Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

List: Top 10 upcoming in 2010

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 10 - 2010

2009 was a great year for zombie fans, with releases like Pontypool, Dead Snow and Zombieland at the movies, Left 4 Dead 2 in games and lots of other great stuff. 2010 has the potential to be even better. To get you up to speed on the year to come, I’ve compiled a list of ten of the most exciting zombie projects I expect to see in the coming year. Note that I only included things that I think have a solid chance of being released in 2010, so things like Zombieland 2 or The 4th Reich haven’t been included, as cool as they might be. Without further ado, I present my top ten picks for cool zombie shit coming in 2010. Make sure ot vote in the poll or leave me a comment with your thoughts!

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Welcome to the zombie renaissance

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 3 - 2010
Photo by S.A. Young

It doesn’t get any better than this

There’s never been a better time for zombies — or, more to the point, for fans of zombies.

Everywhere you look, the zombie is making its mark. Not only do fans have a deep and varied back catalogue of great works to choose from, most of it easily available to anyone with the interest and a decent Internet connection, but the walking dead are the subject of of some of the best books, movies, video games and Internet sites being made. We are, at this very moment, living in the midst of the zombie renaissance.

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Feature: Zombie drama podcast We’re Alive

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 24 - 2010

Zombie are well represented in nearly every medium, from film to the written word, comics to video games, and now, in the case of We’re Alive, there’s even an excellent zombie audio drama.

“When I was growing up, even as soon as kindergarten or first grade, I listened to old-time radio shows,” admits series co-creator Shane Salk. “When I was around first grade an uncle of mine sent me cassettes of Gunsmoke. I loved them so much that got more and more of them. There’s a place for this again. Everyone drives around, they all have iPods and whatever.”
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Zombie apocalypse dream team

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 17 - 2010

I’ve decided to ask a few of my favorite horror bloggers and friends from the online community to share some of their zombie expertise with the site. The first guy I thought of was Jay Clarke, of the excellent blog The Horror Section. Over there, Jay blogs about everything from VHS box covers to the latest releases to horror games. He’s an excellent writer with an encyclopedic knowledge of horror. And he loves zombies, maybe almost as much as I do. He’s contributed a dream-team list of half a dozen zombie-killing badasses he’d want to team up with in case of apocalypse, and it is a fine list. Not all the heroes in the group above made it, obviously — you’ll have to click through to read who did, and why. Without further ado, here’s Jay.

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Undead Confusion: Zombie? Ghost? Both?

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 10 - 2010

Ghost zombies? Zombie ghosts? It's all very confusing...

Zombie or ghost: It should be simple. If it has a body, it’s a zombie. If it doesn’t, it’s a ghost. Or to put it another way, a soulless, living dead body is a zombie, while a disembodied spirit is a ghost. But no, filmmakers have to go and make it all confusing and ambiguous — usually in terrible, terrible films.

I can’t say for sure that’s a result of mixing/confusing the two very different undead creatures, but I will say this: chances are good if you don’t know quite what kind of movie you are making, it is going to suck. And if you aren’t really sure what kind of creature your movie features, then almost by definition you aren’t real sure what kind of movie you’re making, right? Here’s a look at a few of the movies that blur the line, in an effort to sort out whether we’re looking at a ghost-like zombie, a zombie-like ghost or some genuine hybrid.

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My favorite zombie things

Posted by Cory Casciato On February - 4 - 2010

Today is the one-year anniversary of the site! So, to celebrate, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite zombie things — the stuff that I use, look at or think about every single day. I’m not going to cover my favorite movies, books or games here — those are amply covered in other posts and each of those categories is probably deserving of its own dedicated list. These are the other things — the little zombie accoutrements, ephemera and oddities that make every day in the Casciato household a zombie day. And consequently, many of the things that make my fiancée a little crazy (she does not love zombies).
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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

Review: Zombies of Mass Destruction

Posted by Cory Casciato On November - 20 - 2009
Zombies of Mass Destruction does not skimp on the blood.

Zombies of Mass Destruction does not skimp on the blood.

The tagline for Zombies of Mass Destruction is “A Political Zomedy” and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know about it. There are zombies. It is political, and a comedy. And it isn’t subtle — it telegraphs every one of its punches. But this is zombie film we’re talking here; subtlety is strictly optional.

The film is set in a small island town where an unfortunate zombie outbreak occurs. Caught up in this small-scale apocalypse are a young Iranian-American woman who’s abandoned her heritage to hang out with a cute rocker boy, her traditional father, her redneck neighbors, a gay couple trying to come out to a conservative parent, a fundamentalist preacher, the ultraconservative mayor and his liberal challenger. Do these sound a little stereotypical? They are, but again, it doesn’t matter all that much.

As the outbreak unfolds, things get worse and worse for the main characters as they face the prejudice and half-buried hostility of the small town stereotypes around them. Oh, and there are the zombies to deal with. And it’s mostly presented in that order — sociopolitical commentary first, zombie mayhem second. None of the political or social jabs are quiet or refined — this movie wears its politics on its sleeve and wields its commentary like a ten-pound hammer.

Arguably, this limits the audience. The degree to which you enjoy it is probably largely dependent on how much you agree with its positions. On the other hand, there’s plenty of splatter and broad phsyical comedy between the political jabs at post-9/11 America, so even a die-hard conservative could probably find something to enjoy here — supposing they didn’t walk out before they got to it.

