, a little like the vampires in Buffy the Vampie Slayer when they got staked, which almost has to be an inspiration.

Honestly, it was kind of okay. I can’t imagine ever sitting through it again (yet I probably will at some point) but it wasn’t really too bad — I’ve seen many, many worse movies. And gratuitous nudity fans, you get two quick boob shots here, and one simulated sex scene.

Next we get JUNK. I really liked JUNK a lot when I saw it before. We’ll see if that is still true.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/23/2009 – Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. the Undead

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 24 - 2009

attackgirlsswimteamvsundeadIf there was any question about whether or not the Japanese could match the Italians for sheer sleaziness, let the record show that Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. the Undead is at least as sleazy as any of the Italian zombie exploitation movies I’ve seen. And all of you folks that keep finding the site by Googling “Japanese zombie movie nudity,” this is the movie you are looking for. The nudity comes in within moments of the movie starting and doesn’t cease until the credits roll. It’s got enough gratuitous nudity and softcore sex (including an entire lesbian schoolgirl subplot) to make the Skinemax hall of fame.

Oh, and it’s also almost as far out and bizarre as some of the most insane Italian movies, too. It even gives Stacy and Wild Zero a run for the title of most bizarre Japanese zombie movie ever.

The plot is paper thin and almost incidental, but it concerns an orphan schoolgirl who runs away from her kidnapper, who keeps her as a sex slave while training her to be an assassin, naturally. Said kidnapper wears a crazy-ass orange suit, plays a mind-controlling flute and happens to be a mad scientist specializing in human modification. He turns her schoolmates into zombies as a plot to catch her. Hijinks ensue. Lots of gore, lots of nudity, a couple of zombie attacks, a teacher who becomes a homicidal zombie juggler, another who goes nuts first with scissors, then with a chainsaw (while simultaneously murdering the English language) — it’s that kind of movie. More than anything it reminds me of a Troma film with much better production values – stupid, absurd, sleazy and trying way too hard. It was kind of worth seeing, I guess, but nowhere near as awesome as it sounds describing it. It could have used less sleazy sex and nudity and whole lot more zombie action. Really, the zombies were almost incidental, and barely zombies to boot. They had veiny faces, vacant looks and pallid complexions, they shambled around and liked to bite, but they retained some intelligence — well, as much as anyone in the movie anyway, which isn’t a lot.

Next we get even more exploitation of girls in swimwear fighting zombies, with Onechanbara (aka Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad). This one is based on a video game, so it’s got that going for it — or against it, depending on your point of view.

A brief report on the movie watched June 22 as part of the June 2009 Zombie Movie Marathon Month

ZMMM Dailies: 6/22/2009 – Versus

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 23 - 2009

versus-AThere’s little doubt that Versus is the finest martial arts/superhero/zombie/fantasy epic I have ever seen — and the fact that it is the only such film I’ve seen should in no way be seen as diminishing its level of awesome. Innovative camera work, awesome fight and effects sequences, an epic fantasy story, gallons of blood, references of everything from Evil Dead to Star Wars to fighting video games, a little bit of love story, a bizarre ending, lots of zombies that are slow and stupid but not above using a gun (poorly) given the opportunity — is there anything this film is missing?

It’s the story of a dark hero, his girl, his brother and the shared destiny of all three of them in a forest that brings the dead back to life and serves as a portal to the world beyond death. A dude’s head gets kicked off. Another guy gets his head punched through. A heart gets ripped out and eaten. Bullet opera, wire fu, and lots of stylish clothes. I’m a little awe struck — a friend told me I’d want to watch it again immediately following my first viewing, and you know what? He was totally right.

It’s a little long, at two hours, but honestly, I was never bored or restless. I’ve sat through 75 minutes features that felt twice as long — every minute of this was crammed to capacity with awesome. Can the rest of Japan week possibly live up to this? If I had known, I’d have ended with it instead. We watch Attack Girls Swim Team vs. the Undead next — the title is promising at least!

ZMMM Dailies: 6/21/2009 – Day X

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 22 - 2009

dayx-dvdWe’re in the homes stretch now and Day X kicked off the final third of our selections. I picked this one because I needed a few low-budget zombie epics to fill out the roster (they are such a huge percentage of what is out there it’s folly to ignore them) and because one of my girlfriend’s friends is in it (Melissa Holmes — hi, Melissa!) and it is always amusing to see someone you know in a movie, no matter how bad — and Day X was pretty bad.

Not epic, painful, worst-of-the-worst bad, but definitely not good. It had some cool stuff going for it — the leads were almost competent actors, for example, and there were a couple of cool ideas. But also many problems: the poor makeup (black base paint smeared on faces? Really?), shoddy direction, obvious padding, terrible editing, and many other issues equaled a lot of squandered potential.

The plot was a government-experiment-gone-wrong scenario that seemed a little like something that was cooked up after spending too much time with a bunch of 9/11 Truthers. The quasi-zombies (the lead character kept insisting they weren’t zombies because they weren’t actually dead, but no one else listened to him) were a cannibalistic and venomous twist (yes, that’s right — poison zombies) on 28 Days Later‘s Rage zombies. There was a weird, under-explored subplot with a creepy looking girl that could neutralize the venom by kissing the people who got bit and kill the zombies by biting them.