Those points might sound like complaints, but really they are just observations. Ham-fisted sociopolitical commentary is endemic to the zombie genre and the stereotyped characters don’t really hurt the movie that much.  More of an issue is the generally weak acting. None of it is terrible, but it’s all a little dodgy. Add to that the fact that there’s very little chemistry between any of the actors and the results weigh the movie down a bit and keeps it from being as funny as it could be. It’s nothing terrible, but it is worth noting.

Apart from that the only real problem is that it all feels a little dated. If it had come in in 2003, this film’s political jabs would likely feel rapier sharp. In 2009, it’s a little out of step with the world. Not to say that the issues raised are not legitimate or aren’t still issues — it’s just that today, they’ve taken on different nuances that simply aren’t addressed here.

But make no mistake: there is plenty to enjoy. The zombies look good. There are some fine jokes and visual gags (weedwhacker vs. zombie, anyone?). The direction is good, things move along at a decent clip and the movie is well shot. It’s not amazing, but it’s a solid, well-executed movie. It may offer slight returns, but it’s still got enough to offer to put it in the top third of the genre’s offerings.

Zombies of Mass Destruction is showing as part of the Denver Film Festival. You can see it tonight, November 20 at 11:30 p.m. and tomorrow, November 21 at 10:30 p.m.

Zombies of Mass Destruction/US/2009

Review: The Revenant

Posted by Cory Casciato On November - 16 - 2009

revenant1Part zombie, part vampire and pretty much entirely awesome, The Revenant is the latest film of 2009 to contribute to making this one of the best years ever for zombie cinema. It’s the story of Bart, a typical guy with a girlfriend, a slacker best friend and the piss-poor luck to get shot to hell during a tour of duty in Iraq. Then, once his friends have had a chance to bury and mourn him, he has the (arguably) worse luck to be reanimated as a decomposing, blood-hungry member of the walking dead. From there, he seeks the aid of his best friend Joey and begins feeding on creeps and criminals, until the complications mount (as they invariably do) and things go awry for him, Joey and pretty much everyone they know.

As mentioned, Bart is a weird hybrid of zombie and vampire. His buddy uses the Internet to determine he’s a revenant — a spirit returned in corporeal form. He looks like a zombie (moldering, gross, awesome) and acts like a vampire (sleeps all day, drinks blood) but lacks most of the traditional vulnerabilities, as revealed in one hilarious scene. He’s also damn near impossible to kill — sunlight doesn’t do it, bullets are a joke and even some extreme measures result in little more than some unfortunate handicaps.

The Revenant plays out as part black-as-sin buddy comedy, part gore-fest and part action movie. There’s also an underdeveloped and slightly overwrought love story subplot and some pretty interesting (although also underdeveloped) exploration of the morality of the situation and its parallels to warfare. It’s well acted, nicely paced and well-written, with excellent dialog and a compelling story.

The film is the work of writer/director/producer D. Kerry Prior, whose only experience writing and directing is the 1996 obscurity Roadkill. Apart from that, he’s worked on the effects of several Phantasm movies, one of the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, Bubba Ho-Tep and numerous other films. With that pedigree, it’s no surprise that the zombie makeup is fantastic, with lots of great wounds, copious amounts of blood and general grue.  What’s more surprising is how well the rest of the movie is executed — Prior is a talent to watch and probably won’t have much time for effects in the years to come as he’ll be too busy directing and writing.

There are some minor complaints to be made — it’s a bit long and several of the story threads seem to be abandoned without much thought — but these barely get in the way of the overall experience of the film. You’re not going to have much time to notice the blemishes while the film is cruising along at a 100 MPH, delivering great action sequences, brutal kills and snappy one-liners, and you’re not much going to care if not every thread of the plot is full developed by the time you get to the nice little twist ending. No, you’ll be too busy laughing at the hilarious dildo-voicebox scene, wincing at the beheadings and blood-vomit and generally having a great time at the movies.

Right now, The Revenant is making the festival rounds (I saw it as part of the Denver Film Festival) but if you aren’t lucky enough to have a festival with impeccable taste in genre film in your area, keep your fingers crossed for the wider theatrical release this film so richly deserves — or just keep an eye out for it on DVD. It’s definitely worth a look, even for zombie and/or vampire purists — after all, he’s a revenant. Regardless of name, he’s zombie enough to make the cut for me, in no small part because, frankly, I love this film.

The Revenant/US/2009

List: Worst Zombie Movies

Posted by Cory Casciato On November - 11 - 2009

worst

Among the nearly 200 zombie movies I have seen, there have been some truly atrocious films. Not just bad mind you — in a genre so filled with amateurish, low-and-no-budget entries, bad is commonplace. No, we are talking about the truly, spectacularly terrible — movies that are difficult, painful or even brain damaging to sit through. Which I have done, because when it comes to zombies, I watch them all from the opening credits to the end credits, no matter how much it hurts. And some of these hurt bad. So to save you the trouble — or to provide the masochists with fodder for their self-abuse — I present these, the ten worst zombie movies I have had the misfortune to sit through. I don’t necessarily claim these are the worst of all time, just the worst I have seen. God forbid that there are actually worse, but in all honesty, there probably are. And I’ll get around to watching those eventually, too…

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