That subplot sort of summed up the movie’s core issue — the few interesting things it did, it didn’t do enough with. Lack of focus? Misunderstanding what they had? Too many cooks? Who knows, but the results were haphazard and a little frustrating. The movie was sort of amusing and moved along quickly enough — in part due to its 74 minute runtime, even with the aforementioned obvious padding — to not really wear out its welcome, but in the end, it was pretty disappointing.

Next up, we tackle five of Japan’s finest, starting with Versus and ending Friday with Tokyo Zombie.

ZMMM Dailies: 6/20/2009 – American Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 21 - 2009

DRTo mark the end of Italy week, we returned to the good ol’ US of A for American Zombie. This is a recent (2007) mockumentary that looks at the rising issue of the living impaired — what causes it, what their “lives” are like, the community of undead, undead activism (we’re here, we’re dead, get used to it) and the annual Live Dead festival (think Burning Man for zombies). It’s done in a very straight faced way, presenting itself as a straight documentary with basically no obvious jokes (more so than say, Best in Show) that ends up being pretty humorous nonetheless and works really well. The pacing could have been a little more brisk and there were a couple of things I wished they had gone into a little more but the ending was a nice twist that wasn’t totally expected (it wasn’t totally unexpected either, though). It was a different look at zombies and it sold itself well as a documentary. I’ve heard varying reactions to it, but I quite liked it — as did my daughter. I’ll probably buy this one shortly.

Next, the low-budget feature Day X, which has a friend of my girlfriend’s in it. Sweet!

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: 6/18/2009 – Zombie

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 19 - 2009

zombiefulciDay four of Italy week was Lucio Fulci’s hallucinogenic masterpiece Zombie. It did not let me down. On the other hand, it did not win my girlfriend over — her complaints included bad acting, terrible dialog, terrible dubbing and way too much cheap gore. I’d personally call the acting functional, but I yield that the dialog is highly suspect and the dubbing is ludicrous. I love the gore though, and think it looks great — maybe not exactly realistic, but totally believable. And obviously, I love the movie and have loved it each and every time I watch it.

It comes down to looking for different things — she likes very linear, dialog and character driven movies (usually ones with no zombies in them) whereas I look for a movie experience that may or may not contain those things, but weighs all sorts of things like mood, camera work, stylistic flourishes, etc. that she doesn’t really register as terribly important. Zombie is a movie experience and Fulci was a master of using the camera,  using sound design, setting a surreal mood and creating great set pieces. This is the most linear, plot-driven movie of his I’ve seen — I think it’s a good thing I didn’t try to have her watch The Beyond.

We watched it in a little theater under a bar. It was a digital projection off DVD, but still freaking cool. This is definitely a movie to watch that way (in a theater, on a screen, with other people there) if you have the opportunity. It’s a different experience than watching it at home on your TV. The turnout was pretty small (I am a terrible promoter, and couldn’t dedicate a lot of time to it since it was a not-for-profit enterprise) but everyone that came, with the exception of my girlfriend, really dug the movie — even the people that came in two-thirds of the way through.

Also, thanks to the people that voted in my poll, especially those that are watching along with us this month. Don’t forget that if you write about the films I watched and wrote about and link back to my writings on the same films, I will return the link/favor and we’ll have a cool little zombie film club. Fun! I closed the poll, since it is over halfway through the month, but I will have something else up there shortly.

Next up is Zombie 3, a movie that Lucio Fulci started (cool!) and Bruno Mattei finished (uh oh…). That will end our five day excursion into Italian zombie cinema.

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 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: 6/15/2009 – Burial Ground: Nights of Terror

Posted by Cory Casciato On June - 16 - 2009

burialground-leslieI’ve already reviewed Burial Ground: Nights of Terror and I stand by that review. By most standard, it is a terrible movie. Terrible acting, terrible effects and makeup, terrible writing, dubbing, you name it. Yet somehow, it totally works. Probably because of the rule of Spinal Tap: everything works better when turned up to eleven. And this film is constantly turned up to eleven. Or maybe eleven and a half — everything is just a little but louder, or, in this case, just a little bit crazier.

Every crazy thing that could happen does, not to mention a bunch of shit that has no business happening (the incest “subplot” is just unbelievably off the wall, in particular). If you were to look up “exploitation film” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of this movie. Sleazy sex, sleazy gore, a dwarf (Peter Bark) playing an adolescent, random bear trap accident, five disembowelments (four shown in loving, graphic closeup), which I believe is some kind of record — that’s just the start.

The makeup is utterly crap, with little consistency from zombie to zombie, and all of it borrowed from better movies (Fulci’s Zombie mixed with the Blind Dead films). The effects aren’t any better, and are similarly ripped off, mostly from Fulci. A soundtrack that is equal arts cheesy lite jazz stock music and some dude high as a kite dicking around with a synthesizer and organ, horrible dubbing, shaky handheld camera work, poor continuity and weird editing … it’s a frigging mess, top to bottom. But somehow, totally hypnotic and irresistible, with a strange dreamlike quality in parts. It wasn’t quite as riveting the second time through (I watched it maybe four or five months ago) but I still had no issue getting through it. Recommended!

Oh, and Final Girl is doing a Film Club on it this month, so look for a link to that shortly!

Next up, Hell of the Living Dead takes us deeper into the heart of Italy.

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